March 31, 2015

Better All the Time

Better All the Time
by Carre Armstrong Garner

Visit http://thechristianmanifesto.com/fiction/better-all-the-time/ to read my full review

What initially caught my eye with Carre Armstrong Gardner’s books were the covers and titles, but what really made me want to read Better All the Time was how good the first book in the series, All Right Here, was. Sometimes, as I read a series, I end up liking one book better than the others, but so far, Books One and Two in The Darlings series have been equally excellent.



Personally, I love Gardner’s writing, with its long sentences and lots of descriptions. I really got a feel for the close-knit Darling family through her writing since I felt like I was in the middle experiencing every moment.
In Better All the Time, there are many characters to keep track of since the Darling Family isn’t exactly small. According to the back cover, the main characters are Sephy and Amy, but some of the other siblings’ roles are strong too. Gardner’s characters are currently my favorite because they have real-life problems portrayed in down-to-earth circumstances I can really relate to. I especially felt Sephy’s emotions tug at my heart as she dealt with her inner struggles.



The two spiritual parts that stood out to me were with Amy and Laura. Amy is struggling in her new job, and her mom keeps reminding her to pray. Only to learn that when she prays God is there and helps her. On the other hand, Laura is facing transitions in her life, and I enjoy watching her as she starts attending church and serving others with her time and talents. I love how welcoming her new church is. There were just a couple moments where characters were quicker to forgive and forget than felt plausible.


Looking for a new book with a new take on family dynamics, I strongly believe Better All the Time is just the novel. I’ve never read anything quite like it where I relate on so many levels with so many of the characters. The target audience for this book is mostly young women who will relate with the sisters but would also be excellent for middle age women beginning to experience an empty nest. Non-Christian readers might find the constant mention of prayer offensive, but also might find they relate with many of the situations the characters experience as well.

Better All the Time is a perfect continuation of the Darling Family series, leaving just enough unknowns for the third book to cover. I lost sleep finishing this book because it was too good to put down. I just couldn’t wait to see how things would end. At times, this book reminded me of a much cleaner, Christian version of the TV show Brothers and Sisters because of the family interactions. The characters would make an entertaining TV show.

Better All the Time gives people like me, from small quiet families, a great peek into the life of a large, loud family. I loved reading about ordinary people experiencing real-life dilemmas, just like some of the ones I’ve experienced myself. A great read for anyone that wants to truly connect on a personal level with characters.

Tyndale provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Buried Secrets

Buried Secrets
by Irene Hannon

4 Stars

I've always had a deep appreciation for Hannon's writing so I was excited she had a new series out! Unfortunately it took Hannon herself on her Facebook page pointing it out to her readers, but this book's cover is amazing. It is textured and very unique. However, the words inside were what captured me and kept me captured through all 364 pages!



Hannon is especially skilled at manipulating her words and descriptions just right to get you hooked on the story. I didn't think much about the prologue until later in the story when I figured out who the voice in the prologue was and I was amazed! She also paces her writing just right so that the book moves at a quick enough pace to keep you intrigued and turning the pages. I never once got bored but also never felt rushed even with the ending.

I loved these characters! Lisa is so strong and independent and Mac is a little on the stubborn side but also very protective. But I especially enjoyed meeting Mac's brothers and suspect this isn't the last we'll see of them. When the three boys were together it was so fun to enjoy their interactions especially as they picked on each other. Definitely a special sibling group.

Hannon writes a great suspense but is perfectly skilled at intertwining romance into it. I especially appreciated how she managed to pace the romance evenly with the police work. It was fun to watch the romance build throughout the story. I'll admit that there were parts of the suspense that I figured out ahead of time - but not every detail and I don't mind a predictable love story as long as there are enough sparks and there were plenty of those!

This book does deal with crime scenes and murder but nothing graphic is mentioned so most readers won't take issue especially if this is their genre of choice. Also, non-Christians shouldn't be bothered by any parts of this book since spirituality wasn't mentioned much more than passing mentions of prayer. Honestly though that was my least favorite part of the story - the lack of spiritual content.

Hannon's plot for this book was a nice change of pace to typical murder mystery stories. I enjoyed the build up to figuring out the initial crime along with the crimes that happened later in the book. She picked an excellent background story to lead to more events in the current day.

Overall this was an excellent book. Readers of Dee Henderson will appreciate Hannon's writing especially since she endorsed this book! I must admit I was glad to get to read it on an afternoon off or I would have missed sleep to get to the end!

Revell provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review



From the Start

From the Start
by Melissa Tagg

4 Stars

This was my first full length novel by Tagg but it won't be my last! Her books are fun to read! I started by reading her eNovella Three Little Words (which by the way is still currently FREE on Amazon!) and fell in love with the Walker family. By the end I was super excited to read From the Start.



I wasn't very far into the story when Tagg had me laughing so hard I had to put the book down for a moment! Of course other parts of the book made me laugh too but this one scene in particular was hilarious! And throughout the book I really enjoyed watching Colton and Kate create a friendship which of course turned into more.



Tagg creates excellent characters with realistic flaws. I like that neither were picture perfect. I also really loved the secondary characters who played matchmaker, friend, etc. who pushed for them to find their happily ever after.

I also loved watching Kate learn about football! I had my own moment in life where someone taught me about the game and it was fun to relive that afternoon. 

A lot of books I've read lately included a peek into the life of foster children and I am so thankful for that. It is a part of life in the United States that so often goes unnoticed and I'm glad quite a few of my favorite Christian authors are using their novels to bring it to light. I really loved watching Colton work with the youth in Maple Heights to help him discover his potential.

I wouldn't have minded a little bit more spiritual emphasis in this book. However, I still loved it. I loved the characters, the community, and the eventual happily ever after. I'm looking forward to what comes next and am already set to read her first series now too!

Bethany House provided me with a complementary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

March 23, 2015

Life Unstuck

Life Unstuck
by Pat Layton



It has been a long time since I've read a Christian Living book that was written with so much love, passion, and honesty! Layton takes Psalm 139 and relates it to our lives as women. She helps us realize there is more to life than being stuck in a constant cycle of struggles. I really appreciated the part of the book where she talks about making peace with the past. She shares details of her life that most people would try to hidden in a deep dark closet for NO ONE to ever find out about. But instead she tells all of us some of the most horrid things she ever did. Not that she wanted us to feel sorry for her but just to make sure we, her readers, knew that everyone has made mistakes.I also really appreciated the part of the book where she tells us to use our dreams for the future to prepare for the future. To have a plan and vision for what is next in our lives no matter what it might be. I needed to be reminded of so many of the things she wrote about in this book. This is a book I know I can easily recommend to any of my girlfriends and know that at least one chapter will relate to their lives.

Revell provided me with a complementary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

March 19, 2015

A Harvest of Hope

A Harvest of Hope
by Lauraine Snelling

As a child, Lauraine Snelling was my favorite author. Her two horse series for youth were my favorite books. In fact I didn't keep many of my childhood books but I still have the Golden Filly series on my bookshelf!

A Harvest of Hope is book 2 in the Song of Blessing series. I would not recommend trying to read this book without reading book 1 because even though Snelling explains who is who and gives a little bit of background it probably wouldn't be quite enough for most readers.

This is the continuation of Miriam and Trygve and the entire town of Blessing. It takes place in the early 1900s. I love that the women in these books are so strong. Serving in the community as doctors, nurses, and a midwife. I also love how prayer is their go-to answer for everything.

This is a lovely story of community banding together.

Bethany House provided me with a complementary copy in exchange for my honest review.