Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Review of The Princess Spy

Here's a description of the book from Zondervan:

Margaretha has always been a romantic, and hopes her newest suitor, Lord Claybrook, is destined to be her one true love. But then an injured man is brought to Hagenheim Castle, claiming to be an English lord who was attacked by Claybrook and left for dead. And only Margaretha—one of the few who speaks his language—understands the wild story.

Margaretha finds herself unable to pass Colin’s message along to her father, the duke, and convinces herself “Lord Colin” is just an addled stranger. Then Colin retrieves an heirloom she lost in a well, and asks her to spy on Claybrook as repayment. Margaretha knows she could never be a spy—not only is she unable to keep anything secret, she’s sure Colin is completely wrong about her potential betrothed. Though when Margaretha overhears Claybrook one day, she discovers her romantic notions may have been clouding her judgment about not only Colin but Claybrook as well. It is up to her to save her father and Hagenheim itself from Claybrook’s wicked plot.

My Rating

Spring

My Review

I'm always thrilled at the release of a new Melanie Dickerson novel. Her romances are sweet and full of adventure, uniquely appealing with their blend of historical setting and fairy-tale elements. The Princess Spy is another lovely addition to Dickerson's series of retellings.

The subtle (and cleverly not-so-subtle) tie-ins with parts of The Frog Prince and related stories are quite fun. And Margaretha is a great heroine, with her big heart and bold attitude. When she sees the need for action, she takes it - a bit recklessly at times, but in a way that makes for an entertaining read. Plus, you gotta love a heroine who isn't afraid to speak her mind...however long it takes to do so. ;)

Some elements of the plot reminded me a bit of The Fairest Beauty and The Captive Maiden, Dickerson's last two releases. Which, on the one hand, is cool because I love a good "on-the-run" journey that brings a hero and heroine closer together. But on the other hand, it feels like the stories are becoming a bit formulaic. With fairy-tale themes, perhaps that's partly to be expected.

The romance includes some tender moments while focusing on their blossoming friendship. I hoped for a little more from the ending...especially given how the villain is introduced so early in the story and how the danger is built up over time. Still, The Princess Spy is all-around cuteness, and I look forward to seeing what Dickerson does with more fairy tales in her upcoming releases!

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

Note: The Princess Spy releases November 4, 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Days!

I've got some reviews to catch up on, and it feels like I'm forever playing catch-up with sleep! As I said on Twitter:


It's not that I can't fall asleep, but simply that I too often choose not to go to bed at a decent hour. I do like sleep (very much!)... I'd just like more hours in the day so that I could do other things, too! I suppose maybe I could prioritize my time better, but that's beside the point. ;)

My point in this post is that yes, I do have other posts I should share soon. But right now, I'm simply going to say I'm so grateful for blessings big and small...

For pumpkin-patch visits with friends (and scrumptious apple cider doughnuts).


For times at work that remind me of a greater goal, the good of the team, and that it's really not all about me.

For times at work where I feel incredibly encouraged and welcomed.

For recommendations and a shiny new indulgence in HD and popping colors.


For the opportunity to offer a book for pre-order.

For the fabulous successes of fellow author friends.

For the relief and joy of knowing a new story and its characters have reached the hearts of family and friends.


For great feedback to help make a story better.

For another story idea to daydream about and pursue.

For dear friends who support me in so many ways.

For a patient God and an abundant life.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cedar Fort Blog Tour: Sophia + Review


http://blog.cedarfort.com/blog-tour-sophia/

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

Small-town Sophia Spencer can’t believe her luck when an unexpected inheritance allows her to experience London’s social scene. But her happiness disappears when she is caught napping in a grumpy gentleman’s room—and forced into an engagement to protect her reputation! Personalities collide and love blooms in this stunning debut novel.

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Sophia is every bit as fun and sweet as I'd hoped it to be! It starts off slow and involves more explanations/telling than I'd prefer, but those are minor complaints. And the interesting prologue does foreshadow the inheritance-induced drama to come for poor, unsuspecting Sophia.

The story really swept me away, though, with the first ball and the launch of a chain of events that causes Sophia's future to be seemingly, irreparably entwined with that of a certain gentleman. Neither one of them handles all of their interactions perfectly, but their characters are so endearing. This book isn't overly suspenseful or adventuresome, and yet the moments of budding friendship and romance are so wonderful, and the little twists and uncertainties quite engaging.

Wholesome Regency romance fans, Paula Kresmer's debut is a delightful dance through manipulations, misunderstandings, and tender emotions. A light but satisfying read!

*With thanks to Cedar Fort for providing me with a PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Paula Kremser focused on a career in science for several years after graduating from Brigham Young University. DNA purification and Affinity Chromatography were always interesting, but when she moved to England, Paula seized the opportunity to focus on her love of the Regency Era. The enchantment of the aristocracy and the fascinating stories from every stately home she visits have been both research and inspiration for her first novel. Paula lives with her husband and four children in a charming village nestled in the Chiltern hills in Buckinghamshire.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Last Chance to Attend the Pre-order Party!

