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Friday, June 28, 2013

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson

There’s nothing quite like family—for good or bad. But in a world where we sometimes know more about the Kardashians than we do the people sleeping right down the hall, it’s easy to forget that walking through life with our family offers all sorts of joy wrapped up in the seemingly mundane. There’s even a little bit of sacred sitting smack-dab in the middle of the ordinary. And since time’s-a-wastin’, we need to be careful that we don’t take our people—and their stories—for granted. Whether it’s a marathon bacon-frying session, a road trip gone hysterically wrong, or a mother-in-law who makes every trip to the grocery store an adventure, author Sophie Hudson reminds us how important it is to slow down and treasure the day-to-day encounters with the people we love the most.

Written in the same witty style as Sophie’s BooMama blog, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet is a cheerful, funny, and tender account of Sophie’s very Southern family. It’s a look into the real lives of real people—and a real, loving God right in the middle of it all.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson is a fun, honest book that is overflowing with the love, tears, joy, and other issues and emotions that arise when you put a close, Southern, extended family together. As a member of a large Southern family myself, I was able to immediately relate with the experiences and family members that Sophie described in her book. The book is written in a delightful style and was a simple yet personally convicting read. I liked Sophie's easy style and her inclusion of her personal experiences, feelings, and struggles throughout her lifetime. The book also comes with recipes of classic Southern recipes that Sophie has talked about at different points in the chapters. Overall, I would highly recommend A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet to any reader, Southern or otherwise, who is looking for a sweet yet humorous read that blends hot summers and delightful Southern food in a satisfying way.

I received this eBook for free from Netgalley and Tyndale House Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A Most Peculiar Circumstance by Jen Turano

 
Read an excerpt here.
Miss Arabella Beckett, defender of the down-trodden women of America, is returning from her travels in support of the women's suffrage movement when she makes a simple offer of assistance to a young woman in need. But things go sadly awry, and both ladies soon find themselves in dire need of rescue. Arabella, always loath to admit she needs help, is particularly reluctant to receive assistance from the arrogant, narrow-minded knight in shining armor who shows up just in time.

Private investigator extraordinaire Mr. Theodore Wilder is on an assignment that began as a favor to his good friend Hamilton Beckett, but swiftly evolved into a merry chase across the country. He is already in a less than pleasant mood, and when Hamilton's sister turns out to have radical ideas and a fiercely independent streak, he's at his wit's end.

Much to their chagrin, Theodore and Arabella's paths continue to cross when they return home to New York, but the most unusual feelings beginning to grow between them certainly can't be anything serious. When the trouble Arabella accidentally stirred up in her travels follows her home and threatens her very life, the unlikely couple must face the possibility that they might have landed in the most peculiar circumstance of all: love.

A Most Peculiar Circumstance by Jen Turano was a delightful novel that kept me enthralled in its pages for hours. The novel is the sequel to A Change of Fortune and is set in the late 1800's, and while several aspects of the novel did seem to be historically accurate, my biggest issue with the dating of this novel was the assumption that prostitution was an illegal and jailing offense in the United States. I looked it up, and this act was only illegal in the early to mid 1900's. If this novel was not explicitly dated to be in the late 1800's, then it certainly would have fit better a couple of decades later. That being said, I found the plot line as a whole to be engaging, suspenseful, and both humorous and more serious. The themes of the novel were very well developed and clear. The major topics addressed were the importance of helping others without judging their situation, loving and trusting in God, and being willing to change when convicted of sin by God and others. The novel was set in third person narrative, but sections of A Most Peculiar Circumstance alternated from being told from Arabella or Theodore's point of view, which allowed the reader to have an idea about what both main characters were feeling and thinking.

The main characters are Arabella Beckett and Theodore Wilder, but familiar characters such as Eliza and Hamilton Beckett, Zayne Beckett, and Agatha are still very much a part of this novel as well. Arabella and Theodore are complete opposites, and it is quite fun to see them be mutually attracted to one another and yet clashing at every turn. Both characters are a realistic mix of flaws, strengths, and lovable quirks. Theodore is forced to reconsider his views of women and their rights as well as to begin to come back to a relationship with God. Arabella as a women's rights activist had always been quick to try to help women and others, oftentimes without asking if wanted help. However, during this novel she is convicted about her attitude and reasons for helping others and how she views God. I found her revelations convicting for me as well as she wrestled with judgmental feelings and trying to help others in a humble way. The other characters that were first introduced in A Change of Fortune continue to add to this novel with their own unique personalities, and new characters, such as Theodore's family, contribute more depth and humor to the story as they influence the main characters' situations and decisions.
Overall, I enjoyed A Most Peculiar Circumstance immensely, and I highly recommend it and Jen Turano's other novel to any reader looking for a sweet and funny novel, perfect for any summer read.

