Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Searching for You" by Jody Hedlund


Book Summary (Amazon): Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

My thoughts...This book is the third in the Orphan Train series, fourth if you include a prequel novella. You could read these novels as stand-alone, but I would suggest reading all of them in order. Each book tells the story of the three individual Neumann sisters. Searching for You is about Sophie, who is the youngest of the three. This last book in the series is honestly my favorite.
   The vivid descriptions of what life was like in the mid-1800s for orphaned children who were forced to do whatever they could to survive tugged at my heart. Hedlund takes you on a journey right in the middle of the harsh reality of living on streets: crime, prostitution, abuse, separation from your family, older children taking on the role of parents, and more. All of this is written in a way that you get a picture of what it was like without it being too graphic. As all three Neumann sisters were orphaned, this is part of all of the novels. I found this book especially compelling as Sophie was so young herself as she cared for two infants. Sophie's love and devotion to the two children was also beautiful, yet the conflict she went through to have wisdom to parent and fight for their survival was heart wrenching. Often she had to make some very difficult choices.
     The softer side of this story is the relationship between Reinhold and Sophie. Reinhold is introduced in the previous novels as a friend and protector of the Neumann family. I thoroughly enjoyed the romantic moments....Jody Hedlund is SO good at writing scenes like this!! It's not only the physical interaction between the characters that I enjoyed, but also the struggle they go through to feel loved, accepted, and experience the peace that only God can give.
     This novel is an excellent conclusion to this series. I couldn't put it down when I started. I would definitely recommend not only this book, but the others in the series. 

Personal takeaway...Even when your circumstances seem hopeless, cling to God and His promises. His provision may come in ways that we least expect. 

**I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give an honest review, which I did.**

Monday, December 3, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Liberty Bride" by MaryLu Tyndall


Book Summary (Goodreads)...Lieutenant Owen Masters and Emeline Baratt meet on a British warship as sworn enemies. Where will Emeline place her loyalties when forced to spy against her country?
A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

War Forces a Choice Between Love and Country
A trip home from England to Maryland in 1812 finds Emeline Baratt a captive on a British warship and forced to declare her allegiance between the British and Americans. Remaining somewhat politically neutral on a ship where her nursing skills are desperately needed is fairly easy—until she starts to have feelings for the first lieutenant who becomes her protector. However, when the captain sends her and Lieutenant Owen Masters on land to spy, she must choose between her love for him or her love for her country.

Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall.

My thoughts...Warships. Spies. Fighting for freedom with the Star Spangled Banner flying in the background. This is just a snippet of what you'll find in The Liberty Bride. MaryLu Tyndall is an expert at taking her readers right on the decks of a ship, describing the sights and sounds with such detail that you feel like you're there. This is why I really wanted to read this book in the Daughters of the Mayflower series. But this story doesn't begin and end on the water. You also journey into the wild landscape of early America, experiencing a small part of the struggle of the early colonists trying to make a life amidst so many hardships. Even in fictional stories such as this, I'm still amazed at the true story of how America defeated a powerhouse like Great Britain to become an independent country. Faith in God, and His intervention, played a part in that endeavor as faith also plays a part in the plot of this story.
     This novel also had romantic tension along with the adventure, which I always enjoy. That's another aspect of Tyndall's writing that I like. She knows how to create a balance between the action and romantic moments. I appreciated the hero and heroine in the story, both showing courage and patriotism. 
     The plot was exciting, well paced, and kept me more than interested throughout the novel. Moving from water to land was unexpected, yet I really liked the change in setting. I personally liked the connection to Washington DC, Baltimore, and the true historical events that took place there intertwined with the fictional ones in the novel. 
     I have reviewed several novels in this series and this is one that you don't want to miss! 

Personal takeaway...We can call on God to provide the courage and wisdom we need to endure the hardest circumstances. He is ultimately in control and His will cannot be thwarted, even if it seems impossible. With God, all things are possible.

**I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to provide an honest review, which I did.**

     

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Magnolia Summer" by Melanie Dickerson


Book Summary (Goodreads)...Truett’s hometown needed a doctor, so after finishing medical school, he returned to Bethel Springs. Fighting a secret war with a corrupt lawman wasn’t in his plans, but Sheriff Suggs thinks he’s above the law and can lynch anyone who crosses him. When Suggs threatens his childhood friend, Truett dons a cape and hood and rescues him—placing “the Hooded Horseman” in Sheriff Suggs’s crosshairs. 

Celia Wilcox arrives in Bethel Springs, Alabama, in June of 1880. She’s come from Nashville to help her sister care for their younger siblings. She hopes only to be on the small farm for the summer, just until her mother recovers from the shock of Celia’s father’s death. She must return to Nashville to fulfill her dream of opening her own dress shop, especially now, to provide for her family. 

The lovely Celia catches Truett’s eye, and he finds himself wanting to impress her. But she flatly refuses to flirt with him or to fall for his—if he does say so himself—considerable charm. 

Celia’s growing attraction to the young Dr. Beverly terrifies her, and even if she could marry him, which she cannot, what will happen when Sheriff Suggs discovers Truett is the Hooded Horseman? Will Celia be able to prevent the sheriff from carrying out one last lynching? 

My thoughts.... Magnolia Summer has all the features of a good story: good character and plot development, interesting plot twists, and romantic tension. I love all of those things when I read a novel. This novel has an element that goes beyond your typical plot. I could sense it as I reading, but when I read the author's personal notes at the end it really spoke to me. It was the author's heart and motive that made this story special.
     I, like the author, am from the South. Unfortunately, there is a long history of racial tension and prejudice that continues on today. In this novel, the hero fights against injustice and brutal treatment of his African American friends and fellow members of his community. He does this even though his reputation could be damaged and he could face physical harm. His actions, along with the actions of several characters in the story, truly embody the verse in the Bible, "Greater love has no man than this, than he who would lay down his life for his friends." And for me, this is the beautiful theme of this novel. Showing love to our fellow brothers and sisters, no matter who they are, no matter the cost. This theme really moved me more than anything else in the novel. 
    
**I am thankful for a copy of this novel from the author and I was happy to give an honest review.**
      

Monday, November 12, 2018

Ellie Claire Art Journals Review!

I'm SO excited to have the opportunity to review three beautiful art journals from Ellie Claire and Worthy publishing! These journals combine a variety of art techniques that will appeal to beginner to advanced journalers. I'll begin with the "Illuminate Your Story" journal.

Here's a brief description from the Ellie Claire website:Use the almost-lost art of illuminating letters to enhance your writing, Bible journaling, or sermon note-taking. Rich illustrated manuscripts in the Museum of the Bible’s collection inspired these gorgeous letters. Easy to follow instructions, practice pages, and encouragements guide you through the creation of amazing start letters, flourishes, and more.


The beautiful cover is so inviting with its decorative lettering, foil embellishments, and bright colors. There is a band that goes around the outside to hold everything in and a band on the spine where you can put your favorite pen. I also loved the "Keepsakes" pocket attached to the back cover along with a built in ribbon bookmark.

I did find that the illuminated lettering is a little more challenging that just plain lettering, but this journal offers step by step instructions on how to do it. The end result is a piece of artwork in itself. It will definitely make your entries pop. There are plenty of pages to take notes, practice your letters, and they are thick enough that your pens will not bleed through. To do this practice page I used a .25 tip Illustrated Faith pen in black and Crayola twistable colored pencils.

Next is "The Illustrated Word" coloring journal. Here is the description: Create your own masterpiece with this journal that has forty glorious illustrations from ancient manuscripts that have been recreated as line drawings. Just as medieval monks brought Scripture to life through intricate inked illustrations in handwritten manuscripts hundreds of years ago, you can now create your own stunning keepsake that will be treasured for years to come.
This journal is perfect for all ages and abilities! What you'll find here are coloring pages with inspiring Scripture. Alongside the coloring pages are blank journal pages with unique picture inserts from ancient manuscripts. The cover is also beautiful like the previous journal, with gold foil embellishments, beautiful bright colors, and raised lettering that appeals to one's sense of touch. I personally liked the coloring pages with nature-type pictures as opposed to those with people, but all were very beautiful. The pages are thick enough that you can use your favorite pens, pencils, or markers to color and write. 
Last, but not least, is the "Faith and Lettering" journal. I love the fun doodles on the cover of this journal, which are raised with gold foil and bright colors, and give a slight 3-D feel. The Ellie Claire website gives some good info about it: New from professional letterer Krystal Whitten! With guides, instructions, and tutorials, this is a fun and inspiring way to create beauty with words. It is the perfect place for journalers to practice Bible journaling, lettering quotes and verses, or decorating a page with original thoughts and plans. Exploring your God-given creativity has never been so rewarding.

I have to admit...I really love this journal! I enjoy trying to write with different fonts and this book offers several different types with a lot of practice space. I used my Tombow ink pen with this font and had no trouble with bleeding. Not only are there a variety of fonts to practice, but several doodles, banners, arrows and other decorative images. Colorful illustrated Bible verses are also on the corners and sides of blank journal pages that you can write your thoughts on. 
If you like illustrating Bible verses but aren't sure how to do it, there are several verses that are written with various fonts and banners with a tracing section and practice sections. With lots of empty pages, you'll have plenty of places to practice. I also thought the "pro tips" were a nice touch. I'm the type of person that needs someone else's work to look at to get an idea of how to draw things. I really have a hard time coming up with my own designs. This book is perfect for that! On these doodles I used my .25 tip pen and, again, had no trouble with ink bleeding. 


