Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review ~ Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley

Hello Friends!

I've got another fantastic historical romance/mystery for you today! It's Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley. (I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review of this book) This is another book that I read about a month ago, and am just now getting to writing about, so I apologize for the delay. This book is the third in the Brides of Last Chance Ranch series, and while you can read them in order, this is the only one I have read, and everything made sense. You meet a few side characters who were main characters in the previous books, but it doesn't take away from this story. I really enjoyed them actually, and now can't wait to go back and read the first two books.

Summary: Bank robberies, heiresses, secrets, Oh my! Miranda Hunt, aka Annie Beckman is one of the best detectives the Pinkerton Agency has to offer. After hearing about a group of bandits that have been getting away with bank robberies, train hold ups and general mayhem caused by the Phantom near Last Chance Ranch, Miranda decides to go undercover to the ranch as its newest heiress to try to draw out and capture the Phantom and his gang once and for all!   

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo detective, Jeremy Taggert is also undercover at the ranch for the same reasons. Originally suspecting each other, they soon realize there is more to this story than just a few bank robberies and hold ups. As they wade through the deception and danger, Jeremy and "Annie" find themselves falling in love. Who can they trust? Everyone is a suspect, even the people they think they can trust the most. 

What I liked: The mystery was great! It kept me guessing, and I really appreciated that. The characters are also really well written and I loved getting to know them! I really enjoy Ms. Brownley's style too. Her writing is engaging, suspenseful and humorous at all the appropriate times.

While I'm not a tea person, it was fun to learn about the different types of tea and what they can be used for. And yes, there really is a tea called gunpowder tea.  

What I didn't like: I can't recall anything I didn't like. :)

Take away: I loved how much history was in this book, and how much Ms. Brownley made me want to learn about the Pinkerton Agency. I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia reading about the family and the agency. For example - did you know that the Pinkerton agency still exists today? Or that they there the first organization to hire a female detective - and did so over thirty years before any other police force or organization did so? Pinkerton realized that at that time, women made the best intelligence agents because most men at the time did not consider them capable of understanding most issues, and therefore spoke freely in front of them. This allowed for many female spies to gather critical information (such as the plot to assassinate President Lincoln in Baltimore).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There is romance and intrigue, a historical western and a mystery. If you like any of these genres, you really should enjoy this book!

Happy Readings!

Sarah K.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review ~ A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

Hello Friends!

I'm so sorry it has been so long since I last updated! I've had crazy life stuff happening! My eyes have been acting up, I'm about 3 weeks away from finishing my M.Div and a lot of family stuff going on. However, I have finished several fantastic books over that time, and over the next few days, I plan on posting the reviews for them.

Today's book is a fantastic historical romance called A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears. (I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review) This is her debut novel, and the prequel can be downloaded in ebook format for free. (It's called Love by the Letter) and it too is super cute!

Summary: Everett Cline has had the worst luck EVER trying to find a mail order bride. His brides have arrived dead, already married, left him at the alter because he wasn't wealthy, and some just found a better looking man! He has sworn off brides for good...or so he thinks. Meanwhile, the wife of his best friend has secretly been writing to a girl back east, Julie, and convinced her to come to Kansas to be Everett's bride. Arriving under the impression that she is to be married, Julia is shocked when Everett knows nothing about her! As they get to know each other, they decide to marry for convenience. Though their baggage gets in the way at first, Ms. Jagears does a wonderful job showing how two people can work through their issues as husband and wife, and eventually fall in love.

What I loved: Ms. Jagears writing style is wonderful! She drew me in from the first word, and I felt like I was a part of the story. Her characters are well developed and I cared about them deeply. I was so sad to see the story end, and I cannot wait for more! I also loved her humor sprinkled throughout the book. The book is also very balanced between Everett and Julia's point of views, so you really get to connect with both characters and their inner struggles.

What I didn't like: This isn't so much of a not like as a wish for more - Julia's past was mentioned a lot, but not much was done with it. Part of me is glad, because it kept the story from getting too intense, but part of me wishes there was some closure there. Perhaps in a future book?

Take Aways: Ms. Jagears spends a lot of time dealing with issues that come with marriage, though not in a way that detracts from the story. Rather, it makes the story more real. While few Westerners have been in an arranged marriage, most of us can relate to the struggles that Everett and Julia dealt with: feeling loved, and showing love even when you don't, helping those around us even when we don't want to, putting the needs of our spouse ahead of our own. She also dealt with the issues of spousal abuse (in another couple), and how to help someone be safe from that, which was handled quite well.

The character's struggle with their faith, and God's plan for their lives was also very touching and convicting. Seeking out his will, and trying to better understand his love for them, so they could better love each other, was a good reminder to me as well.

Overall, this book is probably one of the best new books I've read this year. I really loved it! It was romantic, and funny, and made me re-examine my marriage and relationship with God. I fell in love with the characters and cannot wait to hear more from them - especially Helga, and her new adventures back east! If you love historical romance, you will really enjoy this book!

Happy Reading!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review ~ Strait of Hormuz by Davis Bunn

Hello Friends! I have a fantastic book for you today! Full of suspense, spies, and intrigue, it will keep you on the edge of your seat! It's Strait of Hormuz by Davis Bunn! (I received a free copy via NetGalley and Bethany House for my honest review) This is the third and final installment in the Marc Royce series. (currently, the first book, Lion of Babylon is FREE on Kindle! Check it out, you won't regret it! Book two, Rare Earth is also deeply discounted at the moment. :) While you probably could read the books out of order, - at least one and two, the third one does wrap things up in the series. The overall plot is self contained, but the side stories continue from previous books.

Summary: On to the story! Marc Royce, former spy/employee of the US government is called to Switzerland by his old boss. When he arrives, he is faced with the dead body of an art dealer with a shady past, a bombing, and his ex girlfriend Kitra Korban, who flew from Israel at the request of an unknown man. Why all the cloak and dagger? Because North Korea and Iran are at it again, and this time, shipping containers full of who knows what, but possibly nuclear in nature, are missing. They are thought to be headed for the Strait of Hormuz, and into the hands of the Iranian government. With the US Navy ready to attack, and few answers coming from anywhere else, Marc must figure out where those shipping containers really went, what was in them, and how to stop them before disaster strikes. On top of it all, he must figure out how an Iranian antiques dealer, a wealthy benefactor, and a man who appears to be pure evil fit into this madness!

What I liked: The action! This book kept me on the edge of my seat, and refused to let go! The characters were also well written and fantastic. It was great to see Marc and Kitra figure out their relationship and God's plan for them both. Rhana Mandana, the Iranian antiques dealer was a fun add to, as was Sir Geoffrey.

Spiritual: I loved that once again, Bunn brought in the underground/persecuted church. This aspect plays an important role in the first book, and is often mentioned in his other books that I have read. It is something that is also near and dear to my heart, so reading about it is just that much better. (If you wish to help the persecuted church worldwide, two great organizations are Voice of the Martyrs - founded by Richard Wurmbrand and Open Doors International founded by Brother Andrew of God's Smuggler fame)

Seeing the characters struggle with their faith, with God's plan for their lives, and where he is amidst all the chaos was also encouraging and challenging to me.

What I didn't like: I'm bummed that this is the last in the series, I feel like a few more things could have been wrapped up, or explained better (the Ambassador - Marc's former boss, where Marc will end up, etc).

Overall, a fantastic read! If you love suspense, spy novels, a bit of romance, and something that will challenge you a little spiritually, this is the book for you! Enjoy it, and tell me what you think! :D

Happy Readings!

Sarah K.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review ~ Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore

Hello Friends! Today, I have a cop thriller for you: Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore! (I received a NetGalley copy of this book for my honest review from the publisher Tyndale House) This is the first book I've read by this former Long Beach, CA police officer, and it was fantastic! I have a couple of her other books on my Kindle, and now I'm super excited to read them! Critical Pursuit is a re-release by Tyndale House, formerly titled The Kevlar Heart. 

Summary:  Brinna Caruso is the cop you want when your child is missing. Known for her tenacity and her "wall of slime" dedicated to the pedophiles and child abusers in her area, Brinna is determined to track down every missing child she can and bring them to safety. Why so passionate? Because twenty years earlier, Brinna herself was abducted and left in the desert to die. Had it not been for Milo, the cop that saved her, she wouldn't have survived. Now, twenty years later, Brinna and her search and rescue dog, Hero, have stumbled onto a series of kidnappings that are remarkably similar to her own, and they must figure out who is behind them! Brinna's own kidnapper was killed several years before, so who is this copycat? Meanwhile, her personal life is falling apart, her faith in God is non-existent, and thanks to a media crazed lawyer, she is stuck with a partner who isn't all there.

Jack O'Reilly lost his wife and unborn child to a drunk driver nearly a year ago. Formerly, one of the best homicide detectives that Long Beach, CA had to offer, he is now hanging on by a thread, more consumed with getting revenge for his wife and daughter than catching any murderers. Re-assigned to patrol, he is partnered with Brinna, and together they must work through their personal lives, their jobs, and their faith.

What I liked: The plot was great. While I figured a few things out here and there, it was fun to see how it all came together in the end. I also enjoyed that it wasn't too gruesome, but still got the point across. The "wall of slime" is awesome, as is Brinna's tenacity and desire to keep kids safe. Jack and Brinna's chemistry is goof too, and Hero is just plain awesome!

What I didn't like: Part of me didn't like that it was about child molesters. Nothing graphic happened or anything, and it did make a great story, I just get so mad at the IDEA of children being victimized that it makes it hard to read about sometimes. Other than that, I don't have any complaints.

Take Away: Jack and Brinna both struggled with hatred, revenge, and where God was in their pain. Ms. Cantore does a really good job dealing with these issues, especially the "Where is God?" question. How monsters can harm children and get away with it is sickening, but trying to figure out why God allows it to happen is even harder. Sin is terrible, and rest assured, God HATES it when children are harmed. There is no easy answer for why it happens, but know that even in the pain, God is still there and can and will bring healing. It isn't easy, but he will if you ask for it. If you, or someone you know has been victimized, please find someone to talk to, preferably a Christian counselor who can help you work through your hurt, and help you on the path to healing. If you suspect someone you know has been victimized, or is an abuser, please report it, and make sure the victim is somewhere safe!

Overall, this was a good read, and I really want to read the rest of her books now. This book challenged me to think about how I can help those who have been victimized, but also how to help them spiritually as well. It gave me a lot to think about on the theological side of things, and some of it I'm still chewing on. I hope you enjoy this book! It isn't preachy, I just took away a lot from that side of things. If you like cop thrillers, or mysteries, you'll enjoy it!

Happy Reading!

Sarah K

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review ~ Unspoken by Dee Henderson

Hello Friends! Today, I get to review a book by one of my all time favorite authors, Dee Henderson! I've loved her books since I was a teen, and I've read them all at least twice...or more. For those of you unfamiliar with her books, you need to start with her O'Malley series, (the final book in said series was just published earlier this spring) and go from there. Her latest book, Unspoken, follows last fall's release, Full Disclosure. (note, I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley from the publisher, but it was missing words, so I bought my own copy and used it for the review)

Summary: Eighteen years ago, at the age of twenty, Charlotte Graham was born. Before that, she had been known as Ruth, the girl who was kidnapped at sixteen and held for four years before being released. No one knows what happened during those four years, and if she has her way, no one will. Now, at thirty-eight, Charlotte is content to live out of the public eye and keep to herself, a hard thing to do, now that she finds herself the owner of one of the largest storage facilities in the USA. Sure, she has friends, but they are very few, mostly limited to the two in charge of her protection, John and Ellie.

Enter Bryce Bishop, coin collector, and savvy businessman who isn't afraid of hard work. Owner of Bishop Chicago, a high end coin dealership, he meets Charlotte one evening after an interesting phone call from the head of the FBI's Chicago unit, and close friend, Paul Falcon. Paul instructs Bryce to trust Charlotte. Confused, Bryce quickly learns that she has bought the storefront next to his, and has filled it with some of the most valuable coins Bryce has ever seen. She wants to sell them to him - all of them. Not only that, there's more.

Bryce decides to give her a chance, as he is intrigued by her coins, and her past. The more time they spend together, the more he realizes he cares for Charlotte. She, on the other hand, is plagued by her past, her wealth, and a pesky reporter who is threatening to write a tell-all about her kidnapping, and place her in harms way once again. Together, they must learn to trust God, and each other, in order to survive what is coming next.

What I loved: Charlotte and Bryce are extremely well written. I enjoyed getting to know them, as well as John and Ellie. I also liked hearing from more characters from previous books - Paul and Ann, even Gage and his back story is the same as in the O'Malley's. I also enjoyed the leisurely pace this book had. It wasn't rushed, it wasn't in your face, it just kept you wanting to read more. Paul and Ann's secondary cold case that they are working on is a fun addition, and does help keep the story moving.

I thought it was very interesting that much of the action in this book takes place off set. You hear about it, but it isn't happening where you are. For some, that may be a little bit of a let down, because Ms. Henderson's other books are little more action filled. For others, it's a nice change of pace.

Spiritual Application: I also appreciated the struggles that the characters dealt with, especially about trusting God, and the struggle with forgiveness. I felt that Ms. Henderson dealt with the "why do bad things happen?" and "why should I believe in a God that allows evil men forgiveness?" questions extremely well. Bryce was very patient with Charlotte as she worked through these issues, and while there isn't a good answer to these questions, (easy yes, good, not so much), they were treated with respect, and gave the characters, and the reader much to think about. Forgiveness is a crazy hard wonderful thing. It's easy to forgive little stuff, but the big stuff, especially when it's been done to us, is HARD. God forgives everyone who asks, and the idea that someone who harms a child could be forgiven and enter heaven is horrible to me. Yet, I have to remember that sin is sin. I too am stained and dirty, and God still forgives me. If God didn't forgive something big like that, then it would mean that it is bigger than God, and nothing is bigger than Him. Forgiveness is something that we can only do with God's help, because only he is bigger than what has been done to us or by us. Without forgiveness, we would be just as lost an alone as those who have wronged us. What a precious, humbling gift!

The other issue this book tackled was that of good stewardship/financial responsibility. Charlotte comes into a rather large sum of money - an astounding amount, and has Bryce help her figure out what to do with it. While most people would use it for personal gain, Charlotte does not. Even though she is not sure where she stands on issues of faith, she still wants to give to worthy Christian causes. I love the shout outs to Samaritan's Purse and World Vision - two of my favorites as well. What would YOU do if you came into that kind of money? Who would you give it to?

What I didn't care for: There wasn't as much of a mystery as I thought there would be. I also wish more had been done with Gage, or with Ellie's past. The first part, while interesting, was a bit slow at times, thought I must admit, I learned a LOT about coins and coin collecting!

Overall, a great read! A little different than her previous ones, and if nothing else, you should at least read Full Disclosure before reading this book, if you haven't already. If you enjoy a cozy mystery, a tiny hint of romance, or coin collecting, you'll like this book!

