Monday, September 30, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey where we share what we're reading and our goals for the week.

What I Read Last Week ...
In spite of participating in a read-a-thon last week, I didn't read as much as I'd hoped to. But I enjoyed both of these books!

What I'm Reading Now ...
SO CLOSE to finishing Killing Lincoln. It's amazing!

What I Hope to Read This Week ...
I think it's probably good to set a smaller goal for this week. After these two, we'll see. :)

That's what I'm hoping to read this week. What are you reading?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

Made to Last
by Melissa Tagg
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
Available September 2013
Bethany House
368 pages

Buy a copy
Read an excerpt
Find out what others think

About the Book
Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

My Thoughts

I'm about halfway through so far and am really enjoying Made to Last! It's a cute story and even though I'm not thrilled about a couple of the decisions the main characters are making, I find myself liking them anyway. :) I love stories about relationships of convenience, but this one has thrown me for a curve ... a nice twist to what I thought was going to be a predictable story.

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

About the Author
Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft-and-coaching community for writers.  When she's not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. She's passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings.

Melissa Tagg Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

A Gripping Romance ...

Untitled Document
Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz
  In 1820s Pittsburgh, the Ballantynes' feud with a neighboring family threatens to shatter the dreams of their youngest daughter, while the man she loves strives to free himself from a violent legacy.

Masterful storyteller Laura Frantz continues to unfold the stirring saga of the Ballantyne family in this majestic tale of love, loyalty, and the making of a legacy. With rich descriptions of the people who settled and civilized a wild landscape, Frantz weaves a tapestry of characters and places that stick with the reader long after they turn the last page.
Meet Laura
  Learn about the series
  Read an excerpt

Thursday, September 26, 2013

So ... Does It Work?

So ... you've heard me talk about sponsoring children through Compassion. You've heard me say it's the best money I spend every month. I've shared sweet things that my kids have written and how heart-breaking it has been for one of these relationships to come to an end. 

But maybe you're still on the fence. You wonder if it really works. And you need more than just my personal account. You need facts, evidence.

Well, here it is. Independent researchers conducted an in-depth study of Compassion's child sponsorship program and came back with some astonishing facts.

In summary ...

If you want more details, check this out. Pretty cool, huh?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Melanie Dobson Delivers with The Courier of Caswell Hall

The Courier of Caswell Hall
by Melanie Dobson
An American Tapestry series, Book 5
Christian Fiction / Historical / Romance
Available September 2013
Summerside Press
336 pages

Buy a copy
Find out what others think

About the Book
An unlikely spy discovers freedom and love in the midst of the American Revolution.

As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she cares only about peace. Her friend Sarah Hammond, however, longs to join the fight. Both women’s families have already been divided by a costly war that sets father against son and neighbor against neighbor; a war that makes it impossible to guess who can be trusted.

One snowy night Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall, and her decision to save him will change her life. Nathan introduces her to a secret network of spies, couriers, disguises, and coded messages—a network that may be the Patriots’ only hope for winning the war. When British officers take over Caswell Hall and wreak havoc on neighboring plantations, Lydia will have to choose between loyalty and freedom; between her family’s protection and her own heart’s desires.

As both armies gather near Williamsburg for a pivotal battle, both Lydia and Sarah must decide how high a price they are willing to pay to help the men they love.

Part of the American Tapestries™ series: Each standalone novel in this line sets a heart-stirring love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. This is the fifth book in the series.

My Thoughts
I haven't read many books set during the American Revolution, though it's one of my favorite time periods, so I was excited to see that Melanie Dobson had written a tale of spies and romance set during the middle of the American Revolution. She masterfully weaves together a story rich with historical details without losing sight of the more personal aspects of the story. 

I enjoyed getting to know the Caswell and Hammond families and seeing how the war ripped apart their friendship and even their families. To be honest, I've never really considered how the Revolution affected the people who lived during that time. It's easy to think of people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other heroes of the time as just that—heroes, rather than people with emotions, lives, and families. To see how difficult it was for some families to decide which side would earn their loyalty and the fear that this decision evoked was extremely gut-wrenching. Dobson really made history come alive for me through this book, and I loved that! There's so much more I could say, but that would result in a 10-page review, which no one would want to read. So let me just say, this is a book you need to read.

