Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review - Our Favorite Reads

Celebrating 2016 Top Ten Favorites

Wow, we cannot believe it's the end of the year already and time for our annual countdown! You may have noticed our blog was a little quiet this year as we dealt with some unusual circumstances like moving and health issues. But we still found time to read some delightful books and here's hoping we can read even more next year.

So without further delay, here are our top ten favorite books of 2016! 



#10 - Like Never Like Before by Melissa Tagg
#9 - Forever Safe by Jody Hedlund
#8 - So Rare a Gift by Amber Lynn Perry
#7 - Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White
#6 - The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter
#5 - Her One and Only by Becky Wade
#4 - The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson (re-released this year)
#3 - Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren
#2 - You're the One that I Want by Susan May Warren
#1 - The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck
  
Let us know, were these your favorites as well? Do you have a different #1?

Here's to more happy reading in 2017!!!!




Monday, November 7, 2016

A Royal Christmas Wedding (By: Rachel Hauck)

A Royal Christmas Wedding

By: Rachel Hauck


A Royal Christmas Wedding is the fourth and final book in the Royal Wedding Series. We are true suckers for any royal love story, but add in the Christmas season and you have a recipe for a delightful read! Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a cozy blanket and get ready for an enchanting fairy tale.

Storyline
This story has many of the characters we have already come to love throughout this series. Avery, Susanna's younger sister, whom we were introduced to in book one, is our lovely main character along with Prince Colin, cousin to King Nathaniel. Five years ago they fell head over heels in love but were very young. When Colin abruptly cut off their relationship, Avery was left with a broken heart. Now 21, she has finished college and is at a crossroads in life. Having just lost her father and hearing her sister is pregnant, she and her mom head to Brighton for the Christmas season.

Colin is shocked when he spots Avery at a ball. Why is she here in Brighton? And why does his heart still long for her after so many years? Many twists and turns bring these two together throughout the book, and the presence of an age old tradition of a royal getting married on Christmas day continues to press on both of them. But can Avery open her heart and risk having it broken again? Can Colin make up for the past, and overlook his parents' expectation that he marry a Brightonian wife?


Depth
This book, unlike some of the others, was rather lighthearted. We have come to love the depth of Rachel's stories but this one lacked somewhat in that area. It was a fairy tale of second chances that needed forgiveness, healing and hope to reach happily ever after! Set in a charming foreign city - too bad it's fictional! - and being surrounded by loved ones made this read delightfully enchanting.

Additionally, some of the main characters either have a broken past to deal with or currently have great pain to contend with. Broken families, past mistakes, and unfulfilled dreams are addressed.

Faith
One of our favorite aspects of Rachel's writing is her willingness to be bold in her faith, to not shy away from miracles and the presence of angels. Many of her books offer these in the storyline and this one is no exception - sometimes things are "God moments" with no other explanation. Both of our main characters lean heavily on the Lord's leading and must choose to trust and follow His path, rather than relying on themselves.

Additionally, the true meaning of Christmas is continually threaded into this story, demonstrating the emptiness of celebrating the holiday without remembering the birth of Christ.


Love Story
Once upon a time Avery and Prince Colin were madly in love, but both have now suffered broken hearts, years apart and thousands of miles separating each other. What will it take to bring their hearts and souls together to reach their happily ever after? These two have many sweet moments together as you watch their journey unfold..

Overall
What a joy it has been to travel through each of the books in this series. The characters will stay with us and we may still dream of going to Brighton one day! This final installment, though lacking a little in depth, wraps things up nicely and we are sad to see it come to an end. We look forward to whatever Rachel Hauck brings us next!


Find it on Amazon: A Royal Christmas Wedding


Note: We were given this book free in return for our honest review

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tangled Webs (By: Irene Hannon)

Tangled Webs

By: Irene Hannon

Storyline 
Finn MacGregor is finished with his career as an Army Ranger, and just wants a little peace and quiet to figure out what he is going to do for the rest of his life. When he rents a secluded cabin deep in the backwoods of Missouri, he figures the solitude and lack of cell phone coverage won't be hard to get used to. And maybe he can get his secrets and demons figured out while there. But when a woman's terrified scream pierces through the night, he finds himself back in rescue mode to his beautiful neighbor - who has secrets and demons of her own to wrestle through.

Dana Lewis plans to stay at her own secluded cabin indefinitely. That is, unless a mysterious prankster can convince her to leave by frightening her off the property. As Finn and Dana work together to figure out who is behind the pranks and why they want her gone, these two troubled souls learn to trust each other - both in solving the mystery and in their personal lives.


Depth
Finn and Dana both have damaged souls from their pasts. As they very slowly learn to trust each other, they must learn to let go and have the courage to move forward in their lives. Also addressed in a side storyline is the very real issue of absolute truth, absolute right and wrong. What do you do when the only answer (it seems) to a tough situation is unethical - at best? Author Irene does an excellent job detailing how quickly that decision can become a tangled web of lies, deceit and cover ups.

Additionally, some of the main characters either have a broken past to deal with or currently have great pain to contend with. Broken families, past mistakes, and unfulfilled dreams are addressed.

Faith
The best faith storyline in this book actually comes through the wrestlings of one of the perpetrators. He is a church-going, Bible-believing, man of honor who makes one wrong decision - and continues to walk in it as he descends further down into the tangled web of its consequences. His conscience tries to kick in, but after ignoring it enough times, that voice becomes harder to distinguish. It's a good reminder to the reader that every choice, no matter how small, will either bring you closer to or further away from God. Thankfully, even after walking in a way contrary to God, He will always be there, waiting for us, ready to offer forgiveness and redemption

Love Story
Finn and Dana are instantly attracted to each other and have a few sparks as they get to know one another, but ultimately their love story is wrapped up in the mystery and depth of the story, so the romance isn't overpowering.

Overall

We have enjoyed the Men of Valor series, and it was good to finally hear Finn's story. The first half of the book was a little slow and didn't really have much meat to its plot, which accounts for this less than stellar star rating. The second half of the book picked up the pace however and concluded in a satisfying ending.


Find it on Amazon: Tangled Webs


Note: We were given this book free in return for our honest review

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wild Montana Skies (By: Susan May Warren)

Wild Montana Skies

By: Susan May Warren

Storyline 
After fighting in Afghanistan as a search and rescue pilot, Kacey Fairing has come home to Mercy Falls. She has been invited to join the PEAK Rescue Team, and arrives just as the town is flooding and in need of her help. Eager to reconnect with her 13 year old daughter, Audrey, Kacey doesn't anticipate that Audrey's father - and her first love who walked out on her of her birth - is also back in town.

Country Superstar Ben King, also back in town for awhile, has a thriving career in Nashville. But he is shocked when his first and only true love, Kacey, shows up and tells him they have a daughter he never knew about. As he settles back into Mercy Falls, he starts to wonder if maybe his earlier dreams of fame don't hold a candle to the possibility of being a family with Kacey and Audrey. But can he really leave Nashville behind to pursue them?

Also in this story, continuing from the prequel, is Mercy Falls resident Ian Shaw and his continued desperate quest to find his missing niece. As a major clue turns up about Esme's disappearance from three years ago, the cold case is reopened and Ian's faithful assistant Sierra helps him dig deeper into the mystery - all the while battling the feelings each has for the other and toeing the line between a personal and professional relationship.


Depth
As Ben and Kacey struggle to resolve what happened between them 13 years ago, and the consequences facing them now, issues of trust, abandonment, parenting and sacrifice surface. But the places this story digs the deepest regard Ian Shaw's depserate search for his niece, and the inner drive that keeps him going. The question of why Esme left him, his need to be in control and save the world haunt him. Author Susan does not give easy answers to any of these things, and leaves us hanging with a few things to be resolved in later books. (Which she is so maddeningly good at!)

Additionally, some of the main characters either have a broken past to deal with or currently have great pain to contend with. Broken families, past mistakes, and unfulfilled dreams are addressed.

Faith
Every main character in this book has to reconcile themselves with God and their choices. Some of them feel God isn't on their side but come to realize He has been there all along. Psalm 23 is a comfort and a guide throughout the book and is used, quoted and applied often.

Love Story
Love is complicated, messy and difficult at times but it can overcome a lot of mistakes and difficult circumstances when strong enough. Additionally, it's demonstrated that love isn't always pleasant and happy, but sometimes it's honest and telling the truth - even when it hurts. In this book, the chemistry between some of our main characters was electrifying! The wide range of emotions are easily felt by the reader too.

Overall

Susan May Warren has given us a lot to look forward to in this new series! In her typical fashion, she weaves a lot of different storylines together, while resolving some in this book and leaving others to be resolved in later reads. Her characters are well developed as usual, and both lovable and realistic at the same time.


Find it on Amazon: Wild Montana Skies


Note: We were given this book free in return for our honest review

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Lady Unrivaled (By: Roseanna M. White)

A Lady Unrivaled

By: Roseanna M. White

Storyline 
A Lady Unrivaled is the third and final installment in the Ladies of the Manor trilogy. It dives into a new adventure, this time with Lady Ella Myserston wrapped up in her own story surrounding the infamous "Fire Eyes" red diamonds. Lady Ella, Lord Nottingham's younger sister, is a happy soul with always a smile on her face, and has often been viewed as young and naive. However, she knows much more than anyone gives her credit for and therefore takes it upon herself to protect her brother and new sister-in-law from the dangers of the Fire Eyes. When she takes off to visit her friends Justin and Brooke, she takes the diamonds with her. But where they go, danger is sure to follow!

Lord Cayton, whom we have been introduced to in previous books with a reputation as a heart-breaker, is determined to live a better life after the loss of his wife and the prospect of raising his daughter alone. His cousin Justin offers to help, but matters complicate when he learns the ever cheerful and beautiful Ella will also be present. He vows to stay clear of her for her own good, but soon find they must work together to keep their loved ones safe when danger once again follows the Fire Eyes.


Depth
Cayton constantly wrestles with himself and his past choices. How does one start over after making such poor choices? How can he become trustworthy and escape his old reputation?

We thoroughly enjoyed the journey the author takes Cayton on. We also appreciated the depth of some side characters, mainly Kira, a lady's maid in disguise, who is being threatened to gain information on the Fire Eyes. The author allowed us to dive into the lives of many characters we have come to know but also gave us a glimpse into the lives the servants lead as well.

Additionally, some of the main characters either have a broken past to deal with or currently have great pain to contend with. Broken families, past mistakes, and unfulfilled dreams are addressed.

Faith
The faith many of the characters have is real and evident. Justin has not given up on his cousin, and meets with him every morning to go through the Bible. This has a profound impact on Cayton. Will he be able to accept forgiveness and allow himself to be who God has called him to be? Ella too has some growing to do and she learns to start trusting in her own instincts in what the Lord is leading her to do. She chooses to trust in the Lord's guidance even when it does not make sense to others. There is also darkness in this book and shows those who have chosen to let greed and bitterness run their lives. Not everyone turns to our Savior for redemption but we are thankful to see that many do!

Love Story
Lady Ella is intrigued by Lord Cayton but knows she shouldn't be; her friend Brook would never approve. But there is just something about him! Cayton can't help but feel something stir in his heart for Ella but he won't do it, he cannot let himself fall for her. He does not feel worthy to be loved again. His insecurities make him push her away and often comes off moody when around her in an effort to protect her. But Ella can see right through it and consistently flirts and banters with him. It is often quite comical. It may take awhile but these two start to grow on each other and the love they share is very sweet.

Overall
This book ties up all the loose ends from the trilogy. We enjoyed this series and the many characters we came to know so well. However, we must add that this book does seem to drag on a little more than the other two as the author tries to bring the story to a close.


Find it on Amazon: A Lady Unrivaled


Note: We were given this book free in return for our honest review

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just a Kiss (By: Denise Hunter)

Just a Kiss

By: Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter is one of our favorite authors, and we have eagerly waited for the final book of the Summer Harbor Trilogy! The story between Riley and Paige has been building since book one and we couldn't wait to see how their story would turn out. Unfortunately, however, these 2 chicks were disappointed in this much anticipated read.

Storyline 
Riley Callahan has secretly been in love with his best friend, Paige, for longer than he can remember. When he finally decides to tell her, an IED changes his life forever and leaves him an amputee. Now he feels he isn't worthy of her and is determined to move on. But when his family sets him up in Paige's house to recover, moving on really isn't an option. On the other hand, she has never seen Riley as anything except a best friend. But suddenly with him wounded and always around, Paige can't help but acknowledge that maybe things are going to be different between them from now on.

For the first two books in the series, the reader has been aware of Riley's feelings and watched him even go so far as to enlist in the Marines to fight them. But what we hoped would be a satisfying conclusion unfortunately wound up falling flat.

As Riley returns home, he is bitter, sullen, traumatized and rude - and while understandable, it was hard to see why Paige was suddenly falling in love with him. Any conversations between them felt stilted and too short, and the usual good tension of not knowing each others feelings became frustrating as it drew out just too long. There were a few additional plots (namely about the animal shelter, Miss Trudy and Sheriff Colton, and Paige's family history) in the book that seemed to abruptly begin and/or end - too quickly for us to process, much less feel invested in.


Depth
The story deals with PTSD, abandonment, betrayal and long waited for dreams and longings - deep issues to be sure. But really only the surface felt scratched with these. Some problems experienced were quickly dealt with, but those that did take longer to resolve, we as readers were not drawn into the wrestling and brokenness we would have expected.

Additionally, some of the main characters either have a broken past to deal with or currently have great pain to contend with. Broken families, past mistakes, and unfulfilled dreams are addressed.

Faith
As Paige deals with feelings of abandonment by her father, her mother and many others in her life, she comes to realize that God is the perfect Father. Christian principles are followed by most, and Riley and Paige both attend church along with most of the characters.

Love Story
Riley and Paige have a lot of chemistry, which is what kept them best friends for so long and is now drawing them closer together. Their first kisses are very tender and sweet and were extremely sigh-worthy! However, we would have liked more in-depth, soulful conversations about all they had been through as they reveal their feelings to one another.

Overall

Denise Hunter remains one of our favorite authors, and although this final book in the trilogy was disappointing to us, the first two books elevate the star rating for Just A Kiss higher than had we only read it as a stand-alone novel. We have loved the Callahan family and will revisit them fondly from time to time - even if its only the first two books we truly get deep into.


Find it on Amazon: Just a Kiss


Note: We were given this book free in return for our honest review

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Wedding Shop (By: Rachel Hauck)

The Wedding Shop

By: Rachel Hauck

Storyline

Decades apart, two women want to help others achieve their dreams through The Wedding Shop, even if each may never see her own come true.

In 1930's Tennessee, Cora has inherited the shop from her aunt and delights in helping blushing brides choose the perfect wedding gown and accessories. She hopes that one day her man will finally be able to marry her and then she too can be the one walking down the aisle. But as the Depression hits, life changes forever for both her family and all the families around her. Will her waiting for Happily Ever After never end?

Today, Haley Morgan moves back home to Heart's Bend, Tennessee after her childhood best friend, Tammy, dies. She is drawn to the old, abandoned wedding shop where they used to play, promising to one day reopen the magical store. When Haley finds out the shop is scheduled to be torn down and turned into a parking lot, she takes a leap of faith and decides to renovate and reopen the shop - even with opposition from every side. Can she overcome the odds to fulfill God's plans for her future? Especially with a past like hers?

There is no one better than author Rachel Hauck at seamlessly interweaving the past and present, creating a fascinating plot with vivid detail and heartfelt characters. She tells little bits of the story at a time, leaving us hungry for more and satisfying us with answers at just the right times.


Depth
Many deep issues are touched on in The Wedding Shop. The Depression Era is often taught in history as a financial problem. Everyone knows that money was tight, and hard times were had by many all over the country. But this book explores the emotional side of the Depression as well. What must families have gone through when the dads were out of work? How did the husbands and fathers feel at being unable to provide for their families? How did the women feel when their men were depressed and when some even left their families out of shame? The raw pain of this era is boldly brought to life.


Additionally, some of the main characters either have a broken past to deal with or currently have great pain to contend with. Broken families, past mistakes, and unfulfilled dreams are addressed.

Faith
Light shines brightest in the darkest places. Author Rachel isn't afraid to show the depths of sin the human heart can plunge into, but that makes the redemption all the sweeter. And what better way to parallel what Jesus did for us on the cross, than with the white of a wedding dress and the purity of the bride wearing it? She shows through these stories that God is a God of second chances and complete forgiveness. No matter what our past holds, Jesus cleans our souls whiter than snow.

Love Story
The romances in The Wedding Shop are fulfilling pictures of true love! They are genuine, deep and contrasted against a backdrop of what true love is NOT. Past relationships and romances are shown for what they are - shallow imitations. The heartaches and joys are so well written, we felt what the characters felt and loved journeying with them.

Overall

This book was like a breath of fresh air to these 2 Chicks who have been in a drought of good reads lately. Believe it or not, this is only the second book this year to make it to our Golden List! But The Wedding Shop's placement there is well deserved. The characters are flawed, lovable and realistic. This book is raw, not shying away from the harsh realities of mistakes and life's circumstances. All loose ends were tied up and when we had turned the last page, we were completely satisfied.


Find it on Amazon: The Wedding Shop


Note: We were given this book free in return for our honest review