Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage...Review

The most significant act of love we can do for our spouse is the single act of taking personal responsibility or "the power of one." We cannot reach satisfaction in our marriage relationships if we don't first look at ourselves and see where we need to change. Personal responsibility is the fuel that drives the actions of a healthy marriage.

Usually, each spouse blames the other for their problems; this attitude only leads down a path of unfulfilled expectations and heartache. But marriages can be transformed, literally overnight, when a husband or wife learns the power of one. By accepting personal responsibility for their own emotions and reactions, spouses can learn how to love their mates to the fullest and create a stronger marriage relationship with the power of one.

I love the concept of personal accountability or responsibility.  I teach my children that they are responsible for their actions and their choices.  Michael and Amy Smalley share this same belief in their book.  There are two people involved in a marriage (well, actually three including God), but individually we can strengthen and improve our marriages.

With short chapters, and challenges and scriptures, the Smalley's have written a terrific book full of wisdom and insights.  The power of one person is really remarkable.

Thank to Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Michael and Amy Smalley here. You can purchase your own copy here

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Preacher's Bride...Review

About the book:
In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher--whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John's protests of her aid. She's even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth's new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John's boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher's enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she's more determined than ever to save the child--and man--she's come to love.

When Elizabeth agrees to become the housekeeper for a newly widowed preacher, she has no idea what awaits her.  Betrothed to another man she does not love, Elizabeth struggles with new found feelings toward this distant, grieving widower as she not only falls in love with him, but comes to love his children as well.  She soon discovers that she will need to make choices that will anger and hurt some, but are what God wants for her.  And since preaching without a license is illegal, John's enemies soon target Elizabeth and the two of them must face their fears and follow their hearts. 

Historically, I found this a fascinating story.  The Puritans have always intrigued me and I was curious to discover that the author based the novel on the historical life of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, and his wife.

I liked Elizabeth and John.  The protagonists were mean and evil and I was frustrated that there was no accountability or consequences for those who betrayed, assaulted and murdered.  Those characters who were so mean and vindictive, all in the name of God, should have received some punishment or consequence for their actions towards John and Elizabeth.

I admit to becoming tired of the language.  I realize the Puritans had a specific way of speaking, but the whole "Methinks this" and "methinks that" got old really quickly.  Especially since it was only John who spoke that way. 

The story is compelling and I do think this was a great debut novel and I look forward to more from Jody Hedlund.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here
Read 9/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stars Collide...Review

About the book:
Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy don't just play two people who are secretly in love on a television sitcom--they are also head over heels for each other in real life. When the lines between reality and TV land blur, they hope they can keep their relationship under wraps. But when Kat's grandmother, an aging Hollywood starlet with a penchant for wearing elaborate evening gowns from Golden Age movies, mistakes their on-screen wedding proposal for the real deal, things begin to spiral out of their control. Will their secret be front-page news in the tabloids tomorrow? And can their budding romance survive the onslaught of paparazzi, wedding preparations, and misinformed in-laws?

From the sound stage to a Beverly Hills mansion to the gleaming Pacific Ocean,
Stars Collide takes readers on a roller-coaster tour of Tinseltown, packing both comedic punch and tender emotion.

Actors on a television show, Kat and Scott play two people who are secretly in love.  They also happen to be in love with each other in real life, they just haven't admitted it quite yet.  As their television characters find themselves headed toward the altar, Kat and Scott find themselves headed into the uncharted territory of misunderstandings and confusion.  Kat's beloved grandmother Lenora, herself a former movie star, has raised her and wants nothing more than to see her granddaughter married.  In the early stages of memory loss, Lenora confuses the television wedding with real life and hilarity ensues.

Janice Thompson just writes fun books.  They're clean, Christian and funny with quirky, endearing characters.  I loved Kat and Scott and I adored Lenora. The interactions between Kat and her grandmother were funny, yet tender and poignant.  This is a light story, but serious issues are covered and treated with appropriate respect.  The Christian elements are strong, but not overly preachy and it's refreshing to see a Hollywood based story with strong aspects of faith.  Lenora's quirkiness was charming and the movie quoting entertaining.

First in the Backstage Pass series, I have book two waiting in the wings!

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read  9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Wounded Heart...Review

About the book:
When a business offer turns into something more personal, Amelia is torn between what logic tells her is right, and the desire of her heart.

