First Line Fridays #9: The Saturday Night Supper Club

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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You all know I love any combination of story and food, especially when I can eat while reading :). This upcoming foodie fiction release from author Carla Laureano made its way to me this week, so I thought it was time to hint at the story within for First Line Friday! The Saturday Night Supper Club releases February 6th from Tyndale.

The Saturday Night Supper Club

First Line:

Three hours into Saturday night dinner service and she was already running on fumes.

 

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

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Review: “Troubled Waters” by Susan May Warren

It’s no secret I love everything Susan May Warren writes, and her latest adrenaline-packed romance is no exception. Fans of the “Montana Rescue” series have eagerly waited for Ian and Sierra’s story, sometimes not-so-patiently (ahem, that’s me). This fourth book is everything I hoped it would be and more!

About the Book

Billionaire Ian Shaw can have everything he wants–except a happy ending. Or at least that’s what it feels like with his fortune recently liquidated, his niece, Esme, still missing, and the woman he loves refusing to speak to him. In fact, he doubts she would date him even if they were stranded on a deserted island.

Troubled WatersDespite her love for Ian, Sierra Rose knows he has no room in his life for her as long as the mystery of his missing niece goes unsolved. The only problem is, Sierra has solved it, but a promise to Esme to keep her whereabouts secret has made it impossible to be around Ian.

When the PEAK chopper is damaged and Sierra lacks the funds to repair it, Ian offers a fundraising junket for large donors on his yacht in the Caribbean. But the three-day excursion turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave cripples the yacht and sends the passengers overboard. Shaken up and soaked to the bone, Ian finally has a chance to test his theory when he and Sierra do indeed find themselves washed up on a strange, empty shore.

It will take guts and gumption for the PEAK team to rescue the duo. But it will take a miracle to rescue Ian and Sierra’s relationship.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Troubled Waters is a page-turning, heart-engaging story of choice, love, and sacrifice. The story is full of adrenaline-fueled moments of action and serious, soul-level conversations between the characters. If I were the nail-biting type, I don’t think I would have many left!

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I updated Goodreads with a spinoff novel idea…. and Susan shared it! *fangirling squeal*

This series continues to impress because of its increasing complexity in both plot and character development. For instance, Susan’s writing proves excellent not because she uses high peril situations to take advantage of the emotions of the moment, but because she uses unusual or trying circumstances to show her characters a truth or lesson about themselves or their peers. In Ian and Sierra’s case, they each deal with honesty, control, and choosing faith when you have nothing else to hold on to. They have to reach their limits both physically and emotionally to push past their problems and grow.

The ROMANCE is everything I wanted it to be. From the very beginning (the prequel novella), I was rooting for Ian and Sierra. But, they both had to journey down some difficult paths before they were in a place to truly, selflessly love and support each other.

Another treat for returning fans of this series is Pete and Jess’s page time!!!!! Their story will be the final book in the series. I really like the way Pete has matured and the man he has gradually grown into over this series…. he makes some impressive choices in Troubled Waters. I’m anxious to see how things will fall into place between them!

Ok, I’m done gushing over this favorite series! If you want, you can visit my reviews of the previous books in the series below. Or, you can go pick up a copy for your shelf now!

Prequel: If Ever I Would Leave You

Book 1: Wild Montana Skies

Book 2: Rescue Me

Book 3: A Matter of Trust

Thank you to Revell and Baker Publishing Group for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Mansfield Park Read-Along ~ Week 1 Thoughts

The lovely and amazing Amber is hosting a Mansfield Park (by Jane Austen) Read-Along in the month of January!!!! Each week, we are discussing 12 chapters. We’re also tweeting as we go with the hashtag #MansfieldReadAlong!

No surprise, but I’m a *little* behind already (I blame it on life craziness and other really, really good books I’m currently reading). Anyway, this is my post all about these chapters following the format Amber has set. This is my first time reading Mansfield Park, so the read-along experience is adding to my excitement and absorption of the story!

Mansfield Park Read-along

Please go visit her discussion post to see other readers’ thoughts and post links, too!

Mansfield Park Volume I: Chapters 1-12

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week’s reading

Favorite Quotes

“It is unknown how much was consumed in our kitchen by odd comers and goers.” -chapter 3, the worrisome Mrs. Norris

“When he returned, to understand how Fanny was situated, and perceived its ill effects, there seemed with him but one thing to be done’ and that ‘Fanny must have a horse’ was the resolute declaration…” -Edmund, chapter 4 (this reminds me of a tiny part of North and South where Mr. Thornton has the wallpaper changed in consideration of Margaret ❤ )

“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what she felt.” -Fanny, chapter 8 (This is a telling passage, showing Fanny’s contentment in keeping things to herself and revealing her high esteem of Edmund’s companionship and conversation.)

General Impressions

IMG_20180103_205419_127.jpgBecause of my slight familiarity with the story (I’ve seen the 1999 BBC film only), I know a little of what to expect with how the main characters behave and are resolved. With that said, it’s a little surprising to me that so much focus is on everyone else at Mansfield Park while Fanny Price, the main character, seems pushed to the side. Clearly, the reader is to be most sympathetic with her and see how their treatment is influencing her life greatly. Maybe this minimum focus is intentional to make us feel her emotions, when expressed, more keenly?

The Bertrams are puzzling. Like Fanny, I care the most for Edmund, though he does concern me at times with his nearsightedness. The Miss Bertrams are just plain spoiled! And, the other men of the family, the Thomases (elder and son), haven’t been on the page quite long enough for me to judge them.

Mrs. Norris, the Rushworths, and the Crawfords are all colorful characters, if often self-centered, that are adding much humor and interest to the story so far. I’m anxious to see how entangled it all becomes — and how Fanny overcomes her situation.

3 Questions

1. Would you consider the Bertram family taking in Fanny to be a kindness in the long run? If so, why? If not, could it have been a kindness if they approached things differently?

Yes, in the long run, I think it will be. She is being raised to an advantage of education and exposure to a different class of people which was important at the time. Though I think she is treated as unwanted and as a nuisance at times, I believe her experiences are shaping her character. Thank goodness she has a kind friend in Edmund! That is the light in her situation.

2. If you were a governess teaching the Bertram children and Fanny, what lesson would you specifically choose for each of them (as kids or adults)? Feel free to have fun with this!

I would teach the Miss Bertrams about kindness and courtesy, Thomas Bertram about respect and the blessing of his family, Edmund Bertram about the danger of flirtatious women (ahem, Mary Crawford), and Fanny Price about bravery and the importance of her individuality (I think she puts too much stock into “standards” her relatives dictate).

3. Imagine you had joined the group on their visit to Sotherton. Which part of the tour would you most have enjoyed? Would we find you wandering the halls or meandering through the wilderness?

You would find me out in the wilderness, perhaps even climbing over the gate (but not arm in arm with Mr. Crawford).

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my musings on Mansfield Park?

Review & GIVEAWAY: The Uncloaked Trilogy by J. Rodes ~ A YA/Dystopian Series

Uncloaked Trilogy Tour Banner SLB

Today’s featured book series is a TREAT to share because it’s not my normal cup-of-tea in the best way. I DO like to read outside my comfort zone sometimes and foray into YA/Dystopian or even stories with fantastical elements. Lucky for me, “The Uncloaked” series is just that —- a futuristic beginning of a dystopian society all from a 1st-person POV AND a subtle Christian worldview. Author J. Rodes is quickly becoming a favorite and must-read for me (some readers might know her better under the name Jennifer Rodewald *wink* who pens stories that are perfectly my cup of tea. Talk about versatility!).

Before you go on and enter the series giveaway, please do stop by some other tour stops (listed at the end of this post) because they feature wonderful behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews with Jennifer AND HER FAMILY.

About the Books

From Sellout to hero, by way of the den. Braxton Luther finds himself in the crossfire of a new order, and discovers apathy is a dangerous option.

1-The UncloakedThe Uncloaked

Apathy is the illness of the overprivileged…” Words laced with fear—and maybe a hint of prophecy. His father’s words. Words Braxton would prefer to ignore. 

Braxton Luther is sixteen when the Progressive Reform Party takes over the government. It can’t be that bad. So they don’t want religion in government—that’s constitutional. He can’t understand his church’s hypersensitive reaction or his father’s cryptic warning to stand against the Party’s ultimatums. 

