Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Window Under the Table

A Window By the Table
A Novel of Family Secrets and Heirloom Recipes
Two Blue Doors Book 1
Hillary Manton Lodge
Juliette is grieving her grandmother and trying to decide what direction to take in her career. When she inherits her grandmother's table she finds a clue that her family history might not be what her family thinks it is. Her grandmother was keeping secrets. Right before Juliette cancels her online dating subscription she receives an email that will shake everything up. Now she's trying to decide about issues in her personal and business life all while juggling family and a new restaurant. She handles stress by cooking.

The story was rich with family, food, friends, and heart. This isn't my typical favorite genre, so I was pleasantly surprised when I loved the story. The author was able to portray the family so well and give the reader a sense of the drama and issues that were going on. I really enjoyed all of the food that was woven throughout the book. I wouldn't consider myself a foodie, but it was still enjoyable. The recipes were a great touch. Some of them are beyond my expertise, but I will be trying out a few. I did wonder as I read the story, where the elements of faith were. They were almost non-existent. Overall, this was an amazing story that touched me and I'm so glad that I have the 2nd book to start reading immediately.

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

Motorcycle Passion

Motorcycle Passion
Michael Kockritz
There is nothing like the thrill of riding a motorcycle and feeling the wind whip past your face. The sound of the engine, the heat from the pavement, and the sun on your face are all just a part of the wonderful world of riding. Most motorcyclists will tell you it's not just a ride, it's a passion. This book takes a look at that passion and shares a small part of what makes motorcycles so addicting and powerful.

This is a celebration of motorcycles. The photography is outstanding. The large coffee table size of the book lends to larger pictures and great page layout. The first section has specs on various bikes from around the world and the famous people who ride them. Old and new are mixed together to create a fascinating look at a wide variety of bikes. The history about the racers is interesting as well. The next section is all about the road. It lists those amazing roads that should be on every rider's bucket list. It showcases famous races, festivals, and places to go to meet other riders and join in the passion. The third section is all about custom bikes, the shops they come from and the people who make them.

This book is outstanding. It will definitely be kept in a place of honor in my library. It showcases so well the spirit and passion of the rider. We are all different, but at the end of the day all that matters is the bike and the road.

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

To Win Her Favor

To Win Her Favor
A Belle Meade Plantation Novel Book 2
Tamera Alexander
In two weeks Maggie is going to lose her home at auction. Her father's health is failing and their only hope is if she can race her horse Bourbon Belle. But when her jockey, a small freed child is a victim of hate she is in danger of losing everything. Cullen is considered almost as bad as the black people because he's Irish. He can't find a single person who will sell property to him. So when he comes across the desperate owner of Linden Downs they strike up a bargain. Cullen will save him and his daughter in exchange for the property. It seems a small price to pay, but some hidden secrets threaten to take the entire place down.

What a beautiful and heart wrenching story. The characters were so real and authentic that I felt I was living the story along with them. The imagery was amazing. The story was all about heartache, love, faith, compromise, and values. It had heart. Some of the subject matter was so heartbreaking that it was difficult to read. But these things really happened and I felt the author did an outstanding job of portraying them realistically without compromising the story or making it too harsh. I haven't read the first book in this series and it didn't seem to detract from the story at all. But based on this book I will definitely be adding it to my reading list. And I'm eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.

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

A Flag For The Flying Dragon

A Flag For The Flying Dragon
A Captain No Beard Story
Carole P. Roman
The Captain needs to find the perfect flag for his pirate ship. But Captain No Beard is having troubles with his crew. Everyone was doing their jobs and working together when they heard Mongo and Zachary fighting. Captain No Beard needs to come up with a solution so that everyone has a job and works together. His first suggestions don't work. But he doesn't give up. He keeps trying until he finds the perfect job for Zachary.

The story teaches the concepts of working together, the importance of family, and never giving up. The bright and colorful illustrations add whimsy and help tell the story. Children will delight in the fun and creativity of the story. Parents will appreciate the life lessons that are being subtly taught. Another sweet book about family from this author. My children and I look forward to reading more by her.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lone Star Ranger

 Lone Star Ranger
Renae Brumbaugh
 Elizabeth and her brother, Evan, have just arrived in town and are eating at the local diner when a Texas Ranger arrests Evan. Evan is accused of being a notorious outlaw who is known as a cold-blooded killer. But Elizabeth can't let her brother hang for crimes he didn't commit. So her sets out to prove his innocence. The only thing in her way is the pesky Texas Ranger named Rett. But Elizabeth is not going to let that slow her down.

