Thursday, December 31, 2015

Heirloom Brides - A Review

Published - November 2015, Barbour Books
Authors - Tracey Bateman, Joanne Bischof, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Mona Hodgson
Title - The Heirloom Brides Collection
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

In this collection of four novellas, four different women find love while each has a "heirloom" item.

Something Old by Tracey Bateman
Summary: Betsy and her grandfather are at the general store when an ice storm delays them. When her grandfather slips on the ice and has to recover, Betsy is forced to admit that her grandfather kept secrets from her that include the fact that she's now homeless! Wanting to reclaim her grandfather's watch, she begins seeking work to repay his debts. Along the way, she's forced to admit her feelings for the son of the mercantile's owner.

My thoughts: This was ok. I've read better. I've read worse. I really enjoyed the secondary characters. Still it was a quick read. Rating - 3 stars.

Something New by Joann Bischof
Summary: Wren's family has had to take in boarders to make ends meet since her doctor father passed away. When the young man who stole her heart years ago returns, Wren is determined to let him go. Only she doesn't realize that he's building her a new home and hoping to marry her!

My thoughts: I think I liked this one the best of all of them. I loved getting to know Wren. I loved that her heirloom item appeared to be the seeds from her British grandmother, when in fact it was a home of her own. Rating - 4 stars

Something Borrowed by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Summary: When Clara's father is injured felling a tree, she must seek help from their neighbors. Painfully shy, and already assuming that she's a spinster, Clara must learn to set aside her fears and reach out to her community, even accepting the "borrowed" help from her nearest neighbor. And of course love happens when she lets down her walls.

My thoughts: This one was different. I loved the fact that the something borrowed was a person and not an object. But watching Clara struggle to  join into her community tore at my heart. Rating - 4 stars.

Something Blue by Mona Hodgson
Summary: Darla arrives back in Cripple Creek hoping to start fresh. She's a nurse now, and while she expects there to be bad feelings between one of the doctors at the hospital, she's hoping that she can just go about doing her job. She doesn't expect to be sent on home visits. Or to be utterly captivated by three little girls and their widowed father, who happens to be a patient of hers. Yet she is. But when her past rears its ugly head, will Darla let go of it once and for all?

My thoughts: It was nice to return to Cripple Creek. I can't say that I really cared much for Darla, though the children stole the show. It was a quick read. Rating - 3 stars

Overall thoughts:
Novellas are a hit and miss with me most of the time. Some are better written than others. Some I'll enjoy more than others. But for people who enjoy quick stories, then novella collections are for them. I do enjoy them, don't get me wrong. But sometimes I like a little more meat.

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

Overall book rating - 3.5 stars, rounded to 3

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Golden Braid - A Review

Published - November 2015, Thomas Nelson
Series - Fairy Tale Romance Book 6
Author - Melanie Dickerson
Title - The Golden Braid
Format - ebook, paper, audio
Find on Amazon

Rapunzel is talented. She can paint beautiful pictures on the walls of her home. She can throw a knife better than any man. But there is one thing that she longs for above anything else - a chance to learn to read. And if she happens to fall in love too, so much the better. Yet she feels that her mother won't allow her to do either of those things. When a young farmer asks for Rapunzel's hand in marriage, her mother quickly packs the house and she and Rapunzel move to the large city of Hagenheim. The journey there isn't easy. When a young knight rescues them, she and her mother reluctantly allow the knight to travel with them. Soon the knight is injured and Rapunzel's quick knife skills rescue him. To repay his debt to her, he agrees to teach her to read. Yet as the pair spend time together, they soon realize that things aren't always what they seem, especially in the city. Rapunzel uncovers a mystery that will change her life forever.

I've loved each of the fairy tale books I've read of Melanie Dickerson's. This one occurs during the same days/months as Princess Spy. As some of the events in this book occur in Princess Spy, I recommend reading that one first.

I liked Rapunzel. And Sir Gerek. I liked how they both fought their feelings for each other, but their banter was fun. I also liked how they both grew as the story progressed.

I didn't see the twist with Rapunzel's mother coming, though I am familiar with the fairy tale. I also loved the mystery surrounding Rapunzel.

Overall, this is a good addition to the Fairy Tale Romance Series, and i enjoyed it. It's an easy read.

