Monday, June 20, 2016

The Captain Takes a Bride- Doris Durbin

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description:Sarah Franklin, a young teacher escaping an arranged marriage to a corrupt man, runs straight into the arms of Captain Harry Richardson as he prepares to board a train leaving Macon, Georgia, in 1875. She begs him to help her, and the captain soon finds himself in the midst of a ruse to hide her identity from her pursuers. When he impulsively kisses her in front of his amazed friends and some curious newspaper reporters, everything changes, and events soon spiral out of control.
Harry is a handsome man who carries his Bible and sidearm in a worn, leather valise. He fought on the side of the Confederacy until he was captured at Missionary Ridge; he spent time in a northern prison, but was released when he agreed to go west and fight the Indians with the U.S. Cavalry. Now that the war is over and he has earned his theology degree, Harry is looking forward to a new beginning as a circuit-riding preacher in the North Georgia mountains. But first, he must survive the train trip, protecting a woman he barely knows and putting his life in jeopardy to battle a determined band of hired gunmen.

In this inspirational historical tale, a soldier-turned-minister learns that even if you’re starting a new life, there are some things you can’t leave behind.

My Thoughts: This book was a wild ride, both unbelievable and intriguing. I have to say that it took some suspension of disbelief, as much of the story is far from realistic. That didn't stop it from being a fun read that I do recommend.

My main issue with this book is its length. There is quite a bit which I felt could have been left out and the story would have been just as enjoyable and likely more so. When the main conflict drew to a close I had assumed the story was over, only to see that there was 20% left according to my kindle. The last part was mostly void of conflict, instead uniting all the characters with happy endings. This included a couple characters who had not been in the rest of the book at all.

The story also included a few fade to black scenes which still might take it farther than many readers may be comfortable with. While not overly long, they make the characters' intentions abundantly clear. Yet the rest of the characters' interactions deal with strong themes of family and friendship. The situations are often humorous as well.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Land of Silence- Tessa Afshar

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?

My Thoughts: It's rare that a book makes me want to cry, and even more rare that I actually still enjoy the book when it does. Tessa is one of my favorite authors just for books like this, stories that hold on to me long after I have put them down. Elianna's story is one of heartbreak and redemption that is sure to stick with you.

Tessa has a gift for writing broken heroines who fall in love with long-suffering men. Elianna is a woman who believes that her worth is in how she keeps from being a burden to others, causing her to draw away from those who wish to care for her. Ethan is a man determined to love and protect her, even when she pushes him away.

The first half of this book was absolutely amazing and yet somewhat traumatizing in its emotion. At one point, I had to set it down and read three other books before finishing it because every time I thought about what Elianna was going through I started to tear up myself. Then, when I at last did pick the story back up, I finished the other half in a single afternoon.

This part of the the story was not as enjoyable, not because the emotion was gone but because it ran through the next twelve or so years of Elianna's life. Because this was such a long stretch of time, I did not feel as invested and the story lost some of the urgency that had been present before.

Still, this story is easily one of my favorites this year and I am so excited for anything Tessa puts out in the future.

I received this book through the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Jumping Genres in June Giveaway HOP

This HOP is hosted by Stuck in Books and there is a linky at the bottom of the page with all the stops.

I normally don't read Contemporary Romance. In fact, it was just this year that I've started receiving more for review and have been pleasantly surprised by a number of these books which I never would have picked up on my own. For this giveaway, I decided to offer an ARC of Back in the Saddle by Ruth Logan Herne, a Contemporary Romance with a hint of Western.

This giveaway is for the US only and the chosen winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner will be drawn. Happy HOPing!

The Prodigal Is Coming Home

It’s been a long time since Colt Stafford shrugged off his cowboy legacy for shiny Manhattan loafers and a promising career on Wall Street. But when stock market manipulations leave him financially strapped, the oldest son of legendary rancher Sam Stafford decides to return to the sprawling Double S ranch in Gray’s Glen, Washington. He’s broke, but not broken, and it’s time to check in with his ailing father, and get his legs back under him by climbing into the saddle again.

He doesn’t expect to come home to a stranger pointing a loaded gun at his chest— a tough yet beautiful woman that Sam hired as the house manager. Colt senses there’s more to Angelina Morales than meets the eye and he’s determined to find out what she’s hiding...and why.

Colt’s return brings new challenges. Younger brother Nick has been Sam’s right-hand man at the ranch for years and isn’t thrilled at having Colt insert himself into Double S affairs. And the ranch’s contentious relationship with the citizens of Gray’s Glen asks all the Stafford men to examine their hearts about what it truly means to be a neighbor.  And as Wall Street recovers, will Colt succumb to the call of the financial district’s wealth and power—or finally the courage to stay in the saddle for good?

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Beautiful Pretender- Melanie Dickerson

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

My Thoughts: Something about characters who hide who they really are has always intrigued me. Knowing who the character really is while the other characters do not amuses me to no end and seeing Avelina and Thornbeck's interactions while he believes her to be another person had me chuckling throughout and earnestly invested in the outcome.

