Monday, April 30, 2012

Glamorous Illusions

Glamorous Illusions
Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook
June 2012
Fiction, Romance, Historical

When Cora Kensington learns she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king, her life changes forever. Even as she explores Europe with her new family, she discovers that the most valuable journey is within. The first book in the Grand Tour series takes you from the farms of Montana through England and France on an adventure of forgiveness, spiritual awakening, and self-discovery. 
This book is not amazing but it is very good. Bergren has long been an author I have enjoyed. I always feel like she is so close but always misses just a tiny bit. The depth is so close but not all the way there. However, as I said, this book is very good. Cora is a likeable character and her struggle into the world of her father is admirable and relateable.  Her relationship with Jesus is sweet. The Grand Tour itself is absolutely fascinating and very fun to read. I am definitely looking forward to the next books in the series. And of course there is that handsome tour guide that is common and yet rather enchanting...we shall see. Mystery, intrigue, romance, travel, and more! I recommend for a good read! 
Thanks to netgalley and David C Cook for providing me with a free digital copy of this book for my honest review.  


Diane T. Ashley and Aaron McCarver
Barbour Publishing House
June 1, 2012
Romance, Historical, Fiction

Cruise down the Mississippi with Natchez belle Lily Anderson. Needing to provide for herself and her sisters, Lily is desperately trying to make a go of a riverboat venture with co-owner Blake Matthews. But they fail to find anything to agree upon. Blake is enamored of the feisty Lily. Attempts to woo her may be lost to the devious Jean Luc Champney. Will the siren song of the river evolve into a serenade or a somber lament?

For the most part this is a well written and intriguing book.  Riverboat books seem to be one of the newest influxes in Christian fiction. I personally find the genre very interesting. The authors held true to historical fact in regards to the rampant gambling that went on on riverboats. It seemed highly unlikely that Lily and Blake could find common ground, rest assured they did. Both characters could have been better developed and parts of the story were rather far-fetched. However, the book kept my attention and I look forward to reading the next installments. 

Thanks to netgalley and Barbour Publishing House for providing me with a free digital copy of this book for my honest review.

Angel of the Cove

Angel of the Cove
Sandra Robbins
Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: August 2012

In the first book in the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, acclaimed author Sandra Robbins weaves a tale of love, loss, and God’s faithfulness in every circumstance.

Anna Prentiss has never wanted to be anything but a nurse. Before she can start school in New York, however, her brother sends her to Cades Cove, deep in the Smoky Mountains, to spend a summer apprenticing to the local midwife. Anna is determined to prove herself and then head to the big city.

But nothing could have prepared Anna for the beauty of the Cove, or the community and friendships she finds there. And she certainly wasn’t prepared for Simon Martin, the handsome young minister, or the feelings he arouses in her. Has God’s plan for Anna changed? Or is she just starting to hear Him clearly?

Alright, now here's my honest part of my review. I didn't finish this book. Ouch. The story line grabbed me and I was really excited to dive in but I quickly got bogged down in mediocre writing that seemed rather amateur. The premise was good but the delivery was poor. At about 30% of the way through I quit. I might go back someday and try again but I don't have high hopes. Robbins is apparently an acclaimed author and yet this is the first I have read by her. I'm not sure I'll be looking for more by her. There's my honesty for you. Here's hoping Robbins will grow and mature in her writing ability over time.

Thanks to netgalley and Harvest House Publishers for providing me with a free digital copy of this book for my honest review.

Rose's' Pledge

Rose's Pledge
Sally Laity and Dianna Crawford
Barbour Publishing
January 2012
Historical, Fiction, Romance

Set during the French and Indian War Rose and her sisters are sent to America as indentured servants. All promises are broken upon their arrival when they are separated and sold to the highest bidder. Rose is bought by an unkempt fur trader and taken deep inland where Indian trouble runs rampant. A young frontiersman, Nate, tags along with the fur party to keep an eye on the beautiful Rose.

This book follows Rose's story as she clings to her faith in God in a wild land. Nate has promised to rescue her if he can but it seems highly unlikely that he can ever find the money to buy her indenture. Filled with suspense, action, and romance this book is a pleasure to read. Laity and Crawford unite together to bring the best of true historical fiction and sweet romance.

This is the first in a trilogy and I already have the second one queued up to read shortly. This will keep you up reading at night. The historical elements were, of course, my favorite part. Very well done!

