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Dec 31, 2012

Against The Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Monday, December 31, 2012

Against The Tide by Elizabeth Camden
Christian Historical Fiction
Bethany House, October 2012
Paperback 362 pages
Review copy provided by publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Love and Lives are Threatened in Camden's Latest Offering
As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she's finally carved out a perfect life for herself--a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or "Bane," a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head.

Just as Bane's charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia's part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden quickly draws you into its story of a young girl orphaned, abandoned, maltreated but still manages to hold her own in the busy town of Boston. Though described as quirks, Lydia's insecurities are justifiably tangible, and her strong character is easily likable. What's not to love about a young lady who can interpret many languages? It was a man's world in the US Navy circa 1891, but Lydia's strengths cannot be overlooked during crucial times of naval development. Her boss, Admiral Fontaine, has women keening for him left and right and luckily for Lydia he is willing to vouch for her. (I can see Darcy material in him).

But even he is not perfect, and that's where Bane steps in. With the Adonis as his moniker, he sweeps Lydia off her feet as she throws caution to the wind to help Bane's attempts at thwarting a vicious opium dealer known as The Professor. Very ominous tones illuminate this suspenseful plot as we still hope that somehow Lydia can find a knight in shining armor and finally care for her. I loved the plot lines, and the faith questions as they meandered through the intense journey of love, hope, betrayal and vindication. I can only imagine that I would have enjoyed the story even more (hardly possible) if I had the time to read the previous book by Elizabeth Camden (The Lady of Bolton Hill) which also included Bane, but it is certainly going on my to be read pile!

Edited to add that Against The Tide was a 2013 Christy Award WINNER in the Historical Romance category! Congrats!

Dec 30, 2012

It's Suddenly Sunday with Monday Memes!

Sunday, December 30, 2012
The Sunday

Visit Svea's blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to start linking up your Sunday posts! Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea whose purpose is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week. I will be combining my Sunday/Monday memes here.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted at Suko's Notebook during December.

In the Mail....
I finally received The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen which I was waiting on forever... (and I want next year's book NOW)

Jan 1 2013
Award-Winning Regency Romance from Bestselling Author Julie Klassen

Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.
When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor's daughter figure out which brother to blame...and which brother to trust with her heart?

And on Kindle I snagged some freebies, but the one I actually spent money on was
A Woodland Christmas: Four Couples Find Love in the Piney Woods of East Texas (Romancing America) [Kindle Edition]
by Tamela Hancock Murray, Ramona K. Cecil, Darlene Franklin, Janelle Mowery

Experience a nostalgic Christmas in the Piney Woods of East Texas where a traveling wood-carver dispenses wisdom that brings four couples to realize the gift of love. Can Bridget show Seth how to forgive? Will Mary see Joseph live up to his promise? Can Seth steer Emma away from the need for vengeance? Will R. C. help Gabriella find her grandfather?

And I also bought the last book needed to complete my Susanna Kearsley collection:

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

When Eva's film star sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina's ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs.

But Eva must also confront the ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. For the house where she so often stayed as a child is home not only to her old friends the Halletts, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. When Eva finally accepts that she is able to slip between centuries and see and talk to the inhabitants from hundreds of years ago, she soon finds herself falling for Daniel Butler, a man who lived--and died--long before she herself was born.

Eva begins to question her place in the present, and in laying her sister to rest, comes to realise that she too must decide where she really belongs, choosing between the life she knows and the past she feels so drawn towards.

What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

This past week I finished up Against The Tide by Elizabeth Camden and then The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James (I sped through this one), which are both titles I would highly recommend. Reviews coming very soon!

And then I started The Tutor's Daughter (see In The Mail above) and since I LOVED Klassen's previous novel The Maid of Fairbourne Hall last year, I wanted to make this new one last. I told myself to read it slowly and savor my relationships with these new characters. Sadly, I am almost done with it as I type. Fantastic stuff. You KNOW something is good when you receive and read a review book within a span of 4 days.
Fun tidbit, I was quoted on the back of The Tutor's Daughter from the review I wrote of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall  but since it was written for Historical Novel Society, they got the credit, instead of it saying MARIE MARIE MARIE.. lol... they would never have chosen the quote if it was just from plain old blogger at Burton Book Review; I know they use 'big' name review lists like Kirkus, Booklist, and, alas, Historical Novel Reviews to use as blurbs & quotes... But, I wanted to give myself a shout out anyway and make myself feel better. Makes mental note to review less for HNS =)

Adding the last two books I've read (and then add Klassen's) to my year end totals, I read about 80 books and over 30,000 pages! I am very pleased with those numbers, but I don't expect 2013 to be quite so awesome with high numbers as I plan on doing some other things besides reading and reviewing in 2013 =) Which it seems I'm already inching towards that trend, as my last review was posted on December 11, over two weeks ago!

To wrap up the year:
and lastly, an awesome challenge that I actually hope to complete! 2013 TBR Pile

Thank you to everyone who has subscribed and followed the blog this year, I know there are a lot of new people and many of my regular followers and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making this blog worthwhile for me. I appreciate it! I feel so special being a book blogger and part of this community. Thank you!! Today, Sunday, is my FOUR YEAR Anniversary! Amazing! What a ride it's been and I look forward to 2013!
Happy New Year from Marie
Happy New Year!

Dec 27, 2012

2012 Year End Survey

Thursday, December 27, 2012
Yes, I already did a Best of 2012 post, and then I did a Wrap Up Post, but I just discovered all these fabulous questions that are hosted by Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner and I thought you might get a kick out of it, and maybe join in the fun along with me!

