Love at First Fight by Carey and Dena Dyer

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What it’s about:
From the publisher:
“Love at First Fight is a book that will give your marriage encouragement and hope if you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict. In sharing humorous, personal stories from both the male and female perspective, husband and wife writing team Carey and Dena Dyer will help you discover that a fun, resilient, fulfilling marriage can be realized through hard work, forgiveness, God’s grace, and a sense of humor. Learn how to strengthen your marriage with these fifty-two conversational meditations that begin with scripture, end with prayers, and include practical action steps to develop a deeper connection with your spouse.”

My thoughts:

I am a newlywed, so when I saw this title available for review, I jumped at the chance. I am so glad that I did, I love this book! The topics range from minor and not serious to serious, yet they are all things that can cause couples to have troubles or grow closer together, depending on how they are handled. I giggled at many places at how true-to-life these issues are and how Carey and Dena talked about them. Many of those giggles were because my husband and I have already gone through that particular issue and handled it much like Carey or Dena. I wouldn’t call this book super serious, but it does handle some serious topics. For the most part, this is a light-hearted book that can help any couple grow closer if they read through it together and pray and discuss the questions in each meditation. I loved how both Carey and Dena were candid and exposed how they reacted to things in their relationship and how they could have done better. Each meditation is nice length where they are shorter, but not too short to not have any substance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

I loved this book and give it 5 stars!

Close to You by Kara Isaac

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What it’s about:
From the publisher:
“A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?”

My thoughts:
I loved Close to You! Close to You has flawed, realistic characters, going through icky, real life-like circumstances. There were many characters, but I didn’t have trouble keeping any of them straight and they were all so different and had so many dimensions; they were delightful! The comedic moments were relatable and so much fun! I was always guessing of what was going to happen next and was consistently surprised with different twists. I kept wondering throughout this, “How in the world is she going to wrap this up? How?” Well, I won’t give away the ending but I will say, it was a sigh-worthy ending that had me smiling and day-dreaming about what a wonderful book this is. Close to You is a fabulous debut and I can’t wait to see what else Kara Isaac writes, so I can devour that too!

I give Close to You 5 out of 5 stars! I love it and recommend it!

I received Close to You in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.

About the Author:
Kara Isaac is a romantic comedy writer who lives in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. When she’s not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connect with readers on her website http://www.karaisaac.com, on Facebook at Kara Isaac – Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac

Christmas Star Sapphire by Hallee Bridgeman

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What it’s about:
From the publisher:

“Inspired by the Jewel Series
MADELINE VISCOLLI finds herself on the Gulf shores of Alabama, where she takes part in a graduate program to earn her MBA. On her first day there, she meets JOE WESTCOTT, team leader for a campus ministry. Despite a mutual attraction, Joe’s personal rule of no romance with any student keeps any kind of deep relationship from developing.
Joe has no desire to have a relationship with anyone, ever, anyway. He left a life of luxury and his family’s business behind to live alone on a sailboat and serve in ministry. Then Madeline walks into the auditorium the week school starts and Joe suspects his personal rules might not apply to this graduate student.
That is, until he discovers Madeline is one of the Viscollis, and that her destiny lay in running her father’s massive corporation. Having rejected wealth and all its trappings since childhood, Joe finds himself falling for the vivacious sapphire-eyed beauty. Madeline knows she loves Joe, but is not willing to throw away her destiny of taking over at the helm of Viscolli Enterprises.
A Christmas Eve funeral washes all Joe’s plans away. Will their love succumb to the rising tide caused by their differences in lifestyles, or will raging seas calm and allow them to sail off into the sunset?”
My thoughts:

At one point while reading this book, it really brought me back to my college days. I could feel myself sitting there in the college cafe, right along with the characters. The characters are older as one is a graduate student, so it is not a completely “college feel” type book, but it did bring back memories for me. I think this was a clean romance, that is not overly sweet. It was a little hard for me to relate to these characters, but I still really enjoyed their story. It was easy to read with a few surprises that made the story go fast. I enjoyed Christmas Star Sapphire and recommend it as a great Christmas novella to escape with during the busy holiday season.

I give Christmas Star Sapphire 4 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed this sweet story and recommend it, especially to those looking for a shorter Christmas story. (It is a novella, not a full length novel.)

I received this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.

With This Ring, a novella collection by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings and Melissa Jagears and a GIVEAWAY!!!

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This is a book filled with four novellas by four awesome authors! The tag line on the front cover says, “A novella collection of proposals gone awry”. I asked to review this book because I was making engagement and wedding plans of my own at the time and thought it would be so cool to announce it once it became official by posting this review with a picture of me holding the book while wearing the ring we picked out. I should have listened to the tag line and known something would go awry….

As for the book, the four novellas; this book is so much fun! It was so much fun to see characters that are in their other books too. This is a fun, funny, clean set of romances for the historical lover. I recommend these novellas to those who like to escape with a shorter story and want to have fun while doing that!

Obviously, I am not posting this review with a picture of the ring I picked out. Things went awry. I am deeply hurt and waited many months to post this review because of that, but know that I needed to get the review live and now I need to work on healing from rejection. I know God is bigger than this situation, it it still hurts and I am not getting any younger. I have an amazing daughter, but I still dream of a family some day.

I want to give this gently used book away! To enter to win it (a paperback), please comment with a time when you had a huge hurt/disappointment, or rejection or something like that and explain a little (or however much you feel comfortable telling) and how you healed/or any advice and write your email address in an anti-spam format too. I will email the winner on May 6th! Sorry, must be a U S resident for mailing reasons.

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

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Many people will devour Like Never Before, it’s that amazing, but I needed to savor it. My heart needed Like Never Before at a slower pace to fully absorb the truths.

I loved how some really tough circumstances were included and how humanly flawed these wonderful characters are. A divorced main character is hard to find in Christian fiction, but I find that the exact opposite in real life, so I applaud Melissa Tagg for including this hard subject.

I laughed within the first chapter and I cried in the first part of the second chapter, so my emotions were immediately involved. I identified with Logan as a single parent and some of the scenes made my heart ache, they hit so close to home. Emotional connection is my favorite part of reading; Like Never Before had me emotionally connected and involved from the first pages, so I loved it!

I found the writing style easy to follow and the pace pretty fast and steady where I always wanted to keep reading, yet I didn’t always know what was coming next. The romance is sweet and clean. This is the second book in the series, and I have read the first and love seeing so many characters again, but I think this story can be read and understood on its own.

I still think I might go visit Maple Valley and all these characters some day, but reality sets in and I realize they aren’t truly real. But they are wonderful and I will re-visit them when I re-read Melissa Tagg’s books.🙂

I give Like Never Before 5 out of 5 starts! I love it and recommend it!

I received a copy for review purposes, all thoughts are my own and my honest opinion.

Always Watching by Lynette Eason

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What it’s about:
From the publisher:
“The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have more than just skill and prowess in common–they’re also all women. When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians in order to protect his son.

But when Wade’s bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap. Olivia’s skills are about to be tested to the limit as Wade’s stalker moves from leaving innocent gifts at his door to threatening those closest to him. Olivia has the feeling that she’s next on the list. And to complicate things even further, she realizes that her heart may be in as much danger as her client.”

My thoughts:
It’s been a long time since I have a book in one day and Always Watching made me do that! I loved the constant action and suspense. I loved the romance. This book had a little more romance in it than her last series, in my opinion. The romance was a side theme to the suspense and didn’t overtake the book or anything, it was great. The characters were interesting and flawed. The suspense and action was done in typical Eason style where it was enthralling but never too gruesome. I can’t wait to see where the next books take this group of characters, I really enjoyed almost all of them. I had a hunch about a third of the way through who was responsible for the bad stuff, but I was only partially correct and there was a twist I never saw coming.

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it for Christian suspense fans!

The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson

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What it’s about:
From the publisher:
“Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she’s hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they’ve got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

Step into The Red Door Inn, a lovely home away from home tucked along the north shore of fabled Prince Edward Island. It’s a place where the wounded come to heal, the broken find forgiveness, and the lonely find a family. Won’t you stay for the season?”

My thoughts:

The Red Door Inn brought me to Prince Edward Island and I didn’t want to leave! I want to plan a vacation there now. Ms. Johnson brought the island alive and I felt like I could feel the cool breeze and the sand beneath my feet. Anne of Green Gable fans will love the nostalgia that The Red Door Inn brings too!

