Review: The Lady and The Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

This novel is beautiful beyond words. I not sure if I can really write anything to describe what my reading experience was like with The Lady and The Lionheart. But you should definitely read it.

The Lady and The Lionheart by Joanne Bischof
Mason Jar Books, 2016

Experiencing the circus is a myriad of sights and sounds and smells bombarding your senses. The atmosphere is alive with excitement and color. Joanne captured this perfectly on the page, and I really felt like I was standing amidst the chaotic magnificence of the circus. This is one of the few reading experiences I can think of that the scenes were written so vividly, I felt I was there.

Within the circus is where the majority of the story takes place. And where the setting comes alive, the characters do more so. Charlie Lionheart and Ella Beckley are two characters made up of so much depth and heart. They have entirely different backgrounds and upbringings, yet they find each other. A lion tamer and a nurse. They both carry hurts from their pasts and pain that is hard to grapple with. Both of them find it difficult to hope for a future with anything but what they already have. They hesitate to want more, to reach for something different for their lives.

My heart ached while reading this novel. I was so invested in these characters and their lives. I wanted to see a happy ending, but I had no idea how it would be found for them. During the work week, I couldn’t wait for my lunch break so I could read a few more chapters.

It is lovely and breathtaking and a story that I have not been able to stop thinking about since I finished reading it days ago. It is a powerful story about love and sacrifice.

Heartrending and beautiful, please don’t pass this one up. I never felt like I could figure out where this story was going, so every time the plot was given a new layer to grapple with, my heart would hurt a little more. Wanting to find resolution and not knowing how or if it would come for these beloved characters. Wanting happiness to be a reality for them after the darkness they had both experienced in the past.

And I definitely cried. Chapter 32 broke my heart so completely. And a book that makes me cry is a rare gem.

*I received an e-copy of this book from the author and was under no obligation to write a review. This is my honest opinion and all thoughts are my own.*

Review: From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

I started reading this book on a plane to Boston (vacation!), which also happens to be where this book is set. Boston 1897 to be exact.

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House, 2016

So to say this book came alive to me would be accurate. This book takes place during the building of the subway system in Boston, which was a fascinating backdrop to this story. What I found most exciting was being in the city this book revolved around. I had been to the places and seen the streets and ridden in the subway this book talked about. How fascinating to really see the city in two different ways at once!

Romulus has this flamboyant and bigger than life personality. Hidden under that is an insecure man who doesn’t have a lot of meaningful relationships. I enjoyed his character, but I doubt we would get along in real life. Stella is a confident, take charge of your situation woman. She is strong and loves her family deeply, and with those convictions, she continues to push forward. I really liked her drive and how she fought for the answers she was looking for.

I always enjoy Elizabeth Camden’s writing style and the stories she creates, so I’m glad I picked this one up. The characters still couldn’t top Bane and Lydia from Against The Tide, but really, they are one of my favorite fictional couples!

And because I was visiting recently, I’ll leave you with this gorgeous picture of the Boston Public Library. (Don’t you wish this was your local library? I would be there all. The. TIME.)

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2 Binge-Worthy Series You Should Add to Your TBR Immediately

Sometimes I will look over at my bookshelves for inspiration when I’m brainstorming new topics to write about and this time, I was focusing on series. Which ones are the most addictive? That I wished I had the next book when I finished the first one? That hooked me from the moment I decided to give it a chance?

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First we have the Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta. Can I just say she is the most phenomenal writer I have ever had the luxury of reading? Her sentences create the most vivid images in my mind and the layers in this story are endless. This one is intriguing, as it leaves you somewhat in the dark as to what’s really going on. You find out pieces of the puzzle along with Julia and it is the most amazing, complex, engrossing story I’ve read in a long time. [Now I sit here desperately waiting for Jessica Dotta to publish her next story. I’ll wait as long as it takes. I am ready!]

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The second series is the Two Blue Doors series from Hillary Manton Lodge. Whereas the first series is a historical, this is on the other end of the spectrum: contemporary. Juliette is our heroine and watching her start a new restaurant with her brother, fall in love with a heart-throb guy, and attend weekly family dinners, you really get to know her heart. You want to see her be successful and get her happy ending. And it is wonderful and heart-warming and delicious. [Hillary is writing a book that has something to do with Jane Austen next and I can’t wait!!]

What I find really interesting about these is they are both told from a first-person perspective. First person narratives can be really difficult to get into, but they can also be engaging and perfect and wonderful. These two will make you forget about your real-life responsibilities and tempt you to stay up late to find out what will happen.

