Book Review: Life After

Life After – Katie Ganshert – Waterbrook – Published 18 April 2017

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Synopsis

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

My thoughts

Confession: I’ve never read a book by Katie Ganshert before. Now, I am asking myself why? WHY NOT? Exaggerated forehead smack, Tate style. So I picked up Life After because it sounded really good and my Goodreads friends were giving it great reviews. And now I have learned my lesson and I will definitely be reading more of Katie Ganshert’s books. Life After is a beautiful, incredible book. Moving, sad, and uplifting. It digs deep, faces some really hard questions and packages it all up in a story that is incredibly enjoyable to read.

Autumn Manning was the sole survivor in a tragic attack that killed twenty-two others. Twenty-two lives that she obsesses and worries over each night. Twenty-two unfinished stories. When Reese Elliott, the daughter of one of those twenty-two people, reaches out to Autumn, their lives become entangled, forcing hidden truths into the light and maybe even starting a new future for Autumn and the Elliott family. Continue reading

Book Review: What Hope Remembers

What Hope Remembers – Johnnie Alexander – Misty Willow #3 – Revell – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

When Amy Somers loses her job as a lobbyist, she moves to Misty Willow, well aware that she’s crossing bridges she’d burned years before. With all the mistakes she’s made and the uncaring things she’s done–even to her own family–she can hardly believe that happiness will find her, especially when Gabe Kendall, her first crush and her first kiss, rides back into her life atop a buckskin mare.

A former Marine, Gabe is at loose ends after serving a prison sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He sees beyond Amy’s hard exterior to the girl he once knew and loved, and he longs to see her open her heart. Yet with his vision clouded by shame for his past and fears about the future, he finds it difficult to see the path ahead.

But the memory of that long-ago kiss just may have the power to reignite a romance that brings out the best in both of them.

My thoughts

To say I was excited to read this book would be a massive understatement. I have loved both books in the Misty Willow series so far and the books just keep getting better, so I knew What Hope Remembers was going to be awesome. I was right – it is certainly a beautiful story. Amy and Gabe are characters who both have so many issues to overcome and their story of reconnection is founded in the sweet love of their adolescence.

Gabe has returned to his Aunt’s farm after many years away, first deployed overseas and then in prison. The farm is now rundown and vastly different from that of his childhood memories. But his aunt’s love remains the same and the community is far more welcoming than he ever dreamed. But the biggest surprise comes when he learns that Amy, his first love and the woman who has always held a place in his heart, has also returned to Misty Willow. Amy has decided to leave her old life behind. She is ashamed of who she has become and yet doesn’t know what to do to turn her life around. Rebuilding the relationships with her brother and cousin and their wives seems a good place to start. As Amy and Gabe reconnect they have many secrets and fears to face, while an outside threat attempts to keep them from rekindling their childhood romance.

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Book Review: Sweetbriar Cottage

Sweetbriar Cottage – Denise Hunter – Thomas Nelson – Published 13 June 2017

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Synopsis

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

My thoughts

Sweetbriar Cottage is a delightful contemporary romance, one that tugs on your heart and encourages you to take a chance and rediscover the healing power of love.

When Noah Mitchell discovers that his divorce with Josephine was never finalised, to say he is shocked might be an understatement. After the marriage ended, he gave up his job and retreated into the mountain, away from town and reminders of what happened and what he lost. Now, though, he and Josephine must reconnect if they want the divorce to be filed. Josephine is just as shaken as Noah when she learns of the news and sets out to smooth the process as much as she can, after all she feels the end of the marriage was her fault. But a sudden and dangerous storm leaves her stranded at his ranch and when they are forced to confront the wild weather, they also discover that confronting their past just might lead to healing for them both.

Sweetbriar Cottage is a standalone novel. It is written from both Noah and Josephine’s perspective during present day, but includes a number of chapter flashbacks to both the beginning of Noah and Josephine’s courtship and Josephine’s past. And that’s when this novel really digs its heels in and gets serious about the topics of faith, mistakes, and forgiveness.

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Book Review: Sandpiper Cove

Sandpiper Cove – Irene Hannon – Hope Harbor #3 – Revell – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities–including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn’t looking for love either–but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam’s help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different–and better–future planned for them than either could imagine.

My thoughts

Throughout this series I have fallen more and more in love with Hope Harbor, its residents, and the love, joy, and peace that can be found within its town borders. Sandpiper Cove compounds that love in a book that is utterly charming – a story of second chances, helping hands, the support of a community, and, of course, romance.

Sandpiper Cove is the third book in the Hope Harbor series and tells the story of Lexie Graham, Hope Harbor’s police chief, and Adam Stone. Readers will have first met Adam (or Stone, as he is more commonly known) in Sea Rose Lane. Ex-con, construction worker, stray-dog rescuer, he is a mix of bad boy and kind soul. Lexi has been married before and had her heart broken by her husband’s sudden death. Now she is content to raise her young son, Matt, and protect the people of Hope Harbor. But when Adam is targeted by vandals, Lexi starts to get to know him, and a glimpse beneath his hardened exterior shows a man who is kind, gentle, and giving, and for whom it just may be worth risking her heart again.

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Book Review: True To You

True To You – Becky Wade – Bradford Sisters Romance #1 – Bethany House – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

My thoughts

True To You was part light and whimsical romance and partly a story of serious adversity and hard-hitting secrets that force the characters to be honest with themselves and God as they search for answers and love.

Nora Bradford is a historian. A researcher. Someone who enjoys all things past. But her own past, particularly her romantic past, has left her slightly jaded, more than happy to remain safely single, and determined to rely on no one but herself for success. John Lawson knows what it’s like to test himself and push himself to the very limits. Being a Navy SEAL ensured that. But a medical diagnosis has rocked him and driven him to uncover his own past and the story of his adoption. Nora and John are brought together by the past and enticed by a chance for the future.

True To You was light and whimsical and fluffy. A delicious book to enjoy. It felt the littlest bit silly and wholly charming. And then, with a quarter of the book to go, a huge bombshell is landed. Wow!! I did not see that coming. Nor did the characters. But that’s exactly when this book digs its heels in and becomes so much more than a fluffy romance – nothing wrong with those, of course – but with that twist this book looks deeper at God and accepting God’s plans for one’s life even when there seems to be only hurt and pain ahead.

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Book Review: You’ll Think of Me

You'll Think of Me

You’ll Think of Me – Robin Lee Hatcher – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

Her mother abandoned her, her father disowned her, and her husband left her. Can Brooklyn be convinced that it is possible to forgive the greatest of betrayals?

Brooklyn Myers escaped her broken home and her embittered, unloving father by eloping to Reno at the age of 17. But when she was pregnant with their first child, her husband abandoned her as well. Not welcome back home in Thunder Creek, Brooklyn stayed in Reno and raised her daughter Alycia on her own, doing her best to make sure Alycia never knew the heartache and rejection Brooklyn herself had known.

When her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies, he leaves the family home in Thunder Creek to his daughter. Believing it is the best way to give her daughter a stable home, Brooklyn does what she thought she would never do. She goes home to the orchard and wine country of Southwest Idaho. There, she encounters Chad’s best friend, Derek Johnson, a part time sheriff’s deputy who also owns an organic produce farm next door. Derek was never a fan of former bad girl Brooklyn Myers, but he made a promise to his dying friend that he would be the father to Alycia that Chad had never been.

Although Derek and Brooklyn get off to a bumpy start, he and Alycia quickly form a bond. And soon, Derek realizes that he wants Brooklyn to trust him too . . .  even knowing that her trust won’t come easily. And then he realizes he wants even more than her trust. He wants to win her love.

While Brooklyn may be tempted to give her heart to Derek, risking her daughter’s happiness is another story. Will Brooklyn hold onto her self-reliance for dear life, or will she come to understand that the greatest gift she can give her daughter is showing her how to love and trust others?

My thoughts

A charming and relaxing romance, You’ll Think Of Me is a story of starting over and creating family.

Brooklyn knows what it takes to stand alone. So when she receives a letter from her estranged husband’s lawyer stating that she and her ten-year-old daughter have been left his family home, Brooklyn is wary of returning to her hometown. But returning to Thunder Creek isn’t the hardship she imagines. She is soon surrounded by caring townspeople including her neighbour Derek, who has his own reasons for getting close to Brooklyn and her daughter Alycia.

Absolutely every time I think about this book’s title I start humming the song by Keith Urban of the same name. I just can’t help it. Not a bad thing, I like that song, but its message is very different from that of this book. This book is all about coming together, community joining to offer support, and a young family healing and finding love.

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Book Review: Then Came You

Then Came You – Becky Wade – Bradford Sisters Romance #0.5 – Published 7 March 2017

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Synopsis

A leather-bound journal. A single father. A woman in pursuit of freedom.

Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. As he confesses through his journal entries, he’s not entirely sure how to keep a newborn alive, whether or not he’ll ever patch together his shattered heart, or how to forgive himself for his mistakes.

Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart. There’s something extraordinarily tempting about his beautifully sad green eyes. . . .

Told through journal entries, phone conversations, and letters, Then Came You is a unique, heart-stirring romance novella by acclaimed author Becky Wade.

My thoughts

Then Came You is an utterly charming romance told through letter fragments, diary entries, and phone conversations.

Then Came You is the prequel novella to Becky Wade’s new series, Bradford Sisters Romance. At first I was a little confused about how this story fit with the books in the series. Then I realised that this story is set a few decades prior to the first book in the series and Garner, our main male character, is actually the father of the Bradford sisters, around whom the series is based.

The story starts off rather sadly, as Garner makes mistakes and faces much tragedy. We are also introduced to Kathleen, who takes a job at Garner’s family company rather than fulfill her dreams of moving to and working in New York.

