Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Colors of Christmas



About the Book

Name of book: Colors of Christmas
Author: Olivia Newport  
Genre: Contemporary Christmas  
Release Date: October 1, 2017  

Christmas in Blue 

Angela just wants Christmas to be over. Instead, she finds herself in charge of the town’s celebration, and everything goes from bad to worse. Can she rescue Christmas for the town—and herself?

Christmas in Gold 

When eighty-year-old Astrid moves into an assisted living community and meets a young woman on the brink of despair, she resolves to stir up Christmas hope one more time.


Click here to purchase your copy.

My Thoughts

I loved Olivia Newport’s Colors of Christmas so much! This poignant two-novella collection is entertaining, touching, and spoke to my heart. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, it’s a story of hope, peace, and inner joy during the Christmas season when loss is magnified. In a season where many stories have a light, romantic flavor, I would use the term “real” to describe Colors of Christmas. Olivia Newport is an excellent writer of relationship drama, my favorite genre, and I enjoyed the stories of Astrid and Angela equally.

Each story had a personal connection for me as well. Astrid’s German heritage played an important part in Christmas in Gold, and getting to know a lot about Germany during my daughter’s eight years of campus ministry there made Astrid’s experience special. In Christmas in Blue, Angela is a piano teacher, church organist, and choir director – making me want to say, “been there, done that”! So both of these stories resonated in a special way.


Loss is something that touches all of us sooner or later, whether it be the loss of someone close (Angela) or loss of personal independence (Astrid). A fall results in Astrid moving into an assisted living facility, and loss of a best friend leaves Angela wanting little to do with the town’s Christmas program … “The last thing she wanted to do in her grief was try to match what Carole had done in her joy.” But don’t think for a moment that Colors of Christmas is a depressing book, as it’s anything but that.  For me, its strength is gently encouraging us to look outward (and upward) instead of inward.


I’m always amazed at how God works by bringing the people we need into our lives at just the right moment, and this is reflected beautifully in these stories. I especially enjoyed Astrid’s connection with Carly and son Tyler, and that of Angela with her piano student, Brian.


The overall theme of Colors of Christmas is best reflected in Martin’s words reminding us that it’s all about remembering to go to Bethlehem … “not to dwell on what we have lost but on what God has given.”


If you’re trying to decide what Christmas-themed books to try this season, I encourage you to pick up Colors of Christmas. Highly 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

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and twenty-something children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. 

She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.







Guest Post from Olivia Newport

We All Have a Story 

I’m younger than most of the people I exercise with. It started when I had a lot of pain in my feet and needed low-impact classes with the option of sitting down and learned I didn’t have to be a senior citizen to take their classes at my gym. Then I discovered how tough most of them are. Years later, though my feet are better, these are still my people. 

A couple of years ago, while we waited for the younger and allegedly-but-not-really-tougher crowd to clear out of the group exercise room so we could invade it, a woman I would not have guessed to be 80, because she could out-cardio and out-lift me any day of the week, mentioned she had been widowed since she was 39. And she’d been widowed the first time at 19. And she’d grown up in Germany while Hitler was intent on destroying Europe and life was not easy. 

Then the changing of the guard happened and I was left with my mouth gaping. I knew I had to hear this story. The next week after class, we went across the parking lot to Culvers for lunch and I scribbled notes on the backs of a pile of brown napkins while Astrid talked. Later she let me read the account of her life that she had written herself. 

Astrid faced so many tragic circumstances, but she would be the first to tell you that God was with her even before she knew how to call on him. Many people with her life story would have found plenty of reason to wallow and stagnate. But not Astrid. Truly she is one of the most hopeful people I know. 

Her story was the beginning of Colors of Christmas, which includes two stories. Astrid’s is “Christmas in Gold,” and the other is “Christmas in Blue.” Astrid inspired me to write about hope for a time of year when the Christian message resounds with hope yet so many people struggle to grasp hope for themselves. I pray these stories will help many recover a sense of hope afresh. 

Olivia Newport chases joy in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.



Giveaway


Please help by clicking this link and sharing my review on Facebook. Thank you!

To celebrate her tour, Olivia is giving away a grand prize of a Christmas Bundle Bonanza which includes 7 Jumbo rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, 2 sets of stick-on gift tags, 2 packages of Christmas cards and envelopes, 2 collections of Christmas novellas—18 stories in all, and a signed copy of Colors of Christmas!!

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





Monday, October 23, 2017

Grand Finale (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): The Keeper of Her Heart



On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Keeper of Her Heart
By Stacy Henrie

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you can see snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:



Launch - Note from the Author

There are some stories, some characters, which grab ahold of you and won’t let go. THE KEEPER OF HER HEART and its heroine Ada Thorne are just such a story and character for me. So it’s with much anticipation, that I share this book with readers...


