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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer

 
Read first chapter excerpt here

Sometimes a secret must be kept for the truth to be revealed.
When a suspicious accident occurs at the famous Dinsmore Chocolate Factory in Sinclair, Kansas, Caroline Lang goes undercover as a factory worker to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event and how the factory treats its youngest employees—the child workers. Caroline’s fervent faith, her difficult childhood, and compassionate heart drove her to her job as an investigator for the Labor Commission and she is compelled to see children freed from such heavy adult responsibilities, to allow them to pursue an education.

Oliver Dinsmore, heir to the Dinsmore candy dynasty, has his own investigation to conduct. Posing as a common worker known as “Ollie Moore,” he aims to find out all he can about the family business before he takes over for his father. Caroline and Oliver become fast friends, but tension mounts when the two find themselves at odds about the roles of child workers. Hiding their identities becomes even more difficult when fate brings them together over three children in desperate need. When all is revealed, will the truth destroy the love starting to grow between them?

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer was a sweet and touching novel that was spiced with mystery, danger and romance. The plot was well written and moved at an enjoyable pace that did not leave me bored but did give me time to connect with the characters and their situations. The themes of this novel were clear and concise and included topics such as the importance of prayer, cultivating a relationship with God, caring for orphans, and the importance of love and forgiveness. I loved how the author effortlessly included mentions of prayer, God, and helping others within the dialogue of her characters and how it gave more realism and depth to their personalities. The setting of this novel was also interesting as it was set in a small town in the early 1900s when people were still trying to figure out how to balance having safe factories as well as the morality of child labor. The novel was from the third person narrative, but it alternated between the perspectives of Carrie, Ollie, Letta (the young girl Ollie and Carrie are helping), and Gordon Hightower, the manager of the factory. This set-up allowed the reader to have a greater understanding of what was going on and increased the suspense as the reader is left wondering if the characters will figure it all out in time.

The characters of Echoes of Mercy are well developed and realistic. I loved both Carrie and Ollie, and how each had their own flaws and struggles with faith yet they still were able to offer strength and advice to the other as they worked through their own feelings and situations. Both had their own strengths, and I enjoyed seeing how Ollie became aware of the importance of prayer and having a relationship with God. All of the minor characters were also well developed and added to the depth and beauty of the story. Letta and her two brothers, Lank and Lesley, were sweet children who had their own struggles and worries and each of them gained new perspectives and growth as the story played out. Mr. and Mrs. Noble were a wonderful couple whose generosity and love were quite an inspiration. I loved how all of the minor and major characters fit together so well and brought out the best in one another, with one exception of course.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to reading more of Kim Vogel Sawyer's novels. I received this novel for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Press through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author
Kim Vogel Sawyer is a best-selling author highly acclaimed for her gentle stories of hope. More than one million copies of her books are in print and have garnered awards including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in Kansas, where she and her retired military husband, Don, run a bed-and-breakfast inn with the help of their four feline companions. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and nine grandchildren.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dawn's Early Light by Philippa (Pip) Ballantine and Tee Morris

 
Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…...
Dawn's Early Light, the third installment of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Series, was a helter-skelter ride of surprise, mystery, and rollicking adventure. Sent to the Americas to aid two agents of the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical in their investigation , the dashing duo of Eliza and Wellington are as lively and quick witted as ever, but they enter a new stage of intrigue and sparks fly (literally) as they encounter new science, new schemes, and new feelings of... jealousy? Identities of their unknown opponents are revealed in shocking fashion, old enemies are revisited, and what is wrong with the Queen of England? Dawn's Early Light is a wonderful read that is full of mystery, romance, danger, and the wonder of new and exciting gadgets and technologies. Wellington's car...spot on! The plot line is full of unexpected twists and turns, and I was tied to my seat with anticipation for what would occur next in the novel. I loved the interactions between all of the characters, particularly Eliza and Wellington as they fight over decisions and feelings, and Eliza and Felicity as they fight over, well, SOMEONE. Felicity and Bill, the American agents, are a wonderful addition to the story, and they bring their own American flair and liveliness to the story as they stretch the patience and the relationships of our favorite duo to another level. The witty dialogue as well as the heartfelt exchanges between the characters had me laughing aloud at times and close to tears at others. The change in setting and the interesting situations it led to were well orchestrated and intriguing and kept the novel and the series  fresh and new in my mind. Overall, I highly enjoyed every minute and every page of Dawn's Early Light, and I would definitely recommend all of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels to any reader who enjoys an exciting tale of mystery, romance, and of course a little steampunk gadgetry. I received this eBook for free in exchange for an honest review.

Also, in light of the upcoming release of Dawn's Early Light, be sure to check out  and to sign up to enter this awesome giveaway, which includes the following prizes:
 
PRIZE ONE
Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair
 
PRIZE TWO
Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
The Extraordinary Contraptions CD
Signed cover flat of Phoenix Rising
 
PRIZE THREE
Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
 
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About the Authors:
Photo by J.R. Blackwell
 
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author, with her husband Tee Morris, of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, and a Sir Julius Vogel. Morris is the author of Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana and the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. In addition to his work as a fantasist, he is also a social media pioneer and the author of Podcasting for Dummies and All a Twitter.

Pip's website: www.pjballantine.com
Pip's Twitter: philippajane
Tee's website: http://teemorris.com/
Tee's Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeeMonster
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/TheMinistryOfPeculiarOccurrences

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant


Allie left the love of her life at the altar - to save him from a lifetime of heartbreak. When a Valentine's Day wedding brings them back together, she struggles against her family's destructive history. Can Allie ever realize that a marriage is so much more than a wedding dress?

History repeats itself when Allie Andrews escapes the church on her wedding day - in the same dress passed down for generations and worn by all the women in her family - women with a long history of failed marriages. Allie loves Marcus but fears she's destined to repeat her family's mistakes. She can't bear to hurt Marcus worse.

Marcus Hall never stopped loving Allie and can only think of one reason she left him at the altar - him. When the two are thrown together for his sister's Valentine's Day wedding, he discovers the truth and realizes their story might be far from over. Can Allie shuck expectation and discover who she is as a bride and in the Bride of Christ? And if she ever walks down the aisle, what dress will she wear?

A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant was a sweet yet moving novella that captured the sad view many have that you cannot break out of bad cycles that have been set by the generations before you. The second novella in the Year of Weddings, this story showed that with faith and hope in God and His plan your life it is possible to not conform to your family's destructive history. Allie was a sweet character who loved Marcus so much she was willing to leave him in order to save him from what she expected to be a terrible fate. Marcus is left heartbroken, and it is only after they are forced to see one another as they are involved in his sister's wedding that Allie and Marcus realize that they are not ready to move on with their separate lives. I loved seeing them become drawn back together as well as watching Allie change as she spoke with Marcus and listened to his mother's wise words. However, I do wish that that Marcus and Allie had spent time talking about what happened in the past and working through it instead of just jumping back into wedding mode without ever truly verbally addressing what had happened. It felt a very unrealistic. However, overall I liked the characters and thought the storyline was sweet and both fun and moving to read. I look forward to seeing what characters and situations occur in the next novella, A March Bride!

I received this novella for free from BooklookBloggers and Zondervan Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

A January Bride by Deborah Raney


What will happen when novelist Madeleine Houser's 'pen pal' friendship with a lonely widower takes an unexpected turn?

Who can work in a house that's overrun by contractors and carpenters? Not Madeleine Houser, a successful novelist who gladly accepts the help of her octogenarian friend, Ginny, to arrange for a temporary office in the charming bed and breakfast owned by Ginny's friend, Arthur. Maddie's never met the innkeeper - but a friendship grows between them as Maddie and Arthur leave messages for each other each day. To Maddie's alternate delight and chagrin, she seems to be falling for the inn's owner - a man who's likely many years her senior - and who she's never even met.

Arthur Tyler is a college professor who lost his young wife to cancer. Together they ran the bed and breakfast where Art lives, but without his wife, the house is missing warmth and cheer. He jumps at the chance to have author Madeleine Houser use the space that was once filled with guests. He, too, begins to enjoy the daily exchanges with Maddie, but a series of misunderstandings lead him to believe she's far from being a prospective date---even if he were ready to date again, which he's not.

When Maddie and Art finally meet and discover one another's identity, sparks fly. Even so, they each have obstacles to overcome in order for this winter romance to blossom.

