Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Fascinating Look at Faith and Second Chances | Review of Arms of Mercy

About the Book (from Zondervan)

He lost her once to a rash decision. 
He will not lose her again.

On the eve of a new year, Catherine Glick is expecting her bu of five years to propose. Instead, the unexpected arrival of an old boyfriend, Elijah, sends her life spiraling out of control. When a rash decision damages her current relationship, Catherine leaves for Florida to work in her cousin’s bakery—anything to flee the source of her shame.

Elijah Graber knows he hurt Catherine when he left their Amish district six years ago. He’s determined to explain his actions, even if it means following her to Florida. Perhaps their two-day bus trip together will provide enough time for him to make his case and win her back.

Just when Elijah is starting to tear down the walls Catherine has built, their bus skids on an icy road—and amid the mayhem and tragedy that follow, Catherine disappears. Elijah’s friends urge him to prepare for the worst, but Elijah holds on to his hope in God and refuses to give up his search for Catherine. With supernatural nudging from the most unexpected places, Elijah sets out to find the love he once lost—no matter the cost.

Releases June 5, 2018!

My Rating


My Review

The first half or so of this story had me really engaged! Elijah and Catherine are interesting characters with a complicated past and conflicting feelings. Knowing the book's description from the get-go, there was an added layer of tension for me, wondering when and how the huge plot twist would arrive.

In that first half, the pacing was excellent, and there was a building sense of dread as things went from bad to worse. I wanted to know what would happen next and how things would turn out for Elijah and Catherine.

But I confess the second half of the book didn't grip me in the same way. The middle, while crucial to establishing new realities and difficult challenges, felt somewhat dragged out, and then the very end felt a bit abrupt, lacking a strong emotional pull and being too neatly resolved.

I've read one other book by this author (A Woodland Miracle) and really enjoyed it, and I think she has a great writing style! And while I'm personally a little uncomfortable with too much emphasis on angels, I think the author does a great job in this story by balancing the work of angels (and fellow believers) with honoring God above all (and showing the characters praying to Him and seeking Him).

Even though this book as a whole didn't end up being a favorite of mine, I still really appreciate the author's unique plots for Amish fiction. This one did intrigue me overall, even if the pacing felt off in the second half. Arms of Mercy takes a fascinating look at faith, life before and after tragedy, and second chances.

*With thanks to Zondervan through NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book.*

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: All About Audio

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, we have a freebie topic—whatever we'd like to feature! I'm going with audiobooks. I've revived my Audible account so I can get some new audiobooks over the next few months, as I'm going to have a decent commute to my part-time summer job once that starts. :) So I'm going to share some faves and wish-list titles, but I'd also love to know what you'd recommend!

Currently listening to...

Narrated by Laura Knight Keating

I'm almost 40% through this book, and I'm thinking I'll stick with it! I've given up or set aside various audiobooks, but I'm mostly liking the narrator's voice for this one, which bodes well. The sister relationships are sweet and authentic, and the premise of private love letters being unknowingly sent out is interesting. An adaptation of the book is supposedly coming to Netflix in August! So far there has been a bit of crude language and innuendo, and I'm hoping that's the main extent of the rough content.

I enjoyed listening to...

#2 My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White
Narrated by Heidi Baker

This is the last audiobook I finished, and I really enjoyed it! Here's my review:

The narrator (Heidi Baker) did a great job; her voice is sweet and enjoyable to listen to. She really seems to capture Elizabeth's voice and personality. It's like listening to a friend. But I think she did a great job with the guys too! The story is what you'd want and expect from a clean contemporary romance, with some drama and angst, an interesting love triangle, and some great characters and scenes. One thing I love about the books I've read by Karey White is the places she chooses to feature and how she describes them. It's like taking a tour while having a fun story unfold around you.

#3 It Took a War by Emily Ann Putzke
Narrated by Guyon Brandt

I received a digital copy of this audiobook from the author for review, and I thought the performance fit perfectly with the story! Here's a snippet from my review on Audible:

I was truly impressed with the presentation of this story as an audiobook! The narrator did a phenomenal job, even singing songs from the American Civil War era a capella (and pulling it off quite wonderfully!). This is a well-researched tale, one that provides an endearing glimpse into a family struggling to find themselves and understand one another through the difficulties of war. In a little over three hours, it's like experiencing an epic play outside the theater. All you need to do is pause halfway through for an intermission. :)

#4 Legend by Marie Lu
Narrated by Mariel Stern and Steven Kaplan

I believe I bought and listened to this one through iTunes when I was in college, and I remember loving the narration. Having the two narrators really drew me in to the dystopian, tension-filled world. Great listening!

#5 How a Star Falls by Amber Stokes
Narrated by Patrick Wilson Mahaney

Shameless self-promotion alert! This is an audiobook version of one of my inspirational contemporary romance novellas. :) I was absolutely thrilled with the narrator's work, and I'm so glad he was willing to take on this project. He brought Derrick to life! While I'd love to do more audiobooks someday, if it doesn't happen for a long time or ever, I'm just so grateful for this one.

I might like to listen to...

#6 Christy by Catherine Marshall
Narrated by Kellie Martin

Confession: I haven't read Christy all the way through yet. I've started it before, but haven't finished it, which is sad! I have a paperback copy, but the main reason I put the audio version on my wish list is because it's read by actress Kellie Martin, the one who played Christy in the TV show (and did an amazing job!). How delightful would it be to listen to her read the book? I believe I heard about the audiobook through one of the marketing videos for the new hard copy edition from Gilead Publishing. 

#7 Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Narrated by Marisa Calin

I've been seeing this book online and around the blogosphere, and it sounds/looks so cool! I do love pirate stories, and I wouldn't mind giving this audiobook a try. :) 

#8 The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
Narrated by Susan Bennett

This is another book that's been talked about a lot, given the author. The audiobook seems to have great reviews, and I like that it's nearly 16 hours, so it would last for a little while and help pass the time on some car rides. ;)

#9 Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Narrated by Shauna Niequist

Not too long ago, I read another book by this author on my Kindle: Bread and Wine. I believe Present Over Perfect was a huge bestseller when it hit shelves, and given that I enjoyed the other book (and this topic sounds very meaningful and relevant), I'd be interested in giving this one a try. It's neat that the author narrated the audio version!

#10 The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd
Narrated by Cassandra Morris

This author's middle-grade books are the sweetest! I've read A Snicker of Magic and the The Key to Extraordinary, and I might like to try this one sometime—perhaps in audio format.

* * *

Which audiobooks have been your favorites?
Which ones are you really eager to try?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Where Trains Collide | Blog Tour Invitation

I've shared the news on social media, but in case you haven't heard...I finally finished Where Trains Collide! You might recall that I revealed the cover back in February 2015, and I posted about some inspiration in September 2015 when I stayed at the Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed-and-Breakfast. It really shouldn't have taken three years to finish such a short novella, but perhaps the story needed me to gain some new experiences in the meantime. :)

In any case, I'm so excited to invite you to join the blog tour! If you don't have a blog but would still like to review the ebook on Amazon and/or Goodreads or share about the novella on social media, you're welcome to sign up too!

Thank you so much for your support, friends. ♥ More to come soon!

About the Book

Two hearts racing in different directions will meet where trains collide. 

Burned out and disillusioned with her chosen career path, Trisha Knolane gives in to impulse and hops on a train bound for Oregon, eager to escape the stress of college for a few days. But what begins as a fun little adventure takes an unexpected turn when she discovers that her ex-boyfriend is also on board.

All her hopes and dreams had once centered on Paul Benson. Now, when Trisha doesn't know where her current track will lead, Paul’s reappearance in her life only complicates matters and sparks difficult questions.

Questions that could change the course of her life.

A heartfelt and thought-provoking contemporary romance novella, Where Trains Collide faces the uncertain season of new adulthood head on and shows that sometimes a path of broken dreams can lead to life’s best destination.

Add to Goodreads

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Green Gables Read-Along | Discussion 3

Happy (almost) Easter and the last day of March! Today's discussion for the Anne of Green Gables read-along covers chapters 27-38 (the last part of the book). The main discussion is happening at Jenni Elyse. You can hop over there to leave a comment! Of course, you're totally welcome to comment here, as well. :)

Here are Jenni's fun questions to conclude the read-along, as well as my responses:

1. Is this your first time reading Anne of Green Gables, or is it a reread? Either way, what did you think about it?

My Thoughts: I believe I read this when I was younger. I'm not sure if I read it again before now...but I'm very familiar with the basics of the story from the movie version with Megan Follows. :) It was really sweet to read the book now, though! I enjoy L.M. Montgomery's descriptions of scenery and characters. And it's fun to know you're enjoying a book along with a group of fellow readers!

