Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Year end wrap up...All That It Takes by Nicole Deese


Book Summary (Amazon): When the ever-cautious Val Locklier moves cross-country with her son for a secure job, everything she'd planned unravels within the first week. After Val reluctantly agrees to rent an apartment from her best friend's brother, an unexpected chance at an elite filmmakers' mentorship ignites fresh hope for a dream career. But as Val's community begins to expand, so do her insecurities, especially those heightened by her growing attraction to a certain friendly landlord. 

Pastor Miles McKenzie returns home from a short-term mission trip to discover that not only does he have an intriguing new tenant living upstairs, he's also been reassigned to a local ministry on life support. Disillusioned and restless, he distracts himself by throwing his energy into a host of new projects--not the least of which is pursuing Val--without stopping to consider the future. 

As Val struggles to stop hiding behind the camera and Miles wrestles with shattered expectations, they'll find that authentic love and sacrifice must go hand in hand.

 My thoughts..

The first book in this series, All That Really Matters, was a total home run for me. It was the first book I had ever read by Nicole Deese and I loved it. I couldn't wait for this book, the second in the series, to come out. Here are some things I really liked about this book:

The development of the main characters, Val and Miles, was great. They both started out as wounded people in several aspects, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. As the story went on, they found strength and growth through their relationship with each other, friends old and new, and their faith. This didn't come quickly or easily, but as a reader, I could relate to their struggles and appreciated how they worked through them. Their growth also encouraged me in different aspects of my own life.

I also liked the level of romantic tension in the book. As they share two floors of the same house, crossing paths, hearing each other walking around, help each other out, it builds up the connection between the characters as well as opportunities to experience conflict. 

The only thing that I struggled with in this book was the bitterness Miles expresses about his ministry life, particularly in the beginning of the book. Maybe it's because it hit a little close to home (a story for another day), and I guess when you want to escape real life through fiction, you don't want to be faced with all of the hurt feelings and emotions that can sometimes come with ministry life. The author portrayed it well, it just kind of left a sour note with me and I struggled to shake it off as I was reading. By the end, there was a redemptive element to that part of the story, which I appreciated, but it was a bit hard won.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, but I would definitely say the first in the series is still a favorite. 

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

Year end book wrap up...beginning with Authentically, Izzy by Pepper Basham


Book Summary (Goodreads): Izzy Edgewood is a wannabe bookstore owner, quote queen, and Lord of the Rings nerd who has been waiting for Prince Charming to sweep her off her sneakered feet. But it’s hard to meet people when you spend more time with fictional humans than real ones. Which is why her pragmatist cousin Josephine decides to take Izzy’s future into her own meddling hands and create an online dating profile for the hopeful romantic.

To Izzy’s shock (and suspicion), Josie’s plan works. Soon, she’s dialoguing with a Hobbit-loving man named Brodie who lives in a small town an ocean away from her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But is their shared love of books, family, and correspondence enough to overcome Izzy’s fear of flying and the literal distance between them? And is a long-distance relationship even worth considering when a local author has been frequenting the library where she works and is proving to be a perfectly fine gentleman?

 My thoughts...Have you ever been in one of those seasons in life when you just need a fun, little pick-me-up...let's say in the form of a heart-warming, romantic, endearing book? That's where I was not long ago when I decided to take a chance on Authentically, Izzy by Pepper Basham. I wasn't sure that an epistolary novel was going to be able to accomplish what I was searching for, but all my skepticism was laid to rest once I got started. I was instantly taken in.

 Several aspects of this book really worked for me. First of all, I loved the characters. They were authentic, funny, and relatable. Movie quotes were sprinkled throughout the dialogue, and I got (most of) them. The epistolary style didn't take away from any of the chemistry between Izzy and Brodie, but I loved that the author stepped away from it during some important moments. It drew attention to those parts of the book in all the right ways.

Another aspect I loved is the way Pepper created a sweet, wholesome story, but still gave us romance lovers that tension and (clean) contact that we want. Thank you! 

