Sunday, May 24, 2015

"somewhere, my love" by susan may warren

Oftentimes, novellas aren't really my thing—I think it takes special skill to write a novella that feels complete and not rushed. But when I learned that one of my most favorite authors, Susan May Warren, was putting out a novella collection comprised of some of her earlier work, I didn't hesitate. I knew I needed to read these stories!

We'd all like to believe that there is someone out there, waiting for us. The perfect one, who is exactly the right fit. But sometimes the wait – and the fear of launching out to find that special someone -- keep us from leaping out in faith. From saying hello, accepting that cup of coffee, saying yes to a romantic walk on the beach. 

Sometimes it just takes a providential moment to change everything. RITA and Christy award-winning, ECPA and CPA best-selling novelist Susan May Warren brings you three delightful novellas about leaping out into the unknown only to discover that yes, somewhere, my love is waiting. 

This Little House of Mine finds confirmed bachelor missionary Paul Stoneman on furlough in small town Oklahoma. He is immediately drawn to interior designer Ellen White—but how could he ask her to give up her comfortable life and career to follow him to Siberia?

This is a sweet novella, and there's a lot of chemistry between Paul and Ellen. I did think it was a pretty swift journey from meet cute to "I'm going to Siberia with you," but overall, Warren makes it work. Paul and Ellen are characters I'd love to spend more time with! 4 stars.

In Measure of a Man, college sweethearts Calli and Peter are reunited in a place neither would have anticipated: Siberia. Though both Calli and Peter felt God's call to missions in college, Peter ultimately decided to follow his father's wishes and become a corporate lawyer, while Calli became a missionary at a camp in Russia. Calli believes their unexpected encounter in Russia is God's way of trying to get Peter's attention—but could it also be His way of giving her the desire of her heart?

Measure of a Man feels more complete than This Little House of Mine—and I'm sure part of that has to do with its length. I enjoyed getting to know Calli and Peter, and the novella is full of fun scenes, like when Peter gets stuck in an elevator. There's also a suspense thread, and that's the only part of the novella that fell a bit flat for me. I don't think it was quite suspenseful enough, and I had no trouble figuring out who was out to get Peter. Still, this is an enjoyable novella—perfect for a lazy Saturday or a rainy day! 3-1/2 stars.

In Proof of Your Love, reporter and aspiring novelist Justine takes a job in Tennessee—a place that's very different from her Minnesota home. Not only is southern living a major adjustment, but she also begins to suspect that someone is out to get her ... or it could just be her writer's brain working overtime. When she meets Patrick, she misjudges him at first but soon begins to fall for him. Then it begins to look like Patrick might be behind some of the things happening to her. Is she trusting the wrong person?

While I enjoyed the first two novellas, I didn't fall head over heels for them in the way I normally fall for Warren's books. But the instant I began reading Proof of Your Love, I knew it would be a different story. Of the three novellas, this story felt most like Warren's current writing—it grabbed me at the beginning and wouldn't let go until the end. The characters felt realistic, and the suspense was truly suspenseful. While I did figure out who was out to get Justine, I wasn't ever 100% sure until the end of the novella. At the very end of the novella, a few things were left a bit unresolved regarding Justine's tormentors, but that is the only thing I didn't 100% love. I wish Warren would revisit this setting—I'd love to check in with Patrick and Justine again, and I think Patrick's friend ElHannon deserves his own story! 4-1/2 stars.

Overall, this novella collection is very good, and at the pre-order price of $.99, you get a lot of bang for your buck! 4 stars.

Buy the novella. (If you preorder through 5-25-15, it's only $.99!)
Read my reviews of other Warren novels.

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors.

Find Susan online: website, My Book Therapy, Twitter, Facebook


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Thursday, May 21, 2015

"when grace sings" by kim vogel sawyer

Continuing the story of the Zimmerman family, When Grace Sings exposes long-buried secrets and beautifully illustrates the grace and love of God.

When trouble roars into quiet Arborville, Alexa and Anna-Grace find themselves the target for discord and exposed secrets. Can they continue to seek the God of all grace amidst the fog of confusion?

