One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Then I ended up at She Speaks, where I heard her speak, and I took notes and I laughed and I cried and at the end, I finally bought the book.

I'm oh-so-glad that I did.

There is little I feel I can write that hasn't already been written so many times it sounds cliche and worn-out. But they are all true. One Thousand Gifts is achingly real. One Thousand Gifts will change your life (if you let it). One Thousand Gifts is a classic that I will crumple and dog-ear and get water stains on.

One Thousand Gifts will dare you to count. On fingers, in mental melodies, down winding roads, in blog posts, and on notepaper. Count His goodness, count His grace, count His gifts. And open your eyes to see His love.

If I could, I'd give a copy away every day.

About the Author

Ann Voskamp is a bit of a mess. She won a full-tuition scholarship to university and never finished. She married a Farmer and came home to gravel road and cornfields and had babies. A lot of them. Half a dozen. Her laundry basket is never empty. She loses library books. She homeschools their six beautifully exuberant kids and most days feel just a tad bit overwhelmed and very crazy.

She's the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. And everyday, she's just wild enough to take the dare.

Right in the midst of her own messy, gritty, grace-filled life.

The only words that really matter are the ones she lives. This convicts her. She clings to grace.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

I was on quite the Julie Klassen kick the last couple of months. I purchased The Silent Governess and fell in love with Klassen's sparkling, witty dialogue. 

Her excellent portrayal of Regency England put Julie Klassen onto my list of favorite authors. The Girl in the Gatehouse etched her name in stone there.

As I have come to expect from this author, The Girl in the Gatehouse was full of great dialogue that didn't disappoint. Also, the historical accuracy floors me. Even to an ametuer history buff (me), the honest reflection of life in this era is suberb.

Mariah's being a novelist linked me to her from the first page. Interestingly, unlike Klassen's other books, a beguiling prologue is missing from The Girl in the Gatehouse. Yet I truly didn't realize the absence until the day after I read the ending, so, obviously, I didn't miss it that much! On the contrary, I loved how the beginning jumped right into the action and that all wasn't revealed at once.

Instead, the backstory is seamlessly woven in until I was completely caught up in the story. The characters leap off the page, unique and lovely. I so enjoyed witnessing so many transformations as characters lived and loved and learned.
There are a lot of M names in this book that are significant. Mariah discovers how to forgive herself. Matthew realizes that what he wanted and fought for was beneath his nose all the time. Martin metamorpheses from a minor character into my third-favorite person in the whole story. And Maggie pulls at your heartstrings.
I read this book in the last few days of 2011 and it is the best Historical Romance I read all year.
Good thing, too, because I plan on getting a copy of Maid of Fairbourne Hall. Klassen's books just get better and better as she goes on, so I have high hopes of Maid of Fairbourne Hall claiming the title of best Historical Romance I've read this year.

The story shines flawless and the mystery captivates until the very last page. The surprises to discover along the way will bring smiles and the very happy ending almost brought me to tears (now that's the sign of a great book)!

About the Author

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She won a 2010 Christy Award, a 2011 Midwest Book Award, and was a finalist at the 2010 RITA® Awards. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

Pirate of My Heart by Jamie Carie

She gave up everything for a chance at true love...

He wasn't prepared to give up anything for anyone...

First: Isn't that cover spectacular?

I'm a sucker for great covers and pirate stories (I owe that to MaryLu Tyndall and her swashbuckling stories) so when I read Katie's review of Pirate of My Heart, it went on my Christmas list. I finished the book in about a day and overall, found it a very interesting read. With locations as widespread as Yorktown, America, a merchant ship, and Arundel, England, Pirate of My Heart paints an enticing picture of America and England just after the Revolutionary War.

I immediately liked Kendra and Dorian, who come across as very sincere. I laughed at how they "fell in love at first sight" -- my, oh, my did the sparks fly. It was hysterical at times and heartwarming at others.

The element of intrigue and danger was definitely there (another thing I'm a big fan of). Though I felt like Kendra and Dorian were headstrong, reckless, and hasty half the time, they complimented each other well and the spiritual lessons they learned in this story are relevant and encouraging.

I have to agree with Katie that this is probably not Jamie Carie's best work. The beginning starts off very slowly and I had a hard time getting into it.

I found the scene breaks very confusing as sometimes the point-of-view changed at the end of a page and I got whiplash trying to figure out which character's head I was in. (And one time head-hopping was going on and I was very confused.) Also I felt like one character with villainous potential wasn't entirely developed. Finally, the ending left me with some unanswered questions.

Overall, this was an entertaining read that has convinced me I need to check out more of Jamie Carie's books.

About the Author

Jamie Carie is the author of Snow Angel, a ForeWord magazine Romance Book of the Year winner, USA Book News National "Best Books 2007" Awards winner, and 2008 RITA Awards® Best First Book finalist. Her third novel, Wind Dancer, was a 2010 Indiana State Library Best Books of Indiana finalist. She lives with her husband and three children in Indianapolis.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

Rippler by Cidney Swanson

What if you could become invisible?  Samantha can - and someone wants her dead.

This book has a little something for everyone. A strong heroine that's also a bit of a misfit. A hero that's funny and sweet. A little history. A little mystery. A little danger.

Rippler was a great read that I really enjoyed. I was plunged into the story literally from the beginning, clicking through pages (I read the Kindle version) like mad trying to figure out what was happening. Sometimes when I feel lost like that in the beginning, I'm frustrated and unhappy. But not this time. The story starts with a bang but doesn't seem too fast. That momentum is kept up throughout the book, too. Cidney Swanson did a wonderful job of pacing ~ Making me wonder what was going to happen next while still intriguing me. I liked that a lot.

This book has a one-of-a-kind premise. I mean, read that back cover copy. Rippling? Vanishing? Invisible? Really? As a result, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but on a good recommendation, I bought it for a dollar and now I'm glad I checked it out and look forward to reading the next two!

Just like Emily Rachelle, I'm giving this book four stars. I really want to give it five, but there is a little bit of language scattered throughout the story that, in my opinion, was distracting, unnecessary, and pulled me out of the story. 

About the Author

Cidney Swanson is the author of The Ripple Series. She began writing at age seven; her first novel began with “Ouch,” and her characters have been suffering ever since. Cidney lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, three kids, two cats, one dog, and entirely too much rain. 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

Halflings by Heather Burch

I adored the suction power of the opening lines and pages of this book. From the first moment I met Nikki, I was drawn into her world, into the mystery she's caught up in, and the danger she's running from. The magnetism is my favorite part of this story...and I can already tell that I can look forward to the whole series being the same way.

Heather Burch's writing style is stunning. I realized that when I read the prequel for the first time. Amazing. And the perfect sneak peek at what the book would bring.

The storytelling is just as good as the writing. From the first, the mood was set for this one-of-a-kind adventure story where Nikki and her strange protectors are fighting not only for their lives ~ but for something much, much bigger. I don't usually appreciate being left out of the loop until so late into the book (and I still feel as I've only just begun to scratch the surface of just what makes these Halflings tick) but this story unfolded at the perfect pace to keep me thinking, guessing, and looking forward to reading more.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up to participate in this blog tour. I had no idea what a Halfling was, but they sounded so intriguing and the book promised to be so good. I was happy to see that Heather Burch never distorts Scripture in any way ~ but she does weave an edge-of-your-seat story that plunges your imagination into a unique adventure! So though the premise of this story and half-angels unnerved me at first, I have no complaints. It's an entertaining debut novel that promises great things from this author. 

About the Author

Heather Burch grew up in Branson, Missouri, where she learned to love fiction. She then married into a family of published novelists and quickly learned writing was her heart's desire. When she's not working on her latest book, Heather can be found watching a sunset at a beach near her home in Southern Florida, along with her sons Jake and Isaac, and husband, John--who is her hero in every way.

Find Heather on Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads

Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

This story literally dropped me in the middle of a chase scene that I couldn't get enough of. From the expertly-done prologue (the perfect example of a prologue that enhances the story) to the mysterious plot that kept me turning pages, The Silent Governess does not disappoint.

Julie Klassen's writing style fascinates me. She has honed a delectable blend of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to bring this English era to life in a way that will captivate lovers of historicals and reel in those who love adventure.

The dazzling descriptions and the subtle way Olivia and Edward fall in love is totally swoon-worthy and made me wish the story (already a good 400 pages long) could continue.

The ending is so unexpected. The breathtaking mystery that had me anxious about how it would all turn out was wrapped up so beautifully that I literally sat back and thought, "I did NOT see that coming!" It's so nice when an author defies the cliche and brings about a resolution that I couldn't foresee.

I honestly can't think of a single thing to write about that I didn't like in The Silent Governess. It was the first I read by Julie Klassen and by far my favorite of her works.

About the Author

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She is a fiction editor and novelist. Her book, The Silent Governess, won a 2010 Christy Award and was also a finalist in the Minnesota Book Awards, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and Romance Writers of America's RITA Awards. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.

Read my review of The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

Bourne by Lisa T. Bergren

I've been eagerly awaiting this next chapter of the River of Time Series ever since I finished Torrent and realized that more was on the way! I was so excited when Lisa T. Bergren announced that there would be an e-novella!

Bourne starts right where Torrent left off. In the middle of adventure, drama, and action!

I must confess I was a little nervous that perhaps Bourne wouldn't have the same feel of the other three books ~ that maybe something would have changed or that I wouldn't like Lia's point-of-view. Nah. My fears were unfounded and my expectations surpassed! I finished Bourne in a day and Lisa T. Bergren had me cheering, sighing, laughing, wincing, and rooting for the characters the whole way through ~ as usual!

The turmoil, the triumph, the laughs, the life in this book just dazzle from he first word. I loved every minute of this story! My favorite part was how I felt so much ~ Gabi's realization that she bears certain responsibilities, Lia's wrestling with seeing a different side of Luca ~ all the heartache and joy just blasted from the page (er, screen).

My only complaint is that Bourne is about 1/3 the size of the other three River of Time novels and I was so not ready for the ending! That said, it was a great ending. At one point, I was reading through my fingers because I was so nervous...but that's all I'll say! No spoilers!

About the Author

Lisa T. Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 30 books, with more than 1.5 million copies sold. Lisa’s time is split between managing home base, writing (including a fair amount of travel writing), consulting and freelance editing (with a little speaking here and there). She’s married to Tim, a liturgical sculptor, graphic designer and musician. They have three kids–Olivia, Emma, and Jack. The Bergrens make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

Though the beginning started out slowly, the tension gradually builds to an adventure-and-action-packed plot in The Doctor's Lady. I read this book in less than twenty-four hours, drawn in by the development of the characters and details of what the trip West was like for the first female to cross the Continental Divide.

I enjoyed how Priscilla and Eli interacted with one another. They learned to trust one another achingly slowly, which at times made me want to shout, "Just tell her what you're thinking!" But, of course, there is little reality in fiction if characters always agree with each other or give everything away. I really liked that Priscilla and Eli became friends before they ever fell in love--and it was a rocky road to that end!

Most fascinating was the spiritual growth that Priscilla and Eli experienced. The trip to Oregon Country taxed them both to their limits and there were a lot of scenes in which danger played a major role and my heart pumped fast! I was sorry to see the story end.

The slow beginning and the necessity of packing a months long journey West into a book caused me to get a "choppy" feeling every once in a while. I would have liked to see some of the scenes ended a little later rather than turning a page and discovering two days (or weeks!) had gone by.

Also, sometimes I thought the dialogue sounded unrealistic, but Eli's words closely fit his background and if viewed in that light, are a good representation of his character.

All in all, The Doctor's Lady was a very interesting book with a storyline like none I have ever seen before. The premise was entirely original and the plot fascinating at every twist and turn. I intend to check out Jody Hedlund's other book, The Preacher's Bride.

About the Author

Jody Hedlund, author of The Preacher's Bride, was a double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest in Historical Romance. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.