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Karen Witemeyer’s More Than Meets the Eye

More Than Meets the Eye (A Patchwork Family Novel Book #1) by [Witemeyer, Karen]

Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?

Review

Karen Witemeyer is an auto-buy author for me, and I think it’s because she never gives me the same story or the same characters over and over again. My thoughts:

What I liked:

This book had, hands-down, one of the most deeply, moving prologues I’ve ever read. I was in tears when it was over and completely invested in several of the main characters right away…one of which absolutely stole my heart and was my favorite person in the whole book: Zach. Witemeyer used his character perfectly. He’s not in every chapter, but whenever he was on the page, the story slowed down for me. He was a very interesting character. I think the next book is going to be about him and I just cannot wait!

I’m going to be honest and say that I did not love Evangeline. There was something about her constant happiness that was a tad annoying. That said, she was a fully developed character. I understood why she was the way she was and why she responded to situations the way she did. She wasn’t happy all the time and the moments when she wasn’t, really added depth to her character.

The secondary characters are amazing. I’ve already touted my love for Zach, but Seth deserves a mention. I love how unique he is for a man living in the west. Even though his role isn’t huge, by the time the book was over, I felt like I really knew and cared about him just as much as I cared about everyone else. Several times I caught myself feeling very protective of him and thinking, Seth, what are you doing? You know how you are!

I really liked the Western feel of this book. There’re saloons and high stake poker games, revenge and shot ’em out situations.

I’ll admit the romance was cute. I kind of wish it had been more complicated. I know…I hate complicated romances and contrived storylines, but this one was so straightforward to me, I didn’t really have to root for anybody or wonder how it was all going to come about.

Spiritually the novel deals with forgiveness, leaving vengeance to God, and learning your own value.

What I didn’t like:

The plot. At first it’s incredibly interesting. And then I got to the second half of the book and I was like, everything appears on the right path of being solved, where are we going with this? And then I saw where we were going with this…and I didn’t care.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a good book. Witemeyer is obviously talented and I will keep reading her novels, but this book tilted a bit in the direction of too slow.

** I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Jody Hedlund’s Together Forever

Together Forever (Orphan Train Book #2) by [Hedlund, Jody]

Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children–firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

Review

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series and I was so excited about the second book. However, this book was a disappointment. It was certainly as well written as all of Ms. Hedlund’s books are. Marianne and Andrew came to life on the pages. Hedlund’s real talent though, was how well and developed the secondary cast was. And let me tell you, a train full of children is a large cast. It’s very easy for the reader to get lost in the numbers, but the author took the time to really flesh these children out (and other characters) and bring them to life. Spiritually, the novel deals a lot of with forgiveness of one’s self and realizing that God is there when you go through the difficult times.

But this book seemed to lack…a plot. It took me forever to get through it. Forever. And with every page I turned, I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. I don’t think it ever did. Instead, it felt like a never-ending road trip from…well…you know where. Perhaps if I had never read a book about the orphan trains at all, I would have found this fascinating. But this was not my first train ride, so there was no allure there. The novel starts with Marianne trying to find her sister, and while her sister is clearly on her mind, this is a thread that the story fails to really hold. And then there was Andrew and the more I learned about him, the more I actually didn’t trust him…with anything or anybody (I think the author’s point with him totally backfired). At the end of the book, I still wasn’t certain what kind of person he was. Romantically, at first it seemed like the author wasn’t going to make things complicated, and I was a huge fan of that (though I must say that I was never confident that Marianne really knew the hero that well). But then things got weirdly complicated–to the point where I almost didn’t care and when I should have been basking in the love, I was skimming paragraphs.

Honestly, I felt like this book was just a bridge to get to the third book. It felt like the author was setting up pieces that she plans to move on the chessboard at some point.  Will I read the third book? Probably. But I won’t be waiting as eagerly for it as I did for this one.

Romantic scale: 7

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

 

 

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Lisa Bevere’s Adamant: Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions

Adamant: Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions by [Bevere, Lisa]

By ancient definition, the adamant was known as both a diamond and a mythical stone of indestructible wonder. In more modern terminology, it describes a posture of unshakeable resolve and determination. If there was ever a time for us to be adamant about love and truth it is now. God is Love. God is Truth. Both love and truth are timeless, transcending our current trends and opinions. Sometimes the most loving thing we will ever do is to speak the truth, but speaking truth begins with living it.

Using the mediums of Scripture and story, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Bevere takes readers on a journey into the Mountain of God, to the one place they can learn not only to abide in God’s unshakeable truth and love, but become adamant–people who are unmovable, determined, and steadfast. With conviction and passion, Lisa unpacks the concept of the adamant for readers, linking together the grand story of Scripture and God’s purpose in their lives. Readers will see that God’s plan is revealed as we dwell in him, it is there that we are forged and shaped. As we abide in Christ our Cornerstone we are shaped into the image of the adamant.

