Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron Review

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Synopsis

A storied castle. A band of rebels. And a nation chasing the centuries-old dream of freedom . . . What legacy will they leave behind?

When Laine Forrester travels to France to attend her longtime friend’s vineyard wedding, she expects to find a bride on the brink of a fairy-tale life. But after a series of unforeseen setbacks–a devastating diagnosis, a castle restoration put on hold, and the emergence of deep-seated family dynamics that threaten to derail the new couple’s fledgling marriage–it seems the storybook life Laine had imagined for her friend–and once, for herself–is suddenly crumbling before her eyes.

With hopes of resurrecting a happy ending for one of them, Laine throws support behind her friend and agrees to accompany the couple to the groom’s family home in Ireland, where the merging of a mysterious inheritance, long-buried wounds, and a fractured family set out to upend the trip from the start. It’s in the unlikely corners of a historic Dublin pub, and across the wide-open moors bordering Ireland’s majestic Wicklow Mountains, that Laine is slowly drawn in by the land and the people, sparking hope for something she never imagined possible: the courage to heal. But with secrets of her own–and a heart afraid to trust again–Laine must determine how much she’s willing to risk in mending the broken places within herself, and whether she believes that even through the depths of our pain, a beautiful story can emerge.

Set in three time-periods–the revolutionary era of the late eighteenth century, Ireland’s turbulent Easter week of the 1916 Rising, and present day–Castle on the Rise weaves a story of legacy, conviction, and redemption against the backdrop of Dublin’s storied streets, and the stretch of Ireland’s stunning emerald shores. It raises the question: given the choice between the fairy tale or a life of truly anchored faith–which legacy would you choose?

My Thoughts

This story is told in 3 different time periods (present day, 1916, and 1798) and follows many characters in Ireland. All the stories involve a crumbling castle and manor near the Irish Sea.

The story is very atmospheric, as I read the words, I was swept away to Ireland and felt as though I was travelling along with the characters. Kristy Cambron is very gifted of describing everything so that the picture is very clear and vivid.

I found the book to be very educational as I had never learned about the 1916 Easter Rising or even the snugs in Irish pubs (which I found very interesting and had to google pictures after reading about them).

I did find the plot to be a little bit dull and I was not very interested in any of the romances. I also felt as though the story didn’t seem like a Christian fiction story…it seemed more like a clean fiction story.  I also at times got confused by the number of characters and the 3 timelines switching back and forth.

Overall, the atmospheric quality of the story was my favorite part.

My Rating

3 stars

I received this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

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Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins Review

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Synopsis:

When a condemned man with nothing to lose meets one with nothing to gain, everyone washed by the endless ripples of that encounter will forever recall the day a little bit of heaven invaded a whole lot of hell. Brady Wayne Darby and Thomas Carey could hardly have been more disparate individuals. Yet when Darby, a no-account loser raised in a dingy suburban trailer park, encounters Carey, a weary man of God, an entire—state indeed, a nation—is affected. Embark on a wondrous journey where death, guilt, and despair are unfathomably trumped by rebirth, forgiveness, and hope. Author Jerry Jenkins says: “This is the novel I have always wanted to write. I determine whether a fiction idea has merit by how long it stays with me. Does it rattle in my brain, and do I find myself telling it to my wife and other confidants? Is it the type of a tale that will draw me back to the keyboard every day? Two-thirds of my published books have been novels, and only three have had that effect on me. I give my all to every one, but special joy and anticipation attend those that genuinely feel like the best ideas. “Riven” is my fourth such labor of love. The two main characters have remained in my memory since high school 40 years ago. The story idea is perhaps 20 years old. And those mystical, interweaving elements I hope make it all work have been tugging at me for more than a decade. If a novelist has a life’s work, this is mine. I hope in the end you agree and that “Riven” stays with you long after the final page.”

