Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Hidden Side


New York, 2016
Natalie Abbott offers answers for hurting listeners on her popular radio program. But she struggles to connect with her teenagers, with her daughter in an unhealthy relationship and her son uncommunicative and isolated. When one member of the family commits an unspeakable act, Natalie is forced to uncover who she truly is under the façade of her radio persona.

New York, 1776
Mercy Howard is shocked when her fiancé, Nathan Hale, is arrested and hanged as a spy. When she’s asked to join the revolutionary spy ring in Manhattan, she sees an opportunity to avenge Nathan’s death. But keeping her true loyalties hidden grows increasingly harder as the charming Major John Andre of the King’s Army becomes more to her than a target for intelligence.

Mercy’s journals comfort Natalie from across the centuries as both women struggle with their own secrets and shame, wondering how deep God’s mercy extends.

My thoughts: I was immediately drawn in to this story, though it was with a sense of foreboding, since I knew where it was going and that it would be a hard story to read. Heidi does a wonderful job of tying the past and present together through the stories of Mercy, Nathan Hale's grieving fiancé, Natalie, and Maelynn. I thought it was interesting to not only have the past and the present, but to also have the added story of the Abbott's teenage daughter as she navigates the halls of high school and the aftermath of a school shooting.
This book covers some difficult subjects, but Heidi handles them wonderfully. The story will have you thinking long after finishing the last page.
I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.


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Friday, April 13, 2018


Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.

Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My thoughts: I loved the historical detail in this story! Houdini was a favorite of mine to read about when I was a kid, so it was fun to read a bit more about some of the elements I didn't know much about, like his distrust of spiritualist/mystics and how he got started as a kid. It makes me want to pick up another book about just him!
This story has so many layers, with the mystery in the 1920's of a man brought "back" from the dead to collapse and die on stage and then the mystery of why Wren wants to keep her real name a secret. I highly recommend this one!
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.



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Things I Never Told You


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It’s been ten years since Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died in an accident, leaving the entire family to cope in whatever ways they could. No longer half of a pair, Payton reinvents herself as a partner in a successful party-planning business and is doing just fine—as long as she manages to hold her memories and her family at arm’s length.

But with her middle sister Jillian’s engagement, Payton’s party-planning skills are called into action. Which means working alongside her opinionated oldest sister, Johanna, who always seems ready for a fight. They can only hope that a wedding might be just the occasion to heal the resentment and jealousy that divides them . . . until a frightening diagnosis threatens Jillian’s plans and her future. As old wounds are reopened and the family faces the possibility of another tragedy, the Thatchers must decide if they will pull together or be driven further apart.

My thoughts: This book was so hard to put down! I love how the story is written from Payton and Jillian's point of views. Beth does an excellent job of dealing with some hard subjects, like how the family had dealt (or not dealt) with the death of Pepper 10 years prior and how they react to the news of Jillian's health scare. This book hit home for me.
I enjoyed getting to know the sisters and look forward to reading more about them in the next book!
I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Who Do You Say that I AM?


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Do you know Jesus as He really is?
We can speak in abstracts all day long. We can ponder who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. But he wants our confession. He wants to know, “Who do you say that I AM?”
How we answer defines our lives both now and forever. This study in the “I AM” statements of Jesus will help women move from knowing about Him to knowing Him personally. Guiding them through significant questions Jesus asks in the Gospels—and the answers He himself provides—it will help readers:
Realize the truth of who Jesus really is
Grow in their ability to trust God and rely on Him fully
Find the calm and peace promised in Scripture despite life circumstances
Becky Harling has years of experience as a Bible teacher and women’s ministry leader. She empathizes with women and knows how to make Scripture come alive. Who Do You Say that I AM? will draw women deep into the Word for a true encounter with Christ, helping them become more confident, calm, and courageous in the faith.

My thoughts: I love how this Bible study is set up, going 5 days a week for 8 weeks, and the topic. The subject of "I AM" in the Bible came up in a sermon a while back, and I loved the opportunity to dig in even deeper with this book. I love how Becky uses scripture verses and reflection time, along with music and even some artistic creativity to speak to readers from all walks of life. I highly recommend this study!
I received this book from Moody in exchange for my honest review.

Coach Wooden's Forgotten Teams


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Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is known for his record-breaking run of NCAA championships and for working with some of the best players in the sport. His principles for success have been used by not only coaches and athletes, but also business leaders, entrepreneurs, and others. But his reach stretches even farther than most people know--into the hearts and lives of the people who learned the game of basketball on one of Coach Wooden's forgotten teams.

For nearly twenty years, John Wooden ran scores of summer youth basketball camps in California and other states, imparting wisdom and teaching skills to thousands of boys and girls between the ages of eight and fifteen. Most would not grow up to play professional or even college ball, but all of them found their lives changed by their interaction with the greatest coach who ever lived. In those camps, Coach Wooden also impacted hundreds of camp counselors and assistant coaches. This one-of-a-kind new book shares their inspiring stories and six fundamental lessons for a life of success and an unforgettable impact on others.

My thoughts: This book is a fun way to look at the wisdom of John Wooden and the influence that he had with younger generations through summer basketball camps. The book is easy to get through as it covers the six fundamentals, things like following instructions, being organized, and teaching wisdom.
Not only is this book a great one for basketball fans, but the insight is applicable for all walks of life.
I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Pelican Point


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A crumbling lighthouse is not part of the inheritance Army doctor Ben Garrison expects to claim when he journeys to Hope Harbor. Fresh out of the service, he wants only to unload the tower of bricks, decompress from years of treating battlefield trauma, and prepare to launch his civilian career.

Hope Harbor Herald editor Marci Weber has other ideas. She may not be a Hope Harbor native, but the small Oregon seaside town has become home--and she's determined to save the Pelican Point landmark.

Sparks fly as the two go head to head over the fate of the lighthouse. But when they start to cooperate, a different kind of fire ignites. And as they work together, might Hope Harbor heal the hearts of these two romance-wary souls?

Bestselling author Irene Hannon invites readers back to their favorite town for a story that will light a beacon of hope within their hearts.

My thoughts: I have enjoyed the wide variety of books that Irene Hannon writes, starting with her suspense stories and now reading this heartwarming series based in a small town on the coast. I loved the lighthouse that was introduced with this story, and the history that surrounded it. The characters were fun to get to know too! I highly recommend this delightful series.
I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Revolutionary


Freedom costs more than Portia wants to pay, but revolutions run on sacrifice … and blood.
Three months a satellite prisoner, Portia wonders if the Brotherhood has left her to die—until she plunges into the domain of an underground smuggler contacted by her brother. But her rescue comes with a price tag only she can pay, and now, she must forfeit her identity to act as a spy back in the dizzying politics of Crystal. There, she learns that her enemies want the Dome to approve mass satellite executions. No one knows why. Worse, they’re using her friend Luther, now a Court Citizen intern, to sign the short-term orders. She desperately wants to confide in Luther, but can she still trust him with the company he keeps?
Plagued by shadows and guilt for leaving her protector Gath behind on the satellite, Portia must find a way not only to rescue him and the other prisoners, but also to destroy the slave camps once and for all.

My thoughts: Beware, this series is a page turner! I also highly recommend reading the first book before picking up this one, since you need it to give you the backstory.
I love the messages of this story and how things play out. The characters are well written and there are plenty of plot twists to keep the story going and the reader on their toes! Two thumbs up, as it is very imaginative as well. I just wish the next book was out already.;)
I received this book from Celebrate Lit in exchange for my honest review.

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About the Author:
Kristen Hogrefe is a multi-published novelist and teacher who challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.
Her publishing journey began in 2010 with the first book in her young adult (YA) suspense trilogy Wings of the Dawn. She completed the trilogy in the fall of 2014, and in 2016, contracted with Write Integrity Press for a new YA dystopian trilogy: The Rogues.
Kristen also has the heart of an educator and mentor. She teaches secondary language arts for Alpha Omega Academy and served in youth ministry for many years. Through Word Weavers International, she encourages aspiring writers and acts as president for an online writing group. She enjoys speaking events that allow her to connect with readers and other writers.
A lifelong Florida resident, Kristen loves adventuring outdoors and running with friends. Connect with her online at KristenHogrefe.com.


Guest post from the Author:
Identity, Coffee, and a Sprinkle of History in The Revolutionary
The primary purpose of fiction is to entertain, but I think good fiction goes deeper by teaching us something about human nature, something about ourselves.
The Revolutionary begins three months after Portia arrived at a satellite prison camp. She feels forgotten by her brother and friends who promised to rescue her. Deeper than the physical pain of starvation, she battles the emotional rawness from the dehumanization of her identity. A number replaces her name, and the Wasps who mistreat prisoners mockingly call them “rabbits.”
When a two-faced smuggler helps her escape, her identity struggles continue. She dons multiple aliases to survive and help the Brotherhood launch a daring plan to destroy the satellite camps and oust the ruling Friend and Dome.
The theme of identity is one I hope will resonate with teens and adult readers alike. At some point, we all ask ourselves, “What defines me?” Is it our friends, an academic program, a relationship, or a job? While those things describe our day-to-day lives, they themselves shouldn’t define us. The source of our true identity must come from somewhere deeper. That’s the question Portia has to wrestle with, and one I hope readers will consider.
A Cup of Joe
Confession: One aspect of characterization I enjoy is giving my characters a small piece of myself. One of my early readers for book one, The Revisionary, remarked, “Let me guess. You like coffee.”
I laughed and replied, “How could you tell?”
Maybe lines like this one gave the fact away: “I start a pot of coffee. At least the aroma makes life smell better” (Portia, The Revisionary).
In book two, I incorporate the memory-association of coffee for Portia as she thinks back to simpler times (like dorm life with Lydia). Coffee also serves as a catalyst for an important scene where Portia, in disguise, serves her enemies and in turn learns of their disturbing plans for the satellites.
What about you? Are you a coffee drinker? If you are, I hope you’ll enjoy a giveaway opportunity for a Starbucks gift card. After all, coffee does make life smell better.
A Sprinkle of History
Two summers ago, my brother and I had the opportunity to visit the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. It’s the historical site for the “shot heard round the world” that ignited the American Revolution.
In book two, Portia and the Brotherhood launch their own threadbare revolution. Though the odds are against them, they’re determined to stop the abuses by those in power.
My own visit to this famous site helped inspire Portia’s journey of discovery and the Brotherhood’s fictional parallels to the American Revolutionary War. Writing the scene where she rediscovers this birthplace of liberty was one of my favorites, because I walked the North Bridge and poured over books researching what happened that fateful day. I hope the scene comes alive for my readers and quickens their interest in history and its relevance for us today.

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