Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dandelion Field - A Review

Published - January 2015, Zondervan Books
Author - Kathryn Springer
Title - The Dandelion Field
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Ginevieve Lightly wasn't planning on staying in Banister Falls. Until her daughter, Raine, asked to stay until she completed her senior year. Gin certainly wasn't expecting to come home from work one day to find her daughter sitting on the couch with tear filled eyes and say two words "I'm pregnant." Fire captain Dan Moretti vowed when his best friend died in a fire that he'd be there for his son, Cody Bennett. For Dan, it was an easy decision as Cody's mother, his father, and Dan himself were inseparable growing up, and Dan has always held a soft spot in his heart for Evie Bennett, Cody's mother. He wasn't expecting to answer a frantic call from Evie one day begging him to find Cody. When Dan does locate Cody, neither he nor Evie are prepared for him telling them that Raine is pregnant let alone his next words, "The baby is mine." Dan soon finds himself mediating between Evie and Cody, Raine, and Gin. As he gets to know Gin, he's drawn more and more to her. Gin's instincts tell her to run, but with Raine and Cody needing her, she can't. But can Gin trust Dan through it all?

I've read a lot of Kathryn Springer's books in the past. So when I learned that she was releasing a full length novel, I was thrilled because I've always enjoyed her books. I really wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I knew that there would be more depth and more character development than the Love Inspired Books, and I wasn't disappointed in that at all. In fact, this may be one of the most surprising books I've read this year because these characters have decided to linger in my mind. And I've found myself continuing their story in my mind I enjoyed them so much.

First, I loved Raine and Cody. I loved how they admitted they made a mistake. But that they were going to stand by one another no matter what. I also loved how they each sought out the Lord through the repercussions relating to the pregnancy.

I also loved Dan. I found that he really was the one that held things together for Evie and for Gin. I loved his strength. I loved how Cody felt he could be real with him. And even Raine ended up looking to him. I found Gin to be one character I wanted to know about. I wanted to find out if she mended her relationship with her sister. But I also admired Gin's determination to be independent. I understood where she came from and that her life had been difficult, but I did want her to learn to trust others too.

Overall, I'd have to say that I really loved this book. It is currently my favorite one by this author.

I received this book for free from Booklook Bloggers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Irene Hannon's contemporary fiction, Karen Kingsbury, Lisa Wingate, the Love Inspired books, Courtney Walsh, Susan May Warren

Rating - 5 stars

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beyond All Dreams - A Review

Published - January 2015, Bethany House Publishers
Author - Elizabeth Camden
Title - Beyond All Dreams
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Anna O'Brien loves her job as a map librarian at the Library of Congress. She loves being surrounded by maps and helping patrons with their research requests. When she is asked to sit in on a Congressional committee meeting, she unintentionally captures the attention of Luke Callahan, one of Congress's rising stars. Luke has been "demoted" from the prestigious Budget Committee onto a committee involving Fisheries. But Luke is determined to show that the Speaker of the House is corrupt and asks that Anna be the one librarian who pulls all of his research requests. When Anna stumbles across a discrepancy between a map and the Navy's report regarding the shipwreck her father died in, she ends up enlisting Luke's help. Before long, both of them are involved in something far more than a simple error. Anna's afraid to trust her heart and Luke's in danger of loosing his. Will these two manage to figure out what the future holds for them?

One of the things that I've discovered I love about Elizabeth Camden's books is the rich historical detail. Last year's With Every Breath wowed me to no end. And then I spied the cover of this one. I love the spiral stair case and added it to my to read list. When this one came up for review, I snatched it up. I couldn't wait to delve back into a novel rich in history.

Yes it is rich in history. But what I found was that it was a little more slow moving than I was accustomed to. I wasn't sure how I initially felt about either of the main characters. My first impression was probably that Anna seemed a little stiff and schoolmarm-y while Luke was a conceited jerk. Yet what changed my impression of Anna was when she put Luke in his place at their first meeting. And I admire that. I also enjoyed the fact that Luke had to pursue her. He had to get to know her. He had to make it a point to figure her out because she didn't fall for his charms initially.

I've also enjoyed the fact that this story wasn't built entirely on their romance. Each of the main characters had busy lives and it showed. I mean, Luke was a Congressman and involved in several different bills while at the same time being a parent to his nephew. And for Luke to decide that Anna was important to him meant that he had to make time in his busy schedule for her.

Still, I enjoyed the book. I keep being told I need to read Camden's Against the Tide and maybe one day soon I'll be able to get to that one. I enjoyed the look into the Library of Congress in the late 1800's as well as what Congress was like then too.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of historical fiction, Elizabeth Camden, Jody Hedlund, Laura Frantz

Rating - 4 stars

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Books for a Book Club

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly theme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish
Feel free to join in.

Well friends, it's Tuesday. That means a few things. My favorite show of NCIS is on. And NCIS New Orleans too. But that also means another Top Ten. I've gotten to where I really enjoy finding something to post for the Top Ten. I love the topics are varied and make me think outside of my box. 

This week's topic is the Top Ten Books for a Book Club. I've not really been a part of book clubs in the past. So I decided to focus on those books that I feel would generate the most discussion if I were in a book club. I do sometimes read the discussion questions at the end of a book. Sometimes I find them useful, other times, not so much.

1. Do You Think I'm Beautiful by Angela Thomas - I read this one with my best friend. I'd tried reading it in college and couldn't get past page 11. But when my friend and I read it, we talked about all the various chapters and how we felt. I'd highly recommend it.

2. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver - My best friend and I are currently reading this one. We've both been hit on so many sides with people telling us to be the Mary. That we finally started reading this book. For those unfamiliar with this book, it is pulled from the story of Mary & Martha told in the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John. It talks about learning to seek Jesus in the midst of being busy.

3. The Secrets of the Immortal of Nicholas Flamel Series by Michael Scott - This is a series that I wished I'd had someone to talk about with while I was reading them. Sure the online forum was useful, but it wasn't the same as the Harry Potter community I was a member of. I'd have loved to been able to discuss this series with others over coffee/tea and just pick their brains about the various theories going on.

4. Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte - I remember my high school English class having a round table discussion of this book. It got pretty lively and the eraser (the tool the person used to speak) was tossed around the room pretty rapidly. But this is one book that I can see generating a lot of discussion in a book club.

5. Juliet by Anne Fortier - I loved this book when I read it. I'd love to be able to discuss it with others just to get their take on some of the scenes.

6. The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate - When I read this one, I had no idea what to expect. I'd have loved to have been able to discuss this one with friends and see what they thought of it. I loved this book. 

7. Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes - This is a book that I could generating a TON of discussion. Especially if the book club consisted of only women. Because this book deals with a very hard topic - domestic abuse. I could see how it could be used as a healing tool for women. 

Accidentally added two of Eye of the World but can't remove without both disappearing. 
8. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan - I was so glad my friend Laura was around when I read the first 10 books of this series. She was able to answer some questions and we'd discuss theories. Even after we lost touch, I was grateful for the resources she'd steered me towards as I waded through books 11, 12, 13, and 14. But this would be a fun series for science fiction/fantasy geeks to discuss together.

9. Here Burns My Candle & Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs - I love things set in Scotland. I love the book of Ruth. So a series that combines those two is right up my alley. These two books are so rich in historical detail that I'd have loved to talked to someone when I read them. Hmmm. Maybe I should reread them.

10. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling - While I didn't like the book at all, I think it would have generated some lively discussions had I been in a book club while reading it.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

At Home in Last Chance - A Review

Published - January 2015, Revell Books a division of Baker Publishing Group
Series - A Place to Call Home Book 3
Author - Cathleen Armstrong
Title - At Home in Last Chance
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Kaityln Reed has always run from her problems. The last time she ran, she left her seven year old daughter in Last Chance with Kaitlyn's older brother. Now she's back and trying to start over. She has a lot to prove to the town, to her brother, and to her daughter. Will Kaitlyn finally find her own home?

I've read both of the other books in this series and enjoyed them. This one was no exception. While it is a part of the series, it does stand alone. Readers don't really need to read the other two to fully enjoy this one.

Like the other books in this series, the story has the small town feel to it. I found it to be a quick read. I enjoyed not having to think through this book. I did think that Kaitlyn needed to really grow up. I also thought that the townspeople were a little hard on her. She was trying. She realized she'd made mistakes and was willing to change her life.

I thought that Steven was too much of a charmer. And he knew it too. I admired him for trying to show his family that he wasn't the same guy he was years ago. I didn't like him too much at first, but he grew on me. By the end of the book, I liked him.

Overall, I'd say this series is pretty good. I'm pretty sure that this was the conclusion, and if so, then it wrapped nicely. If it's not, I look forward to the new adventures in Last Chance.

I received this book for free from Revell Books for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of women's fiction, contemporary fiction, Denise Hunter, Melody Carlson

Rating - 4 stars

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Scribbles Vol 4

Welcome to another edition of Saturday Scribbles. This is where I share what's on my heart or just talk about whatever. 

I was thinking the other about games. When you here the word game/games? What's the first thing that pops to mind? For most people it is one of two things - sports games or video games. And while those are the two most common associations with the word game, I wanted to talk about another - card/board games!

Growing up, my family played a lot of games. Card games such as a version of Rummy, Spades, and one unique to my family called Tarock. That's a cross between Hearts & Spades. We also played Spoons, Battle, Go Fish, and most other card games. But we also spent time playing board games. Games like Hungry Hungry Hippos, Scrabble, Clue, Monopoly, Life, Connect Four, Payday, and then as we got older, Rail Barons, Risk, and Scotland Yard.

I wasn't pretty good at Risk. My armies kept being taken. And Scrabble was one that I struggled with mainly because spelling wasn't important to me.

 I remember one time when my cousin Amy and I were playing Monopoly at our grandparents' house. I don't know if either her brother or mine were playing as well but I do know that Amy and I were playing. We were pretty far into the game when out of no where, our brothers come running into the room with handkerchiefs tied around their faces and yelled "Bank Robbery!" Both boys then proceeded to steal the bank and ran off. We of course put up a fuss. Another time I was playing Monopoly with my brother, and I ended up going bankrupt because he had hotels on Boardwalk & Park Place and I kept landing on them. But what makes the story even funnier was that I'd "saved" money for those instances and I'd completely forgotten about it until I stood up.

As far as the card games went, I was pretty good at Spoons, Battle, Go Fish, Spades, and Tarock. But both sides of my family enjoyed (and still do) playing a version of Rummy we call Continental Rummy. I've never played any other version other than this one. It's long. I'm good at it, but I don't like playing it. There was one Christmas that my family was gathered at my parents' house. I was in a mood and didn't want to play, so I'm playing Super Mario on the Nintendo, and one of my cousins was sitting on the bar stool watching the game. There were spare decks of cards and cookies & M&Ms all sitting on the counter by the bar. Frequently one of my aunts would get up with her hand of cards and grab a handful of cookies or M&Ms and, unbeknownst to the rest of the family, a card or or two to fit in her hand. When her kids found out, they were appalled.

As I grew up, I started playing other games. I was introduced to Scotland Yard while I was in high school.
I love this game, though I don't get to play it too often. All of the players are running around London trying to capture Mr. X. The only problem? Mr. X is sitting at the table hearing everything the rest of the players plan their strategic moves. You see, Mr. X has an unlimited supply of movement pieces and the players are limited. They also have a certain number of turns to capture Mr. X before he wins. Still it's a fun game.