Review

Five Reasons You Should Read This Book:

  1. A New Approach-A lot of times in the Christian walk, you hear words like steadfast or ummovable, but I had never heard the word adamant–and certainly not in the way that Bevere uses it. She really goes into the historical and the spiritual uses of the word Adamant and shows how it’s always been there in the scriptures…most people just haven’t noticed it.
  2.  Personal Narrative-I found her points to be more impactful when she shared from her personal story. Throughout the book, you will encounter stories that provide examples in her own life where she had to be adamant…and they will stay with you.
  3. Contemporary. This book is very much in line with the times. Bevere discusses social media and the way Christians should and shouldn’t engage on various platforms and the idea of tolerance which is so prevalent in our society and how to address it.
  4.   Scripture. The book is very much grounded in scripture. Any point that Bevere makes has scriptural foundation. She’s not just giving her opinion, but revealing something that has been there all along.
  5.  Easy read. It’s an easy read. I found the pages turning very quickly as I read this book and every topic is broken down in such a way that I never left a chapter confused. This can’t be said for every non-fiction book!

The only quibble I would have is that some times the writing felt a bit choppy. But, overall, a really good book that I found myself using as a devotional in the mornings to remind myself to be Adamant for Christ!

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in anyway!**

 

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Becky Wade’s Falling For You

Falling for You (A Bradford Sisters Romance Book #2) by [Wade, Becky]

Famously beautiful model Willow Bradford is taking a temporary break from her hectic schedule to work as the innkeeper at her family’s small-town bed-and-breakfast. She was enjoying the peace of her hometown, Merryweather, Washington, right up until she came face-to-face with Corbin Stewart, the man she loves to hate. A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin–and suffered the consequences when it all fell apart.

Former NFL quarterback Corbin is forceful, charming, and accustomed to getting what he wants . . . except where Willow Bradford is concerned. Unable to forget her, he’s never stopped regretting what happened between them. When their paths unexpectedly cross again, he’s determined to make her give him a second chance.

When a decades-old missing persons case finds Corbin and Willow working together, they’re forced to confront their past and who they’ve become–and whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.

Review

I’m a huge fan of Becky Wade. Ever since I read My Stubborn Heart in a matter of hours at a bookstore, I’ve always been excited about her novels. My thoughts:

What I liked

Willow and Corbin. Since I had read the first book, I was aware of the fact that there was a history between Willow and Corbin…and one where that led to them not liking each other. I will admit to being worried that the reason they weren’t together was because of something silly. There is no reason to worry. It completely made sense to me why they were so angry with each other in the beginning. The romance was handled with a deft hand and even though Willow and Corbin almost hate each other in the beginning, you slowly begin to see them fall for each other. It was lovely.

Contemporary. This book dealt with contemporary issues and concerns. Everything that they encountered and discussed felt real. I love that Wade can write a contemporary christian book without avoiding certain topics and without inventing problems.

Mystery. The small mystery that Willow and Corbin are solving was rather fascinating. While some of it was predictable, I still found myself invested in every layer that was revealed.

Secondary characters. I love Willow’s sisters and I’m so excited for the next book. Also, I’m not a huge fan of kids in books, but Corbin’s niece stole the show several times.

Spiritually, the novel deals with forgiveness and not just forgiving others but forgiving yourself.

What I didn’t like

It was actually very difficult for me to put my finger on what didn’t quite work for me (and not everything worked), but I think it’s that this book is…a bit slow. It’s very character driven (which I usually really love) as opposed to plot driven and so sometimes that meant that things moved along in such a way that made me wonder where it was going.

Also, even though the romance did not quite fall under the category of ‘missionary dating,’ it felt like missionary dating. There were moments I wasn’t sure why they were spending so much time together if they weren’t exactly on the same page when it came to certain…things.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, I did enjoy this book. It was different, but if you like Becky Wade and contemporary romance, worth reading.

**I received a copy from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

 

 

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Susan Anne Mason’s A Most Noble Heir

A Most Noble Heir by [Mason, Susan Anne]

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.

Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope–believing that once their marriage is sanctioned by God, Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union. However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between pleasing Hannah and living up to his father’s demanding expectations.

At every turn, forces work to keep the couple apart, and a solution to remain together seems further and further away. With Nolan’s new life pulling him irrevocably away from the woman he loves, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.

Review

This is the first book that I’ve read from Susan Ann Mason. However, I had to try it because I found the premise to be totally fascinating–a stable boy being the son of an Earl? Yes, please.  My thoughts:

What I liked

Father-son relationship. I love books based off of relationships be it romance or familial. Whenever Nolan and his father were on the page together, for me, the story slowed down. I wanted very much to see them come together.