A widow with two small children, Amelia Beiler is struggling to make ends meet. She is running her late husband's business, but it's not what she was raised to do, which is run a home. When she gets an offer for the business from Eli Fischer, she's only too relieved to consider it-especially when it looks like Eli's interest might include more than just the shop. But when she begins to experience strange physical symptoms and is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it's difficult not to question God's will. If she pursues the treatment she believes in, she risks going under the bann. But how can she allow Eli to court her when she can't promise him a future?

Includes instructions to make the quilt block featured in the novel.

Amelia Beiler never wanted to be a business owner, but after her husband's death, she finds herself running a pallet business.  When a medical diagnosis stuns her world, she is faced with the choice of pursuing a controversial treatment or submitting herself to the decisions and will of her religious leaders.  Amelia realizes that she must find out for herself if God's will for her is the same as that of her ministers.

While I very much enjoyed this novel, I admit to being frustrated at the men in Amelia's congregation.  I understand roles and I understand that men and women have different roles in families and in religious communities.  But, the utter disregard these men had for Amelia's well being and instead only being concerned about their congregation was a bit frustrating.  Of course, the story is resolved and resolved well, but at times, I really struggled with the attitudes.  Attitudes that I can only assume are correct, given my limited understanding of the Amish.  I respect their faith, but I can't begin to understand it.

I liked Amelia's spunk and her desire to do what was right not only for herself but right in the eyes of God.

A Wounded Heart is first in a trilogy about three friends. Amish communities are close-knit by nature, and here Adina Senft explores the relationships between three young women, each with her own heartache and struggles.  As Carrie and Emma stand by and support Amelia, they must face their own heartaches, both of which will be discovered in future books, and as much as I hate waiting for sequels, I look forward to learning their stories.

Thanks to Sarah at FaithWords for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more Adina Senft here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Heart Revealed...Review

About the book:
Ten years ago, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston as a battered woman, escaping the husband who scarred her beautiful face. The physical and emotional wounds have faded with time, and her life is finally full of purpose and free from the pain of her past. But when she falls for her friend Charity's handsome and charming brother, Sean O'Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. Could Sean and Emma ever have a future together? Or is Emma doomed to live out the rest of her life denying the only true love she's ever known?

Filled with intense passion and longing, deception and revelation, A Heart Revealed will hold readers in its grip until the very last page.

I was so anxious for Emma's story.  I have loved The Daughters of Boston series and its sequel, The Winds of Change series.  A Heart Revealed is the second book in The Winds of Change series and here we learn Emma's story and how it's intertwined with Sean's.  The O'Connor's are back in full force and personality.   Emma's past comes back to haunt her and although she has fallen in love with Sean O'Connor, their path to romance is thwarted when their pasts catch up with them.  The pain and hurt that each carries must be faced and forgiven. 

My one complaint is the idea that men are helpless and unable to resist manipulative women. Tempted, maybe.  But, not able to control themselves?  I don't think so.  As Sean found himself manipulated time and again by Rose, I wanted to scream.  It was so frustrating.  Fortunately, he came to his senses, but until he did, I was frustrated and annoyed!

Julie Lessman has done it again, however, and given us a delightful new book.  Sean and Emma discover new strengths in themselves as well as each other.  As Emma's best friend, Charity is back and in fine form, still finding ways to coerce and trick her men into doing what she wants.  Katie and Luke are learning about marriage and Marcy and Patrick are revisiting parenthood with a challenging young foster daughter.

While you could read this as a stand alone, the book is so much richer if you've read the previous books and know the back history of the O'Connor family and how Emma comes to be a part of it.

Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Julie Lessman here.  You can purchase your own copy here
Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Grief of Others...Review

In the tradition of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a gripping, generous, and provocative novel chronicling the grief that follows the death of a newborn—and leads to a family's emotional reawakening.

It begins with loss. John and Ricky Ryrie are stricken by the death of their third child, only fifty-seven hours after his birth. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that nothing was wrong before this baby came so briefly into their lives. Yet in the aftermath of his death, long suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges concerning what Ricky knew about her pregnancy and concealed from everyone, even John. And the couple's two older children, grappling with the tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely, perhaps courageously, idiosyncratic ways. Ultimately, though, the grief that was initially so isolating brings the four family members to connect powerfully with the sadness and burdens of others—to the grief that is part of every human life and that carries within it the ability to draw us together. And in the end, Ricky and John's marriage is stronger for the transformation their grief has allowed.

