30 August 2014

East India by Colin Falconer


About the Book
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Cool Gus Publishing
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction
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In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.

He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.

But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.

As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.

He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’

But can he keep it?

Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India will keep you wondering until the final page.

Colin Falconer’s East India fictionalizes the history of the Batavia shipwreck in 1629, a piece of history I had never known before this novel, and brings it to life in fascinating, horrifying and vivid detail. With all his well-crafted and distinct characters, Falconer believably and authentically explores the whole gamut of human depravity. Manipulation, greed, lust, rape, murder, betrayal… It’s all right there. Appalled yet captivated, I couldn’t seem to stop reading this dark, intense story.

I should mention that the back-of-the-book summary is misleading. Before starting to read, I assumed the plot would focus on the developing romance between Cornelia and Michiel after the shipwreck. However, this is not entirely the case, since the shipwreck does not occur until a third of the way into the narrative. Of course, the preceding build-up is important and explanatory, and told from multiple perspectives, it sets the scene well for the ensuing conflict. But for most of the novel, Michiel makes very few appearances (compared to other characters) and when he finally begins interacting with Cornelia, their romance covers a few pages at most. So, I would not recommend East India to readers looking primarily for a romance – but for lovers of historical fiction, it’s sure to be an intriguing and thrilling read.

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I received a copy of East India and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Buy the Book

About the Author
Born in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz.

He currently lives in Barcelona.

For more information please visit Colin Falconer’s website. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

29 August 2014

A Grand Design by Amber Stockton

Don’t miss this month’s Quilts of Love book, A Grand Design by Amber Stockton. Who hasn't struggled to let painful memories go and move into God's healing? You’ll be sure to love this heartfelt and encouraging tale set on historic Mackinac Island.

Celebrate August’s release by entering to win a Kindle from Quilts of Love and RSVPing for the "Fall into Fall" Facebook author chat party.

Quilts of Love Kindle HDX Giveaway, Amber Stockton, A Grand Design

  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • A Grand Design by Amber Stockton
  • Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 16th. Winner will be announced at the "Fall into Fall" Facebook party with Amber Stockton and Robin Caroll. RSVP for an evening of book chat, quilting tips and tricks, prizes, and more!


RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 16th!

About the Book

Goodreads | Amazon
A getaway on a charming island may be just what Alyssa needs - if only she can let go of her past.

When Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a fun getaway for two on Mackinac Island where her grandmother lives, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they tour the old shops and hidden treasures of the quaint island while helping Alyssa's grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island, parts of the city that are otherwise off limits to tourists.

As the quilt's story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother's life... and attracts the attention of the handsome Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go? Or will the quest to piece together the heirloom quilt restore Alyssa's fractured heart - and bring healing to her entire family?

Amber Stockton tells a sweet, fun story in A Grand Design and right now, I can think of nothing I didn’t enjoy about it. It’s just fantastic.

Set, for the most part, on Mackinac Island, nearly every scene is picturesque and invites a bit of romance and adventure – which is just what Alyssa Denham needs. Guarded yet personable, Alyssa is one of those people who always require a slight push of encouragement to do something out of the ordinary. So it is with some hesitance that Alyssa embarks on a free trip with Libby, her best friend (who dared her to enter to win the trip in the first place), and expects only to enjoy a few relaxing days in the summer vacation destination of her childhood. Then, the handsome, gentlemanly Scott Whitman captures her attention and of course, everything changes.

As the central characters, Alyssa and Scott are utterly real and likeable. Their relationship and romance develop believably, albeit quickly and not without a few complications. Each character has a piece of the past holding them back, and neither would be able to move forward to overcome their fear and pain without the encouraging secondary characters. Luckily, the flirtatiously entertaining best friends and classy, endearing grandmother are determined and up to the challenge. All in all, these characters complement each other well within the storyline, and their various interactions lead to both humorous and tender moments, all satisfying to read.

As of yet, I have not read any other Quilts of Love novels, so I cannot compare A Grand Design within the series. But I would expect fans of the series will not be disappointed. Easy to read in one sitting, this inspirational contemporary romance is a perfectly enjoyable summer read.

Thanks to LitFuse Publicity Group, I received a copy of A Grand Design and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own. To read other opinions, be sure to check out what other reviewers think here.

About the Author
Amber Stockton is an award-winning author, a national speaker, and a direct-sales brand partner with Nerium International. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and a son, and an Aussie/retriever mix named Roxie. Three of her novels have won annual reader's choice awards. 

Connect with Amber at her website, Facebook and Twitter.


About the Series
Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The Quilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women's fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories.

28 August 2014

Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These by David Z. Nowell


Goodreads | Amazon
Put your faith into action.

Do you ever feel like something in your faith is missing, that going to church, studying the Bible, and tithing just aren't enough? There has to be more, right? What would it look like to truly follow Christ and not just believe in him?

David Nowell asked the very same questions, and was led to minister to the "least of these," whom God loves deeply. In Dirty Faith, Nowell shares powerful stories of faith in action, and encourages us to move with him from the sidelines to the front line, to get our hands dirty helping the hopeless, the disenfranchised, and the poor. 

Loving as God loves is central to the gospel, whether that means taking in foster children, ministering to inmates at the local jail, or something else God has in mind just for you. Let this inspiring book help you find what's been missing in your faith.

David Z. Nowell offers much-needed challenge to the Church in his book, Dirty Faith. As he shares his experiences in working with at-risk, vulnerable children through Hope Unlimited for Children, Nowell speaks to the importance of acting out faith (getting it dirty, so to speak) instead of simply talking it. These days, I have noticed it is easy to develop a routine that only allows for faith primarily in the pew on Sunday morning – but Jesus intends for his followers to do so much more. So, Nowell highlights how Jesus continually calls, throughout his ministry, for service and love to the neglected in society and connects the Scripture with heartbreaking statistics and inspirational stories. Dirty Faith is not an easy book to ignore, and while some sections seemed repetitive and a bit discombobulated to me, the overall message is important, insightful and convicting. I cannot imagine anyone could read this book without feeling compelled to serve the world’s vulnerable and impoverished. I encourage Christians to read Dirty Faith and then allow it to incite action. The work is necessary.

Thanks to Bethany House, I received a copy of Dirty Faith and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

27 August 2014

Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney

The first book in Deborah Raney's new Chicory Inn series, Home to Chicory Lane, introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Deborah is celebrating the release of her new series with a $200 B&B Weekend Getaway and a Facebook author chat party.

chicory-400-click
 
  One winner will receive:
  • A B&B Weekend Getaway (via a $200 Visa cash card)
  • Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 9th. Winner will be announced at the Home to Chicory Lane Author Chat Party on 9/9. Deborah will be hosting a heartfelt book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at the next book in the Chicory Inn series!

So grab your copy of Home to Chicory Lane and join Deborah on the evening of September 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)


Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

About the Book

Goodreads | Amazon
Landyn longs for home, but her mother may have other plans.

Audrey Whitman's dreams are coming true. Now that their five kids are grown, she and her husband, Grant, are turning their beloved family home into a cozy bed and breakfast just a mile outside of Langhorne, Missouri. 

Opening weekend makes Audrey anxious, with family and friends coming from all over to help celebrate the occasion. But when Audrey's daughter, Landyn, arrives, the U-Haul she's pulling makes it clear she's not just here for a few days. Audrey immediately has questions. What happened in New York that sent Landyn running home? Where was Landyn's husband, Chase? And what else was her daughter not telling her? One thing was for sure, the Chicory Inn was off to a rocky start. Can Audrey still realize her dream and at the same time provide the comfort of home her daughter so desperately needs?

Home to Chicory Lane delightfully begins Deborah Raney’s new Chicory Inn series and offers a sweet story of a loving, inviting family. Grant and Audrey Whitman decide to transform their family home into a cozy bed-and-breakfast inn to relaxingly enjoy their empty nest and retirement. Yet, life as inn owners proves more challenging than the couple anticipated – especially when their youngest daughter, Landyn, returns home alone from New York indefinitely. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Grant, Audrey, Landyn and Landyn’s new husband, Chase, and as their storylines intertwine, Raney addresses themes of family, dreams and learning to trust and follow God’s plan and direction. Home to Chicory Lane is a quick, heartwarming narrative, and I would recommend it for fans of contemporary family novels. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to seeing more of the Whitman family in the future.

Thanks to LitFuse Publicity Group, I received a copy of Home to Chicory Lane and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own. To read other opinions, be sure to check out what other reviewers think here.

About the Author
Deborah Raney's books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Deb enjoys teaching at writers' conferences across the country. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas - the setting of many of Deb's novels - for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. 

Visit Deb on the web at DeborahRaney.com.

Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes


Goodreads | Amazon
Plum Sykes beguiling debut welcomes readers to the glamorous world of Park Avenue Princesses, the girls who careen through Manhattan in search of the perfect Fake Bake (tan acquired from Portofino Tanning Salon), a ride on a PJ (private jet) with the ATM (rich boyfriend), and the ever-elusive fiancĂ©. 

With invitations to high-profile baby showers and benefits, more Marc Jacobs clothes than is decent, and a department store heiress for a best friend, our heroine known only as Moi is living at the peak of New York society. But what is Moi to do when her engagement falls apart? Can she ever find happiness in a city filled with the distractions of Front Row Girls, dermatologists, premieres, and eyebrow waxes? Is it possible to find love in a town where her friends think that the secret to happiness is getting invited to the Van Cleef and Arpels private sample sale? And how is she going to deal with the endless phone calls from her mother in England demanding that she get married to the Earl next door?

With enormous wit and an insider's eye, Sykes captures the nuances of the rich and spoiled in a heartwarming social satire, featuring a loveable "champagne bubble of a girl" who's just looking for love (and maybe the perfect pair of Chloe jeans).

Plum Sykes’ Bergdorf Blondes is certainly an eye-opening read. Incredibly, she uses her experiences with New York’s actual Park Avenue Princesses to create “Moi” and tell this curious story about finding love in New York society. As Moi and her best friend, Julie Bergdorf, navigate charity balls and sample sales and last-minute trips to Paris in search of the perfect Prospective Husband, it’s light, funny, entertaining and not to be taken too seriously. It reminded me of both Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, and similar to these TV shows, Moi’s world of fashion and shopping, private jets and the public eye intrigued me simply because it is so far removed from my own. It’s astounding.

I must say, Bergdorf Blondes is not my typical read – I don’t tend to pick up much “chick lit” – and I expected to be completely put off by excess and superficiality. To be sure, there are ridiculously excessive and superficial moments, but they appear in manageable doses. Moi’s voice, while at times it exhausted me with her first-person chatter constantly directed at me, is likeably sweet and I had to hope her search would turn up the right Prospective Husband. So, surprisingly enough, I did enjoy Bergdorf Blondes much more than I expected. While I understand it’s not the book for everyone, it’s a great read for readers who enjoy chick lit and are interested in the life of a New York society girl.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I received a copy of Bergdorf Blondes and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own. To read other opinions of the novel, click here.

Waiting on Wednesday: Lizzy & Jane

Hosted weekly by Breaking the Spine 
to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

Goodreads | Amazon
Title: Lizzy & Jane
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Expected Publication Date: 28 October 2014

Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone – including herself – when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane's needs, Elizabeth's powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?

Why I'm Waiting: Dear Mr. Knightley was just fantastic, so naturally, I need to read more from Katherine Reay.

25 August 2014

Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again by Preston Yancey


Goodreads | Amazon
In Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey arrived at Baylor University in the autumn of 2008 with his life figured out: he was Southern Baptist, conservative, had a beautiful girlfriend he would soon propose to, and planned to study political science. Then God slowly allowed Preston's secure world to fall apart until every piece of what he thought was true was lost: his church, his life of study, his political leanings, his girlfriend, his best friend... and his God.

Tables in the Wilderness is the story of one man's slow return to the God he thought he knew. Now, Preston is a patchwork of Anglican spirituality and Baptist sensibility. He shares his story of coming to terms with a God who is bigger than the one he thought he was worshiping – the God of a common faith, the God who makes tables in the wilderness, the God who is found in cathedrals and in forests and in the Eucharist, the God who is so big, that everything must be his.

In Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey chronicles his spiritual wanderings as a college student at Baylor University. He enters as a Southern Baptist, but soon begins to question his denominational identity and how he best connects with God. As he asks hard questions and desperately searches for answers, it becomes quite clear that Yancey is a talented storyteller. He writes poetically with honesty and passion, while not adhering to a strictly linear train of thought. I enjoyed following along as he ably incorporated and intertwined interactions with friends, parents, professors, the Bible and other various literatures into the telling of this beautifully relatable narrative. Tables in the Wilderness will surely resonate with individuals who have wrestled with aspects of their faith or felt God a bit too far away. Readers of spirituals memoirs, do not miss this one. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers, I received a copy of Tables in the Wilderness 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.”)

24 August 2014

Honor by Lyn Cote


Goodreads | Amazon
When unexpected circumstances leave Honor Penworthy destitute after the death of her grandfather, she is forced to leave her Maryland plantation – and the slaves she hoped to free – and seek refuge with a distant relative. With no marketable skills, her survival hinges on a marriage arranged through the Quaker community to local glass artisan Samuel Cathwell. Samuel is drawn to Honor, but he has been unwilling to open his heart to anyone since scarlet fever took his hearing as a child.

A move west brings the promise of a fresh start, but nothing in Honor's genteel upbringing has prepared her for the rigors of frontier life with Samuel. Nevertheless, her tenacity and passion sweep her into important winds of change, and she becomes increasingly – though secretly – involved in the Underground Railroad. Samuel suspects Honor is hiding something, but will uncovering the truth confirm his worst fears or truly bring them together as man and wife?

Set against the backdrop of dramatic and pivotal moments in American history, the Quaker Brides series chronicles the lives of three brave heroines, fighting to uphold their principles of freedom while navigating the terrain of faith, family, and the heart.

As soon as Lyn Cote’s Honor introduces Honor Penworthy, the novel’s namesake, decision after difficult decision becomes swiftly set before her and as a result, she finds her life taking unexpected turns. With constantly arising challenges, life is certainly not easy for this resolute and resilient heroine, but as she determines to hold to the principles of her Quaker heritage, her story is worth reading. Through Honor and the variety of authentic characters she meets, Cote highlights several issues of the day, including abolition of slavery and the barriers of deafness. I haven’t read much fiction focused on these issues within the context of the early 1800s, so the unfolding story continually and securely held my interest. I definitely enjoyed reading Honor (especially with its added benefit of some heartwarming romance) and it will surely please other fans of historical fiction, too. Now, I can’t wait to see where Cote takes the Quaker Brides series next.

Thanks to Tyndale BlogNetwork, I received a copy of Honor and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

23 August 2014

Into the Canyon by Michael Neale


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An exhilarating, powerful story from the bestselling author of The River.

Some stories take generations to unfold.

Gabriel Clarke has The River in his blood: The River that he loved as a child. The River that took his father, John. The River he feared, fled... and has come back to now.

Jacob Fielding owes the last twenty years of his life to John Clarke – the stranger who drowned saving him and his brother from their own boyish recklessness. Since that day, Jacob’s gratitude has extended to everyone around him... especially Gabriel, that brave man’s son.

But while the death of John Clarke became a powerful force for good in Jacob, it has been an unshakable source of darkness in another man. When gratitude and guilt meet at the River, two decades after that fateful day, Gabriel finds himself face-to-face with a stark choice for his own future: anger or forgiveness, hatred or love, death or life.

So much more than an allegory, Into the Canyon will inspire you to love deeply, forgive extravagantly, and live large.

The picturesque cover of Michael Neale’s Into the Canyon first drew my attention to the novel. The rushing waterfall made me imagine characters in the wilderness, surrounded by majestic mountains, swiftly winding rivers, towering trees, and I was excited to immerse myself in the setting. And as I read, I loved the role the surrounding nature played in the story, and the characters often had adventures rafting, hiking and fishing. This setting proved a beautiful one for this story of new beginnings.

