Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs (Lakeshore Chronicles #9)

Book Description:

Sonnet Romano’s life is almost perfect. She has the ideal career, the ideal boyfriend, and has just been offered a prestigious fellowship. There’s nothing more a woman wants – except maybe a baby brother? When Sonnet finds out her mother is unexpectedly expecting, and that the pregnancy is high-risk, she puts everything on hold – the job, the fellowship, the boyfriend – and heads home to Avalon. Once her mom is out of danger, Sonnet intends to pick up her life where she left off. But when her mother receives a devastating diagnosis, Sonnet must decide what really matters in life, even of that means staying in Avalon and taking a job that forces her to work alongside her biggest, and maybe her sweetest, mistake – award-winning filmmaker Zach Alger. So Sonnet embarks on a summer of laughter and tears, of old dreams and new possibilities, and of finding the home of her heart. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Return to Willow Lake plumbs the deepest corners of the human heart, exploring the bonds of family, the perils and rewards of love, and the true meaning of home.

 

Review:

This book just happens to be number nine in Ms. Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicles, and it also happens to be the first of her books that I have read.  I found it very easy to follow along, and did not feel like I needed to read the first eight before proceeding with this one.

This was a hard book for me to get through.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great read.  It just hit really close to home.  I don’t want to throw any spoilers out there, but I will say that Sonnet’s mom is diagnosed with cancer.  The reason I am telling you this is because I for one, am tired of reading books that have a storyline of someone with cancer.

There were lots of ways that the storyline seemed almost like real life happening on these pages.  When Sonnet learned who would be there for her, and who wouldn’t.  The feelings were real.

It took a while to get to the happily ever after, but it was written in a way that kept me wanting to hang out with these characters a little longer.  Then on the other hand, I wanted to finish it to see what happened.  I am hoping to find time to go back and read the other eight books in this series.

 

Hope Springs by Kim Cash Tate

Hope Springs is the epitome of small-town life-a place filled with quiet streets where families have been friends for generations, a place where not a lot changes . . . until now.

Janelle Evans hasn’t gone back to Hope Springs for family reunions since losing her husband. But when she arrives for Christmas and learns that her grandmother is gravely ill, she decides to extend the stay. It isn’t long before she runs into her first love, and feelings that have been dormant for more than a decade are reawakened.

Becca Anderson is finally on the trajectory she’s longed for. Having been in the ministry trenches for years, she’s been recruited as the newest speaker of a large Christian women’s conference. But her husband feels called to become the pastor of his late father’s church in Hope Springs. Will small-town living affect her big ministry dreams?

Stephanie London is married to a doctor in St. Louis and living an ideal life. When her cousin Janelle volunteers to stay in Hope Springs and care for their grandmother, she feels compelled to do the same. It’s a decision that will forever change her.

As these women come together, they soon recognize that healing is needed in their hearts, their families, and their churches that have long been divided along racial lines. God’s plan for them in Hope Springs-and for Hope Springs itself-is bigger than they ever imagined.
Review:

Where shall I begin?  This book has just about every situation in it that you can think of, well almost.  There’s marriage and divorce issues, illegitimate children, racism, cancer, death, job changes and all of the family tension that goes with it all.
This book is sure to take hold of your attention, and hold on to it for a little while.  Really, all you need is a little while to read this book.  It is a pretty fast read.
The only thing that bothered me about this book was that it was another story where someone has cancer.  It seems like every time I turn around, I am reading a story line where someone is either sick with cancer or dies of cancer.  I guess I am just tired of that.
A really nice thing about this book is that you see where it is possible to bring two churches together, and not just any two churches.  Here is where part of the racism comes in.  There is a “white” church and a “black” church.  The two pastors are best friends, how funny is that?  Anyway, there’s a great story line about combining the churches and bible studies.
Another really nice this about this book is that the characters pretty much all pray about where they are in their life and for God to lead them or guide them in the right direction.  I find myself needing to use the same prayer, and it is wonderful to see results from those prayers.  It was nice to see that somehow that was on someone else’s mind as well.
Great story.  There are a lot of characters, but after you get into the book a little bit they are very easy to follow.
Hope you check this title out for yourself!

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Four brides. One Dress.

A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new-shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and  timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.”

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history-and its new bride-begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

 

Review:

Pardon me if I gush about this book, but I absolutely loved it!

