Review: Mocha Sunrise by Julie Carobini

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Best friends Livi, Bri and Gaby love each other like sisters, including telling it to each other straight even when the truth hurts. When Livi is mentally tortured by her antagonistic cousin/roommate, Bri and Gaby give Livi good advice – that she fails to follow.

Then Caleb enters the picture. Though he’s fighting his own demons, he forms a trifecta with Bri and Gaby to defend Livi. They push Livi to get out of her rut, push through, face her fears, make some decisions.

I like that Julie Carobini writes this story based on friendship, and maintains that main plot even while other things are happening to Livi – getting arrested, having job problems, meeting a new guy. I read a lot of contemporary romances, and none seem to hold the friendships in as high a regard as the romantic relationship. Mocha Sunrise focuses on the strength of friendship even while the best friends have romance in their lives.

I totally loved seeing Livi and Caleb find themselves as individuals and come together as a couple. Their transformations were amazing – from two uncertain and uneasy characters to honest and discerning people who were so authentic that I shed tears for them. 🙂

I appreciated Carobini’s hopeful and uplifting messages delivered by Caleb. And as I read Mocha Sunrise I felt a sense of peace and joy. How appropriate for this Christmas season.

-calliope

buy MOCHA SUNRISE

Review: Hazardous Duty (Squeaky Clean Mysteries #1) by Christy Barritt

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Since I’m on a mystery roll, I scoured my early kindle purchases for a fun cozy mystery title. Hazardous Duty fit the bill. It reminds me of Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum books – but subtler, cleaner, and with a smidge of God talk in there.

Gabby is a crime scene cleaner, so she runs into murders and mayhem all the time. Difference is, usually no one tries to kill her! Gabby tries to help a friend and solve a crime while maneuvering around politics and a dirty politician. Between trying to save her own life, spending time in her apartment house of quirky friends, and trying not to fall in love with a man anything like her loser dad, Gabby is a little bit scattered and a lot scared!

Thanks to two new friends who happen to be male, good-looking, and on the right side of the law, Gabby makes it to the end of the book alive. On her way, a little seed of faith is planted, and I can’t wait to see where it takes her in Book 2.

This is a deal at 99¢, and so good that I gladly paid $10 for book 2. 🙂 Yes. I did.

-Calliope

buy HAZARDOUS DUTY

Review: Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

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I loved this sweet YA novel about two teenagers – Amish Zach and Englisch Micah. They start out as pen pals, have a big misunderstanding, and end up as friends (with a hint of maybe more).

This is a perfect, clean, appropriate relationship story for ages 11 and up. Carlson makes the dialogue come to life, and shows authentic teenage emotions and behavior. I was invested in Zach and Micah’s relationship. I wanted their friendship to work out. Carlson provided a wonderful balance of heartbreak, emotional baggage, family obstacles; and authoritative understanding, blessings, and reaping what you sow.

I especially enjoyed the contrast in the dynamics between Zach/his mom and Micah/her dad. Zach’s actions showed integrity and courage! And even despite teenage angst, mutual respect and a happily ever after won in the end.

Trading Secrets is a fun, smart, contemporary take on the Amish and their relationship to the Englisch world. Its characters are relatable and flawlessly written. It’s neither preachy nor smarmy. I certainly hope this is the beginning of a series so I can keep reading – and then place on the coffee table for my pre-teen daughters.

-Calliope
buy TRADING SECRETS

Review: A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, by Sarah E. Ladd

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“I think she is looking for her family, looking for a place to belong. But I want us to be her family, and she belongs with me.”

When I received this ARC, I was super excited, because I was hoping this story would be another I could share with my daughter. And boy, was I right!! This is another perfect romance book. I know it’s a Christian book, and many would assume anyone could read it. But some are geared toward adults and have lot more adult feelings. But this was about young people, so it had a bit less adult feelings and more coming of age feelings. If that makes any sense.

Synopsis, via Goodreads
Willowgrove Hall is full of secrets, but soon everything hidden is brought to light.

Cecily Faire has a secret—and she intends to keep it. But when she arrives at Willowgrove Hall to serve as a lady’s companion, she comes face-to-face with the only person who knows the truth about her past.

As the steward of Willowgrove Hall, Nathaniel Stanton is dedicated to serving those around him. Nothing escapes his notice—including the beautiful new lady’s companion. He is certain the lovely Miss Faire is hiding something, and he determines to uncover it. But Nathaniel has a secret of his own: he is the illegitimate son of Willowgrove’s former master. Falling in love was not part of his plans . . . until he meets Cecily Faire.

When Willowgrove’s mistress dies, everything changes. Fear of exposure forces Cecily to leave under the cover of darkness, embarking on a journey to finally find her long-lost sister. When the will is read, Nathaniel’s inheritance makes him question his future plans. Cecily and Nathaniel are forced to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Is their love strong enough to survive?

I could feel all the emotions, and I loved it!!

Cecily has been brought to Willowgrove, to be lady’s companion, but comes face to face with someone, from her past. He was someone she never thought she’d see again. But having him here is a constant reminder of the secrets and shame she has had to live with. But keeping it secret takes it’s toll on her, especially when she meets Nathaniel.

Nathaniel is the steward of Willowgrove and is drawn to Cecily, but he refuses to do anything about it, since his own secrets could bring about shame and dishonor to his whole family. He tries to stay away and do his job, but it’s proving hard, when she is just down the hall, everyday.

But when secrets are relieved, can they still move on?? And are the secrets really worth the torment of keeping them inside??

Beautiful and sweet romance. Exactly the way I was hoping it would be.

~Melpomene

Release date: 10-7-14
Pre order A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (Whispers On The Moors Book 3)

Review: Death of the Couch Potato’s Wife by Christy Barritt

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I like a nice, easy, cozy mystery once in a while. Especially before I begin a more complex read. Well, Death of the Couch Potato’s Wife fit the bill for a cute mystery requiring little effort.

Laura and her husband move to a small town from Chicago, and have to adjust to their new surroundings. At the same time, there’s a murder in the neighborhood, and Laura joins in the investigation.

I liked the friendship aspect of this story more than the mystery part. The mystery was a little hokey and far-reaching, frankly. But the relationships among the women could have been developed further … The women were likeable and strong.

This was a Christian mystery, but there was no preaching, and just a smattering of mentions of God. This was another area that could’ve been developed more, as Laura tended to think about God when she was worries about her marriage, and marriage is a pretty hefty topic!

The marriage survived, the murderer was caught, and the friendships thrived. All’s well that ends well.

When *you’re* ready for a break from some heavy reading, pick up a cozy mystery.

Now I’m off to read some Anne Rivers Siddons. *waves*

-Calliope

buy DEATH OF THE COUCH POTATO’S WIFE

Review: Made for More by Hannah Anderson

20140401-231307.jpg Made for More explains how each of us is made in God’s image, for purposes beyond what we can see. The more often we choose to live in God’s image, the closer we come to trusting Him and letting go of our worries.

My family is adjusting to some new situations right now, and we will experience more changes in the coming months. This Spring I’ve been feeling in limbo… not where I’m accustomed, and not yet where I’ll soon be. So far it’s been emotionally difficult. I vacillate between sitting lazily on the couch (“I give up”) and feeling restless… like there must be something more to these months of my life. I’m not meant to just sit around and wait for the next chapter, right?!

So I picked up Made for More. Reading it gave me an authoritative nudge to live each day in God’s image. Helping others, doing mundane chores, loving my family, and working at my job outside the home all need to be done for God’s glory and with my eyes on Him. Hannah Anderson explains that looking for ways we can glorify God in our CURRENT lives (yep, even my crazy limbo life) is the way to reflect God’s image. And whenever we reflect God’s image, we become more like Him.

I know I need to get off the couch. God put me here for much more than being a bystander to all his glorious world. Since I’ve been nudged, I will take more opportunities to serve Him and trust him throughout my day. Everyday.

-Calliope

Buy MADE FOR MORE

Review: Dating, Dining and Desperation (a Dear Daphne novel) by Melody Carlson

20140301-231459.jpg Newly released book two in a series, Carlson’s Dear Daphne novel is just as fun as book one. Dating, Dining and Desperation is exceptionally written with heartwarming characters, flawless dialogue, and a thread of faith in God.

In this installment, Daphne tries her hand at dating a few men one after the other. Her dating capers felt real — and I sympathized with Daphne having to endure some of those guys! When she finally re-focuses, an old friend takes notice and opens up about his feelings for her. Before he does, Daphne rounds out her life by spending time with her neighbors, befriending a neglected little girl, and trying to finish her novel.

I am charmed and completely won over by Daphne. She is good-hearted, keeps mostly to herself, is willing to step out of her comfort zone (with a nudge), and can be a little bit goofy. Her faith in letting The Lord sort out her life is exemplary, and she sticks to her values no matter what is going on around her. But Daphne is no goody two shoes. Carlson shows us what’s in Daphne’s head: insecurities, jealousy, complaining, hopelessness, uncertainty. And while we the readers hear Daphne’s inner sighs and see her eye-rolls, she makes sure she puts her best and most Godly step forward whenever possible.

Carlson says book 3 will be out soon. I’ve already googled (in futility) looking for a release date. I’m going to have to practice some patience while I await Home, Heart and Holidays, as well as the fourth and final book.

–Calliope

Buy Dating, Dining and Desperation

Review: Sarasota Dreams by Debby Mayne

20140228-144652.jpg Sarasota Dreams is the compilation of three novellas. Each novella focuses on a Mennonite man and woman and their search for romance.

I like Amish/Mennonite fiction, and Debby Mayne writes it well. I appreciated that we could see what the men AND women were thinking. Abe had to figure out how to make Mary trust him. Jeremiah had to prove his faithfulness to God before Shelley would let herself fall in love, and Charles had to commit to becoming Mennonite so Ruthie’s reputation wouldn’t suffer.

Besides the romances being very well written, Mayne illustrated her knowledge of the Mennonite lifestyle without making the novellas feel like documentaries. The reader gets more than a glimpse of small business management (diner and souvenir shop), farming, and church life.

These were three lovely, realistic, fun, clean romances. The loyalty to family and community was comforting, and the food sounded delicious. Bring on some coconut cream pie!

–Calliope

New Release March 1!

Buy Sarasota Dreams

Review: Otter Bay series by Julie Carobini

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I just finished a few books in the Otter Bay series. Set in a small town on the northwest coast, Otter Bay offers a tiny Main Street with the necessities: a coffee shop, a diner, a church. A little further out of town are the Pines, some cottages, and some winding mountain roads.

All this beauty provides the backdrop for new beginnings. Whether it’s Diner owner Peg’s niece Holly looking for her family, or Gage and Callie starting a life together, or Suz learning to be a single mother — and (gasp) start dating, the water in Otter Bay has heart-and-soul-cleansing properties.

Heartfelt family dynamics, strong but sweet heroes, and heroines searching for something – or someone – recur in the Otter Bay novels. This series is similar to Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, but with a slightly (non-preachy, yet inspired) Christian slant.

Julie’s novels uplift me, give me hope, and give me a case of Happily-Ever-After sighs. If you’re in the mood for inspirational and sweet stories with romance in the plot, read Julie Carobini!

–Calliope

Only 99¢-$2.99!
Buy them now:
A Shore Thing
Fade to Blue
Sweet Waters

New releases for November 12, 2013

I’m actually quite happy with the low amount of books this week. I can’t keep up with all the past ones I’ve purchased. It’s nice to have a break. The funny thing is that the first two were released yesterday!

17840487Working It: A Love by Design Novel
I can’t wait to read this book! I’m saving it for my birthday treat. I plan on doing nothing but read, and this is the first book I’m starting with. I’ve really enjoyed all of Kendall’s books, so I know I’ll enjoy this as well.

18166194Infinite Possibilities (Contemporary New Adult) (The Secret Life of Amy Bensen)
After the last book, Escaping Reality, left us with a cliffy, I am dying to read this book as well. So don’t even look for me tomorrow. I’m gonna be busy. 🙂

17628631 Plain Peace (A Daughters of the Promise Novel)
And while this may not seem like my normal read, I’ve read the first 5 books in the Daughters of Promise series. This is #6. So I know I’ll be reading it as well. I sometimes enjoy the simpleness of the Amish life and reading about it gives me a glimpse into it.

Happy Reading!!

Don’t forget to enter the 2nd birthday week giveaway, on our Facebook page!!

~Melpomene