Friday, December 30, 2016

Christian Fiction Favorites of 2016!

Here are my favorite Christian fiction releases of 2016:

http://images.randomhouse.com/cover/9781601427342?height=450&alt=no_cover_b4b.gif #2: An Elegant Facade   -     By: Kristi Ann Hunter
 Flirtation Walk  -     By: Siri Mitchell

A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton (WaterBrook); Colonial

An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell (Bethany House); Antebellum


The Reluctant Duchess (Ladies of the Manor Book #2) - eBook A Lady Unrivaled (Ladies of the Manor Book #3) - eBook The Ringmaster's Wife  -     By: Kristy Cambron
The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White (Bethany House); Edwardian - Ladies of the Manor, book 2

A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White (Bethany House); Edwardian - Ladies of the Manor, book 3

The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson); 1920's

Cold Shot, Chesapeake Valor Series #1   -     By: Dani Pettrey
 The Goodbye Bride  -     By: Denise Hunter
 Like Never Before  -     By: Melissa Tagg
Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House)

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson)

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg (Bethany House)


What are your favorite releases of 2016?

Monday, December 26, 2016

2017: Christian Fiction I am most looking forward to!

Here are the books I'm most looking forward to in 2017--at least, those whose titles have been released anyway. It will be updated as Fall's releases are announced. There are a lot of really good releases, including several from authors I love that didn't put out a book in 2016 (Tamera Alexander, Kate Breslin, Laura Frantz, Jocelyn Green).

Historical:
A Moonbow Night https://gallery.mailchimp.com/c7e3f89d0f5e260dc47a6b1ce/images/bb6a494e-53ce-453b-9eea-9c48de942ef0.jpg An Uncommon Courtship #4
January: A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz (Revell)

January: The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green (Bethany House)

January: An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House); Hawthorne House, book 3

A Note Yet Unsung #3 The Illusionist's Apprentice When Tides Turn #3
February: A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House); Belmont Mansion, book 3

March: The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)

March: When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin (Revell); Waves of Freedom, book 3

Behind the Scenes (Apart From the Crowd #1) Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station #2) A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England)

April: Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano (Bethany House); Apart from the Crowd, book 1

June: Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House); Ladies of Harper Station, book 2

July: A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White (Bethany House); Shadows Over London, book 1

   An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House, #4)
August: To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander (Zondervan); Belle Meade Plantation, book 3

September: Many Sparrows by Lori Benton (WaterBrook)

September: An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House); Hawthorne House, book 4
 Lady Jayne Disappears Out of the Ordinary (Apart From the Crowd #2) True to You (Bradford Sisters #1)
October: Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano (Revell)

November: Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano (Bethany House); Apart from the Crowd, book 2

Contemporary Romance:

May: True to You by Becky Wade (Bethany House); Bradford Sisters, book 1

Mystery/Suspense:

#2: Still Life  -     By: Dani Pettrey
 Over Maya Dead Body (Serena Jones Mystery #3)Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor #3)

February: Still Life by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House); Chesapeake Valor, book 2

July: Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard (Revell); Serena Jones Mysteries, book 3

October: Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House); Chespeake Valor, book 3

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill" by Julie Klassen

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Tales from Ivy Hill, #1)After a year of mourning her husband's death, Jane Bell, the owner of the Bell Inn, discovers that her inn is deep in debt, and if she can't turn it around in three months, she'll lose it. With her critical mother-in-law back to help, do they have a chance to save it?

In the tradition of a British mini-series, Klassen begins a series with more than just a leading couple--it's a story of community, and it is three women who lead the tale, though primarily Jane Bell, the owner of the inn, and her mother-in-law, Thora.

There are some things that are trademark Klassen--the incredible attention to period detail, the complex characters, the realistic trials besetting the characters. But it's definitely different from her other novels, too.

I would call it women's fiction rather than romance. Yes, there are definitely hints of romance throughout the story, but less than I expected from Klassen novel (however, I expect some of this will be remedied in the coming books). Instead, it's much more a story of the women finding worth and their own place and purpose. There's a strong feel of women working together to run businesses in a time that was not friendly to women business owners.

