Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: Always on My Mind by Susan May Warren

Always on My Mind by Susan May Warren

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing!



After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

Heartbroken, especially when he discovers the identity of the baby’s father, Casper tables his dreams and determines to be dependable for once, helping his older brother, Darek, prepare the family resort for its grand reopening. Casper longs to be the hero of at least one family story, but a never-ending Deep Haven winter and costly repairs threaten their efforts—and the future of the resort.

Worse, one of Casper’s new jobs constantly brings him into contact with Raina, whom he can’t seem to forget. A tentative friendship begins to heal fresh wounds, but can they possibly overcome past mistakes and current choices to discover a future together?

My Review

I absolutely love this series! After I finished this book I just sighed in happiness :) Casper and Raina's story actually starts in the previous book, When I Fall in Love. I definitely recommend reading it before this one if you can. The subplot in Always on My Mind is told from older brother Darek's perspective, so it would also be a good idea to read his story from the first book in the series, Take a Chance on Me. Okay, okay- just read them all in order! I've given every book in the Christiansen series (including the two novellas) five stars, so it is definitely worth the time and money. On to the review...

This is definitely a character-driven novel, which I relish. There is also a compelling plot, but I enjoy how deeply we experience the characters' thoughts and feelings. It's so easy to emotionally connect to Casper and Raina, feel their frustrations and hopes. As much as I love the other books, Casper is my favorite of the Christiansen siblings. His personality is so appealing- compassionate, adventuresome, faithful, yet still a little lost as a middle child in a family of vibrant personalities. At the beginning of the book is a letter from Ingrid, Casper's mother, to her son- expressing her love and understanding of him and his strengths and weaknesses. I appreciate the insight going into the story because it helps the reader identify some of the motivations behind his choices and actions.

Raina is strong, making the best of her situation while also owning her mistakes. Her work for the antique shop is interesting and her boss Gust is a sweet and quirky addition to the cast of friendly townspeople. It is frustrating when she doesn't view herself with any self-worth, but her spiritual journey is inspiring. The local mystery she unearths is a great catalyst for connecting with Casper, and they both discover what their true treasure is despite the adversity that is trying to keep them apart.
 (Thank you to the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

“If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, require more of us than we ever dreamed, then it’s not the unconditional, divine love God intends for us. God’s love is not cautious, not wise, not sensible, and not remotely conservative. In fact, loving another person the way God loves them is the greatest adventure we can have.”
-John Christiansen, Always on My Mind by Susan May Warren


Susan May Warren's Christiansen Family series

 By the way, are these not the most beautiful covers?! 
I can't wait to read Amelia's story in the upcoming 'The Wonder of You'!!!

About the Author

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors. Visit MyBookTherapy.com to learn more. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at www.susanmaywarren.com

Review: Colorful Cooking: Healthy and Fun Recipes That Kids Can Make by Jacque Wick

Colorful Cooking: Healthy and Fun Recipes That Kids Can Make by Jacque Wick

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing



Finally, a fun and easy way to get your children to eat more fruits and veggies—and cook everything themselves! Youngsters will learn all about nutrition and healthful living as they cook their way through the rainbow with yummy recipes like Blueberry Pancakes, Sweet Potato Fries, and Pineapple Sherbet. Each recipe includes nourishing, colorful ingredients and step-by-step photos to guide your child to a lifetime of wholesome eating.

My Review

This is such a fun book for cooking with kids! The recipes have at least one ingredient to make the finished product colorful- like adding broccoli and carrots to a quesadilla. The sections are divided by color, with three to four recipes each. My 8 year old daughter instantly busted out the sticky notes and marked the recipes she wanted to try first... and twelve sticky notes later she had a hard time deciding what to make for our review :) She finally chose the "orange" recipe called Bunny Hop Float, which consisted of spicing up carrot juice with cinnamon and vanilla, sweetening it with a little agave nectar, and dropping in a scoop of ice cream.

For some reason I kept calling it Bunny Hop Shake in my head, so instead of making a float we blended it... oops! We had so much fun together in the kitchen and look forward to trying several more recipes from Colorful Cooking! The pictures are bright and professional, the ingredients simple, healthy, and tasty, and instructions easy to follow. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to spend time in the kitchen with their kids and want to keep it stress-free for mom and fun for kids.

(Thank you to Cedar Fort Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Giveaway and Review: Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

Be sure to enter to win a copy of Sabotaged at the end of this post!

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing



Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now paired together on Yancey's search-and-rescue canine unit, they begin to put aside old arguments as they come to see each other in a different light. Then a call comes in from the Iditarod that will push them to their limits.

Kirra's uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing. Frank's daughter has been kidnapped. In order to save her, the man must use his knowledge as a mechanical engineer to do the kidnapper's bidding or she will die. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl's life, but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.

My Review

Wow, thrilling adventure and mystery is what Dani Pettrey is skilled at writing! It was so hard to put down the book when real life called, and I devoured it in all my spare time and late into the night :) I thoroughly enjoyed Reef and Kirra's story, the last of the Alaskan Courage series. Sabotaged has all the vital elements that the previous books have- romance, family loyalty, extreme adventure and a dangerous mystery to be solved- yet the story is fresh, unique, and compelling. The banter and tension between Reef and Kirra is interesting as their eyes are opened to see new sides to the other throughout their journey. Their friendship deepens as they trust and protect each other, and the long-held mutual but hidden admiration quickly develops into stronger feelings as they race to find the villains threatening them and their loved ones. The spiritual themes are handled well as Reef continually turns to the Lord for guidance and Kirra's faith is tested and strengthened through the adversity.

(Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)


The Sabotaged Pinterest board has dozens of great images and links on character inspiration, the Iditarod, and Alaska

Don't forget to enter the Heart of Adventure sweepstakes celebrating the release of Sabotaged!

Alaskan Courage is an amazing series! Be sure to read all the books, definitely in order since each book sets up the characters and plot for the following one. I gave them all 4 or 5 stars, but my favorite is Piper and Landon's story in Shattered!

About the Author

Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the acclaimed author of the romantic suspense series Alaskan Courage, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, and her latest release, Sabotaged. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters’ faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their daughters, son-in-law, and super-adorable grandson.

Connect with Dani Pettrey

Thursday, February 5, 2015

E-book sale! 99 cents for Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay!


Download Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay for only 99 cents! This is a fabulous deal so get it before it ends (not sure when...)



Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane's needs, Elizabeth's powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Giveaway Hop! Enter to win Love Without End by Robin Lee Hatcher

Romance is in the Air Giveaway Hop
Featuring Young Adult & Clean Adult Romance
Happy Valentine's Day! Enter for a chance to win Love Without End by Robin Lee Hatcher, then check out the other blogs in the giveaway hop for more chances to win!

Monday, February 2, 2015

E-book sale: 99 cents for The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron


Download The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron for only 99 cents!
I've heard this is an amazing book. It has so many 5 star reviews on Goodreads and a personal recommendation from my cousin Marisa who has excellent taste :)



A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz--and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl--a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover--the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul--who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

Enter the Heart of Adventure Sweepstakes!

Celebrate the release of Dani Pettrey's newest book Sabotaged by entering the Heart of Adventure Sweepstakes!

Enter the HEART OF ADVENTURE Sweepstakes from Author Dani Pettrey

About the Sweepstakes

In SABOTAGED, the fifth and final book of author Dani Pettrey’s award-winning Alaskan Courage series, Kirra Jacobs and Reef McKenna experience the high stakes of Iditarod search-and-rescue when Kirra’s uncle, a musher in the race, goes missing.

Kirra and Reef put aside their differences to search for him, but what they discover is harrowing: Frank’s daughter Meg has been kidnapped, and Frank must do the kidnapper’s bidding or Meg will die.

Soon Kirra, Reef, and the entire McKenna family are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl’s life, but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.

To celebrate their epic race, Dani and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the HEART OF ADVENTURE SWEEPSTAKES, and your chance to win one of three marvelous prizes, all closely connected to the story.

Timeframe & Notifications:
This giveaway starts February 2, 2015 and ends February 22, 2015 @ 11:59 pm (PST).
Entry is open to US residents only, age 18 and over. Winners will be selected Monday, February 23, 2015, and announced at DaniPettrey.com.

About the Prizes
Heart of Adventure Sweepstakes Grand PrizeGRAND PRIZE:
During their cross-country hunt for answers, Kirra and Reef stop to rest at a gorgeous mountain lodge in Denali that holds special memories for Reef. This prize offers you a chance to build your own special memories, with a luxurious lodge getaway for two.
Our Grand Prize winner will receive: A $250 gift certificate to Hotels.com, good for reservations at lodges and hotels across the Continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, and numerous International locations

Heart of Adventure Sweepstakes Second PrizeSECOND PRIZE:
In the Alaskan Courage series, Kirra is the proud owner of Nanook Haven, a rescue shelter for sled dogs. In real life, animals need rescue as well, and this prize will allow you to give a special gift to support an organization like Kirra’s.
Our Second Prize winner will receive: A $150 donation in your name, to the animal rescue, shelter, or veterinarian of your choice

Heart of Adventure Sweepstakes Third PrizeTHIRD PRIZE:
In SABOTAGED, Kirra and Reef take shelter in a snow cave while hiding from a man determined to put them on ice– permanently! Luckily, Kirra has a survival kit, to help them make it through the sub-zero temperatures.
If you prefer a little more romance and a little less suspense in your survival kit, this is the prize for you.
Our Third Prize winner will receive: A $100 value sweetheart survival pack. This gift basket includes double chocolate raspberry cake, smoked salmon, brie cheese and crackers, and a wide variety of gourmet snacks

How to Enter:
Go to http://www.danipettrey.com/heart-of-adventure-sweepstakes/ and complete the entry box, anytime between February 2 – 22, 2015.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

 The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing



Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. 

When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

My Review

LOVED IT! I envisioned Abigail as a slightly younger Anne Elliot from Austen's Persuasion, an intelligent daughter dealing with diminished finances, just old enough to be on the brink of spinsterhood yet lovely in her own right, and less impressed with society than her family members.

The adventure of moving into the long uninhabited and mysterious manor kept the pace of the book moving quickly, with bits and pieces of the history of Pembrooke Park are revealed throughout the novel. I enjoyed the friendship that developed between Abigail and the caretaker's warm-hearted family, especially with the youngest daughter who always loved to visit to play with the manor's replica dollhouse.

Even though there is attraction from the start, Abigail and William's strong friendship creates a foundation of trust and loyalty that is tested by the interest of Abigail's beautiful younger sister, her childhood crush, and a distant cousin. I loved how William would often catch Abigail off-guard with a flirtatious comment or adventurous twinkle in his eye. The chemistry between them grows steadily and their special moments are oh-so-romantic!

The author weaves in themes of guilt, forgiveness, family bonds, children dealing with the sins of a father, and choosing earthly treasure or treasures in heaven. This is definitely going to be a book I re-read several times in the future :)

(Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Extra Feature: Book Trailer

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman

Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman

My rating: 3 stars / I liked it



Shy and unattractive as a child, Megan McClare has always been teased by her classmates. But when she returns home from her senior year in Paris, the wallflower has suddenly blossomed into a beauty. With ambitions to become a lawyer or doctor, Megan accepts an internship at the district attorney's office only to discover that she will be working with Devin Caldwell, a boy who mercilessly mocked her at school--and with whom she was hopelessly enamored. She turns to her dear friend Bram Hughes for support and advice. But Bram's vision is clouded by his sudden unwelcome attraction to a girl he had always thought of as a kid sister. He advises forgiveness, but can he forgive himself for pushing the woman he loves into the arms of another man?

My Review

Like the other books in this series, the premise sounded fun but some things prevented me from fully enjoying the novel. Megan is an intelligent and dynamic character, but it bothered me that the unspoken message was that her confidence and self-worth came because of her physical transformation, and the reactions of the other characters reinforced the notion that a person must fit society's ideal of beauty to be able make a difference in the world. She is compassionate and forgiving, but also naively trusts in a relationships with red flags all over it. Bram's personal history was interesting to learn, but the way it prevented him from accepting his attraction for Megan was frustrating since he seemed smarter than that. There is also finally a conclusion to the three-book long angst-fest between Megan's mother and Uncle Logan, thank goodness.

(Thank you to Revell Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Keeping Kate by Lauren Winder Farnsworth

Keeping Kate by Lauren Winder Farnsworth

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it



Orphan Kate Evans is determined to make a life for herself on a Utah ranch, taking care of a little girl named Addie. But when she meets her irritable employer, Kate is forced to confront the past she's been running from—and face a future she never dreamed possible. This latter-day twist on the classic Jane Eyre is a romantic and gripping read.

My Review

While it took some time for me to get into the book (I think because Kate spends the first chapter recounting her personal history in a detached manner) once the "irritable employer" Tyler makes his appearance, things started to get really interesting! Kate morphs from dry to feisty as she has a cause to champion- the little girl Addie that she's come to love and Tyler's treatment of her. The chemistry between Kate and Tyler is great as they spar and banter, fight then eventually give in to the mutual attraction.

I enjoyed seeing the story lines match up with those from Jane Eyre, but there are also twists that bring some surprises. For a character that started out so unemotional, Kate becomes an emotional mess as she navigates for the first time the drama and heartbreak of romantic relationships. The friends she makes that support her through these turbulent times are quirky and likeable, and add more depth to Kate's new experience of friendship and loyalty.

This book can be enjoyed by any lover of Christian fiction, however there are references to the Mormon faith since Kate is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

(Thank you to Cedar Fort Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)