Moving, psychologically acute, and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others is Leah Hager Cohen at the height of her talent in what is sure to be her breakout book, one that forces readers to ask themselves: What would I have done? The Grief of Others exposes the paradox that facing tragedy together can in fact awaken us to our better selves and take us from fear to a place of hope and optimism.

After the death of their infant son from anencephaly, the Ryrie family finds themselves grieving individually, isolated from one another. While they all pretend that outwardly their world is intact, inwardly the fabric of their family is fracturing itself into pieces.  John and Ricky are distant with each other, Biscuit and Paul struggle with normal childhood and pre-teen issues that are compounded by grief over the loss of a brother they never knew and distant parents.  Jess, overcome by unexpected pregnancy shows up searching for purpose and meaning. 

There is no narrator.  The book moves between perspectives and the author is able to bring us into each person's mind and thoughts so completely. Grief is something very individual.  We all grieve differently and it's too easy to let grief fester in our hearts where it impedes life's normal progressions.  Ricky and John are not only unable to connect and support one another, they are incapable of helping their children deal with grief.

This is an inherently sad novel.  These aren't characters you particularly connect with or care about, but they are people who evoke strong emotions and like a voyeur, you find yourself unable to pull away from the raw, heartbreaking scenes before you.

Beautifully lyrical, but with moderate, unnecessary profanity. While this isn't necessarily a book that I would re-read, it's a compelling story about life and family heartbreak and how tragedy has the ability to both bring us together and divide us forever.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Leah Hager Cohen here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, September 13th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, September 14th: Book Addiction
Thursday, September 15th: BookNAround
Friday, September 16th: Colloquium
Monday, September 19th: Crazy for Books
Tuesday, September 20th: Life In Review
Wednesday, September 21st: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Thursday, September 22nd: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Monday, September 26th: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, September 27th: Library of Clean Reads
Wednesday, September 28th: That’s What She Read
Thursday, September 29th: StephTheBookworm
Monday, October 3rd: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, October 4th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, October 5th: Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, October 6th: Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, October 7th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Read 9/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lancaster County Christmas...Review

About the book:
Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick began their married life as most couples do--in love and looking forward to a bright future together. But four years later they've drifted apart and are almost ready to call it quits.

Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband Sol the Christmas gift they have both longed for--news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big family isn't likely to become a reality.

Then a winter storm raging outside blows the Fitzpatricks into the Riehl home--and into a much slower pace of life. Can these two couples from different worlds help each other understand the true meaning of love this Christmas?

With her trademark plot twists and attention to detail, Suzanne Woods Fisher offers readers a beautiful Christmas story of love, forgiveness, and what truly matters in life.

A sweet Christmas novella set in Amish country and I enjoyed learning more about Sol and Mattie Riehl, characters from her Lancaster County Secrets series.  Mattie adores her son, but longs for a houseful of children.  Jaime longs for a photography career while her husband is happy as a small town teacher.  A winter storm brings Jaime and her husband to Mattie and Sol's for Christmas.  While the two couples come from very different worlds, they find that there are always lessons to be learned from one another.

I've enjoyed everything I've read by Suzanne Woods Fisher and I had high hopes for this novel as well.  Unfortunately, I didn't like Jaime at all.  I found her to be a whiny, selfish girl and even when she comes to the predictable epiphany and realizes that her selfish behavior is driving away her husband, I still didn't like her.  I did enjoy the interactions between the two couples, one being very Amish and the other very English.  Thoughtful conversations and understandings occur as Mattie and Jaime, especially, learn life lessons from each other.

Characters from her Lancaster County Secrets series make their appearance here, but this book stands alone.  Fans of Suzanne Woods Fisher will love this one, and while it's not my favorite, it was one I enjoyed.

Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Suzanne Woods Fisher here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, September 15, 2011


About the book:
Tall, dark and eligible? That’s all that matters to the women of Jacobsville when it comes to handsome and aloof FBI agent Jon Blackhawk. But if it were up to him, he would never settle down. Luckily, Jon has the best gatekeeper: his efficient and reliable assistant, Joceline Perry. Without her help, he’d be at the mercy of husband hunters — but the more he comes to rely on her, the more he notices how invaluable she really is....

While Joceline can’t deny that her boss is attractive, as a single mother with responsibilities she’s determined to be professional. But when Jon is accosted by a criminal seeking revenge, she comes to his aid — fueling the spark that is growing between them.

