Thursday, June 30, 2016

Varina Denman’s ‘Jilted’ $50 Sweet Summertime Giveaway


Note: 
Jilted is the wonderful third book of an even more
wonderful series. My review will be posted tomorrow.

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Can all things really work together for good, and can the joy of living be found once again? Don't miss one woman's story in book three, Jilted, of Varina Denman's Mended Hearts series. Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.

Celebrate the release of Varina's Jilted by entering to win a $50 gift card.


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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Jilted to kick off a summer of reading
  • A $50 Kohl's gift card to make your summertime sweet

The giveaway ends on July 1st. The winner will be announced July 5th on Varina's website.

Review: Silence in the Dark


Silence in the Dark
By Patricia Bradley
Logan Point, #4
Revell, 2016


Summary

Bailey Adams is running for her life . . . again.

When Bailey Adams left Logan Point two years ago she thought she was getting away from her problems. Running into her ex-fiancé Danny Maxwell was not part of the plan--neither was being chased through the city by the local drug cartel, the Calatrava. Now despite her best efforts, Danny is her only chance of escaping the people chasing her and getting back to Logan Point safely. Can Bailey find the strength to face what's coming? And in the midst of the chaos, can she keep herself from falling in love with her rescuer all over again?

With lean, fast-paced prose that will keep you turning the pages, Patricia Bradley pens a superb story of suspense and second chances.


My thoughts

I’m not a huge fan of romantic suspense, but Patricia Bradley’s novels are must reads for me. While having plenty of action and suspense, Silence in the Dark didn’t exceed my tolerance level for these elements. It was the southern setting of Logan Point, Mississippi that initially drew me to this series, and I have greatly enjoyed each story. In addition to tight writing, interesting storyline and sweet romance, the characters are richly drawn and spiritual themes are seamlessly woven throughout.

Danny and Bailey are likeable characters that I could easily relate to, and they struggle with spiritual issues that all of us can probably identify with in some form. Danny lived with guilt and couldn’t let go of the past, couldn’t forgive himself. Bailey allowed fear to control her life, becoming good at running and making excuses. I loved the wise counsel Bailey received from her mom, advising her to trust God with her fear . . . “The way I see it, you can keep holding on to it and nothing changes. Or you can turn it over to him, trusting he will give you peace. It’s your choice.” The book’s title also spoke to me, for sometimes it does seem that God is silent during our darkest times, which is why total trust is so important.

Having greatly enjoyed the whole series, I have to say that the first three stories were my favorites (see my review links below), and I wish more of the previous characters popped up in this book. I love southern fiction and the Logan Point setting was vividly conveyed in books 1-3, to the point of feeling like one of the characters – and I missed that sense of connection in Silence in the Dark. And this is just personal preference, but Silence’s theme involved Mexico and a drug cartel, which I’m not too fond of. Again, just personal preference, because Patricia is an excellent writer of romantic suspense, one of my favorites, and I did enjoy Silence in the Dark. I can’t wait to see where Patricia takes us next. I’ll definitely be along for the ride!

Recommended.

Series reviews . . .
#1 - Shadows of the Past
#2 - A Promise to Protect
#3 - Gone without a Trace


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Patricia Bradley is the award-winning author of Shadows of the Past, A Promise to Protect, and Gone without a Trace. Winner of a Daphne du Maurier Award and a Touched by Love Award, Bradley is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, and makes her home in Mississippi.



Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bargain Priced: Be Still My Soul, $1.99 in eBook


Bargain:  Be Still My Soul, $1.99 in eBook

A few years ago, Joanne Bischof wrote a wonderful three-book series entitled Cadence of Grace, which will always be one of my very favorites. These beautifully crafted stories are set in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia at the turn of the last century.

Book #1, Be Still My Soul, is currently on sale in eBook format for $1.99 – but the sale ends tomorrow, June 26! If you enjoy a character-driven story with heartfelt emotion, then I encourage you to give Be Still My Soul a try.

Amazon link ($1.99):  Be Still My Soul

Just FYI, here’s what I thought about this book (from my review) . . .

To put it simply, I fell in love with everything about Be Still My Soul - Joanne's lyrical writing, the Appalachian setting, rich characterization, the use of music, and the theme of God's grace. The phrase "heartfelt fiction" on her website is certainly an accurate description. Jebediah and Elsie, warm and endearing supporting characters, play a strong part in this story.

