Wishing On Willows

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Title: Wishing On Willows
Author: Katie Ganshert
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Published: March 19, 2013
Pages: 320

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Robin Price is the single mother of a three year old son, the proprietor of a struggling cafe, and all that plus fading memories are all she has left of her late husband. Being the proud owner of Willow Tree Cafe, she pours her heart into every muffin she makes and espresso she pulls. She loves the sense of purpose and community her cafe brings. But the cafe that represents her and her husband’s dreams is threatened when a condo is proposed where her shop and a vital town ministry are.

Ian McKay is the developer in charge of building the condo and his plans for an easy buyout and build is thrown a monkey wrench by none other than the beautiful owner of Willow Tree Cafe. She doesn’t plan on selling or giving up without a fight and neither does Ian. He’s determined to get her to sell and make his father proud and maybe make up for his past mistakes. With the future of his family’s business on the line he has a lot to lose if he fails.

As time passes and Robin still refuses to sell and Ian refuses to give up, Ian starts to wonder if he’s met his match and Robin tries to hold onto her husband’s memory and fight the attraction growing between her and Ian. Ian’s resolve weakens further when he finds out her grief resonates with his and with opinions separating the town, Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or give up their plans for God’s.

Will Robin save her cafe or will she lose it all for growth? Will Ian get his condos or will he lose to his beautiful headache? Or is there a way they can both get what they want? Will Robin choose her husband’s memory or will she choose a second chance at love? Will Ian decide to take another chance at love and risk getting his heart ripped out again or will he choose to live with his regret? Will they choose their plans or God’s?
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When I read this author’s first book I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but I found out pretty quickly that this author has an uncanny ability to portray grief in a believable way. This book is no different, in fact it’s even better. The storyline, grief, and romance are the caliber of someone who’s been published for years and that alone makes me a fan. This author amazed me with her ability and the fact that she hasn’t been published before now.

The romance is subtle and takes more of a backseat to the healing in this book and usually that makes me dislike a book but somehow it worked in this one. I also liked that this romance revolved around two people with completely different visions for the town. This romance broaches a lot of subjects that many authors have tried to broach, some succeeding and some not and this author definitely falls under succeeding. She nailed this romance.

The storyline of this novel is simple yet there’s a complexity to it that only appears with great characters with emotions and problems that make you think and feel along with them. I loved how each character has many different facets and is definitely more than one dimensional. The emotions that were spun into the story were portrayed so well that I saw myself feeling what the characters felt. This mountain of a feat is one of the main reasons why I’ve fallen in love with this author’s work.

The idea of this book is great too. A widow with a struggling cafe fights against and falls in love with a developer who’s determined to build a condo where her cafe stands. The execution was great too. I don’t really have a complaint about this book. Everything flowed together perfectly and the flow of the story never felt too slow or fast. If this is how this author’s stories are on her second novel how are they going to be on her sixth or twelfth? I can’t wait to find out.

Though this author is a new author, don’t write her off. She is a rare gem that captures your attention and won’t let it go. I love this author and she has made it onto my favorite author list with this book. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I fully intend to get my hands on as many of her books as possible. If you only read one new author, let it be this one. Her books are more than worth the time.

Overall, this is a great book especially for a second novel. It will capture you and make you feel with the characters. This book is perfect for emotional fiction lovers or romance lovers. I think it’s best for adults only on this one. I give this book a four out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Christian Manifesto in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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The Dilemma Of Charlotte Farrow

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Title: The Dilemma Of Charlotte Farrow
Series: Avenue Of Dreams
Author: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Revell
Published: January 1, 2013
Pages: 320

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Charlotte Farrow is a maid at the Banning mansion on the famous Prairie Avenue. But she has a secret that could get her fired from her job. She has a son and domestics aren’t allowed to have spouses or children. Keeping her secret for over a year hasn’t been easy, but with the help of Lucy Banning she’s been able to keep it from Lucy’s family. But now, the lady who’s been watching her son now has left on a family emergency and left Charlotte’s son with her. She now has to give up her son and trust that the Bannings will decide what’s best for her son or come clean and risk her job.

Archie Shepard is head coachman in the Banning household and he wants nothing more than to leave the job of servant and take Charlotte with him, if she’ll let him. Ever since the arrival of a child on the Banning doorstep, Archie has noticed a change in Charlotte and he can’t figure out what it is. He wants more for himself and Charlotte but she seems determined to not let him love her and seems determined to be distant. But he’s determined to win her over and give her the life she deserves.

While Charlotte resists Archie, she also must decide if her job is more important than her son and whether or not she’s willing to to take a risk for love. And when Archie discovers Charlotte’s secrets, he must decide if they are too much for him to handle or if he is willing to put it all aside for Charlotte. Life tries to get in the way and obligation tears its ugly head, but with love fighting, maybe it’s enough to weather any storm.

Will Charlotte tell the Bannings about her son or will she lose him forever because of her cowardice? Will Archie handle her having a son well or badly? Will Charlotte decide to take a risk on Archie and her heart or will she be too scared to make the leap? Will Charlotte be able to trust that God has the best in mind for her or will she take matters into her own hands and mess everything up?
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Having read the first book in this series, I didn’t really expect much from this book, considering that the last one wasn’t my style. This book was better, but not by much. I can see the author improving with each new book and I can see the potential she has, but this book wasn’t my cup of tea again. However, I did enjoy the plot and I loved uniqueness of the storyline. It was the execution that I had a problem with.

The romance in this book took a while for it to kick in. For most of the book Charlotte rebuffed Archie’s advances without an explanation, until near the end. Then, when Archie hears her secret, his reaction is less than passionate. In fact, I got the impression that he didn’t care and the secrets that she had to tell we’re doozies. After the secrets are out, that’s kind of when the romance starts, which is very late in the book.

The storyline in this book is amazing and I wanted this book to live up to the plot, but unfortunately the execution of the storyline left much to be desired, but the fact that this storyline came from someone so new to the writing world, it shows me that she has great potential. With this being the author’s third book or so, her storytelling is getting better and I will read more from her just so I can see her grow. She is definitely one to keep your eye on.

The characters in this book are the main reason why I dislike this series. Though they portray how people acted in that time, I felt that the were way too cold and stiff. The social line in this book again is accurate to the time, but it was so obvious that it felt like the Banning family was snobby and the staff was little above slaves. I realize that these characters are very similar to the view and actions of people of the time, I just wish that the author broke history a little and added warmth to the Bannings and the servants attitudes.

This series is the author’s first and not one that’s on my read again list, but it shows the potential of the author. She has great story lines and she knows her history. I plan on watching her and her stories and I’m obligated to finish the series because I started two thirds of it. This author really makes history come alive in her books and if she can do the same with her characters and romances, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the historical fiction genre. I plan on watching this one.

Overall, not my cup of tea and I felt the romance lacking and characters stiff and cold. I recommend this book for those who like books about history instead of romance and those who like newer authors to watch grow. I think this book is perfect for older teens and adults of all ages. I give this book a three out of five.

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

Deployed

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Title: Deployed
Series: Called To Serve
Author: Mel Odom
Publisher: Tyndale
Published: September 21, 2012
Pages: 416

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Lance Corporal Bekah Shaw joined the Marine reserves to make a better life for her and her son, Travis, in a town that has seemed to turn against them. She never thought that she would be taken away from her son to fight in a war, but she has two times, and now she’s called back again. This time she’s in war-torn Somalia just trying to survive long enough to get home to her son and grandmother, but her team’s mission is making that seem more like a dream and less like a possibility. Now not only does Bekah have to fight against a group set on ruling Somalia, but she also has to fight against a group of renegades lead by a ghost, a man who seems to be fighting against both sides and is in it only for revenge and bloodlust.

Rageh Daud lived a normal life trying to get away from his father’s legacy, until his wife and son were killed by an evil man bent on controlling Somalia and everyone in it. Now, he’s using everything his father has ever taught him to get to this man and offer up revenge for all that he has lost, even if it means killing men, women, and children in the process. All he cares about his the hatred burning inside him and the urge to rectify his family’s murder. He doesn’t care that everyone is after him, all he cares about is whether or not he will have the opportunity to get the one man that destroyed life as he knew it forever.

Fighting for freedom of a nation, Bekah only wants to be home with her son. Fighting for revenge and bloodlust, Rageh wants his family to be avenged no matter what. When the opportunity arises to join forces, the question is whether they will be able to work together to bring an evil man down before more people have to die in the process. Also, the question is whether or not they will be able to be able to fulfill their desires to be home or avenge his family. The fight for freedom never ends but it’s the brave that give up their lives to give it to us.

Will Bekah be able to go home to her son or will fighting the war be the last thing she sees? Will Rageh be able to fulfill his revenge or will he be killed by the very man he’s hunting? What will Rageh do after his revenge is fulfilled? Will Rageh and the Marines end up working together to take out a dangerous man or will they fight each other until the end?
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I’ve read military fiction before and loved it because it gave me a look into that division our military, but unlike my previous jaunts in military fiction this book delves into the Marines, a division I’ve always loved and wanted to know more about. I was looking forward to this book and it didn’t let me down. It was well written and taught me some things about the Marines that I didn’t know before. I felt the tension in the book and the action scenes were realistic and exciting. This book definitely wasn’t a disappointment.

The storyline was solid though the execution was a little jumbled. I felt that it took a while to get to the heart of the story and because there were a lot of characters given a point of view in the book, it felt a bit jumbled. I do like the premise of the story, though. I just didn’t feel like it was executed the best it could’ve been. One thing that I really enjoyed about the storyline, however, was the main character. I like how the author made the main character a female. It opened up so many more doors. It allowed you a glimpse at what it’s like for a female in the Marines and I believe that it made the book a book that can be read by both men and women. That was I think my favorite part of this book.

I liked the main character of the story. I was able to feel for her and her situation, but I would’ve liked to get inside the head of more than just her. If you’re going to have POV’s of other characters why not allow your readers to connect with them too? I felt disconnected to most of the characters and I would’ve loved to connect with them on some level. Despite that, the author molded the main character in a way that made her character relatable and realistic in her attitude and goals. The author really knows how to get a character into your heart.

I’m a fan of military fiction and because of that, I liked this book. I felt that there were a few things that could’ve been better, but overall I really enjoyed this book and plan on reading more in this series. This book really gives facts on the Marine Corps and taught me some things I’ve never knew. I really give the author credit for putting time into his research and making sure everything made sense and was accurate. That definitely made the entire book. I really loved the time and energy the author took to make sure that this book had the facts straight and because of that I plan on reading more from this author.

This author is great at research and making sure that the facts are straight. This author is fantastic at suspense as well. He made sure that the suspense was realistic and the action was nail-biting and exciting. This book wasn’t my favorite military book out there, however, I do like how it was written and I fully intend to read more in the genre and more by this author. I also liked some aspects of the book and those aspects made the book enjoyable to read.

Overall, this is a good book, but not great. I recommend this book for those looking for a military book or looking for a nice suspense book. I don’t recommend this book for young readers, but I do recommend it for more mature readers. I give this book a three and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author through The Christian Manifesto in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Mother Of Pearl

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Title: Mother of Pearl
Author: Kellie Coates Gilbert
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Published: September 1, 2012
Pages: 304

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Barrie Graeber has two great kids, a loving husband, and a respected job as a high school counselor in a close-knit community. Without warning, life as Barrie has known will be turned upside down when her daughter is betrayed and falls apart. Disaster strikes and now the secrets her daughter harbored don’t have any chance of being revealed. At least not by her.

Now this mother must conquer grief and try and pick up the pieces of her life. With a husband and another child to care for, she knows she can’t grieve forever, but questions how she can move on when all she wants to do is grieve the loss of part of her. Her husband doesn’t understand and her son doesn’t feel loved, but she doesn’t feel like keeping things together.

When she starts putting together the pieces of the tragedy that befell their family, she finds a horrifying secret that the beloved football coach has been harboring for years. She now must decide what to do with this shocking discovery. She needs to decide if she’ll follow her husband and mother’s advice, ignore it, or wether she’ll do what her lawyer wants her to do, fight.

Will Barrie move on from the grief that has been slammed into her world or will she fall apart as we’ll as her family? Will she fight or will she ignore the secrets she’s revealed? Will Barrie lose everything because of her grief and unwillingness to let things go or will her husband stand behind her even tough he doesn’t agree with her?
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Being a debut author I had nothing to really go on other than cover, both back and front. Sometimes you find a diamond in the rough and sometimes you find a book that needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, this book was the latter. It was a good concept but just wasn’t executed in a way that felt put together. It was a book that just felt disjointed and, at times, unbelievable.

Like I said above, this was an awesome concept it just wasn’t very fluid or fully believable. I felt that the grief element was accurate but Barrie’s husband’s reaction to her grief and search for the truth about her daughter was unrealistic and actually at times down-right mean. I don’t know, I’ve never experienced the loss of a child so I don’t know if this is how people really act, it just felt off to me.

The storyline felt choppy to me as well. Certain issues that were a huge part of the storyline were resolved but not in front of the reader. I felt left out of the story and I was left lurching by the sudden changes in plot and the character’s perspective. Not to mention the book was read in first person which in this case made it extremely difficult to connect with. I felt like I had to force myself to finish this book and that’s a feeling I hate.

The faith in this book is weird too. The friend that’s a Christian in this book is like a Stepford wife and it felt like the author was trying to say that Christians live like her, which isn’t true. The family goes to church but you don’t get to see the transformation to Christ or anything. It felt like the author kind of forgot that her book had to have some faith in it and so she just added it in. It was definitely strange.

This author is brand new to writing and I hope that she improves in her writing. I don’t know if I’ll pick up another of her books for some time. I do intend to watch her though. Who knows, I might just pick up another of her books later. I think she’ll do well in her drama genre if she improves and makes her stories more fluid.

Overall, this book was the typical debut book. Nothing too extraordinary but nothing too terrible either. I recommend this for someone who wants a different story on a topic most people don’t know happens in school. I give this book a three out of five.

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

The Ride Of Her Life

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Title: The Ride of Her Life
Author: Lorna Seilstad
Series: Lake Manawa Summers
Publisher: Revell
Published: May 1, 2012
Pages: 384

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The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is under four feet and six years old. After three years the widow decides to leave the home of her abrasive in-laws and stand on her own two feet. However, the in-laws are appalled at her new job as a cook at Lake Manawa and want their grandson have a better life, even if it means taking him away from his mother.

When an argument breaks out in the middle of the diner, a handsome stranger-who designs roller coasters, of all things- steps in to help. Too bad Lilly isn’t about to get involved with any man, especially this cocky man. Little does she know she’s about to start the ride of her life.

Nick Perrin had immediate attraction without Lilly and her son an is determined to try and have a relationship with despite her reservations and her issues. He really wants her to give him a chance but he doesn’t know how to take it. He has to learn how to trust God with everything even if it means he has to let her go.

Will he be able to trust God and possibly let her go? Will Lilly be able to finally trust someone or will her independence push him away?
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After Julie Lessman’s shining review of this book, I expected a fantastic book and I got it. I agree with almost everything my favorite romance author said about this book. It really is a sparkle of humor and a writing style that is fresh, fun, and addictive. It was a wonderful book that truly took me on a journey.

The author managed to draw me into the story and make me feel the emotions the characters emitted. This author has a talent for making each character unique and memorable. I just loved to see how each character was molded and formed and how each character grew throughout the book. It made it a hugely enjoyable experience to pick up and read this book, in fact the only bad part of this book is the fact that you have to put it down to eat and sleep.

Though, I wouldn’t call this romance heart pumping, I would call it a change of pace. It’s different than the average Christian romance, there was a large quantity of kissing, but it stayed perfectly within the confines of its genre. All of the kisses weren’t too passionate and they weren’t enough to leave you blushing. It was a pleasant change as well as a pleasant surprise for me when I started reading this book.

There is some intense conflict in this book as well. The grandparents of Levi want to take him away at any cost and they don’t care how they get him, even if it’s illegal. Though, I wouldn’t technically call it a suspense, I was on the edge of my seat for parts of it and some scenes made my stomach lurch from pure anxiety. It was again a nice new take on something like this.

When I think of this book and try to find ways to describe it, I know I can really do any book the justice it deserves, particularly this one. My advice, get a copy for yourself and buckle up because your in for an adventure that you can’t stop until the very end.

Overall, my opinions of this book is high and I highly encourage it to readers who love romances and ones who like a giggle or two. Probably not suited for younger readers but late teens and above a definite must. I give this book a four and a half out of five.

I received this complimentary copy of this book from Revell specifically for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.