Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lovely Romance with a Sinister Threat | Review of The Reluctant Duchess



About the Book

Will Fleeing the Scottish Highlands Only Leave Her in More Danger?

Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she's never felt good enough - not for her father, not for the man she thought she'd marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she's willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping those threatening her life.

Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, yet the last thing he needs is the distraction of the newly introduced Lady Rowena. He has enough on his plate having recently come into possession of a rare treasure for which many would kill, yet those around him seem intent on pairing him with this desperate but beguiling girl.

Rowena is reluctant to marry this notorious flirt. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in some kind of questionable business with a stolen treasure, she fears she'll end up in more danger than she fled.

Available Now!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Roseanna White is skilled at penning historical fiction! I enjoyed the Scottish elements of this particular story. The haunting setting...the clash of classes and loyalties...the interesting discussion of curses and whether or not they truly pose a threat. It's a good blend of intriguing descriptions, a compelling and varied cast of characters, and a fairly unique topic and backdrop for the genre.

The poor heroine endures some awful trials and difficult changes in this story. But the Duke of Nottingham makes for a very tender and caring hero, which makes for a happy romance reader! The depictions of patient love as the story goes on are simply lovely.

As for the plot, my first impression was that the climax was a bit of a letdown, perhaps a bit rushed compared to all the build-up. But the build-up makes for an engaging read for the most part, and I feel like the conclusion is still satisfying, even if I got a bit bored toward the end and looked ahead to see what was coming.

The Reluctant Duchess is a well-written historical romance that's both sinister and sentimental in turn. And the finale definitely stirs up some curiosity for the third book in the Ladies of the Manor series, A Lady Unrivaled.

*With thanks to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Snack Size Reviews with a Side of Catch-Up

I have a bad, bad habit of procrastinating...as you might be able to tell by the lack of reviews on my blog lately, which doesn't match up with the amount of books I've been reading and rating on Goodreads! I want to sincerely apologize for delaying on reviews that should have been posted months ago.

This post won't catch me up on all the reviews I owe (there are some books I've had on my TBR pile for an *embarrassing* amount of time), but it's a start. :) I hope you enjoy perusing the virtual cupboard and maybe find something you'd like to try!

P.S. You can click on the titles to visit the Goodreads pages for these books, where you'll find descriptions and other reviews.

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Charity's Cross by MaryLu Tyndall
Series: Charles Towne Belles #4

It's so great to have another seafaring story from MaryLu Tyndall! You can expect some trademark elements that you'll see in many of this author's novels, but the romance and adventure are definitely enjoyable. This one is hard to put down! And this particular story has some thought-provoking scenarios pertaining to the extent of God's grace and how much we can trust Him.

Bonus: MaryLu fans will appreciate the cameos from other characters in this series!

Quote to Savor: She'd spent the past hour among the night owls, insects, and frogs, the distant sound of waves, and a sky so lustrous with stars, she wondered how she could ever have thought there was no God.

For Elise by Hayden Wand

This novelette is sweet, tender, and quirky. It's easy to care for the two main characters - even though the hero can come across as a bit pretentious, perhaps. (Maybe reading about him in the third-person rather than hearing from him in the first-person would have made him even more likable?) Still, this is a fun little story with some good lines!

Quote to Chew On: I was not going to stand for being sassed by the undead in my own home.

Spell Bound by Dorian Tsukioka
Series: A Fairy Retelling #3

Sadly, this retelling is not my favorite by the author. However, I truly was impressed by the creativity of the plot and the fairy-tale connections (with Rumpelstiltskin and Snow White). The imagination behind it all is quite astounding! The twist with the dwarves is clever, and I generally liked the main characters. Unfortunately, I just had a hard time cheering for a certain direction in the plot, and I'm not sure the third-person present tense made for the best reading experience. But this author writes some creative retellings, and I've really enjoyed her other stories (Cursed Beauty, Ai of the Mountain, and Rosara and the Jungle King from the Five Enchanted Roses collection).

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund
Series: An Uncertain Choice #2

I confess I loved this one much more than the first in the series (An Uncertain Choice)! It's got a beautiful and engaging love story, plenty of intrigue and twists, and great characters. The discussion questions and the layout of the story work very well for raising thought-provoking commentary on relationships. The sacrificial theme is an important one, and I love the idea of making sure you see a love interest's world (how they live and where they're coming from) before making a commitment.

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

This author truly does have an enchanting way with words, quirky characters, and sweet themes. I enjoyed the unique setting of the cafe in the cemetery and the way such a setting brings out some meaningful thoughts. I don't think I liked this one quite as much as A Snicker of Magic...but that story is a hard one to top! The Key to Extraordinary is still a clever and darling read.