Happy Reading!


Monday, September 30, 2013

Review ~ A Talent for Trouble by Jen Turano

Hello Friends, today I have a sneak peak at a book that will release tomorrow! I received my copy from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for a review, but I know I would have bought it anyway. It's just that good! This book is Jen Turano's A Talent for Trouble. It is the third book in her Ladies of Distinction series. You may recall that I reviewed the first book A Change of Fortune earlier this summer.

Summary: Our story begins with a broken heart. You see, Felicia Murdock just knew she was supposed to marry the reverend. Unfortunately, he didn't know that, and married someone else. Broken hearted, and dismayed that EVERYONE seemed to know about her supposedly secret infatuation with him, Felicia decides that it is high time she get back to being herself again, instead of the woman she became to please the reverend. Her mother, meanwhile, is determined to find Felicia a man that is right for her, and decides that Lord Grayson Sumner is just the man for the job. He, along with Felicia's dear friend Agatha, a reporter, are determined to get Felicia out of her funk and into circulation again - well that's Agatha's goal anyway. Grayson is just there to help cheer her up, until his mysterious past from the Far East comes back to endanger them all. Through a myriad of mishaps and adventures, written in the witty, and often downright hilarious style that is Jen Turano, this book will keep you on your toes, and in giggles! From the heights of New York society in 1881 to the slums at the docks (with some misadventures included), A Talent for Trouble is a fantastic read, and it kept me on the edge of my seat - from not just the adventure, but the humor and romance too!

What I liked: First, what a beautiful cover! So eye-catching! I also loved the characters. It was great to get to see Grayson's past. I also appreciated the detail Jen puts into the scenes and costuming of each story. She seems to really know her stuff! Another thing I enjoyed was that she takes the time to show the reader not only what high society looked like, but the slums too. She showed the dangers that these people faced and the struggles they had. It made it real and gave me something to chew on. The details of the opium den and what went on there were heartbreaking. What's worse is that those problems still exist today, and are maybe even worse. Finally, her characters were well developed and entertaining. I can't wait to read what is coming next!

What I didn't care for: While the majority of the book was good, it did have yet another scene where the girls got in trouble down at the docks, and while it fit the book, this is the third time in three books it happened. It didn't really bother me, just stuck out a little bit. It still fit the story and was important to its resolution. Some of the wrap-up with Grayson's past was a bit confusing, but overall was great.

So, if you are looking for a fun read that will keep you guessing and laughing, This is it! It releases tomorrow, October 1, 2013. Yay! Her next book will be about Agatha and Zayne - FINALLY! Hope you enjoy this entertaining historical romantic mystery!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review ~ Unlimited by Davis Bunn

Hello Friends,

So sorry for the long absence. Life has been crazy busy, but I'm back now! Today, I have for you, a review of Davis Bunn's Unlimited - a fantastic story that takes place in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. (I received a complimentary copy from the publisher B&H Books via NetGalley) I've read several other of Mr. Bunn's books, and loved them all. He has the ability to catch you in a fast paced adventure, but still get you to stop and think about what you are reading, and reflect on your life, and God's involvement in it.

Summary: Simon is an MIT dropout bent on making restitution to the one man who believed in him - his former professor now living in the town of Ojinaga, Mexico. Coming at the professor's request, Simon brings with him what he hopes will be his redemption - a device that could save Mexico from corruption and greed. Yet, as soon as he crosses the border, Simon realizes that all is not what it seems. The professor is dead, and Simon finds himself hiding at an orphanage founded and run by Harold Finch, a man who quit a lucrative career with NASA and several other companies to come care for the lost and broken in Mexico, and to show them their unlimited potential in Jesus.

While there, Simon meets several interesting people including Sofia, the local doctor; Pedro, her brother and Assistant Town Manager; Enrique, Sofia's love interest and the mayor of Ojinaga committed to keeping corruption out of his town, and the state as he runs for governor; and Juan, a young teen from the orphanage who does everything he can to help this Yanqui during his visit.

Doing his best to make the device work, while also trying to figure out who killed the professor and who is secretly bringing the cartels into the supposedly safe town, Simon and the rest find themselves serious trouble as things progress.

What I enjoyed: I loved the interactions Simon had with Juan and Harold. Both tugged at my heartstrings. I also enjoyed the adventure of the story, of trying to figure out what the device is, and what it does/is supposed to do. While I figured out who the bad guy was, it took me a while longer to do so, and I was totally stumped about why they kept trying to get the device. I also enjoyed the plot twists Bunn had in there that totally threw me for a loop. Great writing. It brought me back to my missions trips to Mexico on the Baja Peninsula. Different part of the country, but same sandy, hilly desert. It made me miss it, just like his other books made me want to go to Iraq, Israel, and Northern Africa.

Another super cool thing is that the character of Harold Finch is based off a real person, also by the name of Harold Finch. (what a coincidence ;) ) He also worked at NASA and several Fortune 500 companies before feeling God's call to something more. He eventually quit those jobs and moved to India where he runs an orphanage for the lowest castes. Sound familiar? You can learn more about him on his website here. (Side note, the whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking of the main character on CBS's Person of Interest - also named Harold Finch. Now that I know he's a real person, I wonder if the show based the character off him/used it to pay homage to him)

One of the other things I really liked was the spiritual aspect of the story. Mr. Bunn is fantastic at bringing the spiritual side in without it being preachy, but rather convicting. The theme of this book is somewhat obvious. It is unlimited, that is our potential through Christ. Jesus has a plan for our lives, and when we allow him to take control, the potential for success is unlimited. God can and will do incredible things through us if we are willing, and everyone has that potential in side of us. This was hugely convicting for me. Right now, I'm trying to figure out what God wants me to do. I graduate in December with my MDv, but I'm not sure where to go from here. I feel like I haven't been living up to my potential, and have limited myself in many ways because of that. This book convicted me that I need to stop living for me, and live for God and his plan for my life.

What I didn't like: There are a few scenes that are a bit confusing - such as the flashback to what Simon actually did to the professor. It is sort of explained, but sort of not. Did Simon make the professor complicit in his actions, or did the professor just leave? Perhaps I just missed something, but to me, it did not seem clear at all.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the book, and I hope you do too. If you like a good adventure, with some mystery and intrigue, you'll love this book. If you just want a good read that will make you think, this is also for you. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review ~ Stranded by Dani Pettrey

Hello, Friends! I have a fantastic book for you today! This is Stranded by Dani Pettrey,* and it is the third book in her Alaskan Courage series. If you haven't read the previous two, its ok, but I highly recommend doing so because they are so fantastic. The cover alone is breathtaking. Just look:

The back is even more beautiful, but I'm not tech savvy enough to figure out how to show it to you. :( Seriously, whoever did the cover photos and design, my hat goes off to you! It makes me want to just dive right in to that frigid water - or at least take an Alaskan cruise so I can see it in person!

Summary: Darcy St. James gets an urgent call from her old undercover reporting partner, Abby. Abby is on an Alaskan Cruise working undercover and something has gone terribly wrong. She needs Darcy's help, but doesn't have time to explain. Using her cover as an adventure writer, Darcy gets hired on to give good publicity to the cruise line and go on the excursions with the passengers to help boost the trips with her interviews and first person accounts. Once she arrives, Darcy discovers three things. First, Abby is missing and no one seems to care. Second, someone fell overboard the night before, but no one will talk about it, and Darcy believes it may have been Abby. Third, Gage McKenna and the rest of the family have been hired on to run the excursions on this cruise, meaning Darcy will be stuck with him the rest of her trip. As Darcy learns more about Abby's disappearance, patterns start to appear, and the mystery gets even more intense. Meanwhile, Darcy and Gage seem tossed together at every turn. As they explore the outer regions of Alaska, the two of them must fight their mutual attraction while also trying to find out what happened to Abby and solve the mystery she risked everything to uncover.

What I loved: Did I mention the cover yet? Ok moving on. I loved Darcy and Gage and their story. I also loved FINALLY getting to learn the truth about Jake, and watching Kayden have to eat her words. Sometimes, I want to smack that girl, but only sometimes - I can't wait for their story, which I hope is next. The mystery itself was fantastic! The suspense kept me hanging on late into the night! Great plot, though I did kinda figure out the what pretty quickly...but I also watch too many cop shows, so that may have just been me. :) I also loved the scenery and it makes me both excited and terrified to possibly go visit Alaska on a cruise. As long as I stay away from railings, I'll be fine...oh and no kayaking either.

What I didn't care for: I didn't like how much Darcy had to lie to keep her cover, and that she did some really stupid stuff to keep it - like leading on a fellow crew member, and going to all these secluded places with him on the chance she might get info. Come on, be smart!

What does this mean for us?: I love the importance Ms. Pettrey gives faith. Darcy was terrified to go anywhere near water, and yet she knew she had to do whatever it took to keep her cover and save her friend.


Human Trafficking is on the rise worldwide, and is something we need to be very aware of. Ladies, don't do stupid stuff like going off with some guy you just met, especially in a place you are not familiar with. Just because he seems nice, or appears to be crew/authority, doesn't mean he/she is. Travel in pairs, and be on guard. Use common sense. If you wish to get involved in stopping human trafficking and bringing these evil people to justice, a really great organization is the International Justice Mission  visit their website at 


One of the best parts of this book application wise, is the reminder that we are not responsible for someone else's salvation. Darcy feels guilty that Abby is not saved, and that she may die not knowing Jesus. Darcy blames herself for not sharing enough times. This is wrong. We are not responsible for someone else's salvation. We are responsible, however, for sharing the Gospel with them in a way they will understand, and that does not compromise the truth, and for living in a way that glorifies Christ. Salvation is up to the Holy Spirit and the person themselves. We can pray our hearts out for them, but we must not fall into the trap of false guilt and pride, thinking we are responsible for their salvation. I've struggled with this many times, and the reminder was a good one. :)

I also love that she quotes 2 Corinthians 1 - the God of all comfort passage. Paul is writing to the believers in Corinth, encouraging them to stay strong no matter what their circumstance, and to turn to God in every situation. Why? Because. God will bring people into our lives to comfort us who have already been there, and once we make it through, he will bring people to us that are still struggling who need encouragement. Basically, its a pay it forward type of thing. God comforts us, and brings people along to walk with us through our trials so that we can walk wither others when they need it. Pretty awesome, right? The point is: we are never alone. No matter what we are going through, we are NEVER alone. There will always be someone else suffering in the same manner we are. So go find that person and get each other through it! Or remember, that God will use this situation in your life someday.

In my life, I have definitely experienced this passage first hand. Born blind with cataracts, I had to have my lenses removed in both eyes at 6 months old, causing damage to my eyes including glaucoma. When I was 21, I randomly started losing peripheral vision in both eyes. They thought I had tumors on my optic nerves. Turns out, it was a benign one on my pituitary gland that had leaked and caused the vision loss. The vision loss stopped, thankfully, but it was really scary at the time. I was terrified of losing my vision, of the possibility of surgery, and the fear of being alone with no one understanding what I was going through. God got me through it and brought many people along side me to encourage me. The crazy part? Since then I have met at least half a dozen people who have had nearly the EXACT SAME THING HAPPEN to them! How CRAZY is that?! Some have fared better than I, others have lost their eyesight completely, or had to deal with cancer on top of it. They still fought on though, and sought God out. The best part is, God used them to encourage me, and me to encourage them - a reminder that we are never alone, and Jesus will get us through everything in our lives, good and bad. I hope this encourages you, and if you've ever had a time when God has used a really bad situation to help you and others, I'd love to hear about it! If you need prayer or encouragement for something you are going through right now, let me know that too! :) You can comment here, or if you want it to be kept private, my email is sarahbearbenson+blog [at] gmail   Hope this helps!

This book is fantastic! It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time! I REALLY want to go on an Alaskan Cruise now. If you enjoy suspense, mystery, fantastic scenery, and a bit of romance, this book is for you!

Happy Readings!


*I received an early copy of the book from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review ~ Dolled Up to Die by Lorena McCourtney

Hello Friends! Today a have for you a book review of Lorena McCourtney's Dolled Up to Die. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review, but don't worry - that hasn't influenced what I have to say about the book. :)

Dolled Up To Die is the second book in her Cate Kincaid Files series, which I actually didn't realize when I first got the book. I have not read the first book, and while I missed a tiny bit of background, the overall story and mystery were not affected by not reading the first book. I've read some of her other books, and enjoyed them, which is why I chose this one when I saw it available.

Summary: Ok, on to the story! Cate Kincaid is an assistant PI in her uncle's firm. Working on getting her full PI license, Cate helps her uncle with his cases, and even finds some of her own to solve. Her uncle's only rule: we don't do murder. Of course, Cate does her best to avoid those cases, but well, they just keep falling into her lap. Once there, she can't just ignore them - people are counting on her! This is the case with her latest adventure. Called to the home of Jo-Jo, the ex-wife of one of Eugene, Oregon's wealthiest business owners, Cate is there to investigate what she thought were three homicides. Once there, she discovers no homicides, but three life-size dolls that have been shot. As she tries to calm Jo-Jo, their owner and creator down, she discovers there really has been a murder! Eddie the Ex - Jo-Jo's ex-husband has been shot in another room of the house! With the help of her boyfriend, Mitch, and sometimes the police, Cate must help Jo-Jo find out who killed Eddie the Ex and why. Filled with murder, a deaf cat, a friend's "has to be perfect" wedding, and some interesting twists, this cozy mystery is a good afternoon's read.

What I liked: I enjoyed the cat, Octavia, who is apparently a mainstay in the first book as well. She is a hoot and causes just a bit too much trouble for Cate sometimes. I also enjoyed the interplay between Cate and her boyfriend Mitch. Cate's interactions with the suspects are also fun. I also appreciate that the importance of attention to detail is emphasized as well. Sometimes we miss things because we are too frazzled, or aren't paying attention. Other times there is too much detail, and we have to pick and choose what does matter. They mystery itself was good and kept me guessing.

What I didn't care for: Some of the suspects are into New Age type stuff, and past life regression, and while the focus wasn't on that, the presence of it did make me a bit uncomfortable. The situation was dealt with appropriately, and Cate and Mitch used those situations to share Christ, but it is just one of those things that people need to be careful about dabbling in, in my opinion. Some things at the end weren't wrapped up all that well, but I suppose that makes it more realistic to not have all the answers. Still, for the reader, it can be a bit annoying.

Overall, a fun read on a rainy afternoon. Good mystery, fun and quirky characters. Hope you enjoy it!

Sarah K.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review ~ Beauty to Die For by Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clark

Hi Friends! Today I have a fun mystery for you called Beauty to Die For by Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clark.* I've never read anything by Kim Alexis (a former 80's supermodel herself), but I LOVE Ms. Clark's books. (Her Million Dollar Mysteries are currently on sale in ebook format for those interested) This particular book is a contemporary chick-lit mystery.

