Monday, January 29, 2018

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Biscuits and Slashed Browns




Biscuits and Slashed Browns
By Maddie Day
Country Store Series #4
Kensington, 2018


Summary

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration ...

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife.

When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?



My thoughts

Biscuits and Slashed Browns is an entertaining cozy mystery that has the traditional feel that I enjoy. What could be more appealing than the small-town setting of South Lick, Indiana, where Robbie runs a local diner, and a maple syrup festival? Characters are likeable, the mystery is well crafted, and there are plenty of suspects and plot twists. Although fourth in the series, this story easily stands alone.

The fact that the realistically flawed characters, including Robbie and a strong supporting cast, seem so real makes the story especially engaging. One of my favorites is the young Indian chef, Turner Rao, whose passion for cooking goes against the goals his parents have for him. There’s a conflict between the murder victim and Turner’s father, academics who were on opposing sides of the climate change debate.

It made sense for Robbie to ask questions when some of the suspects had close ties to her, providing a good way for background to be shared. Robbie’s friendship with law enforcement, especially Buck, gave credibility to her involvement in the investigation. I also loved Adele, Robbie’s aunt. Although I wasn’t crazy about the frequent use of local accents, it gave a sense of realness to the story. The only negative was a few instances of mild profanity that detracted from an otherwise clean story.

Recommended.

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

_________________________


Maddie Day is a talented amateur chef and holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from Indiana University. An Agatha Award-nominated author, she is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and also writes award-winning short crime fiction. She lives with her beau and three cats in Massachusetts.

As Edith Maxwell, she writes the Local Foods Mysteries (Kensington Publishing) and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Midnight Ink).

You can find all Maddie’s/Edith’s identities at www.edithmaxwell.com. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors at wickedcozyauthors.com. Look for her as Edith M. Maxwell and Maddie Day on Facebook and @edithmaxwell and @maddiedayauthor on Twitter.

____________________

GIVEAWAY



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: Sacred Rest by Saundra Dalton Smith, MD


Sacred Rest
By Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
FaithWords, 2018


Summary

Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested- there's a challenge.

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.

By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

Sacred Rest just might be the most beneficial book I’ve read in a long time. If you enjoy non-fiction, this is one you should definitely pick up. And if you don’t read much non-fiction, this is still a book you should invest your time in. Sacred Rest is not theology, and shouldn’t be held to that standard, but rather a book that speaks to the whole person – physical, emotional, and spiritual. While targeted more toward women, it’s a book everyone would find enriching.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is a gifted communicator, engaging writer, loving mom, and committed Christian. As a medical doctor, she is well qualified in sharing her thoughts and experiences, and her writing is grounded in Scripture. Her style is conversational and real – so real, in fact, that I wouldn’t have been surprised to look up from my book and see her across the room from me, for I often felt she was speaking directly to me.

Sleep is not rest. As different parts of an intricate
system, sleep and rest are designed to work
together to ensure every part of you has a way
to regenerate and be restored. (p. 6)

The author delves deeply into the concept of rest, exploring areas and concepts that, while totally new to me, make complete sense. When I think of how often I’ve awaken, still tired after a good night’s sleep, I can see that sleep does not necessarily equate to feeling rested. I love this quote from page 8: “Sleep is solely a physical activity. Rest, however, penetrates into the spiritual. Rest speaks peace into the daily storms your mind, body, and spirit encounter. Rest is what makes sleep sweet.”

In short, easy-to-manage chapters, the author explores the seven different types of rest that our often burned-out bodies require – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, and creative – followed by the gifts of each. I’ve learned so much already, especially in understanding that the specific area in which we’ve exerted energy needs the corresponding type of rest. I’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to take in and am eager to go back and read in depth.

What I like best about this book is how the physical and spiritual are linked together, as they should be. My thanks to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith for sharing her thoughts.

Highly recommended.

