Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"the awakening" by k.e. ganshert

The Awakening is the second book in K.E. Ganshert's YA trilogy, and if you thought The Gifting was good, just you wait!

"I can't go home. It's not safe. Nowhere is." 

Tess Eckhart isn’t crazy. She’s not suffering from psychosis. She and Luka Williams are part of The Gifting. Before they can find out what that means, the man with all the answers turns up dead. The only thing he left behind? A few patient files that lead to the nation’s most lawless city. 

With authorities chasing them, Luka and Tess escape into the very heart of peril and against all odds, find an underground community of people just like them. They aren’t gathered together for the sole purpose of survival, either. They have a plan and a purpose—to awaken as many people with The Gifting as possible. It’s dangerous and deadly work. Tess wants to help. Luka is desperate to keep her safe—a task that proves increasingly difficult as Tess’s gifting comes to light. 

Could Tess Eckhart be the One they’ve been waiting for? The One who can save them all? 

I very much enjoyed The Gifting, which introduces readers to Tess and Luka, part of "The Gifting," people who have special powers. So I don't mean this as a knock on that book, which I gave 4-1/2 out of 5 stars to, when I say that The Awakening is so much better! Basically, Ganshert took the solid base that she'd established in The Gifting and kicked it up a notch. The Awakening is full of action, danger, and romance, and it moves at breakneck speed.

Tess and Luka find themselves in Detroit with a group of others who are like them. There, they can hone their abilities and hopefully save others (like Tess' grandma). Most of this book takes place within the walls of their underground sanctuary, where many intriguing characters are introduced. The book careens toward its conclusion ... which is a gigantic cliffhanger. I listened to this on audiobook while mowing my lawn (which made mowing much less terrible), and when it ended, I literally yelled, "You're kidding me!" And then I looked around sheepishly to make sure none of my neighbors had heard me.

The only thing I didn't completely love about the novel was Tess. Her impatience and self-reliance grated on me, and I hated how she began to exclude Luka when she knew he wouldn't approve of her actions. I had to remind myself that she was a teenager, acting as teens tend to act! At the end of the book, she finally "came to her senses," so to speak, and I anticipate we'll be seeing a more mature Tess in the final book.

As for the audiobook, narrator Heather Masters (who also narrated the other two books) did a wonderful job, doing more emotive reading than acting. One of my pet peeves in audiobooks is when the narrator tries to act out all the dialog; Masters brought meaning and emotion without being over the top, and I appreciated that. 5 stars.

Note: This is one series that you definitely need to read in order! Start with The Gifting (which seems to be perpetually free for Kindle) and go from there.


Read my reviews of  The Gifting (4-1/2 stars) and 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."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"jaded" by varina denman

Jaded kicks off Varina Denman's small-town saga about judgement, misunderstanding, and abuse among church leadership.

As a child, Ruthie was shunned by the local congregation. Thirteen years later, Ruthie’s heart begins to stir when an attractive single preacher arrives. But their relationship is bitterly opposed—unearthing a string of secrets which threaten to turn the church, the town, and her world upside-down.

Jaded is the rare novel that is both love story between a woman and man ... and God and His church. Plunging deep into the waters of shame, forgiveness and restoration, it will resonate with every woman who’s experienced a loss of heart ... and a thirst for hope.

When I agreed to review Jilted, the third book in Denman's Mended Hearts series, the publisher offered to send the first two novels, as well. Since I had time (yay, summer!), I decided to go ahead and read the novels in order.

First off, I want to be clear: You can read each of these novels without having read the others, but reading them in order will provide a much richer experience. Things introduced in Jaded are paid off in the following novels, and the three novels come together to form a cohesive story.

Jaded focuses on Ruthie Turner, who was left with a bad taste in her mouth toward Christians when she and her mom were expelled from the Trapp, Texas, church, and her best friend Fawn shut Ruthie out of her life. But new preacher Dodd Cunningham and his family seem different from Trapp's Christians, and Ruthie finds herself slowly drawn to the God Dodd loves, even when she still can't stand other Christians.

One of the highlights of the novel is Ruthie's bond with her cousin JohnScott (a bond that is played for laughs early on in the book). I liked Ruthie and Dodd, but I absolutely loved JohnScott, so I was thrilled to learn that JohnScott would get his own story in Justified, the second book in the series.

Jaded is a great beginning to this fabulous series. It's romantic without being sappy, and it deals with real issues that could be present just about anywhere. 4-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my review of Denman's Jilted (4-1/2 stars).

Varina Denman is author of the Mended Hearts series and a native Texan. She spent her high school years in a rural town and now writes stories about the struggles women face in similar small town settings. She and her husband live near Fort Worth, where they enjoy spending time with their five mostly grown children.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free 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, June 25, 2016

"love on a deadline" by kathryn springer

In recent years, Kathryn Springer has become one of my favorite authors. I've absolutely adored her Bannister Falls series (especially book 2, The Hearts We Mend), and I also enjoyed A September Bride, her entry in Zondervan's first Year of Weddings series. This, of course, meant that I also wanted to read Love on a Deadline, her entry in the second installment of the Year of Weddings.

MacKenzie thought writing wedding stories was beneath her journalistic abilities. Until one love story rekindled an old flame and opened her heart to love once more.

MacKenzie “Mac” Davis left her hometown of Red Leaf, Wisconsin, ten years ago, and she never looked back. But when her father, beloved Coach Davis, suffers a mild heart attack, she returns home for an extended visit. It means taking a job at the local newspaper, where the biggest news story is the return of Hollis Channing to marry her celebrity fiancĂ©, but Mac would do anything to make sure her dad takes care of himself. She just didn’t know that would include spending extended time with her high school crush, Ethan Channing, brother of the bride and the boy who broke her heart.

When Ethan Channing offered to help his sister plan her fast wedding, he had no idea what a big production it would be. Nor what a dilapidated state their old family home would be in. But when he catches Mac trying to take pictures of the house for an article she’s writing, he ropes her in to helping him. It’s hard to believe the tomboy coach’s daughter he remembers from high school has turned into this beautiful fire ball of a woman. And he has to admit he doesn’t mind needing her help in planning the wedding of a lifetime.

It’s been ten years since they’ve seen each other. And ten years is a long time. But is it long enough to repair broken hearts and turn old high school crushes into love?



Oh my goodness, this novella was a delight from start to finish! I've mentioned before that sometimes it's difficult for an author to tell a complete story in a novella, but Springer had no problem here, perhaps because Ethan and Mac already had a history. Their past was revealed slowly, and I enjoyed seeing how it affected their present. I also really loved the romance—a plus when you're reading a romance novel! Overall, this novella is simply fantastic, and it lives up to what I've come to expect from Springer. 5 stars.
Buy Kiss the Bride, which contains the novellas I Hope You Dance, Picture Perfect Love, and Love on a Deadline.
Read my reviews of Springer's The Dandelion Field (5 stars), The Hearts We Mend (5 stars), and A September Bride (4 stars).
Read my reviews of the other Year of Weddings and Year of Weddings 2 novellas.

Kathryn Springer is a USA Today bestselling author. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child she spent many hours sitting at her mother's typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books --- which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own. Kathryn has written nineteen books with close to two million copies sold. She lives with her husband and three children in Marinette, Wisconsin.

Website | Facebook


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."

Friday, June 24, 2016

"sins of the past" by henderson, pettrey, and eason


Three masters of romantic suspense unite for a novella collection featuring characters whose past comes back to haunt them.

In Dee Henderson's Missing, a Wyoming sheriff is called to Chicago when his elderly mother goes missing. Paired with a savvy Chicago cop, the two realize her disappearance is no accident, and a race against the clock begins.

Dani Pettrey returns to Alaska with Shadowed, introducing readers to the parents of her beloved McKenna clan. Adventure, romance, and danger collide when a young fisherman nets the body of an open-water swimming competitor who may actually be a possible Russian defector.

Lynette Eason's Blackout delivers the story of a woman once implicated in a robbery gone wrong. The loot has never been found--but her memory of that night has always been unreliable. Can she remember enough to find her way to safety when the true culprit comes after her?

As is often the case with novella collections, the contents are a mixed bag. Some novellas I loved, and others were just so-so.

Missing by Dee Henderson: I started reading Henderson's romantic suspense in college, and I absolutely devoured her O'Malley series. This is the first of her writing that I've read in probably close to ten years, and I have to say, I didn't really enjoy it. The story is fine—John returns to Chicago when his mother goes missing, and he begins working with Chicago cop Sharon to find her. The mystery was intriguing, and though I did accurately guess who had John's mother, I was way off on the motive. The problem for me was that Henderson told the reader that John and Sharon were falling for each other, but it was all talk—there was a lack of emotion that made me not buy the two romantically. 2-1/2 stars.

Shadowed by Dani Pettrey: Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series featuring the McKenna family is one of my favorite series of all time, so I was thrilled to dive into the love story of Ben McKenna and Libby Jennings, who would later become the parents of the McKenna tribe. (They are long dead by the time the Alaskan Courage series begins, so it was nice to meet them.) The mystery surrounds the murder of one of Libby's swimming competitors, and as Libby and Ben investigate, they find their lives in danger. For me, the love story was a bit rushed, but the suspense was spot on. And, as always, Pettrey's writing was excellent. 4 stars.

Blackout by Lynette Eason: Of the three novellas included in this collection, Blackout is by far my favorite. Macey survived being shot and buried alive as a teenager, but her memories of that tragic night have been dim at best. When she finally starts remembering, she becomes a target. Macey's next door neighbor Chad, a police detective, helps her search for the person who is after her, but the closer they get to the truth, the more dangerous things become. Eason is known for her high-octane suspense, and Blackout certainly lives up to her reputation! Also, the romance in this novella doesn't feel rushed (as the two are friends prior to the novel's beginning), which lent an air of believability to the story. 5 stars.

Overall, I enjoyed Sins of the Past, and, while I definitely connected with some novellas more than others, I think most fans of romantic suspense will enjoy this collection. 4 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series Submerged (4-1/2 stars), Shattered (5 stars), Stranded (4-1/2 stars), Silenced (5 stars), Sabotaged (4-1/2 stars); and Cold Shot (5 stars).
Read my reviews of Eason's Nowhere to Turn (4 stars) and No Place to Hide (4 stars).

Dee Henderson is the author of numerous novels, including Taken, Undetected, Unspoken, Full Disclosure, and the acclaimed O'Malley and Uncommon Heroes series. Her books have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, such as the RITA Award, the Christy Award, and the ECPA Gold Medallion. Dee is a lifelong resident of Illinois. Learn more at www.deehenderson.com.

Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the acclaimed author of the Alaskan Courage romantic suspense series, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, and Sabotaged. Her books have been honored with the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing's Best Award, among others.  


She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their two daughters, a son-in-law, and a super adorable grandson. You can find her online at danipettrey.com.

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, and the Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching and Without Warning in the Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of an ACFW Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award. She has a master's degree in education from Converse College and lives in South Carolina. Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Dani Pettrey and 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."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"jilted" by varina denman

Jilted (David C. Cook, June 2016)
Long hidden secrets come to light in the captivating conclusion to Varina Denman's Mended Hearts series.

Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago.

Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.

Jilted tells of a woman who has lost the joy of living, a man determined to draw her back toward happiness, and a town that must---once and for all---leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good.



Jilted concludes the family saga begun in Jaded, focusing on ex-con Clyde and bitter single mother Lynda. Throughout this series, one of the themes has been how Christians hurt and judge one another and the need for love and forgiveness. This all comes to a head as Lynda, the character most hurt by the Trapp church, finally begins to live again, urged on by her high school friend (and fellow outcast) Clyde. The two develop a sweet romance as they both try to move past the wrongs done to them, though that proves difficult when tragedy strikes and secrets are revealed.

Though Lynda was a minor character in Jaded and Justified, she is perhaps the most important in the whole series, as her expulsion from the Trapp church in the prologue of Jaded was the first outward sign of trouble in the church. Lynda was wholly unlikable in Jaded and only slightly better in Justified, so I was a little hesitant to read a whole book centered around her, even as I understood her importance to the overall story. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself understanding and sympathizing with Lynda as Jilted unfolded, and I ended up really liking her by the end of the novel.

While Jilted clearly flows out of the first two books, and the experience of reading it is made richer by knowing the background information, Denman wrote the novel in such a way that new readers will have no trouble understanding and appreciating the story. (I would highly recommend reading the first two books prior to Jilted, though, as they're excellent!)

While I didn't find Jilted to be quite as engaging as the previous two in the series, it did touch my emotions in a way that surprised me, and it was a very satisfying story. This book (as well as the whole series) made me consider my own prejudices and spiritual blind spots while enjoying a well-crafted, realistic story. 4-1/2 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.


Varina Denman is author of the Mended Hearts series and a native Texan. She spent her high school years in a rural town and now writes stories about the struggles women face in similar small town settings. She and her husband live near Fort Worth, where they enjoy spending time with their five mostly grown children.

Can all things really work together for good, and can the joy of living be found once again? Don't miss one woman's story in book three, Jilted, of Varina Denman's Mended Hearts series. Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.

Celebrate the release of Varina's Jilted by entering to win a $50 gift card.

jilted-400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Jilted to kick off a summer of reading
  • A $50 Kohl's gift card to make your summertime sweet
The giveaway ends on July 1st. The winner will be announced July 5th on Varina's website.

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, June 20, 2016

"i hope you dance" by robin lee hatcher


Author Robin Lee Hatcher takes readers back to the beloved setting of Kings Meadow for this novella in Zondervan's second Year of Weddings series.

Can two left feet lead to one perfect romance?

Grant Nichols is a genius in the kitchen and a klutz on the dance floor. But his friend’s wedding is shaping up to be a shindig the likes of which Kings Meadow has never seen—including dancing. Lots of dancing. Then he learns that a local dance teacher, Skye Foster, is offering dance lessons for the wedding party. The lessons are free, so what does he have to lose?

