Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Every Girl Gets Confused (Brides with Style #2) by Janice Thompson

Title: Every Girl Gets Confused (Brides with Style #2)
Author: Janice Thomspon
Pages: 336
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Publisher: Revell
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     How can she choose between the love she thought she lost and the love she stumbled upon in the aftermath?

     Katie Fisher and Brady James may be a match made in heaven, but that doesn’t seem to guarantee them a happily ever after accompanied by angelic choirs. Katie’s almost-fiancĂ© Casey is back in Fairfield, ready to rekindle their relationship. And there’s nothing Katie’s parents want more than for their small-town girl to leave Dallas and come home for good.

     But can she really leave Brady behind? And will she ever be able to wear that gorgeous wedding dress she won?

My review:

     This is a delightful romantic comedy!

     This is part of a “true” series. You should take the time to read the first book of the series before this one.

     That said I have to admit that I didn’t realize this until I was about 50 pages into this book. I haven’t read book one and in many ways I was the confused girl because I didn’t know who all the characters were and how inter-connected they all are. I loved the story anyway and was able to follow what was going on within this particular book fairly well.

     There are so many very quirky characters of lots of different ages that it was a joy to try and figure them all out. A lot of the humor seemed to me to be based upon elderly people not understanding technology. For example Aunt Alva fell in love with the “radio program” that Katie listened to.

     There were plenty of people falling in love and sorting out their relationships. Most of them had funny missteps along the way to keep the amusement level high.

     Mixed in with all of the humor there is some healthy soul-searching and maturing done by a few of the characters. This makes for a nice blend of light-hearted laughter and encouragement to help the reader remember that growing up emotionally is part of life.

     I will definitely be going back and reading the first book. Then I’ll be looking for more titles in this very humorous series. This books is getting a 5 star rating from me and I’m highly recommending it. Just take time to read the first book before this one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

Title: The Christmas Joy Ride
Author: Melody Carlson
Pages: 176
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Genre: Christmas Story
Publisher: Revell
Format: Hardback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Miranda did not put adventure on her Christmas list, but thanks to her eighty-five-year-old neighbor Joy, that’s exactly what she’s getting this year. When Joy tells Miranda that she plans to drive an old RV decked out in Christmas decorations from their Chicago neighborhood to her new retirement digs in Phoenix – in the dead of winter, no less – the much younger Miranda insists that Joy cannot make such a trip by herself. Unemployed and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off with Joy toward Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their Christmas joyride – one that could derail the whole venture.

     No one captures the heartwarming fun of the Christmas season quite like Melody Carlson. Fasten your seat belt, because it’s going to be an exciting ride!

     “I’m going on a mission, Miranda. I’m going out to spread some Christmas joy along Route 66. And no one is going to stop me.”
     “But you can’t go driving across the entire country in the middle of winter and –“
     “I can and I will,” Joy declared stubbornly . . .
     “I think it’s a totally outrageous plan. I can’t bear the thought of you being out there by yourself – and at your age too. I’ll be scared sick about you being on the road . . .”
     Joy had an idea, and she knew this was her chance. She had to give it one good try. “And that is exactly why I want you to come along with me, Miranda.”

My review:

     A delightful story filled with Christmas spirit.

     Joy Jorgenson is a very sweet and quirky woman. Her greatest joy is bringing joy to others. She has a blog called Christmas Joy where she shares holiday tips and advice. After running a contest on her blog to find people who need help celebrating Christmas she wants to deliver the prizes in person. I really loved this wonderful character and how she was able to thoroughly plan each person’s special Christmas surprise.

     There was such a wonderful variety of people that she chose to bless it was fun to read the different stories. Though they were all going through hard times of one type or another they embraced the festivities of the holiday season. Some of them did take a little persuading first.

     This story was a wonderful reminder that we should try to bring love and joy to others during the Christmas season.

     I loved this story and am highly recommending it. It gets a 5 star rating from me.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

Title: Keeping Christmas
Author: Dan Walsh
Pages: 224
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Genre: Christmas Story
Publisher: Revell
Format: Hardback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Nothing is more beautiful than family.

     For the first time since their children were born, empty nesters Judith and Stan Winters spent Thanksgiving without the kids, and it’s looking like Christmas will be the same. Judith can’t bring herself to even start decorating for the holiday; her kids always hung the first ornaments on the tree, ornaments they had made each year since they were toddlers. Sure, the ornaments were strange-looking – some were downright ugly – but they were tradition.

     With Judith refusing to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room, Stan’s only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments . . .

     Stan opened the ugly ornaments box and pulled out the top three ornaments, the ones wrapped in green paper, the kids’ favorites, and set them on the coffee table.
     He picked up the first one, the biggest one – Anna’s blue pinecone – and began to unwrap it. Without thinking, Judith walked up, stopped him, and gently took it out of his hand. She wrapped it back up, set it carefully in the box. Then picked up the other two ornaments, put them in the box, and closed the flaps.
     “What’s the matter?” Stan said. “Did I do something wrong?”
     “I don’t think I can do this.”

My review:

     This is a new Christmas favorite!

     I absolutely LOVE this story! The main characters are some of the most well written ones I’ve ever met. I felt an almost immediate connection especially with Judith. My heart was breaking for her throughout most of the story.

     There were some wonderful discussion about how disappointments in how family relationships can develop. They can affect people for the rest of their lives. This is so much a part of life for everyone. I found the way it was handled and how close friends stepped in to help very encouraging. We can all learn something from this wonderfully heart-warming story. I may very well find myself re-reading this book every year. This story would make a great Christmas movie.

     This is another book that has touched me so much I have to give it 10 stars here on my blog. I basically read it straight through with minimal breaks. You won’t go wrong in spending a few hours of your leisure time with these wonderful people.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck

Title: The Wedding Chapel
Author: Rachel Hauck
Pages: 384
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Genre: Historical (1948)/Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Zondervan
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     A lonely wedding chapel built as a tribute to lost love just might hold the long-awaited secret to hope and reconciliation.

     For sixty years, the wedding chapel has stood silent and empty. Retired football hall-of-famer Jimmy “Coach” Westbrook built the chapel by hand, stone by stone, for his beautiful and beloved Collette Greer, whom he lost so many years ago. The chapel is a sanctuary for his memories, a monument to true love, and a testament to his survival of the deepest pain and loss.

     Photographer Taylor Branson left her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee to make a new life for herself in New York. Taylor had lots to run away from, not the least of all a family history of broken promises and broken dreams. Love catches Taylor off guard when she falls for Jack Forester, a successful advertising executive, and their whirlwind romance leads to an elopement – and then to second guesses. Jack, in spite of his very real love for Taylor, is battling his own demons and struggles to show her his true self and the depths of his love for her.

     When Taylor takes a photography assignment in Heart’s Bend, she is thrown back into her own past and encounters family secrets buried deep beneath the sands of time. And when Taylor and Coach’s journeys collide, they each rediscover the heartbeat of their own dreams as they learn that the love they long to hold is well worth waiting for.

My review:

     An intricately woven historical/contemporary romance!

     The cast of characters in this wonderful novel are extremely well developed and presented. There is an amazing variety of past hurts and hang-ups that define their personalities.

     Early in the story I struggled a little trying to keep the different people straight and understand their relationships. As the tale unfolded and I learned more of the layers, the pieces started to fit together. By the end of the book I truly understood what a masterpiece of storytelling had been done by Rachel Hauck.

     This novel is a very moving tale of reconciliation, redemption, and forgiveness. At times it is heart-wrenching. At other times it is sweet and heart-warming.

     I thoroughly enjoyed this emotional journey. I’m giving it a 5 star rating and highly recommending it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vendetta (The Nikki Boyd Files #1) by Lisa Harris

Title: Vendetta (The Nikki Boyd Files #1)
Author: Lisa Harris
Pages: 304
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     No one needs to push Nikki Boyd to excel on the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force. The case of her own missing sister, still unsolved after ten years, is the driving force in her work. When a Polaroid photo of a missing girl shows up at a crime scene, Nikki quickly recognizes similarities to the past. The closer she gets to the abductor, the more she feels this case has become personal, and she is not the hunter . . . but the hunted.

     With this explosive first book in The Nikki Boyd Files, award-winning author Lisa Harris takes you on a fast-paced pursuit of justice that will have you holding your breath until the heart-stopping finish.

My review:

     This is a fantastic romantic suspense novel!

     I thoroughly enjoyed both Nikki Boyd and Tyler Grant from the very beginning of the book. They are each dealing with grief and trying to figure out how to deal with that while continuing with all that they have to do to carry on with life. They have a fairly long term friendship already and they are able to work together as sounding boards for each other through this process. A couple of issues they discuss are blaming themselves and holding onto their belief in God.

     The main storyline is the abduction of a teenage girl and trying to solve the case. It is very well crafted with lots of twists and turns in it. We are left guessing until very late in the book. Then when the perpetrator is revealed the suspense doesn’t end right away. We still have to wait to see how he is caught and the finding of the missing girl.

     There were a couple of points that the repetition about Sarah’s abduction in the past pushed the limits. Sometimes it didn’t give additional information about it and just repeated what had been said before. This didn’t detract from the story for me so I haven’t let it affect my star rating.

     I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes for Nikki in the rest of this series. Too bad I have to wait for Lisa Harris to write those books.

     I am giving this novel a 5 star rating and highly recommending it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Substitute Bride (O Little Town of Christmas Novella) by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Title: The Substitute Bride (O Little Town of Christmas Novella)
Author: Carrie Fancett Pagels
Pages: 94
Release Date: October 11, 2015
Genre: Christmas Novella
Publisher: Hearts Overcoming Press
Format: eBook

About the book:

     A Christmas Carol meets It’s a Wonderful Life

     A letter for Sonja’s deceased friend arrives at the post office in Michigan, and with it a proposal. With her father threatening to kick her out of his home, Sonja impulsively responds, offering to travel west to be a substitute bride. At the same time, Louis’s railroad promotion sends him back to Michigan, the one place on earth he’d hoped to never return – where Christmas past was full of pain. A mysterious stranger leaves him marked copies of “A Christmas Carol” as he considers romancing Sonja in Christmas present. Will Louis discern the best choices for Christmas future? Does it include the Poor House, again? Even so – will God bring healing and love to him this year?

My review:

     This is a very sweet Christmas novella.

     Carrie has once again created very sweet characters. Both of the main ones, Sonja and Louis, were dealing with hurts from how they had been treated in the past. I was very easily able to empathize with their feelings. It was a joy to see how each of them was able to trust God and worked to move on from their pasts.

     I was disappointed by how short this story was. The idea behind it was wonderful and I feel it could very easily have been expanded to become a full length novel. It felt very rushed. This is the only reason that I have given it 4 instead of 5 stars. I am recommending this sweet story.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Golden Braid (Medieval Fairy Tale Romance #2) by Melanie Dickerson

Title: The Golden Braid (Medieval Fairy Tale Romance #2)
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Pages: 368
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Genre: Medieval Fairy Tale (set in 1413 Germany)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.

     Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of an artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

     After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars – surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

     After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

     But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything – except her happily ever after.

My review:

     An absolutely delightful retelling of Rapunzel's story!

     This is the first book by Melanie Dickerson that I have ever read. I LOVED IT! I will definitely be reading her other books! It is a huge plus for me that I still have my “little girl” love of a good fairy tale princess story.

     It seems to be a stand-alone story even though it is the second book in a series. If characters in this book were in the first one there is enough information about them that I never felt confused as to who each person was.

     The characters are so wonderfully presented that I was able to connect with them and really understand them. I loved both Rapunzel and Sir Gerek. There are a number of secondary characters that I also felt a connection with.

     At the same time it was very easy to absolutely hate Mother Gothel and a couple of the other characters, they just oozed with evil intentions. There was no guessing as to who the “bad guys” were in this story.

     The story development was fantastic. It was definitely a new story for this popular fairy tale character. There were just enough elements that were kept the same so that there was no doubt as to which fairy tale it was taken from.

     I really enjoyed how much dependence the main characters had on God. I found it to be very refreshing and encouraging.

     I have no choice but to give this incredible story, 5 stars and highly recommend it. It was a joy to spend part of my leisure time immersed in it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On This Foundation (The Restoration Chronicles #3) by Lynn Austin

Title: On This Foundation (The Restoration Chronicles #3)
Author: Lynn Austin
Pages: 416
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House Publisher
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Stone by stone, the wall will rise once more around God’s city.

     When news reaches him that Jerusalem’s wall is shattered and its gates burned with fire, a distraught Nehemiah seeks God’s guidance in fasting and prayer. Granted an unexpected leave from his duty as cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes, Nehemiah sets out for Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall – never anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

     The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and stop the wall’s reconstruction forever. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, with many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

     Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is the powerful conclusion to THE RESTORATION CHRONICLES. This exploration of faith in the midst of oppression offers hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.

My review:

     Another wonderful biblical novel!

     This is the third book in a “true” series. You have to read the first two books for this one to make sense. Over the course of the three books the full story of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after their exile to Babylon, and the rebuilding they did, is beautifully told.

     I loved the characters in this book. There is a great variety of people and situations that they are dealing with during a very trying time in the history of the Israelites. I think that the ones I felt the most for were Nava and Chana. They both struggled with feelings connected to loving someone they couldn’t be with, even though the reasons for the separation were very different. They had to try and navigate their way during a time when women usually didn’t have any say in what they could do and who they could be with.

     The continuing story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile to Babylon was fabulous. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how Lynn Austin brought Nehemiah on the scene. I don’t remember there being very many details about his background in the bible other than that he was the cupbearer to the King of Persia. The story as it is presented in this book is very plausible. One of the things that I really liked about Nehemiah was his humility. He continued to seek God throughout the book wanting to make sure that he was the one chosen to complete the task and that it wasn’t just his own idea.

     It held my attention from start to finish. I believe that reading this book is an incredible way to spend some of your leisure time. I’m highly recommending it and giving it a rating of 5 stars.