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Monday, October 29, 2012

No Holly for Christmas...Review

About the book:
As Brian McAlister struggles to move past being jilted not once, but twice by the only woman he’s ever loved, he’s all but given up on relationships. Then, on special assignment for the DA’s office, he crosses paths with ex-socialite turned social worker, Holly Cavanaugh Winter—and romance blossoms.

Widowed, practically penniless, and reduced to shopping at Walmart, Holly is dreading the approaching holiday season. However, her angst isn’t due to her husband’s untimely death the previous December 25th, but because of a secret that could reveal itself unless she can find a way to avoid the coming Christmas.

Love at first sight quickly turns frigid for Brian and Holly when Holly gets pulled into a manhunt for an accused murderer who now has his sights set on her. His case unraveling, Brian finds himself tasked with keeping Holly and her two daughters safe while bringing an assassin and the powerful man who hired him to justice.

A heart-warming story of suspense, healing, giving and receiving, No Holly for Christmas is the perfect addition to everyone’s holiday reading list.

Holly is just the best name.  Seriously.  It is.  It's not common and it's pretty. Of course, I'm partial to it and a little bit biased and so love stories where the heroine is named Holly.

This is not a typical Christmas story.  It's much grittier, with the murder and suspense.  I never really did connect to any of the characters and found little depth to any of them.  Holly was too much the superficial socialite, even with her moments of compassion. Her "I may be suddenly poor but I'm still better than you" attitude got a bit old and her first experience shopping at Walmart was incredibly stereotypical.  I liked her daughters and her sister Margo though. Brian was a typical rich boy attorney who started out with a big pity party over a past love.  However, he kind of grew on me as I enjoyed his moments with Holly's daughters.  I hate the endearment "Baby" and it was used quite a bit, here.  I realize that is my personal preference and other people use that endearment and don't mind it.  There was very mild profanity and some sexual situations that were unnecessary and after reading Countdown to Love, a bit disappointing.

This is a sequel to The Woman He Married, which I have not read.  When it came to Brian's interactions with Josie, I felt I'd missed a bit not knowing their back story, but the novel seems to stand alone just fine. I had read Julie's first novel, Countdown to Love and enjoyed it.  It was funny and clean.  So, I was surprised to see such a different story here.

The premise kept me hooked and I read the book in two sittings, but unfortunately, it's not going to be one of my favorites.  My review is one of many however and will no doubt be in the minority.

Thanks to the author and Steph and Jules at vbooktours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Julie N. Ford here. You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see links to other reviews here.

Read 10/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Promise to Love...Review

About the book:
Ingrid Larsen, a young Swedish immigrant, arrives in Michigan in 1871 to search for her brother who has disappeared into the woods to work the dangerous lumber camps. Destitute and barely hanging on to hope, she encounters a newly-widowed farmer who is struggling to raise five children on his own.

Marriage would solve both of their problems, and so Ingrid proposes to a man she barely knows. She will fight to protect her new family--but the hardest battle of all will be winning the heart of her new husband.

Recently widowed, Joshua is struggling to raise his five children.  When he is threatened with losing custody of them because of suspicions raised over his wife's death, Ingrid steps in a volunteers to marry him.  Desperate to keep his family together and give his children a mother, Joshua marries her.  Ingrid steps into the role of wife and step-mother well, but Joshua is reluctant to give her his heart.

I loved Serena's first novel, The Measure of Katie Calloway and I was excited to read A Promise to Love, which did not disappoint.  I love marriage of convenience stories and Ingrid and Joshua's story is terrific. I loved and hated the supporting cast of characters and the children were wonderful. Serena's exploration of mental illness and the historical uses of herbal medicines was fascinating. This is not a sequel to The Measure of Katie Callowaybut characters from that story make an appearance here, including Katie, Robert and Jigger. I loved seeing them again.

Serena Miller has penned another delightful story and this is one that I will read again.

Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Serena Miller here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Farmer’s Daughter – Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen...Review

About the book:
Welcome to the warm and inviting kitchen of Dawn Stoltzfus, a young Mennonite wife and mother who was raised on a dairy farm where simple, wholesome food was a key ingredient of the good life. In A Farmer's Daughter, she opens up her recipe box, wipes away the crumbs and wrinkles from the well-loved recipes and shares them with cooks and food-lovers everywhere. She offers us over two hundred delicious recipes that reflect the comfort foods she learned to cook from her mother, the same hearty and creative recipes she made and sold at The Farmer's Wife Market.

