June 14, 2014

A Heart's Rebellion

Dutiful Jessamine Barry is tired of waiting patiently for a man to decide her future. So even though Lancelot Marfleet, second son of an aristocrat, is taking an interest in her during the London season, she refuses to consider him as a suitor. Instead, she's ready to take fashionable society by storm--and finds a rakish young man all too willing to help her do it. When things go too far, Jessamine will learn that the man who is faithful through thick and thin is more worthy than the one who speaks pretty words. But will her disgrace keep Lance from reconsidering her as a wife? And when tragedy strikes and Lance becomes his father's heir and a titled gentleman, will he think she only wants him now because of his title?

I requested to this book from NetGalley possibly a little over a month ago. I know it's a late review (and I am truly sorry, to those in charge of reading everyone's reviews from Revell), yet, I couldn't continue reading A Heart's Rebellion when there were so many hints that this was a novel that acted a bit like it was part of a series-- and I had the first book already! So I took the time to read Moonlight Masquerade, in order to better understand Jessamine, the heroine from A Heart's Rebellion, and her negative feelings towards Rees Phillips, the hero of Moonlight Masquerade. I am very glad I read both novels because when I first started reading A Heart's Rebellion, Jessamine was not getting any charitable feelings from me. I finally understood why she was so unhappy, and I enjoyed both books. I am also currently out of the country and my internet has been very unreliable, even for days at a time, but thankfully it is working right now.

A Heart's Rebellion is an intriguing read. I do have to admit that I was bored when I first began it, but as the book hit it's climax, I was in tears over the guilt that Jessamine carried. I think Ruth Axtell wrote Jessamine's rescue very well (trying not to spoil anything for anyone), and how Lance dealt with his feelings. All the emotions from the book were very real. She didn't skirt around the issue of guilt, but she also didn't skirt around wonderful fact of God's forgiveness. I did not expect to be in tears, but I was.
I do think that Axtell writes well. The only negative I have to say is that she is very slow sometimes - but when there is action, I enjoy it. I'm sure i'll be reading another of her books .

All in all, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

April 22, 2014

Death by the Book Review~


Drew Farthering wanted nothing more than to end the summer of 1932 with the announcement of his engagement. Instead, he finds himself caught up in another mysterious case when the family solicitor is found murdered, an antique hatpin with a cryptic message, Advice to Jack, piercing his chest.

Evidence of secret meetings and a young girl's tearful confession point to the victim's double life, but what does the solicitor's murder have to do with the murder of a physician on the local golf course? Nothing, it would seem--except for another puzzling note, affixed with a similar-looking bloodied hatpin.

Soon the police make an arrest in connection with the murders, but Drew isn't at all certain they have the right suspect in custody. And why does his investigation seem to be drawing him closer and closer to home?

**NO spoilers**

Summary of the author's job~
First things first:  I loved this book. I have never read a book by Julianna Deering, and so requesting to read this book from NetGalley was taking a huge leap for me. I do not like requesting books to review unless I know it'll most likely be a good book. If it's not, then I am trying to push through, so I meet my every-other-Tueday review deadline. I am very thankful for the quality of the grammar, the classy style of Deering's writing and the Biblical theme that ran through this book.

This book was a true mystery. I think that's what takes the cake for me. It has been a long time since I have read a true mystery. One of the reasons why I was so hesitant to request this book is the fact that authors and publishers call suspenseful stories mysteries. If I am to read a mystery, then I don't want to know who the villain is until the very end-- or at least close to it. Boy was I excited when I no idea who the murderer was! I didn't even know Deering's style to guess properly if she'd reveal the villain subtly or shockingly.

The hero, heroine and sidekick were so likable and those who were not, were written very well! I was amazed! I was not bored in the least by Nick, who was Drew's sidekick. Normally, if it's not the hero, I get quite bored because the sidekick really plays very small roles. However, even though Nick didn't play a huge role, he was Drew's best friend and they matched each other's wit and brain so well. Madeline was another enjoyable character. She aided Drew just as much as Nick, and the romance between her and Drew--Well, that's another pro-paragraph. ;) Madeline's grandmother was not likable, but appropriately so. Her character was supposed to be annoying and, oh boy, was she annoying. However, Julianna Deering did not write her in so often that it would bother her readers to the extent of closing the book. In fact, all of the characters, though I cannot name them all, were very well written.
What I loved about Deering's story, too, was that everyone was under suspicion. During the entire mystery, she didn't narrow it down to just a few suspects. She made sure you were thoroughly confused until the book started tidying up-- and then, even then, how could we even be sure? ;) I just want to laugh.

