Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gunpowder Tea

by Margaret Brownley
Thomas Nelson Publishers

In a case that could change her career, Miranda uncovers a love that will change her life. 

When Miranda Hunt sees the classified ad for an heiress to the legendary Last Chance Ranch, she knows assuming the identity of Annie Beckman is the perfect cover. As one of the finest agents for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Miranda has been tasked with apprehending the Phantom - an elusive and notorious train robber thought to be hiding on the sprawling ranch. 

But she isn't the only one there with something to hide. Wells Fargo detective Jeremy Taggert is working the scene undercover as well. And although their true identities are a secret, it is impossible for Jeremy and Miranda to hide the spark that flares between them.  

But neither is about to let romance interfere with such a huge case. Besides, Miranda hasn't removed Jeremy from her list of suspects yet. The closer they come to uncovering the identity of the Phantom, the more dangerous he gets - and no one on the ranch is safe. 

But neither are their hearts - the longer Miranda and Jeremy spend working together, the harder it becomes to keep their feelings in check. Their careers - and their lives - depend on solving this case. Love will have to wait.

My Review:

This novel was a light, fun story. The interaction between "Branch" and "Annie" were fun to read, especially since they can't decide whether they are flirting or working their case! I found it amusing that Miranda was so drawn to Jeremy even though she was trying to consider him a suspect on her list. The title finally made sense when I read through their constant back and forth banter, and I found the dynamics of their quickly growing fondness of each other endearing

While I read the book completely out of context with the series, I did find myself confused a little bit by the details contained herein. I felt at times that I was missing something that may have been covered better in the two previous novels. When I read a trilogy from start to finish, I often find the repetitive details annoying. But when I read a trilogy our of context and those extra details are not there to help me out, I feel lost. Either way, the book was well written, with characters I can relate to despite the historical time period. Brownley does a good job connecting the reader with the story, and I was very pleased with the cop style humor that drew me in the beginning.  

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/pS1iy

Connect with Margaret through her website: http://margaretbrownley.com

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If The Shoe Fits

by Sandra Bricker
Moody Press Publishers

Julianne used to believe in fairy tales; she's been watching for Prince Charming to come charging in on his white steed ever since the day her mother read her Cinderella for the first time. But she's never come close to finding the perfect man-instead she's always tripping over her childhood best friend, Will. And who finds their Prince Charming on a 10-speed bicycle on the other side of the cul de sac? Well... Julianne does. Only she doesn't have a clue.
She and Will are attorneys now, and they've joined up in private practice in a beautiful Cincinnati office building that overlooks the Ohio River. And then one day Julianne is on her way to court, and runs right smack dab into Prince Charming. But when she looks again, all she finds is a metaphoric sign she is certain came straight from Heaven: The Prince's toolbox has fallen off the back of his truck, and a work boot along with it. What better way for God to grab the attention of a Cinderella-in-training than to show her a glass slipper...errrr, work boot?...waiting to be reunited with its owner?
So she sets out to track down the mysterious Prince Charming. He's the most gorgeous guy she's ever seen...and a caring animal rescuer, too. Surely he must be the soul mate God has prepared her for.
But, Julianne's prince is starting to look less and less charming all the time. No matter how she tries to romanticize him, he just keeps tumbling down off that dumb pedestal. And with the Bar Association dinner coming up that will honor her for her outstanding charity work over the year, Julianne wants so much for her friends and colleagues to see her with someone besides her best friend Will. To make matters worse, Prince Charming has no designs on wearing a penguin suit and attending a stuffy old dinner. With her pride pressing in on her like sticks from a cactus, Julianne sinks to the bottom of the proverbial barrel and actually offers to pay Paul to be her date.
Julianne is on a collision course with God's perfect plan for her life...if only she could open her eyes and see it before it's too late.

My Review:

I am going to start by saying that Julianne drove me crazy!!! For an attorney, she has got to be the most educated yet dumbest character I have ever met in the literary world!! If that was Bricker's intention to portray her "princess" in such a way, she did a really good job. I was hoping for more from her character; more depth, emotion, and satisfaction at reading her story. But Julianne was downright half-witted and simpleminded, and left me wondering how she defended clients on the stand. I'd be scared if she was my lawyer.

