Book Review: Plain Paradise (Daughters of the Promise #4) by Beth Wiseman

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman.

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***SPOILER ALERT, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK OR IF YOU DON’T MIND SPOILERS***
After taking a short break from The Daughters of the Promise series to read some other books that were screaming at me to finally read them, I jumped back into this series and ended up reading the last three books one after the other, starting with Plain Paradise. Plain Paradise was another great installment in this series, and the more of Beth Wiseman’s works I read, the more she becomes one of my new favorite authors!
Plain Paradise follows seventeen-year-old Linda Raber, who is a typical young Amish woman who is in the middle of her running around period, and is also dating the bishop’s grandson. However, life as she knows it is turned upside down when she finds out she is adopted and that her birth mother longs to have a relationship with her daughter. This not only has an impact on Linda’s life, but on the lives her family that raised her and love her as if she was their own flesh and blood. Throughout the book, Linda reconnects with her birth mother, Josephine, while Josephine also struggles with the fact that she only has a few months to live and her faith. Meanwhile, there are many things that Linda experiences that she had not experienced before.
Even though there is a sweet romance in this book, it is definitely not the main focus of this book, unlike the other installments in the series. Rather, the main focus is on Linda learning more about her birth mother, and Josephine in turn learning more about having faith in the Lord even during hard times. It focuses on how a family deals with an adopted child being reconnected with her birth mother, and the implications that that can bring, especially since to them Linda is their daughter in every way but blood. There are some other subjects that are covered in this book that I thought was really well done, such as death, impending death, and even sex.
One scene that I really liked in this book was one in which Josie and Linda go to a movie, which turns out to be very steamy (Linda picked it out), and leads to a discussion about sex. It is a pretty clean discussion, but through Linda there are questions asked that I’m sure several young woman have before they get married and have sex for the first time. I thought it was very brave of the author to include this conversation, and also very important because often times in books it isn’t discussed or it is done so in a rushed and not very helpful way. I personally appreciated that this was discussed (not in detail) and in some ways I feel like more Christian authors should be willing to discuss a topic such as sex in their works. Beth Wiseman definitely shows how this can be done in a tasteful way.
Unfortunately for readers of this series, there was a beloved character that we finally have to say goodbye too, dear old Jonas, who had been fighting cancer for years. However, he was a lively character in the first three books that many readers grow to love, but unfortunately the cancer finally catches up to him and he loses the fight. Even though it was sad to see him die, it was also beautiful to see what an impact he had had on the Amish community, especially Linda.
Overall, this was a great book, I loved getting to know all the characters and appreciated the topics that the author tackles in this book. It should also be noted that this serves as an introduction Beth Wiseman’s Land of Canaan series, which also looks like a great series and I am looking forward to checking it out soon! 4/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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What I Read in 2019

Hello everyone, 

Well, here we are, 2019 is over and 2020 has begun. Not only is it the start of a new year, but also a new decade! Last year was pretty great year, both reading wise and with some events that took place in my personal life, and I think 2020 is going to be a great one too – there are a lot of changes on the horizon, but all good things. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll do a life update post, I’m still undecided on whether or not to do that. 

Today I’m going to share with you all the books I read in 2019! If you are interested in seeing some of my stats for my reading year, here is My Year in Books on Goodreads.

I decided to split all the books I read this year by month, kind of just to get an idea of how I did each month, and also to see what kinds of books I gravitated towards in those months. Without further ado, here are the books I read in 2019: 

January:

  1. Lumberjanes: Beyond Bay Leaf Special by Faith Erin Hicks28167546
  2. Lumberjanes Issue #25 by Shannon Watters29963399
  3. Lumberjanes Issue #26 by Shannon Watters30226953
  4. Lumberjanes Issue #27 by Shannon Watters 30624702
  5. Lumberjanes Issues #28 by Shannon Watters31176663
  6. Lumberjanes Issues #29 by Shannon Watters 31522252
  7. Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle      40753069
  8. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart42118827
  9. Lumberjanes Issue #30 by Shannon Watters 32294095
  10. Women and God by Kathleen Nielson36273240._sy475_
  11. Lumberjanes Issue #31 by Shannon Watters32792269._sy475_
  12. Lumberjanes Issue #32 by Shannon Watters32978868._sy475_
  13. Lumberjanes Issue #33 by Shannon Watters32978867._sy475_
  14. Lumberjanes Issue #34 by Shannon Watters33983165._sy475_
  15. Lumberjanes Issue #35 by Shannon Watters34311307._sy475_
  16. Lumberjanes Issue #36 by Shannon Watters34659881._sy475_
  17. Lumberjanes Issue #37 by Shannon Watters34962205._sy475_
  18. Lumberjanes Issue #38 by Shannon Watters34962206._sy475_
  19. Lumberjanes Issue #39 by Shannon Watters35235560._sy475_
  20. Lumberjanes Issue #40 by Shannon Watters35516199._sy475_
  21. Lumberjanes Issue #41 by Shannon Watters35626376._sy475_
  22. Lumberjanes Issue #42 by Shannon Watters36095608._sy475_
  23. Lumberjanes Issue #43 by Shannon Watters36426774._sy475_
  24. Lumberjanes Issue #44 by Shannon Watters36625746._sy475_
  25. Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass by Lilah Sturges39912382._sy475_
  26. Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole16127238
  27. Clueless: Senior Year by Amber Benson34623127._sx318_
  28. Lumberjanes Issue #45 by Shannon Watters37748112._sy475_
  29. Lumberjanes Issue #46 by Shannon Watters38111054._sy475_
  30. Lumberjanes Issue #47 by Shannon Watters38111057._sy475_
  31. Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee34966859
  32. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan 30269104
  33. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid32620332._sy475_
  34. One Piece, Volume 13: It’s All Right! by Eiichiro Oda364949

February:

  1. The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers 35605477
  2. One Piece, Volume 14: Instinct by Eiichiro Oda364953
  3. Giant Days Volume 1 by John Allison25785993
  4. Giant Days Volume 2 by John Allison25814105
  5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl6310
  6. One Piece, Volume 15: Straight Ahead! by Eiichiro Oda364961
  7. Meet Me At the Museum by Anne Youngson – Did Not Finish 36237290
  8. Giant Days Volume 3 by John Allison29989615
  9. Giant Days Volume 4 by John Allison30312557._sy475_
  10. Giant Days Volume 5 by John Allison32333007._sy475_
  11. Gods and Kings by Lynn Austin359994
  12. Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan39189837

March: 

  1. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See25150798
  2. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers152380
  3. Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews13550926

April: 

  1. Once Upon Eliza by Erynn Mangum30739028._sy475_
  2. Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss6836622
  3. Happily Ever Ashten by Erynn Mangum33807834._sy475_
  4. The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas14981152._sy475_
  5. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White 24178

May: 

  1. My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant by Laura Dockrill42934379._sy475_
  2. Love and Other Mistakes by Jessica Kate42802262._sy475_
  3. El Deafo by Cece Bell20701984
  4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo33294200._sy475_
  5. My Antonia by Willa Cather5388899
  6. Moo by Sharon Creech28217808

June: 

  1. Sandy Toes by Robin Jones Gunn – Did Not Finish31863481._sy475_
  2. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks34389773._sy475_
  3. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata36739755._sx318_
  4. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne35259727
  5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern9361589

July: 

  1. The Perks of Being a Wall Flower by Stephen Chbosky – Did Not Finish22628
  2. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp8592946
  3. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman23878688._sy475_
  4. Who I Am With You by Robin Lee Hatcher38915884
  5. The English Son by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter25784963
  6. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas22574077
  7. The Stubborn Father by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter25986549
  8. The Love Letters by Beverly Lewis22504484
  9. The Walk by Richard Paul Evans7187395._sy475_
  10. The Betrayed Fiancee by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter25986550

August:

  1. Love Without End by Robin Lee Hatcher21556054
  2. The Missing Will by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brusntetter25986551
  3. The Divided Family by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter25986548
  4. A Wedding Song in Lexington, Kentucky by Jennifer Collins Johnson12394501
  5. The Selfless Act by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter25986552
  6. Cherish by Gary Thomas29491894
  7. Cross My Heart by Robin Lee Hatcher42772057._sy475_
  8. Maid to Love by Jennifer Collins Johnson17221465
  9. Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans8720415._sy475_
  10. Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman 4114427
  11. The Road to Grace by Richard Paul Evans12275907
  12. A Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans15802930
  13. Fierce Marriage by Ryan and Selena Frederick35138434
  14. Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans18144105
  15. Plain Pursuit by Beth Wiseman6069124._sy475_
  16. As You Wish by Cary Elwes 21412202
  17. The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis 30259033
  18. The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter 11942627
  19. The Discovery Saga Collection by Wanda E. Brunstetter 23534644._sy475_
  20. William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future by Ian Doescher 43256364._sy475_
  21. Made with Love by Tricia Goyer by Sherry Gore 23883140._sy475_

September: 

  1. Plain Promise by Beth Wiseman 6570737._sy475_
  2. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans17201737
  3. A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher 18126901
  4. The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg 33406778._sx318_
  5. Matilda by Roald Dahl 109059._sy475_
  6. Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter 1670616._sy475_
  7. Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury 7903236._sy475_
  8. An Amish Home by Various Authors 30649385
  9. Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman 6600231
  10. Plain Proposal by Beth Wiseman8702424._sy475_
  11. Plain Peace by Beth Wiseman17657642
  12. The Preacher’s Daughter by Beverly Lewis 102960

October:

  1. The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter 2288045
  2. The Englisher by Beverly Lewis 346028
  3. A Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber 43581897
  4. Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter 32064656
  5. The Brethren by Beverly Lewis60812
  6. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo37190
  7. Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock 38915854._sx318_
  8. Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy100999
  9. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller11389341
  10. Brides of Ohio by Jennifer A. Davids20448044

November: 

  1. Leaving by Karen Kingsbury 8139321._sy475_
  2. The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Niell 42369064
  3. An Amish Year by Beth Wiseman26449130
  4. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson29429875
  5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones16204601._sx318_
  6. Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks 40864790
  7. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia36510722
  8. Learning by Karen Kingsbury9803046
  9.  The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton36337550

December: 

  1. Longing by Karen Kingsbury
    10917118
  2. Loving by Karen Kingsbury
    12280551
  3. Back Home Again by Melody Carlson
    20794546
  4. Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury
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  5. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
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  6. Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
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  7. A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury – DNF’d
    29430860
  8. Space Boy Volume 1 by Stephen McCranie
    36682049
  9. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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  10. Space Boy Volume 2 by Stephen McCranie38811628
  11. Space Boy Volume 3 by Stephen McCranie40628884
  12. Space Boy Volume 4 by Stephen McCranie42667463
  13. Driftwood Lane by Denise Hunter7140409
  14. Space Boy Volume 5 by Stephen McCranie44059084
  15. Space Boy Volume 6 by Stephen McCranie46687826
  16. Sisters by RainaTelgemeier 18225810
  17. Guts by Raina Telgemeier 42190572._sx318_
  18. The Babysitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier24477015._sx318_
  19. Star Wars: Aftermath Chuck Wendig25131600
  20. White Bird by R. J. Palacio42898923._sx318_
  21.  Lumberjanes Volume 8: Stone Cold by Shannon Watters35606631
  22. Blessing Bentley by Chautona Havig 45436380._sy475_
  23. The Thief of Lanwyn Manor by Sarah E. Ladd44441973

 

Happy Reading, 

Janelle L. C. 

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Book Review: An Amish Home by Various Authors

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on An Amish Home, a novella collection with stories from Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid and Kathleen Fuller.

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For those of you who have been long-time readers of the blog, you’ll probably remember that I used to read a lot of novella collections a few years back, however I stopped after a while because sometimes I didn’t really like the stories. However, since I jumped back into reading more Amish and Christian fiction a couple months ago, I discovered that there were a lot of Amish fiction novella collections available and I was curious to try them out. An Amish Home is the first one I picked up, and I was not disappointed!
As I’ve done for previous reviews of novella collections, I am going to write a review for each one and then do an overall review for the entire collection at the end.
A Cup Half Full by Beth Wiseman 
Beth Wiseman is one of my new favorite writers  that I’ve discovered in the last few months, I’ve really been enjoying her Daughters of the Promise series, and I also really enjoyed this novella by her. “A Cup Half Full” follows a young Amish woman, Sarah, who was in an accident a month before the start of the novella that left her legs paralyzed. She starts to adapt to life in a wheelchair, however she also harbors bitterness towards God for allowing her to live. Her husband, Abram, does everything he can to help her adjust to a new way of life, but also holds on to the hope that someday they can have children, but Sarah’s fears of her ability to take care of a child hinders that. I really enjoyed this story and I felt like the author did a good job of dealing with a somewhat difficult topic, however she did it in a really good way and in such a way that it didn’t seem like the story was rushed in the end or that everything was tied up neatly. 4/5 Stars.
 
