Review: True to You by Becky Wade

In my little corner of the book blogging world, I saw several gushing reviews that touted the authenticity and adorableness of Becky Wade’s new release, True to You. When your #bookbesties ALL say it’s amazing, you read it at the earliest convenience. Well, as I expected, they were completely right!

About the Book

True to You.jpgAfter a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Review

 

Attempting to put the beauty and fun of this book into words is close to impossible. It’s the kind of story that leaves you speechless in the happiest of ways.

Allow me to go all nerdy for a mintue…. this is kind of like #bookception. Nora is the ultimate nerdy bookish heroine: she works as a genealogist/librarian and caretaker of a village (!), bookshelves overflowing, a TBR list a mile high, a BBC drama and tea enthusiast. The ultimate opposites-attract situation plays out with John Lawson. A real-life hero as opposed to Nora’s typical book boyfriends, he rocks her world with his serious and quiet demeanor, heroic “Navy SEAL-type stuff” experience, and underlying EMOTIONS. Whew! Basically, John is classic book boyfriend material. But real life material for Nora. But still a fictional book boyfriend for we readers. Hehehe 🙂

True-to-You2-533x800One more quick note on these two! Nora is at once shy and confident, able to conduct herself with grace at all times. And her vocabulary is wonderful and smile-inducing! 🙂 John, well,…… I’d make peach cobbler ❤ with him any time ;).

Beneath the lovable quirks and humor found in these pages is a deeper story of growth, of finding identity in Christ, of His sufficiency and plan being greater — and sometimes far different — than we can imagine. Both Nora and John might have different backgrounds and insecurities, but their stories intersect with a beautiful and heartwrenching complexity.

Becky Wade’s skill in storytelling is obvious in the manner in which True to You unfolds. It begins with experiencing the everyday life of both Nora and John in a get-to-know them, fun, and humorous (Nora) way. As the story gets deeper and moves beyond the surface of these characters, the emotional stuff hits you out of left field as you begin to see the heart-longings of Nora and the protectiveness of John. It’s a most beautiful journey that made me laugh and cry with its poignancy. With the strong establishment of Nora’s sister in this book, I’m looking forward to more of this lovable family in the rest of the series!

True to You is book 1 in the Bradford Sisters Romance series. Check out my review of the (free) prequel ebook, Then Came You, here!

Review: The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Take a step back in time with me today as we journey to 1927 Washington state and the beginnings of a majestic Mount Rainier National Park! The Road To Paradise kicks off a new series, “Vintage National Parks”, from author Karen Barnett and Waterbrook Multnomah publishers, featuring historicals set in different parks across America. For the outdoor or travel enthusiast, this is an “armchair” journey not to be missed!

About the Book

An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park.The Road to Paradise It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
 
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
 
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
 
Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Review

This book is a scenic journey in itself that winds through rugged mountain landscapes, subtly treaded witty banter between the lead characters, and deeply carved lessons of faith.

It’s truly an experience reading it, with the setting and era as vividly portrayed as the hearts of Margie and Ford. Karen Barnett expertly expressed the awe, wonder, and respect one should have for Creation as a beautiful testament to God’s design and plan. (I want to vist Mt. Rainier now!!!!) Margie and Ford are an extension of that Creation, serving as examples and instruments of God’s expression; Margie through her reliance on faith and Ford through his discovery of the true source of strength.

Let’s talk about my favorite aspect of the story! I love, love, loved how Margie lived out her faith. And that it was an essential part of who she was, to the extent that she would not entertain a romance with someone who was didn’t share her beliefs and deep convictions.  While she never denied her attraction to Ford, she clearly made the call to witness where she could and let God lead Ford the rest of the way, if it was His will for them to be together like that. She stood her ground, and I was cheering her on! This is an important point of contention in real life, and it comes up sometimes in Christian fiction, but I just really appreciated the way it was handled by Karen in this particular story.

The Road to Paradise has a broad appeal with its moments of action and adrenaline-pumping adventure in the mountains, a sweet romance, an up-close “waltz” with nature, lessons in faith, AND a bit of an underdog-vs.-power-hungry rivalry story. The colorful side characters, including the wildlife, add great dimension and subtle humor. And, the “man-‘o-the-mountains” hero caught off-guard by love is a wonderful bonus! (Who doesn’t love a rugged, stetson-wearing hero?)

 

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, and the author for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

 

Mini Review: “Then Came You” novella by Becky Wade

This novella kicks off the new contemporary “Bradford Sisters Romance” series as the prequel and introduction to the sisters’ parents. It’s the very first book I’ve read by Becky Wade, but I have a feeling it’s just the start of discovering a new favorite author. I read it in 1 sitting, and that is a feat for me, even considering how short it is. And, I’m already in the middle of True to You, book 1 in this series. It’s bookish perfection already!

About the novella: A leather-bound journal. A single father. A woman in pursuit of freedom.

Then Came You

Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. As he confesses through his journal entries, he’s not entirely sure how to keep a newborn alive, whether or not he’ll ever patch together his shattered heart, or how to forgive himself for his mistakes.

Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart. There’s something extraordinarily tempting about his beautifully sad green eyes. . . .

 

Told through journal entries, phone conversations, and letters, Then Came You is a unique, heart-stirring romance novella by acclaimed author Becky Wade.

My thoughts: Epistolary (letter) stories or novels are a rare treat. This little novella happens to combine a few different mediums to tell the story of two separate people and a few ups and downs in their lives as they eventually intersect and end in a romance. It’s comprised of journal entries, phone messages and conversations, and letters. Becky has a way with words! (So does Garner, for that matter, especially with 1 particularly romantic letter <3.) With these personal musings, the reader sees deep truths about the characters as they are revealed in time. This story didn’t shy away from the messiness of life or the reality of consequences, but instead embraced it and shined a subtle light of grace on the tangled beauty of it all.

By the way, this is a FREE, indie-released ebook, so go snag it today at your favorite retailer! You just might fall in love with these characters as quick as I did.

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon

Review & Author Interview: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

I ALWAYS love it when a novel shines light on a lesser-known historical fact, era, or event. Often, there is nothing more fascinating that real life. In this case, the time period is 1850s New York to Illinois, during a challenging economic downturn. This was especially hard on immigrant families, and subsequently children AND women were sent west to find a better life, on what is now known as the Orphan Train. With You Always by Jody Hedlund tells a fictional story based on the journeys many women took to provide a better life for their families. Read on for more about the book, my review, and an interview with Jody Hedlund!

About the Book

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

Find With You Always on Amazon | Goodreads

Review

With You Always by Jody Hedlund.jpgAuthor Jody Hedlund dependably pens characters with well-established personalities. I loved the nurturing tendencies of Elise and the gentlemanly determination of Thornton. It *did* take me a few chapters to really settle into the plot and the direction the story was taking, but I empathized with the characters immediately, especially concerning the plight of Elise and her family.

I liked that the challenges both Elise and Thornton face are not only tactile and physical but also challenges to their very hearts. Elise, for instance, faces finding a place for her family AND coming to terms with her faith that God is constant, and for her. Thornton deals with the manner of proving himself; whether choosing to set aside his pride is worth a greater, selfless task he can accomplish in the wake of his dreams.

Through the ups and downs of Elise and Thornton’s intersecting journeys, a sweetly natural romance emerges. Jody handles this with her signature style (read: era-appropriate swooniness) and realistic conflicts. The romance combines with the threads of faith, a story of finding a “true home”, and the belonging found with friends in a close community to make With You Always a rich story AND a lovely introduction to a new series.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

 

Interview with the Author

What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?

An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts to bring about change in the city, but also brings them together in a satisfying love story.

The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation, particularly how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.

What are you working on next?

The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.

Connect with Jody

Facebook  | Twitter | Author Website | Instagram | Pinterest

Review + Blog Tour: Unraveling by Sara Ella

Welcome to the:

Thomas Nelson’s Young Adult Summer
of 2017 Feature

It’s a blog post today all about the stunning contemporary YA/Fantasy sophomore novel from Sara Ella: Unraveling. Read on for my review, a book excerpt, and GIVEAWAY info! Or, you could just take my word for it and preorder this book now. It’s not one to be missed!

Unraveling Tour Banner Sm

About the Book
Title:  Unraveling
Series: Unblemished, Book 2
Author:  Sarah Ella

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date:  July 11, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy

In the second installment of the Unblemished Trilogy, YA author Sara Ella asks, “What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?”

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After capturing the Void and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

With the Verity intertwined with her soul and Joshua finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her connection with Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Review

Where do I even begin?! This book is such an adventure from page 1, with multiple twists I didn’t see coming (especially the one at about the 30% mark). Continuing with themes of sacrifice, self-confidence, and even the power of true love, Unraveling delves deeper into the story world and deeper into the characters as they face unforeseen challenges to their world. The world-building alone is fascinating as we learn even more about these parallel worlds with Eliyana.

Side note: I think this book could be read out of sequence, but it would be best to start with book 1, Unblemished.

The hold-on-to-your-seat adventure contained in this story is amped up by the constant, elusive battle between good and evil and the soul-deep ties Eliyana has to the people surrounding her. Contrasting the serious themes, though, are pop culture references aplenty. They are included in a manner which makes the contemporary setting of the story shine brightly against the castle and pirate ship locations(!!!). The Disney references make me happy inside — from straight-up mentions to clever plays on words, chapter titles, or similar themes. And, the MUSIC and movie references are a bonus. (The Count of Monte Cristo or Shania Twain, anyone?)

This book progresses the romantic storyline just enough, building on the (very-plausible-because-fantasy-reasons) love triangle established in book one. It still serves as a usable plot device because it contrasts the battle between good and evil in oneself, and the way opinion is influenced by individuals. I appreciate that Eliyana is not a back-and-forth, I-love-both person, yet a genuine individual who knows her choices have an impact on many people, including her choice of a confidant and romantic interest. By story’s end, I think the direction this situation will take is firmly in place, and I’m totally happy with it. But Sara IS known to throw surprises at us readers! The waiting will be agony (insert Into the Woods musical number here).

Like with the first book, I am intrigued by the symbolism showcasing the battle of good vs. evil, or the Verity and Void, as it’s termed in this series. When this story is examined closely, an observant reader will see detailed Biblical parallels with elements of faith, the power of light to overcome darkness, and even a mirror of the creation story and Eden. I think this book raises important questions about choices and human nature — how much of our life is defined by our own choices or free will? How much because of other people’s influence? Will you choose to embrace the Source of light and truth or “feed” an evil nature?

From dimension-travel to pirate ships and deserts, Unraveling covers the bases of adventure and the young adult genre while still maintaining an overarching plot with elements of faith. I haven’t even mentioned the fun and mysterious secondary characters OR the fairies! And the troll. This is one stunning, well-developed story that should appeal to fans of YA, fantasy, adventure, Disney fairytales, or even contemporary YA romance. I seriously can’t WAIT to find out what happens in the conclusion of the series come book 3!

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of this book for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review. 
Excerpt
Taken from “Unraveling” by Sara Ella Copyright © 2017 by Sara E. Larson. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

Prelude

I’m not ready for this.My shoulder is going to rip from its socket. My bicep is a torch, igniting my forearm. His fingers are sliding from mine, and I can’t hold on any longer. All I see is the gorge below, the beads of sweat dewing his temples.

He shouts, “Hold on!”

But the cliff crumbles with each passing blink. If we remain this way, we’ll both be swallowed by the chasm below.

I loosen my grip, my clammy palm slipping.

His eyes plead. Beg. Implore. “Don’t!” His cry echoes.

The river crashes and curls. Waiting to swallow. Devour. Obliterate anything entering its territory. But it isn’t the river I’m afraid of. It’s the black hole beyond it. The beginning of the end.

I know if we disconnect he might be lost forever. “I love you” is what I want to say. Instead I ask him, “Find me?”

His expression corkscrews, a mask of raw emotion. “Always.” His voice is weak, his energy drained. He’s not strong enough. Because of me.

So my fingers splay.

I let go.

About the Author

Sara Ella is the author of Unblemished, book one of the Unblemished Trilogy. Once upon a time, Sara dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a castle, and she did work for Disney! Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away.”

 
CONNECT WITH SARA:  website ⎸facebook ⎸twitter ⎸pinterest ⎸instagram ⎸youtube
 
 
Giveaway

(3) Winners will each win a finished hard copy of Unraveling by Sara Ella, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Giveaway ends June 2, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST.

Tour Schedule

5/22 – Melony Teague (Author Interview)

5/23 – Thorn & Vine (review) & Between the Pages of This Bookish Life (Spotlight)

5/24 – A Baker’s Perspective (review), Singing Librarian Books (Spotlight) & YA Book Divas (Spotlight & Excerpt)

5/25 – My So Called Chaos (review) & Thinking Thoughts (Spotlight)

5/26 – Reading is My SuperPower (review)

5/27 – The Green Mockingbird (review)

5/28 – Bookworm Mama (Spotlight)

5/29 – Just Commonly (review)

Mini Review: I’ll Be There by Susan May Warren

Ok, you all who know my love for everything Susan May Warren won’t be surprised to see this little review! I could’t pass up sharing my brief thoughts on her latest indie novella, I’ll Be There, that brings together some of my favorite characters from different series. (Conner and Liza from the Montana Fire series + familiar faces from Deep Haven, including some of the Christiansens!)

I'll Be ThereAbout the book: From a USA Today bestselling and RITA-award winning author, a novel uniting two beloved series:

Smokejumper Conner Young can’t wait to marry the woman who’s stood by him for three years as he fought fires in the forests of the northwest. The only wound in the weekend is the lack of his best man–a brother whose murder is still unsolved. It’s unfinished business that haunts him, keeping him from truly moving on.

Liza Beaumont, long time Deep Haven artist is a survivor of a brutal grizzly attack. Struggling with nightmares, she’s not sure she’s ready to join Conner’s world. He’s a hero, yes, but his life is rife with danger and stress and frankly she’s not sure she has the courage to be the wife of a man who may not come home again.

When Liza’s wedding invitation unearths a witness in his brother’s murder, Conner’s hope of solving the case is reignited. Suddenly, it’s a choice between showing up to help Liza knit together their perfect day–or tracking down his brother’s killer. But when his investigation finds its way to Deep Haven, and Liza’s life is threatened, there may not be a wedding at all.

What happens when the smokejumpers from Montana Fire come to Deep Haven? Sparks, fire and hopefully…a happy ending.

This novella holds everything I love about a Susan May Warren story:

  • complex and emotionally dynamic characters
  • a fast-moving storyline
    • this time, lots of adrenaline-fueled action! I was pleasant surprised to find it such a page-turner.
  • deep faith threads and a message of grace
    • Susan’s not afraid to tackle big subjects in a short amount of time — in this case, fear and the subsequent peace that comes with trusting God
  • and last, but not least……. romance (with plenty of tasteful spark)
    • You might need a fire extinguisher for the kisses (fire puns, ha!)

Conner and Liza were my fave couple from the Montana Fire series. I’m so happy their journey was continued with sweet moments of coming home, new depths, and lessons in faith.

Review: Right Where We Belong ~ Novella Collection

If you’re looking for something lighthearted, fun, and sweet to fill your reading time, look no further than the Right Where We Belong novella collection from authors Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh. (Yay for another indie-published book!)

Right Where We BelongAbout the collection:

Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan,
love grows best in small towns just like this!

Dubbed as “3 small town contemporary novellas”, each of these standalone stories takes place in a fictional town you might recognize from an existing series by each author. While I haven’t read the main series from Deborah or Courtney, I was still enthralled with their respective communities. Melissa Tagg’s, though, I was over the moon to get through because Megan from the Walker Family series FINALLY gets some story time! *happy dance*

Each of these stories were distinct in plot and themes, but all were set in quaint little small towns where happiness is found in daily routine. I loved that. The romances in all of them were sweet and believable.

To start with, Deborah Raney’s novella features a heroine who bakes daily for a living. And she has a cat. I was all over that (because food is life). The meet-cute setup of that story turns out to be one of the funniest I’ve read in a while. And, the subsequent challenge of a long distance relationship is faced head-on by the characters while they weigh the costs of their dreams with the reality in front of them.

Melissa Tagg’s novella was, as expected, adorable, funny, and deep all at once. She always manages to speak to your emotional side until you are wrapped up in whatever conflict the characters’ hearts are in. In this case, a train ride, superglue, and a plethora of houseplants were involved. Oh, and a lesson of acceptance, purpose, and forgiveness.

I expected Courtney’s novella to be humorous and quaint. It was, and more. Leave it to her to spin the feuding “Hatfields and McCoys” into a modern “secret” love story of rivalry, heritage, and redemption. This concept allowed the story to introduce serious questions of reputation and prejudices, and just how much one is willing to believe — or forgive — concerning your neighbors. It wasn’t all seriousness, though, because there was a swoony romance (of the long-time acquaintance variety), a cute little coffee shop, meddling old ladies, and a town time capsule unveiled.

Find the collection on Amazon | Goodreads