I found Prince Charming was anything but. Will was also quite the exasperating character, unwilling to admit he was in love with Julianne, and falling for every girl that looked like her. After 20 years, the poor man is still dragging his feet and unable to think outside the box that is the building of their shared law firm. Maybe he'll come around, and then again, maybe not. If you are up for the kind of fairy tale that leaves you screaming at the absolute dumbness of the characters, this book is for you. I enjoyed it, and it was a light read with some pretty funny scenes. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Marriage Carol

by Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman
Moody Publishers


On Christmas Eve twenty years earlier, Marlee and Jacob were married in a snowstorm. This Christmas Eve, they are ready to quit, and divorce is imminent. Their relationship is as icy as the road they're traveling and as blocked with troubles as the piling snow. They take a shortcut to get to the lawyer's office, on a slippery, no-fault path. She thinks they need to stay on the main road. He disagrees. They fight. Story of their lives and they slam into a bank of snow , spinning, drifting, falling, out of control. Just like their lives. Reluctantly, freezing cold, hungry, scared, she trudges up the hill. Jacob is nowhere to be found. Her ears frozen, fingers and hands red, she comes to a house on the hillside, built like a Bed and Breakfast, a green wreath on the red door and the door-knocker is in the shape of a wedding ring.

The red door opens and the first thing she notices is the fire in the room, blazing hot, a warm, inviting, friendly place and the voice of an old man welcomes her in. There are three golden pots on the hearth, shining, glimmering things. The old man claims that they are used to restore marriages. She laughs-and begins a journey through her past, present, and future that will test how she views her lifelong love. There are two futures available. Which will she choose?

My Review:

My only complaint about this novel is that it's too short!! It was such a good little book that I hated how it ended so soon. This was a beautiful picture of how marriage can become stagnant, and what it takes to restore it to it's former glory. This story is proof that it is never too late for love, and that it is never too late to change your future. 

Marlee and Jacob are two people I wish were real, that I could talk to and go to for advice. They took something that was broken and looked to God to help them through the hard times. They came out victors for it, and the Lord blessed their efforts. I do wish there would have been a few more pages so we could have gotten Jacob's perspective on what was happening, but the writers did a good job of giving Marlee a voice. A sweet little Christmas novel that will encourage you and aspire you to better all your relationships. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for a honest review. 

Fifteen Minutes

by Karen Kingsbury
Howard Books

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury comes a dramatic story about fame, true love, and the cost of having it all. 

Zack Dylan made a promise to God and his college sweetheart as he left his family’s horse farm in Kentucky to compete on the popular reality television show Fifteen Minutes: If he makes it, the fame won’t change him. 

Overnight, Zack is the nation’s most popular contestant, a country singer with the looks and voice of a young Elvis. As his star rises, Zack is asked to compromise and quiet his beliefs, and also something more. Something Zack could never have imagined. Just as America is falling in love with Zack, just as he’s on the verge of winning it all, his choices lead him to the brink of personal disaster. 


At the same time, Reese Weatherly, a therapeutic horse instructor, is no longer sure about her relationship with Zack, or the wedding they had dreamed about. While Zack advances from one round of the competition to the next, an offer comes to Reese—one that will take her to a home halfway around the world. 


Then Chandra Olson—reigning diva pop star and one of the Fifteen Minutes judges—intervenes. Chandra has suffered so much public pain and private agony since her days as a Fifteen Minutes contestant. Now she wants just one thing: meaning. 


Can Chandra’s private losses help Zack find his way, or will his fifteen minutes of fame cause him to lose the life he once loved? Fifteen Minutes is a story of character, compromise, and the cost of having it all. A story that raises the question: Who are the real winners?



My Review:



I would rather be a nobody loved by somebody, than a somebody that nobody loves. Fame comes at a price, and the price of admission may be higher than you're willing to pay. Zack discovers that having it all doesn't mean happiness, and that the dreams in life mean nothing when you no longer have anyone to share it with. Zack is driven to win, but when the pressure mounts, can he stay strong against all the temptations the world has to offer?

Something that struck me about this novel, is that Kingsbury manages to write a story about a hometown boy turned famous that pulled at my heartstrings. She made me see Zack's side of the tale; his struggles, his triumphs, his sorrows and his victories. Every chapter brought me closer an closer to the climax, and I stayed up all night anticipating the final throes of the death of either the old Zack or the new. A must read that demands to be noticed, Kingsbury gives us the picture of the price of fame, and the cost of standing up and for what is right.