On to the romance... In the first chapter, the reader is not given a whole lot of information about the relationship between Drew and Madeline. I haven't read the first book (although, I intend to), so I was clueless as to how in love Drew was with Madeline. It seemed to me, from the first chapter, that they had feelings for each other, but I could not tell anything beyond that until Drew saw Madeline. Julianna Deering added such a sweet romance between Drew and Madeline that my heart literally skipped a beat.... at several times while I was reading the book. Drew's patience and timing with Madeline was one of the sweetest things about this book. His love for her made me want to go and read the first book! So, so sweet.

Truly, there were only a couple things I disliked about this book. One of the negatives being that Julianna Deering named the bad guy from her first book in this second book of the series. I was so extremely disappointed. Throughout the book, I kept holding my breath because she came so close to naming the bad guy a couple times, and I was thinking, "Noooo! I want to read the first book!" Yet, she didn't, so I kept on reading-- until two-thirds of the way in, she named the bad guy. Since mysteries are meant to be... well, a mystery, then I don't know if I'm going to go and buy the book so soon now. I'm probably going to have to wait a while to buy the first book, actually, and that makes me so sad. So I do recommend that you start with the first book before you read this book.

I did find only a few of the side characters to be a bit of a drag, but I believe that happens in every book. They add to the story, and I think I was just eager to move on with Drew's contemplation over the mystery and ideas or his romance with Madeline. I didn't find that there was enough of Nick (Drew's best friend). I know he wasn't the hero, but I truly did enjoy his humor and helpfulness. I hope, if the next book is set in the same city, there will be more scenes with Nick helping Drew out.

I believe this book is one of a kind. I definitely recommend this book to anyone out there who wants a good mystery, sweet romance, witty humor and intelligent thinking. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars! If I can't get a hold of her other books somehow, I am definitely going to consider using my pocket money for Deering's books!

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

God bless!

April 9, 2014

Being transformed in the midst of craziness


I am currently in the middle of pre-pre-finals week--which doesn't sound hectic, but it is, and it has been test after test, project after project-- plus, tonight I have to give a presentation (which I hate giving class presentations). I just finished a resume and essay for a last-minute scholarship I applied for, and then I've scheduled myself for multiple photoshoots this weekend.

And I have a book to review by Tuesday of next week.

And I'm trying to knit a baby blanket in my free time (which I'll take a picture of and share when it gets a little longer).

Among the midst of it all, though, I want to have a genuinely joyful, humble and grateful spirit.

I just read last night,

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among younot to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith."
Romans 12:1-3

That's some hard stuff to swallow there. I know I've probably posted Rom. 12:1-2 before, but it's good to be reminded of it every now and then. :) I'd like to think that I've been doing a good job, offering myself as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, but in reality, I just get so confused and mixed up with all the things I have to do versus the things I want to do.

Hah. Maybe I'm just making it more confusing than it has to be. I can totally relate with Paul when he wrote,

"For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good."
Romans 7:14-16

I have had to be shaken and retaught learn a huge lesson this past school year:  honoring the Lord means having a joyful spirit while serving Him and doing everything for His glory-- and serving Him doesn't mean constantly doing things that please me and that I'm good at. It's under trials and under happy events. 

So while I continue praying for humility and joy, in the midst annoying classmates and bombarded with work and school, please pray for me to continue seeking His counsel and wisdom.

March 20, 2014

Ephesians 2:4-10

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Ephesians 2:4-10

March 18, 2014

Tide and Tempest Review~

(Photo from fantasticfiction.co.uk)
Two years ago, her fiance perished
during their voyage to America.

Now she discovers it may have been murder...

     Dreaming of a better life, Tillie McGrath leaves Ireland behind and, with her beloved fiance by her side, sets sail for America. But when illness robs her of the man she holds dear, she's left alone with only a handful of tattered memories. While forging on proves difficult, Tillie soon finds some new friends at her New York boardinghouse, and begins pursuing a new dream--to open a home for orphaned children.

     Despite two years passing, Captain Keondric Morgan has never forgotten the lass who left his ship so heartbroken. When a crewman's deathbed confession reveals her fiance's demise was the result of murder, the captain knows he must try to contact her. But his attention draws the notice of others as well--dangerous men who believe Tillie has in her possession something that could expose their crimes. And to their way of thinking, the best way to prevent such an outcome is to seize the evidence and then hand Tillie the same fate as her naïve fiancé.
This is the first novel by Elizabeth Ludwig that I have read, and it will not be the last. I immensely enjoyed the plot and the way she wrote her story. Truly, this book was very unique in the way it was written. For the first half of the book, I was trying to figure out the bad guy, and during the second half, I was trying to figure out who Tillie could trust and how she and Captain Morgan would figure out a plan to beat their enemy. However, it wasn't just the plot and Ludwig's sentence-structuring and grammar that I enjoyed, there were many more aspects of her novel that made me eager to read it after work and school.
The characters of the book were truly enjoyable. I loved the fact that Ludwig made the tough guys Tillie's "friends"... or, at least, almost-friends. In the first few chapters, I wasn't enjoying Tillie's character as much as Captain Morgan's, but I grew to understand her and like her the more I read the book. Captain Morgan was such a mystery on the outside, but, oh, all of the feelings he kept inside were so sweet. He cared for Tillie so much, I became so intensely upset that they didn't know the depth of their feelings until the end. Even Ludwig's side characters were enjoyable additions to the book.
Elizabeth Ludwig did a very good job with the romantic tension between the hero and heroine, that I was going crazy when each one assumed their affections were not returned by each other. I also appreciated the sobering reality that she placed in her book with the secret group of the Fenians. I actually felt nervous for Tillie and Captain Morgan the whole time I read the book, but even more so towards the end. Just when I thought the book's story was ending, Ludwig used the last several pages to add more action and suspense. I appreciated how much effort she put into the book to make it worth reading.
On a side note, there were a few negative to the story. I am pretty disappointed in all the mixings between Catholicism and Christianity. I'm not saying someone who attends Mass cannot be a believer, but I do know that the Bible clearly states that Catholicism rituals and beliefs are not in accord with the word of God. I truly couldn't say that Tillie was a Christian and that a true Biblical message was stated in the book. All I got from the story was  that Tillie felt guilty, attended Mass, had a priest, tried to pay off her guilt by working, then forgave herself and all was well.
No Biblical message about redemption or even if she was saved, no true message on the grace of God. I was very disappointed, and not just with Mrs. Ludwig, but with Bethany House, because this is probably the tenth time I've read a book like this.
Overall, this book was written very well. I rate it a 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and Bethany House for providing me with copies of the book in exchange for an honest review. I hope it was helpful.
Maiden of Emmanuel

February 7, 2014

The Dancing Master Review~

Synopsis:  Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

My thoughts: 
     Don't the words "Dancing Master" just make a girl want to read the novel? They did with me. *winks*
     Julie Klassen is one of my favorite authors. Seriously. If I had to make a list of limited favorites, she is definitely in it, and close to the top. The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen was yet another read that I have enjoyed by her. She always thinks of the craziest background stories for her lead characters and let's you keep guessing until you're far into the book. I was just so curious, I had to keep reading! Klassen's novels usually do that to me, and that is why she is one of my absolute favorites. Her writing gives you just enough mystery that sometimes you never know what a character is thinking or going to do. And isn't that very Austen-like? I think so.

     Now for the good specifics...
     The plot-line itself was very good. A whole village does not dance? And when a newcomer, specifically a dancing master, comes to stay, nobody will give the real explanation as to why. Sometimes I wonder if Mrs. Klassen plans all of this before she writes or only thinks up these things as she goes. I also found that her minor characters were too funny. Mrs. Tickle tickled me, Mr. and Mrs. Allen were the joy of their family, Mr. Barlow intimidated me and Walter was cute when he fancied a girl.
     Alec Valcourt, the hero, was a very respectable gentleman. I loved that he wanted to respect and honor Julia, even when he found it difficult after such flirtatious attacks. He began to care for Julia and even be afraid for her when he realized what a flirtatious and daring girl she was. He didn't want her to be taken advantage of and he definitely did not want her to get killed. I loved the part when he told her to never let anyone disrespect her. That just threw me in. I was all for Mr. Valcourt after that. It's so sad that young ladies, and even older ladies, don't think that way anymore. It was such a good reminder, because we fall into such a trap when we're surrounded by it. I truly do think that Klassen meant for her readers to read and take to heart that message.
     Julia Midwinter was very flawed and very heroic. Many of you will read reviews that say pretty much the same things about her character, and I agree with them. However, not only did she become more likable towards the end of the story, I also saw that despite all her hurts, vulnerabilities, and rebellious mask, she genuinely cared for people and wanted to save them from horrific scenarios. I ended up really liking her, which I didn't think I would.  I do think, though, that her flawed qualities added a very good aspect to the book-- she was genuine. I absolutely love it when I can say that the character was me. It means that the author didn't add a negative quality just to make readers read on (because I really dislike it when an author adds unreasonable, clichéd conflict).
     I found John Desmond to be very agreeable....I mean, likeable. (This is what happens after reading one of Klassen's novels!) Now, I won't spoil his character for you, but I just wanted to state that he had a genuine and pleasant personality the more one got to know him. Even with all his mistakes.... *winks again*
     Lady Amelia was very unpleasant for me until towards the end. After she realized that she needed to humble herself while she was around her daughter and other people, she became very agreeable. In fact, I wish I could have seen more happen in the end with her (sorry for being vague, I really don't want to spoil the story for you). I realized that she was very afraid and very hurt and that hurt me. I genuinely felt for Lady Amelia, when I didn't think I would. Which was really, really cool.

     Now for the not-so-agreeable specifics:
     Just to let you all know, the cover of the book is not a scene from it. Yes, I was extremely disappointed too. Alec and Julia never danced together during a ball. In fact, there was only one ball in the whole book, believe it or not. Truly, I do think that if one is going to write about a dancing master and his woes, there should be at least two balls-- whether the character is remembering the ball from the past, or Also, the story itself took a very long time to get through, I'm sorry to say. For the first half of the book (which is a lot of pages...), it was so easy to just put the book down and do college-work or sleep. I knew this would happen too, after I read other reviews on this book before I requested it. Yet, I'm such a loyal fan, I persevered through it. The plot-line was good-- there just wasn't much more to it. All the characters literally went back and forth to the same places, with what seemed to be very small reasons, and there just wasn't much adventure in this novel.
     One thing that always gets to me is why a Christian author does not add more about the gospel to their books. I know that the gospel doesn't always have to be shared in the story-line, but if you're going to write a drama, make sure that your writing either makes you stand out as a believer and/or share the gospel, because you might just have hundreds of fans reading your work. Julie Klassen added a page worth of vague gospel in this book and it disappointed me. Did Julia already know that Jesus Christ died on the cross? It seemed like Mrs. Klassen forgot that her heroine wasn't saved, remembered, and then added a stilted conversation to help lead her to Christ. I also felt like Julia's joy in her salvation wasn't expressed as well, either. Don't ask me about Alec's salvation, either, because I'm not sure where he was spiritually, and it seemed like Mrs. Klassen completely forgot about his spiritual life.
     Alec Valcourt had some quirks that weren't agreeable. I found his very strong desire to not work hard physically a bit wimpy. I know there are some men who do not prefer it, but it really threw me off when he was so adamant about not working in the clay works. Also, I felt like he was throwing himself small pity-parties in some scenes, and that bothered me. He was truly a gentleman; however, whenever something discouraged him, it was just a bit annoying.
     Julie Midwinter was a very flawed girl. Now, if you have been scanning through this review and happen to light upon this sentence, please read my good specifics of Julia before you go on with this paragraph. Thank you. As I said above, most readers will really dislike her from the very beginning. I think that is part of the reason why this book was so boring to me for the first half, actually. She was just so shallow that I didn't want to read about her anymore. Also, even though I admire Klassen's courage to add a lead character with such a struggle of self-discipline, Julia's negative qualities were shown way more often than her positive. I felt like Julia's actions and thoughts were very repetitive and dragged on way too long in this book. I got tired of her going out without her mother's permission, her mother coming to look for her, finding her and then bringing her back home. It happened at least three times. Which brings me to her mother...
     Lady Amelia's negative qualities were shown more often than her positive, as well. She humbled herself later on, but I didn't like her till the very last chapters of the book. She refused to listen to anyone and made her own assumptions. She never listened to her daughter, yet she didn't know why her daughter was so upset with her. She never communicated anything to anyone, so nobody got along with her, except for Mr. Barlow. Those were characteristics that made me really not want to read any scene that had her in it.

     I do want to state a very important and interesting fact about Mrs. Klassen though.

     This is the bittersweet truth of her novels:  Julie Klassen has set herself up. Which is not a bad thing, because she has set herself up to a very high standard. We expect that her books will always be as good as The Maid of Fairbourne Hall (which is one of my favorite Top 10 novels). Hence, when I read a novel of hers that is not as good, I'm disappointed because I know she can do better. I think other loyal fans of hers know the same thing, and that's why we continue to read her books. Any critiques I write are done out of love and encouragement. I critique only because I've read a million books, and I know Julie Klassen's works are one of a kind.

