Saturday, May 30, 2015

Must-Have June Releases

Once Upon a Summertime

        Managing the Value Lodge in her hometown was not what Anna Gordon had in mind when she set out in the hospitality industry. But it’s a safe choice for a woman whose childhood was anything but stable. Out of the blue, she gets an once-in-a-lifetime chance to reinvent herself by moving to New York City, where she hopes for a management position at a stylish new boutique hotel. The big city is full of surprises—not the least of which is Sean O’Neil. Her childhood crush has applied for the very same position!

        I have enjoyed many books by Melody Carlson in the past, and I know Once Upon a Summertime will be another wonderful novel. I’m looking forward to reading it; who doesn’t love a book about a girl who follows her dreams, which take her straight to her childhood crush?

A Flying Affair

        Ever since Mittie Humphreys agreed to join dashing barnstorming pilot Ames for a joyride in his airplane, her lifelong love of horses has been surpassed by one thing—a longing for the skies. It seems she’s not the only one—with Charles Lindbergh making his victory tour in the Spirit of St. Louis, aviation fever is spreading across the country. Mittie knows flying is the perfect focus for the soaring ambition and taste for adventure within her, and whenever she can slip away from her duties on her family’s prosperous Kentucky horse farm, she heads to the airfield.
        Considering their shared passion, it’s no surprise that Ames begins to vie for Mittie’s time. But when handsome British aviator Bobby York offers her flying lessons, he is equally surprised—and beguiled—by Mittie’s grit and talent. Driven to succeed, Mittie will do whatever it takes to compete in the Women’s National Air Derby alongside Amelia Earhart. But when Calista “Peach” Gilson, a charming Southern belle, becomes her rival both professionally and in love, Mittie must learn how to navigate her heart’s romantic longings as well as the skies.

        I just love Carla Stewart’s style of writing. It is very unique and is unlike any other authors’ that I read, and yet it makes for some pretty wonderful books. A Flying Affair sounds like something I would devour, so I am anticipating when I will finally have the chance to read it.

Interested? Get your copy here.

Hearts Made Whole

Can she forgive the hurting man who costs her the role she loves?
        After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper—even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.
        Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation—the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he’s unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

        I had never read any books by Jody Hedlund until I borrowed Love Unexpected—the book that comes before Hearts Made Whole in her Beacons of Hope series—which made me a firm believer in her ability to write amazing novels. I enjoyed that book so much that I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Hearts Made Whole, but it also helps that it sounds like a great book to read. Although, there is one book I’ve been waiting for a little bit more eagerly. (Just a note, all previously read and reviewed books are linked to my review of them, like Love Unexpected for example.)

You can pick up either Love Unexpected or Hearts Made Whole here.

Married ‘til Monday

With a big anniversary party in the works for his ex-wife’s parents, Ryan has just one weekend to play Abby’s husband…and win back the woman of his dreams.
        Ryan McKinley has tried to move on from his ex-wife, Abby. He’s sulked, he’s gotten angry, and ultimately he bought her dream house. Big mistake. Living alone in the massive two-story has only made him miss her more. When her parents call him out of the blue about their anniversary part in Summer Harbor, Maine, Ryan believes God has dropped a golden opportunity straight in his lap.
        Abby McKinley never exactly told her parents about the divorce. A strained relationship with her dad has culminated in a distant relationship with her parents, but she’s finally succumbed to her mom’s pressure to make the drive for their 35th anniversary party.
        Then Ryan shows up on her doorstep, looking as handsome as ever. When he insists he’s going to Summer Harbor, with or without her, Abby knows she can’t say no. her parents still think they’re married and now Ryan knows it too. It’s just a one-week road trip with the man who broke her heart. What could possibly go wrong?