These journals would make great Christmas gifts for yourself or your loved ones. There's a little something for everyone. I know I'm going to enjoy using these for many months and years to come. I appreciate Ellie Claire (EllieClaire.com) and Worthy Publishing for the opportunity to review these journals. You can order these straight from the Ellie Claire website...and you won't be disappointed!

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Enchanting Nicholette" by Dawn Crandall


Book Summary (Goodreads): In this captivating novella by Dawn Crandall, Nicholette Everstone is already a widow at the age of twenty-two: her husband was murdered on their wedding day. She has just returned to Boston after two years of mourning in Europe. Although her husband was loving, the marriage was an arranged one, and Nicholette would like to wed again--this time for love...and to someone safe

As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette meets someone she can't help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of "what if" at bay?

My thoughts...This little excerpt really shows all the reasons I enjoyed this book...and Dawn Crandall's writing in general: 
“I can tell what you want, Mr. Hawthorne.” My gaze willingly scanned his face as he continued to draw nearer, and I had to admit, if he meant to kiss me, I wasn’t nearly as disagreeable to the notion as I should have been. In fact, I was shocked by how much merit the idea had. Suddenly, I was unable to keep my mind off the clear image of all of him pressed to all of me against that wall, hidden away in the leaf-and-stone alcove, right there in the middle of Riverway Park.
When he reached me, he stood about a foot away and placed his hand against the wall above my shoulder. “It would seem you have quite the knack for reading my intentions, Mrs. Everstone. But I can assure you, they are much more complicated than what you’re thinking at the moment.”
I need the fire emoji right now ; ). We've got a "go!" on romantic tension! Dawn Crandall really knows how to write these romantic scenes while still keeping things clean. These books are considered Christian historical fiction, as there is a spiritual aspect. I do appreciate the balance of both of these aspects in her novels. This book in particular is a pretty lengthy novella, which I appreciated. I'm not a huge novella fan, but I really liked this one as well as the other that were included in the Timeless Love set that I reviewed earlier this year. 
Dawn Crandall writes each of her books from a different female character's first person perspective. You do miss some of the details from the other characters and what is happening with them, since you're only seeing through the eyes of one telling the story, but one is really able to get into the main character's head. I love that. In this story we are able to go deeper with Nicholette, who appeared in one of Crandall's earlier books, and see what happened to her right after her marriage and husband's murder shortly afterwards. Through faith and trust, she's able to move forward in her life and explore the possibility of experiencing true love. I would definitely recommend it as well as Crandall's other novels!
Personal Takeaway...Don't be afraid to step out in faith. God can bless you beyond what you could imagine!

**Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novella in order to share my honest opinions, which I did**



Saturday, October 20, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Cumberland Bride" by Shannon McNear


Book Summary (Goodreads): In 1794, when Kate Gruener’s father is ready to move the family farther west into the wilderness to farm untouched land, Kate is eager to live out her own story of adventure like he did during the War for Independence and to see untamed lands. And she sets her sights on learning more about their scout, Thomas Bledsoe. Thomas’s job is to get settlers safely across the Kentucky Wilderness Road to their destination while keeping an ear open for news of Shawnee unrest. But na├»ve Kate’s inquisitive nature could put them both in the middle of a rising tide of conflict. Is there more to Thomas’s story than he is willing to tell? Is there an untapped courage in Kate that can thwart a coming disaster?

My thoughts... I just finished this book last night and....LOVED it!! I wanted to take a chance with an author who is new to me, Shannon McNear, because I thought the book description sounded interesting. I'm so glad I did! 

This story had a Last of the Mohicans feel to it, because of the same general time period and setting. Not to mention that Thomas Bledsoe had a definite Daniel Day-Lewis/Hawkeye vibe going on. Totally the masculine hero who had a background with the Shawnee, was an excellent shot, and could track and lead people through the wilderness. He even has the physical traits of a 1700's era scout, with buckskin leggings, long hair, and other markings he gained from living with the Shawnee. I can't help but love the broody male heroes. Swoon! Kate was the heroine in this story. I loved her innocence and strength of character. She had to face many hardships yet wasn't the whiny, complaining female you sometimes see in novels like this. The romantic tension was built up so well. There were some great moments throughout the various stages of the journey between the Thomas and Kate, but also with other characters in the story. This book is part of the Daughters of the Mayflower series, but each book can easily be read alone. I would definitely recommend this one! Below is the list of all the books in the series:

The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1620 Atlantic Ocean (February 2018)
The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1725 New Orleans (April 2018)
The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep – set 1760 during the French and Indian War (June 2018)
The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1774 Philadelphia (August 2018)​
The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1794 on the Wilderness Road (October 2018)
The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall – set 1814 Baltimore (December 2018)

Personal Takeaway: With God's help, we can persevere through the trials of life and face the hardest moments with peace.

