Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

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103933EB: Hadley Beckett"s Next Dish - eBook Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish – eBook
By Bethany Turner / Revell

Read this book for sheer enjoyment. You’ll chuckle and adore the happy ending. This book is a contemporary novel with great appeal for fans of the Food Network. The main characters are celebrity chefs with opposite styles. But hold on because as you know… opposites attract.

Our main female protagonist, Hadley Beckett cooks in a Southern Style. She whips up delightful desserts from her own recipes that feature butter, sugar, and more butter. Her career soon catapults to the big leagues where she continues to thrive. Her arch-rival, Max Cavanaugh, explodes on the scene in a fiery TV episode, but works on redeeming himself throughout the rest of the story.

I loved the strategy Hadley uses to manage stress. She makes an alphabetical mental list of kitchen gadgets or ingredients. Now that’s clever. I did notice when angry words flew between she and Max, the gadgets she envisioned were the sharp pointy kind: Fillet knife, Grapefruit knife, Herb chopper, Ice Pick

As their relationship develops, and a future together looks promising, Max’s declaration of what he can offer is delightful, sincere, and appealing. Respect and fidelity. Top shelf ingredients for any relationship.

This was a fun read, and I’m glad I picked it up to review. The opinions are my own. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley. #HadleyBeckettsNextDish, #NetGalley

Starfish Pier: Hope Harbor Book 6

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0736149: Starfish Pier, Hope Harbor Series #6 Starfish Pier, Hope Harbor Series #6

By Irene Hannon / Revell

Let’s just rename Starfish Pier…. “Five-Star-fish Pier!” It’s that good.

Irene Hannon’s characters are fun and full of life. It was a delight to meet the gang that have populated earlier books in the Hope Harbor series. My favorites include Charlie, the artist and food truck owner, who specializes in tantalizing fish tacos and words of wisdom. Then the cleric duo of Father Murphy and Reverend Baker reappear who bring the right dose of amusement to the story.

Amidst the fun, are some serious issues about alcoholism, mental health, and fostering community connections. Author Irene Hannon deals with both the serious issues and fun with great skill. The story is appealing because we are not only drawn into a great love story, but we also get to see how bridges are built between hurting people. Bridges that set people on healing paths. Her character list is an all-star roster of caring friends who look outside themselves and find ways to support those in need.

I thought each plot line resolved in a believable and satisfactory fashion. One element to appreciate is the multigenerational plotlines surrounding Pete and his new circle of friends.

The phrase “Never say Never” applies here, or as Hanon writes “God’s delay is not denial” While the way forward looked bleak for some, at the story’s conclusion not just one but three characters all find bright futures in new careers. These outcomes were so unexpected, but highly satisfying.

I haven’t read the entire Hope Harbor series, just three books out of six. It was nice to read in the epilogue one more is expected next fall. Oh my…. Where will the story go next?

I recommend this book. There’s romance, a story about dysfunctional families that mend, forgiveness, and second chances. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. #Starfish Pier #NetGalley

Out of the Embers Book 1

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735351: #1: Out of the Embers #1: Out of the Embers
By Amanda Cabot / Revell

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 It’s 1855 and the story opens Texas style, big and bold with great dramatic flare. An orphanage burns to the ground from the hand of a devilish arsonist. Evelyn and Polly are the only two survivors who happen on the scene after returning in their wagon from a day away on errands. Under a full moon sky, they make a run for it thinking their only route to safety is a quick escape. As they rush enroute to a new home, we’re introduced to three other plot lines. The spotlight switches to Rufus and Winnie who mourn the tragic loss of their two children. Their daughter was taken by scarlet fever and their son by the hangman’s noose. Rufus and Winnie can’t seem to claim a foothold on level ground. Their loss is overwhelming and Rufus especially seeks healing that always eludes him. At the chapter’s close, we meet Basil Marlow, the black sheep of the Marlow family driven by greed and revenge. Basil’s first action in the story is to raise a whiskey toast to the conclusion of a dastardly deed and fire his pistol. He’ll  shoot again before the story’s conclusion. Finally we meet Wyatt Clark and his mother. Wyatt is the story’s male protagonist. He’s a gem. A natural born leader with a love for raising the fastest race horses in Texas. All of this action takes place in just the first two chapters. The title of Amanda Cabot’s new book is Out of the Embers, and this story comes to life in a vibrant fashion out of these dying embers. 

