Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Dawn Comes Early" Review

About the Book:

Disgraced dime novelist Kate Tenney fled the city that banned her latest novel for the emptiness of the desert. Answering an ad to be “heiress” to a vast cattle ranch in the Arizona Territory, Kate hopes ranching turns out to be as romantic as she portrayed it in her novels.

But what awaits her is a life harder than the one she just left. There is no room for mistakes on a working cattle ranch, and Kate is ill-prepared for her new life. She quickly learns that dawn comes early. But she is tenacious.

Having been abandoned by a string of men, Kate has no intention of ever marrying. But she didn’t expect to meet Luke Adams, either. Luke awakens feelings inside Kate she doesn’t recognize, and his steady presence is a constant distraction. She has only written about love in the past, never known it herself. But her feelings for Luke stand in the way of all she has to gain if she is chosen as the heir.

Perhaps God brought Kate to the barrenness of the desert to give new life to her jaded heart.

Connect with the author, Margaret Brownley here: http://www.margaretbrownley.com/.

My Take:

Overall, I liked this story. The plot was good and there was enough going on – enough action – to keep it moving. With the main character, Kate, I thought this plot was a very interesting way to get a young girl out to a ranch in the Wild West. Offering to make someone your heiress would have people coming out of the woodwork, and, of course, most of those young women would know nothing about a ranch. I have said in other reviews that I like ‘fish-out-of-water’ stories, and this one was pretty good in that respect.

There were a lot of characters in this novel. It was fairly easy to keep them all sorted out, but I sometimes thought there was too much attention given to the minor characters’ stories. The one with Luke’s Aunt Bessie and Uncle Sam was amusing at first but got pretty ridiculous towards the end.
My favorite character in this novel was Ruckus. I loved his simple faith and his knowledge of Scripture. But even though many of the characters exhibited strong faith in God like Ruckus did, I was a bit confused as to when the main character, Kate, demonstrated this same faith. At the end, she seemed to be a believer, but I’m not sure when this change actually took place. I felt as if I missed something. I was also confused as to why Luke, who seemed to have faith in God, would even consider making his feelings known to Kate and going after her when he knew she did not claim faith in God. I thought that was out of character, and, again, I felt as if I had missed something along the way.

One of the best parts of this book was the quotes from Kate’s novel at the beginning of each chapter that related to what was going on. I liked having a little teaser at the start of each chapter to get my mind focused on what was going to be happening. I also liked that the main character of this novel was a published author. Sometimes when Kate was describing her writing and her experiences as an author, I felt as if the author was putting her own thoughts down on the page. I enjoyed how Kate was able to ‘handle’ Cactus Joe (the bad guy) by writing a book about him!
There were a few things in this novel that seemed as if they weren’t completely wrapped up, but the stories will be continuing in the other Brides of Last Chance Ranch books to come.

I will give Dawn Comes Early … 3 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through their BookSneeze blogger review program. 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."

Friday, May 25, 2012

"The Pursuit of Lucy Banning" Review

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport was sent to me as an advanced review copy by Revell Publishing. It is the first in the “Avenue of Dreams” series by this author.

Lucy Banning is the daughter of a wealthy lawyer and lives on prestigious Prairie Avenue in Chicago. Despite the expectations of her family, including her “arranged” engagement to the son of her parents’ best friends, Lucy has other dreams. She is secretly enrolled in a class at the University of Chicago, and her charity work at a local orphanage irks her fiancĂ©, Daniel, to no end.
When Lucy meets Will Edwards, an up-and-coming young architect and friend of her brother, it confirms what Lucy has suspected for quite a while. She wants a life on her own, one where she is free to make her own decisions. But at what cost?

Secrets, a little bit of mystery, the opulent society of 1890’s Chicago, and the Chicago World’s Fair all collide in the pursuit of one Miss Lucy Banning.