Along with the simple, wholesome recipes for starters, main dishes, sides and desserts, readers will find charming stories from Dawn's Mennonite upbringing, tips and tricks for easy meal planning and preparation, and ideas for serving with flair. Anyone who loves to feed their loved ones hearty, wholesome meals will treasure this cookbook.

When I first received this cookbook, I went through it and tagged all the recipes I wanted to try.  One of those was the sauce from Barbecued Meatballs.  I had some pork ribs that I wanted to get used and so I dumped them into my crockpot with a doubled recipe of this sauce.

1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 t. yellow mustard
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. liquid smoke
1/8 t. pepper

Now the original recipe states to combine all ingredients, heat and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  The sauce also stores well in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.

I didn't cook it, nor did I save any to refrigerate for later.  I mixed up a doubled version, poured it all over the ribs and let them cook in my crockpot for about 8 hours.  They were divine.  My family decreed that this was their new favorite bbq sauce.  Very mild, yet smooth and flavorful.

This is just a great cookbook.  Most, not all, recipes show serving sizes and all require every day ingredients you probably have on hand.  I love the little anecdotes and the "And Another Thing...And Another Thing" notes at the end of many recipes where she shares additional hints or suggestions about a particular recipe.

There is a great section in the back about Do-It-Yourself recipes.

She makes French Toast like I do, with cinnamon and vanilla.  So much better than plain french toast!

Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Dawn Stoltzfus here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Amish Family Cookbook...Review

About the book:
From the table of bestselling author Jerry Eicher and his wife, Tina, comes this warm and inviting peek into an Amish kitchen. From the family dinner table to the largest potluck, you'll find comfort in such wholesome and hearty dishes as:

Baked Blueberry and Peach Oatmeal
Mamm's Dinner Rolls
Cheesy Potato Soup
Amish Upside-Down Berry Cake
Pumpkin Cream Cupcakes

Complete with recipes from Jerry's beloved novels, Amish wisdom and humor from the Plain people, you'll be sure to laugh, pray, and eat robustly with The Amish Family Cookbook at your side.

I love that this cookbook has a spiral binding for it to lay open flat.  Yay!  The recipes are all family friendly will ingredients you are likely to have on hand.  Serving sizes are given inconsistently, which is frustrating as many recipes are also meant to serve crowds.  It's nice to know at a glance, if a recipe serves 6, 8, or 24.

I enjoyed the Amish proverbs shared in the margins.  My favorite?  "Listening is fifty percent of our education."

A charming cookbook with good, down-home recipes that are sure to please any family.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Jerry and Tina Eicher here. You can purchase your own copy here. You can read the first chapter here.

Read 10/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Christmas at Holly Hill...Review

About the book:
Can Clayton Barlow prove he has changed his ways in time for Christmas?

It is October 1898, and Clayton Barlow has just returned home after serving time in prison for his part in a bank robbery. His family welcomes him, but the townspeople are skeptical. Bored with life in the small town but determined to make a new start, he goes to work with his father, hoping to regain the town's trust.

Clayton recognizes the schoolteacher at the Prairie Grove School as his childhood friend, Merry Lee Warner, and old feelings surface. Still, he doubts that he could ever get a woman like Merry to love him.

As the townspeople prepare for Christmas, their suspicions about Clayton lead to trouble. Will the trusting heart of an unlikely new friend be enough to restore Clayton's relationships with his neighbors and reunite him with God and Merry?

When Clayton Barlow returns to Prairie Grove, Kansas after serving time in prison, he's not sure what kind of welcome he'll receive.  While his parents welcome him back with open arms, other townspeople aren't as nice.  Merry Warner has always had a crush on Clay and is thrilled when he returns.  Protective of her reputation as the town school teacher and thinking people won't approve of her dating a former criminal, Clay is reluctant to let himself fall for Merry.  But, an orphaned boy, an abused girl and the Christmas season have a unique way of softening Clay's heart.

I loved these characters and found the story sweetly compelling and while it was a bit predictable, I was anxious to find out what happened with Lily and whether Jonathan's wish came true.  Light Christian, it's a delightful Christmas read.  I've enjoyed Martha Rogers' Winds of the Prairie series.  The story stands alone well and this was a terrific Christmas addition to the series.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Charisma Media for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Martha Rogers here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can read the first chapter here.

Read 10/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Season for Tending...Review

About the book:
In a community where conformity flourishes, seeds of Rhoda’s odd behavior were planted long ago. Can she cultivate her relationships with the same care and tenderness that she gives her beloved garden?