"The Keeper of Her Heart has earned a special place in my heart. This well-written, poignant story is bittersweet and heartwarming at the same time. British settings are a favorite of mine, and historical detail of the World War I era is conveyed in a way that pulls you right into the story. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed The Keeper of Her Heart and look forward to more from Stacy Henrie."

Backing Books - Excerpt

Desperation strangled Ada’s breath, making her light-headed. “If I am not to marry for love, then what is the purpose of such a union?"

“To maintain the life you have always known,” her father said, his voice rising again. “You will marry a man of good breeding and fortune who will see that you want for nothing.”

An image of a content and pampered lap dog came to her mind. No wonder she preferred horses and their strength and power to other creatures meant to sit silent and look lovely.


"Stacy Henrie is a master at historical fiction, especially during the World Wars. In this offering, we are treated to the story of Ada, a young woman of class, in the early 1900s in England. . . . I found it fascinating and loved watching Stacy Henrie bring this time in history to life in a way that I never could have imagined."

Colorimetry - Excerpt

“It’s war, Ned.” Ada didn’t bother to disguise the pleading in her tone. “I don’t want to have to say goodbye; I don’t want you gone.”

“I don’t want to go,” he admitted in a low voice. His next words sent another shudder through her. “But if it’s right, Ada, I need to go.”

When he pulled her to him, she went. She shut her eyes and leaned into his touch. Was there anything she could say to persuade him differently? For the first time in their marriage, she suddenly understood what Ned had felt whenever he longed to protect her from something. That’s what she wanted to do in this moment—to protect him and herself.

Remembrancy - Review

"Through it all, this book weaves World War I history and life in London into the story. As readers follow Ada’s journey, her sprouting faith is encouraging in the midst of the challenges thrown out her. . . .Stacy Henrie’s newest book is a reminder of the One who gives hope in the midst of our darkest hours as well as second chances—at forgiveness, healing, and even love."

underneath the covers - Excerpt

“Thank you, Minnie.” Ada rose from her chair. “Rosie and I are lucky to have you and Thomas and the children.”

Tears glittered in her friend’s eyes now. “We’re the lucky ones. And don’t you go forgettin’ it. ’Specially the next time you go disappearin’ into yourself. All right?”

“I won’t.” She offered Minnie a smile—and this time it wasn’t forced.

Wishful Endings - Review

"THE KEEPER OF HER HEART is a story of love, perseverance, friendship, and second chances.The characters are genuine and easy to relate to, while the story is touching. Fans of the genre will find much to love here! . . . I loved how the story pulled out my emotions. It was engaging, sweet, and inspiring. It's one I definitely recommend!"

Paulette's Papers - Excerpt

“What did your gran have to say?” Ned asked from behind.

Ada jumped to her feet, her back to him, and hurried to remove the evidence of her tears before he caught sight of them. She wouldn’t have Ned thinking they were tears of regret.

“She’s well. And what’s more”—Ada spun around, pasting on a bright smile—“she wishes us happiness here in London.”

Heidi Reads... - Review

"This book starts out mild and unassuming, then packs an emotional punch, and wraps up with the happy ending you didn't think would happen. I slowly fell in love with each of the characters and their strength during times that become increasingly dangerous. . . . I loved the romance, the history, and the emotion in this unforgettable story!"


"There is so much sadness and yet they keep pushing forward to find happiness again. Very uplifting. . . . I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy history and a good love story. It’s packed full of goodness!"

Teatime and Books - Excerpt

Deep down, though, a germ of fear attempted to sprout inside her. She’d never known deprivation or difficulty or hard work. But she was determined to see her decision through—she would prove that marrying for love wasn’t the swift path to misery and regret that her parents believed it to be. She loved Ned. And she trusted that his current employer, Hugh Whittington, would follow through on his promise to help find Ned a new job.

Reading Is My SuperPower - Review

"The Keeper of Her Heart by Stacy Henrie is poignant and inspiring, the highs and lows of Ada’s life drawing the reader in wholeheartedly. The theme of God’s presence in times of joy as well as sorrow and fear walks hand-in-hand with Ada’s determined spirit and her compelling courage. Life doesn’t always work out the way we planned but in God’s hands we are held through it all."

And don't forget to enter the giveaway below, if you haven't already...


The Keeper of her Heart
by Stacy Henrie
Inspirational Historical Romance
ebook, 271 pages
September 26th 2017 by Beyond the Page Publishing

If you like the novels of Deanne Gist and Lauraine Snelling, you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie’s inspirational romance set against the backdrop of World War One!

Even at a young age, Ada Thorne knew that she would marry only for love, never money. So when she finds herself irrevocably drawn to Ned Henley, the lowly gamekeeper on a neighboring estate, she defies her parents and society by eloping with him to London to build a new life.

Without her family’s support, life in the city is far more difficult than the one of ease and privilege Ada has always known. She’ll find herself relentlessly tested in ways she never imagined—especially when Ned, answering the call of duty, enlists to serve his country in World War One.

Alone and near poverty with a child to raise, Ada’s resolve will be strained at every turn. And as she struggles to remain true to her convictions and live life on her own terms, Ada will embark on a journey of courage, faith, and love that will surpass even her own humble dreams . . .

Advanced Praise for the Book

“Stacy Henrie possesses superior storytelling skills, her historical accuracy and attention to detail are unsurpassed, and she knows how to create characters we can identify with and whom we really care for.” —Fresh Fiction



About the Author


USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie is the author of western romances and the Of Love and War series, which includes Hope at Dawn, a 2015 RITA Award finalist for excellence in romance. She was born and raised in the West, where she currently resides with her family. She enjoys reading, road trips, interior decorating, chocolate, and most of all, laughing with her husband and kids.



Tour Giveaway

- 1 winner will receive a $40 Amazon e-gift card and an e-book copy of any of Stacy's books (winner's choice)
- Open internationally
- Ends October 25th

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Review: Best-Laid Plants




Best-Laid Plants
By Marty Wingate
A Potting Shed Mystery #6
Alibi, 2017


Summary

A trip to the English countryside turns into a brush with death for Pru Parke, the only gardener whose holiday wouldn’t be complete without a murder to solve.

Pru and her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, are long overdue for a getaway. So when Pru is invited to redesign an Arts and Crafts garden in the picturesque Cotswolds, she and Christopher jump at the chance. Unfortunately, their B&B is more ramshackle than charming, and the once thriving garden, with its lovely Thyme Walk, has fallen into heartbreaking neglect. With the garden’s owner and designer, Batsford Bede, under the weather, Pru tackles the renovation alone. But just as she’s starting to make headway, she stumbles upon Batsford’s body in the garden—dead and pinned beneath one of his limestone statues.

With such a small police force in the area, Christopher is called upon to lead the investigation. Pru can’t imagine anyone murdering Batsford Bede, a gentle man who preferred to spend his time in quiet contemplation, surrounded by nature. But as her work on the garden turns up one ominous clue after another, Pru discovers that the scenery is more dangerous than she or Christopher could have anticipated.

Marty Wingate’s captivating mysteries can be enjoyed together or separately, in any order. The Potting Shed series:
The Garden Plot | The Red Book of Primrose House | Between a Rock and a Hard Place | The Skeleton Garden | The Bluebonnet Betrayal | Best-Laid Plants


My thoughts

English village setting, quirky characters, lots of dry humor, and a murder, of course … Best-Laid Plants is the perfect cozy mystery. From the beginning, I was enveloped in idyllic village life as Pru and Christopher blend business and vacation in the Cotswolds. Wait, did I say Cotswolds? Yes! While most people would fangirl over celebrities, I fangirl over the Cotswolds with its thatched-roof cottages, village lanes, and flower gardens. The story is well written, dialogue snappy, and setting vividly conveyed. Those who love flower gardening will especially enjoy all the bits of detail the author weaves into the narrative.

In addition to the setting, what makes this series so appealing to me is simply Pru – loving wife, loyal friend, dogged investigator, intuitive, gardener extraordinaire, and a great sense of humor. That she and Christopher are in their fifties, very much in love, and good at what they do, whether it be floral design or crime solving, is wonderful. She can come to my home and cook her apple/pork chop dish any time (great opening scene, by the way).

Suspects are plentiful, but fairly easy to keep up with. It was fun to use my detecting skills right along with Pru, but was still surprised at the resolution. I thoroughly enjoyed Best-Laid Plants and hope for many more stories in the series.

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

_________________________


Marty Wingate is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who shares her love of Britain in her two mystery series. The Potting Shed books feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and Birds of a Feather follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village.

Marty writes garden articles for magazines including Country Gardens and the American Gardener. She is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Crime Writers Association. She leads garden tours to England, Scotland and Ireland, spending free moments deep in research for her books. Or in pubs.

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Purchase Links:
Amazon   B&N  kobo  Google Play

Friday, October 20, 2017

Review + GIVEAWAY: Secrets and Pies




Secrets and Pies
By Jenny Kales
Callie’s Kitchen #3
Self Published, 2017


Summary

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of Callie’s Kitchen! Greek-American restaurateur Callie Costas faces down another killer in the small waterfront town of Crystal Bay, Wisconsin. Recipes included!

Summertime in Crystal Bay means tourist season for Calliope “Callie” Costas, owner of Callie’s Kitchen, a Greek-meets-Midwest from-scratch eatery. Business is booming but so is the stress. Callie can barely keep up with the demand for her famous summer fruit pies and savory Greek delicacies, plus she’s agreed to bake dozens of “pitas” for the annual Greek Fest.

When Callie is asked to deliver cast party treats for a Murder Mystery Night at the historic Harris House, it seems like a welcome break from her hot stove. That is, until she finds herself an unwilling player in yet another suspicious death. Worse yet, the victim is a family friend and graduate student working on a project involving Crystal Bay’s colorful past.

Before long, a motley crew of suspects makes things as juicy as the succulent berries strewn around Callie’s Kitchen. And that’s not all Callie’s got on her plate. Add family obligations, a deepening romance with a local detective and unexpected personnel problems to the mix. One thing’s for sure: Callie’s got the recipe for a long, hot summer!




My thoughts

Secrets and Pies is a delightful cozy mystery and I enjoyed it very much. I have to confess that in the beginning, I thought this was just going to be an average story. However, it wasn’t long before I was pulled right in and found myself wanting to spend more and more time with these characters. If you’ve read the previous two books, then many of the characters in the Crystal Bay community will be familiar to you, whereas I was getting to know them for the first time – but this works well as a standalone also. And best of all, this is a wonderfully clean story with no profanity or graphic scenes.

The Crystal Bay setting, inspired by Wisconsin’s Geneva Lakes, and Callie’s Greek-American restaurant play such a key part that they literally become main characters. Food-related settings are so much fun, and nothing could be more cozy than Callie’s Kitchen with its Greek dishes prepared by Max. And I would love to visit the Crystal Bay community with its lovely historic mansions.

Family is another theme, and the relationship between Callie and her dad, George, is touching. It always brought a smile to my face when he called her “Calliope.” The important characters are well drawn; I enjoyed Max’s personal story and Callie’s romance with police detective Sands. Add in a little historical detail going back to the Guilded Age and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it all comes together for a great read.

The mystery plot was well crafted, with an emotional touch because the victim was the beloved teacher of Callie’s daughter. I never had it figured out, but everything made sense as it was revealed. Having become fully invested in these characters, I hope for many more Callie’s Kitchen stories.

Highly recommended.

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 writer Jenny Kales is the author of The Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series. Though she’s worked as a writer and journalist for years, fiction writing is her first love and her marriage into a Greek-American Midwestern family inspired The Callie’s Kitchen mysteries, featuring Calliope Costas, food business owner and amateur sleuth.

The setting of the story, “Crystal Bay,” is inspired by a favorite family vacation spot – Wisconsin’s beautiful Geneva Lakes. Kales is an avid reader, cook and baker and she’s addicted to mystery TV, especially anything on Masterpiece Mystery or BBC America. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, two daughters and one cute but demanding Yorkshire terrier.

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GIVEAWAY

Winner will receive an e-copy of Secrets and Pies.

To enter the drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here letting me know that you did. Are you a fan of cozy mysteries that have a food theme? If so, do you have a favorite series?

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, October 29. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Bringing Maggie Home


Bringing Maggie Home
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
WaterBrook, 2017


Summary

Decades of loss, an unsolved mystery, and a rift spanning three generations

Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.

Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can't understand her mother's overprotectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother's inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan-a cold case agent-cherishes her grandmother's lavish attention and affection.

When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel's painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that's been lost?

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

Bringing Maggie Home is a creative masterpiece. Captivating, poignant, riveting, suspenseful, spiritual … I could keep going, but all the adjectives I might come up with barely scratch the surface of what you’ll find within these pages. There’s a complexity in this character-driven, multi-layered story. I don’t cry easily, but experienced several tearful moments while reading – joyful tears for the most part.

Maggie is actually a minor character, yet her presence is felt on every page as a 70-year-old secret casts its shadow over three generations of women. Flashbacks to 1943 and the ensuing years are skillfully woven throughout, providing insight and understanding. The relationship between Hazel and granddaughter Meghan is precious, but it’s the dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship of Hazel and Diane that drives the story emotionally.

Best of all is that readers will see Jesus in this story as Sawyer’s characters exhibit faith in action – not a perfect faith, but a realistic one that struggles as it grows. Romance is secondary, but I loved the chemistry and bond of friendship between Meghan and her cold-case partner, Sean. So many elements turned my emotions every which way – the heartbreak of loss, misunderstood motives, sharing of faith, redemptive scenes, and the joy of coming home. I found these words of Sean to Meghan such a moving reminder of all that Jesus is to us …

“While I’m here on earth, I have a constant companion so I’m never alone. When I’m not sure what to do, He’s my guide. When I’m weak, He strengthens me. When I’m frustrated, He calms me. I can’t imagine living without Him, and I can’t imagine eternity separated from Him.”

Bringing Maggie Home is an uplifting story that lives on in my heart. “Best of the best” for me.

Highly recommended.

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

http://litfusegroup.com/author/ksawyer

_________________________


Kim Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, best-selling author with more than one million books in print, in several different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband Don, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope and redemption. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

Find out more about Kim at http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com/.

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