My Thoughts:

This is a story that will stay with me for a long time. The characters truly came to life and are people that I think about often. The book follows Brady, a young man who grows up in a trailer park with a neglectful mother and no father and Thomas, a pastor who struggles to find his place in serving God. Throughout the book you follow these 2 men as they both struggle in different ways until the time comes where their paths intersect.

This book is over 500 pages but not once did I feel like it was slow or lagging. I was interested in the story with every page that I read. It spans many years and the character development is extremely well done.

There are some gritty scenes in the book but the content is clean overall. I highly recommend this book to readers. It was amazing and one of my all time favorites!

My Rating:

 

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I received this book by using my points from Tyndale Reader Rewards. This is a wonderful program where you can earn points and cash them in for free books. Sign up here and get 25 points now!

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson Review

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Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes a fresh reimagining of the classic Mulan tale.

Mulan isn’t afraid to pretend to be a son and assume her father’s soldier duties in war. But what happens when the handsome son of a duke discovers her secret?

Mulan is trying to resign herself to marrying the village butcher for the good of her family, but her adventurous spirit just can’t stand the thought. At the last minute, she pretends to be the son her father never had, assumes his duties as a soldier, and rides off to join the fight to protect the castle of her liege lord’s ally from the besieging Teutonic Knights.

Wolfgang and his brother Steffan leave Hagenheim with several other soldiers to help their father’s ally in Poland. When they arrive, Wolfgang is exasperated by the young soldier Mikolai who seems to either always be one step away from disaster . . . or showing Wolfgang up in embarrassing ways.

When Wolfgang discovers his former rival and reluctant friend Mikolai is actually a girl, he is determined to protect her. But battle is a dangerous place where anything can happen—and usually does.

When Mulan receives word that her mother has been accused of practicing witchcraft through her healing herbs and skills, Mulan’s only thought is of defending her. Will she be able to trust Wolfgang to help? Or will sacrificing her own life be the only way to save her mother?

My Thoughts:

I was not familiar with the story of Mulan as I had never seen the movie but I was still interested to read this re-telling. The story is very interesting…a young girl who dresses as a boy to fight in order for her mother to keep their home. Of course along the way she meets a handsome man.

The story was full of action and adventure. Set in the 1400s, a time of religious strife, there is plenty of tension and drama. I found it interesting to learn about the Teutonic Knights and their somewhat hypocritical and legalistic views.

Mulan was a great character and wonderful role model for young girls…she was strong and courageous and went against the norms of what a young lady should do.

The faith content in the book is excellent, there are many references to God’s will and sovereignty. The content is clean and I would not be hesitant to allow my 12 year old daughter to read it.

Overall, this was an enjoyable historical fiction re-telling. I think many people would enjoy the story, especially if they love the story of Mulan.

My Rating

3 stars

I received this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano Review and Giveaway!

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About the Book

Flights of Fancy

Title: Flights of Fancy

Author: Jen Turano

Genre: Christian Historical Romance, Gilded Age

Release date: January 1, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House

Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

 

Click here to order your copy!

My Thoughts

This is my second experience reading Jen Turano’s books and I consider them perfect “palate cleansers” for the other dark and twisty books that I read so often. Filled with humor and light-heartedness, they also have the perfect amount of depth and drama to keep me turning the pages. I have found myself laughing out loud when reading some of the scenes in this story, which is a rare thing for me.

This story follows Isadora Delafield in 1885, an heiress who lives in New York City and finds herself in a bit of a pickle when she is the object of a dangerous Duke’s affection. She has to  flee to the country and become a housekeeper for a handsome bachelor.

The characters in the story are wonderful…I loved following Isadora as she learned the ins and outs of running a household. I also adored the children in the story, they added so much fun and delight. But I think everyone would agree that the true star of this novel is Buttercup, the adorable cow with a huge personality!

The content in the book was very clean, I would be confident to recommend it to any of my Christian friends.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun and brightened my spirits. I am finding that I can always count on Jen Turano to put me in a joyful mood with her stories!

