Fairy tales are for grown-ups, too: Review of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

I didn’t know this about Melanie Dickerson when I first started reading her books, but apparently they are classified as “young adult.” As a not-so-young adult, I’ve enjoyed every previous book of hers, and the latest is no exception. Fairy tales for adults are a THING and Dickerson is a master storyteller. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publishers through the Booklook Bloggers program.)

huntressThe Huntress of Thornbeck Forest has it all–adventure, romance, intrigue–in a Medieval setting with nods to classic tales like Swan Lake and Robin Hood. The story of Odette and Jorgen is thrilling and heartbreaking, full of the typical trials of a good romantic tale.

I found elements of the story a bit predictable, but that didn’t detract from the story. I look forward to each of Dickerson’s next releases as soon as I’m finished with the newest one. Her next effort is a Rapunzel retelling. I hope she never runs out of fairy tales to retell.

This is the second book I’ve read recently with a female Robin Hood type lead character, and I love that there are strong women starring in fairy tales.

Is it healthy to love a fictional family so much?: Review of A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

I don’t know if it’s good or bad that I love Becky Wade’s Porter family so much. Or that I inevitably start reading one of her books when I have a house full of housework to do.

a love like oursBut whatever. I’m not sorry. At least not sorry enough to give up reading Wade’s books or immersing myself in the Porter family world. The latest in the series, A Love Like Ours, is a heartwarming (and heartbreaking) story of childhood friends who rediscover each other as adults. Lyndie is a spunky sprite of a girl with a love for horses and a dream of jockeying. Jake Porter is an emotionally wounded, physically scarred Marine veteran who excels at shutting people out. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my review.)

The story is a testament of love and determination, of the power of relationships to bring healing, of sacrificial love and risking friendship for something more. I loved Lyndie’s spirit and how her life drew life out of Jake. I felt compassion for Jake’s struggles, and I cheered for his steps toward wholeness.

I think my favorite parts, though, were scenes where the Porter siblings–Bo, Ty, Jake and sister Dru–appeared together, especially one where the other three are confronting Jake about some things. It felt like a familiar family gathering with joking amidst serious talk, and the personalities of each character really shined. (Ty Porter is still my favorite, but don’t tell the others.)

Whenever I pick up a Becky Wade novel, I can count on her to deliver humor, romance and serious setbacks for the couple in question. She does it with such seamless storytelling that I’m almost sorry when I finish the book too quickly. (Also, the covers are all adorable. Check out Becky’s blog for the inside scoop on the making of these covers. I love this!)

If you like a fun romance for your summer reading, check out A Love Like Ours. (Or the other books in the Porter family series: Undeniably Yours and Meant to Be Mine.

And read on for more news about how you can help Becky celebrate this new book!

Fall in love with Becky Wade‘s new book, A Love Like Ours, a story of healing, romance, and cowboys. A glimmer of the hope Jake thought he’d lost returns when Lyndie lands back in Texas, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

To celebrate the release of her new book, Becky is giving away a $100 cash card and a book-inspired prize pack!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A $100 cash card
  • A copy of A Love Like Ours
  • A copy of the Secretariat DVD
  • A scarf
  • A dog-tag/cross keychain
  • A pair of earrings
  • A Scarf
  • A Texas-shaped cutting board
  • A Jake Porter mug
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Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 26th. Winner will be announced May 27th on Becky’s site.

lovelikeours-enterbanner 

When it’s hard to move on: Review of The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

With some authors I love, I’m reluctant to pick up their newest book and read it because I’m afraid this will be the one book they write I don’t like, or I’m afraid I’ll like it so much I won’t want the story to end. That’s the case with anything Nicole Baart writes. Two years ago, she wrote a book that was my favorite of the whole year before the year had even started. Sleeping in Eden is still on my list of all-time favorites.

the beautiful daughtersSo, when this beauty, The Beautiful Daughters, arrived a few months ago, I set it aside. For later, I said. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for a review.) Its release date was set for April, so I had some time.

Well, now it’s April, so I had to take a deep breath and dive in.

As usual, I had nothing to worry about.

Nicole Baart writes some of my favorite words and sentences. She plumbs the depths of human emotions. Her characters are haunted by a decision or a circumstance, and the drama that plays out as a result of their choices is riveting.

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So it is with The Beautiful Daughters.

Adrienne, daughter of an Iowa dairy farmer and Harper, the stunning girl from who-knows-where, formed an unlikely friendship in college. With Adri’s brother Will, his friend Jackson and the aloof heir to the Galloway fortune, David, they become The Five, a makeshift family. When a post-graduation trip to British Columbia ends in tragedy, Adri and Harper run from each other and the memories–Adri to West Africa as a nurse for a non-profit and Harper to a hellish existence she thinks she deserves. Five years later, they both return to Blackhawk, Iowa, where memories haunt them and the truth is revealed.

I’ve been reading Baart’s books for a few years, and her stories are better each time. While she used to write for the Christian market, her last couple of books have been in the general market, and her writing is the better for it. Her stories are grittier and more real and peppered with appropriate language for dark circumstances without being gratuitous. Yet, they’re still filled with hope.

The Beautiful Daughters is a story of darkness and light, of identity lost and found, of friendship and love and how choices can change the course of our lives, for worse and for better.

Nicole Baart releasing a new book is good news.

Want more good news? I have a copy to give away!

Leave me a comment here on the blog and I’ll enter you for a chance to win The Beautiful Daughters. (U.S. residents only.) Contest is open until Sunday, May 3, when I’ll pick a winner using random.org.

Have you read any of Nicole Baart’s books before? Check out her website and let me know which of her books sounds most interesting to you. (I wish I could give you your pick of books!)

 

Hope in the middle of tragedy: Review of A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

Some books I read leave me in awe of the writing process as much as the story. Kristy Cambron’s novels are part of that category. Weaving storylines of suffering from World War II and present-day, Cambron writes of hope, beauty and love in the midst of tragedy and unexpected heartache. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my review.)

Sparrow-in-Terezin-PKA Sparrow in Terezin is the second of Cambron’s Hidden Masterpiece novels. The first, The Butterfly and the Violin, was such a work of art in itself, I wondered if the second book could meet similar standards.

It does.

The book continues the contemporary storyline started in the first book, so if you’re interested in these books, start with The Butterfly and the Violin. Art dealer Sera James and her fiance, William Hanover, find themselves in the middle of a legal battle that could send William to prison. In 1940s London, Kaja Makovsky, a Czech emigrant, learns she is no safer across the Channel than she was at home, and she must decide to risk her life to save her family. Both women face the choice to flee or fight, to trust or doubt. And Cambron creatively connects their stories through a character introduced in the first novel.

I love these kinds of stories that blend past and present, and connect lives and stories from each era. A Sparrow in Terezin preserves the stories of children who created art at a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. The more stories I read from the World War II era, the more I realize I don’t know about that era. I’d not heard of this piece of history, but I was moved by the hope and passion of the characters to fight for beauty and love in circumstances that looked hopeless.

Cambron is one of my new favorite authors, and I hope she keeps telling stories for a long time. If you’re a fan of World War II fiction, you shouldn’t miss her novels.

And read on to find out how the author is celebrating the book’s release.

Bound together across time, two women will discover a powerful connection in Kristy Cambron‘s new book, A Sparrow in Terezin. Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains and fight to protect all they hold dear—even if it means placing their own futures on the line.

Kristy is celebrating by giving away a basket filled with goodies inspired by her new book!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A set of poppy notecards
  • A poppy pin
  • A copy of I Never Saw Another Butterfly
  • A copy of the Mrs. Miniver DVD
  • Literary tea bags
  • Tumbler
  • A copy of A Sparrow in Terezin
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Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 28th. Winner will be announced April 29th on Kristy’s blog.

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A new appreciation for Martha: Review of The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem

Sometimes the stories in the Bible can become so familiar they lose meaning. And if you’ve been in the church for more than a few years, the story of Mary and Martha is one of those familiar stories.

the tombWe all feel a little sorry for Martha at times (and some of us can identify with her), but after reading Stephanie Landsem’s latest book, The Tomb, I’ll never look at Martha the same way again. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

Landsem’s Living Water series has become some of my favorite biblical fiction.  You can read my reviews of The Well and The Thief to discover why, but let me just say this: she does something with history that is not easy. She imagines the circumstances that might lead a person to behave in a certain way and then puts them in the context of the biblical record. Martha’s story in The Tomb is not factual and Landsem doesn’t claim that. But it is plausible.

In this story, Martha becomes not just some ancient woman in a story but a woman we modern women can relate to.

“Who would worry about all these things if not for her?”

I won’t ask you to raise your hand if you’ve thought something similar, but that thought of Martha’s in the book could have been my own. Landsem brings a depth to characters where the Bible only scratches the surface. I love the imagination that goes into these books, and I walk away from each of them with a greater understanding of the biblical time period, a better appreciation for the women who lived through it, and spiritual truths that challenge my own daily journey with God.

If you have not yet picked up one of the Living Water series, you can start with any of them, really. They are interconnected somewhat but not in a traditional sequel format. Especially in the days leading up to Easter, I find Landsem’s books inspiring.

I’m also in love with the gorgeous covers. This one is so pretty!

A royal tale: Review of How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

What if you’d secretly married a prince five years ago and thought the relationship had ended only to find that same prince standing in front of you with annulment papers in hand?

how to catch a princeRachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series wraps up with How to Catch a Prince, the story of American heiress Corina del Rey and Prince Stephen of Brighton, the secret they share (and another one they don’t), and the obstacles they’ll need to overcome to find love between them again. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for a review and blog tour participation through Litfuse Publicity Group.)

Hauck’s previous books in the series, Once Upon a Prince and Princess Ever After, introduced us to the fictional kingdoms and royal families of Brighton and Hessenberg, and while reading those books would help give background for this one, you could pick up How to Catch a Prince and read it without having read the others.

I found the premise of this book interesting, but I must say I was a tad disappointed in the story overall. I loved the first two books in this series, but this one didn’t quite meet my expectations. I just wasn’t as drawn in by the characters, and I wasn’t really surprised by how things played out. Still, it was an entertaining read, and there were some unforgettable moments and lines from the book.

The overall theme of loving people well, even if it’s not romantic love, will stick with me. As will advice like,

“You can play it safe if you choose, but it’s the brave, those who face their fears, who tame the world, who win the day. Walk on waves.”

Corina does a lot of brave and courageous things and learns to fight for what matters to her. That’s inspiring. And Prince Stephen learns that exposing his secrets is the only way to live in freedom.

If you’re a fan of the real royal family and all things British, this is a great series to make you feel like you’re part of that world.

And to celebrate the launch of this book, there’s a royal giveaway! And to find out more about the author, the book and what others are saying, click here.

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever? Find out in Rachel Hauck’s new book, How to Catch a Prince. True love has a destiny all its own. With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome, move forward, and find love again?

Enter to win a “royal” prize pack! 

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One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A royal-themed Brighton charm bracelet
  • 2 tickets to see the new Cinderella movie
  • The Royal Wedding series (Once Upon a Prince, Princess Ever After, and How to Catch a Prince)

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 23rd. Winner will be announced March 24th on Rachel’s blog.

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{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

When women are heroes too: Review of Dauntless by Dina Sleiman

When I first saw the cover for Dauntless by Dina Sleiman, my initial reaction was, “Oh, so like Robin Hood only for girls.”

After reading the book, I’m happy to say that was a shallow assumption and a horrible first impression. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Bethany House in exchange for my review.)

dauntlessDauntless does feature a strong female lead in Merry Ellison, a former noblewoman who has been forced into outlaw living because of the fickle and ruthless King John who ordered the murder of her family. And Merry does lead a band of fellow outcasts, mostly children, who steal to survive. But her story is much more than a retelling of Robin Hood. The similarities to that legend are few, but if you like Robin Hood, you’ll probably like this one.

This is the first in Sleiman’s Valiant Hearts series and each book will feature a strong, young female lead. (The next book has an aspiring knight on the cover!) Set in Medieval times in fictional parts of England and Britain, the books are classified as juvenile fiction, but I think they have a wider appeal.

I enjoyed the story and appreciate tales where the female is not always the “damsel in distress.” Merry has a leadership role among her group but learns that she cannot, nor does she need to, handle everything all by herself. She leads with wisdom but lets others in. She learns to trust her instincts but also to delegate and trust others.

These are valuable lessons for women of any age. I’m excited for what this series has to offer.

Yes, there is a love story in this also, and while Merry tries to deny any ideas of romance because of her situation, she discovers it is a natural part of life. The romance is not what carries the story nor does it give false impressions for younger readers.

Overall, this is a great book to share with younger readers (and then read for yourself!).