Monday, June 29, 2015

Must-Have July Releases

The Wonder of You

        Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.
        Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.
        While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

        This is the fifth book in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series, and I have been anticipating it since I finished the fourth one—Always on My Mind—a couple of weeks ago. There were little hints about Amelia’s story mixed into Casper’s, so I am excited to finally find out what really happened, and how it plays out. I also just really enjoyed all of the other siblings’ stories I’ve read so far; Darek’s—Take a Chance on Me—Eden’s—It Had to Be You—Grace’s—When I Fall in Love—and Casper’s. Susan May Warren had me falling in love with the Christiansen’s since page one of the first book, so I know this is a book I will be reading as soon as I can.

Pick up any of the Christiansen Family novels here!

Lady Maybe

        One final cry…”God Almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…
        Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.
        But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

        Since I am a huge Julie Klassen fan and have read every single one of her books so far, I have been looking forward to this book for quite a while. It sounds utterly amazing, and I know Julie will not disappoint, as she never has yet. I’ve already pre-ordered myself a copy, so you will be hearing what I think about it sometime soon after it releases.

Get a copy of this book here.

The Curiosity Keeper

“It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail’s egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whoever possesses it.”
        Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille must allow a mysterious stranger to come to her aid.
        Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content to work as the village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may be the answer to his many questions.
        Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, these two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, they will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

        Since I just absolutely love mysteries, the description from this book completely intrigues me. It leaves so much to the imagination, and makes me want to dive right in every time I read about it. That’s why I’ve also pre-ordered this one as well. Besides, Sarah E. Ladd always writes the perfect historical romances.

Want a copy of the perfect historical romance? Pick one up here.

A Bride at Last

        Abandoned by his mail-order bride, Silas Jonesey has fought an uphill battle to recover from a pattern of poor choices. Now his prayers for reconciliation have finally come true and his estranged wife has contacted him with her whereabouts.
        Kate Dawson was supposed to be a mail-order bride, but upon realizing she’d been deceived about her intended groom, she’s now settled into life as a schoolteacher. When the mother of a student passes away, Kate assumes she’ll take on care of nine-year-old Anthony—until two men suddenly show up in town, claiming to be the boy’s father.
        Silas can see Anthony loves Kate, so he enlists her help in reaching out to the boy and attempting to prove his paternity to the court. When a common interest in Anthony leads to an interest in each other and Silas and Kate begin to think they can overcome their rocky start, neither is prepared for the secrets and past hurts that have yet to come to light. Can Silas, Kate, and Anthony’s wounded souls bind them together or will all that stands between them leave them lonely forever?

        As the third book in Melissa Jagears’ Unexpected Brides series, I have had time to anticipate this novel as I have read the first two, A Bride for Keeps and A Bride in Store. Both were absolutely wonderful, as I am sure this one will be as well!

You can pick up any of the books in this series here.

In Good Company

        After growing up as an orphan, Mille Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen. Unfortunately, her playfulness and enthusiasm aren’t always well-received and she finds herself dismissed from yet another position.
        Everett Mulberry has quite unexpectedly become guardian to three children that scare off every nanny he hires. About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he’s desperate for competent childcare.
        At wit’s end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance—with each other. As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges, Everett focuses on achieving the coveted societal status of the upper echelons. But as he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the children’s parents, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life?

        The second book in Jen Turano’s A Class of Their Own series—After a Fashion being the first—is another book I have been anticipating for a while. I finished After a Fashion only a couple of weeks ago—I read it in a day to be exact—and I absolutely loved it. Jen does an amazing job of making you feel transported to whatever place and year she is writing about, and all of her interesting heroines are sure to keep you laughing. This is a novel you cannot miss!

Don't miss it! Grab a copy of either book in this series here!

Refining Fire

        Twenty-two-year-old Militine Scott is in training at the Madison Bridal School in Seattle, yet she has no intention of pursuing marriage. What respectable man would have her? But she has found the school provides the perfect opportunity to keep her unsavory past hidden.
        Thane Patton, though fun-loving and fiercely loyal to his friends, hides a dark secret as well. He finds himself drawn to Militine, sensing that she harbors a haunting pain similar to his own.
        Will they allow God to make something new and beautiful from the debris of their pasts?

        Also the second book in its series, Refining Fire comes after Steadfast Heart. I am afraid that I did not enjoy Steadfast Heart nearly as much as I thought I would, so I am not nearly as excited about Refining Fire as the other novels on this list, but I am hoping this book will be better than the first.

