Monday, 24 April 2017

For the Record by Regina Jennings

Rather Than Wait for a Hero, She Decided to Create One 

Betsy Huckabee has big-city dreams, but nobody outside of tiny Pine Gap, Missouri, seems interested in the articles she writes for her uncle's newspaper. Her hopes for independence may be crushed, until the best idea she's ever had comes riding into town. 

Deputy Joel Puckett didn't want to leave Texas, but unfair circumstances have made moving to Pine Gap his only shot at keeping a badge. Worse, this small town has big problems, and masked marauders have become too comfortable taking justice into their own hands. He needs to make clear that he's the law in this town--and that job is made more difficult with a nosy reporter who seems to follow him everywhere he goes. 

The hero Betsy creates to be the star in a serial for the ladies' pages is based on the dashing deputy, but he's definitely fictional. And since the pieces run only in newspapers far away, no one will ever know. But the more time she spends with Deputy Puckett, the more she appreciates the real hero--and the more she realizes what her ambition could cost him. 
Review: Oh dear! Betsy Huckabee thought she had the perfect plot to finally move out of her uncle and aunt's home and into her own place. It should have worked. Really it should have. The new Deputy in town simply had to be dramatically heroic - enough to make the ladies swoon - and she'd have the perfect stories to send into the lady's fictional section of the newspaper in order to make a few dollars.

The problem is... he really is heroic (when he isn't being a complete annoyance) and he's also incredibly handsome (Too handsome). The big city newspaper also makes a rather big mistake and publishes her fictional stories in the true news section.... the results of which are NOT pretty.

Between masked vigilantes, stubborn ponies, crazy mountain men, and vivid imaginations... this story is a fun read.

This is a classic romantic comedy: light hearted, fun, enough mystery to keep you turning the pages, and corny but in a really sweet way.

There are a few romantic sections that might not be appropriate for a younger audience - nothing scandalous, by any means - but I wouldn't give this book to someone under 15.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Discipline that Connects with Your Child's Heart by Jim and Lynne Jackson

Ever feel stuck in a discipline rut? This book will help you develop a new "lens" for effective, caring discipline with your child. "Discipline that Connects" is a profound and deeply Biblical way of thinking about corrective discipline. In these pages you'll grow in insight about yourself and your child. You'll learn to: 

Prepare your heart and stay calm when your kids are not.

Think on your feet and respond with confidence and wisdom.

Turn behavior problems into opportunities.

Help children learn to be responsible for their own actions and truly reconcile with others.

Use creative consequences that build skills, values, and faith in your children.

Review: There are a lot of parenting books out there and I, personally, have never read one. I wasn't sure what to think of this one. 

This book has a lot of case studies to emphasize the authors' points. While interesting to read, it's hard to see how some of the scenarios are transferable. 

I suppose if you take the parenting advise in this book as a very loose guideline it would give you some nice ideas about how to deal with some challenging issues that your current parenting tactics aren't successfully dealing with. However, their recipe for success and their suggested dialogues do seem a bit far fetched at times and more than a little complicated. 

Please note that I've never parented... so perhaps I am missing something that this book has to offer. 

Thank-you Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Back Cover: 
A master violinist trained in ViennaRebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the maestro at the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic. But women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah's hopes are swiftly dashed because the conductor—determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music—bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Acklen Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah's new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville's new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse—and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head—he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city's new opera hall. But far more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music—his father, who is dying.

As Tate's ailment worsens, he believes Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman's trust when you've robbed her of her dream?

As music moves us to tears yet makes our hearts soar, A Note Yet Unsung captures the splendor of classical music at a time when women's hard-won strides in cultural issues changed not only world history—but the hearts of men. 

Review: A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander is the third and final series in the Belmont Mansion trilogy. This series is very well written and each book is a lovely read. I would highly recommend all three books. As for A Note Yet Unsung... it is the best book I have read in a while. Why, you may ask? 

First, the characters of this story really came to life for me. It may sound cliche to say such, but it is true. Rebekah and Nathaniel have passion, drive, insecurities, daring to push the boundaries, love, fear, tempers... a combination of beauty and flaws written together to make almost magically believable individuals. With the story in such capable hands as Rebekah's and Nathaniel's this latest Belmont Mansion novel can't help but be spectacular. 

The second reason I really enjoyed this story was the historical significance. I had no idea that women were not permitted to perform publicly in symphonies/orchestras until after the 19th century. Apparently it was unseemly and considered too provocative for a woman to play outside of her drawing room. Like many feminist rights that we take for granted today, the right to perform in public came at a hefty cost to many brave women who dared push the boundaries of propriety in order to live their dreams. In this story, Rebekah is a masterfully trained violinist, but her rare talent is pushed to the side due to her gender. With a little luck, however, and some daring on her part, she refuses to simply settle as a meek music tutor and strives to become one of the first women in her country to play in an orchestra. While the character of Rebekah is fictional, the fight for this freedom is not, and I imagine that there were women very much like Rebekah who worked hard to change history.

The third reason for my glowing review of this book is the number of story lines. I was fascinated by the different cultures portrayed in this book, the in depth story telling behind the musical scenes, the dark side-story of Rebekah's family, and the mystery behind Nathaniel Tate. I won't say more - don't want to spoil the story! But it all makes for a very entertaining and difficult-to-put-down read. 

I would definitely recommend this novel.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn't be happier he is not the duke in the family. Free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, he has grand plans of someday wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he barely knows, his dream of a loving marriage like his parents' seems lost forever.

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier when she hid in her older sister's shadow--which worked until her sister got married. But even with her socially ambitious mother's focus entirely on her, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience before she's been introduced to society.

With nothing going as expected, can Trent and Adelaide's marriage of obligation survive their own missteps and the pressures of London society to grow into a true meeting of hearts and minds?
Review: An Uncommon Courtship is part of the Hawthorne House series written by Kristi Ann Hunter. It is a delightful series with each book reading well on its own. That being said, I would recommend reading all of the books in order to avoid spoilers as many of the main characters in previous novels show up in the subsequent stories. 

An Uncommon Courtship is uncommon for an regency novel in that Lord Trent and Lady Adelaide are essentially forced into an arranged marriage. Many novels based on this era entertain couples breaking the 'arranged marriage trend' and instead marring for love. Realistically, many couples married for wealth and position and not for love during this time period - particularly those who were part of the London's elite ton.

Lord Trent and Lady Adelaide fall prey to her scheming mother and find themselves married to a stranger. Lord Trent has witnessed his siblings' love matches and desires the same for himself. However, what does loving your spouse really mean? What does love actually look like? He hardly knows his wife, but does that mean he can't love her? I really admired the way this novel looked to the scriptural definition of marital love and dug deep into what loving your spouse actually looks like - even when you don't feel the emotional part of it. 

I really enjoyed how this novel broke away from couples falling in love based on physical attraction, high emotions, and simply lust. Instead, you get a first hand look at what true love in action actually looks like. There are some surprisingly deep and insightful moments. 

As a word of caution, I would recommend An Uncommon Courtship for adults or older teens. While there are no specific bedroom descriptions, this books does go into more detail than is common for most Christian romances and I would hesitate to hand this to a young teen. 

Thank-you very much to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

In The Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

Their Future Depends on Unlocking the Secrets the Mountain Holds From the Past
Cassidy Ivanoff and her father, John, work at the new and prestigious Curry Hotel near the foot of Mount McKinley--Denali as it's still called by the natives. John is the wilderness and exploration guide for the wealthy tourists while Cassidy works in the kitchen as Cook's assistant. The entire staff buzzes with excitement during the busy days preparing for the President's imminent visit. His historic trip to dedicate the new national park on his way to driving in the golden spike to officially complete the Alaska Railroad will be the beginning of a new era for all of them and place The Curry at the heart of Alaska. 
Allan Brennan travels to the Curry Hotel to be an apprentice to the seasoned Alaska mountain guide, with hopes of discovering the truth about his father's death on the mountain years earlier. His father's business partner blames the guide for Henry Brennan's untimely death, but Allan cannot be at peace until he knows for sure. He finds an unlikely ally in Cassidy, and as the two begin to look into the mystery, they suddenly find that things are much less clear, and much more dangerous, than either could ever imagine.

Review:  First of all.... what an appealing cover. I love the mix of eras present in the art. A little history and a little present day - it blends into a beautiful piece that really is an accurate portrayal of the story itself. 

Allan Brennan travels to Alaska nearly a decade after his father's untimely death on the unforgiving slopes of Mount Denali. Although a fair amount of time has passed he is no where near over his father's death and he has questions. Lots of them. Most importantly, he has questions for his father's mountain guide, John Ivanoff. Determined to hear exactly what happened that faitfull day, Allan finds a job at the Curry Hotel as an apprenticing mountain guide. Unknown to him, his boss is none other than John Ivanoff. 

Confused and angry, Allan tries to sort out the facts. The incompetent man he was told about by his father's business partner does not at all match the outstanding individual he is reluctantly getting to know. As time passes, instead of finding answers to his father's demise, Allan's questions grow. As Allan and John's daughter Cassidy begin to dig deeper they unknowingly stir up a danger that is very much alive, but will they realize what they've done before it's too late?

