King’s Shadow by Angela Elwell Hunt

About the book: Two women occupy a place in Herod’s court. The first, Salome, is the king’s only sister, a resentful woman who has been told she is from an inferior race, a people God will never accept or approve. 

The second woman, Zara, is a lowly handmaid who serves Salome, but where Salome spies conspiracies and treachery, Zara sees hurting people in need of understanding and compassion. 

Powerful and powerless, Idumean and Jew, selfish and selfless–both women struggle to reach their goals and survive in Herod the Great’s tumultuous court, where no one is trustworthy and no one is safe.

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Genre: Biblical fiction, Historical Fiction

Series: The Silent Years #4

My thoughts: I didn’t realize when I agreed to review this book that it was the final book in the series. I don’t think I missed out on too much though as this story seemed to stand on its own. While I did find it an interesting read I did have a couple of issues with it.

My first issue was the names of the characters. So many were so similar to each other that I had a difficult time keeping the characters straight in my mind while reading. I found myself rereading paragraphs just to try to figure out what was going on and who was who. After a while, I gave up on this and decided I’d just figure it out as I went.

My other issue with this book was all of the detail provided. It seemed like the story got bogged down in the details and it caused the pace of the book to be off. I found myself putting the book down often because of all the descriptions and detail. While I do like the detail in stories I read too much can be just as bad as not enough. That was the case in this book.

As far as the characters my favorite was Zara. It was interesting to read about how she became the handmaid and what was required of her in her service to Salome. Salome was somewhat likable but I never really felt a connection to her. Herod was almost impossible for me to like as well as all of his children.

All in all, this wasn’t a bad story and fans of biblical fiction will most likely enjoy it. I’m not sure I would pick up the rest of the books in this series. It just wasn’t really my cup of tea.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author: Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who expect the unexpected in novels. With over five million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 140 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to non-fiction books, to novels.

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Kappy King and the Pie Kaper

About the book

When an “accident” puts beloved bishop’s wife Alma Miller in a coma, many in Blue Sky are quick to blame struggling widow Frannie Lehman. Both women are the best bakers around, but for years Alma’s boysenberry pies have been more award-winning–and profitable–than Frannie’s. And with Alma out of this fall’s county festival, Frannie’s pie finally wins first prize. But when Alma dies and Frannie’s children fall victim to gossip and bullying, Kappy is determined to uncover the real truth.

Soon Kappy and her outcast friend Edie have their hands full of odd clues. What do Alma’s strange last words mean? Why would someone break into her house just to steal a quilt? Who is the mysterious new piemaker in town–and why is she still in Blue Sky after losing the festival competition? When long-buried family secrets and contested legacies start getting into the mix, Kappy and Edie must work fast before another victim gets a deadly pie in the face …

Publication Date:  December 18, 2018

Publisher:  Zebra

Genre:  Amish Fiction, Cozy Mystery

Series:  An Amish Mystery #3

My thoughts:  

The third installment in what I like to call the adventures of Kappy and Edie (and Jimmy) is just as much of a fun read as the first two. This time Kappy and Edie are on the case when the Bishop’s wife is attacked in her home. A message written in the flour provides the only clue for our dynamic duo. But they are (unofficially) on the case so the residents of Blue Sky, Pennsylvania can rest easy.

This book was such an entertaining and fun read. I adore the two main characters, three if you count Jimmy, and enjoy their banter back and forth. Banter made even more entertaining by the use of words from a word of the day calendar. (This book’s not only a fun read but an educational one!) Add in Jimmy’s quirks and the flirtation between Edie and Detective Jack Jones and I’m not sure how the author keeps the characters under control. But she does and it all comes together for a quick read.

From adorable front cover to the very last word this book will keep your interest. And with those three little dots that end the story, I’m hoping there are more crimes for Kappy and Edie to solve (and me to read about!) Don’t worry if you haven’t read the other two books in the series. This book can be read as a standalone. A definite must-read for cozy mystery fans!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not requird to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author

I’m a wife, mother, and bona fide Southern belle. Published author, expert corn bread maker, and Squirrel Princess.