After college, I was introduced to the games of The Settlers of Catan (and all its expansions) and The Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Yes, I know. Why did it take me so long to discover Settlers?

I don't usually win at Settlers because I usually don't plan my placements. But it's fun. Every time I play it, I enjoy it. I think my favorite expansion is the Cities and Knights expansion because it adds so much more to the basic game. The most recent time I played this was at my best friend's on my birthday. We played Settlers with the Cities & Knights Expansions. Enjoyed it so much. I think we managed two complete games before we moved onto something else. Seriously, if you've not tried this game, find someone who owns it and ask to play.

Another one of my favorites as an adult is Betrayal at the House on the Hill. This is different because each player starts off as just exploring the house. You build it as you go. Certain rooms have things that happen and eventually one of the players turns into a traitor. Then things get really interesting. The traitor has monsters and the house working to his advantage. And the other players have to defeat the traitor before the traitor defeats them. Once the traitor is revealed, the scenario being played is specific to which room revealed the traitor. In all of the years I've played this game, I've not played the same scenario twice. It's a lot of fun. But it works the best playing with certain groups of people. Some of my friends and family don't like it. But that's ok, I've got other friends who do enjoy it.
I've recently learned that this orange box is the first edition and that the 2nd edition is a green box. There really isn't much of a difference between the two because the 2nd adds the various PDFs to the rules that were sent out as an expansion.

And of course I enjoy party games like Scattergories, Catch Phrase, Apples to Apples and other fun large group games. My Small Group had a game night a couple of months ago and it was a lot of fun.

I've had a lot fun times playing board games or card games with my family growing up. Because when we went camping, we brought  games to play. My parents encouraged us to play games or to read. I'm pretty sure that we did a family night thing where we would play games.

My best friend and her husband have recently started a family game night with their little ones. Lynnette, maybe you can share with the readers what games the girls enjoy playing?

A resource that I've found helpful with finding board games is Board Game Geek.

So tell me, what games did you enjoy playing as a child or as an adult. Maybe you've played one that I've never heard of before. You never know, I may just want to try it! Let me know in the comments?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Secret of Pembrooke Park Promotion

This is something different today. I'm part of a promotional team for Julie Klassen's latest book, The Secret of Pembrooke Park.

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes when researching/writing a book? Well the publisher has sent me a YouTube video that takes you behind the scenes of creating the manor house for Pembrooke Park.

Have fun!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hidden Agenda - A Review

Published - January 2015, Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Series - Southern Crimes Book 3
Author - Lisa Harris
Title - Hidden Agenda
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Michael Hunt is presumed dead by family and friends. Only he's not dead. Not at all. He's been deep undercover infiltrating a known drug cartel. The problem? His cover's been blown and he's about to be killed. Michael has no choice but to put his life and his trust into the hands of Olivia Hamilton, the daughter of the cartel leader he is trying to take down. When Olivia and her brother Ian find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, they can't help but rescue Michael and escape. But with cartel members chasing them as well as leaks in the Atlanta Police Department, the trio doesn't know who to trust. Enlisting the assistance of Michael's family eases some of the danger while creating more. Michael is determined not to go down without a fight, and he will take as many cartel members down as possible. He wants this all to be over so he can explore his growing feelings for Olivia.

This was probably my favorite of all three novels in this series. Like the others, it was fast-paced and very quick to read. I had no idea how things were going to end up and I'm glad that they ended the way they did.

I loved Michael. I thought that he was very well developed. I also loved Ian. And I loved seeing how Michael interacted with his family once he was no longer "dead". I also loved how he was willing to admit he was wrong about things.

Fans of romantic suspense will love this book. I think it's the last in the series, but I would love to see more about Avery's team - Tori, Levi, Carlos.

I received this book for free from Revell Books for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of romantic suspense, Irene Hannon, Dani Pettrey, DiAnn Mills

Rating - 4 stars