Summary: Juliette Taylor, former 80's supermodel and now beauty supply mogul is on her way to a spa retreat at the Palm Grotto Spa with her best friend and business partner, Didi when she runs into a former colleague and supermodel Raven. Famous for her red hair, Raven is infamous for her fantastic tips and vicious personality. When Raven and Juliette end up at the same spa, Juliette fears that Raven is trying to steal her business, but soon discovers that isn't the case when Raven ends up dead. Faced with counterfeiters selling a potentially dangerous version of her product, as well as being a suspect in the murder of her former frenemie,  Juliette must figure out who is behind the counterfeiting, the murder, and keep the retreat going all at the same time. Just when she thought things couldn't get more complicated, her TOTGA (the one that got away), Marcus Stone, shows up and is ready to rekindle their relationship - or is that just a cover to protect her from the trouble she seems to find herself in?

What I Liked: I love that Juliette and Marcus' candy was a Peppermint Pattie (and all the cute jokes that went with that). They happen to be my favorite candy as well, and I went and got a few to munch on while I was reading. :) Marcus and Juliette were also sweet. They were able to find each other after so long. Their stories really shows the impact that a single meeting can have on a person. You never know what your words and actions will do in a person's life. I also loved the importance Juliette placed on inner beauty and taking time out for yourself, not in a selfish way, but in a balanced way in order that every part of your life is maintained. Sometimes we get so caught up in ourselves, or in helping others, that we forget that we need to keep Christ at the center of everything and maintain a balance of the two. Helping others is great, but not at the neglect of ourselves. Similarly, taking time out for ourselves is great, but not at the expense of helping others and being selfless. (Conviction alert! ;) )

I also loved the mystery and the government investigation side of things. That made the story more interesting for sure. The side characters were mostly all good too. I loved Marcus' mother. She was a hoot!

What I didn't like: How predictable and naive Crystal was. Overall she was ok, but I could see some of her plot points coming a mile away, and it was aggravating. I also got a bit lost in some of the beauty treatments, but hey, it was at a spa, so I suppose I can't really complain.

Overall, a fun read and I learned quite a bit about spa treatments. I had to laugh when the police couldn't figure out which fridge was for food and which was for products because they were so similar! heehee!
If you enjoy chick lit, or cozy mysteries, you'll enjoy this book!

Happy Reading!


*Although I received this book from B&H publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a review, this review was not influenced by either group in any way, and is made up entirely of my own thoughts and opinions.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review ~ Ring of Secrets by Roseanna White

Hello Friends! Today I have for you a fantastic Revolutionary War era book by Roseanna White. This is the first book of hers that I have read, and I won it in a giveaway on her blog. (No, that didn't influence my review, but just wanted to let you know to be safe :) )

Ring of Secrets  is the first in her Culper Ring series. and is followed by a free e-novella called Fairchild's Lady, which takes place in France during the French Revolution . The second book in the series, Whisper of Secrets takes place back in the United States during the War of 1812, and was just released yesterday! YAY! I can't wait to get my hands on it! :D

Summary: Ok, so in this book, Winter Reeves is a Colonial girl from Long Island. Her mother was an aristocrat whose family had strong Loyalist ties and her father a poor farmer and a Patriot. After her parents are gone, she is sent to New York City to live with her maternal grandparents, who are Loyalists through and through, and despise her because of her poor father. They see her as their only chance for redemption in society. Winter, on the other hand, has been recruited into the Culper Spy ring by her old friend Robert Townsend, to gather information on the British to send to General Washington, or 711 as he is know to the spies. Forced to conceal her brilliant mind and snappy comebacks, Winter pretends to be a clueless debutante to get information on the British to send to Robert via hidden codes.

Meanwhile, Bennet Lane, a professor at Yale, and the firstborn son of a wealthy land owner in England, has been sent to New York to discover the hidden spy in New York's elite. At the same time, his search for a wife is made excruciatingly more difficult by his inability to speak to women without stuttering - every woman that is, except for Winter Reeves. Together, the two must pursue their secret quests all while trying not to fall in love with each other. Filled with codes, intrigue and a bit of romance, Ring of Secrets will keep you reading and waiting to see what happens next!

A Little History: If you are like me, you had never heard of the Culper Spies before now - or at least not until recently. (I learned about them through an episode of White Collar and thought they were amazing!) If that's the case, I'll give you a brief history of their existence. Basically, the Culper Spy Ring was started during the Revolutionary War in order to gather information on the British and their troops and send the information to General Washington. In 1778, at the request of General Washington, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, also known as Culper Senior drafted Robert Townsend, Culper Jr., and between the two of them a number of other spies to relay information using invisible ink, coded messages, ciphers, and other tricks to let keep the information hidden in plain sight. They created their own language and used it in their conversations and communications. While not all the members of the Culper Ring are known today, many believe that a woman was among the ranks of the spies. Not even Washington knew who they all were. While the Culpers were originally thought to have been disbanded after the Revolutionary War, many believe that the Culper Ring still exists today. This is what Ms. White is basing both this book and the rest in the series on. Fun, right?!

What I loved: I loved the history. I love that Ms. White brought in real people and tried to keep their characters true to life. For example, Robert Townsend is known to have dealt with severe mood swings, and this is touched on in the book. I also learned quite a bit more about Benedict Arnold as well. I knew very little about him before reading this book, and it was quite informative. Other real characters: Major Andre, and Major Tallmadge, and some of the other military men who appear.

I loved the codes and spy stuff too. Ms. White made it very clear that these were just regular people who were asked to help their country in this very special way, and they did it - risking their lives to do so. The main characters were really well written also, as is the plot!

I also enjoyed the challenges that Winter gave to Bennet about his faith and making it real. I'm currently taking a class on American Christianity and we spent a fair bit of time discussing the religious sentiment during this time. It was very heavily split between the "feelers" and the "thinkers" - that is those who made religion about their experience and those who viewed it as an academic ideal (not much different than today, eh? ;) ) and very few people were in the both/and camp. This book was a good reminder that religion isn't just about the head or the heart, but both are needed to better understand and be in a relationship with God.

What I didn't like: I didn't like how fake Winter had to be at times, but I do understand why she did. I also didn't care for her grandfather either, but again, a necessary plot point. I found the term "Holy Ground" as a place for prostitutes to be ironic - and then I looked it up and discovered it was a real place! Right around where the World Trade Center complex is now. I also didn't like how much she used Fairchild and deceived him, but again, plot points that worked, so just my personal opinion.

Overall a fantastic book! I'm looking forward to reading book two Whisper of Secrets and learning more about the War of 1812! If you enjoy history, spies, or a little romance, you will definitely enjoy this book! It reeled me in and didn't let go!

Happy Reading!

Sarah K

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review ~ Once Upon A Prince by Rachel Hauck

Hello Friends!

I've been thinking lately. Every girl wants to be a princess right? I mean who hasn't at one time wondered what it would be like to have a REAL prince come along and sweep them off their feet? Ok, I'm sure someone out there never had that thought, and that's ok, but for those of us that have, it is a pretty exhilarating thought! 

I admit it. I was totally one of those crazy Americans who got up and watched the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton who just happen to have a couple cameos in this book. Ok, so I didn't get up at 4 am, I got up at around 8 I think, and watched it on E! (hey, Angela Lansbury was one of the commentators, and you can't beat that! So I might be obsessed with Beauty and the Beast.) And then I watched it again to make sure I didn't miss anything. Yes, my husband probably thought I was nuts, but I didn't care! A normal girl just became a princess for goodness sake! That NEVER happens. In that moment, the world changed, and every single girl knew that it could happen to her. 

Growing up, I wasn't obsessed with princesses or anything. For Pete's sake I HATED pink. But I loved books, and Beauty and the Beast was right up my alley. (My husband splurged and bought me the diamond edition on Blu-Ray for me when it came out for my birthday) I remember when I was a teenager and the first Princess Diaries movie came out. I went with my mom and my younger sister. After we walked out of the theater, I turned to my mom and asked her "So, Mom, is there anything you want to tell me? I mean, my name is Sarah after all, which means 'princess.'" You never know who is in your past or future, so why not ask? Ok, on to the books! I'll finish the story later.

I've got a contemporary romance for you today! Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck. This is the first book of hers that I have read, and it also happens to be the first in her Royal Weddings series.

Summary: Sometimes, a great romance begins with a breakup. That's what happened to Susanna Truitt when her boyfriend of twelve years dumped her on the beach in front of her parents BBQ shack on St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Brokenhearted, she declares that it will be a snowy day in Georgia before she ever falls in love again. Meanwhile, Nate Kenneth, or rather Prince Nathaniel II of Brighton is visiting the cute island for his summer vacation. As he escapes for a drive around the island the two happen to meet under the Lover's Oak, and well, the rest is history. Or is it? Nate is the crown prince of his country, and there is a law that forbids him from marrying anyone outside his country. Then there is the sticky political mess his country is dealing with thanks to a hundred year old entail practically forcing him into a marriage he doesn't want. Meanwhile, Susanna loses everything, house, job, almost fiancee, and now a prince she didn't really want anyway. Yet through it all, they both rely on God's direction and prompting. Where will it lead? You'll have to read to find out!

What I loved: The cover! Isn't it just incredible? It's beautiful. Sometimes, a cover really does make the book. The characters were fantastic. I loved Susanna's spunk, and her sister's wide-eyed innocence. I loved their faith in God and trust in his provision. It is so hard to give up our dreams, especially when we've got them all planned out, and follow God's plan instead. This story is the perfect example of God's best being waaaay better than our good. Prince Nathaniel was wonderful too, as was his cousin. :) Hope he appears again! I loved the cameos by the British Royals. Sigh. The story was so sweet too, and it made me crave BBQ.

What I didn't like: That it ended. Seriously! It made me wish I was there. Some of the politics were a little confusing, but I was able to mostly follow along.

Application: Ok back to my mom's response after I asked if we were princesses. She laughed at me and told me that as far as she knew there were no kingdoms in my past or my future - at least not earthly ones. They she reminded me that as a Christian, I am a daughter of the King, and that alone makes me a princess! I tried telling her that wasn't the same as having a castle here on earth. Her reply, "You're right. It's even better!" You see, what my mom was reminding me of, was that Heaven is forever. As a daughter of King Jesus, whose kingdom never ends, I will have a mansion in Heaven forever, and I will be his daughter, his princess forever as well. Every Christian will, and already is! How AWESOME is that?!

This book also talked a lot about our plans verses God's plans. Susanna had everything in her life planned out, and when one thing went wrong, everything did. Yet instead of massively panicking, she gave it to God - and a whole lot sooner than I would have! Living on the edge is not my idea of fun, but I've learned that God will always be there to catch me. Ever had a time like that in your life?

Overall: Another fantastic story! I'm excited for the next book to come out! Meanwhile, I'm going to go read more of her books. I currently have The Wedding Dress sitting on my nightstand, and I think it just might get read very soon! :) I'm off to go re-watch the two Princess Diaries movies. :D What about you, what's your favorite princess movie or book?

Happy Readings!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review ~ A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano

Hello Friends! Two posts in one day? Yes, I know, I went two weeks without a post, and now two in one day. What can I say? I write when it comes to me! :) I want to keep this fun, so I told myself I would only review a book when I felt like writing about it. Otherwise, it would be forced and make it work, and this isn't supposed to be work. :) So here it is, another book I read in one day - and yes, it kept me up til almost 3 am...totally worth it!

Today, I'm reviewing A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano. This is her fist full length novel, and the second book by her that I have read. The first, Gentleman of Her Dreams is a  free e-novella  that takes place before this book does.

Summary: In A Change of Fortune, it is 1880, and Miss (or rather, Lady) Eliza Sumner finds herself in New York as a governess to one of the city's up and coming "rich and famous" families. Formerly from England, where she was titled, and the daughter of a wealthy Lord, as well as engaged to one of London's most eligible bachelors, she lost everything, including her gold digging fiance when a conniving accountant stole everything and high-tailed it to America - New York City specifically. Lady Eliza follows him there, disguising herself as a governess in order to ferret out his whereabouts without giving herself away. She soon finds herself in far over her head as she runs into - literally - the most eligible bachelor and widower in New York, Mr. Hamilton Beckett. As she tries to find her treasure, and the man who stole it, Lady Eliza discovers that she and Mr. Beckett have much in common, including a mutual interest in a mysterious lord from England! Filled with love, adventure, and two very adorable children, this book will have you turning the pages to find out just what happens next!

What I loved: The cast of characters were delightful! I loved Eliza and Hamilton, as well as his brother Zayne and her friend Agatha. I can't wait to see how their story plays out! I also loved the children, Piper and Ben. Bereft without a mother - and serious nanny problems, these two totally steal the show. I also loved the surprise near the end, though it definitely left me with more questions than answers - which obviously means I need to read the next story to find out what happens! I also enjoyed the cute scheming of the mothers to get their children happy. Sometimes, that can be annoying, but this time it was cute! Finally, I loved Mr. Theodore Wilder. I hear that he's the star of the next book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance and I can't wait to watch him and the suffragette, Arabella Beckett interact!

I also loved the story itself. While there were some parts that dragged a little, overall, it kept me reading and wanting to finish. I loved reading about two respectable women suddenly being thrown in jail, trying to be news reporters, and carrying guns for safety, all the while traipsing around at night in pants in order to carry out their mission to find Lady Eliza's gold! Too much fun!

What I didn't like: Lawrence. UGH! Why didn't they just punch him in the face and get it over with. Seriously. Thickheaded men. Why Lady Eliza didn't just slap him silly, I'll never know. Sigh. This is probably while I'll never be a lady. ;)

Overall: Great read! I really enjoyed it. I loved the suffrage stuff that appeared here and there, but wasn't overwhelming. I loved the wit and humor, and the ability of the women to take care of themselves, yet still rely on the men when they needed them. Hope you enjoy it too!

Happy Reading!


Review ~ A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman

Yes, I know, I'm reviewing another book by Julie Lessman. No, I'm not playing favorites or getting anything to do so. When I read a book and love it, I then usually read everything else by that author I can get my hands on. That's what is going on here. I probably won't review every book by an author as I seem to be with Ms. Lessman's books, it just happens that I really REALLY liked the ones I've read thus far and thought them good enough to review. :) Don't worry! Other authors are coming up too!

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman is the second in her Daughters of Boston Series, and the third book that I have reviewed by her. The other two, A Passion Most Pure and A Hope Undaunted, are the first and the fourth books about the O'Connor family of Boston. This book is about Charity, the second sister. You may remember her from A Passion Most Pure, as Faith's nemesis (and younger sister).

Summary: Wow. Two words: Roller. Coaster.

