Monday, May 14, 2018

A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason

A Most Noble Heir

When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered. Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl’s heir, Nolan will be forbidden to marry beneath his station.
Forces work to keep the couple apart at every turn, and a solution to remain together seems farther and farther away. With Nolan’s new life pulling him irrevocably away from Hannah, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.
(Official synopsis)

I came looking for a good novel in late 19th century and found an amazing cast of characters who drew me in completely. If I had to choose one strength within Mason's writing it would be her ability to capture the emotional drama and growth within her characters that help a character leap off the  page.

Nolan Price is a strong lead to carry this novel. His relational triangle between the Earl and Hannah is what will keep the pages turning. Honestly, he feels like just the type who would be a lot of fun to watch on the big screen. Nolan serves as the readers eyes and ears within the novel providing natural and intriguing unveil the setting.

I also enjoyed Hannah in the opposite lead. I like it when both characters have flaws to work through and Hannah's emotional struggles hit the right balance for me. I also appreciated that her struggles helped remove the damsel in distress element that many period novels can fall back on. 

The story itself  is well paced; Mason pays close attention to the hows and whens of revealing information through some wonderful secondary characters. Iris and Bert were absolutely delightful in the life/faith mentor role and Iris' disregard for social  convention brings some much needed smiles throughout the narrative. 

My only complaint about this book is the climax. With all the emotional build up between Nolan and the Earl as well as Nolan and Hannah, when the villain is finally revealed with their true intentions I just didn't care as much. I didn't have any emotional investment in that plot line to be concerned aside from its interrupting of the points I was invested in. Considering the care Mason gave throughout the rest of the novel with her characters interaction the villain just feels like an afterthought.

That said, I enjoyed the novel itself thanks to Mason's work on bringing out the emotional drama between her true main characters I could not bring myself to put this one down until I was sure it was safe for the characters if i did (just ask my husband, hairdresser, etc.)I definitely recommend this one for any fans of the  upstairs/downstairs dynamics in old estates or those seeking an against the odds romance.

4.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

A Chance at Forever

Melissa Jagears is back and inviting readers to return to Teaville  in third novel-length offering of the   Teaville Moral Society Series

Now, the good news is, that if you're like me and somehow missed  book 2 and the novellas for this series, A Chance at Forever has a strong and solid plot all on its own and is easily followed for those unfamiliar with the characters history. 

A  Chance at Forever centers upon the lives of Mercy McClain and Aaron Firebrook. two solid characters who easily carry the story. 
I  found myself surprised, however, when it was Aaron's story that drew me in over that of Mercy. While I expected some of the story's general direction having already been familiar with Teaville and  its featured red-light district, I appreciate how Jagears laid out the long term effects of  abuse on male figures through Owen, Jimmy, and of course Aaron.  I was impressed with the nuances she brought to each character's arc and the way she  highlighted some  of the very different reactions people can have to trauma early in life.

At the heart  of this book though are the themes of redemption and mercy. Jagears has the ability to lock onto her themes and weave them into each story she coaxes out of her novels. The most obvious example of this is the relationship between Mercy and Aaron, although Jagears skillfully weaves it into the stories of Jimmy, Caroline, and Sadie as well.

While that sounds like a lot to follow Jagears also knows how to balance her characters, the story never felt draggy or over-complex with too many ideas. Instead, Teaville feels like the lively little town it is. Jagears has the wisdom to take those extra characters and pour them into novellas for readers who like the extra history and background.

In the end, Jagears has once again given readers a  satisfying page turner from Teaville. Now,  I'm off to find Book 2 :)

4.5 stars out of 5

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Memory A Day For Moms

Kids grow up quick. It seems like every day holds a collection of moments, big and small, that you wish you  could hold on to as they fly past.

This is why I love A Memory a Day for Moms. Each page is divided into 5 sections, one for each year, where moms can write down a memory based on a prompt listed at the top of the page. With  four lines allocated for each  year, it is simple enough to squeeze in five minutes to write down your memory and the idea of being able to compare each year  as  you go is already bringing on the  nostalgia for this Mama.

The book itself is a solid hardcover- perfect  for  the heavy usage ahead of it. The cover itself, however, is a beautiful blue embellished with shiny  gold leaves. I appreciate how design and durability are equally evident. For those of us who are a little scatterbrained, there is an attached bookmark allowing for quick navigation for the day's writing.

The only downfalls with this book are for those who  prefer a lot of control over  their  writing. As there are only 4 lines per date, there isn't a lot of space to go into details or to write details for multiple children (my  tiny cursive finally found a place to excel). Also, the daily  prompts may not always be relevant for a mom, breaking the day's theme for future entries.

Cons aside, this is a great option for Mama's looking to preserve glimpses into the ever  fleeting  years of  childhood. 

4 stars out of 5.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Selfies by Craig Detweiler


In Selfies Craig Detweiler seeks to  examine the current obsession with selfies and what makes this trend appealing: psychologically, theologically, and culturally. 

Throughout the material I appreciated Detweiler's ability to weave in material from multiple sources and disciplines. While I anticipated the theological and cultural aspects that were drawn in as support, I was pleasantly surprised to see a strong historical foundation utilized from the fine arts and art history as Detweiler formed his argument's background and foundation. Although not his specialty, Detweiler adds a level of interest to art history (far more than I experienced in college) showing strong patterns of development and making good connections for readers to trace the history of the selfie and place it into a historical context over a recent fad.