The story. Mason managed to surprise me with the romance. I did not expect what I read and that kept me turning the pages well into the night. I’m not going to lie, as a regency-purist I didn’t know how she was going to make this situation work. But she did (even if it was a bit Disney-esque).  Also, there are several situations where the author could have let miscommunications ruin it and I like that she didn’t. She made Nolan and Hannah face each other.

Spiritually, the characters must learn to trust God, and to realize that He might have a bigger plan.

What I didn’t like

Father-son relationship. It was kind of disappointing. While I felt like, at the end, both men came to understand each other, I never felt them connect. The Earl kept upsetting Nolan. Nolan kept upsetting the Earl. I kept wishing for their relationship to strengthen.

This book went too long. I loved the beginning, even the middle, but by the end I was skimming.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, a very good book and rather surprising at times.

** I received a copy from Bethanyhouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

 

 

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Amanda Cabot’s A Borrowed Dream

A Borrowed Dream (Cimarron Creek Trilogy Book #2) by [Cabot, Amanda]

Catherine Whitfield is sure that she will never again be able to trust anyone in the medical profession after the town doctor’s excessive bleeding treatments killed her mother. Despite her loneliness and her broken heart, she carries bravely on as Cimarron Creek’s dutiful schoolteacher, resigned to a life without love or family, a life where dreams rarely come true.

Austin Goddard is a newcomer to Cimarron Creek. Posing as a rancher, he fled to Texas to protect his daughter from a dangerous criminal. He’s managed to keep his past as a surgeon a secret. But when Catherine Whitfield captures his heart, he wonders how long he will be able to keep up the charade.

With a deft hand, Amanda Cabot teases out the strands of love, deception, and redemption in this charming tale of dreams deferred and hopes becoming reality.

Review

I read the first book in this series and really enjoyed it. Amanda Cabot is a very good writer. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The writing. The story is not complicated and yet the writing completely pulled me in. I understood Catherine and Austin. Their motivations and fears became important to me as a reader.

Catherine. We are introduced to Catherine in the first book and I was very much looking forward to being in her head. I wasn’t disappointed. Catherine has some issues in the past that she must confront in this book and she does it in such a way that she doesn’t diminish as a character.

The suspense premise. Austin has such an interesting past. I had never heard or read of any person with a background like his.

The secondary characters. Of course we come in contact with characters from the first book, but then there are some children who come in completely steal the show.

Spiritually, the novel deals with trusting God and spiritual dreams. I’m not going to lie, the spiritual dreams felt a bit reaching to me, but I suppose it worked.

What I didn’t like:

The romance. Several times throughout the book, the important moments in Catherine’s romantic relationship is quickly summarized. We are told she and her guy became friends. But we don’t get to see it come to past (though we see the fruition). We are told that they fell in love. We don’t get to see it.  The relationship happens quickly so that there is one.

This was a pet peeve, but there is the return of a character that is mentioned in book one and I could not understand why the author chose to do it that way.

Romantic Scale: 6.5

Overall, not my favorite in the series, but still very enjoyable.

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Tammy L Gray’s Until I Knew Myself

Until I Knew Myself (Bentwood Book 1) by [Gray, Tammy L.]

Tyler Mitchell grew up an orphan, taken in by his best friend’s family when he was only sixteen. Even though ten years have passed, and he’s been given everything he should ever want—a loving home, an adoring girlfriend, a successful career, and lifelong friendships—Tyler has always felt a foreigner in his own life.

When a surprising phone call reveals the death of his biological grandfather, Tyler’s seemingly perfect life starts to unravel. The people he loves most in world have kept from him the greatest secret of all—knowledge of his father’s family.

Now hunting for more information about his past, Tyler discovers nothing is quite as it seems. And the definition of family is far more complicated than choosing between blood and loyalty.

Review

Tammy L. Gray is an auto-buy author for me.  My thoughts:

What worked

Contemporary. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, most Christian authors don’t write contemporary Christian books well. They invent problems. I never feel that way about Tammy’s books. Her characters feel like people of their times and their problems feel organic.

Tyler. I adored him. I found him to be so understandable. Every time he was on the page I wanted to know what happened next. Somethings he came across were a bit predictable, but how he dealt with them was unique. I really liked him.

Secondary cast. Tammy always manages to create a dynamic group of people. This groups is no different. They love each other. They fight with each other. They are different from each other. They balance out each other. I’m looking forward to their books.

Spiritually, the concept of why live like an orphan when we’re children of God? Although I will say that maybe only one character was actually a believer…

What didn’t work:

The romance. For some reason, the main couple in this book did not work for me. I found myself wanting Tyler to end up with someone else (though if I’m right, based off of where the novel is going, that relationship was a no go). Nevertheless, Tyler and his lady didn’t seem to make each other better. They seemed to make each other worse. I found myself tense every time he was with her and relaxed when she was gone.

Romantic scale: 6

I didn’t love this book, but it was still good and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!