Friday, August 31, 2012

Secrets of Roux River Bayou by Kathy Herman

False Pretenses
by Kathy Herman
Secrets of Roux River Bayou series, Book 1
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Suspense
Available March 2011
David C. Cook
384 pages

About the Book
Zoe Broussard loves the life she and her husband Pierce have built in her beloved Louisiana hometown-especially their popular brasserie Zoe B's, to which folks drive all the way from Lafayette for lunch or dinner. It seems like heaven.

But it's about to become hell. A series of anonymous notes is making her life a misery-because Zoe has a secret so terrible it could leave the business in shambles and tear her marriage apart. Can she find the courage to face her past?

The first in a new series from Kathy Herman, False Pretenses is a gripping suspense novel that leaves a lasting impression about honesty and accountability.

My Thoughts
False Pretenses was a great introduction to Kathy Herman. The suspense was fairly intense, and I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next. Plus, the plot moved along quickly, which really kept me flipping the pages. Zoe Broussard was a great main character, and I really enjoyed getting to know her. The author did a great job writing about such a unique and iconic location as New Orleans, but I wasn't crazy about the Cajun dialect. I know the author was using it to give a realistic flair to the dialogue, but if I'm unfamiliar with the words, I don't like having to stop and start to check the glossary. Other than that, though, I really did love the book, and it whet my appetite for the next novel in the series! [4 stars]

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

Dangerous Mercy
by Kathy Herman
Secrets of Roux River Bayou series, Book 2
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Suspense
Available October 2011
David C. Cook
416 pages

About the Book
When elderly Adele Woodmore moves to Les Barbes to be near the Broussards, she wants nothing more than a comfortable, quiet life. Employing men from Father Vince's halfway house for the homeless to do odd jobs, she takes an interest in their lives and is delighted to be helping them get back on their feet.

Now a series of murders has cast a pall over the town and one of Adele's handymen becomes a person of interest to the police. But Adele continues to show the young men kindness and care, in spite of her friends' concern. This time that kindness could kill her.

My Thoughts
Dangerous Mercy was just as good as I hoped it would be after reading the first book in the series. Adele was such a wonderful character. The author really wrote her feelings and emotions in such a way that you felt like she could be someone you knew in real life. Her compassion and graciousness really endeared her to me—although they got her in a ton of trouble! It was also a welcome change to read about an older main character. Of course, it was wonderful to reconnect with the Broussards and other characters from the first book and see where they were three years after False Pretenses. Don't get me wrong, though. This isn't just a sweet little book about friends and relationships. This is an intense psychological thriller. The suspense was well-written and fast-paced, and I was truly shocked to discover who was behind the crimes. I can't wait to read the final book in this trilogy! [4 stars]

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

About the Author
Best-selling suspense novelist Kathy Herman worked for the Christian Booksellers Association in Colorado Springs, then married a retailer and moved to Texas, where she managed the children's department in the family's Christian bookstore. She has written fourteen novels, including Tested by Fire and All Things Hidden, since retiring from the retail business. Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren and live in Tyler, Texas. They also enjoy world travel, deep-sea fishing, and bird watching—often tied into one grand adventure!

Kathy Herman Online
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
by Julie Klassen
Historical Christian Fiction / Romance
Published January 2012
Bethany House
416 pages

About the Book
To escape a scheme to marry her off to a dishonorable man, Margaret Macy flees London disguised as a housemaid. If she can remain unwed until her next birthday, she will receive an inheritance, and with it, sweet independence. But she never planned on actually working as a servant. And certainly not in the home of Nathaniel and Lewis Upchurch--both former suitors.

As she fumbles through the first real work of her life, Margaret struggles to keep her identity secret when suspicions arise and prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall. Can she avoid a trap meant to force her from hiding?

Brimming with romance and danger, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall takes readers inside the fascinating belowstairs world of a 19th-century English manor, where appearances can be deceiving.

My Thoughts
It’s been months (!!!) since I read The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and I’m just now getting around to posting my review. Ack! Back in March, I said this was “hands down” my favorite read of the month, and I can say in August that this book will make the top 10 list for this year.

Margaret Macy realizes she must leave home to avoid her stepfather’s plot to marry her off to a horrible man. As she flees from her home and her pampered lifestyle, she finds work as a maid, hoping that the man of the house will marry her and rescue her from her stepfather. Margaret must hide her identity until the time is right, and in the meantime must learn to be a maid. Will she find the security she longs for at Fairbourne Hall? Or will she learn that some things are more important than fulfilling her own plans?

Julie Klassen is a new-to-me author, and I’m so glad I took a chance on her with The Maid of Fairbourne Hall! Klassen writes with great detail—her research process must be intense!—and does a beautiful job of making the setting, characters, and story truly come alive. I loved learning about the life of servants during this period and their relationship with the family. The story was intriguing as well, with enough questions and unknown elements to keep me curious as to the next turn the story would take.

There were a ton of characters in this book, which at times had me backtracking to confirm someone’s identity. Overall, though, the life-like characters drew me into the story and I really connected with them. I originally thought that Margaret was going to simply be a spoiled little rich girl. There was so much more to her, though, and I was glad that the author wrote with so much depth and feeling. It helped me be an empathetic reader! Plus, the challenge of writing a character with a dual-identity made for some humorous moments as well.

Thank you, Julie Klassen, for writing one of the best novels I've read all year! [5 stars]

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

About the Author
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Julie Klassen Online

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Firestorm by Lisa Tawn Bergren

by Lisa Tawn Bergren
Full Circle series, Book 6
Christian Fiction / Romance
Available June 2001
WaterBrook Multnomah
352 pages

About the Book
Will Reyne remain trapped in a life without risk—and a life without love? As a smoke jumper, Reyne Oldre--friend to Rachel Tanner and Beth Morgan (Refuge)--once led a team of courageous firefighters into a blaze that ended in unspeakable tragedy. Now crippled by fear, she conducts fire research from a safe distance, determined not to risk that kind of pain again. But when the flames of love begin to flicker between her and smoke jumper Logan McCabe, Reyne must face the fearsome storms from her past and battle the raging Firestorm that burns in her soul.

My Thoughts
Only after I started reading Firestorm did I realize that I read the entire Full Circle series several years ago when it was first published. I didn't really remember the details of the story, though, so it was like reading it for the first time.

After enduring every smoke jumper's worst nightmare, Reyne became a fire researcher and vows to do everything in her power to prevent more deaths. When Logan is awarded the funding for his research project—at the expense of hers—she is furious. As they work together to complete the project, Reyne finds herself opening to this smoke jumper. Will Reyne be able to trust God to protect her heart and keep Logan safe?

Oh, what a great story! There was plenty of action as Reyne, Logan, and others fought fires throughout the summer. I was impressed by Bergren's research of the nature of forest fires and the technical side of fighting them. It really made for a fascinating story. The romance was so sweet, too, and I really empathized with Reyne's fears and desire to overcome them.

For those who have read the earlier books in the series, you'll be excited to reconnect with Beth and Rachel from earlier books. The friendship between the three women was a wonderful storyline too. While much of the book was fairly predictable (not necessarily a bad thing!), I will say there was one super unexpected twist in the book that left me in tears! Without giving anything away, I also liked that Bergren included the novella Sand Castles at the end of the book to close out the saga. It gave closure to a pretty significant loose end. I'm so glad I rediscovered this series! [4 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Lisa Tawn Bergren is a best-selling author of more than thirty books, including The Captain's Bride, The Busy Mom's Devotional, and the God Gave Us children's book series. Lisa's time is split between managing home base, writing (including a fair amount of travel writing), consulting and freelance editing (with a little speaking here and there). She's married to Tim, a liturgical sculptor, graphic designer and musician. They have three kids—Olivia, Emma, and Jack. The Bergrens make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Lisa Tawn Bergren Online
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

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 Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz last night. I've been looking forward to this one for a long time!

What did you recently finish reading? I finished Proof by Jordyn Redwood yesterday. Totally different from what I'm reading now, but SOOOO good!!!

What do you think you'll read next? So many great books to choose from! Maybe The Reunion by Dan Walsh?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teaser Tuesday | Proof

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

Finished up Proof by Jordyn Redwood tonight. Wow . . . just wow!

The cemetery was closing in ten minutes, and Lilly Reeves was going to be late. (p 9)

by Jordyn Redwood

Yep. First sentence of the whole book. I thought it was a pretty interesting way to start!

Excited to share this new book with you!

I'm so excited to share with you that my friend Chad Gibbs just released his second book yesterday! I LOVED his first one—God & Football—and am confident that Love Thy Rival will be just as good.

Chad has the unique ability to write about serious topics—in this case, loving your enemies—with practical examples—in this case, sports rivalries—and tons of humor. I mean, who else can make the copyright page funny?!

(Side note . . . surely you know by now that I wouldn't recommend a book to you only because the author is a friend. Right?!)

