Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September in Review

Oh, good heavens. I've had so much going on in my mind recently, I had no idea that today was the last day of the month!  Just made it! Ha!

It has been a crazy. busy month this month. I haven't been able to read everything I wanted to, but it's been an enjoyable month of books. 

For Review:
 Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz (Revell Reads Blog Tour)
All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant (Litfuse Publicity)
Palace of Darkness by Tracy L. Highley (BookLook)
Feast For Thieves by Marcus Brotherton (Side Door Communications)
Review will be posted soon.
Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer (Bethany House)
A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin (Hatchet Book Group)
 Thunder by Bonnie S. Calhoun (Revell Reads Blog Tour)
Blog Tour: 10/1-10/8
Honor by Lyn Cote (Tyndale Blog Network)
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Blogging for Books)

As I said it's been slow but good reading month, I found some wonderful gems this month. Can't wait for October!

How was your month?

Review: Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Title: Playing by Heart
Author: Anne Mateer
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1065-5
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014

Synopsis:
Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.
Review:
This is the first book by Anne Mateer I've read, even though I have a couple of her books sitting on my TBR shelf as I type, and I have to say, it was a cute story. The cover threw me off of what the story would be about. When I was thinking of Playing by Heart and saw the piano, I assumed musically, instead it was more about playing basketball, which was very interesting to read about, especially the beginning of the sport.

Lula was a girl who was driven. She was driven to to succeed and not let her past hinder her future. In her past, she was a bit flighty. She believed if she acted as her older sister Jewel did, then she would have the best life, because it was fun. However, her flightiness followed her and it made people see her as a girl who wasn't one to rely on or one to stick to anything...and that wasn't who she was. Following in her sister's foot steps wasn't her. In-spite of her siblings ragging on her and berating her at every turn, she put down the care free attitude and put her nose in a book and just blossomed as a math whiz. Her dad and Jewel were her only supports. The thrived under their care. That life away from family and her old home town come crashing around her when her sister suffers a massive loss.

Lula has many battles in her old home town. She is viewed as someone who will never finish, a girl who is going against the norms and refusing to marry, only good for teaching music. The list could go on. She faces battles and it's hard to watch, but she pushes through. She is determined to prove everyone wrong.

Chet was a good solid guy. Like Lula, he has a past he needs to live down...but the past he has to overcome isn't his own, but his dad's. He also battles his mother's negative opinions of him as he tries to do what is right for him, but the barrage is a lot to face at times, but he handles it well.

Chet and Lula each have much over come in this story. They also are a good balance for each other. I enjoyed how they both teach math and enjoy it. Chet loves basketball and is willing to help Lula when the girl's team is handed to her and she has no idea what she is doing, but through their friendship, she learns and grows to enjoy the game.

This was a sweet story and I enjoyed the ending...I won't say more then that, other then, I enjoy reading about characters who compliment each other and encourage dreams to continue.

Too Read
4 out of 5
About the Author:
Anne Mateer is a three-time Genesis Contest finalist who has long had a passion for history and historical fiction. She and her husband live near Dallas, Texas, and are the parents of three young adults.

Visit www.annemateer.com for more information.







Thank you to Bethany House, I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (62)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Each week offers the opportunity to spotlight the books you have gotten this past week. 

Review:
 8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters by Dannah Gresh (Harvest House)
The First Christmas Ever by Dennis Jones (Zonderkidz)

Bought:
 Deluge by Lisa T. Bergren 
(paperback, bought the ebook a few weeks ago)
A Man's Heart by Lori Copeland
Mary Magdalene by Diana Wallis Taylor


Christmas books are coming, Christmas books are coming!!! You have no idea how giddy I am to read Christmas books. The most wonderful time of the year just three months away. 

It's been a nice week of books. Another wonderful week of bargain book shopping. :-)

How was your book week?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Title: Thief of Glory
Author: Sigmund Brouwer
Publisher: Water Brook
Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-0-307-44649-7
Publication Date: August 19th, 2014

Synopsis:
A boy coming of age in a time of war…
the love that inspires him to survive.

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.
Review:
The only thing I knew to expect when diving into Thief of Glory was that I knew the story telling was going to be superb and the writing would capture me up. What I didn't know much about were the prison camps that were set up in the Dutch East Indies during WW2. I got a bit of a history lesson and a desire to look up more. I will admit, I focused a lot of attention to the issues of Europe and hadn't thought about what else was going on in the world at this time. My goodness, how this story brought the view around.

I just have to say right off, if I had a son like Jeremiah, I would be the proudest mother ever. Talk about a smart kid! He knew how things worked and could make them work to his advantage. As it said in the book, he was a kid who would never lose a fight. He didn't win them, but he didn't lose, because he never gave up. Jeremiah was a kid with guts and he needed it for everything he faced in this book.

