Saturday, September 28, 2019

When Silence Sings

When Silence Sings
By Sarah Loudin Thomas
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: November 5th

The Harpes and the McLeans have been feuding for generations, so it's no surprise to Colman Harpe that when his cousin is killed by a McLean, the Harpes want vengeance. Colman, an aspiring preacher, tries to remind himself that vengeance is the Lord's and stay out of things, but then he receives an unexpected call from the Lord--to preach to the McLeans. Not sure how to carry out that call, and even sure he wants to, he heads out on a fishing trip instead, only to be stranded in a storm and lost in mountain caves until he emerges in the McLeans' territory, cared for by Ivy, an outsider who encourages him to answer his call to preach to the McLeans.

Serepta McLean, the matriarch of the McLean clan, has worked too hard to gain control of and prosper the family businesses to let anything get in her way. Neither of her two sons quite seems up to scratch to be the next leader of their empire--the elder is too sloppy and the younger too eager to make changes Serepta doesn't approve of. While she needs to tend to business and bringing at least one of her sons up to scratch, when a terrible accident leaves a young girl orphaned, Serepta impulsively takes her in and soon finds that the little girl changes her life way more than she anticipated.

Wow! This book was incredibly well written. I don't know anything about West Virginia in 1930, and yet, Sarah Loudin Thomas brought it to life in such a way that it felt totally familiar to me. I was quickly immersed in the setting as well as the plot. From the get-go, Colman, with his Jonah-like story, just tugged at my heart; I think a lot of readers can relate to feeling like there's something God wants us to do but don't have any idea how to actually do it. I thought that was totally relatable, as was how he felt caught between his family and his own desires for life. Ivy and her uncle, who care for him, were totally endearing as well. As for Serepta, she was a fascinating character, one who does things that are definitely questionable but who also does good things. She, along with other characters, definitely make for an interesting discussion topic, like what makes someone good or evil, if anyone is past redemption, etc. There's just so much to like about this book--and there's tons to talk about, which makes it a great choice for book clubs. Highly recommend--I'm picking this as one of the best books of 2019!
5 stars!

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Pursuit of Home

A Pursuit of Home (Haven Manor #3)
By Kristi Ann Hunter
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: November 5, 2019

After her family's murders, Jess Beuchene, left only with the diary her father entrusted with her and family legends about their beloved home country, Verbonne, worked with the English to defeat Napoleon. Having finished her work, she moved on, ending up working as a cook in a home for unwed mothers and their children, never expecting that she would receive word that her brother, long presumed dead, is alive and trying to claim his place as king of Verbonne. In order to do that, however, he needs a special symbol of his right to rule--and the secret of where to find that item is hidden in the words of the diary Jess has kept safe. Although she'd prefer to work alone, the diary is written in Italian and describes various works of art, and Jess must enlist the help of Derek Thornbury, an art expert who can also translate the diary. Unfortunately for her, he's one of the most annoying people she has ever met--and while he agrees to help, he asks far too many questions and sees through her attempts to give him as little information as possible. Determined to be a full partner in their quest, Derek doesn't settle for Jess's half-answers and evasiveness; he pushes for more and in so doing, he comes to know Jess better than anyone.

Wow! This is a thrilling read. I've been waiting for Jess's story, because she's been such a fascinating side character in the author's previous books, and this book did not disappoint. I loved seeing the interactions between sarcastic, world-wise Jess and scholarly, somewhat oblivious Derek--and especially seeing the moments when Derek wasn't quite as obtuse as Jess thought. I loved how Derek, while determined to help, recognized that there were things that Jess was better at than he was and didn't try to stop her from doing them, while also asserting himself when he did have the strengths needed to help. I also loved seeing other characters from previous books who refused to let Jess brush them off in her attempts to keep them safe and protect them from caring about her. This was a great conclusion to the series.

4.5 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Glass Slippers, Ever After and Me

Glass Slippers, Ever After and Me
By Julie Wright
Published by Shadow Mountain

A modern, reimagined Cinderella story.

When aspiring author Charlotte Kingsley finally gets published, she thinks all her dreams have come true. But the trouble begins when her publicity firm reinvents her quirky online presence into a perfectly curated dream life. Gone are the days of sweatpant posts and ice cream binges with her best friend, Anders, replaced instead with beautiful clothes, orchestrated selfies, and no boyfriend. Only, that carefully curated fairy tale life is ruining her self-esteem and making her feel like a fraud.

When a bestselling author takes Charlotte under her wing—almost like a fairy godmother—she helps Charlotte see the beautiful person she already is and the worth of being authentic. But is it too late to save her relationship with Anders? The clock is quickly ticking towards midnight, and Charlotte must decide between her fairy tale life and the man she loves, before he's gone forever.

This book started out a little slow for me, mainly because Lettie has a tendency to take two paragraphs to say or think something that could have been said in about two sentences instead--which was consistent through the book and often quite witty but it was pretty wordy and it took some time for me to adjust to that. Partway through, though, things clicked for me and I did end up really liking the book. While on the one hand, of course you want Lettie to just tell her publisher and everyone to back off, it was also understandable that as she's finally achieving her dreaming of being published and in a sense entering a whole new world that she would feel (and cave to) the pressure they're putting on her. So, the conflict seemed realistic. I really liked Anders--he was sweet but not flawless. Good choice for those looking for a sweet contemporary romance.

4 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Deborah: Blog Tour and Giveaway

Deborah: Prophetess of God
By H.B. Moore
Published by Covenant Communications

Deborah, a shepherdess, lives a fairly simple life—but that is turned upside down when encounters with the Canaanites lead her, as well as others, to realize that God is working in her life, for her sake and for the sake of His people. Although she is told by the Third Judge of Israel that she will be the next judge of Israel, when that becomes reality, Deborah must summon all her faith to face the challenges ahead, as the time has come for her, along with her husband’s cousin, Barak, who has been training the Israelites in battle, to lead the Israelites against the Canaanites to end their oppression.

I always enjoy reading H.B. Moore’s Biblical fiction because they make me think about people from the Bible in a totally different way. While this is a work of fiction, the setting is highly researched and it really brings to life how the ancient Israelites lived. The plot of this book is really interesting—the first part focuses a lot on Deborah and her future husband, Lapidoth, and their love story, while setting the stage for the eventual battle between the Israelites and Canaanites, while the second part moves fifteen years ahead to when Deborah becomes the Judge of Israel and the imminent battle looms large. I thought both parts were really interesting—I loved the romance of the first part but also really liked seeing how Lapi continued to believe in and support Deborah in her sacred calling in the second part. I also liked Barak’s character and seeing his worries, which were so realistic, as he was supposed to lead the Israelites, and how he had to push through them. This was just a pleasure to read! 4.5 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Check out H.B. Moore's info here:

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Last Man at the Inn

The Last Man at the Inn
by R. William Bennett

Simon, Jewish but not devout, is in Bethlehem when Christ is born--the last man to find room at the inn before Joseph and Mary are turned away. While he sees Jesus and hears rumors about Him, he simply continues his life as a merchant. As the years pass, though, more rumors abound, and when Christ begins His ministry and His teachings spread through the land, Simon can no longer ignore the rumors but must decide for himself who Jesus is and what the answer will mean for him and his family.

I was expecting this to be more of a Christmas story, but while Simon does see Jesus shortly after His birth, most of the story takes place in later years of Christ's life and it's much more a story about coming to know and follow Christ, to decide whether or not to seek Him and believe or not. I really enjoyed that journey and there were parts of Simon's experience that I could relate to really well on my own journey to know and follow Christ. So it wasn't the Christmas story I was expecting, but it was definitely worth reading.