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

Recommended to fans of fairy tales, happy endings, young adult, Melanie Dickerson, Jody Hedlund, Lisa Bergren

Rating - 4 stars

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Shock of Night - A Review

Note - a rare two post day. I've got a few reviews that have to be up by Dec 31, and I didn't have a review scheduled for today - only the Top Ten Tuesday post. 

Published - November 2015, Bethany House Publishers
Series - The Darkwater Saga Book 1
Author - Patrick W. Carr
Title - The Shock of Night
Format - paper, ebook
Find on Amazon

Willet Dura works for the king. He's called to investigate when a priest is mortally injured and his associate is brutally murdered. This is a murder that has too many unanswered questions for Willet. Hoping that the priest is stable enough to answer questions, Willet seeks him out, only to discover that he is dying. With his dying breath, the priest screams in a foreign tongue and bestows on Willet a gift. As Willet comes to find out, this gifting is very rare. In fact it isn't supposed to exist. Now in addition to pursuing a murderer, Willet must learn to use his gift and come to terms with his own past.

After attempting to read Carr's debut novel, Cast of Stones, and finding it really slow moving and not holding my interest, I didn't pick up one of his books again until now. This one intrigued me from the back cover. So I figured, why not try it.

Carr has created a world that is intricate. This world reminds me in some ways of Tolkien's Middle Earth, Martin's Westeros, or Jordan's Wheel of  Time. That's a good point for a Christian fantasy author. I mean, obviously this world he created is very well done.

The characters are deep. I'm really glad that I read the prequel novella first though. Because it did help me to understand exactly what is going on in the story and where the characters are coming from. They are complex and well developed. I'm actually looking forward to more. Yet Willet was hard to understand. Even after completing the book, I'm not sure I fully understand him. I understand his struggle - that makes sense. But there is still a sens of mystery surrounding him that I'm just not clear about.

Did I like the book? Yes I did. Though I did find it moving a bit slowly. Maybe it's because Carr is building up his world and the character backstories. That's fine. I mean after all it took me til halfway through Jordan's Dragon Reborn to be hooked on the Wheel of Time, and I still can struggle with Tolkien's Middle Earth. Was it too deep for the mood I was in while reading it? Certainly. I wanted to escape to a different world, and not have to think. Yes I was able to escape to a different world in this book, but I had to think while reading it. Still it was a good book.

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

Recommended to fans of fantasy, Tolkien

Rating - 3.5 Stars - I struggled with the rating. I enjoyed the book. It hurt my head to read because I wasn't expecting to have to think. Would I read it again? Maybe. On Goodreads/Amazon it'll round to 3 stars.

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Most Anticipated Books First Half 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke & the Bookish.

This week, the topic is the most anticipated books for the first half of 2016. That's hard to come up with only 10. I mean I looked at my list of books from the publishers I review for, and I found at least 100 on it. So narrowing it down to just 10 was very hard. I managed to do it though.

1. You're the One That I Want by Susan May Warren - This is the conclusion to the Christiansen family. It's Owen's story. Can this rebellious prodigal find his way back to the family who loves him? I really hope so. I've enjoyed this family a lot. It's due out in February from Tyndale.

2. Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund - The conclusion to her Beacons of Hope series finds Tessa Taylor running from her past and seeking a position as a teacher. I'm looking forward to seeing how Jody redeems Tessa from the previous book. It's due out in January from Bethany House.

3. Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey - The first in a new series, Dani will be taking the reader away from Alaska and across the country to Baltimore and introducing a new cast of characters. I have really high hopes for this novel as I loved her Alaskan Courage series. It's due out in February from Bethany House.

4. Thin Ice by Irene Hannon - Book 2 follows Lance MacGregor as he works to get to the truth of a note claiming that Christy Reed's sister is still alive. I'm hoping for her usual twists and turns as I dive into this one. It's due out in January from Revell.

5. Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer - Last year we met Evie in Dandelion Field though she was a more minor character in it. This time, she gets her own story. I'm looking forward to catching up with some of the characters from Dandelion Field in this book. It's due out in March from Zondervan.

6. Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund - This is her second YA novel. I loved the first one, and can't wait for the second. In fact, I've already pre-ordered it! It's due out on March from Zondervan.

7. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg - Melissa's become one of my favorite romance authors. Her characters are quirky and fun. This one looks really good. It's due out in April from Bethany House.

8. Her One and Only by Becky Wade - I have high expectations for this book. It's the conclusion to the Porter Family series and deals with Dru. I want to see how her older brothers deal with their little sister falling in love. It's due out in May from Bethany House.

9. The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron - I really have no idea what this one is about. But because I was captivated with her debut, The Butterfly and the Violin, I am looking forward to this one. It's due out in June from Thomas Nelson.

10. The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan - Seriously, I get to go back to the world of Percy Jackson?! Yes! This one is about when Apollo angers Zeus and becomes mortal for a time. Even it's only a brief period. It's due out in May by Disney Hyperion.

And there you have it. Out of the hundreds on my list, I managed to narrow it down to just 10.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ragamuffin Gospel - A Review

Published - Anniversary edition - October 2015, Waterbrook Multnomah
Author - Brennan Manning
Title -  The Ragamuffin Gospel
Format - ebook, paper, hardcover, audio
Find on Amazon

Summary from Goodreads:
Many of us believe in grace, yet we live as if we still have to earn God’s love. We picture God hanging His head in disappointment, tallying our successes and failures on a score sheet. We assume we have to do more, or be a different person, for God to be pleased with us.
Brennan Manning shows us a different, truer image of our relationship with God: We come to God as ragamuffins. Bedraggled, dirty, exhausted. But as we sit at God’s feet, He smiles upon us. He embraces us. He treats us not as failures but as the chosen objects of His love.
In this twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Manning’s classic meditation on grace, Manning reminds us that we don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make ourselves presentable to God. We can recognize our poverty and powerlessness as what bring us closer to a God whose love embraces us no matter what.
“Brennan does a masterful job of blowing the dust off of shop-worn theology and allowing God’s grace to do what only God’s grace can do—amaze.”
—Max Lucado, pastor and bestselling author
“This is a zestful and accurate portrayal that tells us unmistakably that the gospel is good, dazzlingly good.”
—Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message 

“This book is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God.”
—Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
The Bible tells us that by grace we are saved. So why does our spirituality often start with ourselves, not with God? Why are we likely to believe in grace in theory but deny it in practice?
In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning explores the true meaning of the word grace in all its power. When we beat ourselves up over who we are or what we’ve done, we pull away from God. When we acknowledge that it is only grace that can save us, we draw near to a God who delights in who He created us to be.
The Ragamuffin Gospel has changed thousands of lives since it was first published twenty-five years ago. In this anniversary edition, we find the timeless wisdom of a man who came to God needy and desperate again and again and found a peace that defined his life, his relationships, and his career.
You are not a disappointment to God. God does not “put up” with you. He celebrates you. God not only loves you, He likes you.. This is the joy of the gospel.

My Thoughts:
I remember reading this when it first came out years ago. I was working in a bookstore at the time, and it was a good idea to read it so that I could talk to my customers about it. I was browsing the Blogging for Books list when I saw this anniversary edition as being able to review. Then I looked at my brother's Christmas list this year. And this book was on it. So needless to say, I happily requested the book to review it and give it to my brother for Christmas. 

This book is really good. It's simple to read, and for the girl who doesn't like reading nonfiction, that was a huge plus! True, I'd read it before - fifteen to twenty years ago, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't get something new out of it. 

I think I'm a different place in my life now than I was when I first read the book. Well, I don't think. I know so. Anyway, I loved how the author tells you that you're not a disappointment to God. In fact that thought parallels something that one of my pastors talked about in his sermon on Sunday - God doesn't make junk. Or mistakes. And I think that so often, the world's view causes us as Christians to miss the whole point of what the Gospel is. God loves us no matter what. 

I could go on and on but I think I'll stop there. After all, this review is already a lot longer than most of my nonfiction reviews, and even my fiction ones (unless I'm gushing or tearing it to shreds!). Because, truthfully, I'm still absorbing the book. 

I recommend it. It's been out for a while. You can find it at the library or just about any place.

I received the hardcover anniversary copy for free from Blogging for Books for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Recommended to fans of Brennan Manning, Rich Mullins, Timothy Keller, nonfiction

Rating - 4 stars

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday Scribbles Vol 36

Happy Saturday everyone! And Merry Christmas. Yesterday was Christmas. I spent the day with my family. It was quite fun. Even with my phone that decided to shut itself down and power back up constantly for a several hours. Until I got home and plugged it into the Verizon wall charger. That worked. For now at least.

It's hard to believe that next week is 2016. And that I've managed to consistently keep up the Saturday Scribbles. I mean this is volume 36. That means that I missed 14 weeks. Not too bad. Next year, the Scribbles will still be labeled as volumes, but I think I'll do it as 2.1, 2.2, etc. That way I can track what year I'm on a little easier.

I've had this past week off of work. It's been good to sleep in. I finished shopping, saw Star Wars, attended my Small Group's Christmas party and caroling night, watched the original three Star Wars movies, spent time with my best friend, got caught up on a couple of shows I'd missed, wrapped all of my Christmas presents at my mom's (including hers), and of course enjoyed my time with my family.

But as this season comes to a close, and the new year brings new beginnings, I want you to remember something. Remember that while Christmas is one day a year, that every day should truly be a day to celebrate the fact that a Savior was born as a baby to live as a man and die for the salvation of all mankind.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I wouldn't mind Santa bringing me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly theme hosted by the Broke & the Bookish.

This week's theme is the top ten books I'd like to get for Christmas.

1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - Specifically Winter, but I'd like all of them.

2. Isle of Hope by Julie Lessman - I have the kindle version, but I'd love the paper version.

3. Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan - I love the world of Percy Jackson

4. The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes - I missed this on when it came up for review. I'd love to read it.

5. Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden - Another one I missed out on when it came up for review.

6. Lighting by Bonnie Calhoun - The first one left me hanging. I'd really like to continue the series.

7. One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg - Sure it's an ebook. I've just not gotten around to getting it yet.

8. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - It's been on my reading list for a while. I'd love to actually read it. Maybe I should rent it from the library.

9. Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Banderia - It looks super cute.

10. The Selection by Kiera Cass - I have a feeling I'll really enjoy this series. I just need to read it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday Scribbles Vol 35

Happy Saturday my friends. It's only a few days before Christmas, and the new Star Wars movie is out.

Since the next couple of Top Ten Tuesdays are ones that  I really like, I decided to do something a little different for today's Scribbles. It's similar to the TTT. Only instead of books, I'm going to list my all time favorite Christmas movies.

1. White Christmas - I love this movie. I can watch it over and over and not get tired of it.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated) - The book is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books. This movie version makes me cry EVERY SINGLE TIME. Usually when the Grinch realizes that Christmas isn't about the stuff.

3. It's Christmastime Charlie Brown - I heard on the radio the other day something about this one. Linus is ALWAYS holding his blue blanket. Except for when he tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. Linus drops his blanket to share the good news. I seriously never noticed that before. It makes this movie so much more special.

4. The Muppets Christmas Carol - The Christmas Carol is a rather dark and depressing book/movie. I love the Muppets. The way that they just take over make me smile.

5. The Santa Clause movies - I love the way that Disney figured out how to explain Santa.

I've never been a big fan of It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. I've seen them. Multiple times. But I just don't enjoy them as much. In fact, I'd much prefer to enjoy a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon instead. Because there are some really cute ones there.

Anyway, I hope that you find some fun Christmas movies to enjoy this year. What are some of your favorites?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I read in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly theme hosted by the Broke & the Bookish.

This week's theme is the top ten books I've read in 2015. I could do a variety of lists, but I know myself well enough to know that I can't just pick 10! So here's what I came up with.

1. The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron - This is by far my favorite book of the year. It enthralled me.

2. Accept This Dandelion by Brooke Williams - This was so much fun to read. I giggled my way through it.

3. Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer - The story in this one kept me turning the pages. The way that there were two stories really being told at the same time.

4. How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck - My favorite of the Royal Wedding Series. I loved this one.

5. From the Start by Melissa Tagg - Her books have captivated me from the first, and this one wasn't any exception.

6. Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund - I loved Ryan in this book. He gave a whole new meaning to the "wounded" hero.

