Author: Administrator

Book Review: A Return to Devotion

About the Book:

Daphne Blakemoor was perfectly happy living in her own secluded world for twelve years. She had everything she needed–loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes on, and the new marquis has an undeniable connection to her past, everything she’s come to rely upon is threatened.

William, Marquis of Chemsford’s main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect until his housekeeper turns his life upside down.

They’ve spent their lives hiding from the past. Can they find the courage to face their deepest wounds and, perhaps, find a new path for the future together?

My Thoughts:

Return to Devotion is a compelling story of love, forgiveness and learning to live under a mantle of grace. Following a novella (A Search for Refuge) and the first book in the series (A Defense of Honor), Hunter continues to invite us in to the world of Haven Manor and her inhabitants.

The story of Daphne was compelling. Though Daphne’s character seemed so self-protected from the reality of the world, we are invited to join her on her journey from allowing her imagination to deceive her to the place of allowing her imagination to be visionary, grounded in love and truth. The prospect of finding grace and living in it, the reality that forgiveness is a new foundation for life and the truth that love pursues are all aspects of this sweet romance.

William is also key in this story as he wrestles with what it looks like to truly consider people apart from their station and what family honor truly means. I enjoyed the development of his character.

All in all A Return to Devotion was a sweet and uplifting continuation of this series.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.




Book Review: Flights of Fancy

About the Book:

Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania. Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner. Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy reading Jen Turano’s novels. They make me laugh and strike the imagination. In Flights of Fancy Isadora is clearly a character out of place. Her background has not prepared her to be a housekeeper, but circumstances have left her no choice except to succeed. And truly, I loved how when confronted with all the areas of her life in which she measured herself and found herself wanting she refused to wilt into a corner, but instead leaned into learning how to be a better woman.

Ian is a character backed entirely into a corner by his family’s need, a collection of orphans and some crazy antics that come with life on the farm. (The cow…oh how I laughed at the cow!) Though Isadora seems woefully unequipped for the job she is available and determined.

As circumstances build, secrets abound, and the humor and chaos I’ve come to expect from Turano fills page after page. Sparks fly and Ian and Isadora learn valuable lessons about life and love.

I adored this book and would highly recommend it if you want a lighthearted and enjoyable story to brighten your day.

I received a free digital copy of this book for review
in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Lieutenant’s Bargain

About the Book:

Hattie Walker dreams of becoming a painter, while her parents want her to settle down. As a compromise, they give her two months to head to Denver and place her works in an exhibition or give up the dream forever. Her journey is derailed when a gunman attacks her stagecoach, leaving her to be rescued by a group of Arapaho . . . but she’s too terrified to recognize them as friendly.

Confirmed bachelor Lieutenant Jack Hennessey has long worked with the tribe and is tasked with trying to convince them that the mission school at Fort Reno can help their children. When a message arrives about a recovered survivor, Jack heads out to take her home–and plead his case once more.

He’s stunned to run into Hattie Walker, the girl who shattered his heart–but quickly realizes he has a chance to impress her. When his plan gets tangled through translation, Jack and Hattie end up in a mess that puts her dreams in peril–and tests Jack’s resolve to remain single.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoy Regina Jennings novels. They touch on serious issues, but are overall light-hearted stories of muddled situations turning out for the best.

Jennings takes rather modern characters and places them in historical settings. I find this enjoyable. I don’t have to try to wrap my mind around a character from another time and place. I can simply relate to them. So if I had to suspend my sense of historical reality just a bit for the plot to work I really didn’t mind a bit.

In fact, living cross culturally myself I could entirely relate to the character’s experience of really not understanding the implications of what is happening around them, so in that case I didn’t have to suspend reality at all.

Hattie is an independent woman traveling alone across country pursuing her career of art. Jack is a good guy who really cares about the native people that he is working with and wants to do the right thing. When Jack discovers that Hattie, the woman he has long admired, needs rescuing, he makes a bid to impress her and things get out of hand. Now Jack and Hattie have to choose what that will mean for their future. Will it completely derail their individual dreams or will they find a new path together?

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Making of Mrs. Hale

About the Book:

Marry in haste, repent in leisure—Mrs. Hale is about to find out how painful that repentance can truly be.

Julia Hale ran off to be married in Gretna Green, following romance instead of common sense. But her tale isn’t turning into a happily ever after. Her new husband is gone and she doesn’t know where—or if he’s ever coming back. Julia has no option but to head home to the family she betrayed by eloping and to hope they’ll forgive her. Especially now that she might be carrying a baby from her brief marriage.

My Thoughts:

Though Carolyn Miller’s stories are never exactly fluffy, The Making of Mrs. Hale, is perhaps the most gritty in its honesty.

The regency novel follows the lives of both Julia and Major Hale as they learn about choice, the consequences of their actions and what enduring and sacrificial love looks like.  Though their vows were made in haste, the working out of their marriage and the vows they had made were dealt with in a very real picture of seriousness and struggle.  Alongside the theme of marriage there is intrigue, mystery, family expectations and an overarching look at what forgiveness, commitment to the good of another and growth really look like.  I appreciate the author’s willingness to tackle this subject with grace and hope.

 

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

 

Book Review: Mark of the Raven

About the Book:

Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person’s dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. For the last hundred years, the Ravenwood women have used their gift of dreaming for hire to gather information or to assassinate.

As she discovers her family’s dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family’s legacy–a legacy that supports her people–or seeking the true reason behind her family’s gift.

Her dilemma comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations, but who will also bring about the downfall of her own house.

One path holds glory and power, and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and execution. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen?

My Thoughts:

Morgan Busse is a creative writer and in this Mark of the Raven did not disappoint.

The story started out rather dark and stayed that way for a good portion of the book.  Cultish ritual, murder, attacks and the exploitation of trauma all feature heavily in the story.  It was dark enough that I found myself fairly disengaged from the story at this point. The one redeeming factor for this portion of the book is that Selene is uncomfortable with the direction her life is taking.  Her true desire is to serve her people, but is murder and manipulation the best way to accomplish that goal?  The more Selene felt trapped into her role the more I shared a feeling of frustration, though I was frustrated with Selene for not realizing that she did have a choice.

The book really began to engage me when it came to the use and descriptions of the gifts of the other houses and the good purposes that the gifts were meant to accomplish.  When Lord Darien enters the story he draws the curiosity of the reader as much as he does Selene.  As the descriptions of light begin to be brought forward the book grows more and more intriguing until the climax of the story where Selene finally realizes that she can and must choose in which direction her future lies.

After a rough beginning I did become engrossed in the tale and will look forward to the next installment in the series.  If you can wade through the dark tone at the beginning of the novel I think you’ll find a story worth pursuing.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Defiant Joy

About the Book:

We are called to live.

And, miraculously, to live with joy.

We all spend a lot of energy reaching for happiness, but we are never quite able to hang on to it. Real life happens, and our circumstances take us on an emotional roller coaster ride. So the Bible’s call to “be joyful always” sounds almost crazy—and out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be.

Joy is meant to be ours, a joy that is defiant in the face of this broken world. This joy is not simply happiness on steroids; it’s the unyielding belief that sorrow and loss do not have the final say. It’s the stubborn determination to be present to whatever may come and to interpret both goodness and grief by the light of heaven.

In Defiant Joy, Stasi Eldredge invites us with courage, candor, and tender vulnerability to a place beyond sadness or happiness. She shows us how to maintain a posture of holy defiance that neither denies nor diminishes our pain but dares to live with expectant, unwavering hope.

My Thoughts:

I can’t even begin to tell you how encouraging I have found this book. Life is hard and our joy gets tested, but author Stasi Eldredge challenges us to be defiant when it comes to handing over our joy. Joy is ours as children of God and we must cling to our birthright. With humor and personal stories Stasi gently invites us to join her on the path of joy and for me it was a journey well worth taking.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This is a book I would highly recommend and
I anticipate buying several copies to hand out as gifts.

Book Review: The Rock That Is Higher

About the Book:

We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes… –Madeleine L’Engle, from The Rock That Is Higher

Story captures our hearts and feeds our imaginations. It reminds us who we are and where we came from. Story gives meaning and direction to our lives as we learn to see it as an affirmation of God’s love and truth–an acknowledgment of our longing for a rock in the midst of life’s wilderness.

Drawing upon her own experiences, well-known tales in literature, and selected narratives from Scripture, Madeleine L’Engle gently leads the way into the glorious world of story in The Rock That Is Higher. Here she acknowledges universal human longings and considers how literature, Scripture, personal stories, and life experiences all point us toward our true home.

My Thoughts:

This book is all L’Engle in style.  It is insightful and rambling all at the same time.  In it the author gives us a great deal of auto-biographical insight into her life and her thinking.  She relates her own story to her process of storytelling.  This is not a “how to” book for writers.  This work is not so much about the process of creating a story as it is the process of how she lived her own story and the impact that had upon her work.

 

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my opinion.

