Posted in Book reviews, Revell Reads

“The Theory of Happily Ever After” by Kristin Billerbeck ~ Review

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“The Theory of Happily Ever After” by Kristin Billerbeck

Review copy from publishers// I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

 

 

About the Book:

 

According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious science, as serious as Maggie takes herself. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies–for instance, why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream-fueled chick flick binge.

Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart.

Filled with memorable characters, snappy dialogue, and touching romance, Kristin Billerbeck’s The Theory of Happily Ever After shows that the search for happiness may be futile–because sometimes happiness is already out there searching for you.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I love the simplicity and coloring of the cover! It’s cute, and gives you a glimpse at the story’s theme too. 
And the story was a fun one. It was a perfect light read that I needed – and humorous! I laughed out loud a couple of times. :D 
Dr. Maggie Maguire is a happiness-doctor, studying and sharing the science of happiness. But to tell you the truth, she is pretty miserable. Disaster seems to surround her at every turn and the reader definitely does feel sorry for her. And yet there were definitely times where I wanted to yell at her and tell her what to do! But there were also reasons behind what she did, which made her actions – good and bad – more understandable. Even if they were sometimes frustrating. ;)
I felt for her in her quest for a Happily Ever After. Most girls do dream of a fairy-tale romance. Also relatable: her watching so many romances and eating gelato. XD
Her friends meant the best for her in their actions. I liked Kathleen and her way of speaking it like it was. I liked Haley at first. *SPOILER* but as the story went on, oh how I wanted to slap her around a bit. I’m sorry, but I did. She was a tantruming child who didn’t get her way, and she was accusing Maggie of being a bad friend when really, she was being the bad friend. Yeah, she bugged me to say the least. ^.^ *END OF SPOILER*
I liked Sam. I liked how he was drawn to Maggie at once, even if he could be rude. He was still quite hero-ish through the whole thing.
Though I know it’s considered normal in the “real world”, to me it was odd how there were many intimate moments yet so much confusion and running apart/away afterwards…and I felt bad for Maggie and her view, I guess you would call it, on kissing. That someone needs to be kissed first to know someone’s true commitment. And again, I know that is kind of normal – supposedly kisses mean nothing, but in my opinion, they are significant and shouldn’t be thrown around willy-nilly.
That is not to say this was not a clean book though – the kisses were not ridiculous or super detailed at all, and didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, which I appreciated.
Another thing I appreciated in this book was how she came to the realization that she couldn’t be everything to everyone. Amen. It’s so easy to slip into the people-pleasing role that we lose sight of what really matters. That being said, there could have been more focus on us needing to please God first and foremost. There were mentions of God sprinkled throughout the book, and Bible verses mentioned, however, I wouldn’t really say it was a deeply Christian book. It was Christian in its essence, but not really in its portrayal. The characters did not bear the fruits of being a Christian, and while no one is perfect (obviously!), there wasn’t even much shown for trying. I guess, to me, the whole idea of happiness being a science we can achieve is a bit…dare I say, silly. Because true happiness – true joy – comes from Jesus Christ. Every other way of happiness is fleeting and not as fulfilling.
For it being a ‘light read’ I do realize I analyzed it a bit – definitely something Maggie and I have in common! ;)
I would like to restate that I did definitely enjoy this book. It was a fun read, and I would even read it again. I just can’t shut my brain off totally when it comes to reviewing. :D
Quotes:
“That’s why, Dr. Maguire, you need to count your blessings. Sometimes, getting your heart broken is the best thing that can happen to you.”
“That’s the thing about resilience. You have to know pain to feel the incredible high of coming back from the darkness.”
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Posted in Book reviews, Revell Reads

“Missing Isaac” by Valerie Fraser Luesse ~ Book Review

“Missing Isaac” by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Review copy from Publishers

My Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars

 

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About the Book:

 

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most–will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

 

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My Thoughts:

