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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Woman "Beside" Martin Luther--"Loving Luther" by Allison Pittman Review



"Loving Luther" by Allison Pittman is a captivating read about the woman behind (or should I say "next to") Martin Luther.  The book is told from Katharina von Bora's perspective--the woman who eventually becomes the wife of the great Martin Luther (the author of the famous 95 Theses).  But Katherina's tale is a little known, but fascinating story all in itself.  This book is about this smart and witty woman and what her life is like leading up to her marriage to Luther.  It starts from her girlhood in a convent and takes the reader on a journey of faith and growth alongside Katharina.  Katharina is captivated by Luther's words and ideas and escapes a convent due to Luther's writings and influence.  Katharina has to then go through her own journey to find her place in life as an unmarried woman without family to support her.  She develops a relationship and friendship with Luther, but it is many years until she comes to realize that she has feelings for this man.  Will he return her feelings? 

 Allison Pittman's writing and storytelling ability in "Loving Luther" are superb!  She draws the reader right into the story.  I experienced many feelings while reading Katharina's story, from humor when reading the scenes of her as a girl interacting with her friends in the convent to fury as I read of the way she is treated by a superior (although not all her superiors in the convent were portrayed as evil).  I rejoiced along with Katharina and the other nuns as they realized the truths of the Gospel through Martin Luther's writings. 

I enjoy the fact that Ms. Pittman starts the story from Katharina's girlhood and made it more Katharina's life story--not just a romance.  Ms. Pittman did an amazing time transporting the reader back to the time of the Reformation.  Katharina is a well written character and I love seeing the hunger she develops for God's Words, but also her struggles as she has to break free from the only life she has known.  The witty exchanges between Katharina and Luther make me smile and it's a great relationship that slowly builds throughout the story.  This is one of those books where you get to know the characters so well that you don't want to leave them at the end of it all.  I still can't stop thinking about this beautifully written story. 

Content: When Katharina is in the convent, there is a scene where she is physically abused by a priest.  There is mention of a girl's mother being a prostitute and how men would try to do things to the young girl.  A character curses once, but the curse isn't actually written.  Both Katharina and Luther get drunk.  There are a few jokes and references to the marriage bed.

Rating: I give this book 5 stars!

Genre:  Christian Historical Fiction; Medieval; Romance

I want to thank Allison Pittman and Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.


About the Author:
Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a three-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series and once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website, allisonkpittman.com.

To visit Allison Pittman's website click here

To purchase the book click here

To read the first chapter click here



Saturday, August 26, 2017

"The Duke's Dilemma" by Elaine Manders Blog Tour and GIVEAWAY with Celebrate Lit--Review and Guest Post

 
Click here to purchase your copy.
 

About the Book



Book title: The Duke’s Dilemma

Author: Elaine Manders

Release date: May 27, 2017

Genre: Historical Romance, subgenre: Regency

Should he wed the perfect match—or the one he loves?

Edward Dalton, the new Duke of Langsdale, must soon take a wife to ensure the hereditary line. A young war widow seems the perfect choice. She is charming, well respected with impeccable character, and her connections to the Ton’s most important people is an asset he can’t ignore. But Edward is intrigued by another widow. The mysterious, hauntingly beautiful Lady Wayte.

Cassandra Wayte could not be a more unsuitable match. She isn’t received by polite society, and her notorious dealings with London’s underclass is the talk of nobility from White’s patrons to the most fashionable hostesses. It’s even whispered she murdered her elderly husband. But Edward sees a different side of the tragic lady, and he determines to discover the secrets tormenting her. As he peels away the layers of her resistance, he discovers a malevolent adversary stalking Lady Wayte and exposes a level of depravity that shocks even his war-hardened sensibilities. Can he win her trust and her heart? And at what cost to the dukedom?

As Cassandra’s relentless search for her husband’s murderer exposes both her and Edward to unseen dangers, all they can rely on is their love for each other and their faith in God.

