My Rapid Review – Holding the Fort

My RAPID Review - Holding the Fort

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Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

My Thoughts

Louisa Bell is tough, determined, creative, and resourceful. She is also loyal, loving, and incredibly vulnerable as a young woman with no family beyond her younger brother, Bradley Willis. Yet, she doesn’t hesitate to put her own future on the line to come to his aid. She didn’t intend to deceive anyone, but in the end, decides going along with the mistaken identity is in everyone’s best interests. As the reader, it is easy to understand how she winds up in the mess she finds herself in, and your heart is torn with hers regarding how to extricate herself with the least amount of damage.

Major Adams is an equally likable character as a widower concerned with the proper upbringing of his daughters yet not wanting to be separated from them. He is continuously harassed and second-guessed by his mother-in-law. And to top it all off, he doesn’t know what to make of the unusual governess who is far too attractive for his own good.

There are several moments of hilarity brought about by the bungled acts of deception, the antics of children, and the foolishness of pride. There are heartwarming scenes of chess games between the two main characters, bonding moments with the daughters, and loyalty between the heroine and her brother. Then there are the heartbreaking, heartstopping moments brought about by the dangers–both expected and unexpected– which originate from a variety of sources.

With well-developed characters, a plot line that grabs your heart and keeps you turning pages, humor that perfectly balances the heavier events, and descriptions that make you feel you’ve been there, Holding the Fort is yet another fantastic example of why I am such a huge a fan of Regina Jennings’s books.

Available: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Christianbooks

BONUS! It’s recently been released on Audible!!!

Additional Reading:  If you’ve already enjoyed Holding the Fort, you’ll also enjoy seeing Louisa’s brother, Private Bradley Willis, meet his match in Bound and Determined – available both individually and as part of the Hearts Entwined novella collection. (Pssst: the collection is great!!!) Also, the second full book in the Fort Reno series, The Lieutenant’s Bargain, is currently availabe for pre-order and scheduled to release December 4th.

Let’s Chat! Which of Regina’s books have you most enjoyed? 

TWEETABLE:

Yet another example of why I am such a huge fan of Regina Jennings’s books! #BookReview @ReginaJennings @KathleenDenly https://bit.ly/2wGJprA

My Rapid Review – Once Upon A Laugh: Eight Novellas With Laughter And Happily-Ever-After

My RAPID Review - Once Upon a Laugh

Today I’m sharing not just one, but eight rapid reviews! That’s because reviewing this collection as a whole would simply not do justice to the wonderful stories contained within its pages.

Since I’ll be rapidly reviewing each these novellas individually, I’m going to start off by sharing the overview description for the collection. Then I’ll work my way through each book in the order they are presented in the collection.

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Ready for a book collection you can’t put down?

Eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies are here to keep you company. Some of your favorite inspirational authors have come together in this collection of all-new novellas.

From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.


Jane by the Book

Jane by the Book

by Pepper Basham

She lives by the plans. He talks to imaginary characters. Can they team up to solve a family mystery?

Four years ago, Jane Warwick escaped the shame and heartbreak of being jilted at the altar by becoming a housekeeper at the secluded Inn at Simeon Ridge. Predictable and quiet, the inn helps Jane find a place to heal and celebrates her strengths, where she is promoted to head housekeeper. But an unexpected visit to Bath, England, upsets Jane’s plans and sends her out of her comfort zone, directly into the harrowing path of historical detective author, Titus Stewart.

The only plans Titus sticks to are family holidays and the ones that send him careening into his story worlds, but when an uptight and nervous innkeeper stumbles into his life – and his latest novel – nonfiction begins to take on a much more interesting gleam.

As the unlikely pair delve into the mystery behind a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letter, will they both uncover a romance that stands the test of time?

My Thoughts

Titus is definitely one of my favorite heroes of this year. His personality is so fun to read and the way he treats Jane just melts my heart. Watching the two of them get to know each other while working to solve the mystery of Jane’s ancestor was both heartwarming and hilarious.  This fun story features unique characters you won’t soon forget.

Jane by the Book is fully readable as a stand-alone novella, but the couple from Pepper Basham’s Second Impressions do play a major part in this story and reading Jane by the Book before reading Second Impressions will result in certain spoilers. So I would recommend reading Second Impressions before reading Jane by the Book.

Favorite Quotes:

Maybe he could walk close enough to see her face and her book as he disembarked. Or he’d just look like the good-natured stalker he was.

Real life is filled with enough sad endings. I stick to the happy ones when I have the chance to read.

Someday you’re going to look back on your life and wish you’d taken a chance. The only way to become braver is to step out into what you fear.

You are significant. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He’s been working on your story much longer than you have.

If God can use a talking donkey and a group of disgruntled fishermen, I think he can inspire an author with the right heart and abilities to create a story that will touch people’s lives.

(Note to Pepper Basham should you happen to stop by:  I am going to print this last one and post it near my computer. Thank you!)


Crossed Out

by Christina Coryell

Ruth Erickson always spends her morning break doing the crossword puzzle. Tate Darrow just messed it up. What’s that old saying about love and war?

Ruth Erickson is good at crossword puzzles. Stupid good at crossword puzzles. It might even be her thing, if that weren’t a sad thing to claim as a thing. She would probably say her thing was taking care of her daughter, Emily, a spunky nine-year-old with a dog fascination. Maybe being a waitress. but she was mainly good at that in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

In light of that knowledge about crosswords, it’s perfectly understandable why she freaked out when Tate Carrow started writing on her crossword puzzle at the cafe. Who does that? Besides, she didn’t know at the time that he’d taken a sabbatical from his job as a photojournalist to visit his ailing father. Certainly didn’t know that his sudden inheritance of a dilapidated mountain cabin and a moody dog had him out of sorts.

Love is definitely in the air. Puppy love – between Emily and the dog. Romantic love between Ruth and Tate would be infinitely more puzzling. And yet . . .

My Thoughts

My first introduction to the delightful writing of Christina Coryell was the first book in her Beards and Belles series, Mowed Over. It was so different and fun to read that I immediately knew I wanted to read more by this author. When I realized Crossed Out featured the hero’s sister from Mowed Over, I was very eager to see how the author brought together the single mom’s love story. And Christina didn’t disappoint. Ruth and Tate are both deep characters that will tug at your heartstrings and make you root for their healing as much as their romance.

Favorite Quotes:

Kids at yard sales were nearly impossible to corral. Grandmas watching kids at yard sales were like wild mustangs, throwing caution and quarters to the wind.

Sometimes it’s only after you have the answer that you can look back and see the clues clearly.


if-she-daresIf She Dares

by Mikal Dawn

He’s a board game champion, but can he win her heart?

Lia Walker burned the bridges—and her boss’s tie—when she quit her job at a car dealership to go work for the chancellor of a prestigious university. But when she arrives only to find out she can’t start her job, she’s burning with only one question: how will she pay her rent?

Garrison McGarville returned from working in Europe a champion—of a Ticket to Ride board game tournament. But his latest job—informing a distressed beauty she doesn’t actually have a job yet—has him feeling more like a loser.

When Garrison comes up with what he hopes is a game-winning move, will Lia dare to accept?

My Thoughts

I think the description says a lot about why I laughed so hard while reading this story. With a heroine who sets fire to her boss’s tie and a hero whose claim to fame is winning a board game tournament, how could things possibly be boring? From the very first page I was engaged with these characters and I enjoyed every moment of watching their relationship develop.

Favorite Quotes:

She couldn’t talk when it came to books piled on her coffee table. And end table. And bedside table. And kitchen table. After all, tables were just a different version of a shelf, right?

She stared at him.

He stared back.

Silence.

‘No.’ He couldn’t be implying what she thought he was trying to imply. No. Stinkin’. Way.

He grinned, looking like a dark-haired Dennis the Menace.

‘I quit.’

 


Definitely

by Heather Gray

Dating isn’t on her to-do list. Dating a pastor? Definitely not.

Annie Flamingo is a widow, mother of a precocious nine-year-old, and the owner of Pink Flamingo Graphic Design. Her life is busy 24/7. She has no time for a relationship, let alone a relationship that comes with a ready-made set of expectations and responsibilities. No way, no how.

Paul Larkin took a nontraditional path to the pastorate, but he’s there now. As pastor of Trinity Community Church, he takes his job seriously. People expect him to be steady and strong, a man of composure. Being a pastor doesn’t stop him from being a man, though, and this man sees a woman he’d like to get to know better.

Can two people who want such different things be right for each other? God’s the only one who’s going to be able to sort out this mixed-up mess.

My Thoughts

Oh, this heroine and I could definitely be friends … minus the coffee thing. I don’t do coffee. But in so many other ways she and I can relate. I may not be a widow (thank you, Lord) and have never dated a pastor, but I have definitely been in a position where I basically made God drag me kicking and screaming down the path He wanted me to follow. LOL Thank you, Lord, for your infinite patience and love. If you’ve ever pulled a Jonah, this is a story you’ll relate to as well. Plus it’s just plain funny to watch it all go down.

Favorite Quotes:

She’d watched him preach dozens of sermons, and she’d never once seen the expression currently on his face. It was like befuddlement had collided with bemusement, and together they’d decided to have a knock-down-drag-out brawl with bewilderment.

Annie did what any normal, healthy, intelligent adult woman would do in the same situation.

She packed up her daughter and fled. From her pastor. Not from evil. She was still fairly convinced he wasn’t evil.

Every person should have people who loved him or her enough to give an open-armed welcome on a moment’s notice.

 


Under the Honey MoonUnder the Honey Moon

by Jessica R. Patch

A honeymoon cottage reunites a pair of childhood friends. Can it offer them a future filled with happily-ever-after?

When B&B owner Juliet Miller’s childhood crush shows up on her doorstep, she thinks he’s come to honor a pact and pop the question. But he’s already engaged and offers her a bargain she can’t turn down. Bowie Nichols has always seen Juliet as a friend until shifting feelings has him second guessing whether or not he’s marrying the right woman.

My Thoughts

She may share a name with the infamous Shakespearean character, but she has no interest in living out her own tragedy–she insists the famous play is not a romance. Juliet has built her business around newly married couples and made it her mission to help them experience a little bit of fairytale bliss. Trouble is, she can’t seem to find any romance of her own. Well, that’s not true, exactly. Things just aren’t going exactly the way she expected. To say the least. Still, this heroine manages to show God’s true love and grace in circumstances that would make many of us turn into Grumpy of the seven dwarves. Seeing her get her happily ever after? That’s enough to make any reader’s day.

Favorite Quotes:

She did a little line dancing along the side of the road and twirled in the moonlight as she edged up Honey Hill.

“I’m fine. It’s not like I haven’t fallen off roofs before.” He paused. “I’ve actually fallen off a lot of them.” His eyes widened as if he’d had some kind of revelation. “I’d be a terrible Santa.”

“I don’t think broken marriages should diminish the beauty and amazement of marriage itself. I have to believe that even in those painful break-ups, there is wonder and beauty to find–in God.”

 


A Wildly Wonderful WeddingA (wildly) Wonderful Wedding

by Krista Phillips

They may be the worst maid of honor and best man in the history of weddings…

Five years ago, Drake and Danielle had a whirlwind summer romance—but on the day they were going to elope, Drake got cold feet and took the coward’s way out. Now a successful business owner, Drake is more than a little concerned when his best friend announces his upcoming nuptials—to the woman he’s only dated a little over a month.

Danielle is shocked when her best friend announces she’s getting married—in two months—to her boyfriend of a while whoppin’ month. And then she meets the best man. Drake? Her friend is marrying the best friend of her ex-fiancé? She has to do something to help her friend see that this hasty wedding is a mistake. But she can’t do it alone.

Will Drake and Danielle be able to work together to stop this crazy, wild wedding, or will they lose their hearts again in the process?

My Thoughts

While whirlwind romances can make for entertaining stories, I often find them irritatingly implausible. This is why I love A (wildly) Wonderful Wedding. It turns the whirlwind romance premise on its head without denying its real-world plausibility–and ramifications. So, as the reader, I got to have my cake and eat it, too.

P.S. The SUV bit was my favorite part. Too funny.

Favorite Quotes:

Drake’s mouth went dry as Danni opened the door–a flirty tilt to her lips, eyes dancing with welcome, wearing a dress a man would have to be dead not to appreciate.

There. At least she no longer looked like a dead woman walking. The ponytail was staying though–although she fixed it so it was more a messy-on-purpose look instead of a messy-because-I-am-a-slob look.

But she was no longer that girl.

She was a woman–and she knew the life-changing, world-shaking, unconditional love of her true Savior now.

She no longer needed someone to rescue her. God had already done that.


Save the Last Word

by Betsy St. Amant Haddox

When conventional meets creative, who will get the last word?

Free-spirited Zoe Armand has never been conventional. From her multitude of odd-jobs to her bad luck in romance, Zoe blazes her own trail–despite the disapproval of her reputation-obsessed parents.

Straight-laced Ben Marshall is back in Memory, Kansas to pack up his Nonny’s apartment after she’d moved into a nursing home. It’s the perfect opportunity to work on his real passion–his secret blog–and avoid his father’s pressure to commit to VP in the family business.

When Zoe is hired to paint a mural in the nursing home, she’s excited for the excuse to hang out with her former neighbor, Ms. Marshall. When she runs into Ben, she discovers her childhood crush never went away. She’s determined to prove herself to her parents and earn Ben’s affection–but a comedy of errors, a secret identity, and a desire to have the last word threatens to keep them apart.

Ben must choose between the chance to win his freedom from his father and protect the heart of the woman who equally fascinates and bewilders him. Will Zoe and Ben find a way around the obstacles blocking true love? Or will Ben’s brief stay in Memory be the last word for them both?

My Thoughts

It’s always fun to see childhood friends grow into something more. Add in a quirky unique heroine with a big heart, a hero with good intentions but steamroller methods, and interfering relatives? You have a perfect recipe for an entertaining story that will keep you turning the pages.

Favorite Quotes:

Ben shut the door behind Zoe. These were the kind of experiences his readers would assume were fiction. But he couldn’t have invented Zoe if he tried.

“Hey, I didn’t beg,” Zoe kicked one foot out of the shadows and into the swatch of moonlight. “I just asked. Repeatedly.”


The Long GameThe Long Game

by Laurie Tomlinson

Whoever said all is fair in love and war never dealt with small-town football…

When the arts budget gets cut to make room for a new football coach, small-town choir teacher Annie Jacobs has one long-shot chance to save the spring musical: kicking a field goal on national television. But she swore off sports—and the spotlight—forever when her last attempt resulted in social annihilation. And the new football coach is the golden boy she pined for in high school, who was there to witness it all.

Hometown hero Ryan Collins has returned to Lake Greencliff to restore the football program to its former glory, the opportunity for redemption after his first coaching tenure ended in disappointment. When he finds out his second chance came at a cost, he agrees to help prepare Annie for the contest. But he doesn’t count on falling for the fascinating woman who fell off the map after high school, or how much she helps him in return.

When the past threatens to repeat itself, crippling old fears resurface. With their jobs and their students’ futures in the balance, can the show–and their budding romance–go on?

My Thoughts

Two kind-hearted people stuck between a rock and a hard place, overcoming increasing odds and old wounds together? Swoon. Plus, I loved seeing Annie’s faith tested and grown as she waited to see how God would provide. The tension just keeps ratcheting up in this story until you’re on the edge of your seat cheering for these two.

Favorite Quotes:

God didn’t create talent like that to be wasted on fear.

High Shool Annie would have assumed that the next thing after gorgeous, untouchable Ryan Collins squeezed her hand would entail waking up in a pile of her own drool.

Let’s Chat! Which of these stories most intrigues you? Have you read anything by these authors before? 

TWEETABLE:

Heartwarming, hilarious, surprising, and engaging to the last word, this novella collection is one not to be missed!

My Rapid Review – The Reluctant Groom

My RAPID Review - The Reluctant Groom

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When everything goes wrong, can two friends discover true love?

When Ray O’Brien’s world is turned upside down, Katie Fairchild wants to help, but the personal cost is high. Neither desires a marriage of convenience, but when Katie blurts the first thing that comes to her mind Ray can’t dismiss her offer of marriage. It would solve all his problems except for one thing—they aren’t in love.

Can these two friends team up for the greater good and perhaps find love along the way, or are their expectations impossible?

My Thoughts

This book took me by surprise in a very good way. I didn’t realize I had certain expectations of the plot until I started reading and had my expectations thrown out the window. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find a refreshing take on the usual marriage of convenience story, but Kimberly Rose Johnson has done it. The characters in this story and their motivations and choices felt so refreshingly unique and real. It was like they could be my neighbor or my friend.

There was one particular part which I absolutely loved. Without giving too much detail away, I will say that big plans were made, but they didn’t turn out as expected and what made that so fantastic is that they didn’t go melodramatically wrong. Things just sort of played out in a very true-to-life, relationships-are-messy sort of way.

I am delighted by the unique perspective this author has demonstrated in this story and look forward to reading more novels by her.

Absolutely a FIVE-STAR book! 🙂

Let’s Chat! Which book have you read recently that took you by surprise?

TWEETABLE:

Looking for a refreshing take on a marriage of convenience? Look no further! #BookReview

My Review – Sons of Blackbird Mountain

My Review - Sons of Blackbird Mountain

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A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Why This Book:

After enjoying Joanne Bischof’s award-winning The Lady and the Lionheart, I was eager to read what she released next.

Opening Line (from Chapter 1):

Blackbird Mountain, Virginia

August 27, 1890

Aven peered down at the letter again, noted the address written in Aunt Dorothe’s hand, then looked back to the wooden sign that was staked into the ground.

First Impressions:

I enjoyed the first scene. The descriptors and way it was written conveyed a sense of authority and realism that almost convinced me the author had actually been there. The details were so accurate and written in such a way that there was no doubt in my mind, this was exactly how it was and how it happened. In fact, the same authority and realism can be said of the entirety of the novel. However, to be honest, the next two and a half chapters dragged for me. I know some readers will disagree and appreciate the backstory and world-building which it covered, so take my opinion for what it is – my opinion. However, for me, it felt like the story didn’t truly begin until the middle of the fourth chapter – when the trouble began in earnest. (If, like me, you might prefer a little less world-building and backstory, don’t let this discourage you, though! It’s worth it!!!)

Main Characters:

Aven Norgaard –  A quiet, yet intrinsically strong young woman with an intuitive way of understanding people. Yet, her own baggage sometimes interfered with her interpretations of others’ actions. It is fascinating to see how she adjusts to her new home and family.

Thor Norgaard – The middle child of the Norgaard sons and a deaf man. At the start of the book, he struggles with addiction and as the reader, we aren’t certain where his path will lead.

Haakon Norgaard – The youngest and most hot-headed of the sons, Haakon’s backstory greatly influences his choices throughout the book.

Jorgan Norgaard  – The eldest brother, caught between his two younger brothers’ feud over their new arrival, his choices in handling the situations which arise are interesting.

Miss Ida – The Norgaard … housekeeper? It seems an insufficient word to describe her role in their lives. She takes care of the domestic duties, yes, but she is also the closest thing they have to a mother figure. Oh, and she’s a former slave that worked a neighboring farm before the civil war.

Cora and her children – Cora is Ida’s widowed sister who lives with her three young children on another section of the large Norgaard farm.

Thoughts on characters overall:  Each character is unique, thoroughly fleshed out and complex. Their actions are believable throughout the book, and you never feel anyone is doing anything “because it’s in the script.” Each character serves an important role in the story.

Book Quote - Sons of Blackbird Mountain - Surprising Disappointment

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

After the middle of the fourth chapter, I didn’t want to put the book down. I was thoroughly invested in the lives, hopes, and dreams of these characters and was eager to see what happened next. I actually choked up a time or two and cheered aloud at one point (drawing eye-rolls from my darling children).

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

Before the start of the story, there is an introduction which explains how the communication with Thor (the deaf character) will be handled on a practical level within the writing of the novel. I found this very helpful and was impressed with how well and easily this aspect of the story read.

I really enjoyed the uniqueness of having a main character who was deaf. I felt the author did an excellent job of portraying how this changed the man’s life in both big and small ways, as well as how it affected the other people in his life.

One of my favorite examples was in a church scene where the preacher stands at the center of the congregation and rotates to face each side of the group in turn so that Thor only sees the man’s lips for about one-quarter of the sermon. Imagine how that would affect a person who primarily understands what is being said by reading the person’s lips.

I also appreciated how the author portrayed the issues of alcohol addiction, the racial tensions that remained after the civil war, and the various realistic tough choices, both good and bad, which each of the characters made throughout the story.  No one was all good or all evil. Not every decision was clear-cut, right vs wrong. This added to the realism of the story.

Themes:

The struggle to forgive and show compassion without sacrificing safety, integrity, and justice.

Ending:

While things are far from all-tied-up in a nice little bow, there are enough issues resolved, or seemingly resolved, to provide a satisfying conclusion. By no means does it feel like a cliffhanger ending, but there is definitely lead-in for the next book. Which I thoroughly intend to read.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Let’s chat!

In this novel, one of the main characters, Thor, is deaf. Do you have any connection to the deaf community? Which part of the description/premise of Sons of Blackbird Mountain most appeals to you?

TWEETABLES:

“I choked up, teared up and cheered!”#BookReview #SonsofBlackbirdMountain @JoanneBischof

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


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About the Author

Joanne Bischof

JOANNE BISCHOF is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children. Visit her online at JoanneBischof.com, Facebook: Author, JoanneBischof, Instagram: @JoanneBischof.

Guest Video from Joanne Bischof

Blog Stops

Genesis 5020, July 5

Carpe Diem, July 5

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, July 5

All-of-a-kind Mom, July 6

The Power of Words, July 6

Among the Reads, July 6

Fiction Aficionado, July 7

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, July 7

A Baker’s Perspective, July 7

History, Mystery & Faith, July 8

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, July 8

Luv’N Lambert Life, July 8

Cordially BarbaraJuly 9

Kathleen DenlyJuly 9

Reading Is My SuperPowerJuly 9

Faithfully BookishJuly 10

Christian Bookshelf ReviewsJuly 10

Simple Harvest Reads, July 10 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Novels corner, July 11

Inklings and notionsJuly 11

Just CommonlyJuly 11

Two Points of InterestJuly 11

Maureen’s MusingsJuly 12

Book by BookJuly 12

To Everything A SeasonJuly 12

Inspiration ClotheslineJuly 13

With a Joyful NoiseJuly 13

Pause for TalesJuly 13

Radiant LightJuly 13

The Christian Fiction GirlJuly 14

RemembrancyJuly 14

proud to be an autism momJuly 14

Just the Write EscapeJuly 15

Bibliophile ReviewsJuly 15

Vicky sluiterJuly 15

By The BookJuly 16

Texas Book-aholicJuly 16

Debbie’s Dusty DeliberationsJuly 16

Janices book reviews, July 17

Jeanette’s ThoughtsJuly 17

BigreadersiteJuly 17

Connie’s History ClassroomJuly 18

amandainpaJuly 18

Seasons of OpportunitiesJuly 18

Reader’s cozy cornerJuly 18

Giveaway

Sons of Blackbird Mountain Giveaway Image

To celebrate her tour, Joanne is giving away

Grand prize of a country crate, a jar of apple butter, a bag of gummy berries, journal, bath salts, honey spoons, copper earrings, and a blackbird sign!!

Enter Here Button

 

My Read Along Review – Where the Fire Falls

My Review - Read Along Review - Where the Fire Falls

As you can see in the title, today I’m trying something different. I’m calling it “My Read Along Review” because instead of reviewing the book after I’ve finished it, I’m going to try to make myself stop reading periodically and write notes on my thoughts without revealing any spoilers. My hope is to take you along on the emotional journey in a way that will help you decide whether this is the type of book you are searching for.

