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Review: Sharing You by Molly McAdams

[ 1 ] October 24, 2014

sharing you book coverReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

In her latest New Adult genre novel, Molly McAdams challenges her readers’ views on the the subject of infidelity. Sharing You is centered on twenty-somethings Kamryn Cunningham and Brody Saco, who meet and fall in love when Kamryn moves to his small town to escape a life of privilege and a loveless relationship. Brody is also dealing with demons of his own—a wife he no longer loves, and a five-year-old tragedy that continues to haunt him and keeps him in his tension-filled marriage out of guilt.

Kamryn and Brody are instantly drawn to one another, but Kamryn has no interest in being the other woman. Brody’s intense feelings for Kamryn and the belief that he is meant to spend the rest of his life with her give Brody the courage that he needs to finally end his marriage with the manipulative and spoiled Olivia Reynolds—if Brody can convince Kamryn that their love is worth waiting for, and if the secrets that they both carry do not tear them apart for good.

Molly McAdams was inspired to write Sharing You after meeting a couple who had met and fallen in love under similar circumstances to her fictional Kamryn and Brody. Anyone who has ever intensely loved another person will be able to relate to the emotions that McAdams describes in this book. There were several moments where I had to pause and reflect, knowing that the words I’d just read were something that I’ve felt in my own life and during my own romantic journey.

Sharing You is an addictive and easy book to read, the first from Molly McAdams to make its way into my to-read pile. While I enjoyed the book very much, I was taken out of the love story a little bit because of the dialogue. It was too rambling at times, and some of the things that Brody and Kamryn said to one another were a bit too unbelievable. Even so, Sharing You is a book I do recommend—if you can keep an open mind due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka

[ 6 ] October 23, 2014

breast cancer alphabet book coverPlease join Madhulika Sikka, author of A Breast Cancer Alphabet, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy below – open to US and Canada residents

Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova

When I was going through my own breast cancer journey (and I am still not sure I like referring to it as a “journey”), I was constantly struggling to find something I could finish reading in the chemo chair before the Benadryl IV drip kicked in. Although I read Breast Cancer Alphabet some time after I finished chemo, I could instantly appreciate Madhulika Sikka’s intention to give breast cancer patients a quick but meaningful read.

In 2010, Sikka was a journalist with NPR; four days before her very first interview in the Oval Office, she underwent a needle biopsy to determine if a mass in her breast was malignant. Shortly after the interview with President Obama was over, Sikka heard the diagnosis from her doctor: “You have breast cancer.” And thus began the whirlwind that accompanies those words–scans and more scans, blood tests, appointments with surgeons and oncologists and radiologists, surgeries and recoveries, pills of all shapes and sizes, and the list goes on. Beating cancer is a full time job.

There is a chapter in Sikka’s book for each letter in the alphabet, and she associates each letter with a particular aspect of one’s breast cancer journey.

My favorite chapters were titled “F is for Fashion Accessories” and “P is for Pillows“. You may wonder, “What do fashion accessories have to do with cancer?” I personally commend Sikka for including this chapter and another one on looks. Going through chemo, radiation and other types of treatment is tough and draining and sometimes all I wanted to do was go out to dinner and feel normal. That is where scarves and earrings came in and I enjoyed simply spending a few moments worrying about regular things like make-up. In “P is for Pillows” Sikka discusses a topic that was near and dear to my heart after surgeries, during chemo, and many times in between. If you’re scratching your head, read Sikka’s excellent description of the effects of mastectomies on your pectoral muscles. Wedge pillows are a godsend and can make the miserable mastectomy experience just a bit easier.

Sikka expertly maneuvers all the topics that would occupy a breast cancer patient’s mind and does so with grace and humor. In A Breast Cancer Alphabet, Sikka provides both a manual for the novices and a relatable story for the survivors.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

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

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Review: Family Heir by Sara M. Drake

[ 2 ] October 22, 2014

family heir book coverReviewed by Leigh Adamkiewicz

Kelley Venator thought she was done with the family business. Her family was one of a dozen clans who quietly protected the rights of the things that go bump in the night. Then the world got solid proof that the supernatural was real and her family was stuck dealing with bureaucrats and adjusting to the new normal.

Kelley thought divorcing Troy and going back to school had gotten her out. But then death, promotions, and the FBI all showed up on her door step. Something has been killing people. Something never seen before. And it is suddenly Kelley’s job to track the beast down.

I liked Family Heir. It is fun and fast paced, with identifiable characters that you really root for. But the rough edges in the narrative made it hard to get to the good stuff.

We are introduced to Kelley and her world through FBI agent Brent. I loathed Brent from the start. Admittedly, that wasn’t Brent’s fault. Every time we shifted from Kelley’s perspective to Brent’s, the entire style of narration switched. The chapters kept switching from a first person narration to a third person narration. Every time I started getting comfortable in Kelley’s head, Brent would come along and slam me back into third person. It was aggravating.

