Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten (Or Twenty) Books Read in 2014

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

This week's topic is one that I usually do on New Year's Eve. But it works for this week. This week, the topic is the top 10 books I've read in 2014. This is probably one of the hardest posts I've written. I mean, how can I narrow my list down to just 10?! I've read so many books this year that it was so hard to decide. My initial list contained over 50 titles.

So after cutting some out, here is what I came up with though.... Each title links to the review on my blog and purchase links are listed too.

Beginning with the Women's Fiction/Contemporary Category

1. Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers - this is probably the BEST book I've read this year. It was simply amazing. Buy it here.

2. The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate - Another amazing book. Buy it here.

Now for the WWII books....

3. In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin - By far, my favorite of the series. I couldn't get enough of Kay & Roger. Buy it here.

4. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohkle - I was impressed with her book Promise Me This a couple years ago. This one was just as impressive. Buy it here.

5. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin - A beautiful retelling of Esther set against Nazi Germany. I need a copy of this! Buy it here.

Moving on to the general historical...

6. Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz - This family saga is amazing! Most of these are amazing. But I'm serious, this book, and the others in the series are well worth the time and money on these. Buy it here.

7. Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund - Probably my favorite of Jody's books. Such a gripping story. Buy it here.

8. Pelican Bride by Beth White - This was a surprise for me. I don't usually read early American history, but I really loved this book. Buy it here.

Now to the romance (both contemporary and historical)...

9. Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade - I adored this book. Absolutely adored it! I loved everything about it - the cover, the characters, the story - everything. Buy it here.

10. When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren - It's the Christiansen Family. Need I say more? I"m so excited to read the next one (soon). Buy it here.

11. A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert - I've come to expect quality from Katie. And I was not disappointed. Such a beautiful story of discovering true beauty. Buy it here.

12. Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg - Melissa's books always make me giggle. This was no exception. Buy it here.

13. Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck - I love princesses, fairy tales, happy endings. Pure fluff. Buy it here.

14. Tried & True by Mary Connealy - Probably my favorite of hers so far. I laughed all the way through it. Buy it here.

Finally, the Young Adult & Suspense books.

15. Silenced by Dani Pettery - Book 4 in the Alaskan Courage Series, Kayden finally gets her turn. And this McKenna's sister's story of love is filled with danger. But she and Jake figure it all out. Buy it here.

16. Deceived by Irene Hannon - My favorite in the series and favorite by Irene. Can Connor be any more dreamy? Buy it here.

17. The Lunar Chronicles of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress  by Marissa Meyer - Should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. Especially lately. I've pretty much been gushing about them.  Buy them here.


18. Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson - Laura's debut reminded me a lot of the Christy Miller books. Buy it here.

and speaking of the Christy Miller Books,

19. Forever With You by Robin Jones Gunn - I literally squealed when I learned that Robin was writing a series about Christy & Todd and their married life. Literally squealed. Buy it here.

and finally,

20. The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson - a young adult retelling of Snow White. I still have to wonder how I missed her all this time. Buy it here.

So I couldn't cut my list to just ten. Though I did try. I left off wonderful ones of Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman, In the Shadow of Jezebel by Mesu Andrews, With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden, Stuck Together by Mary Connealy, Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan, Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer, and March Bride by Rachel Hauck. Seriously, there were so many delightful ones I read this year, that I couldn't list them all.

So how did you come out? What books were your favorites this year? Maybe you have a hidden gem I need to discover. Tell me in the comments.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Three Rainbow blankets for three different little girls

One of the favorite gifts I love to give to expectant mothers is a crocheted baby blanket. I will very RARELY make one for a child that is not the first. Pretty much, my family is the only one that gets blankets for each new arrival. In fact, there are still three I need to do in my family alone. I made one exception to the one blanket per family trend. And that's for my best friend. With each of her pregnancies, I made her a blanket. It wasn't until I finished the third one that I realized something. Each blanket is done in rainbow colors. And the funny thing too, is that each blanket reflects each little girl's personality.

Melissa's blanket was first. Hers is done in a pattern of stacking blocks. When it is laid out, it gives the illusion of a block tower. This is one I've done before. But this time I worked it up using brilliant shades of crayon box colors. And Melissa's personality is more bold than either of her sisters.
Melissa's blanket

Another view of Melissa's blanket

Abi's was done in a completely different style. Her blanket is soft and delicate. It's white with pastel pink, green, yellow, blue, and purple. Hers is done in rows and the colored rows have little baubles or popcorns on them. This blanket also has tassels. Abi is the child who is sensitive and seems to be quieter than her older sister.
Abi's blanket

Kaylee's blanket was probably one of the hardest I've ever made. I'll actually do a review of it in a separate blog post. The pattern has it listed as easy. And for the most part it was easy. At least as far as stitches went. But it was still hard. This one, like Abi's used both white and colored yarns. The bright bright bright rainbow colors of red, pink, orange, light orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple all came together in one package. So that was different. It also had some squares that were similar to Melissa's blanket and squares similar to Abi's. But it is very very bright and cheerful and despite needing to figure out a way to keep the black cat off of it while I was working on it, it turned out beautifully. Kaylee's still too little to really have a distinct personality. But she seems to be pretty happy-go-lucky.

Kaylee's blanket

So this trio of sisters each have a rainbow blanket. They play with them and everything. And of course their Mama loves them. So does their Daddy. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

November Bride - A Review

Published - October 28, 2014, Zondervan Books
Series - A Year of Weddings Novella #12
Author - Beth K. Vogt
Title - A November Bride
Format - ebook
Find on Amazon

Sadie McAllister has her life all planned out. She's the personal chef for several different families, dating a great guy, and has a fabulous best friend. When her boyfriend breaks up with and one of her families offers her a job opportunity that could launch her career, she turns to her best friend, Erik Davis for advice. Erik is thrilled for Sadie, but he doesn't want to see her move away. He's come to realize that she is more important to him and he'd love to move their friendship beyond friends. But does Sadie feel the same way?

I was very happy to be offered the chance to review this book. I've enjoyed the majority of these novellas and this one was no exception.

I had to wonder how long it would take for Erik and Sadie to realize that they were in love. I thought that there were several opportunities for them to sit down and talk, but they didn't. They just assumed things about the other. Still, the way that they finally worked through their issues was sweet.

I loved how she knew everything about him and he her. I also loved how they interacted with each other.

I found the book to be very fast paced. It was a quick read. Only took me about an hour or so to read it. As it's a novella, I expected nothing else. The characters were pretty well developed for a novella and it moved along at a good pace.

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

Recommended to fans of weddings, novellas, Love Inspired, Beth Vogt

Rating - 4 stars

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten New to Me Authors for 2014

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

This week's topic is the top ten new to me authors I've read in 2014. When I first started blogging in 2011, there were A LOT of new to me authors. But as time passes and new favorites are discovered, it's harder to find authors I've not read before. So I turned to my wonderful Goodreads Shelf "New to Me Authors". And I was surprised that I'd read 29 (so far) new to me authors. So picking 10 was rather entertaining.

Here are my 10, in alphabetical order, Links are to my review on the blog.

1. Mesu Andrews - I have several of her books on my kindle, but hadn't gotten around to reading them until I reviewed In the Shadow of Jezebel. I'm not a huge fan of Biblical fiction, but I'll make an exception for Mesu's books in the future.

2. Kate Breslin - Her book, For Such a Time, hit my radar when I first heard about it. But I passed it over when it was offered to review. I did manage to rent a copy from the library, and really really loved it.

3. Bonnie Calhoun - I've had a few of her books on my Kindle. They were freebies and I can't resist free. But truthfully, the books never piqued my interest. Until Thunder. I enjoy young adult. And the dystopian genre is big right now. I wanted to see what she did with it. And I was impressed.

4. Melanie Dickerson - I adore fairy tales. I have to wonder what took me so long to read Melanie's fairy tale retellings. I've read them all. Healer's Apprentice, Merchant's Daughter, Fairest Beauty, Captive Maiden, and the Princess Spy. This series suits me. (Fairest Beauty is also posted on my blog, but Princess Spy was easier to locate.)