4 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Foremost (Lost Princesses #2)

Foremost (Lost Princesses #2)
By Jody Hedlund
Release date: September 24th

A second princess. Another key to the treasure. And a cruel king desperate to squelch the growing rebellion.
Raised in an isolated abbey, Lady Maribel desires nothing more than to become a nun and continue practicing her healing arts. She’s carefree and happy with her life…until a visitor comes to the abbey and reveals her true identity as one of the lost princesses.
 When he was a young boy, Edmund Chambers helplessly watched King Ethelwulf murder his family. Edmund escaped and has lived in the abbey ever since, uniquely trained to work with wild animals. Secretly, he loves Maribel and desperately hopes she doesn’t complete her holy order vows.
When King Ethelwulf’s army arrives at the abbey to capture Maribel, she flees with Edmund across the desolate Highlands in an attempt to reach Adelaide’s rebel army. Edmund can no longer hide his love, but can Maribel give up her dreams of becoming a nun to love him in return?

I'd read another review that said this book topped the other two in the series--and I agree! I really enjoyed both the prequel novella and the first book in the series, but there was just something about this one that made it even more enjoyable. There were a few times when I thought Maribel was a little dense, but I liked seeing her figure things out. I really loved Edmund's character; he was just so endearing. The plot was interesting, adding some cool elements to the series, and I'm definitely excited for the last book in the series!
4.5 stars.

I read a review copy provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Pre-order here!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Saving Fable

Saving Fable (Talespinners #1)
By Scott Reintgen
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers

Indira has been a character-in-waiting her entire life. So she can't believe her luck when she's finally chosen to travel to Fable and study at the renowned Protagonist Preparatory, a school known for producing the best heroes. But Indira's dreams of achieving hero status don't exactly go as planned. A failed audition lands her in the school's side-character track, and her best efforts to prove advisors--famous characters like Alice from Wonderland and Professor Darcy--wrong are constantly sabotaged. Indira is starting to feel like an evil antagonist might be to blame. As the danger spreads, Indira discovers all of Fable is under siege. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix by her side, she pieces together clues that will reveal who is behind the dark magic threatening them all. But the more Indira uncovers, the more doubt she feels about her place in this world of stories. After all, can a side character really save the day?

What a great story! This was so much fun to read--I loved the whole premise, with Indira and other characters hoping to be written into a story in the Real World. It was really fun to see the different areas of Imagination, like Fable and Origin. I also loved Protagonist Prepatory and the different classes the Indira attended. It was just a really clever world and I really enjoyed venturing into it with Indira. Indira was a great character--I loved her heart and her pluck and her determination and seeing her struggle to believe in herself. The plot was also really interesting, with twists and surprises to keep it moving along quickly. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series!

4.5. stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway! All Heats Come Home for Christmas

 First off, if you get a chance, swing by the Facebook Launch Party on September 10th from 6-8 p.m. (MDT):

Check out my review here:

Christmas at Falstone Castle by Sarah M. Eden 
 The Dowager Duchess of Kielder eagerly anticipates spending Christmas with her son and his family. Though their relationship has been strained, the duchess is determined to heal the chasm. Even with the help of the widowed local vicar, her plan will take a Christmas miracle. But during this magical season, anything is possible . . . even two second chances for love. 

The Heart of Christmas by Anita Stansfield 
 When a chance meeting brings together a gentle seamstress and a widowed banker, each lonely soul finds a first hint of hope. As their lives become entwined, it will take Christmas spirit to guide a broken family to love and healing. 

‘Tis the Season to Be Daring by Esther Hatch 
Elizabeth Davenport has had quite enough of the London Season. Determined to evade a parade of unsuitable suitors, she seeks help from the one gentleman who has no regard for Society’s rules. All of Society knows Lord Hawthorne is not interested in marriage, yet he cannot deny Miss Davenport’s unique charm. And as the Christmas season works its magic, their charade begins to feel less like playacting and more like love. 

The Christmas Dress by Joanna Barker 
Seamstress Nell Addington is thrilled when her childhood friend Jacob Hammond commissions a dress for his sister. But when Nell realizes her feelings for Jacob run far deeper than friendship, an unexpected snowstorm—and some holiday cheer—may convince them both that love is worth fighting for.

Learn more about each author!
Sarah M. Eden :
Anita Stansfield :
Esther Hatch :

Enter to win a copy here!

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Diamond in the Rough

Diamond in the Rough (American Heiresses # 2)
By Jen Turano
Published by Bethany House

In order to help her family's financial situation, Poppy Garrison has agreed to a New York Season under her grandmother's supervision. When her grandmother thinks she needs tutoring in proper behavior, Poppy finds herself being taught by proper Englishman Reginald Blackburn, who is accompanying his cousin in New York as his cousin looks for a wealthy bride. While Poppy agrees to the lessons, she frequently finds herself in the middle of unusual situations that test Reginald's abilities to make look proper--and the more he is around Poppy, the more he starts to wonder if he really wants anything about her to change in the first place.

This book was just so much fun to read. Poppy is a terrific character, who finds herself in the funniest of situations--made all the funnier by the fact that proper English gentleman Reginald is trying to get her to behave properly. Poppy is a strong, determined character, who isn't afraid to stand up to the bullies in society, which made her a terrific leading character, while Reginald isn't as stuffy as he'd have people believe, and I loved getting to see his true nature come through as he helped Poppy and her friends. Secondary characters were also great. The pacing was quick and the story was engaging. All in all, just a lot of fun to read!

4 stars.

Although this is the second book in the series, it could be read as a stand-alone (but the first book is just as much fun so you should read it, too!)

 I read a copy of the book provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 2, 2019

All Hearts Come Home for Christmas

All Hearts Come Home for Christmas
Publisher: Covenant Communications

What a terrific collection of Regency Christmas stories! Even reading it well before the Christmas season, I found it to be captivating and highly enjoyable.

Christmas at Falstone Castle by Sarah M. Eden
It has been years since the Dowager Duchess of Kielder spent Christmas with her son Adam and his family. Although their relationship has been improving slowly, Harriett knows she still has work to do before Adam realizes how much she has always loved him. As she sets out to heal her relationship with her son, the local vicar provides his assistance—and he and Harriett find a connection of their own.
I was thrilled to be able to see some of my favorite characters from Sarah M. Eden's Lancaster family. I absolutely love them, so I was eagerly anticipating this story, and it was wonderful. It has all my favorite elements of a good story--snappy dialogue, laugh-out-loud moments, characters you wish were real, and a good romance. Just a fantastic story! 

The Heart of Christmas by Anita Stansfield
When Theo, a widowed banker offers her a chance to leave her demanding and underpaid seamstress job to work in his household, Addie jumps at the chance and quickly finds herself coming to care for him, his daughter, and his elderly aunt, all of whom have wounds that she hopes to help heal during the Christmas season.
This one was more of a sweet story about family and healing with a dash of romance thrown in than a true romance. While Anita Stansfield isn't a favorite author of mine (I tend to like more dialogue and action, rather than the longer descriptive passages that she writes), this story fits well with her style and her fans will be quite happy with it. I still enjoyed it; it just isn't the style I personally prefer.

’Tis the Season to Be Daring by Esther Hatch
In an attempt to escape her mother’s rather embarrassing matchmaking endeavors, Elizabeth Davenport decides to damage her reputation just enough that her mother will withdraw her from the season. In order to do so, she enlists the help of Lord Charles Hawthorne, who has never cared what society thought of him. Although their arrangement is supposed to be temporary, Elizabeth soon finds that her heart doesn’t want their time together to end.
Oh, my gosh. I loved this story! Starting this story, I expected to have a clear favorite (Sarah M. Eden's contribution, since she’s my favorite author), but this one at least tied for favorite. I absolutely loved the plot; Elizabeth and Charles kept me laughing and I just loved all of their interactions. It was just so much fun to read--and I already want to go reread it.

The Christmas Dress by Joanna Barker
Nell Addington has worked as a seamstress ever since the death of her father, a vicar, and has tried to make the best of her lowered position. When Jacob Hammond, a childhood friend, commissions a new wardrobe for his sister, Nell is happy to reconnect with him.
This was a sweet story with a gentle romance between former childhood friends. I liked how Jacob and Nell, both with struggles of their own, came together and brightened each other's lives. It has a great opening scene, and I love the ending, too.

All in all, a great collection with unique stories that I highly recommend! 5 stars!

 I read a review copy provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.