While I have previously read historical novels that take place in Chicago, I don’t think I have ever read one from this time period. It was interesting to read a novel about the end of the Gilded Age that takes place in a city other than New York City. Usually there is a stark comparison drawn between the extremely wealthy and the common man in these Gilded Age novels, and while that is shown somewhat in this novel, it wasn’t as harsh. I think it was the personality of Lucy that helped with this. She was wealthy and knew her way around society, but she could just as easily work at an orphanage and take college classes. To her, there was not much switch from one to the other, so the novel felt seamless in that way as well. Although the reality of the life of the working class during this time was indeed sometimes harsh, it was refreshing to read a novel in which the upper class was “not all that bad” and actually contributed their time and their money to those in need.
Even though I didn’t necessarily relate to Lucy, I still liked her as a character. She was a forward-thinking woman for her time, but she didn’t come across as brash or too opinionated. She had compassion for those in need, and she also desired to use her intellect. I liked the character of Will as well, but I felt as if I didn’t really get to know him. As for Lucy’s maid, Charlotte, I liked her, too, especially her relationship with Lucy. They were both living double lives and had to face some of the same types of situations even though they were so far apart in station.

As a couple, I didn’t always believe the deep romantic feelings between Lucy and Will. There was an attraction, of course, but they didn’t seem to know each other very well or spend great quantities of time together.  I also have to mention that, if you are writing a romantic novel, please, please don’t leave out the scene with The Proposal! I was disappointed that I as the reader did not get to ‘see’ that scene.
The bit of mystery to this book was presented in the form of secrets. Almost everyone seemed to have some sort of secret: Lucy taking college classes, Will’s background, Daniel’s evasiveness, Charlotte and her dilemma (the beginning of which was entirely unbelievable – there is no way she could have kept that part of the secret hidden for so many days…). These secrets pretty much drove the story, which made it intriguing, but the plot sometimes felt lost, and the characters didn’t seem to have much remorse over their deception.

Which leads me to my next point about this novel. For Christian fiction, it was very light on the Christianity. I think the few mentions of God or the Bible could have been lifted right out, and it wouldn’t have affected the story at all. The characters didn’t experience much growth throughout the novel. On the one hand, I think it is great for a Christian fiction novel to just be a nice, clean story. (Especially in the historical fiction genre – the secular historical fiction books out there tend to be awful – not clean at all). I have said before that I don’t expect Christian fiction to preach the gospel on every page. On the other hand, it would have been nice for the characters to acknowledge God in some way instead of just in passing at church. That being said, it sometimes just depends on my mood at the time I am reading a book whether or not the spiritual aspect bothers me. I still enjoyed reading this novel even though the spiritual depth was not there.
I also thought it was odd what happened to Daniel towards the end of the book. I will not comment much on this, since I don’t want to give anything away, but to me it just didn’t seem to fit with the tone of the rest of the book.

I guess I didn’t realize going into this novel that it was the first in a series. There were a few loose ends that to me were unexpected (I turned the page expecting an epilogue), but when I saw that this was the first part of other stories to come, I felt better about it.
The scenes with the preparation for and dedication of the World’s Fair were really neat, and I hope we get to see more of this grand exhibition in the future novels.

I will give The Pursuit of Lucy Banning… 3 ½ BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing. 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."

Monday, May 21, 2012

"The Search Committee" Review

The Search Committee by Tim Owens was sent to me as an eBook review copy by Tyndale House Publishers through NetGalley.

What happens when seven members of a Presbyterian church pile into an old van and go looking for a new pastor? Plenty of bickering, laughter, and drama…but also a lot of growth and discovery.
In The Search Committee, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in a small town in eastern North Carolina has moved to a position in a larger church in Atlanta, leaving the church members to form a committee to look for a new pastor. Each member of this group is busy with life and is going through struggles. As they spend more time together, however, bonds begin to form that these seven individuals never thought possible.

Join Travis, Bill, Matt, Susie, Joyce, Frankie, and Dot as they travel around three states to “steal” a new pastor for their church.

Being originally from a small town in the South, I thoroughly understand the concept (and the pitfalls) of a church search committee. My mom was even on a search committee when I was in middle school.
And just like I have mixed feelings about search committees, I have mixed feelings about this book.

After a slow start – it took a long time for me to figure out exactly where this book was taking place, who was who, and to settle in to the flow of things – I was able to enjoy parts of the novel. There were some humorous things that happened during their trips to visit the pastors, and I enjoyed when we were able to “listen” to the sermons right along with them.
However, this novel is written as more of a series of anecdotal events and background stories of the characters rather than a cohesive plot with a beginning, middle, and end. The overarching storyline of the search committee is there, but it seems to sometimes take a backseat to the situations the characters are dealing with. While this is great from a character development standpoint, I still sometimes found myself becoming distracted while I was reading. The fact that it was so based in reality also made the writing come off as coarse at times.

I almost feel as if this book would be better as a play. The author spends a lot of time telling you what things look like or how someone feels rather than showing you. In a play, you could cut out a lot of the “telling” because it would come alive on the stage instead. I am definitely not an author, so I have no idea how you go about writing by showing instead of telling. When an author does this correctly, you don’t even notice; however, when you do notice, it disrupts the overall flow of the novel, and that is what happened occasionally in this one.
This book also isn’t very balanced when it comes to which character is telling the story. This actually didn’t bother me that much, but others might prefer to have a more equal representation from all of the characters.

While this book revolves around church and church members, to me it didn’t seem to have much spiritual depth. The characters all have struggles, and they do go through a time of growth. It just seemed that the growth was attributed to themselves or to others or to circumstances rather than to God. Of course God can use many things for growth in our lives. But the ultimate glory should be to Him, and this was not clear in the novel.
The fundamental ending of this novel was predictable, but I actually really liked it.

If you are looking for something different from your standard Christian fiction novel, give this one a try. For me, it was a nice break from my usual historical romance, but the pace and structure of the novel kept me from enjoying it to its fullest.

I will give The Search Committee … 2 ½ BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers and NetGalley. 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."

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Beyond Hope's Valley" Blog Tour & Contest

About the book:

Beyond Hope's Valley – Book Three in the Big Sky series

After an extended stay in Montana, where Amish traditions are different than in her home state, Marianna Sommer returns to Indiana for two reasons: first to help her brother and his girlfriend prepare for a baby and their wedding. Second, to plan her own wedding to Aaron Zook -- a marriage she’s been dreaming about ever since childhood. And yet, although she had missed the idyllic farms and families of her upbringing, Marianna is surprised that Indiana is somehow making her long now for Montana.

As months pass, secrets that were hidden in winter’s frozen grasp thaw and take on a life of their own. The truths about a child, about a past relationship, and about God’s plans are being revealed. Walking through a valley of questions, Marianna must hold on to hope as she decides where and with whom her heart truly belongs.

Link to buy the book: http://ow.ly/azust

About the Author:
Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of thirty-two books including Beside Still Waters, Remembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

More info: www.triciagoyer.com.

See what others are saying about the book here

My Take:

When I started reading the first book in this series, Tricia Goyer was a new author to me. After finishing this series (and also reading another of her books, (Remembering You), Ms. Goyer is moving up the ranks of my favorite authors.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Beside Still Waters. It was so refreshing to read an Amish book that explored the fact that there can be salvation apart from the Amish church and way of life. I also liked the second book, Along Wooded Paths, but I felt the pace of that one was a little slower - more of a bridge between the first and second books, which is often the case in a trilogy.

As for Beyond Hope's Valley, it was the best one of the three.

I absolutely loved this book. I liked how it branched off and explored topics that had only been touched on in the previous books while still being an excellent conclusion to the series. I appreciated the depth of the exploration of the worlds of the Amish and the English and how each culture has its own issues, both spiritually and in their communities.

What I liked best of all was the romantic conclusion to the series, although I would have loved to hear/read the "Marianna" song!

I have had mixed feelings about the Amish fiction I have read over the last few years. But if Tricia Goyer (and Vannetta Chapman, author of the Shipshewana Amish mystery series) keep writing Amish fiction, I may just become a fan.

I will give Beyond Hope's Valley ... 4 ½ Bookworms!

