Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Month in Review | July 2012

I didn't read everything I hoped to this month, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I did read! Here's a summary of everything that happened book-wise this month. What did you accomplish?

Books Read [8]

Favorite Book This Month?
Everything I read this month was so good yet different that it's hard to choose a favorite, so I'll choose two. (I know you're shocked!) My favorite contemporary novel was Cott
age by the Sea by Robin Jones Gunn, and Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond wins for historical fiction.

Reviews Posted [10]

 Blogside Chats

Update on Reading Challenges
Still trucking right along with my challenges. You can check my progress here for specific challenges if you're interested.

I have quite a few states left for my 50 States and Where Are You Reading Challenges, but I'm not sure that I'm really going to worry about these. I signed up to see how many I would get with the books I planned to read anyway. I don't know that I'll have time to stack the deck with books for a particular state. There are just so many books to read! :)

I'll be participating in the Review Copy Cleanup Challenge next month. There's still time to jump on board if you're interested!

Teaser Tuesday | Love Finds You in Mackinac Island

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by MizB on her blog Should Be Reading. Hop over for details or to link up!

Just started Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan. Melanie Dobson is a great writer!

For the next two months, she'd be paraded like a show horse while attending teas and dances and social events. But in the midst of all the socializing, she would escape for a few nights to her own refuge hidden away on the island, a place where she could step off the stage. (p 17)

Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan
by Melanie Dobson

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang

Bees in the Butterfly Garden 
by Maureen Lang
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Available July 2012
Tyndale House Publishers
432 pages

About the Book
Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like family, or dreams of a future that includes anything other than finding a suitable match. So when her distant father dies, she seizes the chance to throw etiquette aside and do as she pleases. Especially when she learns that John Davenport wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves.

Poised to lead those loyal to Meg’s father, Ian Maguire knows the last thing his mentor would have wanted is for his beloved daughter to follow in his footsteps. Yet Meg is determined, and her connections to one of New York’s wealthiest families could help Ian pull off his biggest heist yet. But are they both in over their heads? And in trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?

My Thoughts
When Meg learns of her father's death, she leaves school to attend the funeral of a man she barely knew. Once there, she learns that he wasn't a wealthy business, but instead is one of New York's most impressive thieves. Believing that she has few options left, Meg declares she will not return to school and will take up her father's life of crime. Her father's protege Ian is determined to protect Meg from this dangerous life but the draw of the next big heist causes him to relent. Will personal feelings interfere? Or will something greater than themselves change them both?

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang starts off with a bang, and I was drawn in from the first two chapters. Lang gives readers an intricate plot with just enough details to keep you flipping the pages. Even with all of the intricacies, though, I found it to be a quick read, reading 100 pages in a sitting without giving a thought to the time!

Lang writes about the characters and the setting with such detail. I thought Meg was a sympathetic character. I felt so bad for her—an orphan who learns horrible details about her family background. She's so determined to do everything on her own, and I think many readers will be able to relate to that aspect of her character. Additional characters, such as the sisters who run the boarding school and the wealthy siblings who extend an invitation for Meg to spend the summer with them, help flesh out the novel with humor, romance, and depth.

Readers will also get a beautiful picture of what life in New York City during the Gilded Era was like for the wealthy. The customs, dress, and etiquette were not only written about but discussed by the characters as well. It was fun to read about taking strolls in Central Park and attending charity balls.

Overall Bees in the Butterfly Garden was a well-written historical novel with a beautiful message of grace. I highly recommend!  [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Maureen Lang is the award-winning author of more than ten novels. She's always had a passion for writing, particularly stories that combine romance and history. After writing for the general market for several years, she wrote her debut inspirational novel, Pieces of Silver, which was a Christy Award finalist in the historical category. She has since written seven novels, including a recent trilogy of romances set against the dramatic backdrop of WWI—Look to the East, Whisper on the Wind, and Springtime of the Spirit. She turns to more peaceful (though no less dramatic) times in Bees in the Butterfly Garden, her upcoming release set among Fifth Avenue's finest during the Gilded Age of New York.

In addition to critical acclaim, Maureen's writing has garnered numerous industry honors. She has won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award, the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, and a Holt Medallion, and has been a finalist for Romance Writers of America's Rita, the American Christian Fiction Writers' Carol awards, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Maureen Lang Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook

Summer Reading | August Releases

It seems like everyone is going on vacation or just taking time off and looking for a book recommendation. I thought I'd highlight a few of my recommendations in case you're looking for a book but don't want to wade through the entire site to find one that strikes your fancy.

Here are a few of my picks that will be released in August.

Abducted by Janice Cantore
Available 7/20/2012 (Originally scheduled for Aug release)
Tyndale House

After solving the mayor’s murder and exposing corruption among the top brass in Las Playas, Carly Edwards is happy to be back on patrol with her partner, Joe, putting bad guys behind bars. For once, everything in life seems to be going right.

But then everything starts going wrong. Slow to recover from an injury, her ex-husband, Nick, begins pulling away just as they were starting to get close again. Meanwhile, when Joe’s wife lands in the hospital with a mysterious illness, their baby is kidnapped. As Carly chases down every lead in a desperate search to find the baby, her newfound faith is pushed to its limits.

The Scent of Rain by Kristin Billerbeck
Available 8/7/2012
Thomas Nelson

Daphne Sweeten has left Paris – and a career she loves – in order to marry a man she loves even more. But when he stands her up on their wedding day, Daphne’s left reeling. Trained as a professional “nose” or perfume creator, Daphne soon realizes that her sense of smell has somehow disappeared too.

In the days following she moves to Dayton, Ohio, to take on a job creating fragrances for household products. Without her sense of smell, she must rely on her chemistry skills, and hope her handsome new boss, Jesse Lightner, doesn’t notice before she can figure out how to get it back.

Despite her desire to return to Paris, she can’t deny the way Jesse makes her feel. But when Daphne approaches former contacts, she learns her missing ex-fiancé has somehow snagged her old job.
As Daphne and Jesse work on a signature scent for their new line, she feels God at work in her life as never before. And the promise of what is possible is as fresh as the scent of rain.

Lethal Legacy by Irene Hannon
Available 8/12/2012

The police say her father's death was suicide. Kelly Warren says it was murder--and she has new evidence to prove it. Detective Cole Taylor doesn't put much credence in her claim, and nothing in his case review suggests foul play. But when he digs deeper (delete dash) and discovers startling information linking her to a long-buried secret, the danger escalates. Is history repeating itself? And who wants Kelly silenced?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Five

Happy Friday! I've been reading lots of fun things around the blogosphere lately and thought I'd share a few with you today. Isn't that just what you need . . . more reading material for the weekend?!

Katie over at Legacy of a Writer has lots of fun things going on right now. A book swap . . .  not sure if anyone still has swaps left to make but you never know! A jewelry giveaway featuring jewelry made by Christy at Southern Sassy Things. Love her etsy site! And she just posted a giveaway hop where you can win up to three books! Check it all out. :)

Anybody read My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade? Okay . . . I loved it. I literally gushed in my review. Becky is hosting a Q&A on Goodreads through August 8. Stop by and ask her all of your burning questions about the book and anything else you can think of.

Huge fan of Jamie Carie and thought Sarah Forgrave did a great job with her recent interview of Jamie. There *may* be a giveaway still going on if you stop by early in the weekend. :)

Tricia Goyer and her family are going to the Czech Republic as part of a mission team on July 31-August 14. She posted ways to pray each day they are gone on her blog earlier today. Will you join me in praying for them?

And finally, next month I am participating in the Review Copy Cleanup hosted by Nyx Book Reviews and Books, Biscuits, and Tea. Basically, my stack of review books is a bit overwhelming and I'm going to do my absolute best to make a huge dent in that stack during the month of August. Can anyone relate? Feel free to join in if you wish!

Revell Blog Tour | Perfectly Ridiculous by Kristin Billerbeck

Perfectly Ridiculous
by Kristin Billerbeck
A Universally Misunderstood Novel, Book 3
Christian Fiction / YA
Available July 2012
Revell Books
248 pages

About the Book
Daisy's ready for summer fun--but it seems summer has something else in store.

High school is over, and Daisy Crispin is happy to leave it in her past and look forward to a bright new future at college. In the meantime, she is planning an all-expenses-paid trip with her best friend Claire to Argentina--home of exotic food, the tango, and her handsome sort-of boyfriend Max.

When Daisy discovers she needs to do missions work to fulfill the requirements of her scholarship, she chalks it up to her monumental bad luck in life and kisses her vacation goodbye. What was supposed to be a relaxing time in the lap of luxury turns into hard work, sleeping on a cot, avoiding scorpions, and stressing about where she stands with Max. Daisy wonders if anything in her life will ever go according to plan . . .

My Thoughts
Daisy and Claire have finally graduated from high school and Claire's parents give them an all-expenses-paid vacation to Argentina as a graduation present. The only problem? Daisy learns that she must fulfill a community service / missions requirement to remain eligible for her college scholarship. Her vacation turns into a mission trip . . . and her parents decide to join her as a chaperone. This is not turning out to be the vacation of her dreams! Will anything in Daisy's life work out like she plans?

I've been reading quite a bit of YA fiction recently and jumped at the chance to read Kristin Billerbeck's Perfectly Ridiculous. I wanted to go back and read the earlier books in the series before reading the third, but I had a really hard time getting into the first book. I finally just skipped ahead to Perfectly Ridiculous and found it to be a delightfully funny book!

This is a story that will take you right back to all the turmoil and angst of high school. Daisy's parents don't understand her, her best friend is her complete opposite, she has crushes on boys who don't return her feelings, and she's fighting to assert her independence before she goes off to college. Billerbeck does a great job of portraying all the craziness of being a high school girl!

If you're looking for a light-hearted summer read full of laughs, you'll enjoy Perfectly Ridiculous! [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Available July 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

About the Author
Kristin Billerbeck is the bestselling, award-winning author of several novels, including What a Girl Wants, Perfectly Dateless, and Perfectly Invisible. A Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year, Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in Northern California.

Kristin Billerbeck Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour | Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green

This week, the
is introducing
Wedded to War
Jocelyn Green

About the Book
Wedded to War
by Jocelyn Green
Heroines Behind the Line, Book 1
Christian Fiction / Historical
Available July 1, 2012
River North
400 pages

When war erupted, she gave up a life of privilege for a life of significance.

Tending to the army's sick and wounded meant leading a life her mother does not understand and giving up a handsome and approved suitor. Yet Charlotte chooses a life of service over privilege, just as her childhood friend had done when he became a military doctor. She soon discovers that she's combatting more than just the rebellion by becoming a nurse. Will the two men who love her simply stand by and watch as she fights her own battles? Or will their desire for her wage war on her desire to serve God?

Wedded to War is a work of fiction, but the story is inspired by the true life of Civil War nurse Georgeanna Woolsey. Woolsey's letters and journals, written over 150 years ago, offer a thorough look of what pioneering nurses endured. This is the first in the series "Heroines Behind the Lines: Civil War," a collection of novels that highlights the crucial contributions made by women during times of war.

