Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander - Book Review

I am so excited to be FINALLY bringing this review to you! I loved the book and I love this author! 
Since I was part of Tamera's Blogging Buddies, a special group of bloggers who helped promote this book, I posted the overview along with a trailer and excerpt already. To view that post, please follow the link below:

My Review
I absolutely love Tamera Alexander's writing. She has a way of pulling you into the story and leaving you wanting more. This sweet story is no exception. The story itself has a lot of components that are woven together seamlessly. It focuses on time period specific issue: women's rights, treatment of immigrants, mental illness, and the recovery of a nation after war. It's often hard to appreciate the beauty in life after something as ugly as war, and Tamera doesn't diminish that fact, in the least. That is something I can really appreciate, especially in light of my circumstances.

The characters, oh the characters! I absolutely fell in love with Eleanor. She is kind, sweet, witty, and strong. She is, indeed, a beauty so rare. Her development, while important, is not as highly played up as Marcus' development. I believe that was done because Eleanor is already the person God wants her to be, she just has to learn to embrace and trust. Marcus, on the other hand, while handsome and witty, had a lot to learn. His development from prideful to humble was an experience I think everyone goes through at one time or another. We all question our place in the world and do our best to find out where we belong. One important note: I REALLY did not like Adelicia Cheatham. I understand what she was trying to do for her niece and I admire her strength and ambition, but I just didn't like her!

The message was fantastic. I absolutely enjoyed seeing Eleanor and Marcus' journeys, which were both separate, but similar. While there thoughts are different in regards to God, their realizations were very similar. God doesn't protect us from all the hurts in life. Sometimes, He allows pain and suffering, even war, to come. What we have to grasp is that everything happens for a reason. We may never know the answer to the "why's" in life, but we have to learn to trust God and his righteousness. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." - NKJV (thank you Tamera for including this verse in your reading guide, it fits perfectly!).

**Thank you Bethany House, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.**


My Favorite Quotes:
There were so many parts of this book that I loved, I had a hard time choosing, but I narrowed it down to three that meant the most to me:

"Not everything has to be beautiful to be worthy of admiration." - Eleanor Braddock

"Every brick laid in the foundation of life, however meaningfully or haphazardly places, shaped the whole." - Marcus Geoffery
"Just because a husband--or wife--passed on didn't mean the love they'd shared had died. It lived on in the hearts of the people who still loved them. Good-byes were simply part of this life..." - Eleanor Braddock

Friday, April 25, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up (April 25)

This is the Weekend Wrap-Up, inspired by Melanie at Christian Bookshelf Review. This is where I will tell you what I've read in the past week, what I'm currently reading, and what I plan to read in the week ahead. I might also share some interesting events from the past week!

The winner of the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza giveaway is....
Thank you to everyone who commented and participated! I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your responses! 
*Winner has been notified and has one week to claim prize*
Between unpacking and cleaning, I have been SUPER busy this week, and unfortunately that cuts into my reading time. I didn't finish ANY books this week, and that makes me sad. 
Reviews Posted
What I'm Currently Reading:
A Beauty So Rare (Belmont Mansion Series #2)Pelican Bride, The: A Novel 
What I'm Reading Next
A Broken Kind of Beautiful: A NovelCowgirl TrailMark of DistinctionBluebonnet Bride: A Butterfly Palace StoryOne More Last Chance (A Place to Call Home #2)Silenced (Alaskan Courage, #4)   
That about wraps it up! What are your plans for the week?!  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Beauty So Rare - Scavenger Hunt!

Hello all! I have had the awesome opportunity to work with Tamera Alexander and Bethany House to promote A Beauty So Rare for the past month! Part of that month, I was in Belize, but I still was able to participate some on Facebook. Today, I'm bringing you a Pinterest Scavenger Hunt with Tamera!
From Tamera's Blog:

Join me for a Pinterest Scavenger Hunt and win 1 of 7 copies of USA Today bestselling author Tamera Alexanders newest novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series. 

The questions are posted below and the giveaway runs through Sunday night, April 27. The answers to the questions can be found on Tamera's Pinterest page. Not on Pinterest? Doesnt matter. You can still participate and find the answers by using this link. 

Your answers must be submitted to TameraAlexander@ymail.com (numbered 1 - 6) by Sunday, April 27, midnight Central to be entered into a drawing to win one of seven copies of A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series. 