My Review:


"The Duke's Dilemma" by Elaine Manders is the second book in "The Wolf Deceivers" series.  It is a sweet romance that actually deals with a very dark topic–human trafficking and sex slavery.  While the juxtaposition of a romance and the struggle of these dark themes can be jarring at times, the book has an important message to tell.  I have not read the first book in the series, but “The Duke’s Dilemma” is a standalone novel. 

I think what makes this book special are the characters.  Cassandra, our heroine, has been through so much in her past and wants vengeance on the man who has caused her so much pain.  She has to struggle with the dilemma of whether she will do everything she can to punish this man or leave it in the Lord's hands.  Despite this inner struggle, Cassandra is still very sweet and strong and goes out of her way to rescue others from the terrors of the life she used to live--even risking her own life and reputation in society.  She is so brave to help prostitutes and goes into brothels to rescue them.  Edward is a very swoon-worthy hero.  This man has a lot of patience and unconditional love!  I love his faith and how he prays and thinks of Scripture.  Edward doesn't judge Cassandra, even when most other men in his station and society would.  He is so good to Cassandra and speaks love into her; not just his love, but Christ's love and Truth. 

Ms. Manders uses this story as a way to expose prostitution and human trafficking.  This message is just as relevant today as it was in the Regency era.  She does a superb job of showing what it is like for the women and girls who are trapped in this terrible fate (especially the fact that it is often not their choice and they are not dirty or immoral beings).  "The Duke's Dilemma" is a beautiful message of how the blood of Christ covers our sins and painful memories.  It is an enjoyable read with a sweet romance, although the topic is a sensitive one and can be hard to read about. 

Content:  This book deals with prostitution and sex slavery.  The main character is beaten as a child and has had a traumatic past.  She does help prostitutes and goes into brothels.  There is talk of prostitution and brothels as a result.  One man talks of some of the things that take place at the brothels, not in detail, but enough that I wouldn't recommend this to sensitive readers or early teenage readers.  There is an attempted rape and Cassandra goes into a bit of detail about what she was put through in the past.  Due to that part I would give this book a PG-13 rating.  One scene was very hard for me to read. 

Rating: I give this book three stars, which means I liked it. 

Genre:  Historical Romance, Christian fiction; subgenre: Regency

I want to thank Elaine Manders and Celebrate Lit for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.



About the Author

photo 3



Elaine Manders writes wholesome Christian romance and suspense about the bold, capable women of history and the strong, dependable men who love them. She prefers stories that twist and turn and surprise, told by characters of faith. She lives in Central Georgia with a happy bichon-poodle mix. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, crafts, and spending time with her friends, daughter, and grandchildren.
 

Guest post from Elaine Manders

Historical romance became my favorite genre back in the seventies and eighties, and one of my favorite settings was Regency England. A Regency can be a romance in the Jane Austin mode or historical romance set during the Regency period. There is a difference, and The Duke’s Dilemma falls into this latter category. Yes, there is some of usual drawing room intrigue in an Austen novel, but The Duke’s Dilemma contains a serious spiritual theme. The plot fitted perfectly into my new series, The Wolf Deceivers.

I wrote the original manuscript nearly twenty years ago as a light, secular romance, but when I revised it to Christian romance, I was delighted to find the inspirational thread deepened the characters. Instead of merely fighting for her reputation while trying to wrest the duke from another woman, Cassandra, the heroine, must fight for her survival. Instead of being another handsome, sardonic nobleman, Edward, the hero, uses his intelligence and grace to protect Cassandra and win her love.

Even the secondary characters captivated me. Little Sarah’s match-making antics suited the Regency theme and provided some levity during the darker moments of the plot. Lady Ashford, Cassandra’s foil, developed a tenacity I had to admire in spite of all her shortcomings. And Sir Harcrumb became a villain I loved to hate.

Though the characters changed a great deal in the retelling, the plot remained basically the same. The only thing I added was a surprise twist at the end—something that has inadvertently become a part of my brand.

