Friday, September 27, 2013

Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz {Revell Blog Tour!}

16109328My Review:
A lovely addition to the series!

In Love's Awakening we are introduced to Eden and Silas's family, particularly their youngest, Ellie. Oh, they were one of my favorite couples last year and their story made my top twelve books of 2012. I couldn't wait to read more about them, particularly Ellie. She's sweet, though a bit naive at first, and she has a heart as big as her mother's. Since I am the oldest in my family, I have no idea what it is like to be the youngest, seeing it through Ellie's eyes was interesting. I loved watching her come into her own.

I confess, based on the back cover I was concerned Ellie's story would be more of a Romeo and Juliet retelling than it actually was. Thankfully, I never got that impression while I read. One of my favorite new characters has to be Chloe. She's full of energy and has a stubbornness that rivals the Ballantyne's. Her transformation was wonderful to read and I wish we could have seen more of her.

Love's Reckoning remains my favorite so far, but this one made a great sequel. There was a fabulous blend of drama, tension, and romance throughout the whole book. Frantz truly sent me back in time, thanks to the historical detail she slips into her novels. Her books have been a pleasure to read. I recommend to ages fifteen and up for both readability and content.

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

I received this book from Revell in return for an honest review of my opinions, thanks!

Back Cover:
Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future--and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family's violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

17384517My Review:
Hedlund's best yet!

Rebellious Heart takes us back to 1760s, pre-revolution, Massachusetts. The colonies were just beginning to turn against the Crown. The timing in which I read this book is ironic. My family and I recently made a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, where we got a good sense of the era and what life was like during that time period. That being said, Hedlund did a great job bringing the era to life and staying true to the facts.

I loved Susanna and Ben. Susanna made such excellent progress from where she started. Even when she made, in my opinion, a stupid decision, I could see where she was coming from and I understood her motives. Hedlund did a fantastic job crafting both Susanna and Ben. They responded to situations not as I wanted them to, but as real people would.

This is definitely my favorite so far from Hedlund, and it will be keeping a permanent place on my shelf. There was a great balance of drama and romance, and I especially loved the author's note at the end, do not skip over it!! Those who love historical novels set in the pre-revolution/revolution era will enjoy this one. I recommend to ages 15 and up for readability and content.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review of my opinions, thanks!

Back Cover:
In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate. 

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Invention of Sarah Cummings by Oliva Newport {Revell Blog Tour!}

17384588My Review:
A great conclusion to the trilogy!

I wasn't sure how I felt about Sarah being the main focus of the third book in this series, but I was impressed how Newport "reinvented" her character. This book is worth the read, especially if you thought Sarah acted like a brat in The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow. I'm sad to read the last of the Banning family; however, I have enjoyed every page with them.

Sarah is not your average character. Especially in the 1890s. She aspires to be more than just a servant, she wants to be included in high society. She, for some reason, believes that living with fortune will bring her happiness. I liked the way Newport used certain things to turn her around and set her on the right path. I did feel like the ending was rushed, I would have been a little more satisfied had it been longer.

If you've kept up with the rest of the series, then I believe you'll enjoy this one. It can be read stand-alone, but I encourage you to pick up the previous books first. The Invention of Sarah Cummings is a great rainy-day afternoon read as you follow her antics balancing a double life. Reminiscent of Downton Abbey, fans of the Gilded Age will like the story.

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

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review of my opinions, which I have done. Thanks!

Back Cover:
In a world where everyone is putting on a show, there is a love that is genuine. Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner to members of the wealthy Banning family and to start eating at society tables, Sarah spends her meager free time altering cast-off gowns to create the perfect wardrobe for her future life.

When opportunity knocks at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to her goal--and closer to Simon Tewell, director of St. Andrew's Orphanage--Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of.

Can she piece together the perfect life from scraps? Or will it all come unraveled in the face of true love?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

{Book Review:} Swinging on a Star by Janice Thompson

6883161My Review:
Nothing quite beats spending the afternoon with the Rossi family!

I promised myself that I would get my hands on the second book in the Weddings by Bella series shortly after I finished Icing on the Cake. Sure enough, last week I found a copy on sale! Cue big grin and fist pump. I finally found time to pick it up and once I was past the first page, I was swept away to Galveston again.

The Rossi family continues to make me laugh with their antics and banter. Bella may feel self-conscious about her family, but I love hanging out with them for a few hours. Thompson gives great examples of what love should be, something that certainly adds warmth to the novel. Added to that, Thompson weaves in faith and strong Christian women, ready to pray up a storm for anyone who needs it. All the characters, though flawed, come together to make a beautiful cast.

Simply put, you have to read a Weddings by Bella book to truly understand why I love it so much. There's humor, there's romance, and there is faith blended in a delightful combination. I highly recommend this book to rom-com lovers, but only if you read Fools Rush In first. ;) I can't wait to read It Had to Be You!

My mom purchased this book for me, for my birthday. No review required. Thanks, Mom! Love you!

Back Cover:
Bella Rossi's life is nearing perfection. She's got the perfect guy, she's running a successful business, and she's about to plan her most ambitious wedding yet, a Renaissance-themed fairy tale come true, complete with period costumes and foods, horse-drawn carriages, and even a castle. There's just one hitch. The best man just happens to be Brock Benson, Hollywood's hottest and most eligible bachelor. Oh, and did we mention he's staying at the Rossi house to avoid the paparazzi?

With all the pressure surrounding this wedding, Bella's not sure she's going to make it through. Add her starstruck sister, her feuding aunt and uncle, and a trio of large, sequined church ladies with even bigger personalities, and you've got a recipe for disaster--and a lot of laughs. This hilarious romantic comedy is sure to delight both fans and new readers alike.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Today We Remember...

It was this morning, twelve years ago, that America experienced a terrible attack.

Hearts were shattered, a river of tears flowed, and America cried out in anguish.

Many questioned the reasons behind it and the simple answer is this: evil. Many shouted to the heavens asking God why, yet they heard no response. Why? Why did all those people have to die?

Because we live in a fallen world.

Could God have swept in and saved them all? Yes. 

So why didn't He?

This answer, is not so simple. If God came down from heaven every time masses of people were killed, can you imagine how regular His visits would become? He'd never get back to heaven before we needed Him again! He gave man free will from the beginning. God is not responsible for the choices we make or the sins we commit. However, by His love and His grace, He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die for us all so that we could be clean in the eyes of righteousness. Jesus paid for it all. As we remember lost loved ones, I leave you with two verses. 
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:17 ESV

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - John 10:10 ESV

We will never forget.

Friday, September 6, 2013

{Book Review:} Stranded by Dani Pettrey (Giveaway!!)

My Review:
Stranded by Author Dani PettreyA fantastic new release from Pettrey!

It seems like it was yesterday I was giddy over the release of Shattered, and now here we are with the release of Stranded, the third in the Alaskan Courage series. Is it just me, or do Dani's books get better with each release? I mean, I really enjoyed Submerged and Shattered was even better, but I think Stranded takes the cake...for the time being, that is. We still have two more books after all. ;-)

Darcy St. James is awesome, and not only because of her name. She takes her faith seriously when it comes to her journalism by setting boundaries she refuses to cross. I loved how unwilling she was to compromise her values for undercover work. While Bailey still holds my number one favorite heroine spot, Darcy did come so close to topping her. After the brief glimpses we got with Kayden and Jake, I have a strong suspicion Kayden will try fight her way to the top of my favorites too.

Ever since Submerged, I've been curious to get to know Gage. In short, he is a hurting man running from God. Nothing about his healing felt forced or rushed. In fact, the pace read right. Though at first his faith is lacking, he makes up for it with good character. I adore his relationship with his family and the seriousness with which he takes his job. I look forward to seeing more of he and Darcy in Dani's future books.

To finish up, this is a wonderful novel! I was constantly guessing, and though I had some things right in the end, I had others wrong. The heightened suspense in the final hundred pages, glued me to the story until the end. I cannot wait to see what else is in store for this amazing family. I'm eagerly looking forward to Silenced! I recommend Stranded to ages 16 and up for mention of sex trafficking.

I received an influencer copy of this novel from the author in return for an honest review of my opinions, which I have done. Thanks, Dani!

