More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer ~ Review

Lucie's Review:

Abby took over the running of the family bakery after the death of her father, but due to an archaic law she has until the end of the month to get a man's name on the deed. She devises a marriage of convenience to keep her business, but will she lose her heart in the process?

Zach is a man of few words, but also a man of his word. Getting married was never part of his plan, he never considered himself marriage material. Strong and silent he doesn't crack under pressure either. He admires Abby for her faith and determination.

Abby has never been popular with the young men, she likes to keep the background, convinced that men don't find her attractive. Abby loves her family and has great business sense. She looks to the faith of her family to encourage her during difficult times.

One of my very favorite Karen Witemeyer books of all time, great romantic tension and interaction between Abby and Zach. I didn't want to put this book down, yet at the same time I didn't want it to end.  I loved the close bond that the sisters share, as well as Abby's friendship with Lydia.

Though part of a series, it reads as a stand alone, set in a different town and a whole new cast of characters. I loved how relatable Abby was with her insecurities about her looks, and how she learns to move past that and see herself as others do. Neither Zach or Abby are perfect people and their marriage might not have been the perfect situation, but they make the best of it, keeping their heads, treating each other with respect and supporting each other through the hard times. A memorable read, full of romance, faith, and family.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin ~ Review

My Review:

Quintessa Beaumont is tired of being beautiful, with the war on she wants to be useful. So she joins the WAVES in hopes of changing people's perception of her. But when she stumbles upon a plot to sell military secrets to the enemy, will the FBI take her seriously or see just another pretty face and empty head?

Daniel Avery puts his career first, on track for reaching his dream of becoming an admiral. He doesn't have time for rest or fun, if he's going to reach his goals. But when an assignment puts him under a officer who has a personal vendetta against him, he wonders if he will ever get to prove himself or if this assignment could derail his entire career.

Tess has grown a lot over the course of the last few books, she wants to be respected for her brains and sensibility. She is a good friend, and goes out of her way to make others feel welcomed. Tess is eager to serve her country no matter the challenge, and encourages her fellow WAVES. Tess is capable, intelligent and the perfect encourager.

Dan can't believe that a woman like Quintessa Beaumont has turned his head after a woman nearly ended his military career years ago. But Tess surpasses Dan's expectations, even cracking through his business only, no-nonsense exterior, encouraging him to take time for himself as well as work hard. Dan struggles to give control to God, in trusting him in rest as well as work. I admired his dedication to his job, integrity, and willingness to examine himself and do the right thing no matter what.

A fantastic read from beginning to end, I love how Ms. Sundin puts so much work into the details and research behind making these books come to life. I enjoyed learning more about warfare at sea, as well as seeing so many familiar faces from the previous books in the series crop up in this book. One of my very favorite things about about this book was Dan's journey of faith to relying on God to rest and trust Him rather than to take it all on his shoulders. Filled with action, mystery and intrigue, with strong, complex characters to cheer for the whole way through. I especially liked Tess's friend Nora. High recommend this entire series!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


Between Before and After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry ~ Review

My Review:

This poignant tale of family, coming of age, and miracles, follows fourteen year old Elaine and her brother Stephen as they fight to survive after the death of their mother, with their absent alcoholic father. Elaine finds a job with a wealthy family to support her family.

Thirty years later Elaine's fourteen year old daughter Molly gets the idea to find out more about her troubled mother's past, drawing inspiration from her mother's career as a biography author. As the pieces begin to fall together, their life is disrupted by a real life miracle. 

A multi-layered story with complex characters, about secrets and the choices we make for the people we love. Elaine is a clever young woman forced to grow up too soon, she is book smart as well as street smart, taking charge of her small household at fourteen. Thirty years later she has become a classically troubled and depressed writer, her marriage is suffering, and her children walk on eggshells around her. Her brother Stephen has held to his childhood faith, and works as a high school teacher at the Catholic school. He is one of the few bright spots in Molly and Angus's lives taking them on adventures doing the everyday things that their mother can't be bothered with. 

The parallel storytelling entwined with the tale of Hansel and Gretel lends insight into the secrets of Elaine and Stephen's past and how their upbringing shaped the people they became. Molly is more like her mother than she realizes, she struggles to maneuver growing up while her family is falling apart, caring for her brother, and trying to figure out her life in the aftermath of the miracle.

An intriguing read that kept me guessing despite how it had me thinking that I knew how some things would turn out. Stephen is one of my favorite characters, he loves his sister despite everything and always sees the best in her and remains humble in the spotlight. I enjoyed the rich storytelling and how Molly and Elaine's stories intertwined revealing Elaine's secrets with even more questions cropping up along the way, making it an ever increasingly hard book to put down. Stephen was one of my favorite characters, and it was interesting to see how he was when he was a boy and how Elaine sacrificed to care for him. A tale of family, secrets that bring us together and tear us apart, and miracles. A well written and engrossing read!

Books reviewed are checked out from my local library or purchased with my own money, unless otherwise noted. 


Cameo Courtships: 4 Stories of Women Whose Lives are Touched by an Legendary Gift by Susanne Dietze, Debra E. Marvin, Jennifer Uhlarik, Kathleen Y'Barbo ~ Review

Lucie's Review:

Leticia receives a cameo from Queen Victoria, who tells her that it is not a gift to keep but one to pass on. Shortly after pinning it on she meets the love of her life.

The cameo passes through generations, statelines, and even through the hands of thieves, as brave women follow their dreams and talents, finding love along the way. The cameo travels across the country and even to the World's Fair. Clara, Petra, Elizabeth, and Bertie are all ambitious women who think for themselves.

Petra and Elizabeth's stories were some of my favorites as they had a lot of action. Petra is comfortable in her own skin and doesn't want to be someone else to impress others, Reverend Dustin Owens admires her high standards and her practical sensibilities and offers his help in regaining the family heirloom.

Clara and Elizabeth's stories are filled with mystery, as they seek to expose the truth. I liked the interaction between Elizabeth and Ethan throughout. Clara is very clever and uses her wits to get the next big story.

Bertie is passionate about books, and applies to work as an overseer of the Carnegie Library's children's department. But mistaken identity due to her first name, puts her at odds with the self-made, hardworking Russell Smart. Differences in social class are shown as they figure out how to work together to make the library a success.

Overall, a wonderful collection of novellas all orbiting around the Victoria Cameo  as these woman chase their dreams, follow their faith, and find love in these four short stories. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


Her Oklahoma Rancher by Brenda Minton ~ Review

Lucie's Review:

Paralyzed veteran Eve Vincent has found a new life of independence at a ranch that serves wounded soldiers like herself. She left her ex-fiance abruptly, because she didn't want Ethan to feel held back by her disability. But when after the death of their mutual friends, Ethan and Eve find themselves the guardians of a sweet baby girl, Tori. Could this second chance at love turn into forever?

Eve is independent with a stubborn streak, she likes to do things for herself and doesn't want to be treated any differently than before the accident.

Ethan is surprised to see Eve again after she suddenly cut him out of her life without explanation. He never stopped loving her and does everything he can to draw her out and show her that he doesn't see her as anything less since the accident. He is very clever and finds ways to make caring for Tori easier for Eve, and that she can do even more than she thinks. He is thoughtful and has a gentle stubbornness that can stand up to Eve's self-defense tactics.

Overall, a terrific read from beginning to end with characters that you can cheer for all the way. Eve and Ethan have great chemistry, and I loved their interaction and how Ethan shows his love for Eve without smothering her. Great storyline, faith, and heartwarming romance with challenges along the way. Engaging and entertaining, not a book that I wanted to put down!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


God's Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers by Diane Stortz and illustrated by Diane Le Feyer ~ Review

My Review:

Vibrant with color and beautiful watercolor ombres, sturdy hardcover binding, accented with glitter, this book definitely catches the eye.

Written especially for reading aloud at bed time, each story is based in scripture with a bible verse that captures the theme, as well as a sleepy time prayer and blessing. The stories are written in a way that is easy to understand and explain for young minds. Each chapter is concise, typically consisting of 3-4 pages.

