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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Review: The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

The Noble Servant (A Medieval Fairy Tale, #3)
Book Description:

She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted.

Since meeting Steffan, the Duke of Wolfberg, at Thornbeck Castle, Lady Magdalen has not been able to stop thinking about him. She knows—as a penniless lady with little to offer in terms of a dowry—she has no real hope of marrying such a highly titled man, so it comes as a great surprise when she receives a letter from him, asking for her hand in marriage.

But all is not what it seems at Wolfberg Castle. Steffan has been evicted by his scheming uncle, and his cousin has taken over the title of duke. Left for dead, Steffan is able to escape, and disguised as a shepherd, hopes to gain entry to the castle to claim the items that will prove he is the true Duke of Wolfberg.

Journeying to the castle, Magdalen has no idea what awaits her, but she certainly did not expect her loyal maidservant to turn on her. Forcing Magdalen to trade places with her, the servant plans to marry the duke and force Magdalen to tend the geese.

Without their respective titles—and the privileges that came with them—Steffan and Magdalen are reunited in the shepherd’s field. Together they conspire to get back their rightful titles. But they must hurry . . . or else they risk losing it all to the uncle’s evil plan.
 


Book Review:

Let's start with the cover. While I think it's a beautiful cover, it doesn't scream Melanie Dickerson to me. Any one else think that? Maybe it's the title. That didn't seem to match any of the other books of hers either. I mean, this has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was interesting that it was so different.

I was a bit surprised with this story, with how fast Steffan and Magdalen figured out who each other were. I think I was expecting most of the story to be of the discovery, but instead it happens really quickly at the beginning, and the most of the story focuses on how to restore each of them to their titles and privileges.

This made me want to go back and reread Beautiful Pretender since this is the next book. However, that being said, even though I didn't remember anything from Beautiful Pretender I didn't have any problem following along with this story, so if this is the first Melanie Dickerson book you are picking up you will be fine and not lost at all.

The Noble Servant (A Medieval Fairy Tale, #3) 
Title: The Noble Servant
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Fabled Films Press
Published: May 2017
ISBN:
0718026608
Source: I received an eCopy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills

Deep Extraction (FBI Task Force #2)
Book Description:

A pacemaker should have saved oil and gas magnate Nathan Moore's life. Instead, it provided his killer with a seemingly perfect means of execution.A bombing at one of Nathan's oil rigs days earlier indicates his death could be part of a bigger conspiracy, a web Special Agent Tori Templeton must untangle. But her first order of business is separating the personal from the professional--the victim's wife, her best friend, is one of the FBI's prime suspects.Clearing Sally's name may be the biggest challenge of her career, but Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan's personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer--and to each other--the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. 

Book Review:

I don't know. I'm probably a little alone in this, and maybe because I wasn't in the mood for this book, but it didn't really seem up to Mills usual standard.  I found it hard to follow. The writing just wasn't smooth and seemless. A lot of it was a little confusing. There was a lot going on, and sometimes that is really great, but it just didn't....mesh. Maybe it was the content. I don't love stories about affairs and cheating spouses. Maybe it was because I didn't really love any of the characters.  Tori and Cole weren't anything that stick with you and make you want to pretend you could be just like them. Normally a book like this will grab me and pull me in and I'll read it late into the night, but I took days to finish this. I had no problems putting it down and picking up something else.

It's book two in the series, and I don't remember reading book one so I can't say if any of the characters cross over or anything like that. I wasn't lost, and it didn't seem like a series so it could definitely be read as a standalone.

It wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I was expecting or wanting. I won't be rereading this, but I will keep trying this author since I like her other stuff.

Deep Extraction (FBI Task Force #2)
Title: Deep Extraction
Author: DiAnn Mills
Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: April 2017
ISBN: 149641098X
Source: I received an eCopy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Blog Tour: Wrong for You by Jenny Proctor

Reviews * Giveaway
Wrong for You by Jenny Proctor

Book Description:

Lane Bishop is a hardworking, intelligent, young woman. With her recent move to Chapel Hill, she is determined to leave behind the drama and effort of keeping up with the dating scene. Even so, Lane somehow manages to get dragged out by a gaggle of girls to go watch boys play soccer. Just watching is not Lane’s forte, so she joins in the fun and leads her team to victory.

Rather than feeling intimidated by the vivacious beauty on the opposing team, Jamie Hamilton is intrigued. Risking his “untouchable” dating status, he decides to pursue Lane—with a little help from his older brother Simon. With Simon’s behind-the- scenes assistance, Jamie proves irresistible, even to a disillusioned dater like Lane. But as she gets to know both brothers, Lane can’t help but wonder—beneath the grand gestures and romantic words, is she falling for the wrong guy?

Andrea's Review:

I really enjoyed Wrong for You! It was the kind of book that I didn't want to put down once I started, and with the great characters and fun story line, I will definitely read it again.

Wrong for You was more mind candy than deep thoughts (just the type of book I'm usually in the mood for), but it did have times where the characters really struggle, and although it was somewhat predictable, it was an enjoyable ride seeing how everything turned out.

Lane made for a wonderful main character. Perhaps part of her draw was that she was more mature than some of the other women around her, but her competitive nature added a very entertaining aspect to the story. I loved that she jumped right in to the soccer game (that wasn't a pickup game looking for more players). When she was turned down she didn't give up and sit down, she went to the other side. The scene demonstrated right off that Lane wasn't a quitter. She also had a lot of passion for her job, even though she was thrown some pretty big curve balls right off.

Jamie was an interesting character. He was likable in some ways, but I preferred Simon. It bothered me a bit that Simon was feeding Jamie information on what Lane liked, but I also appreciated that Simon noticed those things. And, I liked the relationship the Hamilton brothers had. The group texts between them added a fun aspect to the story.

I'll admit that I don't love the cover. It does fit with the story, but it's not a style that would catch my eye at a bookstore. However, if you feel the same way, ignore that feeling and get right to reading. It really was a great book. 

I look forward to reading more from this author.