Set in the south, “Missing Isaac” gave a very interesting look into life during the 1960’s, in a town where both rich and poor, black and white, consisted. What first drew me to this debut novel was the time period – I don’t see a lot of Christian fiction set during the 1960’s, so that immediately caught my attention along with the fact that I’ve been looking for more CF set during this time. :) However, this was primarily a southern 1960’s view and what they had to go through, not so much the 1960’s that first comes to mind.
The story follows Pete, who starts out as a young boy who just lost his father in a tragic accident. One of his father’s workers, Isaac, becomes the father-figure Pete looks up to and learns from, deepening their bond of friendship, but then Isaac goes missing, leaving Pete to grieve again.
The title of the book is a little deceiving in the way that the story doesn’t focus entirely on the title’s name. It’s included, but I didn’t feel like it was the main focal point.
There was a thread of mystery as we waited to find out what happened to Isaac, and it was good to see it concluded in the end, but overall the storyline was about Pete McLean. Having said that, the storyline of Pete was good and interesting. I enjoyed it.
I loved the character Dovey, and especially Pete and Dovey’s relationship throughout the book – that was absolutely touching and endearing.
I also liked that it was realistic. And that Pete’s family were honest that life is hard, but we learn from our trials, and honor God through them.
It was a good and enjoyable debut book. :)
Posted in Book reviews, Revell Reads, Reviews

“Vanishing Point” by Lisa Harris ~ Book Review

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“Vanishing Point” by Lisa Harris

A Nikki Boyd Files novel

Review copy from Revell Publishing Review Program

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars

 

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About the Book:

During Garrett Addison’s first week on the job as a criminal investigator for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, his team is called out to a murder scene of a young girl. She’s the third victim in a string of disappearances with one thing in common–a Polaroid photo of each victim left behind at the crime scene.

The FBI is pulled into the case to help, and Garrett finds himself working with Special Agent Jordan Lambert, the woman he once loved. When yet another girl dies–number six–Garrett blames himself and believes he doesn’t have what it takes to be an agent. What he’ll discover is that, while he may be done with the killer, the killer is not done with him–or Jordan.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Harris unveils an unforgettable story of a case that has haunted the public and law enforcement for more than a decade. Fans of the Nikki Boyd Files will thrill to finally discover what actually happened to Nikki’s sister, Sarah. New readers will become instant fans after devouring this chilling tale.

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My Thoughts:

 

What a conclusion to this riveting series!
“Vanishing Point” was a unique twist from the first three Nikki Boyd series, and easily captivated my attention from the get-go. Instead of it being from the point of view of Nikki Boyd, the novel starts out some years previous to one of the first abductions in the Angel Abductor’s Case, with the point of view coming from two detectives/agents, Garrett, and Jordan.
Initially I was a bit sad to find it wasn’t Nikki Boyd front and center, but it actually worked really well being this way, and it gave a lot more insight into the case itself, stringing over numerous years until we reached present-day.
The mystery held strong to the very end, and tensions were high. Definitely another action-packed novel!
This series has definitely been a favourite, and while I am really glad to see how it ended, I am a bit sad to find that it’s over. The Nikki Boyd Files certainly brought us on quite the epic journey!
The characters in Vanishing Point were well constructed, just like the first three books. And the creepiness level was definitely there in the serial killer aspect.
It was almost hard watching how the relationship of Garrett and Jordan danced along, but it was very realistic, and don’t worry….it came with a happy conclusion!
The faith thread was also well-executed, beautifully and realistically portrayed.
“Vanishing Point” is a very satisfying finish to a fantastic series, and I am very impressed and pleased with Lisa Harris’ writing ability! Definitely will be eagerly waiting for whatever she has next in store. :)
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Quotes:

 
 