What is your favorite binge-worthy series?

2016 TBR List | Part 2

Remember my TBR list from January? Well, I read 8 out of the 13 books on my list. I’d say that’s pretty good, and I still have intentions of reading the last five sometime soon!

June is almost over which means it’s time to look at my most anticipated books for the second half of the year. I’ve been waiting six months to share these with you!! [Here’s part one of my 2016 TBR]. Let’s talk about July- December books.

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Ahhhh!! Aren’t they pretty?

Kristi Ann Hunter debuted last year with A Noble Masquerade and it was a delight (I especially loved the novella that precedes it), and now I’m interested to see if Kristi will cement herself into my authors-to-watch list. I’m a bit nervous about An Elegant Facade (July 5) because it’s about a character I didn’t particularly like in the first book. However, I have remain hopeful because one of my favorite authors did this once and I ended up loving it so much!

Joanne Bischof’s The Lady and the Lionheart (August 1) promises to be a beautiful novel surrounded by the backdrop of the big top. The characters sound like ones that will find their way deep into the heart of their readers.

Denise Hunter really caught my attention with her last book, The Goodbye Bride, so I couldn’t be more excited for Just a Kiss (September 6). And ever since reading A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade, I’ve discovered that books about military men returning home and learning to readjust to normal life is something I am bound to fall for.

A Lady Unrivaled (September 13) is the final book in Roseanna M. White’s Ladies of the Manor series, and this one follows Brice’s sister, Ella. She promises to be a lovely leading lady and I’m interested to see how the mystery surrounding the Fire Eyes comes to a conclusion.

I couldn’t be more excited for Avery and Colin’s story in A Royal Christmas Wedding (October 18). I’ve been hoping to read this story since I read Once Upon a Price a few years ago, so to say I’m eager to get my hands on this one is an understatement.

Katherine Reay became a favorite author the moment I read Dear Mr. Knightley, so anything she writes immediately goes on my TBR. A Portrait of Emily Price (November 1) is no different. And this one will be set in ITALY!!!

EDIT: I had to include the late addition of Melissa Tagg’s next book, Keep Holding On (September 27). Isn’t this cover adorable? This one is about Beckett, who is apparently the troubled child of the Walker family. I mean, he’s going to get arrested according to the synopsis, so that is definitely interesting. And there’s an apple orchard. I am so ready!

What are your most anticipated books for the 2nd half of 2016?

Review: Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E Ladd

Emberwilde forest looks just gorgeous on this cover and I’d love to explore it (in theory), but bad things always seem to happen in the forest, don’t they?

Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E Ladd
Treasures of Surrey, Book 2
Thomas Nelson, 2016

Isabel Creston is uprooted from her life as an aspiring teacher at Fellsworth School when she learns she has family who is living and wants her to come to live with them. In an instant her life’s course is changed and she enters into the unknown with only her sister as a comfort.

I really liked Isabel. She is headstrong yet hesitant in her new life with her aunt and uncle. The aunt always gave me a weird vibe every time she was in the room! Her aunt’s remarks stung on several occasions, and she was controlling and opinionated. I felt like telling her aunt to give Isabel some space.

In several scenes sprinkled throughout the book, Isabel stares at the portrait of her mother’s image. Those moments were some of the most powerful scenes to me. I felt that Isabel was searching. Not only was she trying to find herself in her mother, but also seeking how she was like her mother, not in visage, but in character. It had to be an inexplicable swirl of emotion for Isabel to feel, looking at the mother she could not remember, but desperately wanting to feel connected to her in some tangible way.

Another moment that stuck out to me was towards the end. I won’t give anything away, but I just loved the decision Isabel made. I felt that she stayed true to herself and accepted the consequences. She didn’t let the cost of her decision sway her conscience.

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Review: Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon

Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon
Hope Harbor, Book 2
Revell, 2016

Whenever I have an anecdote about how I discovered a book or what made me want to read it, I love to share it with you. It’s fun and I think it gives insight to why my response to said book is what it is in my review.

With that said, what caught my eye with Sea Rose Lane was the book blurb. It completely reminded me of a Hallmark channel movie, which are some of my favorite things during the holidays. After being laid off from his job as a lawyer, a man comes back to his childhood home only to discover a contractor is renovating his house into a bed and breakfast. A little conflict, a little romance, and bam! Sounds like Hallmark to me! I was on board with that information.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as the blurb had intrigued me. As you all know, I am admittedly not a huge fan of contemporary novels, although I have made huge strides recently (authors such as Melissa Tagg and Becky Wade are contemporary favorites). So take my review with that grain of salt.

I was not able to connect with the characters. I was not feeling engaged in the story, and I found the plot a bit wanting as far as things happening. Even the relationship between BJ and Eric was something I didn’t feel invested in, and normally these things are what most engage me in a story.

All in all, this one wasn’t a favorite for me. However, readers of contemporary fiction will enjoy this novel. Fans of Irene Hannon should definitely pick this one up, as they will not be disappointed. If you like small town stories and a few quirky supporting characters, I think this one is for you.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson, 2016

What a lovely book this is, just as I have come to expect from Kristy Cambron. Kristy writes her heart into these pages and it is a beautiful story to unfold.

Circus life consists of incredibly hard work and intricate behind-the-scenes details, all to put on the most entertaining performance of a lifetime for excited guests. The chaotic yet choreographed behind the scenes work was engaging to behold on the pages. The audience has high expectations, and the circus always delivers an experience beyond the imagination. With impressive acts consisting of amazing stunts and exotic animals, the audience is riveted by the glitz and glamour of the performances of a lifetime.

Rosamund was the showstopper in this novel, without a doubt. Readers follow her from the life she used to know into the world of the circus. How overwhelming it was for her to adjust to the new expectations placed upon her and to learn the intricacies of how circus life worked. I felt every emotion along with Rosamund: excitement, fear, hurdles, and triumphs.

When I saw you riding in the field at Easling Park that day, I thought my heart was going to burst right out of my chest.

I have several favorite moments in this book, all sprinkled throughout to make me love this story more and more. Scenes where Rosamund reveals what she hears when she is riding Ingénue, when Rosamund and Colin go fishing, when Rosamund plays the piano at the Ca’d’Zan, and her moment of pure bliss in the center ring. These all stand out as moments I loved reading and bring a smile to my face when I remember them.

Oh! And you have to check out Kristy’s Tour Videos of the Ca’d’Zan. It’s a beautiful house and Kristy shares so much of it and more background into who Mable Ringling was. I really enjoyed watching them, as they made several of the scenes come to life in my mind as I recalled them from my reading.

*I am on Kristy Cambron’s influencer team and received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Review: Her One and Only by Becky Wade + Who Said It? Quiz

When I sat down to write this review, I looked in the notes section of my phone (where I normally will jot down thoughts I have as I’m reading), and realized that I hadn’t written any. While this does make my review-writing job a bit harder, this is a sure sign that I was so invested in this book, I forgot to pause for notes!

Her One and Only by Becky Wade
Porter Family, Book 4
Bethany House, 2016

Becky Wade can take a fictional family of characters and turn them into the most lovable group of people who almost feel like they could be real. Readers will welcome this final installment of the Porter Family into their homes and hearts.

Gray Fowler is a football player in the NFL who has been receiving increasingly alarming death threats. Because of the danger the stalker poses, Gray’s team hires bodyguards to protect him. Or, as they are really called, executive protection agents. Dru Porter is assigned to protect Gray, and their stubborn natures immediately butt heads in the most amusing way. Dru is a fierce woman to behold, and she embodies strength and determination. She is wholly committed to doing her job well and saving lives.

Dru and Gray are two characters that I really enjoyed reading about and getting to know in this novel. They jump off the page with personality, and their relationship is equal parts entertaining and engaging at every stage from beginning to end. I enjoyed their verbal sparring, their emotional moments, and their mutual respect for one another, especially as they learn more about one another’s lives.

Can we talk about the Porter family for a moment? I just adore this family. There are so many characters to keep track of, but they are each such unique individuals, it’s not as hard as one might think. I mean, we all know the difference between Ty’s flirty personality, Bo’s protective nature, and Jake’s caution and skepticism towards all. Add in Dru’s tough, ready-to-prove-herself attitude, and we’ve got quite the family. And that’s not even considering their spouses. They add a whole extra layer of wit and spark to the group. In the midst of this large cast of characters, none of them get lost. Readers know each character and how they all react to situations and interact with one another.  And at this point in the Porter family journey, it is a delight for readers to get this final glimpse into their family dynamics.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Becky Wade’s writing continues to get better and better. With each book of hers I pick up, I fall more and more in love with her characters and their stories.

*I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I also won a copy from the author in a giveaway!*

Don’t forget to check out the Who Said It? Quiz below. Answers will be whited-out so you can see how well you know the Porter family.

Quiz answers are here (highlight the blank text to see the correct answers, but only after you take the quiz!): [1. Ty 2. Jake 3. Dru 4. Gray 5. Lyndie 6. Celia 7. Meg 8. Bo]. How did you do on the quiz? Share below and let’s chat!

Review: Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg
Walker Family, Book 2
Bethany House, 2016

I always know when I open a novel from Melissa Tagg, I’m in for a treat. She writes these adorable characters who are spunky and full of life and dealing with their own struggles. It’s simply a wonderful thing to sit down and enjoy one of her books.

Maple Valley, yet again, feels like coming home. I love a small town full of quirks and celebrations. And it was a little Stars Hollow-esque, with the mayor and some other silliness. Anyone who follows Melissa on any platform knows how much she loves Gilmore Girls (and Jess!).

The funny thing is, I don’t know if the characters were ones I fell in love with. For me, it was more about the message of the book that resonated far more deeply. It’s about being who you are and having that support system around you that can encourage and steady you.

This is what I most connected with: This book is about being known for who you truly are.

How many people in your life can you say truly know you? Not as the person they think you are, want you to be, or know you can be in the future. But as who you are right now, perfectly imperfect. That is the beautiful part of this book.

I really enjoyed the historical bent of this story, too. Amelia’s fascination with aviation started all because she was trying to make the origins of her name interesting, but it turned into a life-long love of history. She is passionate about all things Amelia Earnhardt and Charles Lindbergh, and the history of aviation comes alive through her eyes.

When the book ends by turning a common trope in fiction on it’s head, I was completely sold (as if I wasn’t already!). I found it completely unexpected and I just am thrilled with how Melissa ended the story of Amelia and Logan.

My heart is full.

I need more Beckett and Reagan. (I absolutely cannot wait to read Reagan’s story and it needs to hurry up and get here! Her and Bear are so so so interesting.)

*I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to Goodreads and Bethany House. All opinions are my own.*

Review: Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

Warning: I apologize in advance for any excessive fangirling (because this is the best book ever) and vagueness (to avoid spoilers).

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge
Two Blue Doors, Book 3
WaterBrook, 2016

I have so many feelings about this book and I just absolutely love it!!! Just needed to establish that.

I had such a great experience reading this book (this series, for that matter) and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I read the whole series over a span of three months, and it has been a glorious experience.

Together at the Table starts off with all the things happening right from the first page. I love that Hillary didn’t waste any time getting into all the drama that was about to go down.

For those of you who have read the first two novels and know where we left off, let me tell you, you will be gripped the moment you open to the first page. This isn’t spoilery (it’s the first page), but it opens with Juliette writing an email to Neil. That’s all I’ll say about that. I’ll just leave that tidbit right there. (Are you intrigued?)

Juliette is a character I felt connected to and I felt like I really understood her. I absolutely loved her voice, and it was always her. It never seemed forced or untrue to her character. (Hillary’s writing voice is superb.)

Beyond that, I really did enjoy all the characters. They all felt alive to me and so uniquely themselves, which was so much fun, especially when they’re all together.

Nico. Neil. Adrian. Caterina. Sophie. Clementine. Sandrine. [I love them all.]

The emotions. All the feelings. I felt like it was me in Juliette’s shoes. I felt everything she felt and it was so hard! Her heart is just so hurt when this book starts and I was so in those moments with her.

The food. I want to eat it all. Can I live in the world, especially if it includes all the delicious meals? I was hungry all the time while I was reading this one.

The journey. As a whole, this series has taken me on an adventure I never could have expected. I was surprised and delighted, and all the twists in the story were perfect.

On Twitter, I was part of the read along of this wonderful novel with blogging friends, Rissi and Courtney. And look at the beautiful graphic Rissi created for the occasion:

It’s gorgeous! Also, I’m tempted to put all our tweets in this review, but I know that would be a little ridiculous, so I resisted doing so. But if you click here, you can see all the tweets between the three of us: #TogetherAtTheTableRAL

Okay, I’ll put one more tweet right here. Because I worked really hard on it and I like it.🙂

And one last thing before I go. My Italian grandma (who I dearly love) likes to look at my books once in a while when she visits. And since she also likes food, this book was one she stared at for quite some time. I had to share this picture. Adorable, right?

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*I was provided a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*