Monday, December 31, 2012

A Lady in the Making by Susan Page Davis

When Millie Evans boards the stagecoach, she’s determined to leave her past—and her brother’s gang—behind to start a new life. Instead she finds herself face to face with David Stone, the man she and her brother once tried to swindle out of his fortune. Millie attempts to explain her regret—but David remains unconvinced even as he sees proof of Millie’s changed heart. Can Millie prove she’s changed in time for David to save his own life? Or will mistakes from the past prove too much to overcome?

A Lady in The Making is the third book in Susan Page Davis' Prairie Dreams Series. I was unaware that it was the third novel, but after reading it I will definitely be going back to read The Lady's Maid and Lady Anne's Quest. I found A Lady in the Making to be a perfectly excellent stand-alone story, but I would recommend reading the other two novels first in order to have a more rounded understanding of the back stories and other characters in this novel. The plot line of A Lady in the Making was well written and moved at a reasonable pace. The story was filled with instances of danger, intrigue, suspense, and of course romance. The story was told from the alternating perspectives of Millie, David, the unfortunate cousin Peregrin and his scheming sister. These different characters allowed for more of the story to be explained and reduced confusion. It also heightened suspense when the story would switch from Oregon to London and back again.

The characters in A Lady in the Making were well developed and realistic. I really enjoyed seeing Millie's growth in character as she began to understand how to live as a Christian. Her persistence in receiving forgiveness from David and her care for him during tragedy was admirable. David was a character that I liked immensely. He was cautious in his trust of Millie initially because of her past sins against him, but he still showed kindness and care towards her. He also demonstrated the need to forgive and trust again that is often so hard for us to do after an act of deceit. Peregrin was a character that I simultaneously felt sorry for and was disgusted with because of his poor choices. He was an integral part of the story, and I hope that maybe there will be some mention of how he turned out in another novel.

In A Lady in the Making, I enjoyed seeing Millie and David grow closer and learn to trust one another. I liked the slow speed of the relationship throughout most the novel, but I was not too fond of how their friendship sped up towards the end. It did not really fit with the rest of the novel. However, overall I found A Lady in the Making to be one of the better romance novels that I have read recently, and I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking a good ol' western romance mixed with some British spice.

I received this eBook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Iscariot by Tosca Lee

In Jesus, Judas believes he has found the One—a miracle-worker. The promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule. Galvanized, Judas joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life.

But Judas’ vision of a nation free from Roman rule is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention—who seems in the end to even turn against his own people. At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for, but a man bent on a drastically different agenda.

Iscariot is the story of Judas—from his tumultuous childhood and tenuous entry into a career and family life as a devout Jew, to a man known to the world as the betrayer of Jesus. But even more, it is a singular and surprising view into the life of Jesus himself that forces us all to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous—and infamous—religious icons in history.

Iscariot by Tosca Lee is a poignant and stirring novel of Judas, Jesus, and the tumultuous events that surround them. The novel follows Judas through his heartbreaking childhood that Judas feels is all his fault. Judas struggles to ever feel clean of guilt, shame, and sin. He is swept up in seeing John the Baptist and then begins to find the truth in Jesus' teachings. But as he learns more about Jesus, his way of thinking is threatened, and he does not understand what Jesus' true goal is.

Iscariot truly made me think about and ponder what it would have been like to be Judas and how hard it would have been to be a disciple of Jesus. The novel paints a startling picture of what the men would have experienced as they left everything they had to follow a man that seemed bent on seeing them killing by the religious leaders and estranging them all 'good company'. I was forced to really focus on what it would have been like to watch Jesus seemingly fall apart as he became more and more withdrawn and alienated himself from the religious leaders and the crowds as the time for his death drew closer. Iscariot beautifully laid out the Judas' reasoning for his betrayal of Jesus and how even he potentially did not realize what he had done until after the fact. For the first time I found myself sympathizing with Judas and pitying him for missing out on the true meaning of Jesus' birth and death. As Judas' end drew near, I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and stop him before he missed out on the chance for true life and salvation.

Overall, Iscariot by Tosca Lee was a truly convicting and stunningly well written story that brought to light new thoughts and feelings for me about the life and actions of Judas. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a dramatic, thought provoking read that will leave you weeping at the close.

I received this eBook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love

Sophie Caldwell has returned to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee after years away. Despite the heartaches of her childhood, Sophie is determined to make a home, and a name, for herself in the growing town. A gifted writer, she plans to resurrect the local newspaper that so enchanted her as a girl.

Ethan Heyward’s idyllic childhood was shattered by a tragedy he has spent years trying to forget. An accomplished businessman and architect, he has built a majestic resort in the mountains above Hickory Ridge, drawing wealthy tourists from all over the country.

When Sophie interviews Ethan for the paper, he is impressed with her intelligence and astounded by her beauty. She's equally intrigued with him but fears he will reject her if he learns about her shadowed past. Just as she summons the courage to tell him, Ethan’s own past unexpectedly and violently catches up with him, threatening not only his life but their budding romance.

Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love was an exciting and enjoyable novel that kept me enthralled throughout the entire story. This novel is the third book in the A Hickory Ridge Romance Series, but it is not necessary to read the other two novels (Beyond All Measure and Beauty For Ashes) first in order to be able to connect and enjoy Every Perfect Gift. The story stands well on its own, but it was neat to see connections and resolutions to unfinished side stories from the other two novels. The plot line was well written and contained a good mixture of romance, mystery, suspense, and sadness. The story was told from the perspective of Sophie with a couple of chapters being told from Ethan's point of view. The themes of Every Perfect Gift included honesty to others, trusting God in the unknown, and forgiving those who wrong you.

The characters of Every Perfect Gift were realistic and fairly well developed. The interactions between Sophie and Ethan were interesting and entertaining. Sophie is a headstrong, clever, and independent young woman who is convinced that she can run a newspaper on her own. She quickly learns that she does need help and that she does not actually want to be alone in life. She also discovers the importance of forgiveness and honesty in her interactions with new people and old enemies. Ethan is a conflicted young man who is dealing with a horrible past history and a boss who is mean and uncaring to others. He is forced to face his past, forgive the wrongs against him, and begin to learn to love, live, and make his own life. The other minor characters were interesting, helped support the plot, and connected this novel to the other two Hickory Ridge Romance novels.

Overall Every Perfect Gift was a well written and interesting novel that I truly enjoyed. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a book to curl up with on a rainy, wintry day.
I received this novel for free from in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

At Every Turn by Anne Mateer

She's off to the races!
Caught up in a whirlwind of religious enthusiasm, Alyce Benson impetuously pledges three thousand dollars to mission work in Africa. Now she just has to find a way to get the money.
Alyce harbors a secret passion for speed and automobiles, and she's spent many an afternoon driving around the rustic track in the field behind her home. When she discovers that her father's company has sponsored a racing car that will compete in several upcoming events--races in which the driver will be paid and could win as much as five thousand dollars in prize money--she conspires with her father's mechanic, Webster, to train and compete.
But when her friends cast aspersions on Webster's past, she realizes she may have trusted the wrong person with her secret. Will Alyce come up with the money in time, or will she have to choose between her hasty promise and the man who holds a piece of her heart?

At Every Turn is a great story about honesty, love, and trusting God. The plot line was excellent, and it was filled with mystery, romance, and the importance of giving to God for the right reasons. The setting for At Every Turn was an interesting time period in America's history, where racing was becoming popular and women were only beginning to have more rights. The writing style was well done and clearly portrayed the characters' emotions and feelings. The story was written from the perspective of Alyce Benson, and it was easy to see her thoughts, emotions, and the reasons for her decisions.

The characters of At Every Turn were excellently developed and entertaining. I really liked Alyce Benson with her impetuousness, crazy schemes, and true desire to help others. She started out with a few misplaced ideas about what the importance of honesty, what true devotion to God is, and the reason for giving to God's Kingdom work; however, as the book progresses Alyce grows in her love and understanding of God and realizes she needs to be honest and trustworthy with others. Webster was an interesting and remarkable character that I truly enjoyed. He had some surprising characteristics and history that were intriguing and that added to his positive attributes. I do not want to go into too much detail about his character because it gives away important parts of the story, but I really liked Webster and the depth he added to the story. The other minor characters such as Alyce's parents and grandmother also added to the story and acted as both supporting and opposing persons to the plot line.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel because of its realistic and intriguing characters, exciting plot line, and well written storyline.

I received this novel for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Secretly Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter

Summer, fall, winter, spring—Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

There’s a secret in Grandma Rose’s attic—a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutchins was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?

The mystery intrigues Rose’s three granddaughters—Tess, Clare, and Zoe—and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing mystery men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women?

Join popular romance novelists—and real-life BFFs—Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for four delightful intertwined tales of mystery and sweet intrigue.

Secretly Smitten is a sweet collection of four novellas each written by a different author and connected by a thread of mystery and romance. The stories are short and completely romance focused, so if romance is not your cup of tea, this book is not for you. Secretly Smitten follows in the footsteps of the previously released Smitten, but it is not critical to read the other novel first. It does give background on many of the other characters, but this novel is understandable on its own.

The first novella is called Love Between the Lines and is by Colleen Coble. It stars the smart, kind, yet insecure Tess Thomas as she struggles to find true love, herself, and solve a puzzling mystery. I found Colleen Coble's novella to be the most interesting of Secretly Smitten. She did a great job setting the stage for the rest of the stories, and she introduced and developed her main characters in a way that made them enjoyable and relatable for the reader. I did not like the light in which she painted the mother, Anna, because it did not really match up with the character I saw in the other three novellas. While I am not sure that I related the best to the two main characters of this novella as compared to the other characters, I did have the strongest connection to the characters because of the way they were developed.

The second novella is called Make Me a Match by Kristen Billerbeck. This story focuses on Zoe Thomas, the youngest daughter who is filled with bright ideas, dreams of romance, and uncontained energy. This was my least favorite story of the four because the romance seemed unrealistic and occurred far too quickly and there was very little plot development even for a novella. I had little connection to the male character simply because I did not know anything about him. I liked Zoe, but I knew little about her either. I also did not feel that the main connecting plot line was well carried out through this novella.

The third novella is Knit One, Love Two by Diann Hunt. The character that this story focuses on is Anna Thomas, the mother of Tess, Zoe, and Clare. This novella was interesting because it focused on an older woman finding new love. It was also disconcerting at points because Anna did not act or have thoughts that one would typically expect from a mother and older woman. While this could simply be a misconception on my part, it did make it harder for me to read and certainly harder for me to connect to her character. I found this story very interesting and well written, but I had little connection with the characters.

The fourth novella is Love Blooms by Denise Hunter. Starring in this final novella was Clare Thomas, the middle Thomas sister. After learning some things about Clare during the other stories, it was interesting to see how Clare viewed herself and watching her realize her flaws and change as the story progressed. I think Clare may have had the most growth of the characters, and I found myself able to connect to many of her attributes, such as an inability to accept change or trust others. I also enjoyed the male character in this novella, and his positive influence on Clare and other characters. This novella wrapped up the overall thread of Secretly Smitten in a way that was satisfying and interesting. I was left feeling pleased as the story ended.

Overall, I found Secretly Smitten to be a quick yet enjoyable collection of novellas. There were aspects that I enjoyed about each and there were stories and parts that I liked more than others. I found the overall storyline to be intriguing, and I enjoyed seeing familiar characters and settings from the first collection. I also liked how the four authors worked together and how their characters each viewed the other characters differently. If you are looking for a heartwarming yet easy read to curl up with in front of the fire this holiday, this is the book for you.

I received this novel for free from in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deployed by Mel Odom

Lance Corporal Bekah Shaw joined the United States Marine reserves to help support herself and her son when her ex-husband, Billy Roy, decided they were no longer his responsibility. But when her team is activated and sent to Somalia on a peacekeeping mission, Bekah struggles with being separated from her son and vows to return safely.

Once a successful Somalian businessman, Rageh Daud has lost everything. Determined to seek revenge on the terrorists who killed his wife and son, he teams up with a group of thieves, killers, and others displaced by war. Despite his better judgment, Daud becomes the protector of a young orphaned boy—who becomes a pawn between the warring factions.

To defeat the terrorists and bring peace to the region, Bekah and her team must convince Daud that they are on the same side.
Deployed by Mel Odom was an exciting novel that clearly displayed the struggles of deployed soldiers, the issues that they often face, and the seemingly unlikely alliances that can occur. The plot moved quickly throughout the book, and it jumped from Daud's perspective in Somalia to Bekah's perspective at home in the United States to the perspective of her lieutenant as he struggled with moral issues as a lawyer. The narrative setup allowed for the reader to meet more characters and have a wider perspective on the setting and storyline as it developed. It did make the story seemed jumbled at times, and it disconnected me from the characters and what was going on sometimes. However, it was still a neat way to present the story.
The characters were a mix of ruffians and criminals and diverse group of Marine reservists that were all thrust into an explosive situation in Somalia. Bekah Shaw was the only character that was really fleshed out during the novel. As the reader we were allowed to view her thoughts and experience the struggles she had as a single mom leaving her child at home while dealing with prejudices abroad in the Marine Corp. I enjoyed learning about her feelings and experiences, but I would have liked to see more development in Daud's character. He was a very conflicted and devastated man, and it would have been interesting to have learned more about him. I also would have liked to been able to connect more with Bekah's lieutenant and the other soldiers that were with her.
Overall, I thought Mel Odom did a great job crafting a well researched and exciting novel that clearly portrayed the issues that our soldiers face at home and abroad.
I received this novel for free from Tyndale Press in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee

Natalia’s about to discover her place in the world . . . and it’s not following in her father’s footsteps.

After watching her father jump from one marriage to the next, Natalia has completely written off love. And when her father divorces his third wife—the only one who has been a mother to her—Natalia is ready to write him off too.

Needing a change of scenery, Natalia leaves her home in Spain and relocates with her stepmother to sun-soaked Florida. But she didn’t realize just how far a new school, a new culture, and a new lifestyle would push her out of her comfort zone.

One of her biggest surprises comes from Brian, a pastor’s son with an adorable smile, who loves God with a sincerity that astounds Natalia. She doesn’t want to fall for him, but she can’t seem to avoid him long enough to get him out of her mind.

Love is the last thing Natalia wants. Even so, God has her right where she belongs.

Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee is a very interesting and adorable novel that kept me glued to the pages throughout. I finished the book in about one sitting. The plot line was exciting, and it contained elements of romance, humor, and helping others. The intriguing aspect of the storyline of this book is that Krista McGee crafted it after the story of Ruth and Naomi in the Bible. There were of course many differences in the story, but it was interesting to see the parallels between the story of Ruth and this novel. The narrative of the story was accounted mostly from the perspective of Natalia, but also from Brian.

The characters of this novel were my favorite part of this novel. They were realistic, well-developed, and I was able to identify with their struggles. Right Where I Belong is the third novel, following in the footsteps of First Date and Starring Me. While it is not necessary to read the other two novels before this one, I did enjoy seeing characters that I knew and loved in Right Where I belong. Addie from First Date was a mentor of sorts for Natalia, and Kara from Starring Me was also present at times. However, I really enjoyed the new characters of Natalia and Brian. They were so different yet they complemented each other well. I really enjoyed Brian's humor, his kindness, and his patience. It saddened me that he felt like he was an idiot who had no purpose at times. I had less connection to Natalia because many of our characteristics are different. She loves fashion and is too afraid to fall in love. Both Brian and Natalia struggled with what their callings were in life, for both were under pressure to choose differently than what God had called them to do with their lives. It was extremely neat to see how their paths meshed and to see their growth as Christians as they learned to trust in God alone.

Overall, I really enjoyed Right Where I Belong. The plot line was exciting and enjoyable, the characters were realistic and engaging, and the book was crafted after a well-loved story in the Bible. I would highly recommend this book and the two novels that come before it.

I received this novel for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

If We Survive by Andrew Klavan

They came on a mission of mercy, but now they’re in a fight for their lives.

High schooler Will Peterson and three friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor, secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their energy and kindness.

But in one sudden moment, everything went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are everywhere—and Americans are being targeted as the first to die.

Will and his friends have got to get out fast. But streets full of killers . . . hills patrolled by armies . . . and a jungle rife with danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home.

If they can just survive.

If We Survive by Andrew Klavan was an exciting and suspenseful novel that filled with action, some romance, and mystery. The plot line flowed well and moved at a quick and exciting pace. There was a good mix of action, suspense, and a little romance as well. There were several surprising occurrences and unexpected twists that kept me glued to the pages. The story was told from the perspective of Will Peterson, and all the events were displayed along with his thoughts and feelings.

The characters of If We Survive were interesting and somewhat realistic. I liked how Palmer was initially viewed as a wicked, uncaring man but as the book progressed his true colors were revealed and his character began to improve. All of the characters were very different and each had their own unique flaws and weaknesses. However, as the story continued the characters each discovered their strengths and became heroes as they all contributed to their escape from danger. All of the characters experienced growth and development throughout the novel, and I really enjoyed watching their changes.

There some aspects of this novel that I did not like. I was not too enthusiastic about how Christianity and God were portrayed by some of the characters. I thought that some of the comments they made were untrue, and I felt let down by how the book concluded and what Will thought about God. I did appreciate the honesty that was portrayed about the harm can occur when governments intervene with other countries before they know all the facts.

Overall, I thought If We Survive was very exciting, suspenseful, and interesting and that the characters were realistic and developed over the course of the novel.

I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review from and Thomas Nelson Publishers.