Review: Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

This is the last post of the year, and I saved a good one for you! It’s the one and only Jody Hedlund who we’re going to talk about today. Love Unexpected is the first of her new lighthouse series and it is a strong start, which I couldn’t be more excited for!

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund
Beacons of Hope, Book 1
Bethany House, 2014

My Thoughts:
Within the first 50 pages of this novel, the main characters get married. So when the book jacket summary mentions a “hasty marriage,” it isn’t kidding. It allowed the story to flow from a starting point that made sense for the characters to learn about their new spouse throughout the novel, so I was thrilled with Jody’s decision to marry her characters early. As Patrick and Emma begin to discover one another and find a rhythm in their new life together, I was pulled in to the ups and downs they experienced.

But Patrick’s past is full of secrets, making his character complicated and mysterious. What is he hiding and why is he so desperate to keep it to himself? Some parts of the puzzle I was able to piece together slightly, but one major part of his story surprised me at the end, which I would personally like to see explored more in the future (wink, wink, Jody).

Josiah might be the most adorable little toddler ever. His young age was evident in his behavior and speech, so full of innocence and energy. He was a sweet little boy, but when he threw tantrums for Emma, I felt for her as she tried to console him.

Some of my favorite moments were when Patrick would ask Emma to visit him in the lighthouse at night. Those were such precious moments of vulnerability and a burgeoning love. I hope you read it and love it as much as I do!

I am on Jody Hedlund’s launch team and was provided a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! See you in 2015!

Summary (from the back cover):

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she’s left destitute and with no place to stay.

An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He’s just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other’s dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household.

Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife’s death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.

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Review: The Bracelet by Dorothy Love

The year is fast approaching its end! I have a couple more reviews to share with you before we start fresh in the new year with favorites of 2014 and TBR 2015 lists!

The Bracelet by Dorothy Love
Thomas Nelson, 2014

As I read the prologue of The Bracelet, I was completely hooked by the ominous scene that unfolded. A family name shrouded in mystery and secrets shut tightly behind closed doors give this novel an intriguing premise. Were the tragic deaths that occurred years ago really accidents? Or was there something more sinister behind the misfortunes of one family?

This novel had so much potential, but I felt myself lacking interest in picking up this book each time I went to read. Soon after finishing the prologue and diving into the story, I did not feel engaged with the plot or the characters.

I have to admit that I skimmed a portion of The Bracelet because the pacing of the story was slow to gain momentum. Hints are revealed, but the progress of the story was stunted by the lack of revealing information that held any sense of urgency.

My biggest issue was transitions between chapters. Several times a chapter would end at a place where tension was high (which I liked). But when continuing on to the next chapter, all anticipation was lost because it would not pick up where the last chapter left off. Rather, the following chapter would look back at that moment of tension in retrospect, which relieved all excitement to find out what happened next.

Centered around a family with a tainted past, The Bracelet delves into a world of secrets and lies that threaten to shatter everyone involved with the tragedy. Although I did not connect with this story, I urge you to read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

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.”

Summary (from Goodreads):
Celia Browning is counting the days until her childhood sweetheart Sutton Mackay returns to Savannah after two years in Jamaica looking after his family’s shipping interests. She’s certain he will propose marriage, thus joining two of the city’s most prominent families. But just as Sutton returns, an unsavory newspaper reporter arrives in town, determined to revive interest in the secret tragedies that occurred in the Browning mansion on Madison Square when Celia was a child.

A series of mysterious notes arrives at the house, followed by an anonymous gift–a bracelet imbued with a sinister message. Is it merely a coincidence, or is someone out to harm her?

As war clouds gather over Savannah and her beloved father’s health worsens, Celia determines to uncover the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Inspired by actual events in one of Savannah’s most prominent 19th-century families, “The Bracelet “combines romance, rich historical detail, and breathtaking suspense as one young woman embarks upon a dangerous quest to free herself from her family’s tragic past.

Two Years & Looking Back on 2014

Today marks two years since I started blogging, and it’s hard to believe how fast time has flown. Since it’s also the end of the year, I thought we could take a look back at 2014 in blogging: what was most popular and some of my personal favorites.

January kicked off with quite a few reviews for books I enjoyed, including authors Tamera Alexander, Elizabeth Camden, and Jody Hedlund.  Another thing I started this year was discussion posts, which are the most fun! I kicked off discussions about how we use star ratings to give a book a fair ‘score’ as to how much we liked it. I still think it’s difficult to have a rating system, as it is subjective to the reader, however I do like using ratings to remember how much I enjoyed each novel. I don’t post my star ratings on my blog very often anymore (but if you want to see my star ratings, you can be my friend on Goodreads).

In February, I had a guest appearance on Books and Beverages (shout-out to Jamie!) which was super fun and new territory for me. I’d love to do more guest blogging in the next year and possibly even have guests here. I also had two more discussions on the blog. The first was all about the novella trend that has emerged in the publishing world. I did a lot of research for this post and it was really interesting to dig deep into this topic and look at all the different aspects of novellas. My other discussion was a bit on the silly side, when I shared some personal stories about the horrors of lending beloved books to other people. Moral of the story: don’t do it (gift them with a book, but don’t let them borrow your copy)!

The highlight of March was writing for Family Fiction for the first time. Titled 7 Standout Biblical Fiction Authors, this article is my first publishing credit. I’ve had the opportunity to write more for them, so check out my other articles if you’re interested. April‘s highlight was having Lori Benton on the blog. I wrote several pieces on her and her second book, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, which I highly recommend.

In May, I discovered a new-to-me author who proved me wrong! Dani Pettrey is a fantastic romantic suspense author that I had the pleasure of reading for the first time this year. Also, I was able to participate as a judge in the 2014 INSPY awards, which was a great experience. I was able to read five books that are great examples of Christian fiction and interact with some great blogging friends whom I was judging alongside. Nominations for the 2015 INSPY awards just opened, so go forth and nominateJune was a slower month for me, but my biggest surprise was finally reading Jessica Dotta‘s Price of Privilege series and completely falling in love with it. I mean, you don’t know what you’re missing!

July was a much busier month on the blog, with it being my birthday and doing a special post about what books I should ask for. I got several great recommendations. I also wrote another discussion about how to determine whether or not you are a book pusher. BUT, what really made July awesome? I secretly deemed July, Kristy Cambron month, because she was all over this blog all month! It was super fun having her come over and do an interview and a guest post to celebrate the release of The Butterfly and the Violin. She’s awesome and so is her book!Ideal Bookshelf_KCambron

August got quiet for me again (July just wore me out!), but I did write a short post about what writing means for me, and maybe for you, too. September‘s highlight was sharing my top 4 contemporary authors. I really love writing lists of my favorite books, authors, and anything in between! October brought the release of Katherine Reay’s Lizzy and Jane, which was celebrated here on the blog. Obviously, Katherine Reay= amazing! And in November I celebrated the coming Christmas season by reading a set of Christmas novellas.

And now we’ve made it back to December. Earlier this month, I gave you a few cozy winter recommendations. But my favorite part about this December was announcing The 2015 Jody Hedlund Challenge, which Jamie from Books and Beverages and I are hosting all next year. We had such a wonderful response from all of you who are excited to participate. Seeing your responses has only made me more excited and encouraged to get this challenge started in the new year! And it’s not too late to join!

Hedlund Logo

All in all, it’s been a great second year blogging. I’ve discovered that discussion posts are my favorite to write, and they also attract the most visitors, so I plan to write about topical posts. I’ll still have my book reviews, as always. And with the Jody Hedlund Challenge kicking off in January, new things are about to start showing up here. And I have another new series in the works that I can’t wait to start soon!

Thanks for another great year, everyone! Here’s to year number three!

Review: A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings
Bethany House, 2014

My Thoughts:
The premise of A Most Inconvenient Marriage hooked me from the start. A girl marries a dying man, goes home to meet his family after his death, and then he shows up at the house. Only it’s not the man she married. Which means…. who did she really marry?

If I was in Abigail’s shoes and found out that the Jeremiah Calhoun I married was not actually Jeremiah Calhoun, I would feel confused, lost, and alone. What an awful revelation to realize you married a man and you didn’t even know his real name! And let me just say, the real Jeremiah was not pleased to come home and find a woman there claiming to be his wife.

I have to admit, the story was a slow start. I had a hard time getting into this one, but almost halfway through, it started to grow on me. One thing I had a difficult time with was Jeremiah’s wishy-washy behavior. He goes back and forth between Abigail and his sweetheart several times. It was frustrating that he couldn’t choose one, for I wanted him to fight harder for the woman he truly loved.

As Abigail and Jeremiah learn to tolerate one another, they slowly start to become friends. Their relationship was a strained one, as Abigail is determined to stay and have a home while Jeremiah is equally determined to get rid of her and live his life the way he had planned. But plans don’t always work out the way we want them to. Sometimes the surprises cause the best, most significant changes in our lives.

Overall, this was a cute historical fiction novel with a humorous premise.

*I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

Summary (from the publisher’s website):

Abigail Stuart Thought She was Jeremiah Calhoun’s Widow.
But Jeremiah Calhoun Is Very Handsome, Very Alive, and Very Perplexed.
Most Inconvenient Indeed.

With few options of her own, nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her patient, a gravely wounded soldier calling himself Jeremiah Calhoun. They arrange a quick ceremony before he dies, giving Abigail the rights to his Ozark farm and giving Jeremiah the peace of knowing someone will care for his ailing sister after he’s gone–a practical solution for both of them.

After the war, Abigail fulfills her side of the bargain–until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, injured but definitely alive, and wastes no time in challenging Abigail’s story. Abigail is flummoxed. After months of claiming to be his widow, how can she explain that she’s never seen this Jeremiah Calhoun before? How can she convince him that she isn’t trying to steal his farm? And will she find a way to stay, even though this practical arrangement has turned into a most inconvenient marriage?

