Bookshelfie ~ Empty Shelf Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an updated pic of this year’s bookshelf (for the Empty Shelf Challenge). Here’s an updated “bookshelfie” after a couple months and a few INSPY reads have stacked up!

Have you read any of these titles? What did YOU think?
Bookshelfie Update for Empty Shelf

 

Counting down from the latest:

#28 The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

#27 A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

#26 Stuck Together by Mary Connealy

#25 Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

#24 Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

#23 The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#22 A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#21 A Place in His Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

#20 Duchess by Susan Mary Warren (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#19 Though My Heart is Torn by Joanne Bischof (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#18 While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad

#17 Love’s Awakening by Laura Frantz (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#16 The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

#15 Lonestar Homecoming by Colleen Coble (audiobook)

#14 Divergent by Veronica Roth

#13 Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry (not pictured, on loan to a friend)

#12 A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

#11 A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley

#10 A Heart’s Rebellion by Ruth Axtell

#9 Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter

#8 Moonlight Masquerade by Ruth Axtell (ebook)

#7 George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

#6 It Had to Be You by Susan May Warren

#5 Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren (ebook)

#4 The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

#3 The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd (ebook)

#2 The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

#1 Songs of the Shenandoah by Michael K. Reynolds

 

 

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Review: “Healer of Carthage” by Lynne Gentry

(After reading this review, be sure to check out my interview post with author Lynne Gentry here!)

The latest novel from Lynne Gentry, Healer of Carthage, has all of the proper elements for an entertaining plot: an aspiring doctor, Lisbeth, struggling to overcome her mistakes, dealing with uncertain family problems, and uncovering long-hidden family secrets. An aspiring political leader, Cyprian, working to reconcile his newfound Christian faith with the politics and leaders that could destroy it. Throw time travel in to the mix with a 3rd century plague, main characters (and love interests) from different centuries, and you have a thrill-ride of a novel that will keep you turning pages as fast as you can.

Plot Synopsis:HiResHealerCover

First-year medical resident Dr. Lisbeth Hastings uses her father’s bizarre summons to escape her tragic mistake.

While Lisbeth searches the haunted cave of her father’s archaeological dig, she falls through a hidden portal. When the currents of time spew her onto the slave auction block in third century Carthage, her arrival ignites a fierce bidding war.

Unable to escape, Lisbeth becomes the property of Cyprian Thascius, a wealthy Roman enta
ngled with a group of people under siege from political persecution and a deadly plague.

Lisbeth resists using her medical skills to combat the epidemic until she stumbles upon a buried secret. To save her family, she must unite with Cyprian to save Carthage. But every revolutionary step they take in the past threatens their future.

My thoughts:

While torn between finding her way back to the 21st century and helping those she can in Carthage, Lisbeth finds herself caught in the middle of the politics of Cyprian and his clandestine group of Christ-following friends. As Lisbeth and Cyprian see that a solution to many of their problems could lie in joining forces, they begin to discover a love that stretches the boundaries of time. The mystery and secrets Lisbeth and Cyprian uncover in the past could serve to change the future of Rome and the future of Lisbeth’s family.

Lynne has authored a gem of a novel, successfully depicting a modern heroine amidst 3rd century Egypt politics and classes of people. I enjoyed the way she blended bits of modern language and expressions from Lisbeth’s character. Her peers in the 3rd century humorously did not know what to think of this intelligent woman with medical knowledge and an odd vocabulary.

Healer of Carthage exhibits the drama and political quagmires of the Roman Empire through the eyes of Lisbeth, someone foreign to such brutality and customs (think gladiators and the persecution of the early church). Her role in aiding unfortunate innocent people begins to give her character focus and purpose after her failings in modern medicine. With scenes like a dramatic medical thriller, Lisbeth practices “modern medicine” in the 3rd century AND finds help and encouragement in the most unexpected places. Cyprian plays a role in Lisbeths cause, too, and his character grows and matures through the story, as well.