A January Bride by Deborah Raney is a sweet and charming novella that starts off the Year of Weddings novella series in a delightful way. I enjoyed getting to know both Maddie and Art as the story progressed as well as seeing how Ginny would both interfere in and touch their lives. I was highly amused by the complete misunderstandings that arose between Maddie and Art concerning each other's ages and how this confusion played out in their relationship and in the novella. As with all novellas, the romance and plot moved very quickly, but I liked how the author used the notes exchanged between the two characters to further their relationship before they ever met one another. I also was moved by Arthur's worry and concerns about dating after his wife's death and how he and Maddie eventually resolved those issues while trusting in God's sovereign plan. I highly enjoyed this amusing and romantic story, and I look forward to reading more of Deborah Raney's works as well as the rest of the Year of Weddings novellas.

I received this novella from BooklookBloggers and Zondervan Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Weather Child Excerpt 3 (Part 2) by Philippa Ballantine

 
Excerpt continued from 3/3/14...
 
"...She didn’t reply. They both knew that there was no other time the Ministry called on Tom. They were embarrassed about how one of their own had fallen so badly from grace, so only hunted Tom down when they needed his expertise. And there was only one thing that he was an expert on.
 
Leaning forward, he concentrated on the several inches around Faith’s slightly hunched shoulders. He smelt of stale cigar smoke and beer. Growing up in a pub meant she didn’t find it as repulsive as many would have.
After a moment’s examination, he shot a glance up. “That’s some Geas you have, Agent Louden. I didn’t see it before, so I presume it’s only now causing you a problem…” Retrieving his bottle of beer neatly tucked under the bench, he emptied the final dregs and waited for her to explain.
Certainly there was no way Faith was going to share her own foolishness with the old man. “I didn’t believe in it, but after the fire it started to become more obvious.”
Tom nodded, but as quick as a hare he’d changed tack on her. “How’s that Lane fellow doing? Still managing to get in the way of those doing actual work?”
Tom had trained her captain, and for his good work Tom was rewarded when Lane arrested him. Faith didn’t want to go down the path this particular conversation would open up.
“I need your help, Tom.” A person more practiced at deception and manipulation would have put her hand on his knee, or plucked at his fatherly feelings for a young recruit. Faith was smart enough to realise that such methods wouldn’t work; Tom was too wilily and she was ill practiced. Truth, instead, would have to do. ..."
 
Never alone. Never apart.
They are the Awakened, a unique breed of people in a remote corner of the world. Faith is one of these gifted carriers of the Seraphim; and in return of her unconditional love, her Seraphim grants her powers of incredible potential.
But not all carriers embrace their blessing.
Jack loathes being an Awakened. He never asked for it, his Seraphim keeping him alive even in spite of his desire to die. Not even a great war could rid him of this curse.
Now a magician of incredible ability and a walking dead man must find a way to work together to save the Seraphim. Someone covets the power of the Awakened, and will not stop until that power belongs to him."
About the Author:
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats
Twitter: @PhilippaJane

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Prepared For A Purpose by Antoinette Tuff

 
Read an excerpt here

870 children waited in fear as their elementary school rushed into lockdown mode. As the nation faced yet another Sandy Hook story of tragedy, one woman rewrote the ending.

Yet the story doesn't start with those first steps Michael Hill took into that Atlanta elementary school. It starts with Antoinette Tuff, a woman who faced her own pain, hurt, and rejection, yet held onto grace, faith, and hope. A hope that anchored her in the most high-stakes moments, a grace that allowed her to empathize with a hurting young man, and a faith that gave her the courage to love him back from the brink.

This is more than just the amazing account of tragedy averted. It's the evidence of what we can do when we allow ourselves to be used by God. And it's a story of how God uses all of our life experiences--the good and the bad--to prepare us for our own moment of divine purpose.

Prepared for a Purpose: The Inspiring Story of How One Woman Saved an Atlanta School under Siege by Antoinette Tuff was an inspiring, convicting, and heart-wrenching story of how God can use any circumstance, however bad, to mold His children and to save the lives of many others. This book alternates in the telling of two stories.  One is the story of Antoinette's tough life and how it led to her close relationship with God and the other is what happened when the gunman entered the Atlanta school where she worked. I found this book easy to read and gripping in its retelling of both her life and the situation she faced during the siege. I was convicted and moved to tears as I sympathized with the hard times that happened in Antoinette's life as well as marveled at how she continually relied on God and put her trust in Him even when it seemed like her life was ending. Her family relationships were hard, but I was blown away by how God used these struggles to help her connect with the disturbed and distressed young man that entered the Atlanta school where Antoinette was working. Overall, I found Prepared for a Purpose to be a wonderful read that I easily connected with and that challenged me to look beyond the hard times that I might face to see how God can use them to bless and to save others.

I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Weather Child Excerpt 3 (Part 1) by Philippa Ballantine

 
 
As of March 1st, Weather Child has officially been released and is available as a print or eBook addition. I have not ordered my copy yet, but I am excited for the chance to read it. In celebration of its release, I am posting another excerpt from Weather Child for readers to enjoy.
 
"Faith was standing in the rain. It was a pleasant sensation on her slightly tipped face. Hoa and she both knew that it could be changed if they wanted, but the price was too high merely for a rugby game. It was always a matter of evaluating the costs and the worth of them.

Certainly the players out on the drenched field would have appreciated a respite from the constant wet. The long, dark green pitch had been turned into a mud slide. The power of the men defied the elements. A slight wind from the south added to the difficulty of the day, yet the players’ concentration was solely on the ball and their opposition. Faith envied them that clarity of focus.

She was one of the few women standing on the side lines. It was not considered completely proper for the fair sex to be there, so the only ones there were Awakened. Seraphim, much like the rest of New Zealand, had always shown an interest in rugby. As with everything symbiote related, they could not explain why, but Faith could guess.

It was power and communion. The mass of dark coated men, rain running off the brims of their hats, huddled close to the side lines urging their chosen team on; the weight and strength of such concentration in the air was heady and deeply male.

However, everything was tempered by the curse and there was only one person that she knew of that dealt in curses. Thanks to her work for the Ministry, Faith came into contact with all sorts of people; people that her parents would be horrified that she even knew existed.

Yet she did. Pulling her coat tighter around her, Faith slipped through the crowd as best she could. The men, smelling of wool and sweat, let her pass. The crowd milling around on the side lines eased once she got up into the stands. Under her feet, the wood creaked and whispered of years of hope and tears.

Most of the people up here were older; some were even scarred by war. The flicker of their thoughts was particularly hard to brush aside. Utter longing, so deep and sad, plunged through her. The young man tucked his one remaining leg out of her sight when their eyes locked. His desire to be out there on the pitch was so real that Faith could, for a moment at least, understand. She might have never played rugby, but she was no stranger to dreams dashed and promises unfulfilled.

If there was one person that might be able to set her on the right track, at least for today, it was Tom Moore. She’d run into him two years ago, having been the agent that cleared him from the facility and allowing him to return to as normal a life as he could manage.

Moore was a rarity among the Awakened—an old man. He’d been born to one of the first white women in Wellington, and despite his age he still had the red hair she’d given him. Its dimmed fire was easy to spot amongst the grey hats of the rest of the crowd. Tom didn’t like hats.

He was also easy to find if there was a rugby match on. At all other times, he was pretty much a ghost in the town. His penchant for the game was what made him particularly useful to the Ministry, making him one of the few old timers that hadn’t gone bush and disappeared into the wild country.

Having spotted the hair, Faith was able to quickly make her way up the incline of seats to reach her quarry. Tom’s spare form was leaned at an acute angle towards the action below. Looking at him, it was impossible to believe he was in his eighties. Everything about his appearance would have suggested at least twenty years less than that, while his suppressed energy, evidenced in the barely contained jiggling on the seat, would have done a twenty year old proud. Despite the reason for her hunt, Faith smiled. Tom’s joy in life always gave her hope; a sliver of optimism that said even an Awakened could make it, as he had.

He didn’t acknowledge her, eyes firmly fixed on the action happening down on the field. Tom’s bustling energy had already cleared a space on each side of him. Flicking her coat under her, she took the space to his right. Wellington was playing a strengthening side from Northland. The power and speed in evidence made her heart race and her fingers tingle.

“In trouble again, then?” Tom quickly shifted gears as the players trotted off the pitch for their water and slices of orange...."
Excerpt to be continued on Wednesday

 

Never alone. Never apart.
They are the Awakened, a unique breed of people in a remote corner of the world. Faith is one of these gifted carriers of the Seraphim; and in return of her unconditional love, her Seraphim grants her powers of incredible potential.
But not all carriers embrace their blessing.
Jack loathes being an Awakened. He never asked for it, his Seraphim keeping him alive even in spite of his desire to die. Not even a great war could rid him of this curse.
Now a magician of incredible ability and a walking dead man must find a way to work together to save the Seraphim. Someone covets the power of the Awakened, and will not stop until that power belongs to him."

About the Author:
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats

Twitter: @PhilippaJane

a Rafflecopter giveaway