Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reviewer's Bookshelf: A Spy's Devotion by Melanie Dickerson

Book Summary (from Goodreads): In England’s Regency era, manners and elegance reign in public life—but behind closed doors treason and tawdriness thrive. Nicholas Langdon is no stranger to reserved civility or bloody barbarity. After suffering a battlefield injury, the wealthy, well-connected British officer returns home to heal—and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary.

At the home of the Wilherns, one of England’s most powerful families, Langdon attends a lavish ball where he meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Determined to maintain propriety, he keeps his distance—until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England—and the man she is falling in love with—need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. Will the two succumb to their attraction while fighting to save their country?

My thoughts...You may have recognized this author's name from some of my previous posts : ).  Melanie Dickerson has a wonderful Young Adult series of fairy tale retellings that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years!  Now Melanie is beginning a new series set in Regency England.  

Although this book is geared towards older audiences, it is still appropriate for young adults as the level of romance is very clean.  I appreciate that although there is a romantic aspect to the plot, that is not the only thing that will get your heart racing.  For myself, some of the best moments in the story were when Julia risked being discovered as she began to spy on possible traitors to her country.  

The bond that she and Nicholas Langdon began to form through their mutual desire to serve their country also connected them in other aspects of the novel.  Compassion, loyalty, friendship and putting others before yourself were big themes that were explored through Julia and Nicolas' relationship.  It is always refreshing to be able to read such a positive and Biblically inspired message.  As this is a Christian fiction novel, there are quotes from the Bible weaved into the pages but in a way that is natural and relevant.

This is a great new series and I look forward to Melanie Dickerson's next novel!

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher and gave an honest review.**

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary (Amazon): 
Eagle Harbor, MichiganIn a Town Mired in Darkness,
She May Shine the Light They Need

Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it's too late to replace her. Tessa can't help but thank him and say she is in his debt. 

Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students have decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

My thoughts...
I have really enjoyed the Beacons of Hope series by Jody Hedlund.  Although each book could be read as a stand alone, there are connections between each book.  The heroine in this story is Tessa, who we originally meet in book 2 of the series.  

I honestly wasn't a big fan of Tessa in the previous book, as she was definitely one to stir up trouble and cause conflict.  In this story, however, Tessa has been transformed, changed from the jealous little sister to a grown woman who wants to make a difference.  Her past sins are not without consequence, though.  She has left behind a bad reputation that she hopes will stay where she left the past.  Her hope is to prove to everyone that she is a woman of character and convictions.  

Once again, Hedlund has provided the wild Michigan landscape as a backdrop for this story of faith, dedication, and romance.  I have really enjoyed the setting in these novels, as I was previously completely unfamiliar with it.  I never realized just how dangerous the waters of the lake could be, which makes lighthouses so important in that area.

I found this novel to be different than some of Hedlund's previous ones in that the romantic tension is different.  In this story, it is obvious from the start who is attracted to Tessa.  It's the conflict that arises between two brothers that creates the tension.  While some parts of this love triangle were somewhat predictable, there were still several little twists that kept you wondering just what was going to happen.

Another aspect I liked was the good vs evil plot line.  Tessa had to fight for what was good in the midst of corruption.  She had to take a stand, even if it meant losing the things she held dear.  It provided many opportunities for growth for her character and showed just how God can transform people's hearts.

I would recommend this book, along with the rest of the Beacons of Hope series.  Happy reading!

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give an honest review.*

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My top ten favorite reads of 2015

I love reading other bloggers' favorite book reads of last year, so I was inspired to do a list of my own!  Not only are these some of my favorite stories, but I've also enjoyed getting to know some of these authors personally.  Whether it be just through online messages, a handwritten note, or personal inscription in their book, several of these talented writers use their writing as a ministry to others.  I know I have personally received encouragement in different forms from some of them.  Enjoy!
~The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Feagan Frantz.  Loved this new stand-alone novel that had all the elements of great storytelling.  Historic detail, romantic tension, interesting plot...just fantastic.  Highly recommend it!
Click here for my review of The Mistress of Tall Acre

~The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall (and basically all of her "Everstone Chronicles books).  Dawn Crandall is a new author that is already winning awards and recognition for her "Everstone Chronicles" series. The New England setting is perfect, providing a mysterious and romantic backdrop.  Told in first person, you are able to experience the deep and raw emotions of Crandall's characters.  I read all three books so fast I want to go back in 2016 and read them again!
Click here for my review of The Captive Imposter

~To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander.  I've been a long-time reader of Tamera Alexander's books...but the tale of Cullen and Maggie is special.  One of her most romantic novels, in my opinion, the tension keeps the pages turning. But this isn't just a romance.  It is a story of overcoming the horrors of prejudice that took place in the south in many forms.  Fabulous read!
Click here for my review of To Win Her Favor

~Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund.  Jody is a master at writing fantastic historical novels that take romantic tension up a notch.  This book is no exception!  ; ) In this novel, Ryan and Caroline are both two vulnerable individuals. Caroline must be strong and care for her siblings along with the lighthouse, and Ryan struggles with just making it through each day as he is haunted by his experience in the Civil War. Throw in some plot twists, jealousy, and evil plots and you've got a page turner!
Click here for my review of Hearts Made Whole

~The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen.  A naive painter's daughter in search of love.  She is swept away by the attentions of a young man whose selfishness contrasts her innocence. Left in a compromising position, the young man's older brother steps up to do his duty, once again.  There are elements of mystery, tension, and romance.  One of my favorites by Julie Klassen!
Click here for my review of The Painter's Daughter

~Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta.  This book was written in 2013, but I've just read it this year.  This book!  I don't know if I've ever liked a male character more.  He is manipulative and quite persuasive, yet it's hard to know who is good, who is bad, and what everyone is up to in this book.  I read book two and didn't enjoy it quite as well as this first book in the series, but I've yet to read book three so I'm very curious how it's going to end!
Click here for the Amazon link (it's only $1.99 right now!)

~A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade.  I just fell in love with these characters!  Another novel that addresses the hardships of dealing with PTSD in present day, this story was relevant to what is going on in our world.  I loved that Lyndie and Jake's personalities were opposite of each other, yet they had similar pasts that helped them understand and relate to each other.  Seeing their stories unfold on the pages was just fun.
Click here for my review of A Love Like Ours

**I have to confess...I don't read a lot of contemporary! : )**

Young Adult...
~The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson.  Melanie Dickerson does something very special with the fairy tales we know and love.  She transforms them into a new, exciting story, filled with faith and an appropriate level of romance for teens. This is her Rapunzel story, filled with action and adventure, overcoming hardships, and courage.  I love all of Melanie's books, but this one is a particular favorite. You don't have to read her books in order, but there are connections between some of her books.
Click here for my review of The Golden Braid

~An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund. As far as I know, this is Hedlund's first Young Adult series.  Lady Rosemarie finds herself in a situation she didn't expect.  Instead of becoming a nun on her 18th birthday as she always expected, she has the opportunity to marry.  In an effort to find a worthy groom, she brings three knights to the castle. Still staying true to her storytelling abilities, but toning down the romantic tension for a young adult audience, Hedlund has definitely left me anticipating book two!
Click here for more info on Amazon

Christian Living/non-fiction...
~For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker.  I have to confess, unless I'm reading Christian non-fiction with a partner, Bible study, or a group of some sort...I usually spend most of my reading time lost in fiction world.  I started following Jen Hatmaker on social media this year and loved some of her funny stories, insights, and the way she genuinely wants to love and serve others.  While I take her newest book the same way I do other books like
it...with my own filter of personal convictions...there are so many good things about this book.  I laughed out loud, which is really the parts that I needed the most at the time, and I got teary-eyed.  I was inspired by her supper club nights (although I don't see it happening just yet in my world) and #onthebeam/#offthebeam way of living.  I really appreciate how real she is.
Click here for my review of For the Love

**I only had time to mention ten of my favorites, but there are SO many more books that I enjoyed this year!  Thanks for stopping by! A few other fantastic authors you might want to check out:
Francine Rivers
Mary Connealy
Tamara Leigh
Melissa Tagg
Lynne Gentry (Healer of Carthage!)
Lori Benton
MaryLu Tyndall
Lisa Bergren (River of Time series!)
Elizabeth Camden
Deeanne Gist
Karen Witemeyer
Sarah Ladd
Kristy Cambron

Ok...I'll stop.  : )  I could go on and on.  I am so thankful for all of the Christian fiction authors out there that take a leap of faith, devote themselves to their writing, and even endure some harsh criticism for their efforts to entertain and inspire.  I appreciate all you do! <3 p="">