Welcome to Carlybird's Home, my Christian book review blog!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Paige Turned by Erynn Mangum

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Paige Turned
TH1NK (April 1, 2014)
by
Erynn Mangum


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A few things about her:

So, if we were having this conversation in person, we would probably be hanging out at Starbucks or one of the cute coffeehouses in town. I’m nuts about all things coffee, I’m crazy about all things pink and girly, and I love, love, love the Food Network! I’m married to my best friend and the most amazing guy ever, Jon. He is amiable toward coffee, does not like anything pink or girly and tolerates the Food Network. So, we make a good match! In July 2010, we became parents to one of the funniest, cutest, sweetest little guys in the whole world (and nope, we aren’t biased at all!), our Nater-Tot, who is legally known as Nathan. Most days, I’m cleaning up messes, making goofy faces, trying to fit some writing in, and just LOVING the life that God has given me!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Despite her valiant efforts, Paige Alder seems stuck in chaos. Her new job as youth intern keeps her hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop all summer long, but at least she’s loving the one-on-one time she gets to spend with the girls. The unfortunate side-effect is that now, four weeks of laundry fills her apartment. Plus, she barely has time to help her sister and best friend with their weddings! And even worse? Something is definitely wrong between her and Tyler. She apologized for what he thought he saw happen with Luke. Can’t they move past it? Or could there be something he’s not telling her—something that could change everything?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Paige Turned, go HERE.





My review of Paige Turned:

There are some books that are no-brainers and by that I mean it’s guaranteed that I am going to love it.  Any book by Erynn Mangum is a no-brainer for me.  I have been reading her books for a few years now and I never want to miss them.  I always like the light-hearted feel with a meaningful Christian message that Erynn never fails to present in her books.

Paige is a relatable character and even though there is a bit of an age difference between me and her, I still learned from her and I liked getting to know her.  There is just enough silly in this book to keep me interested, but at the same time there is enough of a faith message to make me feel like the time I spent reading it was meaningful.  I have always loved that about Erynn’s books.  I feel like she has been maturing as a writer with each book and she certainly has my respect as a Christian woman with a great gift to share her faith with her readers.  This is the last book in Paige’s story, but I am certain Erynn is busy with her next character and I look forward to meeting her.



Sunday, April 13, 2014

What Follows After by Dan Walsh



About the book:

In 1962, life was simple, the world made sense, and all families were happy.
And when they weren't, everyone knew you were supposed to pretend.

For the past year, Scott and Gina Harrison have been living a lie. While they show up at family get-togethers in the same car, they've actually been separated for over a year. To keep up the charade, they've even instructed their sons, Colt and Timmy, to lie--to their grandparents, their teachers, and their friends.

Colt, for one, has had enough, so he hatches a plan. He and his little brother will run away from their Florida home, head for their aunt's house in Georgia, and refuse to come home until their parents get back together. But when things go terribly, terribly wrong, Scott and Gina must come to grips with years of neglect and mistrust in order to recover their beloved sons, their love for one another, and their marriage.

In this emotional story, bestselling author Dan Walsh takes you on a journey to rediscover the things that matter most in life--love, truth, and family. With profound insight into the heart of a hurting child, he reminds us that a time will come to look back on hard times and smile, because we'll know that what follows after . . . is not what we expected at all.



My review of What Follows After:

Oh, that Dan Walsh.  He gets me every time.  I don’t know how he does!  When I first started reading this book, I actually (briefly) thought I may not like it.  It felt like it was going to be way too depressing and I cynically expected that maybe Dan’s talent has slipped a little with this one.  That was a silly notion and I didn’t have to get far into the story to really see how silly that notion was.  I may as well go ahead and say it, this was Dan’s best book so far.  I think I say that with all of his books and I am pretty sure I will say that about the next one, but really, this book was incredible.  

There are three things that really jumped out at me with this book, the story, the Christian message and the time period in which the story takes place.  I have a fascination with America in the 1960s and this story put an interesting spotlight on a truly scary time in our history.  I am glad Dan moved away from WWII era stories and has been using the 60s as his backdrop.  I don’t think I will ever get bored with that.  

I know I have said this before, but there are a lot of reviewers who compare Dan Walsh’s books to those of Nicholas Sparks.  That drives me crazy.  I have read a couple of Sparks’s books and he does not come close to writing with the same depth and heart that Dan writes with.  I have read every single one of Dan’s books and they are awesome.  He is awesome.  Read What Follows After and be inspired and moved to tears!



This book was provided for review by Revell.

Sincerely Yours, A Novella Collection




About the book:

Four unexpected letters. Four intrepid women. Four lives changed forever.

Spanning a century and a continent, these romantic novellas will lead you on a journey through the landscape of love. Four young women find their lives altered after each receives a letter that sets her on a new path. From a Hudson River steamboat to a lush drawing room, from a carousel carver's workshop to a remote hospital, you'll be swept into the lives of women who are making their way in the world and finding love where they least expect it.

Moonlight Promise by Laurie Alice Eakes
Camilla Renfrew is a highborn English lady fleeing false accusations when she runs smack into love on a steamboat bound for the new Erie Canal. But can this unexpected attraction survive the treacherous journey?

Lessons in Love by Ann Shorey
Marigold Montgomery Bentley writes marriage advice for Kipler's Home Weekly even though she is single. Everyone assumes from the initials that "M. M." is a man. When the editor asks to meet Mr. Bentley, can Merrie come up with a ruse to keep her writing job?