Thank you to Barbour Books and Netgalley for providing me with a free digital copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin

Thunder and Rain
Author: Charles Martin
Publisher: Center Street
Genre: Fiction
Date: April 2012

Tyler Steele is a third generation Texas ranger. He's polite to women, good with a gun, has a strong moral compass, and raises cows. He's living in a world where he almost doesn't quite fit in due to his beliefs and his compassion. Recently retired he's a single father living on his ranch raising his 11 year old son, Brodie. Having lived much of his life singularly focused on fighting the bad guys he has seen his failures and desires to live intentionally and raise his son with him in the picture. His life seems to be in ruins around him. He's practically divorced, he's in danger of losing his ranch, and he's a lawman without a badge.

On a rainy night Tyler bumps into a car on the freeway containing Samantha and her 10 year old daughter Hope. Broken down in the rain these two ladies are running from something. Battered and bruised they are nearly at the end of their resources. Tyler steps in and rescues them knowing he can help, knowing he can protect. What he doesn't know or expect is that his relationship with Sam and Hope will blossom into something bigger. In order to put the pieces of himself and his life together Tyler will need to come to face to face with his weaknesses in order to become stronger. 

Thunder and Rain will transport you to East Texas. Martin writes with such intense description you'll find yourself suddenly wanting to saddle up your horse and head to Texas. Martin is absolutely my favorite author and Thunder and Rain is a captivating read. Some of his other books have had a slower pace but this book does not. Intense from the beginning it grabs you and doesn't let you go. References to cowboys, gunfights, and John Wayne permeate throughout. The book is written primarily in first person from Tyler's point of view. However, quite often we get a glimpse into Hope's journal and see the story from her perspective.

I have to admit I read this book with a small measure of unease. Samantha is one messy character and I did not like her enough to want her to like Tyler. I felt like raising a caution flag every time things intensified between them. Getting involved with a woman like her seemed like a very bad choice. The beautiful thing about how Martin writes is he truly understands character development. He also writes with honesty. Yes, Tyler seems almost unreal in his cowboy hombre goodness and yet we are allowed to see the messy parts of him. Yes, Sam is a disaster but through Tyler we get to glimpse the good amidst the brokenness. While not overtly "Christian" the story of redemption and healing runs throughout. Thunder and Rain is rich with lessons for everyday life. Not to mention is just a stinking good read! Gun fights, danger, cowboys, romance, story, Texas sky, and more. You will not put it down, I promise!

Thank you to Center Street Publishers and my friends at Radiant Lit for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
Author: Julie Klassen
Publisher: Bethany House
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Historical
Date: 2011

When her sneaky conniving step-father reveals that we will stop at nothing to see her married to his perfectly awful nephew, Margaret Macy knows she must flee to avoid disaster. Disguising herself as a house maid Margaret finds herself in the country desperately trying to get hired for a job she has no training for. When she finally is hired she is taken to Fairborune Hall which to her shock she finds is the country home of two brothers who were former suitors. Lewis whom was easily distracted and Nathaniel whom she rejected two years before.

Those below stairs do not often mix with those above stairs and Margaret is too busy trying to learn the ropes of maid service, a job which her privileged life did not prepare her for. Bells ringing, noses to the wall, brushes to memorize, her mind is filled with remembering all of the rules. She simply has to fake it long enough to make it until her 25th birthday when she will inherit a large sum of money from a deceased aunt.

Nathaniel Upchurch has lived in his handsome older brother's shadows for too long. After being rejected by Miss Macy he shipped himself off to his family's sugar plantation in Barbados. Almost immediately after he returns home he learns of Miss Macy's disappearance and his rebellious heart can not help but long for her and he can not help but wonder what fate she has met with. Charged with regaining control of the family's mismanaged finances Nathaniel makes Fairbourne Hall his home and he can not help but have his eye caught by the mysterious new house maid.

Margaret Macy's step-father will stop at nothing to find her and he indeed scours the entire countryside. The more Margaret tries to remain invisible to him the more she becomes visible to the occupants of Fairborune Hall.  Noticing the strength and depth of Nathaniel she can not believe she rejected him and favored his brother. She finds herself increasingly drawn to him.....

Will Nathaniel discover Margaret's true identity? Will the dread Poet Pirate strike again? Will Margaret be able to remain hidden until her birthday? Will her step-father find her and force her to marry? The questions continue and all are contained inside this excellent read!  