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

_________________________


Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is an author, speaker, and board-certified physician. She has an active medical practice in Alabama (near the Birmingham area). She received her B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Georgia, and graduated with honors from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. She has been an adjunct faculty member at Baker College and Davenport University in Michigan teaching courses on health, nutrition, and disease progression.

Dr. Dalton-Smith is a national and international media resource on the mind, body, spirit connection and has been featured in Women's Day, Redbook, and First For Women magazine. She is the author of "Set Free to Live" and "Come Empty" (winner 2016 Golden Scroll Nonfiction Book of the Year and 2016 Illumination Award Gold medalist).

She is a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association and a repeat keynote speaker at their annual gathering. She has shared her tips on merging faith and medicine with over 16,000 health care professionals to encourage the current and next generation of doctors to treat the whole person.

Find out more about Saundra at http://ichoosemybestlife.com.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Survival of the Fritters




Survival of the Fritters
By Ginger Bolton
A Deputy Donut Mystery #1
Kensington, 2018


Summary

Emily Westhill runs the best donut shop in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin, alongside her retired police chief father-in-law and her tabby Deputy Donut. But after murder claims a favorite customer, Emily can’t rely on a sidekick to solve the crime—or stay alive.

If Emily has learned anything from her past as a 911 operator, it’s to stay calm during stressful situations. But that’s a tall order when one of her regulars, Georgia Treetor, goes missing. Georgia never skips morning cappuccinos with her knitting circle. Her pals fear the worst—especially Lois, a close friend who recently moved to town. As evening creeps in, Emily and the ladies search for Georgia at home. And they find her—murdered among a scattering of stale donuts . . .

Disturbingly, Georgia’s demise coincides with the five-year anniversary of her son’s murder, a case Emily’s late detective husband failed to solve before his own sudden death. With Lois hiding secrets and an innocent man’s life at stake, Emily’s forced to revisit painful memories on her quest for answers. Though someone’s alibi is full of holes, only a sprinkling of clues have been left behind. And if Emily can’t trace them back to a killer in time, her donut shop will end up permanently closed for business . . .




My thoughts

Survival of the Fritters, which begins a new series by Ginger Bolton, is as fun and entertaining as the cover promises. And with a cover like that, how could I resist?!

Relationships, friendships, and even the hint of a future romance are elements that I loved. The story is set in the picturesque town of Fallingbrook, Wisconsin and is also completely clean, which I very much appreciated.

Emily, still trying to find her way after the death of her police detective husband a few years earlier, is an appealing protagonist who cares about people. I wished for more character depth, a compliment because I liked her, but I suspect that will come with future stories. A strong supporting cast surrounds Emily, two of my favorites being her longtime friends, police officer Misty and 911 operator Savannah. This story is also different from most cozies in that, while Emily is a civilian, she has close relationships with people on the police force, which lends credibility to her detecting. I also really liked Brent, her late husband’s partner, and any romance that might develop between these two promises to be complex because of shared grief.

The story moves at a steady pace that kept me eagerly turning the pages, and while a few hints as to the murderer are scattered throughout, the solution was never obvious until the end. And of course I loved Emily’s precious cat, Dep, after which the Deputy Donut shop was named!

This promises to be a good series for traditional cozy mystery fans and I eagerly await the next story.

Recommended.

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


_________________________



Ginger Bolton writes the Deputy Donut mystery series –cops, crime, coffee, donuts and one curious cat.

When Ginger isn’t writing or reading, she’s crocheting, knitting, sewing, walking her two rescue dogs and generally causing trouble. She’s also fond of donuts, coffee, and cafes were folks gather to enjoy those tasty treats and one another’s company.

WebsiteKiller CharactersFacebookTwitterGoodreads


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Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Blast (+ GIVEAWAY): Natural Thorn Killer by Kate Dyer-Seeley


BOOK BLAST



About the Book


Natural Thorn Killer
By Kate Dyer-Seeley
A Rose City Mystery #1
Kensington, 2018

Cut down among the flowers . . .