Home Sweet Home by Amy Clipston
Amy Clipston is an Amish fiction author I’ve been meaning to read from for a few weeks, but I just haven’t gotten the chance to. “Home Sweet Home” follows Chance and Mia who are forced to move into the daadi haus belonging to Chance’s boss after they are evicted from their apartment. However, as they adjust to life without modern conveniences, they also have to deal with being in debt and a newborn, and the stress that comes with all the issues they are currently facing. Will they ever feel at home in their new dwelling place? This was another good novella, it deals with issues such as finances and how that can put stress on a marriage, and even some of the resolution wasn’t quickly tied up, it also left some loose ends, which is realistic. The end gave the feel that yes, things are looking up for Chance and Mia, but that doesn’t mean its going to be perfect and that they still have issues that they need to work through in the future. There were a couple of times I found Mia to be somewhat exceedingly cruel to her husband, however it did make sense considering all the stress they are going through. I look forward to reading more of Amy Clipston’s novels in the future. 3.5/5 Stars.
A Flicker of Hope by Ruth Reid 
Ruth Reid is an author who was completely new to me, I had not heard of her until I picked up this collection, but I was not disappointed! A Flicker of Hope follows a style that I really enjoy, a story set in the present day, while also switching to events the characters’ past that had effect on the present day. I felt like the author did a go great job in switching back and forth and as well as dealing with very real issues. This novella follows Amish couple Thomas and Noreen King, who have been married for fifteen years, the marriage started out well, but after facing many trials their marriage is strained and appears to be getting worse. However, when a fire destroys their house, it might just be the very thing that finally starts to bring them back together. I really enjoyed this story, and it seemed to progress naturally towards the end and it ended happily, but not in the cliche sort of way. I’m definitely keeping Ruth Reid’s works on my radar in the future. 4/5 Stars.
 
Building Faith by Kathleen Fuller 
Kathleen Fuller is another Amish Fiction author that has been on my radar ever since I started reading Beth Wiseman’s books, but I haven’t had a chance to check out her books, but this novella was a good introduction to her writing. “Building Faith” follows Faith Miller who longs to be a carpenter, and finally gets a job making cabinets for her friend, but she soon finds that she will have to work with her ex-fiance, Silas. However, it could be a good opportunity for them to work through differences. I liked the story, but I honestly wish that the communication between Silas and Faith had been better, especially when readers find out how Faith broke off her engagement. Overall, there was a happy ending, but the story was a tiny bit melodramatic. But it also made sense, a little. I’m looking forward to reading some of Kathleen Fuller’s full-length novels in the future. 3.5/5 Stars.
An Amish Home was a great collection of four novellas. I enjoyed each story and I definitely want to continue reading more works from each of these authors in the future. I’m also looking forward to reading more of these novella collections in the months to come. Overall, I am giving the whole collection 4/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock.

Tis the season to curl up with many of the contemporary Christmas novels that are on the market for readers! If you read last week’s post you know that one of my favorite authors of Christmas fiction is Debbie Macomber, however I think Terri Blackstock’s Catching Christmas probably outranks many of Debbie Macomber’s Christmas books, and I hope that she writes more Christmas fiction in the future. 

Terri Blackstock is a new to me author, I’ve seen her books around, but she tends to write more suspense and thriller fiction, which honestly just isn’t my cup of tea, I’ve tried several times. But I was excited and curious when I saw that she had written a Christmas book, and I knew that I had to add to my ever-growing pile of books to read, and I wasn’t disappointed! 

Catching Christmas follows two characters who brought together by a meddlesome grandmother who only wants to see her granddaughter happy. Sydney Baston is a first year associate at a law firm, already she works relentlessly, but when her law firm starts making staff cuts, she is forced to work even harder in order to ensure that she still has a job come the new year. However, it also means that she has to spend less time with her grandmother, who has been needing a lot more extra attention, and she can’t afford to hire a caretaker for her. She resorts to calling a cab company to have a cab driver take her grandmother to her doctor’s appointments. Enter Finn Parrish, a former chef and restaurant owner who was forced to close his restaurant when the recession hit and now works as a cab driver to pay his rent. He then gets a call to pick up a customer, only when he gets there he discovers a wheelchair-bound woman who has no idea who he is and doesn’t seem to know where she is supposed to be going. After begrudgingly helping Miss Callie, he soon becomes her personal driver when she keeps calling the cab company and asking for him specifically. He reluctantly helps her as she goes around town trying to find a suitor for her granddaughter and trying to make it the best Christmas ever. Even though Finn tries to resist Miss Callie’s request, he also feels like this a chance for him to make up for not taking care of his dying mother several years ago. 

In case you didn’t pick up on it, I loved this book! I loved the characters and I loved the message of this book. This is not a typical Christmas fiction book that focuses on romance. Rather it focuses on priorities, hope and belonging and the treasure of family. And it is also a story of redemption in various ways. 

I loved the characters, Finn was great, and there was a description given of him at the beginning of the novel by a minor character as looking similar to the character Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls…well, he also has similar characteristics to him too, and that definitely helped me to have a better picture of him. Sydney was also a great character, although there were times when it seemed that she didn’t have the right priorities, especially when it came to her grandma, however it was interesting to see her come to that same conclusion in the end. And then there is Miss Callie, Syndey’s grandmother, who is sweet, but also kind of pushy, especially when it comes to Finn, but at the same time, her pushiness seems to be something that he needed in the end. 

I really enjoyed Catching Christmas, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for good and cozy Christmas read! 4/5 Stars. 

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: A Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Hi everyone,

Today’s review is on A Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber.

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I can’t remember when I discovered that Debbie Macomber has written several Christmas novels, but I do know that ever since I discovered that I have been hooked on them and have tried to read each new release over the last three years. A couple years ago I was introduced to the character Mrs. Miracle and her adventures, I had even watched one of the Hallmark movies starring Doris Roberts (probably best known, at least by me, from Everybody Loves Raymond), and she was definitely perfect for the role. And I definitely pictured her voice when I was reading A Mrs. Miracle Christmas.
 
A Mrs. Miracle Christmas seems to deviate from Debbie Macomber’s typical stories a couple meeting each other and falling in love. Rather, the main couple is already married, but they are both struggling with the desire to raise a family, but Laurel is infertile, and all of their attempts to either adopt or foster a child have ended up in heartache. Laurel has all but given up on her dream, but she doesn’t realize that her husband Zach, still holds onto the hope that someday they might be able to adopt a child. They live with Laurel’s grandmother, Helen, who is slowly losing the ability to take care of herself due to the onset of dementia, and as a result they realize that they need to get a caregiver to take care of her, however there are no caregivers available until the new year. Enter Mrs. Miracle, who arrives on their doorstep ready to help the McCulloghs out and be a good friend to Helen. Mrs. Miracle instantly brings a light to the household, and Helen is even happier and more active than she was before Mrs. Miracles appearance in their lives. However, Helen also claims that Mrs. Miracle is an honest-to-goodness angel, however both Laurel and Zach view this as a sign of her dementia. But they also start to experience seemingly out of the ordinary events, ones that seem to point that they might just get to be parents someday after all.
 
Let me the first one to say, that yes sometimes Debbie Macomber’s books can be very light and fluffy, but she does a good job of dealing with the grief of infertility and the longing for a child and the toll that that can have on a young married couple. She also does a good job of showing how keeping secrets, even though they are not of a sinister nature, can cause for cracks in the foundation of a marriage, especially once the other spouse starts to suspect that the other is hiding things from them.
 
I loved the story, and even though I might not hold to the same beliefs that Debbie Macomber does regarding angels, it is definitely worth putting that inside to enjoy a sweet and lovely Christmas read. One thing I will say is that in order to enjoy this book, one should be willing to put aside their belief and theology on angels and just appreciate the wholesomeness of this story. Also, it is interesting to hear Mrs. Miracle talk about the Nativity story and her “role” in it.
 
I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this novel, especially Laurel’s grandmother Helen, she was so sweet and it was interesting watching her deal with the effects of dementia while being cognizant of what is going on. I also loved her relationship with Mrs. Miracle and how she peppers her with questions, wanting to know everything she can about angels and heave, and what the future has in store for her granddaughter and her husband. While Mrs. Miracle indulges her questioning, she also reminds her that there are certain things about the future that are best left until they occur. Laurel and Zach were also good characters and it was interesting to see them work through their issues individually and together and how eventually reconciling with each other leads them to have a deeper love for each other during this seemingly tough season in their lives. I don’t want to spoil the ending for those that want to read this novel, but I will say that things do end happily for them!
 
Overall, I enjoyed A Mrs. Miracle Christmas, it was great to read about Mrs. Miracle and more of her antics. It was also refreshing that this wasn’t a typical Christmas romance, but rather about a couple learning to love each other again, to no longer have secrets between them, and that sometimes it is okay to hold onto seemingly impossible and heart-wrenching dreams like the desire for a child of their own. I’ll admit I almost cried a couple times while reading this book, especially when I was reading the Epilogue because it was just so sweet and a little bit bittersweet (I’ll leave it up to you all to find out why that is). This was another great read from Debbie Macomber and I am looking forward to seeing what she puts out for Christmas next year. 4/5 Stars.
 
Happy Reading,
 
Janelle L. C.

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Recommended Christmas Reads

Hello everyone, 

Thanksgiving is over and now the countdown to Christmas begins! For the next few weeks leading up to Christmas I am going to be doing a short series of several Christmas fiction review, and I thought the best way to kick off this series was to share some of my recommended Christmas reads from the past few years. I’m also including a list of books I would like to get to in the future Christmas season to come!

Recommended Reads: 

  • Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp33583903

“Every time the Christmas season comes around, we look forward to putting up a tree, giving and receiving gifts, and participating in other traditions that make this wonderful time of year so special. But sometimes the most significant aspect of the season–remembering and focusing on the coming of Jesus–grows old and familiar. In Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional, Paul Tripp seeks to recapture our attention and reawaken our awe during Christmastime. Each day is structured like Tripp’s best-selling devotional, New Morning Mercies’ with a compelling, gospel-centered thought followed by an extended meditation for the day. Each of the thirty-one devotions also includes a Scripture reading and notes for parents and children, equipping us to do the one thing that matters most each December–celebrate Jesus” – Taken from goodreads.com

  • Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber

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“Ashley Davison, a graduate student in California, desperately wants to spend the holidays with her family in Seattle. Dashiell Sutherland, a former army intelligence officer, has a job interview in Seattle and must arrive by December 23. Though frantic to book a last-minute flight out of San Francisco, both are out of luck: Every flight is full, and there’s only one rental car available. Ashley and Dash reluctantly decide to share the car, but neither anticipates the wild ride ahead.

At first they drive in silence, but forced into close quarters Ashley and Dash can’t help but open up. Not only do they find they have a lot in common, but there’s even a spark of romance in the air. Their feelings catch them off guard—never before has either been so excited about a first meeting. But the two are in for more twists and turns along the way as they rescue a lost puppy, run into petty thieves, and even get caught up in a case of mistaken identity. Though Ashley and Dash may never reach Seattle in time for Christmas, the season is still full of surprises—and their greatest wishes may yet come true.” – Taken from goodreads.com

  • Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber

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“Before beginning her dream job as sous chef in one of Seattle’s hottest new restaurants, Josie Avery takes a summer position cooking at a lakeside lodge in the remote Alaskan town of Ponder. Josie falls for the rustic charms of the local community–including Jack Corcoran, the crotchety keeper of Ponder’s famed sourdough starter, and, in particular, the quiet and intense Palmer Saxon, a famed master swordsmith.

Josie and Palmer become close during the long Alaskan summer days, but Josie knows that, come fall, she’ll be returning to reality and the career she’s worked so hard for. Palmer, on the other hand, would like nothing better than to make Josie his wife and to keep her in Ponder. But Josie can’t imagine abandoning her mother back in the Emerald City and sacrificing her career to stay in this isolated town–not even for a man she’s quickly coming to love.

Fate has other plans. Josie misses the last boat out of town before winter sets in, stranding her in Ponder and putting her dream job at risk. As the holidays approach, Josie and Palmer must grapple with the complications that arise when dreams confront reality, and the Christmas magic that can happen when they put their faith in love.

Debbie Macomber is at her best in this beautiful holiday story about the far journeys we travel to find a place to call home. ” – taken from goodreads.com

  • Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber 

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“Merry Knight is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away. ” – taken from goodreads.com

  • Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

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” Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.