Heralded as a modern day Jane Austen, Julie Klassen writes a riveting story. Classic prose, well developed characters, history, and romance all blend together to make this a joy to read. Fans of Downton Abbey will love the upstairs/downstairs plot. Both sides are written with careful detail, wit, and depth. Klassen throws in just enough mystery, intrigue, and danger to make this a book you'll stay up late reading. She continues to be one of my favorite authors and this does not disappoint. Truly a delight to dive into.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and my friends at Radiant Lit for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

The Silent Governess
Author: Julie Klassen
Publisher: Bethany House
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Historical
Date: 2009

Olivia Keene takes off into the forest with only the small packet her mother pushed into her hands. Running wildly she is fleeing a secret that she must never reveal. Her flight takes her to Brightwell Court where she overhears a secret of great import belonging to Lord Bradley. Caught spying she is locked in a cell where she is injured by a fellow prisoner and rendered temporarily mute. Edward (Lord Bradley) fearing his secret may be revealed, takes her to Brightwell Court and employs her while keeping a very close eye on her. If his secret is found out he stands to lose his legacy, his inheritance, his reputation and if her secret is found out she fears she'll lose much more.

Initially hired to work with Edward's orphaned cousins as their under nurse Miss Keene is eventually promoted to Governess. Secrets surround Miss Keene. Her mother was supposed to be close behind her has not appeared and is assumed dead. Her father is a wanted man and is missing. Meanwhile threatening notes are being delivered to Lord Brightwell and Lord Bradley that threaten their secret. Edward can't help but feel drawn to Miss Keene and yet still find her mysterious.

The plot thickens as secrets begin to unravel. Could Lord Brightwell actually be Miss Keene's father? Why has the mysterious game keeper kept such a close eye on Edward all these years? And who is the masked woman who is searching for Miss Keene?

Julie Klassen is one of my favorite authors. I will actually go out of my way to pay full price for one of her books. She has the ability to paint such a vivid picture of her setting and characters that you are completely transported. I always walk away from finishing one of her books having gained knew historical knowledge which I so appreciate.

The Silent Governess is a captivating read. Fans of Downton Abbey will fall in love with this book. The reader gets to see life at Brightwell Court from both above stairs and below stairs. I particularly found Miss Keene's adjustment to being lonely as the governess particularly interesting. Not quite a servant and yet not family, she really doesn't fit in. 

There were a couple of aspects of this book that I question. Miss Keene's secret is created to be this monstrosity when in actuality it is not worthy of the hype. Perhaps I missed the cultural relevance of the secret or the author didn't explain it well enough but I kept rereading to make sure I hadn't missed something bigger. It seemed a little unbelievable. There were a couple of sloppy parts in the book in relation to Miss Keene's mother as well. I won't go into details but this too I called into question.

Other than a few minor things this is an excellent read. I seriously wanted to put on a "spot o tea" and read all day. You will truly find yourself transported and integrated into the book. Klassen remains one of my favorites and I applaud The Silent Governess.

Rated PG-13 for adult themes.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and my friends at Radiant Lit for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Publisher: Waterbrook
Genre: Amish, Fiction, Romance
Date: 2012

Annie Martin is old order Mennonite and Aden Zook is old order Amish. Since they were young the have spent occasional time together at the local diner where the Zook family and Annie's Daadi Moses co-own. Escaping from a volatile relationship with mom Annie finds herself with Daadi Moses. She also finds herself once again drawn towards Aden. The cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom on the local trees and love is blooming in a most forbidden spot. Can Annie and Aden overcome it all to let love prevail?

Short and sweet The Scent of Cherry Blossoms uses the Amish and Mennonite settings to reveal real truth that is applicable to each reader. It's a short story but the characters are well developed. There were a couple of places I got the impression I had missed something so perhaps characters from previous Woodsmall books were mentioned, I'm not completely sure. It's a sweet story and I'm happy to say that love does prevail.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

Baroness by Susan May Warren

Author:  Susan May Warren
Publisher: Summerside Press
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Date: March 2012

Lily and cousin Rosie are coming of age in the Roaring Twenties. Both belong to families of great wealth the world is their oyster. The beginning of a summer in Paris opens their eyes and ultimately alters their lives. Lily discovers her love for flying and the interest of a man and Rosie discovers what she believes to be love. Before they can both blink they find themselves whisked back stateside and their lives part for a number of years.