Grab yourself a copy of either Refining Fire or Steadfast Heart here.

To Capture Her Heart

In an uncertain time, she faces a choice that will change her life forever.
        It is 1653 and Heather Flower, a princess of the Montaukett tribe, is celebrating her wedding feast when a rival tribe attacks, killing the groom and kidnapping her. Though her ransom is paid by an Englishman, she is bound by her captors and left to die—until she finds herself rescued by handsome Dutch Lieutenant Dirk Van Buren.
        Still tender from her loss, Heather Flower begins to heal in the home of the Hortons, English friends of her people. Torn between her affection for Dirk and her longtime friendship with Ben Horton, Heather Flower must make a difficult choice—stay true to her friend or follow her heart.

        Another second in its series, The Southold Chronicles, I know why I'm looking forward to this book. One of the reasons is because I know Ben from the book before. The other reason is because I hope to find this novel not as slow going as A Place in His Heart.

You can purchase your own copy of A Place in His Heart or To Capture Her Heart here.

            Those are the July releases I'm most looking forward to! I hope you'll check them out and look for my reviews of them in the future!

All credit for the italicized synopses goes to each author and their publishers.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Quarterly Round-Up: April-June

        Today I am posting about all of the books I have read this quarter, from April to June. Since I have read more than twenty, that is quite a list, but I have loved every one of them (click on titles for full reviews).

        I think this was my favorite out of the two in the series (The Gregory Sisters) that I have read so far. It was completely fantastic, and the mystery was a wonderful added touch.

Pick yourself up a copy here!

        Although I enjoyed many parts of this story, the ending had a huge disconnect that I could not ignore, which made it my least favorite in the series. I am still looking forward to reading the third book, however, and still rank this one as a solid four-bookshelf novel.

Love mysteries? Check this one out here!

        I had been highly anticipating this novel for months, as I am a huge fan of Karen, and this book did not disappoint. I completely devoured it, and still cannot stop thinking about all of the wonderful, angel-filled moments that reminded me just how amazing God is.

Find out just amazing He is here!

        This second book in Karen’s Angels Walking Series as also highly anticipated, especially after I read the first, and I loved this one even more than its predecessor. I completely fell in love with Marcus, and Mary Catherine, whose story reminded me so much of mine—in certain parts that is. My only fault with this novel is that it left me hanging on the side of a cliff—metaphorically speaking—and I have to wait until November to find out what happens next.

Fall in love with these characters here!

        This was only the second Susan May Warren book I had read—I found it as a Bargain buy—but I was so glad I bought it, and read it of course. I have loved every single book by Susan to date, and the mystery she weaved into this one made it even more enjoyable.

Pick yourself up a copy here!

        Even though this was the first book I had ever read by Jody, it made me a life-long fan of her writing. This novel effortlessly made its way onto my all-time favorites list, and is one I will always remember. Especially as I read the second and eventually the third—when it finally releases.

Pick up a copy here!

        This book was the first one I read by this author as well. I enjoyed it immensely, especially since I love novels where the couple gets married before they fall in love. Clearly it makes for a wonderful story, and this book was no exception.

Fall in love with this book by grabbing a copy here.

        As the second book in Melissa’s Unexpected Brides series, I already knew what I was getting into when I started this book. It met my expectations and more by topping the novel before it.

Read this amazing novel here.

        Once again, a first for me by this author. This was also the first book in her Chapel Springs series, but I cannot say it was my favorite. I enjoyed it, but there were a few stylistic things that bothered me about it, which forced me to give it less bookshelves. It didn’t diminish my love for her characters, however, and that is a good thing.

Check it out here!

        When I started out planning this post, I decided I would pick one novel that I loved above all the others I read this quarter. This book is it. Although I went into this second book in the Chapel Springs series worried that it would bother me like the first, I found no faults within its pages, and now call it one of my favorites of all time. It was impossible to put down, absolutely swoon-worthy, and a novel I know I will read again and again.

Grab your own copy here!

        As the third book in the series, I wasn’t sure if it would have faults like the first or be absolutely wonderful like the second, but it turned out to be a perfectly happy medium, though it leaned more towards the second. It was wonderful and also hard to put down, had no faults in my opinion, but just wasn’t quite as amazing. It is a worthy read, however.

You can pick up a copy here!

