Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review (+ Tour Giveaway): Shine Like the Dawn

Shine Like the Dawn
By Carrie Turansky
Multnomah, 2017


In a quiet corner of northern Edwardian England, Margaret Lounsbury diligently works in her grandmother’s millinery shop, making hats and caring for her young sister. Several years earlier, a terrible tragedy reshaped their family, shattering an idyllic life and their future prospects. But Maggie is resilient and will do what she must to protect her sister Violet. Still, the loss of her parents weighs heavily on her heart and she begins to wonder if what happened that day on the lake…might not have been an accident.

When wealthy inventor and industrialist William Harcourt dies, his son Nathaniel, who is Maggie’s estranged childhood friend, returns from his time in the Royal Navy and inherits his father’s vast estate, Morningside Manor. He also assumes partial control of his father’s engineering company and the duty of repaying an old debt to the Lounsbury family. But years of separation between Nate and Maggie have taken a toll and Maggie struggles to trust her old friend.

Can Maggie let go of the resentment that keeps her from forgiving Nate—and reconciling with God? Will their search for the truth about her parents’ death draw them closer or will it leave them both with broken hearts?

My thoughts

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Psalm 37:5-6

British drama has always been a favorite of mine and Carrie Turansky does this genre well. Of all that I’ve read by her, Shine Like the Dawn seemed to especially resonate with me and just might be my favorite so far.

Northumberland of Edwardian England in 1903 is vividly conveyed, pulling me right into the setting. Characters are fleshed out and we get to journey through their spiritual development, one of the story’s strong features.

Maggie and Nate are appealing characters and the romance between them is sweet, with realistic tension caused by events in their past. Two additional romances between secondary characters are a delightful bonus. Suspense comes from the mystery surrounding the death of Maggie’s parents and older sister four years earlier, and discontent over working conditions in the local factory adds interest and depth.

The story thoroughly entertains and I especially loved the spiritual thread that is gently woven throughout. Letting go of hurts and doubting God’s love are things that Maggie struggled with – things that most readers can easily identify with. I loved how the title is drawn from the Psalm 37 passage above and the quote in the graphic is one of my favorites.

I believe Shine Like the Dawn is a standalone novel, but there’s plenty of opportunity for further development.


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


CARRIE TURANSKY is an award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and novellas. She has been the winner of the ACFW Carol Award, the Crystal Globe Award, and the International Digital Award, and a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and the Maggie Award of Excellence.

A prolific writer of contemporary and historical romance, women’s fiction, short stories, articles, and devotionals, Carrie lives in central New Jersey with her husband Scott. They have five adult children and four grandchildren.

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To celebrate her tour, Carrie is giving away all 4 books: Shine Like the Dawn, The Governess of Highland Hall, The Daughter of Highland Hall, and A Refuge at Highland Hall! Enter below. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: Control Girl

Control Girl
By Shannon Popkin
Kregel, 2017


Tension, anger, fear, anxiety-it all begins with a heart that craves control.

Little fights with your husband and kids. Unhappiness when things don't match your version of perfect. When your perspective of how life should go replaces God's, you doom your quest for security, peace, and joy before it even starts.

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Join Shannon as she shares what she has discovered about her own control struggles and about God from studying seven Control Girls in the Bible. Whether it was Eve's desire to know instead of trust, Sarah's inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah's controlling hand on her family's future, each of these women's stories contain warnings and lessons for us today.

Learn how you too can lay down this burden of trying to control everything and find rest in surrendering to the One who truly is in control.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

My thoughts

The only way any Control Girl of the Bible ever found the security, peace, and joy she was longing for was when she did the opposite of taking control – when she surrendered to God and made her story all about him. It’s the same for us today.

Before picking up Control Girl by Shannon Popkin, I would have said that “controlling” is the last word people would use to describe me – but then I began to see myself in the pages of this book. This study is all about control and its opposite, surrender – something that I struggle with daily. Reading for review purposes barely allowed me to scratch the surface of a Bible study that calls out for in-depth study.

I don’t usually pay much attention to endorsements, but Control Girl’s recommendation by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, one of my favorite Bible teachers, caught my attention initially. Control Girl is written in an easy-to-follow style that captured my attention from the first page. There’s a good blend of personal stories, lessons drawn from the Bible, and personal reflection. Studying the lives of these Control Girls – Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel and Miriam – opened my eyes to truths that I hadn’t seen in myself.

I read with a marker in my hand, highlighting many thoughts that drove home the message and linger in my mind. Here are just a few …

      -- Faith is trusting that God is for us, even when he keeps things from us.

      -- If I continually take control at home, my husband probably won’t fight me for the reins.

      -- Even when I agonize at a distance while my child suffers on the brink of disaster, God is leaning close, hearing my child’s parched cry.

      -- God gets the most glory, not when he rips control from our hands, but when we invite him, open-palmed, to have his way with us.

Control Girl is a Bible study of great quality and profound truths, perfect for either personal or group use. Group leaders can download a free discussion guide from

Highly recommended.

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


Shannon Popkin is a wife and mom, a speaker and teacher, and a leader of small group studies. She's been published by "Family Fun," "MOMsense," "Focus on the Family Magazine," and other outlets. She is a contributing blogger for True and has blogged for several years at "Control Girl" is her first book.

Find out more about Shannon at

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review (+Tour Giveaway): Death in Advertising

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


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


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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