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Book Review: The Memory of You

The Memory of You

The Memory of You – Catherine West – Thomas Nelson – Published 28 March 2017

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Synopsis

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so. And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

My thoughts

The Memory of You is a delightful story. The setting truly comes alive and creates the perfect backdrop for this story of hidden secrets, guilt, and finding peace by facing the past.

Natalie is haunted by memories of her time at her grandparents’ vineyard. She hasn’t returned since that tragic night thirteen years ago and has tried to bury her memories and the truth of how her twin sister Nicole died. But her nightmares have returned and her symptoms are spiralling out of her control. So when her parents suggest she return to the vineyard she thinks it might be a good time to finally find peace. But the head vintner, Tanner Collins, Natalie’s childhood friend (and crush), suspects the real reason Natalie’s father has sent her to Maoilios – to shut them down – and he isn’t happy to see her.

I love a romance that starts off with the characters fighting. Sparks fly, tempers get lost. You can feel the passion, the chemistry, the possibility. I also liked that Tanner and Natalie had history. A tentative teenage friendship that got lost through the tumultuous fallout of Nicole’s death. As they confront each other about the past and challenge each other about the future, especially the future of the vineyard, they slowly (and with a few bumps along the way) rekindle their friendship and learn to trust each other.

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Book Review: Between Sundays

between-sundays

Between Sundays – Karen Kingsbury – Zondervan – Published 30 November 2007

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Synopsis

Aaron Hill has it all—athletic good looks and the many privileges of a star quarterback. His Sundays are spent playing NFL football in front of a televised audience of millions. But Aaron’s about to receive an unexpected handoff, one that will give him a whole new view of his self-centered life.

Derrick Anderson is a family man who volunteers his time with foster kids while sustaining a long career as a pro football player. But now he’s looking for a miracle. He must act as team mentor while still striving for the one thing that matters most this season—keeping a promise he made years ago. Megan Gunn works two jobs and spends her spare time helping at the youth center. Much of what she does, she does for the one boy for whom she is everything—a foster child whose dying mother left him in Megan’s care. Now she wants to adopt him, but one obstacle stands in the way. Her foster son, Cory, is convinced that 49ers quarterback Aaron Hill is his father.

Two men and the game they love. A woman with a heart for the lonely and lost, and a boy who believes the impossible. Thrown together in a season of self-discovery, they’re about to learn lessons in character and grace, love and sacrifice.Because in the end life isn’t defined by what takes place on the first day of the week, but how we live it between Sundays.

My thoughts

I have a confession to make – this is the first book I have read by Karen Kingsbury. I know! For someone who reads a fair amount of Christian fiction it seems strange that I have skipped over her books entirely. But no longer. I have had Between Sundays sitting on my shelf for a while now and the other day I picked it up on a whim. And I didn’t put it down. I enjoyed the emotionally charged story. Second chances, finding faith, love, foster children, the importance of family, and even American football all combine in a heartwarming story.

Cory knows who his dad is, his mother told him, but no one believes him. Now his mother is dead and he is living with Megan, his foster mother. But when the youth centre organises a pizza party with the the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Derrick Anderson, Cory knows it is his chance to finally meet his dad – because his father is quarterback Aaron Hill.

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Book Review: Together With You

Together With You

Together With You – Victoria Bylin – Bethany House Publishers – Published 7 April 2015

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Synopsis

 When a Lost Child warning blasts over the mall’s PA system, toy store manager Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about five-year-old Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that Penny suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly’s own past suddenly confronts her. Never again will Carly become involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny–and Penny’s handsome father–tugs at Carly’s heart. Before she has time to think it through, she agrees to a much-needed job as a nanny.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine knows he messed up his life. But this summer he will redeem himself. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan is dedicated to his sink-or-swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruiting Carly Mason to be Penny’s nanny.
Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?

My thoughts

Together With You is the second book I have read by Victoria Bylin, and I enjoyed it much more than Until I Found You. Unfortunately, I had let my apathy for Until I Found You cloud my judgement of Victoria Bylin and her writing. I am glad I gave her a second chance because I enjoyed this novel of family healing, second (and maybe third and forth) chances, love, and children with special needs.

Carly has worked with children and teens with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) before. But she left that life after a mistake cost a young girl her safety. When Dr Ryan Tremaine, a young dad with three children, one of whom has FASD, asks her to be their nanny, Carly’s first response is a firm no. But the father’s desperation and cold aloofness towards his children and the family’s general meltdown at her workplace convince her that this is a family who could use her help and love. Carly works with little Penny on boundaries, helps the older boys understand their sister and grow within their own interests, and shows Dr Tremaine how to connect with his children. She fills a hole Ryan didn’t even notice they had. But Carly’s belief in God, forgiveness, and a pure life are vastly different to Ryan’s own beliefs.

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