Old Order Amish Rhoda Byler’s unusual gift and her remarkable abilities to grow herbs and berries have caused many to think her odd. As rumors mount that Rhoda’s “gift” is a detriment to the community, she chooses isolation, spending her time in her fruit garden and on her thriving canning business.

Miles away in Harvest Mills, Samuel King struggles to keep his family’s apple orchard profitable. As the eldest son, Samuel farms with his brothers, the irrepressible Jacob and brash Eli, while his longtime girlfriend Catherine remains hopeful that Samuel will marry her when he feels financially stable.

Meanwhile, Samuel’s younger sister Leah is testing all the boundaries during her rumschpringe, and finds herself far from home in Rhoda’s garden after a night of partying gone badly. But Leah’s poor choices serve as a bridge between Rhoda and the King family when a tragic mistake in the orchard leaves Samuel searching for solutions. Rhoda’s expertise in canning could be the answer, but she struggles with guilt over the tragic death of her sister and doesn’t trust herself outside her garden walls. As the lines between business, love, and family begin to blur, can Rhoda finally open up to a new life? And what effect will this odd, amazing woman have on the entire King family?

First in a new series by Cindy Woodsmall, this took me awhile to get into, but ultimately I liked it.  Rhoda was a strong woman who had a remarkable gift for healing and I didn't quite understand why so many in the community took exception to Rhoda and her insights.  I liked Rhoda's strength and her success in business.  The King and Byler families are terrific, well developed characters and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Cindy Woodsmall here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When a Heart Stops...Review

About the book:
A killer's deadly game needs new players . . . but someone's about to change the rules.

As a medical examiner, Serena Hopkins is used to dealing with death. But that doesn't make it any easier when she's called to the eerie scene of a murder--especially when Serena realizes that she knows the victim. Nearly as unnerving is the presence of FBI agent Dominic Allen, her childhood crush.

As evidence mounts and points to a serial killer with disturbingly familiar methods, Serena and Dominic must work to find a pattern and stop the killings before the murderer strikes again. And when Serena's own life seems at stake, she must decide if the secret she has been keeping has put her next on the killer's hit list. Can she trust Dominic with the truth before it's too late?

Serena Hopkins deals with death daily in her job as a medical examiner.  But when a familiar serial killer begins targeting Serena's former classmates, she must find out why she might be next on the list. Second in the Deadly Reunions series, the book can stand alone but, as with any series, the stories are richer for having been read in order and the back history is somewhat necessary for understanding. Suspense and thrillers are not my normal genre, but I really liked the first book in this series, When the Smoke Clears and When a Heart Stops is just as thrilling and exciting as the first one.  The characters are terrific and the tension is just right.  I'm looking forward to the next book and finding out how everything ties together and who the senator is and why he wants Jillian.

Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler from Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Lynette Eason here.  You can purchase your own copy here .

Read 9/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Trouble with Cowboys...Review

About the book:
Only one pair of boots—and the cowboy wearing them—can get Annie out of the mess she’s in.

Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek’s premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Annie’s column is cancelled, she’s given first shot at a new lovelorn column—and she can’t afford to turn it down. Only problem is . . . Annie’s never been in love.

Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town’s smooth-talking ladies’ man Dylan Taylor: She’ll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he’ll help her answer the reader letters.

Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can’t risk getting hurt now. The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister’s antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily.

When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn't know what to trust—her head or her heart. The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.

A light, clean Christian story about faith, family, romance and cowboys.  My reaction through most of this book though was, "seriously?".  I get fluffy romances and that women love cowboys, but this one was just too implausible for me.  Dylan and Annie were likeable enough characters, but the idea that she couldn't write a lovelorn column on her own and needed the help of a man she doesn't like was far-fetched. And, Annie's sister Sierra was seriously annoying.  Honestly, she ruined any enjoyment of this book for me with her selfish antics.

Third in the Big Sky Romance trilogy, you can read my reviews of A Cowboy's Touch and The Accidental Bride.  The books stand alone well but, like with most series, reading all the books helps with character development and history. This one was my least favorite of the series and I enjoyed The Accidental Bride the most. Fans of Denise Hunter will love it and most reviews I've seen are much more positive than mine.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Denise Hunter here.  You can purchase your own copy here .  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 9/12

* *
2/5 Stars

Friday, October 5, 2012

Where the Trail Ends...Review

About the book:
A young woman traveling the Oregon Trail in 1842 must rely on a stranger to bring her to safety. But whom can she trust with her heart?

For two thousand miles along the trail to Oregon Country, Samantha Waldron and her family must overcome tremendous challenges to reach the Willamette Valley before winter. Together they weather autumn storms, hunger and thirst, and the dangers of a wild and unfamiliar country. But when their canoe capsizes on the Columbia River, they must rely on handsome British exporter Alexander Clarke to rescue them from the icy water.

Alex escorts Samantha and her young brother, Micah, to Fort Vancouver. There Samantha is overwhelmed with men vying for her affections, but the only one who intrigues her-Alex-is the one she cannot have. When his betrothed arrives unexpectedly from England to escort him home, Samantha becomes determined to create a home for herself and Micah in the fertile valley far away from the fort. But how will an unmarried woman support herself and her brother in the wilderness alone? Then Micah disappears into the wilderness one rainy night, and Samantha must rely on the man she loves-the man she’s trying desperately to forget-to rescue her brother before it’s too late.

The Oregon Trail was beyond rugged and many a pioneer life was lost along the way.  For a young woman to survive it alone, is almost unthinkable.  Samantha Waldron is a remarkable, driven young woman who is devoted to her family and a promise she made to care for her younger brother.  As they make their way along the Oregon Trail, they weather storms and tragedy, but always together.

Melanie Dobson has created a terrific story set against a familiar backdrop.  The story is realistic and thrilling and the characters are likeable.  Although billed as a romance, we don't see the hero and heroine together until nearer the end of the story, which actually worked.  The story became, instead of a sappy romance, a tribute to the strong men and women who braved the Oregon Trail.  Completely enjoyable and easily recommended.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Melanie Dobson here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 10/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Queen of the Waves...Review

About the book: 
When pampered Jacqueline Abington makes secret plans to elope with the family gardener, she asks another woman to take her place on the much anticipated maiden voyage of the Titanic. Tessa Bowen hails from a poor corner of London but has been granted the opportunity of a lifetime—a ticket to sail to America aboard a famed vessel. But there’s a catch: she must assume Jacqueline’s identity. For the first time in her life, Tessa stays in luxurious quarters, dresses in elegant gowns, and dines with prestigious people. Then a wealthy American man takes an interest in her, and Tessa struggles to keep up the ruse as she begins falling for him. When tragedy strikes, the game is up, and two women’s lives are forever changed.

When Jacqueline Abingdon asks Tessa Bowen to take her place on the Titanic's maiden voyage, neither woman can anticipate how their lives will change.  Tessa enjoys the luxurious wealthy life aboard the Titanic, never dreaming that she'll fall in love.  Iris, Jacqueline's maid, never imagines she'll find the opportunity to pursue her dreams and Jacqueline never imagines the fate that awaits her.

I've enjoyed Janice Thompson's other books and Queen of the Waves did not disappoint.  It was a terrific new take on the Titanic story.  Queen of the Waves captures the essence of the Titanic experience and doesn't in any way diminish the significance of the tragedy.  The story alternates between Tessa and Iris on the ship and Jacqueline in England.  The characters are likeable and realistic, the historical aspects are accurate and the Christian elements believable.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Janice Thompson here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 10/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Love Surrendered...Review

About the book:
Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy moves to Boston to stay with her spinster aunt. She longs for romance to fill the void left by her parents' death. But when she falls hard for Steven O'Connor, the man who broke an engagement to her sister, Annie is worried. Will he break her heart too when he discovers who she really is?

A hardened prohibition officer nursing a broken heart, the last thing Steven O'Connor wants to do is fall in love with a young spitfire who has a tendency to get herself into trouble.  Orphaned and living with her spinster Aunt, Annie has secrets and doesn't plan on falling in love with Steven O'Connor, even as he rescues her from yet another misadventure.

While not my most favorite book about the O'Connor family, I loved reading Steven's story.  I thought he didn't treat Annie well at first, but as the two of them make their way through muddled family secrets and history, they discover the importance of love, honesty, faith and God.

All of the O'Connors make an appearance here and it's fun seeing how Faith, Charity and Lizzie's families have grown since the Daughters of Boston series.  Katie's still a spitfire keeping Luke on his toes and Emma and Sean are strong. Patrick and Marcy oversee their brood with love and understanding. Gabriella's story also receives some closure which is lovely.

Third in the Winds of Change series, this is also the last book about the O'Connor family of Boston. While this is my least favorite of the series, I have loved all six books about this wonderful family.  My recommendation is to read all six books, in chronological order, to gain the fullest understanding of the O'Connors and their history.

Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Julie Lessman here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars