The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy #1) by Sarah Sundin (review by Cathy)

The Sea Before Us

About the book:

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

 

My review:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book by Sarah Sundin and as soon as I started reading this one, I was mentally scolding myself for missing out on her past work. I’m just so glad that I read this one because the author takes you on a journey where you get to know the characters.  Oh, those characters are endearing!

I loved Wyatt Paxton and my heart went out to him as he goes through grief and blames himself for something that clearly isn’t his fault.  A sweet and gentle young man from Texas and now a sailor, he soon meets Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Woman’s Royal Naval Service.  I was fascinated with her job and how she created maps of Normandy that were turned into naval bombardment maps.  I can’t imagine the pressure of something like that.   For someone with such a responsible position, she was unsure of herself in her life outside of work which made her more relatable to me.

They are both interesting characters with family issues to deal with.  I think Dorothy’s family situation was more compelling than Wyatt’s and why I enjoyed her story more.   The secondary characters are well-developed and are interesting, too. There are certainly some surprises that I didn’t expect, but ones that added an air of intrigue and kept me reading just one more chapter!

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series to catch up with the characters that I’ve grown fond of and to meet new ones.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and was not required to give a favorable review.  All opinions are my own.

 

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Heart Entwined-A Historical Romance Novella Collection (review by Cathy)

Hearts Entwined

 

About the book:

The path to love is filled with twists and turns in these stories of entangled romance with a touch of humor from four top historical romance novelists!

Includes Karen Witemeyer’s The Love Knot, Mary Connealy’s The Tangled Ties That Bind, Regina Jennings’s Bound and Determined, and Melissa Jagears’s Tied and True.

 

My review:

What a fantastic collections of novellas by four of my favorite authors!

The Love Knot by Karen Witemeyer-  We catch up with the Ladies of Harpers Station in this novella. .  I have loved this series and was so happy to read more about Claire.  She has been one of my favorite secondary characters and I have wondered what had happened to her sister and Pieter.  Their story is very poignant and worth reading over again.  I love the authors work.

The Tangles Ties That Bind by Mary Connealy is a fun read as Connor and Maggie reunite as adults.  If you are a fan of the Kincaid Bride series, you will love this one as much as I did.  I love the author’s humor.

Bound and Determined by Regina Jennings is a Fort Bend novella and quite honestly was the reason I was so excited to read this collection. Private Bradley Willis is one of my favorite characters in, Holding the Fort.  He’s just as funny and adorable as I remembered.  When he’s paired with the protagonist, Ambrosia Herald and camels, he’s pure perfection!  Ms. Jennings is fast becoming one of my must read authors.

Tried and True by Melissa Jagears is the last novella in the collection, but the first one that I read.  I have been a huge fan of the, Teaville Moral Society series and simply couldn’t resist.  I loved Marianne and Calvin.  Love certainly can make a difference in a person’s life and Marianne proves that as she takes a job where she works harder than she ever has to show Calvin that she is willing to give up everything to spend the rest of her life with him.    Ms. Jagears is another favorite of mine.

Overall, this collection is much more than I expected it to be.  I usually don’t like every novella in a collection, but in this one I really did.  I consider this to be a must read for fans of historical fiction.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

 

 

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella (review by Kristi)

surprise me

About the book:  #1 bestselling author Sophie Kinsella’s emotionally charged new standalone novel about marriage and family, and how those we love and know best can sometimes surprise us the most.

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprises, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

With a colorful, eccentric cast of characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella crafts a humorous, yet thoughtful portrait of a marriage and shines a light on the danger of not looking past the many layers of the ones you love to discover how infinitely fascinating–and surprising–they truly are.

Publication Date:  February 13, 2018

Publisher:  The Dial Press

 

My review:  After reading my first Sophie Kinsella book, My Not So Perfect Life, last year I was giddy with joy when the publisher emailed me an invitation to read her newest book Surprise Me. Soon after beginning this book I realized it wasn’t the same caliber of a story as My Not So Perfect Life. In fact, this book was quite a letdown for me.

The book has a pretty good premise of a married couple who wonder how to keep their marriage from becoming boring. The wife decides they should surprise each other to keep things lively. Well, as you can imagine things go wrong (horribly wrong at times, but these are the funniest parts) and soon their marriage is far from stale but quite tumultuous. As surprises go wrong Sophie unravels and wonders if her marriage will survive. In addition to the marriage issues, Sophie is also borderline obsessed with her deceased father and it is clear that this is driving a wedge between her and her husband.

Now, my issue with the book is that the author took a good premise and turned it into page after page of repetition. At the beginning, it seemed like the story was going nowhere fast and I swear I was going to scream if I had to read one more time that their marriage was going to last another sixty-eight years. It was like this was on every single page and I was tired of reading it over and over. Also, there was too much unnecessary details thrown in and bogged down the story. I lost count of the times that I wished the story would get moving. I wasn’t really sure where the story was going and then once the surprises started the book picked up little steam. This was the book the tried but just fell flat.

The book isn’t all bad though. There are a few scenes that made me chuckle and provided a reason to keep on reading. All in all, this book could have been 100 pages shorter and been just as good. If you are new to this author I would skip this book and pick up My Not So Perfect Life. It was a much better read.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:  Sophie Kinsella has sold over 40 million copies of her books in more than 60 countries, and she has been translated into over 40 languages.

Sophie Kinsella first hit the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Becky has since featured in seven further bestselling books, Shopaholic Abroad (also published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan), Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister, Shopaholic & Baby, Mini Shopaholic, Shopaholic to the Stars and Shopaholic to the Rescue. Becky Bloomwood came to the big screen in 2009 with the hit Disney movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy.

Sophie has also written seven standalone novels which have all been bestsellers in the UK, USA and other countries around the world: Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, and My Not So Perfect Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Best Fiction in 2017.

In 2014 she published a Young Adult novel Finding Audrey about a teenage girl with social anxiety and her madcap family, and in January 2018, Sophie published her first illustrated book for young readers about the charming adventures of a mother-daughter fairy duo, Mummy Fairy and Me (also published as Fairy Mom and Me).

Sophie’s latest novel, Surprise Me, published in February 2018, presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.

Sophie wrote her first novel under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, at the tender age of 24, whilst she was working as a financial journalist. The Tennis Party was immediately hailed as a success by critics and the public alike and became a top ten bestseller. She went on to publish six more novels as Madeleine Wickham: A Desirable Residence, Swimming Pool Sunday, The Gatecrasher, The Wedding Girl, Cocktails for Three and Sleeping Arrangements.

Sophie was born in London. She studied music at New College, Oxford, but after a year switched to Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She now lives in London, UK, with her husband and family.

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Focus on Love by Candee Fick (review by Cathy)

focus on love

About the book:

Free-spirited Elizabeth Foster turned her back on her father’s photography business to pursue musical theater, but a career on the stage remains second to a career behind the camera. The possibility of a one-show contract means she’s a few weeks from unemployment forcing her home, and her dreams of pursuing professional photography reemerge. With photography and theater opportunities unfolding before her, Elizabeth faces her biggest challenge yet—listening to her heart.

Meanwhile, sought-after photographer Ryan Callahan has put his career on hold to help his sister’s family, but the promise of a bigger assignment could lure him away so he can begin building a family of his own. With professional opportunities and personal obligations pulling at him, Ryan faces his toughest challenge—balancing family, relationships, and work.

If given the choice, what dreams would develop for Elizabeth and Ryan? And will they learn to trust each other enough to focus on love?

 

My review:

Focus on Love is the heartwarming and sweet story of Elizabeth Foster and her love of theater and photography.  I loved how the author takes us back to the dinner theater where we’re reunited with several characters  that we met in, Dance Over Me.

I have been a long time fan of dinner theater and loved that Ms. Fick added photography to the storyline. I also loved the addition of Ryan and his sister’s family.  Liz and Ryan have different family dynamics, which lent depth to their story.   I didn’t like that Liz’s father would marginalize her talent and ability with a camera, but I did like that Ryan encouraged her.

Not only do we get to see what goes on behind the scenes at the dinner theatre, we also have a front row seat as Liz and Ryan form a loving relationship.  One that is based on respect, trust and faith which I believe are the best kind.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for the characters that I’ve become so fond of.  Hopefully, there will be weddings and perhaps Gloria will have her story told.

This is a delightful and clean contemporary novel for both younger and mature readers.

I received a complimentary copy from the author and was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

 

 

The Mayflower Bride (The Daughters of the Mayflower) by Kimberly Woodhouse (review by Cathy)

the mayflower bride

About the book:

Mary Chapman boards the Speedwell in 1620 as a Separatist seeking a better life in the New World. William Lytton embarks on the Mayflower as a carpenter looking for opportunities to succeed—and he may have found one when a man from the Virginia Company offers William a hefty sum to keep a stealth eye on company interests in the new colony. The season is far too late for good sailing and storms rage, but reaching land is no better as food is scarce and the people are weak. Will Mary survive to face the spring planting and unknown natives? Will William be branded a traitor and expelled?

Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series begins with The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse.

More to come in the Daughters of the Mayflower series:
The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1725 New Orleans (coming April 2018)
The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep – set 1760 during the French and Indian War (coming June 2018)

 

My review:

The Mayflower Bride is an amazing and thoroughly researched novel.  Ms. Woodhouse thoughtfully provides a cast of characters at the beginning of the book so her readers will know which ones are fictional and which ones were true Mayflower travelers.

I knew the travelers faced hardships, but I truly never thought of just how bad it was until I read of the illness, hunger, horrible weather and loss of life they experienced. They had hopes and dreams, but most importantly, they had faith.

I loved seeing Mary Elizabeth become a young woman filled with dignity and grace.  I admired her compassion for others, especially since she faced the same thing as the other passengers did.  William is another character that I grew very fond of as the story progressed.  I admired his work ethic and his desire to succeed.  Most of all, I loved how Mary Elizabeth and William formed a close bond, helping each other and their fellow passengers on their journey.

Overall, this book has everything a historical fiction reader appreciates.  Wonderful characters, a perfectly paced storyline and impeccable writing.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus On Love by Candee Fick (review by Kristi)

focus on love

About the book:  Free-spirited Elizabeth Foster turned her back on her father’s photography business to pursue musical theater, but a career on the stage remains second to a career behind the camera. The possibility of a one-show contract means she’s a few weeks from unemployment forcing her home, and her dreams of pursuing professional photography reemerge. With photography and theater opportunities unfolding before her, Elizabeth faces her biggest challenge yet—listening to her heart.

Meanwhile, sought-after photographer Ryan Callahan has put his career on hold to help his sister’s family, but the promise of a bigger assignment could lure him away so he can begin building a family of his own. With professional opportunities and personal obligations pulling at him, Ryan faces his toughest challenge—balancing family, relationships, and work.

If given the choice, what dreams would develop for Elizabeth and Ryan? And will they learn to trust each other enough to focus on love?

Publication Date:  February 13, 2018

Publisher:  Bling! Romance

 

My review:  Reading this book was like catching up with old friends and making new ones. Catching up with the gang at the Wardrobe Dinner Theater was a lot of fun and so was meeting Ryan, Cheryl, and the kids. This book was a quick and easy read for me.

It was easy to like the characters in this book. Except for Liz’s dad. I didn’t care for him at all. As an avid reader, I get tired of two characters meeting and instantly disliking each other. I am so glad that the author has Liz and Ryan liking each other from the beginning and the friendship that forms between the two is very genuine and realistic. This made their stories enjoyable and easy to keep an interest in.

I really enjoyed all the photography detail that was added to the story. This made the story even more authentic and as someone who likes photography, it was an added bonus. It made me want to pick up a camera and start clicking away.

I like Candee Fick’s writing style. She has a way of telling a story with a message that doesn’t seem overly preachy or overdone. She works the message into the story in a way that fits in naturally. I also like the way that she describes scenes. She creates images that make me feel as if I am there in the story.

One tiny thing I was a bit disappointed in was the story just seemed to end abruptly. Yes, there is an ending and it’s good but I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters and wasn’t prepared that the story was about to end. I would have liked a bit more time with these characters and a bit more resolution to some aspects of the story.

This book is good for teenage readers and up. While the book could be classified as young adult there is definitely enough maturity to the storyline for older readers. While this book isn’t listed as part of a series, Dance Over Me introduces readers to the theater group and the characters. It isn’t necessary to read it before Focus On Love but I definitely recommend both. I’m also anxiously awaiting the next book about Gloria, another dancer at the theater.

I received a free copy of this book from the author and wasn’t required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:  Author of inspirational romance, non-fiction, and devotionals. Candee is married to a high school football coach and is the mother of three, including a child with special needs (thus providing inspiration for her first two non-fiction titles).

In addition to her non-fiction devotionals, she writes faith-based romance novels for the Bling! Romance imprint. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a Double Finalist/Winner in the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the short novel category.

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Words from the Heart by Kathleen Fuller (review by Kristi)

Words from the heart

About the bookHer fingertips brushed against something else in the box of doilies. She lifted a bundle of letters, neatly tied with a thin red ribbon . . .

Ivy Yoder hasn’t heard from John King in over a year. She knows it’s time to let go of the idea that they will one day marry, but she’s humiliated to be one of the oldest single women in her Amish community of Birch Creek. When quirky Cevilla Schlabach asks her to help clean out an attic, Ivy is grateful for the distraction.

Noah Schlabach isn’t from Birch Creek, or even Ohio. His job as an auctioneer takes him around the country and away from a typical Amish life, but he still remains devoted to his family. So when his aging aunt asks him to help clean out her attic, he agrees. Plus, who knows what curious items he might find up there?

As Noah and Ivy work side by side, they come across a different kind of treasure: a packet of letters written during the Korean War. Soon they are swept up in the story of two young people falling in love—even as they remain determined not to fall in love themselves.

Publication Date:  Februrary 13, 2018

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson

 

My review: While nosy, cantankerous older ladies may not be my cup of tea in real life I found Cevilla Schlabach endearing. She really made this book fun to read with her meddling ways. For me, she was the glue that held this story together and the star of the show. Ivy and Noah were great characters but there was just something about Cevilla that won my heart.

From beginning to end I liked this story. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and in case you haven’t guessed yet Cevilla was my favorite. This character had such life about her and I loved how she not only controlled the other characters in the book but how she really had control of the story.

And the story? It’s a great one. I love Kathleen Fuller’s ability to tell a story. She has a way of pulling me into the story and visualizing all the scenes in the book. I also like how she makes me feel as if I know these characters as real people. She makes me care about the character and what is happening to them. I’m not sure if I liked the present day story in this book or the story told through love letters written during the Korean War. While in this story the reader only knows CJ through letters he wrote to Bunny he was just as real as Ivy, Noah, and the rest of the people of Birch Creek.

This is a book that readers are guaranteed to enjoy. Great characters, a great story, and great writing make this book a quick read. Just clear your calendar so nothing comes between you and this wonderful book!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the authorBest-selling author of Amish fiction. Also a wife, mother, crafter, coffee addict, football fan, and chocolate aficionado.

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