   All in all, this book was a good read. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars, because Julie Klassen's writing is always exceptional, her mystery was good, and her characters were appealing.

Disclaimer: This book was published by Bethany House and given to me from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

January 23, 2014

A Match Made in Texas Review~


There's a secret matchmaker at work in frontier Texas!

In the small town of Dry Gulch, Texas, a good-hearted busybody just can't keep herself from surreptitiously trying to match up women in dire straits with men of good character she hopes can help them. How is she to know she's also giving each couple a little nudge toward love?
A Cowboy Unmatched
Neill isn't sure who hired him to repair Clara's roof--he only knows Clara desperately needs his help. Can he convince this stubborn widow to let down her guard and take another chance on love?

An Unforeseen Match
Hoping to earn an honest wage on his way to the land rush, Clayton ends up on Grace's doorstep, lured by a classified ad. He may have signed on for more than he expected though--and he may have found the one woman who can keep him from moving on. 

No Match for Love
Andrew can't fathom how refined Lucy ended up as the caretaker to his dotty aunt, and somehow her arrival has prompted even more bizarre occurrences around the ranch. When they join forces to unearth the truth, will the attraction between Andrew and Lucy develop into more?

Meeting Her Match
When the tables are turned and a tenderhearted meddler becomes the beneficiary of a matchmaking scheme, her world is turned upside down. As her entire life changes, will she finally be able to tell the banker's son how much she cares for him?

At first, when I requested to read the ARC of this book, I was a bit skeptic. Would I really like to read a novella? And not just one, but four! Unthinkable for one who has read 300-400 paged novels most....all the time.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Even if novellas are still not my favorite things to read, the authors' writing styles made it all worth the read. I don't like rushed endings, and that's what novellas make you think, but each ending was sweet and all the romances made melt inside.

I requested A Match Made in Texas because of Karen Witemeyer. I have loved her books, and I believe I will continue to love them. Karen Witemeyer has changed my idea of historical Christian romances and how they should be written.
There does not need to be an annoying, cliched conflict between the hero and the heroine to make a book interesting. And that's what Witemeyer has taught me. Which make me love her stories even more. The hero doesn't give up and walk away when things are discouraging. No, he pursues the girl even more. Although I did not think A Cowboy Unmatched (her novella) was as good as her full novels, I still appreciated Neil Archer greatly. Because I love her stories so much, of course I wished this story was a bit longer. My only regret is that I feel like Clara Danvers' personality was not developed completely.

Regina Jennings wrote An Unforeseen Match and, ohmygoodness, I absolutely LOVED this story. This is the only story, in my opinion, that developed completely and at a normal pace. All of the other novellas, though I liked them, were so fast that I barely had time to think. And even though there was conflict in this story, it was necessary. Grace was blind (PROPS, Regina Jennings, for making me feel the way a blind person would when Grace was on the floor surround by shards of glass!) and I felt for her. She was literally put out of the town because of her disabilities and disease (*rolls eyes*). However, have no fear, Clayton Weber was there! He was a great hero. He had good reason to be secure around Grace the first part of the story, then insecure, because of Grace's shallow words.
I loved the characters. Period. And I liked the sweet romance that was going on between them, even if Grace didn't see it.
By the way, this was the first novel I had read by Regina Jennings, and it was a great first impression. :)

The next novella was No Match for Love by Carol Cox. I enjoyed this novella as well. It was cute and had an interesting concept. The heroine was asked to care for a lady who was known to be "mentally unstable". I liked her character and could tell she was a lovable woman. The story itself seemed a bit rushed, but that was understandable.

Meeting Her Match was the last story, written by Mary Connealy, and this story was probably the least enjoyable to me. In fact, it kind of crushed my excitement when I first started . I was trying to get to know Hannah and Marcus, and I couldn't. Marcus was very enjoyable-- up until he and Hannah couldn't stop kissing. I was getting a bit irritated with Hannah because she didn't even seem to like Marcus at first, then thought he was a friendly guy, but a mere acquaintance, and then she was up and kissing him as if she had loved him for ages.
And the worst part was that Mary Connealy seemed to be explaining herself, trying to make an excuse as to why the story happened that way. This is a quote from Hannah's (the heroine) thoughts, "She was suddenlt frightened of her emotions, not knowing whether to trust her old feelings or her new ones. And underlying her fear was such a strong desire to be married that her longing for that might make any man seem appealing. In short, was she in love or was she just desperate?" Hmm. Next quote, in the same scene, Hannah tells Marcus, "The idea of us being together had occurred to me because of the logic of it, but I wasn't harboring feelings for you until now. And now..."
It just sounded like an explanation from Connealy, saying, "I was given a limit of how many pages I could write on and this is what you get."
If there were any advice I could give, it would be to think of a new plot-line for Hannah. Instead of taking all this time to explain how sad Hannah was and how shy Marcus could be, take the time to develop a normal-paced sweet romance--and not full of kissing and this random passion from one character.

All in all, the whole read was enjoyable. One thing I truly did miss was that God was not mentioned a lot in a couple of these novellas. If one is writing for God, I believe God should be glorified and the base for romances. I was given this ARC from Bethany House Publishers (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

January 5, 2014

Titus 3:1-11

"Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned."

December 29, 2013

A Talent for Trouble Review~

     Miss Felicia Murdock firmly believed her destiny was to become a minister's wife. When the minister on whom she had set her sights marries another lady, Felicia is forced to take a close look at her life and comes to a few uncomfortable conclusions. Determined that something needs to change--and soon--Felicia discovers she is finally ready to spread her wings and embrace life the way she's always wanted.

     Grayson Sumner--or Lord Sefton, as he's officially known--has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a normal, respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some well-meaning friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter a young lady who seems to have become quite adventurous and quite determined to get herself into all sorts of troublesome situations. 

     Intent on remaining independent, Felicia is reluctant to accept Grayson's help, especially as she finds herself developing feelings for him. However, just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in her life has endangered Felicia. Will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?

     I am writing all of this out of love.

     I say that, because, if Mrs. Turano were to ever read this post, I would like her to know that I'm not writing this review to be discouraging, but to be encouraging-- and honest. With that being said, here is an honest review of A Talent for Trouble:

        This book started out strong. I was laughing at all the right parts in the first chapter. I liked the fact that Mrs. Turano had the brilliant idea of making her story comedic and serious at the same time. The heroine, Felicia, was a real person. I could totally relate with her quirky character and ideas. She was me. I knew exactly how she felt, because Mrs. Turano introduced her so expressively. All of Felicia's reactions were so real that I was sighing with her, able to relate with the "tragedy" that had just befallen her. I know it is a very difficult thing to make a story serious and funny, but, in with first chapter, I was very intrigued.

    Unfortunately, it was only in the first chapter that I found the comedy entertaining. In the second chapter, my intrigue and enjoyment started dwindling. Felicia started acting like a six year old. I couldn't understand why a young lady would act so dramatic. She seemed so self-absorbed. Always doing things to call attention to herself. It seemed like she couldn't have a normal conversation with anybody, ever.

     As the book progressed, I noticed that Mrs. Turano was bringing in a pretty serious theme. My question, is: was the story supposed to be all comedy, or was it supposed to include a dramatic plot too? I felt like was the one who wasn't getting it. It was a serious theme, but I couldn't stay serious while reading, but I wasn't finding much else humorous... I was just ready to fall asleep. Maybe I've been reading too many cliched historical romance novels (which is why I decided to request this story), but I felt like every scene was a rushed mess, and towards the end, it was a quick clean-up and let's-get-everything-to-rights. I found the comedy mixed with the attempt of being intelligent lack in the characters' personalities very much. Mrs. Turano seemed to have made her characters sort of dimwitted in a quite a few scenes, in order to make them funny. Which reminds me of the television show Sponegbob. I think silly is funny, but a lot was just unreasonable or unintelligent thinking on the characters' side. Which made me just think that Ms. Turano was trying too hard and it took away from the intelligence of her characters and the sweet personalities they all seemed to have.

     One instance of the unreasonable and unintelligent attributes I noticed was when the start of the actual mystery (not the book) took place. It began with the heroine, Felicia, going into an opium den without any sense. I was very surprised by why she went  into the opium den. Her only answer to Grayson, our hero, being that she was trying to be kind to an older man and ease her curiosity. I get that Mrs. Turano wanted to create her heroine to be an adventurous and eccentric young lady, but the reasoning behind Felicia's motives was nonsensical. When one is writing a book, there are many ways of getting a character into an opium den, without making a character seem completely foolish. I am a curious person, as well. However, I could not relate with Felicia during that scene at all. I will say, after that scene and when they had been in the opium den for a little while, there were some funny parts. Especially when it was Grayson's POV, observing Felicia react to the people in the den. It made for a few smiles and a chuckle.

     Side notes:  For a Christian fiction, I was very unpleasantly surprised that Grayson was not saved until the epilogue. I was dumbstruck. The EPILOGUE. I feel like this book was an attempt to glorify the Lord to it's bare minimum. If one is going to write a book with  the point Christian authors intend to do, when they write a novel for other believers, and even unbelievers. I wholehearted do not believe that a Christian should fall in love with an unbeliever (that is being unequally yoked, 2 Cor. 6:14). However, many Christian authors are writing that into their romantic stories, so I've just had to ignore that. In the mean time, I usually remember that the character will most likely be saved towards the middle or ending of the novel.

     Nope. It was the epilogue. I thought that was pretty disgraceful for Mrs. Turano.

     The dialogue of this book was very different. I think the conversations between fifty characters at a time was supposed to attribute to the comedic side of the book, but I was not laughing very frequently. I actually felt overwhelmed, trying to keep up with the characters. I also did not think that what many of the characters had to say was relevant, but some people may have found some of their comments amusing.

     With all that being said, and I hope I'm not being too harsh, I do want to say with a much more positive scope, that I have huge hope for Mrs. Turano. I was most aggravated while I was reading, because I knew that there is so much potential in her writing and that she can do so much better. She has great ideas, but I desire for a smarter way of going about them. Mrs. Turrano is funny and she is smart. I mean, who thinks of a man dealing with the guilt of murdering people and of once being a part of a major crime, ruining hundreds or thousands of lives--just by being a "small" part of an opium business-- while trying to keep a storyline comedic and different? You have to hand it to her. It was a unique idea. I hope to try one of her future books and I will continue reading up on reviews with her books.

     Overally, I rate this book 2 1/2 stars out of 5.

     I hope that this post was helpful and edifying.

Maiden of Emmanuel

P.S. A Talent for Trouble was a given to me as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

December 2, 2013

True Joy~

It’s December and it’s official, Christmas is only 24 days away. So excited!
However, Christmas is not what I am posting about today…. sort of. I am so emotionally overwhelmed. Thanksgiving just passed and I have so much to be thankful for, especially afterthe holiday. Does that happen to you? You think of great things you can be thankful for after Thanksgiving?
That’s the way I should think everyday. And I know, you hear that from everybody, but it’s good to be reminded, right? In fact, when I had a very ungrateful attitude and my dad was teaching me a lesson, he made me read the book of Colossians 4 times in 3 days. And let me tell you, he made sure I knew what was in Colossians 3:14-17:
“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Read how many times it says to be thankful. Part of a godly heart is being continually grateful to the Lord. So I’m just giving a friendly reminder. However, I did not get on my computer to post about my Thanksgiving either.
This past week has been a whirlwind of so many emotions and happenings. I’ll start at the beginning.
Thanksgiving week came and went, and it was magical.
I’m serious. Whimsical is another good description.
These are photos of our church’s annual Thanksgiving Fellowship. For the first time, we held it in our backyard, an my mom and another church member, who both decorated, outdid themselves.
What a fantastic time of fellowship; laughing, eating, photographing, talking, freezing (that’s a blessing, when it’s always so hot here!), and giving thanks. Normally, we have someone come up and give a testimony of thanks, and a man that has been attending our church with his family for about a year now, described our church like the one in Acts 17 (vs. 11-12, I believe). That was so encouraging.
The whole week was so great. Then last night there were a couple phone calls made–to us, and from us. My dad received some bad news, and I will not name it, but it was pretty heartbreaking. And right before Christmas too.
And it just made me think today, as I was sitting on a pew during service. We are to stand firm in the Lord. To encourage one another in the Lord. To rejoice in all things.  To reach out to the lost. To bear each other’s burdens. To endure trials. To pray. To always, always give thanks to the Lord. To live according to the gospel. To be witnesses.
Not all of those are happy things. I mean, in essence, they are all things that should be done in joy, but that joy doesn’t mean it’s always “say cheese, and everything is alright”. No, it’s an inner joy, that we receive when we are saved. When we know we are saved, we know that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. That is what brings us joy and peace.
Our hearts burst with an overwhelming love, too! Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’s birth, and Thanksgiving, a day designated to share our and hear others’ testimonies of what God has done in their lives, are reminders– good reminders–of what we need to do year round. There will be tragedy in some moments, and there will be happiness in other moments, but it should not keep us from doing what we are called to do.
True joy should not be a momentary thing. It should be everlasting.
On a couple holiday notes, because I absolutely love the holidays, one thing I will be definitely praying for is cold weather! I also wanted to express out loud, because I wasn’t given much of a platform during dinner, what I am thankful for. I’ll just name a few things:
  1. My youngest sister, who is a major ray of sunshine to us.
  2. My mom, who shows agape (selfless) and phileo (“brotherly”) love towards everyonearound her everyday. Such an example.
  3. And education
  4. My dad, for teaching and exhorting me through God’s word.
  5. All of my siblings, for loving me and keeping me accountable.
  6. And many more, but I promised only a few (;
I hope everyone is doing well, and if there are ANY prayer requests, please drop me a comment (or any other way, if you know me personally). I’d love to pray for you. Pray that I submit myself to all of God’s word.

