Through Waters Deep


Through Waters Deep met all of my requirements for a perfect read.

Combine history (well-researched, and really well-detailed), suspense, intrigue, and romance, and I’m a happy reader.  This book had all of it.

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them.

Unfortunately, this book also had some awkward relationship struggles in the middle, which I found I grew tired of by the end, but they resolved well and I was really pleased with how the book ended (which, don’t worry, I won’t spoil!).

The character development, which for me is always something I’m very picky about, was excellent!  The historical details were well-explained, and lent really well to a strong military plot line.  I’m fascinated by war history, especially naval history, and this book hit it right on the head.

Jim and Mary found their way into my heart quite quickly, and by the end I could not put the book down.  What a great read!  There were many times that I was just right at the edge of my seat, not able to stop, because if I stopped it would be hours before I knew how a conflict would resolve!  And we can’t have that!

Sarah Sundin is an excellent writer, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for other books of hers as well.  If this one is any indication, I’d love to read them all.  The end of the book had some advertising pictures for other series she’s written.

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I received this book free from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review, in association with Graf-Martin Communications.

You set the stars in the sky and You know them by name… (not a book review!)


… You are amazing, God.

That Chris Tomlin song (Indescribable) can’t help but get stuck in my head during a week like this.  At the Camp where I spend my summer, we had a series of big nature events this week that when you watch them, I don’t know how anyone could not see the hand of God.

We started on Wednesday with an absolutely perfectly clear sky that let us all star gaze and see the Perseid Meteor Shower ~ free of the light pollution of the cities and built-up areas most of us live in.  My Mom and I laid on the dock that’s in her backyard (that hasn’t made it to the lake yet) with pillows and blankets, and we marveled at the Milky Way, the expanse of the sky, how many stars they were, how bright they were, and then with every passing meteor…. how amazing it is to be able to live under this sky.  Nothing in the South can hold a candle to the clarity of a Northern Ontario night sky.  We ooh’d and aah’d as if we were watching the best fireworks show ever.  And we really were, because it’s fireworks put on by God.

What struck me, and I know I’m not the only one, is that I love and serve a God who put each one of those stars in the sky, who named them, who delighted in His creation and said it was good…. but then realized quickly that it wasn’t enough and He wanted to have relationships with people, so He made people.  You and I are some of those people.  He created such vast beauty, and yet it wasn’t perfect until we came along.  We’re more beautiful to Him than the stars in the sky and the incredible sunsets because He created us in His image?  Amazing.  He knows the name of every star in our universe and in the rest of them… and yet He also knows how many hairs there are on my head.

And if that weren’t enough this week, a meteor shower where on the night there were the most meteors, the sky was crisp and clear…. yesterday we had an epic thunder storm that had many of us just staring at the sky.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a camera powerful enough to have captured the meteor shower, but I did get lots of stormy weather shots yesterday.

We started the day sunny and warm, and the clouds rolled in as we continued.  We saw lighting at about 3:45 and closed the waterfront down.  We weren’t sure if anything was actually going to get to us, because the radar looked like we were right on the edge of the system (and if that were really true, I’m glad we weren’t in the middle)!

At around 4:30 the thunder started, and just before dinner the sky opened right up.  The rain poured down, and we had to move the chicken wing making station for Friday night Ribs ‘n Wings onto the covered lodge porch!  It eventually did let up though, and the sun came back out around 7:30, which led to both a spectacular rainbow and a gorgeous sunset.  God’s promises were all around us yesterday, and His beauty was on display for all to see.  What a wonderful way to end Week 3 of Family Camp!

Check out some of these pictures!

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Hope Harbor


Do you like books about sweet romance, fresh starts, second chances, and healing?  If so, then Hope Harbor is for you.

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I’ll be honest, I was really really excited to read this book.  It was on back order for a bit so I didn’t get it until about 5 weeks after I ordered it, and let me tell you, the excitement built during the time that I waited.

Here’s what the back of the book jacket had to say:

Tracy Campbell never wanted to leave Hope Harbor, Oregon, or the idyllic three-generation cranberry farm where she grew up. But life–and love–altered her plans. When tragedy strikes and changes her plans yet again, she finds herself back in her hometown with a floundering farm to run and a heartbreaking secret. Romance is not on her agenda. Nor is it on Michael Hunter’s. The visitor from Chicago has daunting secrets of his own. But when Tracy recruits him to help save a struggling charitable organization, the winds of change begin to sweep through Hope Harbor, bringing healing, hope, and love to countless lives–including their own.

Though I found the book rather slow to start, and didn’t like that we weren’t getting all the details about each of the characters’ stories up front, I quickly realized that the point of the slow reveal was to leave me as the reader wondering why Tracy and Michael needed healing and what had hurt them so badly.  I think if all that information had been front-end-loaded like I found myself wishing it had been, I’d have been disappointed because there’d have been no element of surprise to it.

Once the book got going, I loved the character development, and found that I couldn’t wait to keep reading… I did devour this book quite quickly, actually.  I loved Anna, and I loooooved Charley.  What great characters!  Irene Hannon did an excellent job of drawing me in with lovable and relate-able personalities.  I understand why she’s won awards, as the front cover says she has.

Anyway, in the end I do recommend this book.  It’s very sweet, and I loved how it all resolved in the end.

I received this book free from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review, in association with Graf-Martin Communications.

A Worthy Pursuit | A Book Review


I’m not sure what I loved most about this book.  Was it the protective heart of the teacher who knew her students were in danger and would do anything to rescue them?  I have several of my own that I would risk a great deal for if I knew they were in danger.  Was it the way Stone, the bounty hunter, comes to find Charlotte and then can’t help but fall for her virtue and loving protection?  I don’t know.

All I can tell you is that I loved it.  Karen Witemeyer has a way with words that hooked me from the first chapter, and saw me racing to complete this book so I knew how it would end… and then surprisingly sad when it was over!  I didn’t want it to end, and I found that when it did, I was left wanting more.  She’ll be an author I’ll want to keep an eye on in the future, for sure.

I can’t talk too much about the book without ruining it, but I promise that if you like historical fiction, historical romance, and particularly the “Wild West” of early Texas and cowboys, you’ll love this.  It reminded me of Westerns and the Dime Novels about the cowboys coming to the rescue and warding off bad guys left, right, and centre… right from the beginning!  And as the book goes on, you’ll see why.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as part of a review program from Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

Love’s Rescue | A Book Review


Oh, this book… Be still my heart, I loved it.

Check out what the back of the book has to say:

Can a girl enamored with the adventurous seas ever be content with the tame life of a Southern belle?

When her mother dies, Elizabeth Benjamin heads home to Key West, determined to transform herself into the perfect Southern belle her parents always wished her to be. But nothing goes according to plan. Her brother resents her, the servants do not obey her, and Rourke O’Malley, the dashing man she vowed to forget, refuses to relinquish his hold on her heart. Worst of all, it becomes painfully obvious that her father is not the man he appears to be.

As family secrets come to light, Elizabeth is faced with a difficult choice: to perform her duty and abandon her dreams, or to leave her life of privilege behind to chase the man her father sees as little better than a pirate.

I love everything to do with the sea.  Well, alright, maybe not everything, but I’d consider myself enamored by it as well.  So when I saw a book about a girl who loves the sea, and a man who sails around salvaging wrecked ships…. in a historical fiction romance…. I just knew I had to read it.

Thankfully, Love’s Rescue held up to my expectations and I loved every second of it.  It’s been a long time since I finished a book that quickly.

I loved the writing style that Christine Johnson brings to the page.  I loved the way Elizabeth’s struggle was played out (though I won’t tell you any more than that!), and I love the way the book resolved. My Mom is reading the book right now, and every time she wonders or mentions something about the book, I have to smile and say “I can’t talk to you about that book right now!”

At times it was heartbreaking, at times I laughed, and many times I was at the edge of my seat, unable to put the book down.  Anyone who loves a good historical romance should love this, especially if the object of your affection happens to be early American settlement.  I didn’t know much about the Florida Keys, either, so this was a great read.  I recently returned from a trip to the Caribbean and left a piece of my heart there.  This book helped me find it, and made me want to go back.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as part of a review program with Graf-Martin Communications.

2 for 1 Book Reviews!


June is always a psycho crazy busy month for me.  I’ve (mostly) read two books this month, and should have posted the first review three weeks ago when I finished the first book, but… it’s June.

Bear with me, dear book enthusiasts.

I have good news and bad news.

A good review and a not so awesome review.

I’ll try to be succinct.

