30 June 2014

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

Goodreads | Amazon
A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans – a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets.

When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been – and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum – is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.

For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.

For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The HelpDollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time.

By turns uplifting and funny, poignant and full of verve, Dollbaby is a novel readers will take to their hearts.

Typically I am not one to pick up Southern fiction – though not for any particular reason – but I am glad I broke from my recent reading trend and read Laura Lane McNeal’s Dollbaby. Set in Civil Rights-era New Orleans, this novel approaches the prominent race-related tensions and the swift currents of unrest gently yet authentically through her flawed, relatable, endearing characters. As I read, I felt McNeal seems to engage this history realistically without being overwhelmingly and excessively “in your face” or “over the top.” And amidst these historical aspects, she crafts a hopeful, page-turning coming-of-age tale of defining family, surviving grief and loss, embracing fate, uncovering the secret moments that forever alter life. I loved this sweetly and emotionally well-written novel and definitely recommend it. I thank Penguin’s First to Read for providing me with a copy of Dollbaby in exchange for my honest review.

26 June 2014

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts

About the Book

Goodreads | Amazon
When it comes to men, sisters don't share! 

After a fake food poisoning incident in L.A., Bailey Sterling's dreams of becoming a caterer to the stars collapse faster than a soufflé. Now Bailey's face is in all the gossip rags and her business is in ruins. But the Sterling women close ranks and bring her back to Icicle Falls, where she'll stay with her sister Cecily.

All goes well between the sisters until Bailey comes up with a new business idea — a tea shop on a charming street called Lavender Lane. She's going into partnership with Todd Black, who — it turns out — is the man Cecily's started dating. It looks to Cecily as if there's more than tea brewing in that cute little shop. And she's not pleased.

Wait! Isn't Cecily seeing Luke Goodman? He's a widower with an adorable little girl, and yes, Cecily does care about him. But Todd's the one who sends her zing-o-meter off the charts. So now what? Should you have to choose between your sister and the man you love (or think you love)?

Oh, sisters… They always find a way to create so much drama – which Sheila Roberts captures in her novel, The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane. Icicle Falls’ Sterling sisters are as close-knit as sisters come – but throw in a couple men and the claws come out. As their story progresses, Roberts certainly explores the roller-coaster highs and lows experienced in family relationships. At times, I smiled and laughed. At others, I groaned and cringed. And sometimes I just wanted to shake some common sense back into these characters (– but that would too easy, and where’s the fun in that?). As a whole, The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane is a lovely story about love and family – and navigating the challenges of both.

I should note that most of the plot points mentioned in the back-of-the-book blurb do not happen until halfway into the storyline. In the first half, Roberts focuses on developing Cecily’s relationships with her men, Todd and Luke, and Bailey’s attempts to get back on her feet. Admittedly, I spent much of my reading time wondering, “Where is the tea shop and the man-stealing? When does that start?” But this in no way diminished my enjoyment of The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane. Instead, the wondering just kept me on my toes, my anticipation high for the upcoming character interactions and squabbles.

All in all, Sheila Roberts’ The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane is a delightfully fun, heartwarming read – one I would recommend to any lover of romance novels. Lovers of Roberts’ Life in Icicle Falls series will relish the return trip to Icicle Falls, seeing many familiar and beloved faces. However, it is not necessary to have read any or all of the previous novels to understand and love The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane. This novel was the first I have read by Sheila Roberts – and I’m sure glad I picked it up.

Thanks to Sheila Roberts and Pump Up Your Book, I received a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

§  The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane is available at Amazon.
§  Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
§  Purchase a Harlequin Books.
§  Download The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane at iTunes.
§  Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
§  Read the first chapter here.

About the Author
Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children.

Writing since 1989, Sheila’s books have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed books. Her best-selling novel On Strike for Christmas was made into a movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network, and her novel The Nine Lives of Christmas has just been optioned for film and is slated to be a Hallmark movie later this year. Her novel Angel Lane was named one of Amazon’s Top Ten Romances for 2009.

When she’s not making public appearances or playing with her friends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

§  Visit Sheila Roberts’ website.
§  Connect with Sheila on Facebook and Twitter.
§  Visit Sheila’s blog.
§  More books by Sheila Roberts.
§  Watch videos of Sheila talking about her books.
§  Sign up for Sheila’s newsletter.
§  Contact Sheila. 

24 June 2014

Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

Goodreads | Amazon
Can a mother face the secrets of her past in order to protect her daughter from the same mistakes?