My Thoughts
Charlotte, raised amongst the high-society of New York, decides she can't just sit idle while the rest of the country is at war. Her family disapproves of her independent streak, but Charlotte convinces her sister to accompany her to Washington City as a nurse for the Union troops. Torn between her desire to be useful and her family's demands for her to return home, she must make some difficult decisions.

I'm fascinated by the Civil War and love strong female leads, so Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green was a perfect fit for me! This was one of the more fascinating historical novels I've read recently. Jocelyn must have done a tremendous amount of research in order to write such a detailed novel, and the finished product pulled me into the story and allowed me to feel as though I were in the thick of things. Whether in the tenements of New York City, on the battlefield, or in a makeshift hospital, I could imagine everything about the setting—sights, sounds, smells. So descriptive!

I really liked Charlotte as well. She's such an independent woman who defies cultural norms while relying on God to guide her. I didn't think I was going to like her sister Alice at first, but she definitely grew on me. Jocelyn also did a great job of developing a nasty antagonist who was easy to hate.

While this novel isn't for the faint of heart (with a "mild" description of a rape and multiple descriptions of wounds and other medical scenarios), I thoroughly enjoyed every page. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series! [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from River North and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance in exchange for my fair and honest review.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Wedded to War, go HERE.

About the Author
Jocelyn Green is a child of God, wife and mom living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She is also an award-winning journalist, author, editor and blogger. Though she has written nonfiction on a variety of topics, her name is most widely recognized for her ministry to military wives: Faith Deployed. Her passion for the military family was fueled by her own experience as a military wife, and by the dozens of interviews she has conducted with members of the military for her articles and books, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and its sequel, Faith Deployed...Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. She is also co-author of both Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front (forthcoming, May 2012). Her Faith Deployed Web site and Facebook page continue to provide ongoing support, encouragement and resources for military wives worldwide.

Jocelyn Green Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  | Pinterest

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Click on over if you want to join in the fun!

What are you currently reading? I started Perfectly Ridiculous by Kristin Billerbeck last night. I'll be posting my review later this week sometime. I guess it depends on when I finish reading it!
What did you recently finish reading? I savored Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green for an entire week and wrapped it up yesterday. My review will be posted later today, but I loved it!

What do you think you'll read next? I know I've said this off and on for the last 6 weeks, but I really am going to read Butterflies in the Garden by Maureen Lang next. :)

(How's that for three fairly different covers?!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday | Wedded to War

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by MizB on her blog Should Be Reading. Hop over for details or to link up!

I finished reading Wedded to War this morning (eeek!!!) and I loved it! I'll post my review tomorrow. :)

"Alice, come," she heard itself say. "Get dressed. The men are flying back to us. Hurry."

Picking up Maurice on their way out the door, they fled the hotel as if death itself was on their heels, when in reality death—or the possibility of it—was what they were running toward. This was not happening. (p 141)

Wedded to War
by Jocelyn Green

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Reading | Suspense for Everyone!

Suspense is one of my genres of choice. Here are three of my recent favorites if you're looking for one to read this summer. A legal thriller, romantic suspense, and medical suspense . . . so hopefully something will strike your fancy!
The Last Plea Bargain by Randy Singer
Available March 2012
Tyndale House Publishers
My Review

Plea bargains may grease the rails of justice, but for Jamie Brock (introduced in False Witness, 2011), prosecuting criminals is not about cutting deals. In her three years as assistant DA, she’s never plea-bargained a case and vows she never will. But when a powerful defense attorney is indicted for murder and devises a way to bring the entire justice system to a screeching halt, Jamie finds herself at a crossroads. One by one, prisoners begin rejecting deals. Prosecutors are overwhelmed, and felons start walking free on technicalities. To break the logjam and convict her nemesis, Jamie must violate every principle that has guided her young career. But she has little choice. To convict the devil, sometimes you have to cut a deal with one of his demons.

Saving Hope by Margaret Daley
Available March 2012
Abingdon Press
My Review

When a teenager goes missing from the Beacon of Hope School, Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan and school director Kate Winslow are forced into a dangerous struggle against a human trafficking organization. But the battle brings dire consequences as Wyatt's daughter is terrorized and Kate is kidnapped.  

Now it's personal, and Wyatt finds both his faith and investigative skills challenged as he fights to discover the mastermind behind the ring before evil destroys everyone he loves.

Lethal Remedy by Richard Mabry
Available October 2011
Abingdon Press
My Review

An epidemic of a highly resistant bacteria, Staphylococcus luciferus, has ignited, and Dr. Sara Miles' patient is on the threshold of death. Only an experimental antibiotic developed and administered by Sara's ex-husband, Dr. Jack Ingersoll can save the girl's life.

Dr. John Ramsey is seeking to put his life together after the death of his wife by joining the medical school faculty. But his decision could prove to be costly, even fatal.
Potentially lethal late effects from the experimental drug send Sara and her colleague, Dr. Rip Pearson, on a hunt for hidden critical data that will let them reverse the changes before it’s too late. What is the missing puzzle piece? And who is hiding it?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Schoolhouse by Jill Glassco

The Schoolhouse
Written by Jill Watson Glassco 
Illustrated by Cami Monet Webb
Christian / Children's / Discipleship Resource
Available June 29, 2012
LifeHouse Publishing
46 pages

About the Book
No teacher had completed a full term at that one-room, eight-grade schoolhouse in over four years. Neither the warnings about unruly students and an unbalanced boys attacks on the school, nor reports about a dangerous bewitched woman deterred young Elsie from accepting the challenge to teach at Shady Grove School tucked deep in the woods on Whitwell Mountain.

The shrill blast of the engine whistle sounded within moments of her settling into the first available window seat on the train destined for a coal mining community near her school. The click-clack-click of the wheels along the rails and rhythmic sway of the coach helped to calm her nervousness. Imaginations of the adventures to come played across Elsie's mind as she looked out on the fertile valley.