This was a very well researched novel and you can tell that both authors have a deep love and appreciation for the history and the beauty of Alaska. The descriptions and the reverence within these pages for the USA's most northern state is clear. In addition to being a great tribute to Alaska, this novel is a wonderful faith promoter. Neither Tracie Peterson or Kimberley Woodhouse shy away from sharing the gospel nor do they miss an opportunity to teach a faith lesson. This is a very nice novel with solid characters, a sweet romance, and an interesting plot. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

Back Cover: Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime-scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime-scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright - and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit for which her friend modeled. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead - and the photographer insists he didn't take the shot. Worse, her friend can't be found, and so Avery immediately calls Parker for help.

As Avery, Parker and their friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly thread.

Review: This is the second book in the series, "Chesapeake Valor", and it follows the saga of a crime fighting team made up of old and new friends. The group, a mismatch of companions, is brilliant at solving crimes. With their uniquely different approaches and talents they form a formidable force. One by one, the team buts up against a person they can't quite forget.

This is the story of Parker Mitchell, a crime-scene analyst, and Avery Tate. Avery is a girl from the 'wrong side of the tracks' and would seemingly be the totally wrong sort of girl for a straight shooter like Parker. However, as Avery humbles herself to the Lord and is remade, Parker finds that he can't keep her out of his thoughts or his heart. Problems lurk, however, as old secrets have a way of coming to the surface and past relationships threaten their budding romance before it even begins. To make matters worse, a string of horrific events threaten to tear Avery apart.

While sparks fly between Parker and Avery, Declan is being driven crazy by the compassionate, free spirited Tanner. He can't figure out why she unhinges him so much... or why he acts like a complete jerk around her. For her part, Tanner can't warp her head around Declan. He can seem so nice one moment...and the next she wishes he would just disappear from her life. What is with him? More on this with the next novel, I am sure...

As Avery and Parker struggle to figure out where they stand with each other, a string of seemingly non related crimes is occurring around their city. Despite wanting to take a break from working together, they find themselves once again teamed up as they race against the clock to figure out how a terrorist, an art show, and Avery's oldest friend are all related.

This is an exciting, fast paced novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat and chewing your nails with suspense. I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns in this story - particularly the last few twists in the story. I won't say anything more other than I honestly did not see THAT coming...

As a warning, some of the subject matter is quite dark and disturbing. For those who frequently read crime novels I am sure the content is quite mild. For myself, it gave me a pretty bad nightmare! So, read it during the day (not in the middle of the night like I did) or perhaps pick up something a little more light hearted if you tend to be very sensitive to the more sinister side of things.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

Welcome to the English village of Ivy Hill, where friendships thrive, romance blossoms, and mysteries await. . . .

The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

Review: It is so good to crack open a novel again. Life has taken a few exciting turns and reading isn't quite as easy to fit in as it used to be. It is nearly 1 am and I just finished reading this delightful novel by Julie Klassen. It feels like a guilty pleasure staying up to the wee hours to indulge in something as peacefully serene as reading a book. The only thing missing is a cup of tea, and I would recommend to anyone thinking of reading this novel that a cup of dark English tea would be just the ticket. 

The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill is a well written book. What do I mean by that? Well, the grammar is neat and organized and the style is very easy to read but not too simplistic. The dialogue flows easily and well, and one can imagine a person actually using such language. The descriptions are enough to give you a good mental picture of the scenes but they are not long enough to bore. The characters are interesting, varied, and evolve through the story. There were no 'glitchy' phrases or sections that left me lurching over the words. This, to me, is what encompasses a well written novel. 

I really enjoyed the slow, budding romances and tentative relationships of the four main ladies in this novel. Missy, Rachel, Thora, and of course, Jane. All the girls are so different, but they are alike in that life has not been kind to them. Missy's plain face has kept the shallow young men away, and it seems as she gets older that her chances of meeting a man who can see into her beautiful soul are fading away. Rachel, a lady of note, is reduced to nothing but her valise when her father dies and leaves their estate to a distant relative. Thora, married once for love and then left with nothing, is resolute in never wanting to be shackled to a man again. And lastly, sweet Jane. A gentle lady who ends up married to an innkeeper, and finds herself widowed not many years later, now has to struggle for her own survival against great odds.

This novel weaves a wonderful story of perseverance and tentative love as these four women team together to try and get by in a society that favours men in business and does not encourage entrepreneurship or independence in women. I found the plot to be simplistic, but the story did not suffer for it. The characters were vividly full of life; I eagerly anticipate the next novel in a desire to find out what happens to these industrious women. 

Lastly, there are strong faith components in this book - not just in statement but in the actions of the women. Themes of forgiveness, self-control, and compassion run high. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.