Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mini Reviews, Four of Them

 The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen
Title: The Painter's Daughter
Author: Julie Klassen
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.
Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.
Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows? 

I was so excited for new Julie Klassen. I've loved all of her books, which is no small feat. While I still enjoyed this one, I don't think I loved it quite as much as all of her other books.

Of course, this one one starts with quite the scandal. Sophie has yet to tell anyone that she's pregnant, when she finds herself abandoned by the father. When his brother Stephen arrives to collect his stuff and find where he's gone, he proposes. Sophie accepts, and they return to his home. They are just getting to know each other, when Wesley comes back.

As always, Klassen writes her characters so well. I enjoyed Sophie and Stephen, and thought they were well fleshed out. I feel that we really got to know them. Klassen always does a really great job of writing secondary characters, and we get to know them just as much as the main characters. I always appreciate authors who do that, and love seeing the other stories and characters intertwining with our main story.

I usually do not like historical either, but Klassen always has a way of writing that draws me in. With her beautifully detailed setting, and surprising plot twists, Klassen's writing will hook you from the start. I wouldn't say this one was quite as plot twisty as her others, and there was nothing too unpredictable, but I still found this to be a great story.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Julie Klassen:

 Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund
Title: Undaunted Hope
Author: Jody Hedlund
Series: Beacons of Hope, #3
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him. 
Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

When I saw that the main character in this one was a secondary character from book 2, I was intrigued. Tessa was not the most liked character from that story, so I was interested to see how the author would turn the tables. And in fact, Tessa might have been my favorite of the MC's from this series.

Tessa has been running since the events of the previous book. She is trying to put her past behind her, and has matured into a lovely young lady. She arrives as a teacher for this new town, only to find that they are not willing to have a female teacher. She talks them into agreeing to let her stay through the winter, and then throws herself into proving she deserves to stay.

Tessa has become a very strong, independent character, and I loved her for it. She hates the way the townspeople are treated, and starts to do something about it. I loved seeing this change in her. She still has a lot to work through, but it's obvious she is now a very different person.

I loved the other characters in this one too, from the kids to Alex and his brother. I did have issues with Alex when he and his brother tried to make decisions for Tessa as if it was their right, but Tessa quickly put a stop to that, which I admired her for. All in all, I thought this was a great addition to the series.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jody Hedlund:

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 At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings
Title: At Love's Bidding
Author: Regina Jennings
Series: Ozark Mountain Romances #2
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the furious family, her grandfather tracks it to the Missouri Ozarks and makes an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house if they promise not to sell anything until he arrives.
Upon their arrival, however, they discover their new business doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its manager, ruggedly handsome Wyatt Ballentine, is frustrated to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and salvage a bad situation getting worse.

This is only the second book I've read by Regina Jennings, and while I don't think I liked it as much as the first book in this series, I did still enjoy this second installment.

Miranda has always done what she is told. She just wants to be a good daughter and keep the peace. But when she is charged with accompanying her grandfather to find a lost painting, Miranda has to learn how to take charge. I liked Miranda. She was sweet, and just wanted what was best for her family. And we get to see her grow and learn what's best for herself as well.

I did like Wyatt, as well as the other characters, some of which we saw book 1. The plot didn't really hook me though, as I put the book down a few times, and wouldn't pick it up again for a very long time in between. The communication issues did frustrate me a little bit, as I was screaming at them to "just talk already". I also got a bit lost there at the end, with everything that happened. It seemed a bit fast, everything at once. However, I did think this was a cute story, and I did enjoy it.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Regina Jennings:

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 Every Bride Has Her Day by Janice Thompson
Title: Every Bride Has Her Day
Author: Janice Thompson
Series: Brides with Style #3
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Katie Fisher is ecstatic. Pro basketball star Brady James has proposed, and she can't wait to start planning their life together. She's confident she'll make it down the aisle this time--but it still may be easier said than done. A high-society Houston bride has Katie and the Cosmopolitan Bridal team scrambling to get the perfect dress done in time for her spectacular wedding. Meanwhile, Katie finds herself bombarded with everyone's competing visions regarding her own special day--and she's beginning to worry that her own ideas will get lost in the crossfire. Will she ever manage to settle all of the details for "her" perfect day? Or will bridal shop chaos and overzealous friends and family make a mess of everything? 

I have loved this series, and I thought this was a cute, fun end to the series. I love Janice Thompson's books for how fun and sweet they are, and this one was no different.

