“The Guest Book” by Marybeth Whalen

The Guest Book

Macy Dillon has been drawing in the guest book of a beachside vacation rental for 10 years – and a young boy has been drawing her pictures in response.  Until, that is, her father died and Macy’s family stopped visiting the beach.  Now, years later, they return to find closure for her father’s death and Macy prays that she might find that boy who so ensnared her dreams years before.  With everything in disarray and pain on every side, might the guest book provide the hope and healing that Macy has been searching for?

I really enjoyed my read of The Guest Book.  Macy’s young enough to be innocent and spoiled in many ways, and yet jaded enough to have real issues that many of us can relate to.  She struggles on so many fronts – with motherhood, men, independence, grief, and who she wants to be as a woman – that she has a lot to figure out.  The weight of these issues keeps the book from being a for-fun-only read, but the way that God goes about answering Macy’s prayer adds a huge element of fun.

More than either of Whalen’s previous books, there’s a bit of mystery around some of these characters.  With each one so different and inadvertently teaching Macy something new, I couldn’t put the story down.  I couldn’t wait to find out if she would meet her long-lost picture-pal!

If fun reads are too shallow for you but you’re not up for Russian literature on the beach, definitely check out The Guest Book.  The balance of fun, suspense, and depth is right-on, making this the perfect summer story.

I received a free copy of The Guest Book from Marybeth Whalen in exchange for an honest review.

“Grave Consequences” by Lisa T. Bergren


The Powerful, Epic Romance Continues, Book 2 in Lisa T. Begren’s Grand Tour series

For Cora Kensington, the journey of a lifetime takes unexpected twists. And her future-her very life-depends on the decisions she’ll make at each crossroad. As her European tour with her newfound family takes her through Austria, France, and Italy, an unseen enemy trails close behind. Meanwhile, a forbidden love continues to claim her heart, putting everyone’s plans in danger.
And as Cora stays one step ahead of it all, what might need the most protection is her own heart, torn between the dramatic pursuit of a dashing Frenchman and a man who has been quietly staking claim to her affections all along. Love has dangers all its own. She must escape the bonds of the past and discover the faith to make the right choices, as each one has grave consequences. 
The very premise of this book boggles my mind.  Spend weeks touring Europe just because you can, in the very lap of Royal luxury?  I can’t imagine!  Doing so with several love interests, people who don’t like you, people who want to kidnap you, and not knowing whom you can trust – I think I’d lose it.  
With that said, the descriptions of each place visited in Europe are completely fascinating.  As a total lover of history, I would love to stay in a Venetian palace, visit a French ruin, or climb a glacial mountain.  Just imagine who might have been there before you!  
Unlike the first book of this series, it took me a bit to get my head in this book, but I think that’s because of the way the last one ended – and how long it’s been since I read the first one. That one didn’t have a final wrap -up or slow resolution; instead, it ended like a soap opera, with the reader wanting desperately to just pick up the second book and keep going.  This series reads more like installments or chapters than separate books, so since I read them months apart, it took some time to get back into it without the usual warm-ups and introductions that usually take up the first chapter or two of a series.  However, I was soon back in the game, and once there, I didn’t want the book to end.
The ending of this book did feel more final than that of the first in the series, with a more complete conclusion and resolution, but it did not keep me from wanting to read on.    Instead, I was completely impressed by the ending.  The surprise both in action and in the character of Cora is a perfect transition to the next book, and I can’t wait to read it.
If you’ve ever wanted to travel, if you find the luxury of the Titanic incredible, or you just plain like history, this is definitely the series for you.  With so much action, intrigue, and adventure, and romance, all done in corsets and silks, Grave Consequences is a riveting read.
Other reviews of this book are available here.  You can make Grave Consequences your own here.
Lisa T. Bergren is the award-winning author of over thirty-five books, with more than 2 million copies sold. A former publishing executive, Lisa now divides her time between writing, editing, parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of her next trip to Italy. She lives in Colorado Springs. 
I received a free copy of Grave Consequences from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Glittering Promises” by Lisa T. Bergren


 Lisa T. Bergren’s popular Grand Tour series concludes as Cora Kensington journeys farther into Italy, wrestles with a terrible ultimatum from her father, and comes to terms with the Father who will never fail her.

America’s newest heiress must decide if her potential fortune is rationale enough to give up her freedom and all that God is leading her toward. And when her newly-discovered siblings are threatened with ruin, her quandary deepens. Then as Cora nears Rome, more journalists are tracking the news story of the decade—“Copper Cora,” the rags-to-riches girl—and want to know more about her family and the men vying for her attention. Meanwhile, a charming Italian countess decides that if Cora isn’t going to claim Will’s heart, she might just 
try . . .
You won’t want to miss the stunning conclusion to the Grand Tour series.  Full of intrigue and strategy, business and pleasure, this heartwrenching love story is the perfect ending to this trilogy.  I love the way that Bergren wraps up each detail and finishes out the story.  Although you think you know the ultimate romantic conclusion, Bergren keeps you guessing – and I never would’ve predicted the final players in the battle between ‘good’ and evil.’  
Cora has changed since the series began, and that is never as clear as it is in this final installment.  Her growth, faith, and confidence are unmatched as she moves forward to find what she wants.  I appreciate the way that she learns that her own goals are not only what matter – but but that ultimately God’s ways are best.
As in the rest of the series, the history and descriptions of each Italian locale are completely stunning.  Although fascinating, Italy has never topped my list of ‘top places to visit,’ but Bergren just might have changed that.  I would love to visit the country vineyard and rest in the out-of-the-way hot springs.  I can’t imagine more beautiful places from which to view God’s creation.  
I’m not usually a huge fan of rich main characters.  Wealth, while it doesn’t automatically bring happiness, can certainly pave the way to an easier, if not simpler, lifestyle.  That very trait is why I like Cora Diehl Kensington.  While she may be unimaginably rich, she did not grow up that way – and although she’s not in danger of going hungry, she’s certainly in more danger than many people can fathom.  She also doesn’t let her money change her.  She continues to think of other people, to work hard, to care for those around her, and to love lavishly.  I think that she would be fun to spend time with – and she’s certainly a lot of fun to read about.
Lisa T. Bergren is the award-winning author of over thirty-five books, with more than 2 million copies sold. A former publishing executive, Lisa now divides her time between writing, editing, parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of her next trip to Italy. She lives in Colorado Springs.
Learn more about Lisa here:http://lisatawnbergren.com.
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Glamorous Illusions” by Lisa T. Bergren

About Glamorous Illusions …

It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington’s life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father’s health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her. 

Cora is invited to take the “Grand Tour” of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person’s education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she’s never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning.

Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King-a Father who is the only One who can truly heal.
When it all comes right down to it … I really liked this book.  Couldn’t put it down, in fact – I stayed up half the night to finish it.  Cora is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of girl, and I like that.  She’s very honest and hardworking, dedicated to her family, and yet she sees life with the same kind of rosy glow that most of us do who have not yet been fully on our own. 
The drama of Cora’s situation is intense, and Bergren well describes the emotional roller coaster that Cora experiences.  Beyond the family drama, Bergren does a fantastic job of taking the reader on a tour through parts of beautiful, traditional, luxurious Europe.  I loved reading about the grand buildings and the history from the tour’s perspective.  While I’m glad I don’t need to be ‘finished’ by such a tour, it was really exciting to read about.
Glamorous Illusions is the first in the Grand Tour Trillogy.  Caught up in the excitement of the Tour, I forgot that – and was enthusiastically reading along, anticipating the conclusion of a love spark, when suddenly the book ended!  That was definitely my only negative to the book.  To learn about the next segment in the series, we’ll have to wait for the next book – and I’m waiting quite impatiently!
I received a free copy of Glamorous Illusions from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.  You can read other reviews in this blog hop here.

**Also, through this Friday, Glamorous Illusions is available as a free download!  I just got mine from Barnes and Noble.  Be sure to check it out!

About Lisa: 


Lisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 30 books, with more than 1.5 million copies sold. She just finished writing a Colorado historical trilogy (the first book, BreatheSing and Claim), and has begun a teen series called River of Time.

Lisa’s time is split between managing home base, writing (including a fair amount of travel writing), consulting and freelance editing (with a little speaking here and there). She’s married to Tim, a liturgical sculptor, graphic designer and musician. They have three kids-Olivia (15), Emma (12) and Jack (7).

All five of the Bergrens make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For more information on Lisa and to view other books written, please visit her website: http://lisatawnbergren.com

“Giants in the Land” by Clark Burbidge


There are giants in the land.
And it has always been so as far as anyone can remember. They work side-by-side with the people, and whenever there is a job too difficult or a threat too great they are there to step in. The giants’ presence gives the townspeople a special confidence about life. But they have become much more dependant on the giants than they realize. One morning the people discover the giants have mysteriously disappeared. Fear and panic grip the town. Someone must find them and bring them back! 
Thomas, a young farmer, volunteers and sets out alone on a great journey of danger and discovery. Thomas learns the true nature of giants and what it means for him and his people. Join Thomas in his timeless rite of passage and learn what it means to become something more than you have been, why it is necessary in life, and how to do it.
Learn more about Giants in the Landhttp://www.giantsinthelandbook.com

Giants in the Land  is a neat spin on what our lives would be like if the intangible were tangible.  If our idols could walk among us and our fears plunder the earth, what would our lives look like?  How would we react to everything we would see around us?

That is Thomas’ dilemma.  As Thomas journeys to help his family, facing his fears along the way, we can clearly see what each ‘giant’ represents in his life – and just how we might apply his wisdom to our own life.

At times the prose begins to sound almost … well, preachy, but Thomas’ journey is so difficult and the lessons so wise that I really didn’t mind.  The story is super short overall and the action really holds one’s attention.  As a general rule, I’m not a fan of short books because the book tends to end at about the same time I become really fond of the main character, but Thomas’ honor and integrity shone through from the very first page, making me want to champion his cause even as he considered leaving home to help his village. 

There is a sequel to this book, and I’m most interested to learn what wisdom Burbidge has to impart next.  If you’d like to shake your reading material up a bit and go for something that is quietly, contemplatively thoughtful, then this is definitely the book for you.

About the author … 

Clark Burbidge’s path to becoming an award winning author had distant beginnings. He received an MBA degree from the University of Southern California and a BS Degree in finance from the University of Utah. His career spans 31 years in banking, project finance, investment banking and more recently as Chief Financial Officer of three separate companies. He has been actively involved in community and church service, including lay youth and adult ministry, for over 35 years. 

It has been his long-term dream to write and publish several works that have been kicking around in his mind for many years. His first book, “Life on the Narrow Path: A Mountain Biker’s Guide to Spiritual Growth in Troubled Times” was released nationally in March 2011. His second book “A Piece of Silver” was published in July 2011 and is currently entering its 2nd edition. Clark enjoys life in the foothills of the Rockies with his wife, children and three grandchildren. He looks forward to this next phase of life’s wonderful adventures.

Learn more about Clark by visiting www.clarkrburbidge.com.

To buy Giants in the Land, visit here.

I received a free copy of Giants in the Land from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“House of Mercy” by Erin Healy

Beth is a healer.  She seems destined to become a vet and help her family run the cattle ranch when an accident takes it all away.  In a bizarre series of accidents, Beth tries to make amends, but misfortune continues to follow hard on her heals.  Can she find a way to heal her family, or will one tragic mistake wipe it all away?

House of Mercy

House of Mercy is classic Healy – if there is such a thing already.  So outlandish it’s realistic but with a touch of the supernatural, you won’t be able to put House of Mercy down.  Just as Beth races against the clock in an effort to fix her mistake before the damage multiplies, so you’ll turn the pages faster and faster to reach that final, hopefully happy conclusion.

You won’t find what you’re looking for, though – you’ll find something better, and not because Healy wrote a poor ending, because she didn’t.  I’m not sure she could.  Healy wrote so many twists and turns into this plot that the ending, when it comes skidding into sight, is nothing I could have predicted.  It’s much, much better, and this surprise kept me thinking about Beth’s plight long after I closed the back cover.

You can’t help but like Beth.  One night of indecision, one night of trying to help a friend, one simple poor choice and years of dreaming are erased.  This would be difficult for anyone, but in Beth’s shoes it’s made worse by the events following that compound it – and so you feel for her, and yet she never gives up.  I admire that determination, and it’s that spirit that makes the story feel so personal and alive.

House of Mercy isn’t easily classified.  It’s not exactly a romance, though it has an element of that; it’s not exactly a mystery, though there’s some of that, too.  It’s not what I consider to be a fantasy exactly, either, though it has a supernatural element.  Maybe fantastic would be a better term.

Maybe you should read it and decide for yourself.  It’s definitely worth the read.

I received a free copy of House of Mercy from B&B Media Group in exchange for an honest review.

“Hopeful” by Shelley Shepard Gray

Miriam Zehr has worked at the Sugarcreek Inn longer than she cares to admit. The restaurant is a favorite of town residents as well as the many tourists who come to taste the famous Amish fare. Though she always tries to have a smile for every customer, deep down Miriam knows something’s missing: a family of her own.

Miriam has never felt particularly beautiful, especially because she’s always been a bit heavier than other girls her age. When Junior, the man she’s pined for all her life, suddenly seeks her out, she’s thrilled to be noticed . . . until she realizes he’s only asking her to help get the attention of Mary Kathryn Hershberger, her pretty friend.


If Miriam helps Junior court Mary Kathryn, she’ll get to spend a lot of time with him, but she might lose him in the process. Are these few stolen moments worth a lifetime of sacrifice? Is Miriam right to even hope for the life she dreams of?
What would you do if you were in your mid-twenties, single without prospects, a bit restless, wanting to lose the proverbial ten pounds, and tired of watching all of your friends marry and start families?  That’s Miriam Zehr’s life.  Though always kind, friendly, and gracious, her life hasn’t gone exactly as she hoped.  She’s even more disappointed when the man she’s been crushing on for years asks to come over to her house – so she can give him advice on getting a date with her friend.
The very best thing about Hopeful is that any of us could be in Miriam’s shoes.  Sure, you’ve always got the head cheerleader or high school quarterback, but most of us aren’t them – and we all get disappointed at one time or another.  Miriam doesn’t handle her disappointment well in the beginning of the story and stumbles for a bit, trying to learn how to handle her changing feelings; but her triumph and ultimate hope and assurance are well placed in the end.  She learns just Who and in what she should hope and decides to make small changes in her life where she can, and this, indeed, is hopeful.  To know that you’re not solely at the mercy of your circumstances but can play a part to change them is empowering.  
Where these circumstances intersect with others is especially challenging, and those places are the toughest in which to find balance.  These were the best parts of this story, though.  Smoothly written and with a generous dose of humor, I was giggling out loud as I read about how Miriam evened the keel with Junior.  It was fun.  It was real.  It made me want to be Miriam’s friend – and ask for her advice about doing the same thing.
And yet the story was not all lighthearted and fun.  Stalkers and fear and abuse are very real, very big problems, and Gray gave them every ounce of weight that they deserved.  The relevant scenes were written with appropriate seriousness and foreshadowing of what was to come, and they were written from more than one perspective, allowing you to see the emotions from every angle.
I really enjoyed reading this first installment of The Return to Sugarcreek series.  Can’t wait to see what’s next!
Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
Learn more about Shelley at: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com
I received a free copy of Hopeful from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“The Homeschool Experiment” by Charity Hawkins

Julianne Miller and her husband John have agreed that homeschooling is the best way to educate their three little ones, and having survived the first year of kindergarten with a newborn, Julianne is ready to tackle Year Two: with one active son in first grade, a precocious four-year-old fashionista ready to learn, and toddler Michael, who just wants attention.  Between meltdowns and blow-ups, projects and housework and doubting relatives, is homeschooling really a viable option for this family?


I LOVED this book.


If you’ve ever homeschooled (I’ve only homeschooled for preschool thus far), thought about homeschooling, wondered what it might be like, then you MUST read this book.  Not only does Charity write about homeschooling adventures in a completely realistic (I’m assuming much of this was real) fashion, but she does so with humor and Biblical wisdom thrown in. 


It’s rare that I want to take notes when reading fiction, but this book made me want to pull out my highlighter.  Charity ponders the homeschool vs. public school vs. private school debate openly, honestly, and logically, giving fantastic advice to others who might be struggling with this decision.  The mentors from whom Julianne seeks advice do the same: they are able to help Julianne find strategies and resources to solve the problems that she’s having, providing valuable insights to any of us reading the book.


In the back Charity includes a study guide for homeschool groups, making this a fantastic possibility for your next book club meeting or Mom’s Night Out get together.  My favorite part of this was that along with questions, she includes resources relating to issues in the book, so if something resonates with you, you are then able to seek out more information on that topic easily.


Charity shares about how the decision to homeschool is about more than academia:


If I teach my children nothing else, I want to teach them to recognize true treasures – not jewels or palatial mansions, but this amazing world God created, the precious people around us, and His eternal Truth.  For where my children’s treasures are, there their hearts will be also.


Though this computer addict hates to admit it, technology now plays a major role in most people’s lives – and that’s drastically changed the way that families relate to each other and to the outside world.  After being around others who are more “connected” than her little family is, Julianne decides that:


I want to raise children who know how to be still, how to sit, how to think.  I want my children to have hearts for people, not things, and to live to serve, not to be entertained.  And, ultimately, I want them to learn to listen: to family and friends, to their own hearts, and to that Voice that doesn’t beep and flash, that doesn’t always thunder in a whirlwind or burn with fire, but that comes in a gentle Whisper. (p. 116)


Of course, along with being a voice of wisdom and experience, this book is flat out funny.  From fire trucks and hotel visits to who-can-amass-the-most-McD’s visits per month, Julianne’s story will definitely tickle your funny bone.


And who doesn’t need some more of that?


New author Charity Hawkins generously provided a second copy of this book for me to give away – for which I’m very happy, as I’m not ready to release my hold on my copy just yet.  If you want to win your own copy, signed by Charity Hawkins herself,  do any or all of the following by noon on April 24th (leave a separate comment for each):


  • Leave a comment on this post sharing whether you homeschool or not.
  • Follow this blog in any form (GFC, Networked Blogs, etc.) and leave a comment for each.
  • Share about this giveaway via your favorite social media.  Leave a comment for each.

 Please be sure leave a contact method.  Winner will be responsible for replying within 48 hours of contest ending or a new winner will be chosen.


I received a free copy of “The Homeschool Experiment” from Charity Hawkins in exchange for an honest review.

“Hide and Seek” by Maj (Ret) Jeff Struecker & Alton Gansky

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Krygystan: Foreign Affairs’ Officer Amelia Lennon is trying to negotiate the continued leasing of an airport by the US government in this country.  The president’s daughter is against the idea – and is the target of kidnappers immediately after a meeting where she makes this clear.  Lennon steps in to save her, but the women must go on the run as rebels take over the capital city’s streets.  Master Sergeant JJ Bartley is sent in as a Special Operations team leader to save the women – unofficially, as no US troops are allowed to leave the base, and under cover of darkness, lest they be spotted and captured themselves.  Can the Spec Ops team – with two new, untried members – save two women on the run, without the help or support of their own government?
Struecker and Gansky couldn’t pack any more action into this novel. Not a page is turned without something being shot, smashed, blown up, or, at the very least, followed.  For a civilian, Gansky has an incredibly grasp on military life and is able to pour drama and emotion into every action – both for those in the field and for those waiting for them at home.  The story feels incredibly real as you read it – as if you’re right there, seeing the fighting on the streets and seeing the terror in the faces of the Krygystani civilians who are just trying to get home safely.
I know virtually nothing about military life – but I feel as if I do now.  I have a greater respect for those serving and even more so for their families.  Hide and Seek is educational without being obvious and, lucky for me, Gansky is able to teach the military terms and phrases without leaving me in the dirt or making me feel stupid.  Both are frustrating, but the story is so well written I felt neither.
I love when I can read a book and hand it to my husband, and that’s just what I did with this one.  The relationships between the men and their wives soften the harsh edges just a bit, but the story is really all about the men on this mission and the decisions they must make to succeed.  I couldn’t put it down, and I’ve never seen my husband fly through a book as fast as he did with this one.
If action stories are your favorites on any level, be sure to check this one out.
I received a free copy of Hide and Seek from the B&B Media Group in exchange for an honest review.
Alton Gansky is a Christy Award-nominated and Angel Award-winning author who writes to stimulate thinking about spiritual matters. He served as a pulpit minister for twenty years and has published nearly thirty books.
Chaplain (Major, Ret) Jeff Struecker is a decorated member of US Army Rangers, the Army’s most elite fighting corps. His personal experiences in Mogadishu, Somalia were documented in the New York Times bestseller and major motion picture Black Hawk Down. During his thirteen years of active duty, he also fought in Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Iris Gold in Kuwait. As a chaplain Jeff has done multiple tours in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now retired from military service, Struecker currently serves as the associate pastor of ministry development at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia.

“Here Burns My Candle” by Liz Curtis Higgs

Lady Elisabeth Kerr has a secret – a secret practice that could get her ostracized by the entire capital city of Edinburgh.  Her husband, Lord Donald, has a few secrets of his own, secrets that do not endear him to rest of titled society.  Lord Donald’s mother, Lady Marjory, is not fond of her Highlander daughter-in-law and struggles to protect the reputations of everyone living under her roof.  When the Jacobite rebellion brings thousands of Highlanders to their doorsteps and the Kerr family loyalty to the throne is questioned, will their secrets be exposed?  Will their relationships survive the war – and it’s messy aftermath?

Here Burns My Candle will immerse the reader fully in the culture of Scotland in 1745.  The attention to historical detail is amazing, making this book far superior to your average historical novel.  Higgs weaves real characters and events into her plot in such a way that without doing a bit of your own research, the reader can’t tell the history from the fiction.

A fictionalized version of Naomi and Ruth, Here Burns My Candle challenges the reader to rethink previously held views of these Biblical characters.  This story continues in the recently released Mine is the Night.  Forgiveness and faithfulness are both important themes in the book, asking the important questions, “To whom am I faithful?  Do I forgive readily?”

Here Burns My Candle is a wonderful story of changing relationships and the focus on what is truly important.  I will definitely be reading more of Liz Curtis Higgs’ work.  If history makes your heart race, don’t miss this series.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program.