About the Contest:

Win a Custom Amish Prize Pack from @TriciaGoyer in her Beyond Hope's Valley Giveaway!

RSVP for All Things Amish Party {5/21}!

Celebrate with Tricia and enter to win a custom-made Amish Wall hanging in the colors of your choice ... and much more!

One fortunate winner will receive: 
  •  Custom Amish Wall Hanging {You choose the colors!} 
  • An Amish Doll {Sweet.} 
  • Amish-made basket {It’s picnic season!} 
  • Doilies, potholder and an Amish cookbook {All items form Bird-in-Hand, PA!} 
  • Three book Big Sky Amish series {Be swept away by this captivating series.} 

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 20th. Winner will be announced at "All Things Amish" Author Chat Facebook Party on 5/21. Tricia will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from her website) and giving away books, gift certificates and more! 

So grab your copy of Beyond Hope's Valley and join Tricia on the evening of the May 21st for a fun chat, trivia contest (How much do you know about the Amish?) and lots of giveaways. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from B&H Books & Litfuse. 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 16, 2012

"Stardust" Blog Tour

About the Book: Shortly after burying her unfaithful husband, Georgia Peyton unexpectedly inherits the derelict Stardust motel from a distant relative. Despite doubts from the community and the aunt who raised her, she is determined to breathe new life into it. But the guests who arrive aren't what Georgia expects: Her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive but down-on-his-luck drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past.

Can Georgia find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxy to face the future? And will her dream of a new life under the flickering neon of the STARDUST ever come true?

About the Author: Carla Stewart is the author of Chasing Lilacs. Her writing reflects her passion for times gone by, cherished relationships, and the mysteries of God in our skid-marked world. She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren.

Connect with Carla:

My website: http://www.carlastewart.com/
Follow me onTwitter: www.twitter.com/#!/ChasingLilacs
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/carlastewartauthor
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/chasinglilacs/  

My Take:

From the beginning of this book, I was intrigued. I have always liked books where the cast of characters are a rag-tag bunch thrown together for some reason. I enjoyed getting to know Georgia and her circumstances at the beginning of the book. The writing in this novel is realistic, but quirky, which makes the somewhat gritty situations a bit more palatable. The descriptions are good, too. They make you feel as if you are right there with the characters without becoming rambling.
Once I got to know the characters, though, the novel slowed down quite a bit until the actual opening of the Stardust about halfway through. When the Stardust opened, though, I was so excited for Georgia, and I couldn’t wait to see who would come to stay at the little resort.

The characters are what drive this novel, and my favorites were Ludi and Peter. I loved Ludi’s faith and her trust in God, even in bad times. Peter was mysterious, but he grew on me as he and Georgia go to know each other.
I did think that this book was sad as it portrayed the polio epidemic. I did not know that this would be a focal point of the story, and it was at times heartbreaking. My dad has told me about his memories of polio outbreaks when he was a child – such a devastating disease, and it is seemingly random, which causes so much fear.

Ultimately Stardust is a story of forgiveness that was told in a very real, but very compassionate, way.

I will give Stardust … 3 ½ BookWorms.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from FaithWords. 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."

Monday, May 14, 2012

"The Discovery" Review

The Discovery by Dan Walsh was sent to me as an advance review copy by Revell Publishing. This was a new author for me, and I was looking forward to reading this one.

Michael Warner is deeply grieved by the death of his grandfather, a giant in the world of fiction authors. His grandfather’s books of war and intrigue have sold in the millions. When Michael inherits his grandfather’s rambling home in Charleston, along with enough money for him and his wife to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, he realizes that his own dream of becoming a writer might actually come to fruition.
But Michael will discover more in his grandfather’s home than just a great place to live. He is led to an unpublished manuscript that Michael realizes his grandfather meant for him to find. As he begins reading, Michael is transported back in time to 1942. What he finds in those pages is more than a remarkable story of suspense, intrigue, and romance – he finds the key to the secrets of his family’s past.