I did have a few more issues with this one. I felt like...nothing happened. As in, there was no real plot. Yes, I know Katie is getting married, but it seemed very lacking. I felt like a lot of the conversations were repeated, even Katie's inner monologue. They were just saying the same things over and over again, and nothing was really happening. Also, I know it's a romance, and they tend to be slightly unrealistic anyway, but the amount of engagements/weddings/etc. in this one seemed over-the-top and excessive. I mean, I could see why Jane was feeling a little bitter.

But in true Thompson fashion, the story was hilarious and quirky and sweet. It was still a fun read, and I'm glad we got to see the whole gang one last time, all together. I thought it was super cute, and I can't wait for more from Janice Thompson.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Janice Thompson:

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hope and Red {by Jon Skovron}

 Hope and Red by Jon Skovron
Title: Hope and Red
Author: Jon Skovron
Series: Empire of Storms Trilogy #1
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. 
A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance.
A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist.
When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.
It's been a long time since I've really red a true fantasy novel, much less an adult one. However this was just what I needed. It was interesting, it was fast-paced, with unique characters, and kept me intrigued the whole time.

My biggest issue with fantasy is often that I can't keep all the world-building straight, but I did not really have this problem. I found it interesting, this world of biomancers. I also enjoyed Hope and Red. They were worlds apart, and written distinctly. Hope is set on vengeance, payback for what happened to her village years ago. Red wants power. But when they have to learn how to work together.
I feel like Hope went through more growth and transformation than Red (but of course their story isn't over). She is still bent on vengeance, but she learns how to redirect it for a greater good. Both of them learn things about themselves and about what they want, for themselves but also for their world. I also loved all the secondary characters. They were fleshed out, and just as important to the story. I liked seeing the intertwining storylines. While most of the book is told from the POV of either Hope or Red, sometimes we get a different perspective that adds a whole new dimension to the story.
The story was fast-paced, and kept my interest the whole time. I think the end was a little too fast, and not as well put-together as the rest, but it was still good. It isn't so unpredictable or anything, but it is still a good story. This is a little more adult than I usually review, just throwing that out there.
All in all, I thought this was an excellent story, and I will be looking forward to the rest of the series.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads
Jon Skovron:

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Land of Silence {by Tessa Afshar}

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar
Title: Land of Silence
Author: Tessa Afshar
Genre: Biblical retelling
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

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?

I enjoyed this story so much. When it comes to Biblical retelling, we see so many of the same ones over and over again, so I thought this was an interesting take on someone we've never really seen before.

Like always, Afshar's writing is vivid and beautiful, down to the details, making the reader feel immersed into this world. I love seeing different cultures and history, and I thknk that is something Afshar always does so well.

I loved the characters as well, and I feel that Afshar really brought them to life. Elianna's case is unusual, that she would be allowed so much freedom to work, etc. (although this is made clear), but I felt that she was written very well. It felt like reading about an old friend, and I got sucked in, feeling the highs and lows of every emotion along with her.

I admire Afshar's ability to take a few sentences from the Bible, and weave a beautiful, thrilling tale from it. No longer is she a nameless character, but someone full of beauty and life. Afshar is such a talented writer, and as always, I look forward to her next work.

Tessa Afshar:

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mini Reviews: A Daring Sacrifice, The Beautiful Pretender

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund
Title: A Daring Sacrifice
Author: Jody Hedlund
Series: An Uncertain Choice, #2
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

The only thing harder than fighting for what’s right…is fighting their feelings for each other.
For three years, the Cloaked Bandit has terrorized Wessex, robbing the nobility by knifepoint and a well-placed arrow. But little dos anyone know, this bandit is in fact Juliana Wessex, the rightful ruler of the land and a girl her tyrannical uncle—the current Lord Wessex—believes was killed along with her father.
Juliana has become skilled at hiding from Lord Wessex in the forest, using her stolen goods to provide food and shelter to the peasants her uncle has taxed into poverty. But when she robs Collin Goodrich, her red hair betrays her true identity. Lord Collin remembers Juliana from their childhood—and challenges her to stay on his estate for a week in hopes she will leave her thieving ways and become a proper lady once more. Juliana is intrigued by Collin and his charms, but only time will tell if he can overcome her distaste of the nobility—as well as win her heart.

I love my Jody Hedlund books, and am very glad that she has ventured out into the world of YA. I adored the first book in this series, but unfortunately this one did not quite cut it for me. There was just something lacking, and it was not up to par to what I have come to expect from one of her books.

I did wish, after reading the first one, that we would get stories about the other two knights, and so I am glad that we got that. It was fun to see a story about Collin, get to know him a little more. As for Juliana...I liked her, I did. However, we were told that she was basically a female Robin Hood and yet I did not see that. I'm not sure how she survived as the Cloaked Bandit for years, because Collin seemed to rescue her at every turn.

I also did not really connect to either of the characters. Collin was nice, and funny, but also arrogant. I was very bothered by his ideas of needing to show Juliana that she "belonged" with the nobility and protect her, not taking into account what she wanted. It came from a good heart, sure, but very overbearing. I think both of them had the potential to be great characters, but they felt a little flat.
There was some insta-love, which led to some plot points that I felt were too fast/too much for the point these characters were at, but its Christian Fiction and that's how it goes so I won't even touch on that.

It was a fun, enjoyable read, although it could have been so much more. Of course, our favorite Sirs Derrick and Brennan also made an appearance, which was nice. Although this book felt a little short, I will be continuing with this series, because I do very much enjoy this author, and I am excited to continue Sir Brennan's story.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jody Hedlund:

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Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson
Title: The Beautiful Pretender
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Thornbeck #2
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating:4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?
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?

I love Melanie Dickerson's books, and this one was no exception. From the medieval setting, to the Bachelor-esque feel of the book, and just how cute it was. I didn't get a particular fairy tale vibe from this one - I could see Beauty and the Beast elements, I guess? Although I felt more Queen Esther-vibes, actually. 

Lord Thornbeck is a gruff, angry, and generally reserved. But when the King commands him to find a bride, he has no choice. So, he invites the daughters of ten nobles to his castle, to get to know them. Unbeknownst to them, he also puts them through a series of tests to see who would be the best fit for his bride. Then we have Avelina, who has been sent in the place of one of the ladies, and is only trying to make it through without anyone noticing her deception.

I really liked all the characters, especially Avelina. I felt as if they were fleshed out, and that we got to know them individually. The friendship Avelina forms with Magdalen, the deep conversations between Avelina and the margrave, and even the soft side of himself that the margrave showed sometimes all led to help create complex and interesting characters. 

I would also say that the climax happened sooner than I would have thought it would, or what we would assume would be the climax, leaving room for more things to happen in the story, which I very much enjoyed. We got to see more of them, working together, and I loved that the story did not end where we thought it would.

This can be read as a standalone, although our favorite Jorgen and Odette from book 1 are recurring characters. I fully enjoyed this book and cannot wait for the next one.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Melanie Dickerson:

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mini Reviews: Unoffendable, #struggles

Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
Title: Unoffendable
Author: Brant Hansen
Genre: Religious Nonfiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

Not entitled to get angry? Really?
It’s a radical, provocative idea: We’re not entitled to get offended or stay angry. The idea of our own “righteous anger” is a myth. It is the number one problem in our societies today and, as Dallas Willard says, Christians have not been taught out of it.
As it turns out, giving up our “right” to be offended can be one of the most freeing, healthy, simplifying, relaxing, refreshing, stress-relieving, encouraging things we can do.
In Unoffendable readers will find something of immeasurable value—a concrete, practical way to live life with less stress. They’ll adjust their expectations to fit human nature and replace perpetual anger with refreshing humility and gratitude.
The book offers a unique viewpoint, challenging the idea that Christians can ever harbor “righteous anger” or that there evenis such a thing for believers.
Few other books exist with such a radical, provocative proposal to consider. We have no right to anger. We are to get rid of it, period. Completely. And it is possible to choose to be “unoffendable.”
Through the author’s winsome, humorous, and conversational style, this book doesn’t add another thing to do on a stressed-out person’s ever-growing list. Better, it actually seeks to lift religious burdens from readers’ backs and allow them to experience the joy of gratitude, perhaps for the first time, every single day of their lives.

I loved listening to Brant Hansen on the radio, so when I heard he was coming out with a book, of course I had to have it. And I think this book perfectly encompassed what one has come to expect from Brant: willing to talk about the hard things in an honest and blunt way, but still with humor and good will.

The book is short and sweet and to the point. I don't think anyone would find the subject matter terribly hard to understand. But I think one look at into society, at even just the political climate of today, shows that is book is very necessary. He brings up things in new ways, and frames them to make you rethink what you were taught.

Like I said, I don't think this idea is super hard or revolutionary. But it does bring up the question of why have we, in this American Christian culture, gotten so far away from this idea. Brant keeps this simple, lightened up with his own anecdotes and humor, yet isn't afraid to get deep and spiritual with us. I think this is a very important book that I wish I could shove on most of the Christians I know.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

#struggles by Craig Groeschel
Title: #struggles
Author: Craig Groeschel
Genre: Religious Nonfiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

We all love the benefits of technology and social media, but even with the incredible upsides, many of us suspect there are unintended negative consequences that are beyond our control. We’ve lost perspective, even perhaps ourselves.
In this timely and life-changing new book, New York Times bestselling author and pastor of Craig Groeschel encourages readers who are hungry to regain control over their lives and put Christ first again. He walks them through biblical values that all Christ followers know are essential, but are even more important for our maxed out, selfie-centered world.
The more you compare, the less satisfied you are. The more we interact online, the more we crave face to face intimacy, but the harder it is to find. The more filtered our lives become, the more challenging it is to be authentic. The more information about the pain in the world we’re exposed to the more difficult it is to care.
It’s time to refresh and rediscover our understanding of the biblical principles that life with Christ brings: contentment, intimacy, authenticity, compassion, rest and more. Groeschel taps in to some of the most up-to-date studies on the effects of social media on our emotions and our friendships. And he offers real-life examples of how we struggle with social media, how it masks our real struggles, and how we can reclaim a Christ-centered life.
With helpful appendices like the 10 Commandments of Using Social Media to Strengthen Your Faith, and Creating Safeguards for Your Digital Devices, you’ll find #Struggles to be just the guide to bring balance and real-life engagement to your everyday life.

I was a bit wary of this one, to be honest. There are enough people/pastors/books out there telling us how technology has made us worse, the dangers of it, etc. That said, I was impressed with this one and how the author chose to go about it. I felt the book was very thorough, and came from a very Biblical perspective.

Groeschel comes at this from a perspective of someone who also struggles, and understands the need for technology. It isn't all bad, but there comes a point when we need to realize our own personal boundaries.

Everything is broken down simply, so it's not hard to understand. But it is deep, and hard-hitting. No matter your level of social media use/addiction--even if it's none--you will find something in this that will speak to you. Groeschel even outlines ways to help yourself, and get help if you need it.

I think this book is very relevant in this day and age, as it will relate to everyone. They may not be things we want to hear, but they are definitely things we need to hear. I personally thought I was pretty good at handling social media, but this book has shown me that I still have things to work on. It's one of those books that is important for everyone.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Christiansen Family Mini Reviews

When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren
Title: When I Fall in Love
Author: Susan May Warren
Series: Christiansen Family, #3
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.
Maxwell Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.
Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.

I definitely enjoyed this series and my time with the Christiansen family. Before I start, I do want to mention that each of these could be read as a standalone. While people and events from past books are vital in these, they are explained well enough that you could just read them by themselves, if you choose.
Like all of Warren's books, this deals with some hard issues, while also being light and a fun read. Max has a genetic disease (although, okay, must we always pick this one? Be original) and hides himself away from deep and meaningful relationships. Grace is fearful, always preferring to stay in the background rather than put herself out there. So when her family gifts her a cooking retreat in Hawaii, Grace is not happy. Until she meets Max, who teaches her how to let go and have a little fun.

I think I relate a lot to Grace, which is why I enjoyed this as much as I did. I also really liked Max, who is wrestling with his personal demons, but learning to let them go. I thought this story was realistic, and enjoyable to read. Like all stories in this series, it does end a little too "perfect", but I thought the characters were real and honest. Of course, the side characters are also well fleshed out, and I enjoyed seeing them in this one too, even with the main story taking place so far away. I thought this was a great, well-written story and made me definitely look forward to the next one.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

The Wonder of You
Title: The Wonder of You
Author: Susan May Warren
Series: Christiansen Family, #5
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Source: publisher

Mortified after her year abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough to embrace the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.
Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.
While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her place mean leaving home behind?

This might have been my favorite of the series. I thought Caspar's story would have been (book 4), but then this one came along. Tall, dark, and handsome British guy? Sa-woon. But that wasn't the only reason of course.

