Saturday, January 31, 2015

Storm Sisters

Storm Sisters
Afton Rorvik

 Written in a memoir style, the author talks about the women who were there for her and her mother when her mother faces a rapid decline into terminal illness. These sisters of the heart who were with her during her storm were called storm sisters. These are women who helped her through depression and grief.

I was touched by the authenticity and feeling of community that the author portrayed in her story. While it wasn't the book I expected (I was expecting more on how to be a storm sister), I liked the stories and the feeling of family that the author talked about having with her friends. She did give a few tips, but the book was more about dealing with storms as they come instead of how to be a storm sister. It's a book that I would recommend to anyone dealing with storms in their life, particularly the death of a loved one.

I received this book free of charge from Goodreads in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Last Call

Last Call
The Cocktail Series #5
Alice Clayton
Caroline, an interior designer, has always gotten a little panicky when marriage is mentioned. Thankfully her photographer boyfriend, Simon, is on the same page. But when their friends begin getting married and having babies they start to consider the idea. Simon is on location in Asia when Caroline gets a terrifying call. Suddenly spending the rest of her life with the man of her dreams might not be an option.

This is definitely a novella. Since I haven't read the first four books I was at times lost while reading this short story. It wasn't really a book, more like an epilogue. But the premise was sweet and the couples feelings were genuine. There was a bit more bedroom time than I felt was needed for the story. It really didn't add to the plot. The book read like a YA and so was a bit young for my tastes. But readers of light YA will enjoy the fluffy feel to this book.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Brush With Love

A Brush With Love
A January Wedding Story

Rachael Hauck
Ginger was burned in a fire when she was a child. But the outward scares are not the only ones she's still carrying. So when Tom comes into her hair salon twelve years after he stood her up, she's not remotely interested in him. But the sparks that were there in high school are still there and Ginger must decide if she can forgive and let go.

The story is a novella so all romance, character development, and plot must be squeezed into a few short chapters. The author did a great job of creating emotion and drama. The romance was a little lacking for me, but the character development was good. I enjoyed the story and thought that Tom was a great hero. The quickness of the spiritual changes in some of the people seemed a bit unrealistic, but the length of the story probably required the speed. Overall it was a sweet story with a beautiful message that I enjoyed reading.

I received this book free of charge from BookLook Blogger in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 26, 2015

At Home in Last Chance

At Home in Last Chance
A Place to Call Home Book 3
Cathleen Armstrong
Kaitlyn made a horrible mistake six months ago. She left her seven year old daughter with her brother and took off. But now she's back and trying to rectify her mistakes. It isn't easy and she constantly feels the guilt, not only from herself, but from the townspeople. Steven is dealing with some of the same issues himself. Their relatives warn them about each other. But these two prodigals must learn to have faith and trust before they can settle in Last Chance, New Mexico.

The style of writing feels a lot like a young adult book. The author deals with the issues of learning from mistakes and moving past the prejudices of others. I was unaware that this book was in a series when I picked it up. It can be read as a stand alone, but there are definitely pieces that would fit better if the first two books had been read. The book ends rather abruptly. I'm not sure if this is because it's part of a series and the loose ends will be tied up in the next book, or if that is simply the style of writing. The characters are authentic and the descriptions are vibrant. It was an interesting read.

I received this book free of charge from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ted and Friends

Ted and Friends
Phil Roxbee Cox & Stephen Cartwright
Ted and his friends go on twelve different adventures. They bring the reader along with them as they get into all sorts of predicaments. Each story has a recurring theme with a rhyming flow that makes it easy for early readers to read. Each story has little flaps on the pages to add dimension. The book comes with a cd of the stories being read.

My daughter is just learning to read and fell in love with this book. The illustrations are adorable and she loved the interaction of lifting the flaps. The stories have a humorous angle and she loves laughing at the antics of the animals. She is able to read the words and this had really boosted her confidence in reading. Definitely a book I would recommend when just starting to read.

*I purchased the book from an Usborne dealer. This isn't the exact picture of the book, since the book I own comes with a cd and 12 stories. For some reason I have a hard time finding Usborne books online to grab pictures from.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dirty Chick

Dirty Chick
Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer
Antonia Murphy
Antonia had only had traumatic experiences with chickens when she and her husband relocated to New Zealand. But the different grocery options and lack of gourmet shops meant that if she wanted wine, cheese, or organic eggs, she would need to grow it herself. Before she knews it, Antonia found herself with her family in rural New Zealand learning to farm. With the kids and animals out of control Antonia found a happy place amidst all of the poop and trials of family and country life.

