Review: “First Impressions” by Debra White Smith

If you put “Jane Austen retelling” in a sentence, and you have my attention. Add the “inspirational” genre to that description, and I’m even more interested!

About the Book

First ImpressionsLawyer Eddi Boswick tries out for a production of Pride and Prejudice in her small Texas town. When she’s cast as the lead, Elizabeth Bennet, her romantic co-star is none other than the town’s most eligible–and arrogant–bachelor.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

First Impressions accomplishes what any good retelling does: a fresh take on the classic with its own unique elements and wonderful nods to the original text. In this case, the tropes are all present with a new setting, time period, and extra quirks to familiar typecast characters.

This story is likable overall, BUT, some situations and behaviors felt contrived because of the expected underlying storyline. I would have liked a little more emotional depth in a grab-your-heart and relate way. A large amount of the characters’ time is spent preparing and practicing for an actual play production of Pride and Prejudice. This made story-inception and personality parallels fun, but I feel like it dragged down the pace of the story.

It was refreshing how characters one might dislike/love from the classic are more fully fleshed out and challenging their own stereotypes with their behavior — especially “Aunt Maddy”. I loved her! And, I did enjoy seeing the personalities of “Elizabeth and Darcy” playing out in a modern day comedy.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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Review + Book Tour: “Falling for You” by Becky Wade

Falling for You continues the “Bradford Sisters Romance” series with a story that is both enchanting and moving. Becky Wade is quickly becoming a favorite author! The relationships between sisters are so dynamic and realistic… but the real gems in the story are the emotion-filled romance and intriguing mystery!

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Falling for You
(A Bradford Sisters Romance #2)
By Becky Wade
Inspirational Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 368 pages
May 1st 2018 by Bethany House Publishers

Famously beautiful model Willow Bradford is taking a temporary break from her hectic schedule to work as the innkeeper at her family’s small-town bed-and-breakfast. She was enjoying the peace of her hometown, Merryweather, Washington, right up until she came face-to-face with Corbin Stewart, the man she loves to hate. A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin–and suffered the consequences when it all fell apart.

Former NFL quarterback Corbin is forceful, charming, and accustomed to getting what he wants . . . except where Willow Bradford is concerned. Unable to forget her, he’s never stopped regretting what happened between them. When their paths unexpectedly cross again, he’s determined to make her give him a second chance.

When a decades-old missing persons case finds Corbin and Willow working together, they’re forced to confront their past and who they’ve become–and whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.

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Review

A quaint setting and easily-relatable characters are just the tip of the iceberg with this heart-filled story. Beneath the surface lie layers of unforgiveness, family complexities, a tough faith journey, banter & humor, mystery, and the vulnerabilities of romantic connection.

Falling for You encompasses so many emotions and moments of truth. Just when it seems like the characters are making progress, another layer of Willow and Corbin’s past relationship is revealed, increasing the tension and complexity of the story. I love that Becky Wade can make me laugh, cry, and swoon in a matter of pages. Mostly, I love that my own faith can be challenged through story — and what a lesson it is! For Willow, it’s a lesson in trust and forgiveness. For Corbin, a lesson in surrender and waiting. For them both, fully depending on God’s strength becomes essential.

I’m looking forward to Britt’s story (finally!) next! This story already made me crave chocolate. 🙂

Thank you to Prism Book Tours and Bethany House for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Other Books in the Series

About the Author

Becky’s a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance! She’s the Christy Award and Carol Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, the Porter Family series, and the Bradford Sisters Romance series.

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Tour Schedule

April 30th:
Launch
Amy Watson Author
Remembrancy
Author Austin Ryan
Heidi Reads…
May 1st:
Author Kelly D. Scott
Radiant Light
Cafinated Reads
Jen Around the World
May 2nd:
The Barefoot Reader
Loraine D. Nunley, Author
Moments
The Mary Book Reader
May 3rd:
The Power of Words
Kat’s Corner Books
I Am A Reader
Book by Book
May 4th:
Getting Your Read On
cherylbbookblog
The Green Mockingbird
Author Toni Shiloh
May 7th:
Bringing Up Books
My Scribbler’s Heart
Katie’s Clean Book Collection
Hearts & Scribbles
May 8th:
Facebook Party at 8 PM EDT/5 PM PDT
Author Christen E Krumm
God is Love
100 Pages per Hour
Just a Little Creativity
May 9th:
Wishful Endings
Mel’s Shelves
Rockin’ Book Reviews
The Great Adventure
May 10th:
Jorie Loves A Story
`Candle Reviews Chivalrous Romance
Flowers of Quiet Happiness
Author Deborah Hackett
May 11th:
Redeemed Hope Dweller
Singing Librarian Books
Locks, Hooks and Books
Dawn’s Dreams
May 12th: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway

Celebrate the release of Becky Wade’s Falling for You by entering to win a fabulous prize pack that includes some of Willow Bradford’s favorite things!
One grand prize winner will receive*:
  • A model-worthy Kate Spade bracelet
  • A $100 cash card (so you can feed a housewares and home décor addiction like Willow’s)
  • A Seattle Candle Co. candle (that smells just like the setting of the book)
  • Roasted in Seattle Rainy Day Coffee
  • A delicious scone mix (so that you can enjoy scones just like Willow and Corbin do while having high tea)
  • Cozy book-lover socks
  • And of course, a copy of Falling for You

Two runner up winners will receive*:

  • A Seattle Candle Co. candle (that smells just like the setting of the book)
  • A copy of Falling for You

*Due to shipping costs, US entrants only.

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Review: “No One Ever Asked” by Katie Ganshert

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A few weeks ago, I was privileged to meet Katie Ganshert and a few other awesome authors at a library event near me. (insert fangirling squeal! They were amazingly kind and talked BOOKS!) Katie talked about her new release, No One Ever Asked, and its personal connection to her own story as an adoptive mom, along with some of the other aspects of the story and her research. Seeing her personality and passion for this story made my experience of reading it all the more special. I was highly anticipating No One Ever Asked, but the level at which it was emotionally gripping and spoke to my heart was unexpected. ❤ I love it when a story surprises me!

About the Book

Challenging perceptions of discrimination and prejudice, this emotionally resonant drama for readers of Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult explores three different women navigating challenges in a changing school district–and in their lives.No One Ever Asked cover

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray–the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser–faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones–the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as “this” or “that”, when such complexity exists in each person?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Through three perspectives and experiences, these characters paint a picture of what mistakes and forgiveness, honesty and pain, and even joy and freedom look like in everyday life. To say I was caught up in the emotion and gravity of the story is putting it mildly. Katie Ganshert has a way with words that is a gift — this story is absolutely riveting and RELEVANT. And, the fact that it is inspired by true events in a neighboring state makes it equally more special and uniquely challenging.

If I could sum up my take-away from this novel, it would be just what author Katie Ganshert hopes to accomplish with this story: Empathy. Like Katie alludes in the author’s note, stories can be a great source of empathy and experiencing something from a different perspective or position. This story asks and confronts the hard questions. Everyone has problems. Everyone has a tinted view of the world due to their personal experiences and circumstances. And, under the truth of the Bible, everyone is equal. Our world and society says otherwise. It sells the lie that we are not the same. That we are measured by our paychecks, affluent (or not) homes, our shiny things and our race or color of our skin. This story tears through that false assumption and illustrates the shared heart of every person.

I want to say so much about this story. My words would not do it justice or capture the nuances of the characters that speak volumes about LIFE. Just read it.

I highly recommend No One Ever Asked. It is not light reading, but it is a necessary message and beacon in today’s world. We are all trying to figure out how to do this thing called life. We are all finding our places in God’s great plan. And, we are all called to LOVE one another with the kind of freedom only found in Christ.

Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest and unsolicited review.

Series Review: “Grace Revealed” by Jennifer Rodewald

Isn’t it the greatest when you can binge-read a book series? When it’s a series by a favorite author like Jennifer Rodewald, though, it *could* mean a week+ of emotional rollercoaster experiences full of emotions and joys. My recent encounter with her “Grace Revealed” series was just that. With the recent opportunity to read the just-released book 3, Finding Evergreen, I am SO glad I had the time to read the previous 2 just before, Blue Columbine and Red Rose Bouquet.

These three stories are distinct and able to be read as stand-alones, though a few characters are connected, especially in the last two books.

About the Books

Blue ColumbineBlue Columbine

Best friends—maybe more—until addiction shatters everything.

Reeling from professional failure, Andrew Harris needs a fresh start. When he moves back to Colorado to join a Denver law firm, he runs into Jamie, his childhood sweetheart. She is still the kind and faithful girl he remembers—not to mention beautiful and still single. With her by his side, Andrew is confident he can overcome the demons that he tries to keep hidden.