Amelia thought she was brave, fearless, adventurous. Until she comes home early from her year abroad. Retreating into herself, she decides that maybe she isn't meant for anything more than staying at home. That is, until the guy who broke her heart travels across the ocean to win her back. But with her huge, overprotective family, that won't be easy. Add to that, her high school sweetheart who is determined to prove that she belongs with him, and Roark does not have it easy. But still he stays.

Roark was most definitely my favorite out of all the men in this series. And not just because he's British ;) But when a guy is willing to put up with your entire family and well-meaning but crazy brothers, and work in a coffee shop even though he's a billionaire, girl you don't let him get away. There was a lot of me shouting "JUST COMMUNICATE", frustrated at them. I did not like Seth. He rubbed me entirely the wrong way and I couldn't even see why she would consider someone so controlling. But that's none of my business.

I also loved seeing Amelia grow and mature and figure out what her life is. I mean, she is my age, and already putting me to shame. But she had to learn how to let go, and go with the flow, and realize that you don't have to have it all figured out yet. And that was a lesson I needed as well. The only thing I didn't like was there is always a secondary story in these books, and this book was Grace and Max. And I was not liking it, or them very much. It almost ruined the book for me. I would be super eager to just move past their story and get back to Amelia. But all in all, this was a great story.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

You're the One that I Want
Title: You're the One that I Want
Author: Susan May Warren
Series: Christiansen Family, #6
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.
Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after―especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama―and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.
But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.

Owen's story has been slowly intertwined in every other book, but now we get his story as a fitting conclusion to the series and to this family. Owen is kind of the black sheep of the family, and he has run away to Alaska, where he get a job on a fishing boat.

From the beginning, we see that Owen is a changed man. He's realized his mistakes, found Jesus, and is trying to move on and become a better man. When Caspar finds him, after months of looking, Owen has to own up to his mistakes and face his past.

I think Scotty was my favorite out of the female characters. She's tough. She's used to depending on herself, being on of the guys. So this whole "huge, loving family" thing is completely foreign to her. But Scotty is insistent that she is not "marriage material" and that just broke my heart. I think we can all relate in some way, of feeling not good enough, and that was portrayed very real and very accurately.

And of course this book is full of what the Christiansen's are good at: drama. So much going on. At the risk of spoiling the other books for those interested, I won't say much, but I would totally be scared if I was Scotty, too. But, of course, everything works out. I will say, and I saw this in some of the other books too but especially this one, there were times when the characters did not act like themselves. Some of the actions and words were not consistent with who they were in previous books. Especially their dislike and rudeness to Scotty (no matter what she had done).

But I thought this was a fitting conclusion. Of course everything wrapped up neatly and nicely and perfect. I loved getting to know this family, and I will miss them (crazy and all).

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Susan May Warren:

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Not if I See You First {by Eric Lindstrom}

 Not if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Title: Not if I See You First
Author: Eric Lindstrom
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

The Rules: 
Don't deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.
Don't help me unless I ask. Otherwise you're just getting in my way or bothering me.
Don't be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I'm just like you only smarter. 
Parker Grant doesn't need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.
When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there's only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that's right, her eyes don't work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened--both with Scott, and her dad--the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

This was quite an interesting story. I was very intrigued and excited when I saw the description, because we definitely need more disability in YA Lit. That said, I had issues with the story, but in the end, I definitely enjoyed it.

Parker is not really a likable character. I will flat-out say that. And it wasn't her disability, but just her personality in general. While I realize that some of that stems from her disability, and her feeling that she can't trust anyone or anything because she can't see them, it got exhausting after a while. But I loved reading her transformation. She does realize it and decide that she doesn't to be that person anymore, and makes a real effort to change, and I loved that. But she also keeps that strong, no-nonsense part of her that really maker her Parker.

Parker is dealing with a lot, with her dad's death and changes, and just dealing with life in general. I also loved how fleshed out the other characters were, especially for not being able to see them. I had issues with some of the relationships. Parker and Sarah had a huge fight and it just left me...confused? Parker was being quite ridiculous about it, and I just didn't get it. But they did resolve.

Also, the romance was a big ????. I don't want to say too much and spoil it, but I did not understand what was going on there at all. Also, I feel the ending was just unfinished. Not open, just incomplete. It didn't really make sense.

But other than the romance issues, everything else in this story was well done. Now, I'm not blind so I can't say how well or how correct her disability was represented. But from the perspective of someone not disabled, it was educational and eye-opening, and I think that part was well done. Despite the few issues, I really did love this book.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Eric Lindstrom:

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