I live in Tulsa, though I was born in Mississippi. I moved to the Sooner State when I was seventeen and met my soul mate and best friend not long after. I’ve retained a little of my Mississippi accent though most people think I’m from Texas. (?) Rob and I have been married for over twenty years and have a son–a mom proclaimed prodigy, of course!

I love homemade tacos, nail polish, and romance novels–not necessarily in that order. I’m a big fan of country music, a staunch proponent of saving the Oxford comma, and I’m shamefully obsessed with all things Harry Potter.

I believe that God is love. I guess that’s why I adore romances.

I have always been intrigued with the Amish culture, their gentle ways and slower-paced lifestyle. (And I love, love, love the fact that they stay married for their lifetime.) But until recently I never thought to blend this interest with my penchant for romance. Okay, okay, I’m a bit old-fashioned and even enjoy the gender roles that are present in this culture. I love to cook and take care of my family. Yes, that’s me June Cleaver with a laptop.

I dislike people trying to convince me to read the Twlight series (I’ll get to it or I won’t, either way I’m good with it), gratuitous violence, and strawberry ice cream. (I know I’m alone on this last one, and again, I’m good with it.)

Favorite movies–(besides HP) French Kiss, Maid of Honor, A Lot Like Love, Just Married, and Sweet Home Alabama. Oh, and Miss Congeniality, Sabrina (both versions) and a 1940’s movie called Dear Ruth. If you haven’t seen it, you should! A-dorable. Anything with Doris Day and most all of Marilyn’s and Audrey’s.

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Sit, Stay, Love by Dana Mentink

About the book:  

Take one abrasive professional athlete, a quirky out-of-work schoolteacher, and an overweight geriatric dog, and you’re ready for a lesson in love…Tippy style.

Pro baseball pitcher Cal Crawford is not a dog guy. When he inherits his deceased mother’s elderly dog, Tippy, he’s quick to call on a pet-sitting service.

Gina isn’t thrilled to be a dog sitter when her aspirations lie in the classroom. Furthermore, she can’t abide the unfriendly Cal, a man with all the charm of a wet towel. But with no other prospects and a deep love for all things canine, she takes the job caring for Tippy.

As Gina travels through Cal’s world with Tippy in tow, she begins to see Cal in a different light. Gina longs to show Cal the God-given blessings in his life that have nothing to do with baseball or fame. When her longing blooms into attraction, Gina does her best to suppress it. But Cal is falling in love with her too…

Discover the charming story of Tippy, the dog who brought a family together.

Publicatoin Date: April 1st 2016

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Genre: Romance, Contemporary fiction

Series: Love Unleashed #1

My review:  

A star baseball player. A down on her luck woman. A cantankerous and somewhat out of control dog. What a combination these three were to read about! Sit, Stay, Love is a sweet story of patience, love, and second chances.

I really enjoyed this sweet romance from Dana Mentink. Her writing pulled me into the story from the very beginning and kept me interested until the end. She created down-to-earth characters and a dog that had me smiling and laughing at her antics.

The story progresses at a natural and steady pace. Baseball being my favorite sport to watch I loved the “inside look” at spring training and how baseball players must feel with all the pressure to perform to the standards of fans and coaches. This really lent an authenticity to the story. I also liked the way the author wrote about more serious subjects without making the book too heavy of a read.

If you are looking for a sweet romance that isn’t too light or too heavy, Sit, Stay, Love is the perfect read. In fact, I highly recommend you purchase this book then Sit, Stay, Read!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the author:  

Dana Mentink enjoys writing in many different capacities. She currently writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House Publishers.

Dana is the recipient of a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and an ACFW Carol Award as well as a Holt Medallion Merit Award winner.

Dana loves feedback from her readers. Contact her via her website at www.danamentink.com

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

About the book: Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

Publication Date: July 30, 2019

Publisher: Gallery Books

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Series: Dove Pond #1

My thoughts: I requested this book from NetGalley based on the cover which I thought was pretty and the fact it had something to do about books. I didn’t read the description so I went into reading this book a bit blindly. This book was nothing like I thought it might be.