As the attempts on Jon’s life increase, Joceline stands by his side. But when the smoke clears, will the man who avoided love realize that all he ever needed was right there all along?

I can't do it. I usually try and be fair in my negative reviews, but I honestly can't find anything good to say about this one. The blurb sounded interesting, but the story is completely implausible and the characters shallow and one-dimensional.  The big secret for why Joceline keeps the paternity of her son a secret?  Predictable and lame.  There is also at least one mildly explicit sex scene.

I did not care for any of these characters and felt like I'd been dropped into the middle of a soap opera after having missed the first several hours of drama.  The video gaming vernacular and the history-obsessed characters and their need to spout facts were annoying.  I finally skimmed the book enough to realize I wasn't missing anything.

Diana's fans may enjoy this one as it's apparently necessary to have read her previous books to understand who everyone is and how their stories fit together.  The book, however, is not billed as part of a series, so I'd have no idea which books to read, if I had the desire to do so.

Thanks to Jaime at Planned Television Arts for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Diana Palmer here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/11

1/5 Stars

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Willpower...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
Leading social psychologist and scientist Roy F. Baumeister’s latest research reveals that the average person spends four hours of their day battling temptation.  It’s no wonder most of us claim our greatest weakness is lack of willpower. But Baumeister argues this doesn’t have to be the case. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, he collaborates with renowned New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of self-control.

Various studies have showed a link between self-control and success across a variety of personal realms. Over years of research, Baumeister found that willpower works like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice, and fatigued with overuse. His lab work also ties willpower to glucose, the basic biological fuel for brain and body, and shows that self-control can be strengthened simply by replenishing the body’s store of fuel. That’s why eating and sleeping — or lack thereof — have such dramatic effects on self-control. It’s also why prison researchers have been able to accurately predict, based solely on how prisoners’ bodies process glucose, which prisoners will commit more violent crimes after their release.

Decision making is similarly reliant on glucose, with choice and will often directly competing for resources. For instance, life-changing decisions can go in different directions depending on whether they’re made before or after lunch. As Baumeister and Tierney show, exhausting and starving your willpower doesn’t just produce one symptom: it intensifies all manner of feelings and impulses. The glucose connection creates a particularly unfortunate Catch-22 for dieters: in order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower; but in order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat.

The good news is that while self-control is biologically rooted, we have the capacity to manipulate our nature. Willpower features personal stories from entrepreneurs, executives, artists and parents who have managed to do just that. People like David Blaine, Eric Clapton, Mary Karr, and Oprah Winfrey offer life-changing lessons in the exercise of self-control. Their experiences show that we can not only build willpower, but also conserve it for crucial moments by setting the right goals and using the best techniques for monitoring our progress. Once we establish the correct habits, willpower gets easier.

Combining the best of modern social science with practical wisdom, Baumeister and Tierney deliver the definitive compendium of modern lessons in willpower, and explain how however we define happiness—a close-knit family, a satisfying career, financial security—we won’t reach it without mastering self-control

Have you ever wanted more willpower? Have you ever wondered why some days you can drive right past the donut shop without a concern, and some days your car seems to drive itself in there while 49% of your brain is screaming no!!!

Would you like to improve your willpower, or at the very least understand why it fails you sometimes?

While Baumeister & Tierney do not promise to be able to turn you into that stronger person you always wanted to be, this book is full of explanations about why our will fails us, and what we can do to avoid those pitfalls.

Using a nice mix of research, anecdotes and interviews, they have managed to create an engaging and informative read, and give you some laughs along the way.

You will also pick up some useful ideas about how you can improve your own willpower, and how to be better organized.

This is a fun read, and I highly recommend you pick up this book.

Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can see other reviews and tour stops here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Monday, September 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, September 6th: A Frugal Life
Wednesday, September 7th: Sustainable Life Blog
Thursday, September 8th: Nine More Months
Monday, September 12th: Today’s Path
Tuesday, September 13th: Inventing My Life
Wednesday, September 14th: 2 Kids and Tired Books
Tuesday, September 2oth: Unclutterer
Wednesday, September 21st: Stephany Writes
Thursday, September 22nd: Overstuffed
Tuesday, September 27th: Mind Hacks
Wednesday, September 28th: Always Well Within
Thursday, September 29th: Truth2BeingFit
Friday, September 30th: Evolution You

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Life as a So-Called Proverbs 31 Wife...Review

About the book:
Sara Horn always admired the Proverbs 31 wife, but when she became a busy writer and mother, she deemed this model to be dated and impossible. Or is it? Join Sara as she heads into a one-year domestic experiment and offers full access to see if this biblical model can be embraced by a modern woman-even one who can't sew.

