Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Reads of 2013!

Goodness gracious! Can you believe that 2013 is a couple hours away from being over? It's hard to believe that it is yet again time to enter a new year, and as so, we thought it'd be fun to have a 2013 review post sharing our favorite books that we read this past year. While it was extremely hard to narrow it down, as we both read so many wonderful books this year, we finally narrowed it down to what we have here, and hope you enjoy seeing our favorites. Please note that the books are not in any particular order as it's way to difficult to put a number to them all from first to least.
Bethany's Favorite Books Read In 2013
Total books read in 2013: 85
Madi's Favorite Books Read In 2013



Total books read in 2013: 132
What was your favorite(s) of 2013? Please do share them in a comment, as we love hearing for you! As we sign off this last blog post in 2013, we would like to wish you all a very blessed new year filled with blessings and joy!
~Bethany & Madi

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Reason For My Hope By Billy Graham Book Review

/ / The Reason For My Hope / /

{Review By Madi}
Book Title: The Reason For My Hope
Author: Billy Graham
Source: Booksneeze
Number Of Pages: 207
ISBN: 978-0-8499-4761-2
Publisher: W Publishing
Year Of Publication: 2013
Madi's Rating: Five Out Of Five Stars
/ / Book Description / /
From America's evangelistic elder statesman

Salvation is what we all long for, when we are lost or in danger or have made a mess of our lives. And salvation belongs to us, when we reach out for the only One who can rescue us--Jesus.

The saving message of the Gospel is the heartbeat of this preacher and evangelist. Millions around the world have heard Billy Graham proclaim this unchanging truth. He has never forgotten the transformation of his own life, when he first said yes to God's gift of salvation, and he has witnessed multitudes turn their hearts to the God of Hope.

"The Reason for My Hope: Salvation "presents the essence of that transformative message. It is biblical and timeless, and though simple and direct, it is far from easy. There are hard words, prophetic words, directed toward a culture that denies the reality of sin and distracts us from the veracity of Hell. But through its ominous warnings shines a light that cannot be extinguished--a beacon of hope that Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).
/ / Madi's Book Review / /
 Billy Graham has had a huge part in my upbringing, so I'm always excited to read a book that he has written. I have read more books by this wonderful man than I can count (I even did a report on him in middle school), and I grew up listening to his sermons on television. He is such a wise person, and it has always been a dream of mine to meet him. My whole family gets excited when I get one of his books, because they know that they will all get the chance to read it as well. I always learn a lot about how to treat others and how to act in a way that best represents Christ best when I finish one of Graham's books, and this one was no different. This one, though, more than anything, was an explanatory book about the gift of salvation instead of a book demonstrating how to accomplish something. I mean, after all, there is nothing that we as people can do to accomplish salvation, we can only get that through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This book is a great book to read as you wind down for the night or if you are stressed out and need something to occupy your mind while you calm down, because though it may not be fast paced, it gives a person a lot to consider. Another cool thing about this book is that I haven't seen it in paperback, so if you purchase it you are guaranteed to get a good quality binding that will last through a lot of page turning (if you ever decide to reread it or lend it out). I love my paperbacks, don't get me wrong, but it's super easy to bend the cover if you aren't careful or to wear out the spine after continued use. That's a perk of hardcopies, they are sturdy and durable. Of course, if you are into all that newfangled e-book reading (blegh!) than this is completely irrelevant to you. No matter what form you buy this book in, I encourage you to read it. I promise that you won't look at things the same in the aftermath.
~Madi For The Literary Maidens
 Note: I was provided with a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers by the Booksneeze blogger program, but I was not paid to write this review and all thoughts expressed in this post are completely my own and unbiased. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wonderland Creek By Lynn Austin Book Review

/ / Wonderland Creek / /

/ / A Novel By Lynn Austin / /

{Review By Madi}
Title: Wonderland Creek
Author: Lynn Austin
Source: Review Book Provided By The Author
Number Of Pages: 391
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0498-2
Publisher: Bethany House
Year Of Publication: 2011
My Rating: Five Out Of Five Stars
/ / Book Description / /
Lynn Austin Will Delight Readers with Her Winsome Heroine

Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.

Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to a library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.

