Monday, March 28, 2016

Giveaway - Back in the Saddle by Ruth Logan Herne! the mysterious workings of publishing companies, I have ended up with not one but TWO advanced reader copies of Ruth Logan Herne's new novel, and thus I feel practically obligated to give one away. Combine that with it landing right when I'm reaching 10,000 pageviews . . . well, it must be time for a celebratory giveaway!

About the book:

The Prodigal Is Coming Home

It’s been a long time since Colt Stafford shrugged off his cowboy legacy for shiny Manhattan loafers and a promising career on Wall Street. But when stock market manipulations leave him financially strapped, the oldest son of legendary rancher Sam Stafford decides to return to the sprawling Double S ranch in Gray’s Glen, Washington. He’s broke, but not broken, and it’s time to check in with his ailing father, and get his legs back under him by climbing into the saddle again.

He doesn’t expect to come home to a stranger pointing a loaded gun at his chest— a tough yet beautiful woman that Sam hired as the house manager. Colt senses there’s more to Angelina Morales than meets the eye and he’s determined to find out what she’s hiding…and why.

Colt’s return brings new challenges. Younger brother Nick has been Sam’s right-hand man at the ranch for years and isn’t thrilled at having Colt insert himself into Double S affairs. And the ranch’s contentious relationship with the citizens of Gray’s Glen asks all the Stafford men to examine their hearts about what it truly means to be a neighbor.  And as Wall Street recovers, will Colt succumb to the call of the financial district’s wealth and power—or finally the courage to stay in the saddle for good?

If you'd like to read my thoughts on the book (and for the record, I did enjoy it and am looking forward to book two, Home on the Range, which will be coming out in October 2016), click here for my review.

Winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours of the giveaway's end. If winner does not respond within 7 days, a new winner will be chosen. US entries only, please.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"A Fool and His Monet" by Sandra Orchard - a quirky mystery

Meet Serena Jones, FBI Art Crimes. When two paintings are discovered missing at the museum where her friend is acting chief of security, Serena immediately jumps into the case. Will she find the missing Monet and RijkaertCover Art? Or are the paintings--and the thief--long gone?

Who could resist such a clever title? And with such a fun title, there simply has to be humor . . . on which score I was not disappointed. This dizzying investigation makes for an entertaining mystery, while the cast of quirky characters keeps everything light and fun.

The best thing about the book might just be Serena's quirky family--her in-desperate-need-of-grandbabies-right-now mother and mystery-obsessed Aunt Martha. Oh my word, they are a hoot. And while entirely lovable, it's definitely questionable if having them on Serena's side is actually good for humanity . . . or at the very least, for Serena's sanity.

This book does a good job setting up the series--tantalizing us with hints about her grandfather's murder, setting us up with not one but TWO decidedly good catches to make Serena's mother happy . . . I'm definitely excited to see what happens to Serena next!

Thank you Revell for providing a free book in exchange for review; I was not required to make the review positive, 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, March 18, 2016

Julianna Deering's "Dressed for Death" - drugs, murder, and Jane Austen

Cover ArtDrew and Madeline return with another mystery! It appears that just because they're married, it doesn't mean they've quit solving murders. While at a Regency-themed house party, one of the guests turns up dead, and it's up to the Fartherings to investigate the murder. But at what cost?

It was fun catching references to Jane Austen's works; some I was more familiar with than others, but I know I recognized quite a few! I enjoyed the return of Carrie as a love interest for Nick. And meeting an adorable tuxedo cat that's worth keeping an eye on.

No matter how fun the mystery may be, or how clever the references to the theme, the murders in these books are never taken lightly. Murder truly is serious, no matter how it's often treated in cozy mysteries. I thought this one had an exceptionally tough death to deal with, along with the serious matter of drugs. And when people turn out to be different than one had always thought . . . it can be heart-breaking. This book was a bit heavier than I had anticipated, but the difficult subjects were treated well.

There are plenty of twists and turns to this mystery! The 1930's setting is interesting as always, with lots of little period details to ground it. Highly enjoyable.

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

Drew Farthering Mysteries
1. Rules of Murder
2. Death by the Book
3. Murder at the Mikado
4. Dressed for Death
5. Murder on the Moor
6. Death at Thorburn Hall 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Jen Turano's "Playing the Part" - delightful as always

Cover ArtIn Jen Turano's third novel of the series, A Class of Their Own, Lucetta Plum, a brilliant stage actress, finds herself on the receiving end of too much adoration--to the point where one devoted fan is intent on 'acquiring her,' be it by hook or crook. For safety, her good friend, society matron Abigail Hart, whisks her off to the estate of her reclusive grandson, Bram. Lucetta is dismayed to find herself at the mercy of yet another ardent admirer, yet somehow Bram manages to get under her skin. While she's trying to puzzle the man out, a number of mysterious happenings go on in the Gothic castle. What secrets is Bram hiding? Will they have the courage to reveal their true selves?

Jen Turano's writing is as delightful as ever, complete with her trademark wit and comedic timing. Lucetta's story makes a fine conclusion to the series. I'm glad to have finally learned the secrets in Lucetta's past--and I was even surprised by a couple of those secrets! The mysterious actress is mysterious indeed. Bram is a bit easier to see through, but he's such a sweetheart--if a little daft. But in a completely heart-warming way.

The Gothic castle was a fun setting--you can tell the author had fun penning it, complete as it is with towers, moat, drawbridge, and cannons. It's quirky, yet . . . it fits. And I love the quirky crew of servants and critters that abide there.

Besides learning Lucetta's story, I was glad to follow up with Abigail Hart and finally learn the cause of the rift between her and her daughter. However, this book proves that rifts between mothers and daughters are not all easily mended (theirs being but one example in the story).

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

A Class of Their Own
1. After a Fashion
2. In Good Company
3. Playing the Part

Friday, March 11, 2016

Siri Mitchell's "Flirtation Walk" - delightful and unconventional

Cover ArtWhen Lucinda receives word that her con artist father has died, she decides to throw herself on the mercy of her mother's family in West Point and lead a respectable life: behave like a lady, marry a respectable man, and NEVER con anyone again. Seth Wescott, top of his class of cadets, finds himself helpless to do anything to help his sister, who has been conned out of their entire estate and left helpless at a fort in the west. The only way he can go out there to join her--and find the man who conned her--is if he drops from the top of his class to very bottom, as only the worst cadets are sent to the frontier. When a girl trying her hardest to be good meets a guy trying his hardest to be bad, do they have any hope for love?

I was a bit curious how a story about a con artist trying to be good and a good guy trying to be bad would work in a Christian setting, but work it did! It takes time, of course, for Lucinda to mend her ways. Even though she is trying so desperately hard to be good, she's often manipulating the people around her.

Seth is so bad at being bad, it's pathetic (and quite funny). But then, it would just about kill me too if I were in his shoes - when one is taught to do one's best and obey the rules, and when one actually likes learning, it would be so horribly humiliating and painful to turn one's back on it all. To be fair, though, it gives Seth a lesson in pride and humility that he may not have learned otherwise.

Though this is a delightful and rather unconventional story, with ample humor, it does bring up some tough questions: At what point do rules cease honoring the spirit of the law and instead impede justice? When justice fails to come through, is it ever okay to take matters into your own hands? If you get the desired result in the end, does it really matter what route you took to get there?

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

Monday, March 7, 2016

"The Red Door Inn" by Liz Johnson - a sweet contemporary romance

Cover ArtIn the first Prince Edward Island Dreams novel, Marie Carrington, desperate, alone, is trying to find a safe haven on Prince Edward Island. When an older gentleman offers her a job decorating his Bed and Breakfast, she discovers a place of refuge. However, his nephew, Seth Sloane, gun-shy of women after being badly burned, is not happy to have her around. He's just waiting to find out what her scam is. Though they don't get along well, they do share a love for his uncle and agree on getting the inn ready in time for opening. Maybe, if they find a way to open up their hearts, they can find the healing both desperately need.

A sweet romance, The Red Door Inn is a gentle story of healing, learning to accept help, and learning to stand up for oneself. Both Marie and Seth are terribly wounded, though their wounds manifest in different ways: Marie in fear, closing in on herself, suffering panic attacks, and Seth in anger and bitterness.

I suppose like many people of my generation (as well as those of older generations), when I think of Prince Edward Island, I think of Anne of Green Gables. I enjoyed reading about a character who loved Anne enough to seek out the Island as a refuge. Granted, the author gently slips in more about PEI's attractions than just LM Montgomery's famous series, but I appreciated the tribute to the classics.

While there was nothing overly surprising in the plot, nothing terribly dangerous or exciting, it was still an engrossing read--I never wanted to put the book down. The author's writing is excellent, with touches of humor to lighten the more serious tone to the story.

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

Friday, March 4, 2016

NEW Christian Fiction releases for March 2016!

Quite a line-up for March - from historical to mystery to contemporary romance to young adult. Lots of books to be excited about!

Flirtation Walk Playing the Part Dressed for Death

Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell (Bethany House)

A con artist's daughter vies for a life of respectability, but will her cadet sweetheart understand when he discovers her secrets?

Playing the Part by Jen Turano (Bethany House); A Class of Their Own, book 3

When one of her adoring fans turns threatening, an actress is whisked off to safety at a country estate belonging to a friend's eccentric and eligible grandson.

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering (Bethany House);  A Drew Farthering Mystery, book 4

When a guest at a Regency-era house party turns up dead, it's up to Drew to uncover the murderer. Methinks some references to Jane Austen will be taking part . . . The Red Door Inn A Fool and His Monet
Contemporary romance:

Back in the Saddle by Ruth Logan Herne (Multnomah); Double S Ranch, book 1

After his losses in the Stock Exchange, the prodigal returns home to his father's ranch. But when Wall Street pendulums again, will he choose to return to the world of finance or stay in the saddle?

The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson (Revell); Prince Edward Island Dreams, book 1

When a man agrees to help restore his uncle's inn, he doesn't expect the man to have hired a jumpy, nervous woman with a taste for expensive antiques to be the interior decorator.


A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard (Revell); Serena Jones Mystery, book 1

New to the FBI's Art Crimes division, a young agent leaps at the chance to rescue a stolen Monet--and lands in a heap of trouble.
A Daring Sacrifice
Young Adult:

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund (Zondervan); An Uncertain Choice, book 2

With her cruel uncle on her rightful throne, a young woman takes to the woods to fight for and feed the starving widows and orphans. When her uncle calls in a knight to hunt her down, it is none other than a friend from her youth.