Britta Johnston might be a late bloomer, but after leaving her deadbeat husband and dead-end job, she’s finally pursuing her artistic passion at her aunt Elin’s floral boutique, Blooma, in Portland, Oregon. It’s on the banks of the Willamette, in a quaint district of cobblestone paths and cherry trees. The wine bar featuring Pacific Northwest vintages is a tasty bonus, offering another kind of bouquet to enjoy. But things aren’t as peaceful as they look.

For one thing, someone’s been leaving dead roses around–and a sleazy real estate developer who wants the waterfront property has put a big-money offer on the table.

Then, after a contentious meeting of local business owners, he’s found on the floor of the shop, with Elin’s garden shears planted in his chest. And before the police decide to pin the crime on her beloved aunt, Britta will have to find out who arranged this murder...



About the Author




Kate Dyer-Seeley aka Ellie Alexander writes multiple mystery series, all with a Pacific Northwest touch.

She lives in the PNW with her husband and son, where you can find her hitting the trail, at an artisan coffee shop, or at her favorite pub. Better yet—at all three.

Website |  Facebook  | Twitter | Instagram




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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): A Song Unheard



About the Book

Title: A Song Unheard  
Author: Roseanna M. White  
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction  
Release Date: January 2, 2018

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I—to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales. 

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won—until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe. 

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t—that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.


Click here to purchase your copy!


My Thoughts

A Song Unheard is another wonderful historical romance by the incredibly talented Roseanna M. White. This story is rich in characterization, historical detail, and emotionally moving storyline – and it calls out to me in a unique way. White has become one of my favorite authors, and A Song Unheard goes on my “best of the best” list.

Opening in fall of 1914 and set in Aberystwyth, Wales, the theme centers around a symphony orchestra made up of Belgian refugees, touring to raise money for the Belgian Relief Fund. We see Pauly again, father figure to the ragtag bunch of street urchins he’d helped stitch together, as Willa gets her turn at carrying out a commission from the mysterious Mr. V.

Willa, feeling a little betrayed and abandoned by Rosie in the beginning, is a standout character – and Lukas De Wilde adds complexity and depth as a leading man. Music is central to the story, and White conveys such vivid realism that I could literally hear them playing their violins in my mind. As a musician myself, every page resonated with me in an emotionally moving way, and I read slowly so as to savor every detail and nuance.

Spiritual themes are also central to the story, and we see both emotional and spiritual growth in Willa and Lukas. Tension and suspense of World War I blend with romance in this captivating story, making it hard to put down. I love this series and look forward to the next story.

Highly recommended.

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


About the Author

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. 

Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. 

You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.



Guest post from Roseanna White

I started playing the piano when I was 7. I didn’t discover any long-dormant genius or anything, but I liked it. When my sister quit, I kept playing. In middle school, I switched teachers, and moving from the lady at my church that I knew so well to someone who was just my piano teacher made a difference in how I applied myself. It deepened my love of music. 

We all know how some random moments stand out forever in our memory. One such for me happened on the school bus. I was sitting with my best friend, talking about the new piano piece I was learning. “Via Delorosa” means Road of Sorrow, and it’s a song that tells musically about Jesus’ journey to Golgotha—ending with the faint chime of the nails being driven into his palms. As my beloved Mrs. Peto went through this song with me the night before, I remember her circling a D♯ that I’d missed and saying how important that note was. That it made the whole line weep. 

That it would make the hearers weep. An epiphany so huge I had to share it with my friend. A well placed sharp could make music weep! Who knew? 

That was but one lesson Mrs. Peto taught me in how music could evoke things words never could. A woman of strong faith, she also taught me how a song could preach the Gospel. Music can be medicine. It can be hope. It can be tears. It can be truth. Music can be Jesus to a hurting heart that turns its back on words. 

This is a lesson I never forgot, and I had it always in mind as I was writing A Song Unheard. In this story, both my hero and heroine are musicians—violinists. But Willa (who is SO STUBBORN) wouldn’t listen to words of faith from any of the people in her life “suddenly spouting such nonsense.” 

But then, in her darkest hour, she hears a slip of melody. And she realizes it’s the Lord. 

I pray as readers move through the story of Willa Forsythe—violin prodigy and top-notch thief—that their spirits’ ears hear more than words, more than just a story. I pray they hear the Lord whispering that ultimate song. The one that says, “I love you.” 

Want to hear the song Willa eventually wrote in the book? You can! The violin music in this trailer is officially dubbed “Willa’s Song” and written specifically for this book. I hope you enjoy it! http://bit.ly/ASongUnheardTrailer



Blog Stops

Fiction Aficionado, January 11
Genesis 5020, January 11
Bookworm Mama, January 11
Blogging With Carol, January 12
Multifarious, January 12
Faithfully Bookish, January 13
Karen Sue Hadley, January 13
Mary Hake, January 13
A Greater Yes, January 13
Remembrancy, January 14
Texas Book-aholic, January 14
A Reader’s Brain, January 15
Cordially Barbara, January 15
Pursuing Stacie, January 15
Bigreadersite, January 16
Mommynificent, January 17
Baker Kella, January 17
allofakindmom, January 18
Pause for Tales, January 19
Just Commonly, January 19
Janices book reviews, January 19
Radiant Light, January 20
Book by Book, January 20
CAC Devourer, January 20
Splashes of Joy, January 21
Neverending Stories, January 21
The PhD Mamma, January 22
Cafinated Reads, January 22
Daysong Reflections, January 22
Purposeful Learning, January 23
Carpe Diem, January 23
Henry Happens, January 24
Joy of Reading, January 24


Giveaway



To celebrate her tour, Roseanna is giving away a Grand Prize Package of a signed copy of the book as well as a lovely album of soothing songs based on the Scriptures called Hidden in My Heart (winner’s choice of CD or digital download)!!

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


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review (+Tour GIVEAWAY): Courtship on Huckleberry Hill




About the Book

Title: A Courtship on Huckleberry Hill  
Author: Jennifer Beckstrand  
Genre: Christian Amish Fiction  
Release Date: December 26, 2017 

Elsie Helmuth’s plain-spoken ways got her in trouble once before, so she needs to make a good impression at her new teaching job. But she’s not about to let disabled student Wally Sensenig work below his potential. And she definitely won’t put up with his hot-headed older brother sabotaging her efforts, no matter how handsome he is. . . 

Sam is nearly at the end of his rope caring for his ailing, widowed mother, working their farm, and raising his siblings. He’ll admit Elsie’s ideas are bringing Wally out of his angry shell—but why does she have to be as stubborn as she is pretty? Yet as it turns out, Elsie has taught Sam something about himself as well. And he’ll do whatever it takes to make up for his mistakes—and win her heart forever.

Click here to purchase your copy.


My Thoughts

It just doesn’t get any better than returning to Huckleberry Hill and spending time with Anna and Felty, the most precious and memorable octogenarian couple I’ve ever come across. In fact, they’re among my very favorite literary couples. Beckstrand has crafted a series that brings home important spiritual truths in the midst of thoroughly engaging stories – and while each one can stand alone, I highly recommend reading all of them.

In true matchmaker form, Anna is attempting to pair up her granddaughter, Elsie, with Sam, a local Amish farmer who is taking care of his siblings after his father’s death. We see Anna and Felty at the beginning and end, but most of this project is carried on by Anna’s letters inviting Sam to their home for dinner – accompanied by her knitted gifts, of course. And her recipes are still as creative and unappealing as ever!

Courtship on Huckleberry Hill just might be my favorite of the series so far (hoping for many more, though). There’s so much going on relationally and some scenes that brought tears to my eyes. Sam and Elsie are strong, multifaceted characters. Sam is a protector, with a heart for the weak and downtrodden – yet he could be petulant, demanding, stubborn and proud. Elsie is a talented, smart, outspoken and caring teacher who tries to make a difference in her students’ lives – especially Sam’s brother, Wally, who had lost his leg and a couple of fingers in an accident. There’s also an incredibly rude and obnoxious young lady who has set her cap for Sam, making for great tension.