But after living under the new government for a year, Braxton faces a choice—conform to the demands of the ungodded in order to protect his best friend, Eliza, or defy the system and go into hiding, ensuring a life of misery. Still certain that life will settle back into normalcy in the near future, Braxton chooses compliance. 

Then the killings begin, and Eliza is captured and sent to Reformation Camp for her defiance. Reality finally sinks in. 

Apathy is no longer a choice.

2-Tearing the VeilTearing the Veil

“They trained us well. Power punctuated our every move, driving fear into the intended target. Who would stand against them? ”

Braxton Luther, the sellout. 

Now a part of the Den, he’s determined to make good on Eliza Knight’s faith in him—to be more than what he’d settled for when the Party had taken over. But his goal is dangerous, and not just for him. As he searches for a way to protect the silent, invisible victims of the new government, Braxton’s mission—which includes finding a way to rescue Eliza from the Reformation Camp—becomes even more complicated. Hannah Knight, Eliza’s sister, is simply too much like him. 

Tired of standing in her perfect sister’s shadow, Hannah determines to find her own place in the world. If that place is with the Pride—the girls’ home and training center provided by the Party—so be it. When she leaves the hopelessness of the cellar, that’s all she’s aiming for. But Quinn Sanger, the handsome son of a powerful political leader, finds her at the creek, and her life takes an unexpected and optimistic turn. 

Braxton’s convinced Hannah’s in trouble. Hannah’s convinced Braxton, and all the Uncloaked, are insane. But when they peek behind the real veil the Party maintains, the truth is beyond what either had feared or hoped. 

If everyone knew, it could change everything. They redefine their mission. It’s time to tear the veil. 

3-The Charging DarknessCharging the Darkness

“You were not saved for this… “

The veil has been torn, but Braxton Luther still has more to do. 

The captive Uncloaked have been freed, and the people know the dark truth. A rebellion against the Party has begun, but the question lingers among those who are safely hidden in the Refuge–what will happen to their broken nation? Secrets and shame, resentment and hatred continue to shake the nation, now divided. 

What will it take to break the grip of the Party? Beyond that, is there any hope of healing after the damage of the darkness? 

 

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Review

“The Uncloaked” trilogy is the thrilling dystopian/YA series from a Christian worldview you didn’t know you needed in your life. It’s a story of family, trust, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and hardships. Overarching is an abundant theme of choice. Choice of forgiveness or bitterness, of following the Light or living in darkness, of believing in redemption for any soul or living with hate. The Christian worldview offers a realistic scenario and a reason for both the evil and hope portrayed in the story. This is something rare in the  dystopian genre, at least as far as I have experienced it. It makes the story an allegory of sorts that represents choices you and I have every day, to stand for the Light and choose hope.

The Uncloaked sets up the environment, characters, and dilemma. It explores the real dangers of apathy with a very close-to-life scenario in the near future. Braxton begins in this book with great potential, but by story’s end makes choices that set in motion spiraling events that impact the rest of his own story. His 1st person POV serves to make him relatable even while he makes exasperating choices.

The second book, Tearing the Veil, adds another character’s perspective (Hannah’s) and further complications because of her involvement. Where some second books in a trilogy would lose momentum, this one has plenty of action  and character development, particularly with Braxton and a finality of his choices that mature him greatly (yay I’m soooo proud!) by book’s end.

Random observation: I’m continually impressed with Jennifer’s skill as an author to compellingly write such diverse characters and genres.

Charging the Darkness is the conclusion I hoped it would be. Its edge-of-your seat movement and ALL THE EMOTIONS kept me turning pages late into the night. Seriously, to say very much about this conclusion would reveal its surprises. Just trust me when I say it has more amazing character development and emotional depth that is crazy good! In short, it brings together a group of characters drastically changed by events and choices and –finally– unites them in purpose in a beautiful way.

Two more tiny comments: I first expected the relationship between Braxton and Eliza to work out to be a friendship-turned romance, and it kind of was, but it caught me off guard at times by being so much more. Wonderfully so. And, as noted on retailer sites in book 1’s description, this series should be considered PG-13 due to its sometimes dark (though not graphic) scenes (I would recommend it for teens +). It is still, very much, a Christian Fiction series.

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for the review copies. This is my honest review.