“I’m realizing that sometimes you can’t fix people or relationships. Sometimes all you can fix is yourself. You have to forgive them, love them, and then move on. It’s wha I’m going to have to do.” 
“Over the past decade, Garrett had come to realize more and more that his faith couldn’t rely on what was happening around him, or whether or not he understood how God worked. His faith had to rely on God Himself – who never changed – even when he didn’t understand what God was doing.” 
Posted in Book reviews, Revell Reads

Book review: “Justice Buried” by Patricia Bradley

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“Justice Buried” by Patricia Bradley

A Memphis Cold Case Novel

Review copy from the publishers through the Revell Reads Program

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

 

About the Book:

In an effort to get her security consulting business off the ground, Kelsey Allen has been spending a lot of time up in the air, rappelling down buildings and climbing through windows to show business owners their vulnerabilities to thieves. When she is hired to pose as a conservator at the Pink Palace Museum in order to test their security weaknesses after some artifacts go missing, she’s ecstatic. But when her investigative focus turns from theft to murder, Kelsey knows she’s out of her league–and possibly in the cross hairs. When blast-from-the-past Detective Brad Hollister is called in to investigate, Kelsey may find that he’s the biggest security threat yet . . . to her heart.

Crackling with romantic tension and laced with intrigue, this suspenseful story from award-winning author Patricia Bradley will keep readers guessing–and looking over their shoulders.

My Thoughts:

 

“Justice Buried” is apparently the second book in a series, but I found that it was pretty easy to read as a stand-alone. There were a couple instances where you knew they were referring to the first book, but not in a way that was confusing or made you think you had to read the first one first. :) I’m sure it’s probably best enjoyed to be read that way, but since I didn’t know, I don’t feel like I was unable to still enjoy the story as it was.
Full of mystery and suspense, you were wondering who the murderer was right till the end.
It was an enjoyable book, and kept me interested to find out what happened to the characters. I like Kelsey and Brad, but I think their relationship development could’ve been strengthened a bit, and the ending seemed a tiny bit rushed. But this book does fit in with its genre of Romantic Suspense, and yet it was quite clean which I appreciated a great deal.
That being said, this book I would classify more as a clean book than a Christian book. There were a couple mentions of characters attending church and a random verse thrown out once, but that was it, and the whole thread of faith was not present – very buried if it was there. That disappointed me, but I do still appreciate that it was at least clean.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers. All thoughts presented in this review are my own.
Posted in Book reviews, Revell Reads, Reviews

Book Review: “The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck” by Bethany Turner

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“The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck” by Bethany Turner

Releases October 3rd, 2017 (today!!)

Review copy from the author/publishers; launch team copy.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

 

About the Book:

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life

 

My Thoughts:

 

This book was adorable. The writing style was truly so great, and I was just drawn right in by the first chapter. It was so…readable. :) The style felt so unique and yet still so familiar to my own. And the story – oh my goodness, I had so many giggles throughout it. This was a book where I literally laughed out loud. Which then caused my family to question my sanity a tiny bit, but more so they wanted to know what I was laughing at. So yes, I had to read some parts out loud, and they giggled right alongside me! Sarah was hysterical in so many ways. From her crazy “What if??” scenarios, to her panicked reaction to things. And very relatable in those instances. Her character really was a gem to read.
Piper! Oh Piper, I loved her so much. Will she get her own story, Bethany? Please? She was like *the best* friend. So grounded, so joyful, and so loyal. Yep, loved her.
Ben. Um, yeah he was kinda perfect. Not like unrealistically perfect. But Bible-Nerd cute perfect. You can see why she fell for him right away.
The characters were all so well-written, and like-able (except Patrick…and one or two others that are supposed to be unlikeable. :D). This book was just a lot of fun to read.
So, the only “downside” to this book for me, what made this a 4.5 instead of 5 for me was Sarah’s obsession with sex. Yes, I expected a bit of that, seeing the plot of the story. And for the most part, it was handled really well and tastefully (going from a “steamy romance” novelist to a Christian…tricky transition that would be! But like I said, it was handled well!). And there wasn’t the “shame” that often comes when Christians have to deal with anything sex-related. However, that seemed to be Sarah’s driving point – when could she be together sexually with Ben? It couldn’t be soon enough for her, and sometimes that seemed like the only reason she wanted to be with him. No, I know that’s not true – she was in love with him for more reasons than that, but that was definitely a focal point that got stronger towards the end. There was nothing really inappropriate, but it was…edgy? That’s why I would recommend only for mature readers, because well, there’s a fair amount of sex talk. And for me personally, I don’t think it was all totally necessary. No, sex is not a shameful thing, and like I said, I was impressed that the author didn’t make it so, but I also don’t think it needs to be the focal point of a book, if that makes sense. And I know everyone’s preference on this one is different. I’m just stating this for others who feel as I do. :)
But that aside, it was a really adorable book, and I dearly loved it, enjoying it so very much. Author Bethany Turner writes with such wit, you can’t help but smile and laugh along, and it still deals with tougher aspects of life.
Oh, and the cover…!!! I can’t end my review without saying something about that. The cover for “The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck” is superb. Spot on. Brilliant. Amazing. Basically, I’m in love with it. As soon as I received my copy, held it in my hands, I was practically drooling over it. So beautiful! <3

 

(I created the first two – flower pot, and pink background – and the other graphic is from the author herself. :))

Posted in Book reviews, Revell Reads

“A Matter of Trust” by Susan May Warren ~ Book Review

(click on image to go to its amazon page)

“A Matter of Trust” by Susan May Warren

Book Three in the Montana Rescue Series

Review copy source: Revell Publishers Program

My rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

 

 

About the Book:

Champion backcountry snowboarder Gage Watson has left the limelight behind after the death of one of his fans. After being sued for negligence and stripped of his sponsorships, he’s remade his life as a ski patrol in Montana’s rugged mountains, as well as serving on the PEAK Rescue team. But he can’t seem to find his footing–or forget the woman he loved, who betrayed him. 

Senator and former attorney Ella Blair spends much of her time in the limelight as the second-youngest senator in the country. But she has a secret–one that cost Gage his career. More than anything, she wants to atone for her betrayal of him in the courtroom and find a way to help him put his career back on track. 

When Ella’s brother goes missing on one of Glacier National Park’s most dangerous peaks, Gage and his team are called in for the rescue. But Gage isn’t so sure he wants to help the woman who destroyed his life. More, when she insists on joining the search, he’ll have to keep her safe while finding her reckless brother, a recipe for disaster when a snowstorm hits the mountain. 

But old sparks relight as they search for the missing snowboarder–and suddenly, they are faced with emotions neither can deny. But when Ella’s secret is revealed, can they learn to trust each other–even when disaster happens again?

 

 

My Thoughts:

This series has been just excellent. And so easy to get caught up in and then get lost in!
“A Matter of Trust” was full of adventure, danger, and a good romance.
I hadn’t previously read many “Search and Rescue” series before this one, but my was it gripping! And now I’m even more excited to read SMW’s other SAR books.
But yes, this book. I loved the snowy setting because I love the cold. And spending time in a cold book made me imagine it was just a little colder here. ;)
Gage is a very strong character. I wasn’t sure if I’d fall in love with him as a character or not at first, but I shouldn’t have worried at all. Out of the three book heroes of this series I think maybe he’s at the top of my list…it’s hard to decide for sure though, because I love Sam as well, and Pete, and Ty…Okay, so these books have swoonworthy characters.
And the leading gals! They’re amazing. Ella was a very likeable character, and I could relate to her in her desires to be “perfect” before God but realizing that even if we’re not perfect, He loves us anyway – unconditionally.
And that brings me to the faith strand. These books are pretty short, but there’s always a faith strand, which is a big draw for me. And while they are not super loud, they are also not just sideline plots either – the message is woven in the story and touched on throughout it. It’s gentle and beautiful. Trust was the theme of this book, of course, and I really appreciated this as it was a much-needed reminder for me. We can trust God in ALL things, because He is good in ALL things. Love that lesson!
So yes, I very much enjoyed this book – loved it, in fact. This series, if you haven’t gathered, has made me very happy. :)
Don't for a minute that God has forgotten about you or doesn't have your back. And don't base God's love or desire to help you or your opinion of yourself. Base it on who God says He is.
“I have a feeling God put us exactly where we needed to be to get away, so – no, I don’t hear any laughter. I hear God saying, “You messed up, but that doesn’t mean I did. Trust Me.”” Pg 187
“Her words echoed back to her about God, ‘You messed up, but that doesn’t mean I did. Trust Me.’ She wasn’t sure where they’d come from, but they lingered, hung on.
Maybe that was the key – just because she’d made a mistake with her life didn’t mean that God has, and it hopefully didn’t change the way God saw her. Still flawed but worth loving anyway.And if God loved her despite her failures, maybe she could let go of trying to control everything, start trusting Him.” pg 197
Posted in Book reviews, Revell Reads

