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:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Goodreads

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 makes 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:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Thicker than Water {by Brigid Kemmerer}

 Thicker than Water by Brigid Kemmerer
Title: Thicker than Water
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.
Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years. 
The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her best friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers.
Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden…

I  love Kemmerer's Elemental series, so I was so excited when I saw this. And it did not disappoint. I will say, I did not realize this was a paranormal story when I started (although I should have realized because it is Brigid Kemmerer), so if that's not your thing, you have been warned.

Thomas is the new kid in a small town that has already decided not to like him. He's the primary suspect of his mother's murder, and he's all alone. Until he meets Charlotte, who unfortunately happens to be the sister to the cops who dislike him the most. So, with her help, Thomas sets out to find the real killer.

Although this was not a light book by any means, it was a pretty fast read. It kept me glued to the pages, wondering what would happen. At the same time, the characters were pretty well fleshed out. Thomas is full of angst and dark thoughts and despair. Charlotte lives in a stifling family, where women are expected to be docile and pretty and do the dishes and pop out babies. But it doesn't stop her. Sure, she does make some questionable decisions just because Thomas is "hot", but I admired her sass.

The writing was amazing, as always. Kemmerer perfectly captured the small-town atmosphere, as well as other little details that make her books so realistic (except for the paranormal part). I feel that the paranormal part was a bit sudden, with not enough build-up, but other than that, I loved this book. Also, the ending did take me slightly by surprise, which usually doesn't happen, which just shows how engrossed I was.

But in all seriousness, read this book. I was in a serious slump for a while before I started this, and managed to devour it in only a few hours. I absolutely recommend it.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Brigid Kemmerer:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Monday, April 11, 2016

Just Visiting {by Dahlia Adler}

 Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler
Title: Just Visiting
Author: Dahlia Adler
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: author

Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas. 
Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican. 
One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave. 
As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.

Where do I even start? Just Visiting was the book I had in high school. And I do not say this lightly. This was not a perfect book - in fact, I actually put it down about halfway through and didn't pick it back up for months, but I am so glad I did. It was completely worth it.

Reagan and Victoria are ready to get out of their small town. College looms, and the one thing they're agreed on is that they'll be together. But as they make their way to these different colleges, they soon realize maybe that won't happen either.

First off, let me say that I totally regret not doing college visit road trips with my friends. That would have been so much fun (seeing as how we all ended up going in-state anyway). (Also I did not know you could sit in on actual classes, because I'm pretty sure that's not allowed at my school. Then again, we have small classes, not lecture halls. But I digress). I love that this was friendship book, as I think we definitely need more of them. Yes, there were guys and relationships, but at the core, this was about Reagan and Vic and their relationship with each other.

Reagan has been dealt a pretty crappy hand. Everything she does is with her ultimate goal of getting the heck out of this town. Victoria doesn't have it terrible, but she her dreams are too big for the small town where no one gets her. But they both have terrible secrets. I loved seeing them work through the hurt and anger to realize that their friendship mattered more than any of that.

Senior year is such a hard thing. People expect you to know who you are, what you want to do, and it can be terrible. Reagan and Victoria had to grow and mature and figure out what they wanted for their lives, not what other people wanted. And I loved seeing them learn to take charge of their own lives. I think that is something more teen girls need to see.

And of course, the guys. They weren't perfect (ahem, Dev) but they were real. Being a teenager is hard, and I think that was perfectly captured. I loved seeing the girls work through, again, what they wanted. I also love the family aspect, as they were present and a big part, even if Reagan's were terrible.

I loved this book. A lot. And I want to recommend it to every senior (and not senior) I know. It was honest, it was real, but also just a lot of fun.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Dahlia Adler: