Friday, May 30, 2014

"The Heart's Pursuit" Blog Tour

A jilted bride desperate to save her family from ruin.

A bounty hunter seeking vengeance for a ravaged past.

An arduous trek toward justice---or redemption.
Silver Matlock and Jared Newman know traveling together is a bad idea. Bad for Silver's already tarnished reputation in her small Colorado town. Bad for bounty hunter Jared's secret, single-minded mission for revenge. But Silver is determined to track down the rogue who left her at the altar and stole the last remnant of her father's fortune. And Jared's in a hurry to hunt down the murderer who destroyed his family---even if Silver is too distractingly beautiful for comfort.
The pair takes off over mountain and desert, past bleak homesteads and raw mining towns, hot on the trail of the two villains who took what wasn't theirs to take. Soon supplies dwindle, secrets emerge, and suspicion leave Silver and Jared at odds when they need each other most. To confront an enemy deadlier than desert rattlesnakes and rocky cliffs, Silver and Jared must learn to forgive and trust and face the question they haven't dared voice: What happens next?

Purchase a copy:

About the author: Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heart-warming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over sixty novels.

Robin can be found at: website, Facebook, Twitter

My Take:

I’ve enjoyed books by Robin Lee Hatcher in the past, and when I read the summary for this novel, I was hooked immediately. One thing that Robin Lee Hatcher does well is to just tell a great story without a lot of other stuff getting in the way, and with The Heart’s Pursuit, this was definitely the case.

I really enjoyed the adventure as Silver and Jared pursued the two outlaws. The story never seemed to slow down too much, and I liked Silver and Jared as main characters. The development of their relationship happens quickly and is predictable, but this is more understandable when two people spend so many harrowing days together.

There were some parts of this book that I thought were pretty unrealistic – Silver and Jared traveling together alone for one – but for some reason it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the story. Also, even though I liked Silver and Jared overall as characters, Silver sometimes got on my nerves. She was made out to be so strong and independent, but so many times she instead came off as impetuous and, therefore, even more of a damsel in distress. Again, I still enjoyed the story and characters overall, but sometimes Silver was just too much.

I thought the faith aspect of this book was done very well. The spiritual themes are clear, but they are woven throughout the story and in the characters’ lives in a way that made it realistic. It was interesting to see how easily the characters turned from wanting to seek justice to wanting to seek revenge. It really made me think about how easily anyone can slip into revenge-seeking mode, even over little things, which definitely was not the case here.

There are some intense plot points in this book – one of the outlaws is being pursued because of rape and murder – so some parts of the book are fairly heavy and somewhat disturbing. The overall feeling of the book, however, is not without hope. The novel clearly makes the point that there is a distinct difference between seeking justice and seeking revenge, and that ultimately, forgiveness and redemption rest in God alone.

I will give The Heart's Pursuit ... 4 BookWorms.

Robin Lee Hatcher's latest novel, The Heart's Pursuit, is receiving critical praise:
"The Old West lives again in this inspirational romantic adventure. . . . Themes of forgiveness, justice and mercy dominate the story and add to the characters' depth. Hatcher treats readers to a rich sensory experience—you can taste the desert dust and smell the smoke and stench of a crowded gambling hall." (Publishers Weekly)

Robin is celebrating the release of her novel by giving away a $200 "Romantic Weekend Getaway."

  One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card (Get away for the weekend with that special someone!)
  • The Heart's Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 8th. Winner will be announced June 9th on Robin's website.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Robin's blog on June 8th to see if you won.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishers through LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"A Beauty So Rare" Review

Eleanor Braddick arrives in Nashville, Tennessee, under less than ideal circumstances. After serving as a nurse in the Civil War and losing her brother to the conflict, Eleanor must now place her father in an institution in Nashville due to his dementia. Even though she is welcomed at the Belmont Estate by her charitable but demanding Aunt Adelicia, Eleanor is determined to make her own way in the world. Eleanor has always known that she is no Southern beauty, and she is content to live a life without a husband, no matter what Aunt Adelicia says.

Marcus Geoffrey is in Nashville where he, too, is determined to make his own way in the world. Marcus is actually Archduke Marcus Gottfried from Austria, and he is hiding his true identity in order to work on his two passions in life: botany and architecture.

Eleanor and Marcus are from two completely different worlds, but when Eleanor and Marcus begin to work together on building a home for widows and orphans, they realize that they might have more in common than they initially thought.

Aunt Adelicia is not a woman who is easily crossed, and Marcus is not who she has in mind for her niece. But if family secrets come to light, it might be more than just Aunt Adelicia keeping them apart.

A Beauty So Rare returns to the lavish Belmont Mansion with a sweeping story of love, compassion, and the definition of true beauty.

The Belmont Mansion immediately after the Civil War is an interesting setting for this novel. There was so much going on in American history at that time, and that’s exactly what this book portrays – so much going on.

The main story between Eleanor and Marcus is interesting, and their friendship/romance has a lot of twists and turns. Some of the circumstances that surround their relationship – misunderstandings about the other person, people trying to keep them apart – are not my favorite plot points in a romance novel, but, overall, their rapport was good and was written well. The best part of the novel for me was the building of the home for orphans and widows, so it was interesting to see how Marcus and Eleanor related to each other during that process.

As I said earlier, there is a lot going on in this novel. Marcus is in the process of working on new varieties of flowers and even disease-resistant potato plants. Eleanor is working on the home for orphans and widows, trying to dodge the match-making Aunt Adelicia, and worrying about her father who is suffering from dementia. The brutal effects of the Civil War are lingering, including financial issues and racial tensions. Even though there is a lot going on, the plots are not extremely complex, and the flow of the novel is easy to follow. I especially enjoyed the overall theme of beauty and what makes a person truly beautiful is not what is on the outside.

The main thing about this novel that kept me from enjoying it completely was that it was just too long. It was very repetitious at times and even seemed to need some editing. The descriptions of the surroundings and the inner monologues of the main characters really distracted from the flow of the story, especially during the first half of the book. In the second half of the novel, the story picked up quite a bit, but the length overall was still too much.

I also wish that the spiritual parts of the story had more depth. The characters talked and thought about God sometimes, and they had compassion for those around them, but I feel as if their faith could have been better developed.

At 480 pages, A Beauty So Rare is a long one, but the setting and characters help to make up for the excessive length.

I will give A Beauty So Rare … 3.5 BookWorms.

A Beauty So Rare
by Tamara Alexander
Belmont Mansion #2
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: March 24, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Murder Simply Brewed" Review

Amber Wright, manager of the Amish artisan shops in Middlebury, Indiana, loves her job and her quiet, peaceful town. When the owner of the local coffee place, Ethan Gray, is discovered dead in his shop, the peacefulness of this small community – where Amish and English work together – is shattered.

When Amber assigns a young Amish girl, Hannah, to take over the coffee shop, the two soon come to believe that Ethan’s death may not have been accidental. Ethan was not a well-liked person in the
Village, and a series of vandalisms begin pointing to something more sinister lurking about.

Messages taken from the Old Testament, secret letters, and suspects with many things to hide lead the two women on a search to solve the mystery that has rocked their little community. Will they be able to restore some type of order to this peaceful place, or will their searching lead to a dangerous end?

I read all three of the previous novels in the Shipshewana mystery series by this author, and I enjoyed the feel of a Murder She Wrote-type mystery along with the unique setting. Both of those elements are present in this new mystery novel as well.

The setting of a small community where Amish and English work side-by-side was once again unique, and it set up the mystery part of the novel very well. It was neat to read about the descriptions of life in this small community and how this death touched so many people. The mystery was also good. There were enough twists and turns to keep the mystery interesting without it becoming ridiculously complicated. It’s a true whodunit, which is my favorite type of mystery.

Even though the setting was interesting and the mystery was compelling, the rest of the novel didn’t keep my interest. It was nice to see the relationship develop between Amber and her neighbor, Tate, but I wasn’t very invested in their romance. The same was true for the interest that Hannah had in Jesse. It was nice, but that was it. The romances helped to fill out the novel some but not quite enough.

I also thought that there was a lot of filler in this novel that just didn’t make any difference in the outcome of the mystery or in the characters’ lives. There was a lot of repetitive dialogue and descriptions, and I found my mind wandering at times. Maybe these sections were supposed to try to throw me off of the mystery or to give the novel a more realistic feel. All it did was cause me to be somewhat bored until the next mystery element took place.

This was a nice mystery novel, and I would be interested to see what might happen in subsequent novels in this series, but it didn’t enjoy it as much as the Shipshewana series. The setting of the novel and the small town mystery are both really good. Unfortunately, there was not enough in between the mystery elements to flesh out an entire novel and keep it interesting throughout.

I will give Murder Simply Brewed … 3 BookWorms.

Murder Simply Brewed
by Vannetta Chapman
Zondervan Publishing
Publication date: March 25, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"101 Color and Sing Bible Stories" Review

Bible stories, coloring pages, and children’s songs go hand-in-hand. Every week when we pick up my daughter from her class at church, she has pages that she has colored that correspond to that week’s Bible lesson, and she is humming the songs that they sang.

101 Color and Sing Bible Stories combines all three of these things into one versatile book/CD set. Each Bible story has a corresponding coloring page that can be printed using the provided CD-ROMs as well as a song that you can listen to right from your computer. There are also scripture references for each Bible story as well as a “fun fact.”

The songs that go along with the book are upbeat and will appeal to young children. My five-year-old daughter loved them. I like that you can go online and find all of the lyrics to the songs. This is good, especially since the book only contains a couple of lines of lyrics to each of the songs. The songs are also a good mix of hymns, Sunday School songs, and newer music.

My one critique would be that the Bible stories are not very long. The entire story of Ruth, for example, is told in just a few sentences. While I understand that this presentation should facilitate further Bible study, it would have been nice for the actual Bible stories to be more comprehensive.

My daughter has been a music lover since before birth, so her favorite part of this collection is definitely the songs. My favorite is the complete online lyric sheets. I really like to learn the correct words to any songs that I sing!

Overall, this collection is a nice addition to our Bible storybook library.

I will give 101 Color and Sing Bible Stories ... 4 BookWorms.

101 Color and Sing Bible Stories
by Stephen Elkins
Tyndale Kids
Publication date: February 21, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Kids. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."