One Little Word by Amanda Cabot
Lorraine Caldwell will lose her family fortune to a reckless cousin if she doesn't marry quickly. When she learns her long-lost brother is alive, she hopes she's found the answer to her problems. What she finds instead is a mysterious carousel carver who turns her life upside down.

A Saving Grace by Jane Kirkpatrick
Grace Hathaway must rescue a dear friend from a remote and notorious clinic that promises healing but delivers only heartache. In a place laced with deceit, where lives hang in the balance, whom can she trust to help her?



My review of Sincerely Yours:

I’m not usually a big fan of novella collections, mainly because the stories tend to feel rushed and incomplete, but when I saw the list of talented authors included in this book I figured it would be good.  I knew that if I could just get through the first story and like it, then I would enjoy the rest of them.  I had absolutely no trouble getting into the first story, written by Laurie Alice Eakes.  I loved it actually, so it was smooth sailing through the other stories.  Just don’t ask me to pick a favorite because I enjoyed them all equally.  I found this book very relaxing, the kind of reading experience I look forward to.

It’s been a while since I have enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed Sincerely Yours and I think this is the first time I have ever really enjoyed a novella collection.  The stories fit together nicely, but they were still great stories on their own.  I highly recommend this book for a nice, relaxing reading experience.




This book was provided for review by Revell.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Summer of Joy by Ann Gabhart



About the book:

As summer draws to a close Jocie's world seems serene--but is it just the calm before a storm?

Unbeknownst to Jocie Brooke and her family, two people are making their way to the small town of Hollyhill, Kentucky. One everyone thought was gone for good and the other no one's ever heard of. Still, one thing is sure--they promise trouble. The past is coming to call, threatening to destroy strong relationships that everyone has simply taken for granted.

The summer of 1964 may be winding down, but the controversy in this little community where nothing ever seems to change is just heating up.

Bestselling author Ann Gabhart invites you to Hollyhill for a story both exciting and enduring that will stick with you long after you turn the last page.



My review of Summer of Joy:

I have loved so many of Ann Gabhart’s books.  In fact, whenever I get a new book from her I can’t wait to start reading it.  After reading the premise of Summer of Joy, I couldn’t start reading it fast enough, but then disappointment started.  It seemed like so much of the beginning of the book was used for reintroducing characters from the last book and getting the reader caught up on everybody that there was never going to be any story.  I don’t need to know who everybody is in just the first few pages.  I have no problem with an author taking his or her time letting us get to know their characters.  This issue almost turned me away from finishing the book.  But, I pressed on and the book did get better, but I have read so many other books by Ann, I just didn’t feel like this one measured up with the talent I have come to know from her.




This book was provided for review by Revell.

A Heart's Rebellion by Ruth Axtell



About the book:

In a world governed by unspoken rules, one young woman is about to break them all . . .

Dutiful Jessamine Barry is tired of waiting patiently for a man to decide her future. So even though Lancelot Marfleet, second son of an aristocrat, is taking an interest in her during the London season, she refuses to consider him as a suitor. Instead, she's ready to take fashionable society by storm--and finds a rakish young man all too willing to help her do it.

Can Jessamine trust her heart to lead her to a love that proves true through thick and thin? Or will her rash actions close the door on the life she really desires?

Lose yourself in Ruth Axtell's sumptuous story of discovering one's true self and finding true love.


My review of A Heart's Rebellion:

Regency books have become quite popular and I have read several of them, so I am getting a little bored with them, but I have to say that A Heart’s Rebellion is one of the better.  This book is the sequel to Moonlight Masquerade and I read that book as well.  I liked this one much better, but I did find that reading Moonlight Masquerade first helped me enjoy this one more.  The Regency time period is an interesting one.  I don’t think I would have enjoyed being around then so I could somewhat relate to Jessamine and I certainly felt for her and the heartbreak she was trying to recover from.

This book does have somewhat of a slow start, but once we get introduced to more characters and the story develops more, the momentum builds nicely.  I really enjoyed this book and I know that Regency fans with absolutely love this book.  I am looking forward to seeing what else Ruth plans on writing, perhaps a contemporary romance!






This book was provided for review by Revell.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Tide and Tempest
Bethany House Publishers (March 4, 2014)
by
Elizabeth Ludwig


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Rocket, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies (co-authored with Janelle Mowery), earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year Award. This book was followed in 2009 by "I'll be Home for Christmas", part of the Christmas anthology collection, Christmas Homecoming.

In 2011, her second mystery, Died in the Wool (co-authored with Janelle Mowery) was nominated for a Carol Award. In 2012, the popular EDGE OF FREEDOM series released from Bethany House Publishers. Books one and two, No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, respectively, earned 4 Stars from the RT Book Reviews. Book three, Tide and Tempest, received top honors with 4 1/2 Stars.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two years ago, her fiance perished during their voyage to America.

Now she discovers it may have been murder...

Dreaming of a better life, Tillie McGrath leaves Ireland behind and, with her beloved fiance by her side, sets sail for America. But when illness robs her of the man she holds dear, she's left alone with only a handful of tattered memories. While forging on proves difficult, Tillie soon finds some new friends at her New York boardinghouse, and begins pursuing a new dream--to open a home for orphaned children.

Despite two years passing, Captain Keondric Morgan has never forgotten the lass who left his ship so heartbroken. When a crewman's deathbed confession reveals her fiance's demise was the result of murder, the captain knows he must try to contact her. But his attention draws the notice of others as well--dangerous men who believe Tillie has in her possession something that could expose their crimes. And to their way of thinking, the best way to prevent such an outcome is to seize the evidence and then hand Tillie the same fate as her naïve fiance.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Tide and Tempest, go HERE.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate


About the book:

With love and loss tangled together, how was she to know where her life would lead?

Allie Kirkland has always heard the call of her father's unfinished destiny. When she's offered a production assistant's job on a docudrama filming in the hills near Moses Lake, Texas, the dream of following in her director-father's footsteps suddenly seems within reach. The reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step into the film industry. A summer on set in the wilderness is a small price to pay for a dream.

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delavan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the region's folk songs. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.

When filming begins, strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, and everyone in Wildwood--including Blake Fulton, Allie's handsome neighbor on the film set--seems to be hiding secrets. Allie doesn't know whom she can trust. If she can't find the answers in time, history may repeat itself...with the most unthinkable results.


My review of Wildwood Creek:

I have read several of Lisa Wingate’s books and I have always liked them, but I often found that they took a while for me to get into.  That was not the case with Wildwood Creek.  This was by far my favorite of her books that I have read.  This one grabbed my attention right away and I found it difficult to put down.  I have always liked Lisa’s way of creating depth in her stories and her characters and in this particular book, that depth didn’t slow down the story at all.  It just made it harder to put down.  I loved the two storylines that ran together throughout the book and how Lisa wove them together.

This book has reignited my enthusiasm for Lisa’s books because she has far exceeded my hopes and expectations in Wildwood Creek.  This book had just right right amount of everything to appeal to many different readers.  This is definitely a book that I will hang onto for a while and recommend highly.



This book was provided for review by Bethany House.

The Dream Dress by Janice Thompson



About the book:

Big dreams take big leaps of faith . . . but what if you trip on the way?

A lowly seamstress at a swanky bridal boutique, Gabi Delgado dreams of doing more than ripping out seams and fitting dresses to doe-eyed brides. She wants to see her own original dress designs gracing the young women of Texas. But when Jordan Singer, reporter for Texas Bride magazine, visits the shop to do a feature, Gabi is humbled in his influential--and unnervingly handsome--presence.

Convinced she'll never get her dreams off the ground now, Gabi needs lots of encouragement--especially from her friend Bella Neeley--to take a chance and start her business. And as she gets to know Jordan, she discovers that she may have to take a chance on love as well.



My review of The Dream Dress:

What can I say, Janice Thompson has a hold on me!  Her books continue to enchant and amuse me just as much as the first time I ever read one.  Life has been a little stressful for me lately and I have been having to make some decisions and having a sweet and funny book to take my mind off of things for a while has been a welcome distraction.  Of course, this book would be just as good even if life was perfect but sometimes God uses the things that seems the smallest to bring a little light into our lives.  The Dream Dress did just that.  

Reading a book that is funny is one thing, but a book that makes me laugh out loud more than once all while giving me a sweet story, well it’s a keeper and I have come to expect nothing less from Janice.  I was looking forward to reading this third book in the Weddings by Design series and it was worth the wait.  Of course, it was a little sad to see this series end, but I know Janice is working on more that I will love, just like she always is.  I would recommend this book and any book by Janice.



This book was provided for review by Revell.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How Sweet the Sound by Amy K. Sorrells

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
How Sweet the Sound
David C. Cook (March 1, 2014)
by
Amy K. Sorrells


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

An Indianapolis native and graduate of DePauw University, Amy lives with her husband, three boys and a gaggle of golden retrievers in central Indiana. After writing and editing for her college newspaper, she combined a nursing degree with journalism and creative writing, which led to publishing and editing a wide array of medical and nursing writing and multimedia projects over the past 21 years, a position as director of communications of her church’s children’s ministry, as well as a weekly column for a local newspaper which ran from 2009-2012. She has been a two-time semi-finalist for the ACFW Genesis awards, and was the winner of the 2011 Women of Faith writing contest.

When she’s not reading or writing, Amy loves spending time with her three sons; spicy lunches and art gallery walks with her husband; digging in her garden sans gloves; walking her dogs; up-cycling old furniture and junk; photography; and friends.



ABOUT THE BOOK

From a distance, the Harlans appear to be the perfect Southern family. Wealth and local fame mask the drama and dysfunction swirling through their family line. But as the summer heats up, a flood tide of long hidden secrets surface.

Devastation from a rape followed by the murder of two family members brings three generations of the Harlans together on their pecan plantation in Bay Spring, Alabama. Chief among them is Anniston, who by the time she turned thirteen thought she’d seen it all. But as her heart awakens to the possibility of love, she begins to deal with her loneliness and grief.

This tender coming-of-age tale, inspired by the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, shows how true healing and hope comes only from God. Though our earthly family can wound and disappoint, our heavenly Father brings freedom to those long held captive through His mercy and grace.

If you would like to read the first chapter of How Sweet the Sound, go HERE.



My review of How Sweet the Sound:

Once again, my theory about books has proven true - debut novels are just better.  I have read so many Christian novels that I have gotten pretty good at being able to determine very early on how I was going to feel about a book.  I knew that this book was going to be intense, but I also knew that it was going to be very powerful and amazing.

This is one of those times when I wish my writing skills were a little better because I fear that I will not be able to properly express just how this story made me feel.  So many times I just wanted to cry for the pain this family is going through.  Seeing this story through the eyes of Anniston, an innocent child made the reality of it much more intense.  I am truly amazed by the talent I saw in How Sweet the Sound and I know I have said this so many times before with debut authors, but I felt that Amy poured her heart and soul into this story.  She showed me the true miracle of God’s ability to heal even the most unspeakable pain and for that I am most grateful to her.  If there was one book so far this year that I would say to absolutely not miss, this is the one.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Dating, Dining, and Desperation by Melody Carlson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Dating, Dining, and Desperation
B&H Books (March 1, 2014)
by
Melody Carlson


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Daphne Ballinger has learned to accept her deceased, eccentric aunt’s strange request that she marry in order to inherit her estate, along with taking over her aunt’s hometown paper’s advice column. But knowing and accepting that God’s will be done becomes harder when a new neighbor, a divorced socialite, learns of Daphne’s predicament and takes on the task of finding her the perfect man, even if it includes speed dating. When God does open Daphne’s heart, it is instead to take in a young girl left parentless and in the care of her dying grandmother. It may be a temporary arrangement until the girl’s uncle returns from the Marines, but God uses Daphne to speak His heavenly love and protection into the life of the child -- whom Daphne soon discovers has a very handsome and single uncle.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dating, Dining, and Desperation, go HERE.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love's Sweet Beginning by Ann Shorey


About the book:

What will it take for a once-privileged young woman to make her way in the world?

It isn't Cassie Haddon's fault that she has reached the age of twenty-five without possessing any useful skills. Until the War Between the States, she always had servants. Since then, she and her mother have been forced to rely on family to care for them. But now the well of human kindness has run dry--and Cassie must find work to support them.

Unfortunately, leaving the past behind is easier said than done, and Cassie must summon all of her courage and wits to convince local restaurateur and grocer Jacob West that she's exactly what his business needs.

With her signature sweet romance, Ann Shorey weaves a tale of two people from different backgrounds finding common ground and the hope of a bright future together.



My review of Love's Sweet Beginning:

Ann Shorey is on my list of authors that I never miss.  Some of her books are simple romances and others are more complex stories with deep messages.  Love’s Sweet Beginning was one of those stories that was a little lighter on the romance but had a lot of story and character development to deliver the message.  

Cassie is one of the most enjoyable characters I have seen in a book in my recent reading list.  I love her willingness to do what she needs to do to take care of herself and her spoiled, ungrateful mother.  Cassie was raised with everything and never had to do anything for herself, but she still wanted to prove to herself and others that she is capable of adapting to her new life.  I admired that about her and I was inspired by that.  The connection between Cassie and Jacob, who was not the easiest character to get to know, was a natural connection and I could feel how they cared for each other. 

Life involves a lot of changes, some bigger than others, and we need to be ready to recognize opportunities to prove ourselves.  I enjoyed the message of this book and I enjoyed the characters, most of them anyway.  I liked the characters I was supposed to like and I found a nice ending to series I loved.    





This book was provided for review by Revell.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Once Upon A Winter's Heart by Melody Carlson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Once Upon a Winter's Heart
Center Street (January 7, 2014)
by
Melody Carlson


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Emma Burcelli has suffered over a decade of dating disasters. But she concludes that love is officially dead when her grandfather Poppi suddenly passes, leaving her grandmother Nona devastated. To help out, Emma works in the family bookstore, which Nona insists must be decked out in sweetheart décor as Poppi would have done for Valentine's Day. Although she feels like a V-Day Scrooge, Emma quickly learns to enjoy the task with the help of a handsome family friend, Lane Forester, who shows her that hanging hearts is much more fun when done to the tune of Dean Martin. As Emma and Lane share time and memories of Poppi, she reconsiders the notion that romance is alive.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Once Upon a Winter's Heart, go HERE.


My review of Once Upon a Winter's Heart:

Oh yay!  I never miss one of Melody Carlson’s Christmas books and now she has written a Valentine’s book.  I hope this is something she will continue to do each year because I love a sweet Valentine’s story.  Once Upon A Winter’s Heart simply oozed cozy.  I loved it.  I loved the bookstore setting and the delightful romance.

This is a nice, light and quick read.  I am reading another book right now and it is intense and hard to read and taking a break from that one to read Melody’s book was such a welcome distraction.  I have read several of Melody’s books and I don’t recall a single one that I didn’t love and this one is no exception.  I highly recommend this book to warm up with on a cold wintry night.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen


About the book:

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.


My review of The Dancing Master:

I first fell in love with Julie Klassen’s writing when I read The Apothecary’s Daughter several years ago.  I have read most of Julie’s books since then, but none have been as good as The Apothecary’s Daughter.  I can still say the same thing for The Dancing Master.  Don’t get me wrong, this was still a very good book, but I just loved that one and the rest just didn’t quite have the same effect on me.  I love the amount of research and character development that goes into each of Julie’s books.  This can slow her stories, or any story for that matter, but it is worth the time to let the story unfold the way Julie intended.  That said, this book did take me a little longer to read than I usually like and a less talented author may not have been able to hold my attention long enough to make it to the end.

Much of the country is in the midst of a rough winter with a lot of cold and snowy days and this book is a good one for cozying up on a snowy day when no one is in a hurry to get anywhere.  I liked relaxing with this book and escaping to a small village in the English countryside.  Compared to other books by Julie Klassen, The Dancing Master is not my favorite, but she is a very talented author and I can’t see myself ever disliking anything she writes.  I do hope that there is a future book in Julie’s brain right now that will charm and delight me the way The Apothecary’s Daughter did.  I hate to keep comparing her books to the one that I really loved, that probably drives authors crazy, but I want to have that experience again.  The Dancing Master comes close, it really does and I recommend this book just like I always do with Julie’s books.



This book was provided for review by Bethany House.

With Autumn's Return by Amanda Cabot


About the book:

She's planning on instant success. She didn't plan on love.

When Elizabeth Harding arrives in Cheyenne to open her medical practice, she is confident that the future is as bright as the warm Wyoming sun. Certain she'll have a line of patients eager for her services, she soon discovers the town may not welcome a new physician--especially a lady doctor. Even Jason Nordling, the handsome young attorney next door, seems to disapprove of her chosen profession.

When a web of deceit among Cheyenne's wealthiest residents threatens to catch Elizabeth and Jason in its snare, they must risk working together to save one of Elizabeth's patients--even if it means falling in love.


My review of With Autumn's Return:

I have loved every book by Amanda Cabot that I have read.  I recently had to purge a large portion of my book collection so I donated most of my books including every one of Amanda’s books.  I started reading With Autumn’s Return and I instantly regretted donating the Amanda’s other books.  I will not part ways with this book though.  I forget sometimes after reading a book just how much I enjoyed it and how I would rather keep it in my collection.  I really enjoyed this story mostly because it was unique.  Yes, it was a historical romance, not much unique about that, but the story of Elizabeth and Jason was unique and special.  It was not one I will forget anytime soon.  I loved the western feel and the setting in Wyoming.  I love going places in books that I have never been to in real life and I enjoyed visiting Wyoming in a different way from other books I have read.  There was also a nice dose of suspense in this romantic story.  I do love when authors do that as long as it is not overdone.  It was not overdone in this story, so it was a nice balance and compliment to the romance. 

I read in the back of this book that Amanda has a new contemporary romance series debuting this fall.  After reading several of her historical romances, I can’t wait to see what she offers to the contemporary romance genre.  Amanda has proven herself a reliable and diverse author.  With Autumn’s Return was as enjoyable for me as all of her previous books and I will miss the experience of the Westward Winds series.  



This book was provided for review by Revell.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Trailer for A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander


I am really looking forward to reading this book.  The cover is beautiful!


Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman




About the book:

She's a sassy socialite burned by love. He's a jaded cop burned by the upper class.
When sparks fly . . . will love catch fire again?

Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast, she quickly discovers she's no match for the unsavory characters that haunt the dark streets.

Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite self-defense, but it seems he has little choice. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But is he just a fraud like all the rest of the men Allison's cared for? Or is he the one who will let her dare to love again?

Award-winning author Julie Lessman brings the glamour of Gilded Age San Francisco to vibrant life in this journey to find a love that never fails.



My review of Dare to Love Again:

I really wish I had more time to read these days because I am always hit or miss with Julie’s books and each time I am able to read one of her books, I love it.  Dare to Love Again is the second book in the Heart of San Francisco series and thankfully I was able to read the first book and this one.  The more of Julie’s books I read, the more I want to read.  She seems to be getting better and better and writing romantic stories with serious substance and excellent messages.  Dare to Love Again is no exception.

It look me some time to get through this book and that is not to say that the story was slow.  There was just so much depth and Julie’s writing is meant to be savored and taken in slowly.  I’ve been to San Francisco and I really enjoyed visiting these very different characters from very different worlds.  It was an interesting look at an interesting city.  I loved the characters and their stories.  Everything about this book was excellent.  I will definitely not want to miss the next book in this series.  I am hooked.






This book was provided for review by Revell.

Friday, January 24, 2014

For the Love of Pete by Debby Mayne

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
For the Love of Pete
B&H Books (January 15, 2014)
by
Debby Mayne


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Debby Mayne is a best-selling author who has published more than 25 books and novellas, 400 short stories and articles, and devotions for women. She has also worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for HSN, a creative writing instructor, and a copy editor and proofreader. Her novel, Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida received 4-1/2 stars from RT Book Review, and was named a Top Pick for the month of July. She and her husband Wally have two grown daughters, and live in Palm Harbor, Florida.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Widow Bethany Hanahan is trying in vain to fill an empty heart and an empty nest. The result is a home filled to the brim, but something is still missing. That’s when her new gardening club friends come to the rescue, encouraging her to let go of the past as well as the present clutter –emotional, spiritual, and physical. It’s not long before Bethany is finding friends, not bargains, to fill her days. But has her life become too full for someone like Pete Sprockett, a childhood friend, for whom her romantic feelings are beginning to bloom? Join the quirky, loving community of Bloomfield as they do what they do best – poke their well-meaning noses in and intervene in times of need –in author Debby Mayne’s second novel in what has become a five book series about a community where life is simple and love is real.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of For the Love of Pete, go HERE.



My review of For the Love of Pete:

When I first read the description of this book, I had a certain expectation for it.  I was expecting a nice, romantic novel with a pleasant setting.  That is what I found as I got into this book.  This story didn’t move very fast, but it didn’t have to.  I was thankful that it didn’t move fast because I was ready to stay in Bloomfield and enjoy the characters for as long as I could.  Sadly, some of the meddling characters hit too close to home for me, but it did make the story more believable.  Not everything is perfect in Bloomfield, but there is plenty of charm and humor.  

I haven’t read any of the other Bloomfield novels, but I have wanted to.  Now I see why they are so popular.  I don’t think I have read any other books by Debby Mayne before, but if For the Love of Pete is typical for her writing, then I know I will enjoy her other books.  This story was simple, but sweet, and that appeals to me very much.  I was able to just relax and enjoy the romance and the humor.  This book was definitely everything I was hoping for.  I highly recommend this book for a nice, romantic read.  Just right for cold winter days.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Everyday Confetti by Karen Ehman and Glynnis Whitwer


About the book:

Got a calendar packed with reasons to celebrate but a brain that lacks ideas? Special people you want to love on but limited time to do it? Relax. We've got you covered.

Everyday Confetti is your go-to guide to making holidays, birthdays, special events, and even the everyday special. Inside you'll find more than two hundred ways to make memories with your family, including easy recipes, fun activities, and inexpensive decorating ideas--all simple, doable, and stress-free.


My review of Everyday Confetti:

I would definitely consider myself domestically challenged.  I also suffer from a complete lack of creativity, so a book like this is just the thing I need to have in my collection.  I loved so many things about it.  One thing I loved was how it is arranged by season.  I love seasonal books and it makes for a much more organized book, which is important for a book like this one.  I also loved the fact that this book is not just a book of recipes.  There are many recipes, but there are also ideas and tips to make special occasions more special.  The authors also share special memories from their own family celebrations.

Overall, Everyday Confetti is a valuable and enjoyable book to add to my collection.  I don’t have a lot of space left on my bookshelves, but I will be keeping this book because I know that it will come in handy in the future.  The authors wrote this book for people like me and I am thankful.



This book was provided for review by Revell.

Songs of the Shenandoah by Michael Reynolds

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Songs of the Shenandoah
B&H Books (January 1, 2014)
by
Michael Reynolds


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael K. Reynolds is a writer with more than two decades of experience in crafting fiction, non-fiction, journalism, copywriting and documentary production. He is the author of a series of Irish historical novels published by B&H Publishing Group. These highly acclaimed books are available in bookstores and libraries across the nation and beyond.

Michael is the writer and producer of an Emmy and Telly award-winning series of documentaries titled, Crystal Darkness. These thirty minute anti-meth films have been heavily promoted and broadcast in cities and states throughout the United States and Mexico. They have been viewed collectedly by more than 10 million people and the message has reached more than 30 million to date.

He also has wide experience as a speaker and on-air personality and has been interviewed on a variety of newspapers, radio stations and televisions networks throughout the nation. Michael earned his B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, San Diego and lives in Reno with his wife and three children. He is active in marketplace, marriage, small group and men’s ministries as a leader and speaker.

ABOUT THE BOOK

At the onset of the Civil War, Seamus heeds his wife’s wishes to return to her beloved family farm in the South, where he takes a post as chaplain for General Stonewall Jackson’s brigade. As Seamus ministers to the troops, his sister Clare ministers in a different way—by being a powerful voice in the Northern cause toward freeing the slaves. All this while their youngest brother Davin, who became wealthy during the Gold Rush, struggles to find love and identity in a fallen world. It’s a clash of loyalties and beliefs that threaten the entire family, each of them trying to hear God’s encouragement in the midst of the tragedy of war. The dramatic conclusion to the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland Series.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Songs of the Shenandoah, go HERE.

 My review of Songs of the Shenandoah

 I never read the first book in this series, but I did read the second book, In Golden Splendor, and I absolutely loved it. I could not wait to read Songs of The Shenandoah and I loved this book just as much or possibly more. Now, as I found out with In Golden Splendor, Michael Reynolds writes books that are meant to be savored and not rushed through. It has been a while since I read a book that takes place during the Civil War because I had gotten a little bored with the subject, but I had no doubt that with Michael’s writing and these characters, the Civil War would be a fascinating backdrop. It was hard not to feel some sort of connection to this story and these characters and this experience will be different for each reader.

 I would highly recommend reading this series from the beginning. I wish I had read the first book, but I still feel like Michael’s writing is strong enough to carry the reader through the story just fine. I enjoyed being able to take my time over my Christmas holiday to savor this final book in the Heirs of Ireland series. I was already a fan of Michael Reynolds when I started this book and I am a bigger fan now. There was substance and story and characters with depth in this book and that is not always easy to find.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Firefighter's New Family by Gail Gaymer Martin


About the book:

A tornado may have left Ashley Kern injured beneath a fallen tree, but it’s her rescuer who plays havoc with her emotions. Firefighter Devon Murphy is everything the single mom could wish for in a husband: handsome, a doting father and ready to join his family to hers. But how can the pretty war widow make a life once more with a man whose career is full of danger? Devon has fought some pretty big battles in his life, but can he help Ashley conquer her fears and show her the safest place of all is in his arms?


My review of The Firefighter's New Family:

It’s funny sometimes the way God works.  Two neighbors who were meant to be together are finally brought together by a terrible storm.  We may never have such a dramatic experience like this in our own lives, but it is amazing how God brings us through the storms in life and if we allow ourselves, we come out on the other end very blessed.  That is what I took away from The Firefighter’s New Family.  While I really enjoyed the story, as I always do, I enjoyed the comforting message that Gail has delivered in such a beautiful way.

One of the things that Gail’s books always allow me to do is to really think about God’s love for His children.  Even when it looks like things will never be good again, God proves to us that it will be and sometimes even better.

I have been reading Gail’s books for a few years now and I have been noticing that each book seems to have more depth than the one before.  The romance and love stories are always nice, simple stories, but the message is deep and that makes for a terrific combination.  Ashley and Devon were such likable characters, but I really felt like their children stole the show.  They made for a nice family with a lot of warmth.  I think Gail must love children because they are always so charming her in stories.

If you are looking for a nice, simple love story, The Firefighter’s New Family is the book you are looking for.  If you want an excellent Christian message that will fill you with the comfort of God’s love, this book is also the book you are looking for.  I love all of Gail’s books and I love to see that her books keep getting better and better.  We still have one more book in this series and I can’t wait to read it.  I can’t wait to see new love blossom and to see more of God’s love in action.


For more information about this book and to read an excerpt, visit Gail's website.



This book was provided for review by the author.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Simple Christmas Wish by Melody Carlson



About the book:

One girl in need of a home. One woman in search of a home for her heart. One Christmas where it all seems possible.

It felt strange to be out here in the middle of the night, still wearing the Amish dress--a dress that had belonged to Miri. Rachel's footsteps crunched in the snow, and halfway between the barn and the house, she paused to look up at the night sky, wondering if more snow was in store, but all she saw was velvety black and stars. Millions of twinkling stars. She had never seen stars like that before, so bright and so close, almost as if she could touch them with her hand.

Rachel Milligan never imagined that she and her seven-year-old niece would spend the week before Christmas on a quaint Amish farm in Ohio. But with so many unexpected occurrences of late, perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised.

With her young niece Holly in tow, Rachel anxiously makes her way from Chicago to Ohio's Amish country. As love begins to blossom, family secrets emerge, and old wounds are healed, Rachel realizes that she will do whatever it takes to ensure that Holly has the loving family she needs.

Join bestselling author Melody Carlson on an emotional journey into the heart of what family truly means at Christmastime.


My review of A Simple Christmas Wish:

I always look forward to Melody Carlson’s Christmas novels.  I didn’t read the description of this book before I decided to read it and I was disappointed to find out that it is an Amish novel.  I am really tired of Amish novels, but A Simple Christmas Wish didn’t have the typical Amish feel.  Even though the Amish aspect was important to the story, it still felt like it was just in the background.  I appreciated that about this story.  

I also appreciated the characters, even the Amish ones, but I liked the close bond between Rachel and Holly.  Melody did a good job crafting their relationship and their love for each other.  

As I was reading this book, I felt that the story was dragging a bit and I was certain that the ending would be too abrupt and feel rushed.  I was glad to find that the ending felt quite natural and it was exactly what I was hoping for.  This book was certainly not my favorite by Melody, especially as far as her Christmas stories go, but I did like it.  I have always liked her books, but this one felt like it wasn’t given the same amount of time that she gives her other books.  It is a cozy, enjoyable story, but I will be very happy once this Amish fiction craze starts to fizzle.  



This book was provided for review by Revell.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Christmas at Harmony Hill by Ann H. Gabhart



About the book:

A stirring story of healing, hope, and home at Christmas

She stared up at the Shaker buildings. They took in those in need. That was why she was riding into their village. But she couldn't stay here. Not forever. They divided families. She'd heard her grandmother speak harshly of the way Shakers didn't believe in marriage and had special houses where children were kept from their parents.

Heather put a hand over the swell of her baby inside her. Surely they wouldn't take a newborn from his mother's bosom. Heather's mother couldn't have imagined that happening or she'd have never told her to come . . .

It is 1864 and the nation is torn apart by civil war when Heather Worth discovers she is with child. With her husband at the front and nowhere else to turn, she seeks refuge in the Shaker village of Harmony Hill. Amid the tumult of the times, Heather yearns for the peace she sees in this strange community. But can this longing really be fulfilled amid these people with their peculiar beliefs about family?

As Christmas approaches, the joy of new life and the love that is born of forgiveness may hold the answer.

Join bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart for a peek into the world of the Shakers--and the world of the human heart.

For more information, please visit http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/christmas-at-harmony-hill/325440



My review of Christmas at Harmony Hill:

I am a big, big fan of Ann Gabhart’s books.  I always look forward to reading her stories and I was very excited that she wrote a Christmas book this year.  I love a nice, cozy Christmas story during this time of year.  This was a nice and cozy story, but I was not wowed by it the way I was hoping to be. One of my biggest problems with this book was that it felt very slow in some parts that really didn’t need to be slow, while other parts, especially toward the end, felt rushed when a bit more time and care would have been appreciated.  I have always known Ann to be a very careful writer, one who takes her time to craft a perfect story.  I didn’t feel like she took the same time and care with Christmas at Harmony Hill.

I didn’t dislike this book.  It had just the type of ending that I was hoping for and I was not disappointed with that at all.  I also liked the characters, especially Heather and Gideon.  I could really feel their love even though they were far apart.  I didn’t feel that same love and bond between Heather and Sophrena though and they were staying in the same small cabin together.  The author talked about the bond forming, but I didn’t feel it.  I wanted to feel it.

So, overall, Christmas at Harmony Hill was an okay Christmas story.  I was hoping for more, but it was a worthwhile read.  It’s cozy and has a good message, but it is certainly on Ann’s best work.



Available November 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.





This book was provided for review by Revell.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Paige Rewritten by Erynn Mangum

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Paige Rewritten
NavPress (October 8, 2013)
by
Erynn Mangum


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A few things about her:

So, if we were having this conversation in person, we would probably be hanging out at Starbucks or one of the cute coffeehouses in town. I’m nuts about all things coffee, I’m crazy about all things pink and girly, and I love, love, love the Food Network! I’m married to my best friend and the most amazing guy ever, Jon. He is amiable toward coffee, does not like anything pink or girly and tolerates the Food Network. So, we make a good match! In July 2010, we became parents to one of the funniest, cutest, sweetest little guys in the whole world (and nope, we aren’t biased at all!), our Nater-Tot, who is legally known as Nathan. Most days, I’m cleaning up messes, making goofy faces, trying to fit some writing in, and just LOVING the life that God has given me!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Paige Alder is in a really good place. She’s dating nice guy Tyler. Her boss has offered her a raise. Her walk with God is strong. Life is great—and that’s when things start to change.

First, the youth pastor at church keeps asking Paige to work with him full-time. Then her sister shows up newly engaged and wanting to reconnect, even though they haven’t spoken in years. And now former boyfriend Luke has come back into her life. How is Paige supposed to know what the right decisions are?

This warm and humorous second book in the Paige Alder series will help young girls work through important issues, such as forgiving others and obeying God.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Paige Rewritten, go HERE



My review of Paige Rewritten:

I don’t have much time these days to review books as much as I used to, but Erynn is one of the few authors whose books I will always put very high on my priority list.  Paige Rewritten was a fun and enjoyable continuation of Paige’s story, but for all the light-hearted fun in this story, there is still a very real message that readers can take away while enjoying a great read.  I may not be the same age as Paige, but I can still take something away from her learning how to rely on God to help her heal.  That is a message that will never get old and I always appreciate the way God uses Erynn to teach His simple lessons in a fun, entertaining and real way.

As always, Erynn has charmed me with her newest book.  One of the things about this book, and this series, that I like so much is that Paige is a likable character.  I like to cheer her on and I care about what happens to her.  That is good writing if you ask me.  I have always said that Erynn is an excellent writer and she continues to write in a way that really speaks to me.  I very much recommend this book, but to enjoy it more, I would read Paige Torn first.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Greetings from the Flipside by Rene Gutteridge

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Greetings from the Flipside
B&H Books (October 15, 2013)
by
Rene Gutteridge


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rene is the author of seventeen novels. She also has extensive experience writing comedy sketches, and worked for five years as the director of drama for a church. She has a degree specializing in Screenwriting, for which she earned the Excellence in Mass Communication Award, and graduated magna cum laude.

She is married to Sean, a musician and worship leader, and has two children. They reside in Oklahoma, where Rene writes full time and enjoys instructing in college classrooms and writers conferences.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Hope Landon has been rewriting other people's greeting cards since she was six years old -- there's always a funnier caption. She's all set to chase those creative dreams with her musician fiance in New York City until he leaves Hope at the altar, deciding he must not really love this girl if he can't write a song for her. That may give her something to write about . . .

Hope disappears alone on what was supposed to be the couple's month long honeymoon. Upon returning she learns of her funeral -- everyone in her life concluded Hope must have killed herself after being jilted. Needing a fresh start more than ever, she heads for the Big Apple only to discover it's not that easy to rent a place when you've been declared dead.

Taking shelter at the YWCA, Hope soon lands a job at a Christian inspirational greeting card company as an assistant to Jake, a guy who shut down his organization's humor department. She has lost her faith in love; he needs to find something or someone that will make him laugh.

Is there anything in the cards for these two? Find out in the truly original Greetings from the Flipside by authors Rene Gutteridge (Boo) and Cheryl McKay (screenplay for The Ultimate Gift).

If you would like to read the first chapter of >Greetings from the Flipside, go HERE.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Rules of Murder
Bethany House Publishers (August 1, 2013)
by
Julianna Deering


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JULIANNA DEERING has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her new series of Drew Farthering mysteries set in 1930s England debuts with Rules of Murder (Bethany House, 2013) and will be followed by Death by the Book (Bethany House, 2014).



 ABOUT THE BOOK



Downton Abbey Meets Agatha Christie in This Sparkling Mystery

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew's stepfather's company come to light and it's clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer--and trying harder to impress Madeline--Drew must decide how far to take this game.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Rules of Murder, go HERE.


My review of Rules of Murder:

I love a cozy mystery and I love all things English, so it wasn’t hard for me to get into Rules of Murder.  I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but every once in awhile I like the change.  This book had all the aspects I enjoy with a mystery along with quirky characters who brought this book to life.  The one thing I did not like was being overwhelmed with too many characters right at the beginning of the book.  I see that too often in novels and I just don’t think they need to be written that way.  Once I got past all that though, everything else about the story was very good.

My overall feeling about Rules of Murder is very positive.  There were so many aspects of this story that I really liked and really spoke to me as a reader.  It was nice to take a break from what I usually read and discover a new author that I will be reading again.  This book is the first in a series that I sure will continue to be enjoyable.  While I do like to read mysteries, I think that even people who perhaps don’t read a lot of mysteries will still like this book.  It takes place in England in the 1930’s, so just the setting and the time period alone are interesting.  When you add in the mystery and the romance, well, you have a very good book.