 

The first book I read this month was called “Together with You” by Victoria Bylin.  It was a great read.  The plot twists were good, and I found this book was not as predictable as romance novels usually are.  I wasn’t totally sure what would end up coming next, and I was glad to find that I didn’t have the ending pegged by half-way through the book.  I became quite invested in the characters — especially Penny, the little girl dealing with Fetal Alcohol Effects who Carly becomes a nanny to take care of.

I think what drew me in was my personal experience working with children with FASD, and so I found the plot-line to be a well-researched look into what life for a 5-year old must battle.  You can’t help but love Penny.  The book wasn’t really about her, and yet it was…. and I get it if that doesn’t make sense, but you’ll just have to read the book :)

All this said, this book has convinced me to take a hiatus from romance novels for a little while.  At least specifically — romance novels without at least some element of mystery or other plot to work through need to be something I quit for the time being.  I found that reading a book where two people can fall in love nearly effortlessly left me annoyed that I can’t find that… even though intrinsically I know that life so rarely unfolds like it does in romance novels or chick flicks.

I suppose what I’m saying is — I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  If you like romance novels, I think you’ll enjoy this book.  If you’re struggling with being single and would like the man of your dreams to land in your lap but that just isn’t happening for you, haha, this may not be the right choice :)

 

 

The next book I read…. well… confession time… I couldn’t finish it.  The next book I tried to read was called Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson.  I feel badly that I couldn’t finish it, and I think there were a few reasons why — not all of them having much to do with the book itself.

I think it’s a book that I need to come back to later.  I was reflecting on that fact earlier this afternoon as I was struggling to try to finish it so I could write this review (which is due in less than 24 hours).  I’m just not into it.  Here are a few reasons — and please take my reasons with a grain of salt, because like I said, I’m pretty sure this book has potential, and I’m not shelving it forever.  I will go back to it.

Reasons I can’t finish this book:

1.  I’m going through a time in my life right now where I’m finding it difficult to dish out grace, and this book is all about seasoning all of our relationships with grace, leaning on the love of Jesus so that we’re relying on God to be fulfilled in every area of our lives and not those we’re in relationship with.  I know that relying on others for what only God can give only sets expectations too high and sets everyone involved up for failure.  That said, I’ve been searching for a new job for the past few weeks, and I haven’t been succeeding, and I am feeling frustrated beyond what I feel I can bear at my current job as a result.  I’m not leaning on God like I should be, and that fact alone has made this a challenging read.  I clearly need to push through this book, because the principles tucked inside could make me less of a word vampire (someone who dominates a conversation, thinking only about themselves) whenever someone brings work up.

2.  The author herself admitted that there are thousands of books on relationships that turn up in an Amazon search.  I found at the beginning, the information wasn’t new.  I wasn’t learning.  Now again, I suspect that’s tied closely to point number 1 — my heart doesn’t want to learn right now.  I need to let go, but I don’t have time to do that and finish the book tonight, so I have to be open with you, my readers, right now.

3.  There are chapters in the book on relationships with our children, and on our marriages — I tend to gloss right through sermons, books, blog posts… whatever… on that topic right now because I feel like they don’t apply.  That said, I have found in the past that reading those articles, posts, chapters, etc…. and listening intently to those sermons… has given me information that has helped in dating relationships.  And why not learn before we’re thrown into the middle of a challenging situation??  Wouldn’t it be better to be prepared?  I recommend that anyone who picks this book up give it more of a fair shot than I have.

So those are the reasons I haven’t finished the book yet.  Here are a couple things I found encouraging as I desperately tried to finish it this afternoon so I could write this.  These were the points I found after finding that I just couldn’t finish the book on time no matter how hard I try, and I feel strongly that they are points God will use to nudge me to finish the book.

  • I’ve been reminded just in what I was able to finish that loving others starts with the understanding that God loved us first, before we did anything.  I don’t have to go out and face the daunting challenge of “love your neighbour” without the understanding that I have a deep, unconditional love aimed at me ALL. THE. TIME.  God is great like that.  He doesn’t walk away from us when we don’t live up to His expectations.  That alone is enough to get me to finish the book after this review has been due.
  • God initiates friendships.  We don’t have to see the God of the Universe, decide that we hope He’ll like us, and then strive for His acceptance — He’s been coming for us all along, and He loves us no matter what we do.  Leaning on that CAN give us stronger relationships here on Earth with the people God has put into our lives — whether they’re people we feel like we want to love or not.  I’m excited to see what Jessica Thompson has to say when I can give this book a fair shot.
  • God’s mission is heavily wrapped into our relationships with our communities.  This chapter was what made me decide to read the book despite not having been able to finish it in time for the review.  It caught my eye briefly as I flipped through the book, having decided not to finish it and write the review anyway.  My church is heavily focused on loving our communities and showing the love of Jesus through that.  I feel often like I’m bad at that.  Like I’m guilty of doing things so others will see me doing them and feel guilty about the kind of friend or person they aren’t being — Jessica Thompson gave some concrete examples from her own life, which were encouraging for me, to know that I am not alone in that unfortunate habit.

 

All this to say — I can’t honestly recommend or dissuade anyone to or away from this book at this point.  I haven’t finished it, though I think that I’d like to.  I don’t think I’ve given it a fair shot and I think my own heart is getting in the way of that.  Has that ever happened to you?  Has anyone read this book?  What did you think?

 

 

 

I received both of these books as part of a review program with Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Finding Me


Oh, how I loved this book.  With all of my heart, I loved this book.

All her life, Kelli Huddleston has been told the story of a fire — a fire that killed her mother and two siblings as an infant.  After her father’s death, though, she uncovers evidence of a different story, including clippings about a boat accident that killed a young father and his infant daughter.  And Kelli quietly realizes the story of her life has been a fiction.

Armed with only a few pictures of what she thinks might be her family, Kelli crosses the country to Tennessee, determined to uncover the truth about what happened over twenty years ago in a small southern town.  When the trip threatens to open the doors to the past better left shut, and her plans for the future are jeopardized, Kelli is faced with an agonizing choice that will change her life forever.

I smiled, I laughed, I worried, I cried.  Books don’t tend to send me on emotional swinging rides, but my goodness, did this one ever.  It’s a brilliant drama, masterfully told by Kathryn Cushman, and I can’t recommend it enough.  Normally, I don’t read a book again after I’ve finished it, but I think I’m going to hang onto this one and read it again.

I loved the writing.  I loved the character development.  I loved the ending.  If you’re looking for a great story, I highly recommend that you pick up this book.

 

Every Bride Needs a Groom


I just finished reading Every Bride Needs a Groom by Janice Thompson.  I have to admit, when I read the premise of the book I was quite excited.  (Check out the book here for the full book jacket teaser.)  The main character, Katie Fisher — she sounds like a girl after my own heart — one with her entire wedding planned before it’s a good idea at all.  (I try to play it out like I haven’t done that, haha, but… um… don’t look at my Pinterest boards?)

As I started reading the book though, I was struck by how easily I felt I could predict the ending.  I admit though, while I thought that fact would make me want to stop reading the book, it didn’t at all.  Instead, it made me want to race to the finish to see if I was right.  I found at the beginning of the book I was annoyed with Katie, perhaps because I see in myself a tendency to jump the gun a bit and we tend to be annoyed by what we are.  But I digress.

I fell in love with the characters, and the story was well crafted.  I really enjoyed that the book was narrated in first-person, and Janice Thompson’s writing style so perfectly portrayed a Southern girl that I read the entire thing with a Southern accent in my head (not that I claim to be an expert or anything, being Canadian and only ever having spent 1 week in Savannah…. but oh well).

I will likely be interested in reading book 2 of the Brides with Style series when it comes out in October 2015, because I find I really want to know what happens to the characters.  Aunt Alva and Queenie were my favourite, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why :)

 

Have you read it?  What did you think?

You’re Loved No Matter What


I just finished reading You’re Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth.  I knew I’d enjoy this book.  I’ve read one of her other books and have yet another sitting in my massive pile of books to be read.  I’ve also been following along with her blog for quite some time.  Coffee for your heart, anyone?

For me, this book couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’ve been struggling with feeling the weight of needing to be perfect for a long time, in many areas, and it was so refreshing to receive a release — not just from people saying ‘you put too much pressure on yourself’ — but from Jesus through Scripture as well.

Holley crafts the words of the book into a beautiful breath of fresh air that I know my heart needed.  I don’t need to strive for perfection.  It’s not what Jesus intends for me.  It’s not what anyone should expect of me.  I can go for excellence, and yet rest in the perfect Grace of God when my pursuit of excellence falls short and I don’t make it.  Trust me, I don’t make it a lot.