No imagination, however, could have prepared her for the fierce trials the new teacher would soon face. When her determination grew weak, Elsie turned to God again and again for the courage, wisdom, and resolve needed to finish her term at The Schoolhouse.

My Thoughts
Having known the Glassco family for a number of years (think back to middle school . . . oh the pictures they could probably "out" me with!), I was excited to learn that Jill was publishing a children's book. There were a number of women who poured into my life during my teenage years, and Jill had a huge impact on my spiritual walk. Among other things, I learned from her example about having an intimate prayer life and the need to be devoted to studying Scripture above all else. I still have a (treasured!) letter that she wrote to me in middle school sharing Scripture after Scripture of the ways she was praying for me. So if you're curious about the author behind the book I'm bringing to you today, I can tell you that "Miss Jill" is the real deal! And now, without further ado, I am delighted to share my thoughts about her book The Schoolhouse.

The Schoolhouse by Jill Glassco is a unique children's story that will inspire readers (children and adults alike) to follow God faithfully regardless of the circumstances. As explained in the author's note at the beginning of the book, this story of Elsie's adventures as the new teacher of an eight-grade, one-room schoolhouse in rural Tennessee was inspired by a detailed letter from Jill's grandmother written in 1955. The letter included adventures of her time as teacher and instructions for these stories to be turned into a book and submitted for publication. Jill has done just as her grandmother asked, and I think her grandmother (and her readers!) would be pleased!

A lovely hardcover storybook with illustrations by Cami Monet Webb
Elsie has just graduated when she receives her first teaching assignment—a school so horrible that no teacher has finished the school year in the last four years! Full of spunk and determination, Ellie commits to finish the year with God's help.

More than just a collection of short stories, though, The Schoolhouse is an incredible tool for teaching children about fear, pride, working with others, finishing well and trusting God to lead us through each circumstance. I daresay that parents and teachers will take a way life-changing lessons as well from reading this book with their children. Elsie's story is divided into seven shorter stories that each focus on a particular lesson. At the conclusion of each chapter, Jill has included a "worksheet" of sorts to help readers process the story and apply truths from God's Word to their own life.

Worksheets at the end of each chapter help children process the story they have just read.
My favorite part of these worksheets are the section titled "Pearls from God's Heart to Yours." These "pearls" are statements crafted from Scripture with a blank for you to insert your own name and see how personal these promises are. For instance, "Brooke, I have plans for you to give you a future and hope. When you talk to me, I listen. When you look for me with all your heart, you will find Me and the plans I have for you (Jer. 29:11-13)." What a wonderful way to make these verses that can seem so "common" to us really soak into our hearts and minds!

Cami's illustrations are beautiful as well and a wonderful addition to the book. They help bring the story alive through images that help readers imagine what it would be like to live in the past.

Jill's heart for the Word, prayer, and discipleship shines through the entire book. I highly recommend The Schoolhouse—not only as wonderful story but also as a resource for adults who want to disciple the children in their lives. [5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the author. I offer my review freely and honestly. All opinions expressed are my own.

Purchase your copy of The Schoolhouse through the publisher's website, Amazon, or a variety of stores in the Birmingham area.

About the Author
Jill Watson Glassco is best known for being an insightful and theologically sound womans Bible study writer and teacher for women from all walks of life. She is currently serving as the editor and one of the authors for "Mainstream," a Christian women's ministry blog. Jill's priorities are: love God, love family, and love people. She and her husband, Phillip, were high school sweethearts and have been married for over thirty years. Residing in Birmingham, Alabama, the Glasscos are active members of Church of the Highlands. They are the parents of three grown children and proud grandparents times three. 

About the Illustrator
Cami Monet Webb has been painting since an early age under the direction of her father G. Webb. In addition to painting, Cami recently graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee with a degree in journalism and electronic media and currently works for DIY Network. Raised in the Great Smoky Mountains, Cami has fostered a steady friendship with the outdoors and can often be found enjoying the mountains she grew up in. She is a member of Webb's Creek United Methodist Church.

*Please excuse the quality of the snapshots of the inside pages as they were taken with my cell phone. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reckless Heart by Amy Clipston

Reckless Heart
by Amy Clipston
Kauffman Amish Bakery series
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Amish / YA
Available April 2012
224 pages

About the Book
Lydia Bontrager's youngest sister is frighteningly ill, and as a good Amish daughter, it falls to Lydia to care for her siblings and keep the household running, in addition to working as a teacher's assistant and helping part time at her grandmother's bakery. Succumbing to stress, Lydia gives in to one wild night and returns home drunk.

The secret of that mistake leaves Lydia feeling even more restless and confused, especially when Joshua, the only boy she's ever loved, becomes increasingly distant. When a non-Amish boy moves in nearby, Lydia finds someone who understands her, but the community is convinced Lydia is becoming too reckless. With the pressures at home and her sister's worsening condition, a splintering relationship with Joshua, and her own growing questions over what is right, Lydia could lose everything that she's ever held close.

My Thoughts
Lydia Bontrager's little sister is sick. While her parents are busy taking care of her, having tests run, and taking her for treatments, Lydia is left to care for her siblings, clean the house, and make sure things at home run smoothly. The harder she works at home, the more frustrated she feels. When her parents refuse to let her attend youth socials and the boy she dreams of marrying one day stops coming around, Lydia rebels and goes out drinking. Add in a budding friendship with the English teenage boy down the street, and tongues begin wagging throughout the close-knit community. Will Lydia find her way back to her family? Or will her rebellion cause her to lose everything?

