Dec 272011
 

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. :) Thanks for getting those lines stuck in my head, Julie Cross. haha

This year was full of great reads, but only a small collection hit 5/5 stars on my chart. For this giveaway, I’m offering them to you!


Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop (Dec 27 – 31)

Best of 2011The year is quickly coming to an end. It’s time to spotlight my favorite reads of 2011.

The Rules: The giveaway should be for one of the blogger’s favorite reads of 2011. It can be a book that was released in 2011 or a book read in 2011. Alternately bloggers may include a list of favorite 2011 reads for the winner to choose from. Prizes may be provided as a gift card. No erotica (a reminder for me). This blog hop is sponsored by I’m a Reader Not a Writer.

I’ve opted to present a list for my wonder readers. One winner will have the opportunity to choose a book from my favorite reads of the year. All 5 star reads and highly recommended by yours truly.

Prizes (winner’s choice)

Click on image to read my review

As always, entering is easy. :)

  • You’ll earn 1 point for completing the form.
  • An additional point for sharing the giveaway and leave the link (Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Linked, MySpace, etc.). *OPTIONAL*
  • Sign up for my newsletter for an additional 2 points. *OPTIONAL* See special incentive note below.
  • Comments are appreciated, but only entries from the form count.
  • Giveaway ends Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 11:59 PM ET.
  • Please read the giveaway policy for the nitty gritty.

Special note about my newsletter. Starting in January, I’m starting subscriber-only monthly giveaways in addition to the blog giveaways. If you’re already a subscriber, you’re already entered.

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Nov 052011
 

Long live NetGalley and their abundant selection of books! Yeah… I’m hooked. Treasuring Emma is the second book I’ve received from Netgalley which featured Kathleen Fuller. The first, was a novella in a short story anthology called An Amish Love (see review here). Let’s see how Treasuring Emma panned out. But first, the review from Ms. Fuller’s website:

Emma always put the needs of others ahead of her own. When will it be her turn to be treasured?

Adam was her first love and best friend. But then he went away. Determined to experience the freedom of living in the Englisch world, he left Emma heart-broken. How could he have chosen the world over her? Now Adam is back in Middlefield and Emma can’t seem to keep him away from her family’s farm. But this time she’s determiend to guard her heart. It might be love that keeps him there . . . or perhaps just guilt. When a newcomer arrives in town and shows an interest in Emma, she dismisses Adam’s insistence that she be cautious. All this attention is new to her and she doesn’t know quite how to accept it. Emma knows her Heavenly Father treasures her. But will her new beau?

I know the book was supposed to be about Emma, but my first major thoughts about the book were, what in the world is going on with Emma’s sister, Clara? She lived in an Amish community where I thought materialism was frowned upon. Yet here was a woman who seemed obsessed with finances. I loved how human she was. :)

I completely sympathized with Clara and her husband, Peter. I’ve been were Clara was, fretting over the lack of money, wondering what I could do to relieve the financial stress, feeling trapped in a situation with no respite. It was nice to see members of the Amish community portrayed as less than pure. This does not mean at all I want to see them fail. It’s just comforting to know they face similar demons as the Englisch, yet still find the Godly strength to overcome the trials.

Then there was Clara’s wandering eyes. Truly she seemed like a fair weather friend: with her husband during good times, but seeking elsewhere for companionship during rough times. She wasn’t at all endearing, yet I felt sorry for her and her inability to find joy.

Lucky for Clara, Mark (Peter’s cousin) was more than willing to fill her need for companionship… maybe. Mark was an anomaly in the story. I didn’t get him. Was he a sociopath? I remember thinking at one time, the only thing which could keep this from being a 5 star read is if Mark didn’t pan out. He did well and had sufficient motivation for his villainous ways.

So I’ve talked about everyone but Emma… almost. Granny was awesome too. :)

So Emma. The poor girl was tugged in every direction. She knew what she wanted (most of the time) and had no problem expressing herself. Yet she was constantly bombarded with the desires of others, and put under pressure to make a choice between what she thought was best for her peace of mind and what would please others. She faced a tough struggle. She knew others imposed on her unfairly, but her Amish upbringing valued putting others before self.

I just loved the realistic, worldly problems in the Amish setting.

The introduction of a final character toward the end, Laura, was a bit shaky in the presentation, but overall, I quite enjoyed myself. I’m definitely curious about this Laura gal. Hopefully she’ll be the star in the sequel. 4.5-5 out of 5 stars.

Treasuring Emma by Kathleen Fuller is available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

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Oct 232011
 

Cinderella’s Prince Charming is divorced and at a dead-end in his career, so he opens a bookstore and travels the land ordering books and discovering new authors. Still handsome and still charming, he has given up on women, royalty, and anything that smacks of a future.

Mellie is sick and tired of being called the Evil Stepmother. She did her best by her stepdaughter Snow White, but the girl resented her to no end and made all kinds of false accusations.

Neither of them believes in happily ever after anymore, but both of them believe in happily for the moment…

Why I Picked It Up: Mark Fassett and I were talking books for some reason or another… oh that’s right! because we’re authors and that’s what authors do way too much. He asked me if I’d picked up her latest book (which was free on Amazon). Nope… never heard of her. Come to find out, she’s the wife of Dean Wesley Smith. Okay. That’s a name I’ve heard before. So I headed to Amazon to pick up this title. Besides the nifty looking cover, the time travel situation really sounds awesome!