But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated--not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. When Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and mystery--and especially romance--are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.
/ / Book Review / /
I love this book. I'm so grateful to have it on my personal bookshelf so that I can go back and re-read it as often as I like. One of the best things about this novel is the wonderfully created characters, so I have made a list of a few of the main characters that appear throughout the story and their personality traits.
Alice Grace Ripley-
Alice is a ministers daughter that always has her nose in a book. Her family and friends are completely convinced that she lives in a non-existent dreamland, and they are right. Her imagination is keen, and her spunk knows no bounds (except Miss Lillie, but we'll get to that later). Alice is a librarian in her hometown that she considers small, until she gets laid off due to the depression. Little did she know that by making a trip to Kentucky to deliver donated books to the rural town's library that she would discover what a small town really was like. She also never thought of herself as a high-maintenance city slicker, but to the mountain people of Kentucky, that's exactly what she is. Is it too much to ask for indoor plumbing?
Leslie "Mack" Larkin-
Mack was saddled with a woman's name at birth, but he hates it and goes by the nickname, "Mack". I don't know where the name came from, but it suits him. At first, Mack came across as an uncivilized grump, but when I dove further into the story, I came to the realization that he was actually a very intelligent and educated man. He was working on a book that got him into some trouble with the townsfolk, so he faked his own death to secure safety for himself and those close to him. He sure was glad that new little librarian came to take over his post at the library and help him see his plan to fruition.
Miss Lillie-
Miss Lillie has got to be my favorite character. Her personality reminds me of some of my family in Mississippi. Miss Lillie is a black 100 year old former slave woman that raised Mack. This feisty old woman has enough spunk for the whole state of Kentucky, and she isn't afraid to use it. She is quick to love, has impeccable judgment in people, and will do just about anything for someone that she loves. As a young girl she learned the art of medicine, and being the town healer has afforded her certain privileges. She knows secrets about the people of her small town that no one else does. She could blackmail the entire town into submission if she wanted to, but of course she's too nice for all that. She thinks that she frightens the new little sprite of a girl that has been helping her out since Mack "passed on", which is good. She needs her help, and she intends to keep it. She rather likes her though.
These characters made me fall in love with this story, and I haven't been so emotionally exhausted after reading a novel in a while. This isn't the first Lynn Austin book that I have read, and I hope that it  won't be the last. I love reading anything by Lynn Austin, and I'm always glad to be able to get my hands on one of her novels. Her writing style leaves readers wanting more, and whenever I finish one of her books I always feel like I have lost a dear friend. The plot for Wonderland Creek was very original and well written. Like any good story, it contained romance, action, danger, adventure, murder, undercover plans to right past wrongs, and just about anything else that you can think of. I loved how this book managed to entertain without being the least bit inappropriate, which can be hard to find nowadays. Of course, Bethany House Publishers has always been one of my favorite publishers to purchase books from for that very reason. Chances are that if Bethany House published it you'll have no problem with the whole "to read, or to shelve?" thing like you would with other publishers. Bethany House is a Christian publisher, and if I were to write a book that is where I would turn to. Anyways, I can't recommend this book enough to anyone. Please, stop what you're doing and go pick up a Lynn Austin title, preferably this one.
~Madi For The Literary Maidens

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Dawn Of Christmas By Cindy Woodsmall Book Review

/ / The Dawn Of Christmas / /

{Review By Madi}
Title: The Dawn Of Christmas
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Source: Blogging For Books
Number Of Pages: 170
ISBN: 978-0-307-73213-2
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Year Of Publication: 2012
My Rating: Four Out Of Five Stars
/ / Book Description / /
This Christmas, experience learning to trust alongside the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania in this heart-warming tale of second chances.

Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?
/ / Book Review / /
 This isn't the first book of Cindy Woodsmall's that I have read, in fact, I have read several. I will admit that I haven't been a huge fan of hers, and I usually wouldn't recommend any of her books, but for some reason I keep reading them. It's kind of like McDonald's, it taste horrible, but you eat it all the time anyway. Most of the time I dislike her books simply because the plot is boring and predictable, and because her novels lack that feeling of authenticity, but I must admit that I am impressed with The Dawn Of Christmas. I wasn't sure I would ever read a Cindy Woodsmall book that I ended up being glad that I read, but I did. This little novella captured my attention and kept it there until before I knew it I had completed it in a single sitting (which wasn't hard, considering it's only 170 pages long). I'm sucker for a good romantic novella, and this was just the ticket. I don't get the title though. Only the very last chapter had anything to do with Christmas, and there was little to no mention of the holiday throughout the rest of the book. I went into this book expecting a story full of Christmas cheer and holiday spirit, and that's not what I got out of it. I don't mind though. Overall, it was still a very enjoyable book to read and it gave me hope for this author yet. I think the reason that I kept going back to Cindy's books is that I saw the potential there, but it never really came to light for me until I read this. She still isn't one of my "Must-Read" authors, but from now on I won't balk at a recommendation to one of her books. The characters were wonderfully created and artfully portrayed, and it took no time at all for me to get caught up in what was happening in their lives. My favorite character was Sadie. Most Amish women are very solemn, obedient and quiet. Sadie is a spitfire. It's nice to see an Amish character with personality, even if it is a bit unrealistic. I hope that this author continues to surprise me in the future, because I quite enjoyed this novella and hope to see more like it.
 ~Madi For The Literary Maidens

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cloak of the Light By Chuck Black Book Review

18112194// Cloak of the Light//

Wars of the Realm Series // Book #1

By Chuck Black

{Review By Bethany}
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1601425023
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Publication Date: March 18th 2014
Bethany's Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
// Book Synopsis //
{Taken from the back cover}
"What if...there was a world beyond our vision, a world just fingertips beyond our reach? What if...our world wasn't beyond their influence?
Tragedy and heartache seem to be waiting for Drew Carter at every turn, but college offers him a chance to start over-until an accident during a physics experiment leaves him blind and his genius friend, Benjamin Berg, missing.
As his sight miraculously returns, Drew discovers that the accident has heightened his neuron activity, giving him skills and sight beyond any normal man. When he begins to observe fierce invaders that no one else can see, he questions his own sanity, and so do others. But is he insane or do the invaders truly exist?
With help from Sydney Carlyle, a mysterious and elusive girl who offers encouragement through her faith, Drew searches for answers and for his missing friend, Ben, who seems to hold the key to unlocking this mystery. As the dark invaders close in, will he find the truth in time?"
// Bethany's Book Review //
To be honest, when I requested this book I was not sure I'd love it, much less like it. I'll also admit that the only reason I even thought to request it was because I'd read the author's Kingdom series previously and loved them; but it was only the author that drew my attention-not the book synopsis. In fact from the book's description, it looked like a book I wouldn't read since I don't often venture into the world of science fiction, mainly because it's so unrealistic and often a  bit too eerie for my taste. However, I did know that based on how much I loved the Kingdom series, then if this book was anything like the series was then I'd love it-and I did! Although I encountered a lot of doubts when requesting this book and considered it to be a gamble between whether or not I'd like it, I am so glad that I decided to read it, because it ended up being one of my favorite books that I read in 2013!
This book is the first in a new series by Chuck Black that delves into spiritual warfare and the very real battle between good and evil. I liked how he balanced the truths of Scripture concerning spiritual battles between angels and demons with the fictional story of Drew and his friends, as well as how he gave details Scriptural references in the back of the book, explaining what truly is based on Scripture, and what was purely fictional. I think that the story line was very well thought out, and flowed very well keeping you engaged in the story at all times. The story was so engaging that I was able to breeze through it in two days since the story is written in a way that makes you want to keep reading and not stop until you are finished with the book-which is about what happened to me. :) I loved the way that the spiritual truths and the fictionalized parts were combined, and found the story to not only be a true adventure, unique and unlike any other I've read, but also encouraging and really opened my eyes to the truths of how real good and evil is. Often times in life since we don't see the battles between good and evil like Drew was able to, we get desensitized to it and don't truly comprehend that Satan wants our hearts, but this book really brings these things to light, (no pun intended!) and makes you really start to think!
Overall I absolutely loved this book! It was written in a very easy to comprehend way and is a real treat combining an exciting story with an inspirational, eye-opening plot. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who loved Chuck Black's other books, or to those who enjoy reading inspirational stories that open your eyes to biblical truths.
DISCLAIMER :: I received a free Advance Reading Copy of Cloak of the Light from the publisher, for the sole purpose of this review. I was not paid in any way to review this book, and all thoughts expressed in my review are completely my own, honest and unbiased.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stones for Bread By Christa Parrish Book Review

17657648 // Stones for Bread //

By Christa Parrish

{Review By Bethany}

Title: Stones for Bread
Author: Christa Parrish
Number of Pages: 326
ISBN: 1401689019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Publication Date: November 5th, 2013
Bethany's Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
// Book Synopsis //

 "What do you do when the gift you thought was bread turns out to be stones?

Liesl McNamara’s Wild Rise is not only a popular bake house and café in Vermont, it’s an extension of herself. Liesl is an artisan bread maker, like her mother and grandmother before her. Even though she lost her mother to suicide when she was eleven, she keeps this maternal bond alive as she bakes.