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)
Hemingway's Girl touched me. I don't know why or what it was, but I felt like I was THERE and that Hemingway should have been my man. I had other favorites, but I mention a few more of my favorites in other questions below.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggg. Did not finish. Plus, when there are approximately 4,666,232,852 other reviews online, it seems less important that I review it. Especially since it was a personal copy and not a free review copy. It became so easy to ignore.
The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony (One gripe is that I am not a dog person, and there was a point of view from a dog; definitely unexpected when I was looking forward to a cast of lace makers). Thank God this was a short book. With a very short abrupt ending to top it off.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
Central Park Rendezvous, of the Romancing America series. Historical stories but told by four different authors so it was like novellas turned into one book! I was skeptical, but I loved it.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
Probably it was Code Name Verity, since it could appeal to many different readers and I devoured it pretty quickly (while ignoring the family, which is a rare feat and goes to show how great this book was).

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?
Without a doubt, the Secrets of The Cross Trilogy by Elizabeth Musser. Fantastic story that was beyond epic with love, war and faith all at once with unforgettable characters that I now miss.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
So many great reads this year! I'll say of the new authors that I read this year and will definitely be clamoring to get their next release it would have to be Elizabeth Ludwig (No Safe Harbor), Laurie Alice Eakes (A Necessary Deception, and others), Tamera Alexander, Julie Klassen and Susanna Kearsley.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Out of my comfort zone would have to be The Orphan Master. It was a bit of a historical chiller thriller thing, and even though it wasn't my cuppa tea as it seemed purposely over the top with the shock value, this one got some high praise because of it. I think it's something you have to be in the mood for and thinking back on it, it really was very interesting though I was slightly disturbed while reading it.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
LOVED Julie Klassen's The Maid of Fairbourne Hall.. the Jane Eyre type feel made me turn those pages deep into the night. A great read with a clever mix of themes, I would recommend this to many folks. Pretty sure this one won several literary awards.

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:
I have so many books unread that I rarely reread books within such a short span of time. If I had to pick one to reread, it would be While Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?
I loved the shiny hardcover on The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory. But there weren't any other really truly special covers this year. Reading eBooks and ARCs a lot deters this wow factor for me.

11. Most memorable character in 2012?
AMBER!! Of Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor... wow, she is a crazy bitch.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
Frank Delaney's prose is fantastically mesmerizing. Loved it while reading The Last Storyteller. I am so ready to sink my teeth into some more of his work. If I was able to pick myself a writing teacher, it would be him.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
The aforementioned Secrets of the Cross trilogy by Elizabeth Musser.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
Forever Amber!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?
I don't normally (ever) quote books, and if I was going to now it would be from the Bible since there are tons of good ones there!!

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?
Shortest: Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher, 277 pages (I was like wow, this was a quickie!)
Longest: Forever Amber by 976 pages (I was like wow, I don't want this to end!)

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
I would have loved to have a partner to spout exclamations with during my reading of Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. Bodies being thrown out windows, murderous thoughts towards husbands and other general madness...

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman was full of relationship angst. I was most interested to see how Joanna handled being married to the man who was the adversary to her father, King John.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously:
Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck, and I LOVED her previous release Receive Me Falling as well.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Code Name Verity. It was spreading on the YA blogs like wildfire, and even I noticed =).

 1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2012?
Estella's Revenge, by Andi Miller, as she writes with honesty and wit. Also, I am in awe since I think she sort of emulates what it is like to be a book blogger without a review schedule, which is where I wanna be soon.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2012?
It was probably for A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir, as I didn't have a clue how to cull the long review and I had to get alot off my chest. Still don't know which way I leaned towards my final feelings of the book. Some parts seemed so silly that it ruined the rest of the book, but then if I was not so critical maybe I would've loved it.. LOL see, I can't even minimize this answer.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
Eh, nothing too earth shattering here. I post reviews, and that's pretty much it. =) But when I have rants and I complain, I tend to get support, LOL!!!

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?
Sarah Butterfield's blog comes to mind from this summer. She wrote a review and apparently was called out on it, and there was another reviewer who didn't love a popular author's work and the feeding frenzy began. These events made me re-evaluate why I was even a book blogger, so I decided then and there to stop being a free publicity machine for authors and start going back to the basics of reading for fun.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Armchair BEA this year. Last year I went to an event with Margaret George, but nothing fun went on near me this year.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2012?
Well, I got a nice email from an author recently who applauded my Ranting Review policy. Or maybe it was this one. Grin.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views?)
According to Google Analytics, the most popular post for the year of 2012 is the review of Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham. Of course, the most popular landing page is the domain home page itself, but next up in the 2012 list is Tumbleweeds. The post was from August, so that is indeed popular. And it only has six comments. Oye vey. COMMENT MORE, people!!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
 My reviews. Gah. There are some that go by without a second glance. (Without a comment).
AND my freaking giveaways! There used to be giveaway gimme galore a few years ago, and I guess with the expansion of the blogosphere, a free book or two just isn't so awesome anymore when EVERYONE is doing it. But it aggravates me when it is I who has to stand on line at the post office forever and a day, and the giveaway post didn't get a lot of attention. Yuck.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
My Goodreads iPhone App!!!!!! I love Goodreads in general and always have.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I did a few Read alongs in order to participate more in the blogosphere, but those bombed. I did do a fun event, Armchair BEA, where I participated in almost all of the Twitter Parties and blog posts, and that was tons of fun. There were mostly new bloggers there, and most were of the YA genre, though they welcomed this old maid with open arms. So I wonder if it's an age group who is open to chatting and that older folks are just too busy or too wary to participate or what. The Armchair BEA was not geared towards YA Bloggers, but that was the majority of the participants. I was so excited to see and be a part of their enthusiasm for books and blogging, and I hope I remember to sign up again next time.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2012 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2013?
All those in my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2013?
I am trying not to think of that, because of my goal of below....

