Friday, July 15, 2016

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

From the publisher:
Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it's away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet--freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella's own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl--boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

RT Book Reviews says, "Heart achingly beautiful."  I couldn't agree more.

Joanne Bischof has a way with words that is just beautiful.  It is a poem written into a story.  Her writing is lyrical as it is deep and profound.  I have never been more surprised in reading a book as I was in this one scene and it filled my eyes with tears and my heart with such joy and hope it almost burst. 

Not only is her writing astounding but she does her research! I learned a lot about the circus world and reading this book really gave me more a glimpse into what those in the circus went through and how they might have interacted with those outside of the circus.

This book is rich with spiritual depth and truth.  The scars of our body and souls are all there to be healed by God and His love.  And as Joanne shows us in this story, He often does His healing through the lives of His people. 

I know that this review is not going to do justice to the story, it was just stunning.  I could read Bischof's writing over and over.  Her way with words is soothing and deep.  I just encourage you to read this book and be drawn into Charlie and Ella's world. 

I highly recommend this book!

I received this ebook free in exchange for my honest review.

The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall

From the publisher:
What's in a name? For her own protection following the murder of her brother Will, hotel heiress Estella Everstone assumes the alias of Elle Stoneburner and takes a job as companion to an elderly widow. Never did she imagine that her position would lead her back to her beloved Everston, a picturesque resort property tucked away in the rugged mountains of Maine. Living below her station in a guise of anonymity has its struggles, but her spirits are buoyed by a newfound friendship with the hotel manager, Dexter Blakeley. And his distaste for the spoiled socialites who frequent his hotel causes her to take a close look at her own priorities and past lifestyle. When Estella finds herself in need of help, Dexter comes to the rescue with an offer of employment she can't refuse. As the two interact and open up to each other, Estella feels a growing attraction to Dexter--and increasing discomfort over concealing her identity. Yet, in spite of the false pretense she's putting forth, she's never felt freer to be herself than in his presence. But will he still love her when he learns the truth about who she is?

Book three in the Everstone Chronicles and I am even more drawn in with each book.  This book reminds me of Jane Eyre, except Jane is rich in disguise in this story.

Estella and Dexter are a wonderful pair to read.  Dexter is strong and solid and more than he seems.  Estella is stripped of her wealth and yet who she really is shows through and she grows.  I really enjoyed reading their relationship and how it developed. 

Dawn Crandall is excellent with secondary characters.  Estella's first was fun to read and I would have enjoyed reading more about her.  There were other secondary characters who I hope to learn more about in her following books!

I was really happy that at the moment of revelation that Dexter's character remained true to what we had read through the whole book.  At first I wasn't sure, but I like that he was still who he had been through it all. 

I really enjoy how Dawn Crandall weaves the characters in and out of the books.  In this book we see Vance again and we are drawn to know more about him (which will come in book four). 

I received this ebook free in exchange for my honest review.

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall

From the publisher:
The Everstone Chronicles, Book #2
One accidental kiss from Lawry Hampton. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt's world upside down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn't have the time or desire to fall for her best friend Lawry Hampton. But with Vance out of the country, and with Lawry at her side nearly every day, teaching her what the world is like through the eyes of a little orphan girl named Wynn. Now Meredyth can't deny that what's holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from her past. Will she marry Vance once he returns from Europe? Or will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she's convinced she deserves, and accept that God's plan for her life includes redemption...and, quite possibly, Lawry Hampton?

Did you ever read Little Women?  And are you one of those who just mourned the relationship that never developed between Jo and Laurie?  Well, go read this book.  I have a weakness for best friend romances and this just fulfilled all my heart's desires.

I liked Meredyth in the first Everstone Chronicles book and wanted to read more about Lawry as well, so I was thrilled that this book was next. 

This book was also really well done about redemption and a bound heart.  I can relate to feeling tied to something in my past so strongly that it feels like I must do something because of that instead of turning to God for redemption and His plans.  I think readers will be able to connect with Meredyth in her struggles with her past and future. 

Meredyth and Lawry's chemistry and connection will draw readers in and I love who Lawry is and how he seems to grow as a character throughout the book, giving him more depth and layers. 

I received this ebook in exchange for my honest review.

The Hesitant Heirss by Dawn Crandall

From the publisher:
Book #1 of The Everstone Chronicles
Inspirational Historical Romance from first person point of view. 

After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy in her hometown of Seattle, Washington, disappearing before her very eyes. Now, the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: Marry within the year to inherit the immense fortune of her estranged grandmother. Amaryllis reluctantly moves in to her aunt's Boston home and rubs shoulders with fashionable society. Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself quickly falling in love with the most unlikely of men--Nathan Everstone, the envy of every eligible female, whose father has haunted her dreams for the decade following her mother's tragic death. However, Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems...and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn't who she thought at all.
This book reminds me of Pride and Prejudice in the way that we often judge others before we really know who they are and it ends up affecting the relationship.  It is a great lesson to learn and one that Amaryllis has to learn over and over again.
This was the first book I ever read of Dawn Crandall and I was surprised to read a story in first person.  Most novels are in third person but in doing it this way I felt that it kept the tension because since you only knew Amaryllis's point of view you knew only one side of things. 
I'll be honest, I didn't really like Amaryllis.  For whatever reason I had a hard time connecting with her, but I was engaged right away with many of the secondary characters and with Nathan Everstone.  What is wonderful about a series is that it grows and develops.  I would very strongly encourage you to keep reading this series, even if you don't love this first book.  (In my opinion each one gets better and better!)
I received this ebook free in exchange for my honest review.  

Like a River From Its Course by Kelli Stuart

From the publisher:
The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler's blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little—known history of Ukraine's tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the "killing ditch." He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the F├╝hrer's plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism. Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River from Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

This book is in parts too beautiful to put down and too traumatizing to take lightly.  When I first started to read this book I didn't think I could finish it because it moved me so deeply by its horrifying tragedies unfolding page after page.  But then I read this:  "You're safe and you will be loved here."  And I thought isn't that what everyone longs for?  And this amazing story that Kellie Stuart has created is just that.  
It is a story of love given in different ways to those ravished by brutality and evil.  It really shows how love; the giving and receiving of love can change the course of one's life.  Stuart takes us inside the most private thoughts of her characters.  Readers will be stunned by the revelations these characters provide.  
This story takes place during WWII during Germany's occupation of the Ukraine.  The questions and dilemmas that the characters debate will push the Reader to reexamine preconceived ideas about what is right and wrong and how far one should go to preserve the right and good in life.