One thing for readers to consider is that Detweiler's educational background really comes through in his presentation of material. The book felt like a text book and I could see it stepping into that role quite easily (for what would surely be an interesting class). That said, the material is definitely aimed at a higher education level, perhaps high school seniors,  for those wondering about homeschooling options.

4 out of 5 stars  

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot (Cimarron Creek book 2)

A Borrowed Dream

Oh Cimarron Creek. It has been awhile.

When I left Cimarron Creek last year, I had some concerns that the story may fade into memory due to the strength of its main duo. So, I'm thrilled to report  that book 2 addressed almost all of my concerns providing satisfying characters, an intriguing plot, and more insight into the little Texas town.

For all my concerns about Lydia carrying a book,  Catherine steps into a lead role with ease. Cabot wastes no time establishing Catherine as a relatable lead. I appreciated the  depth of her struggles wrestling with both her future and her grief over the events in book 1, not to mention the wonderful connections this made between the book. Lydia flourishes in the role of best friend and I feel Cabot used Catherine's leading role to draw more depth out of her secondary characters giving the whole cast a deeper feel.

Catherine's wrestling to find healing from the emotional injuries of book 1 make for a wonderful plot line that is sure to draw readers in. Again, I appreciated  the continuity as it not only provides a strong plot but actually strengthens book 1 through its efforts. Cabot also manages to provide a nice balance of life growth elements through Catherine's journey, adventure through Austin Goddard's past, and emotional drama through the struggles of the children Seth and Hannah. There really was something for everyone. Personally, I was excited to see that the story of Joan (my favourite character Aunt Bertha's daughter) was, indeed, continued in a satisfying manner, showing that Cabot truly does have the ability to plan out a overarching plot and nail down her elements throughout the story. I'm excited to see where Joan's story leads in book 3 A Tender Hope at its release next year.

My only downside to the story was the use of dreams  to drive the plot along. Catherine, Grace, and Austin all had pivotal moments resolved by the content of someone's dreams. This element felt a bit too contrived (perhaps since it's not in my experience?) and tended to throw me out of the story momentarily due to incredulity. 

That said, A Borrowed Dream is a strong addition to the Cimarron Creek series  and provides the memorable punch to bring readers back.
4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book as part of the Revell Reads book tour in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp

The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp is a 60 day devotional that highlights Ann's unique style of  storied teaching underscored by timeless truth.

The format and delivery is familiar. 
I appreciated the hard cover and sewn in bookmark. This not only saves me from utilizing whatever's closest as a bookmark, but the hardcover definitely adds a sturdiness and longevity to the book (which is lovely if your toddler decides the book needs to play with him). 
The delivery itself was standard for a multiweek devotional.  The sixty days were divided into 6 subsections with each daily reading consisting of: a main verse, 3-4 pages of teaching, and a section of reflective questions.

For readers familiar with Voskamp's work, The Way of Abundance will be familiar territory with familiar topics. For those unfamiliar, Voskamp's method of teaching through story may take some adjusting. While I love Voskamp's skill at weaving a story with gospel truth at the center, like a modern day parable, my husband's analytic mind prefers a more straightforward approach. Ann's work cannot simply be skimmed, you miss the essence of the message. In my opinion, this is part of the strength of the message, topics such as brokenness, sorrow, struggle, community, sacrifice,  love these need to be sat with, thought through, and processed. 

As I read more of Voskamp's work I am always struck by her heart and her willingness to lay her passion and vulnerability out on her pages. She doesn't shy away from pain but  instead gently urges the church through her stories into discussion which should be happening in our homes and congregations.  

4.5 stars out of 5

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Ultimate Exodus Finding Freedom from What Enslaves You by Danielle Strickland

The Ultimate Exodus

God didn’t just say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” He also said to the Israelites—and He says to us—“Let go of what enslaves you, and follow me to freedom.” The Ultimate Exodus opens our eyes to the things that enslave us, and it sets us on the path of our own exodus. Danielle Strickland revisits the story of the Exodus to see what we can learn from a people who were slaves and who learned from God what it means to be free. We discover as we go that deliverance goes much deeper than our circumstances. God uproots us from the things we have become slaves to, and He takes us on a long walk to the freedom He created us to enjoy.
(press description)

Danielle Strickland provides a text with a timely subject. Utilizing her experience as an ambassador for Compassion International and Stop the Traffik as well as her personal research Strickland lays out a stark picture concerning the realities of modern day slavery. Strickland's passion is  unquestionable as she lays out her information regarding passive and active participation in the modern slave trade providing valuable facts and realistic conversation starters to bring readers actively into the  issue. 

I appreciate the clear delivery method Strickland favourites as well as her ability to weave facts back to historical  anchors  (both secular and Biblical). This anchoring become more noticeable as a literary technique through the usage of Moses and the Exodus as the book's  overarching Biblical theme. It gave great structure and a sense of time to the books's argument.

That said, I don't think this book is for everyone. Strickland is sure of her argument, viewpoint, and methods throughout the book even using personal stories to highlight how a point has been tested in her own life. I found this gave the book a very "black or white" tone on how to approach problems when I could easily see alternates or shades of grey. I also found Strickland to come across very "top-down" in her teaching. For  those already struggling this could come across as accusatory and isolating rather than inviting someone into the church's solution.

3.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of NavPress and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."