5. Pam Hillman - I always take part in the Tyndale Summer Reading Program. This summer, I got to read my first book by Pam Hillman, Claiming Mariah. I'd had it on my Kindle for just about forever and was glad to be able to to find the time to read it. It was delightful.

6. Laura Jackson - I may be biased as Laura and I have known each other for over ten years now, but I really enjoyed her book, Worth the Wait. While I was reading it, not only was I texting Laura to give her my opinion, but I had to tell myself to treat this book like any author's that I don't know personally. It made it hard at times, but in the end it was worth it. I'm probably one of Laura's biggest fans.

7. Debbie Macomber - I'd never read a Debbie Macomber book until this year. Why I don't know. I was very impressed with Blossom Street Brides. I know that I can find others by her at the library, and I may check them out. Debbie's books are secular and though Blossom Street Brides is clean, I'm not sure of her others. 

8. Marissa Meyer - This author of the Lunar Chronicles came recommended to me from several of my Harry Potter buddies. I've learned to trust their opinions as they've yet to steer me wrong (Hunger Games, Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Divergent). Anyway, Cinder is the first of this series and I wondered how a cyborg Cinderella would work. But the book does it beautifully.

9. Lisa Wingate - After hearing many people finding the Story Keeper to be slow moving, I wasn't sure what to expect. Yet this book gripped me and I now will be searching my kindle for others by Lisa.

10. Beth Wiseman - Before reading July Bride, I'd never read a Beth Wiseman book before. She is another author I will look for additional books from.

There you have it. My Top Ten. It was hard to pick, but I think I did a good job. What about you? Who are the new to you authors you discovered this year?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers - A Review

Published - December 9, 2014 Zondervan Books
Author - Diane Stortz
Title - The Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers
Format - hardcover (board book)
Find on Amazon

This collection of Bible stories includes Creation, Noah, Moses, Esther, Baby Jesus, The Shepherds, Letting the Children Come, Jesus's Death, and The Empty Tomb. Brightly illustrated, is sure to capture the attention of a toddler.

My Thoughts:
This book was delightful. I've read a lot of different Bible story books, and this is probably one of my favorites. The stories are short (only a couple of pages), the pages are sturdy (it is a board book after all), and the pictures are vibrant. I took it over to my best friend's house and her seven month old was fascinated with the pictures. Of course the older two kids (ages almost 4 and 2) were interested in the stories. The oldest even sat down and "told" us one of the stories. I found that this book was perfect for the ages of my best friend's children. As I read it, prior to bringing to her, I discovered that there were eight or nine stories. Each one is only a few pages in length. It probably took me a maximum of 20 minutes to read the entire book.

This would make a delightful gift for any toddler girl. Because the book's binding is PINK! Still, I think that whether the child is a boy or a girl, the child would enjoy this collection.

I received this book for free from Zondervan's Booklook Blogger Program for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to little girls, parents of toddlers, Sunday School teachers

Rating - 4 stars

This review will be posted on Amazon on Tuesday December 9, 2014. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Through the Deep Waters - A Review

Published May 2014, Waterbrook Press
Author - Kim Vogel Sawyer
Title - Through the Deep Waters
Format - ebook, hardcover, paper, audio
Find on Amazon

Born to a prostitute and raised in a popular Chicago brothel, seventeen year old Dinah Hubley longs to escape the life she's been exposed to her entire life. When she hears that Mr. Harvey is hiring waitresses for his chain of restaurants along the railroad in the West, she dreams of becoming one of the Harvey Girls. But then she learns she doesn't meet the age requirement. With no other option left to her, she accepts a position as a chamber maid at the Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas. Surrounded by all of the beauty of the hotel, Dinah begins to feel more worthless due to one horrible decision she made to survive. As Dinah begins to become accustomed to her duties at the hotel, her outgoing roommate invites her to church. There Dinah meets Amos Ackerman, a local chicken farmer, and as he shows interest in her, she withdraws further. Will Amos be able to show Dinah Christ's love?

I've read several of Kim Vogel Sawyer's books and have enjoyed each one. This one caught my attention due to the fact it involved Harvey Girls, a topic I've long enjoyed ever since the Judy Garland musical The Harvey Girls.

