Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Butterfly and The Violin: The Hidden Masterpiece Series Book 1 By Kristy Cambron

I received this book from Litfuse Publicity for no charge in exchange for my honest review of this book. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Book Description:   

A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.
Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.
In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.
A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.
As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My Thoughts:  

The Butterfly and The Violin is Kristy Cambron's debut book and it is fantastic. This is the first book in her series The Hidden Masterpiece Series.  As a fan of Christian Historical Fiction and debut authors this book was a no brainer for me to read.  When I saw the cover I knew I had to read it, the cover is beautiful and haunting. Just brought me in!  Sera James is looking for a painting of a young violinist with the blue eyes that she saw when she was 8 years old on a trip to Paris with her Dad. Her search brings her and William Hanover together. William Hanover is a wealthy real estate mogul whose looking for this painting for a very different reason and enlists Sera's help in finding it. As they researched they find out that the painting is of Austrian Violinist Adele Von Bron.  Adele Von Bron was an extremely talented violinist and daughter to a high ranking member of the Third Reich. Adele has a secret, she is risking her freedom and her life to help Jews out of Vienna until she and the man she loves get caught and are sent to the Auschwitz camps.

The Butterfly and The Violin is FANTASTIC! From start to finish this book is just spectacular. This book grabbed a hold of me from the start and I could NOT put it down. I finished it within one day and that is not typical for me, usually takes me a few days to read a book but this one just kept me wanting to know more. This story takes place in two different time frames, the present and the past. Kristy Cambron makes the transitions between these two times flawless, as a reader I was never confused as to what time period I was in. This is a big one for me because I have read a few books where the transitions were rough.  Kristy Cambron writes with authority on our world in the late 30's-Early 40's, the Art world now and then, concentration camps, orchestras, and other arts. I love reading Christian Historical Fiction because intertwined in the fiction are facts that I usually didn't know at all or know much about and that is the case in this book.  I had never knew about the Orchestras that were formed and forced to play both in the camps and at events/parties for the Third Reich or the works of art made by prisoners that were found at the Auschwitz camps. As I read this book I did searches about the orchestras and the works of art and it opened up a whole other world to me about this time in history.  One of the characters in the book, Alma Rose, the conductor of the women's orchestra, is the name of the real conductor. The descriptions and events about her seemed to have much truth to what the history books say. There are probably more of these details, hopefully I will get a chance to read it again. The characters in this book are fascinating and so real. Kristy Cambron seems to have such a heart for this time in history, especially the people and what they went through. I loved Adele and her personality. Her spirit and her perseverance is something to admire. This book truly taps into your emotions.  So many times I found myself gasping, crying, and then smiling. This book truly breaks your heart as you get a glimpse of what these people went through. This book is one that will stay with me, the impression made on my heart. I feel like I don't have the right words convey what this book did to me.   Kristy Cambron is a new author on my must read list and I can't wait to read more of her writing.  I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian Historical Fiction especially during this time in history, you will be surprised at what you didn't know! I give this book and this author 5 STARS.

Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin. Romantic Times had this to say: "Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . ."

Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.


 One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

So grab your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

Monday, July 28, 2014

When I Fall in Love: Book 3 of The Christiansen Family Series And A Fantastic Contest!

 I received this book from Litfuse Publicity for no charge in exchange for my honest review of this book. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Book Description: 

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.

Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.

My Thoughts: 

When I Fall in Love is the third book in Susan May Warren's stand alone series The Christiansen Family.  In this third book we learn about Grace Christiansen. A talented chef who is currently working at a pizza parlor in town and making dishes for her family and friends on the side. When she makes the food for Ivy and Darek's wedding, Eden and Jace ask her to cater their wedding which will be a huge event because of Jace's status as a hockey player. Grace doesn't believe in her skills the way her family does so she declines.  Her family presents here with a three week culinary vacation in Hawaii, Grace refuses to go. Eventually they talk her into it and tell her that a teammate of Jace's will be there to help her get around and find her way. Max has gone on this vacation every year to get away from being a hockey player and be able to do what he loves. He isn't thrilled about having to "babysit" Grace but an unlikely meeting finds them both drawn to each other and they enter a cooking competition together. As they spend more time together, their feelings escalate until Max finally has to walk away because of his own issues. 