About the Author

jennifer-rodewald_4_origJ. Rodes lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.

GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE

Giveaway

3 Prizes!

  • Print copies of the books (US only)
  • E-copies of the books (International)
  • Audio copies of the books (International)

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Tour Schedule

January 8-Soulfully Romantic
January 9-Smiling Book Reviews
January 10-Book by Book | Flowers of Quiet Happiness
January 11-Just Commonly 
January 12-Remembrancy
January 13-The Green Mockingbird
January 15-amandainpa
January 16-Fiction Aficionado | A Baker’s Perspective
Janaury 17-Singing Librarain Books
January 18-Henry Happens
January 19-Reader’s Cozy Corner
January 20-Pause for Tales

SLB Tours Reviewer Blogger Button

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s official Top Ten Tuesday topic is Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017I’m listing 13 instead, *just* because I can. And, because each of these authors deserve a spot on my list.

Some of these authors have been around a while and I just discovered/read them in 2017. And, some are delightfully new to the world of “official” inspirational fiction. After each author, you can visit my review for their book(s) and see what I have next to read from them on my actual shelves!

Top Ten Tuesday New to Me Authors

Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

Mikal Dawn

Count Me In

Upcoming: Emerald City Romance book 2!

Bethany Turner

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

V. Joy Palmer

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations

Jocelyn Green

The Mark of the King, novella in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

Upcoming: A Refuge Assured

Kate Breslin

High as the Heavens

Backlist TBR titles: Not By Sight

Courtney Walsh

Paper Hearts, Just Look Up, Hometown Girl, novella in Right Where We Belong compilation

Upcoming: Just Let Go

Krista Phillips

The Engagement Plot

Jennifer Rodewald

Reclaimed, Ordinary Snowflakes, The Uncloaked (review coming soon)

Currently reading: Tearing the Veil, then Charging the Darkness

Upcoming: The Cupcake Dilemma novella

Katie Ganshert

Life After

Upcoming: No One Ever Asked

Backlist TBR titles: Wishing on Willows, A Broken Kind of Beautiful

Becky Wade

Then Came You novella, True to You

Upcoming: Falling for You

Sara Ella

Unblemished, Unraveling

Upcoming: Unbreakable

Sarah Monzon

The Esther Paradigm

Backlist TBR titles: Finders Keepers, The Isaac Project

Nicole Deese

A Cliché Christmas

Backlist TBR titles (soon!): A Season to Love, A New Shade of Summer

 

Update: honorable mentions go to those authors I somehow missed! Karen Barnett, Meghan M. Gorecki, and Roseanna M. White.

 

That’s it for today! Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you see any of your favorite authors on this list? 

December (& 2017) Happenings

Wow. It’s time to say goodbye to December and goodbye to another year. This makes me all kinds of nostalgic! There’s just something bright about a year beginning in all its possibility and newness. But first, I’m taking one last look at 2017 and the month of December with the usual rundown and some fun yearly favorites.

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on the bookshelf

New on the bookshelf this December: One Christmas in Winter by Bell Renshaw, Desert Duet by Debra E. Marvin, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection by various authors, The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano, A Sweethaven Christmas by Courtney Walsh, A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White, Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale by Amanda Dykes, and both A Season to Love and A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese.

on the blog

Ordinary SnowflakesDecember popular posts:

  1. Best of 2017
  2. First Line Fridays # 7: Ordinary Snowflakes
  3. First Line Fridays #8 Special Christmas Edition: The Story of the Other Wise Man
  4. The Joy of Christmas Book Tag
  5. Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

The Esther ParadigmjpgDecember popular reviews:

  1. The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon (plus author interview)
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese

textgram_1488839984.png2017’s most popular posts & reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid!)
  3. 4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction
  4. Best of 2017
  5. Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen
  6. Top Ten Tuesday:  Top 10 Books on my Winter TBR
  7. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Jane Austen-Esque Romances
  8. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with Bookish Heroines (and Heroes!)
  9. Book Spotlight & Author Interview: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray
  10. The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

in the kitchen

December was a month for baking, both on the job (cupcakes galore!) and for family. My favorite new recipe I tried was, yet again, from a “Bake From Scratch” magazine. It was the Spiced Coconut Oil Cake with Bourbon Glaze. I’m always on the lookout for easily-adaptable dairy free recipes, and this one was simple! (I substituted coconut almond milk with a tad of vinegar for the buttermilk.)

on the screen

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express was a cinematic masterpiece. The costumes, cinematography, script, and even the little moments I found humorous all work to portray the era and gripping story line perfectly.

