Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: The Ride of Her Life by Lorna Seilstad/3.5 Stars

About the book: 

The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is a six year old. Widowed two years ago, Lilly leaves the shelter of her intrusive in-laws' home to stand on her own and provide for her young son by working for the summer as a cook at Lake Manawa. However, her in-laws find that life utterly unsuitable for their grandson, and when a row ensues, a handsome stranger--who designs roller coasters, of all things--intercedes on her behalf. Still, Lilly is not about to get involved with any man, especially this cocky (though charismatic) gentleman. Little does she know she is about to begin the ride of her life.Filled with delightful characters and the romance of summer, The Ride of Her Life is another supremely entertaining story from the witty Lorna Seilstad. Readers will laugh out loud and sigh contentedly as they spend the summer of 1906 in Lake Manawa.

My thoughts:

While I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two book offerings by up-and-coming CHF author Lorna Seilstad, her latest book, unfortunately, left me wanting.  The heroines from her first two books had oodles of spunk, sass, and no-nonsense personalities that I was itching to meet another one in The Ride of Her Life.  In spite of this one qualm, Lorna still managed to create an exciting story with a great message at it's core--that "God has not given us a spirit of fear..."  Now that the Lake Manawa series has come to a close, I'm curious to see what Lorna will think up next.  Just give me a spunky heroine and a handsome hero and there's no doubt I'll be one happy reader!

3.5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.


Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd/5 Stars

About the book:

The author of To Die For returns to the court of Henry VIII, as a young woman is caught between love and honor.

Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father’s business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.

Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his business with Juliana’s father’s estate and sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in the Parr household for “finishing” and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly. For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king’s daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII’s court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will upset everything she thought she once held dear.

My thoughts:

While many of the historical novels and movies of late featuring the wives of King Henry VIII are nothing more than sensationalism, Sandra Byrd shows that historical fiction can be accurate and still entirely sensational in her latest book The Secret Keeper.  Sweeping through 8-plus years of court intrigue, royalty, and grandeur, Sandra tells the story of Kateryn Parr through the eyes of a humble lady-in-waiting, Juliana St. John.  Juliana's journey begins innocently enough, but hairpin turns are only a moment away, and what was once an exciting adventure to be included in the company of the Queen quickly becomes Juliana's duty to protect her from those who intend to discredit her.  She also does not count on shameful circumstances affecting her directly, and thus, charts a firm course for the remainder of her which, God has another plan.

Sandra's study of the Tudor period and Kateryn's life was intense, providing the reader not only with several family trees in the beginning, but an extensive author's note in the back detailing her meticulous research.  From the royal garments and stunning jewels to the actual letters and books used in conversation during that time, The Secret Keeper had a natural authentic quality that set it apart from other historical novels regardless of their time period.  As a reader, I paused several times to savor the rich language and dialogue that made up each scene.  This was not a novel that I wanted to race to complete, but one that grew sweeter with each and every page.

I have been so impressed with all of Sandra's books over the years, but historical fiction is where her talents shine the brightest.  Although I am anxiously awaiting her next Tudor novel about Elizabeth I, it comes with a hint of sadness that it will bring this series to a close.  And for a reader whose tendency is to never re-read a book, I have no doubt I will be making an exception *several* exceptions for Sandra's entire Ladies in Waiting series. 

5 Stars

**Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.
**Click here to read my review of Sandra's last historical novel, To Die For.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour: Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Almost Amish
Bethany House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
Kathryn Cushman


Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in pharmacy, but all her life she knew that she wanted to write a novel “some day”. For her, “some day” came in 2003, when she started writing and never looked back.

Her first two manuscripts remain firmly ensconced in the back of her closet (the dust bunnies tell her they really are terrific!). Her third attempt became her first published novel.

A Promise to Remember and Leaving Yesterday were both finalists for the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, and Waiting for Daybreak was a finalist in Women’s Fiction for the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award.

On the homefront, she has been married to the wonderful and handsome Lee for nearly twenty-five years now, and their two daughters are currently braving the worlds of high school and college.

They’ve lived in Santa Barbara for over twenty years. It’s a beautiful place and Kathryn feel blessed to be there (although a seventy degree Christmas still leaves her dreaming of a white one—or at least a colder one!)