        This was the final book in Denise’s Chapel Springs series, and was by far my second favorite, barely falling behind Dancing with Fireflies. It didn’t release until three and a half weeks after I finished The Wishing Season, so I had been anticipating it for a while. I pre-ordered it on Amazon, so I received it the day it released, and I started—and finished—it the next day. It only took me about four hours to read it, and I loved every moment. This is another I will read over and over, especially because Ryan and Abby continually had be bouncing between laughter and swoons.

Live Original by Sadie Robertson
        I really enjoyed reading this inspiring teenager's book full of encouraging tips on how to just be you. This was the only non-fiction book I finished this quarter, but it was more than enough. If you're ever looking for a good devotional, this is the book to get.

        Although I fear being redundant, I have to say, this was another first for me. I had never read anything by Vanetta, but I must say I was thoroughly impressed with her Amish/Englisch romance/mystery. It was easy to read, hard to figure out, and definitely memorable.

Check it out here!

        This second book in the Amish Village Mystery series was just as good as the first, although for different reasons. Either way, I enjoyed it and found it one to remember as well. Though I cannot say it was necessarily one of my favorites this quarter, I am eagerly anticipating reading the third.

Pick up this novel here!

        After reading this first book in Susan’s Christiansen Family series, I knew I would be reading a lot more of her novels over the next couple of weeks, because I completely fell in love with the Christiansens. Darek was no exception, although he isn’t my favorite brother. I loved watching him grow as I made my way through the book, and know I will be returning to this series again sometime in the near future.

Take a chance on this book here!

        Since Eden constantly reminded me so much of myself, I couldn’t help but love her story. I also never expected how it all would pan out, and was surprised with each chapter. This book was definitely worth the read.

Check it out here!

        I think this was my favorite Christiansen novel so far. Grace and Max’s story resonated with me in a way many books never do, and it really did have the sweetest moments. I know this is a novel I will remember forever.

Fall in love with this book here.

        Casper Christiansen is the kind of man many women only dream of. Need I say more? His sweet personality made this novel the perfect read, and the wonderful storyline only made it even better. This is another book I will most definitely be reading again.

Grab a copy of this wonderful novel here.

        Once again, this was another first for me. Although I wasn’t sure about it going in, I found this a wonderful read, and added Sarah to my list of authors to keep an eye on. I enjoyed this book far more than I expected, and thought her World War II setting made for the perfect story.  

Pick up this perfect story here.

        I have read almost all of Jen’s novels, so I already knew going in that this book would be wonderful. She has a way of creating the best historical romances that make me long to be able to write like her. This novel made me even more of a believer in her talents.

Are you a believer? Then grab her novel here!

        I have been a fan of Tracie’s writing since I first read one of her novels over three years ago. Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me, and wasn't one I enjoyed. There were just too many things wrong with this one for it to be enjoyable.

Although I wasn't a fan, you might be. Check it out here.

        This was also another first for me. I found it an interesting read, as the facts about colonial times were impeccable and very fun to learn, but I cannot say it was one of my favorites.

This book was still enjoyable, and I still recommend you pick it up here.

        Those are the books I have read the past three months! I am excited to see if I read more next quarter!
        Happy reading!

The wonderful pictures from this post were taken by my sister Allie. Check out her blog here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Bride in Store by Melissa Jagears

        Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn’t even in town when she finally arrives.
        Axel’s business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend’s mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store—where she quickly proves she’s much more adept at business than he ever will be.
        The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they’re willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams—or if God has a new dream in store for them both.

        Eliza Cantrell has dreamed of owning her own store since she was a little girl. So when her father gives his store to her much-less-capable older brother, she feels betrayed. After making the decision to become a mail-order bride, she takes a chance and sets out a week early, only to have her train robbed and everything she had stolen. To top it off, when she arrives, her groom-to-be, Axel, is nowhere to be found. Waiting for him to appear, Eliza helps Will, Axel’s partner, out in their store, but she starts to wonder if this was the best decision after all. She and Will share a chemistry she cannot ignore, and how much does she really know about Axel anyway? When Axel finally returns, will Eliza go forward with her plans, or will she realize some much bigger dreams? And do they include Will?
        A Bride in Store is the second book in Melissa Jagears’ Unexpected Brides series, but I cannot decide if it is my favorite or not. It was just so completely different from A Bride for Keeps that I really cannot compare them that way. Although, one thing I found in both—a deep spiritual struggle that I could relate to on many levels—even though the struggles were different. In A Bride in Store, there were so many issues that all of us face, such as difficulty believing in ourselves—which both Will and Eliza struggled with, though for different reasons—feelings of regret when someone passes and you feel you could have done more for them, or anger at the unfairness of an innocent child’s death before their life even begins. I will not give you the answers, partially for fear of ruining the book, but mainly because that is something for you to find out for yourself as you set out to read this novel. I believe each of us will see the answers a little differently, because all of us are not in the same place in our relationships with God, so I couldn’t accurately describe them anyway.
        I also loved the way both Eliza and Will struggled with discovering what is really what their heart desires and what it was the Lord was calling them to do. Honestly, I think everyone has difficulty separating their desires from their callings; I know I have struggled with that on multiple occasions. And, Eliza’s fear was grounded. Say you follow your heart and give up your plans to chase the man of your dreams, what happens ten years later when life is hard, things are tough, and you miss the plans you had made. Will you be able to continue to let them go, or will you leave the man of your dreams for your long-lost plans? In all reality, the only answer I have for you is chase the Lord, do as he says, and everything else will fall into place. And, sometimes, you’ll be surprised when God blesses you more abundantly than you could ever imagine by giving you both, the man and the plans. You never know what could happen!
        Anyway, A Bride in Store (obviously) gave me a lot to think about, and at the same time was still that sweet story I expected when reading the description on the back. It easily deserves all five bookshelves, if not more, and has become one to read again and again. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did!
        Happy reading!

You can find every book from this series here.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Place in His Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

She could cross an ocean, but could she ever win his heart?
        Anglican Mary Langton longs to marry for love. Left at the altar and disgraced in her small hamlet, she is being pressured to marry the eligible son of the London milliner. Puritan Barnabas Horton still grieves the loss of his beloved wife, but he knows his two young sons need a mother.
        With tender hearts, Mary and Barnabas take a leap of faith and wed. But when Barnabas’s secret plans to move his family to the New World to escape persecution come to light, Mary’s world is upended. How could she possibly leave her papa and her dear sister?
        And will she ever reach the secret places of her husband’s broken heart?

        A Place in His Heart is the only book I have ever read by Rebecca DeMarino, so I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. Let me just say, considering the fact that this was her first published novel, I was pleasantly surprised. Whenever I find a new author, I either fear that their works will bother me to such a degree that I cannot finish the book, or feel that they will become one of my new favorite writers (let me be clear that I rarely ever find novels that I cannot finish). Clearly I am a little silly for going from one extreme to the other, but I do very often find new authors I love simply by reading one of their books. However, this was not one of those times. I did enjoy this novel, but there were a few things about it that I could not ignore.
        One of which is the fact that it was very slow moving. Not much happened in the middle part of this novel, though it covered a span of more than ten years. I felt like many of the scenes added nothing to the story and were purely filler, and that disappointed me greatly. The main theme of this novel was a great idea, but I just am not sure it was well executed. On the other hand, Rebecca’s facts were impeccable. I could tell she spent hours researching for this story.
        Like I’ve said before, I hate writing bad reviews, so I’m a bit at war with myself. Although, I’m not sure if this could qualify as a bad review. I mean, I am giving it four bookshelves. I just felt a little lost in the monotony of the story, especially as it was a bit repetitive. I am still looking forward to the second novel in this series, however, so I would say this is a worthy read. Just a bit off for my tastes. Fortunately I still was able to enjoy it, and you just might too!
        Happy reading!

Pick up a copy of this book here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Rebecca DeMarino and her publishers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Bookshelf: There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.
        Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.
        She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will’s travel journal. It’s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.
        Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.
        Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?
        Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she’s been looking for has been with her all along?

        Finley Sinclair’s life turned upside down when her older brother, Will, died, and she has yet to find a way to cope. With her approaching interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, she knows she must compose her audition piece, but nothing has sounded right since Will died. Desperate, she decides to study abroad in the one place Will always felt closest to God, Ireland. But even as she starts to settle into her new routine, her life continues to spin out of control. Will God help her fix this mess she’s made, or will she never find the peace she so desperately seeks?
        There You’ll Find Me is one of my favorite books by Jenny B. Jones—I’ve read all but three of her novels—coming in second place to the story that goes before it, Save the Date, which is about Will’s twin brother Alex. Both are hilarious, heart-wrenching tales, but I’ll write more about Save the Date another day. Anyway, I have read There You’ll Find Me multiple times, obviously I can since it’s in my personal collection, and it gets better every time. Although now I know how it ends, every time I read it, I find another dimension to the story I hadn’t noticed before, especially if I read Save the Date first. Finley is present in that novel as well, and getting to see her—and Will’s tragic death—from someone else’s eyes really adds to the tale.
        One of the things I love about this book is how real Finley and Beckett are, even though Finley’s parents are pretty well off and Beckett is a movie star. Beckett is just about as down to earth as a person could be—and he’s super sweet—and the way Finley copes, or doesn’t, with her pain makes her all the more relatable. That’s another thing about this story. Jenny does such an amazing job weaving all the parts together, they pull you in until you’re hooked and always leave you anticipating what comes next with little hints that keep you guessing. And the way it all ends, oh my goodness, it’s perfection. This book will have you crying a lot, especially in the parts leading up to the conclusion, and then, bam, you’re hugging the book to your chest and sighing because of how wonderfully it all works out. But then, Jenny’s novels tend to end that way.
        Anyway, this novel is an outstanding work of fiction that well deserves all five bookshelves. I know that I will be reading it many more times, possibly even soon, along with some of her other novels. I’ve already read Save the Date at least three times, and I’ve read her Charmed Life series more than once. She just knows how to create funny, heart-gripping novels that always leave you longing for more, and on top of that, some—the Charmed Life for instance—are mysteries. You simply cannot go without reading at least one of her books in your lifetime, and I promise you, once you read one, you’ll read them all.
        Happy reading!

You can pick up both There You'll Find Me and Save the Date here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Jenny B. Jones and her publishers.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Steadfast Heart by Tracie Peterson

        Despite her spoiled upbringing, twenty-year-old Lenore Fulcher isn’t pretentious. She simply believes a marriage should be built on true love. Her father, however, thinks she’s wasted enough time searching for the perfect husband. He wants to marry her off to one of his business partners—who is seventeen years her senior—an idea that is out of the question for Lenore.
        Kolbein Booth, a young lawyer from Chicago, arrives in Seattle looking for his headstrong sister, who he believes may have answered an advertisement for mail-order brides. Sick with worry, he storms into the Madison Bridal School, demanding to see his sister, only to learn she isn’t there. But Lenore Fulcher is, and something about her captures his attention.
        Is this the man Lenore has been searching for? She may not have long to find out…

        I am writing this review a little bit differently than I usually do; you'll see why in a moment. Let me start of by saying that I have read many of Tracie Peterson’s novels and, up to this point, have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. She usually has a wonderful writing style that draws you into the setting, the story, and makes you love the characters. Clearly you can see why I would be disappointed when this book fell flat for me. Now, I hate writing bad reviews, but some things just have to be said, so I’m going to try to explain this in the nicest way possible. And, hopefully, you won’t find any of the information I relate contains spoilers.
        Based on the synopsis, you would think this novel—the first book in Tracie’s Brides of Seattle series—focuses on Lenore and Kolbein, correct? Wrong. I expected it to as well, and was extremely disappointed when I found that at least one-third of the book—if not more—was actually about Lenore’s best friend Abrianna, whose own book is supposed to be the third in the series (releasing in October). With so much of the book being devoted to another character—and the six point of views this novel bounced between—I had a hard time really getting to know Lenore and Kolbein. What little I did learn about the two of them was not necessarily very good, with Lenore being a bit shallow and whiny, and Kolbein being somewhat judgmental and very wishy-washy.
        On another note, the romantic aspect of this novel was very difficult to find believable. Lenore and Kolbein ‘fell in love’, and got engaged, rather quickly, had a fight, practically broke off the engagement, and then all of a sudden, with hardly any mention to their struggle with the subject, made up and started planning their wedding once more. As well as that, Kolbein’s search for his sister is picked up and dropped and then picked up again so many times it almost seemed like he didn’t really care enough about it, but then he would be in so much pain over it a few minutes later. And his sudden realization that she had ‘grown up’ once things were resolved didn’t help matters either. Also, for a man who was madly in love with Lenore, he spent a good amount of time trying to convince Abrianna that she was a beautiful woman.
        On that subject, let me speak a little about Lenore’s friend. Abrianna is portrayed as a heart-of-gold, fearless do-gooder who has no worries for her own safety, and has serious self-worth issues. Without regard for the dangers of the world, she constantly escapes the confines of the bridal school she lives in to help the poor and needy in the worst areas of town, completely and utterly alone. And we are assured—more than twenty times to be exact—that her friend Wade Ackerman is like a brother to her and is VERY concerned for her welfare. So, it appears someone is attempting to look after her, although apparently not enough because she sneaks out anyway, despite the fact that three men are murdered right outside their home. That is another issue I have with this book, as the murders are never resolved. I am curious to see if that is part of a lead-in for the next book, which releases July 7th, so I will most likely be reading that one as well. I am hoping that—as has been the case before with other authors—the second book will turn out better than the first.
        All-in-all, I did find a few things I liked about this novel. I do love the idea of a Bridal School, as it makes for some very interesting stories, and the three ladies who ran it did give me a few laughs. I also fell in love with Abrianna’s friend Wade, and am hoping to hear more about him in the following books, although Abrianna is a little to chatty and flighty for my tastes. Unfortunately, I have to limit this novel to only three bookshelves but, if fluffy, somewhat disconnected stories are something you like to read, you might very well enjoy this novel more than I did.
        Happy reading!

If you want to try this book for yourself or pick up the next one in the series, you can find both here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Tracie Peterson and her publishers.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

After a Fashion by Jen Turano

        Miss Harriet Peabody dreams of the day she can open up a shop selling refashioned gowns to independent working women like herself. Unfortunately, when an errand for her millinery shop job goes sadly awry due to a difficult customer, she finds herself without an income.
        Mr. Oliver Addleshaw is on the verge of his biggest business deal yet when he learns his potential partner prefers to deal with men who are settled down and wed. When Oliver witnesses his ex not-quite-fiancée causing the hapless Harriet to lose her job, he tries to make it up to her by enlisting her help in making a good impression on his business partner.
        Harriet quickly finds her love of fashion can’t make her fashionable. She’ll never truly fit into Oliver’s world, with its fancy dinners and elegant balls, but just as she’s ready to call off the fake relationship a threat from her past forces both Oliver and Harriet to discover that love can come in the most surprising packages. 

        Harriet Peabody has always dreamed of putting her difficult past behind her and opening her very own store that sells refashioned gowns to independent women. Unfortunately her vivacious and somewhat unconventional personality plays a part in helping a simple errand become a spectacle that causes her to lose her position at a millinery shop. With nowhere else to turn, Harriet reluctantly accepts an offer she never ordinarily would, for a job that will change her life.
        Oliver Addleshaw is an upstanding businessman who is at a loss to how he got himself into such a big mess with the woman who claims to be his fiancée. When she causes Harriet to lose her job, he feels himself partially responsible, and so comes up with an outlandish scheme to help Harriet, as well as aid himself in making a good impression on his soon-to-be business partner. What he doesn’t expect is to find himself questioning all he thought he held dear.
        After a Fashion is the first book in Jen Turano’s A Class of Their Own series, and is a novel that I have been eagerly anticipating reading for quite some time. I have read most of the books in her other series, and loved them very much, so I knew this novel would be one I would enjoy. While Jen is very talented at creating the most endearing characters, it is her heroines that I love the most. They are always independent, headstrong women who know what they want from life, and aren’t afraid to go get it. As you can imagine, that makes for some very hilarious interactions!
        After a Fashion was extremely entertaining, and, thanks to a horrible migraine that had me in bed most of the day, I started—and finished—this book on Monday. I read it in only a few hours, but that was because I just couldn’t put it away, headache or no. With all of the funny moments and unexpected turns that filled this book, I couldn’t help loving it. Now, it is on my all-time favorites list, and it has received all five bookmarks from me. Clearly I would recommend this novel to absolutely anyone, and I am extremely excited for the second installment—In Good Company—which releases next month!
        Happy reading!

Interested in this book, or the next one in the series? Check them out here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Jen Turano and her publishers.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Bookshelf: Married 'til Monday by Denise Hunter

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 party 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?

        Ryan McKinley cannot forget his ex-wife, Abby. He’s even gone so far as to buy her dream house, which only made things worse. While he knows he made so many mistakes when they were married, he still wonders if—were he to have another chance—he could make up for them. So when Abby’s parents call him about their 35th anniversary party, he believes this might be his second chance.
        Abby McKinley has never been very close to either of her parents. So, instead of disappointing them, she just never told them about the divorce. Now, as her mother pressures her into promising to attend her party, she wonders how she will be able to continue to keep it a secret. Then Ryan shows up at her house, still just as handsome as she remembers, and claims he is going to Summer Harbor too. How will Abby be able to pretend to love this man while they’re with her parents and yet keep her distance, and does she even want to?
        Married ‘til Monday is the fourth and final installment in Denise Hunter’s Chapel Springs series, and is my second favorite of the bunch. Obviously nothing can top Dancing with Fireflies since that is now one of my favorite novels of all time, but Married ‘til Monday managed to come very close. With the hilarious banter between Ryan and Abby and the complete unexpectedness of it all, this book was everything I had been hoping it would be. When I realized just how much I enjoyed Barefoot Summer, Dancing with Fireflies, and The Wishing Season, I knew I had to have this novel. So, I pre-ordered it, and then read it all the day after I received it, which was also the day after it released.
        After having a few days to mull over it—Married ‘til Monday released on the 9th—I have found that I really cannot forget what I read between its pages. I found it full of heartbreaking moments, sarcastic comments, and romantic gestures that had me unable to put it down, and even now I would honestly read it again in an instant. Good thing I bought it, huh? Anyway, this novel is well deserving of all five bookshelves, and is a well recommended, read-again, kind of story that will leave you longing for more.
        Happy reading!

All credit for the photo goes to my wonderful sister, Allie. Check out her blog here.

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Always on My Mind by Susan May Warren

        After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.
        Heartbroken, especially when he discovers the identity of the baby’s father, Casper tables his dreams and determines to be dependable for once, helping his older brother, Darek, prepare the family resort for its grand reopening. Casper longs to be the hero of at least one family story, but a never-ending Deep Haven winter and costly repairs threaten their efforts—and the future of the resort.
        Worse, one of Casper’s new jobs constantly brings him into contact with Raina, whom he can’t seem to forget. A tentative friendship begins to heal fresh wounds, but can they possibly overcome past mistakes and current choices to discover a future together?

        Casper Christiansen cannot get Raina Beaumont out of his head, no matter how hard he tries and even though he left Deep Haven six months ago for an archaeology dig in Honduras. Deciding to return and face Raina, he receives a huge surprise when he finds her pregnant with someone else’s baby. In an attempt to ease his heartbreak, Casper returns to the family resort and attempts to help Darek get it back up and running. As the middle child who never seemed to accomplish nearly as much as his older and younger brothers, Casper longs to do something great, to be someone’s hero. But as Raina continues to push him away and winter gets colder and colder, will Casper ever find his happy ending, or will he run away again as soon as the snow thaws?
        Always on My Mind is the fourth book in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series, falling after Take a Chance on Me, It Had to Be You, and When I Fall in Love. I cannot say which one is my favorite so far, but I do think Casper is my favorite Christiansen, and I know he’s my favorite of the brothers. He is so sweet, determined, caring, and compassionate, and I just love how he continues to pursue Raina. As Jenny Flanigan said in Karen Kingsbury’s Bailey Flanigan novels, “like a dying man looking for water in a desert”. I do believe Casper fits that description. Clearly you can understand how that would melt my heart.
        I also loved reading about how God slowly softened Raina’s heart as the book went on, until she could escape Him—and Casper—no longer. Although it may seem hard to love anyone who would break someone like Casper’s heart over and over again, I did find myself feeling as if Raina was a close friend of mine. She struggled all throughout the book with her past, her mistakes, and her choices, and I found that reading from her perspective helped me to realize just how much the events of this book hurt her as well.
        Anyway, my point is to say that both characters were extremely loveable, and this book most certainly touched my heart. It was, in true Susan May Warren style, a wonderful story about redemption, love, and second chances that well deserves all five bookshelves. I enjoyed all four Christiansen Family novels so far, and am eagerly anticipating reading Amelia’s story—which comes out next month—and Owen’s, which I haven’t actually read about yet but I am hoping Susan will release a cover soon.
        Happy reading!

All credit for the above italicized synopsis goes to Susan May Warren and her publishers.

Friday, June 12, 2015

When I Fall In Love by Susan May Warren

        Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.
        Maxwell Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.
        Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.

        Grace Christiansen has never wanted to leave Deep Haven. Despite her mother’s belief that she should chase adventure, Grace has always been content with her safe, predictable life. So when her family books her a spot on a cooking retreat in far-away Hawaii, she is reluctant to accept, especially after she finds out her brother-in-law has asked former teammate and regular at the cooking retreat Max Sharpe to ‘babysit her’. Spending time with Max, however, is not exactly what Grace expected, and she feels drawn to him as the days go by. Will she take a leap of faith and dream of something outside of Deep Haven, or will she be forever stuck in her safe little box of a life?
        Maxwell Sharpe had no intention of babysitting Grace Christiansen. This Hawaii trip was the much needed vacation he anticipated every year, and he wasn’t letting some uptight wannabe chef ruin it. As he gets to know Grace, he finds that she’s not at all what he thought she would be, and he dares to dream of something more. When he his reminded of his personal fears, Max pulls away, leaving Grace, and himself, heartbroken. Can he face his demons and make things up to Grace, or is he destined to be alone forever?
        When I Fall in Love, the third book in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series, was by far one of the best books I have ever read. I expected it to be wonderful, as I have loved all of her books and Take a Chance on Me and It Had to Be You—the first two books in the series—but I didn’t expect it to be that amazing. Max is completely and utterly swoon-worthy, mainly for the way he treats Grace. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say, every girl dreams of that kind of affection. Even while he runs from her, he is still just the perfect man, and is even more so towards the end, for reasons I cannot tell you. But, as I have with LOTS of novels, especially this one, I find the picture below (which I found on Pinterest) very accurate. It also rang very true with the fourth book—Always on My Mind—when I utterly fell for Casper Christiansen. You’ll find out all about that tomorrow (wink, wink).

        Anyway, while Susan May Warren is one of THE BEST at writing male characters that make you melt into a puddle in your seat, she is also great at creating captivating plots that have just enough morality in them to make you learn things you will never forget, in a good way. I loved learning—although I sorta already knew—along with Grace and Max that when you love someone, it doesn’t matter how long you have or how hard it will be when one of you dies, you love them will all that you have for as long as you’re given. You just cherish every moment because you can’t do life without them any longer. That’s just what love does.
        When I Fall in Love gets all five bookmarks because of all those reasons. It’s a book that made me swoon, Max melted me into a puddle more than once, Grace inspired me in so many ways, and I was reminded just why love is so great. This book was a wonderful read, is a novel I will most certainly be picking up again, and comes HIGHLY recommended.

        Happy reading!

All credit for the above italicized synopsis goes to Susan May Warren and her publishers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Bookshelf: With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

        Lt. Mellie Blake is looking forward to beginning her training as a flight nurse. She is not looking forward to writing a letter to a man she’s never met—even if it is anonymous and part of a morale-building program. Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer stationed in North Africa, welcomes the idea of an anonymous correspondence—he’s been trying to escape his infamous name for years.
        As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other’s true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face-to-face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage by their pasts?

        Lt. Mellie Blake cannot make friends. She simply does not know how. So when she is asked to write a letter to a man she has never met as part of a morale-building project for the men at the front, she is hesitant to accept for fear that her letter will do nothing but disgust the man who receives it. Although she finally agrees to the anonymous letter-writing, she is sure nothing will ever come of it. Surprised when her new pen-pal writes back, Mellie hesitantly accepts his offer of friendship, and a relationship unlike any she has ever known forms from their over-seas correspondence.
        Lt. Tom MacGilliver has plenty of ‘friends’. The only problem is, he cannot let any of them close enough to know who he really is, and his infamous name never fails to drive them away. When he receives Mellie’s letter, he cannot believe he finally has the chance to make a real friend who will not judge him for his name or his past. As their pen-pal friendship grows, Tom cannot help but wonder what it would be like if they were to meet. Will they be able to get past their fears of revealing their true selves, or are they destined to only be anonymous letter friends?
        With Every Letter was the first book I had ever read by Sarah Sundin, and I was thoroughly impressed by her writing. While she created a wonderful plotline that kept me guessing from chapter to chapter, she also filled her novel with interesting facts about life for the soldiers and flight nurses during World War II. Not only did I learn more about World War II—in an enjoyable way—but I felt like I connected with, or at the very least understood, Mellie and Tom as well. Many people, myself included, struggle with making friends, whether because they don’t know how, they are afraid of rejection, or they have something—like Tom’s name—that keeps people from seeing them as they really are. I couldn’t help but sympathize with the two of them, and that drew this book even closer to my heart.
        I also enjoyed Mellie and Tom’s story, aka, how their friendship unfolded, how they helped each other, and how they met—or didn’t. With plenty of inspiring and heartbreaking moments, I give With Every Letter all five stars for being a book that I could relate to, for having characters that changed, and for being a wonderful example of Historical Christian fiction. Because I loved it so much, especially the happily-ever-after ending, I absolutely would recommend this book.
        Happy reading!

You can get your own copy of this amazing novel here.

All credit for the above italicized synopsis goes to Sarah Sundin and her publishers.