Voskamp, Jennings, and 1,800 Miles…

The drive from Utah to Ohio was loooong.  Thanks to the help of new toys and Lego bribes, the four kids rode the 26 hour stretch without a single complaint.  Thank goodness for Lego’s.

Our house is slowly coming together.  The chaos is beginning to become somewhat organized – although, I am still missing some of those highly important items that I packed somewhere.  We have a cute little three bedroom house with an awesome backyard and plenty of room to stretch and I am so grateful to be here.  Even though it was hard to leave family and friends, it feels good.  Deep in my heart I know this move is right, and that makes it so much easier.

I’ve been reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift:  A Family Celebration of Christmas with the kids every night.  Ann Voskamp crafts a beautiful narrative of the Christmas story, our need for Jesus, and God’s glorious never-ending love.  God has the power to make good things happen from the bad and to calm our lonely hearts.  Ann has some beautiful Christmas affirmations on her website that have helped turn my heart towards the magic of Christmas among the crazy and busy move.  I don’t need to stress or worry or fear about everything being perfect.   Christ doesn’t expect me to climb up a ladder of perfection to reach Him, He comes down among my crazy life, my box infested bedroom, and my surprisingly utensil free kitchen to offer me His peace and His love.

Bethany House sent me a lovely copy of Regina Jennings’ newest book A Most inconvenient Marriage to read right before the loooong drive.  Perfect timing.  The book was amazing and the plot kept me company and occupied for a good stretch of the drive.  Like any of Regina’s books, this book is filled with fantastic, deep characters coupled with a fun/entertaining story line. When nurse Abigal is offered a ranch filled with horses, a home, and a family from a dying civil war solider – she takes it.  As she travels south to find the home, she falls in love with the area and the horses and the family.  When the widow finds herself face to face with her supposed husband that she had buried and left in the North, she has some big decisions to make.  Will she be able to save the family and horses?  Will her “husband” keep her or send her packing?  If her “husband” is alive, who was the man that she buried?  Will she ever find a place to rest and enjoy her version of a happy-ever-after?  I started this book and finished it in the same setting… and then read my favorite parts over and over again for a couple days. Soooo good.

Snow is coming.  The air is chilly and my toes are cold.  I managed to find some hot chocolate, mugs, and my internet was finally installed.  Forget the boxes and the complied messes surrounding my new-to-me house.  Little boys are calling my name with warm blankets and cute little bodies.  I plan to get a lot of hugs and reading done in the next couple of months.  I hope you have a happy holiday season and I am excited to talk with you more here about books and life and anything else that puts a smile on my face.  Until then, stay warm 🙂

A Match of Wits by Jen Turano

matchA Match of Wits, written by Jen Turano, is a cute story with adorable characters, witty dialogue, and unsuspected romance.

 

When Agatha Watson stumbles upon her long lost friend, Zayne Beckett, “quite pathetic and bedraggled” in the middle of the Colorado frontier, she decides it is time to get him back home to New York and his family.

Zayne has no desire to leave Colorado until Agatha shows up. Their friendship slips back into their familiar banter and he is tempted to return to the life he had abandoned. Once they arrive in New York, Zayne realizes that Agatha is in trouble. Will Agatha allow him to be her “knight in shining armor?”

Will the match – that seems so obvious to others – blossom into something more??

 

–Book was provided by Bethany House for my honest review.

Summer Reads

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Austenland by Shannon Hale.  When Jane Hayes is given the opportunity to play out her  Austen-obsessed-I-want-Mr.-Darcy fantasy by a distant recently deceased relative, she is hesitant to accept.  Decked out in empire-waist gowns, etiquette, and flirtations with the gardener – Jane finds something more valuable than love.  She finds the courage to embrace herself.  When a modern day Mr.Darcy comes waltzing into the scene, will he be the “real deal?”

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And To Only Deceive by Tasha Alexandar.  When Emily accepts Phillip’s proposal, it isn’t for love.  When Phillip mysterious dies, Emily feels little grief.  Two years later, she discovers that her husband was a far different man from the person she had believed she had married.  A dark secret uncovered in one of his journals sends Emily on a dangerous spin of events with two mysterious suitors not so far behind.

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Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt is my new favorite book this summer.  Can a young widow find love again with her husband’s reflection? This book is beautiful, inspiring, and very well written.  It reminded me that we can’t control the way in which God heals, blesses, and loves our souls.  The only control we have is in opening our hearts to the gifts as they come our way.

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You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren.  Annalise Decker – potential-mayor’s-wife , mother of three, and PTA member – is not Annalise Decker.  After testifying against a dangerous criminal twenty years ago, Deidre O’Reilly is forced into witness relocation program and instructed to build a new life.  But when her old life comes chasing after her, will she be able to cling to the life and love she has found?

 

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Budha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.  A collection of voices shared by the early Japanese woman in America.  Their voices are inspiring, haunting, and thought provoking.  Otsuka knits together a history that has been forgotten.

 

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The Alchemist, Manuscript Found in Accra, and The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho.  Coehlo writes words that inspire, heal, and calm my soul.  These books are dog-eared, highlighted, and loved.  Read these books.

 

What have you been reading this summer?

Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade

The more I delve into Christian Fiction, the more I fall in love.  I appreciate the clean romance, the tension between the characters, and the lessons I learn.  Becky Wade quickly became a new favorite with My Stubborn Heart and Undeniably Yours.

What I love about Becky Wade’s work is that her characters are real with tangible struggles.  I find myself in their reflection.  I learn and grow from their mistakes and overcome some of my struggles within the words of her stories.  Becky has concocted the perfect combination of faith and hope within her fun stories.

And let’s be honest… I love the romance.  The romance in Wade’s books are clean and exciting and wonderful.  She pushes beyond the tight-lipped-grandma-kisses, keeps it real, and respectfully describes the excitement of the scenes.

I am excited to tell you about Wade’s newest book, Meant to Be Mine.  But before I do that, check out the adorable photo shoot for the cute cover.

MeanttoBeMine_compCeila Park has always had a thing for Ty Porter.  When the two of them meet up in Vegas, their relationship climaxes to a cheap wedding chapel and midnight vows.  After an exciting wedding night, Celia wakes to find Ty upset.  Her happily-ever-after comes crushing down when Ty admits that he is in love with someone else.

Five and a half years later, Celia wants to stay as far away from Ty Porter as possible.  Their one-night-wedding-stand changed her life forever – and not in the way she had once dreamed.  Instead of following her own personal goals, Celia had to “give them up” to raise the honey-moon-baby from the man that didn’t love her in return.

When Ty mysteriously shows up, will the two of them be able to forge a relationship for the sake of their daughter?  Is forgiveness possible? And is it too late for Celia to get her happily-ever-after?

 

— Book was provided by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Death by the Book by Julianna Deering

9780764210969I am on the beach IN HAWAII with flip flops, a massive sun burn on the back of my neck, and Death by the Book written by Julianna Deering.  Paradise has arrived.

Death by the Book takes place in the summer of 1932 when Drew Farthing wants nothing more than to announce his engagement. When his solicitor shows up dead at their scheduled appointment, Drew is called on the scene to help investigate – again. When the physician turns up dead too, Drew is baffled.  Murders continue to happen with each one of them growing closer to Drew’s own home and the people he cares most about.  When the police make an arrest in connection with the murder(s) that Drew isn’t certain about, will he be able to find the one responsible for the crime(s)?

The suspense, characters, and story line is incredible.  Death by the Book is my first introduction to Julianna Deering and I am confident to say that it will not be my last.  Adorable characters with likable motives and a growing tension between them make this book a home run.

 

— Bethany House provided the book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

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In Regina Jennings first book,Sixty Acres and a Bride, we learn of the “crazy” Anne.  People avoid her.  She isn’t like everyone else.  When Anne is forced to kill her violent-abusive-husband, the town begins to avoid her more than ever. In Jenning’s second book, Love in the Balance, Anne is all alone.

Throughout the first two books, Anne’s tough (and different) exterior keep people at arms length.  When an abandoned child falls into Anne’s lap, everything begins to change and Anne becomes Caught in the Middle.  Does she have the courage to open up and love the world for the sake of the child?  Can she learn to trust again?  What about her broken and bruised heart?

Anne’s bravery and willingness to overcome her fears inspires me.  How many people surrounding me are internally hurting like Anne?  The people that surround Anne, patiently helping her learn to love again, inspire me.  And what of the romance?  Super cute.

I walked away from Caught in the Middle with a deeper understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.  People, fictional and real, are starving for love.   Everyone is lonely. Together, we can learn to put aside the judgement in honor of love… just like Anne.

It Had to Be You by Susan May Warren

978-1-4143-7842-8I love everything Susan May Warren.   Her books are the Perfect Match for My Foolish Heart.

When Tyndale asked me if I wanted a copy of Susan’s newest book, It Had to Be You, I didn’t have to think twice.  Susan’s writing always inspires me. It Had to Be You, is no exception. Cute kissing scenes, soul twisting, and happy-ever-afters. My kind of read indeed.

Eden is waiting for her life to start.  She writes the obituary section for the local newspaper and dreams of spreading her wings into a real-life reporter.  Her brother is an all-star hockey player and needs a lot of “big sister help.”  She sits on the side lines, picks him up when he is too intoxicated, and cleans up his life.  It’s what big sisters do.

Jace is a hard-time hockey player.  He lives for the spotlight, the cheering crowds, and the fighting on the rink.  Hockey provides purpose and worth.  When a few strong hits leave him physically unable to continue the game, his life no longer holds meaning.

Eden and Jace weave together an incredible story of love, forgiveness, and gratitude. Eden’s quest to create a life of worth made my soul scream out in sympathy while Jace’s quest to fight against the inevitable drove the point home.  This fictional couple needs to be added to my list of Fictional Couples I’d Invite Over for Game Night.

And today, I am super excited because Susie has agreed to answer some questions about  It Had to Be You.

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Hey Susan, it is great to have you here! It Had to Be You is the second installment of a new six book series. Can you tell us more about the background?

The Christiansen Family series is a spin off of the bestselling Deep Haven collection, stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior. The original series started with a book titled Happily Ever After and grew to include six titles. However, one family began to stand out, and we decided their story needed to be told. We wanted a series about a family with adult children learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives. And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey.

This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.

It’s a gorgeous place to set a story — on the rocky shores of Lake Superior, in a tiny town where everyone knows your name. It’s a town with a rich heritage, strong ties, and a place where people want to escape in fiction and in real life (as it is modeled after my town of Grand Marais, Minnesota). You’ll find people from all walks of life here and most importantly, Evergreen Resort, run by the Christiansen family for four generations.

What is your hope for this series?

Of course, I hope people fall as much in love with the Christiansens as I have. They’re a great bunch all led by John and Ingrid Christiansen, who have tried to instill their values into their children. But each child has their own path to walk, and part of the series is just watching as they walk that path through the good and the bad, trying to figure out where their faith and their parents’ legacy fit into their lives. It’s a contemporary epic family series set in the wilds of northern Minnesota with romance, suspense,

and lots of great family drama!

What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Eden Christiansen?

Eden Christiansen came from a number of places. Watching the siblings ofmovie stars and athletes, watching my own daughter cheer her athletebrothers, even watching my friends, parents who feel on the sidelines of their children’s lives… maybe even a little left behind as they leave for college. I began to wonder what if you had an amazing sibling, and your entire family focused on his or her successes, and you felt left behind, void of your own amazingness? This is Eden who feels like she hasn’t accomplished anything and is sitting on the sidelines of her life. She feels like she needs to “get into the game” but doesn’t know how or where to start. And she feels like she really has nothing spectacular to offer. But God has different plans.

Did you base the character of Jace Jacobsen on anyone in particular?

Jace was loosely modeled after famed Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died, in part, due to the many concussions he suffered as a hockey player. The problem of concussions with today’s athletes, especially in hockey and football, can be life threatening for athletes, and although hockey (and football!) is played much differently today, it’s still an issue.

I wanted Jace to have the opposite problem from Eden – he is only good at one thing. In fact, he’s spectacular at it, but he believes if he walks away from it, he will be nothing. So same problem… different perspective. It gave me a good opportunity as an author to examine our “worth.”

Of course, adding the John Doe element only rounded that theme out with yet another perspective. I loved how these three angles came together.

What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?

I think we all need to see our worth not in relationship to our external successes but in how we work out the task God has for us. How we love one another, how we use our gifts and talents. How we abide with God in our daily lives. Hopefully readers will begin seeing their worth in a new way.

How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to make them feel?

I am hoping readers walk away from this book, and this series, with hope. The sense that they belong to something to God, to family and the feeling that our lives are not chaotic or out of control, but that God has a unique and amazing journey for each of us, and it’s lived out within our relationships. I want them to feel as if they’d found a new set of friends.

Have you received any feedback from your fans on this series? What are they saying?

People fell immediately in love with Darek and his sweet son, Tiger, in Take a Chance on Me, and I think readers will really enjoy Jace and Eden’s romance in this story. I’m thankful that people enjoy the work I put into developing my characters and the romance, and I have loved diving into these multi-layered stories about people with realistic, everyday struggles.

As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?

I loved writing about Minnesota in the winter. And I loved the story of John Doe and uncovering who he might be. (I plotted it like a mystery, so it was fun to revisit my mystery – plotting techniques). I especially loved the layers of Jace, the hero, and how, with every turn, he became more intriguing.

What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?

Try to up your writing game with each book, and just keep writing. Not every story appeals to every reader, but I try to write a story I would enjoy and then hopefully my readers will also.

In your writing career, what are you most proud of?

I think I’ve stayed true to who I am and the kind of story I’m supposed to be writing. I’m very blessed by my reader friends and their constant encouragement. I am very blessed to spend my days with the Christiansen family!

Thanks Susan for another fabulous read!