Life on the Porcelain Edge by C. E. Hilbert – Book Review

Life on the Porcelain Edge by C.E. Hilbert

Published by Pelican Book Group November 01, 2017

Genre: Drama, Romance, Mystery

Pages: 366

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Tessa Tarrington’s life is swirling out of control. No job. No apartment. Sick Dad…And she’s back in high school! Teaching at her Gibson’s Run alma mater would be tolerable, except she’s sharing purgatory with her mortal enemy, Ryland Jessup. But eight years post-high-school, and after tragedies she can barely understand, Ryland no longer fits her mental image of the over-sized bully he once was. In fact, much to her disgust, he’s finding his way into her heart. After the sudden death of his wife, Ryland hung up his professional shoulder pads and picked up a whistle. Now he’s focused on coaching the high school football team and raising his daughter. The sudden return of his childhood crush, Tessa Tarrington, has reawakened long-ago feelings. But if God’s giving him a second chance to impress Tessa, the Man Upstairs has a funny way of showing it. Just when Tessa starts to lighten up, Ryland’s best friend returns. Will the always-irresistible Joey Taylor stifle any hope Ryland has to ignite the dream of a relationship with Tessa?

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Story Notes

C. E. Hilbert takes her readers back to Gibson’s Run for another story full of snappy humor and a couple learning to forgive and find real love.

Tessa Tarrington was finally making it on her own – huge loft apartment at deep discount rent, successful job as a ghost writer for celebrities, and close friends to share her free time – when her safe life is flushed. Someone discovered her ghost writing job and stole several in-progress works from her apartment – effectively making Tessa unemployed and untouchable in the world of background writers. Then her “friend” Bobbi Jo swoops in to taunt Tessa in faux compassionate words, also hinting she might be taking Tessa’s job. Additionally, Tessa receives word her father has suffered a heart attack and needs her back home in Gibson Run. Returning home seems the best option at the moment and she is given a bit of hope as there is a substitute English teacher job available for the semester. But going home means facing all her worst memories and the one person who is responsible for the start of them all – Ryland Jessup. Ryland told his mother when he was six years old that he was going to marry Tessa Tarrington. The problem is, Ryland’s innocent birthday present of “days of the week” underwear for Tessa’s sixth birthday caused her to be so embarrassed she wet her pants. To further add to her humiliation, Ryland’s childhood stutter created a despised nickname of “Pee-Pee T. T.”  when he tried to whisper quietly to her about the problem. Carrying the burden of that cruel name all the way through high school, Tessa harbored a deep resentment towards Ryland and his best friend Joey – believing they are responsible for keeping the name going. But as Tessa begins to get to know Ryland again, she discovers that he is not the monster she had created in her mind. For one thing, he defends her in front of the sports team players who thought her class would be an easy A if they caused enough trouble. Ryland is infamous for his Saturday Suicide Sessions – suicide drills for 2 hours straight – for any high school sports player who gets into trouble. Ryland uses the exhaustion of the players to teach respect and discipline – of their teachers and themselves, so the players can grow in more than size and talent. Overhearing Ryland’s teaching moments, Tessa realizes that he is a kind, compassionate and loving man who truly wants those around him to be their absolute best. Add to this his deliberate and careful care of his daughter Emma, and Ryland is quickly working his way beneath Tessa’s heart walls and becoming a man she could love. But Tessa is not the only one who needs help with forgiveness – Ryland is still carrying the hurt of his deceased wife’s unhappiness and betrayal. It will take Tessa being strong enough to show Ryland his deepest hurts before they can both move into forgiveness and lasting love. And to all this drama, Ms. Hilbert adds the wonderful character of Lily Mae Benton ( a Cajun force of nature) and another love interest for Tessa – her highschool crush Joey Taylor. Tessa’s life quickly becomes flooded with new understanding of how much she really was and is liked by all who know her, and that she is capable of much more than she has let herself believe. Ms. Hilbert took a situation that many have found themselves in and interjected humor, forgiveness and love to show that God does not leave His children in safe situations if there is an opportunity for them to be stretched and grown by hardship. There were so many great moments of spiritual learning included in this book that I couldn’t begin to name them all. The concepts of bitterness, resentment and forgiveness are deep and hard to convey without sounding harsh or unconcerned. Ms. Hilbert did a wonderful job of telling the truth in a real way but making sure those who heard the truth also knew they were loved in their problem.  Additionally, as I am a lover of words, I was thrilled to see how much grammar and alliteration were used throughout the story to bring moments of laughter and stress relief. Lily Mae’s way of using alliteration was just so entertaining; I felt like she and I would be good friends were she a real person. Ms. Hilbert’s way of making the characters of her story real made this book one I loved to read and one I will certainly re-read. I will most certainly share this book with others and might also purchase copies for others soon. I look forward to Ms. Hilbert’s next works and hope she will bring another story out in the very near future.

I received this E-book free of charge from Pelican Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from this company for this review.

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Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano – Book Review

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano

Published by Bethany House Publishers November 07, 2017

Genre: Romance, Humor, Drama, Christian

Pages: 352

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publishers Description

Rollicking New Release from Humorous Historical Romance Author Jen Turano

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader hoped her position as the paid companion to Mrs. Davenport would be easy. But as she becomes acquainted with her employer, she realizes the wealthy Mrs. Davenport has a strange tendency to be a bit light-fingered with other people’s trinkets. Gertrude is relieved when Mrs. Davenport decides to have a quiet summer away from the social scene–until the woman changes her mind in order to help a young socialite launch into society.

When Gertrude is caught in the act of trying to return one of the trinkets by Mrs. Sinclair, the mother of shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair, the woman jumps to an unfortunate conclusion. Harrison is determined to mend fences with Miss Cadwalader, but he’s unprepared for the escapades a friendship with her will entail.

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Story Notes

Jen Turano brings her hilarious ability to entertain into the life of a couple who are both just looking for someone to love them just as they are – odd quirks and all!

After literally laughing my way through Ms. Turano’s first installment of her Apart From The Crowd  series, I was actively looking for the opportunity to read and review her second – Out of the Ordinary. Ms. Turano has the wonderful ability to create humorous circumstances that lead to necessary personal or spiritual revelations. And further, she creates characters that storm those circumstances with determined attitudes and a sense of humor that provides spicy dialogue and phrasing. Gertrude Cadwalader is the paid companion for a older society matron by the name of Mrs. Davenport – a woman who has a peculiar habit of taking things that don’t belong to her. Not that she couldn’t afford to purchase the items in question herself, she simply cannot keep her hands to herself. Often taking it upon herself to return the pilfered items before they are discovered missing, Gertrude is quickly coming to regret taking a job she thought would be fairly easy. Relieved that Mrs. Davenport’s annual trip to Newport is fast approaching and she will soon have a break from the thievery, Gertrude is frustrated and a bit resentful when Mrs. Davenport announces she will instead remain in the city and take on the societal coming out of a new-found young friend. Said young friend just happens to be the little sister of the man that Gertrude is coming to love – Harrison Sinclair. And it will be while Gertrude is attempting to return items Mrs. Davenport took from Harrison’s family that all the real trouble starts. To start with, Gertrude finds herself removing her outer clothes in order to free herself from the sofa to which she became attached due to the breakage of Mrs. Davenport’s “new bustle”. During which time Harrison happens to come into the room trying to find his friend’s fiance Permilia, causing Gertrude to leap behind the sofa in order to hide herself – wedging herself quite tightly into the space. Embarrassed, sore and now without proper clothing, Gertrude finds herself the further victim of “helping friends” who strap her into a dress 2 sizes too small  – a circumstance that will lead to comical happenings in the very near future. Trying to keep herself out of trouble, out of jail and away from Mrs. Davenport’s additional ideas, Gertrude turns to Harrison, hoping for help in keeping her sanity and job. What happens next is a hilarious run through the city including another thief, stolen paintings, stolen tiaras and lots of confused identities that will all lead both Gertrude and Harrison to realize they have fallen in love through all the madness they’ve endured. They will also find that God is the love they have been looking for all along – and with Him they will discover that they are lovable just the way they are. Ms. Turano’s books are ones that her readers always look forward to reading. She has a unique ability to bring humor to situations that could be very dark and depressing – she uses those situations instead for moments of light and joy. She invites you fully into the story to walk alongside Gertrude, Harrison and their friends to experience laughter, frustration, love, friendship and spiritual growth. Ms. Turano will bring you tears of mirth with Gertrude and Harrison’s misadventures and tears of sorrow as you see them almost give up the love neither knows the other has for them. And the last few chapters as Harrison tries to show Gertrude his true feelings for her will have you rolling on the floor.Please read this book and share it will others as I will – it is one you will also want to reread one day when you need a lifting of spirits. I am eagerly awaiting Ms. Turano’s next book and cannot wait to who she will turn her focus to next!