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013?
I would like to be able to limit my actual FOR REVIEW books, to a nice manageable number of around 15. That is an ambitious goal for me. The rest of my 40 or so reads need to be books from my neglected personal library of over 900 books.

Dec 23, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday this Christmas week! What Are You Eating, I mean Reading?!

Sunday, December 23, 2012
Merry Christmas!

Firstly, the most important thing is that I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and any other holiday you may observe. It's Jesus' birthday at our house on Christmas, and we are starting a new tradition with a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas. Such fun! Best wishes and blessings to my fellow bloggers this week! And most especially to my commenters and visitors, I thank you all so much for putting up with me and my blog. I appreciate you!!

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted at Suko's Notebook during December.

In the Mail....
From Paperbackswap, check out this chunky book that I won't be able to read until my neck/back issues are gone, it's so heavy..
June 28th 2011 by Random House (first published 2010)
A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman

Acclaimed historian Amanda Foreman follows the phenomenal success of her New York Times bestseller Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire with her long-awaited second work of nonfiction: the fascinating story of the American Civil War and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle.

Even before the first rumblings of secession shook the halls of Congress, British involvement in the coming schism was inevitable. Britain was dependent on the South for cotton, and in turn the Confederacy relied almost exclusively on Britain for guns, bullets, and ships. The Union sought to block any diplomacy between the two and consistently teetered on the brink of war with Britain. For four years the complex web of relationships between the countries led to defeats and victories both minute and history-making. In A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman examines the fraught relations from multiple angles while she introduces characters both humble and grand, bringing them to vivid life over the course of her sweeping and brilliant narrative.

Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman has woven together their experiences to form a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. Through the eyes of these brave volunteers we see the details of the struggle for life and the great and powerful forces that threatened to demolish a nation.

In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America. A World on Fire is a complex and groundbreaking work that will surely cement Amanda Foreman’s position as one of the most influential historians of our time.

988 pages folks. I had no idea.
Ok, takes breath, moves on to the next book, a lovely surprise...
(first published 1952)  January 1st 2013 by Touchstone
The Italian Woman by Jean Plaidy (Catherine de Medici #2, comes after Madame Serpent)

I already have all of the vintage Jean Plaidy books, but it's nice to get the new ones too.

The second book in the classic Catherine de’ Medici trilogy from Jean Plaidy, the grande dame of historical fiction When Catherine de’ Medici was forced to marry Henry, Duke of Orleans, her heart was not the only one that was broken. Jeanne of Navarre once dreamed of marrying this same prince, but, like Catherine, she must comply with France’s political needs. And so both Catherine’s and Jeanne’s lives are set on unwanted paths, destined to cross in affairs of state, love, and faith, driving them to become deadly political rivals.

Years later Jeanne is happily married to the dashing but politically inept Antoine de Bourbon. But the widowed Catherine is now the ambitious mother of princes, and she will do anything to see her beloved second son, Henry, rule France. As civil war ravages the country and Jeanne fights for the Huguenot cause, Catherine advances along her unholy road, making enemies at every turn.

Here Burns My Candle (Here Burns My Candle #1) by Liz Curtis Higgs

A mother who cannot face her future. A daughter who cannot escape her past.
Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.
Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.
His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown.
A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.

And then, check out these kindle freebies, just a few of the good looking ones I snagged:

The Unveiling (Age of Faith) by Tamara Leigh
12th century England: Two men vie for the throne: King Stephen the usurper and young Duke Henry the rightful heir. Amid civil and private wars, alliances are forged, loyalties are betrayed, families are divided, and marriages are made.
For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind—to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed it worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy after all.
Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.

The Gentle Wind's Caress by Anne Brear
Halifax, 1876. On the death of her mother and sister, Isabelle Gibson is left to fend for herself and her brother in a privately-run workhouse. After the matron's son attempts to rape her, Isabelle decides to escape him and a life of drudgery by agreeing to marry a moorland farmer she has never met. But this man, Farrell, is a drunkard and a bully in constant feud with his landlord, Ethan Harrington. When Farrell bungles a robbery and deserts her, Isabelle and Ethan are thrown together as she struggles to save the farm. Both are married and must hide their growing love. But despite the secrecy, Isabelle draws strength from Ethan as faces from the past return to haunt her and a tragedy is set to strike that will change all of their lives forever.

What are you Reading?

The What Are You Reading meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read:

October 2012 by Bethany House Publishers
Ok so pretty much the same as last week.... I spent some time catching up on reading Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden, and it is really an intriguing story. There is faith in it, but I love how it is portrayed here so it is not preachy or counteractive to the story line. There is actually an unexpected sinister twist to the story so this would be a great read for those who like a bit of chilly suspense with their reads. It is taking me a bit longer to read because I simply have not been able to pick it up. I've been spending a lot of time with the Bible since it's that time of year and it is also a goal to finish it by May.
In case you missed it, I posted my Best of 2012 list, and then I posted a 2012 Wrap up post/2013 Goal post. Evil grin.

And upcoming will also be the 2012 Year End Survey, cuz, ya know, I'm bored at work and I'm having fun answering some questions. You can link up too at the Perpetual Page Turner.

Next up on the to be read and reviewed pile is The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James.