2. If this is your first time reading Anne of Green Gables, do you plan to read the rest of the series? If you've read Anne of Green Gables before, have you read the rest of the series? What do you think about it?

My Thoughts: Again, I believe I read the whole series (or most of it?) when I was younger, but if I did, it's been a long time. I remember my grandparents having the series on their shelf in my grandma's art room in back of the den. :) Right now, I think I only have books 1 and 3. I'd like to read/reread Anne of the Island sometime soon-ish! I also got Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery at a library sale last fall, and I want to read that one soon-ish too!

3. Who is your favorite character and why?

My Thoughts: I adore Marilla and Matthew, how they take Anne in and fall in love with her. Matthew is a total sweetheart! And it's endearing, the way Marilla takes her responsibilities so seriously, yet she can't help but enjoy Anne's spirit and misadventures.

It's hard to pick a favorite, though! I really like Anne, and everything centers around her in the book. But then there's also such lovely characters like Mrs. Allan, who lives out her faith with care and joy, and Miss Stacy, who makes school and learning a delight. And Gilbert...who, as we all seemed to agree, needed a bigger role in this story!

4. Who is your least favorite character and why?

My Thoughts: Hmmm... It's difficult to like Josie Pye, with the many ways she puts down Anne. And of course, Mrs. Blewett, even with how little we see her in the book, hardly seems like a nice person!

5. What was your favorite scene and why?

My Thoughts: Oooh, that's a tough question! There are so many memorable scenes, like when Matthew has a dress with puffed sleeves made for Anne, or when Anne pretends to be the lily maid. So cute and funny! But I also love those moments when Anne simply admires the view and world around her. Those descriptions of the coast or the woods or the twilight air are simply delightful.

6. What did you think about the last third of the book and why?

My Thoughts: It's bittersweet! In some ways, it's lovely to see Anne growing up, being a help and comfort to Marilla, excelling in school, facing her future with joy and courage, and even (finally!) forgiving Gilbert and making friends with him. But it's also sad to see her leave childhood behind, as Marilla notes too...and Matthew's death is tragic. He died as he wanted to, and there's peace in his passing, but it's difficult to see Anne and Marilla lose such a dear loved one and struggle through their grief.

I'll add that while the ending wraps up nicely with a hopeful but open finish, it does leave plenty of room for the books that follow, and lots of eagerness to read more of Anne's life and adventures!

* * *

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the last part of the book...
  • "'As for your chatter, I don't know that I mind it—I've got so used to it.' Which was Marilla's way of saying that she liked to hear it."
  • "She had an odd, newly awakened consciousness under all her outraged dignity that the half-shy, half-eager expression in Gilbert's hazel eyes was something that was very good to see. Her heart gave a quick, queer little beat."
  • "There is no sweeter music on earth than that which the wind makes in the fir-trees at evening."
  • "The best of it all was the coming home."
  • "It's nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one's heart, like treasures."
  • "I'm not a bit changed—not really. I'm only just pruned down and branched out. The real me—back here—is just the same. It won't make a bit of difference where I go or how much I change outwardly; at heart I shall always be your little Anne, who will love you and Matthew and dear Green Gables more and better every day of her life."
  • "Anne has as many shades as a rainbow and every shade is the prettiest while it lasts."
  • "She had looked her duty courageously in the face and found it a friend—as duty ever is when we meet it frankly."
  • "I shall give life here my best, and I believe it will give its best to me in return."
  • "If the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it." {So fun to come across the title of my dear friend Kara's blog! Now I know where this line comes from. :D}
* * *

Many thanks to Suey, Kami, and Jenni for hosting this read-along! If you'd like details about the Twitter chat tonight or the watch-along on April 6th, head over to Jenni's blog!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Take Place in Another Country

This week, the Top Ten Tuesday theme takes us globe-trotting! I decided to feature a few books I've started and some I read and enjoyed in the past. :) In no particular order...

Current Reads

#1 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Setting: Prince Edward Island, Canada

I'm pretty sure I read this series when I was younger, but it's been a lot of fun to reread Anne of Green Gables for the read-along this month! (You can check out my read-along posts HERE.) The descriptions of the island are so beautiful and engaging! This is definitely a place I'd love to visit someday. (Also, isn't this cover gorgeous? Check out all the Puffin in Bloom covers!)

