Icing On The Cake

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Title: Icing On The Cake
Series: Weddings By Design
Author: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
Published: August 15, 2013
Pages: 320

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Scarlet Lindsey is busy making her baking dreams come true. She moved her bakery to a prime spot on Galveston’s most popular street, she’s making the cake for her best friend’s weddings, and she has a great relationship with Bella Neely, the island’s most popular wedding coordinator. So far, business is booming for her and Scarlet is enjoying the ride.

Scarlet’s happy ride comes to a snag when Bella’s dangerously handsome brother, Armando, sweeps into Galveston and Scarlet’s life. Her love life has just gotten so much more complicated. She has one dependable, sweet, safe guy who has been a fixture in her life for years and she has the dangerous guy with a bad reputation. She just has to choose between the two of them and the decision isn’t as easy as she thought it would be.

As Scarlet gets to know Armando better she starts to see a different man than the man his family warned her about. She starts to feel things for this man but doesn’t know if what she feels will last or whether Armando really has changed at all from the man he used to be. Falling for him also makes Scarlet finally feel comfortable with who she is, which is one of the hardest journey a woman can make.

Can Scarlet learn to be okay with who she is the easy way or the hard way? Will Scarlet let go of her worries and head over heels for a guy she knows next to nothing about? How will Scarlet pick between guys? What will happen to Scarlet’s life now that Armando’s life has become part of it? Will Scarlet’s life and priorities be the same after Armando?
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I love Janice Thompson! She always manages to hook me with her stories and the hilarity that goes along with them. From hilarious hi-jinx to quirky characters, her stories always grab me and touch a different part of me. This one in particular touches a piece of me that very few do. I feel like this book might just be the best yet and I applaud the author’s ability to get me so engrossed in her stories.

Scarlet is by far my favorite character in this book. There are quite a few colorful and quirky characters to choose from so it wasn’t easy picking one, but after getting to “know” Scarlet and her struggles, I had to pick her as my favorite. I really empathized with her because of my own struggle with weight and trying to feel comfortable with who I was. Because of that big similarity, I really felt a kinship with Scarlet that I haven’t felt with many characters and it was really awesome to get to experience that.

The romance was another hit from Janice Thompson. For me she combines the perfect amount of emotional growth with enough physical displays of affection to leave me satisfied. Another thing I loved was the fact that Scarlet found not just any guy but an incredibly attractive Italian guy to fall in love. For some reason it gave me a confidence boost and reaffirmed for me that I didn’t have to be supermodel thin to get an incredible guy. I think that factor alone made this book incredibly relatable and touching.

The story is really well written and has an amazing pace. It’s filled with humor, a few accidents, and a sense of family, unlike any other book I’ve read. Story lines like this one are the very reason why I come back for more as far as this author is concerned. I got sucked in and a piece of my heart was stolen once again and I’m glad that it happened once again.

Janice Thompson never ceases to amaze me when I pick up one of her books. Her ability to craft an amazing story is an art form and I will forever try to get my hands on what she’s written. I don’t know how she does it but she truly has a God-given gift of storytelling and character building that can leave you breathless. I will forever be a fan of her and definitely plan on reading more from her. She comes highly recommended.

Overall, I connected with this book in a way I never really have before and I loved the piece of my heart that was stolen during Scarlet’s story. This book is perfect for those that struggle with self image issues and want romance that includes someone with those same issues. I also think this book is good for adults but I think you can’t really go wrong by giving this to your teens. It’ll show them that perfection doesn’t happen nor does it need to. I give this book a five out of five.

*I received a complementary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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Welcome To Last Chance

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Title: Welcome To Last Chance
Series: A Place To Call Home
Author: Cathleen Armstrong
Publisher: Revell
Published: August 1, 2013
Pages: 288

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When Lainie Davis sees that red warning light come on in her car, she thinks nothing of it, until her car breaks down in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico. Lainie is determined to find a way to leave this tiny one-horse town any way possible, until she starts to meet the people. These people who call this town their home are way too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life, and with her on the run that can become a problem.

Because she’s stuck in Last Chance for the time being, Lainie finds herself getting to know the colorful residents and integrating herself into the town. The more she does that the more she finds herself drawn to the town and the people, particularly to a handsome local guy with a secret of his own. Lainie can start to imagine herself staying here but it’s too dangerous and she knows it.

With Lainie growing closer to the people and Ray, she starts to fall in love, but she also starts to feeling an overwhelming sense of danger and she knows her time is limited before her past finds her. She’s not willing to risk being found, but she doesn’t want to leave either. For once her word seems to finally be good, but the arrival of who’s she running from can alter her world forever.

Can Lainie leave Last Chance or will she decide to stay? Will Lainie fall in love with Ray and stay or will they fall apart and make it easy for her to leave? Can Lainie outrun her past or will it catch up to her? What will happen if her past does find her? How will Lainie react to Ray’s secret? Who is chasing Lainie and who is she running from? Can Last Chance be all that Lainie needs or will El Paso be more for her?
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This book captured my eye as soon as I saw the cover and I figured a story about a girl on the run was even better. Add a romance in there and I’m practically jumping up and down ready to dig in. However, my expectations for this book weren’t quite fulfilled and I was a bit disappointed about that. This book was enjoyable but this wasn’t a book that really captured me nor is it one that I would read again.

The story started out pretty good. The urgency and frustration of Lainie’s situation flows through the pages, but as the story progressed the less I felt connected to the character. Also, the sense of urgency about who Lainie’s running from is almost abandoned for most of the book and picked up all of a sudden towards the end, giving it a choppy feel. Because of that, I didn’t love the execution of this story, though I did love the concept.

The romance isn’t my favorite either. I felt that the majority of it was physical and that there wasn’t much emotional growth between Lainie and Ray. Their conversations never really got really deep and it left me feeling like I got left out of a major part of the story. Though I liked the fact that there was kissing in this book, I really wish the author would’ve put more into the emotional side and less on the physical.

The thing I loved most about this story was the unique and overly kind characters that made up Last Chance, New Mexico. Books with characters like this are why I imagine an idyllic life in a small town. These characters are all unique and quirky and just plain lovable. I wish I lived around these loving folks just so I could experience the family-like atmosphere they create with their open and kind ways. This is something g the author did amazingly.

Cathleen Armstrong didn’t “wow” me with this book, but I believe this is a debut for her and as far as a debut goes this is pretty good. The author has a ways to go before her books will top the charts for me but she has amazing potential and I look forward to seeing what she can do. I think in a few books she will be amazing and I can’t wait to see it.

Overall, I didn’t love it. I felt the concept was better than the execution but the lively characters that love in the small town can capture your heart. I think this book is good for people who want a romance with a twist and don’t mind a debut novel to get that. I think this book is best left to the adults, though teens might enjoy this one too. I give this book a two and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Carolina Reckoning

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Title: Carolina Reckoning
Author: Lisa Carter
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Published: August 6, 2013
Pages: 336

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When Alison Monaghan discovered evidence of her husband’s infidelity in his coat pocket, she was furious. She had intended to confront him when he came home that night but he never made it home. Soon, Frank’s body is discovered with a bullet wound to the head and Alison is suspect number one. Alison wants to know why her husband was on the lonely back-country road when he was murdered and she wants to prove her innocence, even if it means stepping on the killer’s toes to do it.

Detective Mike Barefoot, a Cherokee native from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, immediately suspects Alison as the killer. She has motive and opportunity, but for some reason he’s drawn to her in an unusual way that has nothing to do with the crime. He usually keeps his emotional walls high and never gets involved with murder suspects, so his attraction to Alison is odd and uncharacteristic for him. His goal is to find the killer and hopefully stop them from killing again.

As Alison and Mike struggle to find the truth about her husband, Alison can’t help but feel something for the younger detective. This is something she hasn’t felt for a long time and might just lead to more, if she lets it. Their attraction grows but so does the danger of their situation. Mike is trying to keep Alison safe but she refuses to let Mike do all the work, putting a target on her back and making it nearly impossible for Mike to keep her safe.

Can Alison and Mike discover who killed her husband or will the murderer silence them both before it’s too late? Can Mike keep Alison safe or will she put herself in too much danger? Will Alison open her heart to love again or will she forever hold onto the scars of her previous marriage? Can Mike break down his walls and love not only Alison but God too or will he lose them both because of his pain?
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When I saw this book and read the cover, I was in love. It seemed like the perfect suspense novel and one that I would really enjoy. However, it was a bit disappointing for me. When I picked up this book I expected an amazing romance and suspense but what I got wasn’t at all what I expected. Despite the disappointment, I tried to enjoy this book and I did when the suspenseful rolled around but unfortunately they weren’t very frequent.

The whole story has an amazingly slow pace, especially for a suspense. I could’ve easily walked away from this book, except I wanted to find out which of the dozen women was the killer, because I believed along with the heroine that the killer was a woman. Other than that detail, I probably would’ve walked away from this book and never come back. It took me too long to finish it anyway.

The suspense not only was slow but was shockingly not suspenseful. There’s maybe three attempts to scare her off the case and for a 300 something page book that is a sorry excuse for a suspense and the death knell to any suspense. The killer is actually pretty difficult to pick because of the wide array of women in this book. However, if you pay attention to details and go with your gut you might just get it right, though I can guarantee you will be surprised at some details that come to light, which was the saving grace for this suspense.

The romance was a bit lackluster as well. Mike is the most unromantic unchivalrous man ever and Alison is having a hard time deciding between two men, one Mike and the other very similar to her dead husband. Not to mention that both the heroine and hero both find Christ but neither have a big conversion which, in my opinion, really makes the book realistic because people who fight God their entire lives don’t usually just start talking to him and that’s it. I don’t know, this romance wasn’t what I dream of and isn’t really what I look forward to. I didn’t feel the love pour through the pages.

This author didn’t wow me with this one. I have no idea how many books this author has written but I’m hesitant to pick them up if there are any. However, something tells me this is a debut and if so, I might read her next books later on after she’s grown a bit. I hope this author can find a balance in the delicate dance between suspense, romance, and growth. I don’t really recommend this book.

Overall, I didn’t love this book. Disappointment might’ve clouded my opinion but for me the only thing that saved this book was the plot twist at the end of the book. People who like slower suspense and suspense about murdering women might like this one. This book is best kept to the adults. I give this book a two and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

It Happened At The Fair

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Title: It Happened At The Fair
Author: Deeanne Gist
Publisher: Howard Books
Published: April 30, 2013
Pages: 432

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Cullen McNamara, farmer’s son with bad allergies to plants, risks everything, including the family farm, to travel to the Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. Unfortunately he has a a problem that the Machinery Hall makes more prevalent, he has trouble hearing with a lot of background noise. So in an act if desperation he hires a tutor but he might’ve gotten more than he bargained for with his beautiful new teacher.

Della Wentworth is teacher of the deaf and has spent her entire career teaching children how to lip-read. When Cullen asks for her help she is reluctant to agree, but his desperate plea and interesting situation win Della over and she begins to teach him. However, Della begins to find herself feeling things that don’t belong in a student-teacher relationship and Cullen finds himself having a hard time concentrating when he has to stare at her lips all day.

The more the two are together the more their attraction grows and the more they find themselves looking forward to seeing each other daily. But, Cullen has a secret that could cause him to lose her forever and Della isn’t such a fan of secrets. Their relationship might be over before the World’s Fair if they can’t hold on to each other and let go of all their hesitations.

How will Della react to Cullen’s secret? Will she leave him or will she decide that he’s too important to lose? Will Cullen be able to hold onto what he has back home or will he lose everything because of one very expensive trip to the Chicago’s World Fair? Can Della and Cullen’s relationship stand the test of time or will it fizzle out before the fair comes to a close?
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For years I have been a fan of Deeanne Gist’s. I’ve only four books by her but ever since I read A Bride Most Begrudging, I was hooked. Because I love A Bride Most Begrudging so much, I had really high hopes for this book and, thankfully, this book didn’t disappoint me. I loved this book and I’m so thankful I got the opportunity to read it.

The romance in this book is just what I’ve come to expect from this author, steamy for a Christian novel but with a lot of emotional growth as well. I became fully immersed in their romance and how the author would work it out in the end. I loved seeing Della realize that not all men were what her father warned her about and seeing Cullen realize that lukewarm just isn’t enough. I absolutely loved this romance and can’t wait to see what else I can get from this author (maybe a sequel :D).

The storyline of this book is pretty impeccable. It moves along at a nice pace, the only wrinkle, for me, was how quickly and easily Della decided to forgive Cullen and take him back. I felt that it was a bit rushed and took away a bit front he overall story. Other than that small wrinkle, though, this story is utterly satisfying and completely worthy of not only being read, but being read a second time.