However, I was unprepared for the complete reverence with which the characters refer to “The River.” I have not read Neale’s previous novel, The River, which gives the beginning of Gabriel Clarke’s experience at The River, and maybe reading it first would have helped me acclimate to their manner of thinking. I understood the intention of symbolic meaning for The River, but with just Into the Canyon to form my opinion, the continued river worship felt odd and didn’t completely work for me.

Also, Neale’s simple, basic writing didn’t help. To me, the characters came across shallow, despite their constant need to have deep conversations, and while they are likeable enough, I never truly connected with any of them. Their emotion is limited, and their dialogue (in word choice and phrasing) often seemed out-of-character, especially with the unnecessary abundance of “…” and “!”.

Yet, despite the flaws I perceived, Into the Canyon is still a nice, uplifting story and definitely a quick read. I think readers who read and enjoyed The River will certainly want to pick it up and see where Gabriel’s story goes. (I would not recommend reading Into the Canyon before The River.)

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers, I received a copy of Into the Canyon 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.”)

22 August 2014

This Is How I'd Love You by Hazel Woods


Goodreads | Amazon
As the Great War rages, an independent young woman struggles to sustain love – and life – through the power of words.

It’s 1917 and America is on the brink of World War I. After Hensley Dench’s father is forced to resign from the New York Times for his anti-war writings, she finds herself expelled from the life she loves and the future she thought she would have. Instead, Hensley is transplanted to New Mexico, where her father has taken a job overseeing a gold mine. Driven by loneliness, Hensley hijacks her father’s correspondence with Charles Reid, a young American medic with whom her father plays chess via post. Hensley secretly begins her own exchange with Charles, but looming tragedy threatens them both, and – when everything turns against them – will their words be enough to beat the odds?

I am a big fan of snail mail and pen-pal correspondence. If a novel relies on writing letters, I am immediately interested. (Sarah Sundin’s With Every Letter, Jessica Brockmole’s Letters from Skye and Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley have been my recent epistolary reading pleasures.) Add in a historical setting and romance and I can’t resist. Hence, Hazel Woods’ debut novel, This Is How I’d Love You.

As Hensley Dench and Charles Reid send letters to each other across the ocean, Woods creates a wonderfully enjoyable, intertwining story. Each character, equally and uniquely determined and resilient, experiences personal hardships, but through it all, the exchanged correspondences provide the much-needed friendship and encouragement – and eventually love. With required complications, Woods masterfully builds suspense to the conclusion, and I had to nervously wonder what sort of resolution the relationship between Hensley and Charles would have and hoped all would be well. I loved it all – especially the perfectly composed letters. The eloquence that permeates each one made me a bit envious, wishing I could write and receive letters like them. Admittedly, I expected and would have liked more of the letters included in the narrative, but I must say, the narrative is satisfyingly complete without any additions. Overall, This Is How I’d Love You is a sweet, transporting story of unexpected and perhaps undeserved love (but isn’t that the best kind?), and as a great read for fans of historical romance, it gets my recommendation.

Thanks to Penguin’s First to Read, I received a copy of This Is How I’d Love You and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

21 August 2014

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson


Goodreads | Amazon
 Are you brave enough to step into the light?

On an ordinary September day, twelve-year-old Jack is swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: “How could God let this happen?” And, “Can we ever be happy again?” They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace.

In Rare Bird, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother’s story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. “Anna’s storytelling,” says Glennon Doyle Melton, “is raw and real and intense and funny.” 

With this unforgettable account of a family’s love and longing, Anna will draw you deeper into a divine goodness that keeps us – beyond all earthly circumstances – safe.

This is a book about facing impossible circumstances and wanting to turn back the clock. It is about the flicker of hope in realizing that in times of heartbreak, God is closer than your own skin. It is about discovering that you’re braver than you think.

Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s Rare Bird is painfully, incredibly mesmerizing. With courage and vulnerability, she shares her heartrending experiences in grieving the loss of her child. She does not write with falsely rose-colored words or provide easy justifications to skirt the pain, the sorrow, the challenges. I am not a mother and I cannot yet fully understand the nuances of the agonizing void left by an absent child, but the emotion Whiston-Donaldson captures and conveys is raw and tangible and on more than one occasion, brought me to tears. Still, in every tragic, tearful instant, there is evidence of unwavering faith, love and eventual hope. God is never too far away to comfort in times of tragedy, and even when life seems unbearably and unimaginably hard, “nothing is impossible with God.” With these important reminders, Whiston-Donaldson’s memoir is unforgettably powerful and inspiring. Even now, after stowing the book neatly on my bookshelf, images and scenes from its pages linger and replay in my mind. I will not soon forget Rare Bird. I am wholeheartedly grateful to Anna Whiston-Donaldson for her willingness to share her story of loss and love with glimpses of Jack, the loved, special boy who left this world too soon, but touched and continues to touch lives in innumerable ways. I think all I have left to say is: read this book.

I give many thanks to Blogging for Books for my copy of Rare Bird and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

20 August 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Always on My Mind

Hosted weekly by Breaking the Spine 
to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

Goodreads | Amazon
Title: Always on My Mind
Author: Susan May Warren
Publisher: Tyndale House
Expected Publication Date: 1 February 2015

After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

Heartbroken, especially when he discovers the identity of the baby’s father, Casper tables his dreams and determines to be dependable for once, helping his older brother, Darek, prepare the family resort for its grand reopening. Casper longs to be the hero of at least one family story, but a never-ending Deep Haven winter and costly repairs threaten their efforts – and the future of the resort.

Worse, one of Casper’s new jobs constantly brings him into contact with Raina, whom he can’t seem to forget. A tentative friendship begins to heal fresh wounds, but can they possibly overcome past mistakes and current choices to discover a future together?


Why I'm Waiting: I love the Christiansen family and have wanted to see how Casper's relationship with Raina plays out since the end of When I Fall in Love.

Meet Me in Barcelona by Mary Carter


About the Book

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A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer's current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn’t just Grace’s foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend — until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she’s kept from Jake — and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter’s intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try — and often fail — to truly know the ones we love.

As a Spanish major who studied in Spain for a college semester, I have a hard time resisting books that take place in Spain – so Mary Carter’s Meet Me in Barcelona definitely caught my eye. Carter captures the scenes of the beautiful Barcelona in her words and reminded me of my own adventures in the city. What a treat. Brief informative descriptions accompany most mentioned tourist attractions, and while at times I felt they bogged down the narrative, I still appreciated the explanations.

Within this Spanish setting, Carter crafts quite an enjoyable story. As Grace and Jake unsuspectingly take a simple vacation to Barcelona, the sudden appearance of Grace’s foster sister, Carrie Ann, draws them into an unpredictable plot. Though it starts slowly with all the initial set-up, Meet Me in Barcelona soon gains momentum and twists and turns all the way to a very dramatic conclusion. Carter kept me guessing about the childhood secrets and lurking villains, and I had fun trying to figure everything out. For anyone looking for a bit of adventure and mystery, consider Mary Carter’s Meet Me in Barcelona.

Thanks to Mary Carter and Pump Up Your Book, I received a copy of Meet Me in Barcelona and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

§  Meet Me in Barcelona is available at Amazon.
§  Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
§  Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
§  Read the first chapter here.

About the Author
Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist. Meet Me in Barcelona is her eighth novel. Her other works include:  Three Months in Florence, The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged.  In addition to her novels she has written six novellas: Return to Hampton Beach in the anthology, Summer Days, A Southern Christmas in the upcoming 2014 anthology, Our First Christmas, A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology, Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology, Almost Home. Mary currently lives in Chicago, IL with a demanding labradoodle. She wishes she could thank her gorgeous husband, but she doesn’t have one. In addition to writing she leads writing workshops.

§  Visit Mary Carter’s website.
§  Check out her writing workshop at The Writer's Loft.
§  Connect with Mary on Facebook and Twitter.
§  More books by Mary Carter.

Giveaway
Mary Carter is giving away 3 books including My Sister's Voice, Three Months in Venice and Sunnyside Blues!

Terms & Conditions:
§  By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
§  One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one set of three books by Mary Carter.
§  This giveaway begins August 4 and ends on October 31.
§  Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, November 3.
§  Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

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