12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you like mystery, intrigue, and best of all, Christmas, then you should definitely read this book.

We’re introduced to Clara Chapman in the first chapter. Her circumstances have declined in the past year and worse than that, her former fiancé betrayed her leaving her broken hearted and in need of money. When a mysterious letter arrives inviting her to stay twelve days at Bleakly Manor with the possibility to earn 500 pounds if she manages to stay the entire time, her aunt convinces her to go.

Benjamin Lane is in a rather worse place: prison. For a crime he didn’t commit. Betrayed by the woman he loves. He is expecting to be shipped to Australia, but instead receives a similar invitation to Clara’s, but with a different prize.

The former couple is thrown together at Bleakley Manor along with several other…interesting characters. It turns out that only one person can win their specific prize and people are beginning to leave one by one. Who invited them? Why are so many accidents happening? What in the world is going on in this manor?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I love Christmas and I love mysteries so I was super ready to read a Christmas mystery. The book had me hooked with all of its unanswered questions leading to a satisfying conclusion. And I’ll admit, while I did guess a couple of the mysteries, I did not guess why they were invited to that manor nor who invited them.

Sometimes when there’s a big mystery like this, you build up expectation and can sometimes be really let down with the reveal. With this book, I was pleased with the reveal and did enjoy it, but it wasn’t one that made me super giddy with excitement. Still, it is a book I would recommend and will likely read again.

Advertisements

All This Time by Melissa Tagg

I received this book free from Melissa Tagg
in exchange for an honest review.

It wasn’t too terribly long ago that I didn’t know who Melissa Tagg was, but I’m so glad I do now. I was privileged to get Like Never Before to review and fell in love with her writing. And now I get to review her newest book –and the last in the Walker family series: All This Time.

Once I knew that I was going to get an advanced reader’s copy of All This Time, I decided that I would start with the novella and work my way through the entire series in preparation for reading the fourth and final (excuse me, while I wipe away my tears) book in the series, especially since I hadn’t actually read them all yet.

I loved every single one of them. Seriously, they were all good. I think the novella and the first two books are a bit lighter and the latter two a bit heavier, but it might just seem that way to me as I could really relate to the loss of a mother and anxiety. Beckett’s story was probably the hardest for me to read –yeah, I cried- but it was so good. I love that Melissa’s books are more than just romantic fluff; she deals with some deep issues and hurts that many people can relate to. I know I did.

34564856

Through the novella and first three novels, we see that there is something between Bear and Raegan, but there is also something keeping them apart. We’ve been waiting patiently and now we finally get to see their story unfold in All This Time.

“Bear’s past refuses to let go.”

From the previous books in the series, we don’t really know anything about Bear’s past; nor does anyone in Maple Valley. This is purposeful on Bear’s part as he wishes his tumultuous past to remain a secret. As the story of his past unfolds, we are able to learn even more about Bear and his character. About his decisions, his sacrifices, his family. He has been trying to run from this past, but his running is over when he unexpectedly has his niece and nephew thrust upon him and a mystery about what is happening to his family.

“Fear holds Raegan’s future captive.”

Raegan has been struggling with fear for a long time; she has even abandoned one of her passions: art. She tries to appear happy, or at least content, to the people of Maple Valley, and even her family, as she struggles to keep an important secret from everyone she knows.

Image result for all this time melissa tagg

Melissa Tagg weaves a wonderful tale in All This Time that deals with Bear and Raegan having to come to terms with the past and finally getting to a point where they can move on with their lives without the trials of their pasts weighing them down. But first, their secrets will have to be revealed to those they love; those they would most like to hide them from, so that they can finally heal.

Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn

I received this book in my swag bag at the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat (CFRR) and it was the first one I read as it was small and I was waiting for the next book in the current series I was reading. I love suspense/mystery, but I’m not really into Amish fiction; although I’m not actually sure if I’ve ever read one before, it just hasn’t seemed to interest me.

Anyway, I decided to give this one a try. The main character is Rebecca Miller, a former Amish girl who decided to leave the faith after her rumspringa. She also happens to be deaf. During her rumspringa, she and three other teenagers were kidnapped and held in a basement for two days. Only three of them were found alive.