I received this book from the publisher/author to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

About the Author

Jen TuranoNamed One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO.

 

Guest post from Jen

Q & A With Jen Turano

 

“Flights of Fancy” is the first book in the American Heiress Series. What inspired you to write this series?

The inspiration for this entire series started off with a What If? All of my proposals for new series start off that way, and this time it was – What if Consuelo Vanderbilt had balked when her mother insisted she marry the Duke of Marlborough – and then that led to – What if she’d run away until her mother came to her senses? Just like that, an entire series was born – a bit of a different take on American heiresses because in all three books, my heiresses might decide to go a tad…rogue. We start off with Miss Isadora Delafield – who does run off to avoid marriage to a duke, then we get to meet Miss Poppy Garrison, who is an unexpected heiress but who can’t quite seem to get a handle on the expected social decorum of the day, and then the final book revolves around Miss Beatrix Waterbury – who gets banished to Chicago after she annoys her mother one too many times, and once there, well, gets up to a bit of mischief.

 

How do you come up with the names of your characters?

I find most of my names as I research the New York Four-Hundred, although I normally take a first name here, a last name there so I’m not stepping on any toes by writing about an actual historical figure – except for some of the main figures in New York society back then, such as Mr. Ward McAllister – who was the social arbiter of the day, or Mrs. William Astor, who was the queen of that society. What I don’t do is simply make up names, no matter how outrageous they may appear. And, no matter how I may love a certain name, if the character decides it doesn’t suit them, that’s it, it’s out and I’m back to the drawing board.

 

How do you picture your character? Do you use Pinterest, magazines, movies?

Odd as this may seem, I don’t use pictures for my characters. They start off in my mind as a blurry figure, and then, they develop from there – I like to keep my descriptions of them somewhat vague on the pages so that the reader can imagine them exactly the way they’d like them to be.

 

What are some of your favorite resources for historical research?

I’ve been building up a research library over the past few years and now have over 200 books dedicated to the Gilded Age. My favorites are – “A Season of Splendor” by Greg King, “Society as I Have Found It” by Ward McAllister, “The Gilded Age in New York – 1870-1910” by Esther Crain, and “ ‘King Lehr’ and the Gilded Age” by Elizabeth Drexel Lehr.

 

The setting for “Flights of Fancy” is a bit of a departure for you since it’s set in and outside of Pittsburgh. Any reason for that?

My mom was born in Pittsburgh, and unfortunately, her father, a prominent attorney back in the day, died when she was only four. I thought it would be cool to set a story in Pittsburgh, which would then allow me to really dive into some research. And get this – while I was doing that research, I found this obscure journal called “Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. In that journal was a bit about my great-grandfather, Fred, his wife, Susie, my grandfather, and his brother and sister, but I’d never heard about this brother, who apparently died quite young. One of the most fabulous research tidbits I’ve uncovered to date.

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve just recently turned in the content edits for the second book in this series, “Diamond in the Rough,” and I’ve also turned in a novella about the Harvey Girls that will be coming out in a novella collection in Fall, 2019. With those out of the way, I’m now starting the third and final book in the American Heiress series, Miss Beatrix Waterbury’s story, but I’m having a bit of a struggle with the hero at the moment – he was supposed to be Edward, but he doesn’t want to be an Edward – I think he wants to be Norman – but, time will tell on that one – don’t hold me to the name – it’ll depend on if he changes his mind or not – pesky characters.

 

You seem to enjoy adding animals in many of your stories. Will we find any animals in “Flights of Fancy?”

Since Miss Isadora Delafield ends up on a farm, I do believe you will find a few animals, such as an adorable cow by the name of Buttercup, a few goats that seem to have a great liking for laundry, and…there might be some chickens.

 

Thanks for stopping by today, everyone! Always enjoy visiting with all of you – in fact, that’s the best part of my job!