I loved the beautiful illustrations covering every single page, even the dedication page is not left untouched. The pictures are charming and detailed, bursting with colors blended with soft textures.

Overall, this would make a wonderful book to read with the young people in your life before bedtime, and would make an excellent gift for a young child. The stories are short and engaging, and accompanied by stunning illustrations.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


Shadow Among Sheaves by Naomi Stephens ~ Review

My Review:
India born widow, Rena Hawley returns with her also widowed mother-in-law to the homeland of her late husband. In England she is met with disdain, and shamed for her exotic heritage. Rena works hard to help provide for herself and Nella, but the only productive work she can find is to glean in Lord Barric's field picking up what is left behind by the harvesters.

Lord Jack Barric is intrigued by the beautiful woman who has come to glean in his fields, he allows her to stay and even arranges a place for her and her mother-in-law to live. But as the townspeople begin to chatter and spread malicious gossip about him and his relationship to Rena, things become strained and choices must be made.

A Victorian re-telling of Ruth, Shadow Among Sheaves is a fresh new take on the story we all know so well. It made me admire Rena's bravery to travel to an unknown land and people, leaving everything familiar behind.

Barric is honorable to a fault, constantly thinking about his reputation while also juggling his duty to do what is right. I liked how the characters were all flawed and imperfect, yet were not without redeeming qualities, which brought a realness to them that was refreshing.

In some ways it was a slower read, and maybe it just felt that way because I did have a pretty good inkling on how it would likely end up. I also thought that there was a lot of justifying and overthinking going on inside the heads of Barric and Rena which had me skimming here and there. But I did really like how the author transposed the story into the late 1850's of Great Britain, with the culture clash of Rena's Indian upbringing, I could tell that the author had done her research with this genius re-telling.

Overall, a promising read, good tension and that paints a picture of the societal challenges that a woman such as Rena would have faced in Britain in the mid-1800's. Strong themes of faith, family, and trust, the whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking what a great movie it would make. A wonderful new way of looking at Ruth and Boaz, set during Queen Victoria's reign.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


To Best the Boys by Mary Weber ~ Review

My Review:

For 54 years in the province of Caldon, the town of Pinsbury Port has received an annual invitation for their university aged sons to compete in a treacherous labyrinth of wits in hopes of winning a scholarship to Stemwick University sponsored by the elusive Mr. Holm.

Rhen Tellur is tired of helplessly watching a mysterious mutating disease drain the life of her mother and that of those she loves. She is tired of the Uppers disdain and indifferent to the seriousness of the plague. Rhen is gifted with a knack for numbers and the sciences, but in a world where gender roles are strictly defined, going to university or studying the arts and sciences is forbidden. Rhen decides to take matters into her own hands with her best friend, Seleni, by her side, she steps into the maze.

Set in a fictional realm that is like something out of a Jules Verne novel with a heightened element of illusion and strict social adherence to stereotypical gender roles and expectations. Intriguing, with a fascinating premise, the story begins by setting the scene, but it isn't until about 1/3 of the way through the book that it really takes off. When I hit the 1/3 mark I couldn't put it down.

Strong themes of friendship, courage, and coming of age run through this story, and I especially liked the friendship between Rhen and Seleni. But I was disappointed that while published by Thomas Nelson it gave no indication of being a Christian read, despite being technically "clean" depending on the age of the audience--comments about a female character's body are made, males make suggestive comments, and women are talked about as if they are conquests. I feel that this book would have been a better fit with HarperCollins' Blink imprint, which is more of a clean teen reads division of their brand.

I admired Rhen for her devotion to her family, she is level-headed in tense situations and is willing to stand apart from the crowd. Seleni is her best friend and confidant, she doesn't want to fight the societal norms, but rather be there through thick and thin for her friend. Seleni and Beryll are one of my favorite things about this book. I enjoyed the imaginative setting and camaraderie between some of the contestants. Fraught with tension and adventure, the pages kept flying by. This was an enjoyable high stakes adventure, with a strong heroine with the courage to blaze her own path.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall ~ Review

Lucie's Review: 


Emmeline Baratt is returning home to America from England when her ship is taken over by a British warship. She her best to stay neutral while serving as a nurse to the crew.

Lt. Owen Masters serves in the British Navy, his uncle has asks him to work as a spy. He admires the beautiful Emmeline who helps by using some of her medical knowledge to work as a nurse.

Owen and Emmeline initially have a combative relationship, as they are on opposite sides of the conflict. He is protective of Emmeline, and while not pristine in character he has a close friend who encourage him to take a closer look at his faith.

Emmeline is forced to make choices as to where her loyalties lie, with her country or with her heart. She grows in her faith, and shows courage in the face of touch situation, not knowing who to trust. He best friend, Hannah,  encourages her in her faith and stands by her, serving as an excellent support.

An action packed read set amongst the political tension of the war of 1812, good tension and strong characters that are more relatable in their flaws. Engaging storyline, with excellent themes of faith and loyalty. Neither Owen or Emmeline know who to trust, and hold to their values despite growing attraction. Entertaining, with a great tension filled, suspenseful ending. Good interaction between the characters, as well as development. A great addition to this fun historical series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


The Beautiful Garden of Eden by Gary Bower, illustrated by Barbara Chotiner ~ Review

My Review:

Based on Genesis 1-3 The Beautiful Garden of Eden tells of creation and humanity's fall in rhythmic, rhyming verse, each new verse adding cumulatively upon the previous in the fast paced and fun read.

Excellent for reading aloud, the rhymes fall off the tongue with an intrinsic urgency that makes it almost a tongue-twister. The verses are clever, humorous, and point directly to the truth. I liked how even though this book is so much fun and even humorous, it doesn't shy away from the more serious stuff either, like the curse of original sin and how we have hope in Jesus Christ as God's response to the curse.

The illustrations are colorful and fun, well suited to this style of narrative. This is a fantastic book that you will be excited to share with the young people in your life!


The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse ~ Review

Lucie's Review:

Faith Jackson grew up a ward of George Washington, and is faithful to the Patriot cause. A wealthy widow her situation allows her a certain freedom, and puts her in the perfect position to act as a spy for the Patriot cause.

Matthew Weber is a close friend with ties to both Benjamin Franklin and his Loyalist son, he finds himself privy to many secrets on both sides which makes him a perfect spy. Their work brings Faith and Matthew together, as they fight for their country's freedom.

Faith is a clever woman, who courageously steps forward to serve her country. Her connections and wealth, afford her the opportunities to make a different. She is true to her faith and very resourceful.

Matthew is daring, and honorable, he is dedicated to the cause, willing to fight for his country. He admired Faith for her courage and faith, he wants to do the right thing by her, even in the midst of a tumultuous time.

Slow to start it took awhile to really engage me, set in colonial times this book does take liberties with some historical facts in order to better facilitate the storyline. I didn't always enjoy reading Anthony Jamison's chapters, but I did see how it came to later enrich the story. Strong heroes fighting for their country, and strong faith.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


Lone Star Standoff by Margaret Daley ~ Review

Lucie's Review:

Judge Aubrey Madison is widowed with two children, she is presiding over a case involving a drug cartel. But when she finds her life being threatened, FBI agent Sean McNair steps up to offer protection.

As the threats draw nearer, Aubrey and Sean work together to bring them to a stop. Sean is dedicated to his job and feels called to serve others through his work. He is a strong Christian, and despite his hold ups about family he fits in well with Aubrey's. Her children connect easily with him, and he finds himself surprised by how much he enjoys them.

Fraught with tension, this was an engaging read filled with suspense that I didn't want to put down. I admired both Aubrey and Sean who are both driven individuals who have already accomplished a lot in their lives. A page-turning suspense with strong faith and fantastic characters. Action-packed, with great growth and development of characters.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel Sawyer ~ Review

Lucie's Review: 

Four lives are changed at the International Cotton Exposition in Atlanta in 1895.

Laurel is the youngest of seven siblings who support her and her mother, but Laurel wants more from her life than to care for her mother, so she comes up with a plan to go to the International Cotton Exposition as a silk loom operator in hopes of finding a husband. She crosses paths with Langdon, Willie, and Quincy.

A novel rich in history that follows four main characters and how their lives are changed and shaped by working at the fair. They navigate the societal climate and racial hostility still alive in the South. Laurel, Langdon, Willie and Quincy are all faced with challenges and choices. Laurel's mother is very wise in her faith and dishes out solid counsel.

I admired Willie for his convictions and values. Quincy has worked hard his whole life, but longs for the respect of his peers despite the color of his skin. While Langdon has lived a life of leisure and has a plan to win his parent's favor and continue his lifestyle.

The storytelling felt choppy to me, and it was a harder book to read because I didn't much care for one of the characters.

A historical snapshot of life in the South in the tail end of the 1800's and how the fair brought people from all different backgrounds together in faith and love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


The Joyful Surrender by Elizabeth Elliot ~ Review

My Review:

Previously published as Discipline Elizabeth Elliot covers this timely topic of the discipline of the Christian life. In an age of instant gratification and feelings that some view as fact, the Christian life is far from a walk in the park, instead demanding discipline in answer to God's call to obedience.

Discipline doesn't come naturally to many of us, we like to have control over our thoughts, possessions, time, feelings, and fears. The continual joyful surrender to God in His worthiness is a necessary step in our walk with Him, and a discipline in itself. Written later in her life, in this book she shares stories, memories, history, and scriptures from her vast learning and experience in answering God's call in our individual lives no matter how mundane the task may appear at first.

Easy to read, yet not a "quick-read" in the sense that I often wanted to take breaks and think about various topics as they came. Rich in biblical truth, Ms. Elliot also gives the book personal touches, drawing humbly from her own life experiences.

Ms. Elliot edifies and encourages with Scriptural wisdom, whether conquering poor habits and attitudes to make them obedient to Christ or calling us to examine our heart's response to God's call. Timeless wisdom and encouragement for the Christian life. Well worth the read, and even more meaningful if you know her story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


The Seamstress by Allison Pittman ~ Review

My Review:

Cousins Laurette and Renee are orphaned and taken in by the kindly Gagnon. Renee is a talented seamstress, and her craft takes her within the palace walls working for Queen Marie Antoinette. Laurette longs for adventure and love, following her desires.

Inspired by The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, this story tells of two cousins on different sides of the revolution. Renee is content with her simple, yet when she receives the opportunity to make the dreams she never dared to dream a reality she takes it. I admired her faithfulness, and level-headedness, she is plucky and strong beyond her diminutive size.

This book does a fantastic job of drawing the vast contrasts between the upper class excess of the royal family and the desperate poverty of those with a common plight. Marcel and Gagnon could not be more opposite in their philosophies. I loved Gagnon's commitment to his faith, often standing alone against the tide.

This is a riveting book that captures both sides of the revolution, showing the desperate and unsatisfied side of the wealthy in their humanity, while showing the need for change and reform in the wave of the future. Good and bad are present on boths sides of the battlelines, and in many ways I couldn't help but think of the present day and the way that many on both sides are impassioned by their political fervor. It wasn't always easy to root for Laurette, but her story arch is beautiful nonetheless. Marcel was the kind of guy that I loved to hate, yet still felt sorry for. An engagingly spun story set against the French Revolution, that I couldn't put down. Ms. Pittman is an expert of storytelling evoking stark imagery in my head that set the tone and emotion of the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


Things I Do When I'm Not Reading...Update

What do you do when you aren't reading?

It's a common question. 

But in all honesty I probably read very little in relation to other book bloggers, clocking in at an average of 1 ish hours a day, typically early in the morning and before bed. 

I work full-time hours during the week, with a part-time job on the side, so most waking hours are spent working. My hobbies include, sleeping, eating, knitting, crocheting, biking, hiking, listening to music, keeping somewhat updated on the news, volunteering, and helping my mom out with AWANA, or the church library. I do struggle with balance sometimes, and was especially convicted after reading Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung that finding a consistent balance would be good for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

What do you do when you aren't reading?