Book Review: A Bride of Convenience

A Bride of Convenience
The Bride Ships
#3
by Jody Hedlund

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

Bride

In the 1860s, women were shipped from England to Victoria, in what is now Canada, to become wives for the bachelors who lived and worked in the British colonies. Author Jody Hedlund imagines what might have happened to some of the women on those ships in her series The Bride Ships. This is book #3 of that series, though can be read as a standalone. Only a day off the ship, Zoe becomes the guardian of an abandoned infant. While a local pastor named Abe attempts to find the baby’s father, Zoe resolves to care for the baby herself. But single-motherhood is not only difficult, but nearly impossible in this untamed land. Through a misunderstanding, Zoe and Abe marry and then are faced with the difficult decisions that come from a hasty marriage of convenience.

Marriages of convenience have always been something that draw my attention, especially in a Christian setting. The story of Zoe and Abe and how they get to know each other, become friends, and hope for more, was sweet and captivating. If my rating were based only on that, it would have been at least 4 stars, maybe more. However, my lower rating is because of the physical lust that I had to wade through.

I’ll start with the positives, though, because outside of the physical stuff, or if I’d been able to skip over it, I really enjoyed the overall story. I liked both of the main characters as individuals, which seems fairly uncommon in romances I read these days. Abe had some issues being assertive (which I can related to), but found a backbone when it was needed. Zoe was uncertain about her ability to be a “proper” pastor’s wife, but had a lot more actionable compassion than she realized. I was able to predict what happened near the end, but would have been pretty surprised about the way the rest of the story had gone if my prediction had not come true. I would actually like to see more of these two, as long as they can keep their physical desires about each other out of the narrative.

So obviously, the fact that Abe and Zoe are married through most of the book is going to involve some physical desires. And because they’re married, even though they’re still basically strangers, it’s okay, right? Sure, I don’t have a problem with a husband and wife lusting after each other, even if they’ve only just met, or if their marriage was not borne of love for each other. And I really appreciate the fact that they were completely respectful of each other, because, as Zoe herself observes, in the confines of being married, Abe may have felt he had the right to take whatever he wanted. But what did bother me was the near-constant leering. More specifically, it’s the fairly detailed descriptions of the leering that made me uncomfortable as I read. Just because two people are married doesn’t mean I want to hear the details of their love lives, lusts, or desires. Even Abe himself, in the story, finds himself uncomfortable in the presence of his friend and friend’s new bride, as they apparently made out in front of him a lot. Just because they’re married doesn’t mean we all want to watch them enjoying each other.

I’m sure it might seem to some like there’s no way around it, given the story presented, but I think that it could have been toned way down. And because this is a Christian book, which will be expected to be clean and okay for younger people, I wanted to make sure to mention this possible issue for others. To be fair, there’s nothing I would call explicit, but it’s about the closest I can remember reading in a Christian book. From the other reviews, it’s clear that I’m in the minority here, but as another reviewer stated, I would not allow my daughter to read this when she’s a teenager, and would be very uncomfortable listening to an audiobook of this with any members of my family around.

I hate to say this, because I do think the story was well-written. I have a feeling the other books in this series, maybe others by the author too, likely don’t have the same problem (I certainly hope not, at least). But I would have a difficult time recommending this book too widely. If you aren’t bothered by this kind of thing and enjoy Christian romance, certainly give it a try. But be careful where you’re reading it or listening to it, and please make sure to read it before allowing your teenager to read it.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bethany House for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about A Bride of Convenience

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

June in Review

I read 5 books last month, which I’m happy with. Considering the month I went without reading more than a few pages a day (partly because of falling back into an online game black hole, and partly because the book I was reading when that happened was just not very interesting), I picked up a little more later in the month. I’m still not currently reading as much as I had been, but I’ve found a bit of a balance.

Here are the books I read in June:

The Tech by Mark Ravine (3 / 5)
A Soldier’s Promise by Laura Scott (3.5 / 5)
The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson (review pending) (5 / 5)
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (review pending) (4.5 / 5)
Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson (4 / 5)

This list includes 1 ARC. My favorite book from June was The Monster in the Hollows. I finished 0 series, continued 1 series, and started 0 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Notebook Collection, part 7

This is the second half of my attempt to get caught up on posting about the newest additions to my notebook collection (which is really more of an obsession than a collection).

If anyone is interested in the previous posts as my smattering of notebooks became a collection and has grown:
Post #1
Post #2
Post #3
Post #4
Post #5
Post #6

notebook 5b

The story of this first notebook is a little sad. I recently read the entire Harry Potter series for the first time. Of course that opens up a whole new world of fandom merchandise to be interested in, which for me means notebooks. Though I prefer to shop for notebooks at stores, rather than online, I came across this one on Amazon (or maybe my husband did). It is not simply due to the fact that it’s from the series I’d recently read that I really liked it; it was also due simply to the overall look and style, being made to look like the Hogwarts letter from the very first book/movie. The seal has a magnet in it and keeps the notebook closed, and the cover is faux leather. And the best part is, like a LoTR notebook I got last year, what you see here is actually a book cover, inside which is a plain notebook with a cardboard front and back cover that can be removed when it’s filled, allowing this cover to be used again!

notebook 5a

Unfortunately, when the notebook arrived, it had a large sticker around the bottom of the cover. And when I peeled the sticker off, a lot of the adhesive was left behind and small bits of coating on the cover were removed with the sticker. I cleaned most of the adhesive off with Goo Gone, but the damage was done. Plus, the Goo Gone got into the material a bit and just would not come off, no matter what I used on it (trying to be careful not to further ruin the parts where the coating had come off). As you can tell from the bottom picture, it’s not too noticeable, especially if you don’t know where to look. I did contact the company that manufactures them, though, and strongly recommended that they do not put STICKERS directly on their notebooks.


notebook 6a

Let me mention now that, though I did like the Harry Potter series, I didn’t love it to the degree that this post may make it seem. But while either waiting for the other notebook to arrive or possibly while dealing with the sticker issue (I don’t remember the timing), I saw a boxnotebook 6b set at the mall that included the notebook shown to the left, a pen modeled after Harry’s wand from the movie, and the mug shown here too. I have a thing about mugs that appeal to me in some way too (though have far less mugs than I do notebooks), so it seemed perfect for me. I’ve used the mug many times (especially during the winter and early spring when I was still reading the HP books and it was cold outside).


notebook 7

This was an online purchase around the same time as the letter notebook. I stopped myself there, though, because I’m sure I could find so many notebooks in the the vast supply online (compared to in stores that I visit now and then) that I loved that it would bankrupt my family, if I didn’t put a tiny limit on it.

I love the nautical theme on this notebook with a leather-type cover. The anchor actually hangs along the spine, but I wanted to make sure it could be seen in the picture. And the wheel is at the end of a long piece of leather that wraps around the book to keep it closed.

While the outside has this adventure & travel feel to it, inside there is actually a 3-ring binder contraption, with plastic dividers that can be used to organize whatever you use the notebook pages for.


notebook 8aI’ve said it before, but I always love a good bargain on a notebook. My basically goes to every Goodwill store he passes, looking for uncommon board game deals (which he finds pretty often, actually). When I go with him, I generally look at the books for the same reason. Notebooks are much less notebook 8bcommon to find, for probably obvious reasons. But we did see this one, and though I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, my husband is. So he decided I should have this, and for $1, it’s not worth putting up an argument. I do like the style of artwork on it, so I’m not complaining. Besides, with how many notebooks that I have that are almost too pretty to use, it’s nice to have some that don’t give me that feeling.


While I’ve done a decent job this year in not buying a ton of notebooks (compared to before that), when my husband and I go on trips, we tend to find notebooks that I just have to have (I say “we” because he buys them for me, or pushes me to buy ones he can see I really like, at least as often as I decide to buy them myself). At the time of this posting, we’re on a week-long anniversary trip, so it’s very possible I’ll have more to share soon!

Do you collect anything related to reading or writing? Feel free to share!

Book Review: Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm
by Ryan Stevenson

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Memoir, Christianity

AtD

Singer and songwriter Ryan Stevenson shares the story behind his hit song “Eye of the Storm.” Years of struggling in his personal life and his musical life led to doubt and depression. Stevenson had to learn to fully rely on God, to allow Him to be in charge of his dreams and ambitions, but it wasn’t a quick realization, a “flash of inspiration” that fixed everything at once. It took time and some very dark moments, which Ryan lays bare for us in this book.

It’s never easy to read about the difficulties of someone else’s life, and Stevenson had a lot of them. From watching his mom die of cancer, to his wife having a miscarriage of twins, and to Stevenson’s own bad choices that nearly ruined his life. Through all of this, Stevenson had a love for Jesus, though I’m not clear on where his faith really stood. Still, there’s inspiration to be found in the pages of this book.

I appreciate the humble and vulnerable way that Stevenson wrote about his history. He found some success throughout his life, but suffered many setbacks. And he never holds back from taking the blame for his own mistakes. His wrong choices, mingled with things that were out of his control, caused some of the problems he had. Yet, along with the understanding that he should, and could, trust God in everything, he also came to learn that his mistakes did not have to define him. That, as long as he allowed it to happen, God could wipe them away and he could move on from who he used to be.

Though I have not had nearly the hardships in my life that he had, I gleaned plenty of insight from Stevenson’s story. In particular, it was a reminder when I really needed it to continue to do plug away at my writing, which feels stalled at the time of my writing this review. But rather than waiting for a big, obvious lit-up path (which I didn’t even consciously realize I was doing until now), I should be faithful to the work as I know to do it. God may or may not open doors for me, but waiting around for something to happen feels more like giving up than trusting God to use my abilities as he sees fit.

One thing I want to mention for anyone who may read this book–I think it’s important to be clear that not everyone hears that “still small voice” quite so clearly as Stevenson did so many times in his life. If we assume that God will lead us in this way, and we never feel an obvious nudging of the spirit, we may feel like God has abandoned us in the way Stevenson felt at times during his life. Even if we never experience a monologue from God, a whisper in the wind, we can still follow God faithfully, and he can use us in ways we’d never expect. I don’t want to discount Stevenson’s account of how God spoke to him, but it is not the only way, and for those of us who do not have those experiences, we should not feel less important to the kingdom.

With that in mind, I do recommend this book for Christians who could use some inspiration in trusting God in the storms, or for those who enjoy Ryan Stevenson’s music.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harvest House Publishers for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Eye of the Storm

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Notebook Collection, part 6

I’ve been putting off posting about my most recent notebook acquisitions for a few months now. I don’t know why. But I realized today that, since my husband and I are going on an anniversary trip in a few days, I’m likely to have more soon. So it’s time to get caught up.

If anyone is interested in the previous posts as my smattering of notebooks became a collection and has grown:
Post #1
Post #2
Post #3
Post #4
Post #5

notebook 1

It’s not very often that I add a notebook to my collection that is full-sized. Most of those that catch my eye are about half the size of the standard 8 1/2 x 11. This one is not only full-size, but has hard front and back covers, with an indented, condensed image of a map of the world. I still can’t explain my apparent fascination with maps on my notebooks, but I really like the way it looks.


notebook 2

Everyone knows about the flippy sequins that are all over everything these days, right? I used to think it was silly, but at some point, I realized how it might be soothing to flip them back and forth while sitting and reading or something. But I didn’t want it on just anything. My husband got me a large blanket of this type, which was perfect, because we keep our house pretty cool in the winter, and I am usually found under a blanket. More recently, I spotted a notebook at Meijer with the exact same color pattern of flippy sequins…it seemed like destiny. Granted, it might not be the easiest notebook to actually write in, but given the rate I’m going through these notebooks, that won’t be an issue for a long time.


notebook 3

Don’t let the size of the picture fool you–this notebook is quite small. Still not the smallest I have though. My husband insisted on me getting this one at WinterJam in February. Building 429 is amongst my favorite bands, and “Fear No More” is my favorite of their recent songs. (though the honor of my favorite song of theirs overall still belongs to “Where I Belong”). Concert t-shirts are good too, but this kind of souvenir definitely appeals to me a lot.


notebook 4In my previous notebook post, I shared my discovery of novel journals, an in particular, the Sherlock Holmes one I had picked up. While these notebooks are seriously amazing to me, I have read very few of the classics that they are based on. I had seen somewhere that there was one for Anne of Green Gables, which not only have I read, I loved! However, I was finding these sporadically in different locations, and was at the mercy of which books they had. The price online wasn’t preferable at the time either. Then I happened to see this at Meijer, of all places, and so now it’s mine. I haven’t been able to bring myself to take the plastic wrapper off of it yet though. Many of the notebooks I buy are wrapped in plastic, but always have a flap with adhesive to open the package easily. I tend to take the book out to look at it or take a picture, then put it back until I’m ready to start using it. Keeps it clean while it sits and waits. But this one doesn’t have a flap, it’s just completely sealed. So once it’s out, it’s out for good.


This is half of the most recent additions to my collection. I prefer to share shorter posts since the first few that were so long (since I share the story behind every notebook). So some time next week, I’ll post about 4 more. And then we’ll see if after our vacation, I have another post to make. (I’m just as likely to return with a stack of books as notebooks, now that I’ve found my way back to reading so much.)

Do you have any favorite notebooks? Feel free to share!

Book Review: A Soldier’s Promise

A Soldier’s Promise
Crystal Lake #2
by Laura Scott

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian romance

Soldier

Derek wants nothing more than to be a father to his recently motherless daughter Lexi, but there are some seemingly insurmountable obstacles to that dream. As he tries to outrun some of those obstacles, he’s in a car accident that forces him to stop his flight in Crystal Lake. There, he and his daughter are helped by ER nurse Julie, who has her own burdens to shake off. Will these three find what they’re looking for in each other?

This story is about a novella-length, about twice the length of the previous one. And it did have more substance than the previous book, even allowing for a fairly serious storyline to be tied up. Unfortunately, even with the shorter format, there’s a good deal of repetitiveness in the narration, especially involving the main characters’ inner turmoil about their individual situations (as well as their joint situation). I appreciated Derek’s characterization, but felt Julie left a lot to be desired in, regarding having much of a personality.

Most likely because the story is so short, it has the unfortunate common situation where two characters who have only just met develop feelings for each other very quickly. This particular relationship moved to kissing more quickly than I prefer, especially for a Christian read. And so much of the romance we see them develop revolves around them admiring each others’ looks.

I appreciated that Julie wanted to share her faith with Derek, and by extension, with Lexi. I don’t recall it being wrapped up in the story, but it certainly wouldn’t have to be, realistically speaking. I think there was a good foundation there for the future, though (their fictitious future that won’t likely be in any future books, of course). There was one theology point I didn’t agree with, but I won’t mention it here.

As the second book in a series of similar stories, and both being decent, but not stand-out reads, I don’t plan to move on in this series. However, if you are interested in a short, sweet, clean romance, this book can easily be read as a standalone in the series. I thought we might get a bit more of a glimpse of the characters (as a pair) from the first book than we did, since they all work in the same hospital. Please be sure to check out other reviews, as there are plenty who liked it more than I did.

Find out more about A Soldier’s Promsie

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Book Review: Spark (DNF)

Did Not Finish: Spark
Swipe
#4
by Evan Angler

My rating: DNF, no rating
Genre: YA dystopian, Christian

The decision to set aside a book that I most likely won’t finish is never easy, which is why I’ve only done it twice before. But this one was even harder, because it was book #4 in a series. Unfortunately, the series apparently doesn’t have an end at this time, and book #4 is a major departure from the 3 before it. The author always seemed a bit eccentric, but it went way too weird for me in this book.

One of the biggest issues I saw in other reviews was that the author left behind the characters that we spent so much time with in the first three books in favor of some new people. I don’t think I would have minded that so much on its own. However, the main character of this book had this strange way of referring to herself. She was “Ali Without a Name,” but there was no explanation of that (considering that she clearly did have a name, I’d have liked to know the story behind this). Then sometimes she or someone else would refer to her in other ways like “Hungry Ali” or “Naughty Ali.”

This, amongst other things, caused me to get that “just hang in there until things make sense” feeling. And then I cheated a little. My son has read all 4 of these books, though it’s been several years. But still, I asked him if any of these things that were making no sense would eventually be explained. He said pretty much no. I decided to call it then, about 1/4 of the way in.

Still, I liked the previous 3 books enough that, even though it’s been 7 years since this book was published, I hold out the tiniest bit of hope that the author will continue the series. If that were to happen, I’d come back and finish this book in preparation of the next. Unless that happens, though, I have no desire to find out what’s going on with Ali and the Tinchers.

Find out more about Spark

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Tech

Finished Reading: The Tech
by Mark Ravine

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Procedural, thriller

tech

A seemingly ragtag group of FBI agents are thrown onto a new team together, headed by Alexandra Cassidy. On her first day, a bank robbery forces her to hit the ground running. But the team is able to close the robbery case surprisingly quickly. And the next case. And the next. It is soon apparent that there is more to meet the eye, both with these different cases, and with the office’s IT guy.

On the surface, The Tech comes across like a police procedural-type story. And pretty early on, the IT guy, Mike, is shown to be somewhat of a high-tech super hero. But the further I got into the story, the more it just felt weighed down by so many things. By the point I began to realize that the cases are connected, I was struggling to keep going. I think this is mostly chalked up to a lack of depth in many areas.

I never felt much of a connection with any of the characters. In the first chapter, we’re told about each of the 5 members of Alexandra’s team, and I had a very difficult time keeping them separate in my mind throughout most of the book. That may be partly because their personalities, backgrounds (somewhat), and even their looks, are kind of just dumped on us all at once. And this continues to be the case in varying degrees with each new character introduced. I’m not given much chance to find out who they are for myself.

The interactions between the different team members were stilted as well. And all I can really say about Mike is that I was pretty sure I got what his deal was from early one…and I never liked him. He was essentially a vigilante, and there was never really any repercussions for the liberties he took.

The main thing the story has going for it is the intricacies of the plot. The author clearly mapped out his ideas in detail, and the threads can be seen tying it all together. I have a lot of respect for the work that went into the story. However, I think it needed further editing and refining. I didn’t care for the style, which might have just been personal preference, but it felt very redundant at some times and full of contradictions at other times. I don’t know how well I followed the details of the story, sticking instead to a wider view.

I’ve read a lot of self-published books recently. Though this book was published by someone other than the author, it has the feel of a self-published book. The thing is, I can give a lot more allowance to a self-published book, because those authors don’t have the resources of a publishing company behind them. But this book felt like it needed a lot more editing work. I don’t know how any paid editor lets a book get past him with two characters in close proximity being named such similar names as John and Don (I still don’t really know which of those guys was which). I personally wouldn’t be able to recommend this book to be read by others, however, please note that the book has all positive reviews besides mine (at the time of me posting this). So if it does sound interesting to you, please read the other reviews and consider checking out the book.

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

Find out more about The Tech

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Weekly Writing Update: 6/14

It has been a little over a month since I wrote one of these updates, and that is due to the sucking void of an online game I fell back into last month. However, I have recently realized that part of the reason I let myself ignore my writing for so long is because I was waiting for feedback from a couple of beta readers for “Outcast,” and without that, I was unable to do much more. I had figured I’d just keep working on the story myself, but the truth is, there wasn’t much more I could do without their feedback.

One is now done, and I just need to get her notes from her. What she’s told me so far is that she really liked it, more than Pithea, and that a few underdeveloped areas stuck out to her, because of how good the rest of it was. I’m happy with that, considering that as soon as I thought much about one of those areas, I could see exactly what she meant. I’ve already started thinking of ways to make it stronger, and will begin working on that this week.

Because the date I had planned to publish “Outcast” was pretty arbitrary, and because I can see now that it needs more work than I’d hoped, I am not pushing for the publish date I’d originally hoped for. But I should still be able to have it out by fall.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).

Book Review: A Lady of Esteem

A Lady of Esteem
Hawthorne House #0.5
by Kristi Ann Hunter

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

Lady of Esteem

Though the ward of a man of wealth, Amelia grows up mostly alone. She feels more at home amongst servants, and not just those of her own household, than the aristocracy. This provides for some awkward moments when she catches the eye of a marquis with a bad reputation. As Amelia heads toward the age where she will no longer be anyone’s ward, her circumstances change in a way that leaves her with no idea where her future will take her, or if she’ll be able to see any of her friends anymore.

I got this book for free on Amazon, and at this point, I’m really glad the book and its following series were put on my radar. This book itself is a short read, but gave me a good feel for this writer, who was new to me. I liked the characters and enjoyed the short, sweet story of Amelia finding a home.

Amelia herself is a good example of a Christian woman, keeping to her morals and being a good example for others. The marquis, Anthony, is a recent convert, and while he struggles with knowing that his old reputation will follow him no matter how he acts now, he also has moments of contemplating going back to his old ways. These two complement each other very well.

There was one glaring coincidence that brought the story down for me a little, and a few points where I was just confused about what was going on in the moment. And I have no idea in the end if Amelia turned 21 during the story or not. It was approaching and was something she was really concerned about, and then…nothing really happened involving that.

Overall, I enjoyed this short read set in the Regency period. If you think you might be interested, it’s still free on Amazon as of the time of me writing this review. It also includes the first chapter or so of the first full novel in the series that follows. I have to admit, I got completely hooked with just what I read there. I’m really looking forward to reading the book that follows this one!

Find out more about A Lady of Esteem

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!