Lily returns home to a dying mother and a step-father she wants nothing to do with. She sneaks away without telling anyone and heads as far west as the money in her pocket will take her. It doesn't take her very far west but it does take her to an airshow. Her love of flying reigns supreme and eventually she becomes a wing walker. She also takes great notice of her pilot, a handsome man named Truman.

Rosie enters New York and sets out to see her name in lights. She unknowingly gets into a relationship with a mob boss that will prove to be deadly. In her haste to escape his hold she runs away with a baseball player who turns out to be the love of her life. They settle in Chicago and make a home for themselves.

4 years pass.

Lily is divorced and working for her mother's newspaper. Rosie is married and pregnant and moving back to New York with her husband. Lily's "ex"-husband is on his way to New York and Rosie's ex-boyfriend the mob boss knows she's back in town. Drama and tragedy are on the horizon. Great healing and beauty are also very near.

I have to stop with my synopsis there are I might give the whole plot away. Just when I think I have  Susan May Warren all figured out she surprises me. Taking a giant step away from the familiarity of the other books from her I have reviewed she plunges her readers into a entirely different age. This is not your run of the mill romance book. Watching Lily and Rosie for this span of years is both enlightening and painful. You feel all of their angst right along with them. I applaud Warren for her superb character development. I also thoroughly enjoyed her handling of the time period down to the clothes worn, current events, and trends of that era. The wing walking aspect terrified me and intrigued me.

What I always love about Susan May Warren is her ability to reveal healing and God's hand in each of her books. I found the path that Lily took to healing and reconciliation with her step-father to be truly beautiful. It perfectly rounded out this book for me. 

I had a hard time getting into the first couple of chapters but once I was in, I was all in. This one definitely had me reading late into the night. This is the second book in the Daughters of Fortune series and I'm not sure how I missed the first one. I plan on remedying that immediately. You can read it as a standalone but why would you want to? I am anxious to read the one that follows Baroness because it ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger.

An excellent read I highly recommend!

Rated Pg-13 for adult content. 

Thank you to Summerside Press and my friends at Radiant Lit for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Resignation of Eve WINNER chose #3 as my winner. Congrats to Jamie! I'll be sending you the certificate of the book tomorrow!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Resignation of Eve (a review and a GIVEAWAY!)

Close your eyes and imagine a glorious typical Sunday morning—typical but without women. Most Sunday school rooms remain dark. A few men arrive with their sons but not many. Musicians struggle to lead worship without background singers. Ushers and offering counters are at full strength minus bulletins and pre-service coffee. The children's ministry is non-existent. "Won't happen," you say. Perhaps, but Jim Henderson offers up the possibility in The Resignation of Eve.

Females make up the majority of weekly churchgoers and volunteers. Yet since 1991, their attendance has declined dramatically, and the percentage of unchurched women has increased dramatically.  Using statistics, interviews, and extensive research author Jim Henderson dives into the subject of women in the church.

Between 1991 and 2011,
1) Adult women attending church during any week has declined by 20%.
2) Women attending Sunday School has plummeted by 29%.
3) The percentage of remain who are characterized as "unchurched" has risen by 94% during this period.
4) More than a third of all women are now unconnected from the church.
5) Most weekly church attenders are women (53%) - and they bring their families.
6) Most church volunteers are women (57%).
7) Women are the majority in terms of attendance of adult Sunday school programs (59%).
8) 60% of those who attend small groups or Bible study are women.
9) Due to the demographic data compiled (Barna 2000 study) about the median age (56-59) of women contributing (in every sense) to the Church - women's active participation in the future of the Church has been characterized as a "dying breed." (p.252).

What if Adam's rib is no longer willing to be the church's backbone?

I found this book to be extremely challenging and riveting in all of the good ways. It made me think, it made me reevaluate, and it challenged my thinking. Henderson's use of personal interviews made this possibly controversial subject seem approachable and real. This is a book to devour. Don't keep it to yourself. Share it with your pastor, with other women, with anyone willing to read.  Take time to ask the hard questions. The book is a book that will get you thinking not a definitive answer book. Therefore I won't end my review with a definitive thought on the book other than to say you need to read it.

Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers I have a free copy of this book to give away! In order to win a copy post a comment with your name and e-mail address and on Friday, April 6 at 5pm (central time zone) I'll have chose the winner. If you're the winner I'll contact you by e-mail.
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