Review: Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
Thomas Nelson, October 2014

Elizabeth’s life is wrapped up in food, but that is about to change. The life she left behind 15 years ago has come back to invade her comfortable life- her sister has cancer. With a restaurant she loves but is losing passion for, Elizabeth decides to go home. As she learns how to be a sister to Jane, will her passion for food and life return? And, more importantly, will Lizzy and Jane ever learn how to connect with each other despite their differences?

I love that Katherine writes about difficult topics. Cancer is a real struggle, a burden for many. We are all touched by cancer, whether it is a close family member or a friend, which makes this book all the more powerful and poignant.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Nick, the love interest in Lizzy and Jane. I enjoyed his character, especially his unwavering, steadfast presence in Lizzy’s life as she tries to navigate all the uncertainty she experiences. While the focus is on the sisters, Nick is the character who balances the heaviness of the story with the excitement of a fragile and sometimes uncertain love.

Do you see food as a way to be relational with your friends and family? Do you have a sibling who you deeply love yet have a difficult time understanding? Do you know someone who is dealing with cancer?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, I urge you to read this book. It is full of heart and will take you on a deeply emotional journey.

I received an ARC copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review. This is my honest opinion.


Review: Love’s Fortune by Laura Frantz

Love’s Fortune by Laura Frantz
The Ballantyne Legacy, Book 3
Revell, September 2014

The final installment of The Ballantyne Legacy series follows Wren Ballantyne, a lovely heroine. Raised in Kentucky, Wren has a different way of life than her Ballantyne family. A simpler, quieter way of life. One filled with more freedom to express emotions rather than the constraints of rules and the obligations of society.

When Wren is thrust into the world of Pennsylvania, her life is turned upside-down. Meeting family members she’s never known, seeing a different side of her father, and trying to navigate the life of a well-bred Ballantyne overwhelms her senses. Her old life is gone, replaced by a foreign one.

I love the Ballantyne family, and I loved meeting Wren in this book. She has a different perspective on life in Pittsburg than her family because of her humble upbringing. Her opinions were fresh and exciting, revealing much about how she was raised.

This series has been quite the journey. What started with the hard work and dedication of one man turned into three generations of family, wealth beyond imagination, and the promise of continued prosperity. There is a sense of family woven throughout Love’s Fortune, seeping into the lives of each character. These generations of Ballantynes are growing, expanding, and moving forward. Love’s Fortune was the perfect ending to this series, and it has become my favorite novel of the series.

And I obviously loved Jamie. I wish he would have been more forthright about his feelings for Wren earlier in the novel, but then we wouldn’t have all the angst. And when he tells Wren to call him Jamie, and then every time she does call him that afterwards, swoon. Here’s an excerpt from one of the early scenes I loved between Jamie and Wren:

“Reaching out an ungloved hand, she touched the great wheel, her soft shoulder brushing his arm. A start shot through him at her nearness- at her audacity. The wheel was almost a sacred thing, handled by a chosen few. His was likely the first in steamboat history to feel a woman’s hand. Hiding a wry smile, he forced his attention back where it belonged.” (30)

Basically, I recommend this book. But first, I recommend you read the series in order. It makes this final novel so much more fulfilling and complete.

Rating: 4.5 stars (only because it took me a while to get into it)

I am on Laura Frantz’s launch team and was provided a complimentary copy of this book from the author. This is my honest opinion.

Top 4 Contemporary Fiction Authors

Dear readers, I’m sure by now you have all learned that I am a historical fiction girl. It is my go to genre within the sphere of Christian fiction. However, there are a few contemporary authors that I wish to share with you. It is not often that a contemporary fiction novel can win me over, so when one does, I take note of it. Here are my top four contemporary authors.

1. Katherine Reay

Do I need to explain this one? She is an amazing author. Her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was an unexpected surprise that I absolutely fell in love with. I remember requesting this book for review, and I felt like I had discovered this wonderful book/author myself. And you know what? She is loved around the blogosphere, and she deserves it. She writes contemporary with a blend of classic literature, so her books are witty and poignant. And if you need an amazing example in character development, read her books. Lizzy and Jane will be in stores on October 28, 2014.

2. Dani Pettrey

Dani actually writes contemporary suspense, but still. It’s contemporary, right? Anyway, I either got the ebook of Submerged for free or on a mega-sale, but that was the best discovery. I love when we get deals on ebooks like this one because I discover new authors like Dani. And now, I have all of her books. Her series on the McKenna family is filled with gripping suspense, but also well-developed characters that you relate to.

3. Rachel Hauck

Once Upon a Prince. Read it, people! I read this book when I had just graduated from college and I totally resonated with Susanna’s journey. It was just what I needed to read during that time in my life. A bit of whimsy and some soul-searching.

4. Melissa Tagg

I’ve only read Made to Last, but I highly recommend it. Great characters, a fun story, and a meaningful look at identity. Chick lit with a great message. Now I just need to get my hands on Here to Stay!

Who are your favorite authors of contemporary fiction?

Review: Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs

Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs
Zondervan, 2014

“Everything hinges on courage. Absolutely everything.” (175)

Two things:

  1. Nonfiction is not something I read very often. But I read the preview of the first two chapters of this one and was completely hooked.
  1. As a rule, I never underline or highlight my books; at least fiction. But when it comes to nonfiction, I can’t help myself. And this book, let me tell you, is full of underlining and highlights. It is so good.

“When God tells you to be brave, he will make it work. It won’t be perfect. It won’t be easy. But it will be your story and your best story.” (61)

This review easily could have been made up entirely of quotes from this book.

Annie has a voice that is filled with truth and wisdom. She writes to you as if you are sitting across the table from her, sharing her heart and letting us all into her life. And that vulnerability, that courage to share herself so completely, is beautiful. Add in a little humor, and this book is a hit!

“Say yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be.” (105)

Let’s All Be Brave is filled with gems of truth that push you to pursue what God has placed on your heart. You already know what that is. Annie shows you that it is okay to take that leap of faith, to be brave, even if you can’t see how it all works. Life pursuing what God has for each of us is far better than the lives we would live on our own.

“He knows you. He knows we need dreams in pieces because we would be too scared of the whole puzzle.” (28)

This book is powerful. It will make you think about your life and how amazing it is when you pursue God with arms wide open, seeking direction from Him.

So, if you have a dream, if you have aspirations for your future, read this book. If you feel scared or anxious, if you hesitate at the sight of unanswered questions and the unknown, read this book. If you are in need of encouragement, read this book.

“God asked me to open my hands, and he gave me the world.” (56)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> 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 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Review: The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

“I understood the lure of a good story. Sometimes a world that doesn’t exist is the only escape from the one that does.”

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate
Tyndale House Publishers, September 2014

Successful editor, Jen Gibbs loves her job and has recently started working at Vida House Publishing. Working with manuscripts and discovering authors is her passion. When a mysterious envelope appears on her desk from the forbidden Slush Mountain, will she pursue the 20-year-old manuscript? Or will she give up on this long forgotten story of the Appalachian Mountains?

In pursuit of the unknown author, Jen travels back to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the very place she deserted years ago. But if the author is who she suspects, can she persuade him to finish the story?

I was initially drawn to this book because, hello, it centered around a successful editor. But this book holds a story much more complex than what I expected.

This novel has a compelling story line, and I was especially intrigued by the parts that revolved around Jen’s family and their strange, extremist behavior. The community she ran from is a tight, closed group with a particular belief system. As she reenters the part of her life she thought she had left behind, Jen learns not only about who she is, but also tries to bridge the gap between herself and her family. The tension between Jen and her family was the perfect balance of love blended with an aversion to their belief system. It is an uncomfortable place for her, living between her old world and her new one.

Beyond that, this book was a challenge for me to connect with. When Jen arrives home, there is a Warrior Week festival taking place on the mountain. The author Jen is trying to contact about the manuscript she has discovered has a distant connection to this sci-fi festival, however I was confused by it and did not find it necessary. Rather, whenever this festival was mentioned, it took me out of the story.

I loved the premise of this book, but it didn’t completely win me over. It wasn’t for me, but don’t let that stop you from picking it up! For lovers of storylines that feature the mountains, complex family relationships, and a dual storyline, this book is for you. Happy reading!

*Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers who provided a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*