Thursday, February 27, 2014

Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron

Tess is starting her new job as detective in St. Augustine, Florida and is waiting to see who her new partner will be. She soon finds out he is Logan McMillan, a city boy from Chicago. They instantly hit it off as partners, and perhaps as something more.

One of Tess and Logan's first cases as detectives ends up being related to a homicide that occurred over 10 years ago. A homicide case that killed Tess's best friend in high school, Sam. The killer has struck yet again, and all of the memories from Sam's death come flooding back to Tess after all of these years. Along with the stress of the case, Tess's aunt Kathy finally confides a deep secret to Tess. A secret that will change everything. And it turns out that Kathy may know more about the serial killer than she ever thought. Will they find the killer before it's too late?

This is not the first book I have read by Barbara Cameron. If you are a frequent visitor on my blog, you probably saw my review of "A Road Unknown" just a few weeks ago, which I absolutely loved! She has such a way with Amish books and I am a big fan. From what I understand, Barbara Cameron is new to the mystery and suspense genre, so this was her first attempt at this type of book. I thought the story was very interesting, and I really enjoyed reading about Tess. I think the author did a fantastic job of developing Tess's character so the reader really gets a good idea of who she is. However, I wish she had dug a little deeper into Logan's background. I felt like I didn't know as much about him despite the fact that some of the chapters were from his point of view.

Also, I found the book to be extremely predictable. After the first couple chapters, I had already figured out who the serial killer was. I love a book that is full of suspense, and I felt that this book lacked a bit of that. I wish there had been more twists and turns to the story. In a really good book, I feel like I have it all figured out and then suddenly it all changes. That's what I feel makes an excellent suspense novel, and I just feel like this book fell a little short.

I rate this book as 3 stars. I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"Princess Ever After" by Rachel Hauck

"Princess Ever After" by Rachel Hauck is the second book in the Royal Wedding Series.

Regina Beswick has the perfect job after ditching law school and her job at a prestigious law firm. Restoring classic cars! It's better than she could have ever dreamed of, but yet sometimes she finds herself wondering if this is all that God has in store for her.

Tanner Burkhardt is the Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg, and is sent to America to tell Regina of her true identity. She is the long lost princess that Hessenberg has been searching for! Regina has no idea of her true identity and is reluctant to agree to anything. It is up to Tanner to convince Regina to make the trek overseas and to take the oath to become the legal heir to the throne.

While I loved the first book in this series (Once Upon a Prince), I was not a big fan of "Princess Ever After". The story was compelling, but I felt that there were a lot of loose ends that didn't get tied up. It was also somewhat predictable, lacking the mystery and suspense that I love so much. I felt that the story was rushed and it didn't get to build up to an exciting ending.

With that said, I still think "Princess Ever After" is a cute romance book, perfect for a trip to the beach or any other instance where you would want a light read. I was encouraged to see Regina's faith grow throughout the book, as she finds out who God intends her to be. I also love that Rachel Hauck writes novels that I would feel comfortable sharing with my daughters once they are old enough. She writes beautiful stories where the leading lady is truly a woman of character and someone to look up to.

I rate this book as 3 stars. I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.

The A-Z of C.S. Lewis by Colin Duriez

I have always been a huge fan of C.S. Lewis's work, but there was so much I didn't know about him! In "The A-Z of C.S. Lewis" by Colin Duriez, readers are introduced to every aspect of Lewis's life, in Encyclopedia form! Although I definitely wouldn't consider this a light read, I greatly enjoyed reading this book in it's entirety!

Duriez gives readers a glimpse into C.S. Lewis's life including the circumstances surrounding his marriage to his wife, his adoption of her two sons, his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, and his many literary accomplishments. The author also explains characters, places and themes in the different books Lewis wrote, as well as Lewis's life before he came to know God. I had no idea that for a good portion of his life, Lewis was an atheist.