This lovely Sunday afternoon wraps up The Unexpected Bride pre-order party for Lena Goldfinch, and I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that you still have a few hours left to enter the fun giveaway. Remember, one winner will receive a book locket necklace from the Lily Pickford Etsy shop, as well as a paperback copy of The Unexpected Bride! Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I also wanted to share about all the places where the party has appeared online. Here are some links for your reading and visiting pleasure:
And you can view a few additional reviews on the book's Amazon page!

I apologize that this party reminder is coming rather late. But if you do end up reading this after the giveaway's ended, at least that means the book is now available, and you no longer have to wait to enjoy it, right? :) Don't forget that you can purchase it at the following links:

Release Date: October 6th, 2014
Available in ebook format:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo

(Note: Also available in paperback format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!)

Many thanks to all the fabulous bloggers who helped spread the word about the party, and to those who are reviewing the book! Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Review of Lizzy and Jane

Here's a description of the book from Thomas Nelson:

"Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you've run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She's lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she's losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?"

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

The story begins with a troubled chef who doesn't think there's room for another chef to enter her kitchen. The new guy excels in the areas where Elizabeth is struggling, and she feels threatened and overwhelmed by his presence - and what that says about her boss's lack of faith in her.

I got a No Reservations vibe from the beginning of the story...but it quickly takes a very different turn when Elizabeth hops a plane to Seattle to visit the family she once fled. What starts out as the set-up for a familiar romance turns into a unique and challenging sister story - although the romance does eventually kick in, just in an unexpected way.

This novel had me torn at multiple levels. There's no denying that Reay has a graceful way with words; there are many touching and thought-provoking scenes in Elizabeth's journey toward reconciliation and revival. But there is an overlying tone of melancholy throughout much of the book that made it more difficult for me to fully get into. The misunderstandings...the unkind words...the painful situations...the familial discord... It's hard. And since the story is written solely in Elizabeth's point of view, the reader is also limited in connecting with the characters in that regard.

There's a lot going on in the book emotionally, but it is a slower read - or at least, I found it to be such. Yet, I still felt invested in the story. Elizabeth and Jane are the characters who set the plot in motion, but the story is about more than their relationship. It's about their family as a whole, about Jane's husband and children, about the people they meet at the hospital (nurses and patients alike), about Elizabeth's dreams, and about a certain friend and love interest whose tenderness and uncertainty and devotion charmed my heart.

I was intrigued by the cooking aspects of the book, and all the sensory details that go along with that. I was ultimately touched by the authentic struggles, as well as the persistent hope that refused to completely give up on the characters. And I enjoyed the various expressions of love that often came about in surprising ways.

Lizzy and Jane is the kind of story that makes you want to call up your family and tell them you love them. It's not an easy read, but it's alternately sweet and thought-provoking, and it gets to the heart of family issues. A rich and subtly romantic women's fiction read.

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

Note: Lizzy and Jane releases October 28, 2014.

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's a Lena Goldfinch Pre-order Party!


http://lenagoldfinch.blogspot.com/p/the-brides.html

Many of you already know that my wonderful cover designer is also a fabulous indie author. But what you might not know is that she's diving into a new genre with her next release! Lena Goldfinch is beloved for her YA fantasy and contemporary stories (The Language of Souls, Aire, Songstone, Chain Reaction, Haunting Joy, and Take a Picture). Now she's getting ready to launch the first book in a sweet historical romance series ("The Brides"). Let's take a look...


About The Unexpected Bride
What's a man to do when his father orders him a bride?

Rebecca Sullivan has been "Becky" all her life, a real hoyden. Her childhood sweetheart taught her to ride bareback and shoot a rifle, but then he chose a "perfect lady" for a wife—a real Southern belle, who's now expecting a baby. Heartbroken, Becky signs up to be a mail-order bride to a Seattle man, sight unseen. She resolves to squelch her hoydenish ways and become a "perfect lady" for her future husband.

If logging-operation owner Isaac Jessup had wanted a bride, he'd have chosen a sturdy frontier woman, not some fragile lady from back East. Ready to explain the mistake, honorable Isaac takes one look into Rebecca's vulnerable eyes...and knows he'll marry her, even though this delicate waif is obviously unsuited for wild Seattle.

Could an unexpected marriage be a match made in heaven?

Book One in The Brides Series
Sweet Historical Western Romance / A Mail-Order Bride Novel

Release Date: October 6th, 2014
Available for pre-order in ebook format:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo 

Intrigued yet? It really is such a tender tale, loosely inspired by the story of Issac and Rebekah in the Bible. Here's an excerpt to further entice you...
The lean-to was chilly and not for the first time, Isaac considered boarding it up proper and calling it a barn. He sat on the stool and began milking the goat, all the while mentally preparing for the worship service they planned to go to later that morning. The Scriptures he'd read first thing that morning were fresh in his mind, and his prayers kept returning to the problem of Rebecca. One inner voice urged him to send her back home, but another voice spoke of commitment. He'd said vows before God to love and keep her till death do them part. Those weren't words he was willing to dismiss lightly.

"What's her name?" Her voice was suddenly in his ear, quite close.

 Isaac jumped. The goat bleated at him.

"Sorry, girl." He patted her side and resumed milking her with slow, careful hands. He glanced over his shoulder toward the subject of his thoughts.

Rebecca stood watching him, leaning over the rail and peering in at them with curious eyes. He was surprised to see her out this early. She usually left him to his morning chores, and most times he'd get back inside the cabin and find her already up preparing breakfast.

"What's her name?" she repeated.

"Name? The goat?" He looked at the goat dumbly. It was a goat. He'd never gotten much further than that. She gave them a daily supply of milk, but other than that she was generally a nuisance. She liked to butt down the stall door. And whenever she got loose, she'd eat what few vegetables he was able to grow in the summer. She also liked to nip at his shirts and underthings when he hung them out on the line--if he was lucky. Most times she'd tug the whole line down and drag it through the mud.

"Yes, the goat," Rebecca said, a pleasant-sounding smile in her voice. "Don't tell me she hasn't got a name?"

There was something nice about hearing a woman's voice in the morning. It reminded him a little of when he was young, and his mother had chatted with him in soft tones while they ate breakfast. As if speaking too loud would jar them too quickly out of whatever dreams they'd had the night before.

Rebecca's soft voice put him much in mind of those times.

"All right. I won't." Isaac focused on his milking.

"She doesn't have a name?" Rebecca pressed. "How can you have an animal that doesn't have a name?"

"Never gave it much thought. She's good for milk, but other than that she's nothing but trouble, always munching on the laundry."

"Well, then I think your choice is clear. Either you call her Milky or you call her Trouble." Her teasing tone brought a reluctant smile to his lips.

"Well, then, if I have to choose, then I guess she's Trouble."

The real Trouble was standing behind him, her elbow propped against the top of the rail, her chin cupped in one dainty hand.

If you're a blogger/reviewer interested in receiving an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., please feel free to contact me at amberstokes@corban.edu


And what's a party without presents? Join us in spreading the word about The Unexpected Bride and celebrating its upcoming release with a sweet giveaway! One winner will receive a book locket necklace from the Lily Pickford Etsy shop, as well as a paperback copy of The Unexpected Bride. Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
P.S. I'll let you in on a little secret or two... You can actually order the paperback now from Amazon, if you prefer to have a hard copy and don't want to wait to see if you won the giveaway!

And there's one more recent release from Lena that you might not have heard about, as it's published under a different name. If you're looking for a unique and slightly spooky tall tale, be sure to check out Lena's short story, The Find.


Monday, September 22, 2014

My Bookish Reality

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when your mom comes for a visit, lots of shopping will be involved.

I had such a wonderful time with my mom this past weekend - taking a day trip to the coast, seeing new-to-me places, eating out, and yes, doing some shopping. ;) My mom very generously bought me a new couch, and though I've been claiming to be fine without one, I must admit I'm excited to have a comfy place for me and my guests to sit while watching movies and reading! 

A happy side effect of the new couch is that I got to move my bookshelf in preparation for the couch's arrival. Why is that news-worthy? Well, in my living room I used the bookshelf for knick-knacks and whatnot - more of a decorative piece. But now that it's in my guestroom, I've actually filled it with *gasp* books!

For now, I decided to use it as a place to put my TBR books. I think this will help with the whole Mission: Contentment thing, as I'll now be able to actually see how many books I have to choose from, as well as browse them when I'm feeling in the mood to try something new. :) Check it out...


Besides the two "filler" book boxes at the end of the top row, these are all books I have yet to read! I may have started a few and then set them aside, but for the most part, I have all these lovelies to enjoy from cover to cover sometime.

And yes, there is sort of a system!

Currently, the top left is for review books, the top middle has the Love Inspired/Heartsong Present books, and the top right has some Harvest House Amish books that I might want to read for AmishReader.com.


The second shelf begins my Christian fiction (alphabetical order by author's last name)...


...which continues into the third shelf. The right side of the bottom shelf is for my YA books.


Will I keep that system? *shrugs* I like the way it looks for now. :)

I should add that:
  1. I bought a couple of these books this weekend when I went into Barnes & Noble (Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade - I've heard such good things! - and Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz). A mama's visit is a special occasion, no?
  2. There are a few stragglers in boxes in my closet that didn't fit into my neat little categories (or on my shelf). 
  3. This doesn't even include all my Kindle books... 
In other words, I have a lot of reading to do! *laughs*

Tell me, friends, where do you keep your TBR books? Any books we have in common?

P.S. While visiting Barnes & Noble, I went on the hunt for Harvest House books - and I didn't have to look too hard! Loved seeing these Harvest House books and more in the wild...

Get Unstuck, Be Unstoppable by Valorie Burton

Choose Love by Stormie Omartian

P.P.S. Speaking of Harvest House books... I'm guest-blogging over at Seekerville tomorrow (Tuesday), talking about marketing tips - and we're going to be giving away four new Harvest House releases in honor of the company's 40th anniversary. Hope to see you there!