This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

View the book trailer here: http://youtu.be/7WwZUfXNU84

An Amish Family Christmas

by Murray Pura
Harvest House Publishers


After tragedy strikes the family of young Naomi Miller, her friend Rebecca Bachman does all she can to help. But things get complicated when Rebecca's brother, Micah, returns from a combat tour in Afghanistan. For one thing, he chose to serve in the military even though he served as a medic and never picked up a gun. For another, he is under the Meidung--the shunning-- because of that and none of the Amish are permitted to speak to him or eat with him. And finally, he is not only Rebecca's brother, he is Naomi's husband! But how can Naomi pick up where their marriage left off after he turned away from her and his people to enlist in the army? How can Naomi and Micah even begin the process of healing their relationship when he will not repent of what he has done and the Amish will not forgive him for what he has done? Naomi despairs of ever again having a happy married life with her husband. 
But God has a way of working on the hearts of His people--especially at Christmas time. When an unexpected turn of events sets things right, miracles happen to the Amish community, to the Miller family, and to Naomi and Micah, miracles that transform everyone.
Here is warm and tender story of faithfulness, love, and reconciliation at the most wonderful time of the year.
My Review:
Micah has done what he thought was right, but when you're Amish, that comes at a high price to pay. Choosing not to be a conscientious objector, Micah becomes a medic and joins the military in Afghanistan. But upon his return, his wife Naomi is not allowed to resume their married life because he is shunned. When it becomes clear that Naomi still loves Micah and desperately wants to be with him, it just broke my heart that the People were the cause of the division between two souls. I am a huge sucker for the story of lovers unable to be together, and this one was no different! 
Pura brings the elements of Christmas, love that can't be changed by beliefs, and a beautiful story of faithfulness to life. While an incident in the story felt a little extreme in order to paint Micah in a good light, I will always love a good Christmas romance - especially when written by Pura! I would recommend this book to anyone, even if you're not fond of Amish fiction. This one is different  and a perfect read for the upcoming holiday season! 
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Healing Grace

by Beth Shriver
Realms Publishers

Can Abby overcome the pain caused by her father and find acceptance among the Amish?

Abigail Barker is a young woman struggling to keep the family horse farm afloat in Texas. When one of her horses is injured in an accident, Mose Fisher arrives on the scene wanting to help.
As she struggles with the faith she left behind after the death of her mother, Abby finds more than love and safety with Mose and the Amish community. After time spent with Mose and his family, she knows she has to make a choice. Will Abby stay with Mose or go back to her sick father who needs her?


SERIES DESCRIPTION:

The Touch of Grace trilogy series is about three faithful women who, when faced with three separate hardships, are torn between the men they love and staying true to themselves. Grace saves. Even in a world where retribution is almost expected, the Amish demonstrate that all can be pardoned, by following their vow of no resistance which shows the deep-rooted forgiveness within them.



My Review:

This novel had a different feel to it than other Amish stories, and I think it's because Abby's stay with Mose reflected true Christian character on his family's part. When Mose and Abby feel drawn to each other, his family actually encourages the relationship instead of prohibiting it. As a result of this, I felt invested in the story and it's characters. It made me realize that no matter who you are, when you join houses there is going to be compromise, concessions, and a middle ground. I thought it was unique how wonderful his Amish family behaved when Abby was in their home.  

As always, Shriver delivers the kind of story you want to talk about. Her character studies made me really understand everyone and their feelings in the story, and see why they make the decision they do. It's the kind of tale, that no matter how oft used the story line is used; the author puts a fresh, new spin on the age old question/dilemma of how to make a life together despite completely different backgrounds and pasts. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Sisterchicks in Gondolas

by Robin Jones Gunn
Multnomah Books

Ciao bella! 

SISTERCHICK n.: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you’re being a brat. 


When Jenna is invited to Venice for a week of cooking for a small retreat group, she knows just who to take along: her sister-in-law Sue. With her Dallas drawl and wild tangle of red hair, Sue desperately needs her own retreat from the pressures of the past two years…and blessedly for their guests, Sue actually knows how to cook (unlike Jenna)! 

