Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweet Sanctuary

Sweet Sanctuary
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Bethany House Publishers
Historical, Fiction, Romance
April 2013

A Story of Hope and Love from Bestselling Author Kim Vogel Sawyer 

Lydia Eldredge longs to provide a sanctuary for her son, Nicky. But a constant threat comes from Nicky's drug-addicted father, who wants the boy and seems willing to do whatever it takes to get him. 
Dr. Micah Hatcher serves the immigrant population in Queens, but under cover of darkness he provides another service that must not be discovered lest his and his brother's lives be in danger. 

When Lydia and Micah's paths cross, they are suddenly wrapped up in each other's callings. Through unforeseen twists and turns, they seek a refuge of safety--for Nicky, for themselves, and for the needy people God unexpectedly puts in their lives.

Dr. Micah Hatcher is called to Boston by Lydia's angry father, demanding Dr. Hatcher take responsibility for Lydia's child he supposedly fathered. Micah is shocked that a nurse he barely remembers would accuse him of such thing. He surprises Lydia by actually coming to Boston to confront her. What appears to be a vicious lie concocted by Lydia turns into the loving "butting in" of a father who made wrong assumptions. Lydia's father only wants to save his grandson, Nicky. 

The clincher here is that Nicky isn’t Lydia’s blood child. Eleanor, a friend of Lydia’s, died giving birth to Nicky while she was on the run from her drug-addicted husband, Nic Pankin. Soft-hearted Dr. Micah Hatcher is reluctantly drawn into the dramatic situation as Nicky's blood father tries to gain custody of Nicky.  When Nic and Nicky disappear there is nothing Micah or Lydia can do. 

Set in the backdrop of World Was II Micah has other things weighing his mind as well. Mysterious letters and "packages" have him scrambling to do his long lost brother's work. Into the dark of night he navigates Queens with people's very lives at stake. 

Micah and Lydia are drawn to each other as the drama unfolds. They find themselves spending more and more time together and it isn't long before they fall in love. But can their love survive heartache and danger? 

Sawyer is always an author I am happy to pick up a book from. She writes with beautiful clarity, detail, and love. Her characters manage to seem very realistic, a thing I appreciate about her.

 I will say however, the beginning of the book was so contrived and so ridiculously awkward I almost quit reading. Lydia pulls a random man out of her past (yes, she liked him at one time but still!) and names him as her son's (who isn't her son) father? And then Micah willingly travels to another state to see about it all? I'm not so sure. I was uncomfortable with the whole premise. It seemed awfully farfetched to build a story on. Micah's continued involvement also seemed highly contrived and convenient for the story.

The book is gripping ,in its own way, and sweet, in its own way, but it stays mediocre throughout. Micah's drama seems a bit overplayed in the advertising and seems to almost fight with the plotline rather than enhance it. Nicky is as cute as cute can be and you'll want to spend time with this little boy. Lydia remains somewhat flat and unmemorable. 

Overall, a decent book.  It's an easy light read that you can pick up and put down at will. Throw it in your purse to read when soccer goes long. It will keep you just interested enough to distract you. 

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fifteen Minutes

Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury
Reviewed by Melissa J. MacDonald 
Fiction Addict Blog Tours
Genre: Drama
Publisher: Howard Books
Pub Date: October 29, 2013 

Karen Kingsbury’s new book asks the question: What Would You Sacrifice For Fame? 

(Synopsis from Zack Dylan made a promise to God and his college sweetheart as he left his family’s horse farm in Kentucky to compete on the popular reality television show Fifteen Minutes: If he makes it, the fame won’t change him. 

Overnight, Zack is the nation’s most popular contestant, a country singer with the looks and voice of a young Elvis. As his star rises, Zack is asked to compromise and quiet his beliefs, and also something more. Something Zack could never have imagined. Just as America is falling in love with Zack, just as he’s on the verge of winning it all, his choices lead him to the brink of personal disaster. 

At the same time, Reese Weatherly, a therapeutic horse instructor, is no longer sure about her relationship with Zack, or the wedding they had dreamed about. While Zack advances from one round of the competition to the next, an offer comes to Reese—one that will take her to a home halfway around the world. 

Then Chandra Olson—reigning diva pop star and one of the Fifteen Minutes judges—intervenes. Chandra has suffered so much public pain and private agony since her days as a Fifteen Minutes contestant. Now she wants just one thing: meaning. 

Can Chandra’s private losses help Zack find his way, or will his fifteen minutes of fame cause him to lose the life he once loved? Fifteen Minutes is a story of character, compromise, and the cost of having it all. A story that raises the question: Who are the real winners? 

Karen Kingsbury is a celebrated author for good reason, the woman can write! She weaves a story with the right blend of detail, imagery, reality, drama, and love. She's good and Fifteen Minutes is no exception. I'll admit a few years ago I went on a Kingsburg binge and read everything I could get my hands on. Much like any binge I needed a break afterwards. Instead of enjoying the detail and drama I found it overboard so I stepped back until now. Let me say, I am so glad I'm back. Fifteen Minutes is gripping. I read it in 24 hours. 

As a character Zach is as flawed as any of us. He starts out loving Jesus and quickly gets caught up in the fame and the roller coaster of it all. His flaws were both relatable and completely annoying. I found myself rolling my eyes and wanting to yell at him for some of the situations he allowed himself to get into .

Reese is the sweetheart of the book. I loved her. Quiet strength and grace. She's a doll, you can understand why Zach's family loves her so much. 

The story also dips, in classic Kingsbury form, into other story lines. Two of the judges are brought into the story and their personal struggles are absolutely heartbreaking. They are written as real characters who are trapped in their fame. Their struggles to survive and be themselves was tangible and heart wrenching. Their stories were an added bonus to an already very good book. 

The inside peak into reality TV and showdom sickened me. In some ways ignorance was bliss. I had a feeling things were staged, I had guessed it wasn't "real", but seeing it from the other side brought it to full light. It was a good reality check (no pun intended) and I feel like I'm being wiser with my choices of what I watch and how I watch. 

The story does not end predictably and is not tied up into a neat little bow, I loved that. That might have been my favorite part. It matched the theme of the book beautifully. Mistakes lead to consequences and those consequences do not always end the way we want them to. I was so glad, as a reader, I was allowed to feel the angst. I was also left with hope, bless Karen Kingsbury's heart. 

Both powerful and captivating your going to want to read this one, promise. Now go, go on, get it! 

Fifteen Minutes is available to purchase from 

Note: I received this book as part of the Fifteen Minutes blog tour from Fiction Addict. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.  Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Tutor's Daughter

The Tutor's Daughter
Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers
January 2013 

Set high on the cliff tops of Cornwall sits Ebbington Manor. With sweeping views of the ocean and windswept paths waiting to be explored that is where Emma Smallwood finds herself. She and her father have come to be live in tutors for Sir Giles Weston and his family. Years before Emma and her father had had the two oldest Weston boys, Henry and Phillip, enrolled at their small boarding school. 
Emma only remembers Henry as a rude prankster and a bully. When the letter arrives asking her and her father to live at Ebbington Manor Emma is relunctant, afraid she'll run into Henry. Her worry was founded when she does encounter Henry at the Manor and finds him to be just as arrogant and rude as he was as a youth. 
Soon after their arrival at Ebbington Manor mysterious things begin happen. Phantom music plays through the halls, the sounds of someone in Emma's room at night, and some of Emma's things go missing. The youngest Weston boys think it's a ghost, but Emma fears something much worse. 
Danger and mystery seem to stalk Emma at every turn. Henry too seems to be nearby every time Emma needs something. She finds herself shockingly drawn to him and it seems as if he might hold some affection for her as well. 
Hats off to Julie Klassen yet again for writing a wonderful read. She remains in my list of very favorite authors. If you enjoy Jane Austen you'll love her writing and the writing in this book. There were gothic elements and Lord and Lady of the Manor  discussions and gray cloudy skies set as a backdrop for drama and love. You'll be transported. 
Emma was a strong female heroine, she was kind hearted and likeable. Well educated she was confident and self possessed. Her love for learning and teaching was woven throughout, as was her love for her father. I love how she did her own independent things and Henry always managed to "stumble" upon her. Contrived? Yes, but it worked here. 
Henry’s quickly became endearing. He was vulnerable, kind hearted, romantic, but yet a shy brooding hero as well. My initial impressions were changed as he went from arrogant to soft and open. Seen in a different light he was still all man yet with a romantic and sweet side. He constantly came to the rescue just when Emma needed it. Sigh.
The story will capture you, the mystery will have you turning lights on in the night, and the romance will delight you. Not overly done at all this is a book to read. While not my favorite Klassen book I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it within two days. 
Grab some tea and prepare to be transported to the cliffs of Cornwall. You won't want to come back, but you should, your kids are probably hungry. 
My sincere thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Language of Sparrows

The Language of Sparros
Rachel Phifer
David C. Cook
July 2013

Brilliant and fluent in too many languages to count, 15-year-old Sierra Wright can't seem to communicate what is important to her in any language. 

Though April Wright stubbornly keeps an upbeat attitude about her daughter's future, she has let her own dreams slip away. 

Just across the bridge lives old Luca, scarred from his time in a Romanian gulag years before. Though he has seemingly given up on people, Sierra is drawn to him despite his prickly edges. No one else is comfortable with the unpredictable old man spending time alone with Sierra, not even Luca's son. Yet it is this unconventional relationship that will bring two families together to form friendships and unearth their family stories, stories that just might give them all the courage to soar on wings toward a new future.

If you've been a follower of this book review blog for any amount of time you know I'm not a huge modern day fiction girl. I love historical fiction. It's pretty rare for a modern day book to grab my attention. Enter The Language of Sparrows I was hooked in the first page and read for hours finishing the book in a day. Welcome new author Rachel Phifer! Phifer wrote a captivating and deep book. Way to go! 

Sierra is precious and I loved her. She was both strong and odd and unique, in all the good ways. April gets a bit annoying with her seeming lack of involvement but once you get to know her story you quickly understand why. There is a bit of a romance that takes place between Luca's son Nic and April, beware. It's super sweet. 

Luca will capture your heart, break it, and then put it back together. He's a well rounded and deep character. As he tells his story you are transported back to Romania 30 years before. It's historical and shocking. 

In short, I loved this book. It has enough layers I just might read it again. I highly recommend it and tip my hat to this new author. I'm already looking for her next book! 

My sincere thanks to my friends at David C. Cook for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

All For a Song

All For a Song
Allison Pittman 
Tyndale House Publishers
February 2013
Fiction, Historical 

 Dorothy Lynn Dunbar has everything she could possibly want in her hometown of Herron's Nest. She's engaged to be married to the young pastor that's she's deeply in love with. She also has her music. With her guitar in hand and time alone in the woods Dorothy pens and sings beautiful worship songs. With all she could ever want she still longs for something more. When Dorothy heads to St. Louis so her older sister can help her find a wedding dress a whole new world is opened up to her. 

Dorothy is enraptured by movies, music, new fashions, cars, different foods, and dancing. While exploring the city she encounters the dynamic and charismatic evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. When she's asked to join the crusade team she can't say no. She tells her fiancee she'll see him at the wedding and heads off across country. Beyond the allure of singing in front of thousands is also her desire to track down her long lost brother who disappeared after World War I.

The crusade and her ultimate arrival in California is more than she could have ever imagined. She's faced with very hard to resist temptations. Money, men, fame, clothes, and more all pull for her attention. She has to decide who she's going to be and where her heart really belongs. 

Seeing the Roaring Twenties through Dorothy's eyes was really quite fun. Her arrival in the city and being thrust into the "world" was as startling for the reader as I'm sure it was for Dorothy. As a character Dorothy was not overly intriguing. She was wishy washy and that actually translates into annoying. She didn't know who she was and as a reader it was not a fun journey. Her fiancee both irritated me and endeared himself to me. 

Aimee Semple McPherson is an actual historical person. I found her completely unlikeable. Typically a historical fiction book should make you want to know more about that time period or character. In this case, I had absolutely no desire to know more. In fact, I almost quit reading the book at one point because I so disliked her. 

Pittman is typically a very good author so I was a bit disappointed with this book. She writes the time period well, however, and I felt like I could easily picture the 1920's. The best part of the book was near the end as Dorothy made her decision. It was a lovely story of love and forgiveness. 

This was not my favorite book from Pittman but it's still worth a read. It moves a bit slow at times but there is just enough to keep you reading and interested. 

My thanks to Tyndale Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It Happened at the Fair

It Happened at the Fair
DeeAnne Gist
Howard Books
Fiction, Romance, Christian 
April 2013

Beginning to lose his hearing and highly allergic to cotton and farm life in general Cullen's father gambles everything to send him to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Cullen goes extremely reluctantly sure he's going to fail. He's also hesitant to leave his girlfriend turned fiancee, but his father has arranged everything so Cullen goes. He's been enamored with the fair and with inventing for quite awhile and while he's reluctant a tiny seed of excitement stirs inside him. Once at the fair he quickly realizes his hearing loss is going to be a major issue in the very noisy mechanics building. At the suggestions of a possible investor he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.  

Della is at the fair teaching deaf children in a live exhibit. She's reluctant to teach Cullen but agrees when he suggests that they can explore the fair while he's learning. Della is immediately attracted to Cullen but remains very wary at the caution of her overly protective father. 

Cullen finds he enjoys nothing more than watching Della's lips as she teaches him. He's caught between his attraction to her and his loyalty to his fiancee back home. As Della and Cullen explore the fair together their feelings for each other develop. What will happen when Cullen's fiancee show's up at the fair demanding he marry her? Will Della and Cullen find a way to be together? 

The historical aspects of the World's Fair were incredible. It was clear Gist did an immense amount of research. I felt like I got to walk alongside Cullen and Della every evening at the fair. The detailed descriptions were captivating and I could "see" each building. What an amazing feat and showpiece for our country! 

Deanne Gist has brought us many delightful Christian romance novels filled with that perfect blend of romance, history, and God all rolled into one. I expected the exact same thing when I cracked open this book. Unfortunately I was disappointed. There was romance and there was history but there was very little God. In fact, he wasn't mentioned in the book in any noticeable way until near the very end, almost as if it was a last minute addition. Having it be a last minute disjointed addition was almost more disappointing to me.

There were some inconsistencies within the plot line that I found to be confusing. For instance, Della makes it very clear that learning the art of lip reading will take years. Cullen still decided to begin lessons knowing the fair only runs for 6 months. Other than that relationship being needed for the story it seemed very far fetched. Also, the investor who suggests lip reading plays a very small part and his suggestion is very weak. There were little to no supporting characters which meant we were always with either Cullen or Della but I would have liked to have seen them have friends around them. They were very isolated. 

One other thing worthy of note is that Gist attempts to write the way Cullen hears. She purposely omits parts of words so we as the reader can maybe understand Cullen's hearing needs. I found it more irritating than helpful. She omitted a lot of vowels which didn't make sense to me. I'm not sure it was as effective as she wanted it to be.

With all of that said Cullen and Della have a beautiful love story. They are sweet and their desire for each other is evident. It's the well written romantic piece you would expect from Gist. The historical detail is expansive and captivating. It's a good read, not a great read. I've read great from Gist so I know she can do better.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rebellious Heart

Rebellious Heart
Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Fiction, Romance, Historical
September 15, 2013 

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

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

Love! So good! Hedlund delivers again, seriously this woman is definitely in my top favorite author's list. She writes such a good story. This book is no exception. The story is inspired by John and Abigail Adam's love story. It's unbelievably sweet. Filled with suspense, danger, love, and mystery I was gripped from the very beginning. I loved the historical aspects of it that involved slavery and the early underground railroad. Susanna is all woman while being brave, smart, and admirable. She was no wilting flower and I loved that. Ben was completely annoying at the beginning which left a lot of room for him to improve an grow, which he did. He finds his sense of self-worth in who he is instead of who culture says he is. It's a great transformation. 

This one will have you reading late into the night and biting your finger nails as you follow the twists and turns. Get ready to enjoy. Buy anything and everything by Jody Hedlund and prepare yourself for some excellent reading. 

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Three Hearts, One Town

Three Hearts, One Town
Sarah Jae Foster 
Aspendawn Books
Fiction, Romance, Historical 

Forced to leave home and all she's ever known at nineteen, Cameron Engel heads for Lincoln County, Kansas, ready to explore life like never before. But she quickly realizes her inexperienced nature is no match for this rough and dangerous new town. She needs confidence and bravery to survive -- and she's determined to acquire both, even if it means making choices that in the end could destroy her. 

Gunslinger Jake Collins has that fearlessness and courage Cameron wants to possess, but she soon finds herself wanting Jake, a man she's been warned against. 

Andrew Jackson is the town's preacher. He offers Cameron a way of living and loving -- she's never known... until now. 

Two very different men, and for better or for worse, two very different loves.

Torn by indecision, Cameron seeks to receive acceptance from the only one who can provide it. God. But has she gone too far by giving her heart in all the wrong ways? 

After coming into the knowledge of God's true and unconditional love, she faces the toughest choice she's ever had to make. Jake or Andrew...

When you get through 30% of a book (gotta love the Kindle that keeps you up to date on your percentage) and you have yet to like a singe character or even the story line you know it's time to call it quits. So no, I did not finish this book. Very poor characterization, scattered plot lines, and a very badly developed story made me quit reading. I felt like I was reading a rough draft or even just a series of possible story ideas, that's how badly it was put together. I also kept checking the description of the book because one of the supposedly "main characters" hadn't even entered the story by 20% of the way through. Just weird and just not worth my time to keep reading. Don't let this book cover fool you. 

My thanks to Aspendawn Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Elusive Hope

Elusive Hope
MaryLu Tyndall 
Barbour Publishing 
January 2014
Fiction, Romance, History 

Embark on an exotic adventure in Book 2 of the Escape to Paradise series from bestselling author MaryLu Tyndall. In the fledgling colony of New Hope, their friends struggle to create a Southern utopia in Brazil soon after the Civil War. But Hayden is seeking revenge—relentlessly. And Magnolia is seeking a way out—desperately. They both seek to use the other for their own purposes—deceptively. Falling in love was never part of their plans. . . .

Jungles, pirates, mysterious spirits, romance, and more. This book has just about everything. The historical aspects are absolutely fascinating. I had no idea there was a large group of southerners who escaped and started new lives for themselves in Brazil after the Civil War. Crazy but true!

The first book in this series had me utterly captivated so I was eager to read this second book. By the way, you definitely want to read these in order. Unfortunately, this book just got a bit weird. There were a number of storylines going on and they very rarely intersected. There was just too much going on. There was also a evil spiritual realm in the book that I found creepy and very odd. The book ends with nothing wrapped up other than the romantic aspect. It left me cranky. It also left me anxious to read the next book. Yep, it's that kind of series and that kind of book. The characters are well developed and the plot is gripping. I just wish I knew which plot to follow.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Under a Blackberry Moon

Under a Blackberry Moon
Serena B. Miller
Revel Publishing
October 2013
Fiction, Historical, Romance 
Just a few days after she gives birth alone in the Northwoods, a recently widowed young Ojibwe woman stumbles into a nearby lumber camp in search of refuge and sustenance. Come summer, the camp owner sends Skypilot, his most trusted friend, to accompany Moon Song and her baby on the long and treacherous journey back to her people. But when tragedy strikes off the shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula wilderness, Moon Song and Skypilot must depend on each other for survival. With every step they take into the forbidding woods, they are drawn closer together, until the tough questions must be asked. Will she leave her culture to enter his? Will he leave his world to enter hers? Or will they walk away from a love that seems too complicated to last?

With evocative descriptions of a breathtaking landscape, Under a Blackberry Moon will sweep readers into a wild realm where beauty masks danger and only the truly courageous survive, even as the sweet love story along the way tightly grips their hearts.
This book caught my attention from the very beginning. The whole idea and premise was interesting. historically speaking it was a fascinating read. Michigan and the Great Lakes were depicted in a beautiful way. The plight of the Indians was real and heartbreaking. The characters were fairly well developed and intriguing. 
Overall I enjoyed the book, it caught and kept my attention. It was quite contrived in a number of areas but it is a fictional book. The love Skypilot has for Moon Song and the sacrifices he makes for her is very sweet. It's a beautiful picture of what love should look like. Moon Song's struggle with trust and her slow building a relationship with Jesus is precious. 
Like many books I've read recently I felt like this book ended very abruptly. We were taken on a slow journey that ended in a marathon. I would have liked a cleaner more thought out ending. 
With that in mind, this is an easy and enjoyable read. Miller does her research and it shows. She writes real people that are enjoyable to read. I recommend it! 

Available October 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
You can find more information at the author’s site.  My thanks to Revell Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 
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