Charity stayed in Ireland after the rest of her family returned to Boston. She stayed for two reasons. First, because she can not bear to face her family, especially Faith, and her father, after what she had done. Second, she is determined to win the heart of the one that got away, Mitch Dennehy - her sister's former fiancee, and the man of Charity's dreams. Unfortunately, Mitch wants nothing more to do with Charity, her seduction, or her lies. In order to win Mitch back, Charity devises a plan: pretend to fall in love with Mitch's arch-nemesis Rigan Gallagher. Rigan is rich, handsome, and the son of the owner of the newspaper that Mitch works for. He seems perfect, except for one thing. He is overly possessive of Charity. As the story progresses, and Charity and Mitch are thrown together both in Ireland, and in Boston, they both have to deal with the mistakes they have made in the past, and grab hold of the forgiveness Christ offers them in order to move forward in their lives.

What I loved: Emma! Emma is Charity's friend from the shop they both work at. Emma gives Charity a level head-ish, and uses her own bad situation to encourage Charity to be careful in her relationships. I loved Charity's relationships with her grandmother and great grandmother as well. They are too fun! I also enjoyed hearing from the rest of the O'Connor's back in Boston. Finally, I love the lessons that Charity FINALLY seems to learn.

What I didn't care for: Rigan. Ugh. I also didn't care for Charity's manipulations and lies. However, there is a plot point that explains some of her behavior, and while it doesn't excuse it, it does help the reader better understand Charity and her actions. Other thing: sometimes the drama was a little bit much. Don't get me wrong, I loved the book, but sometimes the "which guy should she pick" stories are a bit much for me, and all of Ms. Lessman's books that I have read thus far fall into that category. Can't anyone in this family have a simple "boy meets girl, falls in love, proposes" story? ;) Oh well, they are still great books!

Application: Oh, where to start...first, lying and manipulations may seem to get you what you want, but they can and will destroy whatever relationship you have with that person. Is getting what you want really worth all that? Probably not. Besides, when we lie and manipulate, we aren't trusting God to take care of it for us. Second, small PSA here: if you are in an abusive relationship: GET OUT! If you suspect someone is, get them help. On the other hand, don't even THINK about crying wolf when it comes to abuse. Far too many people actually are abused and have a hard enough time getting the help they need without liars making stuff up for attention, or to get what they want. If you are trying to get out, just leave. You don't have to make stuff up to leave. Though, if you feel the need to make stuff up, you probably need to check with God to find out what's really going on, and get your priorities straight.

Finally, I want you to remember that like Charity, it doesn't matter what you have done in your life, God still loves you. He is your Father. I know many people haven't had a good example of that in their lives, and thinking of God that way is difficult. That is ok. God loves you, and wants what is the very best for you, no matter who you are or what you have done. If you seek God out, he WILL accept you and forgive everything you have ever done. All you have to do is ask. You are pleasing to him, and worthy in his eyes. God's love is all sustaining. He will never fail you. It may seem like it sometimes, but I promise he hasn't.

Overall, I loved this book. It took me for a ride with all the bumps and turns, but it was worth it. It touched my heart in a way that hasn't happened in a long time. I totally cried during the last fifty pages. I hope you enjoy it, and the rest of the Daughters of Boston series!

Happy Reading,


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review ~ A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

Hello again, Friends! this one, I behaved while reading. I was only up until two each morning...granted several mornings...instead of five. :)

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman is the first book in her Daughters of Boston trilogy. Like my earlier review of A Hope Undaunted, this book also follows the O'Connor Family of Boston. This first book tells the story of Faith, Charity, and their mutual love for an Irish Rogue named Collin McGuire. If you love Downton Abbey, you will love this book and the family within!

Synopsis: Faith, the oldest sister in the family has been in love with Collin since she was a girl. Faith also lives up to her name, and has a very strong relationship with God, something neither Collin, nor her sister Charity share. From the beginning, Collin has no idea she loves him, he is too enamored with sixteen year old Charity. Charity, on the other hand, knows full well that Faith loves Collin, and knows how to use that against her at every turn. Charity also wants him for herself and does everything she can to make that happen. Faith's belief in God keeps her from responding in kind, until Charity does something that pushes everyone over the edge.

Meanwhile, The Great War  is raging, and everyone fears that the United States will get involved. Parents Marcy and Patrick struggle handling the hostility and jealousy between their two daughters, Collin, a player from the wrong side of the tracks, and the threat of war that may tear their family apart before the discord within has a chance to.

From Boston, to Ireland, France and back, this book is full of excitement, heartbreak, faith, and love. The O'Connor family must deal with all of these issues while still trying to be the close family they have always been

What I loved: I love the O'Connor family. They are so fun and exciting. I love how strong Faith's relationship with God is, and how even though she loses sight of that for a while, God still prevails. I love the relationship between Marcy and Patrick. They are so in love even after so many years of marriage, and even though they have their fights, they always turn back to each other. I love that Faith held on to her morals and beliefs in spite of her emotions and physical attractions. I loved how real these characters were. You felt their agony and pain. During some of the scenes with Charity and Faith, I felt myself crying at the injustice of it all, or angry at how cruel Charity, could be. As I was reading, I realized how much this family reminded me of Downton Abbey. It is not the same story, however, it is the same time period, and while there are no servants, some of the drama is a bit similar - in a very good way. If you loved Downton Abbey, you'll love this book.

What I didn't like as much: I disliked how back and forth the love triangle went. I also didn't like how convicting this book was to me personally....which probably means I needed to read it, right? ;)

Application: Jealousy and sibling rivalry are something that many people struggle with, even when they don't admit to it. Mrs. Gerson and Grandma are both right when they remind the girls that jealousy can ruin you on the inside, and destroy your relationships on the outside. Like one character learned, jealousy and revenge can get you what you want, but they will also destroy you and everyone else involved at the same time. We all need to give up our jealousy - big or small - and our desire for revenge. There is a reason God says "Vengeance is mine, I will repay."

Obedience to God is also difficult sometimes. Sometimes doing it "my way" feels better. Sometimes, like a few characters, doing something in anger, and keeping one's self angry may keep away the pain for a little while, but doing so destroys our relationship with God. When we are focused on being angry, we lose sight of the good that God wants to do. It may not be the good that we want, but it is. God's best is always better than our good.

Finally, never underestimate the power of prayer. If the book wasn't clear enough, I will be: God answers prayer! It isn't a myth, and it isn't a delusion. It may not be the answer we want, but He will still answer. Never give up praying. If God has placed something or someone on your heart, PRAY FOR IT!!! :) Pray for His will to be done. Pray for salvation for that loved one. Pray for miracles. God can and does take the worst situations and use them for His glory, and He can and does save anyone who asks no matter their background, lifestyle, or any other reason or excuse we can give.

Overall, a fantastic read. The story was wonderful, and the characters endearing. I'm excited to see what happens to Charity in the next book, A Passion Redeemed. While I did not care for her much in this book, seeing what happened to her in A Hope Undaunted gave me hope for Charity's character. She was a good villain in this book, it will be interesting to see what she's like as the heroine. I can't wait to see how God grabs her!

As for A Passion Most Pure, I highly recommend it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

God bless, and happy reading!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Review ~ Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

Hello Friends! Here's another book that keep me up reading til 5 am just to finish it! (I promise, I do sleep at night...sometimes!)

Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska is a cute contemporary romance by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss. I discovered these two authors through their book Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington. While these are the only two books I've read by Ms. Fleiss, Tricia Goyer has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I love everything I've read by her. She has this way of drawing you in and makes everything seem interesting. Her WWII novels are so real, its like I'm there.

Synopsis: This novel, however, is not historical, but modern day, sort of. This is the story of Ginny Marshall and Brett Miller. But it is also the story of Ellie, a young lady from California during the early 1900's. Ginny is the worlds next biggest music star who just lands a huge recording contract, has a famous and rich boyfriend, and everything else she ever wanted - except one thing. Someone who really knows her, understands her past, and can help her decide what to do next. Enter Brett Miller, her ex-fiance who she ran away from in order to pursue her music. She returns to his home in Glacier Bay, Alaska for his advice and ends up with much, much more. While there, she stays with his grandmother, a sweet woman who has spent her life praying for the right woman to come along for Brett. As her relationship with Grandma grows, Ginny is introduced to Ellie through letters that Grandma has collected. Ellie's story is woven throughout the book via the letters, and is as bittersweet as Ginny's.

I originally thought this book was going to be a light, quick read. Instead, I got a book packed with emotion and a beautiful love story that was not bound by time. Ellie's story, and Ginny's as well, made me want to weep with agony, and giggle with joy. The heartbreak they went through was so real, and yet, it was not the end of the story. Love was.

Things I loved: The scenery of Glacier Bay and the people in the town. In the Author's Note, it seems that some of the more colorful characters in town are real people - how cool is that?! I seriously want to go to Glacier Bay now! (Side note, a friend just got back from an Alaskan cruise and posted pictures. Where were the best ones from? You guessed it - Glacier Bay, Alaska! It was awesome to see pictures of the places I was just reading about!) I also loved the themes of prayer running throughout. Finally, I loved that foster care and adoption played such a huge part in this story, both in the modern day part, and the letters from the past. These ladies did a fantastic job letting the reader understand the pain that a foster child can go through, and the importance of forever families, as well as the importance of forgiveness and not letting the past rule you.

Things I didn't like as much: The story of Brett and Ginny seemed to take a bit of a back seat to the one from the letters. It wasn't bad, I just wish there could have been a bit more. Their romance happened fast, but maybe that is because they already had a history. Second, there were a few typos in the kindle edition - and a reference to the Parent Trap 2 when they really meant the The Parent Trap remake from the 1990's.

Overall, a really good read. Yes, it was fast, but the story was so compelling! I loved it, and highly recommend it, especially if you love a book with great scenery, and history!

God bless, and Happy Reading!


Review ~ A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman

Well, here it is, my first review. Hopefully I can do this book justice while keeping your interest as well. Originally, I had a list of books I wanted to review first, ones that I had won in various contests. This book was not on that list, but after staying up til 5 am two nights in a row just so I could finish it, I decided to put it at the top of my list. :)

Background: A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman is the first book in the Winds of Change series. This is her second series following the wonderful O'Connor family of Boston, MA. The first series, The Daughters of Boston tells the stories the three oldest O'Connor sisters - Faith, Charity, and Elizabeth, while the Winds of Change tells the stories of the youngest daughter Katie, and the two sons, Sean and Steven. Each book is focused on the love story of one sibling, with the rest of the family in the background. For those who have read the first series, don't worry, you still get to keep up with the older siblings and their families. For those that haven't, you won't get lost. Ms. Lessman does a fantastic job of weaving a story that draws you in and makes you care about each character in the book.

Synopsis: This particular story is about Katie and her former nemesis Luke McGee. It's the late 1920's and Katie has everything she could want, a well to do loving family, a rich boyfriend wrapped around her finger, and plans to go to Law School to fight for women's rights. She has no real use for God, or controlling men. She wants to live life her way, and save the world doing so. And then, it all comes crashing down. Suddenly, Katie finds herself barred from seeing her boyfriend Jack, or any of her old friends for that matter, and forced to volunteer at the Boston Children's Association finding homes for orphans and children abandoned by their parents. Not only that, but she is forced to work with her childhood nemesis, Luke McGee, who is no longer the scrawny "street rat" she remembers him being. Meanwhile, Faith and Collin run into some trouble when his past comes knocking, as do Mother(Marcy) and Father(Patrick) as they deal with Katie and Steven's rebellion, and other surprises that test their marriage to its limits.

This story helped me fall in love with the O'Conner family, and made me go back and read the first series (reviews coming I hope!). Ms. Lessman's writing style pulls you in and never lets go! I felt like I was in the late 1920's right along with this family. I felt their joy and their pain. Watching Katie make mistakes and then learn from them made me feel like I was right there with her. I felt her pain and tears, along with those of the other characters.

A few things I really loved: the focus on the orphans and caring for them. I have a heart for these kids, and it was encouraging reading about Gabe finding a home, and the impact that had on the characters. It was also interesting to learn more about how orphans were dealt with during that time. I never really knew about orphan trains, or anything like that. I also loved that we got to catch up with the rest of the family, and see how they were doing. I loved how real the situations and characters were. They had faults and messed up a lot. They were passionate and stupid at times, they made mistakes, but eventually learned from them with God's help. Finally, I loved the spiritual and practical applications this book gives.

A Few things I didn't like so muchI cannot think of anything I did not like about this book, other than it ended. :) Ms. Lessman is a little detailed at times in some of the more romantic situations, which might bother some readers (very passionate kisses), but she stays far away from the line, and her situations are quite true to life, so take that as you will. I personally was not bothered by it, but wanted to give a warning for those that are. :)

ApplicationFirst, the main theme seemed to be to surrender everything to Christ, so that he can give us his best. The biggest enemy of God's best is not doing the wrong thing, but settling for what seems good. God wants his best for us, and if we allow him to lead and guide us, he will give it! (This theme pops up in her other books as well). Second, I loved the focus on the importance of marriage and trust. Faith and Collin go through a trial when his past creeps up on them. As a wife who just celebrated her third anniversary, I am learning the importance of trust in a marriage, and how both spouses should never forget that after God, our marriage is the most important thing in our lives. Marcy and Patrick are reminded of that as well when they face several difficult situations and the mistakes they made raising their children. This book convicted me in places, and reminded me of the importance of marriage, my relationship with Christ, and that choices I make can and sometimes do affect my future relationships.

Overall, fantastic read! I highly recommend this book, and the rest of both series. Hopefully, I'll finish them soon, and perhaps post a review as well. If you have any tips on how to write a better review, please let me know! This is my first shot, and I wasn't sure what to write.

God bless and Happy Reading!


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book Reviews!

So this blog is going to be my attempt to post reviews of what I have been reading. It will mostly be Christian fiction, with the occasional Christian non-fiction or regular fiction thrown in for good measure. I decided to start this blog because I've been reading so many good books lately, and winning even more in contests, that I wanted to share my thoughts on them with you. I also wanted a way to thank the authors and publishers for picking me. :) My only fear is that this will take the fun out of reading. I hope it doesn't!

I have a list of books that I am planning to review, and will hopefully get to them this summer.  Some of the books I will do my best to review are: Camy Tang's Protection for Hire series; Tricia Goyer's Spanish Civil War series; Ronie Kendig's Discarded Heroes series; Lisa Tawn Bergren's Grand Tour Series; Siri Mitchell's Unrivaled, and Deeane Gist's It Happened at the Fair.

Hopefully I'll be able to get to these before the end of summer, and before school starts back up again.

And now, a little about me. I'm a wife of three years, a seminary student - will have my M.Dv in Theology in December 2013, and an avid reader. Ever since I was in first grade, I have loved to read. I can't even count how many books I've read over the years, but Goodreads sure is helping me try! My favorite genres/sub-genres are Christian fiction, and then within that I love: mysteries, legal thrillers, military, romance, historical/romance, some contemporary fiction, spy novels and just about anything else except for sci fi/fantasy/speculative, and Amish fiction - though it depends on the author. I also don't mind reading nonChristian fiction so long as there is very little language in it, and it stays clean. I know many of you will disagree with those preferences, and that is ok.

I suppose I have babbled enough for one post.

~ Sarah