The book begins when Rebecca is 25 or 26 years old, 10 years after the attack. She is a rather nervous person after what she’s been through, especially considering she can’t hear an attacker coming. Dana starts with the action right away. Seriously, the suspense starts building on the first page and something big happens on page three. I think every single chapter had something big happen, keeping up the intensity and suspense; it was fantastic.

It’s one of those small books that you can read in a day or two, and I tend not to get those too much because the stories don’t feel too fleshed out, but this one did not have that problem. I felt like I had read a regular sized novel. The story and the way she set up the plot were very enjoyable.

Another aspect of the novel that I loved was the look at deaf culture. The associate pastor at the church where I both attend and work and his wife adopted a young girl from Haiti (who is now 21 or 22) who turned out to be deaf. This caused them to learn ASL to speak with their daughter. The wife started a class at our church teaching sign language and I attended. It has been a wonderful experience getting to know her daughter better, learning ASL (to an extent), and learning about deaf culture. It seems like she really did her research into deaf culture (I’m not sure if Dana has any history with deaf people) because everything she said matches what I learned.

For example, you would think that parents of a deaf child would learn sign language to speak with their child, at least if it’s available, but many do not or only learn enough to get by. Imagine how isolating that would be? That’s why Rebecca decides to no longer be Amish. Only two of her siblings can really sign and she can’t even understand a sermon as no one is signing it to her. Once she leaves, she is able to actually learn more about God and grow closer to him as more resources are made available to her.

Dana also mentions some of the technology like lights that flash when someone rings the doorbell or a relay service where she can sign to an interpreter who will talk to the hearing person on the other end of the line and then sign back to the deaf person what the hearing person says.

This is a book I would recommend to friends. It’s suspenseful, informative, and enjoyable. I’m glad I read it, and I’ll probably read it again.

Fun Weekend, Including CFRR!

Last weekend was amazing! My best friend Michaela (a.k.a, Baker Kella) drove up from North Carolina and we had a super fun filled weekend.

We started the fun on Thursday after I got home from work. We decided to try out an escape room, which neither of us had ever done before. It was a blast! There was some confusion when we signed up and we ended up in the Harry Potter room instead of the Sherlock Holmes room like we wanted, but it was fun. We went in with a, I want to say grandmother, and five kids. Watching them and their excitement was half the fun. We enjoyed it so much, that we stayed for the next room and got to do the Sherlock Holmes escape room! This time we were with adults. Seriously, I can’t tell you how much fun it was! I will definitely be doing some more. Oh, I almost forgot. We had the third fastest time for completing the Sherlock Holmes room! Although I think it was mostly the other people. But we did help a bit! I promise! Anyway, we loved it.

On Friday, we drove over to Cincinnati and went straight to the zoo! Oh, how I love zoos. Although some of the places in which animals are kept are kind of sad. Like the ones that seem way too small or nothing like their natural habitat. But for the most part, it was really fun and we spent six hours there! Needless to say, we left there completely exhausted.

On Sunday (don’t worry, I know I skipped Saturday), we stopped by this cool little castle that a man built for a group of kids to have their club in and we stopped at Findlay Market.

Okay, now the best part of the weekend: the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat!!!! This post is probably going to be really long as I have A LOT to say about CFRR. I might have to make this a two parter.

CFRR is an amazing event that brings together readers and writers. We started off by waiting in line to check-in and get our swag bags (I love swag bags!) and were able to have some fun conversations with other attendees in line. Once we got in, we were able to go ahead and say hello to a few authors. I didn’t think I was the fangirling kind, but it turns out I am. Especially when meeting Melissa Tagg!!!

I even got to sit by Melissa during part of the conference. AND during lunch, we were sitting at round tables and on my left was Courtney Walsh with Becky Wade next to her and on my right was Dawn Crandall with Katie Ganshert next to her. I WAS SURROUNDED BY AMAZING AUTHORS AND IT WAS AWESOME!!!