And then it will be 2013 (!!) so I will be choosing from my only challenge post of the year, the 2013 TBR Challenge list. I think it will be Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick so I can get my review in before all the Sourcebooks reviewers get their hands on the reissue :)

November 2005 by St. Martin's Press (first published July 2004) 

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick:

A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power.

England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin's development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back.

Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin. Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin's rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other's arms.

Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family's lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....

Happy holidays everyone!!! I hope everyone gets a few days off to enjoy themselves, and to read!!

Dec 19, 2012

It's a Wrap! Watch out 2013, here I come!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I recently published my Best of 2012 Picks, and I was starting to go off on a tangent with what I expected from 2013 based on 2012, so I figured I may as well do a new post and go all out insane with it. To wrap it up, 2012 was a good year for me reading wise. I was able to cut down considerably on the review requests as I updated my review policy and made sure potential requesters knew I would not be honoring their requests in the not so shortest/nicest/normal sort of way.

At first, my review policy was worded in that professional blogger politically correct polite way and asked authors to consider if their book really fit in with what I reviewed, but that seemed too much to ask. And then I told them I probably would not respond to their request ever, yet I still got lots of out-of-my-league requests. So then, after a long hard day and seeing some blogger type of drama full force, I got uppity and explained all sorts of crap I'd seen going on in the blogosphere and I basically said I hate you all, so go away.. lol.. and that worked!! No more cold call type of requests cuz I was such a brat.

{maybe I was a good girl...}
This way, I was able to pick and choose from the publicity groups that I knew I would be most interested in at the time. (LitFuse is awesome for Christian historical!) I had started this selective policy in 2011 but it didn't finally take hold until mid 2012 when I posted my ranting review 'policy' where I said you need to pay me to review your book. (Changing my contact page and turning that into another rant was also a great deterrent!). It just got to a point where I started feeling like reviewing books became a headache, a chore, and my life was centered around what book I was 'supposed' to read next. This is not fun, folks. Sounds like a job rather than a hobby, right? And then when you see fellow bloggers getting bashed for their reviews, it just goes beyond the pale for me and my witchy ways come out in defense of the lowly book blogger like me.

Being that lowly book blogger, I published 81 reviews during the calendar year of 2012. I separate out my reviews by sub-genre so that you can easily locate what floats your boat, and I post my rating next to the titles so you can find the true goodies. Find that master list of reviews here.This is linked to that button called Reviews in the top right corner under the header.

I did see that definite increase in Christian Historicals this year as predicted, as I moved away from the standard Tudor fare that used to populate the blog. Even though I did read a few of the Tudor and Wars of the Roses era, I have really had enough of the same old stories and I look forward to 2013 to be able to show me what made me fell in love with historical fiction in the first place. I have signed up for a TBR Pile Challenge for 2013, where I have picked some of the books that have been waiting for me for at least a year. I hope I get to complete that challenge, there are some goodies on that list- like Jean Plaidy, Geraldine Brooks and Daphne DuMaurier!

For 2012, I beat my Goodreads challenge goal of 50 books fairly easy so I increased it to 75 and I recently beat the 75 books goal as well.

Since 2012 isn't over, these numbers are only for mid December but are still a pretty good idea of where I'll end up at the end of the year, and a good comparison from last year to this year.

Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge:

Last year (2011) I had only read 51 books, so I am happy to have surpassed that by a great deal. You can check out my master reviews list to find all the books reviewed per year. And if you are my friend on goodreads you can click the challenge link and check it out directly on Goodreads.

2012: 78 books read, 30,049 pages read
2011: 51 books read, 19,753 pages read

I like looking at the page counts much more than the number of books, especially when there are now so many novellas and more young adult books out there. The page count feature gives me a better gauge of what I've really read, since I know that there are some books I read were right around 300 pages and there was one young adult read in there as well.

For 2013, while also reading various historicals, I am going to spend the first half of the year studying the bible. I hope to conclude it in May 2013, and then go back and re-read my favorite parts, starting with Genesis! So while for 2012 my current bible reading is not reflected in those Goodreads challenge totals above, if I finish that bible in 2013 I'll get to add 2300 pages to the 2013 totals, yeehaw!

And since the version of the bible I am reading is 2300 pages, giving myself a goal of 50 books is enough for 2013. If I happen to find time to increase the challenge by the time summer is over, I will, but I think 50 at this time is enough of a challenge for me. I remember thinking that I would read tons of books by the pool this past summer of 2012, but nope that was a pipe dream and I am reminding myself to not fall for that trap again.

I also want to finish the books that I have not been able to finish this year- Wolf Hall I'm looking at YOU you horrid thing... (I cannot understand why I do not love it as so many others have, but as I said, I am ready to set fire to all things Tudor related and roast marshmallows and have hot chocolate at the same time).

I'll be reading the books on the TBR Challenge Stack, and maybe not quite so many Christian historicals but more of a mix of biblical, Christian historical, American historical, British historical and even some of the more popular literary fiction to get my juices flowing. Titles such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan are now on my radar, which in the last four years would not have been there. After loving the young adult genre release titled Code Name Verity, I am learning that just because people have gushed about it doesn't mean I have to ignore it. (But  then I look at Wolf Hall and all the lovers of that book, and I scratch my head). I look forward to 2013 with an open mind and to the changes I foresee in my reading tastes!

Finally, this year I can stop reading every new release that catches my eye, and feed off of my own collection of books that I have been stockpiling for years. I have finally cut the leash to the Must Review On This Date and I will be very selective in the review reads and pick only favorites, so that I force myself to read my own dusty books. My four year blogging anniversary is in a week or so, and that's how long I've been neglecting my books. Out with the NEW and in with the OLD! (Must ignore the blog posts from my fellow bloggers that tout the beautiful covers of new releases).