        This is the book I’ve been anticipating the most. I completely fell in love with Denise Hunter’s books, and the McKinley family, when I picked up the first three books in her Chapel Springs Romance series—Barefoot Summer, Dancing with Fireflies, and The Wishing Season. Dancing with Fireflies has become one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, so I cannot wait to read this new addition to the series. It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I mean, every story that starts out with the characters pretending to be married or engaged always ends up being wonderful. And I know Denise Hunter will do a great job of putting her own spin on it. Clearly that’s why I’ve already pre-ordered this one. It was on sale, and still is, for 25% off, so I just had to snatch it up. Be looking out for the review of it one Tuesday next month, because I know I won’t be able to put it down.

Murder Freshly Baked

When delicious baked goods become lethal, a trail of poetry leads to a sweet-toothed killer.
Don’t taste it/ Don’t share it/ Just throw it away/ If you try my bakery pie/ You won’t live to see another day.
        The Amish Artisan Village of Middlebury, Indiana, might be the last place you would ever expect to find a murderer. But Amber has been managing the Village for decades, and there’s nothing she hasn’t seen. Or so she thought.
        When poetic notes begin appearing around the bakery, warning that some of the pies have been poisoned, Amber is as confused as she is concerned. Who poisons pies? And more to the point, who leaves poems of warning after they’ve done it? When Amber decides to track down the sweet-toothed saboteur, she enlists Hannah Troyer for another round of Amish-style detective work.
        Can Amber and Hannah help the police before the Poison Poet strikes? Both women will need to draw on their faith to preserve the peaceful community they’ve built in Middlebury…and to protect the girls who work in the Amish Artisan Village.

        As you know, I just recently finished the two books that precede this one—Murder Simply Brewed and Murder Tightly Knit—not very long ago, and I enjoyed each of them. So it’s no surprise that I’m eagerly anticipating the final release in the series. Murder Freshly Baked sounds like it will live up to the other two novels just by its synopsis, so I know it’s bound to be good. The description makes it sound a bit spine-chilling, doesn’t it?

        Those are the releases I'm most looking forward to this June! I post them in the order of their release date, so if you're looking for a book that comes out in early June, you might try Once Upon a Summertime, A Flying Affair, or Hearts Made Whole which release on the second, or if you want a later release, Married 'til Monday and Murder Freshly Baked release on the ninth. This month I doesn't really have any late-month releases, but I do next month! Only you'll have to wait 'til then to find out what they are!
        Happy reading!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Murder Tightly Knit by Vannetta Chapman

In a town where Amish and Englisch mingle every day, a grisly murder leads to mutual suspicion. Can Amber and Hannah find the killer before fear unravels the community…and before he strikes again?
        Even before she heard of Owen Esch’s death, Hannah Troyer knew something was amiss at The Cat’s Meow yarn shop. The store has been closing at odd times, the ever-dependable Mary isn’t always at her post…and an Englisch man has been loitering around back.
        Now, as leaves of brown, gold, and orange blanket Middlebury, Indiana, Owen lies dead on the Pumpkinvine Trail. The only clues to the murderer’s identity point in two very different directions—one of them leading right to The Cat’s Meow.
        The police call in a federal investigator, but Hannah and village manager Amber Bowman are in no mood to wait for them to figure out what they already know—that no one from the Amish Village killed Owen Esch.
        Amber and Hannah need to work quickly to solve the murder mystery and bring harmony back to the Amish community.

        Hannah Troyer’s life was turned upside down six months ago after Ethan Gray’s murder, and now, things are finally getting back to normal. So when she hears of Owen Esch’s gruesome death, she feels her world tilt once again. Who would do such a thing? And why Owen? Most importantly, what does Mary know that she isn’t telling? Can Hannah—and Amber—solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?
        Murder Tightly Knit is the second book in Vannetta Chapman’s Amish Village Mystery series, and it is one of my favorites. I know, I know, so far there’s only two, but I enjoyed both of them an equal amount, though for different reasons. So they’re both my favorites. I liked Murder Simply Brewed because I couldn’t figure out the culprit until Amber did, and because Amber and Tate had such a sweet story, but I loved Murder Tightly Knit because I did solve the mystery before Amber and Hannah, and I enjoyed reading about Hannah, Jesse, Mary, and Andrew. And Pam was pretty fun too. Of course, all these names mean nothing to you unless you read the book, so go pick it up!
        Anyway, Murder Tightly Knit was another wonderful romance/mystery novel, so Vannetta Chapman gets another round of applause. She pulled this one off just as well as its predecessor, maybe even a little better. It wasn’t a predictable story at all; that’s not why I was able to puzzle it out. Rather, she gave enough hints that, as I thought over them like a real sleuth, I was able to solve the mystery on my own, before Amber and Hannah. Not too much before, however. Because of everything I’ve mentioned, I give Murder Tightly Knit five out of five bookshelves, and the title of highly recommended, especially if you’re in the mood for a good murder mystery.
        Happy reading!