I've been reading more young adult fiction this year than I normally do, and Reckless Heart by Amy Clipston is one of the best I've read! The story was captivating and I really connected with Lydia. Amy did such a great job of expressing the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of a teenage girl that I felt myself flashing back to my own teenage years at times! The stress on the family due to a serious illness was also spot on. Having been in a similar situation during high school, I really identified with Lydia and the situation she was in. At times Lydia's dad really frustrated me. I just wanted to shake him and tell him to talk to his daughter!

When I was in middle school, I loved a series of books by Lurlene McDaniels and A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry (my cancer stories, as I called them!), and Reckless Heart reminded me of them. It's refreshing to read a YA story that tackles a variety of tough issues and has such substance, made even stronger by the faith elements woven throughout.

I highly recommend Reckless Heart for young adults or not-so-young adults! [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Amy Clipston is the author of the bestselling Kauffman Amish Bakery novels. She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and currently works for the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Amy lives with her husband, two sons, and four spoiled-rotten cats.

Amy Clipston Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Click on over if you want to join in the fun!

What are you currently reading? Still working on Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck.
What did you recently finish reading? Finished A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California by Keli Gwyn today. I enjoyed every minute of it!

What do you think you'll read next? It's hard to say, but probably Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California by Keli Gwyn

A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California
by Keli Gwyn
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Available July 2012
Barbour Publishing
320 pages

About the Book
An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them? Miles can’t help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business? Miles’s mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora’s daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair? 

My Thoughts
Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado, California with her precocious daughter Tildy, ready to start a new life and planning to become a partner in the Rutledge Mercantile. When Miles refuses to take her on as partner, she decides she will open her own shop and prove to everyone that women can run successful businesses. The more they get to know one another, though, the more they fight the mutual attraction that seems to draw them together time and time again. With pasts that continue to haunt them and competitive natures that threaten to destroy their friendship, will Miles and Elenora overcome all that stands in the way of their happily-ever-after?

A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California is Keli Gwyn's debut novel. And what a debut! The story started off with a bang as Elenora and Tildy arrive in El Dorado, and I found myself loving these two from the very first pages. As Miles and Mrs. Rutledge and the other quirky characters of El Dorado were introduced, I found myself falling in love—not just with the characters, but also with the town!

Keli has a writing style that many strive for but few achieve. The writing is tight and full of action. She successfully moves the story along with each scene, without giving in to the temptation to have long "thought" monologues from the main characters. She delivers humor in all the right places (that had me chuckling aloud!) and poured just the right amount of emotion into the story to connect readers with the characters.

I was impressed with A Bride Opens Shop from beginning to end and was sad to reach the last page. I can't wait to read Keli's next release. (Maybe another visit to El Dorado? Hint, hint!) I'll be honest, though, if this is her debut, she has set the bar pretty high for whatever's next! [4.5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn is a California native who lives in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her stories transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. She fuels her creativity with Taco Bell® and sweet tea. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two skittish kitties.

Keli Gwyn Online
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Reading | An Emotional Punch

Everyone's always looking for a good book to read in the summer, so in honor of the three hottest months of the year and all the awesome vacations (or staycations!) people are going on, I thought I'd highlight some of my favorites.

This week, I'm featuring some incredible books that pack an emotional punch! These aren't "light reading," but these are some of my all-time favorites and will keep you reading late into the night!

The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones
Available 7/19/2011
Tyndale House
My Review

Jeremiah Williams has been tending the gardens of the Tennessee governor’s mansion for over twenty-five years. And like most first families who have come and gone, this one has stolen his heart.

Mackenzie and her husband, Governor Gray London, have struggled for ten years to have a child and are now enjoying a sweet season of life—anticipating the coming reelection and sending their precious daughter, Maddie, off to kindergarten—when a tragedy tears their world apart. As the entire state mourns, Mackenzie falls into a grief that threatens to swallow her whole.

Though his heart is also broken, Jeremiah realizes that his gift of gardening is about far more than pulling weeds and planting flowers. It’s about tending hearts as well. As he uses the tools that have been placed in his hands, he gently begins to cultivate the hard soil of Mackenzie’s heart, hoping to help her realize what it took him years to discover.

A Southern tale of loss, love, and living, The First Gardner reminds us that all of life is a gift, but our heart is the most valuable gift of all.

Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
Available 1/20/2012
Tyndale House
My Review

Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey garden and landscaping business.

Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected. Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.

Cottage by the Sea by Robin Jones Gunn
Available 7/3/2012
Howard Books
My Review

Erin Bryce and her best friend, Sharlene, count the day they start their wedding planning business as a very happy day. So much so that they name their company The Happiest Day to reflect the fulfillment of their long-held dream as well as their clients’ longing for a wedding celebration to match the exhilaration of being in love. As a bonus, the two women utilize their business to help Erin’s son Jordan and his fiancée, Sierra, plan a grand wedding.

But the two friends aren’t prepared for the cloud moving in to cover the sunny, successful start of their business. Erin’s father, who lives in a small coastal Oregon community with his brusque, downright odd second wife, Delores, develops a medical problem that puts him in the hospital. Erin responds by rushing from Southern California to her father’s—and oh, yeah, Delores’s—cottage by the sea.

