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 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 parents are learning on them. We're trying all the input 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 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 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.**

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer

Book Summary (Amazon): Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes--one bright blue, the other dark brown--Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world's judgments, and Eva has two--Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers. 

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father's death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach's sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?

My thoughts...Karen Witemeyer is one of my go-to authors for this Christian fiction genre. I'm never disappointed, as her characters always have depth, the plot moves at a great pace and has interesting twists along with good dialogue. You will also have a solid Christian message without the "preachy" feel. I love it when authors weave their faith into a story, but when it is laid out more like a textbook than a natural part of the plot, it is kind of a turn off. This has never happened when I've read one of  Witemeyer's books. I also love the play on words with this title! There is a lot of good backstory with each of the characters, the depth of which causes each of them to be more than they seem. Along with that, Evangeline's two different colored eyes make her even more interesting, or even cursed, as some of the townspeople think.

I really loved the central themes of family, loyalty, and serving others. Evangeline was a fun heroine. She could turn on her sweet innocent side when it served her, but deep down she was perceptive and knew that Logan wasn't all he seemed. Logan was dead set on his mission of reclaiming what he felt was rightfully his, but when he meets Evangeline his path begins to take a different direction. She softens his heart, yet he still has to work through a lot of circumstances and memories that have hardened him. The romantic tension was well written and just right!

Personal takeaway...We never know what is behind a person...what their story is or what they've been through. Showing them God's love and kindness can soften hearts and build beautiful relationships.

I would certainly recommend this book as well as Witemeyer's other books!

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep

Book Summary (Amazon): Mercy Lytton, a scout with keen eyesight raised among the Mohawks, and Elias Dubois, a condemned traitor working both sides of the conflict, must join together to get a shipment of gold safely into British hands.

A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees. 

A War-Torn Countryside Is No Place for a Lady
Mercy Lytton is a lady like none other. Raised amongst the Mohawks, she straddles two cultures, yet each are united in one cause. . .to defeat the French. Born with a rare gift of unusually keen eyesight, she is chosen as a scout to accompany a team of men on a dangerous mission. Yet it is not her life that is threatened. It is her heart.  Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he is offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he is the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought.   Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?

My thoughts...This is the third book in the Daughters of the Mayflower series (they can be read as stand alone novels) and is my favorite so far!! If you're a fan of a Last of the Mohicans style book, with the lead being a female, you'll love this!

From page one, I was drawn in to the fast paced action of the story. As Mercy and her companions traveled across the wilderness they faced never ending danger. Even some travelers they met on the road could keep them from meeting their crucial deadline, so they were torn between helping them or just leaving them behind. Constant threats to their safety, moral dilemmas, suspicious characters, and intrigue were all part of this interesting plot. Even til the end you don't know how everything will turn out and new plot twists are revealed. I had a hard time putting this one down!

Interesting, well-developed characters can really make a novel a page-turner. Mercy Lytton is strong, a skilled scout who isn't afraid of facing the dangers around her. She is a little mysterious, which definitely appeals to her male counterpart, and doesn't back down on her mission. A character I definitely rooted for throughout the story. Elias is mysterious as well as determined and brave. All of the characters, including some of the villains, have hidden sides that are revealed as the plot goes on.

Michelle Griep did an amazing job of bringing a story about the early years of America to life. Many men and women had to face challenges just to survive, especially in the wilderness. Even in a fictional story, I could see how some of these circumstances could be true. I would highly recommend The Captured Bride.

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