Why This Book?

I’m going to be honest with you. If I had not met the author at a writer’s conference I probably never would have chosen to read this book. And that is all because of the cover. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the cover, it looks more like a travel guidebook than a romantic novel, to me. It also has the word “vintage” on it. I’m just not that into vintage things. My tastes, especially in books, typically run much farther into the past.

All that said, I now know that I would have seriously missed out had I never read this book. So I am very glad I met the author. And yes, I did receive a free copy of this book.

But with that being said, while she seems to be a very nice person so far as I know, having met the author will not sway my review. I’m the kind of person who tells you when there’s lettuce in your teeth whether your my best friend or the stranger in line behind me at Walmart. So as always, I will give you, my readers, my 100% honest thoughts. If I didn’t, I would just be wasting your time and mine.

First Impressions

The first scene was interesting. I was intrigued by the heroine, her duplicitous lifestyle, and the hints about her mysterious past, but I don’t know that I was hooked yet. For this book, it is definitely the hero who pulled me in completely and kept me reading. I think he won my heart with this quote (from pg 11):

On a day like this, Clark longed to disappear into the trees, follow the streams to their sources, and not speak to another human soul for days on end.

Unfortunately, another group of tourists probably waited for him. Boorish, overly talkative city folk who spoke of “getting back to nature” and calming their nerves. Didn’t they realize the secret to tranquility resided in quiet?

Okay, yeah. I have been dealing with more than the usual amount of less-than-pleasant-people lately. Taking a trip into the woods to get away from them all for a while sounds pretty amazing right now. So the hero and I bonded right then and there.

Reading On …

Pages 16-22 are where the romance started to take shape in my mind. It’s where the hero and heroine meet and have their first few conversations and reactions to each other. There is a definite chemistry between them which, combined with obvious friction, promises for a fun story moving forward. These are two strong-willed characters with clear motivations to avoid being vulnerable with each other, nevermind developing romantic feelings.

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By the end of Chapter 4, a twist has been thrown in that cranks up the suspense and suddenly I don’t want to put the book down. Meanwhile, the interactions between the hero and heroine just keep getting better.

So this is a completely personal thing, but Coulterville has always been one of my favorite little towns that not everyone knows about and seeing it mentioned on page 56 totally made me grin.

The surprise near the end of Chapter 5 has me mentally rubbing my hands together in anticipation of more trouble. I think I can be forgiven my gleeful anticipation seeing as these are purely fictional characters.  Right?

Book Quote - Where the Fire Falls - Stiff Suit

I’m in Chapter 8 now and I don’t want to stop to make notes. The romance is developing nicely right along with the tension. I feel as though I’m right there in Yosemite Valley. To top it all off, another wrench has been thrown in to muck things up nicely. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

The twist at the end of Chapter 12 has left me heartbroken. I didn’t see it coming and I’m just so sad for the character primarily affected.

Chapters 13 – 18 Hmm… the detective in me is starting to put theories together. Also, things are definitely getting good in the romance department and the spiritual thread is stepping forward (but in a very natural way).

Book Quote - Where the Fire Falls - Waterfall Surrender

Chapter 20 – Oh yeah. I definitely smell a rat.

I’m near the beginning of Chapter 23 now. You know the typical movie scene that makes you want to shout at the heroine, “Don’t go in there”? Well, I’ve got a bit of that going on right now. Not in a “this-is-predictable” way, or a “she’s-so-stupid” way, but in an “Ooooh. She shouldn’t have done that. This isn’t going to go well for her. I MUST. KEEP. READING!” way.

Aaaaah! What a climax! Wow. Fantastic!

And the conclusion … *happy sigh* just perfect. Absolutely, beautifully, perfect!

Afterthoughts …

Wow, am I ever glad I had a good reason to look past that cover. This is one of my favorite reads this year! Obviously, with the time period it’s completely different from my usual fare, but even above that uniqueness is the author’s incredible skill with teasing a story forward. Just masterful! I am completely hooked and more eager than ever to read the other books by this author which are sitting on my TBR shelf! Also, I didn’t even realize this was the second book in her Vintage National Parks series until I was reading the acknowledgments at the end. Book 1, The Road to Paradise, has now been added to my TBR list and I cannot wait to get a chance to read it!

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

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In celebration of the release of Karen Barnett’s Where the Fire Falls, her publisher is giving away inspired artwork, stationary and a copy of the new book!

FPO

CLICK HERE for more details & to enter!

Let’s Chat!

Have you ever read a book you wouldn’t normally have read just because someone asked you to or raved about it? Who recommended the book (i.e. a friend/neighbor/blogger) and how did it work out for you? 

TWEETABLES:

A masterful work of suspense and romance set against the unparalleled beauty of Yosemite National Park in the late 1920s. Don’t miss this enthralling story! (CLICK to TWEET)

Barnett paints images of God’s glory and true love without losing the shadows that bring depth to any great suspense story. (CLICK to TWEET)

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Mama’s Storytime – It’s a Jungle in Here

Today I present to you my latest episode of Mama’s Storytime! I hope you enjoy it!

No time for the video or not in a place where you can turn the sound on? Here’s the written version of my reviews for Brave Young Knight by Karen Kingsbury and It’s a Jungle in Here by Kristie Wilde:

Brave Young Knight

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In this picture book, Karen Kingsbury tells the story of a boy in competition with other young knights to become prince of all the land. In a series of contests and competitions, the king recognizes the brave young knight as the winner, not because he was the fastest or strongest, and not because he was smarter or more cunning than the other knights. Rather, the brave young knight is the winner because he doesn’t follow the crowd, instead making decisions based on what is right and true and in accordance with his faith. The moral of the story is that the bravest young boys are those who exhibit the strongest character.

My Thoughts

I found this book through an online search for a picture book geared to older children that provided strong biblical values. (For the record, I purchased this book on my own.) I chose to purchase this book because it fit what I was looking for, had beautiful illustrations and strong, clear writing.  While the description says that the moral of the story is not to follow the crowd but to stand strong and stick to what is right and true, I also saw a second moral within the story. I think the story does an excellent job of reinforcing that God made each of us unique and for a purpose. Furthermore, I think it demonstrates that we should have faith that the God who created us will equip us for whatever task He places before us.

This is why I chose to feature this book alongside today’s other book, It’s a Jungle in Here. They both do a good job of demonstrating this basic yet essential truth.

 

It's a Jungle in Here

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Come explore the incredible variety God created in the Jungle! There are butterflies that blend in and stand out, loud birds and quiet okapi, big elephants and small frogs and much more. God is pleased with all the variety He created – and He’s especially happy with the way He made you!

This marvelous, young children’s picture book is packed full of brightly colored illustrations that communicate the message along with its simple text.

The third book in the Joyful Creation SeriesIt’s a Jungle in Here, affirms that whether you’re quiet or loud, big or small, blend in or stand out, however you are, God is happy with the way He made you!

My Thoughts

I am a big fan of the Joyful Creation Series and this latest release by Kristie Wilde is no exception.

The elephant on the cover is just so cute and looks like he is having fun splashing in the water.

The book begins with, “God loves variety, so  . . . He made lots of it in the jungle!” and beautiful, realistic illustrations of butterflies. It then goes on to positively compare the differences between the various animals which God created. The animals mention include: butterflies, cats, frogs, elephants, chameleons, tropical birds, okapi, monkeys, and more!

My favorite line is the final line in the story, “Whether you stand out or blend in, are loud or quiet, however you are . . . God is especially happy with how he made you!”

I especially appreciated the racial diversity represented in the children riding in the boat on the last page of the story.  I also liked the added bonus of a two-page spread with little snippets of information about each of the animals featured in the book.

 


Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of It’s a Jungle in Here from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  View My Promise To Readers HERE.

Do you have a favorite Children’s Book? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

My Review – The Captured Bride

My Review - The Captured Bride

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A war-torn countryside is no place for a lady—but Mercy Lytton is a lady like none other. Raised amongst the Mohawks, she straddles two cultures, yet each are united in one cause . . . to defeat the French. Born with a rare gift of unusually keen eyesight, she is chosen as a scout to accompany a team of men on a dangerous mission. Yet it is not her life that is threatened. It is her heart.

Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he’s offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he’s the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought.

Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Why This Book:

After enjoying Michelle Griep’s The Innkeeper’s Daughter, I have decided to read as much of her writing as I can squeeze into my schedule.

Opening Line (from Chapter 1):

Fort Wilderness,
upper New York, 1759
Five years into the French and Indian War

“It ain’t right. You ain’t right.”

First Impressions:

From the very first scene the dialogue pulled me into the lives of Griep’s characters. Mercy is a very different sort of heroine for the era, to say the least. Her relationships with the people around her are therefore necessarily unique as well. I was immediately intrigued by her life and her story.

Main Characters:

Mercy Lytton – One might expect a woman with her background to be bitter or downtrodden in some way, but instead, Mercy is a bold and determined young woman. Sure, she has issues she needs to work out, but she doesn’t let them consume her the way a weaker person might have. Still, she learns things along the way that significantly change how she views her life, the people around her, and even God.

Captain Matthew Prinn – An uncle-like figure in Mercy’s life, Matthew Prinn is a trail-toughened spy and partner to Mercy.

Elias Dubois – A man caught between warring countries and accused of treason, there are too many people that want him dead to list. I can’t say too much about his character without giving something away because the biggest questions pushing this story along have to do with who he truly is and where his loyalties lie.