#2 Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta
Setting: England

This is one of those review books I should have read long, long ago. As much as I'm ashamed I didn't, I can also say I'm really intrigued by the story and am happy to be reading it now! The descriptions of the location are great so far, a combination of inviting and eerie. I'm looking forward to sharing a long-overdue review!

#3 A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White
Setting: England

I confess it's been a little while since I've picked up this book... I left off around page 83. But I've heard wonderful things about this series so far, and I also have the second book to read sometime. So, I hope to continue soon! I love the tension between the main characters so far and the underlying threat from outside forces.

Books I Read and Loved

#4 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Setting: Guernsey

This was one of my favorite reads of 2015. Such a wonderful book! And it's being made into a movie!

#5 Chateau of Echoes by Siri L. Mitchell
Setting: France

I remember really enjoying this one and its romance!

#6 Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West
Setting: Vietnam

Such a powerful story about the Vietnam War! You can check out my review HERE.

#7 There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Setting: Ireland

From my review: "The charm of Ireland, the angst of young adulthood, and the beautiful craziness of life come together to make this an engaging, moving read!... Brimming with emotion and overflowing with hope, this book stole my heart. Is there a list for new Jenny B. Jones fans? Because if there is, well...there you'll find me." 

#8 The Thief by Stephanie Landsem
Setting: Jerusalem

This is truly a perfect read for Easter! Here's my review.

#9 Grave Consequences by Lisa T. Bergren
Setting: France, Austria, Italy

I recommend the whole series, and it's best to read them in order. This is the second book, which I marked as a "favorite" on Goodreads. You can learn more about the series HERE!

#10 Guardian of the Flame by T.L. Higley
Setting: Egypt

I want to reread this one sometime! I reviewed it on Amazon way back when (2009). I also really liked some other books in this "Seven Wonders" series, including City of the Dead (now Pyramid of Secrets), Shadow of Colossus (now Isle of Shadows), and Pompeii (now City on Fire).

* * *

What are some books you've read or are currently reading set in different countries? 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What Will Maggie Try (or Run From) Next? | Review of The Theory of Happily Ever After

About the Book (from Revell)

According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious—serious science, that is. But science can't always account for life's anomalies, like why her fiancĂ© dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream-fueled chick flick binge.

Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie's friends book her as a speaker on a "New Year, New You" cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she's qualified to teach others about happiness when she can't muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can't ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart. 

Filled with unforgettable characters, snappy dialogue, and touching romance, The Theory of Happily Ever After shows that the search for happiness may be futile—because sometimes happiness is already out there searching for you.

Available May 1, 2018!

My Rating


My Review

The Theory of Happily Ever After is a rom-com about a scientist and bestselling author who's become a tad bit obsessed with rom-coms. If you're looking for a fun all-over-the-place romance that takes some outlandish turns while on a cruise ship out at sea, then this book has got you covered! I confess, there are things I liked and didn't like so much about the nature of this story.

While there's a lot of silliness, there are also some sweet and serious themes about moving forward and finding hope when you'd rather hide from life. The main character is dealing with some real struggles in the present along with hurts from her past, and while she doesn't always find the best ways to cope, she's authentic in her pain and dreams. Also, many readers should appreciate her love of Hallmark movies!

The descriptions of the cruise ship and available activities are pretty fun. It keeps things interesting to go from chapter to chapter, wondering what Maggie will try (or run from) next.

As for Maggie's antics and the attitudes of the supporting cast... It's hard to really love these characters. Despite feeling sorry for Maggie, her thoughts and reactions can get a bit annoying. Her friends have very distinctive and different personalities, which is nice, but they're also super pushy and sometimes feel more bossy than supportive. And one of the friends starts acting pretty childish in a middle-school way at a certain part of the story.

The men have some attractive qualities, but it's rather hard to see what draws them to Maggie (or keeps their attention) when she's rude or overdramatic or behaving in a wishy-washy manner. Both of the main guys sometimes act in a way that doesn't seem realistic.

Perhaps this style just isn't quite right for me. I do appreciate that deeper themes are addressed, and it isn't all fun and games. But there are some rather crazy twists and turns and over-the-top characters that can get on one's nerves. The Theory of Happily Ever After is clever and enjoyable in parts, but a bit too much for me.