I can't wait to read the second book in this series!


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

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Two Historical Novels....


Book Summary (Amazon)...Amid the Great War in 1918 England, munitions worker Rosalind Graham is desperate to escape the arranged marriage being forced on her by her ruthless guardian and instead follow her own course. When the Chilwell factory explodes, killing hundreds of unidentified workers, Rose realizes the world believes she perished in the disaster. Seizing the chance to escape, she risks all and assumes a new identity, taking a supervisory position in Gretna, Scotland, as Miss Tilly Lockhart.

RAF Captain Alex Baird is returning home to Gretna on a secret mission to uncover the saboteur suspected in the Chilwell explosion, as Gretna's factory is likely next. Fearing for his family's safety, he's also haunted by guilt after failing to protect his brother. Alex is surprised to discover a young woman, Miss Lockhart, renting his boyhood room, but the two eventually bond over their mutual affection for his family--until Alex receives orders to surveil her.

Rose squirms beneath Alex's scrutiny while she struggles to gain her workers' respect. But when her deception turns to danger, she and Alex must find a way to put their painful pasts behind them and together try to safeguard the future.

My thoughts...If you enjoy well written fictional characters intertwined with historical events, you'll love this book! I didn't know much at all about this time period, but Kate Breslin did a great job of helping the reader understand the pulse of the time without overwhelming with too much information. Rose was a character that I empathized with, as she becomes an innocent bystander of a tragic wartime encounter. Innocently, she uses this tragedy to help start a new life free from the harmful circumstances she was in, only to find out that she had entered into a different kind of danger. I loved that plot twist! I also enjoyed the growth in her character along with the hero, Alex. As always with Kate Breslin's books, I had a hard time putting it down. While I will say that For Such a Time is still my favorite, I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.

Book Summary (Amazon):
When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother's desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.

The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey's cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past--including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick--magistrate, widower, and former neighbor--who long ago broke her heart.

When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something. . . .

My thoughts...I have been a Julie Klassen fan for many years now. Her books have a bit of mystery, surrounded by light romance. Her characters are interesting, which is another aspect that makes me come back for more. 

In this particular novel, I loved the mystery aspect the most. Up until the end of the novel, there was a question of who was the character in the hooded gown. I'll have to admit, I was reading late one night and nearly scared myself! I would still consider it to be light suspense. Julie also does a great job building the romantic tension. I love the connection between Rebecca and Sir Frederick as they try to figure out if they can trust one another to solve the mysteries at the abbey. 

This book is a clean read and the author is a must read for this genre! 

I received complimentary copies of these books from the publisher via NetGalley.

Monday, June 6, 2022

I love a good time travel book!


Book Summary (Amazon): In the last stages of a genetic disease, Ellen Creighton has decided to live out her remaining days at the estate of her longtime friend Harrison Burlington. Harrison cares deeply for Ellen, but as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, he's never allowed himself to get serious in a relationship. However, he's desperately trying to save her by finding the holy water that is believed to heal any disease.

When he locates two flasks, Ellen refuses to drink one of them because she believes the holy water killed her sister and father. In an effort to convince her to take it, Harrison ingests the contents first, and when Ellen witnesses the effects, she can no longer deny the power of the substance in the bottles. Dangerous criminals are also seeking the holy water, and Ellen soon learns they will go to any lengths to get the powerful drug--including sending her back into the past to find it for them.

My thoughts...I've never read quite so much about holy water as I have with this book and Jody Hedlund's first book in this series...or imagined what it could do. In Never Leave Me, we see not only its time travel power but also the power it has to heal. All of this can get a little confusing, with different time crossings and the consequences of leaving one time for another. What I love about these books, though, is the way the characters are written. You see how much they change and grow throughout the novel, as well as how they deal with the various plot twists thrown at them. Speaking of plot, Jody is a master story weaver. She takes fantasy (time travel) and adds depth through scenarios and emotions, which makes you want to know what is going to happen next, even if you have to accept the unbelievable. The romantic moments are a particular favorite of mine, which are fun, clean, but still get the heart racing. The first book in this series is still my favorite, but I really enjoyed this one as well and would definitely recommend it. I'm looking forward to the next one!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in order to share my honest opinion.*

Friday, May 13, 2022

When someone else's story collides with your own....

 Who is Stacey Morgan? Stacey Morgan kissed her husband goodbye before he donned his space suit on July 20, 2019, and headed to his waiting Soyuz rocket. With an overwhelming mix of pride, excitement, and terror, she and her children held hands and watched the rocket ignite and lift off for a nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

This is the story of the astronaut’s wife―a journey full of unexpected twists and turns. While the love of her life orbited the Earth, Stacey was about to embark on a knock-your-socks-off adventure right here at home. This season would be different from any Stacey had experienced before. The risks were greater, the loneliness was deeper, and the stress was more intense. Filled with as many unique challenges as surreal opportunities, this deeply meaningful season taught her rich lessons about

  • preparing for any mission or adventure life throws at you
  • rediscovering your fun side when you’ve been trapped in survival mode too long
  • trusting God when you feel weak or alone
  • choosing hope in the face of fear and uncertainty

Containing behind-the-scenes glimpses into a side of space flight that most of us will never experience, The Astronaut’s Wife is a funny, poignant, and meaningful exploration of living life to the fullest―no matter where you roam.

Why I loved this book....This book was not what I expected. I thought it would be a cool behind-the-scenes look into astronaut family life. Well, it was that...but so much more. Stacey Morgan took snippets of their life and circled back around to make them applicable to anyone. For those who are going through transitions, who have seasons of single parenting, who have to do some hard things and make sacrifices, and what hit me the most....when you're searching for "your people" when it doesn't come naturally...this book covers all of that and then some. It encouraged me, made me tear up, and in the end it inspired me to take some "calculated risks" in life. That's what Stacey and her husband, Drew, have done through every phase of their life journey. You see, I used to be more of an adventurer...a calculated risk-taker. I've lived overseas, traveled to different parts of the world, met new people, and even met my husband on a blind date. Lately, with the world shifting around us, fears escalating about so many's easy to forget how to find the joy in life. This book reminded me of that. To not just take chances and do more, but to have hope. Our efforts to live a fulfilling life may look different now, we have scars, but we can't let it stop us from going out there and keep at it. I loved this book and definitely recommend it!


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

Monday, May 9, 2022

Closing out a fantastic series!


Luke and Finley's story...Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey's life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke's release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he's hidden. Worried that she won't be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke's promise to protect her until the end of her search.

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke's help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return--by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he's long denied himself.

As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He'll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who's going to shield him from losing his heart?


Why I loved their story....This book was the perfect ending to the Misty River Romance series! I naturally gravitated towards the setting, being from Georgia myself, but there was so much depth to each character's journey. There were five characters throughout the series who were impacted by an overseas mission trip they took as young students, that ended tragically when an earthquake killed one boy and nearly killed the remaining five. When Luke's brother died that day, the lives of his friends and family were forever changed.

Initially I wasn't crazy about the way Finley treated Luke like her own personal rehabilitation project. Finley is passionate about running Furry Tails, an animal rehab and adoption center, but the way she approached Luke's trauma like she would a wounded animal didn't really connect with me. But as the story continued, and Finley's character developed along with Luke's, Becky Wade did a great job of bringing all together. By the end I could see how every aspect of the story worked. I enjoyed the treasure hunt aspect of the story as well. It was a unique way to connect Finley to her father as well as tie in some light mystery and suspense. Luke definitely fits the bill as my favorite type of hero: wounded, broody, dark, and handsome. Yes, please : ).

If you enjoy clean, Christian romance, this is the book for you! In fact, I would definitely recommend the entire series as you're planning your summer vacation reads!

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

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Two new AMAZING historical fiction releases!