Melanie and Will Connors seem like the perfect couple, but their marriage only looks good on the outside, having withered inside from a lack of intimacy.

The barriers Melanie faces to intimacy are hidden in her past — a misguided tryst with a trusted friend of her father's, a pattern of promiscuity as a teen, empty relationships in early adulthood. The only way Melanie sees to save herself from herself is to turn off her desires — even in her marriage.

Will insists they either work on the marriage — or work on the divorce. Their attempt at restoration occurs in the midst of a New Hampshire presidential primary that is rocked by violent protests and razor-sharp character assassinations. For the first time, their marriage begins to feel like a safe place.

As Melanie tries to sort through her own past, she sees her 16-year-old daughter's head turned by a charismatic older man on Will's campaign team. Can Melanie sift through her own rubble and find the voice to help guide her daughter — and possibly find the joy that God intended for her marriage?

Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel have created a beautifully winding and connecting tale in their Veil of Secrets. The characters are blatantly flawed and wholly authentic; their histories painfully broken, full of shame, fear and regret. Yet, at no point did I lack hope for their futures. This story honestly captures the challenging and continual process of healing – anger and sorrow, grace, forgiveness and love. It is raw, emotional, real. Add these personal and relational struggles to the ever-present backdrop of the political intrigue of a presidential campaign and Veil of Secrets is a hard book to put down. I would definitely recommend it, though younger readers should beware of some mature thematic content. I am thankful BookLook Bloggers provided me with a copy of this book and the opportunity to honestly review it. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own. (I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

Top Ten Tuesday: Things I Like on My Book Covers

Hosted weekly by The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Shades of the same color.

2. Big titles.

3. Bridges.

4. Cartoon buildings.

5. Letters.

6. Open space.

7. Birds.

8. Silhouettes.

9. Dresses.

10. A single object.

23 June 2014

The Rescue by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Goodreads | Amazon
He’s taking a chance on love... and there’s no plan B.

Will Stoltz has returned to Stoney Ridge with a clear plan. He’s opening a wild bird rescue center and is determined to rekindle his fizzled romance with Jackie Colombo, the veterinarian who stole his heart. But nothing is working out as Will planned. The leased building for the rescue center is a disaster, his funding is rapidly dwindling, and Jackie Colombo has disappeared without a trace.

When an injured eagle is found in a pasture near the Inn at Eagle Hill, Will is desperate to prove to himself, to his skeptical father, and to everyone else that his mission has not been in vain. But even the best laid plans are no match for fate.

Travel back to the Inn at Eagle Hill for the untold story of one of your favorite characters and experience the miracle of love.

Suzanne Woods Fisher’s "The Rescue" is the perfect read while waiting for the upcoming release of the conclusion to the Inn at Eagle Hill series, The Revealing. This brief novella returns to Stoney Ridge and the Inn at Eagle Hill with Will Stoltz – a character I have hoped would find a happy ending ever since he left Windmill Farm in The Haven. After his momentary appearance with his mother in The Letters, Will finally returns with the intention of following his passion and the possibility of love – and learns the importance of letting control rest in God’s hands. I must admit I was a bit disappointed that the Lapps did not make more of an appearance in the story. Still, "The Rescue" is a sweet, delightful story, easily read in one sitting. Lovers of the Inn at Eagle Hill series should miss this novella.

Thanks to Revell and LitFuse Publicity Group, I received a complimentary digital copy of this novella and the opportunity to review it honestly.

21 June 2014

Appalachian Serenade by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Goodreads | Amazon
Delilah Morrissey has always wanted to be a mother, but when she becomes a young widow, that dream now seems farther away than ever. Unable to continue to live alone in Chicago, her only option is to accept her sister's offer to move in with her family back in West Virginia. Will Delilah have the faith to pursue a new dream - even if it means giving up the old?

In this charming novella, debut novelist Sarah Loudin Thomas introduces readers to Wise, West Virginia - a small town nestled in an Appalachian valley where the everyday miracles of life and faith play out in stories of healing, hope, and love.

This brief yet beautiful novella, Appalachian Serenade, sets up Sarah Loudin Thomas’ upcoming novel, Miracles in the Dry Season, to be released on August 5th. Though short enough to easily read in one sitting, the story of Appalachian Serenade introduces readers to the small town of Wise, West Virginia and the quirky characters that inhabit it. Thomas composes a sweet, satisfying love story, while creating an interesting discussion of dreams and family. I enjoyed every minute of this quick trip to Wise and cannot wait for the chance to return in Miracles in the Dry Season.

Thanks to Bethany House and Amazon, I received a free copy of this digital novella. Feel free to download your own copy. 

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Goodreads | Amazon
Fairies. Leprechauns. Centaurs. Trolls. Magic. These concepts are anything but new to the modern readers. Every culture has its personal legends about mystical and magical creatures, fascinating people for generations. But legends told and retold can soon lose the magic from their storytelling. In his novel, Artemis Fowl, Irish author Eoin Colfer provides a fresh perspective of these tales, avoiding the age-old clichés. A young-adult fantasy novel, Artemis Fowl introduces its readers to a fantastical world situated within the context of the modern-day world. Colfer’s familiar world, wrought with imagination, provides a useful setting for his exploration of the timeworn tales.

In a contemporary world lives Artemis Fowl – a genius, a criminal mastermind and a 12-year-old boy. Obviously not the average preadolescent, Artemis discovers what few humans could ever believe – the existence of fairies. Equipped with the intellect of an adult, the imagination of a child and the determination to restore his family’s lost fortune, only he would dare to rob the mythologized fairy folk of their coveted gold. But separating a fairy from its gold is no cavalier undertaking. Yet, perhaps foolhardily so, Artemis is just crazy enough to attempt it (and already presume his success).

The modern fairy civilization has long distanced itself from the buckled shoes and knickerbockers of traditional folklore. Nowadays, driven deep underground by the overbearing human presence found aboveground, fairies uphold a cautious, protected and technologically-advanced existence, leagues ahead of their human counterparts. A complex set of races – elves, gnomes, sprites, goblins, dwarves, pixies, centaurs and more – lives somewhat peaceably together in an underground city, the Lower Elements, near the Earth’s core. Here, in the Lower Elements, leprechauns are no longer little old men sitting at the end of a rainbow, counting their golden coins, but instead LEPrecons – members of the highly-prestigious reconnaissance unit of the Lower Elements Police. Centaurs can design the most advanced of technology, dwarves are known for their powerful and noxious flatulence and goblins shoot fireballs from their nostrils. In the hands of Colfer, the classic mythical anecdotes acquire new quirks and twists – to the delight of the readers.

Yet, even with the luxuries and securities of their advanced society, the fairies never quite rid themselves of an unwanted and unpleasant human influence – though not for lacking of trying. The fairy existence revolves around the surface of the Earth and the human society it contains, for fairy civilization, though portrayed as the far superior entity, constantly fears detection. After years of antagonistic interaction aboveground, which spawned the various long-lasting legends, fairies learned that the two civilizations could not possibly coexist amiably. Now, to avoid further conflict, the fairy civilization does everything possible to remain a well-hidden secret.

But Artemis breaches the boundaries between human and fairy. He is determined to bring the two civilizations together again – for his own selfish gain, of course. So, after capturing a careless elf, Holly Short, Artemis begins his unsympathetic relationship with the fairy race, manipulating and conniving in pursuit of his golden ransom. As the back-and-forth antics of fairy and human intensify, it becomes evident that Artemis may have finally met his match – to the readers’ chagrin or, perhaps, pleasure. Colfer encourages his reader to explore the realms of common folklore as it interacts with humanity. Who should the readers support? Fairy or human? Who do they want to win? In this action-filled and wittily humorous novel, Colfer keeps his readers hooked until the very end, always questioning, waiting, wanting answers to the questions only they can answer.

[Note: This is a review of Artemis Fowl I wrote ages ago in school. I am posting it now for no other reason than I love this book and felt like sharing its greatness.]

20 June 2014

Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble

Don’t miss Colleen Coble's latest release in the Hope Beach series, Seagrass Pier. The book releases July 1st, and Colleen's publisher is offering the ebook at a special pre-order price of just $4.99 between now and June 30th everywhere ebooks are sold.

PLUS... between June 9th and 30th Colleen will be hosting a Kindle giveaway.


One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
  • Seagrass Pier and the rest of the Hope Beach series by Colleen Coble
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 30th. Winner will be announced on Colleen's blog on July 1st.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning and be sure to stop by Colleen's blog on July 1st to see if you won!

About the Book

Goodreads | Amazon
In a secluded corner of Hope Beach, one woman must decipher a stranger’s memories... before they cost her everything.