This one isn't the light-hearted book I typically enjoy with historical fiction. It is very deep. Every one of the main characters struggle with sin. For Dinah, it's the sin of her past. For Amos, it's the sin of disobedience (he decides to do things on his own time table and his own way). For Ruthie, it's the sin of jealousy. But still, each of those characters come to realize what they are doing and find repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. Dinah's transformation is probably the most gripping of the entire story. Because she didn't know her Savior prior to meeting Ruthie and Amos.

But I love the message of forgiveness woven through the pages of this book. I also love how the author doesn't sugar coat the sin. She deals with it bluntly and honestly. And for me, that is rather refreshing as I've read several authors who gloss over sin.

I look forward to what Kim Vogel Sawyer will bring us next, because her books are usually pretty good.

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

Recommended to fans of Francine Rivers, Jody Hedlund, Kim Vogel Sawyer, historical fiction

Rating - 4 stars

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Love Unexpected - A Review

Published - December 2014, Bethany House Publishers
Series - Beacons of Hope Book 1
Author - Jody Hedlund
Title - Love Unexpected
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Emma Chambers longs for a home. But when her steamboat sinks off the coast of Presque Isle, she's left destitute and with no where to go. Her brother takes a job working with the fishermen, but Emma can't stay with him. And the family who runs the general store won't let her remain with them. When widower Patrick Garrarty, the lighthouse keeper, arrives for his wife's funeral, an unlikely solution to both of their problems presents itself. He needs someone to care for his young son while he mans the light. Emma needs a home and a place to stay. A marriage of convenience is quickly proposed and executed by a traveling preacher, and Emma finds herself on her way to her new home with an energetic toddler and his handsome, though quiet father. Emma soon learns that Patrick is keeping something from her. Will Patrick's secret cost them both a chance at happiness?

I was asked the other day which Jody Hedlund book is the most appealing. My answer was cover-wise A Noble Groom, because after all the cover model is dreamy. But then I added that story-wise, it was a toss up between A Noble Groom and this one, Love Unexpected. Why do I find this book the most appealing of Jody's books? And why did I make a comment on Goodreads that this may be my favorite one of Jody's so far? That's what I'll try to answer in my review.

True to form, this novel is rich in historical detail and based on the life of a real Michigan lighthouse keeper. That is one element I've come to expect and look forward to in Jody's books. I know that I've enjoyed the novels she bases on the life of someone way more than the ones she doesn't. I've read, and own, all of Jody's books. I think that there were maybe two that I didn't care for as much as the others.

But why does this book stand out to me? I think it's because Patrick is not a perfect man. He's flawed. He's suffered. He has a past. He is real. And there is so much depth to him too. And Emma also shows that she's deep. She makes mistakes and regrets them. She's willing to forgive. But she is real as well. The author has written both Emma's and Patrick's struggles really well and made my heart ache for them.

I think another reason this one may be my favorite of Jody's is that it is the first in a series. I ADORE series because I don't necessarily have to say goodbye to characters I've grown to love. I know that the next book in the series will be about Ryan, Emma's brother.

I was very surprised by how quickly I was engrossed in the book. I got it in one day, started reading it, and soon was halfway finished with the book. Of course I had to put it down to finish up a couple of other books I was reviewing, but when I picked it up again a few days later, I was lost. Not lost in the sense that I didn't know where I'd left off, but lost in the sense that I was pulled into Emma's world. Time would fly by and before I knew it, it would be very late. At that point, I knew I couldn't bring the book to work to read on lunch breaks as I was so engrossed that I'd probably forget to end my lunch break. This is definitely one I'd savor.

I received this book for free from the author to help with the promotion of the book. It actually released yesterday, December 2, 2014. My thoughts and opinions are my own. In fact as part of my agreement to help promote the book, I will be purchasing a copy to give as a Christmas present to one of my family members. One that I know has never read one of Jody's books (Sorry Mom. You can borrow my copy!).

Recommended to fans of Karen Witemeyer, Jody Hedlund, Laura Frantz, Julie Lessman, historical fiction, historical romance.

Rating - 5 stars