Probably what drew me to this book more than anything was my love for "The Chronicles of Narnia" series. I was eager to find out more about this author that had written my favorite books from childhood. Books that are still my favorite now that I am an adult! I feel that I learned so much about C.S. Lewis's character and his life just from reading this book. There is so much content in it, that I will most assuredly go back and re-read much of it! This book is truly a treasure to any C.S. Lewis fan, and I would highly recommend it! I rate this book as 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion. To purchase a copy, please visit http://ow.ly/tzmgH

About the Author:
Colin Duriez was a commissioning editor at Inter-Varsity Press UK for many years. He has subsequently appeared as a commentator on Peter Jackson's DVDs "The Lord of the Rings" and BBC television's "The Worlds of Fantasy". He is also the author of "The Inklings Handbook" (with the late David Porter), "J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Story of their Friendship" and "Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings", and has contributed to definitive reference works relating to Tolkien such as "The Tolkien Encyclopedia" (Routledge).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids by Jill Osborne

"Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids" by Jill Osborne is the second book in "The Good News Shoes" series, and is aimed at 8-12 year old girls.

Riley Mae is just an ordinary 12 year old girl when she gets the opportunity of a lifetime and her own line of shoes! But being famous is a lot harder than Riley ever thought and most of the time she finds herself wishing she never signed that contract in the first place. Through it all though, Riley learns that God has a plan for her life and although circumstances may not be what she expected, God is using her in extraordinary ways. Riley makes friends with another 12 year old named Rusty and is able to share Jesus with her.

In "Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids", Riley meets a little boy named Sunday who is dealing with his own set of problems and Riley realizes that maybe she doesn't have it so bad after all. She also gets the opportunity to ride the river rapids of Montana for a shoe photo shoot! It will be so much fun! What could go wrong? She will learn a lot throughout this adventure, and we'll learn where her next adventure will take place!

Although it's not specified on the outside cover, you really need to read these books in order. The first being "Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek" and this book being the second in the series. I think this is a fantastic series for young girls! The books are not filled with "fluff" or boy-crazy talk, which I absolutely love! It's so hard to find a book like these for my 7 year old daughter! I have found myself scouring the bookshelves at our local bookstores desperate to find one appropriate for my daughter's age, but have mostly resorted to choosing books I read when I was a little girl. Now I know I don't have to worry with "The Good News Shoes" series! They are Christian books which contain morals and values and although the girls are pre-teens and may start to be interested in boys, they are not boy crazy! I would highly recommend this book series and look forward to reading many more of these and sharing them with my daughter!

I rate this book as 5 stars!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bible Stories for His Beautiful Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd

My little girls are always so excited when I'm able to review a children's book, but a Princess Bible Storybook was especially exciting for them!

This Bible storybook is absolutely perfect for my two year old! The stories are easy to understand, and are explained in the same kind of way that I would explain something to her. Each lesson begins with a Bible verse, followed by a short story. The short story is usually about 7 or 8 short and easy to understand sentences. The story is followed by a "Princess Prayer" which is short but sweet, and usually consists of something like "Dear God, Thank you for making me so special. I love the way You created me! Amen." The lesson concludes with a "Princess Jewel" which sums up what the lesson was about.

I found "Bible Stories for His Beautiful Princess" by Sheri Rose Shepherd to be absolutely adorable! The stories were the perfect length for a child of 2 or 3 years of age, and I feel that the stories make sense to a child of that age.

This is not the first book I have read by Sheri Rose Shepherd, but it is the first children's book of hers that I have read. She has such a beautiful way with words, and you can tell that God has really laid these words on her heart. The whole idea behind the title of this book is that every little girl is a Princess because she is the daughter of a King. I love that my girls will listen to these stories and know that God has a great plan for her life.

I rate this book as 5 stars! I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron

"A Road Unknown" by Barbara Cameron is the first in the Amish Roads Series and an absolute pleasure to read!