To track her progress, Julia starts a blog called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Her first attempts to humanize Cain are far from successful. Julia brings him homemade Christmas treats and the disagreeable grinch won’t even accept them. Meanwhile, Julie’s blog becomes an online sensation, as an astonishing number of people start following her adventures. Julia continues to find ways to express kindness and, little by little, chips away at Cain’s gruff façade to reveal the caring man underneath. Unbelievably, Julia feels herself falling for Cain—and she suspects that he may be falling for her as well. But as the popularity of her blog continues to grow, Julia must decide if telling Cain the truth about having chronicled their relationship to the rest of the world is worth risking their chance at love. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

  • Starry Night by Debbie Macomber 

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“Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a megabestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Filled with all the comforts and joys of Christmastime, Starry Night is a delightful novel of finding happiness in the most surprising places. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

  • A Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber 

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“As the holiday season begins, Laurel McCullough could use some good news. She and her husband, Zach, have been praying for a baby that seems more and more like an impossible dream, and they’ve had to move in with her beloved grandmother, Helen, who’s having trouble taking care of herself. But when Laurel contacts a local home-care organization for help, there are no caregivers available.

Then Mrs. Miracle appears at her door. No stranger to lending a helping hand to a family in need, Mrs. Miracle reveals herself to be nothing short of a godsend. Helen’s even convinced she’s an angel! Still, Laurel has to admit that Helen has become noticeably happier and more engaged, decorating the family Christmas tree and setting up the nativity with Mrs. Miracle’s companionship. In the meantime, Laurel and Zach begin to encounter curious signs, all pointing toward the arrival of a special baby.

With Christmas approaching, there appears to be even more to Mrs. Miracle than meets the eye. In a classic turn of Debbie Macomber’s signature seasonal magic, Laurel, Zach, and Helen experience a holiday of heavenly proportions. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

  • Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock 

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“As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current court case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while she’s in court, Sydney arranges for a cab to get her to the clinic.

The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is making his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.

When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite sure that she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 5/5 Stars.

  • Mr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber 

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“Harry Mills is a guardian angel on a mission: help twenty-four-year-old Addie Folsom get her life back on track—and, if the right moment strikes, help her find love. Posing as a teacher at a local college in Tacoma, Washington, Harry is up to the task, but not even he can predict the surprises that lay in store.

After trying to make it on her own, Addie has returned home to Tacoma for the holidays, but this time she plans to stay for good, enrolling in the local community college to earn her degree. What she doesn’t plan to do is run into Erich Simmons.

Addie and her next-door neighbor, Erich, are like night and day. Growing up, he was popular and outgoing while she was rebellious and headstrong, and he never missed an opportunity to tease her. Now she intends to avoid him entirely, yet when they’re suddenly forced to spend Christmas together, Addie braces for trouble.

Perhaps it’s the spirit of the season or the magic of mistletoe, but Addie and Erich soon find they have more in common than they thought—and that two people who seem so wrong for each other may actually be just right. With a little prompting from a certain angelic teacher, the two are in for a holiday miracle they’ll never forget. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 3/5 Stars.

  • Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber 

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“Mrs. Miracle on 34th Street 

This Christmas, Emily Merkle (just call her Mrs. Miracle) is working in the toy department of Finley’s, the last family-owned department store in New York City. And her boss is none other than Jake Finley, the owner’s son. 

For Jake, holiday memories of brightly wrapped gifts, decorated trees and family gatherings were destroyed in a Christmas Eve tragedy years before. Now Christmas means only one thing to him—and to his father. Profit. Because they need a Christmas miracle to keep the business afloat. 

Holly Larson needs a miracle, too. She wants to give her eight-year-old nephew, Gabe, the holiday he deserves. Holly’s widowed brother is in the army and won’t be home for Christmas, but at least she can get Gabe that toy robot from Finley’s, the one gift he desperately wants. If she can figure out how to pay for it… 

Fortunately, it’s Mrs. Miracle to the rescue. Next to making children happy, she likes nothing better than helping others—and that includes doing a bit of matchmaking! 

This Christmas will be different. For all of them. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 4/5 Stars.

  • Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

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” In FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson’s search for her father takes a turn she never expected when she finds herself in London with only a few feeble clues to who he might be. Unexpectedly welcomed into a family that doesn’t recognize her, and whom she’s quickly coming to love, she faces a terrible decision. Should she reveal her true identity and destroy their idyllic image of her father? Or should she carry the truth home with her to San Francisco and remain alone in this world? Whatever choice she makes during this London Christmas will forever change the future for both herself and the family she can’t bear to leave. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 4/5 Stars.

  • The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson

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” The small town of Parrish Springs is not ready for Matilda Honeycutt. A strange older woman with scraggly gray hair and jewelry that jangles as she walks, Matilda is certainly not the most likely person to buy the old Barton Building on the town’s quaint main street. When it becomes apparent that her new shop doesn’t fit the expectations of Parrish Springs residents, a brouhaha erupts. After all, Christmas is approaching, and the last thing the town needs is a junky shop run by someone who looks and acts like a gypsy. But as townsfolk venture into the strange store, they discover that old memories can bring new life and healing. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 4/5 Stars.

  • The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

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“After years abroad, Garrison Brown returns home to Vancouver to build a new life. When his beloved grandmother passes away a few weeks before Christmas, Garrison goes to her house to sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While Garrison hopes to dispense with the task quickly, his grandmother’s instructions don’t allow for speed. She has left Garrison with some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends–plus a sizeable monetary gift for the new owners. Garrison’s job is to match the cats with the right owners without disclosing the surprise gift. Along the way, he may just meet someone who can make him stay.
Humorous and heartwarming, this latest Christmas story from bestselling author Melody Carlson is the perfect gift for pet lovers and anyone in whose heart Christmas holds a special place. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 4/5 Stars.

  • The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere

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“Each Christmas we are given a promise from heaven. And each year on earth we make promises to each other.

This is a story about how a promise from one person to another shows us the true meaning of faith, remembrance, and love.Seven years ago Gloria endured a family tragedy that almost shook her faith entirely. Each Christmas she places a card in an envelope on her tree, restating a promise she made to her husband before he died. Now, having moved from her small town and all the painful memories it held, she is building a life by caring for people in need. Whether it’s a young mother who can’t pay her electric bill or a family who needs some extra food, Gloria always finds a way. Miriam is a thorn in Gloria’s side. Miriam is a constantly critical, disapproving neighbor who looks with suspicion at all the good things Gloria does. When a twist of fate makes them roommates instead of neighbors, it’s the ultimate test of patience and faith.

Chaz has a good job as head of security at Wilson’s Department Store, but each night he returns home to an empty apartment. He longs for a wife and family of his own but realizes that the life choices he’s made have alienated him. He befriends a young boy whose mother has fallen on hard times, giving him a chance to have a life he thought impossible.In The Christmas Promise, the lives of these characters collide and we learn that even as we move ahead, the past is never far behind. And when we are forgiven much, we love much.

In this warmly humorous and deeply poignant story, we are reminded that the Christmas Promise is the promise of second chances.” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 4/5 Stars. 

  • The Christmas Light by Donna VanLiere

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“In the small town of Grandon, five very different people discover the true meaning of Christmas. Jennifer and Ryan are both single parents, struggling with their own losses and heartache as they attempt to move forward in the present while still holding onto the memories, joy, and heartache of the past.

Sixteen-year-old Kaylee is faced with a life-changing situation that has affected her whole family. Stephen and Lily are happily married and ready to start a family. All of them are facing their own struggles, and all are finding their way through the dark. When they are brought together for a rather unconventional church Nativity, they will learn that with strength, courage, and love, there is always hope. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 4/5 Stars

  • 12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep 

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“When CLARA CHAPMAN receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, BENJAMIN LANE.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 3.75/5 Stars

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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” To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 3/5 Stars.

  • The Matchmakers of Holly Circle by Chautona Havig 

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” Flirtation can be an art, or so they say. Well, if so, Ruth and Richard are “the old masters” of the flirting game. Despite their strictly platonic relationship, there’s “something there,” as so many of their friends and families say. Neighbors and friends for ten years, neither seems willing to change the course of their relationship.
Three doors down, at the end of the cul-de-sac, Mason Dickenson has watched his favorite neighbors with an interested eye, but he’s finally had it with the dance. So, with a pack of cards and a few tricks up his sleeve, he’s determined to get them out of the “friend rut” and into romance.

Thanks to Mason’s unique matchmaking scheme, Ruth and Richard concoct one of their own—a deeper, stronger, eternal love and relationship that nothing on earth can match. ” – Taken from goodreads.com

My rating: 3/5 Stars.

Christmas Books I Want to Read: 

  • Anything Debbie Macomber releases in the next few years. 
  • Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep 

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  • The 12 Brides of Christmas by Various authors

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  • The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection  by Various authors

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  • A Log Cabin Christmas Collection by Various authors

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Happy Reading, 

Janelle L. C. 

Book Review: Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury.

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Last time I read Unlocked, I was a junior in high school and absolutely loved Karen Kingsbury’s books and read most of the Baxter Family series. I decided to reread Unlocked because last year I decided to reread the Baxter Family books (up through Love Story) so that I could refresh myself on what had happened before I read the latest books about the Baxter Family. And in the Above the Line series, one of the books that makes an appearance is Unlocked, so I thought it would be good to reread it before I moved onto the Bailey Flannigan series. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve grown up in the last eight years or if there are certain topics that I think differently about now than I did back when I was in high school, but I honestly didn’t love this book as much as I did the first time I read it.
One of the first things that I did not like about this book is that is a seemingly anti-vaccinations undertone, going so far as assuming that the main character’s autism was due to vaccinations he received when he was three. I’m not hear to write a treatise about why vaccinations are important, but rather to say as someone who works with the public on a daily basis, I see the definite need for most vaccinations. Also, autism is a genetic condition, not some illness that can be caught, and it hasn’t really ever been proven academically that there is truly a connection between vaccinations and autism. However, I feel that to discuss this several times throughout the book as the “cause” of autism rubbed me the wrong way. Again, I’m not here to argue about the subject of vaccinations, but just that I didn’t like that that was an undertone that was in the book, especially for the first 100 pages.
Secondly, a lot of the characters are flat throughout the novel, and everything seems to be solved neatly in the end by the power of prayer. I’m not saying I don’t believe in the power of prayer, I do, but for everything to end perfectly like that is not an accurate depiction of how God answers prayer. Sometimes His answer is no for reason we may never understand.
I almost put this book down and decided to call it quits, but I’d already made it this far and also, I was curious to see if it got any better and to see if there was a reason why I loved it over eight years ago. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much I ended up loving about it, except it was nice that there was a happy ending, but things seemed tied up to neatly. The novel deals with some hard issues like bullying and suicide, but in the end the bullies magically seem to turn over a new leaf, at least for one night. I felt that there was more that could have been done, but it just seemed very rushed to get to the end.
Overall, I can’t really remember why I thought this book was one of the best that had been written when I was a junior in high school. It was cheesy, attempts to deal with hard topics but doesn’t spend enough time on them, and then there was of course trying to subtly blame the main character’s autism on vaccinations that also bugged me. I would like to say that this hasn’t put me off Karen Kingsbury’s books for good, but this one was just disappointing because it also has a lot of potential too. 2/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: Surrender Bay (Nantucket #1) by Denise Hunter

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter.

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**BEWARE! SPOILERS AHEAD!**
A few weeks ago I reviewed The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter, and if you happened to read that one you would know that I found it just okay, not bad, but not great either. So I was a bit nervous about reading one of her other books because she seems like an author I could really like, but I was afraid that whatever I picked up next wouldn’t live up to my expectations. However, I got over it and decided to pick up Surrender Bay, which is book one in her Nantucket series, but they can also be read as stand-alones because they aren’t really connected in anyway (I don’t know this to be a fact, but it is something that I read about, I’ll have to see how true this is in the future!). I’ll admit I was nervous, even though the story sounded interesting, I tried not to get my hopes up…but I was pleasantly surprised, I really enjoyed it, so much in fact that I read most of it in one sitting!
Surrender Bay follows Samantha Owens (known as Sam) who is a single mother and left behind everything 11 years ago on Nantucket, working several menial jobs just to get by and make at least some kind of life for her and her daughter, Caden. However, one day she learns that her estranged step-father has died and that she has inherited his cottage, her childhood home that contains a lot of bad memories. Since she desperate to give her daughter the life that she deserves, she decides to face her demons and revisit the island she once called home. While there she wants to fix up her childhood home and get it ready to sell so that she can use the money towards a better life for her and her daughter. But she doesn’t expect run into her former best friend, Landon Reed, who declared his love for her just before she left town. Eleven years later and he still pines for and is excited and surprised to see her back and sees this as a chance to win her heart, however she pushes him away with good reason, she has terrible secret from the past that if he knew could destroy any sort of relationship that they have.
Let me start out by saying, and this is based on a couple other reviews I read too, that yes, this book is marketed as a Christian fiction book and it was published by a Christian publishing house, however some readers might be surprised that there are no mentions of God, Jesus or the Gospel throughout the novel. But there is a reason for this and it is definitely still a Christian fiction book. At the back of the edition that I was reading there was a short interview with the author and one of the questions she’s asked is why there aren’t any overt references to God, her reason is that Surrender Bay, as well as the other books in this “series” are meant to be an allegory of Zephaniah 3:17 which says,
“The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His Love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.” (ESV)
And after having read the novel, I can see how it covers the phrase, “He will quiet you by His love;” without getting into it too much and spoiling the ending for those of you who are reading it, Landon’s love for Sam perseveres even though she tries her best to push him away and hurt him, which is similar to how God loves us, even though we continue to rebel against Him because we think we are unworthy of love. One line that I really liked in Surrender Bay that sort of encapsulates the theme of this book is “Love is not earned, love is a gift.” And this statement was said several times by Landon and it is one that stuck with Sam after he had said it to her.
As far as characters go, Sam is stubborn and determined to run away from her past, at times it was annoying, but when seen through the framework of this novel being an allegory, in some ways she is an accurate representation of how humanity constantly runs from God and rebels against Him. Although Landon in some ways is a representation of God’s love, he is still a flawed character in some ways, but not in a way that is disturbing. Then there is Caden, she constantly gives her mother attitude, and Sam struggles to figure out how to mend their relationship, however I would like to say that at the end of the novel the relationship between mother and daughter is restored when both of them realize what they’ve been doing wrong in regards to their actions and words towards each other.
Overall, Surrender Bay  was a great read, and as I mentioned before I devoured it. While there were a few minor flaws to the novel, it was entertaining and it captured my attention from beginning to end. I’m looking forward to reading more of Denise Hunter’s books in the future, especially the other books that make up this series. 4/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: Matilda by Roald Dahl

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Matilda by Roald Dahl.