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

Monday, October 15, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations" by various authors


Novella Summaries....In Kristi Ann Hunter's "Legacy of Love," Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman's grandson, a man far above her station.

In Karen Witemeyer's "Gift of the Heart," widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

In Sarah Loudin Thomas's "A Shot at Love," Fleeta Brady's rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family's brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

In Becky Wade's "Because of You," Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

My thoughts...I typically don't read a lot of novellas, but they're starting to grow on me! Especially when it's a collection that includes some of my favorite authors: Karen Witemeyer and Becky Wade. I haven't read many of Kristi Ann Hunter or Sara Loudin Thomas' books, but I really enjoyed their work in this novella collection. 
The connection between each of these novellas was a brooch that was passed down from generation to generation. It not only was a beautiful, valuable piece of jewelry, but there was a deep love that passed from the giver to the receiver. There was also a "legend" that accompanied the brooch that foretold of a love match. I enjoyed both of these aspects of each story. Each heroine was a little different and full of personality. The heroes stories were also told, but were a supporting role to the female leads. I love that you get a taste of each author's style in a novella collection like this. As the holidays are approaching, this is the perfect book to cozy up on the couch with and get a taste of Christmas. I would definitely recommend it!

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Reluctant Warrior" by Mary Connealy


Book summary (Goodreads): Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He's come to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children.

When danger descends on the cabin where they're huddled, Cam is hurt trying to protect everyone and now finds Gwen caring for him too. He soon realizes why the kids love her so much and wonders if it might be best for him to move on without them. When she sees his broken heart, Gwen decides to help him win back their affection--and in the process he might just win her heart as well.
 

My thoughts...I'm really enjoying this newest series (High Sierra Sweethearts) by Mary Connealy. This is the second book in the series, which could be read as a stand alone, but it picks up right after book one has ended. I would suggest starting with book one just because it's a great story and gives some background.
     Why is Mary Connealy one of my favorite Christian fiction authors? Several reasons, which also apply to this book. I love the humor she inserts in the dialogue and story line of her characters. A mix of sarcasm and wit makes for some fun and even laugh-out-loud moments. Strong male and female characters also draw me in. The men are manly, brave, strong, skilled at using guns and tracking (think wild west), but also have a desire to show sensitivity to their ladies and their children. Some of them are even skilled at sewing, like Cam was in this book. The strength that Connealy infuses into all of her female characters is fun to read. Some of them know how to track, handle a gun, build a house, and aren't afraid of much of anything. But there's an equal amount of strength shown by the women who protect their children, stand up to injustice, take care of the home, and are sensitive and feminine. Both the men and women have to work together to survive the wild land, especially when there's an evil, bloodthirsty villain trying to track them down. Connealy knows how to write some nasty baddies, and doesn't hold back in showing just how evil they can be. And let's not forget a little romance mixed in. Gotta love that ; ). All of these elements have come together in The Reluctant Warrior to make a great read. I would definitely recommend it...and I can't wait to read the next book in the series!

Personal takeaway...God can give you the strength to have courage, even in the most difficult of circumstances. 

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Rumored Fortune" by Joanna Davidson Politano


Book summary (Goodreads): Tressa Harlowe's father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn't take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they're really up to. She'll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father's fortune--before someone else finds it first.

My thoughts....This is my first book by Politano, so I was curious about her writing style. There were a lot of different pieces to this Gothic Christian fiction mystery, which made it interesting.  I really liked Tressa's character. Even though she came from wealth, she wasn't afraid of getting her hands dirty in her family's vineyards...I really liked this about her character. The new vineyard manager was another piece of the mystery, as his past is revealed a little bit at a time. That certainly helped build some tension. The treasure search was a key part of the plot. I honestly wasn't sure what would happen with that. I really enjoyed how the author used the treasure hunt as a journey of self-discovery for Tressa. She learned perseverance, how to place her trust in the right things/people, and the true love a Father can have for a daughter. There's a lot going on in this story, but overall I enjoyed it and would read another book by this author.

Personal takeaway...Even if we can't trust those around us, we can always trust our Heavenly Father and His plan for us.

**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest thoughts, which I did.**

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey


Book Summary (Goodreads)...Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he's back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist's next target?