The prison camps that the Japanese set up weren't the death camps that the Nazi's built, but they were rough. Women were on their own with their children to take care of, while the men and their older sons were taken to build railways until they fell over dead. It was a depressing time, but how Jeremiah figures out to survive and help his family was brilliant. His friendship with Laura was also a bright spot in this book. Jeremiah was a young boy in love and he and Laura had the same desire, to help those that they love. Sadly though, Jeremiah and Laura's adversary's weren't just the Japanese guards, it was also another kid about their age, Georgie, who was bound and determined to ruin Jeremiah. He was a rat of a kid who loved to have power. I hate to say it, but the kid got what was coming to him in the book. He was a selfish boy that didn't seem to care that the world was at war.

This book brought out the emotions, mainly anger (not the bad kind) and sadness and also that of disbelief. The twist at the end left me speechless. I didn't see it coming. I was floored, but as I thought about everything leading up, their were signs.

There is a realness to Sigmund Brouwer's writing. He brings you in and lets you see what is going on. He doesn't tell you. I was forced to set this book down a couple of times by things going on, but I could pick it right back up and be dropped back in without missing a beat.

Too Read!
5 out of 5

About the Author:
SIGMUND BROUWER is the best-selling author of nearly thirty novels, with close to 4 million books in print. Based on his inspiration for Thief of Glory, which Sigmund wrote as a way to learn and honor his parent's stories, especially of his father's boyhood in a Japanese concentration camp, Sigmund leads The Chapters of Our Lives memoir seminars across the United States and Canada. (www.thechaptersofourlives.com). Sigmund is married to recording artist Cindy Morgan and has two daughters. 



Thank you to Blogging For Books, I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


Waiting On Wednesday: A Most Inconvenient Marriage

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
Each week offers the opportunity to spotlight an up-and-coming release you are excited about.

Waiting On:
Title: A Most Inconvenient Marriage
Author: Regina Jennings
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: December 2nd, 2014

Synopsis:
From GoodReads
A Marriage of Convenience Turns Most Inconvenient in this Historical Charmer

Having fled a difficult home life, Civil War nurse Abigail Stuart feels like her only friend in the world is sweet but gravely wounded patient Jeremiah Calhoun. Fearing he won't survive, the Confederate soldier's last wish is that Abigail look after his sickly sister at home. Marry him, return to his horse farm, and it'll be hers.

Left with few choices, Abigail takes him up on his offer and moves to Missouri after his death, but just as the family learns to accept her, the real Jeremiah Calhoun appears--puzzled to find a confounding woman posing as his wife. Jeremiah is determined to have his life back to how it was before the war, but his own wounds limit what he can do on his own. Still not fully convinced Abigail isn't duping him, he's left with no choice but to let the woman stay and help--not admitting to himself she may provide the healing his entire family needs.
Why I'm Waiting:
I've enjoyed the couple of books by Regina Jennings. They have a wonderful mix of humor and heart to them.  I love how this book takes the popular marriage of convenience and turns it on its head and makes things a little more interesting.


What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Each week features a book related topic that offers the opportunity to spotlight your Top Ten.

Topic:
Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list
In no particular order.


 Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund
The Promise by Beth Wiseman
The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson
Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay
A Lady of Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd
Storm Siren by Mary Weber
Rebels by Jill Williamson
Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
The Strength of His Hand by Lynn Austin
At Blue Bonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot

 Some of these aren't out yet, some just came out, and a few I've owned for a little bit. It's such a mix of new and old for me really. This list could go on and on...like my TBR shelf. Thankfully this is just the fall list...my winter list is already huge!


What are your Top Ten Books for fall?


Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Palace of Darkness by Tracy L. Higley

Title: Palace of Darkness
Author: Tracy L. Higley
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-1-4016-8750-2
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014

Synopsis:
In an ancient city carved from stone, one desperate young woman searches for peace—in the calm before the deadly clash of empires.

 In 106 AD, a single mother can be certain of one thing—destitution. So Cassia and her six-year-old son flee to Petra, her late husband's birth city, in hopes of finding refuge in the loving arms of family.

But the great stone city is not what Cassia imagined. And a secret about her husband reveals her son's true bloodline, making the boy the target of a royal conspiracy.
In her darkest hours, Cassia finds herself surrounded by followers of the Way, a subversive new religious group whose disciples are frequently sentenced to arenas with starved lions and blood-soaked sand. Why would this sect seek out more danger by helping her? And what kind of religion gives freely and asks for nothing in return?

Roman soldiers soon surround Petra, immersing the city in panic and further endangering her son, and Cassia realizes he cannot be saved by human efforts alone. Her only hope lies with the followers of the Way . . . and her willingness to trust their One True God.
Review:
I have always loved Petra, like most, I was introduced to it in Indian Jones. Since then, I've looked up what I could and have just been amazed at this city in the stone. On Tracy's web site, I was able to scroll through her adventures in Petra and then as I read through the book, each place just popped off of the page. She took the details of this ancient city and brought it back to life.

We view the life of Petra through the eyes of Cassia. She is a woman who has had a very hard life. When we meet her, she is in a relationship with an abusive man, she has no family to turn to, she is alone and has no money. All she cares about is her son, Alex. He is the only good thing in her life. One day, after a deal her "husband" made turned sour, comes to haunt Cassia and her son. The man she has despised is dead and she and her son are free. All she wants is her son to be cared for, so on impulse, she follows the only lead she has. Cassia's "husband" mentioned he had family in Petra. She and her son soon set out for there.

Julian is as Roman as they come...or so it appears. Except he is a follower of Jesus and His teachings. Sadly though, the group he worships with is caught and are thrown in to the arena. He is alone, except for his parents who are followers as well, but the guilt of the loss follows him and he flees to Petra. It is here in Petra that Julian and Cassia meet and where their reliance on each other start.

I enjoyed Julian and his character. He is a strong lead. He is a quick thinker, even if his thoughts aren't always the best, he seemed to always have an idea. He is knocked down a few pegs when he sees his plans aren't always the right way, but he wants to learn. Cassia, I was flipping back and forth on her character. I hated that she was in horrid relationship and hoped she could get out. When she did, it felt good, but her ideas made me want to slap some sense into her.

Cassia was a girl who should have known better. She arrives to Petra on a small amount of information, but she she receives a big dose of information upon arriving, instead of stopping and thinking and researching more, she plows on a head and puts herself and her son Alex in danger. She decides to go against powerful people thinking she can get what she wants and there won't be consequences. I was so glad that Julian was there to level her out, as was a secondary character, Malik, the leader of the Followers. He was a strong character and offered the grandfatherly comfort and advice.

All in all, it was a good story. It was a story that focused on how power hungry people can be and how evil can grab hold and fight to hold on to the power with all of its strength, and the only way to face it is to be strong in the Lord. It was also interesting to see an idea of what Petra could have been like at it's strongest.

Too Read
4 out of 5

About the Author:
Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at age eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored nine novels, including Garden of Madness and So Shines the Night. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures.

See her travel journals and more at TracyHigley.com.
Twitter: @TLHigley
Facebook: tracyhigley


Thank you to BookLook, I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (61)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Each week offers the oppurtunity to spotlight the books you have gotten this past week. They can be books for review, bought, borrowed, or won.

Review: 
 Thunder by Bonnie S. Calhoun (Revell)
The Brickmaker's Bride by Judith Miller (Litfuse Publicity)
The Promise by Beth Wiseman (Litfuse Publicity)


Bought:
 Destined for Doon by Carey Corp & Lori Langdon

There are so many wonderful sounding books coming out right now. It's hard to say no for review or buying! :-)


How was your book week?


Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant (Litfuse Blog Tour & Giveaway)

Title: All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes
Author: Betsy St. Amant
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-0-310-33845-1
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014

Synopsis:
Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat’s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.
Review:
I love reading and I love cupcakes...heck, I have a cake cooling right now as I type this post, so reading this book was a given for me!

This was a cute story. It was full of yummy cupcakes, a reality baking show, and a sweet romance that centered around a young 20-something, Kat Varland, who is ready to get past the world of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. She is a girl ready to dive into a world of Raspberry Lemonade Torte....My mouth is salivating right now. I've never been so happy to see a recipe in a book! Back on track...Sadly, as much as Kat is ready to help her aunt's bake shop go past the usual, she is stuck by what her aunt wants for her bake shop and the lack of support from her family.

Kat's form of support is her best friend and the coach of the high school football team, Lucas. He is the guy that girls dream about. He enjoys spending time with Kat and has always admired her, but never wanting to ruin their friendship, he has held back. Seeing that Kat wants to expand her dream, he puts her name into the reality bake show and like a good friend goes with her and stand by her, even when it could mean they could be separated for a year if she wins. He really hopes for the best and tries to help her achieve her dream. He wants to support and not change Kat.

Kat and Lucas' friendships is a sweet one and I liked that they were friends before any thought of romance started to bud. It's an awesome foundation to build on and I love seeing it in stories and they have so much history to play with in the book, but like any budding romance, there are issues that arise that need to be worked out. However, their romance starts to flicker when the competition is in play, so there was a bit going on with feelings in play as the stress of the show was happening.

Kat and Lucas were fun characters to have as leads, you are able to dive into both of their thoughts in this story. Kat's family really annoyed me in their lack of support for her. I was glad to see Kat stand up and be a little snarky in replies to her mom. After being torn down for so long, it can't be taken any more. I'm glad that she started to stand up more for herself.

This was a cute story and nice light read. If you love chick-lit or you love food competition, this book is for you.

Too Read
3.5 out of 5


About the Author:
Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana with her young daughter and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.


Giveaway:
Don't miss Betsy St. Amant's latest fiction release, All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes. A "sweet" tale of two best friends and the choices they make between dreams and a possible "sure thing," St. Amant's novel is sure to satisfy your romantic-fiction craving.
cupcakes-400-click
Betsy is celebrating with a fun Kindle giveaway and a Love & Cupcakes Facebook party! One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle
  • All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 18th. Winner will be announced at the "Love & Cupcakes" Author Chat Party on 9/18. Betsy will be hosting a "sweet" book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at her next book project!

So grab your copy of All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes and join Betsy on the evening of September 18th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!




Thank you to Litfuse and Zondervan, I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.