Back Cover:
When her friend vanishes from a cruise ship, reporter Darcy St. James isn't satisfied with their explanation that she simply left her job of her own accord. Something isn't lining up, and Darcy believes the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby's position. Within days, Darcy learns her friend wasn't the only person to disappear mysteriously. Last summer, a woman vanished under almost identical circumstances. 

Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock for a few days of sightseeing. He's surprised to find Darcy working aboard one of the ships, investigating a troubling report. Something sinister is going on and the deeper they dig the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

But wait! That isn't all I have to share with you. Dani is hosting a MEGA giveaway!
In Stranded, Book 3 in author Dani Pettrey’s acclaimed Alaskan Courage series, reporter Darcy St. James knows something is wrong when her friend vanishes from her job on a cruise ship. Everyone else believes Abby simply left of her own accord, but something isn’t lining up, and Darcy knows the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby’s position.
Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock in Alaska for a few days of sightseeing. He’s surprised to find Darcy onboard one of the ships, working undercover as a reporter.
Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they dig, the more they realize they’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg.
To celebrate the story, author Dani Pettrey and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the ALASKAN ADVENTURES Sweepstakes, and your chance to win one of three fabulous prizes connected with the story!
Enter the Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes from Author Dani Pettrey! 
With $600 dollars in prizes, you don't want to miss this sweepstakes! Click on the image and follow the instructions on the page to be entered. The contest has already started and will end Sept. 19th 11:59pm, so enter today!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Trapped by Irene Hannon {Revell Blog Tour!}

17384592My Review:
Another great suspense novel from Hannon!

I am really pleased with Trapped. In this series, it is my favorite thus far. As I probably already mentioned, the new Private Investigators point of view has been fascinating to read about. Hannon gets her research from real people, something that sets a realistic feel to all her suspense stories. This particular story has something of an edge to it, maybe because the entire novel takes place in such a short span of time, unlike its predecessor.

Laura and Dev are great leads, and they are good match for one another. We met Dev previously in Vanished, and even in the midst of Cal's story I liked his personality. Now, having gotten to know him a little better, I can say his character is admirable. I liked how Laura, without realizing it, challenged him to think. As a brief side note, a change I felt was brilliantly written is Darcy's, but I won't say more than that.

The best villains are the ones that tug on your compassion. The ones that were hurt at some point in their lives and instead of overcoming it they succumbed to their circumstances. This fact is what made Mark, the antagonist for Trapped, a fantastic villain. Don't misunderstand me- this guy is a psycho, but as a writer I admire the work Hannon put into crafting him.

All in all, this book is certainly in my top five of Hannon's suspense novels. Those familiar with her work will enjoy it. There is some violence, but descriptions are minor. I recommend to ages 16 and up.

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

I received this book from Revell in return for an honest review of my opinions, which I have done. Thanks!

Back Cover:
A runaway teen, a desperate sister, and an intrepid PI determined to discover the truth

When Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned private investigator James Devlin to help. Dev knows time is of the essence with runaways--just forty-eight hours can mean the difference between recovery and ruin.

But the deeper he and Laura dig, the more Dev begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And in the icy winter weather, the trail is going cold . . . 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Finding Balance // Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day is a fun weekend around our house because my birthday is on the third. It always sneaks up on me and then I find myself wondering where the past year has gone. 
Who knew so much could happen in a mere twelve months?
I've built friendships, made memories, I've cried, I've laughed, I've struggled, and I've grown. The journey I'm on will never be easy and in the past few months I have fought to find a balance between blogging, my college studies, my writing, and life. Some of you may have noticed my fluctuating presence but I assure you, I'm not going anywhere. 
Actually, you'll probably be seeing more posts in the next few months as my studies wrap up for the year and I have more time on my hands. In the meantime, I have been working hard to balance my responsibilities and I'd like to believe I'm almost there.
Finding balance with my time hasn't been easy, but I have discovered that for me it is essential. There is less, if any, stress involved and it is easier for me to relax and enjoy my family. I highly encourage anyone with a busy schedule to reflect on ways to enjoy life in the midst of the craziness.
It's hard to put into words all that I have learned, experienced, and so forth this past year. As I look toward this new year of growth, I am eager to see what God has in store.