The Discovery had many of the aspects that I like in a novel: the historical portion was very rich, the characters experienced growth of some sort, the story (once it got started) kept moving, and I was entertained. I even liked the idea of a “novel-within-a-novel.”
But it was so much more than that. More than I can even really explain. After I got settled into the book, especially the historical part, I was hooked, and I couldn’t read it quickly enough. The characters were written so well, as were the action sequences, that I could even see this one as a movie, which I definitely cannot say about every book I read.

The writing and the flow of this novel were really good. Even though I don’t usually like it when new characters are introduced more than halfway through a book, especially if we are getting the story from their point of view, in this book that disruption in flow didn’t last long. It even seemed to be fitting, and I was able to settle back in very quickly.
This novel focuses mostly on the historical part of the story, which I like in these types of books. Others might appreciate more of a balance between the “past” story and the “present” story, but since I like historical fiction so much, I prefer staying in the past for most of the book. I also felt that this novel had just the right amount of suspense and revelation, even with the modern-day story. I liked how the reader gets the mystery long before the narrator Michael does. I can see how someone would find this frustrating, but I thought it was amusing. I felt like yelling at Michael, “Come on, dude! Just put two and two together!” But, having said that, I really enjoyed the “light bulb” moment that Michael had.

This novel went much deeper than I was expecting when I first started reading. It really makes you think about moral dilemmas and situations such as:  is it ever OK to lie? What about in dire circumstances? What would you do…and what would you be willing to give up…for true love? This story is ultimately one of sacrifice and mercy, and it is very powerful.
The author’s note at the end of this book was really interesting as well. It was neat to get some insight into how this story came to be.

Despite the war-time events, the secrets, and the action, The Discovery is still a romance at its core. I don’t usually get swept up in grand romances (Titanic, for example, is NOT one of my favorite movies. Not even close.), but this romantic storyline blew me away.

The tag line of this book from the publisher is “An Engrossing Story of Family Secrets and a Love for the Ages” – This is an absolutely perfect description for this novel.

I will give The Discovery … 4 ½ BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing. 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."

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides" Blog Tour & Contest

About the Book: 

Women today are busy, stressed, and guilt-ridden, yet they long to develop their spiritual sides. Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides offers inspirational thoughts based on scripture -- brief enough to be read during a television commercial, yet insightful enough to open your eyes to the grace of God on days you change diapers and/or lead corporate meetings. Each reading suggests a "Guilt Trip to Avoid" and ends with a way to "Take the Joy Ride." The book includes six months of daily readings so that you may establish a habit of connecting with God. Readings are listed under the letters G-R-A-C-E, representing God, Relationships, Acceptance, Challenges and Emotions.

The coauthors hope these meaningful readings will help you deal with guilt -- both real and imagined. By applying the insights shared in Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides, you may develop a calmer, less guilt-ridden life-style and become better equipped to function as wives, mothers and friends. Younger women often develop patterns of thinking and experience feelings of guilt that carry over into their mature years, so women of all ages will find this book helpful.

Link to buy the book: bit.ly/HZSBdg 

About the Authors:

Kim Messinger, Janine Boyer and Shirley Brosius had a common bond of Christian service when Christ drew them together for their first small group meeting in January, 1998.
Since then they have drawn closer through life’s joys and struggles and found God to be sufficient for their every need. They call themselves “Friends of the Heart” because their passion is to help women open their hearts and find joy in Christ.

Kim and Janine supported Shirley in writing Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories About Women Who Made a Difference, which was released by Howard Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster, in 2006.  More recently the three women worked together to write another devotional book, Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. They have spoken at women’s retreats and events in five states. All three women live in Millersburg, Pennsylvania.

Visit their website for more info - http://www.friendsoftheheart.us/whatwevewritten.html

My Take:

Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides is a book with quick, easy-to-read daily devotionals. Each entry lists a "guilt trip to avoid," a Bible verse, a story relating to the theme of the day, and a way to focus on joy rather than guilt.

