Review: Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton
Waterbrook, 2017

The pages of Many Sparrows are filled with a beautiful story of struggle, heartache, and love. It is one of my favorite books of the year.

Clare Inglesby finds herself suddenly widowed in the wilderness, her son is missing, and she must begin to piece her life together by trusting a stranger to lead her and her newborn daughter back to her son.

And that is only the beginning.

There are so many layers of conflict in this story. Each time I thought some sort of resolution was around the corner, the conflict would instead become more complicated. I love that this story wasn’t rushed, but rather it became more and more interesting as the conflict and characters continued to develop.

The whole cast of characters are endlessly intriguing. Clare and her strength, her stubbornness, and her dedication to her children was mesmerizing. I can’t imagine the agony of having your child within reach and not being able to take him back.

Jeremiah’s steady leadership and wisdom, coupled with his quiet strength and kindness towards Clare made him a character I loved reading about. His journey is equally difficult as he watches Clare suffer, while grappling with his own painful past.

And I was especially interested in Wolf Alone. As I finished reading Many Sparrows, I thought to myself how much  I would love to read his story in a future book from Lori. And then I read in the Author’s Note that his story has already been told in The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, my other favorite Lori Benton novel. I think a reread is in my future!

This is a story of waiting and hoping in the Lord. Of learning to lean on Him. Of laying down your own desires to listen to God’s leading voice.

This book was so much about love and sacrifice, loss and forgiveness.

It was completely beautiful from start to finish.

*I am on Lori Benton’s launch team and received this book in exchange for my honest review. All thought expressed here are my own.*

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Review: Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Look at this cover. I just love it. And it is strongly reminiscent of the Emma 200th Anniversary Edition, is it not?

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
Waterbrook, 2017

Having read and fell in love with Hillary’s Two Blue Doors series, I was excited to read what she has next for readers. Her books have become a sweet treat!

This Sense and Sensibility retelling follows sisters Jane, Celia, and Margot when they are forced out of their tea shop and decide to move to Austin, Texas to rebuild their lives in a new city. And while I’ve never read the classic, I found this novel enjoyable as the sisters learn to adjust to life changes and new surroundings. I loved how tea was infused in this novel and was such a natural extension of who the girls were. It wasn’t just a business their lives revolve around, but it holds a special place in their hearts. I mean, Jane carries tea around in her purse, so it is definitely more than a business!

And I wouldn’t mind visiting Texas one day for the big porches, sweet tea, and barbecue. Sounds like my kind of place!

Can I just mention the adorable big dog, Dash? I just loved his presence in this story!

The Two Blue Doors series remains dearest to my heart, but readers of Hillary Manton Lodge will enjoy this novel as well. I love HML’s writing style. Her voice is just lovely, and I can’t wait to read more from her in the future.

*I am on the author’s launch team and was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These thoughts are my own.*

Recommendation: The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

Note: I meant to post this review MONTHS ago, and I just never hit publish. Here it is, months later…

I love when I read a book that surprises me. I checked this book out of the library, didn’t have any expectations, and it blew me out of the water with how amazing it is!!! I was absolutely glued to the page.

We’re talking best book I’ve read all year. You will definitely be seeing this book on my best of 2017 list.

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert
Waterbrook Press, 2015

I was so invested in these characters’ lives. From the broken relationship between sisters Carmen and Gracie, to alcohol abuse, to marriage and miscarriage, this book has an emotional story to tell. It was sad and compelling and I could not stop reading because I had all this hope for these characters.

I also adored Elias and Ben. Elias was king, caring, and just elusive enough to make me want to see him show up on the pages again. And Ben has this unwavering love and desire to fight for his wife, even when she doesn’t. I love how he never gives up.

By the time I got to chapter 55, my eyes were filled with tears. I read it right before bed, and then I thought I got through the most emotional part, but I was WRONG. When I finished the book the next day, I was very close to tears until I got to the end. I got really caught up in the emotions of the last few chapters.

I wish I owned this book now. I’ve put it on my ‘buy this book next’ list.

With this book, I am forever sold on reading whatever Katie Ganshert writes.

And Katie, can we have a sequel? Please?

2017 TBR List | Part 2

Remember my TBR post from January of this year? I listed my 15 most anticipated books. Of which, I’ve read 6, skimmed and DNF’d 2, am currently reading one, and have 3 waiting on my shelves. So, I’ve made some progress.

Today I want to share my most anticipated books that are coming out in the next half of this year. I’ve linked the titles with their Goodreads pages, so go forth and add more books to your TBR!

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh
July 4, 2017

On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson
July 4, 2017

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M White
July 4, 2017

Unraveling by Sara Ella
July 11, 2017

All this Time by Melissa Tagg
August 2017

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli
August 8, 2017

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton
August 29, 2017

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter
September 5, 2017

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
October 3, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
November 7, 2017

What books will you be reading?

Review: Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson

Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson
Tyndale, 2017

I was immediately interested in the story when I read it involved World War II and an old man who had searched for his best friend for seventy years. The loyalty and long-suffering of a man who has searched that long spoke volumes to me.

In present day, we follow Quenby Vaughn, the journalist Daniel Knight has hired to find his friend. What intrigued me about Quenby was her inquisitive nature; she does not give up the search for answers because she is passionate about story. But her strength in searching for those answers doubles as a defense mechanism: if she’s the one asking questions, no one will ask questions about her own past.

Daniel last remembers Brigitte as a ten-year-old child. After they are separated, Brigitte goes on to live with people who manipulate her to do things she does not want to be involved in. She is smart and resilient, and I was rooting for her to get away and find Dietmar. Brigette learns to adapt to her surroundings in order to survive, and I was curious to see what happened to her.

My one complaint was a twist towards the end that wrapped one aspect of the novel in too neat of a bow. I don’t want to say anything more, but I just found it unnecessary to complete the loose ends in the way it was done.

If you enjoy reading dual-time novels or about World War II, I think you will enjoy this book.

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

Review: English Lessons by Andrea Lucado

English Lessons by Andrea Lucado
Waterbrook Press, 2017

In English Lessons, Andrea recounts her year abroad in England, where she went to college. Her voice is fresh and unique, and I found it intriguing to read something that makes it okay to search and ask difficult questions. That’s what this book is comprised of: her struggles, her doubts about faith, and her search for answers all wrapped up in the stories of her time at Oxford. What happens when we are taken completely out of our comfort zones?

The little illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are charming and add a touch of whimsy to this book. They sweetly complement Andrea’s stories and I just really loved that design element.

The chapter on art was the part I most enjoyed. She talks about how if truth is found in art, God is there, too. And I think that’s why I love to read. Art, the written word, can express truth. And that is a powerful thing to realize. That’s why Andrea’s experience at this art conference was one I enjoyed reading in chapter eight.

Overall, I found this book to be interesting and different. I neither loved nor disliked it, but land somewhere in the middle. I don’t feel that there was much resolution in the book, and while I believe that was intentional, I’m not a fan of loose ends.

But, maybe that was the goal: to show readers what the crooked pieces of life look like and learn to live with and work through them.

If you’ve ever been to or are fascinated by England, I think you will enjoy this book and your vicarious travels with Andrea.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.*

Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

When I first read the back cover summary of Life After, I was intrigued. It sounded different than what I typically read, but so compelling.

The premise of this novel centers on a Chicago tragedy -a train explosion- where the victims’ lives are lost, all but one. It follows the life of Autumn Manning, whose life was spared, and the aftermath of experiencing such a life-altering horror. How do you move forward? How do you reconcile the fact that you alone lived, and why? Why did you survive and no one else?

Life After by Katie Ganshert
Waterbrook, 2017

The prologue had me immediately engaged, and from there it never let up. Autumn’s life has been changed dramatically, and no one around her can relate to what she has been through.

This book grapples with the weight of survival and the pressure to make your survival mean something

This story takes an honest look at how life can be turned upside down in one unimaginable moment. It is a story about grief, and how we grapple with it, try to understand it, and ultimately how we attempt to move forward.

Can Autumn learn to heal without forgetting?

This is a standout novel. My favorite read of the year so far.

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

Review: The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

What really happened on Horace Stapleton’s stage? Was it a performance gone wrong? Or was something malicious going on behind the scenes on that fateful New Year’s Eve morning?

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson, 2017

From the start, the vivid descriptions brought the setting to life and injected this novel with a mysterious atmosphere. I felt like I had stepped into another day and age and was immersed in this 1920’s vaudeville world.

Early in the story, Wren and Elliot attend an upscale party to investigate the death that resulted from Horace Stapleton’s performance. This is where the story took off for me. Between the tension in this scene and all the witty quipping between the main characters, I was hooked.

Wren’s life is a carefully crafted illusion, and letting other people in is rare and considered a liability. That’s why I loved Elliot: he didn’t want to change her; he just wanted to be her safe place.

Hiding may be her normal, but that doesn’t mean it ever gets easy.

illusionistkcambron

So while all you see at first glance is this mysterious illusionist who lives in a secretive world, you find out that there is so much more to Wren than meets the eye. Her character development was phenomenal. She is confident and independent, but also has this soft, vulnerable side.

Kristy’s books have an ethereal quality about them. They are the ones that quietly take up residence in your heart. I slowly found myself more and more attached to this story, and I can’t wait to see what she has coming next.

*I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I am on this author’s launch team. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Monthly Favorites: February

mll blog

Welcome to my monthly wrap up! This is where I share my favorite things from around the web, including author news and favorite blog posts from my friends. This may vary between a few items some months and several things that deserve highlighting other months, depending on what’s caught my eye. Enjoy!

Tons of cover reveals are happening lately. Jen Turano, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Katherine Reayto name a few.

Kristy Cambron is writing non-fiction and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Sarah Sundin’s next series has book titles and I am so ready for these books!

Goodreads now has a reread feature.

March Most Anticipated:

Share your monthly highlights below! How did February treat you?

5 Ways to Stay in the Know with Your Favorite Authors

5waysauthors

Sometimes it can be hard to stay connected with authors or remember when their next book is coming out. Or maybe you just wish you could get to know an author whose work you enjoy. Today I am sharing five ways you can stay in the know with your favorite authors (because lists are my favorite).

1. Check out the Website

I look for two distinct things in an author website that will make me want to stick around a while and get to know who they are and more about what they write. The first is ease of getting around. Does their website make sense? Is it easy to find what I’m looking for? Usually this means an author bio, links to connect with them, and a page listing all their books and where I can buy them.

The second is aesthetic. Is the website pretty/pleasing to look at? Does it fit with who they are as an author? Does it express their personality/brand?

SPOTLIGHT: The colors of Katherine Reay’s site match her books and the touch of whimsy makes me want to stay awhile.

2. Follow the blog

If an author writes a blog, usually you can find it as a part of their website, so this ties in with the first point of this post. I am a huge fan of author blogs. It is a place where you can really discover more about the author and get to know more about them on a personal level.

Some authors will write a blog independently, but I’ve also seen a few group blogs, which can be really fun to follow. With a group of authors, you get diverse content and can keep up with several authors all in one place.

I would recommend subscribing to your favorite ones. That way, each new post will show up in your inbox. If you don’t like your inbox to fill up, consider bookmarking the blog so you can easily visit whenever you want to catch up with your favorites.

SPOTLIGHT: Melissa Tagg always writes down to earth posts and I almost feel like I know her. She let’s her readers in to see the joys and the struggles, and I find that she is someone I can relate to.

3.  Subscribe to the newsletter

I love this one! I only subscribe to my very favorite authors [because too many emails!]. This is the easiest option. You sign up once, and the author communicates with you whenever something exciting happens. You get the direct communication when: a new book is coming out, new cover art is revealed, release dates are announced, ebook deals and all the fun things!

I especially like newsletters when the author makes it unique to them, and adds personal flair. Boring newsletters are a no-go in my inbox, so if one catches my interest, it’s a keeper!

SPOTLIGHT: Becky Wade has the best newsletters. Her mom and sisters each get to share their tips for readers, whether it be a book recommendation or a fashion tip, which I obviously love because no one else does this. And she always share some fun tidbit about something behind the scenes of her books and has a newsletter-subscriber only giveaway.

SPOTLIGHT: And because I couldn’t narrow it down to one, I also love Hillary Manton Lodge’s newsletter. She always adds a recipe (yum!) and pictures of her adorable dogs.

4. Social Media

The most obvious is to follow your favorites on social media. There are so many options, and it’s a great way to connect with authors. Most authors have Facebook and Twitter. I personally like Facebook for giveaways and Twitter for ‘talking’ directly to authors about their work. Then you have Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest, all of which have varying levels of author use. These don’t tend to be as universal as far as author use, but some of them really like these platforms.

SPOTLIGHT: Courtney Walsh is my favorite on Instagram. She posts pretty pictures and writes beautiful words about her day or her struggles, and I find that so inspiring and down to earth.

SPOTLIGHT: Laura Frantz is a huge Pinterest user. She posts all kinds of book inspiration and is very active on the social media site.

5. Follow the Publisher

The final way you can stay connected to your favorite authors? Follow their publishing company. This is a great resource for finding out about new books and when they will be in stores. It may even introduce you to new authors to love.

How do you like to stay connected to your favorite authors?