7. Not By Sight by Kate Breslin - I loved her debut last year. This one was a great second novel.

8. The Gifting Series by K. E. Ganshert - I read all three of these in one weekend I believe.

9. Fire and Ice by Mary Connealy - I'd been wanting Bailey's story since book 1. Was so glad to get it in this one.

10. Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin - I love the cover on this book. I love her writing.

11. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar - It's been a while since I read one of his books. This one was a surprise delight.

12. One More Wish by Robin Jones Gunn - Robin's books are like old friends. Even when it's a new book. They are truly a breath of fresh air.

13. Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz - Laura's books make me long to be in the period of history. They truly are amazing.

14. The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck - If I wasn't already a fan of Rachel's, then this book would have made me one. It's that good.

15. The Isle of Hope by Julie Lessman - Julie's first contemporary novel. There are enough fun characters in it to make me not sad that she's writing contemporary instead of historical. Though I still love her historicals.

16. Wings of Glory Series by Sarah Sundin - These have been on my list for a while. I'm so glad that I got to them, finally. Book 3 is my favorite.

17. Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter - I kept hearing about this book. I was glad to finally read it.

18. The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan - I'd forgotten how funny his books are until I started this one. I love his sense of humor.

19. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George - I love fairytale retellings. This one retells the Twelve Dancing Princesses.

20. Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey - I kept waiting for Reef's story. I was not disappointed in it at all.

Now for some that are mostly rereads:
21. Short Straw Bride & Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer - These are my two favorites by Karen.

22. Juliet by Anne Fortier - I loved this one from the first time that I read it. This time through, I was buddy reading it, and I loved it even more.

23. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling - One of my friends is reading this series for the first time, and I said I'd buddy with her on these. No matter how many times I read them, Harry Potter never gets old.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Saturday Scribbles Vol 34

Happy Saturday everyone! Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Finished it? Yeah me neither. Well, that's not necessarily true. I'm partially finished. But that's not what I wanted to talk about today.

This is the time of year when all sorts of yummy baked goods show up. I'm pretty good at baking. At least baking some things. Things like snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, fudge, buttermilk cookies, and gingerbread. There is one staple cookie that I'm not that great at. Sugar cookies. I have fun making them. But I don't make them like my grandma did. Even though I have her recipe. They just aren't the same.

Growing up, I remember several years we'd be at my grandparents at some point over Christmas. And Grandma ALWAYS had her sugar cookies to eat. They were, usually, iced. I'm not saying that we didn't have all the other sweets with Christmas, but the sugar cookies were the ones that the entire family loved. My aunt has done a good job of making them to taste almost like Grandma's. And Mom's are close. Mine, not so much. There was one time that I attempted to make the sugar cookies and somehow managed to completely forget the sugar. There was another time that I added too much salt. I think my grandmother's secret was that she stuck her finger in them and they turned out so sweet!

It's been a few years since I tried to make them. Maybe I'll try again. We'll see.

What are your favorite Christmas treats?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dandelions on the Road - A Review

Published - November 2015, Brooke Williams
Series - Dandelion Series Book 2
Author - Brooke Williams
Title - Dandelions on the Road
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Summary (from Amazon):
Twelve men…one woman…plenty of dandelions. Eva Merida has her life in order. She loves her job at the Furry Friends Rescue League and has a loving, supportive family. But she’s still missing that one special person to stand by her side. When she comes in third place on the local TV version of “The Bachelor,” entitled Accept this Dandelion, she nearly loses all hope for romance. Fortunately, the TV station decides to do a second season of the dating show…and they name Eva as the Bachelorette! With a plethora of dating mishaps recorded for TV, Eva finds herself falling for several men at once…including the show’s host. Will she find love at last or simply embarrass herself in front of the entire city?

My Thoughts:
I met Eva in the first book in this series, Accept This Dandelion. I thought it was fun to get to know her in her own story. Though this is book 2, each book stands alone. 

Like the first in the series, I found this one to be quite humorous. There were situations that happened on the dates that had me laughing. And I really enjoyed Brian, the host of the show. His interactions with Eva were delightful. I think one of my favorite scenes was when she was showcasing one of the dogs from the shelter on the morning newscast. The dog itself was a riot!

Still this was a fun, quick read. Fans of romantic comedies will enjoy this book. 

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

Recommended to fans of Janice Thompson, romantic comedies, contemporary romance

Rating - 4 stars