Every story is a learning experience for me, and I’m always grateful for how much I learn from my research and from the Holy Spirit. I’ve become more aware of those who deceive, and how vulnerable people, especially young people, are to Satan’s tactics. Also, I’ve unexpectedly come away with a better understanding of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Although this is a new label, we all know it has affected people throughout history.

Yes, The Duke’s Dilemma has taught me much, and I hated to say good-bye to these characters. I love stories that move me during the writing and only ask two things of my books. That they bring enjoyment to my readers and glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus. I hope this one does both.

Blog Stops

August 24: Genesis 5020
August 26: Jami’s Words
August 27: Karen Sue Hadley
August 28: Remembrancy
September 1: Pause for Tales
September 1: Caffeinated Reads
September 2: Live. Love. Read.
September 3: Just the Write Escape
September 4: Henry Happens
 
Giveaway
To celebrate her tour, Elaine is giving away:
 
Grand prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card
1st place: paperback copies of Books 1 and 2 of the Wolf Deceivers series, The Chieftain’s Choice and The Duke’s Dilemma!!
 
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/bbab
 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A House Full of Mystery and Strange Guests!--A Review of "12 Days at Bleakly Manor" by Michelle Griep

 


Prepare yourself to be highly entertained by this delightful book!  "12 Days at Bleakly Manor" by Michelle Griep is the first book in the "Once Upon a Dickens Christmas" series.  Ms. Griep fills her story with danger and mystery, leaving the reader guessing as to what will happen next! 

"12 Days at Bleakly Manor" is a mix of Charles Dickens's "Bleak House", Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None", and pure genius.  I love BBC's version of "Bleak House", so I was excited to pick this book up.  I've never read "And Then There Were None", but I didn't feel like I was missing anything by not having read the book.  It was fun for me to pick up the "Bleak House" nods throughout the story.  Ms. Griep reminds me of Dickens in the way that she shows and describes the conditions of prisons, the plight of the poor in Victorian England and the unfair and corrupt justice system. 

This story is a fast-paced read with amazing characters and a gothic, mysterious setting.  Ms. Griep employs great descriptions and word pictures.  There is a darker side to the goings-on at Bleakly Manor.  I appreciate how Ms. Griep gives the readers a helpful list and description (at the back of the book) of the Victorian Christmas traditions that are mentioned in the story.   

If you think the people at your Christmas get-togethers are crazy, check out this group at Bleakly Manor!  Some of the characters have very funny and weird idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, which makes the story all the more interesting.  With everything going on in the house and mystery looming everywhere, can the characters trust that God is in control? 

"12 Days at Bleakly Manor" is a novel of second chances and choosing between revenge and forgiveness.  There is a theme of trust and a strong faith element.  I very much enjoyed this book!

Content: This is a clean read.  There is a scene where a man is in prison and the conditions are described vividly, which might make sensitive readers uncomfortable.  It also mentions that a character swears, but the word is not actually used.

Rating:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

Genre: Christian historical fiction; Victorian England; Mystery

I want to thank Michelle Griep, Shiloh Run Press and Barbour Publishing for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

 

About the Author:

Michelle Griep is an author, blogger, and occasional super-hero when her cape is clean.  You can visit her at https://michellegriep.com/.

To purchase the book, click here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Road Trip of Delusion" by Jean Ann Williams Blog Hop & GIVEAWAY!


 
Genre: Contemporary, Christian
Publisher: Love Truth
Publication date: June 22, 2017

A fifteen-year-old takes a road trip with her two younger sisters and their strong-willed great-granny, and circumstances force her to drive her granny’s Cadillac through a freeway-closing-down blizzard which brings everyone and everything to a standstill.
 

 
 
Jean Ann Williams is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She writes regularly for Putting on the New blog and Book Fun Magazine on the topic of child suicide loss. Her book “God’s Mercies after Suicide: Blessings Woven through a Mother’s Heart” started out as a blogged book on her Love Truth blog. Jean Ann and her husband of forty-six years have thirteen grandchildren from their two remaining children. They reside on one acre in Southern Oregon where they raise a garden, fruit orchard, goats, and chickens. Jean Ann’s favorite hobbies are practicing archery, hiking through the woods, and big game hunting with her bow.
 
 

1. Who are some of your favorite authors?  Do these authors influence your own writing?My favorite authors write inspirational/historical, which includes, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Tessa Emily Hall, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Laura Frantz, Jane Kirkpatrick. Last but not least for the deeper Point of View, Virginia Smith, and for my most favorite time period with captivating stories, Sydney Tooman Betts. Each of these authors have taught me differing things; how to write better, go deeper into story, and deeper Point of View so the reader is allowed to live in the characters’ heads.

2. What is your current WIP?  What can you tell us about this project?
Season of the Fawns is written with the new adult audience in mind, but it’s for all ages. Synopsis: Born on the same day, Vale acts older than her cousin Caleb and is protective over him because of the loss of his family at age ten. Days before they turn twenty, the two cousins yearly hunting trip approaches. Caleb no longer cares about participating, as he suffers from migraines caused by an injury while mountain climbing.
Before leaving for the hunting cabin, Vale discovers how severe Caleb’s depression has become. Though worried she will lose Caleb by his own hand, she insists the trip will be good for him. As the cousins enter a new season of change, will Vale’s grit be enough to save Caleb’s life?

3. What advice would you give potential authors/writers?
Never, ever give up on your dream of writing and publishing, and when you think you’ve hit a writer’s block wall keep writing even if it’s junk.

4. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me and editing my work exhausts me.

5. What inspired the idea for Road Trip to Delusion?
Now, a bit about how this story came about. I told my California resident mother-in-law we would pick her up when she was ready to stay in our home. She commented she just might get in her car and drive her own self to Oregon. To this, I stared at my granddaughters and said to Mom, “Well, you better bring my granddaughters with you.” Because of this conversation, Road Trip of Delusion took root and I watered it and God gave the increase.

6. What do you want readers to take away from reading Road Trip to Delusion?
I hope readers will get a strong sense of the value of family, especially when not everyone gets along. Also, I’d like readers to consider the importance of prayer to a Lord Who loves us.


 
Enter the giveaway HERE.
 

 
August 9--Debbie's Dusty Deliberations Mel's Shelves
August 10--Singing Librarian Books
August 11--Smiling Book Reviews 
August 12--Radiant Light
August 14--Remembrancy
August 15--Faery Tales Are Real
August 16--Christy's Cozy Corners
August 17--cherylbbookblog
August 18--Bookworm Lisa
August 19--Red Headed Book Lady
 


 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Do you believe in fairies?--"The Cottingley Secret" by Hazel Gaynor Review

 

"The Cottingley Secret" by Hazel Gaynor is one of those stories that stick with you long after you finish the last page.  Bittersweet, haunting, enchanting, and magical are some of the words that come to mind when I think of this book.  And, as a personal bonus for me, the theme of the bookthe possibility of fairies being realgoes perfectly with the name of my blog! 

 "The Cottingley Secret" tells two stories.  One is the story of Olivia, who lives in present-day Ireland.  She inherits a bookshop and finds a manuscript written by one of the two girls involved the Cottingley fairy incident.  As Olivia reads the manuscript, we are transported back to 1917 in Cottingley England and are told the story of two girls who supposedly discover fairies and “fool” the world.  The story of the Cottingley fairies is based on a true story, which makes it even more fascinating. 

 The characters and the story are very well written.  Olivia needs to find the little girl inside of her and believe in that person.  I love the journey that Olivia's character goes through emotionally and the decisions she makes as she evaluates her life and who she is.  The story in 1917 also deals with beliefs and emotions.  Believing in fairies gives people hope during the war and people need something to believe in; if fairies and the photographs are real, then anything is possible, such as the war coming to an end.  It is such a dark time that people love the story of the fairies and it becomes a sensation, to the extent that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes books) believes and writes an article on the girls and their fairies. 

There are so many amazing themes and lessons that one can draw from "The Cottingley Secret."  There is a theme of memories and still being the same person deep inside that you always were, even as a little girl and of believing in oneself.  Ms. Gaynor's story brought to mind blissful memories of being of a little girl, believing in magic, and it encouraged me to find that little girl once againto look at the world with wonder.  I became so emotionally attached to this book that I didn't want it to end! 

Tell me in the comments: Do you believe in fairies?

Content, Rating and Genre: This is a clean read.  There are a few minor swear words.  There is also a scene where characters get drunk.  I give this book 5 stars!  The genre is contemporary, historical, and women's fiction.   

I want to thank Hazel Gaynor, William Morrow and Dey Street and Harper Collins Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.



Click here to purchase the book
Click here to visit the author's website

About the author:
Hazel Gaynor is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning author, who lives in County Kildare, Ireland with her husband and two children. Her 2014 debut historical novel The Girl Who Came Home—A Novel of the Titanic hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and went on to win the 2015 Historical Novel of the Year award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association in London. Her second novel A Memory of Violets, was also a New York Times bestseller, and her third, The Girl from The Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail bestseller. The book was also a finalist for the 2016 Irish Book Awards. All Hazel’s novels have been received to critical-acclaim and have been translated into a number of foreign languages. Her forthcoming titles in 2017 – The Cottingley Secret (August) and Last Christmas in Paris (October, co-written with Heather Webb) have already received an impressive array of early reviews. Hazel is represented by Michelle Brower at Aevitas Creative, New York.

Friday, August 4, 2017

"The Legacy" by Michael Phillips Review-- A Heartfelt Story of Faith and Family in the Shetlands




"The Legacy" is a heartfelt story of faith and family.  I love anything to do with Scotland, so I was eager to pick this book up.  I've also read some of Michael Phillips's other books and have enjoyed them immensely, especially the classic "Stonewycke" series.  I'm very glad I did read "The Legacy", even though I haven't yet read the first two books in this series! 

"The Legacy" by Michael Phillips is the third book in the "Secrets of the Shetlands" series.  The beginning of the book summarizes the plot from the first two books well.  The narrative does of course refer to events in the other books of the series as it is the continuation of Loni and David's story (the characters living in present day), but instead of focusing on Loni and David, "The Legacy" also tells the story of their ancestors.  We also get to see the conclusion of Loni and David's story, and while it's this portion of the book that had me wishing I had read the prior books, it isn't too confusing to read on its own.    

The physical book itself is beautiful and has a map of the island in the Shetlands where much of the story takes place, as well as a family tree.  Even though it is a longer book, it's written in short chapters, which makes for a fast-paced read.  The story shifts between 2006 and 1924 and is told from multiple characters’ points of view.  Some of the characters in the book are of the Quaker faith, which I found interesting to read and learn more about. 

Picture of the Shetlands

There is a theme of family heritage woven throughout the whole story.  The setting in the Shetland Islands is breathtaking and evocative.  The descriptions are so well written that I felt like I was transported to these islands.  The reader is introduced to a slower paced life and the story is also told in a slower way, making the reader slow down and think.  You really settle in and immerse yourself in the island and that culture.  There is also a deep spiritual and theological element.  I know Michael Phillips loves George MacDonald and draws a lot of inspiration from this writer (MacDonald is even mentioned in the book). 

My only critiques are that this book isn't really a stand-alone, although I was still able to understand and enjoy the story.  It is also told at a slower pace (I did enjoy that, but some may find it slower than they would like).  There are also many characters and several concurrent plots, which can get confusing. 

Overall I really enjoyed this story and would especially recommend it to fans of Michael Phillips or George MacDonald and those who love Scotland. 

Content, Rating and Genre: This is a clean read.  I give this book 4.5 stars.  This is Christian Fiction (with a dual timelinehistorical and contemporary).

I want to thank Michael Phillips and Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

Click here to purchase the book
Click here to visit the author's website


Other books in the series: