Sunday, June 15, 2014

One More Last Chance (A Place to Call Home Book #2), by Cathleen Armstrong

From the Publisher:

Sarah Cooley has come home to Last Chance, New Mexico, for one reason--because it doesn't change. After an engagement gone bad with a man who wanted to change everything about her, Sarah is more than ready for the town whose motto may as well be, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Chris Reed, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to spark some change in the little town. As the new owner of the Dip 'n' Dine, he's shaking things up to draw folks from all over the Southwest into his restaurant.

As it turns out, the winds of change are blowing into Last Chance--just not in the ways that Sarah or Chris might expect.

My review:

One More Last Chance is the first novel that I've read by Cathleen Armstrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Sarah is an immature, selfish recent college graduate. She is going through a breakup from a bad relationship, is completely unimpressed with Chris Reed, and hates change.

Chris is mature, kind, honorable and wants to see his dreams for the Dip 'n' Dine come to fruition, but the town is resisting change. Of course, life is all about change as all the characters discover.

I really did not like Sarah. Her character was very well-developed, I just really didn't like her at first. By the end of the book, some of her finer qualities started to show up. Chris was very likable and I felt a lot of sympathy toward him.
There were a few other interesting secondary characters that really added to this book.
Overall, the story was a very good one, full of interesting details that added to the story, rather than detracting from it. The relationships in the book are complex enough to be interesting, but not so complex that you get lost.
I would love to read another book by this author, and recommend One More Last Chance.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gathering Shadows (Finding Sanctuary Book #1), by Nancy Mehl

From the Publisher:

Wynter Evans is a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis, but even a bright future doesn't take away her pain over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. So when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to him, she can't pass up the chance to track him down. With research for work as her cover, she sets out with one of the station's photogs for the place where the picture was taken: the town of Sanctuary.

Almost as soon as she arrives, she meets the town's handsome young mayor, Rueben King, and together they begin to uncover long held secrets that could tear the small town apart and change everything Wynter thought she knew about her life. As the truth of her family's past hides in the shadows, it's clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she's searching for hidden forever--even if the cost is Wynter's very life.

My Review:

This was a really good book. Full of suspense and mystery... you didn't figure it out who was doing what (or who did what and why) until the very end of the book. The entire time I was reading I kept trying to figure out what happened. The plot was fantastic.

I really like the friendship that developed between Wynter and Zac (her photographer). I actually would have preferred them to be in a relationship than her and Rueben. That was actually the one downfall this book had... the relationship between Wynter and Rueben didn't develop. It was he's cute/ she's cute one minute and declarations of love 100 pages later with nothing really happening in between. It almost seemed as if Rueben was an after thought... a character created to help find answers to the family secrets... and he had to have a connection so he was thrown into a relationship with Wynter. In fact, it almost seems as if the author originally intended for Wynter and Zac to be a thing.

This book was a great one in terms of mystery and suspense... but the people/ relational aspects could use improvement. That being said... I recommend this book.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money, by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze

From the Publisher:

In Smart Money Smart Kids, financial expert and best-selling author Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze equip parents to teach their children how to win with money. Starting with the basics like working, spending, saving, and giving, and moving into more challenging issues like avoiding debt for life, paying cash for college, and battling discontentment, Dave and Rachel present a no-nonsense, common-sense approach for changing your family tree.

My Review:

I have loosely followed the Dave Ramsey plan since I got my first "real" job and started budgeting and recently heard he and Rachel discussing this book on one of the radio stations I listen to. Naturally, when I saw it offered through BookLook, I had to have it.

This book is excellent. It offers practical, age appropriate advice on how to raise your kids to be smart with money, starting at a very young age (3ish?) and into adulthood. It covers things like buying your first car, saving for college, paying for a wedding, etc. I wish my parents would have had this book when I was born!! Maybe then I wouldn't be paying off student loans!

Not only is the content great, but it's written in a format that is almost conversational. Dave and Rachel both tell stories about when things went right... and when they went wrong. It's entertaining, informative, and doesn't put you to sleep. There are sections written by Dave and then sections that are written by Rachel. (Everytime I read a Dave section, I could hear his voice in my head... voice inflections and everything.)

I requested the hard copy of this book so that I would have it physically in my library to reference when I have children. It's not only a keeper, but one I plan to use. You should buy this book!

I received this book for free from the publisher through BookLook in exchange for an honest review.

Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

From the Publisher: 

When love simmers between a reclusive scientist and a wealthy debutante, will they abandon ship or is it full steam ahead?

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.

After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

My Review:

I started this book around 9:30 Friday night. I read the last page around 2:30 Saturday morning. 'nuf said. :)

This was an amazing book. The characters were likable and they had histories and personalities and thoughts and feelings!! Darius was amazing... a heroic gentleman created with some complexity to his character. He's so noble. Interestingly, the name Darius means "upholder of the good". I wonder if that was intentional. Both characters were unconventional for their time... I loved that.

The plot was SO good. There was some suspense and danger in the book. Darius's life sort of came full circle. Darius and Nicole both had issues unrelated to one another that they helped the other work through. This was a really good book. So good, in fact, that I gave my mom an extremely thorough summary of it when I woke up Saturday morning.


I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Out of Control, by Mary Connealy

From the Publisher: 
Julia Gilliland has always been interested in the natural world around her. She particularly enjoys her outings to the cavern near her father's homestead, where she explores for fossils and formations, and plans to write a book about her discoveries. The cave seems plenty safe--until the day a mysterious intruder steals the rope she uses to find her way out.

Rafe Kincaid has spent years keeping his family's cattle ranch going, all without help from his two younger brothers, who fled the ranch--and Rafe's controlling ways--as soon as they were able. He's haunted by one terrible day at the cave on a far-flung corner of the Kincaid property, a day that changed his life forever. Ready to put the past behind him, he plans to visit the cave one final time. He sure doesn't expect to find a young woman trapped in one of the tunnels--or to be forced to kiss her!

Rafe is more intrigued by Julia than any woman he's ever known, but how can he overlook her fascination with the cave he despises? And when his developing relationship with Julia threatens his chance at reconciliation with his brothers, will he be forced to choose between the family bonds that could restore his trust and the love that could heal his heart?

My Review:

This was an interesting book.There were some very strong and strong-willed characters in it, so there was some conflict between characters. The characters each had back stories, which I really enjoyed. They were relatively complex.

The plot was pretty good although it seemed to drag at times.

I enjoyed and recommend this book. I am not obligated to review this.

Talk of the Town, by Lisa Wingate

From the Publisher:

Between Hollywood glamour and small-town secrets, what is the truth? The show American Superstars is the hottest thing on television, but its associate producer, Mandalay Florentino, is worried. She's just arrived in the tiny town of Daily, Texas, to arrange a surprise "reunion concert" for hometown finalist Amber Amberson. Only it turns out everyone in town seems to know the secret. And paparazzi are arriving. And word from Hollywood is that Amber has disappeared with a "bad boy" actor. Can anything go right in this tumbleweed town?

Imagene Doll loves her town of Daily, Texas, but things are lonelier without her beloved husband. Life seems dull. At least until that fancy-dressed woman pulls into town, looking terrified and glamorous all at once. Soon life's not the least bit boring as Imagene--and the rest of Daily--find themselves at the center of a media maelstrom...with a young girl's future on the line.

My Review:

Sometimes people will surprise you if you allow yourself to look beyond the stereotypes and rumors and actually get to know them. In Talk of the Town each character seems to be different than what they're believed to be... in good and bad ways. Amber isn't the wild girl that the tabloids think she is, the "bad boy" actor has a good and caring heart, Mandalay's fiance isn't quite Mr. Right, Carter isn't "just Carter", Imagene isn't just a useless, meddling old lady...

This book was entertaining and the romance was woven into the story. I wouldn't say it had a strong focus on romance... this book was more about the character's lives in general.

The plot was interesting and kept me wondering why people did the things they did, who they really were, and what was going to happen next. It wasn't a particularly complex plot and the characters weren't complex either, but both were likeable.

I recommend this book as a nice, light read.

I received this book for free from Amazon as a special offer and wasn't obligated to review it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

One Perfect Spring, by Irene Hannon

From the Publisher:

Claire Summers is a determined, independent single mother who is doing her best to make lemonade out of the lemons life has handed her. Keith Watson is a results-oriented workaholic with no time for a social life. As the executive assistant to a local philanthropic businessman, he's used to fielding requests for donations. But when a letter from Claire's eleven-year-old daughter reaches his desk, everything changes. The girl isn't asking for money, but for help finding the long-lost son of an elderly neighbor.

As Keith digs reluctantly into this complicated assignment, he has no idea how intertwined his life and Claire's will become--nor how one little girl's kindhearted request will touch so many lives and reap so many blessings.

Through compelling characters and surprising plot twists, Irene Hannon offers readers this tenderhearted story of family connections that demonstrates how life is like lilacs--the biggest blooms often come only after the harshest winters.

My Review:

The characters in this book are wonderful because they are multilayered and evolve and grow throughout the story. In my opinion, the characters make a book worth reading just as much, if not more, than the plot. The characters are what move the story along.

The plot is also very important to a book, and this one had lots of twists and turns and surprises... but you were led to them so you thought you might know what's coming before it happened. The plot was great in this book.

The only thing I didn't like about this book is that I felt like the interactions between two of the supporting characters (David's daughter and son-in-law) might have been just a little too suggestive (and unnecessary
) for a Christian novel. Had they been in a secular novel, they would have been entirely appropriate and expected, by I feel like Christian novels should have not just a higher standard, but the highest standard.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 2, 2014

While Love Stirs (The Gregory Sisters Book #2), by Lorna Seilstad

From the Publisher:

After graduating from Fannie Farmer's School of Cookery in 1910, Charlotte Gregory is ready to stir things up. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to travel, lecture, and give cooking demonstrations on the very latest kitchen revolution--the gas stove--and certainly doesn't mind that the gas company has hired the handsome Lewis Mathis to perform at her lectures. Lewis encourages her work, especially her crusade to introduce fresh, appetizing, nutritious food to those convalescing in hospitals. But young hospital superintendent Dr. Joel Brooks is not convinced any changes should be made--especially by this outspoken young woman.

When Charlotte and Joel are coerced into planning a fund-raising gala for the hospital, will this combustible pair explode?

Fan favorite Lorna Seilstad is back with a breezy, lighthearted love triangle that will keep readers guessing. Attention to historic detail adorns the timeless story of a young woman looking for true love and making her way in a rapidly changing world.
My Review: 

This was a nice book, though not particularly memorable. The characters weren't all that complex. The love story was a typical I-hated-you-but-you-grew-on-me-until-I-loved-you kind of story.

 Despite how this review will sound, I really did enjoy this book, I just think it could have been improved to be even better and worth remembering. The tense moments weren't really all that tense. Lewis was awkward and weak. The characters annoyed me with their assumptions of each other. I would have liked to have seen more emotion and in the book. It has so much potential.
The history regarding Fannie Farmer's School of Cookery and the gas stove was very interesting. I never considered how many incidents must have happened when the gas stove first came out or how many people were injured or made ill from gas leaks. I liked the focus on increasing awareness of the connection between nutrition and health/ healing.
I recommend this book, keeping in mind that it's a nice book, but could be better.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.