Made to Last

 

 

 

 

 

“Made to Last”

 

“Made to Last” is written by Melissa Tagg and published by Bethany House publishers.

 

I found this to be a very entertaining and fun read; it’s great for sitting out on the back porch in a hammock in autumn and reading, because it has a sweet storyline, but one that will keep you hanging just the same.

 

Miranda “Randi” Woodruff hosts her own home improvement TV show, From the Ground Up.  When she started the show, she was engaged to Robbie, who walked out on her.  Since she had already begun talking about him since season one, she must continue to.  Now she’s filming season four and the public is restless to know the identity of her “secret husband”, which she does not have because he left her.  The show is threatening to be canceled, so she hires a guy who fits the description of her ex-finance to stand in as her husband.  He’s a complete stranger, which makes things even more complicated when reporter Matthew Knox moves into her guest home to shadow her for a few months.

 

 

 

Matthew Knox wants a good story after writing an article in revenge against his father who left him, only for the information in the article to be found invalid.  He and his career are humiliated, as well as his partner.  Now, when he gets the chance to shadow TV’s popular Miranda Woodruff, he agrees, and finds himself inexplicitly draw to her.

 

Personally, I found this book fairly interesting with its setting and characters.  However, I was disgusted that the “hero” of the story was drawn to, as far as he knew, a married woman.  That made me uncomfortable and questioning of his character.  I think that the fake husband she hired would have been a much better match for her, as he took months out of his life to save the reputation of a woman whom he did not even know, and stayed faithful to his pretend wife, honoring her and being careful of what he said in interviews, when he did not have any personal attachment to her.  I found his loyalty refreshing, and Matthew’s attempts to woo Miranda behind his back repulsing in comparison.

 

Thank you to Bethany House publishers and Net Galley for letting me read and review this book.  All opinions are my own; I was not required to give a positive review.

 

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City on Fire

City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

 

 

“City on Fire”

“City on Fire” is a novel written by Tracy L. Higley and recently republished by Thomas Nelson.

This novel is set in the ancient city of Pompeii in the time leading up to the eruption. It was certainly an interesting read and a fresh perspective on the ancient world, Christianity, gladiators, slaves, and politics of the time. At the end of the book is a fascinating historical note on Mount Vesuvius and a reading group guide.

Ariella, a runaway Jewish slave, becomes a gladiator in the arena.  When she is transferred to Cato, a wealthy politician’s house, he acts oddly around her.

Cato can’t afford to take notice of the new slave in his house as he prepares for the next election.  However, when their lives are thrust together to save their loved ones, will discover more about each other?

Personally, I found this book to be slow-moving and hard to get into.  It has a historically interesting setting, what seem like would be strong characters, and a predictable plot, even though it is outrageously hard to imagine.
I received this book complimentary from Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to provide a positive review.

Jasmine

Jasmine (Song of the River)

 

 

“Jasmine”

 

“Jasmine” is written by Diane T. Ashley and Aaron McCarver, and published by Barbour Books.  It was released on July 1, 2013.  It is the third and final book in the “Song of the River” trilogy; the first two books were written about Jasmine’s older sisters, Lily and Camellia.  I have read and reviewed the previous books in the series, and you can find the reviews here:

 

Review for “Lily”:Lily

Review for “Camellia”: Camellia

 

Since I have read the whole trilogy, and have found that the other sisters’ perspectives are woven in often, I imagine “Jasmine” would be fairly difficult to read as a stand-alone, because you would not have all the background information.  Granted, the authors did throw in tidbits relating to how the trilogy began, the girls’ family history, etc, but overall, I advise you read the previous two books first.

Jasmine is the extrovert of the family, and very dramatic.  She desires to become an actress, and when the story starts, she is using her talent to do fundraising shows for the local orphanage.  However, Jasmine’s family does not think that she should go into the acting business.

David is, if you have read the previous books and will remember, the little boy whom Lily and Blake continuously ran into and eventually invited onto their boat.  He grew up with Jasmine and they were the best of friends.  As she grew older, he would request that she save one dance for him at every party, because he had always loved her from growing up together.  He did not want to push her, however, and would just grit his teeth whenever she would dance with someone else.  On the last dance they shared, Jasmine emitted a tiny sigh, which, unbeknownst to him, was of pleasure and relief at finally getting to dance with him.  David took it as a sigh of sadness that she had promised to always save him a dance, and after that, took off and became a Pinkerton detective.  {Side note here: Because I have recently read “Gunpowder Tea”, which was about the Pinkerton Detective agency as well, and have seen at least three or four other novels about it as well, I have grown tired of it always being in the plot line.  Also, “Gunpowder Tea” was so spectacular that it ruined my taste for other Pinkerton Detective-type novels.}

So the story begins for David, as a Pink who received his latest assignment in the town where Jasmine is currently living.  They meet up at a ball, and she refuses him a dance, saying that all of her dances for the evening have been taken, even though that is not true.  David is hurt, but he remains at the party and Jasmine is forced to dance every dance or else he will see through her lie.  David tries to clean Jasmine out of his heart, because even after the year or two spent in the detective agency, he still thinks of her.  Jasmine, on the other hand, had always thought that they would be married someday, but since he left her, she continuously snubs him.

Jasmine just wants to act, and when her family will not let her, she runs off and joins a traveling show boat with an actor whom she had met at a local play, who wooed her and took her out on dates.  Jasmine’s sisters do not approve of him either, and she sneaks out to see him.

David does not want to track her down, but when her sisters plead with him and his new case takes him in that direction, he realizes Jasmine may be in more danger than any of them had originally realized.

Overall, I loved this book.  I enjoyed the historical aspects of the story, and the character development was superb.  The plot kept me hanging on, and the riverboat setting was so quaint.

Thank you to Net Galley and Barbour Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  All opinions are my own; I was not required to leave a positive review.

The Miner’s Lady

 

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“The Miner’s Lady”

 

“The Miner’s Lady” by Tracie Peterson is published by Bethany House and is released on September 1, 2013.  I have read a few of this author’s other books, and thought that they were ok.  This one blew my expectations off the charts! Seemingly in the style of Romeo and Juliet, the hero and heroine are from opposing families in a decades-old feud between the Panettas and the Calarcos.

 

Chantel Panetta has just returned from her trip to Italy to visit her family in a coming-of-age type vacation.  When she returns home, she finds her younger sister, Isabella, is in love with the younger Calarco, Orlando.  Chantel is horrified that Issy would go to the mines some days to see him, especially knowing the fathers and brothers in the two families work there together and could spot them.  Putting her doubt aside, though, Chantel helps Issy meet up with Orlando and distracts his older brother, Dante.  Dante pricks Chantel’s ire as well as her sharp tongue whenever she’s around him, but there are noticeable sparks between the two.

 

Dante Calarco despises the thought of his younger brother falling for a Panetta.  He knows that if he father ever caught a whiff of the scandal, he would disown Orlando, at the least.  Then again, with Chantel’s sharp wit and sparking brown eyes, can he really blame his brother?

 

When a tragic accident happens at the mine, Chantel’s father wants the feud to stop, and his daughters couldn’t agree more.  But Dante and Orlando’s father’s heart is hardened, and Issy begins talk of eloping.  With Chantel and her family promoting the love and Dante fearfully hiding it, what will happen when their paths cross at Issy and Orlando’s escape? Will Chantel’s hope for love and Dante’s undeniable attraction to her flare?

 

Personally, I loved this book! The plot was gripping, the characters all so different yet woven together so beautifully, and the setting so heartwarming, I felt as if I was on vacation to the mountains myself.  This story kept me riveted in its pages.

 

Thank you to Bethany House publishers and Net Galley for providing me with a copy to review.  All opinions are my own.

Gunpowder Tea

 

“Gunpowder Tea”

I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I have read all summer.  Well, one of the best ‘short’ (as in fewer than 500 pages) books I have read.  After reading Gone with the Wind so recently, not much else compares :).  I thought that this was the first thing I had read by this author until I looked up what else she had written and I saw that she had a part in “A Bride for All Seasons”.  So, besides that little fourth of a book, I have not read anything by her.

“Gunpowder Tea” is written by Margaret Brownley and published by Thomas Nelson.  It is the third book in the “Brides of the Last Chance Ranch” series, but I was unaware of that and it was excellent as a stand-alone.

Miranda Hunt, aka Annie Beckman, is a detective for Pinkerton Detective agency, taking after her father who was also a private eye, but was killed by a Wells Fargo agent.  She is forever trying to prove herself to him, even after his death.  When she lands a big job out in Arizona Territory, she knows that it could be the boost she needed to shine in her career.  She is assigned to go undercover by replying to the ad for an heiress in the paper, and find out the identity of the Phantom, a robber of trains, banks, purses, you name it.  The only problem is, he does not do the dirty work himself, and the people who do it for him don’t know who he is either.  When the train that Miranda is riding to her new job is robbed, she finds that she may have to begin sleuthing a little earlier than planned.

Jeremy Taggert, aka David Branch, has haunting blue eyes that Miranda can’t forget from seeing behind the bandit’s mask during the train robbery.  Thankfully, he and his fellow robbers were apprehended upon pulling into the station, and were in jail, awaiting the noose.  But then Branch shows up as a new hired hand at the Last Chance Ranch, where Miranda has applied to be an heiress.  She knows she would recognize those eyes anywhere.  Since he was just sentenced to hanging, how did he escape? And why is he so casual about it?

Aside from the historical accuracy (or lack thereof) and unrealistic atmosphere of the plot, this was a pretty good story.  The characters’ relationship progressing was easy to predict, but the who-done-it wasn’t so much.  All in all, it made for a nice summer (or fall) read with just enough suspense to keep you going.

 

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  I enjoyed it immensely.

Fifteen Minutes

 

 

 

“Fifteen Minutes”

“Fifteen Minutes” is Karen Kingsbury’s latest novel, published by Howard Books and set to release on October 29, 2013.  This book, not so surprisingly, continues her seeming tradition of having one famous person in love with one ‘normal’ person.

 

Zack Dylan is from a family that has built its name off of their Kentucky Derby horses farm.  The family and farm are going through some financial crisis, and Zack decides it’s time to put his God-given singing talent to use by auditioning for “Fifteen Minutes”, a singing competition similar to American Idol or X factor.  His girlfriend, Reese, does not really want him to go, but supports him anyway.  Zack pledges that he will remain faithful and sing for the glory of God, but as soon as he sees a camera, he gets swept up in playing the camera for fame.  Mrs. Kingsbury keeps up with the times; Zack tweets about his decision and resulting occurrences because of it, and all the technology seemed up-to-date, at least from my perspective.

One of the judges on the show was a former contestant, and she struggles with the results of her fame, and the desire to warn the new contestants about it.  Another one of the judges is trying to go through a divorce because she’s cheating on her husband with a singer a decade younger.  The life of fame is painted so harsh, making a stark contrast to how easy it seemed that Zack became famous.

Somehow though, it all just seemed fake.  While it offered a thoughtful perspective to singing and TV shows in general, “Fifteen Minutes” did not hold my attention very far.  The plot was predictable and unrealistic, and the characters almost shallow.

Thank you to Howard Books and Net Galley for providing me with an advanced reader’s [e]copy of this book to read and review.  All opinions are my own.

Elusive Hope

“Elusive Hope”

“Elusive Hope” is the sequel to “Forsaken Dreams” by MaryLu Tyndall, in the “Escape to Paradise” trilogy.  “Elusive Hope” releases November 1, 2013.  This sequel continues the tale begun in “Forsaken Dreams”, and really would not do so well as a stand-alone.

We return to the lives of our new Brazilian settlers, where we find Magnolia Scott working in the hospital while her father breathes down her neck what a lady should and should not do.  Magnolia seeks relief from him and intends to run away back to Georgia, where her fiancé’ awaits.  However, there is no opportunity for this until Hayden Gale is told to have an approaching voyage to Rio.

Hayden Gale and Magnolia have been constantly at odds with each other ever since “Forsaken Dreams”, where they shared a kiss.  Besides that and Magnolia’s ogling, there has not been much chemistry, only frustration.  But when Magnolia secretly (or rather, not so secretly) follows Hayden into the jungle towards Rio, he finds that she isn’t the stuck-up lady that she seems, and some unbidden admiration wells up in Hayden for his companion that, unbeknownst to her, he is planning on cheating out of her travelling money.

This book is vividly alive with spiritual warfare containing an intensity to rival Indiana Jones, an unexpected (to the characters) romance, and a unique setting.  The plot and characters were continuously revealed in different lights to keep me as the reader intrigued.  I can honestly say that this book went way over my expectations after reading “Forsaken Dreams”, which I found to be slower-moving.

*Note: You may not want to read the epilogue until the next book is available to you; it’s quite haunting.  In addition, Magnolia and other characters drink.  May not be appropriate for easily sea-sickened readers.*

Thank you so much to Net Galley and Barbour publishing for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy of this book to read and review.

So Long, Insecurity (Teen Edition)

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“So Long, Insecurity: Teen Edition”

 

“So Long, Insecurity: Teen Edition” by Beth Moore was an encouraging, enjoyable magazine-styled book centered towards teens (as the title suggests =)).  There is also another book by the same name (minus the ‘teen edition’) for adult women that goes more in-depth.  This magazine-book covers many important issues towards teen stemming from the insecurity root, including fashion, boys, real beauty, and self-worth.  Intergraded in the print are Bible verses on cute backgrounds, real-life testimonies from fellow teen girls, relation to women in the Bible with the same struggles, and an interview with a former Victoria’s Secret model! Everything within these pages is uplifting in letting girls know that they are not alone.  They are charts from surveys taken of girls about topics for every chapter, including positive opinions on modest clothing, true beauty, boys, popularity, hard circumstances, and talents and competition.  Not only that, but within these pages there are inspiring testimonies of teenagers who have overcome these shallow traps, and can live fully in and embrace the God-given security and beauty meant for all of us.

Thank you so much to Tyndale House publishers for sending me a review copy! I really appreciate this and look forward to sharing this magazine-book of encouragement to others!

Fired Up

Product Details

 

“Fired Up”

“Fired Up” by Mary Connealy is the second book in the “Trouble in Texas” series.  The first book is entitled “Swept Away”, and the third is yet to release.  “Fired Up” was decent as a stand-alone too, but I have already read and reviewed “Swept Away”.  This trilogy is published by Bethany House.

 

Glenna Greer is recently widowed from her snake of a husband, Flint Greer, thanks to a group of Civil War veterans self-named the Regulators.  They call themselves this because of their history together keeping peace at Andersonville, a prison camp in Georgia holding Yankees.  The Regulators, in the previous book, helped one of their members, Luke, regain his captured ranch from Flint Greer.  In doing this, Greer was killed and his wife as well as her two children, survived.

Dare Riker was one of the Regulator who helped save Glenna and her two children from her abusive husband.  He is the town doctor, and has an eye for Glenna since treating her wounds.  Will the tumult after Flint’s death bring them closer together? Or will Glenna’s past and a secret killer after Dare tear them apart?

All in all, I was really expecting more out of this book.  I have liked this author for her sense of humor, so I was really expecting and on the lookout for this.  Needless to say, in that aspect, I ruined it for myself; “Fired Up” did not seem as good as “Swept Away”.  In addition, the plot was exciting, but the relationship between Glenna and Dare seemed conditional to the situation, and more stemmed out of physical beauty and attraction than love and respect for each other.  Also, the conflicts toward the end were resolved hurriedly, as if the author was only allowed to write a certain number of pages, and, being swept away in her own story, remembered her page limit at the end of the book and tied off loose ends sloppily.  I do apologize, as I have truly enjoyed this author in the past.  “Fired Up” just didn’t seem to be as enjoyable as the Kincaid Brides, or “Swept Away”, some of her other works.

Thank you so much to Bethany House for letting me read and review this book.