Tarah's Review:

How is it that I had no idea that Jenny Proctor has written four books? I thought Wrong for You was her second book. This both excites and depresses me. It's depressing because I'm not sure my library has these books, and it's exciting because I really appreciate Proctors stories. She is able to write great characters, a compelling storyline, and good clean entertainment.

I love the cover. I think it's super cute and clever. I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of the white background, but every time I picture it with a different color it doesn't work, so I guess the white is the best choice. Don't the little stick figures make you smile though?

I will say I was a little hesitant to read this because it sounded like a love triangle, and I really hate love triangles. However, that's not what it was at all, which was a relief to me. I was worried how everything was going to turn out because part of what made this book awesome was the relationship with the Hamilton brothers.  And I wanted everyone to have a happy ending. I like happy endings. I know that's not how it always in in real life, but if I'm reading fiction then happy endings are sort of mandatory for me.

I can't wait to recommend this to my friends. I've already gone back and reread my favorite parts.

Rorie's Review:

This is my kind of book. Engaging right from the get-go. The characters had a lot of depth to them and I really felt like I got to know them all pretty well. I absolutely loved how Lane didn't let Jamie intimidate her at the soccer game, and instead, totally showed him up on the field.

Every part of this book was enjoyable. I loved reading about Lane's new job, her friends, her family (sending missionaries to look her up after they're released? Hilarious!) Little things like that helped make the story flow so well. Simon? Well, I really liked Simon. He is more of the quiet, reserved type. Not as impetuous as Jamie, and better at thinking things through.

This book teaches the reader that honesty and communication can go a really long way in a relationship. I had no idea how they were going to successfully pull off the Thanksgiving weekend charade. It was definitely entertaining though, that's for sure.

Jenny Proctor is now one of my favorite authors. I can't wait for her next book to come out. :)



Tour Schedule:


Tour Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Title: Wrong for You
Author: Jenny Proctor
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published: May 2017
ISBN: 1524403067
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon | Kindle | Deseret Book

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: The Fallen Star by Tracey Hecht

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51omx-dMvWL.jpg 

Book Description:

 In The Fallen Star, Dawn, Tobin, and Bismark awaken one evening to a disaster: all of the forest's pomelos have been mysteriously poisoned! As the Nocturnal Brigade sets out to investigate, they encounter Iris, a mysterious aye-aye, who claims monsters from the moon are to blame. While the three heroes suspect a more earthly explanation, the animals of the valley are all falling ill. And then Tobin gets sick, too! The Nocturnal Brigade must race to find answers, and the cure, before the pomelo blight threatens to harm them all.

In The Fallen Star, the third book in the non-episodic middle grade series, The Nocturnals, the adventure of the three unlikely friends—Dawn, a serious fox, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, and Bismark, a loud-mouthed sugar glider—continue with teamwork, friendship, and humor.

Rorie's Review:

My son has been anxiously awaiting the third book in this series ever since he finished the second one. He was over-the-moon excited when I handed it to him when I picked him up from school one day. He immediately started reading the book and pretty much didn't come up for air until the next day when he finished it. I'm pretty sure he would have read all night long if I had let him.
Now, my son has loved reading ever since he was old enough to learn how - something that I am entirely grateful for. But I am still so glad for books that get him so excited that he wants to learn everything he can about the characters or places featured in this book. In this case, pangolins and sugar gliders - two animals he had never heard of before reading this series. Now, he will tell anyone who is interested what a pangolin is, what they look like, and any other tid-bit of information he can find on them. For that reason (and many others) I consider The Nocturnals series a huge hit. 

Now, on to his review. He may love reading, but he's not so fond of writing reviews. It took a whole lot of doing, but I finally managed to get him to write more than three sentences about the book:

"I really like the falling star. My favorite character is Bismark. I like how he thinks that Dawn likes him. My favorite part of the story is when they find out what the glow was. I like how it features different animals that are very unique like sugar gliders and pangolins. I like how the animals can talk in stories like this one. I really think that makes the stories unique. I really hope the author makes another story of the Nocturnals because I don't think three books make a good ending point. So I hope you make another book like this. I really want to know what happens."

There you have it. A huge hit for the 9-year-old set. I have to say, I'm with my son on this one. I really do hope the author writes more books in this series.

Tarah's Review:

 Two of my children were very excited when The Fallen Star came in the mail. I greedily horded it however, and wouldn't let them read it until I was finished. They were very excited when I told them they could now read it.

I will admit that this time in the story, the sugar glider Bismark was a little too much for me. I sort of wished he would be quiet and let the story go on. He seemed to pipe up more in this story than the other ones, but it's possible I am not remembering correctly. And, I think the kids will still really like him, even if I thought he was annoying.

The best part of this story was the end. I'll admit I wasn't sure how they were going to make this in to realish situations, but they did and I was like, "Oh, that's cool." But the end...I like the moral of the story. That, I hope, resonates with my kids the most when they fight over who gets to read this first :)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51omx-dMvWL.jpgTitle: The Fallen Star
Author: Tracey Hecht
Publisher: Fabled Films Press
Published: May 2017
ISBN: 1944020055
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: Keeping Kinley by Annette K. Larsen

 Keeping Kinley (Books of Dalthia #5)
Keeping Kinley by Annette K. Larsen

Book Description:

"Rylan made me feel like things were possible. Like I was possible, and he was possible, and we could be possible together."

Kinley is content tending her apple orchard, until a chance meeting with a childhood friend changes her priorities. Spending time with nobility is not socially acceptable, but Rylan rejects the norm. He pursues her with an easygoing charm, though she doesn’t dare hope that their relationship will be a reality.

When Kinley’s livelihood is threatened, any thoughts of a relationship are set aside as she’s thrust into Rylan’s world, where commoners and nobility don’t mix. The Rylan she encounters there is not the quirky and carefree friend she thought she knew. Can she trust what her heart has told her and believe in him, or will she be forced to accept that her dreams are only that—dreams?