Alexa Zimmerman wonders if the Old Order Mennonite community in Arborville, Kansas, will ever fully accept her. Her family roots here aren't what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful that her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over. The bed-and-breakfast she's operating needs to succeed so Alexa agrees to allow Briley Forrester, the hotshot reporter from Chicago, to stay as a long-term boarder not knowing his real motives for being amongst the Plain folk.

But when Alexa agrees to host her cousin Anna-Grace Braun, the presence of extended family brings out Alexa's insecurities and sets Briley on the trail to uncovering a web of hidden truths.

Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace have to face that their secrets are interconnected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. They must trust in a loving, heavenly Father and His plan for their futures.

When Grace Sings is a wonderfully fascinating book. I almost passed on it because I'm tired of the Amish/Mennonite genre, but I've enjoyed Kim Vogel Sawyer's books in the past, so I took a chance. I'm glad I did!

Though When Grace Sings is the second book in the Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, I was able to jump right in without having first read book one. (I'm sure I missed some things, but I never felt "behind" while I read.) The story is told from four perspectives: innkeeper Alexa's, reporter Briley's, bride-to-be Anna-Grace's, and Anna-Grace's fiance Steven's. This constantly shifting point of view could get old, but in this case, it works very well.

Out of all of the intertwining stories, I enjoyed Steven's the most. Steven's future is seemingly set when he is given his grandfather's farm in Arborville, yet what he really longs to do is teach. As he struggled with the pull between duty and dreams, I felt for him—and I found myself incredibly thankful to have grown up in a family where I had the freedom to make my own path.

As this is the second book in a trilogy, many threads are left unresolved at the end of the novel, and I look forward to reading the final book to see just how things turn out! (Anna-Grace in particular has a lot of story left, and I'm anxious for her to find out who she really is!) 4-1/2 stars.

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Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Sawyer's Sweet Sanctuary (4-1/2 stars), Song of My Heart (4 stars).

About the author: Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of twenty-nine novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and nine grandchildren.

Find Kim online: website, Facebook, Twitter


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, May 18, 2015

"when dawn breaks" by jennifer slattery

A 50-something woman with a life of regrets finds new purpose when she's displaced by a hurricane.

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution forces her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. Dealing with his own issues, Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

When Dawn Breaks turned out to be, well, nothing like I thought it would be ... and I mean that in the best way! If I had to choose one word to describe this book, it would be "real." Life isn't all sunshine, rainbows, and puppies for the characters in this novel, but their trials aren't over the top dramatic, either.

I liked many things about this novel. Jacqueline is a very sympathetic main character, and I cheered for her throughout the novel. She grows tremendously in her walk with Christ from the beginning of the novel to the end, and that transformation was fun to read about.

I also loved, loved, loved Gavin's journey. He was such a good kid who had some really hard things dealt to him. Slattery certainly didn't pull any punches when describing life in a group home—it made me want to become Gavin's foster mom!

I also really liked the fact that romance wasn't the be all and end all for these characters. Yes, I did enjoy the romance between Jacqueline and Jonathan, the handsome railroader, but her happiness and the trajectory of her life most certainly did not depend on whether or not Jonathan wanted to be with her. She was most concerned with following God's lead. I found that refreshing.

Of the three main characters (Jacqueline, Gavin, and Jonathan), I felt that Jonathan's story was the weakest ... possibly because I didn't quite understand his job. However, that minor criticism won't keep me from wholeheartedly recommending this novel. While it's marketed as romance, the romance is light enough that I think even those who don't enjoy romance will like this novel, and I look forward to reading more of Slattery's writing in the future. 4 stars.

Buy the book.

Jennifer Slattery writes missional romance novels for New Hope Publishers. Her debut, Beyond I Do, released in August 2014. She also writes Christian Living articles for Crosswalk.com and devotions for her personal blog, JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud; Internet Cafe Devotions; and Takin' it to the Streets', a ministry serving Omaha Metro's working poor and homeless.

When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, hanging out at the mall with her teenage daughter, enjoying her real-life hero husband, or serving in her church or community.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from the author and publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"heart sisters" by natalie chambers snapp

As an adult, I've discovered that friendships are hard—it's hard to make and maintain friendships ... much harder than I realized as a girl. That's where Heart Sisters comes in.

Heart Sisters is for women who want to both be and have better friends and want a helpful guide to take them through the process.

