Thursday, March 27, 2014

Barefoot Summer and Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter (Chapel Spring Series #1 & #2)

Had it not been for NetGalley approving me for book #2 in the Chapel Spring series, Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter, I might never have discovered Denise Hunter as an author.  I can literally count on one hand how many Christian authors I enjoy reading, and now I can Denise Hunter to that list!  YEAH!

In book #1, Barefoot Summer, the love story of Beckett & Madison is shared in such a sweet & innocent way - filled with love, forgiveness, real-life struggles, loss, anger - and woven evenly throughout is a gentle undertone of Scriptural truths and how that looks like in day-to-day life.  It didn't feel cheesy or hokey as most Christian fiction can, but it was RIGHT up my alley in every way.  I devoured this book in just a short amount of time and then dived into book # 2 of the Chapel Springs Series, Dancing with Fireflies.  I have to say out of the two, I enjoyed Dancing with Fireflies more.  The message of trusting God through a difficult circumstance is so powerful and in this story, even quite controversial.  I don't want to say too much, cause the surprise of it is what makes it so great in the discovery of a good book!

Madison's family, the McKinley's are easy to fall in love with - and I loved that this family is further explored through Book #2 by learning more about Jade and Daniel.  And since it's a fairly large family, I know there are sure to be more books to come, and I can't wait to get my hands on those copies in the future as well! Not to mention, I've already added all her other printed works to my To-Be-Read pile (and there's 20, so it might take me a while) ;-)

'Barefoot Summer' Description: Madison’s heart closed the day her twin brother died.

Since losing her twin, Michael, in a drowning incident, Madison has rejected the faith he lived by. Instead, she’s devoted her life to fulfilling Michael’s dream—winning the River Sail Regatta in their small Indiana town, Chapel Springs.

As she trains for the regatta, Beckett O’Reilly is teaching Madison to swim. But he’s keeping a painful secret from her—and as they grow closer, that secret threatens to upend their lives . . . and the lives of both their families.

'Dancing with Fireflies' Description: Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she'd never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He's loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she's back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she's hiding secrets from her family, and she's strangely attracted to the man who's always called her "squirt." Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Ratings: - both ****!!
Recommend - Absolutely! I think anyone would love these books.

*I received a complimentary copy of the e-book version of Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter through NetGalley for an unbiased review from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The difficult thing for me when it comes to series, is trying to remember what the heck happened in the previous books months or even years ago when I read them.  Ugh.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon this blog where a group of ladies recap the individual books in a series so you can refresh your memory before diving into the next one, while spending half the time trying to remember who is who and what on earth is going on.  Seriously, save yourself some confusion and stress and just visit this site: Recaptains
Nowadays, there's just too many dystopian series out there that somewhat overlap in plots and characters and it's super easy for me to get all tangled up in them.

Back to Allegiant - hmmmmm....I don't know why but the last book in a series always for me seems to be the most disappointing.  I'm grateful to have the closure of what happens in the lives of Tris and Tobias (aka Four), but really?  Ms. Roth really?  I just can't.  It would give too much away.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this series! The premise of different factions and how people think or live according to their strengths and weaknesses, was extremely fascinating to me.  If you haven't given this series a try yet, you won't regret it!  PLUS, the first book in the series, Divergent, will be coming out in theaters in one week!!  I'm so excited, I can't wait to see it!

Description: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent

Rating: ***

Recommend: If you enjoy YA Dystopian fiction, then you have to add this series to your To-Be-Read List!  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of BloodYowzas!! This story is not for the faint of heart! I was swept up from page 1 and so immersed in this terrifying story that I finished it in just a couple of days.  It's intense, scary, gritty, graphic and unfortunately all too realistic.  There's no way I wanted to be caught reading this after the sun had set, cause I'm sure I might have had nightmares.   The writing was fantastic and the story NEVER got slow or boring - major props to Ms. McHugh on her first novel!!  I know my friends Debbie & Brooke at work are going to flip out when they get their hands on this one - it kinda reminded me somewhat of how it felt to read Room by Emma Donoghue.  The kind of story, you have to set down for a minute - catch your breath, clear your head and remind yourself it's not real (though for some, it is real).  Ugh.  What a sick world we live in.   Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read an advance copy of The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh.  If this type of suspense thriller is your cup of tea, The Weight of Blood comes out in stores March 11th and you can pre-order your copy here.
Description: The Dane family's roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn't keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy's few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn't protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri's necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri's death could be linked to her mother's disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

Recommend:  Only if you know you can handle the grit that comes with reading about the sex trade of women.
Rating: ****

Monday, February 24, 2014

Runaway Saint by Lisa Samson

Runaway Saint

So the premise for this book (which you can find below) was a bit misleading as far as what to possibly expect from Aunt Bel's story.  The synopsis says, "But Bel is hiding something. Though she won't talk about it, Sara soon learns that Bel has been through a hellish ordeal. And she has the burn marks to prove it."  But the odd thing is - there were no burn marks mentioned in the story.  I actually kept waiting to learn about these supposed burn marks and at whose hand she was suffering abuse from and it was never even mentioned nor did the story take that direction - kinda weird.  She did suffer an injury that you find out about, but not because of any abuse.  

Had I not read the synopsis I would have been completely content with how the story unfolded - it was really good and I very much enjoyed it a lot!  But I'm bummed that the teaser (if you will) was kinda misleading. 

For what it's worth - great story, great writing and I still highly recommend it.  But don't take the description below too literal, cause it's not exactly the real story.  

Thank you NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to read and review a copy of Runaway Saint by Lisa Samson - I'm so excited to have found another Christian author with whose writing I very much enjoyed!!  Oh and one other thing - did Lisa base the character Finn on my husband?  Because OH MA GOSH.  I swear, every time Finn started a project around the house, I couldn't help but laugh and empathize with Sara so much.  Girl I have been there.  WAY too funny.  

Description:  "When her aunt shows up homeless on her doorstep, Sara suspects anything but a miracle.

Sara's an artist with a supportive husband and a house that folks on her block admire outright. But she's restless and bored with life.

Then her legendary Aunt Bel shows up, wearing a smile after years without a word.

Twenty years ago, fresh out of college, Bel left for a summer missions trip and never returned. Now she's on Sara's doorstep, looking for a place to crash. Sara can't say no to family, even if she hasn't seen Bel since she was a nine-year-old girl. But saying yes to Bel turns Sara's whole precariously-balanced life upside down.

The enigmatic Bel gives Sara's family and their community a jolt of fresh thinking and clarity.

But Bel is hiding something. Though she won't talk about it, Sara soon learns that Bel has been through a hellish ordeal. And she has the burn marks to prove it."

"[Samson's] gift for creating unique, flawed character elevates this book above others. Each line has so much truth, and readers will likely ponder different passages long after finishing." --"Romantic Times Review," TOP PICK! 4 1/2 stars

"Samson's quirky characters will have readers laughing, crying, and shaking their heads in disbelief, sometimes all at the same time. This uplifting read . . . will attract fans of women's fiction and especially works by authors Sarah Jio, Anne Tyler, and Alice Hoffman." --"Library Journal"

Rating: ****

Recommend: For sure!  Good clean writing that flowed so well, with an intriguing story line that will keep you guessing till the very end!