Questions for the Pinterest Scavenger Hunt

    1.     On the A Beauty So Rare board, find the pin that shares the seamstress who sewed the dress on the cover of A Beauty So Rare (featuring the heroine, Eleanor Braddock) and *click the pin* to discover what the seamstresss most challenging part of making the pink dress was. 
    2.    On the A Lasting Impression board, find the pin where Tamera shares about the desert seasons in her life––those times that helped her write about a certain relationship in her novel, A Beauty So Rare. *Click the pin* to learn what specific relationship Tamera mentions in that blog. Its the relationship between which two people?
    3.    On the My Novels board, find the pin where Tamera shares about the inspiration behind A Beauty So Rare. *Click it* and watch the video to learn the true history that ties the Belmont Mansion (the setting of A Lasting Impression and A Beauty So Rare) to the real Insane Asylum that existed in Nashville in the 19th century.
    4.    On the Recipes from my novels board, what's the recipe from A Beauty So Rare thats posted about most often on that board (doesn't necessarily have the most re-pins)? It's also a favorite of Eleanor's.
    5.    On the My Loves board, find the pin that references Easter weekend then *click it* to learn what kind of fish Tamera caught this past weekend.
    6.    On the My Novels board, find the pin for the book trailer for A Beauty So Rare, then *click it* to watch the video. What is it that Aunt Adelicia is determined to find for Eleanor?
7. BONUS: LIKE Tamera's Facebook Page for an extra chance to win.

In your email, remember to number your answers from 1 to 6, like this:
1. Answer 
2. Answer
3. Answer
4. Answer
5. Answer
6. Answer

Hope you have fun with it!

Note: Pinterest is not sponsoring this promotion nor are they formally affiliated with it. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Butterfly Palace by Colleen Coble

Overview: Elegance and wealth. Privilege and politics. The extravagance of the Butterfly Palace overwhelmed Lily’s senses and nearly smothered her painful memories. She pushed away her misgivings . . . She was perfectly safe in this huge house.

Austin, Texas—1904: Abandoned by the love of her life and still mourning the loss of her mother, Lily Donaldson has turned her back on the pain and come to Austin for a fresh start, working for the Marshall family as a kitchen maid in their luxurious mansion, the Butterfly Palace. The tasks before her are legion, and her mistress less than pleasant, but at least Lily’s new life will be, if nothing else, distracting.

But one night, while serving at a dinner party, Lily recognizes the man who abandoned her, Andy, her liaison from the livery stable, the blacksmith’s son . . . sitting among the distinguished guests. Though he recognizes her, Andy does not acknowledge her aloud, and Lily is left reeling, flabbergasted, and irate.

But before she can get an explanation, the path of the Servant Girl Killer swerves very close to the Butterfly Palace, sowing terror among the maids. Having come to Austin to start anew, Lily suddenly feels trapped in a spider web. How can she know who to trust in a house where lies come dressed in fine suits and deceit in silk gowns the colors of butterfly wings?

My Review:  I really cannot get enough of this author. Colleen Coble knows how to write a great story that captivates the reader from beginning to end. I was trapped from the first chapter of the book to the very end. Most of the time, I can kind of figure out what's going to happen or who the villain is in a mystery/suspense story. However, there were so many twists and turns to this story, I didn't figure anything out until the characters did! I loved that about it!

The characters, main and secondary, were very well developed. Lily Donaldson knows heartache and pain. In spite of all she's been through, she still cares deeply for others and has a strong sense of self (even when she doesn't realize it). She has her faults and she's not perfect, so that makes her more real. She is definitely a character one could look up to. Andrew Hawkins (Drew Hawkes) is not your typical self-assured male lead. He questions himself, especially where Lily is concerned, and he has his doubts like any human being does. Even the secondary characters of Emily and Belle were essential to the development of Lily and Drew as people and romantically. I hope to hear more of Belle's story in a later novel!

The message of the book was subtle, but none-the-less important. As Colleen says in her note to her readers, "Struggle and pain aren't something to fear. We all face trials while here on earth. What matters is how we're dealing with the challenges that come our way." God is continually molding us under the refiner's fire. Do we let these challenges make us stronger or do we give the devil the satisfaction of breaking us? Overall, I can't say enough great things about this book. Get your copy today!!

About the Author: Lonestar Angel, the 4th novel in Colleen Coble’s popular Lonestar series won the 2012 Carol Award in Romantic Suspense.

With more than 300 products nominated, industry retailers chose the titles to receive the Retailer’s Choice award. The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble, received an award in fiction: historical romance. When hearing the news, Daisy Hutton, vice president and publisher for Thomas Nelson’s fiction division had this to say: “The Thomas Nelson fiction team is delighted that Colleen Coble’s work has been recognized by retailers through this award. Colleen is more than a Thomas Nelson author; she is a part of our family, having celebrated her 10th anniversary with us this summer. We greatly appreciate the support that retailers have given to Colleen throughout her career, and we join her in celebrating this achievement.”

Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up (April 18)

This is the Weekend Wrap-Up, inspired by Melanie at Christian Bookshelf Review. This is where I will tell you what I've read in the past week, what I'm currently reading, and what I plan to read in the week ahead. I might also share some interesting events from the past week!
I apologize for posting the winner for this giveaway so late. I was out of the country! My church and I went on a mission trip to Belize. I hope to have a post later with pictures from my trip. It was such an amazing experience!
 The winner of the Fool for Books giveaway is....
Erika W.*
Thank you to everyone who commented and participated! I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your responses!
*Winner has been notified and prize has been claimed*

Current Giveaways:
Enter to win a $25 gift card and check out the other blogs participating in the
Hoppy Easter 2
Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop!  
*Giveaway ends 4/24 at Midnight!* 

Enter to win one of 10 e-copies of Miranda's book To Die Once.

What I've Read
Butterfly Palace
Reviews Posted:
What I'm Currently Reading:

A Beauty So Rare (Belmont Mansion Series #2)

What's on my [to - read] List: 
A Broken Kind of Beautiful: A NovelCowgirl TrailMark of DistinctionBluebonnet Bride: A Butterfly Palace StoryPelican Bride, The: A NovelOne More Last Chance (A Place to Call Home #2)

That about wraps it up!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

To Die Once by Miranda A. Uyeh - Blog Tour and Giveaway!

As a blogger and book reviewer, I often get contacted to help promote books. I wish I could read every book that comes my way because I truly love to read and help out new and upcoming authors. I especially love when the books have an inspiring Christian message! I have been following Miranda's blog, To Be A Person, for a while and found her writing to be inspirational and excellent. When Miranda approached me about reviewing her book, I didn't hesitate to say yes! Check out the book description, my review, and enter her giveaway below!

About the book:
Two men, one woman, a rosebush …
… a terrible past, an uncertain future
Jennifer, a woman unexpectedly trapped in a path of love and passion against everything she believes.
Rodrigo, a man set to get what he wants at the cost of what matters most.
Stefano, a man with a past, a story to tell and passion to offer.
Chidi, a friend in need, a friend indeed. Or not?
From a culture where good girls follow the norm and live as they’ve been told, Jennifer is no different from any other girl until by happenstance, she meets and falls in love with Rodrigo, a man who’s handsome, rich and foreign. Different. She has no idea who he is or what he does, and is swept into a world of romance and passion. It is not long before she discovers a shocking truth that shakes both her world and his.
Then he is gone.
Stefano shows up at a time when Jennifer has made up her mind about the rules of life. He thinks she’s beautiful and is in love with her. In a bid to convince her to give him a chance in her life, old memories once buried are brought to life. And the events that follow don’t leave anyone unaffected by the truth of the past that was left unsettled.
Meanwhile, Jennifer with her friend Chidi, find themselves on a self-discovery journey that has one of them raising questions.
Some just have to ask, where is God in all this?
… an inspirational romance, from Lagos to Italy.

Praise for To Die Once
“A little mystery, a bit of intrigue, a lot of romance. To Die Once is a Christian romance with real characters facing deep issues. The emotional writing is truly heart-felt. This is Ms. Uyeh’s debut novel and thankfully, this won’t be the last.” — K. Victoria Chase, Bestselling author of From Across The Divide, Virginia Justice, Raphael: volume 1, Santiago Brothers book series.
“Miranda Uyeh has penned a novel full of heart. To Die Once is a story alternately thorny and tender that tackles the various forms of love – romance, friendship, and faith – in unique settings and situations. Often surprising, consistently intriguing, Uyeh’s debut is a bold start to her blossoming writing career.” — Amber Stokes, Author of “The Heart’s Spring” Series
“A fun inspirational romance read” — Rektok Ross, Best selling YA Romance author of Prodigal

My Review: What a powerful story! The plot was fast moving, but it took a while to get into. Jennifer and Rodrigo's relationship brings up a good point. Should a Christian be with a non-Christian? I wish the thought was expounded on more in the story. It lingered in the back of my mind as I read. Did the events that take place in Jennifer and Rodrigo's life occur because they were outside of God's will? Could that heartache and pain they suffered been avoided? I love stories that provoke questions and then have them answered in the end!

I feel like the characters were very well developed. The author did a great job of portraying their feelings and thoughts. I was emotionally attached to the characters by the end of the book because of it. Jennifer's fall, rise, fall and rise were very well hashed out. I felt what she was feeling and sympathized with her. I would have loved to hear more about Rodrigo's transformation, though. What I did read made me want to know more!