My thoughts...What an amazing finale to Dani Pettrey's Chesapeake Valor series! Honestly, I feel like I need to go back a reread all of them. Each book was released about a year apart, so I feel like I may have forgotten some of the details leading up to Dead Drift.  Take my advice and don't start with this one...read them all! Each book builds on the one before it and this story begins right where the last one left off. The Chesapeake Valor series tells the story of a group of friends that are more like family (and some are!) and how their lives have changed by one traumatic event. Dead Drift mainly tells the story of Luke, who disappeared from the lives of his friends for seven years, and the girl he left behind...Kate. 

Suspense. Romance. A murder mystery. Terrorist plots. Friendship. You'll get all of this as you dive into this intense, well-paced novel. I don't typically read much suspense, so I wasn't really used to the level of intensity...but it was great! Enough to get the pulse racing, but not too much that it made me feel uncomfortable. There was just the right amount of romantic tension and tender moments, which helped balance out the action and suspense. You basically get a little bit of everything. I couldn't put it down!!

Personal takeaway...Trust in the mission God has called you to. He will give you the wisdom and strength to complete it.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Sons of Blackbird Mountain


Book Summary (Goodreads): When Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to serve as housekeeper to her late husband’s cousins in Appalachia, she expects lads in need of care, not three grown men—each in need of a wife and bound by a powerful brotherhood. As the men carve out a living by brewing artisan liquor, young Haakon’s pursuit tempts Aven’s lonely spirit . . . but it is his deaf brother, Thor, whose silent strength shows her the depths of real love.

Unable to speak to any woman, Thor Norgaard never anticipates Aven will befriend him, let alone treat him as her safe harbor. Though hard cider is their livelihood and his greatest talent, he fights his way to sobriety with Haakon’s help, defying the bottle for Aven’s hand—only to face a battle of the heart that tests even the strongest bonds of brotherhood.
 

My thoughts...Joanne Bischof blew me away with her book, "The Lady and the Lionheart." I loved it! Her newest release, "Sons of Blackbird Mountain," has got me all shook up...in a good way. The depth of story and characters is breathtaking. It's one of those books that I want to pick up and read again (and I rarely reread books). There is also a lot happening in the plot, but it's all intertwined in a way that makes it realistic. The romantic tension was on point, accentuated by the vulnerability in both the hero and heroine. But wow...Bischof knows how to write a vulnerable hero.

Thor Norgaard. My heart beat a little faster when he came to life on these pages. He is so strong and masculine, yet his vulnerability makes him ultra swoonworthy. He is deaf, but we get to hear his voice through the words on the page. Aven is also vulnerable as she arrives in a place that is nothing that she expected. Thor shows her what it means to have value and persevere through difficult circumstances. 

This book tackles so many important issues: disabilities, addiction, prejudice, abuse...to name a few. Joanne addresses these in such an honest, realistic way. Woven through is faith in God and dependence on Him to overcome. I can't even accurately express how phenomenal this book is. 

Personal takeaway...No problem is too great for a great God. 

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. The opinions expressed are my own.**

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Orphan's Wish by Melanie Dickerson


Book Summary (Goodreads): From the streets to an orphanage in a faraway kingdom, Aladdin has grown up alone. Until he meets Kirstyn. With a father who is the duke of Hagenheim and a mother who is the patroness of the orphanage where Aladdin lives, Kirstyn is a member of the most powerful family in the land . . . and way out of his league. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion for taking walks in the forest, and their childhood friendship grows along with them.

Through his scrappy skills, intelligence, and hard work, Aladdin earns a position serving in the duke’s house. But he knows it isn’t enough to grant him his one desire: Kirstyn’s hand in marriage. If he hopes to change his station in life and feel worthy of marrying Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim to seek his fortune.

But once Aladdin leaves, no one is around to protect Kirstyn, and the greedy men desperate to take advantage of her father’s wealth take notice. Now, more than Aladdin’s background stands in the way of the future he’s worked so hard to obtain. His only hope is to rescue Kirstyn and somehow manage to win her hand as well.

My thoughts... This book was very different than Melanie Dickerson's previous books in that its subject area covered some new territory. It did follow along the Aladdin story line, which many of us are familiar with, but it was transformed into something much more realistic. I really liked that. (**spoiler alert...no magic genies came out of lamps in this story**) The new territory was that the heroine, Kirstyn, was kidnapped and treated terribly. You could even say she was abused by her captors. Later the story addressed, but not in these terms, the effects this type of event can have on a victim and issues of PTSD. I found this to be a well written aspect to this story, even though it is a delicate subject matter. For those who may have suffered a traumatizing event like this, or suffered abuse from someone, this may be difficult for them to read. It may also be difficult for a younger audience to read. The author does, as in her other novels, provide a spiritual connection to the resolution of the story, which is one of my favorite aspects of her fairy tale retellings. It makes Melanie Dickerson unique as an author. 

I truly enjoyed this novel. I was somewhat surprised at the level of intensity I felt as I was reading it, especially as Kirstyn was kidnapped. As I read I wasn't sure what to expect next or how all of the plot twists were going to be resolved, which is a good thing for a reader. It was hard to put it down!

Personal takeaway...God is our rescuer, our mighty warrior, who walks with us through the battle and comforts us and binds our wounds after the fight.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Reviewer's bookshelf:The Road to Magnolia Glen by Pam Hillman


Book summary (Goodreads): 1792, Natchez Trace, MS
Bitter since his eldest brother abandoned their family in Ireland, Quinn O’Shea travels to Natchez, Mississippi, ready to shuck the weight of his duty and set off on an adventure of his own. It’s time Connor, as head of the family, took responsibility for their younger siblings. While aboard ship, a run-in with three Irish sisters lands Quinn in the role of reluctant savior. Though it may delay his plans, he cannot abandon the Young sisters, especially the tenacious yet kind Kiera.

Upon arriving in the colonies, Kiera Young prepares to meet her intended and begin her new life. But she soon discovers the marriage her brother-in-law arranged was never meant to be, and a far more sinister deal was negotiated for her and her sisters.

Quinn offers to escort his charges safely to Breeze Hill Plantation and his brother’s care, fully intending to seek his freedom elsewhere. But the longer he remains, the greater his feelings toward Kiera grow and the more he comes to realize true freedom might be found in sacrifice.

My thoughts...This is the second book in the Natchez Trace series. You don't necessarily have to read the first book in the series, but it definitely helps fill in the gaps with this sequel. From the very beginning, there is a lot of action going on. As Kiera and Quinn cross the Atlantic with their siblings, tension builds as Kiera knows that she is on her way to her intended in America. When they arrive, the tension doesn't stop but keeps building up as there is evil in their midst. While they manage to escape for the moment, the evil lurks throughout the novel, which helps maintain the suspense even as the story transitions to Breeze Hill Plantation.

Pam Hillman continues to write strong characters in this sequel, just as there were in the first novel. The previous characters do reappear and contribute to the plot and suspense. There was a good amount of clean romantic tension as well, which is always my favorite ; ). Quinn and Kiera both go on a journey of self-discovery, each having a need to let go of past hurts. As they face many hardships, they also take a spiritual journey that builds their faith. 

My only personal pet peeve in the story were some terrible choices that some of the minor characters made that were almost unbelievable. It did help bring about a building of suspense, but it was one of those moments for me that made me think, "Why would they think that's a good idea?!" I guess that's why it's fiction ; ).

Personal takeaway: God is sovereign over our past, present, and future.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley to share my personal opinions, which I did**

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Be You, Baby Girl

When my baby girl was about to be born a little over 11 years ago, I had it all planned out. I had worked for months getting her room all set up. I took birth classes, a hospital tour, breast feeding classes, CPR class...the whole deal. Let's just say none of that went as planned. Not a single thing. I had to leave the hospital without my baby. She was in the NICU and they kept me in the hospital for as long as they could...7 days...while I tried to get through a very difficult birth experience. By the time I had to be discharged Sophie wasn't quite ready to come home. Friends and family saw my baby before I did...I didn't see her until a day after she was born. I was so drugged up I didn't even walk the first day. I couldn't see...somehow my glasses got lost in the midst of our transitioning from one room to another. We finally found them, but everything about the day she was born was a literal blur. When I finally did see her, she was hooked up to an IV and machines...I was afraid to hurt her. Then as she was getting better, one of the nurses would gush over Sophie and say how much she enjoyed holding her during the day. I know she meant well, but it was heartbreaking for me. We finally got to bring her home and she was perfectly fine, but I was dealing with a lot of emotions about the whole experience.

Maybe deep down I also kind of had it planned out as to how our relationship would be, even as she was a young child. That didn't turn out quite what I thought, either. As Sophie grew, she was not your typical baby. She was sleeping all night by 7 weeks old. She liked to be on her own...she didn't really care to be held much or rocked to sleep. The older she has gotten, the more independent she has become. My boys were quite the opposite, so there were times when I wasn't sure how to respond to what I thought was a personality so unlike mine.

First born children...us parents are learning on them. We're trying all the input out...how to feed them, discipline them, love them, potty train them...all the things. My expectations for my smart, independent girl have been sky high. She is quirky (she likes to say she's weird and proud of it). I have had trouble embracing that...because I think deep down I'm expecting her to be like me. The grown up version of me that knows how to act in public, filter my words, match my clothes really well, be this and be that.