All the best,

~ Jen ~

Blog Stops

The Avid Reader, January 10

Among the Reads, January 10

Through the Fire, January 10

To Everything A Season, January 10

Reflections From My Bookshelves, January 11

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, January 11

Blogging With Carol, January 11

Southern Gal loves to Read, January 11

Back Porch ReadsJanuary 12

KarenSueHadleyJanuary 12

Godly Book Reviews, January 12

Daysong RefectionsJanuary 12

Livin Lit, January 13

The Christian Fiction Girl, January 13

The Becca Files, January 13

Texas Book-aholic, January 13

Rebekah’s Quill, January 14

Blossoms and Blessings, January 14

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, January 14

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 14

All-of-a-kind Mom, January 15

Just the Write Escape, January 15

Stories By Gina, January 15

God’s Little Bookworm, January 16

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, January 16

Splashes of JoyJanuary 16

Janices book reviews, January 16

Happily Managing A Household of Boys, January 17

Mary Hake, January 17

Maureen’s Musings, January 17

Bibliophile Reviews, January 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 18

Baker Kella, January 18

Simple Harvest ReadsJanuary 18 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 19

Captive Dreams Window, January 19

Robin is Bookish, January 19

Carpe Diem, January 19

Have A Wonderful DayJanuary 20

Life with the Tribe, January 20

Inklings and NotionsJanuary 20

Rachel’s Back Talk, January 21

Inspiration Clothesline, January 21

amandainpaJanuary 21

A Baker’s Perspective, January 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 22

Pause for Tales, January 22

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, January 22

Raining Butterfly Kisses, January 23

Live Love Read, January 23

A Rup Life, January 23

Bigreadersite, January 23

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a grand prize of a trunk filled with all of Jen’s full-length novels released to date!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d8d1/flights-of-fancy-celebration-tour-giveaway

Defiant Joy by Stasi Eldredge Review

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Description

Bestselling author Stasi Eldredge shows readers how to choose a joy that stands against the tides of life’s real and often overwhelming pain. 

We are called to live. And, miraculously, to live with joy. 

We all spend a lot of energy reaching for happiness, but we are never quite able to hang on to it. Real life happens, and our circumstances take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride. So the Bible’s call to “be joyful always” sounds almost crazy—and out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be.

Joy is meant to be ours, a joy that is defiant in the face of this broken world. This joy is not simply happiness on steroids; it’s the unyielding belief that sorrow and loss do not have the final say. It’s the stubborn determination to be present to whatever may come and to interpret both goodness and grief by the light of heaven.

In Defiant Joy, Stasi Eldredge invites us with courage, candor, and tender vulnerability to a place beyond sadness or happiness. She shows us how to maintain a posture of holy defiance that neither denies nor diminishes our pain but dares to live with expectant, unwavering hope.

My Thoughts

I don’t know if I’ve shared this on my blog, but on October 10, 2018, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Right after my diagnosis, I saw this book available for review and really felt as though I needed to read it. My life has been completely turned upside down since the day of my diagnosis…it’s been full of appointments, ER visits, biopsies, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, chemotherapy, wig shopping, hair loss, nausea, pain, tears, frustration, uncertainty, and JOY?

This book shares how we can live with joy in spite of our circumstances. Stasi shares the things that are thieves of joy, things that steal it away. She also shares how we can cultivate our joy. There are some things in this book that I felt were written specifically for me. I have seen God’s sovereignty in placing this book in my hands “for such a time as this”. If I had read it in a season of plenty, a season where everything was going swimmingly, I probably wouldn’t have found as much in it to apply to my life. But reading it while facing a very scary, life threatening disease caused me to savor each word.

I have found through this trial that having defiant joy is possible and this book has helped with that. Knowing that God is with me through everything and I’ll be okay no matter what has changed the way I look at my circumstances.

I highly recommend this book to everyone…if you are not in a storm you have either come out of one or you’re heading into one so it is good to have on hand. It was a quick, easy read but full of great information.

My Rating

3.5 stars

I received this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel Review

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Description

For so many people, reading isn’t just a hobby or a way to pass the time–it’s a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can’t imagine life without them.

I’d Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. Known as a reading tastemaker through her popular podcast What Should I Read Next?, Bogel invites book lovers into a community of like-minded people to discover new ways to approach literature, learn fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives.

The perfect gift for the bibliophile in everyone’s life, I’d Rather Be Reading will command an honored place on the overstuffed bookshelves of any book lover.

My Thoughts

I was really looking forward to reading this book…I’m an avid reader and book lover so of course a book about books should be a very fun experience. Unfortunately, this one fell flat.

Published by Baker Books, a Christian publisher, I was surprised to see some very “un-Christian” books and types of books referenced. This normally would not bother me but my expectations on content is different when the book is published by a Christian publisher. (I’ve had similar issues in the past with “Christian” fiction books including cursing and sexual content in them). I believe this was one of the main things that rubbed me the wrong way with this book.

I only truly enjoyed one chapter…”Bookworm Problems”…this was a very tongue in cheek, funny list of problems that book lovers can face. I highly enjoyed this chapter and found myself relating to many of the points.

I also found that I didn’t relate to most of the author’s preferred books…this is most likely a personal problem on my end, but I found it less enjoyable, having not read probably 95% of the books that were referenced.

It didn’t feel like any of the information was new or interesting and I found the book a bit dull overall. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t the book for me.

My Rating

2 stars

I received this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition, ESV by Crossway Review

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Description

The ESV Illuminated Bible places the full ESV text alongside over 500 elegantly hand-lettered gold ink illustrations by renowned artist Dana Tanamachi. Printed on thick cream-colored paper, the Bible’s single-column text setting and wide margins provide generous space for additional notes, prayers, and designs–inviting readers to creatively engage with and reflect on the beauty of God’s Word.

6.5″ x 9″ 9-point, Lexicon Black letter text 2-color printing 64 full-page, custom book opener illustrations 50 full-page verse illustrations 250+ hand-lettered margin verses 100+ other illustrations throughout Illustrated by Dana Tanamachi, whose work has been featured by Google, The Wall Street Journal, Random House, USPS, and Target Thick, cream-colored paper Wide margins Single-column, paragraph format Smyth-sewn binding

My Thoughts

This Bible is gorgeous! It is a Bible suitable for sitting prominently on a coffee table as in the days of old (my grandparents had a HUGE Bible that had to have been 20 pounds on their coffee table for as long as I could remember).

The cover is a very pretty hunter green with gold floral designs all over the cover, spine, and back cover.  Both the dust jacket and the covers of the book itself are decorated with the gold floral designs. The pages are edged in gold as well. The end papers have a subtle design in a nice olive green color…it’s a minor detail, but the details are what really make this Bible special.

The presentation page and Title pages are also filled with elegant gold foiling that truly have to be seen to be appreciated. Each title page of each book has a gold design that somehow relates to the content in the book. Throughout the Bible, there are full pages of artwork with a key verse displayed, there are also small pieces of artwork and verses placed in the margins throughout the book, all in the elegant gold color.

Because this is the Art Journaling Edition, there is ample room for Bible journaling in the margins. There are many pages with no artwork and it doesn’t take up the entire page, so there is more than enough room to fill this Bible with your own notes and creations. The pages are a bit thin, I wish they were a little bit thicker as some forms of media may bleed through.

There is an index of the title pages in the back of the book, describing the artwork for each title page and how it relates to that book of the Bible. This is the only special feature in this Bible.

The Bible itself is a single column English Standard Version. This translation is thought to be one of the most literal translations of the Bible. It is easy to read and one of my favorite translations.

If you are looking to purchase a gorgeous Bible for reading or journaling, or even a gift, this would be perfect. It is fairly basic in its features but goes above and beyond in its presentation. I love this Bible and highly recommend it!

My Rating

4.5 stars

I received this Bible from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.