With about six words of Italian between them, a map, and a keen appetite for gelato, they puzzle out the lovely city together. During their stay, Jenna and Sue become victims of grace in ways they never expected—starting with their accommodations: a restored fifteenth-century palace on a quiet canal complete with a stairwell perfect for mattress sledding! 

Coming out of a time of dark shadows in their lives, these two friends dive into a new season of refreshing and realize that sometimes when serving God, the most important thing to do is just show up…and watch for goodness and mercy to follow close behind. Come join Jenna and Sue over boiling pots of pasta in this lilting gondola-paced adventure! 

Story Behind the Book


Sisterchicks in Gondolas was birthed after Robin experienced Italy for herself. “In the summer of 2004, I went to Venice with my lifetime fellow Sisterchick from Ireland , Ruby,” she says. “We explored the city with our daughters and discovered the joys of Italian living.” With a splash of humor, grace, and a few zany antics, this latest Sisterchicks release continues to celebrate the unique and timeless bond between women friends. Entertaining and delightful, the story also challenges readers to examine their relationships with one another and with God.

My Review:

This was a laugh-out-loud chick lit that had me in stitches almost every other page. It is written in the first person perspective, and that being a favorite viewpoint for me, I enjoyed that aspect of the novel very much. Of course, it's always hard to go back to the third person, but it's worth the extra work!

Something that really stuck out to me in Gunn's writing, is that she conveys how God will always answer our prayers. Even though He may have another plan, He always answers. Jenna and Sue have lived with many hurts and disappointments, and they both learn to listen to His voice even when it seems He isn't there. 

Last, but not least, the story's premise itself was hilarious.These gals really have no idea what they're getting into, but they most certainly have a lot of expectations of what they think it will be like. Needless to say, what they expect, and what is never quite reconcile. I invite you to crack open a copy of this novel and prepare to laugh a lot, (maybe even cry a little, from laughing, of course) and just plain, clean fun. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Chain of Flames

by Tony Cleaver
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


An old and haunted marauder… Tormented by demon voices, Eli Rathebohn is a wounded, lost soul. He’s not really living, he merely exists. Just one heartbeat away from ending his life, Eli decides that he’s not going alone. He’s determined to take an innocent man with him. In the midst of that encounter, God shows up… and Eli is transformed.
A simple man of faith… Johnny James is a civil servant—just a modest police Chaplain in a mid-sized southwestern town. He has no idea that he is about to be tossed so deeply into the fray. How can he possibly be expected to feed thousands, a virtual legion of wanting souls? Johnny has one outstanding qualification for the task—actually 3 in 1: He prays … he listens … he believes.
An auspicious Osage princess … Humiliated by an indiscretion, reporter Denise Grayhorn, daughter of an influential tribal leader, may have ended her own career. In an effort to redeem herself, she accepts a meager assignment. Little does she, or the world, know that this will turn out to be the most sensational news event of the year.
A searcher fallen from grace… Jared Suina has been raised on a Pueblo in New Mexico. Young and educated, he finds himself caught between his heritage and a yearning for something more. Will he find what he’s searching for? Does it even exist? In the center of two worlds, Jared finds more than he ever imagined.
Together these people will come to realize that life is not a single footpath, but a broad interchange. Where souls are linked and mingled, as in a chain of flames.
A Chain of Flames is a unique debut-novel by Tony Cleaver. Tony weaves together the lives of his characters in a meaningful way that illustrates the untapped power of faith, redemption, and love. A Chain of Flames shows us how the seemingly small things in life can become grand adventures. If not for ourselves, then for others.

My Review:

This novel made me realize that everyone has a story. No matter who you are, how much money you have, where you are born, or who your parents are; everyone has a past that demands to be heard. We come in contact with so many people over our lifetime, and too often we run through life thinking only of ourselves and our lives. I personally like to watch people and wonder about their lives and their stories. Cleaver's writing brings this premise to life and shows us that we are linked together like a chain of flames. 

The characters come across as vibrant and alive on the page, and they are not just words, but dynamic voices demanding to be heard. I was enthralled by the constant twists and turns, and it was so fascinating to see how their lives are intertwined and weaved together in the intersections of life. An exceptional first book from a new author, Tony Cleaver's book is a gripping work of fate, circumstance, and the true destiny of mankind.