The author starts out with Sarah and Grace as young girls and we get to know a bit about who they are. Then fast-forward to present day and we see Grace and Sarah meet for the first time when Grace moves her family to Dove Pond. Grace’s family consists of her mom and her niece. They have moved back to Dove Pond because Mama G has dementia and a move back to her childhood home might make things easier on everyone. I thought the author did a fantastic job of portraying what it was like for Grace and Mama G as her dementia progressed and things became more difficult for each of them. Next door neighbor Travis Parker was a nice addition to the story and the fact that he had just gone through the same thing with his father made him a very believable character and support for Grace. I liked Sarah more though and I think that’s because she came across as more dimensional than Grace. Sarah was a softer character and one that I just thought I would have more in common with.

While I enjoyed the story I thought the pace was a bit slow at times and it seemed like the story was stuck. Things were repeated over and over and hopefully were edited out before the story was published. The book is 368 pages and could probably be trimmed down to 300 and not lose any of the story’s substance. At times I had a difficult time staying interested in the story and I think with some editing this wouldn’t have been an issue. One other thing was the rushed ending that wasn’t really an ending at all. I know there are more books to come in the series but it would be nice to have had some closure on the main part of the story (which isn’t about Sarah, by the way).

All in all, this isn’t a bad read and I was interested enough in the story and the characters that I would strongly consider reading the next book in the series. I don’t like unfinished endings and would like to know what happens next.

I received a complimentary copy of this book and wasn’t required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Hawkins writes novels that have been praised as touching, witty, charming, and heartwarming. A native Southerner who grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee where storytelling is a way of life, Karen recently moved to frosty New England with her beloved husband and multiple foster dogs. The Dove Pond books are a nod to the thousands of books that opened doors to more adventures, places, and discoveries than she ever imagined possible.

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The Cottage by Michael Phillips

About the book:

 Michael Phillips Continues His Sweeping Shetland Islands Saga…
When Loni Ford is informed that she has inherited property in the Shetland Islands, she laughs. She wants nothing more than to sell it and be done with it. But when she arrives in the North Sea enclave, she is stunned to find that “the Cottage” is not at all what she expected, nor is David Tulloch, the man most of the islanders believe to be the rightful heir.
The locals could hardly be more surprised that the heir is a woman–and an American. Loni, in turn, finds the islanders quaint and a bit behind the times. Expecting David to be as provincial as the rest of his clan, she discovers that there is far more to the man than meets the eye. And there is something about the peaceful atmosphere of the place–and the character of its most prominent citizen–that soon gets under her skin.
Beneath the peaceful surface, however, change is threatening the island of Whale’s Reef. David’s cousin Hardy Tulloch, whose claim to the inheritance now in Loni’s hands was backed by oil investors, has not been deterred in his aim to control the island. But his co-conspirators have plans of their own, plans that put Loni’s very life in danger.

Publication Date:  October 4, 2016

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Series: Secrets of the Shetlands #2

My review:

 I received this book through Bethany House Publisher’s reviewer program. I didn’t realize it was the second in a series but that didn’t seem to matter when I started reading the book. It does quite well as a standalone even though I felt like I should have known things that were talked about.

This book was an enjoyable read for me. I found the story interesting and unlike anything I have read before. The author did a great job with descriptions and historical facts. This made the story more believable and authentic. Even though it took a bit of time to get accustomed to the Scottish brogue used by the Shetlanders I found the author’s use of this made the story more genuine. It made me feel as if I were there on the island listening in to their conversations.

While this book is over 400 pages I didn’t find the story to lag at any time. The story unfolds at a steady pace and the author’s writing style is easy to read. The book flows easily from chapter to chapter making it easy to stay interested in.

This book was a nice escape and a nice visit to the Shetland Islands. If you like stories rich in personal history and family you will find this an interesting read.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions in this review are mine.

About the author:  

Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland.

A Picture Perfect Christmas by Candee Fick

About the book:  

From disowned to daughter to “I do?”

Freelance photographers Liz Foster and Ryan Callahan are finally making plans for their future. And what better time to get married than during the festive holiday season that brought them together? If only Liz’s parents weren’t standing in the way of a picture-perfect wedding.