Elin Summerall was one of the lucky ones. Not only did she get a heart transplant, but the donor was a perfect fit. A miraculously perfect fit.
But when Elin begins having violent flashbacks — and vivid dreams of being strangled — she realizes that she has been the recipient of more than just a new heart... Elin is remembering her donor’s murder.

Her strange affliction has attracted some unwanted attention: from the press, from the authorities... and from the killer himself. Now, living alone with her young daughter and aging mother, Elin is being stalked — by a man she’s only met in her nightmares.

The police are dubious of her story, but one off-duty FBI agent is eager to help her: Agent Marc Everton, the father of Elin’s daughter.

Of course, he doesn't know about that. Yet.

Now, in a remote cottage on Hope Island, Elin and Marc must probe the secrets buried in her borrowed heart. And there’s no time to waste. One man is desperate to silence her — before she remembers too much.

From the start, Colleen Coble’s Seagrass Pier intrigued me. I have heard mentions of donated organ and the unexplained lingering bits of personality – termed in the book as “cell memory” – but I have never before read a book in which a transplanted organ serves as the key to solving a murder mystery. What a novel idea. Combine that with Coble’s typical mixture of suspense and romance and the product is nothing less than a captivating read. I couldn’t put it down. While I admittedly guessed at the murderous culprit early in the novel, the twists and turns kept me questioning and doubting until the revealing and still surprising end.

Coble uses the perspectives of multiple characters to convey her story – a technique I have found, in some novels, to be a nuisance. However, in Seagrass Pier, the multiple points of view do not detract from the plotline. Coble avoids excessive information dumping with each character, providing only the necessary tidbits to keep moving forward. Elin and Marc and their budding relationship still remain at the forefront of the narration, and I quickly got to know and love each of them.

As the third novel in Coble’s Hope Beach series, Seagrass Pier also offers glimpses of characters met in both Tidewater Inn and Rosemary Cottage. Of course, this brought several smiles to my face over the course of the book – I love when books overlap to peek at the lives of previously beloved characters. A treat indeed. Yet, while reading the previous novels helps to enjoy these nuggets, Seagrass Pier can be read and enjoyed easily on its own, like the other Hope Beach novels. So whether or not you have read Tidewater Inn and Rosemary Cottage, I definitely recommend Seagrass Pier – it’s a fun, thrilling read, especially perfect for a summer trip to the beach.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and LitFuse Publicity Group, I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. Purchase your own copy of Seagrass Pier here and read what others have to say about it here.

About the Author
Colleen Coble has sold over 2 million novels worldwide. Seagrass Pier, the third installment in her acclaimed Hope Beach series, marks a new highpoint for emotion and complexity in Coble's addictive brand of romantic suspense.

Connect with Colleen at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

17 June 2014

Love, Skip, Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Yes by Shelene Bryan

Goodreads | Amazon
Every significant event in the Bible happened because someone said yes to God. Start living the adventure of yes today!

Shelene Bryan had it all - a wonderful husband, two great kids, a rewarding job, a dream home, and more. Then a friend saw the pictures on the refrigerator door of the two African kids Shelene's family sponsors and she asked, "How do you know those kids are real?" That question changed Shelene's life forever.

In Love, Skip, Jump, Shelene shares how she loved being safe and comfortable. She had no desire to leave the USA. But she couldn't shake the question and soon was on a plane to Africa. She said yes to God, and not only met the kids her family sponsors but opened herself up to the journey God had been preparing for her, including founding Skip1.org, a charity that provides food and clean water to children around the world.

Some of the most amazing things God wants to do in our lives involve allowing him to take us on uncomfortable journeys.

Don't miss out on the incredible adventure God has for you. Say yes to God - love, skip, and jump your way to his plans for you!

After finishing reading Shelene Bryan’s Love, Skip, Jump, I continue to find myself thinking, “Now what? I need to do something.” Love, Skip, Jump is not one of those books you read and then return to ignoring on the shelf. Even after the last page, it demands thought, remembrance, action. Bryan’s extraordinary experiences and insights are challenging, convicting and inspiring, and her infectious passion for loving, skipping and jumping easily fill page after page. Bryan is an incredibly engaging writer, employing a simple conversational tone sans any holier-than-thou patronizing and condescending. Love, Skip, Jump is a joy to read and take to heart. I definitely recommend it. Don’t miss out on the “adventure of yes!” I thank BookLook Bloggers for providing me with a copy of this book and the opportunity to honestly review it. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own. (I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Summer TBR List

Hosted weekly by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Again, I've picked the books I plan to read without reviewing, so perhaps this is all a bit of wishful thinking...)