Holley gave excellent, practical, real-life examples of people who’ve gone through this very thing.  She talks about gratitude as the antidote to perfectionism.  When you can be thankful for what you have, why would you need to strive for what you can’t get?  She mentions Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts app.  I had it a while ago; I downloaded it shortly after reading (and loving!) One Thousand Gifts.  I started recording my way to 1000, trying to be grateful, but wound up feeling guilty because I was being grateful for the same things over and over again….. So I deleted the app.  I couldn’t even get gratitude right!  Talk about perfectionism.  When you can’t actually be grateful because you’ve imposed your own rules on how to be just that…. whoa.

So this book has given me the fresh perspective I need to give an ‘attitude of gratitude’ (as cheesy as that phrase really is…) another shot.  If gratitude is the antidote to perfectionism, and releasing my need to be perfect because I can’t be will let me breathe, sleep, and function better as a human being….. I feel like I have nothing to lose.I highly recommend this book, and in fact have already farmed my copy out.  If you’re tired of the try-hard “I can’t do this” “too much pressure” kind of life, relax and have a heart to heart with Holley Gerth.  She really does wiggle her way right into the places my heart needs to relax the most.

Dauntless | A Review


Not too long ago, I finished a book called Dauntless by Dina Sleiman.  It’s a historical romance fiction, and while I’d love to have amazing things to say about it, as I had high hopes, I have mixed feelings and so I suppose this will be a mixed review.

I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t love it either.  But it isn’t because of the writing, so please read on :)

Here’s the excerpt from the back of the book:

Though once a baron’s daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest,” her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?

Source

I’ll admit a bias ~ medieval history isn’t my favourite, even though I love historical fiction.  Also, I suspect this book would suit better to a young adult genre, and I don’t fit that category.  I know that I shouldn’t be limited to what I read, and that’s why I chose this book, but it’s possible that it just straight up isn’t my jam…. though that sentence makes me sound far younger than I am… gosh.  I suspect that it would be a great read if I were a little more into the young adult genre as a whole.

I suppose what I didn’t like about it was that I found it took a while to pick up.  I was also left with the impression that the men in Merry’s troupe were younger than they were until the story progressed and we found that they were actually young adults.  I found some of the writing in the prologue/introduction quite hard to follow, and while it would likely have been closer to what patterns of speech would have sounded like at the time (Robin Hood era England), I had a hard time keeping up with it.  I was very thankful that the writing didn’t stay that way.  I found the rest of the book though, after those initial pages, to flow quite nicely and the writing style was great.  I’m at a bit of a loss though as far as why the first few pages were written differently than the rest of the book.

While I found that it took a while for the book to pick up for me, by about Chapter 10 I was thoroughly invested in the characters ~ especially the kids!  I had contemplated not finishing it a bit before then, but it did pick up and I became quite engaged.  I found I needed to know how Merry and her friends made out.

I did LOVE that there’s a strong female lead in the book, though, and I love that though she really wanted love, she also saw that she had a role to play in the lives of so many others and she didn’t just flit off at the first available opportunity.  Merry has a good heart, and she’s very protective of and loyal to the ones she loves.  I loved her for that.

By the end, I devoured the pages quite quickly.  I was on a cruise and plowed through the last several chapters between basking in the Caribbean sun and sitting squished on a plane on the way home.  My traveling partner wanted to play cards on the plane on the way home, but I really needed to know what happened, so I finished the book just before we landed for a layover in New York City.  (We did get some cards in while en route to Detroit, though, don’t worry ;) )

While the book had grown on me, I found it ended quite abruptly and that while conflicts did get resolved (and that’s all I’ll say, don’t worry ~ no spoilers), it’s my opinion that they were resolved very quickly.  I could have been OK with one more chapter to spread some of the ending details out.

All said, I recommend the book if you’re a fan of young adult historical romance fiction.  If that’s not your thing, this book probably won’t be either.  What it taught me is that sometimes, even a pretty good book can’t fix your overall need to not pick books from that genre, but I suppose that’s good for me to know, as well :)

 

If you’re in your teens or early 20s, I recommend you give this book a read!  Or if you’re not in that age group and you just like young adult fiction, I suggest you check it out.  Like I said, overall, a pretty good book.  I was glad I read it!

 

I received a copy of this book to review for free through Graf-Martin Communication’s Nuts About Books program.