Filled with lots of zany, tongue in cheek humor, this book initially appeared to be a light, funny read about farm life. But the more I read, the more I realized that the author had infused life lessons and thoughts of what true family was all about. Even if you've never seen a chicken in your entire life, you'll love the different approach the author took when telling her story and find humor in her numerous attempts to raise farm animals. The scenes and word pictures that she paints will take you right into rural New Zealand and make you feel like one of her friends. There is some language, but it wasn't a lot and didn't clog up the story. I look forward to reading more by this author and I hope she writes a follow up to this story.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Lasting Impression

A Lasting Impression
Tamera Alexander
Claire works for her father forging priceless art. When the opportunity to escape presents itself she finds her life completely changed. She begins working for one of the most influential women in Nashville. A co-worker Sutton attracts her attention. But she can't trust anyone with her secret past. As her new and old life collide she learns about trust and faith.

It took me a while to get engaged with this book. But once it grabbed me I couldn't put it down. The characters were great and really drove the story. The part that was slow for me was setting up all of the details for the story. It was presented in such a way that left little room for surprises at the end. But the book was full of history and the plot was interesting. Overall it was a nice book that could have had a bit less writing and a bit more mystery.

The Berenstain Bears and the Biggest Brag

The Berenstain Bears and the Biggest Brag
Mike Berenstain
Brother and Sister Bear can't stop bragging. They are constantly trying to outdo each other. Since they've worked hard for their accomplishments they are very proud. But when it gets completely out of control one day, Gramps talks to them about their bragging and about how bad pride can be.

Writing in the same easy style as his parents, the author has taken a difficult concept for kids and made it simple and easy to understand. The illustrations help to tell the story and keep the children's attention. Bible verses and the foolishness of bragging are brought out without coming across as preachy or bossy. Both of my children enjoyed the book and indicated this would be a book we read often. 

I received this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Hope Crossing

Hope Crossing
The Complete Ada's House Trilogy
Cindy Woodsmall
The Hope of Refuge
Cara is running from a stalker. So she turns to her diary, filled with notes from her late mother. Something tickles her memory and she finds herself in Amish country with her daughter. But since her mother left in disgrace, Cara will have to fight an uphill battle if she wants to be accepted.

The Bridge of Peace
Lena has loved her job as a teacher from the very beginning. But difficult students, hateful parents, and bizarre occurrences have her job in jeopardy with the board. It certainly doesn't help that she has a problem submitting to authority. When she falls in love with a man that is not considered courting material she must mature and learn to listen to those around her.

The Harvest of Grace
Sylvia has been betrayed by her sister at home. She flees to the Blank farm to help on their farm since their son, Aaron is in rehab. Aaron returns with the intent to sell the farm that Sylvia has fallen in love with. The two must work together for months. But one is working to get the farm ready for market, while the other is fighting to save the farm from the bank.

Each novel is full length. That made the book very heavy and the print rather small. Those small complaints aside, I enjoyed these three books. The author doesn't write the typical bonnet fiction. The characters are flawed, but likable. The situations are often fraught with drama and tension. But the author is able to bring out Christian elements as the characters deal with the things that come at them. Even if you don't enjoy bonnet fiction, you should give this author a try. You won't be disappointed.

I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hidden Agenda

Hidden Agenda
Southern Crimes Book 3
Lisa Harris
Michael has been dead, as far as his family knows, for almost a year. He's so deep undercover that only one person knows where he is. And he watches that man be murdered by his boss right before his eyes. He has a couple of hours for a miracle to happen. He doesn't expect that miracle to come in the form of his boss's children. On the run from the drug cartel and police alike, Michael, Olivia, and Ivan have to stay one step ahead of the game. Figuring out the details could get them killed.

This was my first time reading anything by this author. The book takes place over about a week. But the author has packed quite a bit of action and suspense into those few days. The romance seemed a little rushed, given the time period, but otherwise was sweet and fit well into the story. The book is definitely part of a series and I would have understood some of the underlying details if I'd read the first two. But the book works well as a stand-alone too. I really enjoyed the plot and it left me wanting to read more by this author.

I received this book free of charge from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Romancing Your Better Half

Romancing Your Better Half
Keeping Intimacy Alive in Your Marriage
Rick Johnson
Romantic love is often thought to wane after the first few years of marriage. The author takes the read through what intimacy is and how to keep it going in your marriage. Written for both the husband and the wife, this book is full of facts, statistics, Biblical advice, and practical tips. The book reads like a well researched paper with all of the facts about marriage. But the author throws in personal stories that are either from his own experiences or that fit well with the subject matter. At the end of each chapter is a section that gives some suggestions for taking the advice in the chapter and putting it to practical use.

I could tell the book had been written by a man. It had a more logical approach with less of an emotional feel. But the content was good, the chapters weren't too long, and the author added humor and stories to lighten all of the facts. I certainly don't see my husband reading this, but it would perhaps work if we read it together over the course of several months. It isn't really a how-to book, but more about digging deeper and the theory of intimacy.

I received this book free of charge from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Small-town Fireman

Small-town Fireman
Allie Pleiter
Karla is only in Gordon Falls to help her grandpa. She has big dreams and there is no way she can fulfill them in that tiny town. As soon as her grandpa's hip heals she turn the coffee shop back over to him and head back to the big city. But a certain fireman is making her rethink leaving. Dylan left the big city to escape the rat race. He has no intention of returning for anything or anyone. Can he convince Karla to join him in the small community of Gordon Falls?

This book is definitely part of a series. Several things were briefly mentioned that would have made more sense had the previous books been read. That being said, I do think this works as a stand-alone. The main story is about the couple who just recently joined the town. The story, for me, seemed to deal more with the expectations of family and making life decisions than it did with the romance. The romance was there, but it wasn't super romantic for me. The story was authentic and the characters were believable. The ending was a bit over the top for me, but added a plausible way for the characters to have a change of heart on some issues.

I received this book free of charge from Goodreads in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mothering From Scratch

Mothering From Scratch
Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family
Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo
 Every single mother is different. Each family is different. Yet so often, as mothers, we find ourselves looking at other moms and judging ourselves. The authors have written a book that helps each mother pinpoint her mothering strengths and use them to create a parenting style that works for her.
Using scripture and personal experiences, each author brings her own style and thoughts to give a well rounded look at mothering.

I enjoyed all of the different topics and thoughts that were brought out. The personal stories and experiences were amusing and helped me not feel so alone in some of my mothering snafus. The book covered quite a few different topics and talked about making things work for each mother to fit her style.

The writing was at times heavy and detailed. I almost got lost in the tiny print and multiple details of each chapter. Based on the description, I expected the book to bring out different parenting styles and guide me through picking out what worked for me. Instead it was a vague feeling of the concept of choosing what works for each individual. It just didn't resonate with me enough to want more or to recommend it to my mom friends.

I received this book free of charge from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Love At Mistletoe Inn

Love At Mistletoe Inn: A December Wedding Story
A Year of Weddings Novella
Cindy Kirk
Hope has spent her entire life trying to play it safe. Except for that one night when she was eighteen and married John. But since she changed her mind as soon as the vows were said the preacher said he wouldn't turn the paperwork in, and it would all be find. Fast-forward 10 years and Hope learns that her marriage was legal. John has returned to his aunt's Inn where Hope works and they've got a problem. Aunt Verna hopes that by working on a wedding together they will learn to work with each other and solve their tiny marriage issue.

Like the title states, this is a novella. So it was short. But I think the author did a good job of creating an entertaining and sweet story in such a short time. The sense of family was very strong throughout the book. The book had all of the needed elements for a romantic story without it being too syrupy. The book didn't really have the Christian fiction feel. But from what I can tell this is the author's first step into that genre, so maybe that is the reason.

I received this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Salamander Smack Down

Salamander Smack Down
John Sazaklis
 Two little newts in a pet store have have dreams of joining super-villain Professor Zoom. They escape from the store and hitch a ride in the professor's bag. When they reach the secret villain lab they discover a giant robot that the professor is working on. Hoping to impress the man they admire, they work on the robot to get him working. They take him on a destructive test run. Super-pet hero Whatzit comes to the rescue and shuts down the robot. After saving the town, Whatzit returns the salamanders to the pet store. The book begins with a chart style write-up on all of the main characters. Brightly colored illustrations and colorful fonts bring the story to life. The imaginative story will appeal to young readers. The large font, comic style writing, and fast paced story make this a great book for reluctant readers.

My son really enjoyed this book and laughed at the ending. He definitely wanted to keep the book so he could read it again.

I received this book free of charge from Children's Lit in exchange for my honest review.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park

The Secret of Pembrooke Park
Julie Klassen
Abigail is the practical daughter who holds the family together. So when a business venture that she recommended to her family falls apart, she feels it her duty to help rescue the family finances. The agent for Pembrooke Park approaches them with a lease offer that is too good to pass up in their current condition. Abigail finds herself alone with the servants as they try to bring the park back to it's former glory. The home has been sitting abandoned for 18 years amidst rumors of ghosts, murder, and treachery. Abigail hears strange sounds in the night, arguments and rumors, and the ramblings of an old woman. Hopefully she can piece together the puzzle before something tragic happens.

I loved this book. I've read books by this author before and enjoyed them, but this one is now my favorite. The book is large and could appear daunting. But never once did I feel bogged down in details or slow parts. The story fit together like a puzzle and kept me intrigued. It has elements of romance, history, and suspense. Several times I was surprised by the twists the author took with the plot. The characters fit with the time period and were captivating.

I received this book free of charge from Book Club Network in exchange for my review.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Stutter Creek

Stutter Creek
Ann Swann
Beth has been joining her father at the family cabin in Sutter Creek for years. This year she'll be going alone. She's lost her father, her husband, and her daughter almost all at once. Each one is gone for a completely different reason. She thinks she's returning to the place of her favorite memories, but something sinister has followed her to Sutter Creek.

The story starts out quickly and keeps the suspense up until the very last page. The story only covers a few days, but doesn't seem short or lacking in details. The characters have depth and authenticity. 
The story deals with murder and some of the details are very graphic. It fits with the story, but those who can't handle the subject matter need to take note. Since I enjoyed this story, I'll definitely be checking out the other books by this author.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Financially Confident Woman

The Financially Confident Woman
What You Need to Know to Take Charge of Your Money
Mary Hunt
Women often feel scared and overwhelmed when it comes to finances. The older generation grew up with the concept of the man taking care of the finances and the woman taking care of the home. Women of the current generation often get caught up in the debt of commercialism. The author fell into both of these categories herself. Once she and her husband realized their predicament they were thousands of dollars in debt. Her books are the result of her research as she dug her way out of debt.

The author writes in a very personal and honest style. She begins by discussing some of the concepts and hang ups that women have in regards to fiances. She then has easy to comprehend instructions on how to get a grasp on your money and how to make it work for you. While some of the numbers and instructions seemed a bit dated the concepts are still the same. It's a refreshing look at an age old topic. Definitely a book I would recommend.

I received this book free of charge from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kitty Corner

Kitty Corner Guide to Kittens
Ellen Miles
Do you want a kitten, but aren't sure how to take care of one? Kittens are so adorable and soft, but each one is different and comes with different needs. The first chapter shows how to prepare for the young animal about be brought home. The second chapter deals with finding the right kitten for the right family. The rest of the chapter take the new owner through all of the things a kitten might need. Each page is brightly colored and filled with beautiful pictures of kittens. The book is smaller in size and will be perfect for the intended age group. The author asks questions and provides checklists to fully engage the reader. Parents will love the theme of responsibility and care for other creatures that the author has written through the chapters. Children will love the simplicity of the instructions and artful design of each chapter.

My children had just received two kittens and really enjoyed reading the book and comparing the things they were doing with the instructions. They've poured over all of the pictures as well. Definitely a book I would recommend to families wanting to get into pet ownership.

I received this book free of charge from Children's Lit in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Top Ten Books of 2014

Here are a list of the top ten books I enjoyed this year. They aren't in any particular order and I liked them all for different reasons. As I'm sure you've heard me say before - this wasn't easy.

I'll give you a clue as to how hard it was to narrow it down to 10. I read 435 books this year. This is 435 books that I haven't read before and are already published. This does not include the books I love so much that I go back for a re-read, the 200x I read a kids book before they move on to the next one, or the books that I'm privileged to read before they are published. This is "never before read by me" books for this year.

Undetected by Dee Henderson
 She was able to take a ton of technical info and make it interesting. Her stories have depth.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert
She is able to draw emotions out of the reader like nothing I've read before. Her books have all of my favorite elements, but they also make me think deeply.

 Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade
This author has romance down. Definitely my top favorite romance author.

Just 18 Summers by Rene Gutteridge
I liked this one because it made me stop and really look at my parenting style, and made me treasure those moments with my children even more.

The Velveteen Mommy by Jenn

A Mommy book for all of us moms. The author has been there and it shows.

Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene
This book was gritty and honest in a really refreshing way.

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
I love the "old author" whimsy that this author adds to her books. She's new, but definitely has what it takes to write a best seller.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
One of those books that might have had some flaws, but really made me think.

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton
This author writes gripping historical fiction that kept me riveted.

The Shadow of Your Smile by Susan May Warren
I like this author's style of writing. She is able to really bring the story to life. But I liked this particular book because it was about marriage.

Deceived by Irene Hannon
A good Christian thriller. Got my heart racing a couple of times.

 Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar
I'm not a huge fan of Biblical fiction. But after reading this book I have changed my mind. At least as long as Afshar is the author.

A Mom's Prayers for her Son by Rob & Joanna Teigen
Very well written. And since I have a son, it definitely applied.

 The 13th Gift by Joanne Smith
A beautiful story made even more beautiful because it's true.