Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas by Kathleen Y’Barbo

368Journey now to Galveston, Texas, of 1880…
Where is Mrs. Smith’s granddaughter?  Who is the mysterious Mrs. Smith?

Pinkerton agent Jonah Cahill is hired by the mysterious widow to find her lost granddaughter, rumored to be living in Galveston, Texas. Though Jonah prefers to travel alone, Mrs. Smith insists that she and her companion accompany him. Madeline Latour, investigative reporter, has been acting as Mrs. Smith’s assistant for several months, and Madeline will not allow anyone—even a Pinkerton agent—to ruin the story of a lifetime. The pair forges an uneasy truce as the investigation grows dangerous.

Is there a bigger story beyond a missing girl to be revealed?

More from My Heart Belongs in Series…
My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss: Priscilla’s Reveille by Erica Vetsch (January 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmella’s Quandary by Susan Page Davis (March 2017)
My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca’s Plight by Susanne Dietze (May 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley: Lily’s Dilemma by Andrea Boeshaar (September 2017)

My Thoughts: Galveston, a Pinkerton agent, partners at odds, romance, and mystery: There was every reason for me to pick up this novel!
The setting really came to life, so I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Galveston. The book opens with a mysterious letter and a life-altering storm. I was hooked from the start and the mystery unfolded at a nice pace and kept me engaged.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to fully connect with the main characters so that hindered my enjoyment. But the mystery was a delightful puzzle and the plot continued to evolve.

Rating and Review: I’m giving it 3.5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy light historical mysteries or Christian historical fiction fans.

~ I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Falling For You by Becky Wade

231Famously beautiful model Willow Bradford is taking a temporary break from her hectic schedule to work as the innkeeper at her family’s small-town bed-and-breakfast. She was enjoying the peace of her hometown, Merryweather, Washington, right up until she came face-to-face with Corbin Stewart, the man she loves to hate. A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin–and suffered the consequences when it all fell apart.

Former NFL quarterback Corbin is forceful, charming, and accustomed to getting what he wants . . . except where Willow Bradford is concerned. Unable to forget her, he’s never stopped regretting what happened between them. When their paths unexpectedly cross again, he’s determined to make her give him a second chance.

When a decades-old missing persons case finds Corbin and Willow working together, they’re forced to confront their past and who they’ve become–and whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.

My Thoughts: There was a lot here that I really, truly enjoyed. But sadly there were some things but bugged me more than I expected. I was excited to revisit the Bradford sisters, and I look forward to hearing Britt’s story next. I can’t count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading Willow’s snarky comments and then melting at something charming that Corbin said. Overall, I really liked their story and their relationship. Wade brings a lovely message about forgiveness and the consequences of sin.
However, I struggled when the story hit a lull shortly after the opening chapters. Solving the mystery, which was fantastically written, kept me coming back. There was a plot twist toward the end of the novel that felt forced and, quite frankly, frustrating. But Wade pulled it out in the end and brought something beautiful out of it. I was very glad I stuck with it.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Falling For You 4 stars and recommend it to fans of Christian Contemporary Romance.

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

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Rebel Heart by Beth White

333Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family’s Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land.

Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he’ll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to “supervise” while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose.

Selah isn’t sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she’d do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

What I Loved: I was won over from page one. The first two chapters, in particular, were explosive, and I knew I was going to love this book. There was a mild mystery/suspense thread woven here that kept the plot moving forward. The Daughtery family was engaging, and I look forward to visiting them again in future books.
In terms of spiritual content, White brings a lovely story centered around forgiveness and benevolence.
Simply put, I loved it! A Rebel Heart was one of my reading highlights for the month.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving A Rebel Heart 5 stars and I recommend it to those who enjoy Christian historical fiction or those looking for fiction in the Reconstruction Period.

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

Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: Quest for Leviathan by Amanda Tero

Amanda Tero has become affectionately known as my writing sister. Not only is she a sweetheart, but her heart for Christ shines forth in everything she does. It was this that had first drawn me to her. So I’m thrilled to introduce you to her latest short story release and invite you to enter her giveaway. 

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Are sea monsters a real thing? What about fire-breathing dragons? According to the Bible, there is a fire-breathing sea creature who really existed: the leviathan. Amanda Tero brings this dragon to life in her newest short story, “Quest for Leviathan.” Join Anath and his crew of ninety-nine rowers as they face the waves of the Mediterranean Sea and the power of Leviathan.

Leviathan took the life of his father.

Anath has spent three years preparing for the voyage that will end the threat of Leviathan. Yet as the Valor launches into the depths of the Mediterranean, an inward quest also begins, taking Anath to depths he is not willing to face.


What I Loved: I was treated with a glimpse of what life may have been like during the time of Job. The story is short, so we don’t see much depth in that area, but what we do see is very interesting. Tero paid close attention to the ship’s detail, as did her illustrator. The illustrations are remarkable, and they help highlight a lovely story centered on Anath’s struggle with God and His will.
Whenever you pick up a Tero story, you can be sure you’ll find a message for the soul. Quest for Leviathan was a creative approach to a beautiful, timeless message.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to any Christian looking for a quick read or something for their children.

~ I received a copy from the author. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. 

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Grab your copy of Quest for Leviathan from Amazon. Or add it to your Goodreads TBR list. 

You’re also invited to enter Amanda’s giveaway for two paperback copies!


Connect with Amanda


See what others are saying about Quest for Leviathan:

June 8 – With a Joyful Noise (Release Day Post)

Resting Life (Spotlight, Review)

The World of the Writer (Review)

Authoring Arrowheads (Review)

Purely by Faith Review (Review, Interview)

June 9 – Victoria’s Book Nook (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

Bekah’s Books (Spotlight, Review, Interview)

June 11 – Clothed with Scarlet (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

Reveries Reviews (Review)

June 12 – Chosen Vessels (Spotlight, Review)

My Purple Pen (Review)

Read Another Page (Review)

June 13 – Once Upon an Ordinary (Review)

Maidens for Modesty (Review)

Yahweh Sisters (Review)

June 14 – Honey Rock Hills (Review)

Life of Heritage Corner (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

Kaylee’s Kind of Writes (Review, Interview)

June 15 – The Red-Hooded Writer (Review)

Blossoms and Blessings (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

Lit Aflame (Review, Interview)

June 16 – The Left-Handed Typist (Review)

Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Review, Interview, Giveaway)

June 18 – Great Books for God’s Girls (Review, Interview)

Peculiar Miss Darcy (Character Interview)

June 19 – Done in Love (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

Creating Romance (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 20 – Keturah’s Korner (Review, Interview)

Rock and Minerals 4 Him (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 21 – A Baker’s Perspective (Review, Giveaway, Character Spotlight)

Christian Author: A.M. Heath (Review, Interview)

June 22 – Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections (Review)

Views from the Window Friend (Review)

Hunting for Truth (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 23 – Reading on the Edge (Spotlight)

Summer Snowflakes (Review, Giveaway)

June 25 – With a Joyful Noise (Giveaway Winner Announced)

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

226Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty. 

    After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling? 

    As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

My Thoughts: Karen Barnett has quickly become one of my favorite authors. It’s hard to describe exactly why that is. Where the Fire Falls is another hit from Barnett. Her characters are well developed. The plot continues to evolve. The mystery was nicely woven in and kept me guessing longer than I expected it to. The setting, both the era and Yosemite National Park, come to life and meld together with the rest of the story in a flawless way.
The only thing I would have liked was for Olivia’s salvation to have been more clear. But Barnett’s Vintage National Park series is a gem, and I can’t wait for the third release. It’s already on my must-have list for 2019.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving Where the Fire Falls 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or stories about artists or wildlife.

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

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

229In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

What I Loved: When I think WWII fiction, I immediately think Sarah Sundin. She’s become such a staple in the genre and for a good reason. I’ve come to expect from Sundin a well-rounded story, loveable characters, clean romance, solid Christian message, along with rich and vivid historical details. The Sea Before Us is one such novel.
The history lover in me enjoyed an up-close look at part of the planning that went into D-Day. I found the map-building process to be enlightening. I also enjoyed another look at the life of an Englishmen during the later years of the war.
Much of the naval details fly over my head, but I can appreciate Sundin’s research and attention to detail. It’s clear that she put a great deal of work into this novel.
One of the things I always praise in a Sundin novel is her characters. She has a way with creating humble Christian characters. There were some solid threads on forgiving yourself, selflessly serving others, being who God created you to be, and trusting Christ with things you can’t control.
From page one, she starts off with a gripping backstory of three brothers that will be the foundation for the entire series. I can’t wait for the rest of the series to discover what happens with the other two brothers!

Rating and Recommendations: I highly recommend this one to those who enjoy WWII fiction, Christian Historical Fiction, or Christian War fiction. I’m giving it 5 stars.

Posted in Book Reviews

Cover Wars: 2017 Christian Fiction Release Edition

Yay!! It’s time for another round of Cover Wars!! The game is simple. Vote for your favorite cover in each category. I’ll update the post to show the winners when the votes stop rolling in. 

Gold Dress: Two lovely dresses but which is your favorite: The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron or The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green?


Nerdy Gals: Take your pick between these beautiful covers: A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White or Grace and the Preacher by Kim Vogel Sawyer.


Pearls: Two more stunning close-ups, but which is your favorite? A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden or High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin?


Dressed for the Ball: The dresses and the covers keep getting lovelier. Which is your favorite: Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano or A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander?


Regency: 2017 brought several new Regency novels. But which of the two is your favorite cover: A Dangerous Engagement by Melanie Dickerson or A Stranger of Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd?


I’m asking you to pick your favorites, but I’m not sure I’m able to decide. Lol Alright, I’ll force myself to play along. 😉 
Gold Dress: YIKES this is hard! I’m going to go with Cambron because of the splash of color brought to the cover with the red roses. 
Nerdy Gals: I love them both, really. But I’m a sucker for the printed words on the cover, so I’ll go with Sawyer on this one. 
Pearls: Another impossible to pair to choose between, but after much deliberation, I’m going to have to say Breslin. It was a favorite of mine from the moment I saw it. 
Dressed for the Ball: Both are stunning, especially their backdrops, but I really like Turano’s all white cover. 
Regency: Ahhh How to choose between the soft yellow or the mysterious blue? Both are gorgeous and both draw me in, but I’m always smitten by a night scene, so I’ll go with Dickerson. 

Now it’s your turn! 

**Winner’s Announced. 
You’re always welcomed to leave your opinions, but I’ll no longer update the poll. 

Gold Dress: The Mark of the King wins 8 to 2
Nerdy Gals: Grace and the Preacher wins 6 to 4
Pearls: A Dangerous Legacy wins 6 to 2
Dressed for the Ball: Behind the Scenes wins 7 to 1
Regency: A Dangerous Engagement wins 6 to 3

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: April and May’s Backlist Reviews: 3 in 1

New releases are great! And there are some wonderful new releases out so far this year. But I enjoy picking up something new from the something old section. These are the books I read from my backlist collection this month.
*All links lead to Goodreads unless otherwise stated.

278Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson:

Irish immigrant Maggie Malone wants no part of the war. She’d rather let “the Americans” settle their differences-until her brothers join Missouri’s Union Irish Brigade, and one of their names appears on a list of injured soldiers. Desperate for news, Maggie heads for Boonville, where the Federal army is camped. There she captures the attention of Sergeant John Coulter. When circumstances force Maggie to remain with the brigade, she discovers how capable she is of helping the men she comes to think of as “her boys.” And while she doesn’t see herself as someone a man would court, John Coulter is determined to convince her otherwise.

As the mistress of her brother’s Missouri plantation, Elizabeth Blair has learned to play her part as the perfect hostess-and not to question her brother Walker’s business affairs. When Walker helps organize the Wildwood Guard for the Confederacy, and offers his plantation as the Center of Operations, Libbie must gracefully manage a house with officers in residence and soldiers camped on the lawn. As the war draws ever closer to her doorstep, she must also find a way to protect the people who depend on her. 

Despite being neighbors, Maggie and Libbie have led such different lives that they barely know one another-until war brings them together, and each woman discovers that both friendship and love can come from the unlikeliest of places.

My Review and Rating: From one Civil War fan to another, this one is a gem! I enjoyed the new-to-me perspective of a woman’s role in a regiment. Whitson introduces 2 memorable characters for me: Noah, and Hero, the dog.
There were a couple of Catholic “praying to the saints and/or to Mary” moments, but the rest of the religious content followed a general Protestant angle.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one from start to finish!
I give it 5 stars!


279A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell:

The elegance of Madame Forza’s gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream–and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer’s son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza’s most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

My Review and Rating: Spectacular sums up my thoughts on this one! From the very beginning, Siri stepped outside of the norm with the use of an old-fashioned narrator. And I loved every single minute of it!! I can imagine some readers probably complained because technically Siri was “head-hopping” by modern standards. But I found it to be absolutely charming. I will say this: I listened to this one in audio. I can imagine that I might have tripped over the narrator just a bit if I had read it in physical form. But in audio (which FYI the lady reading the book did an excellent job!!) having a narrator seemed quite natural since you typically listen to someone tell a story more than you read it in that format.
The story itself was fantastic. But I will note that the religious content was highly Catholic for those who wish to know. There were some solid themes on the consequences of sin and rebellion as well as God’s forgiveness woven throughout the story. There were lots of Catholic traditions and beliefs sprinkled throughout as well.
I not only urge you to add this one to your TBR list, but I vote you grab the audio version if you can so you can enjoy the Italian accents. She’s certainly one of my favorite audio narrators to date. It’s a 5 star book for me!
*Link will take you to Amazon so that you can preview the audio version.



Dear Mr. Knightley (Audio Version) by Katherine Reay:

Samantha Moore is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore. But life for the 23-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction.

An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor calling himself Mr. Knightley offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress. As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

I have actually reviewed this one before so you can catch my original review here. But if I’m reviewing it again, it must be among my favorites. 😉 I had the chance to get a copy of the audio version and decided that I would enjoy hearing the story all over again. I’m really enjoying it just as much as I had when I read it the first time.
In terms of the audio version, I’m only giving it a 4.5 stars. The narrator has this slight whine to her voice that pops up from time to time. It’s the type of thing that bugs me to listen to. Everyone will have different narrator preferences so you’ll want to preview the audio for yourself. But the annoyance was enough to keep from being head over heels in love but not enough to keep me from listening to a beloved story.
*The link I provided in the title will take you to Amazon where you can preview the audio.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: English Through the Ages


Lists words, grouped by subject, that were in use in different time periods, including prior to 1150, and in increasingly smaller ranges to the present.

They didn’t offer much of a description, so let me help you out:

This is one of those gems that, as a historical author, I wish someone had told me about sooner. Not only is it helpful, but it’s flat-out fun to read. Ok, I just admitted to having fun reading a dictionary. I’m aware of how that makes me look, but I don’t care. Lol Did you know they were using the word “kicks” for shoes by 1905?! Or “rock” as another word for diamond? Or that “groovy” was in use by 1945?

As with any book, there could always be more information or more words added, but this is a great overview of a wide variety of words, subjects, and eras. Here’s the breakdown:

The way the eras work, is they’re showing you words that were in use BY that particular era. So if you wanted to know what new words were commonly used in 1955, you’ll look under 1960.

And here are the categories they cover in each era: 
Natural Things
The Body
Physical Description
Everday Life
Thoughts/Perception/The Mind
The Workplace
Language and Speaking
Performing Arts
The Law
The Fantastic/Paranormal

There’s an Index in the back where you can look up a word and find where it falls in the timeline. They tell you if the word is a noun, verb, adjective. With some words, they offer a brief explanation and other words, they believe to be self-explanatory (although, I’ve found some that I would have liked an explanation for.)
The book is helpful in showing you when a word is first documented, but it doesn’t show you how it faded from use or reappeared years later. Take the word “groovy” for example. They claim it was in use by 1945 and yet we know it as a word from the 1970s.
Overall, this a great book to have on hand. Even if it doesn’t address ALL your questions, it’ll address many and/or make for a great conversational piece later.


Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Engaging Mr. Darcy by Rachel John

233“Angry people are not always wise.” – Jane Austen

After a standoff in the pizza parlor, Elsie Bennet has decided Fitzwilliam “I-Throw-Fitz” Darcy is the worst customer she’s ever encountered. Also the best looking, but that’s beside the point. She’s horrified to discover Will is not just passing through her small town, he’s her new neighbor.

Will Darcy has all the money and time he could ask for, and yet life never seems to meet his expectations. When his best friend, Charlie, starts dating Jane Bennet, Will becomes their unhappy third-wheel. The solution? Bring along Jane’s sister, Elsie, a girl who challenges him, makes him laugh, plagues his thoughts, and unfortunately, hates his guts.

Will might control a lot of things, but he won’t control her. Elsie’s already been warned away by her new friend, Jeff Wickham, who found out the hard way that Will is not someone to be crossed. Things would be so much simpler if she was attracted to Jeff. But she’s not. She’s attracted to Will, and the tug-o-war between her mind and her heart is going to drive her mad.

A modern day take on Pride and Prejudice with all the characters you know and love.

What I Loved: I was first smitten with the cover, then the concept. But from page 1, I was taken in by Rachel’s world and writing style. Rachel John was a new author to me. I found her to be refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable.
As for the story … Engaging Mr. Darcy is the best contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice that I’ve read. Her translation of the events and characteristics of Austen’s infamous story were spot on. They were creative, yet natural. While I’m familiar enough with the original story to know what to expect, the story wasn’t completely predictable.
This is slightly different from my normal read in that it wasn’t a Christian novel. But it IS a clean novel. There wasn’t anything offensive here.

Rating and Recommendation: I loved Engaging Mr. Darcy and recommend it to Jane Austen fans or those looking for a clean contemporary read. I’m giving it 5 stars.