 I'm trying something different this year with my book reviews: instead of just one review, I thought I'd do a little book comparison. Two books that may be the same genre, or like in my last post, they may be completely different. My only consistency is my love for a happily ever after. Yes, I'm that person.

 Last year produced some really great books, but this year looks even more promising! Yet I still have so many books in my TBR pile that I've yet to even get to, so I haven't even tapped all of last year's potential! :D Anyway, to get back on track, one of my favorite authors released her newest book, "A Heart Adrift," this month and it is not only gorgeous in cover, but the story is as luscious as the chocolate it often refers to. 

Book Summary (Amazon): It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old failed love affair from which she's never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.
Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.

Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart, or can their shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past? 

My thoughts...This story reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, "Persuasion." Like Anne in Persuasion, Esmee had a chance at love but it slipped by. As time went on, her sea captain returned, to explore the renewal of love that was thought to be lost. While, of course, there are many details that are different, the story lines felt very similar. Different from Anne, though, was Esmee's boldness in exploring her feelings. I loved that aspect of her character. Henri, like Captain Wentworth, fell in the love with the sea in his youth. As he spent years following its siren call, and making his fortune, he eventually made his way back to Esmee, fully expecting her to have moved on with her life. It created a lovely amount of tension as they found each other again, and got to know each other as mature adults, as opposed to the naïve youth they once were. Their reacquaintance is set in the American colonies, on the cusp of becoming a new nation. Frantz' attention to detail is what makes her stand out as a writer. I always feel like I'm being transported to another time and place when I read her books...engaged with all senses. I would highly recommend this novel as must read for clean historical fiction lovers who also enjoy a Christian faith element to the story.

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher as well as a digital copy from Netgalley in order to share my unbiased opinion, which I did.**

Book Summary (Amazon): 
Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she's worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she'll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London's attention she'll need a habit-maker who's not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row's infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts?

My thoughts....Set in Regency London, red haired Evelyn has tasked herself with saving her family with a good marriage. Armed with a little more than determination and amazing skills as a horsewoman, she wants to help turn the balance in her favor by employing the top habit-maker to fit her with something to make her stand above the other ladies in the London season. Ahmad is a talented, but he works in the background as his heritage is not one of respectable London society. While they both are very different, they find some common ground as two who have experienced the pain of rejection from others. 
I absolutely loved this book! It is definitely a love story with some moments of heightened romantic tension, but what I would still consider a "clean read." I loved Evelyn's pure heart towards Ahmad, seeing his worth in so many ways. Yet often she struggled with her own worth, at first only seeing herself as only a means to support her family. Ahmad helped bring out her beauty, physically and internally. I loved the chemistry between the characters, even if the word "sensual" was used several I wanted a little more descriptors, but by the time I was thinking that I was already sold on the story. There is a slight faith/historical element to the story in the form of Prince Albert's death and spiritualists that hoped to contact him in the afterlife. The book explores this and treats in a somewhat comical way, but it is still a significant part of the plot. This is a general market fiction novel, but like I said, very clean with few uses of profanity and no open door bedroom scenes. If you're already a fan of Mimi Matthews, you won't be disappointed! There is also a connection between the characters in this series and the previous one, but you can still read this as a stand alone novel. Can't wait for the next book!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Reviewer's Bookshelf: 2021 Wrap Up!

What a year! I can honestly say I'm not sad to see 2021 go. It was a tough year on all levels: physically, emotionally, spiritually....all the things. Reading was my escape, but I had a hard time sitting down to read the books I normally enjoy. Mainly because I just needed books I knew would be fun, romantic, and have a happy ending. I didn't want to focus or think about what I was reading. Now that 2022 is here, I wanted to do a little catching up on a few books I've wanted to review, and I'm trying to commit to making my large TBR pile a little smaller : ). Another confession: I'm a little hesitant to list a few of the books I started last year because some of them weren't the mental break I thought they would be. There were a few I had to stop and delete altogether. I like to venture out of my normal genre of Christian fiction sometimes, but it's good to have in mind what your personal limitations are. Even so, authors are some of my favorite people, and I'm so thankful that despite the craziness of the world around us, they keep typing away and creating stories that help us all take a mental break. I'm so excited about the upcoming releases for this year!