Spurred on by the ghosts of Christmases past, Dan Foster has already written Liz out of his will, so even attending the wedding—let alone walking his daughter down the aisle—is out of the question. However, this is the season for miracles and Ryan will do anything to make his bride smile.

What will it take to bring this family back together in time for the wedding?

If you like Christmas weddings, family reunions, and happily-ever-afters, then you’ll love this next chapter in The Wardrobe series by Candee Fick. Pick up Picture Perfect Christmas and start celebrating the season today.

(NOTE: This book is a follow-up to Focus On Love and is best understood if read in that order.)

Publication Date:  November 12, 2018

Genre:  Inspirational Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Series:  The Wardrobe Series, book 4

My thoughts

At the end of Focus on Love, where readers followed Liz and Ryan’s relationship, I was disappointed. The book ended suddenly and I didn’t get the ending I wanted with all the details. I felt like there were loose ends that needed tying up and I also just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters. A Picture Perfect Christmas is like the author saying “I heard you Kristi, and here you go”. Finally, I (and other readers) get the answers to “what happens next?”.

Readers return to Liz and Ryan’s relationship with letters to her mom from different locations. Through this, we get to learn what’s been happening with this couple and also the status of Liz and her parents’ relationship. This was a wonderful way to start the story and catch up with (or be introduced to) these characters. Throughout the story, we also get to learn more about Liz’s parents and especially her dad’s past which reveals a lot about their relationship issues.

The story has a good pace to it and at just a bit over 100 pages, it is a quick read. It’s a great book for a lazy afternoon spent reading in a comfy chair. As with the other books in the series, this book as a young adult feel to it but not so much that older readers won’t enjoy it. Although this book can be read as a standalone I wouldn’t recommend it. The story will make much more sense if Focus on Love is read first. But, I would recommend reading the entire series in order. They are wonderfully written books that will appeal to readers of all ages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author but was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author:  

Author of inspirational romance, non-fiction, and devotionals. Candee is married to a high school football coach and is the mother of three, including a child with special needs (thus providing inspiration for her first two non-fiction titles).

In addition to her non-fiction devotionals, she writes faith-based romance novels for the Bling! Romance imprint. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a Double Finalist/Winner in the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the short novel category.

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The Healing Jar by Wanda E. Brunstetter

About the book:

What if you have waited to find love only to be rejected when it finally comes?

Lenore Lapp is an Amish schoolteacher in her late twenties still living at home with her parents and grandparents. She thought love had passed her by until she meets Jesse Smucker, a widower with a baby daughter. She quickly falls in love with them both and accepts Jesse’s proposal of marriage, but Jesse breaks off their engagement when he realizes he can’t marry only for convenience.

Resigned to living single, Lenore throws herself into caring for her elders. While working in her grandmother’s garden, she digs up an old jar. Will Lenore find healing for her broken heart and solve long-buried family secrets by reading the note contained inside?

Publication Date: August 1, 2019

Publisher: Shiloh Run Press

Genre: Amish fiction

Series: The Prayer Jars #3

My thoughts: Book 3 of The Prayer Jars wraps up the series in a way that will leave readers satisfied. While the primary focus of this story is Lenore Lapp we also get to catch up with Sara and Michelle from the previous books. In addition to catching up with characters, there are new ones to meet and grow to love.

Fans of Wanda Brunstetter are sure to love this book and the conclusion to the series. It is a well-written, down-to-earth read that is hard to put down and will have readers wanting to visit Amish country as soon as possible. I recommend this book to fans of the author and the genre. It can be read as a standalone so if you haven’t read the other two books in the series that is ok though I highly recommend reading those as well.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the author: Wanda Brunstetter is an award-winning romance novelist who has led millions of readers to lose their heart in the Amish life. She is the author of over 100 books with more than 11 million copies sold. Many of her books have landed on the top bestseller lists, including the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, USA Today, CBA, ECPA, and CBD. Wanda is considered one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre, and her work has been covered by national publications, including Time Magazine, USA Today, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, and Country Woman. Wanda’s books have been translated into four foreign languages.

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