Andrea's Review:

Annette K. Larsen is an author I can depend on to write a great book that is clean! I love that about her.  

Keeping Kinley grabbed my attention right off and was a very pleasant ride to the end. It's a sweet story with very likable characters. And, I'm a sucker for a commoner catching the eye of a "higher class citizen" (Cinderella type) story.

Kinley didn't fit the mold for her "class", and I really liked that about her. She bettered herself, even though most of her station didn't understand why she'd want to read. And, as it turned out, it really helped her older brother too, so benefits all around.

I would read this (and all of Annette's other books) again.

Tarah's Review:

When my sister told me to go read the first couple chapters of this on Kindle Scout I was hooked. I finished it right away (stayed up way too late). Larsen is able to write stories that just drag you in and won't let you go until you finish. I love that she writes strong characters that are real. Not only that, but the story is super clean. I would have no problem having any teen read Keeping Kinley.

I will admit that it seemed like a very similar story line to Just Ella, except reverse. Rylan isn't royalty, but he is in a higher class than Kinley.  I especially enjoyed when it brought up the prejudices that both classes felt toward Gavin and Ella.

While this is the 5th book in the Dalthia, it can be read as a stand alone book (but if nothing else you really should read Just Ella because that has been this author's best).  I kind of hope that Bram gets a story. He was an interesting side character that I wouldn't mind reading more about.

Keeping Kinley (Books of Dalthia #5) Title: Keeping Kinley
Author: Annette K. Larsen
Publisher: Kindle Press
Published: May 2017
ASIN: B06XRVQS5C
Source: We received copies from Kindle Scout Program for voting for this book.

Purchase: Amazon

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Blog Tour: Shatter by Nikki Trionfo

Shatter by Nikki Trionfo

Book Description:

When a mysterious explosion kills her sister, Salem Jefferson becomes convinced the death was no accident—it was a conspiracy. But no one else at her high school believes her, and all she has so far is one clue. She knows Carrie hired a gang member to protect orchard workers. Problem is, Salem doesn't know who.

To find out, Salem pursues the gang-bangers who rule her town, especially classmate Cordero. As her distrust of Cordero heats up, so do the number of suspects in Carrie's death. Teachers and school officers are orchard owners. They have every reason to stop farm workers from demanding higher wages. With Carrie's killers still out there, Salem's not sure who she can trust. Meanwhile, the people who live on orchards and the people who pick them are drawing lines in the sand.

The only way for Salem to learn the truth is to slip behind those enemy lines.

The only way to survive is to find a way back out.

Andrea's Review:

Shatter is an enjoyable story that I read quickly. It kept me on my toes, which I appreciate for suspense novels (if you aren't going back and forth on who the bad guy is the whole suspense part is a little lacking).

The flashbacks/jumping around in time made things a little confusing at first. They were very important to the story but the first few times it just confused me.

The discussion questions at the end were thought provoking. The story really has some deep issues, and an angle that I haven't really read before concerning gang members.

The ending was a bit underwhelming. After the big thing that happens it seemed like there should be a lot more happening (at least legally) than just talking about riding home.

As a debut novel I think it was a strong effort. The story was engaging, but could have used some tightening up.

Tarah's Review:

For a suspense novel I really approve of the cover. It looks a little freaky and a little mysterious. After you read the novel, the words at the top of the cover confuse me a little bit, but it is what it is.

Salem is an interesting character. She's trying to figure out who she is without her sister that she relied so much on. And when we meet her it is right after her sisters death, so her emotions are very high. I think because of this, because she didn't really know who she was, I had a hard time really getting to know her. The flashbacks at the beginning of the book were also really confusing. The information in them is important, but it messed with the flow of the story.

Congrats to the author for her debut novel. It's kind of a big deal :)

Rorie's Review:

I'm usually up for a good suspense, who-done-it style book (as long as it's not too scary, my imagination tends to get the best of me.) The description of this book had all the makings of a good murder mystery, but the story just never really came together for me. 

The first half of the book goes back and forth between present and past so frequently, it's almost enough to make you dizzy. I had a hard time concentrating on the storyline because it switched so much. Thankfully, that went away after the first half of the book and the story did flow a bit better after that.

I never felt like you got to know any of the characters in depth very well, and that's a really important part of a book for me. I find it hard to relate to the characters at all if I don't know them. The whole story just didn't quite do it for me. The author is very promising though, and I plan on reading more of her books as they are published.

Tour Schedule:
Title: Shatter
Author: Nikki Trionfo
Publisher: Sweetwater Books
Published: May 2017
ISBN: 146212013X
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon | Kindle | Books & Things

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker

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An Unseen Angel
A Mother's Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing After Sandy Hook
By Alissa Parker

Andrea's Review:

I thought this would be a really hard book to read, and it was. I had to read in small bits (sometimes just a chapter at a time) because the tears/crying headache were too much. Sandy Hook was such a horrible event in our country. I cannot imagine sending my kids to school and getting a call that there's been a shooting, and then never seeing my child alive again. The act of the gunman is unthinkable. These little first graders were 100% innocent. It was truly a heartbreaking incident.

Time and time again as I read this book I thought about how good people are. Some of the acts of kindness (often by strangers) may have seemed like small things to the givers, but they all added up to huge actions that helped a family in a horrible time of crisis. The police officer washing and returning the clothing, the gifts of stuff animals and flowers from the airline employees, the police escorts, the co-workers donating their paid time off. So many things that just made me think about the goodness in this world.

It is inspiring to see that Alissa and her family were not destroyed by this tragedy. They suffered immensely, but they held strong to each other and their faith and lifted each other up in their worst moments. 

One of the most important messages to me in this book is the message of forgiveness. I've never dealt with anything remotely close to this situation (and I hope I never have to), but I have been hurt and held onto bitter feelings. I can testify that when you let those bitter feeling go your life is so much better! Those feelings are truly a weight that holds us down. Forgiveness is an important part of the healing process. Alissa's ability to get to a point to recognize that Adam Lanza is also a child of God, loved by our Heavenly Father, helped her on her road to forgiveness. It was a major struggle, but over time she was not only able to forgive him, but to feel love and compassion for him.