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Matilda has been one of my favorite books ever since I was in elementary school, however I can’t remember if I watched the movie adaptation first, or if my parents read the book to me. I do know that it is a book I’ve kept rereading ever since I read for the first time, in fact I’m pretty sure I felt very accomplished when I read it the first time because I think I considered it to be “a big book” to read. There was something magical about Matilda that I loved, I think it was because the story was one that gave me hope that good can triumph evil, or rather that horrible people will eventually be vanquished. As a kid I needed this as I was going through a rough time at school and was constantly picked, even by those who claimed to be my friends. I was constantly told by teachers that I wouldn’t amount to anything, and by reading Matilda I longed to be extraordinary like her. Even though I’ve never had the kind of powers that Matilda displays in the book, I did prove the naysayers wrong in my own way.
But enough of my trials as a child, let’s jump into the review. I reread Matilda for a book club that I’ve started at work and I decided that this would be the first book we discussed, partly because I was still trying to decide which books to read and discuss, and partly because I thought it would be interesting to start off with one of my childhood favorites. I also rewatched the movie starring Mara Wilson as Matilda (this was one of my favorite movies as a kid!), which was a great experience as always.
When I read Matilda this time around there were several things that stuck out to me that I don’t think I noticed before, or maybe I did but I just never remembered them. First, I like how the author explains some of the words that he uses, I found this fascinating, especially since this was one of the things that bugged me about A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, but that’s due to the fact that it was excessive at times. However, Roald Dahl uses it sparingly throughout the book. Another thing that stood out to me was the introduction when the narrator talks about how children aren’t as great as their parents make them out to be. I felt like this was a great way to introduce readers to an extraordinary little girl who’s parents thought she was nothing but a nuisance. I also appreciated how Matilda is shown as almost a typical child, and is not this paragon of virtue that most heroines are made out to be, she can be a smart-alec at times, and is very inquisitive. I feel like this made her even more human-like. Miss Honey is another great character, but I seemed to notice this time around that she tends to be a little self-serving at times and for some reason a lot more mousy than I remember. And of course there is the villain, Miss Trunchbull, Roald Dahl does a fantastic job of painting someone so villainous that in the end you’re glad that she gets what she deserves!
Overall, this was a delightful reread and I hope to someday reread this to my children and that they get as much enjoyment as I have over the years. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of dark humor, magic, and/or just an all-round fun read. 5/5 Stars
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg.

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I’m sure when people see the name E. L. Konigsburg, one of the first titles (and probably only title) that pops into their mind is From the Mixed Up Files of  Mrs. Basil  E. Frankweiler – I have yet to read this one, but it is on my list! However, The View From Saturday is another one of her works for which she won a second Newberry Award Medal for. I had never heard of it until my boyfriend/fiance recommended it to me a few months ago (as well as the quote, “I am a passenger of spaceship earth”). I also received a copy of it for my birthday in September (thanks again to my amazing boyfriend for another great book! :)) I started reading it.
The View from Satruday follows a group of four sixth-graders who make up their middle school’s academic team, which is lead by their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, who is in a wheel-chair due to a car accident she was in several years before the start of the story. She has just returned to teaching and in her homeroom class are the four students that will make up her classes academic debate team. She doesn’t know exactly why she picked this particular group of students, only that she did, and it turns out to be a really good decision.
The book opens up in the middle of the the final event that they have as an academic team, Regionals, and as a new question is about to be asked, Mrs. Olinski reflects back on how the team came to be, and as each student answers, we are told a little bit of the backstory of how they became friends through some unusual happenstance. First, Noah ends up being the best man at the wedding between Nadia’s grandfather and Ethan’s grandmother, Nadia ends up meeting Ethan while visiting her grandfather and new grandmother, Ethan gets an invitation to a tea party (as do Nadia and Ethan) which is hosted by new student, Julian. And pretty soon all four of the are on the academic team, but how they were chosen is a mystery to all involved.
This was an enjoyable read and I loved getting to know each of the characters as the novel progressed. Nadia could be a little bit of a pain at times, especially when she thinks that she is better than Ethan when she meets him. But considering all that she had been through it makes sense. Noah was funny, and sarcastic at times, but it was interesting to see him wrestle with having to write a thank-you note to his grandparents for staying with them over the summer. Then there is Ethan, who seems nice, but also a bit of a loner. He just wants to get out of the shadows of the success of his older brother, to which he believes he is a sore disappointment to everyone he meets who knew his brother. Then there is Julian the new boy who is an Indian boy who’s father has moved into the old Sillington house, which he wants to turn into a bed and breakfast, and it is Julian who starts it all by inviting the other three children over for tea one Saturday afternoon. It was interesting to see Julian adapt to a new culture, as well as still stick to his principles about what he believes to be right or wrong. And even though he is bullied, he still responds with politeness to those who make fun of him. I think out of all of the characters Julian is my favorite because of just how he responds to others, and even how he is the one to get the group together for a tea party, which then turns into a regular event. In some ways it can be said that he is the father of The Souls, which is what the group choose to call themselves.
Overall, this was a really good book, and I definitely recommend it, especially for middle-grade readers. It was a little bit different from what I was expecting, but I did love the style of vignettes throughout the story, as well as flashback scenes from the perspective of Mrs. Olinski. There were also some great supporting characters in this book, that definitely added to the plot. I’m looking forward to reading some of E. L. Konigsburg in the future. 4/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher.

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Besides being on an Amish fiction kick, I also recently discovered Robin Lee Hatcher’s novels and they are fantastic, in fact I’m trying to read as many of her books as I can! For the most part I have read only some of her contemporary romances, but I am also interested in checking out her historical novels. Some of her other books that I have read, but I probably won’t have reviews up for are Who I Am With You, Cross My Heart, and Love Without End. 
I picked up A Promise Kept because I was intrigued by the premise, and also I’ve really been enjoying Hathcer’s style in focusing on a love story in the present-day but also flashing back to the lives of one of the main character’s ancestors. In this novel we are introduced to newly-divorced Allison Kavanaugh who is still grieving over the end of her marriage, she moves into a cabin that was owned by her great-aunt Emma. During her stay there she discovers a treasure trove of keepsakes that her great-aunt had held onto, among them a collection of journals that she had kept. While trying to heal from her own pain, she discovers secrets that her great-aunt never told her, and that her and her great-aunt are alike in ways she never imagined.
I’ll admit that before I started reading A Promise Kept I did read the author’s note at the end because I was curious to find out why she chose to write this book. I was fascinated to find out that some of the things that happened to Allison are events that happened to the author in real life. Although there are also many differences between the author and the character that she created. Throughout the course of the novel, Allison grows as a character, especially as she comes to terms with the grief she has over the death of her marriage and figuring out how to get along with her ex-husband, especially since they have a daughter and sometimes are forced to spend time together.
I also enjoyed reading the sections of the novel told from Allison’s great-aunt Emma, and in some ways I wish that there would be a whole book dedicated to Emma’s story, especially her life as a nature photographer. If Robin Lee Hatcher has written a book about Emma Carter, please let me know!
It was a pleasure to see the relationships that Allison builds with a bunch of individuals in Kings Meadow, especially the older and wise Susan, I loved seeing her pour wisdom and friendship into Allison’s life throughout the novel. We also get to meet Chet Leonard and see a little bit of his backstory – he is one of the main characters in Love Without End, which is a great novel and highly recommend it, especially if you have read this novel.
I also enjoyed getting to know Allison’s daughter Meredith and her ex-husband, Tony, an how a friendship starts to blossom between the two of them. And I also liked seeing Allison’s relationship and faith in the Lord to continue to grow, and how reading her great-aunt’s journals also helps her grow in faith.
Overall, this was a really good book, I felt like it dealt with some hard topic, especially divorce and moving on from that. The ending was very sweet, and I was happy to read that things “ended” sweetly for the author too. As I’ve mentioned before, Robin Lee Hatcher is definitely one of my new favorite authors and I’m looking forward to reading as many of her books as I can, and A Promise Kept was a great read. 4/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: Plain Promise (Daughters of the Promise #3) by Beth Wiseman

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Plain Promise by Beth Wiseman.

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This is the third installment of Beth Wiseman’s Daughters of the Promise series, however it can also be read as a standalone, just like the previous two books, because it follows a different main character. This time we follow Sadie Fisher (who was introduced in Lillian’s story in Plain Perfect) who is a young Amish widow. She lives alone on her farm, making ends meet by running a store on her property (with several other Amish women) and by recently renting out her cottage to Englisher  guests. Her first tenant is Kade Saunders who keeps mostly to himself. Sadie hopes one day to be married again, and there is a prospect that this might happen, she has been writing letters for the past two years to an Amish widower in Texas, however they have yet to meet in person, but Milo has promised to visit her as soon as Spring arrives. While waiting for her friend to visit, she starts to befriend her tenant, who seems to be lost and trying to find his way after having his heart broken in the past. He seems intrigued by the peaceful ways of the Amish, but yet also struggles with some of their more stricter rules, especially when Sadie refused to spend time with him one-on-one because it was viewed as improper. But there is no denying that over the course of time that love starts to blossom between Kade and Sadie, but there is the obstacle of her faith and loyalty to her Amish community that could prove to be a hindrance.
Plain Promise was an enjoyable read, I enjoyed getting to know Sadie and even how as a reader I got to know the longings of her heart, to get remarried to someone she loves and to raise a family, instead of being all alone. I also liked how we got to see her struggling with doubts about God’s will and whether or not to make a decision because it seems like the best option even if it makes her miserable. Kade was also an interesting character and I like how we get to see him struggle with mistakes he’s made in the past, as well as have to take some big steps, such as learning how to raise his five-year-old son Tyler, who is autistic. Kade also comes to a renewed faith in God and is tired of living a life of riches and wants something different besides the life he has been living up to that point.
Besides the two main characters, it was lovely to see some favorite characters from the previous two books, namely Lillian and her grandpa Jonas, and a couple of other side characters that we were introduced to in the other books. Overall, this was a good novel, it was sweet and had some romantic elements and I loved getting to know Sadie in this novel, as well as catching up with a couple of old favorites from the other books. I’m looking forward to reading more about the people in the community of Paradise. 4/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: Made With Love (The Pinecraft Pie Shop #1) by Tricia Goyer and Sherry Gore

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Made With Love by Tricia Goyer and Sherry Gore.

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I’ve mentioned before in some of my previous posts that I’ve been on a real Amish kick when it comes to the books I read, and I’ve really enjoyed discovering some new favorite Amish fiction writers that I didn’t know about, for some reason the only author I’ve been familiar with is Beverly Lewis (who is also a great author, I would like to add!). However, working a public library and having access to different databases has allowed me to discover several other really great writers of Amish fiction, and one of those I think might be Tricia Goyer, who partnered with Sherry Gore on Made With Love.
In Made With Love, we meet Lovina Miller who has recently moved to Pinecraft, Florida with her family. She is the oldest of five daughters and is constantly under pressure from her mother to find a suitable Amish husband (sounds a little bit familiar, doesn’t it? Kind of like Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, however not as irritating and isn’t constantly complaining about her poor nerves). However, Lovina has always dreamed of opening her own pie shop, a place where people can fellowship with one another, watch the pies being made, and maybe even share their own recipes. And she has also finally found a perfect place that could potentially allow her to achieve her dreams. But she will also need a contractor/construction worker who can help her get the job done. Enter Noah Yoder, an Amish carpenter who offers his services to her to help her achieve  her dreams. However, Noah does have a past that has followed him from his home in Illinois down to Pinecraft, even though he has made amends for his past mistakes, there are still those in the Amish community that hold them against him. He also has a desire to help a trio of wayward Amish teens who need the guidance of an older man to help keep them from going off the rails, however this proves to be more challenging to Noah than he anticipated. Over the course of their working together to make the pie shop a reality, there are sparks that fly between Noah and Lovina, however they have to overcome past mistakes and hurts in order to be together.
Made With Love was a great introduction to the start of a new series and I did enjoy getting to know the different characters. Lovina was interesting and watching how she strives to achieve her dreams, however it was heartbreaking to see that one of the reasons she wanted to open a pie shop is that she didn’t believe that she was beautiful enough for any man to fall in love with her. However, over the course of the novel she gains confidence and she also lays to rest the false claims about her beauty, and how her own self-consciousness and self-esteem had prevented her from falling in love due to the lies she had believed.
 Noah was also a good character and watching him wrestle with how to be a good role model, constantly feeling like he had to redeem himself from his past actions and falling in love. I enjoyed watching both characters interact with each other, as well as their interactions with the other characters in the novel. I appreciated how Lovina’s father was supportive of her pie shop, and even supported Noah’s willingness to help do what needed to be done before the pie shop could be open to the public.
Overall, this was a really good book, the only thing I didn’t like was that there was a tragedy and conflict that was thrown in towards the end and the resolution of it seemed kind of rushed, however it was also really neat that the authors chose to show how the community rallied around the main characters when they needed it most. Made With Love is a clean, romance that also focuses on following the Lord and trying to accept the plans that He has for each individual, even if it is something as simply as just going through the doors that He opens up. I am looking forward to getting to know Lovina’s sisters a little bit more in the other two books in the series, and I really hope that we also drop in on Noah and Lovina and see what has happened in their lives since the end of this novel. I’m looking forward to reading more of Tricia Goyer’s Amish fiction in the future. 3.5/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future by Ian Doescher

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future by Ian Doescher.

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I am one of those weird people that enjoys reading Shakespeare’s works, and watching movie versions based on his works (except Romeo and Juliet, but maybe I need to give Baz Luhrmann’s version another chance, after all it has been almost 10 years since I’ve seen it). My fondness for Shakespeare is so much so that I even took a class in college solely dedicated to the bard’s works, in this class I was introduced to works I had never heard of like Titus Andronicus, but also revisiting some favorites like the Merchant of Venice, as well as watching several movies based on his works.
 Even though it has been sometime since I’ve read some of Shakespeare’s works, I’d often seen Ian Doescher’s Star Wars plays written as if Mr. Shakespeare himself had written them – I have yet to read one of these all the way through, but believe me that I will be doing so very soon. And then perchance by some work of fate I was at Barnes and Noble that was having a sale for the end of summer, and there among the other books part of this sale I came across this little volume, William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future. While there were other books that caught my eye, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add this humorous and genius work to my collection, especially since I am familiar with Back to the Future.
And now, after a somewhat lengthy introduction, here are my thoughts on William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future. I loved it. I read it in a span of 24 hours. I laughed and gasped at certain moments, there were some lines from “Back to the Future” that are even funnier when written in iambic pentameter and in Shakespearean English. I echo what some other reviewers have said, 1) I want Ian Doescher to come out with Shakespearean versions of the sequels to Back to the Future, and 2) if Universal Studios would allow it, this needs to be performed on the stage, someone needs to do a stage production of Get Thee Back to the Future as soon as possible!
There is not much else that can be said about Get Thee Back to the Future, especially since many are already familiar with the plot of Back to the Future, and that is basically what this book is, the script of Back to the Future, but written as if the bard himself wrote it. I loved the nods to not only the original movie, but I also appreciated how there were also references to some of Shakespeare’s works, I can’t remember which ones right now, but there definitely some one-liners from them. It was a delightful treat! I highly recommend Get Thee Back to the Future for unpretentious fans of Shakespeare, fans of Back to the Future, and/or anyone that enjoyed Ian Doescher’s Shakespearean treatment of the Star Wars movies. 5/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

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Book Review: The Discovery Saga Collection by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Hello everyone!

Today’s review is on The Discovery Saga Collection by Wanda E. Brunstetter.

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I picked up The Discovery Saga Collection by Wanda E. Brunstetter for a number of reasons. First, I’ve been kind of obsessed with Amish fiction the last few weeks and feel like I can’t get enough. Secondly, I’d read her more recent serial novel series, The Amish Millionaire, which I liked and was excited when I found out that she had another serial novel that had been published previously. And, third, the plot sounded interesting and I was curious to see how it would play out in a serial novel setting. I wrote a mini-review for each book/episode in the series about what I liked about them and a summary of each one. Be warned that there are a number of spoilers for the end of the series and each installment, so if you are planning on picking this series up, rather wait to read this review. Here are my thoughts for The Discovery Saga:
Book 1: Goodbye to Yesterday
I felt like this was a good introduction to Meredith and Luke’s story, as well as a plot twist that is going to take place later on in the series. It was interesting seeing the dynamic between this couple as they deal with financial hardship, and how financial struggles can affect the strongest of couples. The only thing I wish is that I had no idea what the plot twist was, unfortunately it had been revealed on the back cover of the bind-up edition of this series. 3.5/5 Stars.
Book 2: The Silence of Winter
Book 2 picks up right after the events of the first one. It provides some interesting development to the plot of this series. In this installment, Meredith receives the news that her husband is dead, and that she is also expecting a baby. It was interesting to see how she comes to terms with her husband’s death, and how even some people try to run her life for her. We’re also introduced to a young man given the name “Eddie” by the hospital staff, who is in a coma after sustaining bad injuries. We are also introduced to the nurse who takes care of him. 3.5/5 Stars.
Book 3: The Hope Of Spring
This installment sees Meredith coming to peace with her husband’s death, even though it is still difficult. However, she receives help from her friends and family, and an old friend, Jonah Miller who has recently moved back to town. It was interesting to see Meredith grow as a character as she goes through this season of grief and pregnancy and the people that rally around her. 3.5/5 Stars.
Book 4: The Pieces of Summer
The Pieces of Summer picks up right after the end of the last installment, in which the patient named “Eddie” wakes up and has to go through physical therapy in order to fully recover from the extent of the damage that was done to his body when he was brutally attacked and left for dead. However, he has no recollection of who he is and where he came from, all he knows is what the doctors and nurses have told him. Meanwhile, nurse Susan, and her sister Annie come to develop a friendship with Eddie and try to come up with a plan as to what will happen to him when he is finally released from the hospital. Meredith continues to adjust to life on her own, while discovering a secret that her younger sister has been keeping from her parents. And Jonah continues to help out with various chores at Meredith’s place whenever he can, however there are couple of people in the community who are not happy about that and give him a piece of their minds. 3.5/5 Stars.
Book 5: Revelation in Autumn
This installment of the Discovery Saga shows Meredith adjusting to life as a new mother, Jonah expressing his interest in the young widow, and Eddie adjusting to life outside the hospital with a few vague memories coming back to him about his life before he was left for dead at the bus stop. The ending was sort of predictable, but it makes sense. It is interesting to see the build up of events to the final installment. 3.5/5 Stars.
Book 6: A Vow for Always 
A Vow for Always was a good conclusion to this serial novel, although a touch melodramatic. However, it was good see Eddie regain his memory and where we came from, and how his life intersected with Meredith’s. Overall it was a happy ending for these characters, and there are even a couple of the side characters that I wish had there own books about what happens to them after the end of this series. Maybe these novels do exist and I just have yet to discover them. 3.5/5 Stars
 
Overall, this serial novel was good. It was simple and sweet. I really enjoyed the cast of characters that we got to know in this series. I’m especially interested to find out what happens to Jonah and if he ever finds love again. I’d also be interested to read about Susan and her love interest. There times when the series seemed to be a little melodramatic at times, but I did enjoy it. I am looking forward to reading one of Wanda E. Brunstetter’s books that is not a serial novel in the future. 3/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter.

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I was intrigued by the title of this book, and then when I read the synopsis I knew I had to read it, even though the plot itself couldn’t really happen in real life (the author has a note at the end attesting to the fact that she took some artistic license). In The Accidental Bride we are introduced to Shay Brandenberger who is raising her daughter in Moose Creek, Montana and running a ranch that has been in her family for several generations. However, finances have become tight and she runs the risk of having her family home foreclosed on if she can’t come up with the money she needs in order to save it. However, she receives an unexpected answer to her prayers. While partaking in a Founders’ Day wedding reenactment, she discovers that her “groom” is her former sweetheart, Travis McCoy who jilted her at the altar 14 years previously to find his fortune on the rodeo circuit. However, for what they think is a make-believe wedding, a surprising discovery shows that they are indeed married in real-life. Before Shay can annul the union, Travis makes an offer that is hard for her to refuse, especially since it means that she will be able to save the ranch, however her heart is at stake.
I liked this book, although there are a few things about it that I didn’t like about it and made me cringe a little bit. The first thing that I didn’t like was when the author would start off sentences like “At Least” as “Least”…I know it is probably minor, and she was trying to write the sentence in such a way as if we were in the characters’ minds, but I personally just didn’t like it. I would like to add that this only occurred a handful of times. One other stylistic/grammatical thing that was in the book that I didn’t like was using the phrase “Blame it!” as a substitute for the phrase that I’m sure we all know was meant to go there, first off it didn’t really work, and two, there are a lot better substitutes that could be used for that phrase such as “Darn it!” But again, I think that these devices were used to capture the atmosphere of being in cowboy country and that the main characters are ranchers.
I found the plot to be intriguing, especially as to how Shay and Travis end up married (I won’t give away how that happens), and seeing how Travis’ plan to stay married for a few months so that he can try and win Shay’s heart again. I did like seeing his side as to why he left her at the alter the first time, and how he has had to live with the regrets from that day for over fourteen years. I liked his characters, although there were a few things that he did that were kind if irksome, but I did love how he desperately tries to get Shay to love him again, even after the past hurt.
Then there is Shay…I’ll admit that at times I found her annoying and exceedingly stubborn and refusing to give those that have wronged her (namely Travis) a fair chance. But then I began thinking about if I was in her shoes, the man that I loved jilted me at the alter when I was 18, and then the next man I married left me to pursue fame and fortune as well before he died, wouldn’t I also have issues with trusting men, especially an old flame who had broken my heart severely?  Not that this totally redeems the fact that Shay’s stubbornness was a bit much at times, but it did make me more empathetic towards her. Another flaw I didn’t like was that Shay refused to communicate with Travis and immediately assumed the worst about him, again I get it, but still I feel like the more I read, the more I realized just how important it is to communicate with your boyfriend/spouse/significant other, especially if it is a situation that makes you think the worst of them.
Within the novel there are some pretty awesome supporting characters, I loved Olivia (Shay’s daughter) and watching the relationship between her and her mom, as well as her blossoming relationship with Travis as a father figure. I loved Miss Lucy and her scheming and part in this “accidental” marriage, and also her niece, Abigail, Shay’s best friend and the one who seems to call her out when she is being unreasonable. I also believe that there is a book about how Abigail ended up in Moose Creek, so I will definitely have to check that out some time.
Overall, I liked The Accidental Bride although it did have a few stylistic and plot elements that bugged me, but the story was cute. Even though the main character, Shay was insufferable at times, it was still hard not to root for her and Travis and their happy ending. This is the first book by Denise Hunter that I’ve read and I know she has written numerous other works, so I don’t want to judge her solely on this one book, which was good but not great, but I do look forward to check out more of her novels in the near future. 3/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis.

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The Ebb Tide is a quiet Amish fiction book in which not a whole lot happens, but yet it still captures readers attention as they follow a young Amish woman get to experience a part of the world she never thought she would, while in some small way wrestling with her desire to explore the world or being baptized into the Amish church, while already dealing with her family’s disappointment in having put it off for a couple of years. There is also a little bit of romance, however that is not the main focus of the story, rather the main focus is about a young woman who desires to learn more about the world, but also remain in her Amish community.
Sallie Rhiel has been putting off her baptism into the Amish church because she longs to go on a trip to Australia, and finally it seems like she will have enough money to do so. However, when a family emergency strikes and she decides to put the money for trip towards helping them out she gives up on ever being able to explore the world. But a few days later she is given the opportunity to nanny for a wealthy family when they take a trip to Cape May, providing her with trip to the ocean, which she has never seen before. However, taking the job will mean that she needs to put off her baptism into the Amish church for another year. While in Cape May she starts to learn more about life outside her community, and meets a young Mennonite marine biologist, Kevin, who seems to show a keen interest in her.
While I did enjoy getting to know Sallie and her struggles to find what God’s will is for her life – to be baptized into the Amish church or not, etc.- I’ll admit that the pacing was kind of slow with this book. It took about 100 pages for the plot to actually start, granted there was some build up with information about Sallie and her family and even their hesitancy about her going to Cape May. However, its hard to stay interested in a book when the first third of the book is merely dedicated to background information. I felt like the book could have started in the middle of the plot and then had flashback scenes to the scenes that led up to the plot, but that’s just me, and that might not be Beverly Lewis’ style of writing and I fully respect that, especially since she is so prolific and her books tend to be very sweet, while also tackling some issues that almost everyone faces, mainly such as what path to take in life and how decisions can affect others.
Sallie’s relationship with her charge, Autumn was interesting and I love how she tries to help Autumn come to terms with having a new brother after being an only child for so long, as well as adjust to the new family dynamic, and reassure her that she is still greatly loved by her parents. Kevin was another interesting character, especially since he pushes Sallie to think about the decision she has to make and even complements her in her ideology and what she is learning about the world, as well as trying to figure out where her life is going. It was interesting to see the relationship blossom between them.
Overall, I did enjoy the setting of this book, as well as the main character and her struggle with what is next for life and her curiosity of far off places. However, it did take a while for the plot to start picking up speed, and any romance that readers hope for is almost non-existent and is saved until the very end. But that being said, I did enjoy seeing Sallie learn new things about the world and about herself and how that ultimately impacts the decisions that she makes in the end. 3.5/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

 

Book Review: Plain Pursuit (Daughters of the Promise #2) by Beth Wiseman

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Plain Pursuit by Beth Wiseman.