Rachel Hauck writes with Sara Evans, and I’ve read that whole series.  Loved every one of them, but this review isn’t about that.  After reading those books, I decided to check out the books by Rachel alone and The Wedding Dress was the first book I picked.  I loved it!  Loved. It.  Couldn’t put it down.  Carried it everywhere I went.  Seriously!

I love historical fiction, and to have it combined with modern fiction was brilliant. Each detail is so sharp, so vivid, that I felt like I had stepped into their world.  I was that nosy neighbor spying on them.  Each time I opened the book, I didn’t just read, I jumped in with both feet and was standing in Charlotte’s Bridal shop.

Each and every character is so unique that I couldn’t pick a favorite.  I challenge you to pick a favorite, it just seems impossible to me.  I hated to finish the book because I felt like I knew each character and I would be losing friends if I finished it.  I warned you that this could get gushy!

Bottom line, read this book.  That’s all!

Fifty Shades Darker & Freed by E L James

Today, I will be reviewing the last two books in the Fifty Shades Trilogy.

First, Fifty Shades Darker also known as the second book in the series.  I have found that a lot of the women reading these books don’t want people to know they are reading them.  Which was kind of funny to me at first, then after reading the first one I was kind of glad I was reading it on my iPad so people wouldn’t see me holding the silly thing.

Book Description:

Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. 
 
But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.
 
While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.

 

Book Description:

When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.
 
Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.
 
Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

 

My Review:

My review of Fifty Shades of Grey wasn’t your typical review, and a few people pointed that out to me.  This review might be more typical as far as reviews go.  Might being the keyword here.

I want to start out by saying that E. L. James wrote a great story.  With that said, I think the whole story could have been told in one book or maybe two.

I was completely turned off by all of the erotic parts, and found myself skipping them to get to the good parts.  The good parts for me, were the suspense filled pages.  In my mind, I had solved all the mysteries and I was reading to see if I had it all right.

If you like books filled with page after page of erotica, then you will love these books.  The characters are beautiful, intelligent, and romantic.  Anastasia is portrayed as your typical woman, or I think she is portrayed as how some women see themselves.  Single women probably even wish something like this could happen to them, but not the suspense part.

Maybe that is why these books are so easy to get pulled into, and why you want to keep reading instead of doing your housework.  Or was that just me?  Maybe it’s because we want to read about the possibilities of romance, a filthy-rich man falling for a typical girl and treating her like a princess.  I’ve heard that these books have helped some couples in the bedroom, and that is great.  I bet they read these books more than once. 😉

I’m really kind of torn on how to rate these books.  I liked the first book, obviously or I wouldn’t have read the second one.  I liked the second one better than the first one, therefore I had to read the third one.  And I liked the third one, as well.  Instead of rating each book I am going to give the whole series three flaming hearts, and here’s why, as I’ve stated before I felt like there was too much sex and the story would have been just as good without all that.  I liked the mystery and suspense throughout the whole series, and I liked the characters.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

Book Description

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

Review

Oh my.

If you’ve read my past reviews then you have probably gathered that I don’t read a lot of romance, so this book is way (WAY) out of character for me.  But I read it, and I am going to be completely honest with you about it.

A friend of mine read this book and she told me that she was almost embarrassed to tell me about it.  I thought to myself, why in the world would you be embarrassed.  Oh dear, now I know why.  I am shocked that this is in the romance genre, because it should be in the pornographic novel section.   Seriously, I am just shocked that someone actually put this in writing.  I was such a sheltered child/teen and apparently adult.

With all of that said, I liked the book.  I, like many other women, couldn’t put it down.  The curious part of  me wondered what all the fuss about the BDSM scene was, and now I know.  I think I know way more than I ever wanted to know.

Before when I thought about BDSM I thought about Lady Heather on CSI.  I thought these people were all about pain, and I thought they were freaks.  (I told you I was going to be completely honest!)  Now that I have a better understanding of it, my whole opinion has changed.  Not that I want to join the ranks of the BDSM, but I don’t think the people participating in that lifestyle are freaks anymore.  Now, I just think they are kinky, really kinky.

The characters are what kept me wanting to keep reading.  I still want to know what happened to Christian to make him this way.  I want to know what the ‘situation’ was that he is so worked up about.  There are little pieces of the story that keep you wanting more.

Honestly, a big part of me wanted to hate this book.  I wanted to read it and tell you that it was a naughty book, and that you shouldn’t read it.  And now that the world knows how naughty this book is, I wouldn’t be caught dead carrying it around and reading it in a public place.  (Thank goodness for iPads and eReaders!)