All credit for the itialicized synopsis goes to Vannetta Chapman and her publishers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Murder Simply Brewed by Vannetta Chapman

When the coffee shop manager is murdered in Middlebury’s Amish Artisan Village, two women from different walks of life must join forces to solve the mystery.
        Spring has arrived in Middlebury, Indiana, and Amber Wright is optimistic about the growing profit from her collection of Amish shops—until she receives a call that Ethan Gray is head. Hurrying over to A Simple Blend, she finds a solitary hole in the front window and the store manager lying next to the espresso machine, dead from an apparent heart attack. All the money is still in his register.
        When Amber hires a young Amish woman, Hannah Troyer, to take over the shop’s duties, the two women become fast friends—as well as amateur sleuths. The police believe Gray’s death is a by-product of vandalism, but Amber and Hannah aren’t convinced.
        Clues that don’t add up, a neighbor who is pulled into the midst of the investigation, a town with secrets to hide, and a blossoming romance—all will combine to push Amber and Hannah into unfamiliar roles in order to reveal answers to the mysteries around them.

         Amber Wright has been the manager of the Amish Artisan Village for more than a decade, and she loves her job. Although it has never been completely smooth sailing, those years have passed fairly uneventfully. Now, as a murderer strikes in their small town of Middlebury, Amber feels as if her life is spinning out of control. Between trying to keep her shops open and running despite multiple accounts of vandalism, making a new friend in her neighbor amid feelings for him that she doesn’t understand, and getting tangled up in Ethan Gray’s murder mystery, Amber is completely overwhelmed. Will she find the answers they need before it’s too late, or will the murderer strike again?
         Murder Simply Brewed was a completely thrilling murder mystery that had just enough romance mixed in. I read both this book—the first installment in Vannetta Chapman’s Amish Village Mystery Series—and the second book called Murder Tightly Knit in about three days. Maybe a little less. By the way, I’ll be reviewing that one tomorrow. Anyway, both were wonderful mysteries that kept me guessing, but Murder Simply Brewed was the harder one to figure out. As I read, I tried to puzzle out the mystery, which I am quite fond of doing as I grew up reading books like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, but I didn’t know who the culprit was until Amber did. Shocking, right?
         Vannetta Chapman did a wonderful job weaving the mystery into every aspect of her story without making it over the top. While the murderer was obviously deranged, the vandalism and the clues were all realistic, and the murderer did have a viable reason for murder. Don’t worry I don’t agree with him/her in the slightest. My point is only to say it wasn’t a silly reason like Ethan stepped on his/her toe or something. The whole book was thrilling and gave me lots of spine-chilling, cliff-hanger moments that made it a perfect read, which is why I picked up the second one—and finished it—so soon after. Unfortunately for me, the third—Murder Freshly Baked—doesn’t come out until June ninth. I’ll be eagerly awaiting it just the same! All three books are on my Amazon Store, so check them out! Murder Freshly Baked is on sale for pre-order until the ninth!
         Happy reading!

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Vannetta Chapman and her publishers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Bookshelf: Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

A cowboy who wants to be a preacher. An outlaw’s daughter who wants to change his mind.
        On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can’t believe it when he’s forced off the train by an outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the preacher she requested for her birthday. He’s determined to escape—which would be much easier if he could stop thinking about Joanna Robbins and her unexpected request.
        For months, Joanna had prayed for a minister. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. But just when it seems her prayers have been answered, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett he ended up right where he was supposed to be?

