The Engagement Plot by Krista Phillips – Book Review

The Engagement Plot by Krista Phillips

Published by Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press November 01, 2017

Genre: Romance, Drama, Christian

Pages: 320

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Can Hanna and Will Find True Love amid the Bright Lights of Reality TV? 
Perfect for the fans of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette!

Six months ago, William stole Hanna’s heart and shattered it in front of millions of people on a reality TV dating show. And now the big-wig CEO is back on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota and wants her to forgive him? Fat chance of that. But life is swirling around faster than snow in a blizzard, and despite her objections, teaming up with William seems like the only option to rescue her reputation.

William has never regretted anything more than the day he gave that ill-fated interview for the reality show, The Price of Love. But while he can’t change the past, he’s determined to fix the future. He just needs to convince Hanna to forgive him—and pretend to be engaged with him. Simple, right?

When the media erupts with even worse accusations, teaming up and pretending to be engaged seems to be the only way to salvage their reputations.  Despite the media frenzy that swirls around them, an attraction neither of them can fight off begins to surface. Could this love run deeper than a scandal, or will old wounds tear them apart once and for all?  When all seems lost, it’s only with help from above that Hanna and Will may find their happily-ever-after.

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Story Notes

Krista Phillips brings to life a story that many of us have probably wondered about  – reality tv romances – and whether or not they are in fact real or all just for show.

Shiloh Run Press approached me via email with an offer of a story written by a young, up and coming author who writes out of the box stories that are true to life. I am always excited to read new (or new to me) authors as I often find one that becomes well-loved. I had not yet read Ms. Phillips before this but will certainly be on the lookout for her next books and will search out her previous works. Ms. Phillips writes well, giving her characters life-like thoughts, actions and conversations while also throwing in just enough sarcastic humor to make the dialogue pop. She begins this story as one that is 8 months in the making: Hanna, a teacher, was a contestant on the reality dating show The Price of Love, who found herself as the winner at the finale. She had fallen in love with  William (the love-seeking bachelor) and was set to marry him when he broke her heart in front of millions of viewers by saying she had slept with him on their celebratory weekend. As a Christian, Hanna has held herself to a high standard her entire life and would never have sex before marriage. Heartsick and hounded by the media, Hanna goes home to heal and try to get her life back together. And just as she’s finally decided to move on, William comes literally crashing back into her life to ask for her help. As viewers were angry that William had broken Hanna’s heart, the stock and sales of William’s company have decreased exponentially. The other members of the board have decided that William must convince Hanna to help him salvage both his and her reputation if they are to save the company from bankruptcy. Hanna agrees after much discussion with her friend, wanting to get back both her dignity and her teaching career – which has been no existent since her appearance on the show. But Hanna knows she will have to be careful not to let Will break her heart again; she must remember that every kiss, sweet word and gesture is all for show, no reality in it at all. Both Hanna and Will have decided to give the illusion that they are engaged once again and Hanna has forgiven Will for his untrue statements. They will give several interviews with big company networks and show the world what it looks like to be young and in love. But all is not as it seems, both with their relationship and with Will’s company. Will attended church as a child but has no use for all that “religious stuff” anymore. Given this, he has had numerous physical relationships in the past and has a hard time with Hanna who is not willing to go that far. However, Hanna will also have to learn that being a Christian does not mean that one is immune to the physical side of relationships. God made men and women to enjoy all aspects of marriage, including sex, and warns Christians to be careful in how far they go before marriage. Hanna is given excellent insights into this by her friend, Carly, who also provides some great sarcastic comments and phrases. Hanna and Will will have to decide if they want this relationship to work for more than just the cameras and what they have to do to make it happen. Will’s company is slowing decreasing in revenue and all evidence points to him as the one making unsound investments. Will is shocked when they decide to fire him over this evidence and also present him with a lawsuit. Through all of this evidence Will has to slog in order to clear his name and find the one responsible. And Hanna will find herself in a position to help Will prove his innocence. Not pleased with how Will has treated her and their broken relationship notwithstanding – Hanna agrees to help Will’s friends prove that Will’s associate is the real culprit. When it finally comes out that Will is innocent, they will get the chance to start over again and find real happiness together and in God.  Ms. Phillips wrote a delightful story that will have her readers cheering, crying and gasping with delight. I loved that she made her characters real and relatable. Hanna is the quintessential “good girl” who made some bad decisions but truly wanted to show the world how a Christian should speak and act. She learned painful lessons in this story about how others can twist what is good into something sullied and ugly. But Ms. Phillips gave her a unique opportunity to “shine her Light” both to the world at large and to the man who she loves. William has been seeking success all his life, from his parents, his relationships and his job. He has overlooked the best measure of success – his relationship with God and whether he is following what God would have him do. Ms. Phillips gave him the lowest point in his life as a way for Will to look up and find that the love and acceptance he craves is to be found in the One who paid the ultimate love and acceptance sacrifice. Ms. Phillips did not pull punches with the truth she was telling and was excellent in her emphatic stance on Christianity. And with great humor added at just the right time, Ms. Phillips has made a fan of me. I look forward reading her next works and am so very pleased I was given the chance to read this wonderful story. I will most certainly recommend it to others and will be rereading this one multiple times I’m sure.