“Under a Summer Sky” by Melody Carlson ~ Book Review

“Under a Summer Sky” by Melody Carlson

Book Three in the Follow Your Heart Series

Review copy from the publishers through Revell Reads Program

My Rating: 2.5/3  out of 5 Stars

 

About the Book:

High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Savannah, house-sitting and managing an art gallery for a family friend. The house is luxurious in a way that only old money could make it, and the gallery promises interesting days in a gorgeous setting. Yet it isn’t long before her ideal summer turns into more than she bargained for: a snooty gallery employee who’s determined to force her out, a displaced adolescent roosting in the attic, and two of Nicole’s close childhood friends–who also happen to be brothers–vying for her attention.

With a backdrop of a beautiful historical city, incredible architecture, and even an alleged ghost or two, combined with the opportunity for romance . . . anything can happen!

Bestselling and award-winning author Melody Carlson invites readers to spend the summer surrounded by beauty and tantalizing possibilities for the future.

 

My Thoughts:

There was some aspects of this book that I enjoyed, and some that I did not. I also didn’t know this was the third in a series (the review program didn’t say I don’t believe), but it seemed to stand on its own just fine.
High school art teacher, Nicole, is from Seatle but accepts a summer job managing a gallery for a family friend down in Savanna. She is charmed by the southern town, and enjoys the scenery but her summer isn’t without difficulties as she deals with a co-worker and possibly un-wanted attention from a once-upon-a-time crush.
What I liked: The gallery. This actually surprised me, because art isn’t really my thing, but I found the scenes where she was working very interesting. I liked Ryan right away, and Bernie was a good character too. Possible SPOILER—-  I liked Nicole’s relationship with Ryan the best – that and the gallery is what mainly kept me reading; to find how where that led. END of SPOILER.
What I didn’t like: I wouldn’t catagorize this as a Christian book – pretty clean yes, but not necessarily Christian – it’s one of those books that the author is Christian, so a character may “say a prayer” real quick, but it is devoid of any true faith, which I find disheartening.
I didn’t care for Alex, but that is a personal preference I suppose. However, the love-triangle thing was a bit annoying – not as bad as I first expected though, so at least there was that. And what bothered me the most besides the missing faith (which is the most important element of a book in my opinion) was the almost obsessed fascination and acceptance of ‘ghosts’. Those are not something to play around with, because even what they described as ghost occurances are often  demonic. They made light of the whole ghost thing, making it a ‘cutesy’ part of the story, but I just don’t agree with that. While I do not believe in the “ooooh ghosts!”, I do believe the reality of demons.
In conclusion:
This book was an easy read – I was able to read it in just a couple sittings. And it does hold your attention pretty well, but for me it was more of a ‘fluffy’ book than anything.
(Also bummed they didn’t include Vivian’s return in the story – I would’ve liked to read how that went!).