Monday, May 2, 2016

"breaking free" by jennifer slattery

When her husband's alcohol and gambling addictions spiral out of control, one woman must decide if staying or leaving is best for her family.

Sometimes it takes losing everything to grab hold of what really matters. Women's ministry leader and Seattle housewife Alice Goddard and her successful graphic-designer husband Trent appear to have it all together. Then their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage? 

Breaking Free is a gripping look at a marriage on the rocks. It's not easy to read—Trent is incredibly unlikable for 90% of the novel, and sometimes Alice isn't much better—but it provides what seems to be an accurate depiction of addiction. (I say "seems to be" because, only by the grace of God, I don't have first-hand knowledge of addiction. But what is portrayed on the pages of this novel certainly feels realistic.)

Breaking Free is written both from both Alice's and Trent's perspectives. I appreciated this because I found myself easily identifying with Alice (even though her actions were sometimes maddening), so a novel written solely from her perspective would have had me 100% in her camp, cheering for her to wash her hands of Trent. Viewing events from Trent's perspective allowed me to have a better understanding of his desperation, even when I wasn't sympathizing with him. I don't want to give anything away, but Trent's journey became much more compelling as the novel neared its conclusion.

I ached for Alice as she lost everything, and I rejoiced with her when she found the beginnings of a new life. I hated that she didn't feel able to share her struggles with anyone, though it wasn't surprising—so often we feel the need to put on a "perfect" Christian front, and that's the trap that Alice fell into. While I did think that things wrapped up a little too neatly at the end and didn't stay consistent with what we knew of Alice throughout the novel, overall, Breaking Free was a gripping, thought-provoking novel, dealing with weighty issues that are too often swept under the rug. 4 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Slattery's Intertwined (3 stars) and When Dawn Breaks (4 stars).

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 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, April 30, 2016

2016 reading challenge: april update

My mom, sisters, and I have written up our thoughts on the books we read this month for Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2016 reading challenge. This month, our category was "a book we've been meaning to read." I read The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Hop on over to my other blog to see what we thought of our picks!

Monday, April 25, 2016

"spark joy" by marie kondo

Last Christmas, my sister and I "Kondo'd" my books and movies, following Marie Kondo's method for decluttering. It was so freeing to get rid of things that when I heard Kondo had a second book in the works, I jumped at the opportunity to review it.

Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has revolutionized homes—and lives—across the world. Now, Kondo presents an illustrated guide to her acclaimed KonMari Method, with step-by-step folding illustrations for everything from shirts to socks, plus drawings of perfectly organized drawers and closets. She also provides advice on frequently asked questions, such as whether to keep “necessary” items that may not bring you joy. With guidance on specific categories including kitchen tools, cleaning supplies, hobby goods, and digital photos, this comprehensive companion is sure to spark joy in anyone who wants to simplify their life.

Spark Joy expands on Marie Kondo's method of tidying—going through everything you own (in a prescribed order) and only keeping those things that "spark joy." While I was skeptical at first, this method worked wonderfully last Christmas. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but I got rid of several totes full of books and DVDs, and, because I need less shelf space, I rearranged my living room, and it now feels much homier to me.
My bookshelves before.
My bookshelves after.
Here's the thing: Spark Joy is full of good ideas, and if you take what applies to you and ignore the rest, you'll still get your money's worth ... provided you don't already own The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Spark Joy expands on some of the concepts from Life-Changing Magic, and there are some useful illustrations, though I wish they had been actual pictures instead of sketches. Still, I don't see the need to own both books (keep reading to see which one I'd recommend).

There is a high "kook" factor to Spark Joy—my sister blames it on the clash between East (Kondo is from Japan) and West. I don't know if that's the reason, but I did laugh out loud at some of the things Kondo said. Take, for example, this advice on going through your clothes: "...start with tops because things worn closer to your heart make it easier to judge whether or not you feel joy" (p. 82). Um, okay ...

I especially appreciated the section on tidying paper products and komono, or miscellaneous items. Komono includes things like beauty products, cleaning supplies, medicines, etc.—the things I tend to let build up, even when I'm very careful about keeping my clothes, books, and other items organized.

Overall, I would recommend buying one of Kondo's books—which one is up to you. For me, Spark Joy was more practical than Life-Changing Magic; I didn't care about the philosophy behind Kondo's method as much as I cared about how to do it. I think I'll be referencing Spark Joy many times in the future, as the method really does work; my house is the proof. 3-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.

Marie Kondo is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (also a best seller in Japan, Germany, and the UK) and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2015. She is the founder of the KonMari Method.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links on this page are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase a product, I will receive a 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, April 24, 2016

"the bluebonnet bride" by pamela tracy


Sometimes, you just want a quick, sweet, romantic read. The Bluebonnet Bride perfectly fits the bill—it's short enough to read in just a couple hours, and it's perfectly light and sweet.

This is Daniel Starr's year. He's moving up the rankings on the bull-riding circuit and is determined to catch his twin brother. Nothing is going to stop him.

Well, almost nothing. When his beloved grandmother falls and needs a caretaker, Daniel finds himself on the road back to Pecan, Texas, rather than making the next rodeo. Why did this happen now? And why, when he's jeopardizing his career to come home, does Miss Bossypants Amy Benjamin think he's not doing enough?

Amy knows all about the swashbuckling Starr Brothers, but anyone who turns his back on her beloved Pecan--and on his own grandmother--doesn't deserve admiration. If Amy had been lucky enough to have family like Grandma Starr, her life would have been so different! Well, she's going to make sure Daniel does his duty. But the longer he stays in Pecan, the harder it'll be to see him go.

I really enjoyed The Bluebonnet Bride. While at first I thought it would be incredibly predictable as Amy and Daniel progressed from meeting to falling in love, author Pamela Tracy did throw in some twists I didn't anticipate, which added interest. I wouldn't say that I was riveted to the story, but I did enjoy watching it unfold. Though the story is fairly short (basically novella length), I didn't feel the romance progressed at too rapid a rate, a problem that I often see in novellas.

The title The Bluebonnet Bride is a bit of a misnomer, though, as there's no wedding (or engagement) to be found. The series will continue with books about Daniel's brothers Dusty and Luke, and I assume that at some point Amy will become Daniel's bride—it just doesn't happen in this book.

The Bluebonnet Bride is the first book I've read from Serenade Books, but it won't be my last. It is a great introduction to the Lone Star Brides series, and I'm looking forward to continuing with the novels about the other Starr brothers. 3-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.

Pamela Tracy is a USA Today award-winning author who lives with her husband (He claims to be the inspiration for most of her heroes) and son (He claims to be the interference for most of her writing time). While earning a BA in Journalism at Texas Tech University, she wrote a very bad science fiction novel and then decided to write what she read: romance. First published in 1999 , Pamela has since published twenty-six books. Her suspense novels have garnered her an American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol award and a RITA finalist.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Serenade Books. 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."

Friday, April 22, 2016

"the reluctant duchess" by roseanna m. white

Each month, Bethany House Publishers sends out a list of books to bloggers who participate in its review program, and each blogger can select one book to review. So here's a glimpse into my selection process: I immediately rule out any Amish fiction (if you love Amish fiction, that's great, but I am so over it...with the exception of Suzanne Woods Fisher's novels, but she's not a Bethany House author. Anyway.), as well as any books I'm receiving from another source. Then I look at the covers. Bethany House does such a fantastic job with covers, and, nine times out of ten, if I like a Bethany House cover, I'll like the book. Of the books on the April list, The Reluctant Duchess stood out, thanks to the cover. Isn't it gorgeous?

Will Fleeing the Scottish Highlands Only Leave Her in More Danger?

Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she's never felt good enough--not for her father, not for the man she thought she'd marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she's willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping those threatening her life.

Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, yet the last thing he needs is the distraction of the newly introduced Lady Rowena. He has enough on his plate having recently come into possession of a rare treasure for which many would kill, yet those around him seem intent on pairing him with this desperate but beguiling girl.

Rowena is reluctant to marry this notorious flirt. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in some kind of questionable business with a stolen treasure, she fears she'll end up in more danger than she fled.

Now, here's where I get in trouble sometimes: I don't always research a book enough to find out if it's part of a series. Sometimes that doesn't matter, and each book in a series can be read as a standalone, but that's not really the case with The Reluctant Duchess. Consequently, I was a bit lost at times. Author Roseanna M. White does include a very helpful character list, which is what kept me from being completely lost. But it took me quite a while to really understand what was going on with the Fire Eyes, these diamonds that apparently played a major role in The Lost Heiress, and I still feel like I missed something. I definitely want to read The Lost Heiress to fill in the gaps!

While I did struggle to fully grasp certain people and events, the fault is solely my own (for not reading book one first), not White's. She has written a wholly compelling tale that I couldn't read quickly enough! I loved the Scottish Highlands setting in the beginning of the novel and Rowena's Scottish brogue scattered throughout. (I pictured Glenbogle from Monarch of the Glen—which you can stream on Netflix—each time Rowena's home Lochaber was mentioned.) And Rowena and Brice are both imperfect yet completely likable characters—I loved the way Brice wooed Rowena! Also, while you won't get this from the book description, this is a marriage of convenience novel—my favorite!

The Reluctant Duchess is full of romance, intrigue, and danger, and it's perfect for fans of historical fiction. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book, which will focus on Brice's sister Ella. 5 stars.

Buy the book.

Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she's homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of nine novels, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. Roseanna lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers. 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."

join becky wade for a facebook party may 5

I don't think there's a 2016 release I'm anticipating more than Becky Wade's Her One and Only. I've pretty much gushed about each of Becky's books so far (here's the proof), and this one is sure to be great, too.  Becky is celebrating the release of Her One and Only—which I will very soon have in my hands!—with a Facebook party, and you're invited to join in! Keep reading to learn more.
wade event promo - fb 

A female bodyguard plus her star NFL client plus danger equals a great recipe for romance! Her One and Only, book four in Becky Wade's Porter Family novels, releases May 3. To celebrate, Becky is hosting an author chat party on her Facebook page on May 5 at 5 PM PDT/8 PM EDT. Join Becky for an evening of book chat with other bookworms and prizes.

Plus a portion of all pre-sales and sales the release week of Her One and Only will be donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. For more details on how to purchase a copy, click here.

wade 400 - fallen heroes

About the Book

After ten years in the NFL, super star Gray Fowler is accustomed to obsessive fans. But when Gray starts receiving death threats from a stalker, his team hires an executive protection agency to guard him until the culprit is caught. Dealing with bodyguards 24/7 is a headache, especially when one of them is a young, beautiful woman. How can a female half his size possibly protect him better than he can protect himself?

Dru Porter is a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt–none of which saved her from disaster on her last assignment. In order to rebuild her tarnished reputation, she’s determined to find Gray’s stalker and, since relationships between agents and clients are forbidden, avoid a romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past.

Yet every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray. As the danger escalates, they’ll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives — and their hearts — to one another.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"the gifting" by k.e. ganshert


When I heard that Katie Ganshert, one of my favorite women's fiction authors, was releasing a YA series as K.E. Ganshert, I knew I wanted to read it. I even purchased the Kindle version of book one, The Gifting, but I never quite found the time to read it. Recently, when Katie asked her reader friends if anyone would be interested in listening to and reviewing the audiobook versions of the first two books, I knew this was my chance to get caught up on the series.

If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous. 

In a world where nothing supernatural exists, Tess Eckhart is positive she's going crazy. After her complete freakout at a high school party, her family is too. So much that they pack their bags and move across the country, next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill.

Tess is determined to fit in at her new school, despite the whispers and stares. But when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she's unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries harder to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something--that he might somehow be responsible.

But what if she's wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?

Can I just state right now that I love Luka? I've seen enough readers gushing about him to know that I'd probably like him, but he really is so great. His relationship with Tess (which we only see from Tess' perspective) develops slowly and surely, and I love how much he cares for her. I also really like Tess; Ganshert did a great job of portraying the insecurity a teenage girl feels, especially when she's "different."

The story is set in the near future, and it focuses on a topic we don't talk about often enough—mental illness. Because science has "proven" that God doesn't exist, anyone who experiences the supernatural is deemed mentally ill and can be relegated to a mental hospital. Tess is one of those people, and as she seeks to figure out what's "wrong" with her, she learns there are others like her. But the more she learns, the more danger she finds herself in.

I absolutely loved the way The Gifting unfolded, all from Tess' perspective. And I loved how quickly things moved for the majority of the story—it was fast enough to keep my attention but not so rapid that I became lost or felt like I was missing something.

The only thing I didn't like about The Gifting was the lack of Luka in the opening chapters (which felt like an eternity in audiobook time). It was understandable, though, as the events in Florida, before Tess' family moved and she met Luka, were necessary to the plot. Overall, I loved The Gifting, and I can't wait to begin The Awakening!

As for the audiobook, I really enjoyed it. I still would rather read a book than listen to it—because I can read it much faster than I can listen to it—but this production is very well done. Narrator Heather Masters did a great job, and listening to The Gifting was a very enjoyable experience. 4-1/2 stars.

Buy the book. (The Kindle version is currently FREE!)
Buy the audiobook.
Read my reviews of Ganshert's adult titles Wildflowers from Winter (5 stars), A Broken Kind of Beautiful (5 stars & my favorite read of 2015), An October Bride (5 stars), and The Perfect Arrangement (5 stars).

K.E. Ganshert was born and raised in the exciting state of Iowa, where she currently resides with her family. She likes to write things and consume large quantities of coffee and chocolate while she writes all the things. She's won some awards. For the writing, not the consuming. Although the latter would be fun. You can learn more about K.E. Ganshert and these things she writes at her website www.katieganshert.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this audiobook 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 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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