The characters of the story were really realistic. In a lot of cases I felt Della’s caution, particularly with what her father told her about men, was granted and I genuinely felt that Cullen’s struggle with his attraction to Della was believable. Every supporting character enhanced the story and made it even better. I also felt each character was well developed and their feelings at each interval were completely understandable. I think the author did an amazing job with the character and has a gift of storytelling.

The setting of this novel is one that I don’t usually see written about in this amount of detail and I loved it. I felt the author’s love for it and I wanted to be able to travel back in time to see the Chicago’s World Fair in all it’s glory. Even though the author wasn’t able to include all the details about the fair that she wanted, what she did include was spectacular and I drank it up. I’m actually a little upset that I didn’t get to see that magnificent fair, but at least we have people like Deeanne Gist who are willing to resurrect interest in it and write pages and pages about it.

Deanne Gist captured my heart with A Bride Most Begrudging and for a while now I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of her books, but I’m extremely happy that this was the one I was able to get. This book captured me just like my first, by her, and I can’t wait to see what I else I can read by her. I’ve found that even if it take years to get a book by her, it’s completely worth the wait. I completely recommend this author and any of her work.

Overall, I loved this book. The romance, the storyline, the setting. All of it captured me and held me hostage until the last page. I think this is perfect for those who like their story a little bit more steamy and who like historical fiction placed in a historical event. This book is definitely best left to the adults. I give this book a four and a half out of five.

*I received a complentary copy of this book in exchange for this review all opinions expressed are my own.*

Lisa T. Bergren Interview

Hey guys. I know I reviewed Grave Consequences a while ago, but I recently dug up this interview about It and figured you guys would to read it. So here it is:

Grave Consequences is the second book in your Grand Tour series. A Grand Tour was popular among the wealthy a century ago. What exactly was a Grand Tour and what purpose did it serve?

It was considered a way to “finish” one’s education or prepare for a life in society from about the 16th century on. Travelers, many of them from England over to “the Continent,” and traveled through France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. They sometimes went to Greece and Spain, too, but for my purposes, and because my troop only had a summer, I abbreviated their trip. The purpose was to see major monuments and works of art, as well as meet people who might assist the young people in the future to “get ahead.”

I’ve hears you like to travel. Were you able to go on your own Grand Tour of Europe to research this series?

For a long time I fantasized about a year away with my family, traveling Europe for the most part. But even as that dream grew and I started writing this series, God began funneling my attentions back to home. He’s created a new fire for us in our ministry close to home, so we couldn’t picture leaving. And a serious lack of funds for such an adventure made it even clearer! Still, we’ve managed to go to England, France, and Italy, so I had some good research to work from.

What is the theme that runs deep throughout the Grand Tour series?

It’s an ongoing search for identity. When everything you know about yourself and your foundation is destroyed, how do you find your identity again? In a way that can never be “destroyed” again? It’s in our identity in Christ, of course. That’s what Cora is uncovering, piece by piece. She began in Glorious Illusions, she gets a bit lost and confused in Grave Consequences, but it will really come to a satisfying end in Glittering Promises.

Cora stubbornly believes she will be able to return to her old life when she returns from her months-long trip. Can we ever really “go home again” or “go back to the way things were” and not be changed by the events and circumstances in life?

I think we can go home again. But to think it will be the same is foolish. We’re forever being molded and grown and pruned and changed in life. We can return home, but we return an evolved person.

Would you say God puts circumstances in our lives in order for us to grow and change?

I’d say he uses every single factor in our life to bring us face to face with him. He longs for us. And fortunately for us, this tough world often makes a turn to him.

The theme of parents leading their children to make certain decisions affects several of the characters in Grave Consequences. Do you think parents today still tend to send their children on the paths that they believe is right for them rather than letting their young adult children discover their own direction?

Oddly, I think tis has become an issue for parents and children again. Back in Cora’s era, futures were heavily directed by parents. Now, parents are trying to dictate their children’s lives, too. Make it easier. Pave the way, instead of allowing them to find their own.

One of the lines from the book’s summary reads, “For every decision, good or bad, there is always a consequence.” The word consequence usually has a negative connotation. Do even good decisions have negative consequences?

Every decision does result in consequences, but I wouldn’t say they’re always bad. I’m fascinated by looking back at decisions my ancestors made, or I made, and to think about what would’ve happened had any of us taken different roads. It makes it all the more important to seek out God’s guidance!

That’s the interview. I hoped you guys liked it. I also wanted to let you guys know that I got my hands on the third in the series, Glittering Promises, which releases in October, so look out for my review of that in the near future.

Once Upon A Prince

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Title: Once Upon A Prince
Series: The Royal Wedding
Author: Rachel Hauck
Publisher: Zondervan
Published: May 7, 2013
Pages: 352

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Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a fantastic romance or being treated like a princess. She just wars to marry the man she’s loved for twelve years, but life isn’t going according to her well though out plan. Susanna is left scrambling to rebuild her life when her Marine officer high school sweetheart boyfriend dumps her instead of proposing. All her plans are falling apart and that might just be the best thing for her.

Prince Nathaniel came to America to make a speech and hopefully take a little vacation to get away from the stress of royal life, especially since it seems his ailing father won’t get better, leaving him king of an entire country. His family’s tense political situation has chosen his wife for him, so the last thing he expects to find in America is love, but when he meets the lovely Susanna under Lover’s Oak it seems that that is exactly what he’s found.

As they grow closer, Susanna finds out he’s a prince and is shocked but not enough to leave. However, their romance might not be anything but a romance due to a two hundred year old law that doesn’t allow foreigners to marry into the royal family. They try to move on and forget each other, but it’s not that easy and everything seems to change when Susanna gets an invitation to Nathaniel’s coronation.

Can Nathaniel’s and Susanna’s romance become more or will they have to love each other from afar? Will Nathaniel be able to take the throne or will he give it up for Susanna? Will Susanna fall in love again even if the love seems forbidden or will she guard her heart and possibly lose the best thing for her? Is there any way for Nathaniel and Susanna to be together or will law and duty tear them apart for good?
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With all the attention Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been getting, both in the UK and in the US, it’s no real wonder why this book was created. I will admit to eagerly anticipating Kate and Will’s baby and wondering what they will name him and that was why I was so excited to get the opportunity to read this one. I think every girl has had their dreams of marrying a prince reawakened when William chose to marry a woman with a common background and because of that this book came to fruition and I imagine more will follow it. Though I’m not sure this was the best one to lead the pack.

Though I enjoyed this book and the idea of it, there seemed to be something missing and it wasn’t until I put down the book that I finally realized what it was, a lack of romance! Frankly, I think the two character fell in love way too soon and the romance in general felt a bit rushed. I find it a bit unrealistic for two characters to fall in love after two weeks of seeing each other.I also felt jilted because most of those two weeks were glossed over leaving me feeling robbed of falling in love alongside the characters and seeing them emotionally connect and slowly fall in love. I felt a total lack of emotion towards the characters because of the rushed feel and I just didn’t really get a chance to get attached to them as a couple.

The storyline was a good idea, but maybe not executed as well as it could have been. The storyline lagged in some areas delving into politics instead of the actual storyline and I felt like that time could’ve been used to develop the romance instead. While I enjoyed the parts that included romance and pushed the story along, a lot of the pages included useless repetitions and boring politics. Though the author tried, this execution wasn’t the best and felt a bit slow.

Despite that, I did like the characters, particularly the small ones that always interject a bit of knowledge or humor into the book. Each character had their own opinions and wisdom to impart on our guarded and scared heroine and love struck prince. Though Nate’s supposed walls weren’t properly represented, I felt like the majority of the characters were perfectly fallible and likable, making this book a much better story to read.

This is my first book by Rachel Haick and I have heard amazing things about her, but I wasn’t amazed or wowed by this book. However, all of these high marks for her writing can’t be wrong so I think I’m going to count this book as an anomaly and keep my eyes and mind open for more of her books. I really want to like this author and I really wanted to like this book but it ended up being a disappointment for me and I hope the author isn’t going to be.

Overall, it lacked romance and it was the only thing about this book that was rushed. I also felt that the story chugged along at a too slow pace and had too much politics about a fake country in it. This book is good for those who like stories about love overcoming social differences. This book is good for teens and adults but not as great for the younger readers in your life. I give this book a three out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*