Rorie's Review:

Have plenty of tissues nearby. And don't read this book when you're in a public place, like your son's piano lessons for example. I knew from the moment I chose to read this book that it would be difficult. Heartbreaking. And it was. But this book is not about the tragedy of losing her beautiful daughter. It is about how she was able to heal from that horrible tragedy. This book is full of sorrow and pain, but it is also full of hope, peace, forgiveness, and love. 
 
I have always thought that if I lost one of my children, the only way I'd be able to make it through it would be because of my faith. I can't even begin to imagine the pain and horror and heartache that the Parker family went through. I love that Alissa stated that she never thought to blame God for this tragedy, instead she immediately turned to Him to help her through the tragedy.
 
My heart warmed at reading just how many wonderful people stepped up and helped out after the shooting. It was so wonderful to see how much good there is, especially in the face of such horrible evil.
 
This is a tough book to read, especially if you have young children, but it is oh, so worth the tears and heartache, because it leaves you feeling uplifted and at peace. 
 

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91YVF84kzRL.jpgTitle: An Unseen Angel
Author: Alissa Parker
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: April 2017
ISBN: 1629722790
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon | Deseret Book

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Blog Tour: Sense & Second Chances by Brittany Larsen

Reviews * Giveaway
Sense & Second Chances by Brittany Larsen

Book Description:

Emily Carter is on the fast track to success when the unthinkable happens: a tragic accident claims the lives of her parents. Now Emily must set aside her dreams and raise her two younger siblings, Annie and Bryce. Emily and Annie are sisters, but that doesn’t mean they are anything alike. Whereas Emily reacts to the tragedy with her characteristic stoic calm, passionate Annie spirals into depression. Just when things seem like they can’t get any more difficult, Emily’s older half-brother and his fiancée arrive not to help, but to claim the family home he’s inherited from their parents. Without a place to call their own, Emily must take action—and fast. 

When an exciting employment opportunity arises in Utah, the displaced Carters decide to build a new life in a new home. But it soon becomes clear that their future prospects will go far beyond professional, as each sister is faced with an unexpected romance. Yet love is never simple, and in matters of the heart, one sister must proceed with caution while the other needs to take a leap of faith . . .

Tarah's Review:

Well, this was a book that I couldn't put down. I picked it up and just devoured it in hours. I loved Larsen's first book Pride and Politics (oooo, I should go reread that....) and I loved this one too.

Larsen writes the characters in a way that really makes you feel for them, cheer them on, want to thump some sense in them, and just melt when the timing is right.

If you read her first book, then you know Larsen is writing LDS fiction. The Mormon church is referenced and talked about and integrated into the story as well as the Jewish religion and culture. I loved the messages that came from having these two religions in the story, and the message of loving each other and suspending judgement. Isn't that something we all need to hear?

There is more substance to this novel than my typical fluff novels, but it's still super entertaining. It brings up difficult topics, questions, and situations. I can't wait to recommend this to my book reading friends. This is a book I can see myself rereading.

Andrea's Review:

Sense & Second Chances was an enjoyable read. I will admit I was a little thrown when the main characters were suddenly dating. It seemed like that was mentioned before they'd really gone out. I felt like I'd skipped a page or something between where they met and talked to being an item. But, other than that I enjoyed reading about them.

It was interesting seeing how Emily hurt so much by sticking to standards, but then seeing it turn out really well in the end. That was important. Sometimes we may think that it's not worth it, but this was a good demonstration that although we might not be immediately blessed for staying strong, in the long wrong it will be good.

Seeing Annie have a moment of weakness where she let her standards slip really had some devastating results. It was also important to see how judging played into the story. We all do it, but sometimes we really judge unrighteously. It isn't up to us to determine someone's intentions. Of course we need to be careful, but "casting the first stone" is important to keep in mind. I know I often fail at that.

This was a clean and entertaining read.

Rorie's Review:

I always get a kick out of reading a book and having it mention my hometown (or, near my hometown in this case.) I'm still trying to figure out how they drove through Heber to get to Park City when they flew there from California though...because the airport's in Salt Lake...unless they flew into the small airport in Heber, then that would work. See, all I have to do to solve my questions is just type them out. :)

Aside from that silliness above, I really enjoyed this book. I can't even imagine how tough it would be to lose your parents and then suddenly be thrust into the role of guardian. Not only are you grieving your loss, but you've got to be responsible for two younger siblings, one of whom is going through some rough mental health issues.

When Emily was trying to figure out where to move her family to, my first thought was "How could you not jump at the chance to move to the ranch and get out of LA?" Full disclosure. I am a country girl. I abhor city life. I did it for 5 years and that was 5 years too many for me. Now, before people start coming for me with torches and pitchforks, I realize there are some people who thrive living in the city. Emily seemed to be one of them. I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I was happy when they picked the ranch though. :)

I also really liked Joel. Emily and Joel hit it off almost immediately, but I could understand her reasons for not wanting to get too close to him. Differences in beliefs can cause so many problems in a relationship. I appreciated that she was more concerned with how Joel converting to the LDS faith would affect his whole life and relationship with his family than she was about her own feelings. I really liked that it was made clear in this book that someone needs to search out the truth for themselves, they can't just do it for someone else.

The author did a great job of helping us get to know all of the characters in the book. The difference between a good book and a so-so one (for me) is if I can get lost in the story, or if it just feels like I'm reading words on a page. I definitely got lost in this story. Two thumbs up from me. :)

Tour Schedule:

* May 12thhttp://booksaresanity.blogspot.com/http://www.kindleandme.com/

Tour Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Title: Sense & Second Chances
Author: Brittany Larsen
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published: May 2017
ISBN: 1524401617
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase:  Amazon | Kindle | Deseret Book

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Once There Was a Mom by Emily Cox

Once There Was a Mom
Once There Was a Mom by Emily Cox
Book Description:

''Mom'' was the biggest word in her world. It made her want to dance, and it made her want to hide. And on some nights, when the house was dark and still and the moon peeked through the window, it made her wonder.

For every mom who has ever wondered if all the little things she does in a day made a difference, Once There Was a Mom offers hope and encouragement. Take it from someone who, like you, has read story after story, sung lullaby after lullaby, and even taken the batteries out of the toys once in a while! The truth is, little things are much more important than we may think. With contemporary, stylized illustrations by artist Destin Cox, this charming gift book will bring a smile to the face of mothers of any age.


Tarah's Review:

I wasn't sure what to expect when I got this book in the mail. I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of Mother's Day. It always makes me feel guilty about something that I am or am not doing. I didn't really want to read about how mother's are tender and loving and children are amazing.  So I was pleasantly surprised with this cute book. I loved the dichotomies in it.

''Mom'' was the biggest word in her world. It made her want to dance, and it made her want to hide. And on some nights, when the house was dark and still and the moon peeked through the window, it made her wonder.

That, for me, pretty much sums up my feelings on being a mom. I love it, and sometimes I do want to hide, and sometimes I wonder about what it is that I am doing. I love how the book focused on this instead of saying, "A Mom should be this".


I like books that make me think about them after the fact. This was one of those books, which is powerful for being so short and written like a children's book.  Oh, and the illustrations are delightful!

Andrea's Review:

I think I'm in the minority when I say that I like Mother's Day. I'm all for a day of recognition where my hubby makes me a nice meal, and my kiddos give me homemade presents. I know I'm far from a perfect mother, but from talking to many other moms, I'm lucky that it isn't something that weighs me down on a regular basis.

Once There Was a Mom is a sweet book for any mom (whether you are a Mother's Day fan or not). It's very short (perfect for the mom who hardly has time to read), but loaded with little instances where all mothers can relate.

There is a page that talks about a mom coming home and the children yelling that they missed her. I noticed that with my sister last week. She visited for a couple of days and when she called her family to say she was heading home they were all shouting with joy!

Motherhood is rough at times. And it can feel thankless, but as moms we make a HUGE difference in our kiddos lives. I think this would be a great book for any mom that needs a little reminder about the difference she is making, and how her kids are making her different too.

Rorie's Review:

This is such a cute little book. I love the whimsical illustrations, and most importantly, the message of the book. I love being a mom. I chose to do this, and I don't for one minute regret it. My life is so much more complete now than it was before. But yes, it can be very mundane and crazy and so much fighting and so many messes. Every single day. Sometimes I think I'm the worst mom out there, and sometimes I think I might be doing something right.

So this book comes along and reaffirms that yes, life as a mom is wonderful. It is also crazy hard, but that's part of what makes it worth it, right? So yes, I love this book. I will keep it in a prominent place on my bookshelf and pull it out and read it whenever I need a reminder of why I chose this glamorous job. :)

This book would be a great Mother's Day gift for any of the moms in your life...or even the moms-to-be, to help them know just how worthwhile this calling in life is.


Once There Was a MomTitle: Once There Was a Mom
Author: Emily Watts
Illustrator: Destin Cox
Publisher: Deseret Book
Published: April 2017
ISBN:  162972307X
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for honest reviews.

Purchase: Amazon | Deseret Book

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: Fire and Steel Vol. 4: The Proud Shall Stumble by Gerald N. Lund

Fire and Steel Volume 4
The Proud Shall Stumble by Gerald N. Lund

Book Description:

It's a truth that has stood for centuries: pride goeth before the fall. And Germany, emboldened by an increasingly popular dynamo, is becoming proud.
 

Across the ocean in America, people have been enjoying years of plenty since the Great War. Electricity in every home, shiny new automobiles lining the streets, roaring new music, shocking new clothing styles—a whole nation wanting nothing more than to let loose and get rich. But beneath the glittering surface, the economy's foundation has already begun to crumble.
 

On opposite sides of the world, the Eckhardt and Westland families are as caught up in the fast-paced times as anyone else, and they find their personal lives deeply affected by the shocking events occurring on a global scale. Though they all seek to follow a wise path, the way becomes hazy when powerful forces aim to cloud their judgment. Will they be able to recognize the darkness before they sink further into it? More dark days lie ahead, and the families stand to lose everything if they don't cling to the light.
 

Join the Eckhardts and Westlands in this fourth volume of master storyteller Gerald N. Lund's gripping tale of war, family and the fight for what's right.

Rorie's Review:

I know I've read at least one book in this series, but I can't remember if I've read all three previous to this one. Thankfully, that doesn't really matter too much to be able to follow the story. I have enjoyed Gerald Lund's books ever since The Work and the Glory came out, so I always jump at the chance to read his new books. Not only is he a good story-teller, but I learn so much more about history than I ever would have otherwise.

This book takes place in-between WWI and WWII, switching back and forth between the Eckhardts in Germany and the Westlands in the United States. I have to say that the timeline at each chapter heading was a bit distracting. Most of the time I didn't even read it, and just continued on to the story.

It was fascinating to learn about Hitler and how he began his rise to power. I can see how people were taken in by him. He was such a smooth-talker and very persuasive. It is easy to see why so many people followed him but at the same time it's bewildering - probably because I can look back and see what a psychotic person he was. It's scary to read his words and see how many people blindly followed them. I was shocked to read how many people cheered and agreed with Hitler when he was taking about how the Aryan people were so superior to everyone else. I mean, I definitely knew he felt that way, but to see how many others did too just boggles my mind. I know there are still people today that feel that way, but I just can't understand how anyone can think they're better than someone else just because of their race.
 
Parts of the book dragged on a bit, especially when they were going over the intricacies of stocks. Even though that part did drag on, I feel it was necessary to help explain why and how the Depression started.
 
I really enjoyed reading about the Westland family, and want to go back and read the earlier books so I can find out what happened with Frank - that's something I don't remember at all from what I have read. This story definitely left a lot of room for future books in the series, so I can't wait for them to come out.


Andrea's Review:

As a teenager I loved reading The Work & The Glory series by Gerald N. Lund, so when the opportunity came to read his latest novel, The Proud Shall Stumble, I was really excited (even though I hadn't read the prior three volumes in this series). I didn't really feel like I'd missed important details from the other books in the series, but I'm sure I could have appreciated the characters a lot more knowing their backstory.

It took me awhile to get used to the book being divided up into times sections (i.e. a date and time at a certain location). Initially it felt like a timeline instead of a story, but as it went on and I grew to know the characters it drew me in more. It was a bit jarring jumping from the guts of the chaos Hitler created in Germany in 1923 in his attempt to rise to power to a family in Monticello, Utah. The characters were connected though, and it was interesting reading about the feelings of the characters (both in Germany and in Utah) that seemed like good, sane, people who felt like Hitler was a good guy. Hindsight is 20/20, but I have wondered how so many people were taken in by the mad-man. The book shed some light on that.

The book started in Germany, and I was a little surprised that so much of the end was about the Westland family from Utah instead of the people surrounding Hitler. But, I learned quite a bit, and the notes at the end of the chapters were great to be able to tell fact from fiction.

Title: The Proud Shall Stumble
Author: Gerald N. Lund
Publisher: Deseret Book
Published: May 2017
ISBN: 1629723169
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for honest reviews.

Purchase: Deseret Book | Amazon

Friday, May 5, 2017

Blog Tour: Possibilities by Kiersten Lortz





Book Description:

Do you feel stuck? Do you wish for a more joyful life than the one you're leading? If the routine and pressures of life have you running on autopilot, it may be time to reevaluate your current course and remember that change begins within yourself—and it takes work! With refreshing insights, author Kiersten Lortz encourages you to stop waiting for things to get better and to expect the best out of life—not for yourself but of yourself. Through inspired gospel teachings and personal experiences shared by women who have also felt stuck, you will be empowered to make the changes necessary to claim a more fulfilling and abundant life. Now is the time to transform yourself into a woman of industry and faith. By learning to eliminate negative influences, seek positivity, and create a life of productivity, you can find the strength to take action today.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation." D&C 6:8

Review:

I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction, mainly because when I read, I use that as my "escape" time. But it's always good to better oneself, and there are a lot of books out there that can help you reach that goal. This book is one of those. The author does a great job of motivating you to make needed changes in your life without making you feel guilty. (Well, not too guilty. I always feel at least a bit guilty when I read about things I know I should be doing but am not.)

The main thing she starts out with is determining your intent. Being specific, what do you want to change so you can be better? Throughout the years, I've visited and re-visited goal making, and the main thing we're told to do is write them down and be specific, otherwise it's not a goal, it's just a wish.

There are 10 chapters in the book, and each one goes over different areas of your life that you can work on to better yourself, such as Complacency, Fear, Personal Revelation, etc. I have marked a whole lot of passages in this book, and plan on revisiting it again and again.. Definitely a keeper.

Tour Schedule:
 
*May 5th:  http://www.singinglibrarianbooks.com/http://lisaisabookworm.blogspot.com/http://literarytimeout.blogspot.com/

Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91GZgnJ%2BsJL.jpg

Title: Possibilities
Author: Kiersten Lortz
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published: April 2017
ISBN: 1524402125
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Cookbook Review: Simplify Supper by Krista Numbers

Reviews * Giveaway
Simplify Supper by Krista Numbers

Cookbook Description:

From her grandfather Salvatore Granato's roots in Southern Italy to the legacy of her family's beloved Italian deli in the heart of Salt Lake City, Krista Numbers has a deep-seated love for good food. In Simplify Supper, this busy wife and mother proves that simple can be satisfying as she dishes up dozens of delectable dinners. From some of her family's best-loved Italian meals to fast feasts with an international flair, discover quick comfort foods you'll want at the heart of your dinner table, such as:

•Angel Hair Pasta with Basil Cream Sauce
•Smoked Turkey Panini with Pears and Blue Cheese
•Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas
• Teriyaki Chicken with Ginger Rice

In addition to her collection of simple and satisfying meals, Krista shares personal anecdotes, sanity-saving kitchen tips, and suggestions for making family dinner a time for good food and good conversation. No matter the occasion, there is a recipe here to help you get a delicious supper on the table, pronto.

Andrea's Review:

I jumped at the opportunity to review the new cookbook, Simplify Supper. Cooking dinner in my house is often a chore. I usually don't know what to make, and then end up throwing something together last minute. We eat a lot of the same dishes, and I think everyone in my house is pretty tired of the same old standby recipes.

Simplify Supper wins major bonus points for having photos of each recipe, and I quickly marked many of the recipes to try with my family.

The first recipe I tried was the Slow-Cooker Santa Fe Chicken. It sounded so easy, and I had most of the ingredients on hand. I really appreciated the tip on this recipe that said what you can use if you don't have the Mexican-style corn. I had great intentions of actually using my slow-cooker, but then I forgot to get it started early in the day, so I decided to try it in the Instant Pot. I don't think that method was the best for this recipe (at least not yet as I'm an Instant Pot newbie and I think I overcooked it). I was pretty concerned about having the right amount of liquid for the Instant Pot to get to pressure that I forgot about the extra ingredients to add to my regular corn though. The end result was chicken that was somewhat bland and tough. But, it actually made for a tasty topping on nachos the next day.

I also made the Homemade Marinara Sauce. It was as easy and simple to make as the book said, and I had all of the ingredients on hand. I did stray from the directions slightly in that I didn't cook it in a dutch oven (because that wasn't something I had on hand). I'm not sure if that would have made a difference in the taste, but I was happy with how it turned out. I actually prefer a little sweeter marinara sauce, but it was good. It was chunkier than my husband likes, but I think you could blend it up if you like a smoother sauce.

My kids and I made the Homemade Baked Churros. It was a fun and easy project. I wished we had a bigger tip for the pastry bag to make these look more like the churros you buy at Costco or a fair. They taste different from what I was used to for a churro (probably because they're baked and not fried) but they were good. I wondered if the direction to have 1/2 cup cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar was a typo. That's way too much cinnamon for that amount of sugar, so I made some adjustments there. I wish I'd just started with maybe 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of cinnamon, since I ended up with a lot leftover. The recipe said to cook for 15-20 minutes. Mine weren't brown after 20, so I kept adding more time. I pulled them out after 35-40 minutes.

Tarah's Review:


I should probably start with a disclaimer that I am not a great cook, or baker, or anything that involves food. I'm not a foodie, I'm a quick and easy, dump it all together type person. With all that in mind I was actually excited that these recipes look really easy.  Our first recipe was the mini wonton tacos. I just thought it was a fun way to use wontons without deep frying them. I will say (which is probably obvious to everyone else) that this is more of a appetizer than a main dish. I used it as a main dish, and well, wontons just aren't that big :) My husband had to eat quite a few to fill his belly :) But, they were quick and easy. My kids thought they were fun too, so that's always nice. I did make some changes since I knew my kids wouldn't go for the green chile peppers and things like that, but since they were all just topping, it didn't seem to matter that much. I really liked that there are pictures of every recipe, and that for this one it shows you how to put the wontons in the muffin tin.

A family favorite dinner is Sloppy Joes, so I was a little hesitant to make them differently. Especially since they called for peppers and onions, and well, my kids are...well...picky. My husband is super glad we tried this recipe though. He and my oldest daughter thought it was really really good. I enjoyed it as well, and I liked that it was my style cooking...a lot of dumping ingredients in and mix together. I'm curious about the butter it calls for though. Like I said, I'm not a cook, but it seemed weird that you would put the butter in when hamburger already has so much grease that you end up draining anyway. Maybe that's more for a dutch oven? I used a non-stick pan so I didn't have any problems there. I also cut the onions and peppers in half, because of my kids.  Anyway, we will definitely try this recipe again.

Since summer is almost upon us, a great way to cool down is with the Lemon Ice. It's super simple and relatively quick (I mean, it does need to freeze, and that takes a bit of time). My 11 year old made this herself. One thing with this though, is that it doesn't tell you how much water you are supposed to use. I just had her use 1 C, but I have no idea if that was anywhere in the ball park. I really enjoyed this. It was perfect for the hot day we had. It was a little sour, and a little sweet, but the serving dish my daughter put it in wasn't large, so it was just perfect.


Rorie's Review:

I love cookbooks. Every time I'm at the store, I find myself browsing through the cookbook section to see if any of them catch my eye. This is very amusing, because I really don't enjoy cooking all that much. (I do enjoy eating though...)

The first recipe that I tried out in this book was the Italian Soda. My kids and I give this recipe a hearty thumb's up. I forgot to buy whipped cream, but that just means we'll have to make it again. Just as a side note, if you're not sure where to find the flavored syrup, it's in the coffee aisle.

I also made the Homemade Marinara, Slow-Cooker Braciole, Pesto and Cannoli...Well, I made a cannoli dip. I couldn't find cannoli shells at either store I went to, and the one person I asked didn't even know what a cannoli was, much less if they carried the shells. But as a dip, it's really tasty. I've never had an actual cannoli though, so I'll have to try harder to find those shells.

I'm not a huge red meat fan, but my husband loves it, so I'm always looking for a beef recipe that both of us will enjoy. The Braciole was a hit! Very flavorful, and not very beef-tasting, which is a huge plus for me. Not only that, it was pretty easy to make. I used the homemade marinara sauce in this recipe and it was really good. Again, really easy to make. And it made my house smell so good! This is a recipe that will go into our normal rotation.

I've only had pesto a time or two, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was pretty good, but I'm positive that I'm vampire-proof now. Definitely a lot of garlic in this one. I used my little hand-powered food processor, so things didn't get chopped up as much as I thought they should have. Next time I make it, I'll use my regular food processor and see if that helps mix it up better.

There are several more recipes in this book that I'm looking forward to trying, so this cookbook is definitely a keeper. If I had to give any downsides to it, I would say that the pronunciation part at the bottom of each recipe was not much help, unless you're familiar with what an upside-down e is supposed to sound like (I'm not.) I much prefer the layman's pronunciation guide (i.e. vacation: vay-kay-shun) instead of using upside-down letters and other equally confusing symbols.

That being said, it's not important to the book.  The recipes were all solid, and there was a wide variety of them. Everything I made was easy and the instructions were pretty clear. I love that each recipe has a picture to it as well.

Italian Soda:

Ingredients:
Ice cubes
Flavored syrup of your choice
16 ounces club soda
1 ounce half-and-half cream
whipped cream for topping if desired

Place ice cubes in a tall glass. Add syrup, then club soda, then half-and-half. Stir and top with whipped cream if desired.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: Season of Hope by Sara Jane Jacobs

Season of Hope by Sara Jane Jacobs

Book Description:

When Amanda Jarvis prays that a special friend will move into the vacant house near her isolated mountain home, she isn't upset when God sends a boy instead of a girl. But Amanda's not the only one receiving unexpected answers to her prayers. After fleeing with his mother from an abusive father, Tyler Armstrong finds much-needed love and acceptance with Amanda’s family over the next ten years.

As high school graduation nears, Tyler is shocked when one carefree afternoon with Amanda churns up an inner turmoil he would have never imagined; he’s crushing on his best friend. And for the first time in his life he’s hiding a secret from Amanda. Convinced the timing is all wrong, Tyler pushes his feelings aside as he and Amanda prepare for the future. He will soon begin training to pursue his dream of becoming a Navy Seal, while Amanda makes plans to spend the summer in Manhattan with her aunt and then return home to the community college.

When Amanda’s summer job catapults her into a modeling career, she readily accepts the much-needed distraction. Tyler’s impending deployment is turning her world upside down. Along with the fact that she’s falling for her best friend. And, for the first time in her relationship with Tyler, she’s hiding a secret, too.

Phoebe Garrison, Amanda’s controlling aunt, is thrilled when she is given the power to act on behalf of her underage niece. Bored with her Fortune 500 advertising agency, becoming Amanda’s manager is just what she's been looking for to rekindle her aspirations. But as Tyler becomes aware of Phoebe’s obsession to push Amanda into supermodel status, tensions rise. As the three of them become entangled in a mass of concealed ambition and desire, each will make decisions that will send ripples of turbulence across their futures.

Andrea's Review:

I like book covers, but I'll admit that when I read an eBook, I rarely look at the cover before reading it. The cover for Season of Hope is lovely, and would catch my attention in a bookstore. However, I didn't notice the cover on my ecopy, or more importantly, the part that says, "The Seasons, Book One". As it was, I read it not realizing it was the first book in a series, and I was caught off guard when the story stopped without resolution.

This was a good effort for a first book. I only noticed a few typos, and I was interested in seeing if our main characters would get the guts to admit their feelings to each other. I would have loved to have fewer of the day-to-day details and more focus on the issue (best friends who realize they've fallen for each other).

Tarah's Review:

It's a beautiful cover and definitely one that I would pick up off the shelf. I was a little thrown right at the beginning where we charge right into the story, and then it goes back a ways, and then it repeats where we started.

While I felt the dialogue was extremely forced and unnatural, the storyline has potential. With a little more editing and more closure to the story instead of the cliff hanger we were left with, this could be really great story.


*We received an eCopy in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Blog Tour: Chance for Home by Traci Hunter Abramson

Reviews * Giveaway
Chance for Home by Traci Hunter Abramson

Book Description:

Beautiful pre-med student Kari Evans believes she’s found the man of her dreams—right up until the moment she discovers he’s a two-timing cheat. Desperately gathering the pieces of her broken heart, she realizes that what she needs most is space to reconsider her future. A summer in Washington, DC, with her professional baseball player brother, Ben, sounds like just the change of scene she’s after. But if complicated romantic entanglements are what she’s trying to escape, she’s out of luck. Ryan Strobel has had it with spotlight-seeking women. As third baseman for the Washington Nationals, he’s dealt with more than his fair share of opportunistic admirers—but his ex-fiancée, Brandi, may be the worst. When the woman refuses to take no for an answer, Ryan’s teammate Ben offers a crazy solution: Ben’s sister will pose as Ryan’s new girlfriend. Though an unlikely pair, Ryan and Kari find themselves getting surprisingly comfortable with the charade. Soon, the line between fact and fiction is blurred, and the very real feelings that develop between the couple are undeniable. But when faced with the interference of conniving exes, family objections, and the reality of their very different lives, are Ryan and Kari destined to strike out in the game of love?

Andrea's Review:

Chance for Home is a sweet story. I'm not really a baseball fan, but Abramson wrote this in such a way that I was interested in the game (or at least life of a few of the players, and the game that was a big part of their lives). I liked how the exhaustion of a professional baseball player was brought up. When you catch a game on TV (or in person) you don't really think too much about how the players have to deal with the long games, night after night, and the travel.

Kari was a great character. She was very down to earth and was always helping people. I liked Ryan too. He seemed like he hadn't let his status as a professional athlete go to his head for the most part. Having Kari play along with the ruse of being his girlfriend to make his ex leave him alone made for a fun introduction to our main characters. They'd both been burned in previous relationships and were leery of getting involved again, but it was great that they formed a friendship and took the time to actually get to know each other.

This was a quick, clean read. It's not deep, but it has a pretty realistic relationship that took effort and compromise. I would read it again.

Rorie's Review:

I tend to read more Regency romances than anything else these days, so when I start to read a book set in our time, it kind of throws me a bit and it takes me awhile to get into the book. So yes, this book took me a bit to get into, but I found myself drawn in to the story. I'm generally not a baseball fan, but since all 4 of my kids are currently playing baseball, (OK, technically only two of them, because t-ball doesn't really count as baseball) the baseball references held more interest for me, and I even understood some of them. :)

Something I've noticed that romance books tend to have in common is a lack of communication. Which I get, because I'm not the greatest at communication myself. But it's way more frustrating when you're reading the book and you know that the couple's problems would be solved if they would just TALK TO EACH OTHER! Then again, that would make for a very boring story if they always got along great and never had any issues.

But I ramble...so anyway, I did enjoy this book. I liked Kari's down to earth personality, and how she wasn't enamored with the celebrity life-style. I liked Ryan's devotion to family, and to Kari once they formed a relationship. The supporting characters were very likeable too. Well, Brandi and Austin weren't likeable. But they weren't supposed to be.

All in all, this was an enjoyable, quick read.

Tarah's Review:

This is a little different from Abramson's other books because it isn't so much a romantic suspense, as a medical romance....and the medical isn't for either of the main characters. Hmmm, how would you describe it then? Just a contemporary romance? Probably. Anyway, because of her other books I kept expecting something to happen that was .... suspenseful or mysterious. It almost does, and then it doesn't.  I think if I hadn't been expecting it, I wouldn't have minded so much. It's a sweet story, and I like Abramson's take on the give and take of a relationship. She may have solved that a little quickly, but it was still sweet.

I like that Abramson is doing this new series. This is the second book, and it can be read as a stand lone, but the first book was good and should be read first to really appreciate this one.

This book almost makes me want to like baseball :) Abramson did a great job of not making it sound super boring, although very little of the games were mentioned...more the practices, and the fans, and the interviews, and the life in general. Ryan and Kari are just good likeable characters.

Honestly, I can see myself reading this and the first book in the series again when I just want a sweet read with no angst.

Tour Schedule:


Tour Giveaway:


Chance for Home Title: Chance for Home
Author: Traci Hunter Abramson
Publisher: Covenant
Published: April 2017
ISBN: 1524401889
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for honest reviews.

Purchase: Amazon | Kindle | Deseret Book