Anyway. I haven't had the chance to read it yet, but I bought mine last night and it's in the mail now! The ebook is only $4.99 (Nook, Kindle, iBook), or you can buy a paperback copy wherever books are sold. (Or buy an autographed copy on Chad's website!) Plus, share about the book on Facebook or Twitter, and Chad will send you a free chapter. Come on . . . he's making it easy for you to give it a shot!

You'll be hearing more about this book from me in the next few weeks. In the meantime, though, here's the blurb . . . 

In his first book, the best-selling God & Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC, humorist Chad Gibbs explored his own struggles to balance faith in God with passion for pigskin.  Now Gibbs is back asking how Christian fans can love their enemies, when we can’t even love rival fans.

From the cross-country culture war of Lakers vs Celtics, to the cross-state hate-fest of Alabama vs Auburn, Gibbs spent one year attending the most intense rivalry games in sports (Yankees vs Red Sox, Duke vs Carolina, and many more), observing the darker side of fan culture, and pondering the problems rivalry games present to the Christian fan.

The result… Love Thy Rival, an enlightening, laugh-a-minute look at what sports’ greatest rivalries teach us about one of Jesus’ most difficult commands: Love your enemies. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Texan's Honor by Shelley Gray

A Texan's Honor
by Shelley Gray
The Heart of a Hero series, Book 2
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Available March 2012
Abingdon Press
336 pages

About the Book
Texas, 1874. Years ago, Will McMillan had fought in the open, next to his Captain, Clayton Proffitt. Now, in book 2 of The Heart of a Hero series, he’s waging another war.

But when a hostage situation goes awry and an innocent woman is in the middle of the fray, Will knows he must protect her no matter what happens. Even if they risk being killed by his gang or by the lawmen on their trail. Even if the woman he’s risking everything for will never love him back. Even if all he's left with is his faith.

My Thoughts
A Texan's Honor, the second installment of The Heart of a Hero series, was just as good as I expected! The author gives readers quite the intro with a train robbery, murder, and hostages, and it continues to get better from there. Regardless of the fact that Will is part of the gang that held up the train, Jamilyn feels a connection to him and trusts him to help her. She knows it's a huge risk to believe in Will but feels she has no other option.

Shelley Gray delivers a wonderful book, and I loved the mix of romance and action. At times, I couldn't quite figure out where the story was going, but each time, the author filled in the gaps and brought everything together. She also wove together two stories—those of Will and Jamilyn and of Scout Proffitt. After getting to know Scout a bit, I'm hoping he will be featured in the next book in the series (and that we'll get to connect with Clayton again too!). Historical romance fans will be thrilled with A Texan's Honor! [# stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Abingdon Press via Net Galley in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Shelley Gray's first Amish novel, Hidden, was nominated for the Inspirational Readers Choice award. Her book Simple Gifts won the Reviewers Choice Award. Shelley’s novel, The Protector, recently made the New York Times bestseller list. A native of Texas, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Colorado, and taught school for ten years. She lives in southern Ohio where she writes full time.

Shelley Gray Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook

Midnight Madness from Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin’s brand new book, With Every Letter, releases on September 1, 2012. To celebrate, Sarah is hosting the Midnight Madness Promotion!

Pre-order or purchase a copy of the book by midnight on August 31, 2012 and be one of the first to read Book One of her new Wings of the Nightingale series. AND as a Thank You for pre-ordering or purchasing With Every Letter you’ll be entered to win a $50 gift card to, Barnes and Noble or (winner’s choice!).  

All you have to do is pre-order or purchase With Every Letter and send an e-mail with the following information to sarah{at}

1. Your Name
2. Where you ordered or purchased it from
3. Your email address.

That’s it. Easy! Here are the pre-order links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble |

Legal Mumbo Jumbo:
**No Purchase Required** While Sarah would love for you to purchase the book, it’s not necessary to enter the contest. Just send her an e-mail to be entered. Winners will be chosen at random from entries. E-mail her at sarah{at} to enter. Winner will be announced on 9/4/2012. Contest open to US residents only.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Win a Nook Color from Mary Connealy in Over the Edge Giveaway!

Celebrate with Mary by entering to win a Nook Color with GlowLight! See what folks are saying about Over the Edge!

One winner will receive:
  • A Nook Color with GlowLight
  • The entire set of Mary Connealy’s The Kincaid Brides series
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 28th. Winner will be announced at the ”Over the Edge” Author Chat Facebook Party on 8/29. Meet Mary, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at a trivia contest, and more. There will also be gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group.)! So grab your copy of Over the Edge and join Mary on the evening of the August 29th for a chance to connect with her and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book – don’t let that stop you from coming!)
Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 29th!

Praying for the World

A couple of weeks ago, I challenged you (and myself!) to let the Olympics change the way we pray for the world. Not sure where to start? Here are a few resources that my family and faith family use. I highly recommend all of them!

Operation World is a phenomenal resource that covers every country and territory in the world. Recently revised and updated (2010), the book provides basic information for each country, ways to pray, and recent answers to prayer. The website provides additional resources such as videos, an introductory 60-day prayer challenge, prayer calendar, and other free resources. By reading Operation World, you will pray for the entire world in only one year! Of all the resources listed, this has been the most instrumental in educating me about the world!

Window on the World is a complementary resource to Operation World. This is a great way for families to introduce their children to praying for the world. Each two-page spread features a country, people group, or special focus. The pages are filled with colorful photographs, interesting facts, and ways to pray. I used this book when I taught in our children's missions program at church a couple of years ago and loved it! I know other families that use this as part of their devotion time or as a component of their homeschooling curriculum.

Joshua Project is a "research initiative seeking to highlight the ethnic people groups with the least followers of Jesus Christ." While it may be more natural for us to think of the world as geopolitical countries, it's probably more accurate to look at the world in people groups. According to the website, a people group is "the largest group within which the gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance." You can sort people groups based on a variety of factors such as country, percent evangelical, persecution index, etc. It may sound a bit overwhelming, but here is a good place to start on the Joshua Project website.

Well . . . these should get you started at least. There are a ton of other resources that are helpful for learning about and praying for the world. Do you have suggestions of additional resources that we should check out?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Revell Blog Tour | Dying to Read by Lorena McCourtney

Dying to Read
by Lorena McCourtney
The Cate Kincaid Files, Book 1
Christian Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Available August 2012
320 pages

About the Book
All she wanted was a paycheck. What she got was a murder. Cate Kinkaid's life is . . . well, frankly it's floundering. Her social life, her career, her haircut--they're all a mess. Unemployed, she jumps at the chance to work for her PI uncle, even though she has no experience and no instincts. After all, she is just dabbling in the world of private investigating until she can find a "real" job.

All she has to do for her first assignment is determine that a particular woman lives at a particular address. Simple, right? But when she reaches the dark Victorian house, she runs into an hungry horde of gray-haired mystery readers and a dead body. This routine PI job is turning out to be anything but simple. Is Cate in over her head?

My Thoughts
Dying to Read by Lorena McCourtney is a cute, cozy mystery featuring the trials of Cate Kinkaid as she steps up to help her uncle and take on her first case as a private investigator. I had high hopes for the novel after reading only a few pages. McCourtney had me laughing and certain that I would enjoy getting to know Cate over the next 300 pages. Unfortunately, the novel moved along slowly and I had trouble staying motivated to read. The last 70-80 pages picked up, though, and the novel ended with a bang—including an ending to the mystery that was unexpected (in a good way). By the end, I had also warmed up to Cate's character.

This novel didn't totally click with me, but many of the other reviews have been singing McCourtney's praise for this cozy.  [2.5 stars]

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

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

About the Author
Lorena McCourtney is the award-winning author of dozens of novels, including Invisible (which won the Daphne du Maurier Award from Romance Writers of America), In Plain Sight, On the Run, and Stranded. She resides in Oregon.

Lorena McCourtney Online

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blog Tour & Giveaway | Total Home Makeover by Renee Metzler

About the Book
Total Home Makeover
by Renee Metzler
Christian Non-Fiction / Self-Improvement
Available August 2012
Ambassador International
224 pages

Get a Total Home Makeover in 20 days. Each day, Let’s Chat (daily coaching session) about one secret to home management, then Get Moving (daily to do list) and apply what you just learned. Stay motivated with a Daily Renewal (prayer, Bible verse and journal) and a Weekly Reward (fun ideas to celebrate your success).

Total Home Makeover is a complete home management course. During your journey, get yourself, your family and your home all paddling in the same direction, toward order. Travel through three phases:
• Phase 1: Transform Self. Learn smart daily and weekly home management routines that create order in the home.
• Phase 2: Transform Family. Coach your family to learn and maintain healthy home habits that bring order to the home.
• Phase 3: Transform Home. Organize (clear, sort, store) room-by-room to create a functional home with activity zones that meet your family’s needs.

Plus get worksheets (meal planner, chore chart, daily routines, room planner), stories from the author, and a supportive website. Grab a friend, your sister, or your small group and get started on your Total Home Makeover.

My Thoughts
Total Home Makeover by Renee Metzler is one of those books that you don’t really want to read but you know you need to read it. I mean, who wants to admit that they’re not a very good housekeeper or that they feel overwhelmed by the state of their home. But I decided to take the plunge and see what Renee had to say.

Even though I knew I needed to read it, I was still skeptical at first. I think more than anything, I was afraid that she was going to say three things. Number one, this 20-day home makeover only works for women who work from/at home. Number two, you as the woman/wife must shoulder the entire burden of housekeeping. Number three,  you’re not a very good woman/wife/mother if you’re not a good housekeeper. Anybody else with me here? Well, let me go ahead and assure you that she doesn’t say any of these things! So, put aside your pre-conceived notions of what a book about housekeeping might be like and let’s talk about this incredible little gem of a book.

The book is short at only 224 pages and a fairly quick read. I went ahead and read straight through for the purpose of this review, but I definitely plan to re-read and implement the strategies that Renee teaches in the coming weeks.

Throughout the book, Renee’s focus really seems to be on learning organizational and time-management skills so that you can enjoy your home and family and serve the Lord through both. That’s something I want and can get behind!

I loved how everything was just so simple. Renee does a great job of laying out small steps that you could take one at a time to help you get completely organized. She provides helpful tips and stories from her own experience to help you think creatively about how to use your space, how to organize based on your family’s needs, and how to reach the goals that you think are important.

The first half of the book is especially strong and helps you think through to the end results of all your hard work. I appreciated the words of wisdom about implementing a simple morning and evening routine that would help you get the majority of your straightening and cleaning done “as you go” rather than taking hours. Plus, there are lots of helpful lists, worksheets, charts, etc. to help you implement the things Renee talks about.

The second half of the book wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped. Renee offers suggestions and tips for organizing each room of your house. These chapters were pretty repetitive. An annual “detailed clean” for each room of the house was mentioned at the very end, and I was disappointed that it was so generic and didn’t really give more guidance as to how and what could or should be included in that.

Overall, though, I think this book is going to be a helpful tool for getting our house organized and structured so that we can better use it for ourselves and for whatever purposes the Lord lays on our hearts. In fact, we’ve already implemented two or three small changes that have made us feel like we’ve made big progress! Whether you’re just starting out or have been keeping a home for many years, I highly recommend Total Home Makeover! [4 stars]

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

About the Author
Renee Metzler is a freelance author and speaker who helps women to live in balance, purpose and victory, and encourages women to move toward their God-given destiny through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   Renee longs for all women to attain joy as they surrender their lives to a loving God, so He can show up, and do a great work in their lives.  As founder of Renee’s Joy Journey, Renee blogs weekly to help women break free into their destiny.

Renee wrote Total Home Makeover after she went from career woman to full-time, stay-at-home mom.  After feeling completely lost with the 24 hours of unstructured time, Renee began to research smarter ways to manage a home.  In 2009, God stripped many things out of Renee’s life, including religious services and a career in sales.  He gave her a hunger for more – to intimately know the living God.  That began Renee’s journey of letting go, surrendering and trusting a God who can do all things.  Her young daughters and husband, encouraged Renee to “finish that book.”  After God gave her husband, Nevin, a dream about publication, God opened the door for publication of Total Home Makeover through Ambassador International.  Renee recognizes that God pours out favor to those who seek Him.

Renee Metzler Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook

The publisher, Ambassador International, has graciously offered to give away a copy of Total Home Makeover today! Open to US residents through Aug 31. Enter via the Rafflecopter below!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

Always the Designer, Never the Bride
by Sandra D. Bricker
Emma Rae Creations series, Book 3
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
Available April 2012
Abingdon Press
320 pages

About the Book
It’s taken Audrey Regan years to establish herself as a wedding dress designer, and to date she’s been roped into creating dresses for nine of her girlfriends. Request #10 follows her vow to “Just say no!” and comes from her very best friend. She can hardly turn Carly down!         

Audrey arrives in Atlanta early to perform all of her maid-of-honor duties along with final fittings for a one-of-a-kind dress. But Carly’s wedding is nothing short of an event, complete with Prince Charming, and the festivities make Audrey question whether there’s a prince of her own anywhere in her future.  

Enter the groom’s brother and best man. Shaggy-haired, tattooed bad boy J.R. Hunt couldn’t be any more different from Prince Charming if he rode in on a Harley Davidson.  Oh, wait. He actually did ride in on a Harley!

My Thoughts
Always the Designer, Never the Bride was the perfect light-hearted read I was looking for. Bricker is an amazingly talented writer—blending romance, quirks, depth, and humor for a story that was highly entertaining. I loved "visiting" the Tanglewood Inn again and reading more about the fun characters that I met in Always the Wedding Planner. As much as I enjoyed that book, I thought Always the Designer was even better. I'm not sure if it was because we got to follow up with repeat characters or if I just connected with Audrey more. The friendships between Audrey and the other characters reminded me of what a great blessing friends are! I also loved the romance between Audrey and JR, which was a bit of a whirlwind yet somehow believable. I also liked that there were several interesting story lines taking place simultaneously—Carly's wedding, the romance with JR, the friendships, and Audrey's career drama. It seemed that there was always something going on, moving the book along fairly quickly. If you're looking for laughs, romance, or just a fun read, this is it! I can't wait for the final book in the series! [4.5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Abingdon Press via Net Galley in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles and, while writing in every spare moment, worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. Since then she has written three novels for middle-grade readers and several romance novels, including unWANTED: Husband, Change of Heart, Sins of the Past, Wish I Weren't HereLove Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas and the popular Emma Rae Creations series including Always the Baker, Never the Bride and Always the Designer, Never the Bride.

Connect with Sandra D. Bricker
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury

Coming Home
by Karen Kingsbury
The Baxter Family series, Book 23
Christian Fiction
Available June 2012
304 pages

About the Book
As the Baxter’s make plans to come together for a summer lakeside reunion, the unthinkable happens. When the family rallies together, memories come to light that bring healing and hope during a time when darkness might have the final word. From bestselling author Karen Kingsbury, Coming Home—a stand-alone novel—can serve as either a grand introduction or a beautiful conclusion in the saga of the Baxter Family.

My Thoughts
Wow! I feel like I've been on quite the journey with the Baxter family! After 23 books, it has finally come to an end, and I truly feel that they went out on top with Coming Home. Coming Home is more like the first couple of series (Redemption, Firstborn, and Sunrise series). Maybe because the focus is back on the Baxter family? Anyway. We reconnect with the Baxters, reminisce a bit about their stories (which was helpful for me since it's been a while since I read those books!), and then launch into the final story for this family. Intensely emotional is the best way I can describe this book. It had me weeping yet rejoicing, and I'm sure my husband thought I was a total basket case as I went from crying to laughing and back to crying again. (There was at least one time when I wanted to hide my book in the freezer - any Friends fans out there?!) Once it was all said and done, though, I was thankful for the journey. Definitely one of the best books in the Baxter series—maybe one of the best books I've read all year!  [5 stars]

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

About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist, with over 15 million books in print. Her Life-Changing Fiction™ has produced multiple bestsellers, including Take One, Between Sundays, Even Now, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, and Ever After, which was named the 2007 Christian Book of the Year. An award-winning author and newly published songwriter, Karen has several movies optioned for production, and her novel Like Dandelion Dust was made into a major motion picture and is now available on DVD. Karen is also a nationally known speaker with several women’s groups. She lives in Washington with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom were adopted from Haiti.

Karen Kingsbury Online
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bout of Books Wrap-up & Review Copy Cleanup Update

Bout of Books 5.0 Wrap-up

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

Well, my first ever read-a-thon—Bout of Books 5.0—is over, and I loved it! It was a ton of fun to set a couple of goals, work really hard to meet them, and have a shorter timeframe than I normally work off of. :)

I ended up being busier than I expected last week—what with small group, celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary, spending part of the weekend with the in-laws, and church on Sunday—but I still fared better than anticipated.

My goals last week were to read 1500 pages and to get halfway through my current non-fiction read (Total Home Makeover). I read a total of 1548 pages. YAY! I didn't think I was going to get halfway through Total Home Makeover, but I read quite a bit from it last night and just barely reached the halfway point. I will definitely be finished in time to post a review on Friday for the blog tour—which was really what I was working toward. :)

In case you missed out on the daily updates, here's a quick summary.

I started and finished . . .
- Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury (304 pages)
- A Texan's Honor by Shelley Gray (336 pages)
- Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker (320 pages)
- Firestorm by Lisa Tawn Bergren (352 pages)

I finally finished . . .
- Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck (100 pages)

I started and am still reading . . .
- With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin (70 pages)
- Total Home Makeover by Renee Metzler (116 pages)

In addition to all the reading (!!!), I also participated in several of the mini-challenges (which were quite fun!) and took time on Saturday to visit several other participants' blogs to cheer them on in the final stretch. All around, a great experience, and I plan to participate in another read-a-thon in the future!

Reading Copy Cleanup

In addition to the read-a-thon last week, I'm still making progress on the Reading Copy Cleanup. Since the beginning of August, I've read NINE review books with another THREE in progress, so I'm hopeful that I'll read all 15 books that I hoped to read this month. We'll see how much I'm able to read this week and over the weekend. :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to School

Well, it's that time of year again. Hubs is going back to a full five-day work week, teacher friends are posting about getting their classrooms ready, mommy and daddy friends are posting about getting their little ones in bed early, shopping for school supplies, and posting the sweetest "first day" pictures. Yep. It's back to school time!

Since we don't have kids, the biggest impact this has on my life is that traffic will be WAY worse in the morning and I'll pray that I don't get trapped behind a stop-and-go schoolbus in the afternoons if I'm heading to an appointment or leaving early. However, for many people, I know that this is a huge time of transition and stress and all sorts of other emotions. Our church family has been praying for teachers, administrators, kids, and parents this week, so I thought I'd share some of the ways we're praying this week.
  • Day 1: Pray for families as they make the adjustment to a new school year. Pray they would approach this as an opportunity to impact a mission field daily in their homes, schools, and communities. 
  • Day 2: Pray for students. Pray for clarity and boldness in the witness of Christian students. Pray the Holy Spirit would work in their lives in a manner that guards them from compartmentalizing their faith. Pray for every lost student to come to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  • Day 3: Pray for our school campuses. Pray they would be safe environments, friendly and open to the gospel. Pray these would be locations where followers of Christ lead out in, not shrink back from, their faith in Christ.
  • Day 4: Pray for our home school students and parents. Pray for God to give wisdom and understanding in all of the practical decisions that have to be made. Pray for God’s grace to fill in the gaps where parents may feel inadequate. Pray relationships within the family would be strengthened and not strained in the time spent together.
  • Day 5: Pray for school administration and leadership. Pray their perspectives, direction, and actions would flow from a biblical perspective of what is true, right, and good. Pray those in leadership would have a strong growing relationship with Christ that would inform everyday decisions.
  • Day 6: Pray for teachers. Pray for Christian teachers, that they would take hold of every opportunity to share their faith in Christ, and to be an accurate example of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

After All by Deborah Raney + Giveaway

After All
by Deborah Raney
Hanover Falls series, Book 3
Christian Fiction / Contemporary
Available May 2012
Howard Books
368 pages

About the Book
Eighteen months after the tragic Grove Street Fire took the life of her husband, David, and four other heroic firefighters, Susan Marlowe thinks she’s finally beginning to heal.

But then she discovers that David carried a secret to his grave. A secret that changes everything she thought their marriage had been. For the sake of their sons, can Susan forgive the unforgivable?

Andrea Morley lost her closest friend in the fire. But she has no right to mourn him. Instead, she must forever grieve in silence—because her dearest friend was someone else’s husband. Peter Brennan carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. As Hanover Falls’ fire chief, he was responsible for the brave firefighters who lost their lives that awful November night. Can he ever shake the feeling that he should have somehow prevented the tragedy?

As he tries to rebuild the team at Clemens County’s Station 2, it seems he might find comfort in the arms of the woman he least expected.

My Thoughts
What a wonderful conclusion to this series! Raney does a great job of bringing readers who may not have read the previous books up to speed while still moving the new story forward. There are several seemingly independent story lines happening at the same time: Susan's work at the homeless shelter, trouble with Susan's son, a flirtatious fire inspector butting in at every turn, the discovery of hurtful secrets in Susan's previous marriage, and the budding friendship between Susan and David. Whew! At times, I wasn't sure how all of these were going to tie in together, but they all came together in the end.

There were a few times when I thought that the characters' responses to things were a bit . . . off. For instance, David and Susan had a major disagreement and then in the next scene things were back to being fine with no further discussion of the problem. However, these "jumps" didn't detract from the overall story or the flow of the book.

Great mix of interesting characters, deep relationships, romance, and mystery. Whether you've read the previous books in this series or not, fans of romantic suspense will enjoy After All by Deborah Raney. [4 stars]

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

About the Author
Deborah Raney's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was awarded a Silver Angel from Excellence in Media and inspired the acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Since then her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the National Readers' Choice Award; Raney was also a finalist for the Christy Award. She and her husband, artist Ken Raney, make their home in their native Kansas.

Deborah Raney Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Howard Books provided an extra copy of After All by Deborah Raney for one of you! The giveaway will end on 8/22. Open to US residents. Void where prohibited. Enter via the Rafflecopter below and be sure to read the additional "rules" there.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blogside Chat | Catherine Richmond

Catherine Richmond is my guest today on i blog 4 books. I completely devoured Spring for Susannah when it first released and enjoyed Through Rushing Water just as much! If you haven't read these two books, be sure to check them out!

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

CR: I grew up in the Washington, DC area, attended Western Michigan University, and have moved often for my husband’s aviation career. Our children have grown up, moved out, and presented us with grand-bunnies!

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

CR: I work as an occupational therapist in a hospital. My coworkers have been wonderfully supportive of my writing obsession. And sometimes my elderly patients help with research!

ib4b: I don't know how you have time to do all that you do! What was the inspiration behind your latest book? 

CR: I was more than a little nervous about my first deadline, so I tried to make it easier on myself by setting this story in the 1870s, the same time period as Spring for Susannah, and setting it near home in Nebraska. The most important event then was the trial of Standing Bear, where an Indian was declared a person.

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.

CR: I wanted to know what led up to this trial and who had witnessed those events. One report mentioned a Russian teacher. A woman with the same name taught French at Vassar around this time. Why would someone leave what must have been one of the best jobs in the US to become a missionary on a primitive Indian agency on the Dakota-Nebraska border? She would have been surrounded by people with a different skin color, different language, different culture. Their enormous needs must have overwhelmed her and their enormous faith humbled her.

ib4b: It's interesting how such small details can lead to writing a book. :) How do you see yourself in the book? 

CR: My participation in our church’s medical mission trips to Jamaica gave me insight into Sophia’s struggles.

ib4b: What message or lesson do you hope readers will take away from reading it? 

CR: In my research, I connected most of the people involved with Standing Bear’s trial with one church. Church is more than potlucks and committee meetings - we are to do justice and good works!

ib4b: Where do you like to write? 

CR: I love having a laptop. When the weather’s reasonable, I write on the back porch. This summer I’ve been keeping an eye on the bird house. Who knew sparrows could be so dramatic?

ib4b: What were some of your favorite books growing up? 

CR: My mom is a librarian, so we had a house full of books. I love fairy tales, stories with talking animals, biographies of trailblazer women, and of course Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series.

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

CR: Rosslyn Elliott’s Lovelier than Daylight is one of those amazing books you want to discuss with friends, Sunday school, your book club. It releases in November - set aside some time for a story that makes you think!

ib4b: Ooh! It's already on my TBR list ... I love books that make you want to talk about them with everyone you know! Do you have a "life verse" or favorite Scripture? 

CR: Here’s my reminder that working from home does not mean goofing off:  Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

ib4b: Write your memoir in six words or less. 

CR: Exceeding abundantly blessed!

ib4b: What is on your nightstand? 

CR: Laura Frantz’s Courting Morrow Little. Laura raises the art of historical romance to new heights.

ib4b: Loved that book! What is your dream vacation? 

CR: My husband had a business trip to Europe and I tagged along. There’s so much to see and so much good chocolate to eat - I hope to return some day!

ib4b: Sounds like a wonderful trip! What’s a talent you wish you had? 

CR: To go with my previous answer, the ability to speak French!

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

CR: I have several projects under development, but no firm date of release yet. I’ll keep you posted!

ib4b: Please do! I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't wait to hear more about your next book. :) Thanks so much for stopping by! I enjoyed getting to know you better!

Catherine Richmond Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bout of Books 5.0 Updates

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

Being new to this whole read-a-thon thing, I wasn't really sure what I was getting into or how I should post updates, etc. So, the (new) plan is to post daily progress updates here. I'll also be tweeting from @iblog4books and using the hash tag #boutofbooks if you prefer to follow that way.

Daily Progress

 Coming Home - 304 pages (completed!)

A Texan's Honor - 144 pages

Total: 418 pages 

A Texan's Honor - 147 pages
Total: 565 pages 

A Texan's Honor - 45 pages (completed!)

Perfectly Dateless - 100 pages (completed!)

Always the Designer, Never the Bride - 55 pages

Total: 765 pages


Always the Designer, Never the Bride - 265 pages (completed!)

Firestorm - 48 pages

Total: 1078 pages


Firestorm - 181 pages

Total Home Makeover - 25 pages

Total: 1284 pages


Firestorm - 123 pages (completed!)

Total Home Makeover - 71 pages

With Every Letter - 70 pages

Total: 1548
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