Book Quote - The Captured Bride - River of Thought

 

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This story had my attention from page one and never lost it. There were just enough “pauses” or slower moments in the scenes to let the reader catch their breath in time to lose it with the next twist. At no point did I want to put the book down or felt that the story dragged at all.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I particularly liked that Mercy, while notably different from the typical female of the time, still felt completely plausible.

I also appreciated the complexity with which each culture’s perspective was portrayed, from the French to the English to the Native American tribes. The various tribes were rightly portrayed as such – not all washed together as one culture the way some books have done, but represented as separate peoples. No one group was completely in the right and no one was completely in the wrong. To me, this seemed more true-to-life because life is messy and people are sinful regardless of what culture they belong to.

As with The Innkeeper’s Daughter, the descriptions in this novel were so rich I felt I could see, feel, hear and taste everything that happened in the story.

Themes:

You can’t truly understand another person’s choices unless you’ve walked in their shoes.

Be careful judging others because not everyone is as they seem.

Ending:

The ending was thorough and satisfying. It made me smile.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

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Let’s chat!

Which of Michelle’s books is your favorite? Or if you haven’t read any yet, which aspect of The Captured Bride, most appeals to you?

TWEETABLES:

A historical romance with a unique heroine, descriptions that bring you into the action, and a plot to keep you turning pages. (CLICK to TWEET)

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


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View Disclosure of Materials HERE.

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About the Author

MichelleGriep

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

Guest Post from Michelle

A Visit to Fort Niagara

The Captured bride guest post pictureWhether you’re a history buff or don’t have a clue what the French and Indian War was about, there’s a destination in upstate New York that’s fun to visit for the whole family . . .

My husband and I made the trek to this living history site last summer. I had no idea what to expect, other than what was advertised as a “reenactment camp.” For those who don’t know, this is when volunteers who adore history come together to present a particular event, such as a battle. These people usually choose a real person from the era upon whom they fashion their modern day persona. They dress, speak, eat and live as that person might have. Here I am with some of my new friends:

Generally around the 4th of July, the 1759 Battle of Fort Niagara is recreated in a 3-day extravaganza of soldiers, muskets, canons and an entire market place to peruse selling period-related items.

Some of the things that surprised me about stepping back into the mid-eighteenth century were:

  • How much smoke muskets kick out
  • Once the battle begins, it’s hard to see who is your enemy or ally
  • Canons are really loud
  • Everything wasn’t as black and white as it seems in pictures—gowns and uniforms were very colorful

What makes this event so spectacular is that they take the entire 20 day siege and condense it into 3 days. If you visit every day, you’ll see and experience exactly what happened. You’ll be there to see the British, Colonial regulars and Iroquois allies sneak out of the tree line to shoot at some French soldiers who were pigeon hunting just outside the fort. You’ll hear the war whoops and barrage of angry French epithets roaring on the air. You’ll even get a chance to taste some of their food as you wander around inside the French Encampment set up inside the fort walls.

To experience a bit of the danger, sights and sounds of what Mercy and Elias lived through in The Captured Bride, Fort Niagara really is a fantastic place to visit.

Blog Stops

Vicky Sluiter, June 9

Fiction Aficionado, June 9

Blossoms and Blessings, June 9

A Baker’s Perspective, June 9

History, Mystery & Faith, June 10

Inklings and notions, June 10

Just the Write Escape, June 10

Faithfully Bookish, June 11

The Power of Words, June 11

Genesis 5020, June 11

Bakerkella, June 11

My Writer’s Life, June 12

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, June 12

Luv’N Lambert Life, June 12

Among the Reads, June 13

Book by Book, June 13

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, June 13

Moments Dipped in Ink, June 14

Splashes of Joy, June 14

Artistic Nobody, June 14 (Spotlight)

Bibliophile Reviews, June 14

Pause for Tales, June 15

All-of-a-kind Mom, June 15

Mary Hake, June 15

Bigreadersite, June 15

Connie’s History Classroom, June 16

Simple Harvest Reads, June 16 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Two Points of Interest, June 16

The Christian Fiction Girl, June 17

Daysong Reflections, June 17

Novels corner, June 17

Kathleen Denly, June 18

A Reader’s Brain, June 18

Remembrancy, June 18

proud to be an autism mom, June 19

Texas Book-aholic, June 19

Christian Author, J.E.Grace, June 19

Reading Is My SuperPower, June 20

Red Headed Book Lady, June 20

Margaret Kazmierczak, June 20

Mommynificent, June 20

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 21

Janices book reviews, June 21

Jeanette’s Thoughts, June 21

With a Joyful Noise, June 22

Pink Granny’s Journey, June 22

Carpe Diem, June 22

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Michelle is giving away a grand prize of a signed copy of The Captured Bride and a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card!!

Click below to enter.

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Don’t forget to let me know:

Which of Michelle’s books is your favorite? Or if you haven’t read any yet, which aspect of The Captured Bride, most appeals to you?