Monday, May 18, 2020

Reviewing: Before I Called You Mine

...from the publisher...
Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there's only one match she's committed to now--the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first-grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency's requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other. thoughts...
Before I Called You Mine is a heartwarming story of one woman's determination to adopt a child from China. On her own.  A single woman.  The process was rigorous and it would be quite an experience for  a married couple united in love and support for each other.  I admired  her determination but she didn't even have the support of her family, which would have lightened her burden somewhat.

Joshua was my favorite character.  His personality and sincerity was the right balance for Lauren.  I cheered him on as Lauren strived to remain true to the guidelines of the adoption requirements.  His patience was incredible and his love stronger enough to let her be. 

Before I Called You Mine is a book of firsts for me.  My first Nicole Deese book and the first book I have read with such an up close and personal experience with adoption.  It is an engaging story of resilience, courage and love.  Lauen and Joshusa's faith is intertwined in this book, and it is part of the determination both have as their love grows.  It is a funny, serious book and will have you laughing and crying on the same page.  I received my copy from #BethanyHouse to review but my opinions are most definitely mine.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

On A Coastal Breeze by Suzanne Woods Fisher

...from the publisher...
For Madison Grayson, life is good. Newly licensed as a marriage and family therapist, she can't wait to start her practice. Despite the unfortunate shortage of eligible bachelors on the island--they're all too young, too old, or too weird--Maddie feels like she's finally found her sweet spot. Not even one panic attack in the last year. Not one.
And then Ricky O'Shea drops in. Literally. Floating down from the pure blue sky, the one man in the world she hoped never to see again--the one who'd been her archnemesis from kindergarten through her senior dance--parachutes into town, landing on Boon Dock, canopy draping behind him like a superhero. Ricky O'Shea. Now Pastor Rick, the new minister on Three Sisters Island.

Time to panic.

With wit and a bit of whimsy, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Three Sisters Island where family, forgiveness, and a second chance at love await. thoughts...
On a Coastal Breeze, book two in Suzanne  Woods Fisher's Three Sisters Island series is a destination for your upcoming summer reading list.  All the elements for a coastal vacation are within the covers of this wonderful story.  A small island off the coast of Maine with just enough charm to have you pull up a chaise lounge and read on a sandy beach.

This series is about the Grayson family, who are in the process of finding new life after the patriarch, Paul sold the family home and bought Three Sisters Island.  This book, which can stand alone or alongside the introductory book, On A Summer Tide. The characters are well developed and could easily be one's neighbor or family member.  Memories are visited as life unfolds and we learn that what we have experienced in our  youth can shape who we are as adults.  Madison is no exception as she explores so many of her encounters with Ricky O'Shea.  He is such an engaging character and adds a lot of humor into the story.  From his grand entrance to his serious side, he is important to the story.  Yet he is still Ricky O'Shea, and she isn't sure she can move past that.

Madison, the middle Grayson daughter, has quietly made a big impact on her family. Random comments they share on occasion since moving to the island give her valuable insight on her place in the family dynamics. She never thought of herself as confident as her sisters, often feeling as though she is in the background.  It is interesting the way one touches others lives until it is shared in those odd moments, out of context, many years later.  As her family begins their second year on the island and a new camp season, the changes bring them that much closer to each other.

I enjoyed this book and the new developments in the Grayson family.  A well written story with wonderful characters, it is easy to recommend.  Thank you to Revell and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy for review.  All opinions are mine.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Reviewing: The Trustworthy One by Shelley Shepard Gray

...from the publisher...
Kendra Troyer always knew she would leave Walnut Creek the first chance she got. When she was accepted into design school, she tried her best not to look back at the four siblings she was abandoning, but ahead to Columbus, where she was determined to stay—far away from her abusive home and far away from Nate Miller, the boy she vowed to despise for the rest of her life.

Though she suffered through dark times in Columbus, Kendra found her faith in the Lord again, and years later, when she learned one of her good friends had died, she realized it was time to go home to those she left behind.

Back in Walnut Creek, Kendra has a life she never could have imagined: her own design shop, a pretty little house, and a tight-knit group of friends. After she settles down, though, unexpected visitors come knocking and dark memories begin to resurface. Complicating things even further is the ever-present Nate Miller, who now owns the hardware store two doors down and whose very presence stirs in Kendra a fierce need to turn away and hide from her past. But Nate is persistent in setting things right between them.

As Kendra tries to come to terms with the anger she holds from her childhood, will she be able to open her heart to forgiveness and find the comfort she has always longed for in Walnut Creek? thoughts...
The Trustworthy One, is the latest book in the Walnut Creek series by Shelley Shepard Gray.  This is a continuing story of how seven friends unite after the death of their good friend Andy. We are touched by many in our lives, for reasons we don't know.  Sometimes we are touched even more by their deaths.  The lessons we learn as we live on are often rewarding if we look back and notice the subtle cues found in our memories.

Kendra Troyer grew up in less than normal circumstances and fled her abusive home as soon as she could get away.  She left behind cruel parents and her younger siblings, who relied on her resilience and generous spirit to see them through their tough circumstances.  As life often does, she found herself once again in Walnut Creek.  The one person she didn't want to meet again, Nate Miller is there, in her presence at every turn. As a child, he seemed to be near at every awkward moment of her young life.  For all the troubles she left behind, she encountered more out in the English world.  It is when she is back in Walnut  Creek, and faces those she left behind that she learns the value of trust and forgiveness.  Shelley Shepard Gray is a gifted writer whose books are not just entertaining but rich in human nature.  I enjoyed this book, a story of true friendship, and recommend it without reservation to anyone who likes heartwarming stories. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Happy Camper by Melody Carlson

...from the publisher...
Home is the place to heal, right? At least, that's what Dillon Michaels is hoping as she leaves her disappointing career and nonstarter love life behind to help her grieving and aging grandfather on his small Oregon farm. The only problem? Her eccentric mother beat her there and has taken over Dillon's old room. After a few nights sleeping on a sagging sofa, Dillon is ready to give up, until she receives an unlikely gift--her grandfather's run-down vintage camp trailer, which she quickly resolves to restore with the help of Jordan Atwood, the handsome owner of the local hardware store.
But just when things are finally beginning to run smoothly, Dillon's noncommittal ex-boyfriend shows up with roses . . . and a ring.

Full of quirky characters, family drama, and sweet romance, The Happy Camper will have you scouring Craigslist for your own diamond-in-the-rough camper to restore and haunting your local hardware store for a handy guy to help your dreams come true.

Melody Carlson's The Happy Camper follows Dillon Michaels on a journey of self discovery.  Always responsible, she worked hard in her career and was loyal to a relationship she thought would lead to a loving marriage. As the pieces of her plans fall one by one like a juggler's balls, it dawns on her that her that she needs a big change.  Her last straw moment became the catalyst she needed to let Mr. not-so-right-after all and that empty job behind to help her lonely grandfather on his farm.

I enjoyed this book, first because it was written by Melody Carlson.  She has the gift of developing characters who may need a nudge to see just how good life can be if they are if pointed in the right direction. Dillon Michaels is a good example of a young woman who gives all to her job and boyfriend, but forgets to live the life she was designed to live. Starting over is scary but sometimes, looking back one can't help but wonder why they didn't do it sooner.

Secondly, this book is entertaining.  Restoring the vintage Oasis trailer is a metaphor of Dillon's life.  She was tired and feeling a bit neglected.  Underneath all of the dust and old paint was a beauty ready to show how much life was underneath.  Dillon found a gift she didn't expect to find in the middle of this restoration.  She had to leave her Colorado life behind to see that her life was right where she left it behind on her family's farm. 

I will admit that I did not look at Craigslist for a camper, I am a lake girl at heart.  I did, however, scour the net on the subject and the first picture I found showed the exact colors of Dillon's little Oasis, complete with burnt orange appliances. From now on, when I see the vintage trailers on the road, taking the glampers to congregate, I will have a new appreciation for their journey.  I recommend this book without hesitation to anyone who enjoys entertaining, Christian fiction.  Thank you to for this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Reviewing: Unyielding Hope by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

...from the publisher...
As a young girl, Lillian Walsh lost both her parents and a younger sister. Now in her twenties, after enduring the death of her adoptive mother, Lillian must find her place in the world. Just as her adoptive father is leaving for an extended trip to his native Wales, a lawyer appears at the door to inform Lillian that she has inherited a small estate from her birth parents--and that the sister she had long believed dead is likely alive.
When she discovers that her sister, Grace, is living in a city not far away, Lillian rushes to a reunion, fearful that the years of separation will make it hard to reconnect.

When the two sisters meet, Grace is not at all what Lillian expected to find. Though her circumstances have been difficult, Grace has big dreams. Can Lillian set aside her own plans to join her sister in an adventure that will surely change them both? thoughts...
Unyielding Hope is one of those stories that not just warms the heart but enters your thoughts about a time when the good intentions of some had unintended consequences. And sometimes, those consequences turn out just the way they should.  Two young sisters lost their parents to consumption.  Lillian was told her younger sister Grace also died of the disease that we know of today as tuberculosis.  Little did she know, Grace survived.

Grace and Lillian, through God's grace, found each other again in His own time.  To find each other after so many years and build a life together was amazing.  Each had her own story, with Grace never finding a forever home through adoption and Lillian, a young woman who was afforded many opportunities is a very loving home.  Grace, who grew up with so little was so open to possibilities while Lillian, was a little more reticent.  Yet, she brought Grace and all of the orphan children in her care back to live in the family home in Brookfield.

I have enjoyed reading Janette Oke's stories over the years and they leave me with something to think on when the story is long gone.  Unyielding Hope, written with her granddaughter Laurel Oke Logan, is a good lesson in putting things into perspective. It isn't what we have been given but what we do with what we have that matters most.  Giving love when it is needed most to those who need it is far better than all the riches of the world.  I heartily recommend this book for the hope it brings and the laughter the children provide in the midst of two sisters reconnecting.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Starfish Pier

...from the publisher...
A year ago, ex-Delta Force operator Steven Roark left the rigors of combat behind to run fishing charters in Hope Harbor, decompress, and talk some sense into his kid brother. Business is good--but making peace with his past is more challenging than he expected.
First-grade teacher Holly Miller leads a quiet, low-profile existence--until she's recruited to advocate for a cause that's dear to her heart. When she solicits Steven's assistance, sparks fly--especially after they find themselves on opposite sides of an issue that disrupts their placid seaside community.

As these two seemingly incompatible souls search for common ground, might they discover a deeper connection--and find that love can banish darkness and light the way to a future filled with promise?

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon invites you back to Hope Harbor--where hearts heal . . . and love blooms. thoughts...
I have been enjoying the Hope Harbor series by Irene Hannon since reading Hope Harbor, book one in the series. I have been watching for Starfish Pier to become available since I finished reading the previous book, Driftwood Bay.  Irene Hannon is a wonderful author, whether she is writing a series such as Hope Harbor or suspense filled novels with high intrigue.  I have become a steady fan over many years.

Hope Harbor is just the place you want to come to for relaxation, a view of the ocean and small town camaraderie at Charley's Fish Taco truck.  It is not the place you come to if you want to be removed from all human contact.  Holly Miller encounters just such a man when her new neighbor Pete moves next door. Meeting him soon after encountering an abrupt Steven Roark surprised her when everyone else in her new town were so friendly. At times I wondered how this would all tie together, but that is part of what makes Hannon's books so good to read. There seemed to be so many roadblocks for Holly and Steven, yet I couldn't help but wonder "why not?" Each had reasons they couldn't let go of that would hinder a loving relationship. 

Letting go of the past can be difficult in order to live in the present.  Sometimes that very idea of community can be stifling when we encounter the same people wherever we go.  But sometimes that is the very thing that can heal the heart.  This book touches on some of the issues many face in our society today.  They are not sugar coated but bring a message of hope where these wonderful characters are facing a challenge.  They are all fictional, of course, but each serves a purpose to bring the story together in the end.  Characters and locations from the previous stories are woven into the story and mesh with this new set of characters.

I appreciate receiving an advance copy of the book for review from NetGalley.   The opinions expressed are my own, but I do recommend this book with 5 stars.  It is like visiting one of your favorite locations and visiting with good friends. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

New Series for Wanda Brunstetter Begins With The Crow's Call

...from the publisher...
When Vernon King, his son, and son-in-law are involved in a terrible accident, three women are left to cope with their deaths, as they become the sole providers of the family they have left. The women’s only income must come from the family greenhouse, but someone seems to be trying to force them out of business.

Amy King has just lost her father and brother, and her mother needs her to help run the family’s greenhouse. It doesn’t seem fair to ask her to leave a job she loves, when there is still a sister and brother to help. But Sylvia is also grieving for her husband while left to raise three children, and Henry, just out of school, is saddled with all the jobs his father and older brother used to do. As Amy assumes her new role, she also asks Jared Riehl to put their courtship on hold. When things become even more stressful at the greenhouse, will Amy crumble under the pressure? thoughts...

Wanda Brunstetter's new Amish Greenhouse Mystery series  is off to a rousing start with The Crow's Call.  As the story unfolded, an ominous wind was in the air so when Amy King heard the sound of a crow calling she knew it wasn't a good day to celebrate her mother's birthday.  She shouldn't be superstitious but every time she heard a crow call, something always seemed to go wrong. Then, later that evening, tragedy times three changed her family's life forever.  The chilling dynamics of grief are as varied as the person who is suffering.  Picking up the pieces for her family wasn't going to be easy but Amy seemed to let the responsibility rest on her shoulders.  As she pitched in to help her mother run the family greenhouse, she assumed much more than the duties required to help the business continue.

Mysterious things began to happen that seemed to be coincidences until they began to happen more often.  Who could possibly wish to undermine their family business?  Her brother Henry resented helping out in the greenhouse.  He also didn't want to do chores on the farm and didn't understand why he couldn't go enjoy a bit of fun with his friends.  Was he pulling pranks on the family? Or was it Sylvia, who, as a young wife and mother couldn't raise her head above the daunting task of raising her small children alone, let alone live without her beloved husband. 

The cast of characters in this story are as complex as the mystery surrounding the greenhouse.  Amy and her mother seemingly manage to get through each day by running their business and learning the ropes that Vernon so effectively handled before his death.  Now, though, with so many upsetting random acts of vandalism, they are wondering just who is doing this and why.

Could it be teenagers on their rumpspringa?  The new English neighbor who has made it plain she doesn't care to live near the Amish?  The homeless lady who shows up at odd times or someone else?   Only one situation was resolved in this book, so maybe the culprit will be discovered when I read the next book of the series.  I do like a good mystery, and The Crow's Call kept me guessing.  I recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. Thanks to Barbour Books and #NetGalley who provided me a copy of this book for an honest review.  My opinions are mine.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Reviewing: More Than We Remember by Christina Suzann Nelson

...from the publisher...
One night changes everything for three women. . . .

When Addison Killbourn's husband is involved in a car accident that leaves a woman dead, her perfectly constructed life crumbles apart. With her husband's memory of that night gone and the revelation of a potentially life-altering secret, Addison has to reevaluate all she thought she knew.

Emilia Cruz is a deputy bearing a heavy burden far beyond the weight of her job. Her husband is no longer the man she married, and Emilia's determined to prevent others from facing the same hardship. When she's called to the scene of an accident pointing to everything she's fighting against, she's determined to see justice for those wronged.

Brianne Demanno is hiding from reality. She was thriving as a counselor, but when tragedy struck a beloved client, she lost faith in herself and her purpose. When her neighbors, the Killbourns, are thrown into crisis, Brianne's solitary life is disrupted and she finds herself needed in a way she hasn't been in a while.

As the lives of these women intersect, they can no longer dwell in the memory of who they've been. Can they rise from the wreck of the worst moments of their lives to become who they were meant to be? thoughts...
More Than We Remember was an incredible mystery.  At first glance, it seemed like a run of the mill accident that ended in tragedy.  However, with Emilia's persistence in making sure justice is served in a wrongful death case, everything seems to unravel.  She is up against the world when the accident involves the town's beloved coach.  Her own world has been upside down since a terrible accident has left her husband disabled and her middle school daughter is looking to assert her independence.  It may not make her popular to press charges in the case, but her conscience won't let it be.

Caleb has no memory of the accident.  He recently moved his family in with his mother in order to build the home of their dreams.  Dutiful wife Addison is wary of this new life.  Her mother-in-law lapses between the past and present and with her husband's mysterious whereabouts the night of the accident she struggles to keep her family together to face whatever happens as the case is investigated. It is her friendship with Brianne, their nearest neighbor that helps her juggle all the balls in the air that she has to deal with. 

Often, we read stories in the news and at first glance they seem cut and dry.  An accident where the driver seemingly is impaired paints the picture of someone guilty on so many levels.  Add a small town into the mix and soon there are many versions of what happened, who did it and why aren't things happening quicker.  Each character in this book has a lot going on in their lives.  They intertwine in such a way that the reader stays engaged to the end, where things are solved.   One can go from sadness, to elation, to being puzzled in the span of a half hour.   I enjoyed this book.  The characters are compelling and the ending is a surprise.  I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery without all of the cookie cutter trappings one often finds on the mystery shelves.  This is the first book I have read by Christina Suzann Nelson and it will not be the last!
Many thanks to Bethany House, who provided me with an advanced copy to review.  Opinions expressed are my own. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Ruaway Bride by Jody Hedlund A Captivating, Historical Novel

...from the publisher...
Wealthy Arabella Lawrence flees to British Columbia on a bride ship still wearing the scars of past mistakes. One of the few single women in the boomtown, she immediately has suitors, but she is determined not to find herself trapped again by a poor choice.

Vying for her hand are two very different men. Lieutenant Richard Drummond is a gentleman in the Navy and is held in high esteem. Peter Kelly is the town's baker and has worked hard to build a thriving business. He and Drummond not only compete for Arabella's affections, but clash over their views of how the natives should be treated in the midst of a smallpox outbreak.

As Arabella begins to overcome her fears, she discovers someone in dire need--a starving girl abandoned by her tribe. Intent on helping the girl, Arabella leans on Peter's advice and guidance. Will she have the wisdom to make the right decision or will seeking what's right cost both her and Peter everything? thoughts... 
The Runaway Bride  is one of those books that hooked me right away. This is book 2 in Jody Hedlund's Bride Ship series and while you can read this one on its own, you may want to consider reading the first book in the series, The Reluctant Bride. Both of these books are very good. I have been waiting for this book because I wanted to read more about Arabella, who was introduced in The Reluctant Bride.  I have lived in the inland Pacific Northwest all of my life yet never knew about the bride ships from England until I started this series. 

Arabella is a lady who escaped the conventions of her class when she boarded the ship for a life unknown waiting in British Columbia. She only knew it had to be better than what she left behind. Once on board, she put the future on hold until that final day when she left the ship to face her new surroundings. Imagine her surprise when she and the other brides disembarked and found the shore lined with men gaping and ogling at them. This was nothing like England.  Her lodgings were beneath anything she had been exposed to at home.  She no longer had the comfort of her trusted servant Hayward, who cared for her since the death of her mother.  It was Hayward who saw Mr. Major for what he was and firmly put Arabella on that ship so she would be free from a deadly match. She landed with both feet on the ground and though she was on that bride ship, she wasn't sure she was truly ready for marriage.  Her thoughts lead her down a path full of self doubt that was carefully crafted by people who didn't have her best interests at heart.  Conventions, thought processes and the false idea that she was not good at anything.  All wrong.

It took just one look at her to capture the hearts of two very different men.  Dashing Lieutenant Drummond, who could offer her the lifestyle she was accustomed to in England.  Peter Kelly, handsome and bold, a self made man set on his goals.  Both set their sights on Arabella but only won would win her hand in marriage.  But in this new world, filled with possibilities, this young woman began to learn that many things were open to her that were denied back home.  She began to see the things with new eyes and once granted the opportunity to become her own person, things shifted for her.  It was good to see how she grew from the timid girl who shrank from notice to the woman who could make things happen.

I enjoy historical fiction, especially if it leads me to look for more beyond the story.  Jody Hedlund made this story come alive.  Her research, as always, is thorough and she engages her readers in part because of this. The characters are complex and believable.

I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.  My opinions, however, are my own.  I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a twist of romance. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Indigo Tea Shop Serves Mystery One Cup at a Time

...from the publisher...
Tea maven Theodosia Browning and her tea sommelier Drayton Conneley are guests at a bird hunt styled in the precise manner of an English shooting party. Which means elevenses (sloe gin fizzes), gun loaders, the drawing of pegs, fine looking bird dogs, and shooting costumes of tweed,
herringbone, and suede.

But as gunshots explode like a riff of Black Cat firecrackers, another shot sounds too close for comfort to Theodosia and Drayton. Intrigued but worried, Theodosia wanders into the neighbor's lavender field where she discovers their host, Reginald Doyle, bleeding to death.

His wife, Meredith, is beside herself with grief and begs Theodosia and Drayton to stay the night. But Theodosia awakens at 2:00A.M. to find smoke in her room and the house on fire. As the fire department screams in and the investigating sheriff returns, Meredith again pleads with Theodosia for help.

As Theodosia investigates, fingers are pointed, secrets are uncovered, Reginald's daughter-in-law goes missing presumed drowned, and Meredith is determined to find answers via a séance. All the while Theodosia worries if she's made a mistake in inviting a prime suspect to her upscale Lavender Lady Tea. thoughts...
A good mystery is delicious, especially if it is served at the Indigo Tea Shop.  Set in historic Charleston, South Carolina, the Lavender Blue Murder is elegance right alongside of murder. Theodosia Browning and her faithful tea expert Drayton Conneley are two wonderful characters who run a not so quiet tea shop where one can count on good tea, delicious food and of course savory characters. When crime strikes, the tea shop is the place to be all who want to be in the know.

I enjoyed this book because the plot kept me thinking from the moment Theodosia heard a gunshot while attending a shooting party on an old country plantation.  The plot got thicker as things went from murder to arson to kidnapping.  Were they connected or random acts?  In the end, the solution seemed easy but took me on some winding roads to get there.  For a fun mystery and good recipes, look no further!