A former rodeo queen, Skye Foster teaches children ballet and tap during the day, but with the popularity of ballroom dancing and her own love of Country Swing, she’s been teaching adults in the evenings.

Grant comes from a family of ten siblings. He was the second oldest and believes he's had his fill of little rug rats. He’s happy with his bachelor state, despite the fact that he’s given up his ladies’ man lifestyle. Even he admits to his wilder nature and has been trying to clean up his act, with God's help.

Skye, on the other hand, loves being around kids. She would love to find the right guy and settle down to have half a dozen children of her own.

Grant and Skye are no match on paper. But when they step onto the dance floor, they move to a love song all their own.

Novellas can be difficult. Because they're short, sometimes the author has to leave things out or rush things in order to tell a complete story. Unfortunately, that's what's happened with I Hope You Dance. I loved the set up of Grant and Skye meeting and falling in love, and I could even buy a quick proposal—after all, that does happen in real life. But the big hindrance to their happily ever after—Skye's desire for a big family contrasted with Grant's determination to not have children—is resolved so quickly and rather improbably, and it just didn't ring true.

I have loved Robin Lee Hatcher's Kings Meadow series, and I Hope You Dance is a charming return to that world. I just wish that it could have been slightly longer to allow for a touch more believability. 3-1/2 stars.

Buy the novella.
Buy Kiss the Bride, which contains the novellas I Hope You Dance, Picture Perfect Love, and Love on a Deadline.
Read my reviews of Hatcher's other Kings Meadow stories: A Promise Kept (5 stars--not "officially" a Kings Meadow novel, but set there), Love Without End (4-1/2 stars), Whenever You Come Around (4-1/2 stars), and Keeper of the Stars (4 stars).
Read my reviews of the other Year of Weddings and Year of Weddings 2 novellas.

Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heart-warming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over sixty novels.

Connect with Robin: website, Twitter, Facebook


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."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"samson and delilah" dvd review

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a representative from FishFlix to see if I'd be interested in reviewing a DVD. I hadn't heard of FishFlix before, so I went to their website to check them out. They have lots of Christian DVDs, Hallmark movies, and other family friendly DVDs for sale, and their prices are pretty comparable to Amazon's—some DVDs are cheaper than on Amazon, and others are slightly more expensive. (So shop around!) What interested me the most is that many of the older Hallmark movies are cheaper on FishFlix than they are on Amazon ... and you know how I love my Hallmark movies!

I agreed to let them send me a DVD, and when it arrived, I saw it was Samson and Delilah, a TV film that aired on TNT in 1996.

Elizabeth Hurley stars as the seductive Delilah, the Philistine who used her beauty to draw super-strong Israelite Samson, played by Eric Thal, to his eventual downfall. Dennis Hopper also stars in this powerful recounting of the Old Testament story.

As told in the Old Testament, Samson, a simple shepherd with the strength of a titan, is betrayed by a scheming Philistine beauty, Delilah, who is torn between her love for Samson and her loyalty to her people. Samson's epic revenge vanquishes his Philistine enemies.

Prior to watching Samson and Delilah, I reread the biblical account in Judges 13-16 to refresh my memory. Samson and Delilah basically takes the original story as source material and then goes off on its own tangent, changing large portions of the story while loosely following the timeline of Samson's life.

I'm going to be honest: getting through this movie was almost painful. It's horribly long (3 hours!), fairly boring, graphically violent, and disturbingly sensual. Knowing the source material, I expected a movie about Samson to be both violent and sensual, and that's exactly what it delivered, though the amount and intensity of the sexual content surprised me. Though the content is milder than much of what is on TV today, it is also decidedly not family friendly.

Then there's the acting. While Diana Rigg shines as Samson's mother and Elizabeth Hurley portrays Delilah just as you would expect her to be, Dennis Hopper is horribly miscast as a Philistine general. He is the only one to speak with an American accent (I'm not saying the other actors' British accents are particularly appropriate, but Hopper's flat American tone definitely stood out in a bad way), and his acting is wooden and unbelievable. (Some of this could probably be contributed to the writing...)

Overall, I cannot recommend Samson and Delilah, and it's not a movie I'll ever watch again. 1 star.

Note: While I will not be watching Samson and Delilah again, FishFlix is a place I'll go when I'm looking to feed my Hallmark movie addiction! Just as with any retail site, you have to check things out for yourself—is Samson and Delilah suitable for the whole family? Absolutely not. But FishFlix does offer many movies that are.

Buy Bible Stories Samson and Delilah DVD.
Get a $5 coupon to FishFlix.com by joining the email list here or by texting 5-GIFT to 44222.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free for review from FishFlix.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. 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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