Book Review: Moments to Midnight

About the Book:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

In the biblical letter of 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul reflected on his passing life. It was but a vapor. He was a pilgrim, passing through this life and into the next. Moments ’til Midnight creatively peels back the curtain of Paul’s final hours. Author Brent Crowe imaginatively retells the last twelve hours of Paul’s life, from the perspective of the apostle himself. Along the way, readers will be encouraged to live with purpose, to redeem the time, and to embrace the awesome reality that they too are on a sacred journey.

With no more letters to write, no more churches to plant, no more sermons to preach, and no more missionary journeys to embark upon, Paul awaited his death sentence. What were his final reflections on life? How did he view the race he had run? How should you view the race set before you?

My Thoughts:

First, I have to say the advertising blurb (above) is misleading.  Saying this is a retelling of the last hours of Paul’s life leads you (or at least led me) to expect a narrative in first person.  That is not what this book is all about.  If you are looking for a narrative work you will be disappointed.

The content of the book, however, is not disappointing.  Written specifically for young people, but also applicable for adults – particularly those new to a walk of faith – the author takes us on an exploration of some of the most significant themes of Paul’s writings.  These themes are what author Crowe believes that Paul must have been reflecting on in his final moments of life.

The writing style is somewhat light and very easy to read.  The author applies a conversational tone rather than an academic tone to the work.  There is a good balance of comparison and contrast.  For example, the author talks about potential and why it is important and then he goes on to talk about purpose and why that is more significant than potential.  I appreciate Crowe’s ability to say, here is something you should know, but also know that it isn’t the main thing you need to know.

People who have been journeying with Christ for many seasons of life might not find anything particularly new or compelling about this book, but it is very well suited for its target audience.

P.S. – I think the artwork on the cover is stunning!

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Every Step An Arrival

About the Book:

Take ninety days and walk through the pages of the Bible with the definitive voice today in Christian spirituality. Eugene Peterson provides brief commentary and challenging thoughts designed to stir the biblical imagination and encourage even the weary believer.

My Thoughts:

To start I should say that I am a fan of Eugene Peterson’s writing.  His deep thinking and biblical imagination have often been a catalyst in my spiritual growth.  In that way I appreciated the content of this devotional, but I would say it was just a taster.  The devotionals in Every Step An Arrival are good for prompting your thinking if you are looking for something you can read in about five minutes, similar in length to My Utmost or Jesus Calling.  Last year I used Peterson’s sermons found in As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire as daily devotionals as I prefer a deeper, longer daily reflection time.  So, I suppose it just depends on what you are looking for whether this is the type of devotional you want to choose.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Everything She Didn’t Say

About the Book:

In 1911, Carrie Strahorn wrote a memoir entitled Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, which shared some of the most exciting events of 25 years of traveling and shaping the American West with her husband, Robert Strahorn, a railroad promoter, investor, and writer. That is all fact. Everything She Didn’t Say imagines Carrie nearly ten years later as she decides to write down what was really on her mind during those adventurous nomadic years.

Certain that her husband will not read it, and in fact that it will only be found after her death, Carrie is finally willing to explore the lessons she learned along the way, including the danger a woman faces of losing herself within a relationship with a strong-willed man and the courage it takes to accept her own God-given worth apart from him. Carrie discovers that wealth doesn’t insulate a soul from pain and disappointment, family is essential, pioneering is a challenge, and western landscapes are both demanding and nourishing. Most of all, she discovers that home can be found, even in a rootless life.

With a deft hand, New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick draws out the emotions of living–the laughter and pain, the love and loss–to give readers a window not only into the past, but into their own conflicted hearts. Based on a true story.

My Thoughts:

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book.  On one hand, it was a creative and honest “behind the scenes” imagining of the life behind the facts.  The book was well written and contained some helpful relational wisdom.  I found the overview of Carrie Strahorn’s life fascinating.  And yet, the book was easy to walk away from and in many ways it was a sad story of a woman who spent most of her life out of touch with her own desires and emotions.  The main character’s desire to live in the “happy lane” drove me a bit crazy as that kind of denial and diversion from real sorrow and grief isn’t a healthy way to live, though many employ those type of strategies.  Further, I found it nearly impossible to relate to the era, how men and women/husbands and wives related at that time, which again made it difficult to connect to the characters. Also, I found the book easy to put down as it was broken into unrelated sections and read like a journal rather than a narrative following a distinct plot arc (though the author clearly had things to communicate as she told the story of Carrie’s life). All in all, I would recommend this book for those who like biographies, journals and historical documentaries.  I wouldn’t recommend necessarily recommend this book if you are looking for an engaging fictional narrative story line as it moves slowly and has a slightly disjointed (journal-like) feel.

 

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.