     Cabot’s story is historically accurate. The United States was reluctant to admit Texas to the Union since Texas ranchers and cotton growers used large numbers of slave laborers. In 1855, the issue of slave labor was already causing a split in the U.S. The Mexican American War had already happened and soldiers who returned home lived with unpleasant after effects. One of Cabot’s characters is plagued by mental health problems following his battle experience.  

      Evelyn poses as Polly’s older sister even though Polly is a child who was just recently brought to the orphanage under dubious circumstances. Once they choose a new place to call home, they adopt new last names and carry on as sisters who always feel most at home in the kitchen. They meet many kind and generous people in Mesquite Springs. Evelyn and Polly are invited to stay with the Clark’s but Evelyn knows she must find a way to earn a living. Her exceptional baking skills give her confidence to open a restaurant. The idea is a good fit for the town and Evelyn and Polly have found a place to settle in. I thought Evelyn was a smart, independent, and courageous female leading character. 

     Several suitors compete for Evelyn’s eye, but she only has eyes for Wyatt. Marriage and settling down is not his goal when we first meet Wyatt, but eventually he realizes that a life with Evelyn and Polly will give him his heart’s desire. 

   In the middle of the story, there’s a mayor’s race. Wyatt and his childhood friend Sam are the two candidates. Wyatt pulls off a big victory which causes Sam to spiral downward. Sam follows through on some bad choices and exits the story soon after the election. 

    This is the second Amanda Cabot book I’ve read. I enjoyed the fast pace and well developed characters. If I  had to predict what book two in the series will bring I would say I’m expecting Sam to reappear. I’m lukewarm about how he left the story. To me, he is a dark horse that will send shivers down your spine when he rides back into town. 

   Her leading characters were terrific with caring hearts and interesting goals. The Clark’s are the supportive family Evelyn has been longing for since her own parents died ten years ago. I look forward to all future books in the Mesquite Springs series.  

   I received a complimentary book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Fun Christian Romance, Characters to Love

This book appealed to me because of the setting. The agriculture of Australia, the climate, and terrain captured my interest. This book transports you to another continent. You’re introduced to some Australian vocabulary, animals, and a glimpse of favorite edibles. These details are seamlessly woven into the story.

It’s a sweet romance with fun characters. One day maybe we’ll see this Christian Romance made into a feature movie for the Hallmark Channel. After all, the matriarch of the family does make her appearance just before Christmas. She’s a formidable woman, whose middle name should be “TILIS” (tell it like it is)! The twenty something main characters have real depth, solid skills, and some issues to resolve that speak to everyone. Through Sam we get a good glimpse of how adopting a risk-adverse nature can hold us back and make us too fearful to follow God’s lead. Kimberly shows us that possessing a first rate business acumen is wonderful but can be empty without a sense of belonging that is found in family. Jules shows us how blindly following after what we think we should do might not bring the rest, peace, and joy we’re meant to experience. The author shares an accurate story of agriculture and how things operate on a modern dairy farm; the unique setting adds to the story. I recommend this story for anyone who is looking for an upbeat story. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley. This is my honest review. #AGirlsGuideToTheOutback, #NetGalley

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229615: A Girl"s Guide to the OutbackA Girl’s Guide to the Outback
By Jessica Kate / Thomas Nelson

A Novel of Prophets and Kings: Isaiah’s Legacy

291882: Isaiah"s Legacy: A Novel of Prophets and Kings Isaiah’s Legacy: A Novel of Prophets and Kings By Mesu Andrews / WaterBrook Buy with this link at Christianbook.com 
Buy at Amazon.com; Isaiah’s Legacy: A Novel of Prophets and Kings Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews is thought provoking. I’ve read her previous three releases and found them compelling reads. Her research is complete and from this foundation she develops characters with unique points of view. Another strength of Isaiah’s Legacy is the uniquely crafted dialogue. The characters speak words that are inventive, fresh, and wise. The title is fitting as the prophet Isaiah remained a voice sharing Biblical truths despite persecution, complacency, and tolerance run amok. The Old Testament is filled with harsh and brutal practices of the Ancient World. These practices include holding women down and viewing their importance only as members of a harem to build a legacy and political coalitions, human sacrifice, and the ever present brutal conquests by invading armies. Andrews does not sugarcoat the past so each element finds a place in her story. Some of the plot details had to be difficult to write. The weight of these evils only proves the depth and sincerity of the Lord’s forgiveness. Manasseh found forgiveness after following a serpentine and dark path away from the Lord. Mesu Andrews calls Manasseh’s story the greatest prodigal journey in scripture. In Isaiah’s Legacy, she shines a convincing light on an important truth. Forgiveness offered in centuries past is available in the same measure today; even when it’s late in life and after a long string of poor choices. I plan to share this book with friends who name Biblical fiction as their favorite genre. I’ll be interested to hear their feedback. I’m quite sure from this point forward, I’ll be reading the Bible’s record of Kings and Prophets with a greater appreciation. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. #isaiahslegacy, #chainbreakers, @mesuandrews

Veiled in Smoke – Windy City Saga #1

102770EB: Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga Book #1) - eBook Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga Book #1) – eBook
By Jocelyn Green / Bethany House

Superb! The epic beginning grabs you and the way the plot is a thread drawn out from these events makes for a tremendous story. I decided some of Jocelyn Green’s previous books often end in very dramatic fashion with a battle either on land or sea. In both The Mark of the King and Between Two Shores this conclusion holds true. I like that in Veiled in Smoke, a pivotal moment in the action appears at the beginning and this sets in motion all the consequences that follow.

This book is such a fine example of historical fiction. The details add a layer of richness to the story that I surmise will propel this book onto many recommended reading lists. Her skill in writing stories with an appreciation for the military certainly is on display between these pages. Her handling of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in early times is eye opening.

We meet a big cast of characters and each one is so memorable. The characters through their words and actions clearly show their goals, inward struggles, and values. Each character was so well developed. Every character added an essential dimension to the story. I think this lineup of characters in the the historical Chicago setting is a cornucopia of stories just waiting to be told. I’m eagerly looking forward to Windy City Saga Book 2.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of Veiled in Smoke from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

#VeiledinSmoke #NetGalley

An Uncommon Woman By Laura Frantz

102700EB: An Uncommon Woman - eBookAn Uncommon Woman – eBook
By Laura Frantz / Revell

An Uncommon Woman

A satisfying read from beginning to end. There is so much to enjoy in this new book from Laura Frantz. The main character, Tessa, is not the only uncommon woman. As stated in the author notes, Keturah’s wisdom and generous nature is rare and exceptional. Hester is a character to love for her directness and ability to serve all in unflustered fashion.

Each of the book’s elements are presented with great skill. The alliterative phrases, sense of place, and historical accurateness add to the book’s appeal. I loved learning about coffin pie, dittany tea, fort life, and the Lenape of Mid-Atlantic. Her portrayal of Native Americans stayed clear of stereotypes that might offend and instead shared with readers a realistic glimpse of Lenape culture, daily customs, fears, even acts of aggression.

Throughout the story, I was impressed that there were no loose ends. Tessa was allowed sufficient time to grieve over the tragedy that befell Jasper and Ross. Despite Tessa and Clay’s budding romance, it would have been so dissatisfying for our main character to rush through this time of loss.

The conclusion was inventive and I love that the end had its beginnings in a network of relationships that began at such an earlier point in the characters’ lives. As Clay said, “You just never know where help is going to come from.”

I recommend this book with enthusiasm. I received an advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Daughter of Rome


428714: Daughter of Rome, softcover Daughter of Rome, softcover

By Tessa Afshar / Tyndale House

Daughter of Rome is Biblical fiction with Priscilla and Aquila as main characters. From the basic facts recorded in the Book of Acts and Romans, Tessa Afshar draws out a tale that spans the couple’s exodus from Rome to Corinth and their subsequent work as evangelists. Priscilla is a Bible personality held in high regard due to her intellect, compassion, and mercy. This theme is a constant thread throughout the novel. Together, Priscilla and Aquila, are a formidable duo proclaiming the gospel to searching souls. The apostle Paul also figures prominently in this novel. Hats off to Afshar who captures Paul’s fervor with success. I’m sure it’s a daunting task to pen dialogue for this zealous missionary. Paul’s passion for spreading the gospel through teaching and advising while surviving persecution is true to the historical record.

Some of the most tender and fun moments occur when Priscilla and Aquila open their hearts and home to a runaway boy. The young runaway, Marcus, eventually wins a lasting place in their family group. A little revelry enters the story through the antics of Ferox, the family dog.

As you make your way through the book, details about Ancient Rome will pique your interest. Whether it’s political life or social customs, you’ll find yourself looking up additional references. Only in two or three instances did I feel the story’s pace was interrupted by some word choices that I will admit sent me to the dictionary. Dint and calumnious being two examples.

Overall, Afshar shares a story that shines a light on the importance of mercy and forgiveness. Two qualities as important to the ancient world as they are to communities today. In addition, readers will be impressed by the team of early Christians who persevered despite harsh treatment and threats on their life.

I jumped at the chance to read an advanced reader’s copy of Daughter of Rome by Tessa Afshar. I thought her previous book Bread of Angels was stellar. Naturally I had high expectations for this upcoming release due out February 4, 2020. I received this ARC from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. #DaughterofRome #NetGalley

The King’s Mercy

98942EB: The King"s Mercy: A Novel - eBook The King’s Mercy: A Novel – eBook

By Lori Benton / WaterBrook

Lori Benton chooses words with great attention to details. Her prose is rich. Her dialogue spot on. The characters speak with authentic voices drawing you into the narrative. I just finished reading Benton’s latest novel , The King’s Mercy, and found it entirely enjoyable. The setting spans the North Carolina landscape from the coast to the mountains. It’s a complete story with mystery, romance, history, and rock solid Christian theology. Her leading characters eventually arrive at a happy ending. The plot twists and turns make you wonder if better days for them will truly arrive. A repulsive character keeps you guessing throughout the story and his backstory and abhorrent behavior is revealed in its entirety.

I’m not sure which I liked best – the description of the North Carolina landscape, the rugged Scotsman, the faithful itinerant pastor, the Native American community, or the heroine, Joanna. Fans of historical fiction will be pleased to spend time with the characters in this book.

The King’s Mercy was a 2019 summer release and in my TBR queue. I’m so glad I picked it up to read. I was drawn to it because previously I read, A Flight of Arrows and found it to be equally satisfying. The e-book I read was an ARC that I accepted from the publisher. The review is my honest opinion of this historical fiction book. #TheKingsMercy#NetGalley


Music to Move You

CD87212: The Work, Volume 1 The Work, Volume 1

By Elias Dummer / Integrity Music

Former frontman for The City Harmonic, songwriter Elias Dummer makes his solo debut with The Work, Volume 1. This theologically rich collection blends folk-pop and intimate worship styles on “Enough,” “The Work (It Ain’t Easy),” “This Is Holy Ground,” and more.

Elias Dummer’s recent hit “Enough” will move you. My Pastor’s Wife introduced us to this song at a recent Bible study. The study is an examination of Paul’s letter to Colossians. The central message of this study is the supremacy of Christ and how he is enough. At each session we either open or close by listening to this song. Now at worship team practice with the lyrics in hand we are giving it a try. If you purchase the CD you can be treated to other creations by Elias Dummer.

I have not had Christian radio on for awhile since the reception both at home and in the car has been poor. Since I switched recently to streaming Air1 over the Internet I’ve had no trouble. There are many tremendous new songs to enjoy. Have you heard Matt Maher’s recent song titled Because He Lives. Also great! Happy listening.