Overall, though it took some time to really get into, the story had a powerful message. God can take any situation, good or bad, and turn it around for His glory. All we have to do is let Him. Each character experiences God's grace, mercy, and redemption in a very poignant way. I really enjoyed the story and look forward to reading more!

*Thank you, Miranda, for providing me with an uncorrected copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

Author’s Note
This is a story centered on God’s healing power of grace and mercy. People like Jennifer, Rodrigo (and Stefano), and Chidi exist in our world today, hurting from the choices and the
mistakes they’d made in the past, and seeking redemption/solace in any way possible, even from vices like alcohol. If you find yourself in such a position, or you know someone drowning in pain, please, let them know that God’s arms are wide-open to receive and heal anyone who will earnestly come to Him. He says in His Word in Heb. 4:16 that we can come boldly before the throne of grace to seek grace and mercy for when we need it. Do not lose hope that you can be healed and fully restored. There is no sin that God can’t forgive, and there’s no one He’ll turn away. Come to Him today and receive your healing!

About the Author: Miranda A. Uyeh is an assistant lecturer at a local college in Makurdi City, Nigeria, where she teaches two geology courses. Her love for books goes as far back as when her father placed Disney’s Rapunzel in her hands—her very first storybook! By the time she was thirteen she knew she was going to be a writer. You can find Miranda on her blog where she shares her love for books, entertainment and Christian spirituality with her readers. Miranda holds a B.Tech (Hons) in Applied Geology from ATBU, Nigeria. To Die Once is her debut novel, #1 of the Child of Grace book series.

Miranda can be found on her BlogFacebookGoodreadsGoogle+Pinterest, and  Twitter. Keep up with Miranda and the Child of Grace series here.

10 winners will win an ebook each every week in the duration of the tour, April 5th – May, 2014. You can enter to win a copy by visiting my facebook page. You may also follow the twitter hashtag #ToDieOnce, to stay updated with reviews/reader discussions. A pinterest board is available for readers to view here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza - Giveaway Hop!

Hoppy Easter 2
4th Annual Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop
April 17th to 24th
Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Read Now Sleep Later
I love participating in these giveaway hops! It gives me a chance to show my followers my appreciation! This one is no different!

Why is Easter so important to me? Not only does it mean I will get to see my family and friends, but it means celebrating the life I have in Jesus. The Easter season is not all about the Easter bunny and candy. It's about the death and resurrection of our Lord. It's one of my favorite times of the year because it reminds me how much Jesus had to suffer for our sins.
What can you win?:
$25 at Barnes and Noble -OR - Amazon
How can you enter?:
Simple! Fill out the form below! There is one manual entry: Why is the Easter season so special to you? Leave me a comment below. The other options are optional.

Don't forget to check out the other blogs participating!:

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Shining Light by Judith Miller

Product Information
  • ISBN-13: 9780764210020
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Series: Home to Amana Series , #3
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 276,120
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)
Overview: The kind people of Amana have been her guiding light, but her greatest trial is yet to come...

West Amana, Iowa, 1890

After Andrea Wilson receives the devastating news that her husband has been lost at sea, she returns home to Iowa with her young son, Lukas. But what she finds there causes more heartache: The family farm has burned and her father has died, leaving Andrea with nothing.

Andrea must rely on the kindness of the people from the nearby Amana village who invite her to stay with them for a time. She discovers much generosity and contentment among the Amanans--especially from the tinsmith, Dirk Knefler, who takes her son under his wing. But is the simple, cloistered life in Amana what Andrea wants for Lukas's future? Is she willing to give up the comforts and freedom of the outside world? And when yet another round of shocking news comes her way, will Andrea ever be able to find the serenity and hope that have eluded her for so long?

My Review: This is a sweet, sweet story. The author paints a vivid picture of life in the Amana colonies. It's a different world, for sure. I can't imagine living in a community where everyone shares everything. The author's words made me feel like I was experiencing this community and life right along with Andrea.

The characters are well written. Andrea's situation is sad, but probably very common in this time period. Her growth as a person is amazing to watch. Dirk is such a patient man. He is kind and understanding. Their relationship was very natural, and I loved that the author took it slow with them. It helped to show Andrea's growth spiritually and as a person. I would have loved to hear more of Fred's story, though. I was devastated for Andrea when Fred came back.

The faith of this community is different, but strong and amazing. They really try to live what the Bible teaches and their willingness to help is something we can all learn from. Overall, this was an enjoyable story! I look forward to reading more from this extraordinary author!

*Thank you Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.* 

About the Author: Judith Miller is an award-winning writer whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her bestselling novels. She is the author of the popular Daughters of Amana and Home to Amana series, which explore the closed communities of the Amana Colonies. Judy makes her home in Topeka, Kansas.