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Before I get started with my review, I would like to give a fair warning that there are going to be some spoilers to the first book in this series, Plain Perfect, in this review, so if you are planning on picking it up, I would recommend waiting to read this review until afterwards…unless you’re like me and don’t mind some spoilers.

Plain Pursuit is the second novel in the Daughters of the Promise series by Beth Wiseman, and while it is in some ways a sequel to Plain Perfect, it can also be read as a stand-alone since it follows a new main set of characters, while also revisiting the characters that were introduced in book one.

Readers are introduced to reporter Carley Marek, a friend of Lillian Miller (now Stoltzfus), who is still trying to piece back together her life after being in an accident six months previously that also killed her mother. After being forced by her boss to take a month-long vacation, she decides to go visit her good friend Lillian, who has joined the Old Order Amish church, gotten married and now has a family of her own. During her vacation, Carley hopes to not only be able to write an insightful piece about the Amish community, but she also hope to find the peace that Lillian now has. However, shortly into her stay, Lillian’s son, David falls gravely ill and when local doctor, simply known as Dr. Noah tries to intervene, Lillian’s husband refuses at first to let him do so because he has been shunned by the Amish community. When it becomes a matter of life or death, Dr. Noah decides to do whatever it takes to help save David’s life, while at the same time getting to know Carley along the way.

Plain Pursuit was a good companion to Plain Perfect, not only did we get to revisit Lillian and Samuel a year after their marriage, but we were introduced to some new characters that helped bring to light some new issues in the series. First, I liked how with Carley readers not only see the lasting affects of grief, and emotional recovery from something as traumatic as an accident, but we also see her struggle with faith in God, as well as trying to find peace. It was also to see how she struggles to come to terms with some of the things she experiences during her stay in the Amish community, especially the concept of shunning and how strictly that can be enforced in certain districts. It was interesting to see how her concept of mercy contrasted with that of the view of mercy that her Amish friends have, and even how some of them do struggle with having to shun their own family members. Then there was her relationship with Noah, it was interesting to see how he willingly pursued her, even knowing that there would be obstacles for them to see each other because of his being shunned, and the walls that Carley tries to put up to prevent him from getting close to her. It was also interesting seeing Noah grapple with returning to the area that her grew up in, but not being able to interact with his family because of his shunning, but also wanting to find some way to seek forgiveness for the ways in which he wronged them when he left the Amish church to become a doctor. I also enjoyed getting to see some of the story from both Lillian and Samuel’s perspectives as they come to terms with how gravely ill their son is, as well as individually with Lillian still having to wrestle with some of the ideology of her community, and Samuel as he has to relive some of the hurt that Noah caused to him personally, as well as deserting the church.

Overall, it was an interesting story, especially with some of the conflict that occurs between Carley and Noah, and Noah and his family and how it is eventually resolved. This is a good read for anyone that enjoys a light romance, as well as anything set in the Amish community. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Plain Perfect (Daughters of the Promise #1) by Beth Wiseman

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman.

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Lately I’ve been on an Amish kick when it comes to reading, it’s been several years since I read my last Amish fiction book, and honestly, I don’t know why I stopped reading them. But now that I’ve been reintroduced to them I can’t get enough of them. Beth Wiseman is a new author to me, I’m pretty sure I haven’t read any of her books before, and I think I’ve found a new favorite author.

Plain Perfect tells the story of Lillian Miller who is a 27 year-old woman who goes to live with her Amish grandparents in Lancaster County. Lillian’s mother had left her Amish roots behind before Lillian was born, but her life has been a complicated ever since, as has Lillian’s. Lillian is tired of a complicated life and wants to experience peace for the first time, therefore she decides to spend several months trying to practice the Amish lifestyle despite not having an understanding of it. Another complication arises when she meets an Amish widower, Samuel Stoltzfus, and his son David, and the possibility of an unlikely romance that blossoms between them.

I really enjoyed this novel, I felt like Beth Wiseman does a good job of introducing readers to a character who is desperately seeking for peace, a change of pace and even trying to figure out more about having a relationship with God. I didn’t find the book preachy, but rather through Lillian’s journey to find answers, the readers are introduced to where true peace comes from and just how important forgiveness is. We are also introduced to some colorful characters, especially that of Lillian’s grandpa Jonas, who although he is Old Order Amish doesn’t see any issues with bucking against tradition. I also liked how his wife, Irma Rose contrasted with him, even though they deeply love each other, but yet she is also dispense some great nuggets of wisdom to her granddaughter.

Lillian’s love interest, Samuel, was also interesting because not only do we see him overcoming the grief he has had for his wife who died several years before the start of the novel, he also comes to terms with being able to love again, however he feels the need to fight against his attraction for Lillian, an outsider who doesn’t seem to be interested in joining the Old Order Amish community anytime soon. However, I’m sure most readers will know how things eventually end for this couple, but it is still worth reading. David was another great character, and seeing him grapple with some issues in his beliefs at such a tender age, but yet not losing his innocence was great and he really was a great character.

Overall, I think this was a great story, and I really enjoyed the romance between the two characters (Spoiler Alert), and also watching Lillian grow as a person, as well as Samuel even though he is set in his ways. There are a couple of twists that happen in the novel that I wasn’t expecting, but they only add to the charm of this story, as well as providing information on the Amish culture. I am looking forward to reading more of Beth Wiseman’s books in the future. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from The Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes.

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If you are a fan of The Princess Bride, then I highly recommend picking up As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from The Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (also, a big thank you to my boyfriend who gave me a copy of this book as a gift :)). This was an interesting read and it only made me love and appreciate the movie even more than I had before I cracked open this book. I’ll admit that when I first started reading it I had no idea what to expect, especially since I hadn’t heard much about it from anyone. I’m happy to say that I loved it and it exceeded my expectations.

Not only does Cary Elwes chronicle how he got the part of the dashing Westley, but he also talks about how the movie was in production hell, how it got out of production hell, as well as give some insight into the other cast and crew members that were apart of this great movie. It’s hard to write a review of this book because there is so much I would like to say, but I also don’t want to ruin anything for those who are interested in reading As You Wish, because it is a great read. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Blog Tour and Giveaway: When You Are Near

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About the Book

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Book: When You Are Near

Author: Tracie Peterson

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release Date: March 5, 2018

After her father’s death, Lizzy Brookstone, a trick rider in the all-female Brookstone Wild West Extravaganza, wants nothing more than to quit her role as the star of the show and live a quiet life on her family’s ranch. But returning home would bring Wesley DeShazer, the ranch’s foreman and the man who broke her heart, back into her life. In addition, the Brookstones’ new manager fears that Lizzy’s departure could doom the already cash-strapped show.

Hope grows in Lizzy during a stopover at Fleming Farm. Ella Fleming not only has a natural talent for trick riding and could easily replace Lizzy, but she’s eager to join the show to flee a forced betrothal. However, while there, one of the show’s wranglers is killed in a manner Lizzy finds suspicious. And during her escape from the farm, Ella stumbles across a secret that could affect all of their lives, as well as the future of the Brookstone Extravaganza.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed When You Are Near. It was interesting read especially since it was about female trick riders in the 1900s.

I loved getting to know the cast of characters, and although I have yet to finish it, I’m loving every moment of it. Lizzy is a great character and I lvolo watching her development over the course of the novel and her decision to leave behind the world of trick riding. It was also interesting to watch her mother go through the process of grieving for her late husband and how seeing her mother’s grief also makes Lizzy question whether love is worth it.

Ella Fleming was another great character and she served as a good character foil to Lizzy. And I also loved watching her character development over the course of the novel. Wesley DeShazer was a good love interest and I loved watching his relationship with Lizzy grow over the course of the novel.

Tracie Peterson did a great job with the plot and it definitely kept me on my toes…I had forgotten how much I really like her writing and I am looking forward to reading more of her works in the future!

About the Author

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Tracie Peterson (www.traciepeterson.com) is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana.

Guest Post from Tracie

Introducing…When You Are Near!

I’m excited about the new Brookstone Brides series and had so much fun researching for the various characters and locations. This is a story about a fictional Wild West show with all female performers. Prior to the rodeos we see today, the Wild West shows traveled throughout America and Europe to entertain people and give city dwellers a taste of what the American frontier was like. At least their version.

Buffalo Bill Cody was famous for his shows, which brought Native Americans and their culture into the world of people who might otherwise never have even seen an “Indian.” Pawnee Bill was another entertainer who sought to keep these shows alive.

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For the fictional show in my novels, I wanted to focus on three female characters who became a part of the Brookstone Wild West Extravaganza for varying reasons. Lizzy Brookstone is the heroine in book one, When You Are Near, and as the daughter of one of the show’s owners, she has enjoyed a starring role as a trick rider.

For research I went to Pueblo, Colorado to the ranch of Karen Vold, a famous trick rider and rodeo star. Linda Scholtz, a famed trick rider, was teaching a clinic there along with Karen at the Red Top Ranch Trickriding School.

These are two remarkable Christian trick riders who have long worked to keep the sport alive. I spent three days getting to know them and what they do and learned so much. And just to prove that we weren’t all work and no play, I thought I’d share my attempt at trick riding. What I won’t do for research!

The series will have three books, as usual, and each book will focus on a different lady and her skills. Mary is a trick shooter like Annie Oakley, and Ella is a Roman rider who stands on the backs of two horses for her part in the act. It was so interesting learning about each of these types of performers, and I hope you’ll get a chance to read all three and enjoy the stories of the Brookstone Wild West Extravaganza.

Blog Stops

Among the Reads, March 26

The Power of Words, March 26

Christian Author, J.E. Grace, March 26

Inklings and notions, March 26

The Meanderings of a bookworm, March 27

Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner, March 27

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, March 27

Vicky Sluiter, March 27

Carpe Diem, March 28

The Avid Reader, March 28

Genesis 5020, March 28

The Lit Addict, March 29

Jeanette’s Thoughts, March 29

Back Porch Reads, March 29

Just the Write Escape, March 30

Splashes of Joy, March 30

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, March 30

Emily Yager, March 31

Daysong Reflections, March 31

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, March 31

Life of Literature, April 1

EmpowerMoms, April 1

For the Love of Literature, April 1

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, April 2

Through the Fire Blogs, April 2

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, April 2

For Him and My Family, April 3

Remembrancy, April 3

Inspiration Clothesline, April 3

Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, April 4

Locks, Hooks and Books, April 4

Pause for Tales, April 4

Older & Smarter?, April 5

Stories By Gina, April 5

Book by Book, April 5

Bigreadersite, April 6

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, April 6

Connect in Fiction, April 6

Godly Book Reviews, April 7

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, April 7

Texas Book-aholic, April 7

Blossoms and Blessings, April 8

janicesbookreviews, April 8

A Reader’s Brain, April 8

The Becca Files, April 8

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Tracie is giving away a grand prize of When You Are Near, Tracie’s A $25 Barnes and Noble Gift card, and the three books in The Heart of Alaska series and three other winners will receive a copy of When You Are Near!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/dcdd/when-you-are-near-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano

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About the Book

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Title: Flights of Fancy

Author: Jen Turano

Genre: Christian Historical Romance, Gilded Age

Release date: January 1, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House

Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

Click here to order your copy!

My Thoughts

FLIGHTS OF fancy was a good, humorous read, with some awkward and even some suspenseful moments thrown in.

Before I go on to the rest of my review, I can I just say that I loved how odious the Duke of Montrose was from the very beginning? It made it all the more believable why Isadora had to run away and disguise herself as a housekeeper! Just even some of the stuff he says to her upon their first interaction made me gag (this is a good thing, since he is the villain) and I even had to explain it to some of my co-workers when I was reading the first few chapters during my lunch break one day.