When I Fall in Love is a great book. I have had the pleasure of reading the other two books in this stand alone series and I have loved each one.  I was instantly drawn to this book because of the setting of Hawaii! It has been my dream since I was 6 yrs old to go to Hawaii, something I haven't gotten to do yet but am working on it. As I read this book, I felt like I was there in Hawaii with Grace and Max seeing the beautiful sites and hearing the sounds. Susan May Warren paints a beautiful picture of this tropical paradise and really made me feel like I was there. And the food, oh the food that was put together and described made my mouth water and let my imagination go into what kinds of foods I want to try.  Susan May Warren writes with authority about Minnesota and Hawaii, cooking, party/wedding planning, hockey, and dragon boats(have to read it to understand!). I found myself taken in with this book from the start and could not put it down. Every time I picked up the book I was transformed back to Grace's tropical paradise.  I really enjoyed all the characters in this book especially  Grace. Having read other Christiansen books, Grace and the rest of the siblings have been introduced but it has been limited information so I loved learning so much more about her. I could really relate to Grace's characters desire to stay close to home, safe and not venturing outside of her safety zone, also the desire to spend the whole Hawaiian Vacation reading books. Grace's story, while be it fiction, rang some truth for me . I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian Fiction, you will not be disappointed. As stated further up, these are stand alone books that do not have to be read in order. Susan May Warren has written these books in a way that new readers don't feel lost and the seasoned readers aren't losing their interest in repeat details. It is a rare thing! I give this book 4.5 STARS.

Susan May Warren's newest book in the Christiansen Family Collection, When I Fall In Love,  has won over readers' and critics' hearts alike. With critical reviews like, ". . . an exquisite romance. Profoundly touching on the topic of facing fears, this book is a true gem," and more than 60 five-star reviews at Amazon, When I Fall in Love is sure to please.

Susan has teamed up with some amazing food bloggers for a fun food challenge and a KitchenAid Mixer giveaway!

  One grand prize winner will receive:
Grab your aprons and wire whisks and buzz on over to the When I Fall in Love website to learn more and enter the Hawaiian Chef Showdown! Susan is challenging you to make a Hawaiian-inspired dish using coconut, mango, or one of the other ingredients mentioned in the book. You’ll get extra points for creating your own recipe—plus she might share it on the When I Fall in Love site! Or if you're not up for an adventure in the kitchen just click one of the icons below for easy entry.

Hurry, the giveaway ends on August 10th. All winners will be announced August 13th at Susan's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Susan's blog on the 13th to see if you won!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Adventures and Odyssey

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 For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE! Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5! Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. One way families can carry out God's design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:
  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley 
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin 
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa 
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna 
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy 
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa 
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren't available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra 
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele 
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah 
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven't been for awhile, so it's something he looks forward to. —Maria 
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others' meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn
Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!

The Revealing: The Inn at Eagle Hill Book 3 By Suzanne Fisher Woods

I received this book from Litfuse Publicity for no charge in exchange for my honest review of this book. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Book Description:  

Naomi King, soft spoken, loyal, and easily overlooked, has a gift. She sees what others can’t see. Intuition, she calls it. Others in Stoney Ridge don’t know what to make of it and dismiss her hunches and inklings altogether.
When a young woman arrives at the Inn at Eagle Hill with a shocking secret about Tobe Schrock, Naomi fears the worst. She can’t ignore the feeling that something sinister is at work– something more than a threat to the tenuous love begun between her and Tobe.
As signs mount, they begin to point to Jake Hertzler, the elusive mastermind behind Schrock Investments’ downfall. Soon, events spiral hopelessly out of control and Naomi must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.

My Thoughts:  

The Revealing is the last book in Suzanne Fisher Woods series The Inn at Eagle Hill.  In this conclusion, Naomi King is very intuitive. She sees and feels things that others can't. Her hunches are always correct and even with that, others in the community don't know what to make of it.  Naomi and Tobe Schrock are trying to keep their budding relationship going and Naomi is trying to keep it from her brother, Galen, who doesn't approve of Tobe.  A stranger makes her way to Eagle Hill claiming to know Tobe and reveals a secret that shocks the whole family.  Naomi's sixth sense has kicked in and really feels that there is something very evil at work, more than just this secret.

As a huge fan of Amish Fiction, Suzanne Fisher Woods is one of my top favorite authors and her Inn at Eagle Hill series is great. I am very sad to know that this is the last book in this series. I have LOVED The Inn at Eagle Hill series, every book better than the last but Suzanne Fisher Woods did a wonderful job wrapping up the series.  Suzanne Fisher Woods writes with authority about the Amish, art, and Ohio communities. I loved this series as it brought the readers back to Stoney Ridge to meet new characters but also to get to learn what is happening with the old ones, which I really like. Always hard when a series ends because of the investment into the characters lives so with this series readers are able to find out more.  Suzanne Fisher Woods did a great job including the characters from her Stoney Ridge Seasons series and how they are part of the lives of the characters in this one. I loved the characters in this book and this series, they are real characters who go through real life situations and are imperfect. I think my favorite is Rose Schrock, she works very hard to support her family, while doing what she can to pay back the people who were hurt in the Schrock Investments downfall. Rose did what she could to keep her family together and to bless the lives of the guests of her Inn.  I really enjoyed this book and this series.  This book kept me into from the beginning right up until the end and it kept me guessing until the end.  This story has some interesting twist and turns that as the reader I didn't see coming. I have to say that in the end, Suzanne Fisher Woods wrapped up this series in such a way that satisfied my curiosity as a reader.  I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend this book and series to anyone who enjoys Amish Fiction, you will not be disappointed.  I give this book and series 4.5 STARS.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Seagrass Pier: Hope Beach Book 3 By Colleen Coble

I received this book from Litfuse Publicity for no charge in exchange for my honest review of this book. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

Book Description:  

In a secluded corner of Hope Beach, one woman must decipher a stranger’s memories . . . before they cost her everything.

Elin Summerall was one of the lucky ones. Not only did she get a heart transplant, but the donor was a perfect fit. A miraculously perfect fit.
But when Elin begins having violent flashbacks—and vivid dreams of being strangled—she realizes that she has been the recipient of more than just a new heart . . . Elin is remembering her donor’s murder.
Her strange affliction has attracted some unwanted attention: from the press, from the authorities . . . and from the killer himself. Now, living alone with her young daughter and aging mother, Elin is being stalked—by a man she’s only met in her nightmares.
The police are dubious of her story, but one off-duty FBI agent is eager to help her: Agent Marc Everton, the father of Elin’s daughter.
Of course, he doesn’t know about that. Yet.
Now, in a remote cottage on Hope Island, Elin and Marc must probe the secrets buried in her borrowed heart. And there’s no time to waste. One man is desperate to silence her—before she remembers too much.

My Thoughts:    

Seagrass Pier is the third book in Colleen Coble's Hope Beach Series and I have enjoyed all of them immensely. Elin Summerall had to have a heart transplant and luckily a donor was found to be a perfect fit. Elin has a little girl she is raising alone and a mother living with her with dementia of some kind, trying to keep safe from what is out there. Ever since the transplant Elin is having nightmares/flashbacks of the events that had happened to the person she received the heart from. She is reliving this woman's murder. Now Elin's desire to blend in isn't working because she is answering questions from the authorities and the press. A very old acquaintance, Marc Everton is an off duty FBI agent who is investigating the murder of his partner and the last person that Elin wants to see. Now they are both on Hope Island trying to solve the murders that tie them together and see if they can find a way to friendship.

Seagrass Pier is a great book. The first two books really drew me into this series and Seagrass  Pier did the same. From the start this book took a hold and kept hold up until the end. Colleen Coble writes a fast paced, action packed, keep you guessing until the end book. I enjoyed learning about new residents of Hope Beach and finding out about the others that I have met and loved from the other books. I really enjoyed all the characters in this story but Elin's Mom was my favorite. I could really relate to Elin and her mother with Elin's role as caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer's disease as I am doing this right now with my Dad. Elin's mother even with her memory issues still had her faith to help sustain her and really was a support for Elin. Colleen Coble writes with authority on heart transplants, Alzheimer's Disease, the rescue teams, and Police/FBI investigations. This book really kept me guessing until the end and I definitely did not expect the twists and turns it took. This book can be read as a stand alone or in the series because of Colleen Coble's ability to give new readers enough information of previous books to not feel lost but not too much that readers of the series get bored. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian Suspense Fiction, you will not be disappointed. I look forward to the next book in this series. I give this book 4 STARS.

The Egyptian Princess: A Story of Hagar By KD Homberg

I received this audiobook for no charge from the author and Celebrate Lit Blogger Program in exchange for my honest review of this audiobook...