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


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

Read Excerpt Here:

A cowboy who wants to be a preacher. An outlaw's daughter who wants to change his mind.

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can't believe it when he's forced off the train by an outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as the preacher she requested for her birthday. He's determined to escape--which would be much easier if he could stop thinking about Joanna Robbins and her unexpected request.

For months, Joanna had prayed for a minister. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. But just when it seems her prayers have been answered, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett he ended up right where he was supposed to be?

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer was an entertaining and sweet Western style novel that I heartily enjoyed. The novel was set in the late 1800's in the beautiful wilderness of Texas and revolved around (almost) reformed rustlers, a rustic preacher, and a dedicated, godly young woman. The plot line was a bundle of surprises, adorable interactions, heart wrenching transformations, and, of course, romance. The themes of Stealing the Preacher include learning to trust and have faith in God, being honest with others, and both sharing one's faith with others as well as persevering in witnessing and praying even when your loved one does not appear to listen. The narration style of this novel is third person, but the chapters alternate being from Joanna and Crockett's perspectives.

The characters in Stealing the Preacher were charming and well developed. Joanna was a delightful character who had a convicting, strong faith, a sweet personality, and relatable flaws. Crockett was an interesting and steadfast character who had a wonderful trust in God, was a strong and persistent witness, and both a confident yet vulnerable spirit. The other minor characters, such as Silas, Jackson, the Marshall, and Holly added great depth to the novel and contributed to many of the struggles that both Joanna and Crockett faced throughout the story.

Overall, I heartily enjoyed this tale of love and forgiveness, and I would highly recommend Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer to anyone looking for a wonderful summer read.

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




Friday, June 21, 2013

Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer

 
Watch the trailer here:
 
Landon Reed is an ex-quarterback convicted of organizing a points-shaving scheme. During his time in prison, he found forgiveness and faith and earned his law degree. Now he longs for an opportunity to prove his loyalty and worth. Be careful what you ask for.

Harry McNaughton is one of the founding partners of McNaughton & Clay—and the only lawyer willing to take a chance employing an ex-con-turned-lawyer. Though Landon initially questions Harry’s ethics and methods, it’s clear the crusty old lawyer has one of the most brilliant legal minds Landon has ever encountered. The two dive into preparing a defense for one of the highest-profile murder trials Virginia Beach has seen in decades when Harry is gunned down in what appears to be a random mugging. Then two more lawyers are killed when the firm’s private jet crashes. Authorities suspect someone has a vendetta against McNaughton & Clay, leaving Landon and the remaining partner as the final targets.

As Landon struggles to keep the firm together, he can’t help but wonder, is the plot related to a shady case from McNaughton & Clay’s past, or to the murder trial he’s neck-deep in now? And will he survive long enough to find out?

Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer was an engaging and wild ride of suspense, mystery, and danger. There were multiple plot lines that were intertwined with unexpected twists and connections. I was drawn into the thrill of the novel, the dangerous and oftentimes unreliable characters, and the entertaining or nail biting court scenes. The themes of the novel included the importance of honesty, especially to one's spouse, integrity in one's work and personal relationships, and trusting God in good times and bad. The novel was told in third person but was from the perspective of Landon Reed and allowed the reader to understand how Landon felt.

The characters of Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales were complex and well developed. Landon and his wife were interesting characters with their own mix of flaws, strengths, poor decisions, and faith in God. Other minor characters, such as the members of McNaughton and Clay, each had secrets and flaws that they were hiding and that added great depth to the novel as they were revealed. Overall, I found Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales to be another great legal thriller from Randy Singer, and I would highly recommend this novel to any reader looking for a wonderfully suspenseful legal thriller that is reminiscent of John Grisham's novels. I love Randy Singer's novels, and I look forward to reading more of them!

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All In Good Time by Maureen Lang

 
Read a Q & A with the author about this novel here
Read a first chapter excerpt here
 
Dessa Caldwell has a dream: to open Pierson House, a refuge for former prostitutes in Denver’s roughest neighborhood. But after exhausting all charitable donations, Dessa still needs a loan, and nearly every bank in town has turned her down. Her last hope hinges on the owner of Hawkins National Bank.

Henry Hawkins has a secret: though he owns the most successful bank in town, his initial capital came from three successful raids on Wells Fargo coaches. Now he’s the most eligible bachelor in Denver, but to protect his criminal past, he’s built a fortress around his heart. Not even the boldest matchmaking mother can tempt him . . . until the day Dessa Caldwell ventures into his bank requesting a loan.

Though he’s certain her proposal is a bad investment, Henry is drawn to Dessa’s passion. But that same passion drives her to make rash decisions about Pierson House . . . and about whom she can trust. One man might hold the key to the future of her mission—but he also threatens to bring Henry’s darkest secrets to light. As the walls around their hearts begin to crumble, Henry and Dessa must choose between their plans and God’s, between safety and love.

All in Good Time by Maureen Lang was a heartwarming and enlightening novel that touched on important themes and issues still relevant today. This is the second novel in the Gilded Legacy series, but I did not see any connection to the first book, so All in Good Time can be read as a standalone novel. The story line was well developed and was a wonderful concoction of mystery, danger, romance, heart-wrenching choices, and the revelations of true character. The themes addressed by the author included the importance of being patient and trusting God and His timing, choosing to be honest over 'safe', both confessing and forgiving one's sins, and embracing God's love. Other topics this novel examined were the selling of young girls into sexual slavery and the redemption of those involved in prostitution. The author did a great job clearly illustrating the existence of both of these situations.

The narration of All in Good Time was from the perspective of both Dessa and Henry. Both of these characters were wonderfully developed with realistic strengths, flaws, and secrets. Dessa was a sweet character who was filled with a passion to help other women and an impatience to wait for God's timing. Henry started as a cold, closed off man, but as the novel progressed, his internal walls were torn down in a convincing way as he experienced a love for another and as he confessed his sins and returned to a faith in God. I was really inspired by Henry's transformation throughout the novel, and I found his character growth to be one of the best and most realistic character development that I have read in awhile. Dessa and Henry had a very slow and believable romance that I enjoyed seeing change and growth throughout the novel.

Overall, I highly enjoyed All in Good Time, and I look forward to reading more of Maureen Lang's novels. I would highly recommend this novel to any reader looking for an inspiring novel with a wonderful Western romance and relatable characters.

I received this novel for free from NetGalley.com and Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Horse Dreams by Dandi Daley Mackall


Read the first chapter Here.

Fourth-grader Ellie James has a great imagination. She spends a lot of time daydreaming of owning a black stallion show horse and winning trophies in the horse show. But when the answer to all her dreams and prayers gallops into her life, will Ellie be able to recognize it? Join Ellie and her quirky family in their exciting, horse-loving adventures.

Horse Dreams by Dandi Daley Mackall is an interesting and exciting novel for young children who LOVE horses. The plot is simple yet has instances of suspense, humor, prayer, and the support of family and friends. The characters had their share of entertaining quirks, impressive strengths, and relatable flaws. I like how the author showed the faith and prayer life that small children who trust God have. As a reader of the Winnie the Horse Gentler series when I was young, I was glad to see this series for even younger children that immerses young imaginations in the daydreams and wonders of horses.


A Bride For All Seasons by Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy


It all started with an ad in a mail-order bride catalogue . . .

This charming bouquet of novellas introduces you to four Hitching Post Mail-Order Bride Catalogue prospects in the year 1870, all eager for second chances . . . and hungry for happiness. Year in, year out, they'll learn that love often comes in unexpected packages.

"And then Came Spring" by Margaret Brownley

Mary-Jo has traveled halfway across the country to meet her match, arriving just in time for his funeral. Returning home seems like her only option until her would-be brother-in-law proposes a more daring idea.

