Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review (+Tour Giveaway): Death in Advertising




Death in Advertising
By Laura Bradford
Tobi Tobias Series #1
Lyrical Underground, 2017


Summary

When Tobi Tobias decided to open her own ad agency, having to moonlight in a pet shop wasn’t part of her vision . . . of course, neither was murder.

Sometimes when opportunity knocks, the door you open leads to a closet. That’s certainly the case for Tobi, whose weekends spent cleaning cages in her best friend’s pet shop may soon be over. She’s just landed her first big break—Zander Closet Company needs a catchy campaign slogan ASAP, and Tobi thinks she’s got the right hook to knock ’em dead: “When we’re done, even your skeletons will have a place.”

But when a real dead body topples out of a showcase closet, she’s about to discover there is such a thing as bad publicity. To save her fledgling business and not get killed by the competition, Tobi takes on a new pet project: solving the murder. But with a stressed-out parrot as the only witness to the crime, Tobi will really have to wing it to put the cagey killer behind bars.


My thoughts

Intelligent writing … character depth … well-plotted mystery … charming humor. Death in Advertising is a delightful read and Laura Bradford has quickly become one of my very favorite mystery writers. I just discovered that she has two other series out, one of which is Amish mysteries, and I can’t wait to read more!


African Grey Parrot
Tobi, with a dream to be successful in her ad business, “creating words that left an impression long after they were gone,” is an easily relatable character that I simply enjoyed spending time with. She moonlights at the To Know Them Is to Love Them pet shop, where an African grey parrot named Rudder Malone steals the show with his imitation of voices and sounds. Tobi values friendships and has the right view of life, reflected in these thoughts regarding the murder victim’s palatial home: “Fancy stuff and large rooms didn’t make a home. And a workaholic husband and a near-silent housekeeper didn’t make a loving family.”

The tie-in between murder mystery and Zander Closet Company’s logo is creative genius: “When we’re done, even your skeletons will have a place.” Pretty close to reality! One of my favorite themes is the care, love and respect given to animals, such as the rescue of another African Grey named Baboo after his owner died.

Strong supporting cast adds even more depth – such as Joann at the ad agency, Mary Fran at the pet shop, and I especially loved Mary Fran’s son, Sam. Tobi’s relationship with Andy Zander hints at romance to come, which I’m definitely rooting for!

As with the best of mysteries, things aren’t as they first appear. The story moves at a steady clip, constantly holding my attention. I can truthfully say that I did not want it to end.

Highly recommended to cozy mystery fans.

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

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble     Amazon


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While spending a rainy afternoon at a friend’s house more than thirty years ago, Laura Bradford (a.k.a. Elizabeth Lynn Casey) fell in love with writing over a stack of blank paper, a box of crayons, and a freshly sharpened number two pencil. From that moment forward, she never wanted to do anything else.

Today, Laura is the national bestselling author of the Amish Mysteries, the Jenkins & Burns Mysteries, and the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries (written as Elizabeth Lynn Casey). A new cozy mystery series will be added to the mix in 2016 with the release of The Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries. Laura is a former Agatha nominee and the recipient of an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award in romance. In her free time, Laura enjoys making memories with her family, traveling, baking, and visiting the sea lions at the Central Park Zoo.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review (+ Tour Giveaway): The Newcomer



Click here to purchase your copy.


The Newcomer
By Suzanne Woods Fisher
Amish Beginnings #2
Revell, 2017


Summary

In 1737, Anna Konig and her fellow church members stagger off a small wooden ship after ten weeks at sea, eager to start a new life in the vibrant but raw Pennsylvania frontier. On the docks of Port Philadelphia waits bishop Jacob Bauer, founder of the settlement and father to ship carpenter Bairn. It’s a time of new beginnings for the reunited Bauer family, and for Anna and Bairn’s shipboard romance to blossom.

But this perfect moment cannot last. As Bairn grasps the reality of what it means to be Amish in the New World–isolated, rigid with expectations, under the thumb of his domineering father–his enthusiasm evaporates. When a sea captain offers the chance to cross the ocean one more time, Bairn grabs it. Just one more crossing, he promises Anna. But will she wait for him?

When Henrik Newman joins the church just as it makes its way to the frontier, Anna is torn. He seems to be everything Bairn is not–bold, devoted, and delighted to vie for her heart. And the most dramatic difference? He is here; Bairn is not.

Far from the frontier, an unexpected turn of events weaves together the lives of Bairn, Anna, and Henrik. When a secret is revealed, which true love will emerge?


My thoughts

Suzanne Woods Fisher knows how to tell a story that entertains and inspires, leaving readers with much to reflect upon after the last page is turned. And with the Amish Beginnings series, rich historical detail adds even more depth.

The Newcomer picks up Anna and Bairn’s story right where Anna’s Crossing ended, with a small Amish group landing at Port Philadelphia in 1737, seeking a fresh start and freedom to worship. A great sense of place and compelling storylines come from various settings - from Philadelphia (with delightful scenes with Benjamin Franklin), to the ship Lady Luck, the Ephrata Cloister, and the land that Bairn’s father wanted to claim for the Amish. There’s a fluidity and thoughtfulness to Suzanne’s writing, with a subtle humor never far below the surface.

Bairn and Anna are well developed, memorable characters. Bairn’s past causes him to feel like a lost soul, stifled by the life that being reunited with his family affords and feeling the sea’s strong call. It’s a joy to see the quiet effect that Anna’s strong and constant faith has on him. And I love how the thread of the rose bush continues, reflecting the resilient faith of the Amish. Bairn’s spiritual journey is moving, and even Anna struggles with taking responsibility herself rather than totally depending on God – something we can all identify with.

There are two compelling secondary characters that I long to see more of – Bairn’s mother, Dorothea, and brother, Felix. I feel like there’s a lot more to come and eagerly await the next book in this series.

Highly recommended.

Click on title to see my review of book #1, Anna's Crossing

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

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Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including Anna’s Crossing, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: The Dog Who Was There


The Dog Who Was There
By Ron Marasco
Thomas Nelson, 2017


Summary

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah.

He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley's eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we've never experienced before.

Barley's story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver's home and through the dangerous roads of Roman-occupied Judea.

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

I can honestly say that I’ve never read a book quite like Ron Marasco’s The Dog Who Was There and I enjoyed it very much. This is the second story written from a dog’s perspective that I’ve read recently – and while the previous one didn’t grab my attention, this one is excellent. The story thoroughly entertains as a dog adventure, while touching me emotionally through its insight and complexity.

The Dog Who Was There is a combination of dog adventure and biblical fiction. The narrative is simple and straightforward, yet this is not a book for young children because of a reality befitting the times that is portrayed. There’s warmth and affection, but also grittiness, pain and loss.

The author did a great job conveying a feel for Jerusalem, its people, and the tyranny of Roman rule. I may be a cat person, but I fell in love with the precious Barley. It was easy to connect with this little guy because he only wanted the things that we all seek – love, acceptance, and security – and we’re reminded through Barley’s adventures that those things can come in totally unexpected ways.

The effect of experiencing the last week of Jesus’ life through Barley’s thoughts is memorable. I loved his intuitiveness when it came to people, especially his instinct about the Kind Man (Jesus). On a spiritual level, this story is about the effect of Jesus’ teachings on people from various walks of life, with forgiveness being a major theme. It’s hard to express how moving the crucifixion events are as witnessed through Barley’s eyes and ears. Maybe it’s simply the beauty and freshness of this unique approach.

Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, The Dog Who Was There is full of hope and redemption – and there’s a fantastically happy twist at the end that I never saw coming.

Recommended.

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

_________________________


Ron Marasco is a professor in the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His first book, "Notes to an Actor," was named by the American Library Association an Outstanding Book of 2008. His second book, "About Grief," has been translated into multiple languages, and he is currently completing a book on Shakespeare's sonnets.

He has acted extensively on TV-from "Lost" to "West Wing" to "Entourage" to originating the role of Mr. Casper on "Freaks and Geeks"-and appeared opposite screen legend Kirk Douglas in the movie "Illusion," for which he also wrote the screenplay. Most recently, he has played the recurring role of Judge Grove on "Major Crimes." He has a BA from Fordham at Lincoln Center and an MA and Ph. D. from UCLA.

Find out more about Ron at http://www.thomasnelson.com/the-dog-who-was-there.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/rmarasco

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Spotlight (+ Kindle Fire Giveaway): Two Suitors for Anna



Click here to purchase your copy.


About the Book

Book: Two Suitors for Anna  

Author: Molly Jebber  

Genre: Amish Historical Romance  

Release Date: January 31, 2017  

In 1903 Ohio, a young Amish woman must choose between the life she has long planned for and a new, very different future…

Since Anna Plank moved to Berlin, Ohio, with her widowed mamm and two schweschders, she’s found a real sense of belonging. As soon as her beloved Noah Schwartz proposes, they’ll begin a new chapter here together. But Noah has a surprise for Anna: once they’re married, he wants them to travel and live in other communities. Anna, who loves her home and her job at the quilt shop, is distraught when he takes her hesitation as rejection—and leaves.

Daniel Bontrager’s arrival adds to Anna’s confusion. Since taking over his late brother’s farm, the handsome roofer has offered friendship and gentle attentions. Yet the pull of first love is strong and deep, especially when Noah returns. Through each revelation, Anna must search her faith for guidance, knowing she is choosing not just a husband, but a life to nurture and to share…  

Praise for Molly Jebber’s Change of Heart

“Endearing characters and a delightful story make this a keeper for fans of Amish romance.” –Emma Miller

“This is a wonderfully written historical romance with Amish and Englisch characters who are loveable and considerate of others. The storyline is believable and heartwarming. Jebber is a talented author.” –RT Book Reviews

 

About the Author

Molly Jebber’s books have been featured in Publisher’s Weekly, USA Today’s HEA, and Romantic Times has given them a near excellent rating. She’s on RWA’s Honor Roll. She’s a speaker for Women’s Christian Connection, and she offers presentations on writing, publishing, Amish lifestyle and traditions. She has received widespread media coverage, including live interviews, across the United States for her books and speaking engagements.

She’s just signed a new contract for four more Amish books! She loves interacting with her readers. She loves God, her husband, family and friends. She has a hard time saying no to cupcakes, swimming, nine holes of golf, and walks on the beach. Coconut, oatmeal, and onions, on the other hand, are not hard to say no to!


Guest Post from Molly Jebber

What prompted Two Suitors for Anna?
Have you had to choose between two men you love? Or maybe a friend? I gave Anna this dilemma and added to her turmoil by throwing in a bundle of twists and turns to the story.

Noah proposes to Anna, and he takes her rejection as hesitation and leaves town. Daniel moves to Berlin and offers her friendship which is blossoming into something more, when Noah returns and asks her forgiveness and another chance. I hope you enjoy it!


Blog Stops

January 31: cherylbbookblog
January 31: Giveaway Lady
February 1: A Greater Yes
February 2: Lane Hill House
February 3: Just Commonly
February 4: Bigreadersite
February 5: Quiet Quilter
February 7: Pause for Tales
February 8: Splashes of Joy
February 10: inklings and notions
February 11: Carpe Diem
February 12: Donna’s BookShelf
February 13: autism mom
February 14: A Holland Reads


Giveaway

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



Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: The Mark of the King


The Mark of the King
By Jocelyn Green
Bethany House, 2017


Summary

Sweeping historical fiction set at the edge of the continent

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/2iKM4uj


My thoughts

The Mark of the King is an epic and intense story of courage, determination, betrayal, loss – with hope and redemption running in a steady current along the way. This is the first novel by Jocelyn Green that I’ve read and this skilled author has immediately become a favorite. The Mark of the King is literally a work of art, reflective of a quality that is rare in Christian fiction, and I long for more novels like this.

I was totally captured from the very first page and quickly became completely immersed in the characters, setting, and history. The Mark of the King is a seamless blend of historical detail and fiction, inspired by the mass marriage of convicts in Paris, who were then sent to populate New Orleans in the early 1720s. The story is faithful to the era, realistically gritty at times, and I enjoyed learning more about my favorite period of American history. The complexity between the major players – France, England, and the Indian tribes – is fleshed out in a manner that is easy to understand.

The prose is exquisite, almost poetic at times, and the characters are well defined. Marc-Paul and Julianne are captivating and will be remembered long after the last page is turned. Marc-Paul is a man of honor who serves his country well, and Julianne is a survivor who personifies the essence of strength. Their love story is truly stunning.

Themes of judgment and grace are contrasted and God’s hand is clearly seen throughout. We also see other spiritual themes, such as loving our enemies and the difference between knowing about God vs. truly knowing Him.

The Mark of the King is simply exceptional and goes on my favorites list. Very highly recommended.

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

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Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of ten books to date, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013; Widow of Gettysburg; Yankee in Atlanta; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. A former military wife herself, her passion for military families informs all of her writing as well as her numerous speaking opportunities. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University with a BA in English and now lives with her husband and two children in Iowa.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

http://litfusegroup.com/author/jgreen

Review (+ Tour Giveaway): The Outlaw's Secret


On Tour with Prism Book Tours.


The Outlaw's Secret
by Stacy Henrie
Christian Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 288 pages
February 7th 2017 by Love Inspired Historical

Lawman in Disguise

Getting taken hostage by a gang of train robbers wasn't in dime novelist Essie Vanderfair's plans, but interviewing these men could make her career soar. Especially since the gang includes legendary outlaw Tex Beckett, better known as the Texas Titan. Tex is famed for his protection of women and children, so she'll be fine…right?

Keeping the gang in line was hard enough before a stubborn, beautiful writer interfered. Now Tex is scrambling to keep Essie safe, to gather evidence against the gang and most of all to hide his dangerous secrets. First, that he's a detective working undercover. And second, that he's not the Texas Titan at all, but Tex's twin brother, Tate Beckett.



My thoughts

There’s nothing typical about Stacy Henrie’s newest release and she has become one of my favorite writers in the Love Inspired line. The Outlaw’s Secret has it all – character depth, humor, romance, suspense, and rich historical detail. It’s well written, entertaining, and refreshingly unusual in storyline.

The story starts off in a somewhat humorous fashion, with the heroine orchestrating something that I can’t imagine doing in a million years – and it works. Essie and Tate are extremely appealing characters. Essie is intelligent, insightful, and a quick study who uses knowledge gained from research to help in tricky situations.

As Essie begins interviewing the gang members, the feel of this story changes subtly. Wanting to delve into the outlaws’ pasts and explore the people and circumstances that contributed to their current way of life, she gradually uncovers a hidden complexity in these characters. “Outlawing wasn’t the adventurous, carefree career she’d imagined or unknowingly penned into her novels … They were people with feelings, regrets, hopes and fears. Just like her.”

The romance between Tate and Essie is sweet, and there’s a real chemistry between them.  Spiritual gems are a natural part of the story as Essie and Tate learn some valuable life lessons.

The Outlaw’s Secret is a fun and entertaining read. Recommended.

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


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. You can learn more about Stacy and her books by visiting her website at stacyhenrie.com.

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Tour Giveaway

- 1 winner will receive print copies of LADY OUTLAW and THE EXPRESS RIDER'S LADY + $10 Amazon Gift Card (US only)
- 1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card (open internationally)
- Ends February 18th

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