Monday, July 9, 2018

The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy


The Accidental Guardian

When Trace Riley finds the smoldering ruins of a small wagon train, he recognizes an attack by the same group who left him as sole survivor years ago.
Deborah Harkness saved her younger sister and two toddlers during the attack, and now finds herself at the mercy of her rescuer. Trace becomes an accidental guardian when he offers the only shelter for miles around and agrees to take them in until they can safely continue their journey. His simple bachelor existence never anticipated kids and women in the picture and their arrival is unsettling–yet enticing. (quote from back of book) 

Mary Connealy is an author with many strengths. I personally have always been caught by her ability to paint a setting. The Accidental Guardian is no exception as her characters take readers through the High Sierra Mountains even sneaking in a quick visit to lake Tahoe.

I also appreciate that her characters are often anchored in history. Here, both Trace and Deborah have concrete reasons and experiences that are  driving them at  the beginning of the book. I love these histories as they help the plot take on new dimensions rather than a compartmentalized experience.

That said, the main relationship in this novel bothered me. Between Deborah's harsh experience with her father/recent trauma of the wagon train massacre and Trace's utter isolation from woman as well as his guilty saviour complex in his identity as the Guardian, I found the relationship unbelievable. I would far rather have seen the story unfold over the winter season while their individual traumas were addressed in some reasonable manner and the relationship had less of a saviour/victim feel to it. I think this felt even more pronounced as Connealy took the time to explain their backstory without taking the same attention to the present plot's timing.

3 out of 5 stars.

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Return by Lacey Sturm


In The Return, bestselling author Lacey Sturm offers a collection of thoughts on how Jesus helps us see the world with new eyes and makes the mundane things in life beautiful. It’s a guidebook from a fellow traveler on how grace helps us–to overcome darkness, to release our empty rituals, to shine with his light. Not so God will love us more but because we long to love him back. And a life lived loving God back is a life that shines with heaven’s glory.
(Excerpt from back of book)

Although I listened to Sturm's band Flyleaf  in college this was my first introduction to Sturm as an author. Overall, I was pleased with the book but there were a few points of concern.

First the style, this is not your typical novel length book and I loved the eclectic and artistic format. Each chapter included Scripture verses, prayers, recipes, and song lyrics set up as though reading the author's journal, actual journal entries were published along side Strum's poetry, and exposition summing up the chapters theme wrapped up each section. 

The strength of this format allowed for increased interest as heavy chapters were broken up by artwork and poetry appealing to those who connect with different forms of written word. The material connected on different levels as concepts were discussed in traditional exposition and artistic venues, and the wide range of materials included helped bring the author and her heart forward in what felt like a more intimate and more vulnerable way.

I also appreciate the way the material covered the author's lifetime. Topics  ranged from mental health, motherhood, performing, marriage, etc.. . Readers "watch" the author grow in her journal entries and see how perceptions change and season pass which I think can be a helpful reminder in hard seasons. 


That said, there were times, that although the author commented how her decisions did not reflect on another person's choices, at times felt harsh and noninclusive of those who differed from her. There also  wasn't a lot of room for differing personalities. I know and love a lot of analytical people. I know a lot of  people who believe without having the overwhelming emotional connection the author does and at many points it felt as though the author felt that this lack of emotion meant their faith was lesser or not genuine. For that reason alone, I couldn't recommend this book to a large portion of my community.

3.5 stars out of 5 

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Inspired by Rachel Held Evans



As someone who has wrestled with questions, I was looking forward to reading a different approach to reading scripture, especially with the tag line of "loving the bible again" However, what I found was in Held Evans approach was division and confusion.

While I highly enjoyed the explanations and breakdowns including literary genre and historical context Held Evans approach felt scattered and individualistic. As the author only hints at an overarching narrative in the epilogue there is no meta-narrative holding her presentation of scripture, each section is completely unique in their presentation and purpose. To me, it felt as thought her scripture, while more palatable, was not as powerful.

By loosing the lens of a redemptive narrative, ever genre became twistable to the readers own understanding with no absolute truth. It felt very post-modern rather than a book that is timeless and alive.

I understand that scripture can be difficult to understand and at times I think  that's even important  to encourage growth and wrestling, but a scripture with no solid declarations of  truth and  individualism running rampant through the genres just feels a tad too human inspired for my taste.

2.5 out of 5 stars.


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, May 28, 2018

Always Enough, Never Too Much By Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan




Always Enough, Never too Much is probably one of the more uniquely constructed devotionals I have encountered. With 100 entries, Connolly and Morgan have covered a variety of topics that fall under the overarching themes of "always enough" and "never too much"

Personally, I love flip books. I find them whimsical and that makes me grin.
I also appreciate the flexibility of this devotional. Thanks to the index for either side, it is simple to scan through and find a reading that fits with your circumstances or day. The absence of a daily schedule also allows readers to pick and choose when they read. It was simple to read a few entries one day, or pick up back up again after reading nothing while down with a week long virus.

I do wish, however, that this devotional had struck a better balance between story and Biblical exploration. I loved Wild and Free and am well aware of the talent both these  women possess for sharing their hearts and faith through story and written word. That said, I think my hopes were just a little too high on what I expected vs what was presented (which is still good)


4 out of 5 stars.


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, 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.