I received this book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers both in print and in ebook form from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright – Book Review

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright

Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing  November 07, 2017

Genre: Drama, Romance,

Pages: 322

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Publisher’s Description

Ever since Emma read Pride and Prejudice, she’s been in love with Mr. Darcy and has regarded Jane Austen as the expert on all things romantic. So naturally when Emma falls for Blake Hampton and he invites her home to meet his parents, she is positive an engagement is in her future. After all, Blake is a single man in possession of a good fortune, and thus must be in want of a wife.

But when it turns out that what Blake actually wants is more of a hook-up than a honeymoon, Emma is hurt, betrayed, and furious. She throws herself deeper into her work as CMO of Kinetics, the fastest growing gym franchise in the nation. She loves her work, and she’s good at it, which is why she bristles when her boss brings in a consultant to help her spearhead the new facilities on the East Coast. Her frustration turns to shock when that consultant turns out to be Blake’s younger brother, Lucas.

Emma is determined not to fall for Lucas, but as she gets to know him, she realizes that Lucas is nothing like his brother. He is kind and attentive and spends his time and money caring for the less fortunate.

What she can’t understand is why Lucas continues to try to push her back into Blake’s arms when he so clearly has fallen as hard for her as she has fallen for him. It isn’t until Lucas reveals to Emma that he was adopted into the Hampton family that she begins to understand his loyalty to Blake as well as his devotion to the child April-she is Lucas’s biological niece.

Emma opens up to Lucas about the feelings of abandonment she has harbored ever since she was a child and her mother left the family. As she helps Lucas deal with his past demons, she is able to exorcise some of her own.

Realizing that her love life is as complicated as anything Jane Austen could have dreamed up, Emma must find a way to let Blake know that it’s time for him to let her go and to let Lucas know it’s time for him to love her back.

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Julie Wright brings her readers a funny and wonderful look at the fictional expectations we often make for ourselves and our relationships – and how those expectations can be changed for the better by the right person at the right time.

Let’s just get this out of the way: every girl who has read Jane Austen loves the characters she created and we are all looking for our Austen-akin hero to come sweeping to our lives. The interesting part comes if we have become so focused on what we “think” our love should look like that we might miss the real love that is right in front of our face. This is the concept that Julie Wright strives to share with her readers and I, for one, really enjoyed her story. As a fellow Jane Austen lover and frequent watcher of the BBC adaptations of said author I was so excited to read this book that was recently offered to me. Ms. Wright begins her story in fine form with her main character in the midst of a dilemma: Emma Pierce thought to surprise her boyfriend Blake Hampton at his parents home for July 4th. But things do not go as planned – for one thing, Blake’s parents are not home and he is entertaining another woman for dinner…..alone. Heartsick over the cruel explanation Blake gives, Emma determines to go straight home (a several hour journey), even if it is after 10pm. As she is storming out of the gates of the Hampton home, Blake’s adopted brother Lucas insists on giving her a ride to the train station. Grudgingly accepting the offer, Emma hopes this will be the last she will see of the Hampton family. Little does she know that her life is going to become much more interesting – all thanks to Lucas. Emma is the CMO of the Kinetics Gym facilities, a job she loves in totality. And she is excited about the new direction the CEO wants to take the company: to expand to the East Coast within the next year. But when she learns that a location consultant is going to be brought in to work with her, Emma finds herself fighting anger and frustration at her boss’s lack of confidence in her abilities. And to further discover that the consultant is Lucas Hampton, well, that is just too much! However, Emma quickly discovers that Lucas is not there to take her job; he likes his own just fine, thank you very much. As they begin the touring of the facilities currently in existence, Lucas is impressed with the care and diligence Emma puts into her efforts, from remembering everyone’s name to the complete knowledge she has of what Kinetics has to offer its clients, not only in the gym but the cafe and shops as well. And when Emma and Lucas must make the transcontinental flight to the East Coast, Emma offers Lucas real care and distraction from his air sickness. But as close as they grow throughout this endeavor, Lucas is determined not to get in the way of his brother getting back together with Emma. Add to all this the fact that Lucas’ real sister has abandoned her daughter to his care, that Blake doesn’t really want to renew his relationship with Emma, and that the rest of the Hampton family would like to see Lucas and Emma together, and this story is a crazy-wonderful whirlwind of a ride. Not having read any of Ms. Wright’s works before now, I was curious to see how she would go about building correlations between the Regency period of time and the current period. I was pleased to see that although she did have some comparisons to make and conclusions to draw that would tie her story to those of Austen, Ms. Wright created a thoroughly new and interesting plot. In this time of health consciousness it was nice to see the more human side of those in that business. Often we are bombarded with the sales-pitch side of gyms and memberships but never see beyond that to the business side of a company. Ms. Wright presented a legitimate look at how business works while also bringing the lives of her characters into full color. Along with her realistic writing she brought a good deal of sarcasm and witty phrasing. I laughed a lot as I “watched” Emma slog through one situation after another and found myself also identifying with her thoughts along the way. Additionally, I was impressed with the styling of the plot too – I was fairly certain of the ending but the way in which the book made its way there was not predictable. I would describe it more but I don’t want to ruin my favorite part of the story for someone else. I was also impressed that Ms. Wright kept her romance clean and without raunchiness. Its not often I come across “non-inspirational” stories that “keep it clean” so that was a wonderful surprise. Ms. Wright’s ability to bring some scenes from my favorite Austen books was a unexpected added detail that made me smile and laugh. And her secondary characters give the main ones a run for their money as they frequently had some of the best lines in the story.  I have already looked into reading some of Ms. Wrights other stories and hope they will be as enjoyable as this one. I will certainly be highly recommending this book to others and am planning to purchase a physical copy of the book with my next book order. Thank you Ms. Wright for such a fun and wonderful story!

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

Total Christmas Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra – Book Review

Total Christmas Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra

Published by Abington Press October 03, 2017

Genre: Christian, Religion & Spirituality

Pages:  210

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description:

In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do. But it’s important to pause and remember that our priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth and not forget to invite Jesus to his own party.

Christmas is far more than a celebration of an event from long ago or a modern holiday centered around shopping. Mindfully take time to listen to how God continues to speak through the Christmas story as the Gospel narratives centered around the birth of Jesus provide encouragement and revelation concerning the love of God and his wisdom for us today.

In Total Christmas Makeover, author and Bible teacher Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for you and your family to turn your attention toward God’s grace day-by-day as you prepare for Christmas. This 31-day devotional presents key scriptures, ideas to implement with each reading, and questions for reflection to guide you in rediscovering rituals, relationship, and rest to connect you more deeply with Christ this holiday season.

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Story Notes

Melissa Spoelstra brings to her readers a devotional meant to bring new focus to God during the Christmas season by coming back to the rituals, relationships and rest we can all find in Christ.

Let me begin by saying that this a very good devotional, well written with good scriptures and important points included. However, for myself I found it to be a little too simplified to be entirely likeable. I know the goal here is to allow a person to get back into the practice of daily devotional, especially during the Christmas Season, but I wish Ms. Spoelstra had had a scripture reading or two for me to look up by myself rather than printing them on the pages of the devotional. Or even “further study reading” to go along with what she had written about each day. Another problem I found is that Ms. Spoelstra spent a lot of time talking about things she did growing up or her family has participated in during past years. I had thought the focus was to be mostly on “rituals” that would bring us closer to Christ – not that she or I are preaching ritualistic requirements – but I would have enjoyed the devotional more if she was including things like the Advent Wreath, the Jesse Tree or other “rituals” of Christmas that point to Jesus. I know her point was to bring in the traditions that we might have in our families but if the focus is to be re-centered on Christ, there need to be better and more connections made. Her relationship and rest sections were much better put together and I found those to be the best parts of this devotional. Showing how our relationships with others and the care we show to them is directly related to how we approach God was a great reminder for me. As I considered how I treat others, especially during the hectic time of Christmas, I remembered that in order to point the way to Christ I would needed to ask God to help me be especially kind, patient and helpful so that others would see Christ in me. I did enjoy her daily prayers that she included, finding them to be prefect for the topic that was covered and allowing each person to insert their own needs or desires into the prayers at times. Prayer is an important part of devotional time and I was very glad to see Ms. Spoelstra had included it in her writing. I also enjoyed her Practical Approach ideas that were at the end of each devotion – things for someone to do themselves or with their family. Honestly, this devotional would probably be better done with a group than as a solo effort. So while this wasn’t my favorite devotional I did find several things to enjoy. I would recommend this book to those who are looking to find a way back into or to even start a devotional for the first time. This is a great study for those who are new Christians or those who have not been able to do a study recently. I will tell those who are active studyers of the Word that this one is a little less in depth than they are probably going to want.