The writing style is easy to read and follow and makes the story flow quickly. I love old houses and renovating stories, so it was a lot of fun to “watch” as the house took shape to fulfill so many characters’ dreams. The way island original work and antiques were woven into the story was pure fun, especially a typewriter! You will have to read it to find out what I mean, so I won’t give anything away.

I have to admit that I adored Jack and Aretha in this story and love the added storyline they brought to the book. It took me a while to warm up to Seth, but I loved how he came off jaded, exactly like he was from his past. Marie’s past has a difficult issue in it that some may want to know about before reading, in case they are sensitive to that topic. The characters were relatable and flawed and redeemable.

I give the Red Door Inn 5 stars and highly recommend it to contemporary romance fans!

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion, which I have given.

The End of the World by Amy Matayo

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What it’s about:
From the publisher:
” A desperate boy. A damaged girl. And a dark house filled with secrets.

For Cameron Tate, being shuffled from foster home to foster home is just a normal way of life. Until the year he turns fourteen. That’s when he’s sent to the home of seventeen-year-old Shaye McCormick—a fellow foster kid counting the days until she’s released from the system.
For good reason. It doesn’t take long for Cameron to learn that Shaye is shackled to the worst kind of pain…living in a home where nothing seems right. And now he’s joined her with no way out. Their only refuge is a lake, a quiet spot at the edge of the property where they can sit together for a few moments at the end of each day. Alone with their thoughts. Away from prying eyes.
At the lake they become friends. At the lake they begin to talk. At the lake Cameron vows that no matter how deep their secrets are buried, he’ll make it his mission to heal Shaye from a past that makes living in the present nearly impossible. Even if it takes until the end of time to do it.”

“Author Note: The End of the World is a coming-of-age story that follows the lives of Cameron Tate and Shaye McCormick for twelve years. The novel is a Contemporary Romance that crosses the genres of Young Adult and New Adult. The End of the World is a standalone novel.”
My thoughts:

Amy Matayo tore my heart out and ripped it in two. I got headaches from feeling so deeply for these characters. I was so attached to these characters, that I am still thinking about them several days later. I laughed, a few times. I ached. I read with my heart in my throat and I cried, few times. For those that follow my reviews, you know my favorite thing about a good book is when it makes me FEEL and this book definitely did.
The End of the World is compulsively readable. I found myself rubbing my eyes to clear them enough to see to read and telling myself “just a little more” at 1:30 am. Some of the issues in this book are hard to read about. I do recommend this book to mature readers and I see it is a New Adult book.
The wisdom in some lines in this book are so relevant to life. It would give away too much if I shared, but you need to read it yourself to resonate. The End of the World shows the ugliness that so many pretend doesn’t exist in this world and how choices and life happen with very real consequences.

This book is an epic love story. I read a popular Young Adult series several years ago that is still one of my favorite series, and I compare this book to that series. (I won’t compare the titles because they are such different subject matter that I don’t want the comparison to confuse people.) But the love story of Cameron and Shaye is so deep and true that I think it will still be favorite in a decade, like that other series still is. The End of the World is a love story that stands the test of time.

This book is about sensitive subject matter. So just a heads up for those who are sensitive to abuse stories, this book contains several different abuse types.

I give The End of the World 5 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend this book to those who want to read a book that makes an impact on your life.
I received a PDF of this book for my honest opinion, which I have given.

And a heads up for those followers of my blog for the Christian reviews, this book is not even though Amy Matayo’s other books are.

The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes

The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes

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What it’s about:
From the publisher:

“For nearly two hundred years, women in Ashley Tolliver’s family have practiced the art of midwifery in their mountain community. Now she wants to take her skills a step further, but attending medical school means abandoning those women to whom she has dedicated her life, the mountains she loves, and the awakening of her heart.

Ashley Tolliver has tended to the women of her small Appalachian community for years. As their midwife, she thinks she has seen it all. Until a young woman gives birth at Ashley’s home and is abducted just as Ashley tries to take the dangerously bleeding mother to the nearest hospital. Now Ashley is on a mission to find the woman and her newborn baby . . . before it’s too late.

Hunter McDermott is on a quest—to track down his birth mother. After receiving more media attention than he could ever want for being in the right place at the right time, he receives a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to be his mother. Hunter seeks out the aid of the local midwife in the mountain town where the phone call originated—surely she can shed some light on his own family background.

