Tuesday, August 26, 2014

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes - by Betsy St. Amant

Kat Varland enjoys baking in her aunt's bakery, Sweetie Pies, but she longs to serve more gourmet flavors than vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, the only recipes allowed in the bakery.  So she practices her unique combinations on Lucas Brannen, high school football coach and her best friend.  Her best friend who happens to have fallen in love with her, and to show her, decides to sign her up for a reality baking show. He wants Kat to know how good she is, but he didn't count on the show's grand prize being a year's internship in New York - a long way from Bayou Bend, Louisiana.  If she wins, can he let her go?  Or does he hope she loses?

In general, there were no big surprises in this plot, best friends who have individually realized they have feelings for the other, yet don't want to ruin their friendship by putting those feelings out there if the other person doesn't feel the same way.  However, the reality competition was fun, and Kat and Lucas were fairly cute in their attempts to preserve their friendship while hiding their feelings.  Kat's cupcakes sounded delicious, and I really wished my copy had included the recipes she prepared (It looks like the final editions will include at least some of them, but the early release left them out).

This was a good summer read, and I really really want a cupcake now.
I give this book 3 stars.

You can find All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Revolutionary - Krista McGee

Revolutionary  is the third and final installment in the Anomaly trilogy.  Thalli, Berk, Rhen, Dallas, and Alex are back in the State, under the control of Dr. Loudin.  They are trying to find a way to work together to thwart his plans to remain in control of not just the State, but to reach out and control or annihilate the remaining pockets of survivors on the surface.  Can Thalli trust the Designer to work all things for good?  How does she explain the things she learns of and the horrors she witnesses?  Can she and her friends stop Dr. Loudin?

I have enjoyed this series, beginning with Anomaly, and found this to be a fairly satisfying conclusion.  Dr. Loudin is written as so truly evil that I hated him passionately as I read, and I ached for Thalli and her friends as they experienced his torture and twisted plans.  He was truly a futuristic-based Hitler.  As true to character as his plotline fell, it was hard to read; the torture and deaths were agonizing and grievous.  My biggest issue was that I felt that the ending was abrupt, and it left me feeling unresolved.

Overall, I feel like this trilogy is a viable alternative to the current YA dystopia trend.  There may be more complex storylines and settings, but this trilogy's search for meaning and the Designer gives this series depth and purpose that a secular book would leave untapped.  Thalli's experiences, within her constructed setting, of searching for faith and experiencing God - as well as her doubts - rang true, and not over-the-top.  I could definitely see this trilogy as a set of movies or a mini-series; the cast of developed characters was small, but well-rounded, and the setting was intriguing and easily visualized.

I give this book 3.5 stars.  Having read everything the author has written thus far, I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

You can find Revolutionary HERE.
You can find Krista's website HERE.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson, as part of their booklook bloggers program, in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Veil of Secrets - Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

Melanie Connors has been through the stress and excitement of a campaign battle before, with her father as the candidate.  Now that her husband is running a presidential campaign, and her daughter is involved with the process, she can't ignore the toll it has taken on her marriage and the scars she suffered in her past.  Will loves Melanie, but can't seem to break through to her heart to get their marriage back on track.  How can they find each other again, in the midst of election chaos, while also dealing with potential terrorists, political scandals, and family trouble all around them?

I've said this before about other books, but it fits well here: this is not an easy book to read.  That isn't to say it isn't a good book, or that it doesn't hold the reader's attention, but that there are several trigger areas that may be difficult for many readers.  Marriage struggles, infidelity, miscarriage, unplanned pregnancy, statutory rape, drug and alcohol use, and prostitutes - all topics included in this book.  Logical in the storyline, dealt with sensitively, but there all the same.  The overarching theme of the story is what Will and Melanie have to do to heal their marriage, and whether they're willing to deal with their pasts and their individual mistakes and scars to get to a better place, together.  Their storyline is done well; it's not glossed over, it's not made to seem easy, but they both have to put a lot of work into understanding where the other person is coming from.  Society frequently tells us that if a marriage is broken, it's easier to dispose of it and move on than to invest in the reparation of the relationship.  This book says differently, and it's an important message.

I give this book 4 stars; books that tackle hard topics can't be easy to write, but this book does it well.
I do wish I had known this was book 2, however, because I would have liked knowing some of the characters better from their earlier story.

You can find Veil of Secrets HERE.
You can find Shannon Ethridge's site HERE (along with lots of resources related to the topics she writes about).
You can find Kathryn Mackel's site HERE.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookLook Bloggers program, in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Miracle in a Dry Season - Sarah Loudin Thomas

Perla Long arrives in 1954 Wise, West Virginia with a daughter, no husband, and a mysterious gift with food.  The fatherless daughter raises eyebrows and turns some backs, but when the town experiences a horrible drought, can they allow themselves to see Perla's gift as a miracle, or will they continue to suspect the devil's work?  Can Casewell Phillips see past his initial judgement of Perla to the woman she is and the lessons she can teach if he's willing to open his heart to the God of forgiveness?

I've been in a book slump lately, picking up several books and not getting more than a chapter or two into them before setting them aside.  This novel, however, didn't get set down much at all in the day and a half it took me to read it.  While Perla's gift with food should seem illogical, it fits within the book and serves as a catalyst to change for so many of the characters, bringing healing and forgiveness and opening doors long since closed.  As she says at one point in the book, "All too often sorrow and joy come skipping into your life holding hands."  This could be the summary statement for this book; even as the town withers away within the drought, miracles happen, lives are changed, love is found, and fresh chances are given.

I loved how the author not only weaved together so many stories of characters needing forgiveness, but she used unusual folks to deliver the messages they needed to hear.  For instance, the town drunk, long left alone, turns out to have his own story to tell, and forgiveness to both extend and receive.  As a reader, I felt invested in this small town, its people, and their need for a healed community to move forward.  The circumstances of a drought forcing them to rely on each other and to get past their misconceptions gave depth to a story and intriguing cast of characters.

I give this story 4 stars.  I'm excited that it's the first in a series, and I look forward to reading more from this author!

You can find A Miracle in a Dry Season HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE. (I may have to try the peach cobbler recipe;  I only wish I had seen the apron contest before it ended - my children look adorable in their aprons!)
You can connect with the author on Facebook HERE.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House publishers, in exchange for my honest review.