It isn't gothic or mysterious, or fast-paced. But it is a good story, and I think it will get even better as the series continues and the community and characters grow. I definitely enjoyed this introduction to Ivy Hill.

I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required; all opinions are my own.

Tales from Ivy Hill
1. The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill
2. The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Dec 2017)
3. The Bride of Ivy Green (Dec 2018)

Friday, December 16, 2016

2016 reading challenge

2016 Reading challenge by Bethany House - for fun, I did Bethany House's reading challenge again this year. It was hard coming up with a book I haven't read since a teenager (I reread favorites often), and it turns out not many books are set in autumn. But I managed to succeed in spite of a couple tricky ones!

https://bethanyfiction.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/readingchallenge.jpg

For the RecordFavorite season: For the Record by Regina Jennings (autumn)

Haven't read since a teenager: Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

Set in a place I'd like to visit: A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton (upstate New York)

Nonfiction about the era/setting of a favorite novel: The Coming of the Fairies by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Edwardian Era England, like Roseanna M. White's Ladies of the Manor series; however, it's admittedly pretty delusional for nonfiction)

Carry Me Home (Blue Wren Shallows, #1)
Playing the Part (A Class of Their Own Book #3) - eBook
Found at yard sale/thrift store: Christy by Catherine Marshall

Animal as a significant character: Wildwood Dancing by Juliette Marillier (a talking frog)

Another author recommends: Carry Me Home by Dorothy Adamek (recommended by Sarah Sundin)

Contains one of my favorite things in the title: Death by the Book by Julianna Deering (that'd be BOOKS, rather than death)

Ends a series: Playing the Part by Jen Turano (A Class of Their Own, book 3)

Has a character with my best friend's name: A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears (Nicholas)

Is at least 100 years old: Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Has a movie adaptation: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Monday, December 12, 2016

"For the Record" by Regina Jennings - fun and engaging

For the Record  -     By: Regina Jennings
Deputy Joel Puckett didn't want to leave Texas, but unfair circumstances have made moving to the Ozarks his only shot at keeping his badge. With vigilantes running the town, he needs to prove that he's the law--and that job is made more difficult with a nosy reporter following his everywhere he goes. Betsy Huckabee has been rejected again and again by big-city newspapers, but with the deputy as the inspiration for a fictional serial, she finally reaches her publication dream. But what will her ambition cost her hero?

This a great conclusion to the Ozark Mountain Romance series (though it definitely can stand on its own). I'd been looking forward to seeing what happens to Betsy when she grows up, and it didn't disappoint.

I ended up really liking how Jennings portrays the vigilante Bald Knobbers. They oppose Joel, our Dashing Deputy, which of course can't be good. But on the other hand, they're comprised of some good guys (and some questionable guys) who are pushing for justice and safety in a place where the law hasn't been doing its job. She handles the idea of vigilante justice in a way that doesn't declare it black or white, but also offers a better way.

Betsy is a cute and spunky heroine, while Joel makes a most aptly named "Dashing Deputy." Fun and sweet, the story was highly entertaining, with some good inspirational .

I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required--all opinions are my own.

Ozark Mountain Romance
1. A Most Inconvenient Marriage
2. At Love's Bidding
2.5 "Her Dearly Unintended" from the novella collection With This Ring?
3. For the Record

And a small tie-in to the Ladies of Caldwell County series, particularly Caught in the Middle

Friday, December 9, 2016

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

One Enchanted Eve (Enchanted Christmas Collection #2)After years of making a wreck of his life, Colin Renwycke has a plan: to complete culinary school and become a pastry chef, proving to his family once and for all that he can do something right. However, thanks to his frequent messes and slip-ups, his by-the-book teacher is ready to kick him out of the school entirely. Instructer Rylan Jefferson has one more chance at grasping her dream of her own bakery, but she knows she doesn't have the creativity that would guarantee her the job. When her worst student Colin shows up with a crazy proposal to help her out--and hopfully convince her to not expel him--she can hardly believe she agrees. But the next thing she knows, she's in the car with him on the way to his family home in Iowa where they will combine her skill with his creative flair to create masterpiece pastries . . . and maybe even something more.

As fun and quirky as her stories always are, it's amazing how much depth the author also includes. They aren't sugar-coated; there's some poor choices, heavy regrets, and messed up family life in there too. But there's also a lot of hope, dreams developed, and dreams realized, even in something so short as a 100-page novella.

Colin's struggles with what he really wants to do--not to mention the knowledge that he has never managed to follow through on really anything--is easy enough to relate to, but combine that with his wounded heart, he's really a sweet, swoonworthy hero. He's made some pretty poor choices, but he's also trying to do better. He and Rylan are similar enough in certain areas to understand each other, yet different enough in others to provide balance. It's a good combination.

And, of course, the story is another fun tie-in to the Walker Family novels, the author's other books set in Maple Valley, IA.

Enchanted Christmas Collection
1. One Enchanted Christmas
2. One Enchanted Eve
3. One Enchanted Noel

Walker Family
0.5: "Three little Words"
1. From the Start
2. Like Never Before
3. Keep Holding On
3.5: "A Maple Valley Romance" (published in Right Where We Belong collection of small-town novellas)
4. All This Time

Monday, December 5, 2016

One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg - a fun, quirky romance

One Enchanted ChristmasAfter Maren Grant falls head-over-heels for the image of the cover model on her first published novel, going on a date with him cements the feeling that it was meant to be. But after a year with only a single postcard and an open invitation to visit his family home in Iowa, as well as an overwhelming case of writer's block, she's losing heart. A friend convinces her to drive down there and use the house as a writer retreat, hoping the change of scenery will stir up ideas for her next book. But what she doesn't expect is to find the house occupied--not by her cover model, but by his responsible older brother Evan. And for reasons known only to him, he invites her stay. And for whatever reason, she agrees. And from there . . .

Why I didn't read this story a year ago is beyond me. I love the author's voice, especially the humor that colors it. It's quirky, fun, and romantic, just like I've come to expect from the author, while still tugging the heartstrings. I love that she writes characters who know how to laugh at themselves. In this world, we need it!

Often times Christmas-related stories can be pretty cheesy, but this is more a story that happens to take place around Christmas, not heavily focused on holiday sentiment. And for fun, it's tied in to the Walker Family series! It's definitely worth the read.

Enchanted Christmas Collection
1. One Enchanted Christmas
2. One Enchanted Eve
3. One Enchanted Noel

Walker Family
0.5: "Three Little Words"
1. From the Start
2. Like Never Before
3. Keep Holding On
3.5: "A Maple Valley Romance" (published in Right Where We Belong collection of small-town novellas)
4. All This Time

Friday, December 2, 2016

December 2016 Christian Fiction Releases!

Exciting new releases for December 2016:


Historical:


The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen (Bethany House); Tales from Ivy Hill, book 1

Upon the death of her husband, an inexperienced young woman becomes the proprietor of a busy village inn, and it's up to her to save it from financial ruin.


For the Record by Regina Jennings (Bethany House); Ozark Mountain Romance, book 3

A small-town newspaper reporter finds inspiration for a serial in her town's new deputy sheriff, but what will her ambition cost her?

#1: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill  -     By: Julie Klassen
For the Record  -     By: Regina Jennings
#1: Conspiracy of Silence  -     By: Ronie Kendig
Contemporary Suspense:

Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig (Bethany House); The Tox Files, book 1

Disavowed after a mission gone bad, a former Special Forces operator is lured back into the field to stop an ancient plague and track down the society behind it.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today's Renaissance Mom, by Wendy Speake and Kelly Stuart

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today's Renaissance MomLife Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelly Stuart celebrates the ways mothers can live their art in the midst of their mothering. By following God's leading to embrace His gifts, renaissance moms can model the joy of obedience for their families. It's a celebration of motherhood, creativity, and the faith that binds them.

This isn't a how-to book for running a business, or for developing creativity, or for developing time for creative pursuits in the midst of a busy season of life, but it is a book full of encouragement for creative women (with scriptural backing), and yes, some tips for running a business, developing creativity (in oneself and one's kids), and finding time.

