Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Love on Assignment by Cara Lynn James

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I finished the second book in the Ladies of Summerhill series. Cara Lynn James has done it again. Here is my review:

From Barnes and Noble:

Overview

The chance to break the big story is all Charlotte needs to secure her future. But when the truth comes out—it may cost her the love of her life.
Newport, Rhode Island, in 1900—a glamorous resort town where the rich and famous go to see and be seen.
Charlotte Hale isn't part of that world. She's a working girl, a secretary for a local newspaper, who dreams of becoming a real reporter. When her boss offers her an assignment, she jumps at the opportunity. She'll go undercover as a governess to investigate a scandal about her new employer, Daniel Wilmont, a young widowed professor of religion who writes a controversial column in a rival newspaper.
Charlotte's qualms about misrepresenting herself to Daniel soon morph into a deeper quandary. How can she get the goods on a man who turns out to be so honorable? How can she plot the downfall of a family that has inspired her to rediscover her faith? And how can she protect the man she now loves from a scheme she's been part of since the beginning?


My Review: This book took me a little while to get into, but one I did, I couldn't put it down! The characters in this book are believeable and the romance is sweet. Charlotte Hale is not like anyone Daniel Wilmont has ever met. She is independent, outspoken, and completely lovable. It was interesting to see her journey from knowing little to nothing about God, to believing and learning to trust in Him. Daniel is a rare male character who has a strong faith in the Lord. And he lives out that faith in his every day life. Of course, he has his faults, but I really loved Daniel.

The plot developed somewhat slower than the first book, but it was still interesting. The message of the book is learning to put all your trust in the one who created you. Here is a quote I particularly enjoyed:
"We're creatures designed by God, for God. He has a purpose and a plan for each and every one of us, which He wishes us to follow. But first we must place Him first in our lives, confess our transgressions, and ask for forgiveness. Then we must place the needs of others before our own. This is almost always a difficult and often a painful task. But with the Lord's help, it is possible, and it's what He wants from us and commands of us.
I think this sums up the message of the book clearly.

Cara Lynn James created another wonderful story, with likable characters, a plot and story line everyone can relate to, and an amazing message without being overly preachy. I recommend this book, as well as the first one, Love on a Dime.

You can find out more about the book by clicking on the "From Barnes and Noble" text and more about the author by clicking on her name.

Upcoming Review: The Reason by William Sirls You can find out more about this book by clicking on the name. There will be a GIVEAWAY accompanying this review, so look for it next week!

**I apologize for this review looking differently than normal, I am having trouble with my internet.**

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James

OHHH I'm so excited to be finished with school for the summer!! Three weeks off=three weeks of NON-STOP reading!!! :)

I just finished the first book in the Ladies of Summerhill series by Cara Lynn James. I must say, I'm excited to have all three books in the series so I can read the next one right away! 

Love on a Dime: Value EditionOverview: In an age of elegance and excess, Lilly Westbrook longs for a love both true and eternal.
Newport, Rhode Island, 1899, is a place of shimmering waves, sleek yachts, and opulent mansions that serve as summer cottages for the rich and famous. Home of railroad magnates and banking tycoons—dashing young men and the women who aspire to marry them.
But it's not the place for lady novelists. Especially not those who pen disreputable dime novels. This poses a problem for Lilly Westbrook, because that's exactly what she does.
No one in Lilly's social set knows she pens fiction under the nom de plume Fannie Cole. Not her family or the wealthy young man about to propose to her. And especially not Jackson Grail, the long-lost beau who just bought her publishing company—and who stirs her heart more than she cares to admit.
But Lilly must put aside her feelings and follow the path that will maintain her family's social stature and provide the financial security everyone is depending on.
Now Lilly faces a double dilemma. Can she continue to protect her secret identity? And will she have the courage to choose the man who will risk it all just to win her heart?
My Review:  The characters in this book were fascinating. Lilly Westbrook is shy, reserved, and not at all like her socialite mother or other girls her age.  She would rather be in the privacy of her home with her family and friends than at some grand party or ball.  I found her character interesting because she mirrored me in a lot of ways. Now, I'm no novelist I assure you, but I would rather sit at home with a good book or surrounded by family and good friends than go out on the town every night. Lilly also had a problem of trying to do everything on her own, shouldering her responsibility and everyone else's. Throughout the book, I could feel the tension building within her, and was waiting for her to snap. 
Jackson Grail, or Jack as Lilly calls him, rose from a humble being to a very rich man. And that's just what he set out to do. So, why isn't he content?  He is almost power-hungry in the beginning of the story, so strong is his desire to do well for himself. By the end of the story, however, we see a shift in his attitude and demeanor. A good shift. Jack is a likable character and his love for Lilly is evident, even if he doesn't know the best ways to express it sometimes.
There are two lessons running throughout this book that I feel are important to both characters. "Trust in God to help you find your way" Lilly is trying her best to learn this. She just wants to follow the Lord's will for her life, and it's enlightening to read about her growth of faith. "Proverbs 11:28. 'He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.' Value the Lord, not your earthly possessions" Jack has gone his whole life trying to prove to himself and to Lilly's family that he can be successful and that he's good enough for their daughter, and it was humbling to watch his growth from relying on his wealth and status to relying on the Lord, come what may. 
The author did a great job weaving the themes into the story without detracting from it. The character development is fantastic. The plot was exciting and kept me turning the pages. Overall, I give this book 5 stars. I will definitely be reading more by this author! Go check it out today!
*You can find out more about the author by clicking on her name above. You can get more information on the book by clicking on the "From Barnes and Noble:" text above.
Up Next:  Love on Assignment by Cara Lynn James, Book 2 of the Ladies of Summerhill series.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blowing on Dandelions by Miralee Ferrell

It's been awhile since I could finish a book back to back like this, but this is my last week of school for the summer so I decided to slack on my schoolwork a little (don't worry, I'm doing it today!). This book was too good to think about doing anything else and I'm kind of sad I have finished it. This was my first book by Miralee Ferrell and will definitely not be my last! I want to thank Lena Nelson Dooley for providing me with a copy of this book as one of her many giveaways!  Her author interviews are always insightful.

Blowing on Dandelions: A NovelOverview:  Do Dandelion Wishes Actually Come True? 
 
Katherine Galloway knew this moment of calm wouldn’t last, blown away like the dandelion seeds she scattered as a girl. In 1880, three years after her husband’s death, she struggles to run an Oregon boardinghouse and raise two girls alone. Things don't get easier when her critical, domineering mother moves in. Katherine must make the situation work, but standing up for herself and her family while honoring her mother isn't easy. And with a daughter entering the teenage years, the pressure on Katherine becomes close to overwhelming. Then she crosses paths with Micah Jacobs, a widower who could reignite her heart, but she fears a relationship with him might send things over the edge. She must find the strength, wisdom, hope, and faith to remake her life, for everything is about to change.


My Review:  "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." - Psalm 91:1-2

This verse, stated at the beginning of the book, struck me as I read each chapter as the message the author wanted to get across.  Katherine Galloway is a widow with two children to raise.  Her mother, who is all the overview describes her to be and more, is coming to live with her again.  Considering who her mother is, you would not expect Katherine to have the gentle, kind, and loving nature that she has.  You hurt with her every time her mother cuts her down, and you cheer for her every time she stands up for herself (as little as it may be).  When Micah Jacobs enters the picture, you are instantly drawn to him.  You also want to shake him for his stubborn pride. He is hurting and trying to figure out how to heal, something everyone will be able to relate to at one time or another. He is also mad at God, which is another thing we can all relate to at one time in our lives or another. Katherine's mother, Frances, is a character to behold. Getting inside her head is not easy; she thinks she's helping when she's really hurting.  You wonder what could have made her that way.  With a cast of enticing supporting characters as well, I commend the author on creating such wonderful characters. 

