Thursday, July 30, 2015

When Mercy Rains by Kim Vogel Sawyer

She left, heavily weighted with secrets. But God reveals all things, in His timing. And He redeems them.
        Suzanne Zimmerman was only seventeen and pregnant when her shamed mother quietly sent her away from their Old Order Mennonite community in Kansas. With her old home, family, and first love firmly behind her, Suzanne moved to Indiana, became a nurse, and raised a daughter, Alexa, on her own.
        Now, nearly twenty years later, an unexpected letter arrives from Kansas. Her brother asks her to bring her nursing abilities home and care for their ailing mother. His request requires that Suzanne face a strict faith community and a family that may not have forgiven her. It also means seeing Paul Aldrich, her first love.
        Paul, widowed with an eight-year-old son, is relieved to see Suzanne again and to have the chance to beg her forgiveness for his past indiscretion. But when he meets Alexa, his guilt flickers in the glare of Suzanne’s prolonged secret—one that changes everything.
        Suzanne had let go of any expectation for forgiveness long ago. Does she dare hope in mercy—and how will her uncovered past affect the people she loves the most?

        When Mercy Rains is the first book in Kim Vogel Sawyer’s Zimmerman Family Restoration Trilogy, and is a novel that came as a total surprise to me. Although I was sure I would enjoy it since its description completely captivated me, I never expected it to blow me away. But it did. With its captivating secrets and heartbreaking story, this novel pulled me in, touched my heart, and left me forever grateful I read it. I may have never imagined it would be such a blessing to me, but I am so glad it was.
        Let me just say, Suzanne is Superwoman. Literally Superwoman. Even after all she goes through, she is strong enough to raise Alexa all on her own, to become a nurse even while a single mom, and most importantly, to forgive. Clearly she has superhuman strength. And God. Her patience is limitless, her kindness knows no bounds, and yet she was just enough imperfect to be human. Finding her to be a relatable character I could look up to, I couldn’t help but love her. I cannot wait to see how her story ends.
        Now Alexa; Alexa is just like her mother. Although she may have different talents and looks, it was obvious who raised her. She is loving, caring, respectful, and patient, and she obviously loves her mother and Father (the Heavenly one I mean). Her passion and spirited nature made me love her immediately, and I know if we could, we would be fast friends.
        I could go on like this for really every character in this book. As I got farther and farther into the pages, I began to feel as if the Zimmermans were my family; as if I were a part of the story. I laughed with them, cried with them, and rejoiced for them when things went well. All in all, this heartwarming, touching story about family, faith, and God’s merciful rain will forever be one of my favorites. I give it all five bookshelves without any hesitation, and know that this is a novel I will read again and again.
        Happy reading!

You can purchase a copy of this book here!

Linking up at Let It Shine.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Kim Vogel Sawyer and WaterBrook Press.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Bookshelf: The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

Patience Creighton has devoted her life to running her father’s boarding school. But when the enigmatic master of the estate appears at her door, battered and unconscious, the young headmistress suddenly finds her livelihood—and her heart—in the hands of one dangerously handsome gentleman.
         At twenty-five, Patience Creighton is already a spinster. The busy headmistress of Rosemere always expected a dashing man to sweep her off her feet and take her away…but that man never came. And since her father’s death, keeping the school running and her mother happy has been plenty to keep her occupied.
         William Sterling dallied his way into financial trouble and mortal danger. When he is assaulted by his creditors’ henchmen on the road home from a tavern, he guides his horse to the doorstep of his tenant, the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. After being tended to by Patience, the wounded William rides off into the dawn—but makes a point to learn more about the lovely headmistress.
         As he spends more time at Rosemere, something delicate begins to develop between William and Patience. But that will not deter William’s creditors. With little money to repay his debts, and less for the upkeep of his estate, it becomes clear that sacrificing Rosemere may be the only way to preserve his legacy. But it may also cost him his happiness.

         The Headmistress of Rosemere was the first book I ever read by Sarah E. Ladd, but I was very glad I did. For my last birthday I took a trip to the LifeWay store in my area and let myself pick out as many books as I could for a certain amount of money, so I naturally hit the bargain shelves first so I could get the most novels possible. That is where I found this gem. I hadn’t heard of Sarah before, but the cover immediately caught my attention, as did the description, so I thought I’d give it a try. Since I am such a huge fan of regencies, that wasn’t really a huge leap of faith, but it was to a certain degree as I wasn’t really sure what I was getting when I bought that book. But, I just couldn’t see myself putting it back on the shelf, so I bought it—along with seven other books—and ended up reading it first out of all the other books I got that day. Sarah has been one of my favorite authors ever since.
        This story draws you in from the very first page, and then proceeds to take you places you never thought you would go. It is completely unpredictable, in the very best of ways. It surprises you, challenges you, and touches you in ways that are impossible to forget. And the scenes between Patience and William just about knock your socks off. Every one of them is incredible—their connection is immediately palpable—and you cannot help but find yourself anxiously awaiting the next time they are together. Their connection made this one of my all-time favorite romances, and gave me some unrealistic expectations for when I finally have my own.
        On top of this, the characters were so easy to fall in love with. Despite the mistakes he has made along the way, I immediately fell for William, and found myself cheering for him from the very beginning. So you can imagine how proud I was of him as he changed for the better throughout the novel. It just made me love him even more. Patience was no exception. From the very first page she was someone to be admired; her strength and determination made me long to learn from her. Never whiny or annoying, she was a heroine that was easy to love, and I found myself championing her cause as well as the story went on.
        So, as you can see, I cannot help giving this novel all five bookshelves for being absolutely wonderful and a book I will never regret purchasing. Not only that, but it gave me another author to follow whose books I always fall in love with. Sarah is an extremely talented author, who I am proud to have on my favorite authors list, and whose books somehow always manage to make it into my favorite books of all time category. Needless to say, I absolutely love and recommend this novel, and am looking forward to anything Sarah writes in the future.
        Happy reading!

You can purchase your own copy of this book here!

Linking up at Bloggers Who Have Inspired Me and Totally Terrific Tuesdays.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Sarah E. Ladd and Thomas Nelson.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Must-Have August Releases & Link-Up

        So, as many of you may be aware, for the last couple of months I have been doing a post at the end of the month about the books I am looking forward to that release in the following days. Today, for the first time ever, I am not posting this on the last day, or the day before last, but actually on the last Monday of the month because I have decided to make this post my very own link-up! Isn’t that exciting?! From now on, the last Monday of every month will be my must-have link-up. Although my post is all about books, yours doesn’t have to be! After you’ve read all about my must-haves, check out the bottom of this post for the rules (don’t worry there aren’t many) and for the place where you can link-up a post of your very own!

The Gift

Not everyone thinks Leah has a gift…
        Leah Mast and her family have always considered her to have a healing touch and a special gift for reflexology—treating people’s ailments by massaging certain places on their feet. But others scoff at the notion, saying the very idea of curing people of illness through their feet is absurd.
        Adam Beachy is one of those scoffers, even though his own mother used to practice reflexology. And then she left the Amish faith and walked out on her family, leaving his father to raise Adam and his sister alone. Now Adam mocks reflexology and balks at the idea of ever marrying and starting a family of his own.
        When tragedy strikes, Adam is suddenly a father figure to his nieces. He finds himself needing a wife—immediately. Despite their differences, Leah seems the best option to fill that role. Can they hope to find peace and love in a modern-day marriage of convenience?

        The Gift is the second book in Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Prairie State Friends series, coming after The Decision. Although I was sorely disappointed in The Decision and had a very difficult time finishing it, I just love the description to The Gift, so I cannot help but still look forward to giving it a try. I did like what little I got to know of Leah’s character throughout the previous book, so I am hopeful that this story will turn out to be much better than the first.

Pre-order it here before its release on the fourth.

Not by Sight

        In the spring of 1917, all of Britain’s attention is on the WWI war front and the thousands of young men serving their country on the front lines. Jack Benningham, dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, is young and able-bodied but refuses to enlist despite the contempt of his peers.
        A wealthy young suffragette, Grace Mabry will do anything to assist her country’s cause. Men like Jack infuriate her when she thinks of her own brother fighting in the trenches of France, so she has no reservations about handing him a white feather of cowardice at a posh masquerade ball.
        But Grace could not anticipate the danger and betrayal set into motion by her actions, and soon she and Jack are forced to learn the true meaning of courage when the war raging overseas suddenly strikes much closer to home and their fervent beliefs become a matter of life and death.

        Kate Breslin is a relatively new author to me; I just read my first book by her not to long ago as I was trying to decide if I wanted to include Not by Sight to this line-up, and I must say I am very glad I discovered her. I absolutely LOVED For Such a Time—her debut novel—as it was interesting, captivating, impossible to put down, and her hero and heroine were so easy to fall in love with. I knew before I had even gotten halfway through that book that I would be on the lookout for anything else written by Kate, so I was ecstatic when I got the opportunity to become a part of her Book Krew, which meant I have now received a copy of Not by Sight in exchange for my honest review. While it has been torture for me to leave that novel unopened on my shelf so that I could finish the books I had planned to read this month, I know that I will be devouring it soon, just in time to post my review on release day. Look out for my exclamations of love for Not by Sight—which I know will be pouring from my mouth the minute I start the first page—on August the fourth!

I highly recommend you grab a copy this book, and one of For Such a Time! Pick up either of them here!

The Potter’s Lady

In the beautiful rolling hills of West Virginia, Rose McKay seeks a measure of success—in business and in love.
        When Rose McKay convinces her brother, Ewan, to invest in a pottery business, she’s determined to assist him in making the endeavor a success. A recent graduate of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, she believes she can design pieces that will sell well. Rose also reconnects with Joshua Harkness, who oversees his own family’s pottery works and promises to help her.
        Rylan Campbell has never liked change, but the new owners of the pottery seem to be decent folks. He just wishes Rose wouldn’t insist on changing the way they do things. Then McKay Pottery begins to lose business to the Harkness Company, and Rylan suspects Joshua may be secretly taking advantage of Rose.
        When Franklin Hotels announces a design contest, it could be the opportunity McKay Pottery needs to achieve recognition and clients. Rose and Rylan work together to create something magnificent. With Joshua’s company as their main rival, can Rylan convince Rose her trust in Joshua may spell ruin for them all?

        The Potter’s Lady is the second book in Judith Miller’s Refined by Love series, coming after The Brickmaker’s Bride. Although The Brickmaker’s Bride did not make it on my good side, and was in fact a story I had a very hard time getting interested in, I could not help but fall in love with Rose, who appeared as a multiple times as a minor character. Because of that, I cannot help but still look forward to this novel, as I am sure it will turn out to be more interesting than the first.

Pre-order a copy of your own here!

Through Waters Deep

War is coming. Can love carry them through the rough waters that lie ahead?
        It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Handsome and outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. On shore, Jim encounters Mary Stirling, a childhood friend who is now an astute and beautiful Boston Navy Yard secretary.
        When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is discovered, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges—and dangers—await them.

        Although I haven’t read many of Sarah Sundin’s books, I have LOVED what I have read so far. She writes the best war themed novels full of interesting facts and sweet romances. I read With Every Letter a little over a month ago, and I still can’t forget how much I loved that novel! Sarah does an amazing job of drawing you in and leaving you breathless. Based on the description, I know this book will be no exception. I cannot wait to see what this novel holds!

Pre-order a copy of Through Waters Deep here or snatch up With Every Letter here!

Be My Valentino

        Now that the whole truth has come out about her husband's double life—including the fact that she and Jack were never legally married—Jessie is standing on her own for the first time in her life. As she struggles to put Adornments, her rental store for designer labels, on the map in Tinsel Town, her relationship with private investigator Danny Callahan gains momentum
        When she dresses a reluctant Danny in Valentino for undercover work at a formal affair, it’s him rather than her store that captures Hollywood’s notice. Danny, snapped by photogs, lands as the unlikely cover model on the front of L. A. Magazine. So much for inconspicuous. Will his popularity thwart her efforts to grow her business? Or worse, can Jessie afford to put her faith—and her heart—into another relationship when she’s so obviously handicapped in the good judgement department?

        Be My Valentino is the second book in Sandra D. Bricker’s Jessie Stanton series, but I haven’t had the chance to read the first one, since my library has yet to order it (sad face). However, I have read many of her other novels, so I am sure both of the Jessie Stanton books are well worth reading. I am looking forward to being able to read them, whenever that may be, and I hope you are too!

You can purchase a copy of each (which I may have to do) here!

To Get to You

To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle.
        Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it.
        When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when his Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may—or may not—be enough to heal the past.

        I have never actually read any of Joanne Bischof’s novels yet, but the description of this book is amazing! Yet is the word to remember in that sentence, because I know I will be reading one of her novels very soon! To Get to You sounds like something right up my alley, and ever since I read its description I have been dying to read this book!

You can pre-order a copy of it here!

        So, these are my must-haves for the month of August! Now it’s your turn! Whether it’s books you cannot wait to read (new releases or not), recipes you are dying to try, new clothes you can’t wait to wear, or anything else you’re looking forward to in the coming month, feel free to post about it and add your post here! I’d love to read all about your must-haves, although I would love to read anything you want to share, must-haves are just my theme for this link-up. However, that is not a rule, so feel free to share anything you wish! I am making it my goal to read everything linked-up here on my blog, and cannot wait for all the new blogger friends I know I will be making from this adventure! Just click the link below for more information and to add your own link!
        Happy August!!!

Linking-up at Let It Shine, Bloggers Who Have Inspired Me, and Totally Terrific Tuesdays.

All credit for the italicized synopses goes to the authors: Wanda E. Brunstetter, Kate Breslin, Judith Miller, Sarah Sundin, Sandra D. Bricker, and Joanne Bischof, and their publishers: Shiloh Run Press, Bethany House, Revell, Abingdon Press, and Mason Jar Books.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Decision by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Sometimes Jonah feels he must be unlovable…
        By a strange turn of events Jonah Miller was left at the altar by the love of his life. He hopes he left heartbreak behind when he moves from Pennsylvania to Illinois, settling into a new Amish community as a buggy maker.
        He starts to court Elaine Schrock, who works with her grandmother to host dinners in their home for tourists. But when her grandfather suddenly dies and her grandmother—her only living relative—slips into dementia, Elaine ignores her growing love for Jonah and sets him free to look for love elsewhere.
        Jonah is sure he won’t find love a third time. Is God calling him to remain single, or does He have a different plan for the lonely Amish man?

        I have been a fan of Wanda E. Brunstetter’s books for some time now, so I was sorely disappointed when I found The Decision extremely hard to read. Usually, I enjoy her plotlines, fall for her characters, and am captivated by her stories. That was unfortunately not the case with this novel. It was a slow read, and I ended up skimming much of the middle. It picked up to a certain degree near the end, so I did finish it, only to find the resolution entirely different from what I expected.
        The first thing that disappointed me about Jonah Miller is the fact that I really don’t know anything about his story that is alluded to in the synopsis. It is mentioned in passing a few times, but never in its entirety, and only one time does it give enough information to make me feel like I know what is going on. On top of that, I have to say I found him to be very wishy washy. He seemed so in love with Elaine throughout the beginning of the book, and when she sets him free, he is completely devastated. Imagine my surprise when he recovers fairly quickly, even enough to…well, I don’t want to spoil the story. But he gives her up with hardly any fight after the initial attempt to get her back. I found that difficult to swallow, considering just how much he claimed to love her.
        Unfortunately, I cannot say I liked Elaine Schrock any better. Although I must applaud her for her determination and commitment when it came to caring for her grandmother, her somewhat whiny attitude during the whole ordeal really grated on my nerves. And her constant assurances that she could do everything ‘all on her own’ didn’t give me that Amish-story feel. One thing I love about Amish fiction is the way the Amish communities always band together and do anything they can to lift each other’s burdens. I was expecting that in this book, especially since it is made apparent just by reading the description that Elaine goes through quite a lot, but she rarely ever accepts anyone’s help, and even goes so far as to push people who could be her main support system away. I also couldn’t stand how she turned Jonah away quite the way she did. For a woman in love, she sure didn’t act like it.
        I also found the plotline very slow moving, the dialogue lackluster, and the whole story extremely repetitive. Many of the scenes were purely filler and could have easily been done without, and the ending totally threw me for a loop. I wasn’t expecting it AT ALL, but I have to say, that was one of its good points. I like an unexpected story, and Wanda did do a wonderful job of portraying that life doesn’t always go the way we expect it would. Because of that, I will give this story two out of five bookshelves, but there were too many things I found at fault with this novel to feel right giving it any more. Although I am sorely disappointed with this outcome, I really like the description for the second book in this series, The Gift, so I am still looking forward to reading that one. I just hope it turns out to be more of a hit than this one.
        Happy reading!

Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this story, you can check it out for yourself—or pre-order The Gifthere.

Linking-up at Let It Shine.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Wanda E. Brunstetter and Shiloh Run Press.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

For-Fun Family Interview

        A couple of days ago, my sister, Allie—whose blog you can find here—posted an interview she did of our whole family. The idea had me thinking, so I’ve decided I’m going to do one of my own, but with different questions of course. I feel like this is a great way for my lovely readers to get a little glimpse into our lives, and I know interviewing my family is going to be fun. I’ll post my answers to the questions as well, just so you can get to know me a little better, and I’m curious to see how many of our answers will be the same (if they match, they'll be highlighted in purple). Unfortunately, I think that will depend on whether my family chooses to be honest or silly. Let’s get started!

So, I’ll start us off with something easy, what’s your favorite color?

Allie: Yellow and purple                        David: Blue
Ethan: Blue                                             Mandy: Green
Me: Red                                                  Sarah: Pink and blue

Okay, now something a little more difficult. What’s your favorite hobby?

Allie: crafts                                             David: Camping
Ethan: doing models (like cars)             Mandy: Camping
Me: Reading                                           Sarah: Music

Interesting. How about favorite game?

Allie: Clue                                              David: Phase 10
Ethan: Ticket to Ride: Europe                Mandy: Scrabble
Me: Settlers of Catan                              Sarah: Settlers of Catan

Grab these great games here.

Since it’s difficult to just pick one, what are your top three favorite movies?

Allie: Soul Surfer, Dolphin Tale 2, & Inside Out
David: Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, & National Treasure
Ethan: Lego Movie, Despicable Me 2 & Wreck it Ralph
Mandy: Gone with the Wind, Sleeping Beauty, & Serendipity
Me: Pride and Prejudice, While You Were Sleeping, & the new Cinderella
Sarah: The new Cinderella, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, & You’ve Got Mail

Pick up any of these movies here and here.

Now how about top three favorite books?

Allie: Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, & all three April Grace books by K. D. McRight
David: I don’t read
Ethan: Gold Medal Murder by Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon, The Duck Dynasty books, & Henry Reed by Keith Robertson
Mandy: The Bible, Little Women, & anything by Lysa TerKeurst
Me: Emma by Jane Austen, Whispers from the Shadows by Roseanna M. White, & Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones
Sarah: The Christmas Hope series by Donna VanLiere, Emma by Jane Austen, & Summer of Joy by Ann H. Gabhart

Find out just what makes these books great herehere, here, and here.

Okay, now let’s do something a little silly. Which is your favorite, round or square cheese?

Allie: Square                                           David: Both
Ethan: Square                                          Mandy: It depends
Me: Square                                              Sarah: Square

Do you like your sandwiches cut into squares or triangles?

Allie: Triangles                                       David: Squares
Ethan: Triangles                                      Mandy: Triangles
Me: Triangles                                          Sarah: Triangles

What’s your favorite animal?

Allie: Monkey                                         David: Dog
Ethan: Lion                                             Mandy: Bird
Me: Turtle                                               Sarah: Koala bear

What’s your favorite sport to watch?

Allie: Football                                         David: Football
Ethan: Baseball                                       Mandy: Figure skating
Me: Football                                           Sarah: Football

If you could change your whole name, including last name, what would you change it to?

Allie: Ava Grace Carter                          
David: I wouldn’t change mine.
Ethan: Timothy Justin Dufries                                     
Mandy: I wouldn’t change mine.
Me: I wouldn’t change my name, except my last name, which I’d change to my husband’s when I get married.
Sarah: Amelia Grace Allen

What’s your favorite song right now?

Allie: Alive by Natalie Grant
David: Brother by NeedtoBreathe
Ethan: Brother by NeedtoBreathe
Mandy: Too many to choose
Me: Anchor by Hillsong UNITED
Sarah: Touch the Sky by Hillsong UNITED

Purchase these songs here.

Who’s better, Mario or Luigi?

Allie: Luigi                                             David: Mario
Ethan: Luigi                                            Mandy: Mario
Me: Luigi                                                Sarah: Luigi

What is/was your favorite school subject?

Allie: English                                          David: Science
Ethan: Math                                            Mandy: English
Me: English                                            Sarah: English

Okay, what’s your favorite holiday?

Allie: Christmas                                     David: Christmas
Ethan: Christmas                                   Mandy: Thanksgiving
Me: Christmas                                       Sarah: Christmas

And last but not least, if you could buy any car in the world, what car would you get and what color would it be?

Allie: A light blue Toyota Camry
David: An old red Corvette convertable
Ethan: A blue Ford F150 King of the Ranch
Mandy: A red Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
Me: A red convertible Corvette

Sarah: A Tiffany blue convertible Mustang

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Brickmaker's Bride by Judith Miller

In the clay-rich hills of the newly founded state of West Virginia, two families tentatively come together to rebuild a war-torn brickmaking business.
        Ewan McKay has immigrated to West Virginia with his aunt and uncle, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial help. Uncle Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, and it’s Ewan’s job to get the company up and running again.
        Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner’s daughter, and he quickly feels a connection with her, but she’s being courted by another man—a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Resolving that he’ll make the brickworks enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Ireland, Ewan pours all his energy into the new job.
        But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan’s hard work is put in jeopardy. As his hopes for the future crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. Can she help him save the brickworks, and will Ewan finally get a shot at winning her heart?

         The Brickmaker’s Bride by Judith Miller is the first book in her new Refined by Love series, but it is not the first novel by her I have ever read. However, I was disappointed to find I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I had hoped I would. The plot was fairly slow—it took me a little while to get into the story—and I found many parts of it to be very repetitive. It also felt very predictable to me, and the many, many descriptions of the brickworks got old after a while. I did enjoy learning about how bricks are made, but eventually all the small details became a bit much. Fortunately I did enjoy the ending, but then, who doesn’t love a happily ever after?
         Although I know Laura Woodfield is supposed to be the heroine of the story, I found it difficult to like her. She seemed constantly sorry for herself, and I just couldn’t understand why she felt she must continue on with her relationship to the horrid Winston Hawkins. While her attitude towards her situation sometimes irked me, I did love her spirit. She was constantly standing up to Winston and speaking her mind, and that was something I admired in her. I also loved how she didn’t let society define her, but rather threw the confines of ‘proper etiquette’ aside when it got in the way of what she felt was right.
         And that brings us to her mother, Mrs. Woodfield. Although she was a sweet woman who obviously loved her daughter very much, she cared entirely too much about what others would think, what was right for people in their station, what was ‘proper’. For a Christian woman, I expected more of her, and was sadly disappointed when she constantly looked to society to judge what was acceptable. One thing I did like about that quality in her, however, was the fact that it did lend to the ‘no one’s perfect’ theme that Judith portrayed very well throughout this book.
         Now we get to Ewan McKay. I wanted to love him, I really did, but he just didn’t live up to the ‘hero of the story’ expectation I had in my head. He was a sweet man, though, and I loved the way he related to his sisters and how much he cared for them. His hardworking attitude was inspiring, and the way he kept his temper even when dealing with his gambler of an uncle was very admirable. However, I couldn’t stand how quickly he appeared to fall in love with Laura. It seemed as if, from the very first moment they met, he was on her side, and I just cannot bring myself to believe in love at first sight in such a way. To me, it almost felt as if—at first—he was choosing her just to spite his aunt and uncle, who couldn’t stand her. Eventually, his love for her became the sweetest part of the story, but I just didn’t like how quickly it started.
         All in all, I still give this story four bookshelves, as—despite its somewhat slow nature—I never once found myself just skimming the pages, and I did love the ending (did I mention that yet?). I also found the historical facts to be impeccable and interesting, and I did eventually grow to like most of the characters (Ewan’s aunt and uncle could never stop being insufferable, but I believe that was intended). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this novel, but I am still planning on reading the second book in this series—The Potter’s Lady—which is about Ewan’s older sister and releases on August fourth, so I wouldn’t say this book was anywhere near a total flop.
         Happy reading!

If you would like to try this book for yourself, or if you’re also looking forward to the second, you can find them both here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Judith Miller and Bethany House Publishers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Bookshelf: The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E. Ladd

“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 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.

         The Curiosity Keeper is the first novel in Sarah E. Ladd’s new series, Treasures of Surrey, and is another book I couldn’t help but pre-order before it came out one week ago. I first stumbled upon Sarah when I found one of her novels as a bargain book, and I have loved her ever since. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect when I took a chance on The Headmistress of Rosemere, but I found an author that will forever be one of my favorites, and a book that I will read again and again. And the same goes for The Curiosity Keeper. I loved it so much I have already lent it to a friend, knowing she will enjoy it just as much as I did. I finished it in only one day anyway, so I had plenty of time between then and now to give it to her.
        Let me start off by saying that Sarah’s historical facts were, as always, impeccable. I felt as if I had been transported to Surrey as it was in 1812, and that made the story all that much better. On top of that, the mystery of the Bevoy was captivating, and I never saw it ending the way that it did. While it was cleverly written so as to keep you guessing, it also worked out in such a way that I couldn’t have imagined, in a way that was very unique and interesting. To top it all off, Sarah pulled the whole story together with some of the most perfect characters, whether heroes or villains.
        Camille Iverness is by far one of my favorite heroines. Always strong and courageous, she faces everything that is thrown at her with remarkable calm and levelheadedness, focusing on how to fix the problem—where to go next—rather than the pain and trouble the situation causes. Full of compassion and forgiveness, she embodies many of the things I long to be, and her fire and determination is also something to be admired. While no one is perfect, not even Camille, she is easy to love despite her flaws, and I am happy to tell you she overcomes them in the end. How could it be a good book otherwise?
        Jonathan Gilchrist is another character to love. Always eager to serve, his compassion and servant’s heart make him incredibly endearing, and his determination to serve his family despite his reluctance prove he is a man of worth. Although he already gives you many reasons to love him, the way he treats Camille trumps them all. I cannot imagine a sweeter, kinder gentleman than he, and I know that if I had been Camille I would have snatched him up immediately. Of course, there were other situations to be considered, and women in 1812 didn’t do that sort of thing (and even now I still believe the man should do the chasing), but he is the kind of man you don’t find every day.
        Clearly this novel deserves all five bookmarks, so that is what I am giving it, as well as a permanent spot on my all-time favorites list—although, now that I think about it, all of the spots are permanent. Anyway, this book was well worth purchasing, and comes highly recommended. Really, I would recommend any of Sarah’s books, but especially this one, and the second in the series—Dawn at Emberwilde—which releases next May. Sarah writes wonderful historical novels that will keep you captivated until the last page that I can almost promise you will enjoy.
        Happy reading!

You can purchase your own copy of any of the three books I mentioned here.

Photo creds go to my awesome sister, Allie. Check out her blogs here and here.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Sarah E. Ladd and her publishers.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

        In 1944, Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, her Aryan-like looks allow her to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, to maintain her cover as von Schmidt’s secretary, she if forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.
        Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths, Stella appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s indulgence gives her hope even as she risks discovery with every attempt to help the prisoners. When her bravery brings her to the point of ultimate sacrifice, she faces an excruciating choice. God may have brought her to the camp for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she cannot save herself?

        This was another new author for me, but let me just say, Kate Breslin made it onto my favorite authors list before I was even halfway through this book. With its decidedly ‘Esther’ theme paralleling extremely well to the beloved Bible story, For Such a Time swept me away from almost the first page. Her World War II facts were impeccable, and they weren’t presented in such a way that might be boring to some, but just added so much to the story that it felt as if I was transported into that time and place. On top of that, the storyline was so completely intriguing and full of unexpected twists that I found it impossible to put down.
        Hadassah/Stella is by far one of my favorite heroines. Even after facing the horrors of Dachau and barely escaping a firing squad, she risked her life again and again in attempts to save the prisoners at Auschwitz. Her bravery was inspiring, but not only that, she was a relatable character. I felt that if I had been there, I would’ve loved to have her for a friend. And I suppose she is now. All characters are friends, ones that you can visit any time you open the pages.
        I really loved Aric as well. Although he had so much pain bottled up inside him, hardness that bubbled out whenever provoked, he was truly sweet, when he let himself be. He was compassionate and considerate, he just didn’t believe he could be that man. Once I got to know him better, I loved him even more. He is also one of my favorites. Especially since he is such a valiant warrior. You’ll find out why that’s important when you read the book.
        Can I just say how much I loved the ending? Although I was threatening to throw the book at the wall multiple times near the end, the actual ending was absolutely perfect. Clearly I cannot help giving For Such a Time all five bookshelves, and I know I am eagerly anticipating her next novel, Not by Sight, which releases next month. I highly recommend picking up this book as soon as you get a chance, because I can almost guarantee you will love it.
        Happy reading!

You can purchase your own copy of either For Such a Time or Not by Sight here.

I'm linking up over at Spreading My Joy.

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Kate Breslin and her publishers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Behind him, beside him, before him, the synchronized cathedral bells began to ring out. One, two three… Then she said it first. The words his heart burst to share. “I love you, Stephen. You are my true prince.
        American heiress Corina Del Rey caught her prince once. But the tragedy of war kept her too long in a fog of grief. Now she’s shifting her life forward, reigniting her career as a journalist. Still, nothing can relieve her of the secret and the love she carries in her soul.
        Prince Stephen of Brighton is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors and a star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life. But his days in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Command have marked him forever. And he can’t seem to shake their dark shadow.
        But when his brother, King Nathaniel, confronts him with a document the prince thought long buried and forgotten, Stephen is forced to face the pain of his past and the love he left behind.
        With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome and find love again?

        How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck is the third book in her Royal Weddings series, and is by far my favorite of them all. Rachel has been one of my favorite authors ever since I first read her book, The Wedding Dress, and I have read many of her novels since then, so I knew going in that this book would be amazing. Especially since I absolutely adored Once Upon a Prince and Princess Ever After. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was how much I loved Corina—who was a bit of a spitfire—Prince Stephen—whose painful struggles, and charming nature, made him all the more endearing—and their unconventional relationship—the details of which I never saw coming.
        While I loved Corina because of her I-won’t-get-walked-all-over attitude and the way she never backed down, I also—like with Prince Stephen—loved her through her struggles. Although I hated that she had to go through them, I couldn’t get enough of how she fought through them and didn’t let them, especially the death of her brother, keep her from living. She was an inspiration in many ways, but the most important way was by her loving well. I can’t explain what I mean by that without spoiling some of the story, but let me just say, I walked away from this book with my own desire to “love well”, and that is something I will never forget about this novel.
        Then there’s Prince Stephen. Can I just say, that despite his sullenness and the way he treats Corina—though that is just because of his pain—he really is the perfect Prince. And I just love some of the things he says, and the accent that I know he has, and I hear in my head. He’s not always sullen, let me tell you, and when he isn’t, he can be extremely sweet. Besides, how can you not melt a little when he calls her “love”? I mean, what wouldn’t I give to be called that (anyone else agree)? At the same time, I also felt so much sympathy for him as he struggled through the pain he felt. He’s another character you just cannot help falling in love with.
        Because How to Catch a Prince is so full of loveable characters—who were not the same at the end of the book—and amazing descriptions of Brighton that made me feel as if I was actually there, I happily give this book all five bookshelves, and a place on my all-time-favorites list. I also just really loved how I took things from this story to apply to my own life. I’m always saying how I want the characters to have changed on the inside by the time I get to the end of a book, but what really makes a novel great is when you change as well. That is when you know you have read a wonderful novel. So, I loudly applaud Rachel for this amazing final installment in her series. I absolutely loved it.
        Happy reading!

Don’t forget, you can find all the books I mention on my Amazon Store!

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Rachel Hauck and her publishers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Bookshelf: Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

        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 reaching for hers, before all faded to darkness…
        Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and is 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.