November 27, 2013

Love's Awakening, by Laura Frantz~

     Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future--and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family's violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?

     This month I read Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz. There were a few things I enjoyed about it, and there are a few things I was discouraged by. I was interested in and enjoyed this book for two reasons:

  1. I like the very unique way Laura Frantz writes, and
  2. I'm interested in the Underground Railroad and abolition.
  3. The redemption of a very lost and torn character.
    With that being said, I like the way she writes-- it's very unique, in a good way. You don't have pointless scenes, but there's a feeling of suspension that there's something more to what the characters are feeling and thinking. It is a little difficult to read on, when Mrs. Frantz keeps it up too much, but I do enjoy knowing that what I'm reading is not pointless. 
     I won't try to spoil the book for you, but I was very intrigued by a lantern that was a symbol of safety and new life. I was also intrigued by the plot's including a family of wealth and upstanding housing runaway slaves. Mrs. Frantz gave a little insight on how many abolitionists lived.
     Okay, my next point IS a SPOILER. So I will highlight this paragraph and if you want to read it, just highlight it for yourself:
     Jack Turlock, the hero of the book, was an illustration of a very lost soul. I loved how Laura Frantz also showed that God is the One who saves. Throughout most of the book, Jack was battling a spiritual war, and when he is at his end, God brings him out of the consuming darkness that unbelievers are blinded and wrapped in. I very much enjoyed seeing Jack's transformation, becoming a child of the Light.

Now, for my critiques of the book:
  1. I wanted more depth in the plot. Though the book was intriguing-- I felt like I was always on the shallow side of the pool. I wanted to read more on what abolitionists did and how they did it.
  2. I also believe that it is wrong for a believer and an unbeliever to be unequally yoked (to be married). "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:13-15. Now God forgives those who have sinned in that way, but it is a sin to be a believer and to marry an unbeliever.
  3. I think that the romance between Jack Turlock and Ellie Ballantyne was shallow. They barely interacted, but when they finally announce their feelings, it's this whirlwind passion-- and I just feel like that's all it was.

     So, I'm going to expound more on number 3. And this is more of a general critique for the author, Laura Frantz. This has been a concern of mine for a while, because it's been a recurring problem in a few of her books. The passion she integrates with her characters is so sudden that sometimes it just seems to be lustful. In this book, Jack and Ellie didn't even know each other as friends. They were merely acquaintances, getting to know each other, as well as attracted to each other (which is natural), but all of a sudden her characters are brought alone together and they express their feelings and then it becomes this very passionate scene. (Yes, I know I just wrote a run-on sentence. I tend to do that when I'm excited about a subject...). Jack and Ellie were developing feelings-- but, even if a couple is developing feelings towards each other, I have never heard or seen of a romance that is so passionate so fast, except for the lustful kind. I don't know whether to call Jack and Ellie's love a great infatuation, or actual love. Ellie only knew Jack by the traits he expressed-- which were mostly negative-- and by what Jack's little sister told her. She rarely ever talked to Jack, and when she did, it wasn't very deep.
     I've read most of Laura Frantz' other books, and I've found that she has a tendency to just put all this passion into a romance that you've barely seen blossom (there are only a couple exceptions in some of her books). I have to ask myself, is it because of the way Laura Frantz writes? I know you're thinking, "You just told us that you like the way she writes!" And I do. However, I do believe that developing a friendship (at least a budding one) to a blossoming romance is very important. Those are not pointless scenes, and I feel as if she held back with those romantic scenes with shallow ones, when Ellie thinks something, such as, "Wow. I finally realize that I am in love with Jack and can never marry anyone else."
     Overall, those are really my only main critiques. The book was a bit boring in places. I know Laura Frantz can do better, because I've read her better stories. However, I enjoyed the plot of the book, and hope that she writes more on themes regarding abolition. In summary, this book was an okay, yet intriguing read. I don't know if I'll ever come back to it in several years, but I may come back to it eventually. I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

I received Love's Awakening as an advanced readers copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I do not own this book.

Maiden of Emmanuel