This is especially geared toward mothers, and that aspect I had a hard time connecting with, being as I am not a mother. However, there was a lot of good, applicable encouragement for creative women that one doesn't need children to appreciate.

A couple highlights that impacted me:

Recognizing the worth in our creative abilities: While I can accept that I'm quite creative, sometimes it's a struggle to find the worth in it. It's not earning a fortune, and my artwork certainly isn't a Monet or Van Gough; I'm hardly at professional couturier-caliber in my sewing. I'm not providing a vital service, like doctors, farmers, and car mechanics; nor is much of my creative work overtly spiritually uplifting. However, the authors emphasize that using these creative abilities--in whatever capacity we are talented--is an act of worship, full of worth. God gave us these desires and talents and abilities for a purpose, and it is to His glory when we use them; saying that they aren't worth much belittles His good work.

Another aspect of worth the authors discuss is the placing of monetary values on our creative goods and services. It can be hard to charge for something that isn't a necessity, especially when we struggle with not feeling like a professional at our craft. And while the authors acknowledge that one should listen to God first on whether to charge or not to charge, they also emphasize that one should not be afraid to make a profit--the worker is worthy of his wages. And a lot of times things we create are truly A LOT of work and worth monetary compensation.

The importance of partnering with our family: This was one of my learning areas, as I tend to do a thing on my own (sometimes secretively, especially for something in which I don't have a lot of confidence in the outcome) and then maybe discuss it later if it was successful--like when I started writing short stories and submitting them for publication. When the first one was published, I felt obligated to tell my husband--but I had never hinted prior to that that I was writing them. The authors point out that it's a blessing to have the blessing of one's family--husband, kids, whoever. Chances are, they will be supportive and encouraging, helping in the areas one is not strong, if one only gives them the chance. "Creative woman, your husband is for you, not against you . . . even if he doesn't always understand you. You are two different personalities there in one flesh, and it can rub something awful. Still, if you feel called by God to do something more, then you've been called to do more together." (134).

There's a lot more in here, with recognition of boundaries, what to do if one doesn't have the blessing of one's family, how to incorporate family into one's creative pursuits, how to encourage creativity in one's children, and things the bible has to say about mothers and creativity (yes, it's there! Check out the Proverbs 31 woman). I definitely recommend it to both those who are creative and those who wish they were--chances are you actually are, and this book can help you see it. And also for any woman who is a mom and still wishes for a little more out of life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ronie Kendig's "Conspiracy of Silence" - Indiana Jones-style military thriller

#1: Conspiracy of Silence  -     By: Ronie Kendig
Four years after a mission gone bad, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. But when a mysterious plague is unleashed at an archaeological dig in Saudi Arabia, Tox is lured back into action. Partnered with an archaeologist, an FBI agent, and his old team, he is up against not only the plague, but also a secret society and an ancient mystery surrounding a revered codex that might be the key to the whole mission . . .

Indiana Jones meets military thriller, with ancient plagues, biblical artifacts, and secret societies to spice things up. I really enjoyed that unique blend. The action was non-stop, with plenty of suspense. The team is formed of people from a variety of backgrounds--from Christian to Jew to agnostic to atheist. While there is definite friction thanks to their histories, they are still a cohesive, functioning unit.

Kasey was definitely my favorite character, though unexpected, since she didn't have a part in the prequel. She doesn't have the military prowess most of the others on the team have, but she has special, really helpful skills. And she brings out the softer side of Tox. And the protective side. Basically, she makes him more human. I could relate to her best out of the bunch.

I do recommend reading the free prequel first. It provides a fair amount of backstory and introduces a lot of the major characters. There are a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, so that extra help is nice--especially when it's in a another fascinating story. There's enough going on that I think these will be great to reread. I'm excited to see where the series goes next!

I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required--all opinions are my own.