Review: With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House, 2014

Elizabeth Camden is a fantastic author. You know what my favorite thing about her writing is? She crafts strong, intelligent characters and compelling plots. With Every Breath is exactly that. Set in Washington D.C., her novel features a rich and fast-paced backdrop to an equally interesting story.

Readers first meet Kate and Trevor as high school rivals. Both are smart and strong-willed, which causes them to constantly compete. When they meet again years later and use their intelligence to support a mutual cause, they realize they are stronger together than apart.

Tuberculosis is a major factor in With Every Breath, as Trevor is researching a cure to the disease. With Kate by his side analyzing data on his patients, Trevor is passionate about finding the answer to an illness that inflicts itself on so many people. I loved the medical bent Elizabeth explores in this novel. We are so blessed to live in a time where there are known cures and ways to prevent illnesses that so very little was known about before our time.

The competitive spirit between Trevor and Kate was amusing and enjoyable to read. Kate is quite the fiery character. Trevor has a chilly demeanor, which could be quite frustrating at times, but we do see the occasional glance into his real feelings that he desperately tries to keep below the surface. Kate and Trevor are a match.

I loved the message of this book; especially Trevor’s perspective. He had found God’s will for his life and beyond a doubt he would dedicate his life to finding a cure for tuberculosis no matter what the cost. Trevor was such a passionate, dedicated character who was unrelenting in his struggle to help others because he was sure it was God’s calling for his life.

Kicking off The 2015 Jody Hedlund Challenge

Jamie hinted at it last week, and today we can finally reveal our plans for a reading challenge. That’s right: Jamie (of Books and Beverages) and I are teaming up to bring you The 2015 Jody Hedlund Challenge! As Jody is a mutual favorite author between the two of us, we have decided to celebrate her amazing body of work starting this coming January. But, this isn’t just going to be Jamie and me reading her books; we want you to join us!

Here’s the deal: Every month we will tell you about four weeks in advance what book to start reading. Then, the next month we will have a discussion post (alternating between mine and Jamie’s blogs) where we can talk all things Jody Hedlund! We want you to come and discuss with us, even write your own post and link it to us. And feel free to grab the fun Challenge Button and share it on your blog and social media to help us spread the word.

Hedlund Logo

To celebrate our kick off, Jamie is hosting a giveaway for a copy of Love Unexpected, so get in on this fun! Enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Today is also our announcement for our January Read. We will start with Unending Devotion.

Discussion Date: January 27, 2015 
Hosted by Cassie (Bookshelves and Windows)

So, who’s excited? Let us know in the comments if you plan to participate!

Review: Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg
Where Love Begins, Book 2
Bethany House, 2014

My Thoughts:
I was already a fan of Melissa Tagg after reading her debut, Made to Last. But after reading Here to Stay, I am completely sold on Melissa’s writing awesomeness! Here to Stay was even better than her first, and now I am excited to read her next novel!

Tired of running, Blake returns home to face his past and make a better life for himself around the people he loves. Meanwhile, Autumn is racing towards her dreams and trying to fix everything at home before she takes off. Blake and Autumn have different goals when they re-meet in Whisper Shores, but together they are an amazing duo.

Melissa Tagg’s writing voice is perfection. She blends humor with heart and it is both entertaining and easy to read. She has the corner on the market of cute and adorable crossed with emotional and heartfelt. That is her sweet spot in writing. How can you possibly resist?

Blake and Autumn are a sweet couple. I enjoyed the playfulness of their relationship and how they were able to have a fun time together. What I liked even more was when they shared the deeper parts of their hearts with one another. Both the pain of the past and hope for the future. Those deep, meaningful moments in their relationship are what truly made me a fan of this book.

This book explores things we all crave: finding a place to belong. Coming home to people we love. Finding our dreams and following them. Forgiveness.

So to sum up, this book has a lot of great things going for it. A great small town setting, layered characters, and a set of powerful themes. I’m so glad I read it. And guess what? It’s set during Christmas, and I had no idea! That was a fun surprise, seeing as Christmas is almost here. Merry Christmas!

Summary (from Goodreads):
Blake Hunziker has played nomad for five years and landed in his fair share of trouble too. But now he’s finally returning to his hometown–the Lake Michigan tourist town of Whisper Shore. Counting on a not-so-warm welcome, he’s surprised at not only a positive reception but also a job offer. Determined to settle down and prove himself responsible, he agrees to the catch that comes with the job offer–coordinating the annual Christmas festival–even though he has no idea how he’ll pull it off.

Autumn Kingsley, inn owner and experienced organizer of the Christmas festival, has always dreamed of traveling the world. Now she has a job opportunity in Paris and a surprise potential investor coming to town who just might take on her family’s inn and finally leave her free to go. The only problem is that she has just two weeks to whip the inn into shape.

Their families have a long history of not getting along, but when Blake comes to Autumn for help with the festival, she actually agrees…in exchange for his help with the repairs to her inn. They may have struck a simple deal, but complications are quick to pile on when the guy who’s had enough of running away and the woman who can’t wait to leave join forces.