Here are pictures of me with some of the authors:

Melissa Tagg                                                                   Becky Wade

 

 

 

Dawn Crandall                                                             Rachel McMillan

 

 

 

Courtney Walsh                                                           Kristi Ann Hunter

 

 

 

 

I wasn’t super sure how much I was going to enjoy the talks, but they were so interesting. The speakers were Cynthia Ruchti, Becky Wade, & Shelley Shepard Gray. They all did an amazing job! And Becky Wade (and Dani Pettrey who wasn’t able to be there) set up a demonstration about what it takes to write a book. They have been working on novels for the last year and took videos of themselves at different stages of the process talking about it. Plus, they had a fun little worksheet for us to fill out to kind of get to experience the process a bit. I really enjoyed that.

On top of the speaker sessions, we also had author panels where a small group of the authors would discuss predetermined topics and the audience was allowed to ask questions. I attended Subtle Faith and the Change in Christian Fiction II and Book Boyfriends (in which they talked about coming up with their male leads). Both of these panels were interesting and entertaining.

Okay, I think it’s time to cut off this post and finish talking about CFRR in my next post. And there will be more pictures!

Giveaway Winner!

I was pretty excited when I pushed the button to randomly select a winner even though I wasn’t even in the drawing. It was just so exciting to see who the winner was going to be! Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you wait long. Look below to see who won!

And the winner is (drum roll):
BRANDI D.

Congratulations, Brandi! Check your email for more information.

Instagram

I’ve decided that I’m going to start using Instagram more. In honor of this decision, I have added an extra entry for my giveaway for Tell Someone by Greg Laurie (I almost wrote Hugh Laurie again!) and all you have to do is visit my Instagram! That’s it! And this is a low entry giveaway as I’m still working on getting on my blogging feet so you’re chances are really good.

If you’d like to check out my Instragram (please keep in mind that I’m just starting up with it again), you can find it here.  I’m not sure what kind of pictures I’ll be putting on it yet. I’ll guess we’ll all just have to wait and see, including me.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tell Someone Giveaway

Well, at least I’m only a week behind! I said I’d have this posted by last week. Oh, well.

This is the first giveaway I’ve ever done on this blog…I think, and I’m super excited about it. 😀 And the whole two people who read my blog should be pretty excited, too, because you have a very good chance to win!

Anyway, enough beating around the bush. Here is the giveaway for a hardback copy of Tell Someone by Greg (I actually wrote Hugh before I noticed) Laurie:

This is only open to people in the US (sorry everyone else!).
Giveaway ends 7/31/17 11:59:59.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter Giveaway HERE!

Tell Someone by Greg Laurie

I can totally see why many non-Christians can find Christians judgmental. The sad truth of the matter is that there are many Christians who are. I might have written about this in another post, but I can’t remember and it’s pertinent to this book review, so I’ll write about it anyway: It drives me crazy when Christians are at either of the extremes.

At one end, we have the judgy Christians who rain down hatred and condemnation to sinners. They are quite confused. God doesn’t want us to hate sinners, he wants us to hate sin. We’re supposed to preach to nonbelievers so that they can be saved, not condemned. It’s supposed to come from a place of love and if that’s not what a person is doing, then it’s not from God.

At the other end, we have the ‘tolerant’ Christians. These people say that it doesn’t matter what you do, God loves you and you can come to Him just how you are. There is some truth in this view: God does love you. He does want you. But He does not want your sin.

God wants something in the middle of these two extremes. Ephesians 4:15 reads, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ (ESV).” The key words here are ‘truth’ and ‘love.’ If we leave out either of these, then we are not helping these people and we are not doing what God wants of us.

This really does have to do with my book review; I promise. The book? Tell Someone by Greg Laurie. The tagline? You can share the good news. I’ll give you one guess what the book is about!

I had requested this book to review and once I got it, I wondered if maybe I should have gotten a different book instead. Would I enjoy this? Or would it be a boring read that I had to get through so that I could write my review? Answer: I loved it!

Seriously, he had me hooked before chapter one. He starts off by telling the reader his upbringing. It’s nice with these types of books to know about who is talking to you and I really enjoyed his story. He grew up with a mother who was married more than half a dozen times and was in an environment that’s not great for anyone, but especially not a kid.

But one of his mother’s husbands really made a difference in his life. This man was actually a father to him. Unfortunately, when he was still young, his mother packs him up and leaves his father who he does not see again until he is grown with a family of his own.

He then goes on to talk about his conversion which was a good read, but I really loved hearing about meeting up with his father again. Once he was a pastor with a family, he reached out and found his father. He met up with him and his new wife and talked about their lives. After hearing about what had happened in Greg’s life, the father ends up getting saved. I won’t go into the whole story, but it’s awesome and had me tearing up.

I love that he starts the book by talking about why we should tell people about Jesus. Christians know that they should, but I think it’s important to really think about why. The answer to that is because we care. We know how wonderful a relationship with God is and we want to share this with people because we care about them. We care about their life on earth, but more importantly their soul after death. If you’re evangelizing through hatred and not love, then you’re doing it wrong. God doesn’t just want us to tell people about Him, he wants us to care about them.

Later in the book he talks more about how to share Jesus, including using your personal testimony. And who does he think we should emulate in our attempts to share about salvation? Jesus! And who better than Him?

Now I have some good news for one person out there. Either later this week or next week I’ll be hosting a giveaway for Tell Someone by Greg Laurie! So be sure to check back soon and enter.

A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot

Summary:
This story centers around a young woman named Lydia Crawford who leaves New York to follow her fiance to Cimarron Creek, Texas where they are to be married. However, the trip is anything but ideal. As well as having to deal with the southerners’ hatred of Northerners, she also has to deal with the fact that her fiance is missing and has left behind a pregnant wife. What happened to the man and why did he marry someone else?

Review:
WARNING: When reading this book, you are probably going to want to have chocolates or some sort of sweet around. I didn’t and regretted it!

Overall, I found the book quite enjoyable and will likely read it again. I will definitely finish the trilogy. It is romance and mystery, both of which I love. The romance between Lydia and a certain Cimarron Creek man didn’t have quite the ups and downs and trials that a lot of other Christian romance books have, but it was still enjoyable to see their relationship unfold.

What really kept me turning page after page was the mystery. I won’t go into all of the details (you have to find that out for yourself!), but I will say that there is more than just the mystery of where her former fiance is. Who are the culprits? Are all of the crimes connected? Is anyone safe in Cimarron Creek?

You will find closure at the end of this book and not have to wait until the end of the triology, but I was slightly disappointed with the answer to the mystery. It worked, but…I don’t know. It just didn’t quite hit the spot for me. That might just be me though and it wouldn’t stop me from recommending it to people, and like I wrote before, I’ll likely be reading this book again.

One last thing, I love everything to do with Cimarron Sweets! It was so fun seeing that store go from a character’s mind to reality. I love reading about things like that in stories. And it’s reading about that that is going to make you crave some sweets!

Christian Fiction Readers Retreat

cfrr-website-authors
I’m super excited! Baker Kella, my best friend and fellow blogger, and I are going to be going to the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat for the first time this year. There are dozens of amazing authors going to be there, including Melissa Tagg! I previously wrote a review of her book entitled Like Never Before and it was excellent. It was the only book of hers I had read though, so I decided to read some more and see if it was just a one off. It wasn’t. She’s fantastic and now one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to get her to autograph my copy of Like Never Before!

cfrr-guest-bag-penIt’s a one day event that will involve prayer, worship led by Nicole Coley (I’ve never heard her music before, but I’ll listen soon), giveaways, and we’ll get to hear many of the authors speak. It’s going to be such a fun experience. And another part of the event I’m extremely excited about is the swag bag. Who doesn’t love a good swag bag? To the right is a picture of last year’s. The bag alone is going to be awesome, but I can’t wait to see what’s inside. They said there will be at least one book!

We’ll also spend some time out and about while we’re there. I’ve only been to Cincinnati once and it was just for a concert and then we left right away after it was over. I would love to try Houdini’s Room Escape. I’ve wanted to try one of those for quite a while, although I think that’d be more fun with a larger group of friends. But it would still be awesome. $28 is a bit more than I want to spend, but it does seem a good price for that experience. I don’t know, we’ll see. If you have any suggestions on what we can do, I would love it if you left them in the comments.