*With thanks to Revell through NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of this book.*

Friday, March 23, 2018

Green Gables Read-Along | Discussion 2

Woohoo, it's Friday and the start of the weekend! Today's discussion (technically, yesterday's) for the Anne of Green Gables read-along covers chapters 14-26. The main discussion is happening at Kami's blog, Kami's Library Thoughts. You can hop over there to leave a comment! Of course, you're totally welcome to comment here, as well. :)

Here are Kami's great questions and my responses:

1. Anne has a gift for loving nature in all its forms. She even gives it delightful names. Do you find yourself appreciating nature more as you read this?

My Thoughts: I adore the way nature is described in this book! The White Way of Delight, the wooded paths in all their seasons, the way Anne puts flowers in her hat or her new teacher sends the boys up into trees to look for nests... Everything feels so vibrant and gorgeous in how L.M. Montgomery wrote it. I think it does make me appreciate nature more—or at least want to do so!

2. We have finally met Gilbert! What do you think of him? Do you think Anne is justified in hating him so much?

My Thoughts: I think Gilbert's infatuation with Anne is adorable, and I like that he's competitive, but good-natured about it. He's smart, and he seems genuinely contrite when he realizes how angry he's made Anne. I'm hoping to see more of him in the book, though. ;) Right now he's sort of a hovering presence, affecting Anne without her willing to acknowledge him. I don't think Anne's attitude toward him is justified. It may be understandable, knowing how sensitive Anne can be, but her cold shoulder feels unforgiving and over the top.

3. Anne's imagination finally got the better of her in the Haunted Wood. Do you think she learned anything from that experience? Do you think she'll tone down her imagination a bit?

My Thoughts: Based on Anne's reaction after being forced to walk through the Haunted Wood at night and her conversation with the reverend's wife (I believe?), it really does seem like she understands she went too far. But I don't know if her imagination will be toned down...maybe just redirected for now. ;) Although I'm sure as she continues to grow up and have real-world experiences, she'll find (and maybe already is finding) that life is worth experiencing in its own glory.

4. What do you think of Diana and the other schoolgirls? Do you think Anne chose wisely for her bosom friend?

My Thoughts: They're quite a group! :) It's fun to read about their schoolgirl antics and dramas. Diana seems like a very loyal and loving friend, and I think she and Anne suit each other well. I like that Diana appreciates Anne for who she is, while also not being afraid to point out when she thinks Anne is going too far (like the situation with Gilbert, even if Anne doesn't necessarily listen).

5. I've always dreamed of visiting Prince Edward Island someday. Do you want to visit there also? What other real-life literature places do you want to visit?

My Thoughts: Definitely! I grew up watching The Road to Avonlea series and the Anne of Green Gables movies with my grandparents and uncle, and visiting Prince Edward Island would be a dream come true, for sure. :) I can't decide if I'd rather visit in the fall or the spring... I bet both would be delightful! As for other real-life literature places...that's a great question! I'm not really sure. Perhaps some places in Europe? (Not very specific, I know!)

* * *

It's so sweet to see Anne finding her place at Green Gables and among her new friends and family. It's also fun to spot the similarities and differences between the book and the movie (starring Megan Follows). I confess I really liked the movie's subtle changes to the scenes with Matthew getting Anne a dress with puffed sleeves. :) If you've seen the movie, are there scenes you like better in the film adaptation versus the book?

Finally, here are some of my favorite quotes from the last section of reading...
  • "It was a little narrow, twisting path, winding down over a long hill straight through Mr Bell's woods, where the light came down sifted through so many emerald screens that it was as flawless as the heart of a diamond."
  • "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
  • "Ruby Gillis says when she grows up she's going to have ever so many beaux on the string and have them all crazy about her; but I think that would be too exciting. I'd rather have just one in his right mind."
  • "'When I am grown up,' said Anne decidedly, 'I'm always going to talk to little girls as if they were, too, and I'll never laugh when they use big words.'"
  • "There was a magnificent sunset, and the snowy hills and deep blue water of the St Lawrence Gulf seemed to rim in the splendour like a huge bowl of pearl and sapphire brimmed with wine and fire."
  • "I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs Allan's isn't, and I'd like to be a Christian if I could be one like her."
  • "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"
  • "'The trouble with you, Anne, is that you're thinking too much about yourself. You should just think of Mrs Allan and what would be nicest and most agreeable for her,' said Marilla, hitting for once in her life on a very sound and pithy piece of advice. Anne instantly realized this."