Anyway, on to the main character that are not the villains of the novel. I loved getting to know Isadora, especially as she tries to adjust to the duties of a housekeeper, which with being an heiress she has absolutely no clue what to do, this only made her more endearing as a character.

Then there is Ian and the chemistry that he has with Isadora from the start. He definitely makes a good hero for our leading lady! I loved watching the romance bloom between these two characters.

Overall, this was a good read and I am looking forward to seeing what Jen Turano puts out next!

 

About the Author

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One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO.

Guest post from Jen

Q & A With Jen Turano

“Flights of Fancy” is the first book in the American Heiress Series. What inspired you to write this series?

The inspiration for this entire series started off with a What If? All of my proposals for new series start off that way, and this time it was – What if Consuelo Vanderbilt had balked when her mother insisted she marry the Duke of Marlborough – and then that led to – What if she’d run away until her mother came to her senses? Just like that, an entire series was born – a bit of a different take on American heiresses because in all three books, my heiresses might decide to go a tad…rogue. We start off with Miss Isadora Delafield – who does run off to avoid marriage to a duke, then we get to meet Miss Poppy Garrison, who is an unexpected heiress but who can’t quite seem to get a handle on the expected social decorum of the day, and then the final book revolves around Miss Beatrix Waterbury – who gets banished to Chicago after she annoys her mother one too many times, and once there, well, gets up to a bit of mischief.

How do you come up with the names of your characters?

I find most of my names as I research the New York Four-Hundred, although I normally take a first name here, a last name there so I’m not stepping on any toes by writing about an actual historical figure – except for some of the main figures in New York society back then, such as Mr. Ward McAllister – who was the social arbiter of the day, or Mrs. William Astor, who was the queen of that society. What I don’t do is simply make up names, no matter how outrageous they may appear. And, no matter how I may love a certain name, if the character decides it doesn’t suit them, that’s it, it’s out and I’m back to the drawing board.

How do you picture your character? Do you use Pinterest, magazines, movies?

Odd as this may seem, I don’t use pictures for my characters. They start off in my mind as a blurry figure, and then, they develop from there – I like to keep my descriptions of them somewhat vague on the pages so that the reader can imagine them exactly the way they’d like them to be.

What are some of your favorite resources for historical research?

I’ve been building up a research library over the past few years and now have over 200 books dedicated to the Gilded Age. My favorites are – “A Season of Splendor” by Greg King, “Society as I Have Found It” by Ward McAllister, “The Gilded Age in New York – 1870-1910” by Esther Crain, and “ ‘King Lehr’ and the Gilded Age” by Elizabeth Drexel Lehr.

The setting for “Flights of Fancy” is a bit of a departure for you since it’s set in and outside of Pittsburgh. Any reason for that?

My mom was born in Pittsburgh, and unfortunately, her father, a prominent attorney back in the day, died when she was only four. I thought it would be cool to set a story in Pittsburgh, which would then allow me to really dive into some research. And get this – while I was doing that research, I found this obscure journal called “Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. In that journal was a bit about my great-grandfather, Fred, his wife, Susie, my grandfather, and his brother and sister, but I’d never heard about this brother, who apparently died quite young. One of the most fabulous research tidbits I’ve uncovered to date.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just recently turned in the content edits for the second book in this series, “Diamond in the Rough,” and I’ve also turned in a novella about the Harvey Girls that will be coming out in a novella collection in Fall, 2019. With those out of the way, I’m now starting the third and final book in the American Heiress series, Miss Beatrix Waterbury’s story, but I’m having a bit of a struggle with the hero at the moment – he was supposed to be Edward, but he doesn’t want to be an Edward – I think he wants to be Norman – but, time will tell on that one – don’t hold me to the name – it’ll depend on if he changes his mind or not – pesky characters.

You seem to enjoy adding animals in many of your stories. Will we find any animals in “Flights of Fancy?”

Since Miss Isadora Delafield ends up on a farm, I do believe you will find a few animals, such as an adorable cow by the name of Buttercup, a few goats that seem to have a great liking for laundry, and…there might be some chickens.

Thanks for stopping by today, everyone! Always enjoy visiting with all of you – in fact, that’s the best part of my job!

All the best,

~ Jen ~

Blog Stops

[Insert Blog Stops Here]

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a grand prize of a trunk filled with all of Jen’s full-length novels released to date!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d8d1/flights-of-fancy-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

Around the Year in 52 Books 2019 Challenges

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Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Hello Everyone,

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know that since 2017 I have taken in the Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge on Goodreads, and I plan on doing it again this year – hopefully I will succeed this year! Here are the reading challenges for 2019:

1. A book that was nominated for or won an award in a genre you enjoy
2. A book with one of the 5 W’s in the title (Who, What, Where, When, Why)
3. A book where the author’s name contains A, T, and Y
4. A book with a criminal character (i.e. assassin, pirate, thief, robber, scoundrel etc)

5. A book by Shakespeare or inspired by Shakespeare
6. A book with a dual timeline
7. 2 books related to the same topic, genre, or theme: Book #1
8. 2 books related to the same topic, genre, or theme: Book #2

9. A book from one of the top 5 money making genres (romance/erotica, crime/mystery, religious/inspirational, science fiction/fantasy or horror)
10. A book featuring an historical figure
11. A book related to one of the 12 Zodiac Chinese Animals (title, cover, subject)
12. A book about reading, books or an author/writer

13. A book that is included on a New York Public Library Staff Picks list
14. A book with a title, subtitle or cover relating to an astronomical term
15. A book by an author from a Mediterranean country or set in a Mediterranean country
16. A book told from multiple perspectives
17. A speculative fiction (i.e. fantasy, scifi, horror, dystopia)

18. A book related to one of the elements on the periodic table of elements
19. A book by an author who has more than one book on your TBR
20. A book featuring indigenous people of a country
21. A book from one of the polarizing or close call votes

22. A book with a number in the title or on the cover
23. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #1 Something Old
24. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #2 Something New
25. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #3 Something Borrowed

26. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #4 Something Blue
27. A book off of the 1001 books to read before you die list
28. A book related to something cold (i.e. theme, title, author, cover, etc.)
29. A book published before 1950
30. A book featuring an elderly character

31. A children’s classic you’ve never read
32. A book with more than 500 pages
33. A book you have owned for at least a year, but have not read yet
34. A book with a person’s name in the title

35. A psychological thriller
36. A book featured on an NPR Best Books of the Year list
37. A book set in a school or university
38. A book not written in traditional novel format (poetry, essay, epistolary, graphic novel, etc)

39. A book with a strong sense of place or where the author brings the location/setting to life
40. A book you stumbled upon
41. A book from the 2018 GR Choice Awards
42. A book with a monster or “monstrous” character
43. A book related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) [fiction or nonfiction]

44. A book related in some way to a tv show/series or movie you enjoyed (same topic, same era, book appeared in the show/movie, etc.)
45. A multi-generational saga
46. A book with a (mostly) black cover
47. A book related to food (i.e. title, cover, plot, etc.)

48. A book that was a finalist or winner for the National Book Award for any year
49. A book written by a Far East Asian author or set in a Far East Asian country
50. A book that includes a journey (physical, health, or spiritual)
51. A book published in 2019
52. A book with a weird or intriguing title

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Library Haul

Hello Everyone!

Today’s post is the first of probably many library hauls this year. I recently checked out 22 books from the library, I have no idea if I will read all of them, but it is nice to dream that I can eventually get through them. I’m certainly going to try, especially since I have a few weeks break from Grad. School, so I have a little bit more time to read. Here are the books that I checked out:

Wrong in All the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Mirage by Somaiya Daud 

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The Forest Queen by Betsy Cornwell

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Everless by Sara Holland

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Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky

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Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi 

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Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

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LifeL1k3 by Jay Kristoff

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29 Dates by Melissa De La Cruz

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Once a King by Erin Summerill

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Letter from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

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Furyborn by Claire LeGrande

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi

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Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao 

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Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor

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Meet Me At the Museum by Anne Youngson 

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The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan 

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Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

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  p1 About the Book

 

Book: Shelter of the Most High

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Genre: Christian Biblical Fiction

Release Date: October, 2018

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a city of refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood, yet chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Can they uncover the betrayal in time to save their lives and the lives of those they love?

Click here to purchase your copy!

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Connilyn Cossette is the CBA bestselling author of the Out From Egypt series. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for the Christy Award, the INSPY Award, and the Christian Retailing’s Best Award. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of twenty years and a son and a daughter who fill her days with joy, inspiration, and laughter. Connect with her at www.ConnilynCossette.com.

My Thoughts

First, let me start by saying that this is the first book of Connilyn’s I have read, and I really enjoyed it. It was interesting to read a book set in one of the Levitical cities of refuge, especially since it is something I have wondered about how it worked, whether they actually implemented that part of the law, etc. The author does a good job of making this world come alive and made me feel as if I were there.

I also loved the characters, I loved reading about Sofea and Prezi’s life before they ended up in the Kedesh and how they adjust to life in a different place where almost no one speaks the language. I also liked getting to know Eitan, Moriyah, Darek and Nadir throughout the course of the novel and how they ended up in the city of refuge. The plot is great and I love how it kept me on my toes when I was reading. I am looking forward to reading more from Connilyn Cossette in the future.

I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I was not asked to give a favorable review or given money in exchange for it. All opinions expressed in my review are my own.

Guest Post from Connilyn

Shelter of the Most High, the second book in my Cities of Refuge Series, will be the first I’ve written to have been influenced by my trip to Israel last year. When I started writing Biblical fiction almost nine years ago, I was limited to exploring the Land of Promise via Google Earth, books, and through a plethora of photos on the good ol’ world wide web, but of course nothing can compare to actually experiencing the atmosphere and scenery for yourself.

So although I’d already written Shelter of the Most High by the time I hopped on a plane to join fellow author Cliff Graham’s GoodBattle Tour, once I returned my editing was filtered through the sights and sounds I’d witnessed for myself. It had been a life-long dream to go to Israel and it did not disappoint, in fact it just went way too fast!

One of my greatest fears was that I would see the places I’d written about in my books and realize I totally messed up my descriptions, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the most part I’d been fairly accurate (although I did tweak a few things here and there).

Standing on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee I was able to envision Eitan, our hero in Shelter of the Most High, sitting on one of the black boulders there, defeated and weary as he searched for his love. I was able to look toward the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon in the north and over the fertile Hula Valley just below the ancient ruins of Kedesh, the city of refuge, and consider how Sofea must have felt as she experienced the landscape of her new home for the first time, both the fear and the awe.

One of my favorite sites was Tel Dan and although it does not feature in Shelter of the Most High it’s lush greenness and dense forest gave me a better sense of what Israel must have been in the past before deforestation, war, and shifts in climate have done to the fertile land God himself called a land of milk and honey. Since I was so affected by Tel Dan (or Laish in ancient times) that city will be one of the settings in my upcoming third installment of the Cities of Refuge Series, Until the Mountains Fall.

Being a super visual person who is highly sensitive to sensory input, I took great pleasure in absorbing with all my senses as we walked paths, climbed mountains (yes, mountains), slogged through a long, cold, and wet tunnel deep beneath Jerusalem, hiked up to the secret oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from Saul, and rocked along on a boat over the glassy surface of the Galilee. I felt like a sponge just soaking up every little detail and every grand vista.

Smelling the salty breeze off the Mediterranean and hearing the waves crash against the sandy beach in Tel Aviv and Caesarea Phillipi made me imagine our heroine Sofea looking over that enormous, blue expanse and wondering what sort of god had control of such a powerful thing.

Feeling the timeworn cobblestones beneath my feet gave me a sense of what it must have been like for Eitan and Sofea to walk through the streets of Kedesh, their own sandals scuffing against the rough-hewn stone as they went about their daily activities.

Running my fingers along the pitted surfaces of ancient buildings and tracing the chisel marks from craftsmen of the Bronze Age wrapped me in a whirl of imagination about who the people were that hefted those same rocks into place and the ingenuity it took to create structures that have lasted so long.

Tasting the unique spices and flavors of the Middle East gave me a sense of the passion Moryiah (our hero’s mother) has for creating delicious new dishes to feed her growing family and the guests at her inn.

Although I write fiction, my stories are woven into Biblical accounts so going to Israel was a perfect reminder for me that the people that lived between the pages of Genesis to Revelations were real. They breathed, they cried, they loved, they mourned, they suffered, and they celebrated with their families. I am so grateful to have gleaned some great new insight into the Land and its resilient, vibrant people and hope that through Shelter of the Most High readers get a small sense of the beauty and wonder I experienced there. I cannot wait to go back!

