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.


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!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Review: Best-Laid Plants

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


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.

Amazon author page

Purchase Links:
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Friday, October 20, 2017

Review + GIVEAWAY: Secrets and Pies

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


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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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 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


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.


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


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Interview + GIVEAWAY: Lori Benton, Author of Many Sparrows

America’s Colonial years is my favorite setting and I am thrilled to have finally discovered the writing of Lori Benton. To say that I am a fan is an understatement. Her latest release, Many Sparrows, is a moving story that depicts the harrowing account of a young mother who will stop at nothing to find and reclaim her son after he is taken by a native tribe. Please click on the title to see my review of Many Sparrows.

I am honored to welcome Lori to The Power of Words as she shares some of her thoughts about this story. My deep appreciation also goes to Audra Jennings at Litfuse for making this interview and giveaway possible.

Q: Have you always enjoyed studying history? What drew you to writing specifically about 18th-century America?

       I had no particular interest in history as a subject until around my sophomore year in high school, when I discovered the Sunfire Young Adult historical romance series (Jessica was my favorite) and Christy by Catherine Marshall. That’s all it took to engage my interest, although it wouldn’t be until I started writing historical fiction I began what I’d call studying history.
       What drew me to write about 18th-century America in particular was nothing more profound than a liking for men’s knee breeches. I’d seen the movie The Patriot (starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger) and for the first time, for some reason (Mel? Heath?), paid attention to what the guys were wearing. I’d been thinking of trying my hand at historical fiction and suddenly knew that if I did, I’d want my male characters wearing knee breeches. A quick Google search told me the fashion began disappearing around 1800, so I zeroed in on the late 1700s as I began hunting for a time and place to set a story. Little did I know I’d taken the first step on a journey that has lasted nearly two decades. I discovered a passion for 18th-century Colonial and early Federal American history I certainly didn’t see coming when I sat down to watch that movie.

Q: Without giving away too much of the story, can you share where the title Many Sparrows comes from?

       The title has several meanings. It’s taken from the verses in Matthew 10 quoted in the front matter of the book. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. . . . Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. The title Many Sparrows speaks to the theme of God’s vigilance in our lives and His constant care for us, as well as the fact we are linked to one another. There are many sparrows in His sight, not just one, and He’s concerned for them all.
       It’s also the name given to an important character in the story.

Q: What inspired the storyline for Many Sparrows? How much of the book is based on historical fact?

       Story ideas set on the 18th-century frontier are constantly spinning around in my head as I research whatever novel I’m presently writing — too many to write in one lifetime. The initial kernel/idea for Many Sparrows dates too far back to recall it specifically. For years I had a file going called “The Frontiersman” because I knew I wanted to write about one. From time to time other ideas began sticking to the bits in that file, and eventually I saw the beginnings of a story forming about a man who lived his life on both sides of that frontier. I wasn’t really sure yet why. Still on the backburner, I began thinking about what sort of woman I might add to my frontiersman’s story. Why would she be on the frontier? What might compel her to cross the line, and in what way might my frontiersman’s path get tangled up with hers? As I asked such questions, Clare Inglesby eventually formed. At the same time I started looking at what was happening on the frontier at various points before and after the Revolutionary War, seeking the exact year for the story’s setting.
       I landed on two incidents that occurred in 1774, one to use as the inciting incident from which the rest of the story flows, and the other much deeper into the story. The Yellow Creek Massacre formed the book’s opening scene. The murder of nearly the entire family of the Mingo warrior, Logan, on the banks of the Ohio happened April 30, 1774. It and his subsequent revenge is part of what escalated the brutal conflict between Native Americans and white settlers along the Ohio that year, culminating in Lord Dunmore’s War and the Battle of Point Pleasant in October. Numerous other incidents portrayed in Many Sparrows are drawn from the historical record, but Logan’s tragedy and Virginia Governor Dunmore’s campaign against the Shawnees are the most prominent.

Q: What do you hope readers learn about God’s timing and His plans for us while reading Many Sparrows?

       What I love about how God uses a story like Many Sparrows is He’s going to speak to readers in individual ways about things I could never plan or predict. Somehow He does that work in spite of the limitations of both me and my books. I’m so glad He does. He’s a big God, so much bigger than my puny understanding can grasp. His plans, His timing, His purpose for us all are broader, deeper and higher than we can imagine. How easy it is to fail to see beyond the end of our noses, to be so wrapped up in our own circumstances that we lose sight of how connected we are. None of us lives or dies unto ourselves. All our choices have consequences in the lives of those we’re linked to, and each of us is just as important to our Father in Heaven as the next. As we make choices we need to bear in mind how they will affect others. Will they build them up or stumble and tear them down? Can we trust God in those situations where the choice to do good for another’s benefit requires a sacrifice we aren’t sure we can make? Is He truly a good Father? Are we safe in His hands?
       Those thoughts were stirring in my heart as I wrote Many Sparrows, so I hope such themes resonate with readers and provoke conversation between them and the Lord.

Q: There are many things we never learn in history class, and it seems as if students are taught less about history today than ever. What are some lessons from history during this time period that would be beneficial for us to know, especially from a cultural standpoint?

       If I could change anything about the way history is taught in school (or was taught when I was coming up), it would be to add historical fiction to the curriculum. Facts, figures, dates — none of that translates to caring about what people in the past experienced or the choices they made that have shaped who we are as a nation. If you can see the past through their eyes — even fictional eyes — it comes alive in a way that actually makes an impact on our thinking (perhaps on our own choices).
       What I’ve learned in my study of those who lived in the 18th century is, like us, they were flawed human beings, whatever side of the frontier they happened to be born. Men and women on both sides of the 18th-century frontier made selfless choices, and they made cruel and grasping decisions. Brutality isn’t limited to one skin color or another, and neither is grace and love, forgiveness and friendship, or the capacity to have a heart changed and a life transformed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the only One who can with any finality disrupt the cycle of enmity that has been in play across the face of this earth since Cain turned his hand against Abel.

Q: It is well known that traveling west was a dangerous endeavor, and many lost their lives not only to the elements and illnesses, but to native tribes. What added dangers did a pregnant woman face?

       Childbirth was one of the riskiest things a woman in the 18th century could experience. Death in childbirth was common, even in the best of circumstances. Couple that hazard with heading into the wilderness perils you mentioned, and I’m amazed any woman, such as Clare Inglesby in Many Sparrows, survived at all.
       In truth, I know of at least one woman in a similar situation to Clare’s who did survive: Mary Draper Ingles. Mary was pregnant when she and her two young sons were taken captive by Shawnees from her frontier home during the 1750s. She went into labor during the long march to the Shawnees’ Ohio villages. She survived childbirth, the march, months of captivity, an epic escape and retracing a journey of hundreds of miles back to her Virginia home. The courage, strength and fortitude women in far less desperate straits than Mary had to possess to venture westward to settle the frontier is astonishing to consider. I’m thankful they did it and I don’t have to.

Q: What can we learn from the life-altering consequences of the characters in Many Sparrows?

       Father God knows best. His ways lead to wholeness, healing and joy. If we leave Him free to work out His plan for us and cease the fretting that only leads to fruitless meddling, things will go easier for us. We won’t walk through this life on a path of rose petals, but whatever situations He allows into our lives will work together for good, to deepen our faith, dependency on Him and intimacy of fellowship. We should keep our focus on what is eternal rather than on what will soon pass away. Oh, that I would keep such a focus!

Q: Can you give a little tease about your next work in progress?

       Tentatively titled The King’s Mercy, the story is set in an earlier time period than any I’ve written before: the first half of the 18th century. I’m returning to Colonial North Carolina as a setting, though the story begins in Scotland. I don’t have a publication date yet, but I’m guessing sometime in late 2018.

Learn more about Benton and her books at She is also active on Facebook (@AuthorLoriBenton), Twitter (@LLB26) and Instagram (@lorilbenton).


To enter the drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment letting me know that you shared, and also anything you might have enjoyed in Lori’s interview. If you’ve read any of Lori’s books and have a favorite, please share that also.

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 Wednesday, November 1. Winner will be chosen by and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents