Magnolia Storms by Janet W. Ferguson (Review & Giveaway)

Magnolia Storms Janet FergusonMaggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina, but she’s dedicated her life to meteorology so she can warn others when the monster storms approach. Except…she works three hours inland and rarely risks returning to her childhood hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Both her single-parent sister and the ship pilot Maggie once loved refused to leave the Coast, despite Maggie’s requests. Now a hurricane’s headed toward Mississippi, and Maggie’s sister is seriously injured, leaving Maggie little choice but to head south—into the storm.

The water and tides flow through Josh Bergeron’s veins, and he can’t imagine giving up piloting—even for the love of his life, the infuriating Magnolia Marovich. He tried to move on without her, marrying and having a child. But after his wife abandons him and his little boy, his career choice is threatened by the weight of his parental responsibilities. Moving next door to Maggie’s sister and sharing their childcare seems like the perfect set-up. Until Maggie blows back into town.

Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Where was God during the destruction of Katrina? Why do some prayers seem to go unanswered? Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?

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Review: Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden

I was excited to read this new book by a new author set in the San Juan Islands off the Washington Coast. Though I have family living in Washington State, I’ve never visited this area.

The first part—probably about the first quarter—of the book was hard for me to get through. Authors are told over and over again to “show, not tell” but that can be taken to an extreme. In Ascension of Larks, Rachel Linden spends so much time describing everything in the first 25% of the book, it bogged the story down for me a bit.

Yes, I get that Maggie is an artist and her attention to detail is what makes her an excellent photographer and it’s part of her personality to notice these things. And others may enjoy that much detail but it slowed me down a bit.

Ascension of Larks Rachel Linden

With that said, it did get better. As Maggie settles into her new reality, the story turns from details about her surroundings to the emotional aspect of what she’s experiencing. Personally, drawing me into a character’s emotions is what makes a story great.

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Ready to Wear

No one will ever accuse me of being a fashionista. My work wardrobe consists of items mainly from Kohl’s, not a Karen Walker design in sight and my weekend apparel is more Target than Tommy Hilfiger (and yes, I had to look those fashion designer names up).

In Be My Valentino, the second book in the Jessie Stanton series, Sandra D. Bricker, brings fashion to life.

be my valentino

Picking right up where On a Ring and a Prayer left off, Jack Stanton continues to wreak havoc on his ex-wife’s wife. Just when she got her feet under her, Jack makes an appearance and pulls the rug right back out from under her.

As Jessie struggles with making her business profitable, Jack’s appearance brings her under the scrutiny of the FBI.

While the new man in her life, Danny Callahan, tries to be someone she can count on, he takes a side job to ferret out a mole at a local awards show.

Can Jessie trust another man after Jack stomped all over her? Will her business survive an FBI raid? And most importantly, will Jessie Hart put her trust in the one person who will never leave or forsake her?

I appreciate that this series is following Jessie’s journey because it emulates life. Just when you think you have everything figured out, you are hit with one (or three) unexpected hardships are thrown in the path you believe you have finally figured out.

Through humorous situations and heart-wrenching news, Jessie makes her way through life, learning to stand on her own two feet. I can’t wait to see what life brings her way next.

***Abingdon Press provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

center of gravity

Ava Carson’s life revolves around her two boys—eight year old Jack who she has adopted as her own and her baby, Sam—and she likes her life. For the most part. She misses her job as school counselor and tries to make due with what she’s given. Her husband is an important man with an important job, so when he has meetings or has to work late, she tries to be understanding. When Mitchell Carson leaves her out of the blue and follows that action by filing for divorce and taking temporary custody of their children without talking to her, she’s left reeling. As she fights for her boys and digs into Mitchell’s past, she realizes she finds she didn’t know her husband at all. He has lied, he’s manipulative and vindictive, and he is out to teach Ava a lesson using the two things she hold most precious in life—Jack and Sam.

Told from first person point of view from several people—Ava, Mitchell, Jack, Ava’s lawyer (Graham), and the psychologist assigned to watch the family (Lucy)—McNeill tells the entire story. Mitchell’s deviousness, both Ava’s and Jack’s confusion and hurt, and Lucy’s tenderheartedness all come through in the pages. This book will leave you thinking, it will have you shaking your head, and it will pull you in all directions emotionally. It leaves an impression.

Readers of Christian fiction may be surprised by some of the content (a few cuss words and a paragraph about the honeymoon that goes into a little more detail than any other book in this genre I’ve read) and there is very little mention of God (someone says they’ll pray for the family and someone else says God is trying to get their attention). None of the main character have relationships with God. In fact, this book could have been shopped and sold in the mainstream marked as a clean read. But perhaps that’s what the Christian fiction genre (which people are claiming is in dire shape) needs—something different, something real, something true-to-life that shakes the reader up, takes them out of their comfort zone. I, for one, did not regret reading this story. It was well written and engaging with great character development and plot.

****Booklook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson Fiction provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

the art of losing yourself cover

I had never heard of Katie Ganshert before reading A Broken Kind of Beautiful (which I still think is the best ever title of a book). After reading that book last year, I devoured her other two books and have been anxiously awaiting the one I knew she has been working on. The Art of Losing Yourself was worth the wait.

After an incriminating video goes viral, local meteorologist Carmen Hart is required to take a leave of absence from the television station where she works. Carmen lives two lives—the perfect, painted on version in which she is happily married to the local high school football coach, loves her job, and attends church every Sunday and the one where she is drowning in so much sorrow and pain she doesn’t know how to climb her way out. When local authorities call Carmen about a trespasser at her aunt’s abandoned motel and she drives out to find her half-sister. Gracie’s presence is a struggle for Carmen both because she feels guilty for abandoning her with their alcoholic mother and because she wants to break through the walls Gracie has built around herself.

art of losing yourself quote

Ganshert’s tale is told through both Carmen’s and Gracie’s points of view, which allows the reader to take this journey along with each sister. Carmen is broken, and you hurt for her in her suffering while at the same time wanting to shake her until she opens up to those around her who love her. I loved Gracie’s acerbic sense of humor and several of her comments or thoughts made me laugh. But this story is truly about healing. Healing relationships, healing past hurts, and healing from God. Ganshert digs deep, opening some emotional wounds in each of her characters that bleed. Wounds that require more than a bandage and a kiss to make it better. My only objection to the story? I didn’t want it to end. I want to spend more time with Carmen Hart and Gracie Fisher.

Want to learn more about the author? Visit Katie Ganshert online.

****Blogging for Books and Waterbrook Multnomah provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.