With humility and humor, Sara sets out to pursue the Proverbs 31 characteristics through immersing herself in all things domestic, but when her family's situation changes and she must return to a full-time job, she's forced to look at the Proverbs 31 woman with a whole new viewpoint. Through it all, she and readers discover:

What it means to be a godly woman and a wife
How investing in family and faith refines priorities as a spouse and a parent
How mistakes are opportunities for growth

This thought-provoking, surprising, and entertaining personal account will inspire women to try their own experiments in living out God's purpose for their lives.

I will admit that when I first started reading this, I wasn't sure if the author was serious or if she was making fun of Proverbs 31.  I soon realized that she was definitely serious, and her sense of humor is terrific.

After a sermon on the Proverbs 31 wife, Sara decided to see if becoming the Proverbs 31 wife was idealistic or possible. Over the course of a year, she attempts to learn to be a better cook and housekeeper and to be kinder and more patient.  She chronicles her experiences.  There are some great discussion questions, a 10-day challenge and even many of the recipes she learned to cook.

What I appreciated were Sara's conclusions that proving ourselves good wives and mothers, terrific cooks and housekeepers and stressing ourselves out in the process shouldn't be our goal.  We have responsibilities to our families, but we also have responsibilities to God and it's when we put God first that the other things fall into place.  I have seen this happen time and again in my own life.

Sara's narrative is light-hearted but not shallow. Her motivation is sincere and her experiences are often poignant and thought-provoking.  Her theories in the beginning of how she thinks the Proverbs 31 woman came to even be in the bible is hysterical.

Enjoyable and easily recommended.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.. You can learn more about Sara Horn here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb...Review

About the book:
“Never would I allow my size to define me. Instead, I would define it.”

She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world’s most unexpected celebrity.

Here, in Vinnie’s singular and spirited voice, is her amazing adventure—from a showboat “freak” revue where she endured jeering mobs to her fateful meeting with the two men who would change her life: P. T. Barnum and Charles Stratton, AKA Tom Thumb. Their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. But Vinnie’s fame would also endanger the person she prized most: her similarly-sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight.

A barnstorming novel of the Gilded Age, and of a woman’s public triumphs and personal tragedies, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is the irresistible epic of a heroine who conquered the country with a heart as big as her dreams—and whose story will surely win over yours.

A fictionalized account of a real woman, but unfortunately one that I just couldn't get into.  Vinnie wasn't a woman I could care ever about.  She was selfish and vain and only cared about herself and her younger sister who was small like she was.   She wasn't very considerate of her husband, her marriage was not a true love match and there are suggestions that Vinnie truly loved P.T. Barnum instead.

Much of Vinnie's story is left to speculation or an assumption that the reader already knows what has happened.  At one point in her travels, Vinnie visits Utah and the author's portrayal of Mormons is very cliched and stereotypical, rather than accurate and genuine. 

I found nothing heroic or inspiring about Vinnie or her story.   I can't recommend the book.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/1/11

1/5 Stars

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Deadly Pursuit...Review

About the book:
As a social worker, Alison Taylor has a passion for protecting children and seeing that justice is served on their behalf. But when she starts getting harassing phone calls and bizarre "gifts," it seems she may be the one in need of protection. When her tormentor's attentions take a violent turn, her brother Cole comes to her aid, along with his new partner, Detective Mitch Morgan. As her relentless stalker turns up the heat, Mitch takes a personal interest in the case. Protecting Alison has become more than just a job--because his own happiness now depends on keeping her safe.

Chock full of nail-biting suspense and heart-melting romance,
Deadly Pursuit is Irene Hannon's storytelling at its very best. Fans old and new will not want to miss the next story in this series starring siblings fighting for justice.

Alison just wants to be the best child's advocate she can be.  Unfortunately, her job takes her into the lives and locations of people who are down and out and who often don't appreciate justice.  When an unknown stalker targets her, Alison's brother and his new partner step in to protect her.  As the danger increases and he finds himself drawn to Alison, Mitch realizes that he can't fathom the thought of losing her.