The Blue Ridge mountains of Appalachia felt like one of the main characters. If you grew up with the Walton family or read Catherine Marshall's Christy, you will appreciate how beautifully Joanne captured the essence of the region - its rugged beauty amidst great poverty, the occasional moonshine still and shotgun wedding, a proud and hard-working people who expressed joy and hope through music.

There's not a lot to like about Gideon in the beginning. He's a ladies' man, immature, cares only about himself, and looks to blame others for his actions. Lonnie, in spite of growing up with an abusive father, is a sweet, gentle, shy young lady with a quiet faith, instilled by her loving aunt. Happiness and contentment seem doubtful when marriage is forced on this unlikely couple. On their wedding day, "Lonnie glanced around the churchyard decorated only with dried summer grasses and early autumn leaves. She'd always imagined her wedding would have peach cobbler and plenty of waltzes. Her friends would have toasted to the happy couple, and she would want this day to last as long as possible. She would have danced into the night with her new husband, until the stars lighted their path home. But when Gideon's shoulder brushed against hers, she knew that dream was gone."

The spiritual theme is quiet in this story, evidenced by Lonnie's quiet faith, but ever present nonetheless. It is a sign of an author's talent when you can be drawn to such an unlovely character as Gideon - and his slow, gradual redemption is moving and inspiring. "Gideon tried to remember what it was he'd seen in Lonnie. It was more than her sweetness, her goodness. He saw faith. He didn't know what it entailed, but he knew she had always believed there was something redeemable in him. Could he not think the same?" Lonnie's faith is shown through the words of this beautiful hymn that she sings . . .

Come, Thou Fount of every bless, tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount. I'm fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.

Be Still My Soul is a story of gently growing trust and love, grace and redemption. I found it to be a beautiful, haunting story. I highly recommend it to all lovers of romantic historical fiction that inspires.

Amazon link ($1.99):  Be Still My Soul

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: My Father's House


My Father’s House
By Rose Chandler Johnson
CreateSpace, 2016


Summary

Growing up, life is idyllic for Lily Rose Cates due to one constant --- her father's love.

But in her sixteenth summer, all that changes without warning. There begins Lily's struggle to find herself and the life she's lost. . . . Marriage promises fulfillment, but her happily-ever-after barely survives the honeymoon. Her husband's sophisticated façade hides a brooding man with even darker secrets.

When all illusions shatter, Lily must make hard choices --- abandon her husband or risk losing much more than her marriage. She flees their home in Detroit and sets out on a fearful journey to a house in Georgia that her husband knows nothing about. This is one woman's compelling tale of love and survival as she finds her way back home to who she's meant to be . . . in her father's house.


My thoughts

My Father’s House is an excellent debut novel that combines the elements of sweet romance, suspense, friendship, and Southern charm, and fits into the genre of women’s fiction that I enjoy so much. Rose Chandler Johnson has created a story that is primarily easy, pleasurable reading, yet it will keep readers on the edge of their seats at other times. Sometimes a book’s setting has such a strong presence that it becomes a major character, as is the case here. The author vividly conveyed the essence of the South – from the food, hospitality, and friendliness, to the way the small community looked out for Lily’s safety.

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The truth is, at that moment in my life, my heart longed for love.
I grabbed hold of its promise like a drowning person
grabs hold of a life jacket. It was vital for my survival. I flung
open my heart, he walked in, and I grabbed hold.
- Lily
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My Father’s House is told in the first-person voice of Lily, which worked well and fit this style of narrative. I fell in love with Lily Rose Cates from the very beginning – and while I understood how she was unwisely attracted to Manny, I wanted to reach out and shake some sense into her. I thought this description was totally accurate:  “What a twenty-two-year-old girl in love feels, is more real than reality, stronger than reason.”

Lily’s husband, Manny, is a Detroit lawyer who thrives for power, competition and winning. Although he’s a character that I hated to see walk onto the page, I wish more could have been revealed about his character, family, and the reason behind his actions. His physical and emotional abuse are portrayed realistically, but not overly graphic.

There are also some great secondary characters, my favorite being Annie Ruth, the family maid who practically raised Lily. This is a wonderful description of Annie Ruth (maybe you even know someone who resembles her):  “She had a way of parading life down the middle of the road in the broad daylight and looking it straight in the face. She never sugar-coated reality, and she never white-washed the truth. In her own dignified way, she made the best of what the good Lord gave.”

Neither does the author sugar-coat reality when it comes to serious issues such as abuse, spousal rape, depression, and divorce – all of which are handled in a graceful manner. At its heart, My Father’s House is a story of the healing and second chances found in Christ. I enjoyed this story very much and look forward to more from Rose Chandler Johnson.

Recommended.

Purchase a copy: http://amzn.to/217Bvib

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Rose Chandler Johnson is the author of the award winning devotional God, Me, and Sweet Iced Tea: Experiencing God in the Midst of Everyday Moments. My Father's House is her first novel. She happily makes her home near Augusta, Georgia.


Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse landing page:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: My Mother's Quilts


My Mother’s Quilts
By Ramona Richards
Worthy Publishing, 2016


Summary

A quilt is love that serves a purpose.

Inspired by thirty family heirloom quilts, each devotion depicts the enduring legacy of faith, family and tradition. With humor and sincerity, Ramona Richards shares her memories and lessons learned from the quilters whose legacies live on in their work. Rich, personal, sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, each reading provides a lesson and encouragement from the faithful women who crafted the quilts.

Full-color photographs of each quilt show the style and artistry of each beautiful work. The quilts, sewn by several generations over more than one-hundred years, are as unique and lovely as the hands that created them. The oldest was buried during the Civil War to keep it safe and the author’s mother created the newest in the last years of her life.


My thoughts

My Mother’s Quilts: Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family and Faith is part memoir, part devotional, a collection of around 60 reflective thoughts drawn from 30 quilts passed down from generation to generation. This is a beautiful book, both in physical appearance and because of the thoughts shared. “The heritage of our faith and family lives in those around us. Just listening to them can bring treasures more valuable than gold.” My Mother’s Quilts is a book to treasure.

Just like the brightly-colored images pictured throughout, the book itself is a work of art – hardback with a burgundy cover, dust jacket, thick pages, and a ribbon to mark your place. Each meditation begins with a Scripture verse and ends with a prayer prompt. Like the title’s description, Ramona’s thoughts are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking - but are warm and vividly reflect the love, legacy, family and faith that have always been associated with the making and passing down of quilts.

My mom didn’t sew, but she knew a retired couple who quilted, and she made sure I received quilts upon marriage and the birth of my children. These quilts carried the same message of love and faith, and will continue to be cherished by my family.

I’d single out each meditation if I could because they are all touching, but these two especially stood out to me . . .

The Carolina Lily quilt, dating from the 1830s, was a faded symbol of something that never fades . . . a reminder that faith and family, and a belief that God will take care of us, endure in the same way: passed down to the next generation.

The Twenty-five Patch quilt with three bright blue squares amidst the pale reds and browns . . . In passing down this imperfection, my great-great grandmother inadvertently reminded all who came after her how impermeable and unchanging is God’s true love for us. It is a love that will come to us no matter what, showering us “as the spring rains,” always refreshing and new.

I believe anyone would enjoy My Mother’s Quilts, but this would be an especially meaningful collection for anyone who sews, quilts, or who has been blessed by receiving a quilt.

Highly recommended.


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Ramona Richards is an award-winning editor, speaker, author of nine books, and a frequent contributor to devotional collections. An avid live music fan, Ramona loves Nashville, which she’s called home since she was ten.

Sensing her mother was near the end of her life, Ramona documented her mother’s stories and lessons behind each family quilt. These stories form the devotions in My Mother’s Quilts. Find out more about Ramona and her books by visiting her online . . .



Thank you to Worthy Publishing and FlyBy Promotions for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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CONTEST OFFER!

Win one of the quilts featured in My Mother's Quilts: Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family and Faith.

Also up for grabs: loads of other prizes including quilting hand warmers, coloring books, and 25 signed copies of Ramona’s book.

Winners will be emailed after the contest ends on June 30, 2016. Click the image to get started!



Friday, June 17, 2016

Review + Blog Tour GIVEAWAY: The Amish Firefighter




The Amish Firefighter
By Laura V. Hilton
Whitaker House, 2016


Summary

A Beautiful Young Woman Banished from Home

Abigail Stutzman thought it was bad enough being dropped at the nearest bus station and sent to live several states away with some relatives she’d never even heard of, much less met. But now, just a week after her arrival in Jamesport, Missouri, she finds herself at the scene of a barn fire. An intentional barn fire. And all fingers are pointed at her. She’s desperate to prove her innocence and protect her reputation, but nobody’s making that easy to do. And God certainly doesn’t seem willing to help.

A Brave Firefighter with an Agenda of His Own

Sam Miller is in the process of turning over a new leaf. Determined to atone for the follies of his past, he is a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and a doctor-in-training. With suspicious barn fires escalating, and the Miller family being among the victims, no one is more determined to see the perpetrators brought to justice than Sam.

A Kindled Flame Neither One Could Have Anticipated

When their paths first cross at the site of a barn burning, the emotional intensity rivals the warmth of the flames. Soon, they must decide whether this fire is one they should feed or fight. And they’ll discover that the truth can prove more dangerous than a blazing inferno.


My thoughts

I was eager to read this story because I enjoy Amish fiction and love discovering authors who are new to me – and from its intriguing cover to its emotion-filled narrative, The Amish Firefighter is a compelling read. Laura V. Hilton’s unique writing style reflects a realism and honesty that drew me to the characters and I look forward to more of her novels.

Readers who feel that Amish fiction paints too “perfect” a picture will have no complaint here, for Laura’s characters wrestle with temptations of the flesh just as we do, and they have a humanness and honesty that is most appealing. The Amish Firefighter tackles some serious life issues and does it well – issues like temptation, sex outside of marriage, pregnancy, close bloodlines within the Amish community, rejection, and criminal activity.

I loved Sam’s protective nature and the way he is growing as a new Christian, and I was pulling for him all the way. Abigail experienced the unthinkable as she was thrust away from her family with no explanation or contact, and I could understand how trusting God with her life was difficult. The chemistry between Sam and Abigail is delightful, and she loved everything about him– “his payers, his calm, his friendship, his willingness to fight for her, for those he loved.” There’s plenty of romantic tension, as well as several scenes that will make you melt.

One of this story’s strengths is the spiritual application that Laura beautifully weaves throughout, and there is much that spoke to me personally – themes of sin, confession, God’s forgiveness and grace, and how important it is to forgive oneself also. And one thought that I carry away from this book is that the battle is the Lord’s, not ours – something I need to constantly be reminded of.

I believe Sam is a character from a previous book, but The Amish Firefighter stands alone. Recommended to all who enjoy Amish fiction.

Purchase your copy of The Amish Firefighter here

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        Amish fiction lovers responded positively and immediately to Laura V. Hilton’s debut novel, Patchwork Dreams, when she burst on the scene in 2009 with her unique series, The Amish of Seymour, set in the tiny town of Seymour, in Webster County, Missouri. Fans of the genre immediately recognized Hilton’s insider knowledge, not only of the Webster County community, but Amish culture in general. Her natural speech and writing patterns, she says, are uniquely “Amish,” acquired from her Amish maternal grandparents. The Amish of Seymour, includes Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another.
        Her second series, The Amish of Webster County, is comprised of Healing Love, Surrendered Love, and Awakened Love. A stand-alone title, A White Christmas in Webster County, was released in September 2014. The Birdhouse concluded Laura’s 2015 series, The Amish of Jamesport, and includes The Snow Globe, The Postcard and The Birdhouse.
        Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer. Laura and her husband, Steve, have five children, whom Laura homeschools. The family makes their home in Arkansas.


Thank you to Whitaker House and Celebrate Lit for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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GIVEAWAY




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Join Denise Hunter for ‘The Convenient Groom’ Pre-Premiere Facebook Party


convenient groom - fb event


Exciting news for fans of Denise Hunter's stories: Her book The Convenient Groom is making its silver screen premiere as a Hallmark Channel Original Movie! Join Denise and other readers on Facebook on June 16th for a fun author chat party at 8:00 PM EDT (that's 7:00 Central, 6:00 Mountain, & 5:00 Pacific)! Denise will be chatting about the book, answering your questions about the book-to-movie process, and of course, there will be plenty of fun giveaways too: a $100 Amazon gift card and 25 signed copies of Denise's newest book, The Goodbye Bride!

The movie releases two days after the author chat party on Saturday, June 18th, 9 EDT/8 CDT. Click here for details and to find out more about the movie.

Get your copy of The Convenient Groom so you're ready for a fun book discussion. You can order your copy and find out more about the book here.

Hope to see you on June 16 for Denise's The Convenient Groom Pre-Premiere Facebook Party!