Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spotlight (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): A Crime of Passion Fruit




A Crime of Passion Fruit
By Ellie Alexander
A Bakeshop Mystery #6
St. Martin’s, 2017


Summary

Torte―everybody’s favorite small-town family bakeshop―is headed for the high seas, where murder is about to make a splash. . .

Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary café to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos, but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary

Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambéing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst?

Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?

Note:  This looks like a fun cozy mystery. Look for my review on July 1.

_________________________



Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby.

When she's not coated in flour, you'll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.


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Purchase Links:
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): None So Blind



Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book title: None So Blind  
Author: Chautona Havig  
Release date: September 29, 2013  
Genre: Contemporary  

Dani and Ella Weeks–two women who share one thing in common. The same life, the same family, and the same body.

When Dani wakes with no knowledge of who or where she is–no memories of her life at all–David and Dani Weeks discover that “til death do us part” takes on an entirely unexpected meaning. Practically speaking, Dani died. But she didn’t. What’s a gal to do? 

In a desperate attempt to separate the old life from the new, Dani insists on a new name, a twist of her old one–Ella. Ella’s doctors can’t explain what happened. Her children can’t understand why she doesn’t know them. David, her husband, finds himself torn between admiration for the “new” version of his wife and missing the woman he’s known for over fifteen years.

Will Ella ever regain her memory? Why does their pastor suspect it’s one great hoax?


My Thoughts

Sometimes it felt as though someone had stolen his wife’s mind, and he was left with the part of her that least mattered to him. He’d married Dani because of her personality. Now he lived with her opposite in almost every way.

This is the first full novel I’ve read by Chautona Havig and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s good character depth, the writing flows smoothly, nothing is predictable, and the unusual premise hooked me from the first paragraph. But what I loved most is how different None So Blind is from anything I’ve ever read.

It was easy to feel Dani’s confusion – and “confusion” might be too mild a term – as she wakes up one morning in an ugly bedroom with an unappealing stranger staring back at her in the mirror. I couldn’t help but put myself in Dani’s place as she struggled with a husband and children she didn’t recognize. My heart also went out to her husband, David, who had suddenly become “a stranger to the stranger in my wife’s body.”

Vince, David’s pastor, is a secondary character that I really liked – for it is through him that David finds friendship, godly counsel and accountability. The spiritual themes of this story are refreshing in a time when much of Christian fiction is “lite.” Contrasting advice is presented and Dani/Ella is tempted by the attentions of another man, but themes of commitment, faithfulness, grace, and obedience are shown in a way that speaks to the heart.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion without everything being tied up neatly, and the way is paved for the next story in this series, which I anticipate eagerly. Recommended to all who enjoy relationship drama and/or women’s fiction.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and Chautona Havig. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


About the Author

Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert with her husbnd and five of her nine children. Through her novels, she hopes to encourage Christians in their walk with Jesus.











Guest post from Chautona Havig

“Who are you, again?”

“I’m Joe’s, daughter. Vyonie.” My sister pointed to me. “This is Chautona.” 

 For some odd reason, the niece she spent the least amount of time with, Aunt Doris remembered—somewhat. But she didn’t remember Vyonie from what I could tell. She smiled at me, that amazing, sweet smile I’d never forget. She asked how I was. I always thought that Mrs. Sanderson—mother of John, Alicia, and Carl on the TV show, Little House on the Prairie—looked and sounded like Aunt Doris. Of course, that memory of me didn’t last. A minute or two later, she gave me a big smile and asked if she knew me. 

It gave me a picture of what it must have been like for my character, Ella Weeks—to wake up every day with these children there—children who knew her, but she didn’t remember. The hurt she caused every time she had to struggle to admit she didn’t know something she probably should—again. So, I thought I’d ask her to tell us about it. 

Ella: People often assume that the worst part of losing my memory are the memories that disappeared, too. But it’s not. A much as I’d love to remember my wedding day, my daughter’s first steps, my son’s first words, or that moment I realized I was pregnant with my third, those are blessings that I don’t think about often. No, what hurts most is seeing the pain in my children’s eyes when they need me to remember something and I can’t. For me, not remembering their first day of kindergarten is an inconvenience. For them, it’s a further reminder that if they didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t know them. That without them pushing themselves into my life, I wouldn’t care about them any more than any other human in my path. I do now, of course, but not at first. I hate that they heard David say once, “…she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t trust me. She doesn’t know our children. She tries, but she could walk out of our lives tomorrow and never miss us.”

Living so close to it every day, I missed those little bits of pain that I inflicted without meaning to, but when I went with our Bible study to a nursing home and visited with the residents, then I saw it. Women with tears running down their cheeks as loved ones patted their hands and tried to comfort. I heard one man offer to find a woman’s father. She squeezed him close and whispered, “It’s okay, Daddy. I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The man promised to try to find her father in the meantime.

Those people there—most of them didn’t realize they didn’t remember someone important. They didn’t struggle to remember this or that. Their dementia had gotten bad enough that their lives had gone from constant frustration to, by comparison, blissful oblivion.

And their families withered with each forgotten face, name, moment.

That’s what my “episode” did for my family. It caused them pain that just resurfaced every time something new happened. Pain that I didn’t know I inflicted. And since that visit, I have a greater compassion and awareness of just how amazing and powerful memories are.

I also have a greater appreciation for those beautiful words in Isaiah when the Lord promised… “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”

You see, there’s a lifetime of the sins that Jesus died for buried somewhere in my brain—or, at least at one time there was. I know that those sins were in there, because the ones I committed yesterday are there today. The ones I’ve already confessed and been forgiven for—I beat myself up for the next morning. A week later. A month. But the Lord has wiped them clean. I just keep smearing them back out there again as if to say, “But You don’t get how BAD I was.” Yeah. The arrogance, right? Because an almighty, holy God can’t possibly understand how sinful a sinner that He had to DIE to save from those sins… is. The arrogance? That’s an understatement.

But all those years before that horrible morning… gone. Maybe I stole something. I don’t know. It was forgiven, wiped clean, and then wiped from my memory. I can’t rehash it with the Lord over and over. I can’t drag it back up like a wife who won’t let her husband forget the one time he forgot her birthday. I can’t use it as a whip to beat myself up with. And I think there’s something beautiful in that.

Do I wish I could stop hurting my family with my blank past? Of course. But am I also grateful for a living picture of the fresh start the Lord gives His people at salvation? Definitely. I hope I never take it for granted again.


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away a grand prize that includes:

1 $25 Amazon Gift Card
1 Paperback Copy of None So Blind
1 Paperback Copy of Will Not See
1 Lampwork Necklace
1 Cool denim mini-backpack (to hold your stuff!)
1 Custom Travel Mug (with quote from book)
1 FREE eBook code to share with a friend!

Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!




Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): The Secret Slipper



Click here to purchase your copy.


About the Book

Book title: The Secret Slipper  
Author: Amanda Tero  
Release date: May 25, 2017  
Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Being a cripple is only the beginning of Lia’s troubles. It seems as if Bioti’s goal in life is to make Lia as miserable as possible. If Lia’s purpose is to be a slave, then why did God make her a cripple? How can He make something beautiful out of her deformity? 

Raoul never questioned the death of his daughter until someone reports her whereabouts. If Ellia is still alive, how has she survived these ten years with her deformity? When Raoul doesn’t know who to trust, can he trust God to keep Ellia safe when evidence reveals Bioti’s dangerous character? 

As time brings more hindrances, will Raoul find Ellia, or will she forever be lost to the father she doesn’t even know is searching for her?


My Thoughts

Amanda Tero is a young writer with a very promising talent. I’m not fond of medieval settings, but the creative storytelling and spiritual themes made this novella an interesting read.

The Secret Slipper is inspired by Cinderella – but while there are certain similarities, it’s a father/daughter story rather than a romance. And the slipper itself is creative genius. You’ll find elements of adventure, revenge, and greed, but also a loving father’s determined quest to find the daughter he thought had died. Both Lia and her father grow spiritually in trust and surrender of personal will.

The Secret Slipper is a story that will entertain YA readers and leave them eager for more.

Recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


About the Author

Amanda Tero is a homeschool graduate who desires to provide God-honoring, family-friendly reading material. She has enjoyed writing since before ten years old, but it has only been since 2013 that she began seriously pursuing writing again – starting with some short stories that she wrote for her sisters as a gift. 

Her mom encouraged her to try selling the stories she published, and since then, she has begun actively writing short stories, novellas, and novels. If something she has written draws an individual into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, it is worth it!




Guest post from Amanda Tero

Do you ever have plans that come up from almost nowhere? That is kind of how “The Secret Slipper” started. I had written a fun novella, “Befriending the Beast.” It was a stand-alone. Just for fun. My relief project during a longer project. Well, no sooner had “Befriending the Beast” released when a friend asked me, “Hey, have you considered a father/daughter Cinderella story?” That night I stayed up until after midnight, mulling over ideas and coming up with the title. Lord Kiralyn, who appeared in “Befriending the Beast” as Belle’s uncle now had a story—involving a daughter that I didn’t know existed, but whose existence created a whirlwind of adventure, heartache, and excitement. And now that I have two books in the series, my brain is already pulling at ideas for a book three. But that’s another story for another day.


Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Amanda is giving away a grand prize of paperback copies of her three novellas: Journey to Love, Befriending the Beast, and The Secret Slipper. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Spotlight (+ Kindle Fire GIVEAWAY): Sailing Out of Darkness




For all who enjoy women's fiction, Sailing Out of Darkness looks like a good one.

Click here to purchase your copy.


About the Book

Book: Sailing out of Darkness   
Author: Normandie Fischer  
Genre: Women’s Fiction  
Release Date: February 25, 2017 (2nd Edition)  

Love conquers all? Maybe for some people.

When Samantha flies to Italy to gain distance from a disastrous affair with her childhood best friend, the last thing on her mind is romance. But Teo Anderson is nothing like her philandering ex-husband or her sailing buddy, Jack, who, despite his live-in girlfriend, caught her off guard with his flashing black eyes.

Teo has his own scars, both physical and emotional, that he represses by writing mysteries—until one strange and compelling vision comes to life in the person of Sam. Seeking answers, he offers friendship to this obviously hurting woman, a friendship that threatens to upend his fragile peace of mind.

But not even sailing the cobalt waters of the Mediterranean can assuage Sam’s guilt for destroying Jack’s relationship and hurting another woman. Soon the consequences of her behavior escalate, and the fallout threatens them all.  

Sailing out of Darkness is the haunting story of mistakes and loss…and the grace that abounds through forgiveness. Awarded: Aspen Gold, Selah, and Maggie Finalist 2014 (1st edition)


About the Author

Normandie Fischer is a sailor who writes and a writer who sails. After studying sculpture in Italy, she returned to the States, graduated suma cum laude, and went to work in the publishing field as an editor. 

She and her husband retired from cruising Pacific Mexico on their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, to take care of her aging mother and enjoy her two grown children and her grandchildren.

She is the author of six books: Becalmed (2013), Heavy Weather (2015), Twilight Christmas (2016), Two from Isaac’s House (2015), From Fire into Fire (2016), and Sailing out of Darkness (2013 and 2017).



Guest Post from Normandie Fischer

In Sailing out of Darkness, the female protagonist longs for something, anything that will validate her after her husband leaves. She’s propelled into such an emotional wasteland that she becomes vulnerable to what seems a safe friendship.

It isn’t. And so she flees to Italy, but the repercussions of her actions continue to affect her and others—as consequences are wont to do.

After my divorce, hurting women seemed to flock to my vicinity. (Either that, or suddenly husbands in the church were leaving in droves.) These were abandoned women, angry women, women searching for love in the wrong places. I wasn’t in any shape to minister to them as I too was struggling at the cross, but that period helped me understand how woefully ignorant and unprepared many church goers are when it comes to hearing the cries of the hurting. I know of two women (to whom I dedicated the book) who actually killed themselves because no one listened or reached out a hand when they needed it.

The process of divorce and healing taught me about grace in a way that I’d never fully internalized. I’d ministered and counseled for years about the Love of God. I’d preached and written about it, but part of me, the part that needed healing, still held on to the idea that I had to be perfect to be loved by God and by man. I knew better, but the heart and the head weren’t working well together, especially during my years of living with an alcoholic husband and during divorce recovery after he left. As I wrote about Sam’s guilt and helped her find peace, I think new pieces slid into place for me as well. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. And that’s probably the most powerful message we have to share with this hurting world.


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Normandie is giving away a Kindle! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Bearly Departed




Bearly Departed
By Meg Macy
A Teddy Bear Mystery #1
Kensington, 2017


Summary

The Silver Bear Shop and Factory might be the cutest place around, but there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about murder . . .

As manager of the family teddy bear shop and factory, thirty-one-year-old Sasha Silverman leads a charmed life. Well, except for the part about being a single divorcée with a ticking biological clock in small-town Silver Hollow. And that’s just kid’s stuff compared to Will Taylor, the sales rep who’s set on making drastic changes to the business her parents built from scratch—with or without Sasha’s approval . . .

But before Will digs his claws in, someone pulls the stuffing out of his plan . . . and leaves his dead body inside the factory. Reeling from shock, Sasha’s hit with more bad news—police suspect her hot-tempered Uncle Ross may have murdered him. Sasha knows her uncle would never do such a thing, and she’s launching her own little investigation to expose the truth. As she tracks Will’s biggest rivals and enemies for clues, Sasha can’t get too comfy—or she’ll become the next plaything for a killer . . .


My thoughts

Bearly Departed begins an adorable new cozy mystery series by Meg Macy. It had strengths and weaknesses, but I enjoyed this story overall and think the series holds lots of promise.

Silver Hollow – a small town outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan – is a delightful setting that feels so real that I’d love to visit it. And nothing could be more engaging than the family-owned teddy bear gift shop and factory managed by Sasha Silverman. There’s plenty of characters, family dynamics, and red herrings to hold interest. Sasha’s Uncle Ross is one of my favorite characters, and the mention of his ex-wife coming to work in the shop at the end sounds like a fun theme for the next book.

There are a few things I wish had been different … Maybe it was just me, but a lot of people were introduced in a short space of time – Sasha’s family, factory workers, and village people. There wasn’t much character depth and I had trouble keeping them straight (a cast list and description at the beginning would have been very helpful). Secondly, while the storyline was interesting, detail slowed the action down. More conversation and action would have been great. There wasn’t much profanity, but even a little is a turn off for me. And most importantly of all, it was the teddy bear business that attracted me to this book and I wanted much more of it. In fact, one of my favorite parts was Sasha giving a group tour of the factory in the early pages. Between the shop, community-related events, and families buying the bears, a lot of interest could be created.

I enjoyed Bearly Departed overall and would like to see how the series develops.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

_________________________


Award-winning mystery author Meg Macy lives in Southeast Michigan, close to Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and Dexter — the area she chose for the setting of her new “Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear” cozy mystery series for Kensington. She is also one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland for the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins Mystery series; two books have been named Agatha Award finalists. Meg’s first published book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Best First Novel Spur Award from Western Writers of America.

She’s a graduate of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. Meg loves reading mysteries, historicals, and other genre fiction, and also enjoys gardening, crafts, and watercolor painting.

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Purchase sites:
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GIVEAWAY




Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: True to You



True to You
By Becky Wade
Bradford Sisters #1
Bethany House, 2017


Summary

It's the exciting start of a brand-new series by a contemporary romance fan favorite!

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition, he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

I fell in love with this poignant, thought-provoking book on the very first page. True to You models excellence in every way – exquisite writing, storytelling, and characterization – and is one of the best contemporary romances that I’ve ever read.

I immediately connected with Becky Wade’s writing when I read her first book, My Stubborn Heart – and it would be difficult for me to pick a favorite among all that she has written. I believe it’s a case of whichever book that I’m reading at the time becomes my favorite – because they’re that good! But with True to You, it feels like Wade has matured as a writer and I sensed something special. It has the same light-hearted, humorous slant that readers have come to love and expect, but after having read only a few chapters, I discovered a complexity and depth that elevates this above the typical contemporary romance.

Nora and her family are loveably quirky and easy to connect with. I’m an only child who always read a lot, so I loved Nora’s bookish side – and confess to a little envy of her relationship with sisters Willow and Britt. The initial meeting between Nora and John in the beginning chapters is so funny! There’s some twists along the way that I never saw coming, scenes that had me tearing up, and a memorable, touching ending.

I loved how life’s messy issues are realistically portrayed, and that John and Nora’s strong faith is tested in the same way that ours would be. The faith theme is vibrant and a natural part of their lives, never forced. Themes of grace, God’s redeeming of human messes, and total surrender of personal will were moving and thought provoking.

The story concludes beautifully, but leaves me impatient for Willow and Britt’s stories – as well as more time with Nora and John.

True to You earns a “best of the best” rating from me, very highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book from the author and Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/bwade

_________________________




Becky Wade is a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction.

She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance! She's the Carol Award, INSPY Award, and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, the Porter Family series, and the Bradford Sisters Romance series.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: The Good Book


The Good Book
By Deron Spoo
David C. Cook, 2017


Summary

The Good Book offers a user-friendly guide to the Bible's biggest ideas.

A chapter from the Bible accompanies each chapter of the book, which helps readers understand the context and content of the Scripture passages in a way that can open the whole Bible.

Designed as a forty-day journey through forty key chapters of the Bible, The Good Book will appeal to those who already love and read the Bible regularly as well as to those who are just beginning their Christian journey.

The Good Book:

-- is a great evangelism tool for explaining the major themes of Scripture to those who want to know more about God, Jesus, and the core beliefs of Christianity;
-- gives new believers an overview of the Bible and lays a framework to help them understand Scripture passages;
-- helps longtime Christians rediscover the basic themes of Scripture and experience these truths in a new way; and
-- encourages Scriptural literacy as it pushes readers to read both one chapter of the book and one chapter of the Bible each day for forty days.

The Good Book is great for individuals, and it can also be used by small groups in an eight-week church-wide program or a forty-week journey that focuses on one Bible chapter each week.

The Good Book will help people understand and live by the transformative truths of the Bible.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

The Good Book by Deron Spoo is a most excellent book and can be used in several different ways, as mentioned in the description above. I was drawn to this book by the recommendation of my favorite teaching pastor, Kyle Idleman, and I encourage you to watch the video at the end.

I love the uniqueness of The Good Book, for I’ve thought long and hard, and can’t come up with anything similar. It’s informative in its overview of the Bible as it highlights 40 key truths or ideas about God, from Genesis to Revelation. These aren’t exhaustive, but rather 40 that the author chose – and I have to say that he chose well.

The book is divided into eight major sections, each with five chapters. Sections include themes such as … God Is Good When Life Gets Messy, God Is Big, Jesus Has Just Entered the Building, and God’s Message for You. Some chapters from the Bible are what you would expect to find … Genesis 1, Psalm 23, John 1, Acts 1, 1 Corinthians 13. Others that might not be as familiar beautifully contribute to the overall goal.

The Good Book would be excellent for new believers or seekers, especially those with little to no church background, and I’ve already recommended it to our pastor. It’s not a substitute for Bible reading, nor is that the author’s intention. Rather, I believe it would motivate and increase the desire to delve further into God’s Word.

In an interview with my friend Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower, Deron Spoo said, “This book is about more than understanding the Bible.  This book is about falling in love with God.  Let’s do more than accumulate knowledge about the Bible; let’s allow the love of God to alter our heart and transform our lives.” I believe that’s the real strength of The Good Book, and in that regard, it is suitable for Christians at all maturity levels. I read with highlighter in hand, enjoying its inspiration and freshness.

Highly recommended.





I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity and David C. Cook. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/DSpoo

_________________________


Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past 16 years, Spoo has guided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. 

Church members describe him as "down to earth" and "authentic." His television devotionals, "First Things First," reach 100,000 people each week. 

Spoo is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Paula, have three children.

Find out more about Deron at http://www.readthegoodbook.com.