So it hit me the other day....my baby girl is just like me in more ways that I realized. The kid version of me. And praise the Lord, it's not too late for me to enjoy who she is in the here and now. Embrace her quirkiness while gently guiding her into maturity. Teach her that God made her just the way she was meant to be because I believe that God has wonderful plans for my girl. Sophie went to camp last week and each girl at camp was given an "award" from their counselor. She was given the "Creative award." The message on the back from her counselor says in part:
"You have been such a joy to me since day one and your respectfulness and love for God and others has been so evident through all of your actions. I believe that God has a great plan for you and will use your kindness to tell the story of Jesus."
This message brought tears to my eyes. To see my precious girl through the eyes of another was a beautiful thing...and a good reminder that God is using her just the way she is. She still needs guidance and correction, and that is part of my job as her mother. But there is also so much I can learn from being around her.

Be you, baby girl. Just the way God made you, quirks and all. Your Momma is learning from you...how to be free from worrying so much about what others think. I love watching you embrace who you are...and you don't realize it now but it's teaching me to do the same. Being around you reminds me of who I was at your age...a young girl who loved being loud, crazy, and silly but who was also passionate about Jesus and telling others about Him. I thank God for all that He's doing in your life and He's using it to work in mine. Love you dearly, my Sophie girl.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Timeless Love: Romantic Stories that Span the Ages by various authors


Summary ...This is the first time I've reviewed a novella collection and hopefully it won't be my last! Each story was written by a different author and in chronological time. The proceeds from the novel will be donated to the LiveStrong foundation, which supports those who affected by cancer. This is near to my heart as I am a cancer survivor and my mother and grandfather passed away from cancer. To learn more about LiveStrong, click here.  Here is a list of each novella and its author:
*Give Me Thine Heart~1812~Andrea Boeshaar
*This Freedom Journey~1833~Misty M. Beller
*The Heart of Home~1865~Stephenia H. McGee
*Enchanting Nicholette~1893~Dawn Crandall
*Teach Me to Love~1899~Kari Trumbo
*Facade~1942~Pepper D. Basham
*Bookishly Ever After~2018~Sarah Monzon

My thoughts...I was pleasantly surprised by these novellas. The plots were very engaging from the start. Even though they were a little shorter than your typical full length novel, each story was very developed. One thing I don't like about some novellas I've read is that the hero and heroine practically fall in love at first sight, which means the romantic tension sometimes falls a little flat. This was not the case with these novellas. Each story had a different type of clean romantic story line that most certainly didn't fall flat. There were spiritual overtones in this collection but it was more subtle in some than others. In every case, it didn't have a "preachy" feel. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and have now been able to read books from several authors that I had not previously read. Go now to Amazon and pick up this perfect summer read!!

**I received a free copy of this collection from the publisher in order to share my honest opinion, which I did.**

Friday, June 22, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: A Rebel Heart by Beth White


Book Summary (Goodreads): Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family's Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land.

Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he'll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to "supervise" while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose.

Selah isn't sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she'd do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

My thoughts...The opening scene in this historical Christian fiction novel was an explosion of pulse-raising excitement, filled with anticipation of what was going to happen in the lives of Selah and her family. The next scene skipped forward in time, but was equally as thrilling, featuring a disastrous train wreck. Both of these scenes were important to the plot and set up the novel really well, but seemed like the pace slowed down quite a bit after that. The bulk of the story did have some intrigue and romantic tension sprinkled through it, but the pace didn't match the beginning of the novel until close to the end. The hero and heroine were likable characters, and the villain was well-written. 

I'm a little unsure how I feel about this novel! I was drawn in at the beginning, but found it hard to stay fully engaged 'til the end. I was a little distracted by some of the vocabulary (ex. exigencies, palanquin, dudgeon, and posit to name a few) and one of the characters that is a regular 14 year old kid most of the novel goes into a highly scientific explanation of something, and after that seemed like your average kid again. These were mostly just distractions, but it was noticeable enough to slow the pace down for me. I love complexity, and even challenging vocabulary, but consistency is important as well. I'm leaning towards 3.5 stars.

Personal takeaway...Your circumstances in life may take some difficult turns, but God can bring beauty from the ashes.

**I was given a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

Monday, June 18, 2018

Reviewer's bookshelf: The Love Letter by Rachael Hauck


Book Summary (Amazon): When Chloe is given a peek at the script for an epic love story, she decides to take her destiny into her own hands and request an audition for the lead female role, Esther Kingsley. The compelling tale, inspired by family lore and a one-page letter from the colonial ancestor of scriptwriter Jesse Gates, just might break her out of this career-crippling rut. Jesse would rather write about romance than live through it after his past relationship ended in disaster. But once on-set together, the chemistry between Jesse and his leading lady is hard to deny.
Centuries earlier, in the heart of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton Lightfoot and Esther Longfellow wrote their saga off the silver screen. Esther’s Loyalist father opposes any relationship with Hamilton, but Esther must face her beloved father’s disapproval and the dangers of war in order to convince Hamilton of their future together. Hamilton has loved Esther for years, and on the eve of battle pens the love letter she’s always wanted—something straight from the heart.  
Set in stunning upcountry South Carolina, The Love Letter is a beautifully crafted story of the courage it takes to face down fear and chase after love, even in the darkest of times. And just maybe, all these generations later, love can come home in a way not even Hollywood could imagine.