Veiled at Midnight by Christine Lindsay
Series: Twilight of the British Raj #3

I read this book over a long, stretched-out period of time. Two things to note: 1) It was kind of easy to set the story aside, but 2) the heart of the story stuck with me enough to help me jump back in again even after being away for a while. The research involved in composing this story is definitely evident, and the setting/time period are unique choices for Christian fiction. I found the plot a little complex and the politics a little over my head, but the relationship matters are weighty, meaningful, sometimes frustrating, and yet engaging. Not always an easy read, but one that has great depth, presenting events and scenarios worth remembering and pondering.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Series: Don Tillman #1

This book was recommended to me by a girl I met at Shari's. I'm really glad I gave it a try! It's not my usual fare... Note that there's a lot of language and sexual references. (There are no sex scenes, though.) But the main character, Don, and the way his point of view is presented is brilliant, hilarious, and endearing. I enjoyed watching Don come to realize that love was nothing like he expected it to be. :)

Quote to Savor: Then, in this vanishingly small moment in the history of the universe, she took my hand, and held it all the way to the subway.

Thanks to Juju of Tales of Whimsy for the inspiration regarding mini reviews!

Monday, August 22, 2016

For the Love of Nonfiction (The Surprising Confessions of a Fiction Fangirl)

I have a picture frame hanging on the wall near my front door. Beneath the collage of my loved ones and me rests this saying: Life makes the best story of all. 

Over the past few months, I've been reveling in the story of life...the twists and turns and beautiful adventures that end up so much more unique and challenging and grand than you could have anticipated. And don't get me wrong: I've been enjoying plenty of fictitious journeys along the way, because there's something special about meeting new characters and learning more about love and life through their ups and downs.

Yes, I still love a good novel. I've just been pleasantly surprised to discover how precious nonfiction can be, and how it can enhance a life story in subtle, wonderful ways.

This fiction fangirl has discovered that nonfiction isn't always as dry and boring as she thought. Imagine that! :)

Instead of taking me on a fictional adventure, nonfiction has come alongside me on my real-life adventure and helped me ponder the paths I can take and the kind of person I can become. I'd love to share with you some of the titles that have blessed and blindsided me in really good ways...


- Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Scary Close by Donald Miller

I have become a huge fan of Donald Miller's work! His words comfort and challenge, shining a light that reveals surprising, relatable thoughts and makes the reader squirm and squint a bit. Do I always agree or understand? No. I found that the last part of Blue Like Jazz didn't resonate as well for me as the first two-thirds did. And yet I love, love, love that Don's books make me think and see new faith connections and insights. 

Blue Like Jazz is inspiring and powerful with its deep spiritual themes. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years helped me see more clearly how analyzing stories - the elements of the fiction I love - can show me what it takes to make my own life story one full of meaningful scenes and ultimate purpose. And Scary Close shares some great thoughts on taking the risk of vulnerability in relationships. 

- Simply Tuesday and A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Of these two, I think Simply Tuesday stood out to me the most, but A Million Little Ways has some thought-provoking passages of its own! What does it look like to truly live life in the everyday sense? How would our lives be transformed if we embraced what awaits us on our ordinary Tuesdays? And what about art and calling? Does it have to look a certain way...or can Jesus shine through us in unexpected, everyday avenues that might look far different from our typical perception of a "calling"?

It's freeing to realize how beautifully extraordinary our ordinary days can be, because it's in these days that life actually happens. That's a lesson I think I can stand to keep learning and learning. :)

- I Don't Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton

This book is deceptively simple in some ways. But it packs a power punch as it makes you wonder, Am I fully surrendered to God? Am I willing to follow where He leads? Will I open my eyes to see the exciting possibilities awaiting me...and the people I can love right here and now? 

I also love how this book encourages you to really prioritize being in Scripture, seeking God's amazing adventures by first spending time in His Word. And Grace's encouragement to come to the Bible with the goal of knowing God - not the goal of finding answers - may seem obvious when you hear it, but is truly revolutionary.

* * *


I've currently got my bookmarks in some other nonfiction titles, which I'm looking forward to reading more of soon...

- The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

- You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan

- Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance by Donald Miller [Yep, another Donald Miller book - published by Harvest House! :)]

- Love Does by Bob Goff [So far, this has been rather entertaining and inspiring!]

- Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst [On my Fire tablet. I really liked The Best Yes, and Lysa has a great grasp of what it takes to write in a compelling, marketable way.]

* * *

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I've still been reading some fiction, and I hope to share some new reviews with you soon. :) But I've been getting such unexpected joy from reading nonfiction this year that I thought it would be worth sharing. While the growth these sorts of books encourage takes time, I'm hoping some of the beautiful truths and motivating questions will stick with me and continue to poke and prod me in good directions. 