        Since I have read, to date, every single one of Julie Klassen’s novels, I was highly anticipating Lady Maybe, which just released last Tuesday. Can I just say, it did not disappoint. I have never read a novel that intrigued me more. Clearly the description arouses your curiosity with every word, so it’s no surprise that the book does the same. You cannot help but devour each chapter as each one leads you to the next, making you long to know what will happen next. And let me assure you that Lady Maybe is not in the slightest bit predictable. But I loved it for that.
        Now, I long to rave about my favorite characters, but I fear spoiling all the surprises. So, let me just say, there were many characters I did not like. Although I liked the way Julie portrayed them and found them excellently written, I cannot say I did not almost hate them. They just got in the way, were completely ridiculous, or caused pain to the characters I did love in a way that I found absolutely unforgivable. Obviously though, my hatred stems from the fact that Julie knows how to create such believable antagonists.
        Then there were the characters I loved. There was one, in particular, that—despite his seemingly gruff exterior—I completely fell in love with. There was just something about him that drew me to him, and had me championing his cause almost from page one. I’m sure you’ll understand once you start this book. He just…I don’t know…had me sighing from the moment I met him. Although I’m not exactly sure why I fell so hard for him, maybe it started as sympathy because of all Julie put him through, I know that he has become one of my favorite male characters.
        Anyway, this book knocked me off my feet with its compelling story, and the way it perfectly portrayed regency England. I felt transported back to the time and place, and found it difficult to remember where I really was. Since it aroused my curiosity with each new twist and turn, I read the whole novel in just a few hours, and now am ready to pick it up and read it again. Instead, however, I have decided to lend it to a couple of friends. After all, I did receive it the day it released, read it in its entirety the day after, and find it to be one of my favorite books in all the world. How could I not share something so new and wonderful with my reader friends?
        So, if you haven’t figured it out by now, this novel easily earns all five bookshelves, for being absolutely unforgettable. I know that it will be a book I will be eager to read again and again, and it makes me even more excited as I anticipate the release of her next novel, The Painter’s Daughter, which releases in December. Believe me, I’m already planning to pre-order it. Not only am I sure to enjoy it, I’ve also possibly gotten addicted to pre-ordering. There is just something about getting a book in the mail the day it releases. Anyway, I highly recommend you read this book as soon as possible. It is well worth it.
        Happy reading!

You can purchase your own copy here.
Linking up at Bloggers Who Have Inspired Me.
Also linking up at Totally Terrific Tuesday.

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

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Bookshelf: A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

(This is my regular Tuesday My Bookshelf post, only it is being posted today, on a Friday, because I received this novel from a Bethany House giveaway and had planned on reviewing it this week, only it didn’t arrive until late Monday night. So I just swapped the days!)

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?
        Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.
        Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.
        When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is she villain or victim?
        Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.

        A Worthy Pursuit was one of the few books by Karen Witemeyer that I had not read, until now of course. She has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read Stealing the Preacher a few years ago, and I have been unable to put any of her novels down after picking them up. With her witty dialogue and swoon-worthy heroes, Karen crafts historical stories that will draw you in and leave you melting in a little puddle, and A Worthy Pursuit is no exception.
        Let me introduce you to Stone Hammond. A former Texas Ranger turned successful tracker (though I like to say retriever, you’ll know why if you read the book), Stone appears at first to Charlotte as the strong, burly, intimidating—albeit handsome—man that he is. On the inside though, is another story. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stone is a good, Christian man with a soft heart that quickly grows to love Charlotte’s charges who vows to protect them, and their teacher, with everything in him. How can you not fall for a hero like that?
        Now, Charlotte may not be a dashing Texas cowboy, but she is important too. Still reeling from the rejection of her father and a former suitor, she hides herself behind a mask she has let no one—not even her young charges—penetrate. When Stone comes looking for Lily, she coolly proves to him she’s Lily’s legal guardian, despite the fear that rages inside. Slowly, though, she begins to trust their rugged hero, especially as he proves he would do anything for her and her students. But, there is a big difference between trusting him with their lives and giving him her heart. Will she ever surrender to his very worthy pursuit?
        If you are not jumping out of your seat determined to pick up A Worthy Pursuit this very minute—or at least very soon—then I have done a sorry job describing it. Believe me, this novel deserves double the five bookshelves I am giving it, but my scale doesn’t go that high. I cannot describe to you in words how amazing this novel was, not just because of its melted-me-into-a-puddle love story. Although that (obviously) played a really big part. The suspense playing into Lily’s situation gave this book exactly what it needed, and the little details made it all the more enjoyable. A Worthy Pursuit is a novel fully worthy (see what I did there?) of all the praise I could ever give it, and the assurance that I know I will read it again and again. If you pick up this book, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
        Happy reading!

You can purchase your own copy of the book here.
All credit for the amazing photography goes to my little sister Allie (check out her blogs here and here).

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