        Crockett Archer has dreamt of being a minister for a long time. When he has a chance to interview for a church in Texas, he travels there, never dreaming that his train would be stopped by outlaws or that he would be forced to follow them. He immediately makes plans to escape, but that becomes more difficult than he thought as he gets to know Joanna Robbins and the reasoning behind her unusual birthday request.
        Joanna has been praying for months for a preacher who could help her fulfill the promise she made to her mother as she lay dying. When Crockett arrives, she believes he’s the answer to her prayers, until she realizes he’s not there of his own volition. Can she convince him to stay, or will she be back to trying to fulfill her promise on her own?
        Stealing the Preacher was a super sweet, hilarious tale that was actually the first book I ever read by Karen Witemeyer. After finishing it, there was no denying that she had become one of my favorite authors. Once I picked up Short-Straw Bride, the book that actually comes before Stealing the Preacher, I was hooked. Karen Witemeyer does an amazing job of writing historical novels that have just enough comical moments, romance, and mystery to keep you from ever being able to put her books down. I have since read almost every one of her novels, and I haven’t been disappointed once. If you’re looking for something good to read, either Stealing the Preacher or Short-Straw Bride (they don’t necessarily have to be read in order), or any one of her books for that matter, would be the perfect choice.
        Happy reading!

You can grab either of them here!

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Karen Witemeyer and her publishers.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

In this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.
        She has the touch when it comes to food, but PJ McKinley’s dream of opening her own restaurant is one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home as prize to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes she was meant to win.
        Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoon-worthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that a not-for-profit enterprise will be good for the community.
        When the eccentric philanthropist weighs the proposals, she proposes an outlandish tie-breaker: PJ and Cole will share the house for a year to see which idea works best. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into an out-and-out rivalry—with some seriously flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. But could their magnetic attraction cost them everything they’ve ever wanted? 

        PJ McKinley has always felt like she has something to prove, especially to her family. So when she has the opportunity to start her own restaurant right out of culinary school—as long as she wins the rights to her neighbor’s ancestral home—she jumps at the chance. There’s only one problem. She has to earn it while sharing it with a man she can barely go five minutes without arguing with.
        Cole Evans has wanted to open a home for in transition foster kids for a long time. Now that he has his chance, he hates that he has to share the house with PJ. Her restaurant is taking up valuable rooms that he could use to help more kids. And her bubbly personality has an uncanny way of getting under his skin, no matter how hard he tries to keep her at bay.
        With tensions mounting as they continually get closer to the day when someone will win the house, will Cole and PJ learn to work together or will they both lose everything they’ve always dreamed of?
        The Wishing Season was another wonderful book in Denise Hunter’s Chapel Springs Romance series that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the way the PJ and Cole interacted and the ways they dealt—or didn’t—with their problems. While there were many touching, serious moments that I enjoyed, I think most of my favorite ones were the sillier scenes that made me laugh. Anyway, I give The Wishing Season all five bookmarks for its relatability, for PJ’s need to prove herself and Cole’s battle with guilt. I would highly recommend it, and Married Til Monday, which comes out in less than three weeks!
        Happy reading!

Pick up a copy of any of the four books here.

All credit for the above italicized synopsis goes to Denise Hunter and her publishers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Bookshelf: Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter

        Growing up in the Midwestern river town of Chapel Springs, Indiana, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. Now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.
        The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost nonexistent, Daniel fit right in with the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always thought of him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.
        As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt”. Returning home may prove difficult—and more wonderful—than she ever imagined.

        When Jade McKinley left Chapel Springs a year ago, she thought she would never go back. After she finds herself pregnant and alone, with an almost empty bank account, she knows she has to return to her family. She finds it difficult, however, to tell them her secret, and ends up leaning more on her honorary brother Daniel. But as her problems bring them closer together, she starts to wonder if she loves him like a brother after all.
        Daniel has been in love with Jade forever. Though he has always called her squirt and teased her like any other older brother would, his feelings for her have been anything but brotherly. He’s just always been too scared to tell her. Now that she’s back, and in need of his help, his feelings continue to grow, but can he tell her the truth without scaring her away?
        Dancing with Fireflies was absolutely amazing. With its constantly surprising story, it was completely impossible to put down. While I never knew what was coming, almost every scene was perfect. Just perfect. I loved the way Jade and Daniel interacted with each other, I loved how wonderful Daniel always was (why are there no men like him in real life?), and I loved every unexpected minute. Clearly this really is one of my favorite novels, because of what I have said and because of the things I loved about it that I’m finding hard to describe.
        I cannot help but give Dancing with Fireflies all five bookmarks because I didn’t find any stylistic issues that bothered me, because it is a book to remember, and because of how great the characters were. While Daniel was always kind, sympathetic, compassionate, and a good friend to Jade, you still could see the areas where he struggled. But, most of the time, he didn’t sin because of it, and when he did, he hastily made up for it. On the other hand, Jade was so strong. She loved her unborn baby almost as soon as she found out about it, even though it through her life upside down. She was continually fighting to give her child the life she wanted it to have, and she never gave up no matter how hard it got. Fortunately, it wasn’t always difficult.
        Anyway, I would recommend this book for so many reasons. It’s hilarious, not predictable at all for those who are tired of too many versions of the same old story, super sweet, and touching. With its cliffhanger chapters, you won’t be able to put it down for a second, but every wonderful moment will make it worth it. Read this book, and then get ready, because I’ve finished the third book—The Wishing Season—which was wonderful as well, and will be reviewing it on Thursday. And then, the fourth—Married Til Monday—comes out next month! I’m so excited to hear Ryan’s story. I’ll write a little about it in my New Releases post. Also, it’s on sale on Amazon if you pre-order, so now would be a great time to decide to get that one.
        Happy reading!

Photo creds go to my amazing sister Allie who is a wonderful photographer! Check out her blog here!

All credit for the italized synopsis goes to Denise Hunter and her publishers.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

        In the years since her twin brother’s tragic drowning, Madison has struggled with her ability to trust God—or anyone else, for that matter. It was her brother’s dream to win the annual River Sail Regatta in their small harbor town of Chapel Springs, Indiana. And Madison’s determined to honor his legacy by making his dream her own. Maybe then she can finally find closure.
        But learning to sail means learning to swim. And her instructor is Beckett O’Reilly, a man who already has two strikes against him in Madison’s eyes. Being on the water terrifies Madison. But Beckett’s calming presence and unwavering confidence eases her fear. And as much as she’d like to deny it, the chemistry between them is electrifying.
        As her feelings for him grow, a fledging faith begins to take root in her soul, as well. With Beckett, Madison feels alive for the first time in years—carefree and confident she can win the regatta, maybe even find love.
        But Beckett harbors a secret that will test the limits of their love and the depth of Madison’s faith. Will their love survive summer’s challenge? And will achieving her brother’s dream give Madison the peace she desperately seeks?

        Madison McKinley’s twin brother died tragically while they were still teenagers, and she has yet to recover, even all these years later. As Chapel Springs’ annual River Sail Regatta approaches, Madison determines to win it in her brother’s honor. There’s only one problem. She doesn’t even know how to swim, much less sail a boat.
        Beckett O’Reilly reluctantly agrees to teach Madison to swim, all while desperately trying to remain distant and to keep his secrets from her. But as their tentative friendship grows, he finds it even harder to keep from falling for her. Will they finally put aside old hurts and let each other in, or will everything change when their secrets come to light?
        Barefoot Summer is the first book in Denise Hunter’s Chapel Springs Romance series, and, to be honest, the first Denise Hunter book I have ever read. I was very impressed with this novel and enjoyed it immensely, but I cannot say—now that I have read more of her books—that it is my favorite one she has written. I really loved the storyline, and Beckett was just the sweetest guy, but I did feel something lacking. It might have been how quickly everything happened in the beginning before slowing down until the end, or maybe it was my OCD with the fact that in multiple instances she used the same word—like said—too many consecutive times. Either way, the story was still wonderful and is definitely something I would recommend, but because of that I am only giving it four bookmarks.
        The good thing is, none of the little stylistic details that bothered me ruined Denise Hunter’s writing for me. I found Barefoot Summer to still be a book that I could not put down, and as soon as I finished it I picked up the next book in the series—Dancing with Fireflies—which I happened to own. Since I have my own copy, I’ll review that one on Tuesday as a My Bookshelf post, but let’s just say, I opened it for the first time Wednesday night after I finished Barefoot Summer, and finished it just after lunch the next day. And I had things to do in the morning so I didn’t even get to it right away. I found none of the little things that bothered me about Barefoot Summer inside its pages, and now call it one of my favorite books ever. Now I’m on the third book—The Wishing Season—and am loving it as well. My point is to say, these books are great. I mean, I still gave Barefoot Summer four bookmarks. I only mentioned the little issues I had because I wanted to be honest, and because I knew if these types of things bother you too, you would like to know they were there. But all that aside, I still believe Barefoot Summer is a great novel, and is worth reading. Especially if your OCD won’t let you read the second book in the series until you read the first, because you just have to read Dancing with Fireflies. I’ll tell you why on Tuesday.
        Happy reading!

Pick up any of the Chapel Springs novels here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Denise Hunter and her publishers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

        Everett Cline will never humiliate himself by seeking a mail-order bride. Not again. He’s already been jilted by three mail-order brides and figures a wife just isn’t in his future. However, a well-meaning neighbor hasn’t given up on seeing him settled, so she goes behind his back to bring yet another woman to town for him.
        Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiancĂ©. A mail-order marriage in faraway Kansas is a last resort, but she’ll do anything to leave her life in Massachusetts and the heartbreak she’s experienced there.
        Although Everett doesn’t see how a beautiful, cultured woman like Julia could be happy sharing his simple life, he could really use a helpmate on his homestead. Determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face, Julia agrees to a marriage in name only. Faced with the harsh realities of life on the prairie and hesitant to explore the tentative feelings growing between them, can Everett and Julia ever let each other in long enough to fall in love?

        Julia Lockwood has faced more heartbreak in the past ten years than most people experience in a lifetime. Trying to escape from the pain back home, she impulsively agrees to become a mail-order bride for her pen-pal’s neighbor. While uprooting her life and adjusting to being a wife for a Kansas farmer is more difficult than she imagined, Julia is determined to prove to Everett that she can handle it, that it wasn’t a mistake for him to choose her. With the past hurts still filling her heart, Julia struggles with her self-worth and can’t allow herself to let Everett in. Will she ever let go long enough for him to show her he doesn’t want to hurt her?
        Although based on its synopsis, this book—the first installment in the Unexpected Brides series—seems like it is purely a romance novel, it really isn’t as much as you would think. In a good way of course. A Bride for Keeps is threaded with feelings of guilt, pain, rejection, and worthlessness that I found I related with on so many levels. Many times I found myself begging Julia and Everett to see that they were worth so much more than they thought they were. To me, it made this story more understandable, more thought provoking, more touching than it would have been otherwise. That is why I give it all five bookmarks. It reached my heart in ways some books never can.
        Also, there is an e-novella—Love By the Letter—that precedes A Bride for Keeps that you can get for free on your Kindle or Nook (there’s a link to it on my Amazon Store). It’s a really great short story that first got me hooked on Melissa’s writing, so I would definitely suggest checking that out before you try this one.
        Happy reading!!!

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Melissa Jagears and her publishers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Bookshelf: The Alaskan Quest series by Tracie Peterson

        Today I am reviewing all three of the books in Tracie Peterson's Alaskan Quest series because my copies are a three-in-one book like the one shown above. So, the descriptions won't be quite as long, but they will still be good, just like the books. Also, do you like the few changes I have made to my blog's appearance? I thought, since I'm trying to re-devote myself to working on it, it could use a face-lift.

        Leah Barringer and her brother, Jacob, have come to love the rugged Alaskan Territory they call home. But when Jacob determines to join an arctic expedition, Leah realizes her heart yearns for more than this solitary existence.
      The unexpected arrival of Jayce Kincaid, the man who spurned her ten years before, awakens feelings that Leah would much prefer to leave buried. As Jayce sets out to prove he’s a changed man, Leah cannot deny the effect he once again has upon her. But the appearance of a young investigator casts a cloud over Jayce’s past…and over Leah’s dreams for the future.

        Summer of the Midnight Sun is the first book in the Alaskan Quest series, and its honestly one of my favorites. But then, I love all three of them. Tracie Peterson does an excellent job of weaving a mystery into this novel that connects to the two following it. You really are left guessing until the very end of the last book, and that is something I love about this series. I also just really love Leah. She makes a great heroine.

        When Pinkerton agent Helaina Beecham's obsession with capturing a dangerous fugitive dulls her judgment, she is kidnapped and carried off into the wilderness just as an early winter is approaching.
      Now her only hope is that Jacob Barringer—the man who has captured her heart—will find her before it is too late.

        Under the Northern Lights is (you guessed it) the second book in the series, and—don’t hate me—another one of my favorites. Helaina—don’t you just LOVE that name—is another great heroine, and I really love her approach to things. She's pretty no-nonesense and practical, except for when it has to do with Jacob, that is. Plus, she handles her kidnapping really well for someone who knows her kidnapper's entire backstory.

        The unforgiving descent of Alaskan winter has Jayce Kincaid and Jacob Barringer struggling for survival after their ship is trapped in the ice floes of the Arctic.
        Back at Last Chance Creek, Leah and Helaina endure the long separation—Leah wondering if her children will ever know their father, and Helaina longing for the chance to express her love to Jacob.
          When unexpected loss invades their world and tragedy looms once again, will they find the strength to trust in God's faithfulness?

      Whispers of Winter is the final book of the series, and my favorite mystery of all. Although it isn't as mysterious as the previous ones, somehow I like the aspects of this one better. And even though it is sad that Jayce and Jacob are struggling for survival, their absence sure does make for a good story.
       So, because I just love Alaska, the characters, and these stories, all three get five bookshelves. It also doesn't hurt that I was able to get all three in one big book that made them considerably cheaper.
       Happy reading!

You can pick up one or all three of these novels here.
All credit for the italicized synopses goes to Tracie Peterson and her publishers. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

        What is the secret that could shipwreck both of their lives?
        All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she’s left destitute and with no place to stay.
        An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He’s just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other’s dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household.
        Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife’s death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.

        Emma Chambers has known a great deal of hardship and strife in her relatively short life, which has led her to long for a home and family to call her own. When a traveling minister approaches her with a suggestion that would give her all she’s ever wanted, she hesitantly agrees. But nothing has prepared her for being a wife and mother, and as the days go by, she wonders if she is equipped to be a good helper for Patrick. Not only that, but she is sure Patrick is hiding something from her. Will he ever feel close enough to her to tell her his secrets?
        Love Unexpected was the first book I ever read by Jody Hedlund, but I absolutely loved it. While I didn’t expect it to be nearly that good, I was definitely glad for the surprise. With a hint of mystery and TONS of moments that will melt you right there in your chair, Love Unexpected deserves every one of the five bookshelves I am giving it. I cannot wait for the next one in the series!! You’ll hear about it at the end of the month when I do my ‘new releases’ post. Anyway, I would recommend this book to anyone really, especially someone who loves a good happy ending.
        Happy reading!

Pick up a copy here!

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Jody Hedlund and her publishers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chasing Sunsets by Karen Kingsbury

        Growing up in a comfortable home, Mary Catherine wanted for nothing. Though she loves her wealthy parents, their lifestyle never appealed to her. Instead, Mary Catherine pursues meaning through charity work, giving away a part of herself but never giving away her heart.
        Now Mary Catherine lives in Los Angeles with her roommate, Sami, and volunteers at a local youth center with baseball coach Tyler Ames and LA Dodgers pitcher Marcus Dillinger. Despite Mary Catherine’s intention to stay single, she finds herself drawing close to Marcus, and their budding romance offers an exciting life she’s never dreamed of. That is, until she receives devastating news from her doctor. News that alters her future and forces her to make a rash decision.
        Inspirational and moving, Chasing Sunsets is the story of one woman’s deep longings of the soul, and the sacrifices she’s willing to make in search of healing.

        Chasing Sunsets is the second book in Karen Kingsbury’s Angels Walking series, coming after Angels Walking, which I read and reviewed just a month ago (you can find the review by clicking on the title). I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t picked it up yet, but let’s just say you’re not going to be very happy with Karen after you finish this novel. Why? Because she leaves you hanging in the worst way and the third book—A Brush of Wings—doesn’t come out until November. Clearly that’s only six months, but that is a long time to wait since I must know what happens to these characters I have come to love. Today. Seriously though, I guarantee you’re going to love this book.
        Mary Catherine loves adventure. Swimming with dolphins, jumping from planes; if it makes her feel alive, whole, and connected with God, it’s for her. Having no desire to let life pass her by, she lives every day to the fullest, whether she’s out on an adventure or nearby serving others. While she’s never allowed herself to be open to love, she knows if she did, he would have to be real. So when she finds herself getting closer to Marcus—who shows her just how real he is—she can’t help but start to fall for him. Will she be able to keep her heart safe, or is she destined for an adventure unlike any she has ever known?
        Marcus Dillinger’s life has changed in ways he never could have imagined. When he challenged God to give him something to live for so he would know He was real months ago, he didn’t expect all that would happen, or that he would end up opening a youth center in the heart of one of the worst places—the home to two rivaling gangs. As he continues to grow in his newfound faith, he finds himself drawn to the beautiful and unique Mary Catherine. She is unlike any girl he has ever known, in the best of ways. He is sure that he could love her, if she’ll let him. Will he choose to pursue her, or will her rash decision change everything for the both of them?
        Doesn’t that sound like something you want to read? And not only does Chasing Sunsets get five bookshelves and have an ending that leaves you hanging, it is totally unpredictable! It has a never-saw-it-coming, makes-you-ready-for-November kind of finish that will leave you breathless, if you read it like I did. I read from chapter nine to the end—241 pages—in one sitting. That might be a little much for some people, but it was worth it. If you don’t want to read that much at once, try just the last 41 pages. All at once I mean. That’s where most of the unexpected things happen. No matter what, just get this book! If you don’t love it, it’s not my fault, cause it is AMAZING!

        Happy reading!

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Karen Kingsbury and her publishers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Bookshelf: The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

                Banished from the only home she’s ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative’s estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way knows how—by writing novels in secret.
                When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But there are many things he doesn’t know about this beguiling outcast. Will he risk his plans—and his heart—for a woman shadowed by scandal?

        Fleeing from scandal, Mariah Aubrey must hide away in a gatehouse on the land of a distant relative. While she supports herself by secretly penning novels, she fights feelings of loneliness and abandonment as her family has appeared to carry on without her. Will she ever be able to find love and resume her life as it was before, or is she doomed to hide forever?
        The Girl in the Gatehouse was one of the first books I ever read by Julie Klassen, but it isn’t one of my favorites. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. Clearly I loved this novel or I wouldn’t have gotten myself a copy. The reason it wasn’t ‘one of my favorites’ is because I have read all eight of Ms. Klassen’s books, and every one of them have made it to my ‘favorite books of all time’ list. So to say that The Girl in the Gatehouse is one of my favorite books by her wouldn’t really mean a thing. Besides, I can’t decide. Every novel has enough intrigue and mystery, love and trials all set in regency England that make each one of them perfect stories.
        The Girl in the Gatehouse receives a resounding five bookshelves from me, along with its place on my list of favorites. Go check it out, I promise you won’t regret it!
        Happy reading!

Pick up your own copy of this book here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Julie Klassen and her publishers.