I'm going to kick off my first review of the year with "Love on the Range" by Mary Connealy. 

Book summary (Amazon): While his brothers and their new wives search for who shot him, Wyatt Hunt is temporarily bedridden and completely miserable. Somehow Molly Garner's limited skills have made her the most qualified in their circle to care for Wyatt. But by the time he's healed, she's fed up with him and the whole ungrateful family. For even worse than his grumpiness were the few unguarded moments when he pulled at her heartstrings, and she has been long determined to never repeat her mother's mistakes.

When alternate plans of finding her own independent life fall through, Molly volunteers to work for the Pinkertons and help investigate nearby ranch owner Oliver Hawkins. She signs on to be his housekeeper, hoping to find clues to prove his nefarious, and possibly murderous, past. Wyatt refuses to let her risk it alone and offers to act as Hawkins's new foreman.

But when another Pinkerton agent gets shot, they realize Hawkins isn't the only danger. The Hunt brothers will have to band together to face all the troubles of life and love that suddenly surround them.

My thoughts...Mary Connealy is one of my tried and true favorite western fiction writers. The way she writes her characters make you respect them, root for them, but also chuckle a little at their feistiness. I love the humor and sarcasm that is woven in that helps balance the intensity that often occurs while the hero, heroine, and their comrades are battling some big time baddies. There is also a thread of faith woven in the story, that I appreciate as one who loves Christian fiction. 
    In this third book in the Brothers in Arms series, the Hunt brothers, despite a rocky start in book one of the series, are learning to work together and depend on each other to figure out who is behind the acts of violence in their area. This series is a little different in that each book backtracks in time a little so that it focuses mostly on the perspective of each brother. Along with each brother, each lady in the "family" gets a turn sharing their perspective. It gave this series something special that I haven't read in Connealy's previous work. 
    I really enjoyed this series for the new aspects and the characterization that I know and love. I also appreciate that I don't have to wait forever for the pace to pick up...there's usually action right from the start. If you're a fan of a slow burn, there's a little of that, but I love that the author isn't shy about showing the fun and excitement of a fresh romance. If you're a fan of this genre, definitely go out and start from book one of this series!

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

One more review on quite a different story....

Book summary (Amazon): 
Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.
Enchanting Regency-Era Gothic Romance Intertwined with Inspiration from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein  
Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does. . .in the worst possible way.
Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?

My thoughts...This book was a different experience for me than other books I've read by Michelle Griep. It reminded me a lot of Charles Dickens, in the sense that it was in England and highlighted the darker aspects of the times: poverty, mistreatment of those who are vulnerable, and had an overall gothic feel. Griep did a good job creating the tone and atmosphere of the era and setting up the plot to include a connection to Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."
    I took a chance on this story because I love the author, and I was intrigued by how she might craft the plot. It was well done. However, the timing just wasn't right for me to fully appreciate it. It's not really a happily ever after story, but one that left me feeling grieved. Grief for the injustice of evildoers wreaking havoc on the vulnerable, of a family torn apart by said evildoer, of loss of loved ones, and even the loss of a way of life. There's more, which made the book feel heavy for me. The romantic aspect of the plot was nice but brief, and when I finished the last page I wasn't left feeling that this was about the love for a man and woman, but the familial love between a brother and sister. A faith element was also included in this novel, which I appreciated, and it fit in very well with what was going on in the story.
    If you're a fan of gothic regency era novels, you will appreciate this book. Michelle Griep is a wonderful author and I'll probably read more of her work, just not this particular genre. 

**I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in order to give my honest opinion, which I did.**

Coming soon: Laura Frantz's newest, "A Heart Adrift"!