Elizabeth Bontrager is a young 20 year old woman trying to decide what to do with her life. She knows she needs to leave home in Goshen for awhile since she doesn't have much of her own identity there. Her parents have 8 children younger than Elizabeth, and she is always busy acting as a second mother to most of them. Along with helping with her siblings, Elizabeth helps out with any other household chores her mother needs help with.

When Elizabeth first decides to leave home, she can't decide where to go. She has an Englisch friend in Paradise, Pennsylvania who has offered to let her come stay with her, and Paradise sounds much like Paradise to her! Elizabeth is simply looking for a fresh start and her own life outside of her parents and siblings, but when two very different men express interest in her, Elizabeth realizes leaving Goshen wasn't as easy as she thought it would be. Life won't be easy no matter where she lives.

This was the first book I have read by Barbara Cameron and I actually have another of hers on my To-Read pile which I am now eagerly awaiting! :) I love this author's style of writing and how her story just seems to flow. There wasn't much about it that was super suspenseful, but it's nice to heave a light read once in awhile that doesn't demand all of my energy. I really enjoyed the characters and couldn't help but cheer when Elizabeth made the right choices, or cringe when I felt she made the wrong ones. I was really happy with the way the book ended though and I am definitely interested in reading the rest of the books in this series!

I rate this book as 5 stars! I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Smitten Book Club Book Review

Although I have never read the first 2 books in this series ("Smitten" and "Secretly Smitten), I greatly enjoyed reading "Smitten Book Club"! I think what I found most fun of all was that this book was written by four separate authors, separated into four separate "books" but each story comes together to make one big book!

"Smitten Book Club" is written by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter, but my favorite parts of the book were definitely the stories by Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter! To me, the first two stories were a lot of "fluff" reading, and the last two stories had much more depth to them, but it still worked out very well together.

Each author writes from the point of view of one of the friends: Heather, Abby, Lia and Molly. After Molly's husband passes away in a tragic fire fighting accident, she and her 8 year old son are left with insurmountable bills, a failing business, and the possibility of losing their family home which has been in the family for hundreds of years.

When Heather finds an old book by Pearl Chambers (an ancestor of Molly's deceased husband) called "The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship", the girls each take turns finding meaning out of Pearl's outdated words and apply them to their own love lives. In addition, the girls find a handwritten note inside the book implying that there really may be a gold treasure hidden somewhere on Molly's property, though no one has ever found it. Will the girls be able to find the treasure and save Molly's house and business, or will Molly have to rely on the charity of her Smitten like she has been doing for the past year?

I rate this book as 4 stars. I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Rachel" by Jill Eileen Smith

When Rachel's cousin, Jacob visits from a distant land, she finds favor in his eyes immediately. He is smitten with her and agrees to work for her father, Laban for 7 years in exchange for Rachel's hand in marriage. But through a deceitful act on Laban's part, Jacob marries Leah instead. Rachel is understandably distraught. Leah was 10 years her senior and the two have never gotten along. Now Leah has stolen her husband! Jacob is equally as distraught and immediately confronts Laban. Laban allows Jacob to take Rachel as his second wife only a week later, but Jacob must pay the bride-price for Rachel which is another 7 years' worth of work! Jacob willingly agrees to this because of his love for Rachel, but he secretly wonders if God is punishing him for his past faults and deceits.

But can Rachel live with the thought of being a second wife always coming in second to her older sister?  Does Jacob have enough love in his heart to love two wives? And can Jacob bear the constant bickering coming from two sisters who have never gotten along?

Biblical fiction has easily become my favorite book genre now that I have had the opportunity to read more of them! In my opinion, "Rachel" by Jill Eileen Smith is one of the best I have read yet in this genre. I absolutely loved everything about this book. I found myself disliking Leah almost instantly. It made me sick to think that she could actually go along with Laban's plan, but I suppose back in those days, women were probably not given much of a choice.

I felt like the author did an excellent portrayal of this story, and at times I felt like I was in this book right along with the characters! I felt Rachel's jealousy towards her sister, and Leah's loneliness at the thought that although she was Jacob's wife, she would never have his love like Rachel did. I cannot even imagine living in a time where it was normal to "share" your husband with another woman. Or that you could be married to someone who may never love you. This is one of those books that really gives you an insight into what life was like in those days.

I would highly recommend this book and rate it as 5 stars! "Rachel" will definitely remain a favorite of mine for years to come.

I received this book for free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group to give my honest unbiased opinion. To find out more about Jill Eileen Smith and her other Biblical fiction books, please visit http://www.jilleileensmith.com/.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"The Vicar's Wife" by Katharine Swartz

Jane Hatton has lived in New York her whole life. The bustling streets and busy city life is all she's ever known. But when her 14 year old daughter, Natalie gets in with the wrong crowd at school, Jane's British husband Andrew suggests moving back to where he grew up. All the way to a small village on the Cumbrian coast.

Natalie hates the new adjustment and starts doing poorly in her new school, and Ben seems to be struggling as well with his studies. Only her youngest, Merrie, seems to be thriving and even loving her new environment.

In addition to dealing with her children's adjustments, Jane must face the reality that she cannot lead the same life she did back in New York. Can she live somewhere where she is not a working woman? Jane is so used to running from one place to the next, ordering takeout every other night, and passing her children off for someone else to take care of.

Amidst every other difficulty Jane is facing, her husband suggests that she add some homey touches to their new home (which is actually an ancient vicarage). Jane feels that if she really bears down and decorates the old vicarage, that her situation is somehow more permanent and she will be unable to return home. While cleaning out the kitchen, Jane finds an old grocery list and is suddenly consumed with figuring out who wrote it. She finds that the writer of the note is not unlike herself in many ways, and Jane comes to realize that everyone deals with struggles, but it is how we react to them that really matters.

It took me a bit to get into this book, but after awhile it really got interesting! Especially when Jane finds out who wrote the grocery list and she sees that their lives were parallel in many ways. The only thing I disliked about this book is that I felt that Jane was a rather selfish person who was constantly putting her own needs in front of others. She really didn't have much of a relationship with her children before moving to England, and she actually didn't even know much about them. She couldn't care less that the big move to England was better for everyone, including herself. For the first couple of months that Jane spent in England, she spent it acting as a spoiled child not getting her own way. So if you haven't guessed, I wasn't a huge fan of the main character, BUT I did enjoy the story itself and the realizations Jane finally draws at the end of the book. Throughout it all, Jane learns to become an involved parent who cares deeply about her children.

I rate this book as 3 stars. The story was interesting, and I especially found myself drawn to the chapters that involved Alice (the person who wrote the grocery list), but I just could not relate to Jane in any way.

I received this book for free from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Miracle of Hope by Ruth Reid

Lindie Wyse is a young woman who finds herself pregnant out of wedlock, and the talk of her community. The man she has been courting wants nothing to do with her, and her brother only wants to send her away so she will have a better chance at life.

Josiah Plank is certain he will never marry again after the passing of his wife, but agrees to an arranged marriage with Lindie simply because his deaf daughter, Hannah is desperately in need of a mother. Josiah makes it quite clear to Lindie that he does not love her, nor will he ever love her because his heart still belongs to his former wife.

After months of trying to get through to Hannah, Lindie finally makes some ground and grows close to Hannah, earning her trust! But after Lindie and Josiah suffer some health problems, and the couple deals with setbacks with Hannah, will they ever be able to see their relationship grow? Or will their marriage always be a marriage of convenience?

This past year, I have really come to enjoy Amish books of all kinds! This is the first book I have read by Ruth Reid, but I was not disappointed! There is something so lovely about the Amish community's simple way of life, and I find it fascinating. I love the way they are so quick to put others' needs in front of their own, and the way they push attention off of themselves and onto others, which is something extremely rare in our world today. 

I found this book to be quite an interesting read! There were many twists and turns that left me reading into the wee hours of the night just to see what happened next. :) I rate this book as 5 stars and look forward to reading many more books by this author!

I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.