I will warn you that I left the book feeling a little melancholy. Dobson provides readers with an epilogue that gives closure to what happens to everyone in the future. While I enjoyed seeing "into the future," it also left me feeling a little sad that I didn't get to see how they got there. (I know, I'm probably the only person who will feel like this!)

In The Courier of Caswell Hall, Melanie Dobson delivers an incredible story—one of the best I've read this year. I couldn't stand for it to be over and would be thrilled to learn that Dobson was working on developing this book into a series. If you enjoy historical novels with a thread of romance, you are sure to love this newest book in the American Tapestries series.  [5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from Summerside Press and Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Melanie Dobson is the author of twelve novels; her writing has received numerous accolades including two Carol Awards. Melanie worked in public relations for fifteen years before she began writing fiction full-time. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides with her husband and two daughters in Oregon.

Melanie Dobson Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook

A Heart-Warming Story from Sandra D. Bricker

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Raw Edges
Sandra D. Bricker

Raw Edges
by Sandra D. Bricker
Quilts of Love series, Book 10
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
Available September 2013
Abingdon Press
256 pages

Buy a copy
Read an excerpt
Find out what others think

About the Book
Grayson McDonough has no use for teal ribbons, 5k runs, or ovarian cancer support groups now that his beautiful wife Jenna is gone. But their nine-year-old daughter Sadie seems to need the connection. When Annabelle Curtis, the beautiful cancer survivor organizing the memory quilt project for the Ovacome support group, begins to bring out the silly and fun side of his precious daughter again, Gray must set aside his own grief to support the healing of Sadie’s young heart. But is there hope for Gray’s heart too along the way?

My Thoughts
Oh my! I knew that Sandie wrote funny books, but I didn't know she could write funny books that would tug my heartstrings like Raw Edges did! Raw Edges introduces readers to four of the most lovable characters I've read about in a long time. Gray and Sadie are still reeling from the loss of their wife and mother a year earlier. Annabelle is dedicating her time to volunteer for Ovacome, a support group that helped her through the worst time in her life. And Miss Essie is encouraging all three of them as they try to move on from the cancer that tried to steal the joy from their lives. The characters were so fun that they felt like friends. I also loved the idea of telling a story through a quilt. It was fun to see everyone get caught up in the project and the project move them toward deeper relationships with one another.

There were a few times that I wished for a little more. For instance, was the fact that Annabelle was an ovarian cancer survivor (the same disease that killed Gray's wife) not a problem for him as he began falling for her? Surely it was. But those little things were just that ... little. Most of the time, though, I wanted more because I just loved the story so much and wasn't ready for it to be over. 

From start to finish this books was charming and I was totally caught up in it. As I finished Raw Edges in the wee hours of the morning, I turned the last page with a satisfied sigh. Bricker outdid herself! I would say this is my favorite of hers so far! [4.5 stars]

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

About the Author
For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The Big 5-OH! was released by Abingdon Press in the Spring of 2010, and the novel was very well-received, garnering a couple of nibbles from Hollywood.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press in September 2010. With its phenomenal reviews, the novel spawned a series of three more books based on the popular cast of characters at The Tanglewood Inn, a wedding destination hotel in historic Roswell, Georgia. The series cemented Sandie's spot in publishing as a flagship author of Laugh-Out-Loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"

Connect with Sandra D. Bricker

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Waiting on Wednesday | A Talent for Trouble

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is ...

A Talent for Trouble by Jen Turano
Bethany House | October 1, 2013

About the Book
For years, Miss Felicia Murdock's every thought and action have been in pursuit of becoming a minister's wife. When the minister she'd set her sights on has other ideas, she decides something in her life needs to change--and soon--before she wastes any more time pretending to be someone she's not. If that means spreading her wings and embracing a more lively way of life, who's to say nay?

Grayson Sumner, Lord Sefton, has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter an adventurous young lady with an unfortunate knack for stumbling into troublesome situations.

Just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in Felicia's life endangers her. As they work together to extricate themselves from this latest complication, will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?

Why I Can't Wait to Read It
Jen Turano is a fantastic author. She writes strong female characters and always adds a twist of humor into her stories. I can't wait to read her latest!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Teaser Tuesday | A Christmas Gift for Rose

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

A Christmas Gift for Rose by Tricia Goyer

Fall Into Reading Read-A-Thon | Progress & Updates

I always say I'm not going to do these daily updates, but then everyone else does, and I don't want to be left out. So, I'll be posting my daily progress for the Fall Into Reading Read-A-Thon on this page. Of course, you can follow me on Twitter or Goodreads as well if I'm not updating often enough here. :) My original goals are here if you're curious.

Raw Edges by Sandra D. Bricker - Finished! - 86 pages
My Name Is Erin: One Girl's Journey to Discover Truth by Erin Davis - Finished! - 39 pages
A Christmas Gift for Rose by Tricia Goyer - Finished! - 192 pages

Pages Today = 317
Total Pages = 317
Books Finished Today = 3
Total Books Finished = 3

Yay! I finished my first goal—to finish two of the books I was so close to finishing! And I squeezed in a sweet novella from Tricia Goyer too!

The Courier of Caswell Hall by Melanie Dobson - 105 pages
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (audio) - 19%

Pages Today = 105 + audio
Total Pages =  422 + audio
Books Finished Today = 0
Total Books Finished =  3

I'm loving The Courier of Caswell Hall! And let me just say, audio books are my new go-to for gym time. Reading on the elliptical or arc trainer (even on my Nook) is way too dangerous, but headphones I can do. :)

The Courier of Caswell Hall by Melanie Dobson - 130 pages
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (audio) - 10%

Pages Today = 130 + audio
Total Pages = 552 + audio
Books Finished Today = 0
Total Books Finished = 3

I really wanted to finish Caswell Hall today, but I couldn't make it happen. It's SO good though!

The Courier of Caswell Hall by Melanie Dobson - Finished! - 101 pages
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (audio) - 16%

Pages Today = 101 + audio
Total Pages = 653 + audio
Books Finished Today = 1
Total Books Finished = 4

Made to Last by Melissa Tagg - 84 pages
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (audio) - 16%

Pages Today = 84 pages + audio
Total Pages = 737 + audio
Books Finished Today = 0
Total Books Finished =  4

Made to Last is really cute so far! Hoping to read a LOT tomorrow!

Made to Last by Melissa Tagg - 67 pages
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (audio) - 10%

Pages Today = 67 pages + audio
Total Pages = 804 pages + audio
Books Finished Today = 0
Total Books Finished = 4

Y'all! I don't know what happened ... I've just slowed down. Not reading like I wanted to this week, but I've still got the weekend to catch up, right? :) On a more cheerful note, I made it past the 75% point in my audio book, which is REALLY good!!


Pages Today = 0
Total Pages = 804 pages + audio
Books Finished Today = 0
Total Books Finished = 4

Not good! I didn't read a single page today. A few things came up and I just didn't have time. I'm a little disappointed with how the read-a-thon ended, BUT I did really enjoy the books I read this week. :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tricia Goyer Put Me in the Christmas Spirit with A Christmas Gift for Rose

A Christmas Gift for Rose
by Tricia Goyer
Christian Fiction / Historical / Amish / Romance
Available September 2013
192 pages

Buy a copy
Read an excerpt
Find out what others think

About the Book
Rose turned her back on the man she loves after he assisted the Englisch during World War II—only to discover she’s an Englischer herself.

Born in the midst of the hardships of The Great Depression, Rose grew up in Berlin, Ohio, in the arms of a loving Amish family. But she is overwhelmed by self-doubt when she learns that she was born Englisch and abandoned when her family moved West in search of work.

Was she meant to be Amish or would she have been better off growing up with her own kind—Englischers? When the man she loves leaves her behind, Rose is certain he left for good. Yet Rose discovers sometimes our greatest gifts are the ones we fear.

My Thoughts
I never know what to expect from a novella. Will the story feel incomplete? Will it be too short? Will it come off as a bit cheesy? I'm often surprised (pleasantly), but Tricia Goyer's Christmas novella, A Christmas Gift for Rose, blew me away! If it gives you any indication, I plowed through that sweet story in a day. A day!

Every time I read a book by Tricia Goyer, I'm amazed by the level of emotion her writing evokes from me. In this story I definitely felt a wide range of emotions—from frustration and sorrow to sympathy and hope. Also, I was impressed by how well she developed each character. At the end of this 192 pages, I felt as though I had truly gotten to know each of the characters. Additionally, this isn't just a simple, sweet Christmas story. Tricia uses this story to talk about tough topics like adoption, what truly makes a family, struggles of soldiers returning home from war, and the need for solid faith in God.

As is true with many books, I wasn't quite ready to put the book down when I finished, but I loved every minute spent with the Rose and her family. I've already thought of several others who are sure to enjoy this book, and I'm thinking this might be the perfect addition to a Christmas gift! [5 stars]

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

About the Author
Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of six, grandmother of two, and wife to John. Somewhere around the hustle and bustle of family life, she manages to find the time to write fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. A bestselling author, Tricia has published thirty-three books to date and has written more than 500 articles. She is a two time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee. 

She is a beloved author of Amish fiction, writing the Big Sky and Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors Series. Tricia is currently working on The One Year Book of Amish Peace: Hearing God’s Voice in the Simple Things and a true Amish story co-written with Ora Jay and Irene Eash (contracted to release in 2013 and 2014 respectively).

Tricia is also the visionary force behind the new website, Not Quite Amish. Inspired by the writing process of her Amish releases, she wanted to create a community where Amish and simple living experts can become contributors. Launched in the fall of 2012, the Not Quite Amish lifestyle blog features daily posts about recipes, repurposing, simple style, beautifying your home, sewing Amish proverbs, and more. In addition to having more than fifteen regular contributors, readers are also encouraged to submit ideas, questions, and posts for topics they’d like to see written about.

Tricia Goyer Online
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey where we share what we're reading and our goals for the week.

What I Read Last Week ...
Yay! Last week was a GREAT reading week! I finished Decision Points (audio) and two other books I was reading, plus read four more! Let me just say three non-fiction reads at once is highly unusual for me, but all three were really good. Be watching for reviews of Stranded and Raw Edges this week - both 5-star reads!

What I'm Reading Now ...

What I Hope to Read This Week ...
I'm participating in the Fall Into Reading Read-A-Thon this week, so I'm hoping to read these books. I've been looking forward to these for a while, so I'm really looking forward to reading all four!

That's what I'm hoping to read this week. What are you reading?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Compassion Month | The Story Behind the Picture

Compassion Blog Month is going strong, and so far over 1,750 children have been sponsored! That's amazing!!! Our goal this month is to find sponsors for 3,160 children. Will you help us reach our goal by helping to spread the word?

My assignment this week was to choose a picture and write a post about the story behind the picture.

I imagine that this beautiful young woman is Ashakiran. She lives in India, is eighteen years old, and has been part of the Compassion Sponsorship program for years. For years she has faithfully come to the child sponsorship center, worked hard in school, and received the benefits of nutritious meals, regular healthcare, and educational assistance. And on top of all of that, she has heard the truth of Jesus and became a follower of Christ in her early teen years!

Unfortunately, the family that sponsored her had to stop their sponsorship a few months ago. Ashakiran was so disappointed to learn that the family would no longer be writing her and was worried that this might mean that she would no longer be eligible for the sponsorship program. She worried that she might not be able to finish school and would need to find a job to help support her family.

However, God has continued to prove Himself faithful and she recently learned that a couple in the United States has chosen to sponsor her! The Compassion program staff took this picture just after they told her and her family that she was sponsored again.

While my imagination has conjured up the story for this picture, older children like Ashakiran do need sponsors. Hubs and I sponsored Bob in Uganda for several years while he finished high school. We were so proud when he graduated from the program this spring! He is excited about his future, and we know that he will go far in life! Last month we committed to sponsor another older child, Olibri in Haiti. We are looking forward to getting to know him and pray that our relationship will encourage him as he finishes school and prepares for adulthood.

Would you consider sponsoring an older child? Or a child of any age? This is one of the most life-changing experiences I've ever had, and the best money I spend every month!

Oh ... and if you want to see what it's like when a family finds out that their child has been sponsored, watch this sweet video of a family in Ghana. Goosebumps!

Fall Into Reading Read-A-Thon | My Goals

The Bibliophile Sisters are hosting the Fall Into Reading Read-A-Thon this week! I'm looking forward to reading (a lot!) this week with my bloggy buds Melanie and Crystal. If anyone else is participating, be sure to let me know so I can check out your progress this week too. :)

Fall Into Reading Read-A-Thon
September 22-29, 2013

My goals this week are to:

Finish reading 2 books I'm currently reading.
(I'm almost finished with both.)

Read 5 other books.

Continue listening to my current audio book.
(I'm hoping to get to the 75% point.)

So, those are my insane goals. 
Are you participating? What are your goals?
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