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Giveaway: The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw

[ 18 ] February 18, 2015

the half brother book coverI have 5 copies of The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

When Charlie Garrett arrives as a young teacher at the shabby-yet-genteel Abbott School, he finds a world steeped in privilege and tradition. Fresh out of college and barely older than the students he teaches, Charlie longs to leave his complicated southern childhood behind and find his place in the rarefied world of Abbottsford. Before long, he is drawn to May Bankhead, the daughter of the legendary school chaplain; but when he discovers he cannot be with her, he forces himself to break her heart, and she leaves Abbott—he believes forever. He hunkers down in his house in the foothills of Massachusetts, thinking his sacrifice has contained the damage, and controlled their fates.

But nearly a decade later, his peace is shattered when his golden-boy half brother, Nick, comes to Abbott to teach—and May returns as a teacher as well. Students and teachers alike are drawn by Nick’s magnetism, and even May falls under his spell; when Charlie pushes his brother and his first love together, with what he believes are the best of intentions, a love triangle ensues that is haunted by desire, regret, and a long-buried mystery.

With wisdom and emotional generosity, LeCraw takes us through a year that transforms both the teachers and students of Abbott forever. Skillfully plotted, lyrical, and ambitious, The Half Brother is a powerful examination of family, loyalty, and love.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

[ 7 ] February 18, 2015

memory of violets book coverPlease welcome Hazel Gaynor, author of A Memory of Violets, who is touring the blogosphere with Tasty Book Tours!

Enter to win 1 of 3 copies of Gaynor’s The Girl Who Came Home below

Reviewed by A.D. Cole

Tilly Harper is more than happy to leave behind her mother and sister, her personal tragedies, and her reputation among the gossip-mongers of her home town. But as she arrives in London to begin her new position as housemother in one of the homes for disabled flower girls, she soon realizes that her guilt and grief will continue to torment her wherever she goes. And then she finds the diary of Flora Flynn.

A former housemother and flower girl, Flora once had a sister named Rosie. As Tilly reads the diary, she comes to see that Flora’s entire life was defined by her search for her sister who vanished at a very young age. Tilly comes to feel Flora’s presence in her life and is overwhelmed with a desire to reunite the two sisters. What Tilly finds in the process are answers to her own personal mysteries, as well as the truth that saving Flora and Rosie won’t assuage her guilt over her relationship with her own sister.

This story was a subdued read. The gothic aura and intertwining mysteries kept the pages turning. I enjoyed the exploration of the ideas of fate and destiny. There were times, though, when I felt the story was being skimmed over. For instance, Tilly arrives at the home of the flower girls and is understandably nervous. And then through a few paragraphs, we’re told that she has learned the details of each of her girls and has become friends with them. We don’t really get to see her relationships with the girls evolve. I think the story would have been better had there been less narration and more action…or as the advice goes, less telling and more showing.

As far as the historical context goes, this novel was an absolute treasure. In A Memory of Violets, Hazel Gaynor delves into a lesser-known corner of history. The novel centers around the very first Alexandra Rose Day, an event that continues to this day. Gaynor incorporates a fictionalized version of John Groom, a preacher who founded a charity organization to help the poor and disabled flower sellers. It was a well-researched, detailed historical setting. One of the things I want a historical fiction novel to do for me is excite me about a piece of history I’ve never heard about. This novel achieved that and I’ve been online reading more about John Groom and the flower sellers.

I would definitely recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction. There’s also a gothic quality to it, for fans of ghostly stories, though this certainly isn’t a horror novel. The novel takes place primarily in 1912, so if you’re a fan of the show Downton Abbey, you’ll appreciate the setting. And as a side note, there was also a lovely little romantic sub-plot, which I have to mention, being such a fan of romance. It definitely tugged at the heartstrings. Overall, this was a satisfying, historical read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

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

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Review: Uncle John’s Weird, Weird World: Who, What, Where, When, and Wow!

[ 1 ] February 17, 2015

uncle john's weird weird world book coverReviewed by Melanie Kline

Amazing, interesting, page turning, edge of your seat entertainment at it’s finest–there are not enough adjectives to describe the wonderful piece of literature that I had the opportunity to hold in my hands. Uncle John’s Weird, Weird World: Who, What, Where, When, and Wow! had enough stories and blurbs to compete with any Ripley’s or Guinness World Record book, yet was much more fun and compelling.

Who wouldn’t want to learn about Slime Fever Syndrome, Sumo Suit Wrestling, Dwarf Tossing, Random Bathroom Stats, etc.?  Do you know the definition of nocturia? Read this book and you will be sure to. You also cannot hum if you hold your nose closed…did you just try to?

Do you play the lottery? You might want to rethink how badly you want to win when you read about the fates of many of the lottery winners documented in what is my new favorite book of all time. Being rich might not be all it’s cracked up to be or last as long as you would like.

This book is so full of facts, games, quizzes, brain teasers that the fun just never ends! 74% of people read in the bathroom; 47% talk on the phone in the bathroom; 11% eat in there. Umm, I’ve heard of grabbing a roll of toilet paper but never a napkin!

I never stopped laughing through the entire 288 pages of this gem and plan on seeking out all of the previous versions. Not only are they going to grace each and every one of my bathrooms, I am going to be purchasing them as Christmas presents for my family members this year so that they, too, can enjoy the reading experience!

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book to everyone–it is a laugh a minute while being educational at the same time. If you do not find humor in Uncle John’s Weird Weird World: Who, What, Where, When and Wow! then you need to go and get your funny bone checked out! Or you could just concentrate on the section with curses to put on people who won’t toast you.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

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

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Review: Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy

[ 3 ] February 17, 2015

dirty chick book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

In her humorous book, Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer, Antonia Murphy invites readers to take an inside peak into life as an amateur lifestyle farmer. Her story starts with her babysitting some chickens for her father and step-mother. At the time, their farming experiment was of little interest to Antonia, and when one chicken ended up dead, she was rather traumatized by the experience. Living near San Francisco, she did appreciate the work of artisan farmers for all the delicious options they made available to consumers, but that was as far as her interest in agriculture extended.

Years later, Antonia and her husband moved with their two children to New Zealand. With its more remote population, the foodie in her realized that if she wanted to experience the culinary options she had at home, she would need to grow more of her own food. As it turned out, the house they decided to rent for a year came with a cow for them to tend to. Not realizing how ignorant they were on animal husbandry, she and her husband agreed to the terms and dipped their toes into farming. While her husband worked as a computer technician, Antonia cared for the children and home…and their growing collection of animals…cows, goats, sheep, alpacas, a dog, a cat and chickens.

I found her observations completely hilarious, probably because we too have experienced some of the learning curve that goes into a more “self-sufficient” lifestyle. The author observes that “cow herding wasn’t a subject they’d covered in liberal arts school.” I concurred as my husband and I found that everything from gardening effectively to raising animals (and keeping them alive) seemed hugely complicated and expensive, because we were starting with almost zero knowledge despite having several college degrees between us. Anyone who has attempted such a huge lifestyle shift will appreciate her stories of calamity and chaos. If your preference is to enjoy the local bounty via farmer’s market, this book is for you too. You will appreciate all the effort that brings food to your table and will likely feel very good about the extra cost of your farm fresh produce and animal products. Antonia’s approach is real to life, although a bit crass at times. Part comedy and part memoir, it is sure to be enjoyed by a wide audience.

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 free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Return to Exile by Lynne Gentry

[ 2 ] February 16, 2015

return to exile book coverPlease welcome Lynne Gentry, author of Return to Exile, who is touring the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

How many of you enjoy fantasy novels? As a Christian reader, I haven’t found a whole lot of inspirational novels with time travel in them. At least not in this way. Return to Exile is the second installment in the Carthage Chronicles series and I found it to be strangely different from my normal read but also quite exciting! Even if this isn’t your normal genre to read, I would urge you to pick it up–I personally devoured it!

The heroine of the book is Dr. Lisbeth Hastings. She is a wonderful woman who I found myself drawn to in a way I haven’t had happen in a while. She is such a strong woman and yet tender when need be, especially with her daughter–the daughter she conceived with a man from another time. Cyprian Thascius is her husband, the one she left behind exiled on an island when she returns to present day United States of America. They parted six years ago and neither one has heard from the other, obviously. Yet something is happening that may require Lisbeth to travel back in time again. Will things be the same between her and Cyprian? Or will time have changed everything?

Lynne Gentry is an author who has a way with words. She draws pictures that make you feel a part of them. This is definitely a keeper book that will have you turning pages quickly to see where things are going and what will happen between Lisbeth and Cyprian. Gentry’s writing will have you experiencing ups and downs as you see what her characters go through in their daily lives. If you have never read a Christian book with time travel in it, I hope you take a chance with this one. Believe me, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it but I found myself immensely drawn into the story. You definitely won’t be sorry if you give this book a try!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

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

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Mailbox Monday

[ 12 ] February 16, 2015

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog

Here are the books that made their way into my mailbox last week:

Paper Review Copies

i see you made an effort book coverpicnic in provence book coveryour body is my prison book coversplinters of light book coverlady of the eternal city book coverfifth gospel book coverthe nurses book coverthe snow globe book cover

Digital Review Copies

how to catch a prince book coverwhen the moon is low book cover

Additions to Personal Library

night blindness book coverpearl that broke its shell book covercarrot principlegrace and power book cover

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