This book was provided by Tony Cleaver for free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Mr. Cleaver! 

A Bride For Keeps

by Melissa Jagears
Bethany House Publishers


A Tender Tale of Love on the Prairie Perfect for CBA Readers.

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

My Review:

I am not a huge fan of romances, but give me a mail-order bride story and I'm going to love it - guaranteed! This book was no different, despite a couple things I feel the need to mention along a negative vein. I felt this novel was focusing too much on the lack of a physical relationship between the characters, instead of developing that emotional bond that comes from just being together. That is the best part about mail order bride stories; the evolution of watching two characters grow closer together romantically. This writing was repetitive with emotions, situations and thoughts, and it did get tiring reading about it over and over. 

Now to the stuff I really liked about the book! There was no sub-plot in this novel, and while that usually makes a book better, in this case, I enjoyed not having one. Having a sub-plot may have helped the repetitiveness I mentioned earlier, but Everett and Julia had enough drama between the two of them, it simply wasn't needed.  There were times I wanted them to sit down and talk things out, but I was highly amused by the cat-and-mouse game they played for a while before the story was concluded. For a while it seemed as if they are going to go break things off - but doesn't every good story have some impossible situation/circumstance that gets overcome at the last possible moment? 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Open Heart

by Harry Kraus
David C. Cook

Their Messages—From Beyond the Grave—Might Destroy Him.

They hover between life and death, their hearts stopped on the surgery table. And the messages Dr. Jace Rawlings’ open-heart surgery patients bring back from beyond the grave cannot be ignored. For they predict the deaths of people around him, and point a finger of suspicion straight at him.

It thrusts Jace into a firestorm of controversy and danger. A maelstrom blown by the darker winds of political intrigue and spiritual warfare. And the forces working against him will do anything to stop him from uncovering a truth they will kill to hide. He’d come to Kenya to establish a heart-surgery program for the poor. But what he will find in that place where he grew up will put everything at risk–his marriage, his career . . . his life.

My Review:

This novel was my introduction to the genre of medical dramas in print. As missionary kids, Jace and Heather have a lot in common, and marriage seems like it will be a happy, forever road. But even the sun hides behind clouds, and when Jace finds himself operating on the governor, the governor's wife makes her play for the cardiothoracic surgeon. In the night that follows, even Jace doesn't know what happened. But Heather knows all too well that the man that promised to be faithful may not have kept his vows. 

In the tempest that follows, Jace returns to Africa to perform heart surgery for the less fortunate. Rumors follow his wake in another continent, and when patients begin giving him messages that come true, he can no longer ignore the obvious; these messages are not wild guesses anyone could have come up with. As time runs out for both Heather and Jace, the question isn't whether they can find their way back to each other - but whether they will both survive long enough to see each other again. 

This was a pulse racing novel in every sense of the word. It was so many things at once, I don't think I can fit it in a genre all by itself! There are so many things explored in this novel - so many themes and topics that my head was spinning with all the pieces of the puzzle. The highlight if this novel for me was the supernatural elements. I can't agree with the outcome of the patients that came back with messages for Jace, but the writing contained herein is some of the best suspense/mystery I've read in a while. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blowing on Dandelions

by Miralee Ferrell
David C. Cook

Do Dandelion Wishes Actually Come True?

Katherine Galloway knew this moment of calm wouldn't last, blown away like the dandelion seeds she scattered as a girl. In 1880, three years after her husband’s death, she struggles to run an Oregon boardinghouse and raise two girls alone. Things don't get easier when her critical, domineering mother moves in. Katherine must make the situation work, but standing up for herself and her family while honoring her mother isn't easy. And with a daughter entering the teenage years, the pressure on Katherine becomes close to overwhelming. Then she crosses paths with Micah Jacobs, a widower who could reignite her heart, but she fears a relationship with him might send things over the edge. She must find the strength, wisdom, hope, and faith to remake her life, for everything is about to change.

My Review:

Despite the heartaches of life, Katherine has endured it all with grace and strength. After the tragic death of her husband, she bravely plunges on and successfully manages a boarding house in Oregon while raising two daughters alone. When her bossy, overbearing, meddlesome mother decides to move in with her, Katherine is unable to refuse her a home. On top of everything swirling around her life, a widower moves into town with his son. Katherine drew closer to God when she became a widow, but Micah drew away and turned his back to God. 