And there were some other problems as well. This is Sara M Drake’s first novel, and you can really feel that in the first 10 chapters of the book. Kelley’s version of events has a woman-trying-to-have-it-all focus. It feels unnatural, as though Kelley’s motivations were altered to fit current literary tastes. And our first introduction to the main characters feels like a refresher course in stock characters.

But the further I read, the more I found myself truly enjoying this book.

The world building is rock solid, and it’s easy to get sucked into it. The problems between Kelley and Troy feel real. For the most part there are no good guys or bad guys. Most of the conflict comes from how the characters react to their changing worlds.

Most interesting of all, it played with my expectations. That’s pretty rare nowadays. Most books have started to have the feel of a running bingo game about them. But Family Heir kept me guessing.

As the team uncovered what the killer mystery beast was, I expected the story to become a variation of the “Humans are the Real Monsters” trope. Instead, it turned into a crime drama. I expected Troy and Brent to bicker over who was the best fit for Kelley. They didn’t. They went on an epic spiritual side quest with an animal spirit guide. Technicolor corvids were not what they seemed, and Bigfoot has a better internet connection than you do.

There are more than a few rough corners in this book, but they even out into a unique story by the end. This book is hard to love, but you end up doing it anyway. It’s the perfect book for those long October nights.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Leigh is a fearless writer who never met a genre, subject, or format she didn’t like. She has written professionally for the past six years and enjoys biking, exploring odd corners of Northeast Ohio, and discovering those good books she hasn’t read yet.

Review copy was provided by Sara M. Drake. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.

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Giveaway: Owning Violet by Monica Murphy

[ 3 ] October 22, 2014

owning violet book coverI have a copy of Owning Violet by Monica Murphy to give away!

Open to US and Canada residents only

About the book

New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy begins a sexy new contemporary romance series—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Emma Chase—that introduces three sisters born to wealth, raised to succeed, ready to love, destined to make waves.

Owning Violet focuses on Violet Fowler, the obedient and dutiful middle Fowler sister who has been raised to never cause a fuss or make a scene. When her philandering boyfriend Zachary secures an overseas promotion with no thought towards their future, Violet’s mysterious bad boy coworker, Ryder McKay, starts making a play for her and Violet is eager for a quick affair to get over her heartbreak.

Unbeknownst to her, Ryder has two goals in mind: seducing Violet Fowler…and a promotion at Fleur Cosmetics. But love has another plan in mind for the both of them.

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Review: Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam & Sarah Sundin

[ 1 ] October 22, 2014

where treetops glisten book coverReviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Adding another stellar book to an already impressive collection of stories, prolific and award-winning authors Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam, and Sarah Sundin have written a compilation of World War II inspirational romances sure to please their fans and add new readers to their bases. Where Treetops Glisten is a novella of Christmas stories based upon the lyrics of three Christmas songs originating during World War II. Symbolism from the songs supports each author’s individual story, and the authors use their chosen songs as elements for their characters to utilize within the given plot. I enjoyed this creative twist to the creation of the novella because the authors—already renowned for their World War II knowledge—found a new way to connect historical fact with fiction.

Centered around a family of a mother and father, grandmother, and three young-adult children, Where Treetops Glisten is a novella of the Turner family of Lafayette, Indiana. Cara Putnam begins the novella with middle child Abigail’s story in White Christmas. Abigail, a perfectionist and caretaker figure, stays at home during the war to complete her degree and works part time at a candy shop to support herself as much as possible. She has sworn off men for the duration of the war to protect her broken heart; however, she learns in White Christmas that love is about much more about risk than protection when she comes across a broken young man in need of help. Set on the home front, the war itself does not factor into White Christmas as much as I was expecting—and wanting to experience—of a novella centered around World War II. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Putnam’s story because she did focus her plot on topics not touched upon often in stories from this time period. Jackson—the male protagonist—is fighting for his family’s farming livelihood; the details about the occupation and lifestyles of those who farmed during the Great Depression and World War II drove the story in an exciting way. Abigail, on the other hand, was a sweet and endearing character whose story was fun to watch unfold because of the dichotomy of her pragmatism and desire for love.

Moving on to the brother of the family, I’ll Be Home for Christmas is Pete Turner’s story of love and redemption. Pete returns from the European Theater a depressed and angry man looking to fill the holes life has made from years of bad choices and harsh consequences. Instructed by his pastor to give as a way to feel whole again, Pete never expects that the little girl he chose to give to would be the one to lead him to his fulfillment. Through caring for this little girl, reconnecting with her mother, and learning through experiences with them about God’s role in his life, Pete finds the redemption he needs to become his best man. I’ll Be Home for Christmas’s author, Sarah Sundin is by far a favorite of mine for both her World War II storylines and her writing itself, so this story is the one I looked forward to the most (with no offense meant to the other authors). My assumption was correct, since I fell in love with Pete and his leading lady; keenly felt the emotions the characters experienced; and related to Sundin’s theological lesson about fulfillment through God alone. Her writing sings and her love for the time period, history, and her characters shines off the page.

With the baby of the family, Goyer spins a tale of honest and forgiveness in Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Meredith “Merry” Turner is aptly named for her cheerful disposition and love of Christmas. The youngest sister who desires to stand upon her own two feet, Merry is determined to make a difference in the lives of the broken and battered soldiers around her. She yearns for independence, her own identity, and to leave her broken heart behind in the United States. But her broken heart—and the man she unable to stop loving—follows her to the battlefield. Admist death and destruction, Merry finds God and love are present even in the most dire of circumstances. Goyer deftly wields historical facts into her fiction, which alone is enough of a reason for her books to stand out amongst the many World War II novels. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas within the previous statement is unique for a few reasons: Goyer set the story in the Netherland, rather than England or France, the typical setting choices for World War II stories; her protagonist and antagonist are not easily discernable within historical knowledge; and unlike the other two stories within this novella, Goyer’s story takes place on the battlefields of World War II. I loved Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas because its setting was exactly where I wanted to be when reading a World War II story—the battlefields of Europe. All of the fears and drama experienced by the Greatest Generation came alive in Goyer’s story.

Where Treetops Glisten is the first novella I have read of my own choosing, and overall I would choose to read another if I favored the authors or was drawn in by back cover copy. However, I did not consider differences between novels and novellas until I began reading Where Treetops Glisten, so the shorter lengths in which the authors have to work their plots sharply came across to me. Frequently when reading this novella I was frustrated by what seemed to be a lack of substance or depth to the characters. However, text length is not determined by an author’s choice, so I may just have to compare other novellas to Where Treetops Glisten to see if novella-type characterization varies from that of characters in novels. As mentioned above, I love Sarah Sundin’s novels and have multiples already of Tricia Goyer’s and Cara Putnam’s—no doubt, they will all be wonderful.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

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

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Review: Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

[ 4 ] October 21, 2014

keepers of the covenant book coverReviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Christian fiction author Lynn Austin brings a second strong novel to readers of her Restoration Chronicles with Keepers of the Covenant. Fans of the author’s historical fiction will not want to miss this novel because relatable characters, a detailed and compelling plot, and lyrical prose bring the Old Testament to life.

In Biblical times, quiet scholar Ezra just wants to study the Torah in the hopes of reaching fellow Israelites with God’s word. God’s chosen people, however, are threatened by outside forces determined to annihilate them and desperately need a leader. When the king of Persia calls for the decimation of the Jewish people because of a long-standing feud between God’s chosen people and the Gentiles, Ezra’s life is subsequently upended as he is chosen to lead the Israelites against their foes. For an introvert who prefers books to people, Ezra struggles to understand why God would put him into a leadership role; ever the follower of His laws, though, Ezra zealously takes his position with pride and determination throughout the entire novel.

Keepers of the Covenant is Ezra’s story of leading the Jewish people through battles and trials as they fight for peace and prosperity in their homelands. Austin uses four primary characters to illustrate the struggles and joys of the Jewish and Gentile peoples of Biblical times. In the authors characteristic fashion, the historical setting and timeline do not deter readers from connecting with her characters. In Keepers of the Covenant readers will feel the pain, empathize with the plights, rejoice in the joys, and wonder about the confusion around them when Ezra, Devorah, Amina, and Ruben participate in and come through the battles of the Old Testament.

One of Austin’s best strengths—and she has many—is her ability to ability to bring the Bible to life through relatable characters, accessible prose, and compelling storylines. Stories, lessons, parables, and more that have intimidated generations upon generations of people are somehow adapted through characters and situations that seem just like what readers would encounter today to the novels that many readers of Christian historical fiction rush to buy upon release day—and suddenly those Biblical stories are not so scary and much more interesting that what those readers will hear from the altar. Keepers of the Covenant is a long novel, so Austin has a lot of material to work with that drives the plot in exciting ways; however, as in any prose, longer length also gives the writer more room for error. Austin does not do anything wrong in Keepers of the Covenant—I really don’t think she could ever do any wrong—but her characters do not grow as much as the 450+ pages could allow them to, which does begin to drag the story a bit towards the end of the novel. Most readers will probably not pick up on this observation because the plot and characters equally drive the story, but a bit more fleshing out of certain characters would have helped develop a reader-character relationship with Ezra and Devorah.

Lynn Austin is an author whose back-cover blubs of her books I do not need to read before automatically selecting “pre-order” on Amazon or bringing the novel to the check-out counter at any store. I have read almost all of her novels and have loved each and every one. Keepers of the Covenant is one of my favorite novels of 2014, and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. More than anything, I want to thank Austin for helping strengthen my faith through her Restoration Chronicles novels. I would not know nearly as much about the Old Testament as I do now because of her stories.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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