What greets Erin when she arrives sends her tumbling down a bewildering path to a different kind of happiest day. Her journey tosses her through highs and lows of hurt and healing, betrayal and renewal, wrong assumptions righted, and the brightest future one could ever hope for. All just around the corner, at the cottage by the sea.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis

Heart of Stone

by Jill Marie Landis
Irish Angel series, Book 1
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Published February 2010
320 pages

About the Book
She had the darkest of pasts. And he had everything to lose by loving her. Laura Foster, free from the bondage of an unspeakable childhood, has struggled to make a new life for herself. Now the owner of an elegant boardinghouse in Glory, Texas, she is known as a wealthy, respectable widow. But Laura never forgets that she is always just one step ahead of her past. When Reverend Brand McCormick comes calling, Laura does all she can to discourage him as a suitor. She knows that if her past were discovered, Brand's reputation would be ruined. But it's not only Laura's past that threatens to bring Brand down—it's also his own. When a stranger in town threatens to reveal too many secrets, Laura is faced with a heartbreaking choice: Should she leave Glory forever and save Brand's future? Or is it worth risking his name—and her heart—by telling him the truth?

My Thoughts
Laura Foster runs a respectable boarding house in Glory, Texas. She has kept her distance from almost everyone in town for fear that her devastating childhood and checkered past would be discovered. When Reverend Brand McCormick begins calling on her—and refuses to be turned down—she begins to open up to him. When someone from her past arrives in town, she fears she will lose everything and ruin Brand as well.

The opening pages of Heart of Stone tell the story of Laura's childhood, and I was immediately captivated and couldn't wait to see what the rest of the story was going to be like. Jumping forward to the "present," I found myself liking Laura despite her prickly personality. Her character isn't as perfect as many "heroines" are. She has tons of flaws and many hurdles to overcome. As the story progressed, I loved seeing her friendships with Brand and others in town blossom and help her work through her problems and realize what true faith is.

At times I was more interested with the story of Laura and her sisters than the current story line, so I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Also, don't let the "romance" label throw you off if you're not a huge fan of the genre. I felt like the romance was more subtle and took a backseat to the other aspects of the story. Landis writes with depth and emotion and I look forward to more from her in the future! [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Jill Marie Landis is the bestselling author of over twenty-five novels. She has won numerous awards for her sweeping emotional romances, such as Summer Moon and Magnolia Creek. With her toes in the sand and head in the clouds, Jill now lives in Hawaii with her husband, Steve.

Jill Marie Landis Online
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Click on over if you want to join in the fun!

What are you currently reading? In preparation for a review due later this month, I'm catching up on the first of the series. Reading Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck now.
What did you recently finish reading? I finally got around to reading (and finishing!) Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond! So glad I finally picked it up!

What do you think you'll read next? A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California by Keli Gwyn is up next!

Blogside Chat | Lena Nelson Dooley

Lena Nelson Dooley is my guest today on i blog 4 books. She has more than 650,000 books in print (wow!) and most recently published Mary's Blessing, the second book in the McKenna's Daughters series. (You can read my review and the first chapter here.)

i blog 4 books: Lena, welcome to i blog 4 books! For any readers who might not be familiar with you, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Lena Nelson Dooley: I am from Arkansas, but I've lived in Texas more years than I did in Arkansas. I've been married to a Texan for about 48 years. All of our children and grandchildren live fairly close, except our Army grandson, who is serving overseas. At this season of my life, I am writing novels. If you Google me, you can find out all kinds of things about me.

ib4b: Forty-eight years is a long time to be married ... congratulations! And please tell your Army grandson how much I appreciate his service to our country! What was the inspiration behind your latest book?

LND: Mary's Blessing is book two of my McKenna's Daughters series. This series lived in my head and my heart for several years before my agent sold the series to Realms. Book one, Maggie's Journey, released in October 2011 and was awarded the 2012 Selah award for historical novels in May. Catherine's Pursuit will release in January 2013. This series is about identical triplets born on one of the last wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. Their mother dies giving birth, and they are separated. They don't find out they have sisters until near their 18th birthday.

ib4b: I've really enjoyed the series so far and am really looking forward to reading Catherine's Pursuit! What message or lesson do you hope readers will take away from reading it?

LND: All three of the books deal with forgiveness. Other issues are bitterness, a poor self-image, and lack of commitment. These issues are lived out in the lives of various characters. I pray that readers will find hope in the stories.

ib4b: How do you see yourself in the book?

LND: I'm just the storyteller.

ib4b: The more I read, the more I appreciate the research that authors do to deliver a realistic story. Tell us about your research process for this book.

LND: Since the books take place in 1885, and in various settings, I had to do a lot of research. It's very important to me to make the setting and society of the time authentic. I use books, the Internet, and interviewing people to achieve this.

ib4b: It seems like most authors have quite an interesting journey to getting published. What did you do in your "former life"?

LND: Sometimes, I feel that I never had a former life, but I did. I have a large variety of experiences that contribute to my ability to tell interesting stories with strong characters. My educational background is in drama. I've worked a lot of different places--taught school, worked in retail in various ways, had a rural mail route, among other things.

ib4b: That's a quite a variety of things for sure! A rural mail route?! I see a story here ... Where do you like to write?

LND: I usually write sitting at my desktop computer with a flat-screen monitor. I have an office in my home. However, sometimes I also write on my laptop. I'm doing more of that as I grow older.

ib4b: Do you have a "life verse" or favorite Scripture?

LND: At this time in my life, it's Philippians 3:10.  "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..."

ib4b: Write your memoir in six words or less.

LND: I love Jesus, James, my kids.

ib4b: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

LND: I will be 70 years old this year. I can't really remember wanting to be anything besides a wife and mother, and I'm both of those.

ib4b: If you were Miss America, what cause would you champion?

LND: In these days and times, human trafficking. It's such a problem, even in these United States.

ib4b: My mom always let me choose a special meal for my birthday. What's on the menu for your birthday dinner?

LND: Center cut prime rib, baked potato, salad, and a decadent chocolate dessert.

ib4b: I'm with you on the chocolate dessert! What were some of your favorite books growing up?