Near the end, after Thornbeck discovered who she really was, did drag a little bit. The story was less amusing and slightly more irritating as the two refused to even think about how they could still be together. The actions of the villains also became a lot less rational in an effort to shove the main characters together for conflict.

Yet, in the end, everything turned out the way I had hoped and I enjoyed another one of Melanie's happily-ever-afters. This book certainly reminded me of why I had loved her first books and why I will continue to read the next ones she writes.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for a honest review.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Valley of Dry Bones- Jerry B. Jenkins

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: In The Valley of the Dry Bones, Jerry B. Jenkins overlays the ancient End Times prophecies of Ezekiel onto the landscape of modern California. After a 17-year drought, multiple earthquakes, and uncontrollable wildfires, the state is desolate. The United States President declares the state uninhabitable and irreparable, directing California's 39 million citizens to relocate. From the air, California looks like a vast abandoned sand box, but to a few groups of people, it's their home. With less than 1% of the population remaining in California at their own risk, the holdouts encounter a clash of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and politics that pits friend against friend with the future of California at stake.

My Thoughts: I've never read the Left Behind Series, so I wont be able to compare the two. I have to say that this book reads more like a semi-dystopia than an end of times, even though the characters repeatedly reference the end of days. Because California is currently suffering a drought, I found the concept of this story to be an interesting 'what-if' and enjoyed the almost Mad Max scenery.

Being that the characters are missionaries, suffering through some stuff that would definitely take some spiritual strength, the dialogue did not come off as overly preachy, though there were some scenes that leaned that direction. A few of those were when Zeke discussed his calling with his daughter and her character was used to simplify the concept, another was when Zeke and Doc were rebuked by their pastor and he reminded them of their roles, which came off more forced than natural.

There were other situations that struck me as hilarious, such as when Zeke decided to spout Biblical prophecies at government agents without the prompting of God. I could well imagine the scene, where Zeke thinks he is doing the work of God, only for God to remind him not to get cocky.

The world building is both extensive and somewhat lacking. There is a lot of effort put into how the holdouts are able to survive and stay sane yet not as much to explain other questions, like why the holdouts' children have not been taken if they are keeping them in a place deemed uninhabitable. As well, the beginning sets up a highly intense ending where Zeke presents the gospel to world leaders but with the ending not quite living up to expectations.

I did enjoy much of this book and am glad that I was able to read it. I expect that many of Jenkins' books are far better and do suggest this to anyone interested in the question of just how far you are willing to answer God's call.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 30, 2016

King's Folly- Jill Williamson

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers--everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father's superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.

When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

My Thoughts: What can I say that will fully express how much I loved this book? Back in high school, I read Jill's Blood of Kings trilogy in one week and, if the rest of this trilogy were already published, I believe the same would have happened. I've spent the past few days after having finished King's Folly attempting to formulate my review, but all I can come up with are sighs of contentment after having finished such a great book.

King's Folly is far darker than the Blood of King's books, telling of a time in this world's history when men have fallen away from Arman and instead worship false gods in the most despicable of ways. Everything is caught up in this false worship and the heroes are stuck between what they have been raised to believe and what they know deep down is right. I would not recommend this book to anyone who is put off by some of the darker side of history as this first book shows a world completely turned away from Arman and his teachings.

If, however, you are willing to read a story reminiscent of the book of Judges and of the darker part of Israel's history, you will find this book to be beautifully written with a complex set of characters and cultures. There is light at the end as well, hope that Wilek and Trevn can rescue their people, not only from a crumbling world but from the destruction of their souls.

I can barely wait until the sequel comes out. This is such a great book and I am sure that the series will only get better. In the meantime, I will just have to reread my favorite parts.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Anchor in the Storm- Sarah Sundin

My Rating: 4 Stars

Descriptions: For plucky Lillian Avery, America's entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg's attentions only annoy--even if he "is" her brother's best friend. 

During the darkest days of the war, Arch's destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves--and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian's trust and affection? 

Sarah Sundin brings World War II to life, offering readers an intense experience they won't soon forget.

My Thoughts: I absolutely love this series. Sundin has done an amazing job of creating characters who feel as though they live right down the street. Yet she sets them in situations that are far more interesting than daily life, using both their strength's and weaknesses to solve their problems.

As with the first book, this one follows two story lines: the one on land and the one at sea. However, in this book, the stories are far more intertwined with the events on board the ship having a greater connection to those on land. In this book as well, Arch plays a greater detective role than Jim did in the first.

I was not as excited about Arch and Lillian's relationship as I had been about Jim and Mary. While Arch and Lillian's fears mirrored one another, Arch fearing that he would only ever be loved for his money and Lillian fearing she would never be loved at all, I was often irritated with Arch's way of handling his fears. While Jim and Mary's relational problems made sense to me, Arch and Lillian's were not as relatable, especially since there seemed to be a lot more pushing apart than pulling together.

I still really liked the mystery aspect of the story and how it wove the lives of the two characters together, as well as Arch's willingness to look past other people's issues to the heart of what was hurting them. I'm excited to see what comes next in this series and how Sundin will mix history and mystery.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.