"An Ever After Summer" by Debra Clopton

Ellie had no idea she's not what Mathew ordered. And what's wrong with being a "Bible thumper" anyway? She's determined to show him she's tougher than she looks-and just the girl he needs.

"Autumn's Angel" by Robin Lee Hatcher

Luvena would be perfect for Clay if she didn't come with kids. But kids are a deal breaker, especially in a rough-and-trouble mining town. ­ e trouble is, there's no money to send them back . . .

"Winter Wedding Bells" by Mary Connealy

David's convinced he's not long for the world. He needs someone to mother his boys when he's gone-nothing more. Can plucky Irish Megan convince him to work at living instead of dying?

A Bride For All Seasons was an enjoyable novel that had me laughing and sympathizing with the characters in each of the four novellas. The novellas were each written by a different author, but they were connected beautifully through the  Hitching Post Mail-Order Bride Catalogue and the thoroughly irrepressible and scheming editor, Mr, Hitchcock. Each of the novels is set in one of the four seasons, and each author's own flair and romantic style is revealed nicely in their separate novella. I found myself able to connect to each of the main characters in some way, and I liked how each couple was faced with a different set of problems as they faced the true character of who Mr. Hitchcock had set them up with. While the focus of each novella was (of course) romance, I loved how each author wove suspense or conflict or danger into the background of their novella. Not only that, but each novella revealed a different truth about love, faith, and the nature of God and His will for His children. Because each novella was unique and enjoyable in its own way, I have trouble choosing which was my favorite. However, my favorite was probably Debra Clopton's An Ever After Summer. I enjoyed the interactions between Ellie and Mathew and how Mathew was drawn to this 'practical bride' against his "better judgment". Another novella that I liked a lot was Winter's Wedding Bells. Megan was such a strong and motivated character and was not about to give up on the sickly but sweet man that she married. Overall, I found A Bride for All Seasons to be a sweet and humorous collection, and I would highly recommend it to any reader looking for an enjoyable yet quick Western, romantic read.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Gentleman of Her Dreams by Jen Turano


When Miss Charlotte Wilson asks God for a husband, she decides He must want her to pursue Mr. Hamilton Beckett, the catch of the season. The only problem? She's never actually met him. Fortunately, one of her oldest and dearest friends, Mr. Henry St. James, is acquainted with Hamilton. Much to Henry's chagrin, Charlotte immediately ropes him into helping her meet her intended. However, none of her plans to catch Hamilton's eye go quite as she expected. In the midst of the mayhem Charlotte always seems to cause, she can't help but wonder if she might have misheard God after all.

This novella is a companion to A Change of Fortune, Jen Turano's full-length debut novel.

A Gentleman of Her Dreams was an engaging and witty novella with truly enjoyable characters. Charlotte was a spunky and precocious character who had me laughing on every page. Her brash and insane plans were hilarious, and I felt sorry for "poor Henry" as he was pulled along with her bizarre schemes. Henry was a patient and adorable character that was incredibly fed up with Charlotte's seemingly oblivious notice of his regard. Overall, I highly enjoyed the repartee and funny situations that this couple found themselves in, and I loved Charlotte's pursuit of the familiar but more aloof character named Hamilton Beckett (later seen in A Change of Fortune).

A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano

Read Excerpt here:

Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. After losing her family, her fiancé, and her trust in God, the disappearance of her fortune is the last straw. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner, governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.
Much to Mr. Hamilton Beckett's chagrin, all the eyes of New York society--all the female ones, at least--are on him. Unfortunately for all the matchmaking mothers and eligible daughters, he has no plans to marry again, especially with his hands full keeping his business afloat and raising his two children alone.
When Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune put her right in Hamilton's path, sparks instantly begin to fly. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces, but with all their plans falling by the wayside and their enemies getting the better of them, it will take a riot of complications for Hamilton and Eliza to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.

A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano was a whimsical and delightful novel that kept me engaged through the entire course of its pages. The plot had a good mix of mystery, suspense, humor, and disaster with a large dose of romance. While I loved the exchanges between Hamilton and Eliza, at times I found there instant connection to be unbelievable. The witty repartee between Zayne and Agatha with their only hint of romance seemed more realistic and relatable. However, I enjoyed the twists and turns as the characters were pulled into scrapes and seemingly unwinnable situations. The themes of this novel included the importance of trust in God and in others, being honest, and caring for one's family. The narration of A Change of Fortune was alternately from the perspective of Eliza and Hamilton.

