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Blog Tour: American Wife by Taya Kyle

[ 3 ] July 3, 2015

american wife book coverPlease join Taya Kyle, author of American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Meg Massey

On February 2nd, 2013, Taya Kyle’s life changed forever. It was an unexpected turn of events, considering that her husband Chris was finally home from war, and their marriage was stronger than ever. But on that day, the man she loved, a devoted father and dedicated Navy SEAL, was killed while trying to help a struggling veteran. In mere moments, all that Taya and Chris had built together came crashing down around her, leaving her a widow and single mother to two young children.

Chris Kyle’s life and experiences as a Navy SEAL sniper are the subject of his book, American Sniper, as well as the 2014 film of the same name. American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal, is Taya’s story. She starts at the beginning, telling readers how she met Chris, their struggle to maintain their marriage while he served overseas, and his difficult adjustment back to civilian life. For the first time in this memoir, Taya shares the details of the devastating days following her husband’s tragic and untimely death.

This memoir is incredibly honest, raw, and at times, absolutely heartbreaking. Taya’s story was a reminder of all that our service men and women, as well as their families, sacrifice for the sake of our freedom. It was heartbreaking to read through Taya’s emotions, knowing that her husband had survived the war, only to be murdered while trying to help a fellow veteran on home soil. Taya admits that she experienced anger, but not with God. One passage stayed with me, even after turning the final page of this book:

“Chris’s death brings the question: If God is all-powerful, why didn’t He stop it? Why did He let someone kill Chris? The answer that keeps coming to me is as hard to accept as it is simple: God didn’t stop it because He has a plan. It’s difficult sometimes to remain optimistic about that plan, but in the end, that is what faith means: trust in the plan” (p. 183).

While Taya is honest about the emotions she experienced after her husband’s death, her faith was strengthened. She also found ways to connect to Chris in helping to tell his story in the film American Sniper, and doing what he longed to do most: helping others. While this memoir is about loss, it’s also about hope, and renewed faith. You will surely be moved by Taya’s powerful and honest storytelling, and the faith that has brought her through the darkest of times.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Two Roads Home by Deborah Raney

[ 2 ] July 2, 2015

two roads home book coverPlease join Deborah Raney, author of Two Roads Home, as she tours the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin

She should be grateful; so many women would love to trade places with her. She knew she was blessed, really and truly, but there was the temptation to give in to self-pity. Long days of chasing little kids around and feeling like a single parent were wearing Corinne thin. While her husband traveled frequently for work, she stayed home with their three little girls. An internal struggle consistently battled between dissatisfaction and the knowledge that she is truly blessed with a nice house, a healthy family and the chance to stay home with her kids. Why can’t she just feel happy and let it go?

In her book, Two Roads Home, Deborah Raney shares the struggles of Jesse and Corinne Pennington in Book 2 of the Chicory Inn Novels.  While they navigate finding a balance in their marriage, their relationship will soon be tested by an outsider with ulterior motives. Normally a fun and innocuously flirty guy, Jesse returns home from a business trip with a female co-worker, only to find that she has designs on him and is willing to do whatever it takes to come between him and Corinne. What Jesse perceived as an innocent misunderstanding, Michaela Creeve pursues relentlessly, even filing sexual harassment charges when Jesse doesn’t return her advances. When the attacks become more personal and affect their children, Jesse and Corinne know they must take action.

Struggling to find their bearings, they find themselves reevaluating their marriage, career, hopes and dreams. With the support of Corinne’s family, no stone is left unturned as they examine their lives and the consequences of Michaela’s charges on their family. Despite their initial fear over the situation, it becomes the catalyst for greater things. Hopes are revived and dreams brought back to life as they realize that they possess all they could truly imagine in each other, their family and their faith in God. Facing the giant gives them courage to change course and take their family in a new direction that previously seemed undesirable or impossible.

Not having read the first book in this series, I was unfamiliar with the previous story, but I found that all the needed details were included in this book. Initially, the story started slowly and reading about someone complaining about their marriage (especially someone living a fairly charmed one) seemed annoying. After all, most marriages have their ups and downs. But as the story wove on, the self-examination each character engaged in led to valuable transformation in each of their lives. Out of the ashes came beautiful redemption that will inspire and encourage you to look at your circumstances from a different perspective and ponder anew the plans that God has for your life.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided by Abingdon Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Circle by Mario Escobar

[ 3 ] July 2, 2015

the circle book coverReviewed by Jessa Larsen

Solomon Lewin is a renowned psychiatrist and has recently left India to take over as chief psychiatrist at the Center for Psychological Illness in London, England. The move is a drastic one and, although his wife and children seem to have taken to the new scenery, Lewin finds himself bored and mildly unhappy in his new position.

In an attempt to spice things up, Solomon begins to look into a few of the more intriguing cases he hasn’t become acquainted with yet. He soon comes across the chart of Maryam Batool, an orphaned Pakistani woman who has been at the center for the past seven years. She came to stay at the center in 2007 after an attempted suicide following a financial crisis. Now she keeps to herself, rarely speaking, and constantly drawing one shape, a circle.

On Christmas Eve, Solomon receives an urgent phone call, insisting he come to the center immediately. Maryam has awakened from her silence and become dangerously violent. Dr Lewin heads to the center and finds himself in a bigger mess than he could have ever imagined. Now he is traipsing around the city, in the middle of the night, with a homicidal patient. The police are chasing them and a secret society seems to be keeping his family hostage.

What exactly does Maryam know that could be so very important? Is she actually suffering from amnesia or is she simply refusing to speak? Can Solomon solve the mystery before terrorists kill his family?

I had a really hard time being entertained by The Circle. It was the typical “psychological thriller” and I didn’t feel like it brought anything new to the table. It came across as very dry and textbook-like. The characters didn’t intrigue me and I had no reason to care if Solomon’s marriage was or wasn’t working out. Details were there, but they just didn’t pop out and grab me. Additionally, I felt like I could predict the storyline and had no reason to bother finishing.

Perhaps, like British comedy, this European novel doesn’t translate well to the style Americans are used to, but, on the other hand, I typically prefer Scandinavian dramas, so I’m not entirely sure. I just couldn’t get lost in the story and was almost immediately bored of the Illuminati conspiracy theory style drama before it even got started.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, two kids, two small chihuahuas, and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She balances her work as a website admin with her hobbies of watching anime and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Mario Escobar. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt

[ 10 ] July 1, 2015

remember mia book coverI have a copy of Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

New mother Estelle Paradise has never had it easy. But she finds happiness in marriage to an attorney—the strong, capable Jack—and their baby Mia should be their pride and joy. She is at least, for Jack. Estelle has a hard time adjusting to motherhood, and baby Mia cries from colic day-in and day-out. Estelle feels ragged and exasperated, and worries about the terrible thoughts she has as she falls into a devastating post-partum depression.
As Estelle falls apart, Jack grows frustrated. As Estelle sinks deeper into despair, her relationship with Jack begins to waver, and Estelle feels terribly alone, emotionally and physically.

But one day baby Mia has vanished—along with everything in her room. Her toys, books, and blankets are all gone; even her diapers have simply disappeared. All that is left is her crib and the mobile hanging above it. Estelle, plagued by her depression and psychosis, does not even report the crime or react the way a mother “should,” and therefore is blamed for Mia’s disappearance by both Jack and the media when they get hold of the story. Estelle has no answers for anyone, except what she knows: that Mia is gone. Days later Estelle is found in her car, crashed in the bottom of a ravine in upstate New York, with a gunshot wound to the head. It is miraculous she survived, and the questions surrounding Mia’s disappearance get even more suspicious. Estelle herself cannot remember anything that happened before the accident, and starts to wonder if the speculations that she may have had something to do with Mia’s vanishing are true.

Estelle is admitted to a psychiatric facility instead of being arrested, and it is there, with the help of a specialist, that she begins to uncover her memories. A mother’s true love and devotion is tested as she gets closer and closer to the truth, all buried within the confines of her brain. And with each recovered memory the reader is faced with a new twist, another piece of the terrifying puzzle.

Readers of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train will love the hair-raising mystery at the center of this novel: What on earth happened to baby Mia, and what does Estelle know? And can we trust her story?

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Blog Tour: Letters from My Father’s Murderer by Laurie A. Coombs

[ 4 ] July 1, 2015

my father's murderer book coverPlease join Laurie A. Coombs, author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer, as she tours the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Laurie Coombs was an average American girl. Growing up in a loving family, she was surrounded by all that makes family good. Despite her parents’ divorce, she maintained good relationships with both her mother and father and enjoyed spending time with them. But one man’s heated actions changed her life forever. After a great vacation with her father, she and her boyfriend arrived home to discover that something was wrong…dreadfully wrong. Her father was dead. He had been murdered in his own home. The shock brought Laurie’s world to a halt and started her a long journey towards healing that would take many years.

In Laurie’s book, Letters from My Father’s Murderer, she shares the story of her father’s death and the journey she took to forgive Anthony, her father’s killer. Her story of healing takes years to begin as the case progressed in court and she battled depression. Only after finding faith in Jesus did she feel led to contact Anthony. Most of this book is their exchange of letters and how Laurie processed through each one. You can feel the emotion pouring off the pages. Hoping to find answers, she continued writing to him even when she was hurt and angry. Over the course of time, an unlikely relationship formed—one built on understanding and forgiveness.

This book is different than a traditional memoir. The exchange of letters provides two perspectives on the same crime and the events that led up to it. Reading the letters, I almost felt transported to her kitchen or living room as she read through Anthony’s letters and crafted her own responses. Part of the time, I found myself feeling great compassion for Laurie and then other times feeling very annoyed at her religious spirit. At the same time, emotions were bouncing all over in response to Anthony’s input as well. I think it reflected well the turmoil they shared during the months of writing back and forth. Amazingly, this story of forgiveness ended up being a catalyst for many others in prison to seek forgiveness for their own crimes. By allowing the Lord to work through her, the painful events of her father’s death became a special testimony that Laurie and Anthony are now able to use to bring spiritual freedom to prisoners in bondage.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided by Kregel Publications. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: Ana of California by Andi Teran

[ 11 ] June 30, 2015

ana of california book coverI have 2 fabulous books to give away! One winner will receive copies of Ana of California by Andi Teran as well as a copy of Anne of Green Gables!

Open to US residents only

About Ana of California

Many a young reader has been charmed and transported by Anne of Green Gables and its spunky, smart heroine, Anne Shirley. Debut novelist Andi Teran reworks this classic coming-of-age tale for the 21st century in Ana of California, and gives us a new—and equally loquacious—underdog to root for in Ana Cortez. Teran introduces characters with modern sensibilities and issues while staying true to the heart and spirit of Montgomery’s bestselling series. The novel also reflects Teran’s own Mexican heritage, bringing much needed diversity to contemporary literature.

In Ana of California, fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez (“one n, like fauna—not Anna, like ‘banana’”) has just blown it with another foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to attend a farm trainee program in Northern California. If she works hard, she’ll be allowed to stay on and file for emancipation when she turns sixteen. Having lived in East L.A. all her life, Ana doesn’t know a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, but she’s out of options.

When Emmett Garber arrives to pick up his new trainee, he’s sure there’s been a mistake. What help could this slight city girl be on his farm? He is counting down the days until the trial period is over and he can send her back. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might just be what they need.

Despite being unskilled and unprepared for hard-working farm life, Ana quickly comes to love Garber Farm and the small town of Hadley. She makes friends with Rye, the daughter of Abbie’s best friend, finds a mentor in Manny, Garber Farm’s foreman, and keeps running into the cute but hard to read Cole Brannan. Eventually even Emmett has to admit that Ana’s hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she’s ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong. Where can she go once she’s used up all her options?

In the grand tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Andi Teran’s captivating debut novel offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic.

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