Posted in Book Reviews

Holly, Ivy, and Intrigue: A Christmas Novella Set

189Christmas Murder Mix-Up

“I have to get rid of her now.”

After four months of a blissful marriage, Paige is devastated to overhear her husband, Cooper, say those words to his best friend. Because of a suspicious Christmas gift, a gas leak, and a home invasion, Paige’s love for Cooper is tested to the limit. Will their marriage survive the Christmas Murder Mix-up?

Holiday Pursuit

When Brianna Rockwell’s brother finds himself in danger and disappears three days before Christmas, she does everything to rescue him. Brianna dodges bullets, escapes fire, and even turns to her longtime crush for help. But the closer she gets to solving the mystery and finding her only sibling, the more desperate someone gets to silence her forever…

A Holiday Intruder

Kelsey Jordan prefers upcycling junk and refinishing antiques for her store in a Georgia mountains town to being the center of attention. When a robbery and an unknown benefactor shove her in the middle of a decades-old mystery, and a real estate developer and a former baseball star compete for her attention, Kelsey isn’t sure who to trust.

My Thoughts: All together, this was a cozy read. The first two stories start off with a bang and include lots of fast-paced action and even some shootouts. The third one carried more of a family mystery. Each story brought a little romance to the table. As well as a sound Christian message. The novellas are not connected so it makes it easier to pick up or set aside during the busy holiday season.

Christmas Murder Mix-up: This starts off in an almost comical way, but things turn deadly pretty quickly. This was a very interesting, original story.

Holiday Pursuit: Wow! Talk about starting off with a bang. Bullets are flying on the very first page and the story doesn’t slow down much from there.

A Holiday Intruder: This one was more relaxed in terms of action. The love triangle made it a favorite of mine.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Holly, Ivy, and Intrigue 4 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy a bit of action with their Christmas novellas.

~ I received a copy from the publisher. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own. 

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Posted in Book Reviews

Interview and Book Review: 18 Hours To Us by Krista Noorman

192

When Natalie Rhodes left her house early that fateful morning to catch the bus to her senior class trip, she never expected to end up in a car with Colton Daynes – the guy she’s had a crush on since first grade, the guy who has no idea who she is. But when Colton’s irresponsible driving causes them both to miss the bus, the unlikely pair set off on a road trip from Michigan to Virginia Beach to catch up with their classmates.

From the little village of Middleville, the popular football star and the quiet gymnast will navigate back roads and highways, travel from lake towns to waterfalls to mountaintops and beyond, all the while fielding texts from Colton’s friends and mean girl, Lexi, who also happens to be Colton’s girlfriend and Natalie’s former best friend.

Hours spent together on the road will lead them to places they’ve never been, discovering hidden talents, revealing secrets and fears. And they just might realize they have more in common than they know.

What I Loved: 18 Hours To Us is fun and flirty. There is this tension and chemistry between Colton and Natalie that keeps the pages turning. But what I really liked was the message Krista was able to bring to the table about sex, love, and teenage relationships. We see Natalie dealing with temptation and the struggle to the right thing, which I found very realistic. The characters felt authentic, they acted, reacted, and talked much like teens. Over and over again, I kept thinking back to my teenage years. There’s something about the overall feel of the story that kept bringing to mind the old movie, She’s All That, or the newer, Geek Charming. 18 Hours To Us isn’t a remake of either but it is a classic teen story with a classic teen feel.

Rating and Recommendation: I give 18 Hours To Us 5 stars and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction or a romantic journey story.

~ I was given an early copy by the author. I chose to review it and all thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

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krista_4x6highresInterview:

Grab a cup of coffee and sit a spell as I talk with Krista about her latest novel.

Where did the idea for 18 Hours to Us come to mind?

Last spring, my daughter went on a trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park with her 8th grade class. We had to get her to the school super early in the morning, and while waiting for the buses to arrive, my mind wandered and I thought, “What if someone missed the bus?” I kept thinking about the teenage drivers who squeal their tires out of the parking lot every day after school and that led me to the idea for the book–two teens on their way to catch the bus to their senior class trip and one of them causes the other to get in an accident, making them miss the bus and have to ride together to get there. Two unlikely people stuck in a car for two days. And the road trip fun and romance ensue. 😉

What is your goal for the novel?

There are some more serious topics within this story (depression, bullying, suicide) that I’ve touched on. They are hard topics, and I hope some people will relate to the struggle. My daughter dealt with some bullying in her middle school years (not to the extent that Natalie did in the book), but it’s a very real problem, especially if you’re the one being targeted. I tried to show the reasons behind the bullying in this particular case as well, and there’s also a good lesson in forgiveness. While this book is pretty sweet and light for the most part, I hope that I did this particular part of the story justice.

What scene was a favorite to write?

Oh goodness. I’m not sure. I loved writing the dialogue and cute banter between Natalie and Colton. It came pretty easily to me, and they are pretty adorable. I think one of my favorite scenes is when they finally make it to Virginia Beach. They are standing in the water after splashing each other and he hugs her and tells her that he’s glad he got to see the look on her face when she saw the ocean for the first time. “He hugged her. So tight she felt like crying.” That part brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know why. It’s just sweet, and it’s also when they are about to part ways and go back to their own little friend groups when the buses arrive. They are both confused after the bond they developed on their trip.

What do we have to look forward to from you in the future?

I have a couple projects in the works right now. One is a contemporary/historical romance set at an amusement park that once existed here in Michigan. Another is a contemporary second chance romance–a wedding photographer and her first love are reunited when he’s the best man at the wedding she’s photographing.

Eeek!! Sounds exciting! Will you ever return to YA fiction?

For sure. I have a YA dystopian trilogy in the works. The first two books have been written. The first is in the editing process, but I have no solid release plans for those yet.

Having 2 teens, do you see either of them in any of the characters?

Natalie definitely has some of my daughter’s personality. She’s kind-hearted and loyal and forgiving. She loves her friends and gymnastics and Jesus. There might even be a little of my son in Natalie’s personality–more on the quiet side with a few close friends. My daughter is the opposite–loud and outgoing with a lot of friends (maybe more like Colton). 😉

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Walsh returns with a hopeful and emotional new book about seizing second chances, finding yourself, and forging your own path.

Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?

My Thoughts: Hometown Girl carried the cozy, small-town feeling that you would expect based on the title. It was complete with a delightful family and all the dynamics that the close-knit family of various personalities would have. Walsh left some open doors with  Beth’s siblings that make me curious to know if we’ll revisit this town again in the future. There was a variety of townspeople as well, adding to the cast in every good way.
The one hiccup for me was that I found portions of the story to be repetitive. Certain aspects of the characters backgrounds and feelings seemed to be on an unending loop. Thankfully, there was an intriguing mystery that held my attention the entire time that led to a very satisfying ending.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Hometown Girl 4 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy small-town settings or Christian Contemporary fiction.

~ I received a copy from Net Galley. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

186Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

My Thoughts: From the first page I was struck by Turner’s comedic voice and smooth story-telling tone. There were two factors that made this novel a memorable one: Turner nicely dealt with an often-debated topic among Christian fiction readers. And she incorporated a strong message on repentance, new life in Christ, and dealing with the consequences of previous sins. I really appreciated watching the character turn to Christ in a real-to-life moment of conversion then proceed to turn away from her previous lifestyle on a day-to-day basis. It’s the type of real Christian living that we don’t always see in fiction. A lot of fictional characters are either already saved at the start of the book or they’re saved at the end, so Turner was working in a different “setting” here, and I  enjoyed it. I will say, that there were times when I felt like the message started to feel unbalanced as if God cared more about getting these two together than anything else. While I would have appreciated seeing a little less “God did it in order for us to meet” tones, Turner knocked it out of the park in terms of repentance and living for Christ.
As a conservative reader, I want to point out that I feel that the book is best suited for a mature audience. However, I want to point out the difference I found here in Turner’s work compared to some other “mature” works I’ve read in the past. Turner allows her character to talk or think about sex in a very blunt, matter-of-fact way. I’ve read some novels that I felt were too steamy for my taste but  I don’t think this one falls into that category. The reason is that in other too-steamy-for-me novels the author describes things in a very detailed, slow, and lustful manner. Turner just said it. I don’t think I’ve read the word “sex” in a Christian novel as many times as I’ve read it in this one . . . and yet, it really didn’t come across as over the top to me. Fellow sensitive readers will have to take that into consideration and decide what they’ll do with it. For me, I found it surprising but I didn’t feel the need to put it down as I have others in the past.

Rating and Recommendation: I recommend this to those who enjoy Christian Contemporary or to those who are looking for something fresh in Christian Fiction. I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

~I received a copy from Revell through Net Galley. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Hinds’ Feet on High Places, An Engaging Visual Journey

191My Thoughts: Beautiful! Simply beautiful!! I love how they took a well-loved classic and recreated the packaging for today’s audience. The paintings are breath-taking. There are small images sprinkled throughout that you can color and a few full-page coloring sheets at the end. But this isn’t primarily a coloring book. They did weave in small sections for you to take notes. I found these areas to be extremely small and few and far between. While I would have liked for the journal pages to have been larger, I’m overall pleased with the book and am giving it 5 stars. This would make a great gift!

~ I received a copy from Tyndale. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own. 

Sample Pages: 

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Engagement Plot

182Can Hanna and Will Find True Love amid the Bright Lights of Reality TV? 
Perfect for the fans of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette!

Six months ago, William stole Hanna’s heart and shattered it in front of millions of people on a reality TV dating show. And now the big-wig CEO is back on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota and wants her to forgive him? Fat chance of that. But life is swirling around faster than snow in a blizzard, and despite her objections, teaming up with William seems like the only option to rescue her reputation.
              
William has never regretted anything more than the day he gave that ill-fated interview for the reality show, The Price of Love. But while he can’t change the past, he’s determined to fix the future. He just needs to convince Hanna to forgive him—and pretend to be engaged with him. Simple, right?

When the media erupts with even worse accusations, teaming up and pretending to be engaged seems to be the only way to salvage their reputations.  Despite the media frenzy that swirls around them, an attraction neither of them can fight off begins to surface. Could this love run deeper than a scandal, or will old wounds tear them apart once and for all?  When all seems lost, it’s only with help from above that Hanna and Will may find their happily-ever-after.

My Thoughts:  This was such a fun story. I loved the way Phillips kept the plot moving and changing at every turn. The one thing that bugged me was how naive the main characters suddenly were toward the end. But even this hiccup couldn’t keep me from enjoying the story and their delightful ending. The chemistry was well done and I enjoyed all the insight into a dating tv show and the aftermath of suddenly being in the public eye.

Rating and Recommendation: I’d recommend this to those who enjoy a light-hearted Christian Contemporary and am giving it 4 stars.

~ I received a copy from Net Galley. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in About the Book

Cover Reveal: Yesterday’s Christmas by A.M. Heath

Cover Reveal

 

I was in the middle of a 5 book series when I felt the Lord leading me in a different direction. Ancient Words fans can rest at ease since I expect to return to Maple Grove in a few short years. But for now, the focus is shifting to a brand new series. Now allow me to introduce you to the cover of what I hope will be a November 2018 release, Yesterday’s Christmas: 

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A Season Passed will be a four-book series. Each story is inspired by one of my favorite Disney movies. I’m currently working on the 2nd draft of If Only It Were Yesterday, an Alice in Wonderland inspired story, while also writing the 1st draft of Yesterday’s Christmas, a Beauty and the Beast inspired story. Lol I don’t know which one of these stories I’m more excited to share with you!! I just know you’re going to love them both when they finally arrive. I have so much to do before release day! 

Follow me here on the blog or my Facebook page to keep track of the developments. 

Season Promo final

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

188Page-Turning Romance and Intrigue in Award-Winning Author’s Next Historical Novel

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming. 

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

What I Loved: Where do I start? There was a detailed plot that kept the story moving at a steady pace. Camden is gifted at bringing a scientific study to light and she did well here with the details of plumbing and telegraphy. The setting comes to life. The bad guys aren’t one dimensional. The heroes and heroine are medal-worthy. But where A Dangerous Legacy shines the most is in the relationships between the characters. From page one, Lucy and her brother, Nick, grab your attention for their plight and their endearing relationship. Then there’s the playful banter between Lucy and Colin. Not to mention the more toxic relationships sprinkled throughout the story. I truly enjoyed every minute of it and I can’t wait to see what becomes of Nick Drake.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Dangerous Legacy 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction.

~I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.

Audio Version: I had the pleasure of picking up the audio version and can highly recommend it as well.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Regency Brides Collection

180Romance is a delicate dance bound by rules and expectations in Regency England…
Seven couples must navigate society’s gauntlet to secure the hand of true love….

Charity and Luke are strangers who were forced to marry three years ago.
Adelaide and Walter share a love of music and disdain for elitism.
Caroline and Henry are thrown together by three orphans.
Helen and Isaac harbor his unlikely secret.
Esther is empowered to choose between two men.
Sophia is determined not to choose a man like Nash.
Jamie and William face a daunting London season together.

Will their faith grow and love prevail in a time when both were considered luxuries the elite could not afford?

Overall this was a really enjoyable collection. There were a few minor hiccups but with a collection this large, that’s bound to be the case. I feel comfortable recommending this one to fellow Regency lovers. Each of the stories were unique and unrelated. That makes it easier to pick it up and read one story at a time in between larger novels. I enjoyed being drawn into the Regency world with each individual author. There were a couple stories that felt more shallow to me but overall the set falls into the 4-4.5 star category with some obvious 5 star stories. Here are some of the highlights:

First Comes Marriage by Amanda Barratt: Charity and Luke are strangers who were forced to marry three years ago.
This was such a charming story and a great start to the set. If you enjoy a story where the couple marries before falling in love, this one fits the bill! And the spiritual theme was forgiveness.

Masquerade Melody by Angela Bell: Adelaide and Walter share a love of music and disdain for elitism. There was a Cinderella type of quality to Bell’s novella that I found delightful. And her message on trusting God when things don’t go as you plan was spot on.

Three Little Matchmakers by Susanne Dietze: Caroline and Henry are thrown together by three orphans. This one was one of my favorites. Dietze is gifted at crafting an endearing story with equally endearing characters.

The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady by Michelle Griep: Helen and Isaac harbor his unlikely secret.
Griep brings a dose of excitement with her novella!! There’s certainly a message here on judging one another and on having a benevolent heart.

When I Saw His Face by Nancy Moser: Esther is empowered to choose between two men.
I enjoyed reading about an older heroine. I struggled a bit more with this particular story but I felt at home with Moser’s writing and look forward to giving her other works a try! Moser focuses the reader on themes of understanding and following God’s specific plan for your life.

The Highwayman’s Bargain by MaryLu Tyndall: Sophia is determined not to choose a man like Nash. Tyndall treats the reader to another sweet romance. There was a great message here about trusting Christ with your needs and not running ahead.
*I will note for like-minded readers, that the heroine’s salvation experience included feeling a hand on her shoulder while she was alone in the room and a gust of wind where there were no open windows. Otherwise, it was a very safe and clean story.

Jamie Ever After by Erica Vetsch: Jamie and William face a daunting London season together.
Vetsch wraps up the collection rather nicely. Jamie Ever After was another one of my favorites. Very nicely done!

~ I received a copy from Net Galley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for my review.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander

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A Christmas story to launch a brand new three-book series . . . The Carnton Novels
Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas – and of sacrificial love.

Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son.With the bank threatening to evict, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position – only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity – and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?
Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects.Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies – one, in particular – is far more than he bargained for. 

Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

What I Loved: THIS is a prequel novella done right!! Prequel Novellas have grown out of favor with me because many are beginning to feel like an unnecessary prologue. But with Christmas at Carnton, Alexander has renewed my faith in the trend.
From the very beginning, Christmas at Carnton felt like its own story. We are introduced to some characters that we’ll see again in the series but what won me over was that Alexander kept the focus right where it belonged: with Jake and Aletta.
But it wasn’t just her focus that deserves the praise, Alexander brings to life the hardships of war in the midst of the Christmas season. And it’s a great start to her new series. I’m looking forward to visiting Carnton again.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending to those who enjoy Historical Christmas, Christian Christmas novellas, or Civil War fiction.

~ I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.