 

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

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The Wonder of Advent by Chris Tiegreen – book review

The Wonder of Advent by Chris Tiegreen

Published by Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House Publishers October 01, 2017

Genre: Christian, Personal Devotional

Pages: 150 (Hardcover edition)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Rediscover the heart of the Advent season
As the year comes to a close and the stress and busyness of the consumer Christmas holiday grows, it can be easy to lose sight of what the season really calls us to: worship. In today’s world, is it even possible to slow down, to ponder, to wonder in the coming birth of Christ?

This Advent, recapture the mystery and beauty of the season with The Wonder of Advent Devotional. In this insightful and thought-provoking book, beloved devotional author Chris Tiegreen brings you into a deeper experience of this integral time in the church calendar. After completing a week of short readings to prepare your heart for the Advent season, you’ll journey through December with daily Scripture readings, prompts for reflection, and guided prayer to help you savor this remarkable divine story. With each day, The Wonder of Advent Devotional will reconnect you with what happened in Bethlehem long ago―and experience it anew in your life right now.

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Story Notes

Chris Tiegreen brings to his readers a deep thinking devotional that will give new perspective to the of-repeated but sometimes lack-luster Christmas observance of Advent and its meaning for the seeking Christ follower.

Full disclosure that is totally unrelated to the main review but it will give you a laugh: I honestly thought this book had a dark green cover, even though it is clearly navy blue. It came with a lovely dust cover that I didn’t take off until I began the devotional and my morning devotional spot has a low light lamp with a yellow hued bulb – thus creating the illusion that this book has a green cover. When I brought it to my desk to begin by review writing, I sat staring at the book for a full 2 minutes trying to figure out why I had thought it was green all this time. Remembering my preschool teachings of color mixtures I figured out why – blue and yellow make green. So now that we have all laughed at me and my oddness lets move on to the review!!

Chris Tiegreen has written several devotionals that are well known to many and of which I have completed two and really enjoyed. I was most pleased when I was offered this Christmas themed devotional for several reasons – 1) I love Christmas and all that is included in it; 2) Advent is something I have always wanted to intentionally observe but not really had a guide to it other than a children’s calendar my church provides each year; 3) I wanted to change how I go into the holiday season, ensuring my focus is on the real reason we have Christmas: to celebrate Jesus’ birth and sacrifice. Obviously I did not complete this study at the appointed time but it taught me a lot nevertheless. Mr. Tiegreen begins his study with a week of preparation before the actual study of Advent which is set to begin on the last Sunday of November this year. I found this a great way to ease into the study as it always takes time to figure out how you are going to adjust the time required to study and do Bible reading when you start a new devotional. As I began the actual study of Advent, I had a great time of reading, reflection and prayer each day as I deep dived the passages of “Christmas” that I had heard or read each December of my life. Walking with Mr. Tiegreen through the passages that talk about the great “rescue mission of God” for a people so lost they had no hope of self redemption, through those which show the purposeful choosing of Jesus’ name Immanuel and the passages that show God’s intentional coming to those who the world considered the “lowest” on the social ladder gave me fresh thoughts, prayers and blessings as I watched this magnificent story of salvation play out. What joy there is to be found in the remembrance of Jesus’ birth and the hope we have in His Second Coming!! Mr. Tiegreen even brought me to tears as I read and remembered again the reason for the gifts of the Magi and how they foretold the death of our Messiah. How special it is to be able to celebrate what has been done in the past and what wonderful life we have to look forward to in the future! Another feature I found really great in this study was the inclusion of Christmas carols at the end of each days lesson. Some were very familiar and others I had not heard of but was interested in hearing in totality. I plan to look many of those up to see if there are recordings of them so that I might hear how they sound. I would not say that this devotional is only for personal study but I found it to mean more to me as I read each passage and prayed through them alone. It could be used as a family devotional but much of the content is geared to an older audience of Christians with much that would be above a preschool/grade school child’s understanding. If you have middle or high school children it would be a very good study that they might read individually and then come together to discuss. I will most certainly be recommending this devotional to my friends and family and will keep it to reuse again next year during the Advent season. I have no doubt that I will be able to find more to learn when I complete the study during the assigned season. Thank you Mr. Tiegreen for a fresh perspective of my favorite time of the year!

I received this hardcover devotional book free of charge from Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Dangerous Illusions by Irene Hannon – Book Review

Dangerous Illusions by Irene Hannon

Published by Revell Publishers October 03, 2017

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Romance, Christian

Pages: 384

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death–and puts Trish under police scrutiny–her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn’t certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge–and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn’t just dangerous . . . it’s deadly.

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon captures readers with a mind-bending story that will have them doubling back to retrace their steps–and figure out what they missed!

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Story Notes

Irene Hannon brings her skills to bear excellently with her newest story and series combined into one. She places her story in the suburbs of St. Louis with a grieving widow who is still reeling from the death of her husband 3 years before and is caring for her mother who is recovering from a devastating stroke. Add to this her very involved job teaching art/putting on student art shows for high school students in low income families and Trish Bailey is one very busy lady. Her mother is the administrator of the family fortune, which is funding many deserving charities around the country, and her accountant Matt Parker has become the willing hands to ensure that the charities are given the funds they need in expedited fashion. But tragedy will soon invade Trish’s life, when she comes home to find her mother dead with suspicious circumstances. Enter Detective Colin Flynn of the Crimes Against Persons Bureau for SLPD, who is tasked with figuring out whether or not Trish is responsible for the “accidental” death of her mother. Given Matt’s version of recent happenings of the family in which Trish has “been rather forgetful” of things lately, Colin is not sure what to believe. Trish doesn’t strike him as a vengeful or greedy person but all is not as it seems. As Trish and Colin begin to work to piece the puzzle together they will find there are much darker forces at work with Trish’s mother’s death and the charities she supported. Why has Matt Parker become almost a different person, one who is pushing for more responsibility for charity monies? Why is he trying to make it look like Trish is unable to handle her responsibilities because of stress? And why are there Russian operatives in St. Louis trying to find Matt’s brother Craig? All these questions and many more are the basis for a wonderful story that will have readers anxious to find out what is coming next and who exactly Matt Parker is. Ms. Hannon also brings a sweet romance into the pages of her story which gives extra dimensionality to the plot. Readers will be holding their breath and praying for Colin to get to Trish in time to save her life, and will be thrilled at the conclusion of the story. I am also most pleased with the way Ms. Hannon weaves faith so seamlessly into her stories – showing that true faith is a lifestyle not a one-time prayer. I loved how she made clear distinctions between the “good” and “bad” characters, making their words, thoughts and actions so opposite as to ensure that no one would mistake them. And her inclusion of justice dealt from consequences was a nice touch too, taking the responsibility of capture or death of the culprit from the Colin and letting him focus on Trish instead. Ms. Hannon is careful in her crime details and in making sure all important threads of her story are tied at the end, while also leaving just a few that will let her bring in her next story as a good continuation of this first one. I am most readily looking forward to the next story and have added it to my “2018 To Read” list. I will be recommending this book most highly to my friends, family and blog readers and hope they will enjoy it just as much as I did.

I received this E-Book free of charge from Revell Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – Book Review

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey

Published by Bethany House Publishers October 03, 2017

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Christian

Pages: 336

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

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Story Notes

Dani Pettrey brings her readers the third installment of the Chesapeake Valor series that will have them holding their breath and staying up way to late to finish the book.

Dani Pettrey has very quickly made a name for herself with her deductive writing and well developed characters. She has also become a favorite of mine as I enjoy authors that make allow me to puzzle out the details of the crime case as the story unfolds. Her Chesapeake Valor series is one that allows each book to stand alone well enough but also connects to the others with “teaser” details that entice you to read the next story. I have been waiting to hear the back stories of Declan Grey and Tanner Shaw and was so pleased to see that Ms. Pettrey chose to tell their stories next. Declan is a special agent with the FBI and has been on the trail of a terrorist cell that is slowly growing in Baltimore. Having recently found, and unfortunately killed, a member of this cell, Declan is searching for the meaning behind the man’s dying words “the wrath is coming”. As he looks for the connections between what is happening in his city and Houston, Texas, Declan will also find himself in the middle of a serial killer case that may have connections to his friend Griffin’s sister who was murdered years before. Tanner Shaw is the newest crisis counselor for the FBI and is hoping to solve the mystery of human trafficking that is plaguing Baltimore. Knowing a victim of the trafficking ring who has been placed in a safe house who may also know the names of men in the terrorist cell Declan is tracking, Tanner agrees to go with him to question her friend. But their visit quickly turns to tragedy as masked men break into the safe house and kill Tanner’s friend before attempting to take out Tanner and Declan as well. Tanner’s skill with a gun surprises Declan as she has kept her background very quiet, but no one shoots with that precise skill without excellent training. As Tanner begins to share her story, Declan will begin to see what drives her to be the best crisis counselor she can be – to bring a measure of strength and peace to those who have been through the unthinkable. But it will take all their knowledge and deductive skill to figure out what is the terrorist cell is planning soon, and how it relates to the death of an FBI agent based in Houston. Griffin McCray, Declan’s long-time friend is handed a devastating case as the sub-plot of this story – the murder of their well-loved mentor and Pee-Wee baseball coach Haywood Grant. Griffin, his wife Finley, and his friends Parker, Avery and Kate all came to enjoy the annual Hunt retreat and find themselves in the middle of a complicated murder investigation. Haywood had approached Griffin about someone embezzling funds from his clients and hoped Griffin would be able to help him figure it out. Griffin agreed to do so and called on his friends and wife to help discover the culprit at the retreat. But as they are just about to find an answer, Haywood is discovered dead in his hotel room of apparent suicide – with a note that also accuses him of killing two of his clients: Elizabeth and John Markum. Knowing this tragedy offers an impossible reality, Griffin and the others will set about figuring out who killed Haywood and what has happened to the Markums. The conclusion of this case is so very well done that I will not spoil it for others, but suffice to say that it would be a brilliant way to go about killing. I was completely fascinated with this story and was really quite grumpy about having to put it down to eat and go to work the two days it took me to read it. Ms. Pettrey weaves a wonderful romance and a lifestyle of faith into her stories that gives them greater depth and sense of reality. Her characters think, act and speak as would any real persons belonging to the law enforcement field and their ability to solve the crimes they are presented with show capability without being unrealistic in timing. Its always hard to really like a book in which the law enforcement persons solve a complex crime in two weeks, that is not reality and makes it hard for me as a reader to connect to a story. Ms. Pettrey gives good pacing to her stories that do not follow that expedited track and this will certainly allow her to gain a greater following of readers. I am very much looking forward to the next book in this series which will finally be telling Luke and Kate’s story – one that has been often hinted at throughout the other books. I am soon planning to add hard copies of this book to my and my friend’s collections and will most certainly be recommending it to others. Hopefully her next book will be out very soon…….it’s always so hard to wait for the conclusion of such an epic series.

I received this E-Book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Brides of Kansas by Tracey V. Bateman – Book Review

Brides of Kansas by Tracey V. Bateman

Published by Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books  August 01, 2017

Genre: Historical, Romance, Christian

Pages: 400

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Meet three survivors who’ve tossed social convention to the prairie winds in order to make their way on the Kansas frontier. Cassidy Sinclair is alone with a niece to care for—but can she marry a stranger? Tarah St. John’s life changes drastically when she reaches out to two abused children. The impetuous Laney Jenkins is determined to hold on to the reins of her destiny, regardless of any man. Can these determined women open their lives to new possibilities in faith and love?  Find out in this inspiring three-book collection by author Tracey Bateman.

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Story Notes

Tracey V. Bateman brings the lovely Plains-land of America to life with her three-generation-span stories that will give readers a challenge to their faith and ability to trust, believe and forgive.

Ms. Batemen is an author I have read once before and was very pleased with her ability. In her latest book she shows her talent again by creating stories that span three generations of the St. John family. Beginning with Dell St. John, who is looking for a new mother for his children, Ms. Batemen tells a story of learning to trust God. Dell’s first wife died giving birth to their fourth child and although he knows he needs to find his children a mother, he will not allow his new spouse to become pregnant for fear she will die as well. Cassidy Sinclair was working her way west on a wagon train with her niece but, when problem after problem occurs, they find themselves with little money and a broken wagon. After seeking a paid position in the little town they have stopped and being unsuccessful, Cassidy sees an advertisement for a wife in the general store window. Desperate to care for both herself and her niece Emily, Cassidy makes inquiries and discovers Dell St. John is a kind, if infuriatingly flirtatious, man who offers his home and protection in exchange for caring for his home and family. Agreeing to become his wife, Cassidy and Emily set off for Dell’s home immediately after the ceremony with Cassidy praying she did not make a mistake. Dell is affectionate enough with her but Cassidy can tell he is holding back – wrongly believing it is because he does not find her attractive. But it will be tough for them to grow closer at their home as all Dell’s children and his former mother in law( Ellen) are all upset at his remarriage. And after a telling off by Ellen about the possibility of killing his wife through childbirth, Dell pulls even further away from Cassidy. But they soon discover that Cassidy is already expecting, much to the terror of Dell. Attempting to bargain with God for Cassidy’s life, Dell misses out on the joy of this celebration of new life. It will take Ellen’s forgiving kindness to Cassidy, the eventual acceptance of Dell’s children,  and Cassidy’s strong faith as an example to Dell through her pregnancy and delivery that will help Dell learn how to trust God with the lives of those who are precious to him. This story sets up the other two that follow and was very well done. I really enjoyed the writing and was very pleased with the outcome. I’m not sure how I would have done in the same situation but I would like to believe that I could go wherever God directed me to go. The second story was of Dell and Cassidy’s daughter, Tarah, who has become school mistress after her graduation. Dealing with her mischievous brother Luke was putting her patience and teaching abilities to the test enough and then comes the arrival of Josie Raney, a female equivalent of Luke, who will push Tarah to the breaking point. Add to this the return of Josie’s uncle/Tarah’s childhood crush, Anthony Greene, the continual snubbing/derisive attitude of Luisa Thomas – who is hoping to marry Anthony herself – and two abused, very poor children living nearby, and Tarah has almost more than she can handle. But she believes that God has given these two children, Laney and Benjamin Jenkins, into her care and she will do whatever it takes to ensure they are cared for and have a proper home. Anthony Greene is a recently graduated pastor who has returned home to share the Word of God with his hometown. Having several Sundays in which there is little to no response to his “hell-fire” sermons, Anthony begins to question his job and his calling. But God will use both his mother and Tarah to pass along the truth that he is called to share the love of God with people more than to rail at them about hell and damnation. Learning much from his time with Tarah as they seek a better home for Laney and Benjamin, Anthony will discover the amazing power of forgiveness, honest belief and love. This was my least favorite of the three as I didn’t much care for the plot of the story. It was still very well written and developed, I just didn’t like the actual story itself very much. Mainly it was the lack of backbone by Anthony to tell Louisa Thomas off for being a jerk to everyone and insinuating to everyone they were courting. I’m not much for men who are too timid to speak up when it comes to spiteful and rude women being so terrible to the people they love.  The third story was probably my favorite as I really loved the character Ms. Bateman created in Laney. A tough, very talented young woman with many facets to her character, Laney reminded me very much of myself in the desire to prove her worth to both her family and others around her. The one she’s out to prove the most to is Luke St. John, whom she has been in love with for several years. I laughed so much as I read the first five pages which had Laney so determined to prove to Luke she was a “real woman” that she just grabbed him and kissed him silly!! Luke is certainly shocked and confused at this unexpected behavior of Laney but after considering for a while he decides she’s just the type of woman he’s looking for in a wife. Though she is not overly feminine, she is logical, thrifty, kind, sweet and a hard worker. And as its his dream to build his own ranch in Oregon, Luke quickly begins a courtship with Laney. But his quest for marriage will be derailed when Laney learns that Luke plans to leave Kansas as she vows she will never leave her hometown. And when tragedy strikes at Dell St. John’s ranch, Luke will take over the management for his father, also derailing his plans to head west. God will use Luke’s family and Laney’s love to convince him that he can be his own man without moving far away or starting a new cattle herd. Laney will be given the chance to see she is lovable in spite of her somewhat “manly” ways and will also be given the chance to forgive the father who sold her and her brother to Tarah for a horse and $10.00. Ms. Bateman did a good job of keeping my attention and anticipation up throughout all three stories. I was most pleased with the contrast of the more advanced vocabulary of the educated persons in the stories versus the “colloquial”  vocabulary of those who had very little schooling.  The lessons learned by the characters are important and I was glad to see that Ms. Bateman did not make light of the challenges of faith she presented to her characters – rather she had them face and conquer them completely, though not without stumbles along the way. I will recommend this book to others and may reread these stories at a later date as they were most enjoyable.