Ashley isn’t prepared for the way Hunter’s entrance into her world affects her heart and her future. He reignites dreams of having her own family that she has long put aside in favor of earning her medical degree and being able to do even more for her community. But is it commitment to her calling or fear of the unknown that keeps her feet firmly planted in the Appalachian soil? Or is it something more—fear of her growing feelings for Hunter—that makes her hesitant to explore the world beyond the mountains?”

My thoughts:

I am very interested in midwifery, so this story was a compelling read! The Mountain Midwife has it all; everyday life and struggles, romance and mystery. I do think having a strong interest or curiosity of midwife skills makes this tale so engaging. My favorite part of the story were the characters though, and how real they were. This is not a light, fluffy book where characters are perfect or almost perfect with little annoying quirks. These characters are like real friends and people in my community with some really bad choices and fallen pasts. I don’t love anywhere near this setting, but the small-town/community mindset was nailed to perfection with where I live Ina very rural area. God’s love and truths prevail where the reader is shown God’s grace and mercy through these characters, but that does not mean that everything is tied up in a nice little bow and made perfect. This true-to life story shows how God’s grace and each persons reactions (like forgiveness) to others choices affects each other. There were a few plot twists in The Mountain Midwife that had me shocked and turning pages as fast as I could!

I give The Mountain Midwife 4.5 stars!

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion/review.

About the author: Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with a degree in English and French from Asbury University and a master’s degree in writing fiction from Seton Hill University. She now has nearly two dozen books in print. Laurie Alice lives with her husband in Houston, Texas, with sundry lovable dogs and cats.

A Reason to Stay by Kellie Coates Gilbert

imageWhat is is about:
From the publisher:
“As an investigative reporter and the host of her own TV talk show, Faith Marin works to expose the truth for her viewers. But in her personal life, she’s anchored her world with firm boundaries in order to hide a family history she’d like to forget. By contrast, her husband Geary’s life is an open book. An easygoing pro bass fisherman, Geary is the ultimate family man–and his overbearing relatives don’t know the meaning of boundaries.

Faith and Geary haven’t been married long when their differences start to derail their tender relationship. Surely love shouldn’t be this hard. While Faith considers whether divorce is the only answer to their issues, tragedy strikes. With her life in the balance, she finds that the one she has been shutting out may be the very one she cannot bear to lose.

Kellie Coates Gilbert takes you on an emotional roller coaster as she weaves together unexpected trial, self-discovery, and forgiveness in this profoundly honest portrait of the tensions that can break a marriage–and the ultimate healing power of love.”

My thoughts:

The first chapter had me so shocked, I was delighted and so excited for A Reason to Stay, to see how it would unfold. I am not a big fan of books that flip from present day to the past. I don’t mind some if they are about separate characters, but this one was the flashbacks of the main character, Faith. The author had some good points with doing that, but it isn’t something I really enjoy a lot and it did make me enjoy this book less than if it had developed naturally rather than being partially flashbacks. The last 25% of the book was awesome and really had a lot for people to think about. I don’t want to say too much and give away anything, so I will keep this pretty vague. Kellie Coates Gilbert always makes you think with her books, and I was not disappointed in that. She takes real society issues and breaks them down into things her characters experience and makes you more aware of these issues and the impact they have on people, both the direct impact to those directly affected, and the secondary impact on those who care for those affected. I love that Kellie Coates Gilbert’s books are not your typical contemporary read. I feel she goes outside the box, and I love that. So, while this wasn’t my favorite book of hers, I still think it’s definitely worth a read and I very much look forward to what she writes in the future.

I give A Reason to Stay 3.5 stars, since I do not personally like the flashback style of writing and I got frustrated with that, but I still enjoyed the story and really loved the first chapter and last 25% or so of the book.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.
About the author:
As a former legal professional, Kellie Coates Gilbert spent nearly twenty-five years working in courtrooms and behind the scenes of some of the largest and most well-known cases in America. She was one of the lead paralegals in the Jack-in-the-Box litigation, where uncooked hamburger resulted in the deaths of several toddlers and made many more critically ill, which is now the subplot of her recently released WHERE RIVERS PART, the second novel in a collection of contemporary women’s fiction stories all set in Texas. Her books not only explore the heart issues that matter most to women, but often allow readers an inside peek into her former legal world.

Kellie currently makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband and a very spoiled 2.7 lb. Yorkie named Emmie Sweetpea.

Please visit her online at http://www.kelliecoatesgilbert.com