LND: We visited the library a lot when I was very young, and I read all the time. I've read all kinds of books as I got older from mysteries, suspense, to epics like Gone With the Wind. I like romantic fiction with substance.

ib4b: What was the last "must read" Christian fiction book that you read?

LND: There are a lot of very good Christian novels being published all the time. I read as many as I have time to. So I would have to say the latest one I finished reading—Cowgirl Trail, one of the books in the Texas Trails series. Right now I'm reading Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T Bergren on my Kindle and Hidden in Dreams by Davis Bunn in paperback format. Both are excellent. I love anything written by Ronie Kendig, Robin Caroll, Susan May Warren, Martha Rogers, Jillian Kent--I could tell you authors' names for a long time. Check out my blog to see what is being published by Christian publishers.

ib4b: Can you tell us a bit about what you're working on now? When can we expect to see it in stores?

LND: I'm writing the first book in my Restored Hearts series. The working title is The Gift of a Son. It is scheduled for release in October 2013.

Brooke, thank you for letting me visit with your readers today.

ib4b: Thank you, Lena, for stopping by! I enjoyed getting to know you better!

Lena Nelson Dooley Online

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond

Through Rushing Water 
by Catherine Richmond
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Available July 2012
Thomas Nelson
368 pages

About the Book
Sophia Makinoff is certain that 1876 is the year that she’ll become the wife of a certain US Congressman, and happily plans her debut into the Capitol city. But when he proposes to her roommate instead, Sophia is stunned. Hoping to flee her heartache and humiliation, she signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions on a whim.

With dreams of a romantic posting to the Far East, Sophia is dismayed to find she’s being sent to the Ponca Indian Agency in the bleak Dakota Territory. She can’t even run away effectively and begins to wonder how on earth she’ll be able to guide others as a missionary. But teaching the Ponca children provides her with a joy she has never known—and never expected—and ignites in her a passion for the people she’s sent to serve.

It’s a passion shared by the Agency carpenter, Willoughby Dunn, a man whose integrity and selflessness are unmatched. The Poncas are barely surviving. When U.S. policy decrees that they be uprooted from their land and marched hundreds of miles away in the middle of winter, Sophia and Will wade into rushing waters to fight for their friends, their love, and their destiny.

My Thoughts
I've been looking forward to reading the next book by Catherine Richmond since I turned the last page in Spring for Susannah. Through Rushing Water did not disappoint!

Certain that she will soon become the wife of a US Congressman, Sophia Mackinoff is shocked when he proposes to her flighty roommate instead. Embarrassed, she jumps at the opportunity to sign up with the Board of Foreign Missions. Her first assignment—not quite what she hoped for—takes her to the Dakota Territory to teach the children of the Ponca Indian Agency. The longer she stays, the more Sophia can't believe the horrible living conditions the Ponca must endure. She and Will Dunn, the Agency carpenter, find themselves on the same side in a fight against the US government on behalf of the Ponca people.

Wow . . . just wow! Catherine's writing style is simply beautiful. The way she paints pictures with her words made me feel as though I was in the middle of each scene. She made the Dakota Territory and the plight of the Ponca Indians come alive for me. The masterful characterization of Sophia and Will and the other Agency workers drew me in as well. The more I got to know her, the more I liked Sophia. She grew so much as a person—spiritually and in maturity—and I felt the many emotions she experienced throughout the book. Will is another strong hero (much like Jesse from Spring for Susannah), and I loved the way he demonstrated and talked about his faith.

Catherine also told the story of the Ponca and how the US government treated them (and other Indian tribes) in such a way that my heart was literally gripped by the truth of what happened to real people (not just the fictitious characters in this book). It's hard to imagine that people can treat others so horribly, but it's a good reminder to fight against racism and open your heart to people of other cultures and races. Unfortunately, this type of thing still continues today around the world.

Catherine Richmond has delivered another stunning novel—one I will not soon forget. [5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Catherine Richmond was busy raising a family, working as an occupational therapist, and trying to remember where she hid the chocolate when a song sparked a story within her. Her journey to publication has been long but full of blessings. Catherine was born in Washington, DC, grew up in northern Virginia, attended Western Michigan University, and moved around a lot for her husband's aviation career. Through Rushing Water is her second novel.

Catherine Richmond Online
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Teaser Tuesday | The Stars Shine Bright

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by MizB on her blog Should Be Reading. Hop over for details or to link up!

I finished reading The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello over the weekend and thought I'd post a quick teaser. You can read my review here if the teaser piques your interest.

I nodded but felt the whole case galloping away. The forensics could stretch out for months. And OPR wouldn't wait. Not for something that could help me explain myself. (p 93)

"Those stars are there, every day, waiting in the blue sky. We just can't see them. This is what I want you to remember. The stars shine bright when it gets dark enough. The invisible becomes visible." He paused, watching me. "I don't expect you to understand this. But someday, I hope you'll remember." (p 268-269)

The Stars Shine Bright
Sibella Giorello

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cottage by the Sea by Robin Jones Gunn

Cottage by the Sea
by Robin Jones Gunn
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
Available July 2012
Howard Books
272 pages

About the Book
Erin Bryce and her best friend, Sharlene, count the day they start their wedding planning business as a very happy day. So much so that they name their company The Happiest Day to reflect the fulfillment of their long-held dream as well as their clients’ longing for a wedding celebration to match the exhilaration of being in love. As a bonus, the two women utilize their business to help Erin’s son Jordan and his fiancée, Sierra, plan a grand wedding.

But the two friends aren’t prepared for the cloud moving in to cover the sunny, successful start of their business. Erin’s father, who lives in a small coastal Oregon community with his brusque, downright odd second wife, Delores, develops a medical problem that puts him in the hospital. Erin responds by rushing from Southern California to her father’s—and oh, yeah, Delores’s—cottage by the sea.

What greets Erin when she arrives sends her tumbling down a bewildering path to a different kind of happiest day. Her journey tosses her through highs and lows of hurt and healing, betrayal and renewal, wrong assumptions righted, and the brightest future one could ever hope for. All just around the corner, at the cottage by the sea.

My Thoughts
Erin's dream of opening her own wedding planning business, The Happiest Day, is finally coming true when her step-mother calls and says that her father has had a stroke. She drops everything to help her dad. Balancing taking care of her dad, planning her son's wedding, running a successful business, and doing all the other normal mom and wife things, Erin quickly becomes overwhelmed. As she tries to mend her relationship with her father and step-mother, other relationships in her life spin out of control. Will she be able to find her "happiest day" in spite of all the turmoil in her life?

I've been a fan of Robin Jones Gunn since I read the Christy Miller series in middle school. I think this may be my favorite "adult" book of hers that I've read, though! Cottage by the Sea is a poignant story about relationships, forgiveness, and redemption. I loved how Robin explored the special relationships between mothers and daughters and fathers and daughters. At times I could see glimpses of my relationship with my own parents through the story. Erin's relationship with her husband was special as well. It was refreshing to read about a husband who faithfully and sacrificially loved his wife through a very difficult time. All of the relationships (Erin and her son, Erin and her best friend, her father and step-mother, etc.) in this book were so rich and deep. As a result, each scene was filled with emotion.

While this was one of the more emotional books by Gunn that I've read, she didn't leave me "down" for long. Instead, I ended the book full of hope and satisfied by a beautiful story. Longtime readers will also enjoy surprise encounters with some old friends. I loved every aspect of this book and will be adding it to my "keeper" shelf. [5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Robin Jones Gunn is the much-loved author of seventy titles that have sold more than four million copies worldwide. Her popular Christy Miller series and Sisterchicks® novels have won a number of awards, including three Christy Awards for excellence in fiction, and a Gold Medallion Award finalist award. Robin's unique destination novels transport readers around the globe. To ensure that her tales of these extraordinary locations ring true, Robin has enjoyed the privilege of traveling to each location in order to experience the local culture. Her three visits to the Canary Islands provided bountiful research as she took flamenco dance lessons, rode a camel, and visited the chapel where Columbus prayed before departing on his famous journey. Robin and her husband have two grown children and live in Hawaii.

Robin Jones Gunn Online
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Summer Reading | The Christy Awards

As I've done for the past few Mondays, I wanted to share a few of my favorite books with you. This week, I'm featuring several books that were nominated for a 2012 Christy Award as part of the "Road to the Christys" blog tour you may be seeing on other blogs. I've read all five of these books and thought they were just incredible. So excited that they have been nominated for such a prestigious award! I posted a complete list of the finalists here, and the winners will be announced next Monday (July 16). Have you read these or any of the other finalists? What did you think? Which books would you vote for?

My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren
Available April 2011
Tyndale Publishers
Nominated for Contemporary Romance
(My Review)

Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.

Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . Or the one next door?

Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock
Available February 2011
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Nominated for Contemporary Stand Alone
(My Review)

Eleven-year-old Roz (Rosalind) Anthony and her family have just moved to Mills River, Illinois, to escape an abusive situation. Only days after settling into their new home, they are surprised to find the previous owner, Tillie Monroe, on their front porch reading the newspaper. Though her sons have sold the house and sent her to a facility for the aged, she is determined to die in the place she lived her life, and somehow manages to find her way "home" day after day. Feeling sympathy for the elderly woman, Roz's mother allows Tillie to move back in.

Mara Nightingale becomes Roz's first friend in Mills River. In spite of their many differences, the girls discover they have something in common that binds them together--both are hiding secrets. So they make a promise--"cross my heart and hope to die"--never to tell anyone else.

When danger stalks the Anthonys, Tillie exhibits unimaginable courage and selfless love in her determination to protect the family she has adopted as her own.

Words by Ginny Yttrup
Available  February 2011
B&H Publishing Group
Nominated for Contemporary Stand Alone & First Novel
(My Review)

"I collect words. I keep them in a box in my mind. I'd like to keep them in a real box, something pretty, maybe a shoe box covered with flowered wrapping paper. Whenever I wanted, I'd open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box. But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can't take them."

Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn't speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods-in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.

Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter's death, Sierra's control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.

Brought together by Divine design, Kaylee and Sierra will discover together the healing mercy of the Word-Jesus Christ.

A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander
Available November 2011
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Nominated for Historical Romance
(My Review)

To create something that will last is Claire Laurent's most fervent desire as an artist. It's also her greatest weakness. When her fraud of a father deals her an unexpected hand, Claire is forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville, only a year after the War Between the States has ended. Claire's path collides with that of Sutton Monroe, and she considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But when they meet again and he refuses to come to her aid, she realizes she's sorely misjudged the man. Trading an unwanted destiny for an unknown future, Claire finds herself in the middle of Nashville's elite society and believes her dream of creating a lasting impression in the world of art may finally be within reach.

All that Sutton Monroe holds dear lies in ruin. He's determined to reclaim his heritage and to make the men who murdered his father pay. But what he discovers on his quest for vengeance reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined.

Set at Nashville's historical Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America in the 1860s, A Lasting Impression showcases the deep, poignant, unforgettable characters that set Tamera's stories apart and provides an inspiring love story that will capture readers' hearts and leave them eager for more.

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
Available January 2012
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Nominated for Historical Romance
(My review will be posted this week.)

Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt--and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?

Observing both brothers as an "invisible" servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?

On her journey from wellborn lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of "serve one another in love."
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