Tell me, friends, have you read some really compelling nonfiction (or fiction!) lately? It's been too long since I've checked in, and I'd love to hear about what you've been reading!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Celebrating God's Will | A Heartfelt Novel


I am unbecomingly late to the second birthday party of my dear friend Meghan's debut novel, God's Will...for which I sincerely apologize! But even though the party with its giveaways and deals is over, I hope you'll take a moment to join me in celebrating this heartfelt story and its life out in the world. :)

You can learn more about the book and its sweet, gifted author below...


About the Book

Kathy Andrews is good at goodbyes. Her mother is sent to a sanatorium, her sister, left behind in Chicago, and her father, forced to roam looking for work. So she holds close to the only one she has left, her brother Danny. When the two go to live with the Marshalls in the sleepy town of Brighton, she doesn't let anyone past hello. Elliott Russell frowns at his aunt and uncle's generosity - even though he and his sister are on the receiving end. He frowns, too, at the uppity city girl with a chip on her shoulder whom he can't get out of his head. When a tragedy rips apart what tenuous existence they manage to forge, will they find the sweetest place to be is in God's will - or will they turn their backs on faith that fails to protect against pain?

Kindle ebook ($4.99) | Paperback ($12.99)

Browse reviews or add to your shelf on Goodreads!
You can read my initial review HERE.

About the Author

Meghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction, a blogger, book reviewer and voracious reader. Taking her life a day at a time as God leads, she is pursuing a career in the publishing industry as an editor in training and as a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. A hopeless romantic, history and Marvel nut, she's also a redhead (thanks to a box), who knows way too much trivia about movie musicals and the Civil War. Find her on social media and at her blog, A Northern Belle (www.northernbellemeg.com).

Connect with the author: 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Litfuse Publicity Tour: Anchor in the Storm



About the Book

One plucky female pharmacist + one high-society naval officer = romance—and danger 

For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg’s attentions only annoy–even if he is her brother’s best friend.

During the darkest days of the war, Arch’s destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves–and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian’s trust and affection?

Sarah Sundin brings World War II to life, offering readers an intense experience they won’t soon forget.


My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

In addition to the authentic WWII-era details readers have come to expect from a Sarah Sundin novel, Anchor in the Storm is rich with realistic relational drama. It is both a treat and a (fascinating) trial to watch independent and ambitious Lillian interact with gentlemanly and persistent Arch. Their budding romance and their hardships in their jobs bring out their thorny insecurities...but also tease out a tender trust. Can such delicate love last?

This story has a nice balance of sweet and suspenseful, from the super cute ice-skating scene to the tense scenes with Arch at sea, along with the little mystery-solving moments leading up to the well-described climax. I'd say the pace and plot feel rather similar to the first book in the series (Through Waters Deep) in that the heroine and hero are often apart and each have their own pieces of the puzzle to solve while at work. But I really enjoyed this cast of characters and seeing intriguing connections come to light.

I think a reader's pleasure in a story can often derive from where they are in life and how they can or can't relate to the characters. In this case, I felt drawn in by Lillian and Arch's story, discovering alongside them what love entails and the importance of identifying your true anchor in life. Sundin fans won't be disappointed, but this story can also stand well on its own for historical fiction readers wanting to give this great author a try for the first time.

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity blog tour.*

Want to read my review of Book 1?


About the Author

Sarah Sundin is the author of eight historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm. Her novel Through Waters Deep was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and her novella I’ll Be Home for Christmas in Where Treetops Glisten was a finalist for the 2015 Carol Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school.

Find out more about Sarah at www.sarahsundin.com.

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Litfuse Tour Page: click HERE

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Surprising Legacy of a Serial Killer | Review of The Progeny



About the Book

New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee brings a modern twist to an ancient mystery surrounding the most notorious female serial killer of all time. A fast-paced thriller for fans of Ted Dekker’s The Books of Mortals, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and BBC America’s hit series Orphan Black.

Emily Jacobs is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.

She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, The Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. A story about the search for self filled with centuries-old intrigues against the backdrop of atrocity and hope.

Releases May 24, 2016!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Um, wow!! The Progeny is an engrossing read with a touch of history and a whole lotta twists and turns.

This book prompted me to do a quick search of Elizabeth Bathory online, and talk about super creepy and tragic stories surrounding her life and legacy. The Progeny tosses around the idea of whether or not the accusations are completely true, but if they are...the implications are incredibly disturbing.

Fast forward to the fictional world of Emily Jacobs, a girl who chose to have her memory erased—and now she doesn't know why. If only the past she purposely forgot didn't catch up to her in the form of two men with questionable motives.

And now she's on the run from a threat she can't remember.

Thus begins an interesting, fast-paced, often surprising ride. I loved how a character would seem one way and then turn out to be another...and then turn out to be something else entirely. It's a lot of fun to read a story that keeps you guessing all the way through.

Unfortunately, as this is the first in a series, there are still plenty of unanswered questions and a lot left unresolved. Warning: This is definitely not a stand-alone. And I'm left with uncertainty as to how I feel about all the revelations and the dilemmas yet to be solved.

But there are some great lines and questions raised, and fans of dark, suspenseful (but not over-the-top disturbing), YA-style fiction should find this a fascinating start to the Descendants of the House of Bathory series.

*With thanks to NetGalley and Howard Books for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sweet Romance-Focused Fantasy | Review of Sun and Moon + Excerpt and Giveaway!



About the Book

There is nothing in life that eighteen-year-old Zara craves more than her freedom. Stolen from her home in Cadrebia at the age of eight, Zara has spent more years than she cared to admit as a slave to the Tankadesh courts. Her days are filled with protecting the princess, while she spends nights entertaining the king and his officials with her mastery of weapons. Any spare moment in between, she plots escape.

Yet her hopes for freedom come to a crashing halt when a stranger arrives bearing the mark of her assigned lifemate, and he threatens war if she isn’t turned over into his care. But a lifemate is not part of the plan. Her dreams, of choosing her own path and being the master of her own will, weaken as her Moon seeks to claim his Sun.

Is it possible that this stranger, with gentle blue eyes and a ready smile, didn’t come to be her new master? That there could be more to his tale?

Zara soon finds that neither her captivity nor her parents’ deaths were mere random attacks. And by returning to Cadrebia, she may have put the future of the royal line—and her Moon—in jeopardy. While Zara breathes in her first taste of freedom, her enemies move in, seeking to rob Cadrebia of its blessed prophecy.

To keep what she holds dear, Zara must rise above the pain and uncertainty to claim the lifemate assigned to her, or more than her freedom will be stolen this time.

Purchase a Copy:


My Rating

Spring

My Review

I love the way Desiree Williams writes romance! The heroes and heroines in her fantasy novels (at least the ones I've experienced so far) always have these deep, tender, fun, and loyal connections. There seems to be a theme of arranged/appointed matches (of a sort) in these stories, and it's intriguing to watch the characters decide how they're going to react to their potential partner and whether they're willing to open up to the possibility of true love.

I believe the beginning of Sun and Moon was my favorite part of the story: the anticipation of Zara and Jaedon's first meeting, the mystery of how Zara's terrible situation as a slave would get resolved, the clash of two very different worlds when Jaedon sets out to bring home his soul mate, and the suspense reminiscent of the Exodus in the Bible.

Jaedon's protectiveness and patience are definitely swoon-worthy. And Zara's devotion to her friends and her desire for freedom are admirable and make her character likable, even if she has a lot of walls around her heart.

The thread of suspense stretches throughout the story, although I felt a little less excited by the developments and build-up toward the end than I did by the epic tension at the beginning. But this is a sweet and solid tale, and those who enjoy innocent, romance-focused fantasy with some relational drama should find Sun and Moon a delightful read.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*


About the Author

Desiree Williams is a dreamer by day and chocoholic by night. She lives in the beautiful state of Kentucky with her husband and daughter, where she juggles life as a wannabe supermom. Desiree is a lover of food and avoider of dirty dishes. She delights in making people laugh and strives to bring hope and love with her wherever she goes. You can find out more about Desiree and her books at www.desireewilliamsbooks.blogspot.com.



Excerpt

See if this intriguing snippet doesn't make you eager to read more!

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The king’s design for her enslavement was to do more than entertain. He wanted everyone to covet his possessions, to be envious of all that he owned. And what better way to promote jealousy and strife than for the people to lust after it. 

Zara lifted the swords, the chill of the metal hilts seeping through the leather of her gloves, cooling the heat from the mark. The blades clanked across the tiles as she dragged the tips outward. 

A man entered the arena from a hall on the left side, opposite the one she’d come from. A mask of gold covered his face and head, leaving only his eyes visible. She didn’t have to look hard to know those green eyes belonged to Dareh. He always found a way to be her sparring partner during these types of festivities. At least he got to be more clothed than she was. A crimson vest covered his chest and torso while leather breeches protected his legs. 

Dareh stepped into position, facing her. His knees bent and he held his swords tucked at his side, pointing away from her. 

Zara sighed. Maybe they could end this quickly, and she could be done with this horrible evening. She shifted into her own battle stance, crouching with one foot behind her and hating how the holes in her trousers splayed over her legs. Pointing one sword at Dareh, she arched the other high over her head. 

They waited for the music to begin again to signal the start of their mock battle. Except this time, something very different broke the silence. 

“Raise that sword against her, and I will remove your head.”

Giveaway!

Enter to win a signed paperback copy of Sun and Moon and a $15 Amazon gift card! The winner of the giveaway will be selected randomly via Rafflecopter and announced on Facebook and Twitter the morning of May 2, 2016 at around 9am EST.

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