My thoughts....There are pros and cons to a novel with a split story line. The pros are that you practically get two novels in one, with two sets of characters, and in this case, two different time periods. Rachel Hauck takes these two complex romances and weaves them together to make one complete novel. Both were interesting and kept my attention, but I tended to drift towards the story of Chloe and Jesse. There was more closure with their story. I also enjoyed the romantic tension and plot line more with these two characters. Another pro is that the switch between time periods keeps the plot moving at a great pace.

The cons of a split story line are that you don't get as much information and detail that you would in a singular novel. You get basically half the amount dedicated to each aspect of the story. The two do somewhat converge, but I would've loved to know more, especially about Esther and Hamilton. 

Considering these pros and cons, I would still highly recommend this novel! It was quite enjoyable and I had a hard time putting it down : ). The personal journey that Chloe took in this novel was especially inspiring. 

Personal takeaway: Courage takes on many forms, even ways that we could not expect. To love takes courage, and it is worth facing our fears for.

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden


Book Summary (Amazon): As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city--but only if she can get people to believe in her work.

Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team's techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist.

While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

My thoughts...Water. We drink it every day, but how did we go from drinking water from a natural outdoor water source to the water that runs into every household? This historical novel, while having some fictional aspects, tells the story of the evolution of water treatment as we know it today. This is typical Elizabeth Camden style: creating a fictional story around momentous occasions in history. This story is the second book in a series, but can be read stand alone.

I found the subject matter interesting, as there was a gap in my own knowledge about how disease was connected to water sources and how we have basically eliminated some of the diseases that were a major problem in the past. There was a good amount of tension between Rosalind and Nick, as they both believed strongly in their own personal opinions about treating water for disease. There was also a side story related to Nick's family that was part of the first novel in the series, but you get enough information in this novel to be able to follow along. While there were a few nice moments of romantic tension, I did feel that it stalled out in the middle of the story. There was a very heated moment in the beginning of the novel then it kind of got lost in midst of the controversy of water. I personally would've liked to see a few more sparks fly, even in the midst of the main characters' conflict. I also had a personal dilemma while reading the novel. Is is a good thing that we ingest chemicals in our water? Is it worth saving us from terrible waterborne diseases or are we causing unknown health issues in the process? Maybe this is what the author intended, but I'm not exactly sure. I do know that it's a good thing when a novel can entertain but also leave you with food for thought.

Personal takeaway: Look at all points of view before you draw conclusions. Weigh the facts and trust God with His direction.

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in order to share my honest thoughts, which I did.**




Saturday, June 9, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter


Book Summary (Amazon): When Katherine "Kit" FitzGilbert turned her back on London society more than a decade ago, she determined never to set foot in a ballroom again. But when business takes her to London and she's forced to run for her life, she stumbles upon not only a glamorous ballroom but also Graham, Lord Wharton. What should have been a chance encounter becomes much more as Graham embarks on a search for his friend's missing sister and is convinced Kit knows more about the girl than she's telling.

After meeting Graham, Kit finds herself wishing things could have been different for the first time in her life, but what she wants can't matter. Long ago, she dedicated herself to helping women escape the same scorn that drove her from London and raising the innocent children caught in the crossfire. And as much as she desperately wishes to tell Graham everything, revealing the truth isn't worth putting him and everyone she loves in danger.

My thoughts... This book was not what I expected...and I was pleasantly surprised. It is not your typical Regency-style novel, but explored a topic that is often hinted at but never really addressed. What happens when a romantic tryst leads to an unwanted pregnancy? What happens to the children and the adults involved? Kit has given up London society, her family, and her reputation to protect women and children...but the way she does this is controversial. You could even say immoral.

The moral dilemmas in this novel was so well written. Often it seems pretty cut and dry which character is going on the wrong path, but I could honestly see both Kit and Graham's perspective. It takes faith and wisdom from God for them to work towards a resolution. Kit wrestles with a deep need to receive forgiveness and move past the guilt and shame that drives her. She also has to learn what a relationship with an honorable man could be like. 

Personal takeaway...Guilt and shame are a burden that God gladly bears. Receiving His forgiveness can help us live a life filled with peace and freedom. 

This is an intriguing novel that covers a wide range of plot elements. I would definitely recommend it!

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my opinion, which I did.**