Available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts. Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game. A magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death, The winning house ruling the Weir. As if his bizarre magical heritage isn’t enough, Jack finds out that he s not just another member of Weirlind, he’s one of the last of the warriors at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. Jack’s performance on the soccer field has alerted the entire magical community to the fact that he’s in Trinity. And until one of the houses is declared Jack’s official sponsor, they’ll stop at nothing to get Jack to fight for them.

Why I Picked It Up: I guess the author is coming out with a new book for this series. To celebrate, she offered the first at NetGalley. The plot sounded so cool, I totally had to take her up on her offer.

Available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

Every other day, Kali D’Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She’s human.

And then every day in between . . .She’s something else entirely.

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she’ll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.

Why I Picked It Up: Originally, I wasn’t going to bother with this book. It just seemed so iffy to my tastes. Then I saw a mini-trailer on Goodreads and said, why not? So here we have it. This NetGalley takeaway will go to the top of my list come the end of November.

Available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

Emma has put everyone else first in her life. Now at nearly 25, has she missed her chance at marriage?

Emma was Adam’s first love but circumstances made them both choose different paths in life. Emma’s heart breaks all over again when Adam returns to the Amish community of Middlefield, Ohio, years later.

For the past ten years, Emma has been raising her siblings after their parents’ untimely death. She’s put their needs above her own and now, with them grown, she can focus on herself and her dream of opening a yarn store in the vacant cider house on her land.

With Adam’s return come feelings Emma’s long buried. They’re older and life hasn’t turned out the way they thought it would. Adam’s feelings for Emma are stronger than ever, but will he be able to convince her to put others aside and give their love a chance?

Why I Picked It Up: So you know, I’ve been on an Amish romance kick. What can I say? I’m hooked. Interesting tidbit, the publishing company has put a limit on the  number of NetGalley reads I can checkout at a time. :) Slow down, Reena. First read what you have, then you can ask for another. I just knocked out two of their books, so I might try for another even though I’m just starting Treasuring Emma tonight.

Available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

An inspired re-imagining of the tale of Esther, a young Jewish woman thrust from a life of obscurity into a life of power, wealth, intrigue . . . and tender love.

See the story of Esther in an entirely new way-with all the political intrigue and tension you remember, but told as a passionate and tender love story between a young man and woman. Misunderstood by many, King Xerxes was a powerful but lonely man. Esther’s beauty caught the eye of the young king, but it was her spirit that captured his heart.

Imagine anew the story of Esther, one of our faith’s great heroines, destined to play a key role in the history of Christianity.

Why I Picked It Up: Esther in the bible has one of my favorite biblical stories. I just couldn’t resist checking this one out. This is also another offering by the publisher above. I just finished reading it today and will be posting my review for October 31, 2011. Let’s see if the publisher will allow me to checkout another work from NetGalley now that this one is ready for review.

Available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

What goodies did you get in this week?

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Oct 222011
 

Originally, I’d plan to space out reading and reviewing the stories in An Amish love by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Long. Once I started, I just kept going, and here we are today — ready for the review. But first, the blurb from Goodreads:

Two of today’s most popular genres–Romance and Amish fiction–together in one volume.

“Healing Hearts” by Beth Wiseman: Levina Lapp and her husband Naaman are alone for the first time in 30 years. When Naaman left to visit cousins in Ohio, Levina wasn’t expecting him to be gone a year. Now that he’s back, will they be able to move beyond this estrangement and fall in love again?

“What the Heart Sees” by Kathleen Fuller: A tragic accident rocks a peaceful Amish community, leaving Ellie Chupp blinded and Christopher Bender’s future shattered. But they find love and forgiveness in a place they least expect.

“A Marriage of the Heart” by Kelly Long: Rachel Yoder is tired of her Amish lifestyle and her domineering father’s ways. When handsome Joseph Lambert comes back from the Englisch, she lies to force a marriage of convenience, providing the perfect means to escape her father’s rule. But Rachel never imagined she’d fall in love with Joseph so quickly or irrevocably.

I particularly liked the first story, A Marriage of the Heart. An Amish man (Joseph Lambert) returns to the community after a bann and is forced into marriage in order to protect the honor of a deceitful young Amish woman (Abigail Kauffman). The first thoughts which came to mind was this couple was unequally yoked. Early, I worried Abigail would lead Joseph astray. It was beautiful the way love and patience transformed the couple so they both ended up pulling in the same direction. 4.5 – 5 out of 5 stars. Definitely my fave of the three.

What the Heart Sees was quite enjoyable, though the ending was a bit rushed. Still, it held my interest throughout though. In this story, we have an Amish man (Christopher Bender) wanting to reenter the community after a bann but his inability to forgive another member interferes with his desires. Helping him through his journey is blind Amish woman (Ellie Chupp) who believes her blindness makes her undesirable for marriage. I think this work would have been much stronger if so much information weren’t withheld from the reader. The information was doled out in a way that left me (as a reader) in the dark but offered no suspense. But like I said, the over all story kept me interested. 3.5 – 4 out of 5 stars.

The final work, Healing Hearts started out wonderful. I absolutely loved the idea of an older couple falling in love again. Though I’m far from their age, I could truly relate to their situation. My biggest issue is the story dragged out too long, and the characters got a little silly stupid toward the end. Partway through the story, a side character (Larry) was introduced with minimum information. Though he played a significant role to keep the story moving beyond the happily ever after, I knew so little about him, I lacked interest in his story line. 3 out of 5 stars.

One thing interesting about this collection, all the stories were in the same setting. Not just an Amish environment, but in the exact same town so that characters from on story mingled with characters in the other stories. Now isn’t that cool?

An Amish Love is available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

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