Like all good romances, there has to be a conflict between main characters of some kind. Surprisingly, the secondary conflict between Katherine and her mother was highly entertaining - more so than the intended romantic tension between Micah and Katherine as they work towards the idea of a new life together. The characters were memorable, and even the small side stories of Micah and Katherine's children and townspeople proved enchanting and endearing. Overall, this was a great novel, and I am looking forward to more in the series! 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Fear Has a Name

by Creston Mapes
David C. Cook

How Far Would He Go To Keep Them Safe?

It was more than a break-in. More than a stalking. It was personal. When a stalker targets his family, journalist Jack Crittendon must uncover who the person is and what his motives are--if he is to protect the ones he loves. It will lead Crittendon into a world of behind-closed-door secrets and faith gone awry, as does his investigation of a missing pastor, whose apparent suicide is more than it appears.

Each move Crittendon makes weaves him tighter and tighter into a web of lies, greed, hypocrisy, sin, and danger. He believed he'd never give in to fear. But that was before. And holding on to his faith won't be easy. Nor will keeping his family safe, and ending the terror. Because that might require him to step over lines he never dared to cross.



My Review:

This is the kind of novel that keeps you up until the wee hours of the night frantically turning pages. I will begin by stating that the Christians in this novel were not portrayed in the best of light. And of course, this is fine with me, because if we started with perfect Christians, what kind of story would we have? Jake was a very multifaceted character. I liked the investigative reporter side of him, as he was capable, resourceful, and creative to solve his cases. But as a Christian and husband, he sucked. He was two different people, and his dark side came out with the ones he loved instead of on the job.


And saints preserve us, Pam was the dumbest woman I have ever met in literature. Mapes did a good job of  making sure we saw her for all her faults and shortcomings, and I couldn't help but wish I could sit her down and have a talk. She confused me a little with the way she's smart and dumb at the same time, but I enjoyed that she wasn't written in as a perfect compliment to Jake's unsteady character.

I found it very interesting that Mapes actually has me sympathizing with the criminal. I feel that his terrible parents contributed to his unstable frame of mind, yet is a victim of his own making. No matter our past, we make our own choices, and the "bad guy" in this story was no different. A wonderful, suspenseful first novel to The Crittendon Files. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Glittering Promises

by Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook

Wealth cannot buy peace … or direction.

For Cora Kensington, the Grand Tour was to be the trip of a lifetime. She discovered the family she never knew she had, and may have even found the love she longs for in Will. And yet her life has just become infinitely more challenging …
  
Hounded by journalists chasing the beguiling story of the newest American heiress, Cora fights to remain true to her past, reconcile her present, and still embrace her future. But as Will struggles with her newfound wealth, she begins to wonder if their love is strong enough to withstand all that threatens to pull them apart.

Complicating matters is the stubborn pursuit of Pierre de Richelieu and the increased demands on her time and attention. Cora must stand up for what she believes—regardless of how that might challenge current family and cultural norms—in order to remain true to who she really is.
And as she glimpses the end of the tour, Cora knows it’s time to decide Who and what defines her … and who and what does not.

My Review:

The romance between Pierre de Richelieu and Cora has caused me many an anxious night, while anticipating the ending of The Grand Tour series. I wanted Cora to end up with Will, but Pierre is so romantic and persistent I simply couldn't ignore his place in line for Cora's heart. I still haven't reconciled Pierre's willingness to overlook the fondness she had for Will, but Pierre loved her enough to give her a chance to discover who she as a new heiress. If you have followed the series you may be surprised who she ends  up giving her heart to, but I was completely amazed by whom she chose. As I stated previously, I preferred Will for her. The romance of an heiress marrying a lowly tour guide would have been the truest proof that she really loved him. Obviously he would have looked like a gold digger, but that's not really in Will's personality to take her for her money. On the other hand, Pierre was better matched for her in terms of wealth, but I was conflicted with the thinking that he may have wanted to join houses for her money as well! This was quite the roller coaster ride, and the writing was above par with the character conflicts, the historic detail, and the beautiful backdrop of Italy. 

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/pvxTP

Connect with Lisa through her website: http://lisatawnbergren.com

Awakened Love

by Laura Hilton
Whitaker House Publishers

A Bashful Baker


Twenty–one–year–old Katie Detweiler loves to bake. When she's hired at a local bed–and–breakfast to do just that, she's excited, especially because the owner promises the shy young woman that she won't have to leave the kitchen. But when her boss's husband requires round–the–clock care, Katie is forced to overcome her shyness and wait on customers, as well. Before long, a "customer" reveals himself to be a private investigator who informs Katie that she was adopted, and that her biological sister needs a bone marrow transplant.


A Man on the Run


Twenty–two–year–old Abram Hilty has fled the drama of Shipshewana, Indiana, for Seymour, Missouri, where he's staying with his cousin Micah Graber. His plan is to hide, from a girl he no longer cares about—and also from a cold–blooded killer. Uncomfortable sharing his past and afraid of the consequences, he buries his troubles deep inside. When he meets Katie Detweiler, he is immediately attracted, but his pursuit of her is complicated by the problems of his past.


An Adventure Unfolds


As Katie wrestles with questions of identity, she also struggles to navigate her blossoming romance with Abram, in the face of opposition from a jealous friend. As their relationship becomes more serious, Abram can no longer conceal the truth about his past. But parts of that past rear their heads, barring the way for a marriage between them—at least for now. Through dangers and near–death experiences, Katie and Abram must find their way back to each other. But only the power of forgiveness can bring them together for good.

My Review:

Finally! A drama with some different elements! Hilton's stories just get better and better. There is a certain credibility that is starting to shape her novels, and I felt this story was very creative and original. You can feel Katie's shyness through the pages, and you sympathize with her plight when she finds out the truth of her past. Every question or doubt she has ever had bubbles to the surface, and she doesn't know what to think or how to feel about the sudden turn of events. 

Then there is Abram on the run, with enough trouble following him to completely eradicate the idea of getting involved with Katie. Despite their unthinkable circumstances, the Abram/Katie relationship kept me involved in the story until the very end. Keeping my attention is somewhat difficult the more I read and review books, but this novel was a refreshing change of pace and a pleasure to read.  

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Surrendered Love

by Laura Hilton
Whitaker House Publishers

Janna Kauffman enjoys her job as a personal shopper for the homebound in her Amish community. But when Janna's niece, Meghan, comes to live with her family—part of a plan by Janna's sister to rid her daughter of her rebellious ways—Janna spends less time shopping and more time explaining Meghan's erratic behavior to local police officer Hiram "Troy" Troyer, who was raised Amish but left the faith after a fatal accident that killed his brother and also a brother of Janna's. Frequent interactions draw Janna and Troy together, rekindling an attraction they first experienced in their youth. 

What will become of their relationship? And will headstrong Meghan ever tame her ways?

My Review:

Topping the first novel in The Amish of Webster County was certainly a task - but Hilton managed to pull it off with a flourish! I didn't particularly care for the fact that the author bring into play the same elements as her last novel - Amish girl versus man with Amish roots. But it's part of the formula that makes the magic happen in these novels, so who am I to judge? 

I did enjoy that Hilton brings a completely different flavor to the series, by not serving us the traditional Amish dish. It's not every day that a woman like Janna gets to explain to a former Amishman who is now the law why her niece is getting into so much trouble. With Jenna's father being the bishop, anything can happen, and I was holding my breath throughout the entire novel. It is a beautiful love story that hooks you from the very first page, and like a lover, draws you until you are utterly and completely lost within...

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Healing Love

by Laura Hilton
Whitaker House Publishers

Life gets a lot harder for Amish midwife Kristi Lapp when a buggy wreck lands her in the hospital and leaves her with a pronounced limp. Among her biggest concerns is the well–being of her dog, Chinook, as she is no longer able to keep up with the high–energy Siberian husky. Adding insult to injury, she fears she’ll never marry for love, for what man would willingly wed a woman who needs help with even the most basic of household tasks?

Shane Zimmerman moved to Seymour for a fresh start. The veterinarian is still reeling from the loss of his young wife, who died in childbirth—an aneurysm, the autopsy determined, but he still blames the midwife and the herbal remedies she administered. He meets his next–door neighbor, Kristi, when he discovers her wrecked buggy and takes her to the hospital. Eager to deepen the friendship that forms between them, he offers to take care of exercising her dog. But the harsh words of Kristi’s father discourage him from pursuing a relationship further—for the time being. Shane isn't Amish, although his grandparents were, and Ira Lapp would rather his daughter marry an aging Amish widower than a young Englischer.