I believe this story will affect how readers think about people with disabilities – in a positive way. Wally was good at manipulating people into feeling sorry for him, and Sam played right into his hands by trying to make his life easier. Sam “had tried to spare Wally the pain of failure, the pain of shame and hard things. But it was the hard things that gave Wally a purpose, that made him try for happiness, even if the happiness was hard to come by and the purpose was impossible to see.”

But Wally’s peaceful world is shaken up by the arrival of Elsie and Maizy, a sweet little girl with Down syndrome. One precious scene that got to me was Maizy’s first time at bat in the children’s softball game, with Wally on first base – making this story well worth the read. The growing bond between Maizy and Wally is priceless.

I loved everything about this story and hope for many more visits to Huckleberry Hill. It would especially be wonderful for a grown-up Wally to eventually have his own story.

Highly recommended.

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



About the Author

Jennifer Beckstrand is the RITA-nominated, award-winning Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and The Honeybee Sisters series for Kensington Books. Her much-anticipated Amish series, The Honeybee Sisters, has created a lot of romantic buzz. Sweet as Honey received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and Sweet as Honey and A Bee in her Bonnet were both awarded Top Picks from RT Book Reviews. 

Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth and the Honeybee sisters’aendi Bitsy. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a passion for Jane Austen and Shakespeare. She and her husband have been married for thirty-three years, and she has six children and six adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.


Guest Post from Jennifer Beckstrand

I have a very special place in my heart for teachers. My dad was a high school math teacher. My mother taught second grade for over twenty years. My son-in-law taught choir in high school, and my daughter taught seventh-grade science. Another daughter taught American history labs at the university and still another daughter taught classes for a youth summer program. 

Elsie Stutzman is a dedicated teacher who was dismissed from her last teaching job in Ohio and is trying to make a fresh start and a good impression in Bonduel, Wisconsin. Unfortunately one of her students, Wally Sensenig, is making things difficult for her, and Wally’s hot-headed older brother seems determined to get her fired. But Elsie is a dedicated teacher, too stubborn to back down and too steadfast to give up on anybody. 

Elsie’s grandparents, Anna and Felty Helmuth, have other plans for her. They want her to fall in love with one of the local boys, but they’re finding it a little difficult to get the two young people together. 

Teachers have an immense impact on our lives. We all remember a favorite elementary school teacher who inspired a love of learning or a high school teacher who encouraged us to reach for greatness. One of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Zobell, who taught ninth grade English. I distinctly remember her reading “The Outsiders” out loud to our class. She had a way of making great books and great stories come to life, and she sparked a love of reading (and writing) that I will always be grateful for. The teacher who had the most impact on my life is my dad. He helped me through Calculus in high school and inspired me to major in math in college. 

I hope we will take the time this month to thank the teachers in our lives for all they do for us and all they do for our kids. 

Who was one of your favorite teachers and why?


Blog Stops

Blossoms and Blessings, January 16
Mommynificent, January 17
Bibliophile Reviews, January 18
The Power of Words, January 18
Multifarious, January 19
A Greater Yes, January 19
Texas Book-aholic, January 20
Karen Sue Hadley, January 21
Splashes of Joy, January 21
A Reader’s Brain, January 22
Mary Hake, January 22
SusanLovesBooks, January 23
Janices book reviews, January 24
Carpe Diem, January 25
Quiet Quilter, January 26
margaret kazmierczak, January 26 (Interview)
cherylbbookblog, January 27
Simple Harvest Reads, January 28 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Pursuing Stacie, January 28
Vicky Sluiter, January 29
Bigreadersite, January 29


Giveaway



To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to three winners!! 

Click image above or link below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!