Author Natalie Chambers Snapp uses her own and others' stories of successes and failures to illustrate what she has learned about girlfriend relationships. Healthy boundaries, honesty, tact, sharing, and agape love all play a part in being and maintaining a circle of close confidants. She also deals with the inevitable challenges that face many relationships including how to handle conflict; life changes like a new baby, move or divorce; and when it is right to "break-up" with your friend.

The focus in Heart Sisters is on becoming a good friend—it's like that old saying, "To have a friend, you have to be a friend." Author Natalie Chambers Snapp gives lots of great friendship advice, including showing the importance of a relationship with God, first and foremost. "It's hard to keep our relationships in sync when our relationship with God is out of sync," she says, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Other chapters include tips on finding friends, handling conflict in friendships, and setting boundaries. Sometimes the author repeats herself a bit (such as when she uses the story of Sarai, Abram, and Hagar in a couple chapters), but overall the book reads well and is very informative without getting boring. There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and I think this book would be perfect for a small group setting. 4 stars.

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Buy the book.

Natalie Chambers Snapp is first and foremost a follower of Jesus, then wife to Jason, and mom to one spunky daughter and two spirited sons with a crazy amount of energy. Choosing to follow Jesus at 27, Natalie is passionate about sharing the grace, mercy, and truth of God's love. She lives in the Midwest with her crew and tries to keep it simple by writing about the faith found in the everyday mundane. The outpourings of her heart can be found at www.nataliesnapp.com in the fleeting moments between being a wife and mother.

Find Natalie online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Want to be a better friend and have better friends? Natalie Chambers Snapp wrote Heart Sisters just for you! She uses her own and others’ stories of successes and failures to illustrate what she has learned about girlfriend relationships. Discussion questions, space to journal, photos, and quick interviews of healthy female friendships are included within each chapter.

Help Natalie celebrate the release of her new book by entering to win goodies you'll need for a girls' night out with your heart sister!

heart sisters-400

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 17th. Winner will be announced May 18th on Natalie's blog.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 15, 2015

"no place to hide" by lynette eason

Shootouts, disguises, a hostage situation, and bioterrorism make No Place to Hide a thrill ride from beginning to end.

She'll defend her friend until the bitter end—but is she in over her head?

It's not every day you see your childhood friend and onetime crush on national news. Jackie Sellers just wishes it were under different circumstances. She can't believe that Ian Lockwood is wanted in connection with a terrorist plot, and she's determined to find him and help him clear his name. Unfortunately, she's not the only one looking for him. The FBI wants him captured. The bad guys want him dead. Ian just wants to stay alive long enough to prove his innocence and prevent a catastrophe.

Lynette Eason delivers nonstop action as Jackie and Ian travel a dangerous road—one that may lead straight to destruction.

No Place to Hide takes place in an incredibly short time span—about a week—but it seems like it's longer because so. much. happens. There are no lags in the action—everything proceeds at breakneck speed.

In spite of all the action, Eason does a great job of fleshing out the characters of Ian and Jackie, and their romance, while not the main thrust of the book, is quite satisfying. And I enjoyed seeing Jackie's character grow as she worked through some things from her past and came to embrace God's role in her life.

Some minor characters, though, are hard to keep track of, largely because there are so many of them, and they only appear every so often. But it was easy enough to brush them off and keep going, as I wanted to find out what would happen next in Ian and Jackie's story. By the end of the novel, I did have a pretty good handle on who was who ... at least who was important to pay attention to!

Overall, I really enjoyed No Place to Hide ... it's a high-adrenaline read that's a nice break from the romance that I normally read! 4 stars.

Note: This is the third book in Eason's Hidden Identity series, but it can easily be read without having first read the others.

Buy the book.
Read my review of Eason's Nowhere to Turn (4 stars).

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series and the Deadly Reunions series, as well as No One to Trust. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She has a master's degree in education from Converse College and she lives in South Carolina. Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"whenever you come around" by robin lee hatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher takes readers back to beloved Kings Meadow in Whenever You Come Around.

Just when Charity's wild imagination failed her, a flesh-and-blood hero walked into her life.

Best-selling author Charity Anderson returns to her hometown of Kings Meadow to defeat a bad case of writer's block. She imagines she'll spend a lonely summer writing and then return to her home in Boise. She soon finds herself caring for Buck Malone, a wilderness guide-and the object of her unrequited teenage crush. But what else can she do? Her dog Cocoa caused the accident that left Buck with a broken ankle and wrist, taking him off the trail for weeks of prime tourist-season work.

Buck and Charity have gone different ways since high school, and at first it seems they have little in common. Buck loves the simple, low-key life he's made for himself in the mountains of Idaho, and she's a woman accustomed to the faster, bustling pace of the city. But spending so much time together has Buck hoping to change her mind about staying in the small town she thought she'd left behind for good.

It's a summer for discovering that young love is a spark not soon extinguished.

Kings Meadow is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to visit in fiction. The three novels so far—A Promise Kept, Love Without End, and Whenever You Come Around—feature wonderful romances and can be read separately or as part of the series.

Whenever You Come Around focuses on Charity Anderson, a woman whose past has kept her from spending much time in her hometown and has held her back from finding love. When she reconnects with Buck, her high school crush, the walls she has erected around her heart begin to crumble.

I absolutely loved Charity's back story—the circumstances that turned her into the woman she is in the novel. It's revealed in bits and pieces, and it's both infuriating and heartbreaking. I hated how she felt the need to keep her story a secret, though I understood why she did.

The romance in Whenever You Come Around is very sweet, especially from Buck's perspective. Watching him fall in love with Charity was one of my favorite aspects of this novel. I also enjoyed another relationship in the novel: Charity's relationship with her sister Terri. Terri plays a major role in Charity's healing, which I think is more realistic than having Buck be the one to "save" Charity.

I did think that the ending came rather quickly and wrapped up a bit too neatly, but that's a minor complaint when compared with my regard for the rest of the novel. Whenever You Come Around is wonderful romance with depth, and I highly recommend it. 4-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.
See my reviews of the Kings Meadow books A Promise Kept (5 stars) and Love Without End (4-1/2 stars); Beloved (4-1/2 stars); and The Heart's Pursuit (4 stars).

Robin Lee Hatcher is the bestselling author of 70 books. Her numerous awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Robin and her husband currently reside in Idaho. For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

"side by side" by jana kelley

Living a cushy life in the United States, I don't often think about the persecution Christians around the world face. That's why books like Side by Side are important.

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia's life collides with that of another young woman.

A young Christian American mother, Mia finds more than one dark secret on the streets of Khartoum. She finds Halimah, a young, upper-class Arab student with a bright future in her family's business whose risky and secretive decision has put her life in danger. What happens when the path of young mother intersects with that of a spunky Sudanese student? God transforms them both . . . forever.

Part of New Hope® Publishers' contemporary missional fiction line, Side by Side opens the reader's eyes to the life of Muslims in Sudan as well as some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as pray for the salvation of those who persecute.

Side by Side powerfully brings to life the danger that awaits many Christians around the world. The danger and persecution Halimah faces when she chooses to follow Christ are foreign to most American Christians. For Halimah, choosing Jesus over Islam makes her a criminal, as conversion to Christianity is illegal. It also makes her an outcast in her family, and her life is immediately in danger. I found the portions of the book that followed Halimah to be completely engrossing as they provided a glimpse into both Islamic culture and the reality of life for Christians in Islamic countries.

The portions of the book following Mia, the American Christian, weren't as engrossing. I think a large part of this had to do with the dialog, especially when Mia and her husband were conversing. The dialog tended to come across as stilted and unrealistic, and I had a hard time connecting with Mia or really caring about her life. Ultimately, the Mia sections of the book just didn't feel as developed as Halimah's sections.

Though I did struggle with some portions of this book, I do believe it's an important book to read. Many people who won't seek out information about the persecuted church or Islam will pick up a fiction book like Side by Side, and it tells a story about our brothers and sisters that we need to hear. 3 stars.

Note: FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is discussed at length, though not explicitly. This is a horrible practice that I knew nothing about prior to reading this novel. If you'd like to learn more, go here.

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Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend college. She and her husband married a month after she graduated and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. Together with her husband and three boys, Jana enjoys travel and overseas living. After thirteen years in Africa and the Middle East, Jana and her family moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.

Find Jana online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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