Jamie Carson is thrown off balance when Andy resurfaces in her life. Though her faith in God has remained solid, even through her mother’s long illness and after her death, Jamie battles loneliness. Andy fills her days, whispering significance to her heart. But his rejection of the faith she thought they’d once shared, and his alarming drinking habit keep her heart from plunging into deep, murky waters. Or do they?

Andy pursues an intimacy Jamie knows she must guard against. But as the line between loyalty and love blurs, things get complicated—until a devastating blow breaks their relationship. For Jamie, one thing becomes clear: Andy needs a miracle, and she isn’t it.

Will Andrew allow the hand of grace to redeem his legacy of addiction, or will he and Jamie both remain casualties of heartbreak?

This Christian Fiction Book dives into first love and second chances, romance and redemption.

Goodreads | Amazon

Red Rose BouquetRed Rose Bouquet

The dark places in life have taught her this much—some things simply cannot be forgiven.

Cheryl Thompson learned over a decade ago to guard her shattered heart with a veil of cold indifference. Life since that day has been an endless cycle of detachment and loneliness, followed by superficial relationships. Break up, rinse, and repeat. Until something in her snaps. This life…she can’t do it anymore. She returns to her childhood home in the Colorado Rockies to help her nana, only to discover a man capable of thawing her iced-over emotions—a man she knows she doesn’t deserve, so she pushes him away. But he keeps coming back.

Brock Kelly lived high as King of the Slopes in the world of snowboard cross racing. Medals. Money. Fame. But after a visit to an orphanage in Mexico, he gave up his adrenaline-packed lifestyle to follow a calling from God he didn’t know he had—helping kids who’d been damaged emotionally. When his best friend’s baby sister returns to town, he recognizes the hollow look in her eyes and sees the pain beneath her icy armor. It seems God has issued new call on his life. One he is not prepared for.

Falling in love with a woman who keeps secrets is dangerous all on its own. But when Cheryl finally tells Brock what she’s never told anyone else…no wonder she is the way she is. It would take a miracle to heal that wound, and a love bigger than Brock had ever imagined to walk with her through the process.

Goodreads | Amazon

Finding EvergreenFinding Evergreen

He thought he’d found the thrill of his life; she, the romance she’d hadn’t dared to hope for. Falling in love had been easy. Being married? Totally different story.

Married within a year of meeting, Ethan and Brandi add a foster daughter to their newly established family. Their story is enchanting—inspiring. Except when the fairytale fails. The stresses of unmet expectations and wounds from their pasts knife into their marriage, severing what they believed would be forever.

Hope for a broken marriage. Healing for their wounded spirits. It would take both to find evergreen. Are they brave enough to try?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

This series doesn’t hold anything back: the messiness of life, the dark depths of pain, the imperfections of each character, or even the true joys and peace found in a merciful Savior. I have found this to be true of Jennifer Rodewald’s writing whether she’s penning a light rom-com, a layered YA dystopian series, or emotionally gripping character-driven fiction such as this “Grace Revealed” series.

Blue Columbine contains raw emotions, relatable characters, and an arc of transformation and redemption like none I’ve ever read. From the portrayal of close friendships to the fallout of addiction, heartbreaking choices, and healing, this story is eye-opening in its message of grace.

Red Rose Bouquet chronicles a journey of healing, forgiveness, and unconditional love found in an unlikely way. Cheryl’s character especially portrays the depths of hurt and self-doubt that can be redeemed through the relentless pursuit of a Savior. And, this wonderfully plays out through the tangible pursuit of Brock, his growing compassion and answer to a call to love being the story catalyst.

Finding Evergreen is a story of fierce love and holding on to hope. The journey through mistakes and brokenness Ethan and Brandi experience points to God as the true source of grace and love in any relationship. The extremes of emotion, vulnerabilities and baggage of Ethan, and well-intentioned penchant for perfectionism Brandi exhibits all make this story relatable even outside of a marital relationship. (But oh what chemistry they have on the page!) And Sonja, their foster daughter, adds another spunky dimension to the story that binds the three of them together in unexpected ways.

Through all three of these books, a CLEAR theme emerges, one that is a result of the redemptive, grace-filled moments (and romances) in each story: that of Christ’s love for His church. A selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love that manifests in the moments of friendship, forgiveness, pursuit, and intimacy between each of the main characters. I highly recommend this series for fans of contemporary women’s fiction/romance and authors such as Katie Ganshert, Julie Lessman, and Courtney Walsh– just remember to read near a box of Kleenex!

Thank you to the author for the complimentary copy of Finding Evergreen. This is my honest review of that book and the series.

Mini Review: “As Easy As Riding a Bike” Novella by Bell Renshaw

Sometimes you just need to read a feel-good, charming book….. the latest novella from author Bell Renshaw is just that!!! As Easy As Riding A Bike is the first installment in the “Justin Harbor” novella series, and it introduces a quaint setting and a sweet cast of characters that promise more cute stories to come.

About the Book

Emma Holland is almost finished with the renovation of The Brown Bear Lodge nestled just off the Pacific Coast 101 Highway in picturesque Justin Harbor, Oregon. Being a business owner in a small town isn’t easy, but Emma’s got more than enough determination—not to mention an excellent eye for interior design. There’s only one problem. One of her first guests of the season is someone she hoped she’d never see again.AEARAB Book Cover

As a famous landscape photographer, Connor Pearson has traveled far and wide following his dreams at the cost of losing his first love. Now, back in Justin Harbor, Connor is looking for more than just a place to stay. He’s looking for himself.

As Emma and Connor rediscover their lost friendship and seek to find common ground in the present, Connor feels the tug of his small town roots. Is it possible that a man who’s traveled the world could find his home where his dreams began? Can Emma come to terms with the fact that self-reliance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Will their bonds from the past weather the storms of the present?

As Easy As Riding A Bike will introduce you to the salty air and calming waters of Justin Harbor, the first novella in a series featuring small town women business owners.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

As Easy As Riding A Bike is a sweet little romance filled with hope! Emma and Connor are equally endearing and likable. Their story is one of navigating surprises as old dreams resurface and manifest in ways each of them never expected to find again. My favorite aspect of the story has to do with Emma’s family — her mother in particular — and a few little ways her memory was honored by story’s end. This is a short, clean, and delightful read not to be missed!

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Saturday Night Supper Club” by Carla Laureano

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Ya’ll know I love food. And books. And foodie fiction, which combines the culinary world and story SO WELL. The latest treat I have had the privilege of reading is the recent release from author Carla Laureano, aptly named The Saturday Night Supper Club.

About the Book

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant.

The Saturday Night Supper Club cover

But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back … even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Saturday Night Supper Club impressed me in so many ways: from the vivid descriptions of place and tantalizing food, to the unique and relevant social media fallout angle as a story influence, and to the portrayal of a life journey filled with deep meaning and purpose. Perhaps the most prominent, though, is its complexity of characters and their respective interconnected relationships and backstories. These were revealed one morsel at a time, creating a character arc that is all the more meaningful because of the reader’s understanding by story’s end. This delightful complexity is what will make me proclaim Supper Club as a favorite and best-of-the-year read for many months to come!book quote

If you will allow me to use a food analogy, I will further describe its awesomeness: The foodie atmosphere and eclectic setting are the appetizer, laying the foundation. The character transformation is the main course with great substance. The resulting romance is the dessert, like a salted caramel truffle, ending with a sweet note but not without its “salty” contrasts of reality.

Most impressive to me is that you cannot typecast Alex or Rachel. They are layered so well— as you get deeper and deeper into the story you get equally deeper into who they are, why they make certain choices, and how they play off of and affect each other. There is a romantic aspect of this story, but it is almost distinct and separate from the personal growth of these characters and their friendship~relationship dynamic.

I just want more of this little story world, Alex’s and Rachel’s friends, and with the book 2 teaser at the end, I am up to my elbows in bliss because it’s about Melody and BAKING!

Thank you to the publisher, Tyndale, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Sea Before Us” by Sarah Sundin

Learning about real history through story is one of my favorite things, especially when it involves lesser-explored perspectives or the details of a well-known major event. In the case of The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin, it covers what feels like a firsthand experience of D-Day in Normandy during WWII from the sea.

About the Book

The Sea Before UsIn 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.
The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Sea Before Us is a historical romance that delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day.

This is my very first book by Sarah Sundin — and I’m happy to report that her writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. Interesting facts are woven into the story in a natural way. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

I’m looking forward to seeing these characters in the next two books in the “Sunrise at Normandy” series — especially seeing how Wyatt’s brothers will be featured and how their family dynamic will play out after their current estrangement was well established in this book.

 

Thank you to Revell Publishers for the review copy. This is my honest review.