The devotional entries are fine, and the points made are biblical and very important. I sometimes thought, however, that the whole concept of the guilt trip was a bit out of place. To me, a guilt trip is something that someone tries to put on me, or I try to put on myself, that is actually false.

For example, someone might try to make me feel guilty - put a guilt trip on me - about wearing a baseball cap when I go on a date with my husband. This person might think that I should dress up more for my husband when he takes me out. However, the truth is that my husband actually likes how I look when I wear a hat, so this is something that I should not feel guilty about. I can have joy based on the truth rather than guilt that is based on a lie.

Despite the semantics, I do think that the points in this book are well made and are beneficial. Maybe a better way to approach this topic is more of a "put-off, put-on" scenario. I should be putting off living for the world and putting on living for God. Rather than allowing my mind and heart to constantly feel guilt about not spending time in God's Word, I should be putting on things that will help me be disciplined in my study of His Word and in making time for my Lord.

Again, I think the issue here is not the devotional book itself, but my defintition of what a guilt trip is. While this is by no means an in-depth Bible study, it is a nice way to jump start your day and get you thinking on the things of God.

About the Contest:


She pokes you as you write about your quaint, eccentric aunt. She grabs you as you wander from e-mail to Facebook to laundry instead of focusing on your work. She kicks you as you complain about your husband to a friend.

Have you noticed? Women seem riddled with guilt. And it’s hard to know if guilt is legitimate or simply a product of our imaginations. After all, should we really feel guilty about things over which we have no control?

We are not perfect. We have no control over some things, so it's no use feeling guilty. We can't do it all.

To celebrate the release of Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides, Shirley, Janine and Kim are giving away some great prizes during the blog tour. Share your own "guilt trip" or "joy tip" and be entered to win a free life coaching consultation and a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate.

JUST CLICK THIS LINK (http://justforfun.friendsoftheheart.us) and share what trips you up, holds you back or any tips you may have for overcoming guilt and keeping your joy. Fill out the quick form at the link and you'll be entered to win a free life coaching consultation from one of us AND a gift certificate to Amazon.com to use to purchase whatever strikes your fancy!

Contest runs 4/23 - 5/12. Winner announced here on 5/14.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WestBowPres. 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."

Monday, May 7, 2012

"The Wedding Dress" Review

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck was sent to me as an advance review copy by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Charlotte Malone, the owner of an upscale bridal boutique in Birmingham, Alabama, is great at finding the perfect dress for the many brides that come to her shop. She doesn’t, however, seem to be able to find a dress for her own fast-approaching wedding.
When she seemingly stumbles upon a vintage wedding dress in an old trunk that she bought at an estate sale, Charlotte sets out (though somewhat reluctantly) to find out the gown’s history. Emily in 1912, Mary Grace in 1939, and Hillary in 1968 – three women with their own stories of life and love.

What Charlotte doesn’t expect to find is the truth about her heritage – and the love that has been there all along.

The premise of this book – a wedding dress worn by four different women over 100 years – to me was fascinating. I was looking forward to diving into the four time periods represented and really getting to know the stories behind the brides and this dress that they shared.
However, the actual story did not do this. Maybe my interpretation of the description on the back of the book was just off – I thought each bride’s story would be told. They were, but it just wasn’t as descriptive and balanced as I was expecting.

The story basically focuses on Charlotte, the one who finds the dress in present-day, and Emily, the first one to wear the dress in 1912. The reader does discover the stories behind the two other women who also wore the dress on their wedding day, but their stories are so brief that I felt as if I didn’t really know them at all.
I did like the story that was told about Emily in 1912, even though I felt the character of Emily was somewhat confusing. Emily was painted as this strong, intelligent woman who spoke her mind and had compassion for those around her. This was what I really liked about her character and her story. However, whenever her fiancĂ©, Phillip, entered the picture, she would swoon and get caught up in his smooth charm and supple words. I just didn’t think that a smart woman like Emily would be completely fooled over and over by a guy like that. Maybe that is fairly true-to-life, but it just bugged me for some reason. Like I said, however, her story - especially how the dress was made - was my favorite part of the book, despite her fickle character.

Another thing that I wasn’t quite expecting in this novel was that there was a mystical element to it. Not a mystery, or glimpses of the Divine, but supernatural and magical events. For one thing, the dress fit each of these women perfectly without the need for alterations (think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). That detail in and of itself would be fine. But there is a whole subplot revolving how the dress is perfectly preserved and seems to create its own light. Plus there is a strange man in purple who ‘guides’ both Emily and Charlotte to the dress, (100 years apart) which just seemed a bit out there for Christian fiction to me.
I have no problem with books that have supernatural things in them. Some of my favorite books are considered fantasy. But it seemed as if this book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The journey Charlotte takes to find her heritage and a family was very real. The other brides’ stories about their own journeys were also based in reality. Throwing in the mystical aspect and the peculiar man just didn’t seem to fit.

I’ve read many good reviews of this book over the last few days, so maybe this was just not my type of book. If I had gone into it differently at the beginning, maybe I would have enjoyed it more – I think the back of the book description didn’t give me a good picture of what the book was about.
If you read this book, please let me know what you think, because I really feel as if I missed something with this one!

I really wanted to like this book, but the more I read, the more I just felt middle-of the-road about it. I will give The Wedding Dress 3 BookWorms.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson 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."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Baroness" Blog Tour and Contest

About the Book:

Baroness – Book Two in the Daughters of Fortune series

Lily and Rose, daughters of an empire coming of age in the roaring twenties, can have anything they want ... except freedom.

Expected to marry well and to take the reins of the empire, they have their lives planned out for them. But, Lily, Esme's daughter longs to return home to Montana, to adventure outside the confines of New York City. And Jinx's daughter Rosie dreams of the bright lights of the newly emerging silver screen. But following their dreams - from avant garde France, to Broadway, to the skies in the world of barnstormers and wing-walkers will take all their courage.

And if they find love, will they choose freedom or happily ever after?

Find out more from Behind the Pages: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/books/baroness

About the Author:

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.

She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. You can find her online at www.susanmaywarren.com.

Link to buy the book: http://ow.ly/ajLQF

What others are saying: http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13456521/baroness

My Take:

I am so torn about my feelings for this book. On the one hand, it is a great story. After a little bit of a slow start in Paris, once the plots got going, I was hooked. There is so much drama and adventure to the story that it made it a true page-turner. I really felt for the characters, so much so that I was starting to get pretty depressed about the choices they were making. I also really liked the time period and the parts that involved the airplanes. (I felt my stomach drop a few times during the descriptions of the wing-walking. Wow!) The stories in this novel truly take the reader on a whirlwind adventure ride.

On the other hand, there were some things in this novel that just didn't sit well with me. One is the sometimes sensual descriptions of kisses and the like. I thought a few were pushing the limits of Christian fiction a bit. Also, the spiritual aspect of this book just missed the mark. A few of the characters seemed to turn to a God who loves them, but it felt halfhearted and based on what they felt for other people rather than the truth of Scripture and the reality of Christ's death on the cross for our sins. I am hoping this will be redeemed in the next book in the series.
I was also a bit disappointed at the cliff-hanger ending, but I have to admit that I am looking forward to the next one that much more because of it. I guess the cliff-hanger ending did its job!

I was going to give Baroness 3 BookWorms, but since the story was so engaging and the events so interesting, I will bump it up to 3 ½ BookWorms.

The Contest:

Baroness Roaring 20s Kindle Fire Giveaway from @SusanMayWarren! Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

Expected to marry well and to take the reins of the family empire, they have their lives planned out for them. But following their dreams -- from avant garde France, to Broadway, to the skies in the world of barnstormers and wing-walkers -- will take all their courage.  And if they find love, will they choose freedom or happily ever after?

Celebrate with Susan by entering her Roaring 20's Giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • Signed copies of Baroness and Heiress by Susan May Warren

But hurry, the giveaway ends on 5/7/12. The winner will be announced on 5/9/12 on Susan’s blog, Scribbles!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Susan's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.
Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Summerside Press and 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."