When she's not writing or reading or braving seventy degree holidays, you’ll find her trying her best to keep up with her daughters in their various theater, softball, dance, and filled-with-activity lives.


Proving the Simple Life Isn't So Simple After All

Overcommitted and overwhelmed, Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She knows she should feel blessed as a mother and wife--but she just feels exhausted. And then, the miraculous happens. Her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series about trying to live like the Amish and needs another family to join her. It's just the break Julie needs.

But the summer adventure in simple living soon proves anything but simple. With the camera watching every move, Susan's drive for perfection feels a lot like what they left behind, while Julie suddenly finds herself needing to stand up for slowing down. Whether it's cooking, cleaning, or dressing differently, each new Amish challenge raises new complications...and soon each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Almost Amish, go HERE.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Where I've Been Lately...

You may have noticed that my posts have been lately.  :o(  Several changes have happened in my life as of late, and I promise, I have missed chatting with all of you so much!!

So, here's the scoop...

You may remember that my job situation has been on a little bit of a roller coaster, all the way back to October of last year.  First a layoff, then a new job the next day, then the hours at the new job being reduced from full-time to part-time.  Needless to say, things suddenly became very tight in our household...not to mention the time had come yet again to search for another job.  (I'm convinced job searching is for the birds.)  :o)  But God has a plan, as always, and I found a wonderful job at a local dental office. The people are great, and it's great that it's only minutes from my house.  :o)

And guess what else has happened?  I've finally gotten off my bum, and put my jewelry online!  I've been procrastinating about this for MONTHS, but as soon as the job stuff started to get shaky, I knew there was no time like the present.  :o)  I'm slowly but surely learning different photo techniques, getting new inspiration for jewelry designs every single day, and I'm having more fun with it than I've had in a long time.  If you'd like to read about how it all got started, I'd love it if you'd join me over at my new blog--Belle on a Budget.  (Oh, and if you decide to follow me over there, you'll be my new best friend!)  In addition to the new blog, you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and last but not least, at my Etsy Store.  (I'd love to see you at all of them, but even if you just visit one place, I'll be as happy as a tick on a coon dog's ear!)  One other tidbit...  I'm currently trying to reach 50 likes on my Facebook page, and once I do, there is going to be a giveaway...yay!  So be sure to share that big piece of news and tell your friends!

But in all this excitement, guess what's suffered lately?  Reading.  I've managed to read a total of TWO BOOKS since I started this new job exactly one month ago.  While at times I'm really bummed that I haven't been on top of it, at other times, it's been very nice to have a break.  And while I could say I'm hoping to pick things back up in this department soon, I've liked being able to read at a relaxed pace.  Unfortunately, this leaves me with very little blog about on a book blog because I'm also taking a break from interviews, giveaways, and the like...there's quite a lot of time that goes into those that I just don't have right now.  I'll still be popping by with reviews occasionally, and slowly but surely, honoring the commitments I've made for the books I've received.

So, it's a new journey here, and I can't wait to see where it takes me!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review: Submerged by Dani Pettrey/4 Stars

About the book:

A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers. 

Yancey, Alaska was a quiet town...until the truth of what was hidden in the depths off the coast began to appear.

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a small town. She's returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn't appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he's not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

My thoughts:

What a fabulously suspenseful novel from debut author Dani Pettrey!! Never before have I read a book with such a great mix of historical elements balanced against heart-pounding action. Considering that Dani's novel was set in Alaska, it wasn't far-fetched to include some intriguing Russian components, and believe me, they made the story. I normally shy away from Russian history or talk of czars and such in fiction, but the way it was presented here was so very interesting! Dani may have just gotten me a little farther outside my comfort zone in books here... :o)

The only thing (and truly, this really was the only thing) that I didn't care for were the character's names. With the exception of one or two, they were all a bit too faddish for me, and truthfully, a bit difficult to tell them apart in the beginning. I'm hoping for at least a few people to have more normal names in book two.

In spite of that one qualm, I can't wait to see what Dani has in store for these Alaska folks next! My guess is that it will be another gripping adventure full of twists and turns, and it'll be great for this reader to make a return trip to Yancey. :o)

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.