I witnessed a woman buying the book one day, and I really wasn’t paying much attention to what she was buying until she tried so hard to keep everyone in line from seeing what it was.  Yep, it was this book.  My first thought was, it can’t be a good thing if you have to hide it.  And now look at me, I read it…I liked it…and I am trying to decide if I should read the whole trilogy.

 

The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Book Description

Lives Are Transformed. . .One Stitch at a Time

As Amish widow Emma Yoder contemplates the task ahead, her thoughts center on one: What if she fails? Longing to remove a burden from her family by becoming self-sufficient, Emma has offered to hold quilting classes in her home. But when she sees the patchwork of faces assembled for the first lesson, her confidence dwindles as doubt takes hold.

There’s Star Stephens, a young woman yearning for stability; Pam and Stuart Johnston, a struggling couple at odds in their marriage; Paul Ramirez, a widowed father hoping to find solace in finishing a quilt; Jan Sweet, a rough and tough biker looking for something creative to do; and Ruby Lee Williams, a preacher’s wife seeking relaxation amid mounting parish problems.

While Emma grows to realize her ability to share her passion for quilting and her faith, the beginning quilters learn to transform scraps of fabric into beauty. And slowly, their fragmented lives begin to take new shape—some in unexpected ways—with the helping hands of each other and the healing hand of God. 

Review

This was the first time I’ve read one of Wanda Brunstetter, and I am looking forward to reading more of her books.

I am not sure what pulled me to this book, but I am glad that it did.  There are so many lessons to learn through each of the individual stories.  The characters are very real, their situations are very life-like, and recipe for Emma Yoder’s Angel Cream Pie sounds yummy!!

One of my favorite characters is Jan Sweet, and I am not sure if it’s because he is the least likely to be a student of a quilting class, or if it is because he is such a tenderhearted, big burly guy.  My other favorite character is Emma Yoder.  She just seems like such a nice lady; possibly a lady that I would like to go visit one afternoon.  That was kind of like what reading this book was like, not really visiting these characters but like peeking into their lives and pulling for them in their time of need.  I told you that they were very real.

I recommend this book for a nice, fast read.  I’ve been reading a lot of books that required a lot of focus and thought, so it was very nice to read a book that held my attention but didn’t require me to concentrate too hard.  Please tell me that you know what I am trying to say.

I love reading Amish related books, and Wanda E. Brunstetter loves writing about them.  I am fairly positive that I will be reading more of her books, and I hope you will too.

FYI:

The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club is being made into a musical play. It will open August 24, 2012 at the Blue Gate Theater in Shipshewana, Indiana, and will run through December 8, 2012. I sure wish I could go!

The Chase by DiAnn Mills

Book Description:

To the FBI it’s a cold case. To Kariss Walker it’s a hot idea that could either reshape or ruin her writing career. And it’s a burning mission to revisit an event she can never forget.

Five years ago, an unidentified little girl was found starved to death in the woods behind a Houston apartment complex. A TV news anchor at the time, Kariss reported on the terrifying case. Today, as a New York Times bestselling author, Kariss intends to turn the unsolved mystery into a suspense novel.

Enlisting the help of FBI Special Agent Tigo Harris, Kariss succeeds in getting the case reopened. But the search for the dead girl’s missing mother yields a discovery that plunges the partners into a witch’s brew of danger. The old crime lives on in more ways than either of them could ever imagine. Will Kariss’s pursuit of her dream as a writer carry a deadly price tag?

Drawing from a real-life cold case, bestselling novelist DiAnn Mills presents a taut collage of suspense, faith, and romance in The Chase.

Review:

First of all, I’d like to say I’m sorry.  Oh, I could tell you so much about this book because I liked it so much I could just ramble on and on.   My fear is that if I ramble on and on like I would like to do I would fill this review with spoilers, and I don’t want to do that.  This is a book that you really need to read without spoilers.

If you’ve read my reviews before then you are well aware of the fact that I like to figure the mystery out before the author spells it out for me, and this book was no different.  It was filled with twists, turns, and jabs that you won’t be expecting.  The Chase will have such a handle on you that you will dream about it until you are able to pick it up again.  I kid you not!!

One thing that isn’t really about the storyline, but about the book itself that I liked is the cover.  I loved how they put a photo of Tigo and Kariss on the cover, because I really think that is why I dreamt about their story and why I wanted to pick it up every chance I got.

I really hope you check this one out.  It is great!!  Like I said earlier, I’m sorry, I feel like I’m not reviewing this one much, but for fear of telling you too much I really think I should end here.

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