I also want to read Charles Dickens, where should I begin? I loved the Masterpiece Special on Great Expectations, but I have A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield (which I think I read twenty-plus years ago). On the TBR Pile I chose a book by Gaynor Arnold which is loosely related to Dickens. And you know how Jean Plaidy has other pseudonyms? (who is Jean Plaidy, you ask? Go HERE). She has a Daughters of England series under Philippa Carr that I have ALL twenty of the books.. so who wants to read along with me? I went ahead and put book one on the 2013 TBR Pile list so I know I'll get to it sooner rather than later.

Oh wait... I suck at read alongs, so forget I mentioned it. One thing I learned in 2012 is that I either read ahead of the "group" (using the term loosely) or no one is there to participate (zero comments on my Here Be Dragons discussion posts). And then there was that mysterious case of  the much applauded Wolf Hall which I attempted to read along and it was I who had to give up. And then there was the one where I masterminded a fantastic read along for another much applauded author and they didn't even thank me for all that publicity or my review... I'll stop now ....

NO MORE READ ALONGS... oh, and no more acting like a publicity person for authors, no matter how much I love them or hate them.. No more of this professional book blogger term that I've seen thrown about.. 2013 will be about me, hopefully reading lots from already dead authors (I had to reword this horrible sentence so it didn't sound like I was wishing death on still living authors), and reading what I want, when I want.. and the bible. I look forward to more blog hopping and developing relationships with fellow bloggers if they'll have me, and less critically thinking or politically correct reviews and more just plain old winging it for the love of the book and much less for the hope of being quoted. Don't you hate it when you read reviews and you're like, damn they TOTALLY put that whole sentence in there cuz THAT's the one the agents will want to use as a blurb..

Hats off to a great 2012, and it is with eagerness that I await 2013 as I peruse my personal library of many reads to choose from!
Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a FANTASTIC Book filled New Year!

*This post was written before the 12/14/2012 Tragedy, as I was really composing most of my thoughts on the Best of 2012 List but decided to create a new home for it and space out my posts.....

Similar to how all of you feel, everything seems so stupid, lame and trivial compared to the grief that is really going on around the country this holiday season. Words cannot express our fears for our children, our future, our country, our livelihoods... Somehow, we will persevere. Somehow. Despite the heavy losses we feel, I still wish the best for everyone's holiday celebrations, perhaps hug everyone a little bit tighter. Forever in our hearts are the victims, and just like 9-11, we will never forget. Blessings and continued prayers to Connecticut.

Dec 16, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, December 16, 2012
Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted at Suko's Notebook during December.

In the Mail....
as seen on facebook in my gleeful state..
The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

The minute I saw the letter, I knew it was hers. There was no mistaking it: the salutation, the tiny, precise handwriting, the date, the content itself, all confirmed its ancient status and authorship…

 Samantha McDonough cannot believe her eyes--or her luck. Tucked in an uncut page of a two-hundred-year old poetry book is a letter she believes was written by Jane Austen, mentioning with regret a manuscript that "went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire."

Could there really be an undiscovered Jane Austen novel waiting to be found? Could anyone resist the temptation to go looking for it? Making her way to the beautiful, centuries-old Greenbriar estate, Samantha finds it no easy task to sell its owner, the handsome yet uncompromising Anthony Whitaker, on her wild idea of searching for a lost Austen work--until she mentions its possible million dollar value.

After discovering the unattributed manuscript, Samantha and Anthony are immediately absorbed in the story of Rebecca Stanhope, daughter of a small town rector, who is about to encounter some bittersweet truths about life and love. As they continue to read the newly discovered tale from the past, a new one unfolds in the present--a story that just might change both of their lives forever.

And another for review:

Safe in His Arms by Colleen Coble

Under Texas Stars, #2 {I read book one and enjoyed it, so I wanted to try this one also}.

Sometimes it takes a stranger to see you as you really are.

Born and raised on sprawling Texas land, Margaret O’Brien prides herself on her competence as a rancher. But her father believes she’s made for more than just dawn-to-dusk work. He wants her to have the love of a good man, to raise children, to build a life. But Margaret gave up such dreams years ago. She’s convinced no man would have her, that the ranch is her life now. So when Margaret’s father hires Daniel Cutler as a new foreman, she’s frustrated and suspicious. Then an overheard conversation links him with a gang of bank robbers, and she’s downright worried. Daniel swears he’s not involved, but Margaret’s not convinced. She knows the man still has secrets. But would a criminal be so kind and talk so convincingly of his faith? As a series of tragic “accidents” threatens all she holds dear, Margaret must decide what to trust: her own ears, her best judgment . . . or what her heart keeps telling her. 

From the author of the best-selling Blue Moon Promise . . . an exciting tale of danger, romance, and faith played out under Texas stars. 

“Romantically tense, but with just the right touch of danger, this cowboy love story is surprisingly clever—and pleasingly sweet.” — for Blue Moon Promise

and finally....
From paperbackswap.. (now I just need book two, and I can sink my teeth into this chunky series featuring a biblical twist in a Scottish Christian historical!! So looking forward to this one.)

Whence Came a Prince (Lowlands of Scotland series #3) by Liz Curtis Higgs
A Prodigal Hero…A Perilous Journey Home

The Scottish Lowlands, Summer 1790
Jamie McKie is determined to return to his ancestral home in Glen Trool and claim his inheritance—a harrowing journey that will test the depth of his courage and the strength of his sword. Haunted by a shameful past and wrestling with an uncertain future, Jamie must outwit his devious Uncle Lachlan and confront the two men he most fears: Evan, the brother whose inheritance he stole, and Alec, the father whom he blatantly deceived.
Jamie faces a perilous journey of the heart as well: Two sisters each stake a tender claim on his affections. Quiet, gentle Leana is the mother of his firstborn. Her spirited younger sister, Rose, is expecting his second child. Honor and duty prevail but not without heartache, as Jamie prepares to fight for all he holds dear.

Roselynde (Roselynde Chronicles, Book One) by Roberta Gellis
All I Have to Give: A Christmas Love Story by Melody Carlson
The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson
Her Good Name by Ruth Axtell
Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish (The Duke's Daughters, #1) by Grace Burrowes
Still Life in Shadows by Alice J. Wisler
Waterfall by Lisa T Bergren

What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Last week, I finished reading the books Belonging, and Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher (click for review). These were good Christian historical romances, and I enjoyed getting my feet wet with my first reads by the prolific author. If you were an email subscriber, you would have been able to enter the quickie giveaway of new copies of them. Stay tuned.. I'll have more exclusive email only giveaways soon!

Sort of Reading:

Love and Lives are Threatened in Camden's Latest Offering As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she's finally carved out a perfect life for herself--a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy. However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or "Bane," a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head. Just as Bane's charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia's part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.

I've had this one for awhile but just didn't have the time to get to it sooner. I can already tell it's going to be a good one, and this means I need to get her other ones as well. But real life and other commitments are getting in the way and by the time I get a free moment I actually do not have the strength to pick up a book, not even one as intriguing as this one is. School shows, Girl Scouts, and general holiday madness has taken over my life as well as a plethora of health issues. I am definitely looking forward to 2013 so I can revamp, recoup, re-energize and start reading lots of stuff.

Dec 14, 2012

Best of 2012! My picks are...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another year, and another year of many awesome reads! There were a lot of fantastic books that I read this year, from the Christian historical theme to the various historical fiction ones that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to readers of the genre. If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas for historical fiction fans, here are some great reads! These are my most favorite of the year, their titles are linked to my reviews. See anything interesting?

Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck 
Biographical Historical Fiction
NAL Trade September 2012

WOW. I never thought I would so fall in love with a man, and Hemingway at that. So emotive and evocative this novel was, and the supporting characters are totally unforgettable. The setting and style of writing is awesome, and I also loved the author's previous work which I reviewed here. I just don't think she can write a bad book, and I am so happy for her well deserved success. I need to get a book by Hemingway on my mountain of to be read books.

Secrets of the Cross trilogy:
Christian Historical Fiction
David C Cook, 2011 and 2012

I was shocked that I LOVED this series as much as I did. All about religious persecution and Algerian wars , the hope of the Huguenot cross and love and loss and much drama. So many characters are blissfully blended in this emotional series. I loved learning about something so important as the religious strife affecting France and Algeria, and the plights of the harkis and pied-noirs. It was a very emotional but enjoyable education. This series absolutely MUST be read in order beginning with Two Crosses, then Two Testaments and finally Two Destinies. If anyone is reading this and wants to buy me a Christmas present, it would be these three paperbacks as I don't own the hardcopies yet. :)

Central Park Rendezvous by Kim Vogel Sawyer, Ronie Kendig, MaryLu Tyndall, Dineen Miller
Christian Historical Romance
Barbour Books, August 2012

This was an entertaining hit for me, as it was my first sort of book that was a blend of novellas from different authors. I was surprised at how much the different authors were able to keep the storyline flowing, even as they focused on different characters and point of views. This was also a great way to introduce myself to some of the authors who I have not read before. The story was a lovable one that evokes a bit of the love for family at the hearth at Christmastime type of a feel, and the Romancing America series focuses on different historical places. This one of course deals with New York City of old,  and spans through several wars and the effects of them. Also, this Romancing America series which always features different authors are offered at a great price, so you should pick a couple of these to gift to your Christian fiction reader friends!

Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick
Literary/Christian Historical Fiction
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing, April 2012

Family love, triumph, idiosyncrasies and special lilacs make up this fantastic story based on the real life of Hulda Kluger. It spans much of her adult life as she seeks that perfect bloom, but there is so much more packed into it. Full of happy and tragic moments the story is a tear jerker and I highly recommend it to all readers. It does deal with some faith issues, but not enough to drown out the appreciation of the story which is close to feeling like it should be epic saga material.  

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
Christian Historical Romance, Regency
Bethany House, January 2012

Regency lovers, this is one not to miss! Downton Abbey fans, Austenesque readers, Upstairs/Downstairs.. you get the drift! This romantic story of an impulsive heroine had me giggling and smirking and just loving every page. I loved the Regency atmosphere, and there was just a small theme of spirituality. Definitely recommended, and this was a 2012 Christy Award Winner.

Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund
Christian Historical Romance
Bethany House, September 2012

I loved reading Jody Hedlund's story of a young girl caught up in the middle of dangerous scheming men as she looks for her wayward sister in a rough mining town. There was tons of suspense, and fabulous heroes and lots of scary moments meaning lots of page turning going on. Mental note that I definitely need to get to Hedlund's previous works based on the fabulous writing exhibited here.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Historical Mystery, YA suitable
Hyperion, May 2012

You heard the hype, and so did I. I recommended this to a long-ago best friend who is now halfway across the country (and doesn't read nearly half as much as I do), and I told her to get it from the library. She did. She loved it too. This was yet another surprising read for me as it is about a young girl (written for the young adult genre) set in France during the German occupation of World War II. This is the second young adult book I've read in over ten years, but it certainly is not for the faint of heart. It is a fantastic war story of heroes, spies, friendship and so much suspense and mystery and torture.. what a blend of intrigue that I simply could not put it down. I recommend this story for girls and boys 14 and up, and for moms like me!

And now for the two male authors among the ladies, and they are both Franks!

Illusion by Frank Peretti
Christian Thriller
Howard Books, March 2012

Frank Peretti is fairly prolific and very popular. I never like going with the flow of popularity and tend to ignore the titles that get hyped or gushed about incessantly (like Code Name Verity, above). But sometimes the hype is well deserved. There was a lot of publicity that I noticed about this one coming out, and I was able to read an excerpt online. I was hooked. I could NOT wait to get my hands on this one. I did indeed love the magical storyline, of never ending love, of  rebirth, of hope and loss and grief all tangled up. The plot was amazing and kept me in suspense as I hoped for reincarnation and many other things that I've never thought about.

The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney
Literary historical fiction
Random House, February 2012

The Last Storyteller is the last book in Delaney's trilogy featuring Irish 'storyteller' Ben McCarthy and the errant love of his life, Venetia Kelley. I have not even read book one, but last year I read the second installment, The Matchmaker of Kenmare and fell in love with Frank Delaney (and his characters, but mostly just Frank and everything his pen touched). The land of Ireland, and all of its craziness and beauty and the added storyline of a million things at once was breathtaking, fascinating and brilliant. Definitely need to add more Delaney titles to my pile, as his writing was so perfectly toned that I felt he was writing his story for me. Love. If you love Ireland, find Frank's stuff, just remember I saw him first.

Feel free to leave me the link to your best of 2012 posts so I can see what you recommend also!

Dec 11, 2012

Double Review and Double Giveaway! Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher | Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher
"Leaving behind her bitter past, Felicia Kristoffersen seeks to make a brighter future for herself as a teacher in Frenchman’s Bluff, Idaho. But in this tiny high desert town, she can’t afford to fail. And not everyone is happy she’s here to begin with. Award-winning novelist Robin Lee Hatcher weaves a historical romance that asks the question: Can faith triumph over life’s harshest storms?"

Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher

"The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher, Betrayal will take you to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two people learning to trust God’s love no matter the circumstances." 

See the the end of my double review for your Exclusive Email Subscribers Only giveaway of these two titles to one lucky winner!

These two books in the Where the Heart Lives series feature siblings who were put on orphan trains in the late 1800's and ultimately separated. The first novel Belonging features Felicia, a young lady who was finally offered a chance of freedom while becoming a teacher, and she is finally away from the foster family that think she is a piece of property.

Still tugging at her heartstrings is the question of what happened to her younger sister and her older brother once they were separated as children. However, before she can settle into the safe schoolmarm life and make queries about her siblings, a mean-spirited old woman becomes Felicia's worst enemy. Where Felicia has excelled with her school children and making new friends for herself, Mrs. Summerville snatches all the happiness away and threatens Felicia's way of life. Single dad Colin will desperately try to save her, but Felicia has to stop running away first.

I enjoyed the novel and the writing, and was especially pleased to see that the next in the series will focus on Felicia's brother, Hugh. The novel is somewhat brief at 277 pages, and as such it seems we are just falling in love with the characters when the novel is actually over. There are some intriguing side stories and supporting characters that rounds out what happens to be a well written Christian romance with a fabulous western historical setting.

The second novel in the series, Betrayal, features Hugh Brennan running from his past and grasping for a future. He has his faith by his side and in his heart, and that is all he has. When he happens upon Julia Grace's small ranch, he gets himself a job till he can move on safely with his lame horse. Of course, this being a romance, we know that Hugh and Julia will find a way into each other's hearts. Along the way, there are threats and doubts to cast aspersions on the best of plans, but staying strong and true to one's heart can bring wonders. I loved this story with the bit of suspense threaded throughout as the villain Charlie Prescott is determined to get Julia's land, and the icing on the cake was the promising ending that brings us back to the story of the siblings. I am looking forward to book three which focuses on the younger sister Diana, and we are even treated to an excerpt of Diana's story!

Are you ready for your own chance to win these first two novels in the Where The Heart Lives series? If you love a sweet mix of romance, God and that whimsical western touch, this is the series for you!

I've got two brand new paperbacks ready to mail to one lucky email subscriber in the USA! It's a quickie giveaway, and  it's open until Thursday the 13th when I'll pick a winner around lunchtime. Make sure you are an email subscriber, and leave me a comment with the email address you subscribe with so I can double check. I'll email the winner on Thursday afternoon, and I'll need the winner's mailing address by Friday morning so I can mail your books out. Good luck! (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

Dec 9, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday | What are you Reading?

Sunday, December 09, 2012
Another week, and lots more books! Who's ready for Christmas? I need to wrap lots of gifts.. but I'm pretty much done with the shopping, thankfully. This was the first time in ages that I actually did more store shopping as opposed to online shopping, and since I joined in the Black Friday madness I gave myself a fantastic head start. And the Black Friday madness wasn't really that bad, all things considered (I only spent a few hours shopping each day). I was not about to go standing in line at strange hours, I just did the normal during the day shopping and I was pleasantly surprised how smoothly everything went. I got some great deals and found items that are definitely sold out by now, so I will do the Black Friday thing again next year. We also promised to not spend any money on the debit/credit cards, so I went armed with good old cash and I won't have many bills coming, which is gold in itself. One thing I bought on the card was for me: the Keurig Platinum Plus - my first QVC purchase. This Coffee Lover can't wait till Christmas!!!

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted at Suko's Notebook during December.

Who needs the post office when you have eBooks? I downloaded some more Kindle books:

Christmas in Venice: A Short Story by Meadow Taylor
Olivia's Christmas trip to Venice, Italy should be a holiday dream come true. But when she’ s confronted by a handsome Italian cop about her unattended luggage, she worries she won't even make it out of the Marco Polo Airport…

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin
Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's death and father's suicide. Elin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare, and when circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help. Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Elin, Kirsten, and Sofia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
Can a gift from the past mend a broken heart?

Ian Collins is an old man without his son. Patrick Collins is a young boy without his father. On his Christmas list are only three items. He wants the army to find his father. He wants to leave his grandfather's house. And he wants the dusty wooden soldier in Grandfather's attic--the one he is forbidden to touch.

Set in December of 1943, The Unfinished Gift is the engaging story of a family in need of forgiveness. With simple grace, it reminds us of the small things that affect powerful change in our hearts--a young boy's prayers, a shoe box of love letters, and even a half-carved soldier, long forgotten. This nostalgic story of reconciliation will touch your heart.

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson
The people of Christmas Valley always celebrate Christmas to the fullest extent. The mayor plays Santa, every business is holiday themed, and there's a nativity for the kids each Christmas Eve. This town knows Christmas. But this year nothing goes according to plan. Shepherd's Inn is full of strangers, Mad Myrtle is causing problems, and a young couple with a baby due any minute rolls in to the middle of town in their Partridge Family-style bus. It's hardly the holiday Christmas Valley wanted--but it may be just what they need. This charming novella is sure to become a new Christmas tradition for readers who love a great holiday story.

Thicker Than Blood by C.J. Darlington
{excited about this one the most!}
Christy Williams finally has her life on track. She's putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn't commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents' untimely deaths. Soon, Christy's fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could May's Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven she's searching for? Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it's too late? A stunning debut from the latest Christian Writers Guild winner.

Things Left Unspoken by Eva Marie Everson
Jo-Lynn Hunter is at a crossroads in life when her great-aunt Stella insists that she return home to restore the old family house in sleepy Cottonwood, Georgia. Seeing the project as the perfect excuse for some therapeutic time away from her self-absorbed husband and his snobby Atlanta friends, Jo-Lynn longs to get her teeth into a noteworthy and satisfying project. But things are not what they seem, both in the house and within the complex history of her family. Was her great-grandfather the pillar of the community she thought he was? What is Aunt Stella hiding? And will Jo-Lynn's marriage survive the renovation? Jo-Lynn isn't sure she wants to know the truth--but sometimes the truth has a way of making itself known. The past comes alive in this well-written and thoughtful novel full of secrets, drama, and family with a hint of Southern drawl.

London Confidential by Sandra Byrd

When her family moves to London, 15-year-old Savvy Smith has to make her way in a new school and a new country. She just knows the school newspaper is the right place for her, but she doesn't have the required experience, and the cute editor-in-chief is not looking to train anyone. She has to come up with a way to prove herself and nab the one available position on the newspaper staff at Wexburg Academy. London Confidential is a new series where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide, and where an all-American girl learns to love life and live out her faith.

After this download, I only need ONE more Laura Frantz novel!! (Conveniently the one I WANT AND NEED is the one that clued my on to Laura Frantz in the first place, and I've managed to collect all three of her others, just need her fourth one now).

The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

Lovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded. Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills. But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself--and the power of grace and redemption.

This epic novel gives readers a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman. Laura Frantz's debut novel offers a feast for readers of historical fiction and romance lovers alike.

I signed up for a Bookmark Exchange... and it was tons of fun to make some bookmarks for my fellow booklovers!! I started receiving some in return, and it was a delight to see some of the craftiness from others. I also delighted in spending some quality time with my daughter making some really pretty fantastic bookmarks if I do say so myself!! Besides the cost of supplies, the only drawback is that my library turned into a mess, and the cat had a field day with our beads and ribbons. I am still finding some roaming beads under couches..

What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Currently Reading:
I have now completed the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I have begun the book of Joshua, which is the first book of the Historical Books! (excitement!) I already want to go back and re-read Genesis, and I felt the last chapters of Deuteronomy were very important as they illustrate how we are supposed to uphold God's Law, yet we have continually refused to do so, therefore we are cursed. Very intriguing stuff.

As a companion to the Study Bible that I am currently reading, I am also following along with the Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts from Thomas Nelson, which I highly recommend for those studying the bible.

Also finished reading my first novel from Robin Lee Hatcher:
Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher (Where The Heart Lives Series, #1)
In the high desert town of Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho, Felicia Kristoffersen has set out to create a future for herself that is better than her painful past. Alone in the world with only her faith to sustain her, she must prove herself as this tiny community's new school teacher. She cannot, must not, fail. But, there are those who never wanted her there to begin with.
Five years after the death of his wife, local merchant Colin Murphy cares about just one thing: raising his daughter, Charity. Colin wants to give her the educational advantages he never had. The new schoolmarm's inexperience doesn't sit well with him, and if this teacher up and marries like the last one did, Charity's heart will be broken once again.
A woman who hasn't known love. A man who lost the love he had.
In the midst of the wide, sage-covered plains, each is about to discover that life's bitterest circumstances truly can work together for good.

Up next, more bible study, and currently reading book two in the Where the Heart Lives series. Stay tuned for the reviews of those, as I will be doing an exclusive Email Subscribers Giveaway of these.

I also wanted to try and do a few Christmas themed reads, but life has been busy with volunteering and working and holiday prep and sinus pressure and general exhaustion. What are you reading lately?