Goodbyes and Second Chances by T.I. Lowe ~ Review

Goodbyes and Second Chances pic

Goodbyes and Second Chances: Book 1 by T.I. Lowe

Life can throw us some pretty nasty curves. Some of it may be deserved, but some, and perhaps most, is not. Take, for example, people born into wealth, and people born into poverty and all the gradations in between. How do we deal with this? It depends on our perceptions. And that is what this tale is all about. Think of it as a modern day parable. For the modern part, rock stars and a rock band. The parable? Trailer trash stigma. What can we learn from them? Read and see.

Jillian has known Dillan since she was eight and he was six. Before that, even. They grew up in the same neighborhood with other friends that eventually formed a strong group that had each others’ backs. They all lived in the trailer park. They knew what that meant: stigma. They lived on the “other side of the lake.” Across the lake were the wealthy condos and homes. Would life even give them a chance?

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Dillon grew up with insane talents on several instruments and a smooth silky voice. He was a poet at heart and often wrote his own lyrics. His mother was fierce in her efforts to save him from a reputation as trailer trash. So by the time he was sixteen, he had found an opportunity to make it big in the music world. But to do that, he would have to leave his dearest friends behind, including his jewel, Jillian. He promised he would come back for her. She didn’t believe him. No one came back.

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The author has done a great job portraying the funny moments within the group of friends who lived in each others’ pockets. She includes their struggles, how close this group grew together, and how Jillian fit in as a sort of mom. It made me think of Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys. There were sad times, sweet moments, victories and failures. Be sure to bring along some tissues, as there were many poignant moments.

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The funniest and most tragic happenings in the story involved Maverick King. His story becomes the focus of book two in this series. He was part of Dillon’s rock band from the beginning. If you enjoy this book, you’ll certainly want to get book two which is told from Mave’s point of view. Overall, Goodbyes and Second Chances has several flawed characters, which we see change and grow up before our eyes. The author has done a great job making the reader feel as if they were part of this close-knit group.

 

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Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

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

 

 

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Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn ~ Review

Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn

Spring Dawn

Spring Dawn is the third book in Rebekah Lyn’s Season of Faith series. In Book 1, we meet Elizabeth, Ian, Jeffrey, Stephen and Michelle. Book 2 continues the story of these five friends. In Book 3, the main plot is focused equally between Ian and Elizabeth’s growing romance and Jeffrey’s life and spiritual growth as a new Christian. You can read my reviews on Book 1 here and Book 2 here. By the time I finished reading the third book, I felt these five characters were also my friends. And because they are, I can’t wait to see more resolution in their lives.

In looking back over the scope of the books I’ve read so far in this series, I could see a pattern. The first book was a book of disasters where many people were thrown together in an effort to survive the season’s group of hurricanes. Our five main characters meet under different conditions and in different capacities. The second book was a book of mystery and adventure where Ms. Lyn’s readers become better acquainted with the friends. This third book is a book of testing: testing character, testing resolves, and testing relationships. An example of this is in the development of Ian and Lizzie’s relationship. In the second book, the reader may conclude that their relationship was on solid ground. Yet this third book creates uncertainty, tests their stability as a couple and stretching each one individually. That makes for very good reading.

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Lizzie begins to put distance between herself and Ian, while simultaneously drawing closer to Jeffrey, especially after his car accident. Ian becomes jealous of Jeffrey when he finds out about this. Michelle, too, feels some envy at Jeffrey and Lizzie’s easy camaraderie. Ian is already frustrated with the slow growth of his design business. He begins to wonder if Lizzie is the One for him to settle down with. Lizzie is not aware of these undercurrents. She is battling her own fears about falling back into her past lifestyle which she has kept hidden from Ian.

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After going through a hair-raising experience in the second book, Michelle feels much less secure in the current book. She’s dissatisfied with life, leans a little more on her friend Jeffrey for friendship while at the same time nothing seems to go her way. This subplot left me yearning for some type of resolution for her.

Jeffrey shares the limelight with Ian and Lizzie. After the events of the second book, Jeffrey resolves to stay closer to God, stay dry and away from former relationships that could lure him back to his old ways. He spends a little more time with Stephen. At the same time, he also resolves to reach out to Michelle in an effort to “be Jesus” to her. Of course, most of these resolutions are tested repeatedly, creating a sense of mystery about his relationship with Michelle. His accident temporarily takes him out of Michelle’s sphere and into the care of his parents. Happily this gives him an opportunity to gain some peace with them.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this series so far. Rebekah Lyn’s writing style pulls us into the details of friendships and leads us to care for each of the five friends. The pace of this third book is slower than the previous books, which seems to be intentional in order to develop the tangled web of events, tests, and character development. If you enjoy delving into the details of life, watching how people going through life without God learn about Him and reach out to Him when others are not accessible, then you will enjoy this book.