Blog Stops

A Baker’s Perspective, November 20

The Power of Words, November 20

Among the Reads, November 21

Gensis 5020, November 21

God’s Little Bookworm, November 22

Book by Book, November 22

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 22

Remembrancy, November 23

Real World Bible Study, November 23

Inklings and notions, November 23

The Becca Files, November 24

Christian Centered book Reviews, November 24

Baker Kella, November 24

Bibliophile Reviews, November 25

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, November 25

By The Book, November 26

Reading Is My SuperPower, November 26

Aryn The Libraryan, November 27

All-of-a-kind Mom, November 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 27

Abbas Prayer Warrior Princess, November 28

Christian Author, J.E. Grace, November 28

Simple Harvest Reads, November 29 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

For the Love of Literature, November 29

Janices book reviews, November 29

The Lit Addict, November 30

Texas Book-aholic, November 30

Just the Write Escape, December 1

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, December 1

Connect in Fiction, December 2

The Christian Fiction Girl, December 2

Bigreadersite, December 2

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, December 3

Purposeful Learning, December 3

Carpe Diem, December 3

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Connilyn is giving away

Grand Prize: All five of Conni’s novels, including Shelter of the Most High, plus AHAVA Dead Sea Bath Salts

Three other winners will receive a copy of Shelter of the Most High!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d66d/shelter-of-the-most-high-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

 

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone

Hello Everyone!

Today’s review is on Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson.

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Summary:

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find? 

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…What? 

My Thoughts: 

I’ll admit that when I first picked up this book, I was skeptical about whether or not I would like it because some of Morgan Matson’s books have been pretty hit-or-miss with me. However, Since You’ve Been Gone has changed my mind – I LOVED IT!

At first I struggled to get into it because I was going through a minor reading slump when I started it, but once I got past the 100-page mark I flew through it! I loved the concept of the list of “challenges” that Emily has to complete – although I hated how Sloane just ditched her.

I enjoyed getting to know Emily and her family – I loved watching her grow as a person while the list. I also liked how in some ways she starts to find autonomy a part from Sloane. Then there is Frank Porter…he is such a cute character and I love him, he is an adorable cinnamon roll and I wish there were some actual guys like this in reality!

I also enjoyed getting to know Dawn and Collins and seeing how they, along with Frank, try  to help Emily on her quest. I liked Sloane, however I also disliked her because of how she basically drops out of Emily’s life without saying goodbye, but  the explanation that is given for this makes sense.

I really liked the playlists that appear throughout the book are awesome – I wish there were more. And I also liked how each chapter jumps back to the past to explain certain items on the list, or even just certain things that happen in the present day.

I really loved it, and it made me want to pick up her latest release, Save the Date, right away. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Once and For All

Hello Everyone!

Today’s review is on Once and For All by Sarah Dessen.

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Summary: 

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself

My Thoughts: 

Sarah Dessen has a way of making readers feel all the feels in almost all of her books and Once and For All was no exception.

I like how we, along with Ambrose, were kept in the dark about Louna is so cynical when it comes to true love – the reason made sense and was very fitting with today’s current events and when it is revealed it is hard not to cry!

I liked all of the characters, although I found Louna to be a bit too mopey at times, although it did make sense. Ambrose was also interesting, although his way of trying to win Louna is ridiculous. I also enjoyed the side characters: Natalie (Louna’s mom) and William and their whole wedding planning business.

As I mentioned before, Sarah Dessen has a way of writing books that have readers tear up at some point, and there was scene towards the end of the book that had me in tears because of the build up to it, and Dessen makes the reader think that something similar happens to Ambrose that happened to Louna’s first love.

This was a good contemporary read that has  a lot of perfect fluffy moments, but yet still has scenes that are tear-jerkers, which is a perfect reminder that life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and that bad things do happen. 3.5/ 5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: From Twinkle, With Love

Hello Everyone!

Today’s review is on From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon.

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Synopsis: 

 Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

My Thoughts: 

Even though I liked When Dimple Met Rishi, I enjoyed this one a lot better, especially the ending. I loved getting to know Twinkle and how the format of this book is setup like her diary (I am a sucker for books like this). I also liked how her entries are written to different female movie directors that she looks up to. I  also loved how this read as  a good classic romantic comedy and it is the perfect summer read.

Sahil is the typical (but still awesome) hero of this rom-com. I loved how he was always trying to push Twinkle to be the best she could be, while also letting her figure out stuff on her own.

It was also interesting to see that in order to truly grow as a character, Twinkle had to become her worst self and realize that she had to change. It was also interesting to see all the different family dynamics that take place in the novel: Sahil and his inferiority to his twin brother Neil; Twinkle and her grandma, Twinkle and her parents who seem disinterested in her life. I also liked how it dealt with friendships and relationships in general: Maddie and Twinkle; Maddie and Hannah; Twinkle, Victoria and Francesca. I also liked how it dealt with some of the issues that people that immigrants face when they leave their home countries behind.

I am looking forward to seeing what Sandhya Menon writes text. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Fat Girl on the Plane

Hello Everyone!

Today’s review is on Fat Girl on a Plane  by Kelly deVos.

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Synopsis:

Fat.

High school senior Cookie Vonn’s post-graduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother—and named after a dessert.

Thanks to her job at a fashion blog, Cookie scores a trip to New York to pitch her portfolio and appeal for a scholarship, but her plans are put on standby when she’s declared too fat to fly. Forced to turn to her BFF for cash, Cookie buys a second seat on the plane. She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not—ultrathin and superrich. Bowing to society’s pressure, she vows to lose weight, get out of the friend zone with her crush, and put her life on track.

Skinny.

Cookie expected sunshine and rainbows, but nothing about her new life is turning out like she planned. When the fashion designer of the moment offers her what she’s always wanted—an opportunity to live and study in New York—she finds herself in a world full of people more interested in putting women down than dressing them up. Her designs make waves, but her real dream of creating great clothes for people of all sizes seems to grow more distant by the day.

Will she realize that she’s always had the power to make her own dreams come true?

My Thoughts: 

Before I get started with my thoughts I am grateful to have received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

This year there seems to be quite a few novels dealing with weight and body-positivity for teens, which I think is great! However, I honestly didn’t read through the synopsis thoroughly so I found the events that unfolded to be a surprise, which I guess is a good thing.

I found it weird that there were two story lines – the past when Cookie was fat and when she is skinny in the present. I liked how it explored some of the misguided reasons for losing weight. I liked how Cookie discovered that life doesn’t become all sunshine and roses when she is skinny.

In some ways I found “fat” Cookie to be relatable especially with the emotions she goes through when she starts her journey. I loved watching her pursue her dreams in fashion and comes to realize that no matter what size she is, it is still a cut-throat industry.

I hated her relationship with Gareth Miller, especially since she was 19 and he was 35…it was just weird – I found this to be one of the pitfalls of the novel. I also wanted to love Tommy, her ex-best friend and crush, but he kept messing up and was just an idiot.

I loved her grandma, her parents were just awful. I loved her best friend Piper and how she deals with Cookie and her antics.

I liked the ending although I wish there was more resolution with her parents. And I also wish there were not quite as many F-bombs. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Katie in Waiting

Hello Everyone!

Today’s review is on Katie in Waiting by Erynn Mangum.

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Synopsis: 

Katie McCoy has spent her whole life waiting for the right guy and he isn’t coming. After relocating to Carrington Springs, Missouri, Katie finds herself getting more and more frustrated. Can’t God see that she’s trying her best to meet someone? Doesn’t He care that she’s lonely? What is she doing that is making Him not bless her with this? With two new friends, Eliza and Ashten, by her side, Katie starts to realize that maybe God has bigger plans for her life than she could have ever imagined.

My Thoughts: 

There were so many jokes that were said in this novel that I feel like explain me to a “T”! Some of the things that Katie goes through, such has having become stagnant in her walk with the Lord is something that I myself have struggled with myself.

I liked how even though there was a possibility of romance it still ended up with Katie coming to terms with her singleness and finding contentment with the Lord. I also enjoyed getting to know Eliza and Ashten and I can’t wait to read each of their stories very soon. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Love Amid the Ashes

Hello Everyone!

Today’s review is on Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews.

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Synopsis: 

Readers often think of Job sitting on the ash heap, his life in shambles. But how did he get there? What was Job’s life like before tragedy struck? What did he think as his world came crashing down around him? And what was life like after God restored his wealth, health, and family? Through painstaking research and a writer’s creative mind, Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of this well-known story told through the eyes of the women who loved him. Drawing together the account of Job with those of Esau’s tribe and Jacob’s daughter Dinah, Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.
My Thoughts: 
I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting to see how Andrews combined two pieces of biblical history together into a work of fiction. She puts together Job and Dinah, Jacob’s daughter who’s brothers killed an entire city for her honor. It definitely provided some insights into that text that I never thought of before. Plus, recalling a couple of lectures I listened to from Dr. Chou,  professor at my alma mater, mentioned that Job was a descendant of Abraham.
I liked how this book was a constant reminder of God’s love and mercy and how when we are truly repentant He forgives us, as in the case of Dinah, and even Job. I also enjoyed the reminder of how once we have confessed our sin and asked for forgiveness, we need to let go of the past and move on, which is something I struggle with.
I loved getting to know Dinah and Job besides just what is written in Scripture, even if it is just fiction. I also liked how Job’s affliction was given a human dimension, which is also possible. I enjoyed watching Sitis’ (Job’s wife) redemption through the novel, I also enjyoed getting to know Aban, Elihi, and Neghlahu. The one character that I’m not sure I liked the direction the author took was Jacob, I felt like he came across as bitter and harsh towards Dinah.
I loved the author’s note explaining why she did what she did with the characters and attempting to tell Job’s story in fiction. I had also just finished reading Genesis when I read this and I loved seeing a possibility of what happened beyond the text, even though it was fictional.
Overall I loved that this book was that it dealt with not just romantic love, but also God’s love amidst the trials of life. 4/5 Stars.
Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Thief of Lanwyn Manor by Sarah E. Ladd

Lanwyn

About the Book

44441973Book: The Thief of Lanwyn Manor

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Genre: Regency Romance

Release Date: January 7, 2020

In this sweet Regency romance, Julia knows Matthew Blake, copper mine owner and very eligible bachelor, is the gentleman she should set her eyes upon. But why can’t she steal her gaze away from his younger brother, Isaac?

Cornwall, England 1818—Julia Twethewey needs a diversion to mend her broken heart, so when her cousin invites her to Lanwyn Manor, Julia eagerly accepts. Lanwyn Manor is at the heart of Cornwall’s mining industry, and as a guest Julia is swept into its intricate world. It’s not long, though, before she realizes something dark lurks in the home’s ancient halls.

As a respected mine owner’s younger son, Isaac Blake is determined to keep his late father’s legacy alive through the family business, despite his brother’s careless attitude. In order to save their livelihood—and the livelihood of those around them—the brothers approach the master of Lanwyn Manor with plans to bolster the floundering local industry. Isaac can’t deny his attraction to the man’s charming niece, but his brother has made his intentions to court the lovely guest clear. And Isaac knows his place.

When tragedy strikes, mysteries arise, and items go missing, Julia and Isaac find they are pulled together in a swirl of strange circumstances, but despite their own best efforts to bow to social expectations, their hearts aren’t so keen to surrender.

Click here to buy your copy.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I read this book. The last time I had attempted to read a historical romance novel I ended up putting it aside. I expected to slog through The Thief of Lanwyn Manor, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

The Thief of Lanwyn Manor starts off with a bang, right in the beginning we’re thrown into the action – and I loved it and I was fully invested in the story. The pacing of events seemed to be pretty good until about the middle when it dragged, but it quickly picked up again. My only complaint is that it took a while to get the “thief” part of this book. 

I really enjoyed the plot, it was pretty intriguing, but about half-way through the book I kind of predicted the big reveal that comes at the end, which honestly felt a bit rushed. 

I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this novel. Julia was a great leading lady, and although I know that the previous book in the series isn’t abut her, I am intrigued to see her as one of the side characters in The Governess of Penwythe Hall and see her character development since then. 

Isaac was a great male lead, but there were times he aggravated me, especially towards the end of the novel. I get that this is also set in a different era where societal expectations and norms were different, but I was still bugged and I don’t know inf I can pinpoint an exact moment without sharing a spoiler. 

U also found Julia’s aunt and uncle – Mr. and Mrs. Lambourne – extremely irritating, especially with her aunt’s disregard for Isaac and her uncle’s disregard for the mine that he owns. I will say that the villains in this novel – I don’t want to reveal who they are, because it is a spoiler – but they were developed really well and I liked how their dastardliness was slowly revealed until they were fully exposed to the other characters. I also liked Margaret Benson and how she also contributed to the story, albeit in a small way. 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Thief of Lanwyn Manor, I think the story was pretty great despite the couple of things I didn’t like. This was the first book I’ve read by Sarah E. Ladd, and I think I will be reading a lot more of her books in the future. I am giving this a 3.5/5 Stars. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and Celebrating Lit in exchange for an honest review. 

About the AuthorLanwyn2

Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing family and spunky golden retriever. Visit her online at SarahLadd.com; Facebook: SarahLaddAuthor; Twitter: @SarahLaddAuthor.

Read an Excerpt

Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

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