The Lady EveThe Lady Eve — sometimes a little silly, this is still the classic era of film at its best. Barbara Stanwycke is as glamorous as ever, and Henry Fonda plays the rare comedic relief piece as his world is turned upside down by “Eve” and her schemes. My favorite scene involves HIS father looking for his breakfast!

around the web

My year in books on Goodreads 

So many best-of book lists! Kara, Rissi, Becky, and Beth‘s to name a few.

THE INSPYs ARE OPEN! Check out Rel’s post with all the details. The INSPYs are annual blogger/reader nominated-and-judged inspirational fiction awards, given in several categories. Go vote for your favorite books now!

2018 plans

So far, my 2018 to-do list is short. Besides a few work-related plans, I’m going to be participating in the Mansfield Park Read-Along Amber is hosting starting January 3rd! (PS you’re invited to join!)

And, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next SSD installment in February, as just announced here. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Road Less Traveled. The steady story and character development of these movies is always my fav!

Thank you for being my blog readers and friends in 2017. Now, time to ask for your feedback!!! What would you like to see from me on the blog? More reviews? More guest authors? More bookish (or non-bookish) discussions? Movie reviews? I’ve been toying with that last idea for a while… 

Best of 2017

This annual blog post has become a favorite because I’m sharing MY favorite reads from the year!!!!! 2017 has been a wonderful reading year. I’ve added several new all-time favorite books to my “shelves”, met some amazing new authors both through their books and on social media, and been blown away by story multiple times. At latest count, I’ve read 58 books! Whew! Comparing genres, I’ve read quite a few more contemporary stories versus historical, and my list here is representative of that slant. Most of these books were published in 2017, but a few were new discoveries I can’t believe I waited this long to read!

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But first, some ground rules: in an effort to NOT be long-winded and wordy, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. (Click each title to visit Goodreads).

Historical

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green | Review

Poignant. Fleur-de-lys. Scars.

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz | Review

Immersive. Frontier. Growth.

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton | Review

Epic. Grace. History.

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White | Review

Loyalty. Books. Romance.

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin | Review

Spies. Secrets. Tenacity.

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall | Review

Letters. Love. Sacrifice.

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan | Review

Friends. Mysteries. Toronto.

Contemporary

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge | Review

Tea. Sisters. Colonel Brandon.

True to You by Becky Wade | Review

Bookish. Romance. Forgiveness.

Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham | Review

Redemption. Fairytale. Chocolate.

Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Country. Pickle.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner | Review

Honesty. The Sound of Music. Humor.

All This Time by Melissa Tagg | Review

Belonging. Security. Family.

Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh | Review

Farmhouses. Siblings. Introverts.

Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham | Review

Laughter. Trustworthiness. Closets.

Life After by Katie Ganshert | Review

Bittersweet. Peace. Letting go.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Review

Bubble gum. Connection. Growth.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon | Review

Desert. Obedience. Strength.

Contemporary Action/Adventure (with romance, of course!)

Unblemished and Unraveling by Sara Ella | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Disney. Twists. Enchanting.

Conspiracy of Silence and Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Adventure. Dynamic. Heroes.

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey | Review

Suspense. Puzzles. Action.

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren | Review

Tension. Reconciliation. Encouragement.

Novellas

The Message in a Bottle Collection Romance Collection by Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof | Review

Hope. Strength. Nautical.

I’ll Be There by Susan May Warren | Review

Faith. Spark. Peace.

Right Where We Belong Collection by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh | Review

Quaint. Lighthearted. Happiness.

Then Came You by Becky Wade | Review

Epistolary. Patience. Family.

Christmas Stories

Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Hot cocoa. Friends. Familiarity.

 A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese | Review

Dimension. Unconditional. Gloves.

WHEW! That’s it! These favorites are ones I can highly recommend and gush about for days. Have you read any of these? What are your favorite books of 2017? If you have a favorites blog post, share your link in the comments!