Monday, June 22, 2015

Character Interview and Giveaway: Gone Without A Trace by Patricia Bradley

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It is so wonderful to have Patricia on CBRB once again! To change things up a little, we decided to scrap the usual author interview and conduct a character interview with the hero and heroine from Patricia's new book Gone Without A Trace which releases July 7. 

Don't forget to enter to win a print copy of Gone Without A Trace in the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Enjoy!

Describe yourself in three sentences or less.

Livy Reynolds: I want to see justice done and that’s why I’m a detective for the Memphis Police Department. I’m also a planner, a list maker, and I really don’t understand people who just take off without some sort of plan—something is bound to go wrong and then they’re up that proverbially creek without an oar.

Alex: I love to do things on the spur of the moment. Get in my plane and just take off in the clear blue skies. I don’t understand why everything in life has to be planned out. I mean, life is an adventure. 

What makes you laugh-out-loud?

Livy: A baby’s first smile.

Alex: Puppies and kittens. They can get into some of the craziest things.

You are doing a huge spring cleaning. What is easy for you to throw out? What is difficult to part with?

Livy: I travel light through life. Learned a long time ago, putting too much care into something is a sure way to get it taken away. But to answer the question, clothes, shoes, things like that are easy to throw out. I would probably hold on to my dad’s letters.

Alex: I don’t attach sentimentality to much in my life, so I can toss anything. Might keep my favorite old tee-shirt.

What is your fondest childhood memory? Your worst?

Livy: My fondest memory is taking care of the bully that kept threatening Robyn. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a cop when I grew up. Worst memory? The day my mom died.

Alex: The day I soloed in my plane. A bunch of friends from school went with me to watch, and it was great having them there to celebrate The worst was when my parents divorced and my mom went to live in California.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book (besides the Bible) would make your stay bearable?

Livy: Any book on how to build a boat. :) But if I have to choose a title, then Exodus by Leon Uris.

Alex: I like Livy’s answer. :) But for a title, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

If God allowed you to travel back in time and become a Bible character, which would you be? Why?

Livy: David. He kept messing up , but God saw him as a man after His own heart.

Alex: Paul. On the road to Damascus, he had an amazing encounter with Jesus and afterward, he wrote over half the New Testament.

(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Patricia has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Gone Without A TracePrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday July 4, 2015 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter! (Patricia will mail the book to the winner once she receives her author copies.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read CBRB's full disclosure here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea

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"Her only chance of getting home is trusting the man she hates. With the protestant Elizabeth on the throne of England and her family in shambles, Catholic maiden Gwyneth seeks refuge in the Low Countries of Holland, hoping to soothe her aching soul. But when the Iconoclastic Fury descends and bloodshed overtakes her haven, she has no choice but to trust the rogue who arrives, promising to see her safely home to her uncle's castle. She doesn't dare to trust him...and yet doesn't dare to refuse her one chance to preserve her own life and those of the nuns she rescues from the burning convent. 

Dirk Godfrey is determined to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk knows he has only one chance at redemption, and it lies with the lovely Gwyneth, who hates him for the crimes she thinks he committed. He must see her to safety, prove to the world that he is innocent, prove that her poor eyesight is not the only thing that has blinded her but what is he to do when those goals clash? 
The home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, the saint and the sinner must either dare to hold to hope...or be overcome."

** I am not yet done with The Sound of Diamonds, but I'll share my current thoughts on this book and, God willing, update my review once I'm finished reading it. **

There are three highlighting factors that set this book apart. First and foremost, the beautiful prose. The vintage English phrases coupled with the lyrical metaphors and similes sparkle––the words flow smoothly like a gentle forest creek. The descriptions are so vibrant they arrest my imagination, allowing me to easily envision each scene. And the characters' personalities unfurl slowly, laying a foundation for a close friendship with [the characters].

Secondly, I find the fact that Gwyneth is Catholic rather different from other Christian novels because of its significance in the story––this second factor harmonizes with the third and final highlighting factor: the interesting time period. The story is set during the turbulent times surrounding the disagreement between Catholics and Protestants. Interestingly, Dirk is Protestant and Gwyneth is Catholic. I'm not quite sure how the story will progress in regards to the spiritual element, but a Catholic heroine planted among Protestant rebels results in a unique story.

This is a debut novel and it's always great to find a new author. So if you're looking for a fresh voice in the Christian market and a story brimming with beautiful prose, relatable characters––and set during a fascinating era––grab a copy of The Sound of Diamonds. You won't be disappointed. It can be bought at Amazon.

** Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book free in exchange for my honest review, which I have given. **

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read CBRB's full disclosure here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Book Review: Together With You by Victoria Bylin

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"Sometimes the most unexpected love can be exactly what a heart needs...

When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.

Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?"

I haven't read a book this wonderful in a long time. I learned about fetal alcohol syndrome, related beautifully with the heroine, and experienced spiritual encouragement. I love a book where I learn something new and connect with the character(s). Especially a book with a strong spiritual thread.

Carly Mason is a girl after my own heart. She's strong in her faith and in her convictions. She doesn't sugar-coat her decision to "save herself for marriage" and her compassionate, godly character stands out to Ryan and others around her. Because Dr. Ryan Tremaine is an atheist, he is distinct from most Christian fiction heroes. Oh, he's still a wonderful father and a "perfect" gentleman, but his spiritual journey sparkles because of his initial there-is-no-God philosophy. A large obstacle to Carly and Ryan's growing attraction is her faith in God––I enjoyed this unique approach and how, despite her feelings, Carly was unwilling to compromise.

Some of my favorite scenes were those written from Penny's point-of-view. Her voice seemed very realistic for a child suffering from fetal alcohol effects. I loved how Penny called her Heavenly Father "Dr.God." Seeing the relationship development among Ryan and his children––especially Penny––was heartwarming. 

Since Carly and Ryan are not in their early-twenties, their perspectives on life are mature and realistic which is a refreshing change. The depictions of Los Angeles and even Kentucky, Carly's home state, came to life. I could see the smog, feel the salt-laden ocean breeze, and imagine the rolling, green hills of Kentucky. 

While the plot of Together With You held my interest, the characters are what attract attention. They are real. The ending, however, was sigh-worthy and tied all the loose ends wonderfully. If you're looking for a novel driven by characters that leap to life––whose commitment to Christ is real––and that will stay with you for a long time afterward, pick up a copy of Together With You. I highly recommend it and give it five stars. Together With You can be purchased at Amazon.

** Thanks to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for providing a free eBook copy in exchange for my honest review, which I have given **

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read CBRB's full disclosure here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Girl Behind the Blog: Christian Book Review Blog

There is only one time in my life that I disliked reading . . . and that was in pre-kindergarten when learning to read was a chore. After I learned to read, I was the girl who loved filling my ziplock bag with books from my classroom library. The one who savored every minute of the half-hour "Independent reading time" in elementary school and had to be scolded by my teacher so that I would "put the book away" once the thirty minutes passed. I mean, why did I need to learn math when I could read a good book?

In middle school my cousin introduced me to the Love Comes Softly series by Janette Oke and my interest in modern Christian fiction began. (I had already read and loved classic Christian novels from Martha Finley, Grace Livingston Hill, and Isabella Alden.) By my freshmen year of high school I learned that I could obtain free Christian books in exchange for my honest review and so Christian Book Review Blog made its debut in the blog world. (You can learn more about these review programs in the Review Free Christian Books tab.)

Since then, Christian Book Review Blog has been a hobby of mine. Throughout high school, when the classic question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" arose, I was confident in my answer––I wanted to study Education . . . until roughly a year ago. God placed in my heart a desire to be a book publicist which came completely from left field and yet, fits my interests perfectly. It was a light-bulb moment––I had never seriously considered turning my love of books into a viable career. I like to say that I changed my major while in high school.

I am now a graduating high school senior with college just around the bend. God willing, I will be attending The King's College in NY, New York this coming fall with the intentions of majoring in Media, Culture, and the Arts as my first step to becoming a Christian Book Publicist. Before the college application process, I never realized how expensive higher education is––especially private colleges. I am now in the process of applying to scholarships to help pay for college (besides looking for a summer job).

In fact, I have recently been nominated for the $1,000 Young Christian Leaders scholarship for the month of June (I am one among ten nominees). Family and friends are asked to vote for a nominee, since votes account for 25% of the scholarship winning process. Anyone can vote for one nominee, one time everyday, in the month of June. Many of the authors featured on CBRB and readers of CBRB have become virtual friends and I would greatly appreciate if you would vote for me. Here's the voting link:

Thank you in advance for your help!

I continue to see the love of reading in my future . . . at the very least, I will continue to love and read the Bible. Thank you VERY much to all the authors and readers who continue to grace CBRB with their presence. This blog would be nothing without you! Oh, and please go vote . . . pretty please with a cherry on top:-) 

A Question for you: What is your dream job?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: My Heart Stood Still by Lori Copeland

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"The three wily and beautiful McDougal sisters can swindle a man faster than it takes to lasso a calf. But their luck is running out, and they're about to be hauled off to jail. When the wagon carrying them falls under attack, each sister is picked up by a different man.

Anne-Marie, the middle sister, is saved by Creed Walker, a Crow warrior. It's loathing at first sight, but with bandits on their tail and a cache of gold to hide, Creed and Anne-Marie need each other. Will they learn to put aside their differences and trust each other--and God? And can their growing faith turn their lives around?"

My eyes latched unto the words "Crow warrior" and I knew I wanted to read this book. Having a Native American as the Hero is a uniquely different approach used sparingly in Christian fiction.

My Heart Stood Still is a fast-paced story with major plot events occurring every few chapters––there's little time to catch your breath. Anne-Marie is a stubborn, I-can-do-everything heroine. Creed is a mysterious hero with secrets to hide. And Quincy, Creed's African-American best friend, is a sweet and humorous side-kick. These characters comprise an interesting team and it was fun following their wild quest to return Anne-Marie safely home while trying to deliver a cache of stolen gold to the American authorities.

Although this story was a fun and light read, Anne-Marie could be annoying at times with her tendency to rebel and her I-can-do-everything attitude. I enjoy realistic stories with deep spiritual truths woven throughout and My Heart Stood Still depicted events that were, at times, unrealistic and silly. In addition, Cortes is a very cliche Hispanic villain. As an aside, because Anne-Marie and Creed were instructed by nuns and a catholic priest respectively, the spiritual themes have a slant towards Catholic doctrine.

I did enjoy, however, the detailed and well-written prose. The setting came to life and I could easily picture the surroundings in my mind. The romantic thread kept me in the shadows until the end and Anne-Marie's decision to renounce deception––even if its use was for a good cause––constituted great progress in her spiritual journey.

While My Heart Stood Still is not my favorite story, it is a fun, light read about a con-artist falling in love with a Native American and the challenges they face along the way––which just might be the kind of story you're looking for. I give My Heart Stood Still three out of five stars. It can be bought at Amazon.

** Thanks to Harvest House Publishers and Netgalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given **

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read CBRB's full disclosure here.