Tox Files
0.5: "The Warrior's Seal"
1. Conspiracy of Silence
2. Crown of Souls


Friday, November 18, 2016

"Married 'Til Monday" by Denise Hunter - sweet story of restoration


Married 'til Monday (Chapel Springs, #4)Difficulties with her dad has culminated in a distant relationship between Abby and her parents, but she’s finally succumbed to her mom’s pressure to come out for their 35th-anniversary party. Ryan McKinley has tried to move on from his ex-wife, Abby, but he only misses her more. When her parents call him out of the blue about their anniversary party in Summer Harbor, Maine, Ryan discovers Abby never told them about the divorce, and he believes God has given him an opportunity to win her back. He shows up at her door, and she gets trapped into taking him with her. With just a one-week trip, will Ryan be able to overcome all the reasons they divorced in the first place? Or will their hearts be broken all over again?

It's not often one reads about divorces in Christian fiction, and it becomes pretty obvious why Abby and Ryan had divorced in the first place. But it's also clear that they didn't fight for their marriage enough--that both parties could have made changes to save their marriage. They potentially can still change, but God has to be part of the process. I don't think everything will be easy for them in the future, with all the baggage they carry, but with self-revelation and God's help, I think they can restore their marriage.

Married 'Til Monday and The Goodbye Bride are at the top for moving contemporary romances. Denise Hunter clearly knows how to write romance, and she clearly can do stories of restoration as well! What a tear-jerker! And yet there's some definite humor in it too, along with pain and joy. Marvelous.

Chapel Springs
1. Barefoot Summer
2. Dancing with Fireflies
3. The Wishing Season
4. Married 'Til Monday

Summer Harbor (connected to Married 'Til Monday)
1. Falling like Snowflakes
2. The Goodbye Bride
3. Just a Kiss 

Monday, November 14, 2016

"The Warrior's Seal" by Ronie Kendig - the A-Team meets Indiana Jones

The Warrior's Seal (The Tox Files): A Tox Files Novella - eBook  -     By: Ronie Kendig
Special Forces operative Cole 'Tox' Russell and his team are tasked with a high priority search-and-rescue mission--the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour in Africa. When a deadly, airborne poison connected with an ancient Assyrian weapon is released within the search area, Tox must stop the terrorists and neutralize the toxin to save the president.

The A-Team meets Indiana Jones in this short archeological/military thriller.

I love Indiana Jones.

And the guys of the A-Team are pretty cool too.

If this novella is any indication of how the series is going to go, I'm all in.

The military camaraderie is great, as the guys work together as a cohesive unit to do whatever needs to be done, if that's saving the president or stopping terrorists. There are potential hints of what may come in future books--Ram was pretty protective of his sister around Tox. Mayhap her archeological expertise will be needed again? It's a great introduction to Tox, and I'm interested to see how the events of this novella will affect him in the future. I wish the first book was already out so I could find out!

The Tox Files
0.5: "Warrior's Seal" (free prequel e-novella)
1. Conspiracy of Silence
2. Crown of Souls

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nancy Mehl's "Fatal Frost" - Review and Giveaway - an apropos read given current events

#1: Fatal Frost  -     By: Nancy Mehl
After a visit by her absentee US Marshal father, US Marshal Mercy Brennan finds herself in the sights of St. Louis's most powerful gang. Deputy Marshal Mark St. Laurent--her ex-boyfriend--is assigned to get her out of town and keep her safe. But it isn't until a freak ice storm strands them in a remote location that Mercy learns just how much the Marshals have been keeping her in the dark--and just how much danger she's really in. Between the enemy and storm, will they survive long enough for help to arrive--if it's even coming at all?

Wow, this story is quite apropos given all the recent the violence involving law enforcement. And it offers a pretty scary but believable situation--using video coverage to frame cops for shootings. Never mind the videos have been doctored, never mind that it wouldn't hold up to scrutiny--just the media frenzy alone could easily set off deadly rioting. It's a scary notion to contemplate. It also begs the question, in this technological age where everyone has access to photo/video editing programs, just how much can we trust such "proof" anymore?

I feel . . . almost . . . double-triple crossed. There are characters you can trust and those you can't, but how do you know which is which? Ah, the thrilling paranoia of a mole in law enforcement! (not something I'd never want to experience personally, of course). It really ramps up the suspense. And this book has suspense in spades.

There's at least one situation introduced early on that isn't ever dealt with (unless I really missed something from reading too fast; it's a hard book to put down); but since this is a series, I'm going on a hunch it will come into play in later books. Tons of suspense, some masterful manipulation, and a few good statements of faith make this a highly enjoyable read.


I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Defenders of Justice
1. Fatal Frost
2. Dark Deception 
3. Blind Betrayal (April 2018)

Monday, November 7, 2016

"Finding Margo" by Jen Turano - a fun, cross-genre story

Finding Margo (Finding Home #1)After suffering a stressful tour and too full schedule, pop star Margo Hartman is on the run, looking for a break. But when a duck forces her to stop in a small town in Ohio, she gets a lot more than she bargained for--and a lot less rest. Deputy Sheriff Brock Moore is pretty sure "Marge" isn't who she claims she is, especially when her resemblance to a local Amish woman has made her the target of a killer.

Some contemporary romance, a dose of Amish, a dash of mystery and suspense, and a lot of humor all work together to make this a fun cross-genre story. Generally speaking, Amish fiction doesn't thrill me, but with Jen Turano as the author, I knew I would enjoy it.

As in her historical fiction, Turano excels at humor. I loved the duck (though this could be from having a pet duck named Sonja when I was 23--just like Margo!--and how I miss her. Best pet ever.) The characters form a fun cast that I would be happy to revisit again.

Which leads me to . . . This isn't just a standalone book--it's to be part of a series! Turano has done a great job laying down a foundation for the series, with some mystery about the town itself, besides the--well, I can't say for spoilers. But with Jen Turano, wherever the the story leads, it's guaranteed to be entertaining!

Thank you Gilead and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Finding Home
1. Finding Margo

In memory of my Dearest Duck Sonja:
The Discovery of Sonja (poem)
Ode to Sonja (poem)
Photographs of baby Sonja
Photographs of slightly older Sonja

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ruth Logan Herne's "Home on the Range"

#2: Home on the Range  -     By: Ruth Logan Herne
After months of denial, single dad Nick Stafford finally gives in to the principal's pressure to take his two daughters to professional help after their mother's abandonment three years before. However, the recommended family therapist--the principal's sister--is not what Nick was expecting. After a traumatic incident, Dr. Elsa Andreas left her practice for the seclusion of a backwoods cottage. But Nick's two needy little girls--and the handsome cowboy himself--might just have the power to draw her out of her own protective bubble and back into the world.

The author can certainly write children! Especially sisters (boy, did Cheyenne and Dakota remind me of my cousins at that age). These are no two precocious little angels--they are the usual sort of children who whine, cry, sulk, and fight. They know exactly which buttons to push to get a bigger rise out of the other. And just when you're ready to break down and give up, they hit you right in the heart with how sweet they can be.

I liked Elsa a lot--she's not at all the stereotype of a child psychologist. She's sensible, fun, and quite mom-like, but without the heightened emotions of this being Her Own Troubled Kid she's dealing with.

To me, it felt like Nick's reaction to Elsa's reveal of her history was overblown, but then I don't have abandonment and trust issues like he does. However, I felt that the situation with Whitney (the girls' mom) was done really well--the characters acted with wisdom even in the face of her antagonism and manipulation. It's a good example for anyone dealing with a manipulative and untrustworthy relationship--"wise as serpents and innocent as doves" in action. Godly and loving, yet with very necessary boundaries.

And the dance dad thing is pretty cute.

Thank you Blogging for Books for providing a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Double S Ranch
1. Back in the Saddle
2. Home on the Range
3. Peace in the Valley (Spring 2017)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Susan May Warren's "Wild Montana Skies"

Wild Montana Skies #1When Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Kacey Fairing returns to her hometown following a traumatic tour in Afghanistan, she doesn't want to relive her past mistakes. However, it turns out her childhood sweetheart--and father of her teenage daughter--is home from Nashville, helping his injured dad. Ben King is in a slump in his singing career, and coming home gives him a much-needed escape. But working with the woman who broke his heart is not what he'd been planning on. Nor is the news that she assumed he knew thirteen years ago, a revelation that changes everything for him . . .


I enjoyed the sense of outdoor adventure, with the massive flooding and needing to rescue stranded hikers from the wilderness. I have always enjoyed stories of wilderness survival, and while this one isn't quite that desperate, I can feel the potential for it somewhere in the series.

I've found that I really like stories of reconciliation--where a couple with a past is thrown back together and must find a way to work through what separated them in the first place. It's a wonderful example in world where divorce is so common. I can just imagine the dismay Kacey feels as she watches her daughter following the exact same path she did in her teen years--sneaking off to the same places, being there to rescue her crush, taking comfort from him when her world explodes.

As much as I enjoyed Kacey and Ben's story, I found myself more fascinated with Sierra and Ian's (and then learned after the fact that there's a prequel novella that tells more background on them). And they're definitely what will keep me coming back, since, well, let's just say, not all is wrapped up for them.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Montana Rescue
0.5: "If Ever I Would Leave You"
1. Wild Montana Skies
2. Rescue Me
3. A Matter of Trust
4. Troubled Waters (January 2018)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Another Day, Another Dali" by Sandra Orchard - a fun mystery with a quirky cast

#2: Another Day, Another Dali  -     By: Sandra Orchard
When FBI Special Agent Serena Jones takes on a forgery case for her grandmother's friend, she hopes that it will be a simple case of returning a masterpiece they'd recently recovered in a bust, but it turns out the Dali isn't the only painting that has been replaced by a forgery. Between this case, a connection to her grandfather's unsolved murder years before, and another FBI case she's been helping out with, Serena's got a lot to juggle--and a pretty large pool of people who are unhappy with her. At least one of which appears to be out to murder her. But isn't that just a typical day's work for an FBI agent?

I enjoy a good mystery, and this one is plenty mysterious. But even more than the mysteries (both the current art forgery case and the cold case of Serena's murdered grandfather), I love the characters that Orchard has created. All of them are fun and quirky; from Serena's family who are way too good at reading her, to her best friend and her friend's Casanova cousin; to Tanner (who's way more than just a co-worker), to her eccentric apartment neighbors. I'm growing suspicious that there's more to Aunt Martha than meets the eye. And Nate, of course--there's something definitely going on with him. Which brings me to:

Nate or Tanner? Tanner or Nate? Which will it be that she falls in love with? The suspense is killing me. Both are great guys. And every time one of them looks like he's winning, I start feeling sorry for the other one and rooting for him instead. I'm doomed to be disappointed. And thrilled. I'm stuck in the same boat as Serena--I really like both of them. It's good writing to be able to make two very different yet equally appealing heroes.

As Serena's search for her grandfather's murderer--and her indecisive love life--are not yet solved, I am highly looking forward to book three. And for the record, I adore the clever titles in this series.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book. I was not required to make a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Serena Jones Mysteries
1. A Fool and His Monet
2. Another Day, Another Dali
3. Over Maya Dead Body

Friday, October 21, 2016

Connilyn Cossette's "Shadow of the Storm" - at the base of Mount Sinai

#2: Shadow of the Storm  -     By: Connilyn Cossette
Hebrew weaver Shira has struggled with fear since her days of slavery in Egypt. Now wandering in the wilderness with the rest of the Israelites on the way to the Promised Land, Shira discovers her calling: midwifery. But when a birth goes tragically wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her. But could this also be a chance to see her dreams come true?

I really enjoyed this different perspective of the exodus; not from the point of view of the main characters, like Moses and Aaron, but from the unimportant people who are following blindly through the wilderness. How terrifying would it have been when all of sudden the Levites started killing the idol worshipers? Or when God struck down Aaron's sons without most of the people knowing why? The division amongst the different tribes of Israel, the fear of the mixed multitude who came with them--Cossette brings up a lot of points to think about.

Shira is a sweet heroine that I could connect to--we struggle with some similar things, and I can understand her not wanting to ruffle feathers. I'm the same the same way. Dvorah was quite the contrast to her. I can understand why she does what she does--I don't like it, but I can understand it.

There was a lot of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book, coming from the mouths of many characters. My favorite quote, though, is from the midwife Reva:
"We have to endure the storms, dear one, so we know how deep our roots go. So we can appreciate the depths of our strength and the freshness of the gentle breezes afterward." (164) 
Trials are when we see what our faith truly looks like--when we put faith into practice.

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Out from Egypt
1. Counted with the Stars
2. Shadow of the Storm
3. Wings of the Wind

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lynn Austin's "Waves of Mercy" - a profound story about faith and true love

Waves of Mercy  -     By: Lynn Austin
In 1897, Geesje de Jonge is asked to write a memoir about her experience emigrating from the Netherlands to Michigan. As Geesje recalls the events of her past---including the story of her one true love---a young visitor named Anna mourns a broken engagement. What life-altering surprises await the two women before the summer ends?

I know a number of people who don't read fiction. Why waste time on stories when you can be learning more about God through the bible and nonfiction? And they read highly reputable, good works to get to know God better. But for me, of all the books I've read, it's fiction that touches me the most, and what God uses to speak to me. And He had a lot to say through this book.

To be honest, though I enjoyed the story (or stories--both Geesje's and Anna's and how they so beautifully tied together), it's far from my favorite of the author's works. It's much more real-life-ish than romance-novel-ish. Yet even so, I can't deny that it has some powerful things to say; things that I needed to hear and do.

Geesje's work recounting her life--her struggles--is a way she could look back and see how her faith has grown, even through the incredible trials in her life. And even though I fully intend to live another 60-70 years, I felt compelled to do the same (which interrupted my reading, but better to strike while the iron's hot than chicken out later), simply putting my testimony into words on paper. It reminded me of the book of Deuteronomy, when the Israelites recount their journey of the exodus to the Promised Land and all the milestones--both good and bad--along the way. Then they place stones of remembrance in the Jordan before setting off into the new land. This story is Geesje's stone of remembrance.

There is so much one can take home from this novel, about faith, about true love, about the choices we make. Though Geesje's story shows the maturation of her faith, I love her interpretation of it: "It has more to do with God's faithfulness to me than the other way around." Isn't that how it is? God is truly the faithful one in the relationship, not us.

One small thing--I'm not a big fan of present tense stories. Anna and old Geesje (in 1897) have their point of view in the present tense, while Geesje's history is told in the past tense, making it easy to differentiate what year one is reading about. It works, but I still don't love the present tense.

Thank you Bethany House for providing an e-book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Irene Hannon's "Tangled Webs"

Tangled Webs #3In the final Men of Valor book, Finn McGregor, a retired Army Ranger, secludes himself in a remote cabin while trying to recover from a mission gone wrong. Publishing Executive Dana Lewis is staying at the neighboring cabin she inherited from her grandfather. When someone starts vandalizing her property, Finn helps protect her, and they work together to discover who is behind it. As the pranks escalate, it turns out relaxing in the woods is not an option for either one of them.

There's not a hint of mystery with this novel. Just pure suspense. You know the villain is planning on upping the game; you just don't know exactly how or when. Only that it will be soon, and it's going to go from bad to worse.

When reading a Hannon book, you know you can depend on a complex villain as well as complex protagonists. Even so, I was surprised by her incredible characterization of the conflicted sheriff, who is neither a villain nor one of the romantic leads. He's sympathetic. Likeable. A good guy. But he makes some bad choices. It's definitely an example of how even good people can be put into a position of great temptation and fail to run away. The title certainly applies to him.

I liked how Finn and Dana complemented each other; both have recently been through a traumatic experience, and it helps them understand each other--a safe person to open up too. I highly enjoyed Finn's interactions with his brothers; they definitely acted like family--both loving and annoying. Buried Secrets is still my favorite of the trilogy, but I enjoyed this conclusion to the series.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Men of Valor
1. Buried Secrets
2. Thin Ice
3. Tangled Webs