The story starts off quickly and the tension between the two main characters is very defined. The book was a quick read that I enjoyed. The story focused on the false arrest and the main characters trying to get to the bottom of the story. There wasn't a lot of back story or very many secondary characters since so much of the focus was spent on the accusation. The story ended abruptly and I wasn't ever clear just how the issues with the brother were resolved. Readers of romantic westerns would enjoy the feel and drama of this story.

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

Purposeful Parenting

Purposeful Parenting
Six Steps to Bring Out the Best in Your Kids
Jean S. Barnes
"Turn Chaos to Calm, Stress to Sanity, and Confusion to Clarity."
The author takes a Biblical approach to explaining numerous scenarios and situations parents might find themselves in on the journey of raising children. There are only six chapters, but each chapter is packed with solutions, advice, stories, and thoughts. The steps are laid out clearly and the concepts are explained. The instructions to implement the steps are easy to understand and doable for a bewildered parent. 

I really enjoyed this book. It is a huge book and will take some time to read, but it will be well worth your time. The author clearly knows and loves kids. This isn't one of those simple "do this and this will happen" types of books. Every kid is different, so the author has clearly taken this into account when writing the book. This is one of those books that I would recommend to all parents, regardless of their children's age.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Long Tail Kitty

Long Tail Kitty Come Out and Play
Lark Pien
 Long tail kitty is the name of a small kitten that goes on adventures with his animal friends. In five different graphic novel style stories the reader joins Long Tail Kitty and his friends as they learned about working together as a team, adventures, jealousy, and being alone. The friends also learned about friendship, scary feelings, and troubles.

The illustrator used a simple and yet detailed cartoon style to capture the reader's attention while reading the captions. This book is more difficult for parents to read aloud to children, but would work well for reluctant readers who need more pictures than words. Each story is separated so the reader can put the book aside and pick up again later. Teachers will enjoy sharing this with young readers who enjoy cartoon style reading. Children will enjoy the antics of kitty and his friends as they learn from their experiences and enjoy the fun of friendship.

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

Summit of Seduction

Summit of Seduction
A Stone Summit Novel
Elena Aitken
Cynthia isn't having the best time right now. Her mother is terminally ill, her business is adding stress, and now Seth is acting like he's interested. Which can't possibly be true. Seth is a womanizer and can't stick with one woman for long. Cynthia found this out the hard way. After going on a date with him, she walks into a restaurant to find him on date with another woman the very next day. Sadly Cynthia doesn't learn her lesson and this happened twice. She's not about to let it happen again. But puppies, a sick mom, and best friends moving have a way of pulling the unlikeliest people together.

The story was short, but entertaining. I enjoyed the interaction between the couple and romance was sweet. The author was able to weave the romantic in with the sad and have it mesh well. While parts were sad, it didn't bring down the whole book. And the relationship between the couple didn't lesson the depths of grief the characters felt either. It was nicely done and romance readers will enjoy getting another look into the lives of the people from this series.

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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Walking Fish

The Walking Fish
Rachelle Burk and Kopel Burk
Alexis learned to love fishing from her grandpa. So when her family goes up to their summer cabin on Glacial Lake, she takes her fishing gear. But to her dismay, no fish are living in the lake. It has to do with minerals or something in the lake. But Alexis takes her rod down to the lake to practice and accidentally catches a fish. No one believes her at first. But when she and her friend, Darshan bring the fish to the house and put it in the bathtub the whole town gets involved. Because this isn't an ordinary fish. This fish has no eyes and little feet.

I'm not a huge science person. So I can't judge this book on how well they immersed the science into the story. But I can tell you that my son really enjoyed reading the story and it brought up lots of questions that we had to research and discuss. My husband and I both enjoyed reading the story on our own, as adults. The characters were fun and believable. There was humor, life lessons, a little bit of drama, and fun. The imagery put the reader into the story. I liked the book for its story and for what my son learned while reading it. I would definitely recommend this story and am looking forward to reading more by these authors.

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

Couples Money

Couples Money
What Every Couple Should Know about Money and Relationships
Marlow and Chris Felton
Most couples fight or at least have disagreements about money. Great advice and time to talk about finances before getting married could save a lot of marriages. The couple who wrote this book know first hand what it's like to have money differences. So they've shared from their vast experiences as a couple, but also as financial advisers. The story of their life is told from both of their points of view and is interspersed with helpful tips and ways to apply the information. 

Each chapter begins with the couple discussing a pitfall or problem they had or one that is common. The chapter ends with questions that couples can use as a jumping off point for further discussion. The chapters are short and manageable. The information, while basic, is something that all couples should know upon entering into marriage. I would recommend this book to any couple just starting out or to the ones who are still struggling with money and aren't on the same page with their spouse.

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

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Yummy Stories

Yummy Stories
Lil L. Alexander
There are six stories in this little book that all center around fruits and vegetables. Each story is told in a fairy tale style with lyrical and rhyming words. The references to the food is subtle, but still predominate in the story. The authors intent is to encourage healthy eating habits and put a positive light on fruits and vegetables. The illustrations are colorful and fill every page.

My daughter enjoyed the book and asked me to read a couple of the stories again. I'm not sure if the book encouraged her to eat more vegetables, but she did say the stories made her hungry. I would recommend this book for the entertaining stories; the subtle health messages were an added bonus. If you look closely the illustrations of the scenery are often made to look like fruits or vegetables. So this adds another aspect to the story that children will enjoy.

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

An October Bride

An October Bride
A Year of Weddings
Katie Ganshert
Emma is cat sitting for her parents while they are on their vacation when she comes across a bucket list written by her father. He's terminally ill and has slowly been working on the list. There are only a couple of things left to cross out. But Emma's heart almost stops when she reads one of them - "Walk Emma down the aisle." She drives home in a fog to find her dear friend Jake working on her sink. When she explains the list to him, he offers to help her with a fake wedding so that her dad can cross that off his list before he dies.

The imagery used in the story was so beautiful and refreshing. I felt like I was experiencing the crisp, fall air and country town with the characters. The chemistry between the couple was sweet, but also electric. The story was a novella, but the story didn't feel rushed or deficient by being short. The author was able to pack all the right elements for a heart tugging, romantic story into the plot. The part of the story that dealt with the issues surrounding the father was handled delicately and left me feeling sad, but hopeful. It added to the richness of the romance. If you haven't read anything by this author, this is the perfect way to get a small taste of her talented writing style that will stay with you long after you put the book down. She's one of my favorites and this story only cemented that feeling.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to become a book reviewer

I've been asked several times recently how to become a book reviewer. Because who doesn't want to get free books?! Several years ago I wrote a brief post about this. But when I went back to reference it, I noticed that there had been several changes. Some companies no longer existed or had changed their names. And some of the guidelines were different. So here is the "new and updated" version.

1. Start a blog. I use blogger and it's free and super easy to do.
2. Find some of your favorite books that you've already read and write a review.
If you are unsure of what type of format to use, find a book reviewer's blog and use that as a template.
3. Ask friends and family to follow your blog. I'll follow if you want to put the address in the comments. This is because some companies require a certain amount of traffic to even send you the book. Once you get started this will become less of an issue.
4. If you haven't already, join at least one social media site. Lots of companies request that you post your review some social media site.
5. Request your first book.

Most of the companies, publicists, and authors that I work for are in the Christian publishing segment. So I will give you some links to the most common sites I use. I know starting out it was difficult to know where to look. If you are reviewing for all of the sites below and feel like you can handle more, shoot me an email and I'll direct you to more.

This is the review site for Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, and Westbow

This is a site that multiple publishing companies use. So you can get non-fiction, cookbooks, self-help, as well as the usual fiction. This one has a few Christian books since it use to be the review program for WaterBrook. But most of the books on here now are secular.

This is primarily for Bethany House, but it led me to Revell, Chosen, and Baker.

They actually have 3 different ways to get free books. The link is for the blog reviewer program. But they also have a rewards program and a summer reading program that sends out free books.

This is a publicist type website that gives away hundreds of books each month. You have to be present the night of the give-away to get the more popular ones, but there are plenty of books available.

Clicking on the links on the right hand side of my page or going to my "reviewing for" page will give you some more sites.

Almost every publisher has some way of getting reviewers. So if Christian books aren't your thing, then google the publisher that puts out the books you like to read. Chances are you'll meet with some success. There is a lot of trail and error at first, but you can be pretty picky once you get a feel for everything.

Indie Authors
There are also a lot of indie authors out there who love the chance to supply a free ebook to anyone will give them an honest review. If you don't have an ereader there are ways to get kindle downloaded to your computer. Check facebook for groups. Here is one I joined several years ago. If you have a favorite author, check out their website and send them a request for a book. This has worked for me several times. Or compliment them on a book you read and ask to review their next one.

Street Teams
A lot of authors have a small group of people that they keep on hand who are willing to review their books before they hit shelves. These people love the author so are willing to do a number of publicist type things to help promote the book before it comes out, in exchange for a free sneak peak at the book. The best way to get on a street team is to friend the author on facebook or contact them via their blog.

Hope this helped. I love talking about books so be sure to ask questions if you get stumped. I know I would have loved someone to bug when I was first starting.

Book Reviews

Petite Rouge

Petite Rouge
A Cajun Twist to an Old Tale
Sheila Herbert-Collins
Clotilde Mouton was a little girl who lived in the bayous of southern Louisiana. Everyone called her Petite Rouge because of the little red cloak and bonnet that she was always seen wearing. Her mother asked her to take some etouffee to her sick grandmother. Petite Rouge took a path through the swamp and met an alligator named Taille-Taille. Readers who enjoyed the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood will enjoy the Cajan twist on the story. Bright colorful illustrations fill every page. Numerous Cajan words are used to illustrate the story. Below each paragraph is the definition and pronunciation for the French Cajan words so the reader will be able to properly pronounce the words. The frequent use of the unfamiliar words can make reading the story with any flow difficult. Children will enjoy the illustrations that pair well with the story and will also relish the ending. The book would work well for anyone wanting to learn Cajan French in a fun setting or for a school looking to add to their library.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ellie's First Plane Ride

The Amazing Adventures of Ellie the Elephant
Ellie's First Plane Ride
Ellie is flying to see her relatives. She's taking her friend Pudgy with her. Ellie is nervous because she's never flown on a plane before. But Pudgy thinks flying is exciting and helps Ellie not be so nervous. Follow the two friends as they navigate the airport and later as they search to find Ellie's relatives.

The bright colorful photographs of the adorable stuffed animals will catch the young readers attention. The words are a larger print and the vocabulary should fit a 1-2 level reader. Children will love the creativity of the animals as they visit places they've never been. The concept will also open up discussion with the parents as they discuss flying, going to new places, and overcoming fears. The story ends as the two stuffed friends relax in their bed at home after their long trip. It's an adorable book that young and old readers will both appreciate. I look forward to sharing the next book with my children.

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

Thick as Thieves

Thick as Thieves: An Andrea Carter Book
Circle C Milestones Book 1
Susan K. Marlow
Andrea really, really doesn't want to go to school. Her mare has just had twin foals and she feels like her time would be better spent training them. But her family insists and her reluctantly returns. But when a dirty, smelly, snarling girl named Macy becomes her seatmate Andrea is sure that school couldn't get any worse. Macy is terrorizing the entire school and spews hate every second. The entire school is terrified of her. But Andrea's sister keeps urging her to try to befriend Macy. Andrea learns that sticking up for the defenseless and the unloved can be challenging, but rewarding.

I'm not usually fond of books written for teenagers. But this one surprised me. It was entertaining, well written, and had some great lessons on faith, trust, and Christ-like love. The suspense and drama fit with the plot and was a good level for the intended age group. The author really brought home the importance of family. It's definitely a book I'll be keeping for my daughter to read when she's a little older. My only complaint was that I felt like I was missing something despite this being book 1. It felt like I'd jumped into the middle of the series with references to things that had happened in the past. It can be read as a stand-alone, but I would recommend getting the previous books first.

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

Every Bride Needs a Groom

Every Bride Needs a Groom
Brides with Style Book 1
Janice Thompson
Katie is so sure that her boyfriend is going to propose that she enters a contest to win a wedding gown from a famous designer. But the day she receives the news that she's won, her boyfriend dumps her. Living in a small town means living in a fish bowl. Everyone is so concerned with how she's handling the break up that she doesn't know how to tell them she needs to go to Dallas to get a dress.

The first word I thought of after finishing this book was fun. The author captured the essence of a small town very well. The characters, especially the older generation, were spot on and hilarious. The build up to receiving the dress was great and the romance was sweet. I do wish that the story of their romance had more depth and more of an ending, but overall it was nice. I appreciated that the author was able to write about both the city and the small town without making either of them negative. Both were portrayed well. The elements of faith and a strong Christian message was woven throughout the story without ever coming across too strong. It was refreshing. I really enjoyed reading the story and definitely plan on reading the next book in the series.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cookie Love

Cookie Love
Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy
More Than 60 Recipes And Techniques For 
Turning The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary

 I'm a huge fan of cookies. I would rather have cookies than any other dessert. So naturally I wanted this book as soon as I saw it. Turns out the author feels the same way. She begins by explaining a little bit of her background and how she came to write the cookie cookbook. The book is divided into sections based on the different types of cookies. Then each recipe is laid out in a similar style. A little bit of history, fun facts, or something about the author is placed at the beginning. Then clear and concise instructions help the baker make the very best cookie. Tips and advice to reaching that perfection are often included. The photographs are gorgeous and help the baker get a visual on some of the more unique cookies. I'm not the best baker, but didn't find any of the recipes intimidating or to far out there. If you love cookies, I would definitely recommend picking up this book. It will be worth it.

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

Borrowing the Doctor

Borrowing the Doctor
The Collins Brothers Book 2
Victoria Pinder
Kate Sparrow is known for her wild partying, jaded view of life, and cruel disdain for others. At least that is how the media portrays her. But when Dr. Daniel Collins is asked to shadow her to save his cousins wedding, he reluctantly agrees. He soon finds out that the Kate portrayed in the media is nothing like the Kate in his arms. And the Kate in his arms is in some serious trouble. Her father is in prison and Kate is helping take him down. But someone wants her dead. Kate doesn't trust anyone, but when she's forced to spend time with Dr. Daniel she realizes that not all people are after her for her money or her company.

The couple connected in the story almost immediately and had great chemistry. The suspense and drama fit with the plot. The author picked a great plot and the story had a wonderful sense of what a real family should be like. My kindle version was a little hard to read, but this might have been a formatting issue. There were some broken thoughts in the story line, but since I was not able to read the first book I might have missed how these pieces connected. Or perhaps the author meant to continue the lines in the next book. Overall, it was a fun story that needs a bit more editing.

I received this book free of charge from Reading Addiction in exchange for my review.

Ellie Makes a New Friend

Ellie Makes a New Friend
The Amazing Adventures of Ellie the Elephant
Marci Fair
Ellie is a little elephant that is lonely. Readers will follow the little elephant as she goes through her day doing all of her favorite things. But they aren't as fun when you don't have someone to share them with. While at the playground Ellie meets a friendly little penguin named Pudgy. Pudgy likes all of the same things that Ellie likes and the two become wonderful friends.

The presentation for this story is precious. Bright, colorful pictures using stuffed animals tell the story and fill every page. Larger print and colorful font make the book easy for the younger readers to follow along or read to themselves. Children will be able to relate to wanting friends to play with. Children will be inspired to be creative with their stuffed animals and the last page has a website to facilitate this. Overall, it was a very cute book that parents and children will enjoy.

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

God, Me, And Sweet Iced Tea

God, Me, And Sweet Iced Tea
Experiencing God in the Midst of Everyday Moments
Rose Chandler Johnson
Southerners are known for their refreshing and super sweet tea. And everyone, regardless of location, seems to be incredibly busy and stressed. The author has taken thoughts from everyday living and infused moments of God so that the reader can be refreshed and encouraged. Each devotion begins with a scripture and small thought on an every day moment. The next page has some additional scripture for suggested reading, journaling consideration with questions to help the reader think more deeply about the devotional, a prayer, the sweet tea moment to focus on, and ends with someone or something to focus on when having prayer.

The format is well laid out and easy to use. The cover and the concept are sweet and add to the appeal. I enjoyed reading the authors thoughts and the questions fit well with the topic. A wide variety of subjects are covered, making this a well rounded devotional. There are 53 devotionals so this could be read through several times a year, or the reader could choose to read one a week.  This would be a wonderful gift.

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

God Bless Our Country

The Berenstain Bears God Bless Our Country
Mike Berenstain
Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear are excitedly decorating their bikes for the 4th of July parade. Mama and Papa are getting ready too. As they all prepare for the huge event the cubs learn a wonderful history lesson about their country and how it all began.

In classic Berenstain Bears style, the young readers will learn a lesson while enjoying a story. The bright colorful illustrations help tell the story and add richness to the lesson. Children will learn about history, about being patriotic, and about the blessings of freedom. The included stickers were a delight for my daughter and helped prolong the lessons she learned. The book ends with some questions and thoughts from Brother and Sister Bear.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In Tune with Love

In Tune with Love
An April Wedding Story - A Year of Weddings Novella
Amy Matayo

April is helping her sister, Kristen, plan her wedding. But Kristen is one of those crazy brides and after firing the wedding coordinator she leans more heavily on April to get everything accomplished. But when Kristen hires Jack Vaughn to sing at the wedding, all bets are off. Jack stole lyrics from April years ago and his song hit the top of the charts. April has never forgiven him. Now she's going to have to face him and her lack of forgiveness. 

The story begins when the lyrics were stolen and then jumps to days before the wedding, so the reader is given a glimpse into why the main character is so upset. The book is short, so it was difficult to get a feel for how the characters resolved their issues. Which is probably why it felt rushed to me. I wasn't able to connect with the main characters and felt frustrated with them. There wasn't really a spiritual feel to the story that would have helped with the resolution and forgiveness aspect. The story flowed well and I think would have made a better full length novel, so I am looking forward to reading other books by this author.
I received this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Living In Style Country

Living In Style Country
Photographes by Andreas von Einsiedel
Texts by Jean Nayar
Urbanites love their cities. But the stress of a busy, chaotic life leads them to the country where they can find peace and relaxation.  The retreats are from different countries and have vastly different styles. But each of these country homes provides an escape for their owners.

The photography is gorgeous. Each home is beautifully showcased. The large coffee table style book is perfect for flipping through when you have a few minutes. Although I must admit, I read the whole thing through in one sitting. Each photograph has a brief description that tells a little about the home, its owners, restoration that may have been done, and details about the decor. The pictures are beautiful to look at, but can also add inspiration for your own home. The book has text in English, German, and French. This would make a wonderful gift.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Legacy

The Legacy
The Restoration Series Book 4
Dan Walsh & Gary Smalley
 Doug has been going through the motions for years, but he hasn't felt a connection with God in quite some time. His parents concern for him grows as he heads off for college. Christina has moved into Doug's parents garage apartment and is settling in. But her unreciprocated feelings for Doug and her feeling of uselessness prompt her to make some changes in her life.

The story picks up where the third book left off. I wouldn't recommend this book as a stand-alone since all of the characters from the previous books are not only in the story, but their stories continue to some degree. The writing style feels like a little like a non-fiction counseling book that has been put to fiction. The thoughts and feelings appear to be over expressed to prove a point. The authors bring lots of Biblical truth and thoughtful insight into their writing while telling an entertaining story that will keep readers engaged. The authors wrapped up the series with this book and tied up any loose ends from the previous books.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

By Your Side

By Your Side
Candace Calvert
 Macy Winn doesn't trust anyone. Not after what her father did to her. She's learned some hard lessons about foster care and trusting men. She's an ER nurse who loves her job, but doesn't do relationships or religion. Fletcher Holt is a deputy from Texas who is only in California while his mother fights her battle with cancer. Despite everything that has happened to him, he still clings to his faith. The two first meet when a sniper causes a pile up on the freeway. Their lives intertwine in ways they never imagined as they fight their feelings, their beliefs, and a killer.

The story opens with a bang and never stops. The medical drama combined with the suspense, romance, and faith is the perfect combination for this story. The characters meshed well with each other. The secondary characters and side dramas added to the depth of the story. I really enjoyed how the author brought in the elements of faith to the story and how the main characters dealt with their issues regarding their beliefs. This was a fun read that also had some introspective spots. I've enjoyed other books by this author and this one was no exception. Definitely a book I would recommend and will be keeping to read again.

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

Together With You

Together With You
Victoria Bylin
Carly is working at the mall when she hears the alert for a lost child come over the speakers. She works in a children's store so it's no surprise when she finds her playing with the stuffed animals. She recognizes some of Penny's symptoms, but when the terrified father arrives, he confirms them. Penny has fetal alcohol effects. Because of the rapport between them, the father, Ryan, asks Carly to be Penny's nanny. But Carly is haunted by her past and her previous experiences with fetal alcohol syndrome. After prayer and council with her father, she takes the job. Dr. Ryan is agnostic, Penny is a struggling Christian. Their beliefs and values couldn't be more further apart. How can two opposites come together to raise these children and possible fall in love? It will take a divine miracle.

This was my first book by this author and I loved it. Her writing style grabs your attention and pulls you into the story. The details make you feel like you are experiencing life along with the characters. Her characters are realistic, flawed, and likeable. The subject of disabilities and fetal alcohol effect was nicely handled and fit well with the story. I could tell the author had really researched the subject. I'm adding this book to my library and will definitely be reading more by this author.

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

Strong Marriage

Growing a Strong Marriage
Starting Strong Vol. 1
Marriage is an important part in a Christian's relationships. God not only designed, but He blessed marriage. With all of the issues that are making marriage difficult in the world today, young couples needs to start with a strong foundation in marriage. The creators of this study guide have brought six couples together to discuss how they met, the building blocks they started with, and some of their advice and thoughts on marriage.

The videos were interesting. It was nice to have the different perspectives of all six couples talking about the same subject. The foundation of faith was presented throughout the video and the book had a focus on scripture and Biblical principles for marriage. The videos were long enough to share important information, but not so long that the viewer got bored. The accompanying study guide was well put together. The questions fit with the video and help the couples dig deeper into their marriage. There is a leader's guide in the back of the book with tips on how to be a more effective leader and possible ways to structure the group. As a small group leader, I enjoyed the videos and liked the layout. I would have preferred more questions, but the ones provided did initiate conversation in our group that kept the meeting going. Overall, I would recommend this for young couples who are considering marriage or for those of us who are already married, but would like a refresher course.

I received a free copy of this book/video to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.


Valiant Hearts Book 1
Dina L. Sleiman
Lady Merry watched her father, and many of the village, be killed because he tried to rebel against the king. She's just a young girl, but she gathers up all of the orphaned children and hides in the woods. As the years go by they each perfect their skills until one day finds them stealing the tax gold from the royal guards on the road to deliver it to the king. They are called The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest and their reputation has now put a price on their heads. But no one realizes they are only children until one day an old friend stumbles upon their hiding place.

I was not aware that this was a young adult book when I picked it. I'm not usually a fan of YA. But this was a nice change from what I've read in the past. The characters were well rounded and interesting. Young readers will be able to relate to the strength that was portrayed in their decisions and mindset. The plot was well done and had the right amounts of suspense, drama, and a touch of romance. The plot was a take on Robin Hood and was set during the medieval times. This was a neat prospective and I enjoyed the setting. I think it fit well into the genre and had the right Christian elements to draw the young readers in. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading YA Christian fiction or about strong young female leaders.

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Shapes at Home

Shapes at Home
Rookie Toddler
Shapes are all around us in our home. Toddlers will enjoy looking through the colorful board book to find shapes that appear in their own home. On each page is the shape in a bright color. Then the adjoining page shows where the shape can be found in or on a common household item. Each page has a different colored shape and the text and outline are the same color. This will help the young reader to differentiate between the shapes. The photographs are bright and uncluttered. The last page of the book includes all of the shapes and some tips for the adult reader to further help the toddler learn all about shapes. The die-cut shape and board book style of the book will allow small hands to hold the book easily and will be visually appealing. This book is recommended for toddlers who are learning their shapes and colors.

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Creole Princess

The Creole Princess
Gulf Coast Chronicles Book 2
Beth White
Lyse Lanier is living in Mobile, Alabama with her friends and family during the start of the war for independence with Britain. A young Spanish merchant with a flair for life struts into her life. She's not sure what to think of him and isn't sure if she can trust him. Lyse must decide where her loyalties lie and who she is going to choose to trust and spend her life with.

This is the second book in the series, but I think it could stand alone. The cover is gorgeous and will definitely make people pick up the book. The story started off slow for me, but picked up as I got more into the plot. The author has the story packed with history and details that a historical novel reader will love. I felt more educated about that time period and area when I finished reading the book. The details paint a rich story of Alabama during that time and help to create a beautiful backdrop for the plot. I had a hard time relating or connecting to the characters, but felt the historical part helped carry the story. Overall, it was a nice story that a lot of readers will fall in love with.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We Are Brothers

We Are Brothers
DaYun Oh
 Little Brother and Big Brother are having a hard time getting along. They can't seem share. When Big Brother gets in trouble he begins to imagine what life would be like if he were the only child. But then Little Brother comes to keep him company while he is in the thinking chair and they realize that brothers are very important. But that doesn't mean they will not disagree from time to time.

Bright, colorful, artful illustrations help tell a story about fighting brothers and sibling rivalry. The brothers learn from experience about the bond between them. The story is told in a way that children will enjoy and can relate to. Parents will be able to use the book for teachable moments. Simple vocabulary and larger print will make the book great for early readers. The book ends with a section for parents to use with their child about conflict resolution. It has an activity that can help siblings grasp the concept. There is also an interactive section called Reader's Theater that will give the children more activities that relate to the subject.

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Getting to Know You

I always find it fascinating to get to know the authors behind my favorite books. I've recently found a an author that is new to the scene, but is making a huge splash in the Christian fiction genre. I'm loving her books and am excited to give you a sneak peak behind the scenes of her newest book.

Without further ado here is Melissa Tagg

Her newest book is From the Start. The link to my review is here.

1. What’s the premise for From the Start?

Kate Walker is a romantic-movie scriptwriter who isn’t sure which is worse—the fact that no one wants to buy her latest script or the reality that she stopped believing in true love and happily ever after (and thus, her own stories) long ago.

Colton Greene is a quarterback whose whole world is football and the woman he thinks he’s going to marry. When both are ripped from his life on the same day, he’s left without a game plan for his future.

In a last-ditch effort to hold on to his career, Colton agrees to release a sports memoir. Only problem? He needs a writer. Kate Walker fits the bill . . . even if she’s not too up on her football knowledge. The unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their lives, but old wounds and new dreams turn what should be a quick project into a complicated tangle.

2. What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

Oh my goodness, I had so many moments with this book when I said out loud, “Melissa, seriously, what were you thinking?” Because at the outset, my football knowledge was so basic I’m not even sure it counted as “knowledge.” Thankfully, I have some very football-savvy friends. And thanks to YouTube, I was able to watch some game replays. I may have also used the football angle as an excuse to rewatch Friday Night Lights.

3. Your romantic comedies have been compared to classic movies. Did your love of classic movies make its way into this story?

Yes! Somehow that obsession tends to creep into all my stories, but it’s a bit more obvious in this one. My main character, Kate, is named after Katherine Hepburn. And there’s a key scene later in the story in which Kate and Colton watch the very first classic movie I remember watching: Bringing Up Baby.

4. You’ve said From the Start is the hardest story you’ve written. How so?

I think the reason From the Start was so hard to write is that I prodded much deeper into my own emotions in this story than I have in the past. There are big pieces of me in all the stories I write, but From the Start probed some of my more vulnerable places. My heroine, especially, embodies some of my own insecurities. She struggles to feel like she’s doing something important with her life. She wishes she were as brave as the characters she writes. She has trouble admitting what she wants and how she feels, even to the people closest to her. All of which is

5. What message do you hope readers take away from From the Start?

In From the Start, both Kate and Colton have a very clear picture in their heads of what their lives should look like. And every decision they make in the first half of the book is an effort to make those pictures in their heads a reality. But they both learn, slooowly and at times not so smoothly, that God might be weaving together a completely different picture. That he uses change and circumstance, reshapes broken dreams and heals wounds—that he’s been there, at work, from the start. And there’s great peace and confidence in that truth.

6. From the Start is the beginning of your new Walker Family series. Can you give us a peek at what’s next?

I’m so excited about this series. It takes place in my home state, and I just love the pretend people that make up my pretend town of Maple Valley. The second book in the series is called Like Never Before, and it combines my love of small-town newspapers and my fascination with Charles Lindbergh.

More Than Just The Talk

More Than Just The Talk
Becoming Your Kids' Go-To Person About Sex
Jonathan McKee
Parents use to be able to have "the talk" with their children and leave it at that. But today our children are constantly coming in contact with sex in some aspect or another. With phones, internet, and television being so accessible we, as parents, need to be super vigilant about what our children are coming in contact with. And this means knowing the dangers and being comfortable talking to our kids about them.

This author really knew his stuff. He presented facts and statistics in an easy to read and digest manner. The information is often difficult to read, but he did a great job of making it relevant and applicable. I liked how he seemed to touch on every subject a parent might come up against and then gave practical ways to deal with it. His focus was from a Christian stand point and was well rounded and straight forward. This book is about sex, so be prepared. But it is definitely a book that all parents should be reading.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Buried Secrets

Buried Secrets
Men of Valor Book 1
Irene Hannon

Lisa has given up the big life of Chicago to take a job as police chief in smaller town. Finding bones that are years old beneath a tree isn't exactly standard. So county arrives to assist in the form of detective Mac McGregor. They are racing against the clock to not only identify the remains, but find a killer before they strike again.

This author never disappoints. Her books have just the right elements of suspense, drama, and a touch of romance. The elements of faith are slightly woven throughout, but are subtle. I enjoyed the interaction between the two main characters. They were both strong people, but didn't overpower each other. I liked how the set up for the next book in the series was just a teaser to make the reader want more. The details to the mystery were well thought out and fit well with the character. There was just the right amount of suspense and the author did a great job of pulling the reader into the story to feel the emotions and tension. Definitely a keeper and I'm looking forward to her next book.

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