Overall, Healer of Carthage is an exciting, fast-paced drama and love story packed with history, archaeology, and the struggles of a people notorious for their persecution of early Christians. It’s beautiful that these characters discover and renew their faith in God while they witness the strength and sacrifice of love. The only thing I’m NOT happy about is waiting until so long for the next book in The Carthage Chronicles series, Return to Exile!

Find this book on Amazon or Goodreads.

Healer of Carthage Quote

Mini Review of “Divergent” & latest Empty Shelf Challenge Reads, including “Healer of Carthage”

My latest reads this week are Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry and Divergent by Veronica Roth. (They are books 13 and 14 in my Empty Shelf Challenge!) Two TOTALLY different books. I loved them both for different reasons.

Later next week, I’m excited to post a review of Healer of Carthage AND an interview with author Lynne Gentry. She’s just fabulous!
Empty Shelf Reads 13 & 14

Here are my thoughts on Divergent, also posted on Goodreads.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never a dull moment. That sentence best sums up my thoughts on “Divergent”.

It is a skillfully written, fast-paced adventure, exploring themes of bravery, selflessness, sacrifice, and the strength of love. From the beginning, the reader is plunged into the story of Beatrice and her world. Veronica used a proper combination of action and feeling to convey each scene. I loved getting to know the characters through the course of the book.

The only reason I did not give it 5 stars was my dislike of some of the content. Mild profanity, depictions of drinking, and some of the suggestive content cause me to hesitate. I would give it a “PG-13” rating. The violence I expected, but some of the other content I did not, considering its popularity among young teens.

Despite the reasons above, I still thoroughly enjoyed “Divergent” and would recommend it to YA, Dystopian, and Sci-Fi fans alike. Because I typically read Christian or Inspirational fiction, I would caution someone reading “Divergent” to keep in mind that it IS secular fiction.

I definitely plan to finish this series – I can’t wait to see what predicaments Tris gets into next!

View all my reviews on Goodreads

 

Have you read either of these books? What are your thoughts, from a Christian perspective, on Divergent? Have you seen the movie?

Book Review: “A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander

I’m so happy to be sharing my review of Tamera Alexander’s latest novel, A Beauty So Rare¸ today! It is a beautiful novel that shares the hearts of the characters – and the beauty of God’s provision for us. Rich in historical details, it is set at the beautiful Belmont Mansion in Nashville (still standing today). I am privileged to be a part of a special group of reviewers who have access to extras on the novel – you can find a savory custard recipe from the novel here, and a shortbread recipe soon to come!

1920413_447912455312236_675420752_nKind, plain, and practical, Eleanor Braddock has come to Nashville for a new life after the Civil War. Facing her father’s declining health and her family’s dwindling finances, she moves to the prestigious home of her Aunt Adelicia Acklen, the famous Belmont Mansion. Hoping to achieve her independence from the benevolence and good intentions of her feisty aunt, Eleanor plans to open a restaurant to support herself and her father. Aunt Adelicia, however, disapproves of Eleanor’s premature plans to tarnish her social standing by cooking. Adelicia has other plans for Eleanor, including a potential suitor who could secure Eleanor’s future. But at what cost to her happiness?

Marcus Geoffrey, the Archduke of Austria and second in line to the throne (complete with good looks and a dreamy accent), has come to Nashville seeking to make a name for himself based on his own merits, not those of his family name. Finding solace in a new country by concealing his true heritage, he dreams of using his architect design and botany skills to achieve a lasting accomplishment of beauty and utilization. While he works at the conservatory at Belmont, he meets Eleanor and begins a friendship. As their paths cross in unexpected ways, God begins to give them a new dream and purpose in helping those less fortunate in the aftermath of war.

Both Eleanor and Marcus are enduring new seasons in their lives. Eleanor is unsure of herself, feeling somewhat out of place now as the responsible adult of the family, with her father dependent on Eleanor’s decisions. She has to learn to trust and to have a different relationship with him now. Marcus is also on his own, enjoying a unique sense of freedom – but still sensing a foreboding and pending commitment to his family and the House of Habsburg. As their relationship grows from that of friendship and confidants to something more, both must find the courage and strength to face their futures – futures that likely don’t include each other.

I really loved how Tamera showed a different side of the aftermath of the Civil War. She did so through immigrants’ experiences, specifically widows and orphans, as they struggled in that era. I also enjoyed the themes of botany and cooking featured in the novel. At times I could almost smell the fragrant peonies and roses. And the food! Let’s just say my mouth WAS watering sometimes. Doughnuts, strudel, custards, soups, shortbread….are you hungry yet?

A Beauty So Rare is a delightful story of love, trials, purpose, family, and history. Both main characters find purpose in helping others. Though neither one’s path is what they first thought it would be, God proved faithful and showed them how He is able to take mere dreams and make them much better, even if it at first seemed hopeless. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history and romance. These characters are so dear and realistic, and the storyline perfectly complex, I feel like a simple review cannot do the story justice. You should just find a copy for yourself today – you won’t be disappointed!

 

For more fabulous book extras and information about Tamera’s other books, visit her website, her Facebook page, or find her on Twitter.

 

A huge THANK YOU to Tamera Alexander and Bethany House for the opportunity to participate in this group of blogger reviewers. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review – I was not required to write a positive review.

"A Beauty So Rare" by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

“A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

Mini Review: “Moonlight Masquerade” by Ruth Axtell (Empty Shelf #8)

Moonlight Masquerade (Revell Publishers) by Ruth Axtell is a Regency-Era Romance, the first in her “London Encounters” series.

"Moonlight Masquerade" by Ruth Axtell (Empty Shelf #8)

Summary from Ruth Axtell’s website: 

Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need–or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess’s butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London’s West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham’s spell. Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, will he do the right thing?

My thoughts:

As Rees attempts to ascertain kind Lady Wexham’s loyalties and find proof of her spying activities, he befriends her. As her true loyalties are uncovered, Rees begins to doubt his own political positions. His efforts to protect Lady Wexham from all sides of the political conflict are admirable and endearing. A sweet and unconventional friendship forms between Lady and butler, though both characters are not all they appear to be. Each character encounters obstacles which result in reliance and trust in God. Overall, I thought Moonlight Masquerade was an entertaining and delightful romance, woven with mystery, suspense, and elements of faith.

You can find out more about author Ruth Axtell at her website. 

Book Review: “Take A Chance On Me” by Susan May Warren (Empty Shelf #5)

My latest read, Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren, is an alluring story of second chances intertwining the bonds of family, friendship, and love. It’s the first novel in the recent Christiansen Family series, set in the quaint small town of Deep Haven in northern Minnesota.

Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren
Summary from Goodreads:

Darek Christiansen is almost a dream bachelor—oldest son in the large Christiansen clan, heir to their historic Evergreen Lake Resort, and doting father. But he’s also wounded and angry since the tragic death of his wife, Felicity. No woman in Deep Haven dares come near. 

New assistant county attorney Ivy Madison simply doesn’t know any better when she bids on Darek at the charity auction. Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail and in Deep Haven fulfilling community service, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity’s death. All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she’s always longed for. And once she gets past Darek’s tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife’s case. 

Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy—a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.

My review:

Take A Chance On Me follows the story of widower father Darek Christiansen as he searches for forgiveness and resolution after a tragic accident that killed his wife. Newcomer Ivy Morgan, having always wished for the closeness of family and small-town living, has no idea the emotional baggage Darek Christiansen is carrying when she “buys” him at a charity auction and is drawn in by his caring family. As her friendship with Darek begins to develop into romance, Ivy must consider the provision of God and possibility of grace. When the lines blur between her personal life and professional life as county attorney, she faces difficult choices which could potentially hurt those she has become close to.

Susan’s characters are realistic and have great depth.  In addition to Darek and Ivy, secondary lead characters Claire and Jensen, once close friends with Darek and Felicity, also play prominent roles in the story. Each character experiences, in some form, the importance of taking chances – whether it be risking your heart in love, learning the value of forgiveness and second chances, or experiencing the grace of God and the chance He takes on each person by offering the gift of salvation.

Overall, I really enjoyed Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren. She successfully wove elements of faith, grace, and love with drama and romance. I look forward to reading the next one in this series and seeing more of the Christiansen family with their hearts for God and love for each other.