I received this E-book from Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

 

 

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels – Book Review

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Published by Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books July 01, 2017

Genre: Romance,  Christian

Pages: 256

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Although the Winds of Mackinac Inn has been in her mother’s family for generations, Maude Welling’s father refuses to let her run it without the guidance of a husband. So she seeks to prove her worth and independence by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel.

Undercover journalist Ben Steffans, posing as a wealthy industrialist, pursues a story about impoverished men chasing heiresses at the famed hotel.  While undercover, he becomes attracted to an intriguing maid. By an act of heroism Ben endears himself to the closed-mouthed islanders—including Maude—and he digs deep for his story.

But when scandal threatens, will the growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed?

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Story Notes

Carrie Fancett Pagels newest venture into the Gilded Age may leave readers a bit lost and a lot bored with a complicated plot that falls short of being a great story.

I’m not a fan of taking someone’s hard work and bashing it to pieces but for the sake of others who might happen upon this book I will try to tell what is so dis-likable about this story. This story begins with a standard sort of plot – girl is not seen by her father as having the ability to do the job she desires to do so she sets out to prove him wrong; and a young man is trying to make a name for himself in the news reporting world and seeks a scandal tell all that will give him the break he desires. To this Ms. Pagels added mysterious happenings with the girl’s uncle, love lost by both main characters, and a little boy who wants to run as far and as fast as he can to get away from his families troubles. This is a great plot that has many opportunities for an author to create such a wonderful story of love, trust, forgiveness and peace and although I believe this was Ms. Pagels goal, there was so much frivolous content that I found myself setting the book aside multiple times so I could read other, more interesting stories. Maude is both a strong and weak character, lacking backbone in some passages and making a great stands in others. Likewise, Ben has fits and spurts where he is a strong character and others that follow in which he lacks the “yumph” needed to do what is right or necessary. It is this and many other like reasons, such as uber complicated family situations,  that I found this book hard to finish and, honestly, was glad to have finished. I would not have wanted either of these characters for friends or I might have done them both physical harm over their lack of intelligence or gumption. My favorite character was Ada Fox, a subcharacter who would have been much better used as the main character to give the story its needed strong heroine. Her practical and honest way of thinking and speaking made the story bearable to read and made me wish Ms. Pagels had written more about her instead. So I will not be recommending this book to others nor will I be adding a hard copy to my shelves as I cannot do either in good conscience. Perhaps Ms. Pagels will do better with her next foray into the world of fiction – I pray it will be so as this was most unfortunate.

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore – Book Review

Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore

Published by Tyndale House Publishers September 05, 2017

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Christian

Pages: 432

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Tess O’Rourke dreams of becoming the first female chief of police in Long Beach, California. As commander of the East Division, she is well on her way . . . until the night she responds to an officer-needs-assistance call and fatally shoots an unarmed teenager. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, Tess is so hounded by the public that she takes a job in Oregon to escape the bad press.

Winning over the residents of Rogue’s Hollow might be more difficult than adjusting to her new role as police chief in the small, backwater town. Especially when her closest friend, the pastor’s wife, goes missing and the woman’s cousin is found shot. Tess finds an ally in sheriff’s deputy Steve Logan, but as they track down Rogue’s Hollow’s first murderer, she worries that she’s breaking one of her rules and getting too close to him.

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Story Notes

Janice Cantore begins her new In the Line of Duty series with a relevant and carefully developed story that shows that this series is one that is certainly not to be missed.

Janice Cantore is a retired Long Beach Police officer who has created a wonderful second career as a police/crime author. I have enjoyed reading her Pacific Coast Justice Series and was excited to see she has begun another – using the city in which she served for over 20 years as the beginning backdrop for the series. This fictional account of a fatal police necessitated shooting shows a real truth that is often buried by the media outbursts for supposed police brutality: that there is more than one victim in a necessitated shooting. Tess O’Rourke is a Commander on the Long Beach Police force who responds to a call for help from a fellow officer – a call that will totally change her life. Tess finds her fellow officer on the ground with three young black men standing over him, one of which tries to grab the downed officers gun, leaving Tess with no choice to shoot the young man in an effort to defend herself. With no witnesses besides herself (the other two young men fled at the sight of her), Tess finds herself caught in the whirlwind of negative press, headed by a blogger named Hector Connor-Ruiz who has a great dislike for the police. And although she is cleared by both evidence and a grand jury inquiry, Connor-Ruiz keeps the public crying out for Tess’s badge for the supposed wrongful death. Finding she has no other choice, Tess sends out applications for a position on another force. She is offered the Chief of Police in the Oregon town of Rogues Hollow and decides this will give her a chance to get away from the bad press and, further give her her long dreamed of position as Chief of Police – even if it is in a small town. But Tess will have to fight small town prejudices and her own staff to prove that she is there to do her job to the best of her abilities no matter how she was painted by the press in Long Beach. She does find one ally in Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Logan who is willing to give Tess a chance to do the job right. And when Rogue’s Hollow is shocked by the first murder and suspicious disappearance in recent history, Tess will need all the help she can get. With the mayor breathing down her neck for progress, the local businessmen scoffing at her ability to solve the case, and Tess’s personal connection to the case there are multiple reasons to solve this case quickly. Tess’s other new allies in Rogue’s Hollow are Pastor Oliver Macpherson and his wife, Anna, both of whom have welcomed Tess and are seeking to share their faith with her. And it will be Anna who mysteriously disappears, followed by the discovery of the murder of her cousin, Glen, a former drug dealer/user, that make this case personal and high priority for Tess. Tess will find that there are many secrets to be found, even in this small town, and that crime will eventually effect everyone. But her determination to see this case through, find Anna, and arrest those responsible for the crimes will gain her the support she needs from the town that was reluctant to welcome her in. There were many threads in this book that Ms. Cantore had to be careful not to allow to be lost in the tangle of the story’s web and she handled that pressure well. I could tell fairly quickly that this book was written by someone with a good working knowledge of police procedure and that gave the book an edge that others might lack. I can honestly say that this book presented a different way of telling a story, not one that was bad, merely different in the fact that Ms. Cantore did not sort out all the details of Tess’s life and faith with this first book. I find that approach refreshing and more real than others that try to tie everything up nicely before the last page. People are not going to come to faith in Christ just because someone tells them about Him once; rather it takes time for them to lay aside all their hurt and assumptions so they can honestly open their hearts to His love and mercy. And people who have been burned badly by love before do not immediately jump into a new relationship with the first person they feel attraction to; rather they need time to discover if they can trust that person with their friendship and then move to something deeper if there is common interest. So Ms. Cantore set up her series in a wonderful and honest way that I believe will make it a success. She crafted a well developed story with lots of mystery and suspense and kept the door open for the story to flow well into the next. I am very excited to see where this series will go and how Tess will find a way to be “at home” in Rogues Hollow. I will most certainly recommend this book to others and am pleased to add the copy I was provided with to my bookshelves.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from Tyndale House for this review.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep – Book Review

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

Published by Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press September 01, 2017

Genre: Mystery, Drama, Romance

Pages: 192

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Publisher’s Description

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Pour a cup of tea and settle in for Book 1 of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series–a page-turning Victorian-era holiday tale–by Michelle Griep, a reader and critic favorite.

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Story Notes

Michelle Griep’s newest series will bring delight to her readers as she shares fictional accounts of Charles Dicken’s famed books, beginning with 12 Days at Bleakly Manor – inspired from the oft-overlooked classic Bleak House.

A great fan of Charles Dickens and the Victorian Era, I have both read and watched every book and BBC Drama created from Mr. Dicken’s stories. How exciting for me to discover that Michelle Griep was writing a series based on some of my favorite books/dramas! Bleak House is a truly wonderful story that is frequently overlooked given the popularity of “A Christmas Carol”, “Oliver Twist” and “A Tale of Two Cities” but next to “Little Dorrit” it remains my all-time favorite Dickens story. Ms. Griep offers a fictionalized account (based on the true story) of how Charles Dickens came to write “Bleak House” that was so good it earned a rarely given 5 star rating from me. Clara Chapman has spent the last year grieving both the loss of her family fortune and the fiance she believes stole the fortune and her heart. Receiving a mysterious note that offers her 500 pounds in return for staying at Bleakly Manor during the 12 Days of Christmas, Clara grasps quickly the opportunity to help herself and her aunt stay in their home. Benjamin Lane has been in gaol for over a year with no trial, no explanation, and is facing transportation for embezzling funds from two shipping companies including Clara’s family’s company. Two weeks before his ship departs he is sent a note offering him the chance at freedom and exoneration if he will spend 12 days at Bleakly Manor. Desperate to right the wrongs done to him, Benjamin agrees and is taken there immediately. But when Clara and Benjamin come face to face, will they believe the truth of what happened or is everything beyond forgiveness? Joining Clara and Benjamin at Bleakly Manor are 6 others who have been offered something they desire in exchange for remaining at the house during the full 12 Days. But with mysterious happenings occurring more often as the days pass by, the number of persons willing to remain begins to dwindle quickly. Ms. Griep did an excellent job of capturing the essence of Mr. Dickens characters. I loved her way of identifying them through their characteristics even as she gave each person an alternate name. I had fun recalling the story through new eyes and a new perspective – one that had less tragedy at the end but a perfect ending that would have made Mr. Dickens proud. His infamous way of always ensuring that everyone in his stories got “exactly what he or she deserved” is what makes me love his stories so. And Ms. Griep carried that theme well and added in a wonderful new love story that will leave her readers cheering and most satisfied. Ms. Griep also included the element of faith in her story and this served to make the story even better in my opinion. The two main characters both had to learn the incredible lessons of forgiveness and trust and further that love is willing to sacrifice one’s personal desires so that the loved one can be given what they need. This was a really wonderful story that had me looking forward to the holiday season that is fast approaching and encouraged me to be careful of prejudices and generous with kindness. I will definitely be recommending this story to others and will also purchase a hard copy at my earliest convenience. I look forward to the next books in the series, hoping they will be as delightful as this one.

I received this ebook free of charge from Barbour Publishing/Shiloah Run Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Worship: The Reason We Were Created by A.W. Tozer – Book Review

Worship: The Reason We Were Created by A. W. Tozer

Published by Moody Publishers August 01, 2017

Genre: Devotional, Christian

Pages: 135

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Few subjects invigorated A. W. Tozer like the topic of worship. He saw it—like the church has traditionally—as the sole reason for which creation exists.

Worship: The Reason We Were Created features collections from the beloved spiritual writer on this important topic. The church’s current worship is emaciated; its thoughts of God are too low. Here is a compilation to raise those thoughts high once more, and provoke the church to true, spiritual worship.

Topics include:

  • The act and object of worship
  • The Presence of God
  • Worship throughout the week
  • Feelings and emotion in worship
  • Man as a worshipping creature

If it’s true that we are made to worship God, that it is the sole reason that we exist, that we are most alive when we live for His glory, then reading Worship is more than time well spent. It is time invested in the very foundation of your life.

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Story Notes

A. W. Tozer’s examination and explanation of true Worship before the Lord God will have readers coming to their knees, seeking to fulfill the purpose for which God made us – to Worship Him.

As I am the granddaughter of a pastor, granddaughter and daughter of church deacons and other church leaders I have often heard Mr. Tozer quoted and revered as a great teacher of the Word but had never had the opportunity to study any of his works before being offered this book for review. I greatly looked forward to this study as we had recently covered this topic in church and was eager to learn more. Mr. Tozer carefully and precisely explains what true worship is and isn’t and what is required of the believer that desires to experience it. He begins with what has happened to our worship, both personally and corporately as believers, talking of how worship has become more like a box to check and only to be done on Sunday mornings. I was convicted most certainly when he reminded me that we are to be continually worshiping God, through our every action and word, thereby bringing glory and praise to God in everything. And what joy to be reminded that God allows us to worship Him just as the Seraphim before the throne of God. Yes, God is approachable, Tozer shares, but He is not our buddy or pal. Rather He is Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that is in it, Worship Thou Him! In the 135 pages of these collected teachings Mr. Tozer destroys any false ideas of worship before God and help readers understand just how great and majestic is the Lord God. I took one chapter a day and focused on it during my daily devotional time and this was some of the best time I have spent with the Lord. I laughed, cried, prayed and worshiped in a deeper way and have found that the effects of those special days are long-lasting and close at hand in my mind. I have grown closer to the Lord in my time with Him since and am seeking to worship in everything I say and do. Mr. Tozer does not pull punches and those who read this book with a seeking heart will find new and better ways to come before the Lord and make their life one of worship before the King of Kings. It was bittersweet for me to finish this study as I was learning and growing with each passing day of study. I am looking forward to reading the other collections Moody has put together of Mr. Tozer’s teachings, praying they will also help me strengthen my daily walk with the Lord. Most certainly I will recommend this book to others and pray they will find as much learning and renewal as I did.

I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from Moody Publishers for this review.

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter – Book Review

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Published by Bethany House Publishers September 05, 2017

Genre: Romance, Drama, Christian

Pages: 384

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Publisher’s Description

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she’ll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.

Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

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Story Notes

Kristi Ann Hunter’s much anticipated final story in her Hawthorne House series brings laughter, love and a challenge to readers to decide if the characters involved made the best choices for their situations.

This story has been on my much awaited to-read list since I was given the first two for Christmas last year. Ms. Hunter has a way of bringing her stories to life so that her readers can relish the elegance of the time period but also relate to the situations in which the characters find themselves. She adds excellent dialogue that is witty and sharp and gives much needed moments of levity when the drama or danger becomes overwhelming. I have laughed, cried and held my breath throughout the first three stories and was so very excited to see how Ms. Hunter was going to tell Griffith’s story. And Ms. Hunter did what she always does – made me love this story more than the last. Griffith, Duke of Riverton, is the last marriage hold-out of the Hawthorne family. Not that he hasn’t had his hands full in the past few years, ensuring that all his siblings found spouses that would love them and the Lord wholeheartedly. But as he is the Duke, he knows that he must marry and produce an heir to carry on his family’s legacy. The problem is that choosing a wife of his social class while in society is very difficult given that most people do not show their true selves to their peers. So Griffith sets about choosing his wife in the same way he does everything else – logically and precisely. Much to the consternation of his family, he chooses a lady who is of steady character but with little care for what standing she has in society. But, unbeknownst to him, Frederica St. Claire is still in love with soldier Arthur Saunderson who was, until recently, presumed dead in battle. In an effort to spend time with Arthur without her father finding out, Frederica enlists the help of her cousin Isabella Brekenridge to distract the duke from his courting pursuit. Isabella reluctantly agrees to help as long as it doesn’t interfere with her purpose in her extended visit with her cousin – to help her uncle gain enough support for the Apothecary Bill in the House of Lords. Ever since Isabella’s aunt and cousin died due to medical ineptitude, her uncle, Lord Percy Pontebrook is singlemindedly focused on the passage of an Apothecary Bill that would require those who diagnose, treat or medically attend patients be certified as having certain levels of knowledge in order to practice. As the voting on this bill is to be considered very soon, Lord Pontebrook has offered Isabella the deed he holds to her family’s farm in exchange for her help in getting influential Lords to vote for the bill. Isabella is not pleased with what her uncle would have her do but cannot abide the thought that her family could lose their home if she refuses. So she agrees to use the beauty she was blessed with to become the most sought after debutante of the London Season, giving Lord Pontebrook the opportunity to convince influential Lords of the merits of approving the bill. Into all this mess comes Griffith, wishing to court Frederica but forced into spending time with Isabella as her cousin often finds other places to be when he calls. And as much as Griffith determines that he will never choose a wife that other men would view appreciatively, he finds himself strangely attracted to Isabella and her unique way of viewing the world. When both Griffith’s siblings and friends point out that Isabella is the perfect wife for him with her beauty and ease of navigating society, he reluctantly acknowledges they are right and seeks to make her his wife. His mother further points out that Griffith is in love with Isabella and his reluctance turns to happy determination. But Isabella has already decided to return home and marry someone in her village after she has earned the deed to her home; she refuses to let her uncle dictate any future demands to any Peer she might marry in London. Griffith will have to discover her secret and a solution to Isabella’s dilemma if he stands any chance of convincing her of his love and ability to care for her and her family. And what he finds will have all readers cheering and hoping for the perfect ending to this wonderful story. Ms. Hunter added in the perfect amount of hilarious conversation between the Hawthorne siblings and their spouses as they help Griffith earn Isabella’s love. The blunt and logical way they explain how he should and does feel to Griffith left me laughing out loud and wishing I could have sisters like his. I have loved the frank way in which all the characters in this series have challenged each others faith and this story was no different. Griffith is so very determined to be in control of every aspect of his life that he has a hard time understanding and accepting that love turns one’s life upside down in wonderful ways. God often uses the person He has for us to date/marry to make us examine and rethink our understanding of life and often helps us deepen our faith as we fall in love. Ms. Hunter uses her characters to convey very clearly that one’s life will not be the best it can be if one does not let God work in and through them. She also shares the joy that is to be found when two people work together to love each other and those around them who are hurting. I am sad to say goodbye to this series but am excited to see what Ms. Hunter will be writing next. I have already purchased hard copies of this series for my own shelves and am often recommending it to my friends and family. Hope Ms. Hunter will have something new out soon!

I received this book/e-book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from this company for this review.