I received this E-book free of charge from Abington Press 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 in the Shenandoah Valley by Andrea Boeshaar – Book Review

My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley by Andrea Boeshaar

Published by Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books September 01, 2017

Genre: Drama, Romance, Christian

Pages: 256

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Journey into the Shenandoah Valley of 1816 where…
With Nothing Left, Lily May be Forced into a Loveless Marriage.

Captain McAlister “Mac” Albright has purchased land in the Shenandoah Valley. However, the land belongs to Lillyanna Laughlin—or so she erroneously thinks. Mac sets her straight about current laws, and despite a poor start, the two are becoming friends.

Then, while Mac is away on business, Lily is faced with the impossible decision of marrying a man twice her age or she and her brothers becoming homeless, as her late father gambled away their home and acreage. But with debts being called in, will Lily be forced to choose a loveless marriage just when she is discovering what true love could be?  What can she possibly do? Will Mac return in time to spare Lily a lifetime of unhappiness?

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Story Notes

Andrea Boeshaar takes on the My Heart Belongs series with a story that will bring laughter, a sense of danger and love worth cheering for.

First things first: the publisher’s description is a little off for this story in two points: 1) the reason Lilly Laughlin no longer owns her family land is due to the fact that her father’s estate executor sold it without her knowledge to “pay debts”, not because of any so called current laws; and 2) Lilly is in danger of a loveless marriage before Mac arrives, not after, and he saves her by offering her a choice she didn’t have before he came. Now, with those pesky details out of the way, I will submit my review. This story was really lovely and I found Ms. Boeshaar’s writing to be very well done. She begins her tale with a funny scene involving an unfortunate time of choosing to bathe which will give Mac, her hero, no end of teasing fodder to use against Lilly, her heroine. Having created a strong character in Lilly, Ms. Boeshaar endeavors to show her readers what was possible for women in a time when their choices might have been severely limited. They had a chance to ensure their families had warm, loving home to stay in; they could stand up to those who would use their families for personal gain; and they could fight for what was right while also showing politeness and grace. Lilly has become the leader of her family since her father died and she is finding it fulfilling, if very taxing, work. Making sure the crops of the land are brought in and sold properly, ensuring her brothers receive an education and fending off a nefarious would-be suitor fill Lilly’s days to absolute capacity, leaving little room for personal time. Enter handsome former sea Captain Mac Albright, who, unbeknownst to Lilly, is the current owner of Lilly’s family’s land and the home in which she dwells and Lilly’s life is about to become very interesting. After processing the shock of having had her home and land “sold for paying debts” she is not certain her father owed, Lilly determines to help the new owner settle in and offers whatever help she may provide. This idea does not sit well with her would-be suitor (her father’s friend and estate executor, Silas Everett), who spends most of his daily visits to Lilly’s home telling her of her lack of social graces and manners. Silas has plans to make her into a fine lady to grace his home and be hostess of his inn. But Lilly has no intention of becoming Silas’s wife, nor of running an inn. And as she and Mac come to know each other better, they begin to fall in love. It will be this love that will carry them through several devastating situations that threaten to pull them apart forever. And God will further use this love to bring Mac to faith in Jesus, the ultimate love that Mac was looking for in his life. Ms. Boeshaar includes some wonderful secondary characters in this story to bring a richness and depth that also lend a sense of reality to the tale that is told. With a good variety of language and lots of sarcasm to add spice to the conversations, Ms. Boeshaar made her story one that her readers will enjoy reading more than once. My only issue with the story is that the end seemed to come rather quickly – I would have preferred a longer ending that would have increased the sense of true rescue of Lilly by Mac. The rushed way in which the story closed was a little off-putting and therefore brought my rating down to 4 stars. But the rest of story was well done and I enjoyed reading the book as a whole. I know Ms. Boeshaar has some upcoming works that are pending and I look forward to what she will present us with next. I will recommend this story to others and hope they will enjoy it equally as well.

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.

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.

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.