Additional note: The fourth book in this series is soon to be released. Look for a December wedding!

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

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Winter’s End (Seasons of Faith, Book 2) by Rebekah Lyn ~ Review

Winter’s End (Seasons of Faith, Book 2) by Rebekah Lyn

Winter's End

Winter’s End is the second book in Rebekah Lyn’s Seasons of Faith series. In book 1 we meet Elizabeth Reynolds, Ian Cavanaugh, Jeffrey Robbins, Stephen Longbottom, and Michelle Burton. The first book’s emphasis was on Elizabeth and those involved in her circumstances. By the conclusion of that book, Elizabeth and Ian had begun a new romantic relationship. Their story continues in this second book as a subplot where the author explores their growth individually and as a couple, while LIzzie and Ian are in Vermont on a ski trip with his parents and her adopted parents.Click here to see my review on book One

In the meantime, the main plot is split between Stephen and Michelle. While Lizzie is away on vacation, Stephen is in charge of their concierge team at Hotel Lago. He is professionally tested when he spends the weekend overseeing a particularly fussy group of executives on a business retreat. Michelle, on the other hand, had just experienced an exhilarating night with her rock band, only to arrive at her office job the next morning to discover a co-worker had been brutally murdered and left in one of the office’s bathrooms. The three storylines, plus a subplot where the murder investigation moves forward in its own suspenseful timeline, weave and intertwine with each other in a similar manner to Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series.

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Then there’s Jeffrey. He noticed Michelle was on the news because she was the one who discovered the body and called 911. Although their last time together was a disaster, he decided to call her to check on how she was dealing with the shock. They got together and she immediately noticed how he had changed. Eventually she discovered he had become a Christian. His presence helped her cope with her new fears. Their relationship is yet another subplot that will apparently continue in one of the future books in this series.

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Winter’s End gives readers a little bit of everything. Suspense quickens the pace when Detective Mike Emerson and his assistant try to hunt down the murderer while the evidence is fresh and before he strikes again. Good character work is evident as we learn how Lizzie and Ian’s relationship is developing. Spiritual topics crop up naturally when Michelle’s experience shakes her to the core. Jeffrey plays an important role in answering some of life’s toughest questions. Continuity flows throughout the tale, connecting the books closely, allowing resolution in some relationships while anticipating how some other events will need to be resolved in the future.

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I have noticed that the best way to read these books is to read them back to back to enjoy the story’s flow. The first three books are already out. Another book will be coming out soon, in late 2015 or early 2016. I am looking forward to reading the next two books. If you enjoy Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove books and other author’s works with a similar style of writing, then I highly recommend this book and the series to you.

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An October Bride: A Year of Wedding Novellas by Katie Ganshert ~Review~

An October Bride by Katie Ganshert

October Bride

An experience of Small Town USA, a bucket list, plans for a fake wedding, childhood sweethearts, a veterinary practice, and a man dying of cancer. The combination creates poignant family scenarios laced with the wisdom of the ages plus a sweet romance, all touched by the race against time. Just a touch of suspense.

For the past two years, Emma Tate’s family knew her dad’s time with them was limited. An MRI revealed a brain tumor for which treatments could only slightly slow down the growth. At the time of discovery, Emma was engaged to Chase. But the serious turn of events woke her up to the realization that her reasons to marry him were all wrong. She didn’t really love him as she should. If she were honest with herself, the serious crush she had had on Jake Sawyer in high school had only diminished a little. But she never really felt certain that he had ever returned her sentiments. Jake was her brother Liam’s best friend. He probably thought of her as a little sister. Then a few years ago, he left the area. She was sure he hadn’t felt anything for her at all. Now he’s returned. And today of all days, he shows up in her kitchen to fix a leaky sink…right after she had just found her dad’s bucket list. Nearly all the items on the list were crossed off except for the one item on the top of the list, “Walk Emma Down the Aisle.” This was one last thing she could do for her dad. But how?

Jake Sawyer noticed how upset Emma was when she entered her house. He asked her if something was wrong. She explained about the bucket list. Jakes idea surprised her; he offered to become her pretend groom. He wanted to help Emma, but did he really think ahead about the implications of a fake wedding? They lived in a tiny community. There were no secrets here. But they went ahead and planned a wedding for autumn, Emma’s favorite season of the year. It was only a little more than a month away. With her father’s imminent decline looming on the horizon, the planning took on the aspect of a race against time, while Jake and Emma avoided the reality of the supposed “happily-ever-after.”

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In the meantime Emma’s best friend, Lily, knows the truth and agrees reluctantly to help plan the Fall wedding. Her real concern was for Emma when the fallout hits her. Then Emma’s brother Liam got the truth out of Jake one day. Will he keep their secret, or throw a monkey wrench into the whole works?

This is a novella, not a full length novel, so I didn’t expect thorough development and growth of characters. However, the full cast of players such as Emma and Jake, Lily and Liam, Emma’s mom and dad, some of the town’s major players quickly grew on me so that by the time the wedding day neared, I was screaming in my head, “Make it real, you dopes!” I couldn’t stop reading the book. I knew how it would inevitably end, but I wanted to know how they would get there. It’s a good thing it’s a short book or I would have lost sleep trying to finish the story. I wasn’t disappointed either. The ending is absolutely lovely. This is a well-written novella, in which I felt eventually that some of the characters were my friends.

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The second thing I enjoyed about this novella was the familiarity of the setting. Events occur in a small town up north, whereas I grew up in a small town up north. There were moments I felt reminiscent of my childhood days when they referenced drives around the state to see the Fall colors, and the feel that the town was just one big family because everyone knew everyone else’s business. Second, autumn is one of my favorite seasons too. Like Emma, I always enjoyed Fall harvest festivals since we were also a farming community. I have always loved the fresh crisp air of autumn, the hints of summer winding down and the leaves turning color. The author’s vivid descriptions of the season made it come alive for me. There are moments where the frantic pace slows down, a hush comes over the family and friends as they soak in a quiet moment. They become vignettes to cherish and remember afterward. The author skillfully creates an atmosphere of contentedness during these rest periods amidst the rush of wedding preparations.

My favorite part of the novella was the ending. While it may have been a bit predictable, it was perfect for this story. I had become so wrapped up in the dilemma Emma faced that the ending was just the right solution to the conflict. This is going to be one of those stories that I will be able to read several times without getting bored because there are so many elements that resonate with me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I highly recommend this book.

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

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Book Blast! Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage by Cathy Lynn Bryant and Jessica M. Dorman

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Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage
By Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman

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About the Book:

Knowing he was about to die, Sarah Anne’s beloved father had arranged for her to marry Alexander Swyndhurst II. Alexander, a recent widower, had no intention of taking another wife; but after learning the young woman’s situation—that she had been the object of at least one man’s unwanted attentions, and that she would soon be left alone and unprotected—he had agreed to the marriage. He had one stipulation, however: He and Sarah Anne would live separately—he in Bristol, England, and she in Amesbury, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Sarah Anne had agreed wholeheartedly with this arrangement.

Will Alexander have a change of heart? What of the dangerous man from her past? What will happen while her husband is away—leaving her alone with only the servants? Even though there are connections, each novel in the series may be read as a stand-alone.

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cathyCathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman
Inspired by interesting characters and events uncovered while doing genealogical research,mother and daughter writing team, Cathy Lynn Bryant and Jessica Marie Dorman, who live in beautiful New England, have masterfully woven the stories of real people and fictional characters from the 17th and 18th centuries to develop inspirational, romantic, works of historical fiction. The Unshakable Faith series includes the following titles: Book 1 Lost Love and Shipwrecked–Madeline Pike Finds Hope in the New Land; Book 2 Grandmother’s Namesake; Book 3 Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage.

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Book Blast! More Than This by Staci Stallings

More Than ThisMore Than This
By Staci Stallings

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About the Book:

Liz Savoy has no plans to date anyone—least of all the dark handsome mystery man who sometimes inhabits the corner table at the coffee shop where she’s working to get through school. But plans change, sometimes in ways no one expected.

Jake McCoy is the next mega-millionaire author, or at least he would be if he could get the stories in his head down on the ether. With no good place to write, he resorts to dark corners in Wi-Fi hotspots, knowing no one in the world cares about him or his comings and goings one way or the other. However, there is one waitress at The Grind coffee shop with a cute smile and kind eyes who doesn’t seem to think he is as invisible as he likes to think he is. Can reality with her ever hope to match the fantasy world where his imagination has him living?

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Now a #1 Best Selling Christian and Inspirational Romance author, Staci Stallings, a stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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