Despite all the forces that would keep them apart, Kristi and Shane can’t deny the strong attraction between them. So, their on–again, off–again relationship persists, as Kristi submits to physical therapy for her leg and Shane reevaluates his reasons for being Englisch. But will they find a way to stay together? Or are their differences too divisive to resolve?

My Review:

In life, the impossible is what challenges the human spirit. Whether it's in love, circumstances, or destinies we want to change; the indomitable essence of the vitality and substance of the heart cannot be changed or altered. When Kristi finds herself unable to do the simplest of tasks, life as she knows it comes to a screeching halt. Shane too, has pain in his past, and the differences between their lives seems impossible to bridge. Shane has a past that is waiting to be rediscovered. And Kristi has a past that echoes the reason why Shane no longer has a future. 

I loved the tension between the characters in this book. So many times relationships are rendered virtually unthinkable because of pasts, presents, and futures. Hilton plays all the cards in this novel, drawing us into the story until we can't help but love every little bit of it. My only point of contention was how Kristi kept complaining about English food. I felt it was rather unnecessary, but it served it's purpose to show what kind of person she was. Great reading, very educational in terms of midwifery, and the drama building up to the story's resolution was wonderful!

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Prodigal

by Brennan Manning & Greg Garrett
Thomas Nelson Publishers

From the inspirational author of The Ragamuffin Gospel comes a powerful contemporary retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jack Chisholm is 'the people's pastor.' He leads a devoted and growing megachurch, has several best-selling books, and a memorable slogan, 'We have got to do better.' Jack knows how to preach, and he understands how to chastise people into performing. What he doesn't know is anything about grace. 

This year, when it comes time for the Christmas sermon, the congregation at Grace Cathedral will look to the pulpit, and Jack will not be there. Of course, they will have seen plenty of him already---on the news. After an evening of debauchery that leads to an affair with his beautiful assistant, Jack Chisholm finds himself deserted with chilling swiftness. The church elders remove him from his own pulpit. His publisher withholds the royalties from his books. Worst of all, his wife disappears with their eight-year-old daughter. But just as Jack is hitting bottom, hopeless and penniless, drinking his way to oblivion, who should appear but his long-estranged father, imploring his prodigal son: 'Come home.' 

A true companion piece to The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Prodigal illustrates the power of grace through the story of a broken man who finally saw Jesus not because he preached his greatest sermon or wrote his most powerful book, but because he failed miserably. Jack Chisholm lost everything---his church, his family, his respect, and his old way of believing---but he found grace. It's the same grace that Brennan Manning devoted his life to sharing: profound in nature and coming from a God who loves us just as we are, and not as we should be. 

'A wonderfully written story that is as entertaining as it is thought provoking.' ---Publishers Weekly, starred review '. . . the consummate final tale. What they have created is the Ragamuffin at his best, full of hope, full of love, and finally, full of belief in the goodness of God.' ---Phyllis Tickle, founding editor, Religion Department, Publishers Weekly 'Brennan Manning's last work continues the powerful message of grace and forgiveness that has transformed so many lives. The Prodigal will transform you too.' ---Mark Batterson, New York Times best-selling author of The Circle Maker.

My Review:

This book is sin and grace at it's best. When Jack has everything he could ever ask for, he throws it all away for a night that will destroy everything he's built. His life, his ambitions, and all his dreams lay waste at the feet of lasciviousness and revelry, and there is nothing he can do to take it back. When his wife leaves him, Jack is at the precipice of disaster, and he can do nothing but drink himself into oblivion. 

My favorite part of this book is that moment when Jack realizes who he was and what he has become. That pivotal moment when he saw himself as he truly was, was the moment that grace could become a reality to him and not just words from the pulpit. It can be so difficult to reconcile the past and the future, especially when you feel as if there is no way to move forward. But God offers a hand of redemption to anyone who asks for it, and this novel clearly shines a light in the darkness of the human condition and offers the solution for all the ills of humanity. No matter what your past or current situation, the writing contained herein will touch your heart with the profound reality of God's love and mercy. We are all promised Immortality. Which future will you choose? 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.