I love Irene Hannon's stories.  I love knowing that I will read a novel full of exciting, thrilling adventure without gratuitous violence or sex, but with the right amount of excitement and romance.  Her characters are well developed, yet flawed and likeable and her gift for conversation is unmatched.   These are books you just don't want to put down!

Second in the Guardians of Justice series, you can read my review of Fatal Judgment here.  The book stands alone well though and I look forward to the next installment which should be Cole's story.

Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Irene Hannon here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Full Moon Bride...Review

About the book:
What makes a marriage--love or compatibility? Passion or pragmatism? Shobhan Bantwal’s compelling new novel explores the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as a young Indian-American woman navigates the gulf between desire and tradition…

To Soorya Giri, arranged marriages have always seemed absurd. But while her career as an environmental lawyer has flourished, Soorya is still a virgin, living with her parents in suburban New Jersey. She wants to be married. And she is finally ready to do the unthinkable…

Soorya’s first bridal viewings are as awkward as she anticipated. But then she’s introduced to Roger Vadepalli. Self-possessed, intelligent, and charming, Roger is clearly interested in marriage and seems eager to clinch the deal. Attracted to him in spite of her mistrust, Soorya is also drawn into a flirtation with Lou, a widowed colleague who is far from her family’s idea of an acceptable husband.

In choosing between two very different men, Soorya must reconcile her burgeoning independence and her conservative background. And she must decide what matters most to her--not just in a husband, but in a family, a culture, and a life…

While I'm not very familiar with the Indian culture, I think Shobhan Bantwal completely captured what must be the essence and contradictions of Indian-American life.  Soorya is a second generation Indian-American, privileged, educated and successful.  Not a classically beautiful woman, she has never really dated and finally desiring marriage and family, she agrees to bridal viewings in the hope of finding a young man willing to accept an arranged marriage as well.   She soon discovers that meeting a young man is only half the battle. 

I have always been intrigued that the concept of arranged marriages still flourishes, even here in America.  The exploration of arranged marriages in this novel was fascinating. These are real, flawed people with desires and feelings and a love and loyalty to family and culture. Shobhan Bantwal's descriptions are colorful and rich.  I enjoyed the portrayal of strong women and while I didn't love Soorya at first, she did grow on me towards the end.

Thanks to Jaime at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Shobhan Bantwal here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, September 5
Guest Post at The Hot Author Report
Tuesday, September 6
Guest Post at The Hot Author Report
Wednesday, September 7
Review at My Reading Room
Thursday, September 8
Guest Post at The Book Connection
Friday, September 9
Review at 2 Kids and Tired Books
Monday, September 12
Guest Post at One Day at a Time
Tuesday, September 13
Review at One Day at a Time
Wednesday, September 14
Interview and Review at The Cottage Bookshelf
Thursday, September 15
Interview at Literarily Speaking
Friday, September 16
Review at Just Another Book Addict
Monday, September 19
Review at Day by Day in Our World
Spotlight at The Plot
Tuesday, September 20
Character Interview at The Plot
Wednesday, September 21
Guest Post at Life in Review
Thursday, September 22
Review at Life in Review
Friday, September 23
Interview at Pump Up Your Book
Monday, September 26
Spotlight at Books, Products and More
Guest Post and Review at The Bookish Dame
Tuesday, September 27
Guest Post at The Story Behind the Book
Wednesday, September 28
Review at My Random Acts of Reading
Thursday, September 29
Guest Post at A Journey Into Reading
Friday, September 30
Review at A Journey Into Reading
Review at Library of Clean Reads

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pirate of My Heart...Review

About the book:
When her doting father dies, Lady Kendra Townsend is given a choice: marry the horrid man of her cold, money-grubbing uncle's choosing or leave England to risk a new life in America with unknown relatives. 

Armed with the faith that God has a plan for her, Kendra boards a cargo ship and meets American sea captain Dorian Colburn. But the captain has been wounded by a woman before and guards his independent life. 

A swashbuckling man doesn't need an English heiress to make him slow down, feel again, or be challenged with questions about his faith-or so he thinks. It is not until Dorian must save Kendra from the dark forces surrounding her that he decides she may be worth the risk.

Anxious to leave England and return to America, Dorian Colburn isn't thrilled with the prospect of transporting a spunky Englishwoman across the Atlantic.  Forced to leave her homeland after the death of her beloved father, Kendra isn't thrilled with what the unknown future holds for her.  Thrown together unwittingly, a tentative friendship forms between them. When Kendra's life is threatened, Dorian realizes the true feelings of his heart and wonders if there can be a future for them together.