Liesl prides herself on living an uncomplicated, unattached life. But that changes when Seamus walks through the door of Wild Rise, lugging the large bags of whole wheat flour from the local food co-op. He and his daughter Cecelia have recently moved to the country seeking simplicity. Despite her best effort, Liesl becomes attracted to this teddy bear of a man who laughs easily and eats strange sandwich concoctions—on her bread, much to her dismay.

Her simple life is further complicated when a popular cooking show features her bakery. The publicity increases her business and brings several offers from larger businesses, all of which she turns down. But it also brings a completely unexpected phone call, one from a woman claiming to be her half-sister.

Liesl’s sense of identity dissolves as everything about her relationship with her mother—and the bread that held them together—comes into question. Has she been given stones rather than bread? And how can she ever take these crumbs and make them whole again?"
// Bethany's Book Review //

Stones for Bread was the first book by Christa Parrish that I've read, so going into it, I wasn't sure what the writing style would be like, or if I'd like it. However  being that it was about a baker, I thought I'd enjoy reading it as I love to bake, though I must confess I bake much simpler recipes than main character, Liesl does in the book. But it did remind me that baking really is an art, which I'd never really actually thought about before, and it can be such a calming activity, as we see in the story.
Though Stone for Bread wasn't a favorite, I certainly did enjoy reading it and found it to be a very unique book, and unlike any other I've read - both in writing style and story line. Christa Parrish certainly has her own unique writing style, and it was the first time to read a book with such a emotional writing style and story line. It added a nice touch to the story and was very unique and interesting to be able to read-one I won't forget soon as the characters stay with me even after reading the last word of the story.
One thing I loved about this book was all the various artisan bread recipes that were included in the story, when Liesl would bake them. I thought that was really cool and that it would be so fun to bake the breads that Liesl did in the book.
While I did enjoy this book, there were a few tiny details that I found to be a bit of a downer for me. One is that in the story, two or three times a character would be about to say a "word" and the author would cut them off a couple letters before the word was completely spelled,  and while the words weren't completed, you have enough to get the idea of the word, and it was just something I'd have preferred to be left out. While the words weren't inappropriate by any means, and definitely moderate, I just prefer not to have them pop up in a story. Like I said, they weren't terribly bad words, just ones I don't want cluttering my mind with, however it was by no means a reason to put the book down.
Another downer for me was how the whole story is spent with the main character not knowing Christ or having a personal relationship with Christ. Sadly, while this book is considered a Christian novel, there wasn't much Christian influence, since the character doesn't become a Christian until the very end of the book. One way this was obvious to me was how big bread was to Liesl. When I started this book I had the idea that this book would involve a lot of bread, but I didn't expect it to be literally about bread the whole time. Bread is so big to Liesl and a foundation for the story, it's her heritage, family and life since she owns a bakery that fills her days. When she is upset or troubled she makes bread as a way of releasing stress, and I found it often would take the place that Christ should have filled, since she took bread to that level of importance in her life. I felt like often times she would release her stress or find comfort in making bread instead of in Christ, and it was an opportunity for her to strengthen her faith in Christ (as it was growing throughout the story bit by bit) that was missed since she went to bread instead.
Despite these two downers, I did enjoy this book and found it to be a great story on redemption as the main character goes through a lot of different things in the story that make her a stronger person in the end. The writing style was so personal and emotional that you get attached to the characters, and I loved being able to connect with the characters and share their pain. While this book wasn't a favorite, I did enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone who loves to bake!
NOTE :: I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of reading it and writing a review on my blog. I was not paid in any way to write this review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed in my review are honest and unbiased.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Starflower By June Caedmon Book Giveaway!

/ / Starflower Giveaway / /

Title: Starflower, A Novel
Author: June Caedmon
Source: Author
Number Of Pages: 312
Publisher: Wendyhill Media
Publication Date: July 2013
Author's Website: www.junecaedmon.comAuthor's Blog: www.inspiredbyjune.com
/ / Book   Synopsis / /The dark waters that swallowed Sarah Climer’s parents remain silent. Hiding not only clues to their murder, but also the secret they died to protect. A secret the murderer believes Sarah now knows. A secret he’ll do anything to control. Daniel Broadfoot knows well the evils that lurk among his people. Evils that threaten to destroy Sarah and her grandfather. He doesn’t need Sarah’s trust to do his job. But he’ll need it to win her heart. As the murderer’s bizarre plan unfolds, both Daniel and Sarah come face to face with a demon from their past. Will their faith stand against the evil that drives one man’s quest for power? Or will Sarah’s love for Daniel and his people be enough to save them all?

Link for first chapter excerpt:

/ / About the Author / /
“This instinct for love, so firmly implanted in the human heart, is the supreme way by which we learn to desire and love God himself above all else.”
So writes Hannah Hurnard in the preface to her allegory, Hinds’ Feet on High Places. Hurnard’s sentiment expresses most profoundly, why I write romantic fiction. Through these stories, I seek, first and foremost, to glorify God. I trust that the stories will also engage and entertain my readers. If a single person is brought closer to God through their reading experience, I will count myself blessed indeed.
The author began writing under the pen name June Caedmon in July of 2002. Since then she has completed seven novels, four of which have been published. She is an avid reader and enjoys the research that her writing style demands. She has little with which to commend herself and relies solely on God for her inspiration, wisdom and guidance. The author lives with her family in the Hill Country of Texas.
/ / Giveaway Information / /
Entering this giveaway is easy-peasy. Simply click on the rafflecopter widget below and complete whatever actions you choose to earn entries to win a free copy of this wonderful novel by June Caedmon! Here at TLM we have worked with June in the past, so check out the reviews that Madi wrote on her other books Heart's Desire and Gladness For Mourning! If you win we will email you to get your mailing address and the author will mail your prize as soon as possible. Happy entering!
~The Literary Maidens

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Snow On The Tulips By Liz Tolsma Book Review

/ / Snow On The Tulips / /


{Review By Madi}
Book Title: Snow On The Tulips
Author: Liz Tolsma
Source: Litfuse Publicity Group
Number Of Pages: 326
ISBN: 978-1-4016-8910-0
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year Of Publication: 2013
Madi's Rating: Five Out Of Five Stars
/ / Book Description / /
In a time of unprecedented darkness and fear, Cornelia must decide if saving a stranger’s life is worth risking her own.

In the twilight of the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands, the Germans have taken everything Cornelia had to give, even what was most precious to her. Now Gerrit Laninga—a man who puts God and country above all else—arrives at her house, needing help. She is terrified for herself and terrified for her family, but most of all, terrified of the pain she might feel again if she allows herself to love Gerrit. Her hope is to be free from her paralyzing fear.

Gerrit is a known and hunted Dutch Resistance member. When he comes to Cornelia’s home for shelter, he’s drawn to her strength and kindness. When he asks her to contact the local Resistance on his behalf, she refuses. Gerrit is determined to find a way to continue his underground work without putting Cornelia or her family in harm’s way.

When things start to unravel and Gerrit’s life depends on her actions, she must summon her courage and learn to depend on the perfect love that drives out all fear. But will her new love be snatched away before it has a chance to bloom?
/ / Favorite Quote From "Snow On The Tulips" / /
"Courage is not a feeling. Courage is an action."
/ / Madi's Book Review / /
 Gerrit Laninga is involved in some underground work during the war lead by Adolph Hitler, and when he gets caught, he is sentenced to death by firing squad. Gerrit watches as his comrades fall, and then feels the bullet hit his own shoulder and blacks out. When he comes to, he crawls to a nearby home and begs for help, but after patching up his shoulder to the best of their ability, they throw him out in the cold. Gerrit gets taken in by Johan, brother of Cornelia, who holds the key to his life or death. Hiding a wanted man could cost both her and her brother their lives, but they all must pool together their courage and fight for the cause of freedom.
Cornelia is a young widow that is still grieving the loss of her soldier husband that died four years ago. Her heart is fragile, her mindset is strong, and her decisions final. When she is forced to take in a man that was shot in the shoulder (she couldn't very well let him fend for himself), she has no idea what she is getting herself into. Just having him under her roof is a risk, but then she somehow gets involved in his underground work, and things quickly go from dangerous, to deadly.
Can these two learn to fight together instead of against each other? Will romance bloom amongst tragedy?
I LOVED this book! I requested it at the recommendation of a friend, she said that it was one of the best books that she had read this year, and that I just HAD to get it. So I did, and boy am I glad to have friends with good taste in literature. The combination of factual historical events and a modern writing style was just superb! I loved how the close knit family that stars in the book stick together and protect each other no matter the cost. I haven't had a lot of reading time lately, so it took me a while to finish this novel, but it was definitely not because there was a lack of action! Something new was happening at the turn of every page, leaving me in anticipation of what comes next. I would get so into this story that if anyone spoke to me while I was reading it I would jump. Reading this book let me experience real life situations that people went through during the Nazi invasion, and I was dead to the world within seconds of opening my copy. I can't recommend this book enough!
~Madi For The Literary Maidens
Note: I was provided with a free copy of Snow On The Tulips by the Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest opinion. This has in no way changed my thoughts on the novel and I was not further compensated.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dear Mr. Knightley By Katherine Reay Book Review

17657649// Dear Mr. Knightley //

By Katherine Reay

{Review By Bethany}

Title: Dear Mr. Knightley
Author: Katherine Reay
Source: Litfuse Publicity Group Review Copy
from the Publisher
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 140168968X
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Publication Date: November 5th, 2013
Bethany's Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
// Book Synopsis //
"Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.

Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

 After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters."

// Bethany's Book Review //

Dear Mr. Knightley is a unique debut novel, filled with heart and literary delight, making it a novel I'm glad not to have missed out on! When I first heard about this novel, I found it utterly fascinating to discover that someone finally wrote a book about a girl who is in love with books; as I can totally relate to such a character, being a totally book nut myself. :) To be able to read a well-developed story and have bits and pieces of favorite classics throughout, it was just the icing on the cake; and I would eagerly read more from this new author.

At first when I realized that this is a novel written completely in letter form, I was hesitant about feeling as if I'd really get to know the character. In my mind letters are always sweet and to the point, a majority of them not being long enough to really give details needed in such a lengthy novel. So I naturally feared that there wouldn't be enough time in the letters to get personal or feel as if I knew the character. But I was totally wrong, as this book displays excellently the details of main character Samantha's life, as well as give detailed insight to her inmost thoughts and deepest fears, creating a friend to be treasured.

One of the things I liked about this book, aside from the uniqueness of a modern girl writing to an anonymous gentleman under the name of "Mr. George Knightley"; was how well developed Sam is throughout the story. Early on we realize that Sam had a tough childhood and was basically "orphaned" long before her parent's actually died due to drug overdose and the like, which filled their lives for as far back as Samantha can remember. She's been on her own, and has to survive in this dark world; no thanks to her contestant fears that overwhelm her telling her she isn't good enough. As she learns to adapt and is blessed with the hospitality of a Christian family, Sam's life turns around for the better as she goes to school to pursue a writing career. Through the heart-felt letters which she writes to Mr. Knightley, her anonymous benefactor who is paying for her schooling in exchange for letters from her on how schooling and life is going; we get to really know Sam and rejoice in her accomplishments and feel sad with her when life doesn't go as planned. This book is filled with heart and emotion and I doubt that Samantha Moore is a character which I'll soon forget.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was completely unlike anything I've ever read and I loved the literary concept of all the wonderful classic quotes that were sprinkled throughout the book. Oh, and of course we shan't forget the splendid ending! Bravo!
The only con to this book was when Samantha was in a dating relationship with a young man. Several times she contemplates "spending the night" at his apartment, and though she never does follow through, the thought is there and she battles the pressure of this man to give in. Since she did not know Christ at this time, even though she doesn't end up spend the night, it was more of a coincidence that she didn't stay rather than her choice due to moral standards. While this wasn't a big deal since it was a small aspect of the book, I didn't really care for it. But aside from this, I loved Dear Mr. Knightley and would insist that any classic fiction lover should read this book, as it's a rare gem!
NOTE:: I received a free copy of Dear Mr. Knightley through Litfuse publicity from the publisher, to read and review. I was not paid in any way to review this book; and all thoughts expressed in my review are honest and completely unbiased. I was not required to give a good review if I didn't like the book.
Enter Today | 11/14 - 12/3!
Dear Mr. Knightley Katherine Reay

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beloved By Robin Lee Hatcher Blog Tour

// Beloved //
Where The Heart Lives // Book #3
 By Robin Lee Hatcher

{Review By Madi}

 Title: Beloved
Series: Where The Heart Lives // Book #3
Author: Robin Lee Hatcher
Number of Pages: 352
Publisher: Zondervan Publishers
Publication Date: September 24th, 2013
Madi's Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

// Book Synopsis //

"Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him for seven years, Diana's infatuation with her dashing husband died an ugly death, and she is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when her husband returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom. He agrees with one condition----she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.

// Madi's Book Review //
Diana Brennan was orphaned at a young age, and she was separated from her biological brother and sister for what she feared would be forever. Diana was adopted by a very kind and loving couple, and grew up with everything she needed. They weren't insanely rich, but she was provided for and then some. After her father dies, and it's just Diana and her mother, Diana falls for Tyson Applegate. After a hasty courtship she marries the man that she believes she loves. Turns out that Tyson is somewhat of a rotten apple, and he caused her nothing but heartache.
Tyson has been gone for several years, and many believed that he was killed in the war. The day before Tyson is pronounced dead in an official court, Diana host a dinner party to announce her engagement to another man, where Tyson decides to show up uninvited and ruin her once again. How could the man that deserted her still be alive? It just wasn't possible. But it was, because there he stood. How had he been able to not write his wife or father for so many years? How had he been able to stand himself?
Turns out that Tyson has turned his life around and has committed his life to God, or so he claims. He wants Diana to move back in with him while he runs for public office, and she agrees, under a few conditions. They can basically have nothing to do with each other unless contact was unavoidable. As Tyson sets out to get his wife back, she is running away from any emotional attachment to him. He has hurt her one too many times, and Diana isn't taking the chance of getting her heart broken again.
Slowly but surely, Diana notices a change in Tyson, and she starts to fall for him all over again. Can her  heart take it? What if he isn't what he seems to be? He's fooled her before. All Diana can do is let go and let God.
This was a pretty good read! I've never read anything by Robin Lee Hatcher, but I really enjoyed Beloved. Despite it's title, this novel didn't have near as much romance involved as you would think. I mean, it did, but it never even got to where it was at all inappropriate. Which will always get a thumbs up from me. All girls like a little romance, it's just how God wired us, but that doesn't mean that we want unnecessary thoughts put into our heads (at least I personally don't). I'm really impressed with how Hatcher put together such a sweet, romantic tale without adding unnecessary details. This book is teenager friendly, and I would be comfortable with anyone over thirteen or so reading it.
Another thing that I liked about this book were the characters. They're fantastic. I can really relate to Diana - not because she has been through so many relationship problems - she has a backbone and an almost bossy personality (totally me). And Tyson was just precious (after his transformation, of course). He would do just about anything for Diana, and his love for her was evident. All the things that he did to win her back just melted my heart. This novel was well worth the time I spent reading it, and I encourage you to read it  as well.
~Madi For The Literary Maidens
Note: I was provided with a copy of this book free of charge by The Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not paid to review this product and all thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own and totally unbiased.

To Know You By Shannon Ethridge & Kathryn Mackel

/ / To Know You / /

{Review By Madi}
Book Title: To Know You
Author(s): Shannon Ethridge & Kathryn Mackel
Source: The Litfuse Publicity Group
Number Of Pages: 358
ISBN: 978-1-4016-8866-0
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year Of Publication: 2013
Madi's Rating: 1 Out Of 5 Stars
/ / Book Description / /

"Years ago, Julia Whittaker gave up two daughters for adoption. Now she must find them to try to save the life of her son.

Julia and Matt Whittaker’s son was diagnosed with biliary atresia at birth. Dillon has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds—and his liver—crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a transplant. He can receive a “living liver” transplant but neither his parents, nor various family members and friends, are compatible.

The transplant list is long and Dillon’s time is short. Very short.

He has two chances for a compatible liver: his two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart and adopted at birth.

But can Julia ask a young woman—someone she surrendered to strangers—to donate a portion of her body to a brother she’s never known? Will either sister even be a match for their half-brother? Will either of them show mercy and courage if they are?

Julia knows she’s probably on a fool’s errand—reaching out to the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs them. But what other choice does she have except to try?"


/ / Madi's Book Review / /

 Julia and Matt Whittaker's son Dillion is in dire need of a liver transplant, but no matter how far he gets pushed up the list, it will be too late unless a compatible family member or friend donates part of their liver ASAP to the little boy with so much life left to live. Julia only has one option left: to find the two daughters she bore in her teens and put up for adoption to ask them to have mercy on her son. As hard as this is for everyone involved, it's Dillion's only chance at survival. 

Destiny Connors (Julia's firstborn daughter), was raised in a Christian home, but ended up going a bit wild. From doing tattoos and riding motorcycles to being a special effects person for boarder line gothic movies, she is anything but the perfect Christian that her parents envisioned she would become. One day while she is busy throwing her boyfriend out of her apartment and all the things he brought with him, a woman shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her birth mother. Although she was raised knowing that she was adopted at birth, she had never tried to contact her birth parents. It was a closed adoption, so that wasn't an option anyways. But why would she show up now, after all these years?

Chloe Deschene (Julia's second child), has a good life, with a good, steady, Christian husband. She is still going to college and preparing for a job in the medical field, and her life is completely routine. Everything has a time and a place, and nothing happens if it's not on the schedule. Chloe was beginning to become complacent when her birth mother showed up at her door one day. Talk about a change in routine! Her husband nearly has a conniption when this whirlwind comes into their life, but Chloe jumps at the chance for an adventure to meet her biological father.

I didn't like this book at all. It was one of those that you just want to finish it so that you can be done with it. When I requested this book from Litfuse, I got it because from the book description it seemed like an inspirational story about a long lost family coming back together. Well, It wasn't. It was completely inappropriate. Why, hardly any of it was about Dillion, the whole reason for all the madness! It seemed like at the turn of every page all the only thing you could count on was something inappropriate lurking in the next sentence. This is most DEFINETELY not a book for teenagers or young adults. 

~Madilyn For The Literary Maidens
Note: I was provided with a free copy of this book by the Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest opinion, and that's what I gave. I was not paid to write this review and all thoughts expressed are completely my own and totally unbiased.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Beloved By Robin Lee Hatcher Book Review

17703995// Beloved //
Where The Heart Lives // Book #3
By Robin Lee Hatcher
{Review By Bethany}
Title: Beloved
Series: Where The Heart Lives // Book #3
Author: Robin Lee Hatcher
Source: Litfuse Blogger Program/Zondervan Publishers
Number of Pages: 352
Publisher: Zondervan Publishers
Publication Date: September 24th, 2013
Bethany's Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

// Book Synopsis //

"Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him for seven years, Diana's infatuation with her dashing husband died an ugly death, and she is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when her husband returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom. He agrees with one condition----she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.

// Bethany's Book Review //

This was the first book I've ever read by Robin Lee Hatcher, and though it wasn't a huge favorite for me, I did enjoy it and would consider it a nice, quick, one-time read.

Being that this was the first book I've read by Robin Lee Hatcher, I really didn't know how much I would enjoy Beloved. However after reading it, I'm glad I was able to, and enjoyed the story. This book was very unique to me, because unlike most romance novels that focus on how the two people meet, this book was all about this couple's marriage - which is something you don't see portrayed in novels a lot now days. I found it very unique and different from any other novel I've read. I really liked Robin's writing style, and the course of events and how they were strategically placed in a certain order to add definition to the story. For instance, at the end of every chapter, there would be a flash-back of sorts, to before the two main characters were married, giving insight to the story before the story, so to speak. I sometimes noticed that Robin would strategically have a flash back that would relate to the current place in the story, and found it to be a really neat writing style, that I liked.
At first when I started reading Beloved, honestly I wasn't crazy about the story line of a woman who was married, but assumed to be a widow since she hadn't heard from her husband in seven years since he left for war; to all the sudden have her husband who she thought dead, show up at her party with her fiancée. Kind of unexpected. =) It definitely is a unique plot, but for some reason it didn't really make me super excited about the story. It may have been that it seemed a little unrealistic for me, but I'm not sure. However as the story progressed I liked seeing how Tyson had changed since leaving Diana, and how the Lord saved Him, turning his life around and how he began living for Christ. I also enjoyed seeing how this new relationship with Christ changed his actions; and most importantly the way he treated his wife. It was a neat story of redemption and making up for things of the past.
I really enjoyed the little boy in this story, Ned. He just added so much to the story for me. Maybe it's because I love little children in a story, as it brings out the best in a person, and it certainly did for Diana as it brought out her kind-hearted personality. I loved seeing how Diana and Tyson took Ned in, and gave him a chance and made his life so much better because of the love that was shown to him.
Another thing I did like about this book is how, despite the title, the romance was very clean and minimal. There was just enough to keep the story sweet, but wasn't overpowering or the main focus of the story, which I really appreciated.
Overall, though I don't consider Beloved a favorite of this year, I'm glad I was able to read it and loved Robin's writing style. The ending was interesting as well! I would recommend this book for ages 13+ due to brief topics covered, and since the overall plot is about a man trying to win back his wife.

N O T E :: I received a complementary copy of Beloved from Litfuse and Zondervan publishers to read and review. I was not paid to do so, nor am I required to give a good review if I didn't like the book. All thoughts expressed in the review are completely my own, and unbiased by the free book.
Enter Today - 10/28 - 11/15!
beloved robin lee hatcher