The characters in A Change of Fortune were by far my favorite part of the novel. Each one was different, had an engaging personality, and added to the depth and humor of the story. Hamilton Beckett was an interesting character. He was labeled as "brooding", but his interactions with Eliza Sumner both destroyed this persona and created new problems and issues for him. He believed the worst about someone who had previously been close to him, and it led to the abandonment of his beliefs and his trust in others. Eliza had similarly been hurt by someone close to her family, and she chose to allow her past to almost destroy her faith and her future relationships. However, thankfully for both of them, they chose new paths for their lives that led them back to God and family. There were several surprising revelations that a brought a whole new light to what each thought had occurred in their pasts. The other more minor characters were excellent and added to the story tremendously. Zayne Beckett and Agatha Watson added much good humor and laughs to the story as they acted as foils to the main characters, and the chauvinist private detective Theodore Wilder added his own twists to the story with his dramatic escapes and bizarre conversations with other characters. Agatha's mother Mrs. Watson and the Becketts' mother Grace contributed to the story with their own schemes and hilarious acts as they tried to set up their children against or in spite of their own opinions to the contrary.
Overall, I enjoyed A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano, and I look forward to reading her next novel and the sequel,  A Most Peculiar Circumstance. I would highly recommend this novel if you are looking for a dashing and delightful romance.

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

Friday, June 7, 2013

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden


As owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, Mollie Knox's future looks bright until the night the legendary Great Chicago Fire destroys her beloved city. With her world crumbling around her, Mollie will do whatever it takes to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating fire.

Zack Kazmarek, an influential attorney for one of Chicago's finest department stores, is a force to be reckoned with among the city's most powerful citizens. Bold and shrewd, he's accustomed to getting exactly what he wants--until he meets Mollie Knox, the beguiling businesswoman just beyond his reach.

In the tumult as the people of Chicago race to rebuild a bigger and better city, Mollie comes face-to-face with the full force of Zack's character and influence. Zack believes this may finally be his chance to win her, but can Mollie ever accept this man and his whirlwind effect on her life, especially with her treasured company on the line?

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden was an interesting historical romance about a time period and an event that I knew little about. Set during the Great Chicago Fire, this novel was written beautifully so that it both interested the reader in the event and brought the event to life in the reader's imagination with descriptions and the emotions of the characters. The plot line was also filled with moments of humor, tragedy, suspense, romance, and deep emotion. I liked that while there some predictability in romances, this novel developed events in an unique way that made the novel stand out. The themes of Into the Whirlwind included the importance of trust, loving others without trying to change their personality, and forgiveness. The narration of this novel alternated between the perspectives of Zack and Mollie, which allowed the reader to have an idea about what both characters were feeling as well as understand their thoughts.

The characters were fairly well developed and very interesting. The main characters, Zack and Molly, were realistic and had their unique flaws and strengths. They each changed and grew in their personalities throughout the novel and the events that turned their lives upside down. The other supporting characters had different characteristics, and they added to the depth of the story and helped guide and mold the main characters as they grew. One of the things that I was not as fond of was the little mention of God and His work in changing people's lives and decisions. There were a couple of mentions of God, but there were instances and situations where God's Truth and Gospel could have been displayed in a powerful and smooth way. However, overall, I enjoyed Into the Whirlwind with its interesting romance twists, historical background, and the tension filled interactions between Zack and Molly. I would definitely recommend reading this novel as well as other Elizabeth Camden novels.

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mercantile Mystery Sweepstakes

I have had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Trouble in Store, and it is a wonderful read. I would highly recommend purchasing this novel and please check author Carol Cox's website for information and to enter her Mercantile Mystery Sweepstakes!

For more information about Trouble in Store, check out the book details and read an excerpt here:
In TROUBLE IN STORE, author Carol Cox’s latest novel, out-of-work governess Melanie Ross is forced to pursue her last resort: a dusty Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But local shopkeeper Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he’s not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas take over. His solution? Marry her off–to someone else–as soon as possible! Then a sinister force brings mystery and murder to their doorstep, and this unlikely pair must band together to survive the trouble in store.
To celebrate the story, author Carol Cox and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to announce the MERCANTILE MYSTERY SWEEPSTAKES, and your chance to win one of three marvelous prizes!

This giveaway starts June 3, 2013 and ends June 20, 2013 @ 11:59 pm (PST).  Winners will be selected Friday, June 21, 2013, and announced right here on the site.


MERCANTILE MYSTERY Grand Prize
BLUSH & ROSES CHINA SET
Melanie causes all kinds of trouble in Caleb’s rough-edged mercantile, especially when she stocks the shelves with expensive, blush-colored china, rather than the usual tools and farm supplies!
Our Grand Prize winner will receive their very own set of Melanie’s fancy china: a vintage, Royal Standard cup and saucer set, service for four.


MERCANTILE MYSTERY Second Prize
MUSIC & MYSTERY PRIZE BOX
In Trouble in Store, the mystery of a beautiful music box causes sparks to fly between Caleb and Melanie.
Our Second Prize winner will have the chance to win an elegant music box, just like the one in the story. This hand-made Italian music box is made of inlaid layers of walnut and rosewood, and plays Melanie’s favorite tune, “Liebestraum”.

MERCANTILE MYSTERY Third Prize
COFFEE WITH CALEB GIFT PACK
The townspeople of Cedar Ridge come to Ross-Nelson mercantile for supplies, advice, news, and best of all, fresh-ground coffee! Caleb grinds Arbuckles coffee beans as a service for his regular customers.
Our Third Prize winner can enjoy their very own, 1880′s hand-ground coffee, with this antique grinder, Arbuckles coffee, and a pair of Cowboy and Cowgirl mugs.

How to Enter:
Go to http://authorcarolcox.com/giveaways/ and completed the entry box, anytime between June 3 and June 20.

Please check out this sweepstakes and also  feel free to read my review of Trouble in Store at http://hearttoheartbooks.blogspot.com/2013/05/trouble-in-store-by-carol-cox.html! Thanks everyone!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig

New York City, 1897

She came to America searching for her brother. Instead all she's found is a web of danger.
Cara Hamilton had thought her brother to be dead. Now, clutching his letter, she leaves Ireland for America, desperate to find him. Her search leads her to a houseful of curious strangers, and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh. Despite her brother's warning, Cara trusts Rourke, revealing her purpose in coming to New York.
 
She's then thrust into a world of subterfuge, veiled threats, and attempted murder, including political revolutionaries from the homeland out for revenge. Her questions guide her ever nearer to locating her brother--but they also bring her closer to destruction as those who want to kill him track her footsteps.
With her faith in tatters, all hope flees. Will her brother finally surface? Can he save Cara from the truth about Rourke... a man she's grown to love?
 
No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig was a very enjoyable novel and the first in her Edge of Freedom series. The second novel, Dark Road Home, comes out in August and picks up right where the first novel left off. The plot line of No Safe Harbor was well written and filled with plot twists, suspense, danger, and romance. The story emphasizes the importance of trust, forgiveness, faith in God, and not pursuing revenge when wronged. I enjoyed the description of New York and Ellis Island, the struggles of young immigrants, and the information about the different Irish groups that fought each other even after entering America. The narration of the story alternates between Cara's point of view and Rourke's point of view with a couple of chapters told from Cara's brother and from Rourke's cousin Hugh. This type of narration allows the reader to gather background information about both the characters and the situations they are experiencing. The characters of No Safe Harbor were fairly well developed and did experience some growth throughout the course of the novel. I liked both Rourke and Cara, and I was glad to see them grow and work past their own personal struggles and the events that kept them apart. I wished that Rourke's changes were more based on coming back to a faith in God instead of a love for a woman, but his growth was fairly believable. Cara was a sweet and naïve character, but she did grow nerve and more determination as the novel progressed.
Overall, I enjoyed reading No Safe Harbor, and I look forward to reading the second novel when it is released.
 
I received this novel for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Perfecting Kate by Tamara Leigh


Kate’s Creed: Thou shalt embrace singledom and be unbelievably, inconceivably happy.

YEAH, RIGHT.
Kate Meadows is a successful San Francisco artist looking for a nice, solid Christian man. So when not one, but two handsome bachelors enter her orbit in rapid succession, her head is spinning just a bit. Michael Palmier is a hunky and famous makeup artist who actually seems to be flirting with her–rather than her physically flawless housemate, Maia. Trouble is, he keeps handing her business cards from various beauty professionals and plastic surgeons. Is he trying to stamp out every last bit of self-esteem she has?

Then there’s Dr. Clive Alexander, good-looking enough to be mistaken for Brad Pitt, who sends Kate’s pulse skittering every time he comes near. Too bad he’s only interested in her work–and doesn’t think she’s much to look at. It’s enough to send a girl running for her paint-splattered, relaxed-fit jeans and swearing off men altogether! But after undergoing a makeover from Michael’s staff, Kate can’t be oblivious to the admiring glances men throw her way. Maybe she should try contacts…consider some fancy dental work…and you know, that mole really could stand to go. The question now is, what kind of work will Kate do on herself…and who exactly is she trying to please?

Perfecting Kate by Tamara Leigh was an enjoyable novel that emphasized what true beauty really is...and it is not about how many exterior jobs you do on your body to make yourself 'perfect' like so much of the world today believes.  This novel was quirky, suspenseful, and filled with both personal struggles and of course, romance. Perfecting Kate was written well and in a way that made the reader really identify with Kate as she struggled with her faith, her feelings, and how she viewed her own body and beauty. The topics that this novel focused on were the importance of trusting God, being honest with those you love, and realizing that beauty is not based on others' view of you but on the internal beauty of a lovely character and a faith in a God who created you the way you are. The narration of the novel was from the perspective of Kate, the main character. At the end of each chapter is a small excerpt from her prayer journal that gives you a deeper look into her prayer life and her thoughts.  The characters in this novel were realistic and well developed. Kate was a very interesting character with a unique personality and an openness to the readers even as she guards herself against others in her life. I was convicted and also sympathized with Kate as she struggled with her faith, her self body image, and sharing her beliefs with others. Clive was a wonderfully complex character, torn between his attraction to Kate and his struggle to believe in God again. I liked his character a lot, and I was glad that he had depth and experienced his own growth during the story as Kate changed as well.

Overall, I enjoyed Perfecting Kate, and I would certainly recommend this novel as well as Tamara Leigh's newer series called Southern Discomfort which I also found to very interesting. I look forward to reading more of her novels!

Please check out the following links for more information about this novel and this author!
Author's Website
Read Chapter One
Author Bio

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix

 
 

When Marshall Becker arrives in Lamorlaye, France, to begin the massive renovation of a Renaissance-era castle, he unearths a dark World War II history few in the village remember. The project that was meant to provide an escape for Becker instead becomes a gripping glimpse into the human drama that unfolded during the Nazi occupation and seems to live on in midnight disturbances and bizarre acts of vandalism.

Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix was an intriguing novel that was I enjoyed immensely. This novel was written beautifully and showed a great deal of historical detail and accuracy that could only have come with a great deal of research. Her description of the town of Lamorlaye and the chateau in the novel were clear and well written, and it was evident that the author had lived in the same area as well. The plot line of Tangled Ashes was filled with suspense, mystery, and personal adversity and struggle. The novel emphasized the importance of learning to love others and oneself, the value of faith in God, and the danger and harm that alcoholism can have for all involved. I enjoyed the fact that while there was some romance in the novel, it did not end in a way typical way and was not the main focus of the novel. The narration of the story was very interesting. Most of the story was told from the perspective of Becker as he worked to renovate the chateau, get over his alcohol addiction, and learn to communicate and live with others. However, after every few chapters there is a chapter from sixty years previously at the same chateau which is told from the perspective of Marie. Marie is a young French girl who is working for the Nazis in Nazi controlled France, and the events she is working through have unexpected influences on what Becker sees and experiences.

The characters of Tangled Ashes were well written and realistic. Each of the main characters had their own strengths, flaws, and struggles that made them very sympathetic to the reader. Becker was full of his own problems and it was very convicting and inspiring to begin to see him work through them. I do not want to give too much away, but the other characters were also interesting and well developed, and the characters involved in the side story of this novel also went through a process of great redemption throughout the course of the novel. Overall, I found Tangled Ashes to be a great read, and I look forward to reading other novels of Michele Phoenix.

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