The love story of the book, and the overall plot, is well thought out and was wonderful to see.  I can relate to the struggle between staying loyal to your first husband/wife and your growing feelings for someone new.  The author did a fantastic job capturing this aspect of each character.  The tension created by Frances between herself and everyone else in the story was palpable. It felt like I was right there in the middle of it, and little Mandy was a great source of comic relief. There were no parts in the story that lagged, and it was a quick read. I wanted to see how the story played out. I wanted to know what would happen between Katherine and Micah.

Overall, I give this book 5 stars.  Miralee Ferrell did an excellent job creating a story that almost everyone can relate to, whether it be to problems with parents, struggling to rely on God even when bad things happen, or facing new love when it feels wrong to give up the old love.  I can't wait to see how the secondary characters come to play in the rest of the series. I'm eager to learn more out the mysterious Jeffrey Tucker, the shy Beth Roberts, and the eager Aunt Wilma Roberts. I'm also interested to see the children grow up, so I hope they play a role in the next books as well.

Check out this book, and more from Miralee Ferrell's Love Blossoms in Oregon series here: 

*You can learn more about the author by clicking on her name in the first paragraph. You can learn more about Lena Nelson Dooley and her blog by clicking on her name in the first paragraph.*

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Though My Heart is Torn by Joanne Bischof

Good morning everyone! It's well past time for this review. Good news though, I have one week left of my summer classes, then I  have three weeks off! I will get plenty of reading done in those three weeks! I am very excited to be reviewing this book for you because it was excellent. This is the second book in the Cadence of Grace series, and the third one is expected to be released in October (sad I have to wait that long for it!) Without further adu, here's my review!

Though My Heart Is Torn: The Cadence of Grace, Book 2From Barnes and Noble:
Overview:
Gideon O’Riley has two wives—but he doesn’t know it.

Settling into a simple life in the majestic Blue Ridge mountains, Lonnie and Gideon O’Riley have finally found happiness after the rocky start to their marriage. The roguish bluegrass musician has fallen in love with his gentle wife and the God she serves, and Lonnie rests secure in his tenderness for her and their young son. A heartless ruse interupts their peace, bringing them back to Rocky Knob—and forces them to face the claims of Cassie Allan, a woman who says she is Gideon’s rightful wife.

As Gideon wades into the depths of his past choices, Lonnie is stunned by the revelations. She has no choice but to navigate this new path, knowing that surviving the devastating blow will take every ounce of strength  she has.

While Gideon’s guilt  and his bitterness towards Cassie threatens to burn up his fledgling faith, Lonnie wrestles to find the courage to trust the God who brought them together in the first place. Will their hard-earned love be able to conquer all?

Lonnie only wanted her husband’s love. Now that he belongs to another, can she surrender Gideon to a God with a bigger plan?

My Review:  This book was very hard for me to finish because it is so heartbreaking! Imagine: you finally get your husband to love you the way you deserve to be loved and he is ripped away from you! Joanne Bischof did an excellent job of describing the pain and heartache Lonnie and Gideon were feeling. You hurt along with them. Your heart breaks with theirs. While I don't particularly care for Cassie's parts in the story, you can't help but sypathize with her and feel her pain as well.

The message in the book is clear. God has a bigger plan for our lives and while we don't always agree with what's happening or see a way out, God does. We need to learn to lean on Him for everything. He can give us strength; He can give us peace in the midst of our storm.  This story shows Lonnie and Gideon struggling to find strength in God's wisdom and power which is something we can all relate to. I'm very anxious to see how the story ends with the third book, My Hope is Found.

You can purchase this book here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/though-my-heart-is-torn-joanne-bischof/1113244454?ean=9781601424235

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group through the Blogging for Books program for this review.*

CLICK HERE:
* to read the first chapter: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/blog/2013/01/09/sneak-peek-though-my-heart-is-torn-by-joanne-bischof/
*to learn more about the author: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/author-spotlight.php?authorid=157548
*to visit Joanne Bischof's website: http://www.joannebischof.com/

Monday, July 8, 2013

Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof

I am so excited to be reviewing this book for you! I received the second book, Though My Heart is Torn, from the Blogging for Books program. Naturally, I had to read the first book in the series before I could read the second! Without further ado, here is my review:

From Barnes and Noble:
Be Still My SoulOverview:
Night’s chill tickled her skin. Lonnie pressed her hands together and glanced up. He was even more handsome up close. Having grown up the shy, awkward daughter of Joel Sawyer, she’d hardly spoken to any boy, let alone the one who had mothers whispering warnings in their daughter’s ears and fathers loading shotguns.

Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith.  But when handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate. 

Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with Gideon—a man she barely knows and does not love. Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing  Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob.

My Review:  WOW! All I can say is WOW! This book is not a light read by any means, but it is fantastic. The description doesn't do the book justice.  It doesn't even come close to describing the emotion that is tinged in every word these two characters speak.  The characters are very well written.  Lonnie, even though she's used to "fading into the background" can be a little sassy and can hold her own when she has to.  Her faith is a "quiet faith" as the description states.  I wish I could have that kind of faith! Her aunt is her source of comfort, so when her father forces her into this hasty marriage and takes her away from everything she's ever known, "His eye is on the sparrow" is all the faith she has left! Gideon surprises me.  At times, he acts like he cares.  At other times, you want to punch him in the face. He is mean and VERY angry at the hand he's been dealt.  Through events in the story, you watch Gideon's faith take shape. I loved that about the story! He wants redemption, peace and slowly but surely, he finds it.

I cannot say enough good things about this book and this author! The plot moves along, not quickly, but not slowly enough to deter from the story.  The characters are real.  The author has a way of pulling you into their lives.  Gideon reminds me of the story of the prodigal son.  We all learn the same thing that Gideon did, as Gideon learns it. "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name; thou art mine."

GO READ THIS BOOK! You will not regret it! I am looking forward to reading the second book in the Cadence of Grace series, Though My Heart is Torn.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Claim by Lisa T. Bergren

Sadly, I finished the last book in Lisa T. Bergren's Homeward Trilogy Series, Claim.  I loved this series which includes Breathe and Sing (you can view these reviews on my blog as well). This is a fantastic series about God's love and the love of a family. Let's get to my review!

From Barnes and Noble: 
Claim (Homeward Trilogy Series)Overview:
Sent west by their father to make a new life, the St. Clair siblings have done so—but hardly as he’d wished. Beautiful, headstrong Moira, after pursuing a career on the Paris stage, has returned to Colorado Springs—older, wiser, and certainly much poorer—to see if there’s anything left of a relationship she’d left behind. Older sister Odessa and her husband, Bryce, are struggling to rebuild their ranch after a devastating winter. And then Nic, the prodigal son, turns up—broken, haunted, and sick about leaving his sisters.           
At last the family is reunited. But Dominic is still at loose ends, seeking a peace that has always eluded him. Only as he mines an old claim deep in the Rocky Mountains and begins a romance with a local schoolteacher does he begin to understand how passionately he is loved—by God, his family, and a good woman. But even as he relinquishes his fury, Nic discovers there is one last battle to fight…

My Review:  As I said in the beginning, this was a very satisfying end to a series about three siblings and their fight for their lives. This book focused more on Dominic and Moira's struggle to return home and seek what they have been trying to find for years - peace.  I loved reading about how God was working in each of their lives.  You could see God wearing each of them down and bringing them back into the fold.  But my favorite part of the story was watching Dominic grow to love, to learn to claim God's will for his life. That's what this book's subtle Christian theme was: claiming what God has in store for you and letting Him lead your life through faith in Him.

Lisa T. Bergren makes her characters believable  She makes them real.  She has a way of making the settings, characters, and plot feel so real and relatable. I admire that in any author. I really enjoyed this book, but I wish more of it was about Dominic. I felt like she focused a lot more on Moira than necessary, but that's ok. It didn't diminish my love of the family or this book. Go check it out! It's absolutely fantastic!


Upcoming Review:  Be Still My Soul, The Cadence of Grace Series #1 by Joanne Bischof