This is an exciting, entertaining story with a charming heroine and handsome hero.  While I found myself annoyed at times with Kendra's instant ability to jump to the wrong conclusions, I admired her gumption.  And with evil villains and scoundrels, Dorian was the perfect hero, always rushing to the rescue.  Along the way, though, they both learn the importance of God and family.

While I appreciate receiving unedited ARCs for review, I find myself very often frustrated with the editing/continuity/depth issues that are inherent to ARCs and this copy had quite a few.  I would really like to read the final version to see the necessary corrections and what additional changes were made as well.

Still, this is a charming romance with just enough adventure and suspense.  It was one I enjoyed and one I can easily recommend.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Julie Gwinn of BH Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jamie Carie here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Through the Fire...Review

About the book:
Even Smoke Runs From the Fire.

Firefighting burns in Aidan O’Neill’s blood, but his innate gift for reading flames has made him overconfident and sometimes puts lives in danger. When one call goes horribly wrong and a rookie is hurt, Aidan ends up suspended and finds himself questioning everything.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

An arsonist is targeting Reno, leaving a scorched path of destruction. The department calls Aidan back, but his return is troubled. The gift he relied on for so long has gone silent and it’s as though the fires are coming for him, hunting him down. Teaming with a beguiling fire investigator who may know more than she’s saying, Aidan must discover where his trust rests as the flames burn ever closer.

An Explosive Blend of Action, Romance, and Danger.

After reading Falls Like Lightning, I had to get my hands on another Shawn Grady book.  Fortunately, my library came through.

Aidan is a Reno firefighter with a gift for reading or hearing how a fire will react or the direction it will take.  After a difficult call where his young partner is injured, Aidan has a psychological reaction and can no longer read fires.  An arson is targeting Reno and Aidan believes these fires are related to the one that killed his firefighter father years ago. He teams with Julianne, a beautiful fire investigator, to try and track down the arsonist, who appears to be targeting him.

This one is written from Aidan's first-person perspective and I'm really not a fan of first person.  Shawn does manage a blend of the concrete action along with Aidan's abstract perspectives of fire and the way it affects him and the way he can read it.  Shawn's personal firefighting experience is apparent in his descriptions and jargon.  This is a thrilling, fast-paced story and one where I could not predict the outcome.

Through the Fire is Shawn's first book and it's good, although I must admit I enjoyed Falls Like Lightning more. 

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Little Black Dress...Review

About the book:
Two sisters whose lives seemed forever intertwined are torn apart when a magical little black dress gives each one a glimpse of an unavoidable future.

Antonia Ashton has worked hard to build a thriving career and a committed relationship, but she realizes her life has gone off-track. Forced to return home to Blue Hills when her mother, Evie, suffers a massive stroke, Toni finds the old Victorian where she grew up as crammed full of secrets as it is with clutter. Now she must put her mother’s house in order—and uncover long-buried truths about Evie and her aunt, Anna, who vanished fifty years earlier on the eve of her wedding. By shedding light on the past, Toni illuminates her own mistakes and learns the most unexpected things about love, magic, and a little black dress with the power to break hearts...and mend them.

Who would have thought that a little black dress could have so much hold and influence over women of multiple generations?  As Antonia returns home when her mother has a devastating stroke, she begins to discover secrets about her mother's past and her mysteriously absent Aunt Anna.  Central to that past is a beautiful, black silk dress with a magic all its own.  When Toni wears the dress, she discovers its power for herself in ways she's not quite ready to accept, but she soon realizes the dress has a hold on everyone who wears it.

The story is told alternating narrations: a third-person narration of Toni's present day story and experiences and her mother's first-person account of her own story.  The alternating narrations work here though.

I think this would make a terrific book club read with lots to discuss.  A bit of magical realism, a woman coming to terms with her relationship with her mother and learning about the past and a bond of sisterhood that time can't erase make this a warm and compelling story.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Susan McBride here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, August 23rd: Colloqium
Wednesday, August 24th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, August 25th: Runpinne
Friday, August 26th: A Few More Pages
Monday, August 29th: Life In Review
Tuesday, August 30th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Wednesday, August 31st: The Lost Entwife
Thursday, September 1st: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, September 6th: 2 Kids and Tire Book Reviews
Wednesday, September 7th: BookNAround
Thursday, September 8th: Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, September 9th: Chick Lit Reviews

Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars