Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Return by Nicholas Sparks

Sparks is a great story teller and this is another good novel about the power of love, both romantic love and the selfless, giving kind of love. The character development is mediocre. Each of the main characters has huge secrets that are very slowly revealed. I wondered if I would ever know what happened to Trevor in the Middle East and why he experienced PTSD. I wondered if I would ever know why Natalie was so hesitant to allow herself to love Trevor. At times I was frustrated with unexplained actions by characters and got a little impatient.

Two aspects of the book I really liked. One was the setting. I felt Sparks did an excellent job of anchoring the story in the location. I felt like I was there. I also liked learning about bees.

But I was also troubled by one aspect of the plot. Trevor and Natalie fall madly in love and after two weeks of various times together, without much of really getting to know each other, they walk hand in hand to the bedroom. I almost quit reading right there. That such a beautifully crafted love would turn almost immediately to physical desire just turned me off. By the end of the book I was satisfied with the total story but as a reader, I felt I had been deceived. I didn't like it. That scene could have certainly been rewritten so as not to be deceptive without changing the ultimate story at all.

The plot revolves around misunderstanding, past hurts, forgiveness and restoration. I felt the whole story was a bit predictable but then, that's probably why we read Sparks. We love it when everybody gets to live happily ever after. While not his best novel, it was entertaining.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Nicholas Sparks is a popular author with over 100 million copies of his books sold. His novels include fifteen #1 New York Times bestsellers. Eleven of his books have been made into motion pictures. You can find out more at

Grand Central Publishing, 368 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Dangerous Pursuits by Susan Hunter

I enjoyed this novel, the latest in the Leah Nash series. The co-owner of a small town newspaper, I really like how Leah gets involved in solving murders. She is a good amateur sleuth, taking risks, making leaps in investigative thinking, getting herself in precarious situations, and ultimately identifying the murderer. She is also feisty in her defense of a print newspaper, going head to head with a competing online news service.

Hunter's writing style is good. I like how she balances Leah's unusual sleuthing activities with relationship issues. And Leah does have relationship issues, often being abrupt or critical. Forgiving are the two men who love her. Yes, two. And there is a hint at the end of this novel that the guy I am rooting for may have a chance.

I like the supporting characters, especially Miguel. Everyone should have a sidekick like him. And Courtney. Could there be a more ditsy and ineffectual receptionist?

This is another good novel in the Leah Nash Mysteries. The plot is good with a fine, even though expected, twist at the end, leading to a quick but of suspense. I have enjoyed seeing Leah mature as I have read through all the books in the series. I will definitely be looking for the next one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Susan Hunter spent years as a reporter and then managing editor of a small daily newspaper. She then worked at a university in publications and marketing, also teaching a few classes in English composition. She and her husband live in rural Michigan.

Severn River Publishing, 420 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Certain Threat Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book: Certain Threat

Author: Kimberly Rose Johnson

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Katrina White’s garage explodes and she fears someone is out to get her.

Not long after Katrina overhears two people talking about robbing the bank where she works, her attached garage explodes. With the help of her neighbor, Frank Davis, she escapes the burning home after a storage shelf falls over, trapping her beneath it.

The co-owner of Protection Inc. has one thing on his mind for the week of Christmas—rest and relaxation, but when his favorite neighbor needs his help he calls in his team. Unable to turn their backs on someone Frank clearly has feelings for, the co-owners agree to help out Katrina.

When things escalate, Frank is certain of two things—he cares a lot for Katrina and he can’t let anything happen to her.

Join the team of Protection Inc. this Christmas where love is in the air even in the midst of danger.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review 

I enjoyed this contemporary romantic suspense. Johnson's writing style is straight forward and easy to read. There are no confusing plot twists. The character interactions and dialogue are good. The romance is done well with one developing in this novel and another expanding from a previous novel. I appreciate the setting, especially Warm Beach. Having been there many times, I do wish Johnson would have included more description, such as glimpses of the snow capped Olympic Mountains across the sound.

This is a good book for readers who like a straightforward novel with a clear plot and understandable characters. You will not be distracted by clever literary techniques but will find a good spiritual message tucked inside.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Award winning author Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing. She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul.

Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

More from Kimberly

Certain Threat was one of my favorite books to write. There are three point of view characters. Two have been in the series from book one and the third is a new addition in this book.

I adore Frank, the hero of this book. The man is tough, honest, and always does his best to do the right thing. He’s a good example for his younger business partners who like to do things their own way, especially Carissa.

For me the most fun part about writing this book was getting inside Frank’s head. He comes across as tough and sometime gruff, but he is a marshmallow on the inside when it comes to Katrina, his neighbor. Katrina brings out a side in Frank we haven’t yet witnessed and it was a blast to write—no pun intended. LOL you’ll understand when you read the book.

I look forward to writing future books in this series and going deeper with the rest of the Protection Inc. team and their friends.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 19

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 19

Worthy2Read, October 20

21st Century Keeper at Home, October 20

Texas Book-aholic, October 21

Inklings and notions, October 22

deb's Book Review, October 22

Betti Mace, October 23

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, October 23

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, October 24

Mary Hake, October 24

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 25

April Hayman, Author, October 25

Splashes of Joy, October 26

Artistic Nobody, October 26 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, October 27

mypreciousbitsandmusings, October 27

Aryn the Libraryan, October 28

CarpeDiem, October 28

For Him and My Family, October 29

Daysong Reflections, October 29

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 30

Bigreadersite, October 30

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 31

Blossoms and Blessings, October 31

Simple Harvest Reads, November 1 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Bizwings Blog, November 1


To celebrate her tour, Kimberly is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Praying for Emily by Tom, Kari and Emily Whitehead with Danelle Morton

This is a very touching story. I am impressed with the honesty of Emily's parents as they share their journey. We readers follow along as they see the bruises then receive the diagnosis. We share in their momentary celebrations and grieve with them on the setbacks. Then there is a relapse, indicating the cancer had become resistant to the standard therapies. There is the suggestion to arrange hospice. Then there is the hope of a new type of treatment.

In addition to being a very well written memoir, this book is very informative. I found out how a bone marrow transplant works, including the high dose of chemo and full body radiation wiping out the bone marrow, making room for the healthy cells to grow.

I learned about T cell therapy, how the cells are harvested from the patient's blood by separating them in a specially designed centrifuge, growing them, attaching a synthetic molecule giving them the ability to recognize and destroy cancer cells, then reinfusion, increasing their presence in the blood stream. The engineered T cells continue to kill cancer cells until they are gone. While the therapy had been tried on a few adults, Emily was the first child to experience it. And it did not go well. Soon it looked like Emily would die.

There is a very positive aspect of this memoir, revealing the faith and dogged determination of Emily's parents. Emily is a trooper through so much of the treatments. And there are special people who come alongside like Nurse Karli and her well planned illustrated treatment explanations for Emily. There were university students like Becky and Ariana and dedicated family members.

There is an agonizingly realistic side to the memoir too. Emily's parents were desperate at times, moving Emily from one hospital to another and then back, unsure of where the best treatment for Emily was to be found. They second guessed their choices. They alienated one doctor with their decision and subsequent reversal. Such raw honesty will certainly encourage other parents in a similar situation.

I highly recommend this captivating memoir, well written and informative. It will inspire your.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Tom, Kari, and Emily Whitehead are cofounders of the Emily Whitehead Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for pediatric cancer immunotherapy research. Emily's story has been featured in Ken Burn's PBS documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, HBO's VICE Special Report: Killing Cancer, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Parents magazine, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, Fox News, CNN, and the Stand Up to Cancer telethon. The Whitehead family travels worldwide as keynote speakers to inspire others and advocate for research funding to develop less-toxic childhood cancer treatments. When they aren't traveling, Tom works as a journey lineman for Penelec of First Energy, and Kari is a registered dietitian and research project manager. Emily attends high school and plans to become an artist or filmmaker. They live in Central Pennsylvania.

Danelle Morton is a journalist and author who has collaborated on sixteen books including four New York Times bestsellers.

Worthy Publishing, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Sowing Season by Katie Powner

About the Book:

Forced to sell his family farm after sacrificing everything, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga no longer knows what to do with himself. 15-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts about The Plan her parents set to help her follow in her father's footsteps. When their paths cross just as they need a friend the most, Gerrit's and Rae's lives change in unexpected ways.

My Review:

This is certainly a touching novel. Having been raised on a farm in western Washington and being of Dutch descent, Powner has done a good job of creating Gerrit and his dedication to the dairy farm. His stubbornness and decisions to put the farm before the needs of his children is very real. I could understand how he had alienated his children and his wife. Right on for character construction there.

I appreciate the interesting correlation between Rae's teenage social interaction development and the older Gerrit's struggle with the same. Powner added another young person, Morgan, painfully figuring out what the future held. I was engaged in how these people really tried to figure out new experiences and relationships.

One aspect of the novel I found lacking was the setting. Gerrit felt the land was very important to him. He loved it and he loved working outside. But we readers never really saw what he would have seen, the snow capped Cascades to the east or the towering Olympics to the west. Was the farm flat or with hills? Were there pockets of trees as is often the case in western Washington farms? I at first thought the story's location was up north towards Lynden where there are so many Dutch farmers. But then it became clear the location was farther south and close to I-5. I would have liked to see the narrative grounded more distinctly in its location.

This is a touching novel and I recommend it. Older readers will appreciate the struggles Gerrit had in trying to find his way after life as he had known it for decades suddenly changed. The novel is a very good debut effort and I will certainly be looking for the next one from this author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Katie Powner grew up on a dairy farm in the Pacific Northwest but now calls Montana her home. She has worked alongside her husband in youth ministry for over a decade and is a mom to the third power: biological, adoptive, and foster. In addition to writing fiction, she blogs about family and advocates for more families to open their homes to children in need. The Sowing Season is her debut novel. You can find out more at Photo: E.A.H. Creative Photography.

Bethany House Publishers, 368 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Backlash by Rachel Dylan

The emphasis in this novel is character relationships more than suspense. Many of the characters are from the first book in the series. This plot concentrates on Layla, a CIA Agent and Izzy, an NCIS Agent. Both women come under investigation and must defend themselves to save their careers. Layla is being accused of being a double agent and Izzy is a suspect in the murder of a colleague who assaulted her when she was in the police department. There is some sporadic suspense as the leader of a cartel wants to kill Layla. This is a result of an operation happening before the events in this novel.

A central aspect of Layla's part of the plot is a mole in the CIA and her location being repeatedly revealed. Crooked law enforcement officials seem to be a popular plot point right now and finding one in this novel disappointed me. Izzy's part of the plot dealt with sexual assault. That brought added interest to the novel as I am not sure Layla's story would have been sufficient.

There is a very good Christian message in this novel as Layla reconnects with Hunter, a man who previously hurt her deeply. Forgiveness and honestly is essential in re-establishing their relationship. He has had doubts about his faith and that is addressed well.

The end to this novel is a bit quick. When Layla's issues are finally cleared up, all of a sudden Izzy's are too. That seemed a bit unrealistic to me.

This is the second in a series but read well on its own. You can read my review of the first in the series, End Game, here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Rachel Dylan is an award-winning and bestselling author of legal thrillers and romantic suspense. She has practiced law for over a decade, including being a litigator at one of the nation's top law firms. Her works have won the Holt Medallion, the Maggie Award, and the FHL Reader's Choice Award. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their five furkids. You can find out more at Photo: Erika Aitken Photography.

Bethany House, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, October 16, 2020

Saving Grace Blog Tour and Giveaway

Saving Grace

A Psychological Thriller

by D.M. Barr

on Tour October 12 - November 13, 2020


Grace Pierrepoint Rendell, the only child of an ailing billionaire, has been treated for paranoia since childhood. When she secretly quits her meds, she begins to suspect that once her father passes, her husband will murder her for her inheritance. Realizing that no one will believe the ravings of a supposed psychotic, she devises a creative way to save herself – she will write herself out of danger, authoring a novel with the heroine in exactly the same circumstances, thus subtly exposing her husband's scheme to the world. She hires acclaimed author Lynn Andrews to help edit her literary insurance policy, but when Lynn is murdered, Grace is discovered standing over the bloody remains. The clock is ticking: can she write and publish her manuscript before she is strapped into a straitjacket, accused of homicide, or lowered six feet under?

With a cast of secondary characters whose challenges mirror Grace's own, Saving Grace is, at it's core, an allegory for the struggle of the marginalized to be heard and live life on their own terms.

"A psychological thriller with more than enough twists, turns, and misdirection to keep even the most jaded reader turning pages all night long."

–Lori Robbins, author of the Silver Falchion Award-winning novel, Lesson Plan for Murder 

My Review:

This is an interesting psychological thriller. While it got off to a slow start, I was hooked half way through. Grace is a well crafted heroine. I liked that the plot developed in such a way that we are as confused as she is. Is she really loosing it or is it the medication? Does her husband love her or is he really plotting her demise? Are her friends helping her or are they in on the scheme?

There is not the intensity of psychological fear in this novel that I have experienced in some thrillers. That would make this a good book for readers who enjoy a not so scary thriller. I will be looking for more from this author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Domestic Suspense
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: October 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-1684335565
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BlackRose Writing | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

One felony was all it took to convince Andrea Lin she was better suited to committing crime on paper than in person. As renowned mystery author Lynn Andrews, she understood conflict equaled good drama. Like her readers, she should have expected the hiccups, even relished them. What she hadn’t counted on was the accompanying agita, especially while sitting in her Bergen County kitchen, far from the action at the Bitcoin Teller Machine.

Her one job had been to place a single phone call when the money hit and tell the hacker to lift the encryption on Grace’s computer. Trouble was, her dozen calls remained unanswered until a few minutes ago, throwing their meticulous plan off schedule.

Andrea stroked the blue-gray Nebulung purring on her lap and tried to ignore the churning in her stomach. “Denver, the next time I consider helping a sibling with some crazy scheme, you have my permission to use my leg as a scratching post until I come to my senses. Agreed?”

Denver looked up, his green eyes filled with innocence, and answered with a single meow before leaping onto the table toward her plate of shortbread cookies.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” She sipped her tea, willing the sugar to sweeten the acrid taste in her mouth. The phone interrupted her meditation. No doubt a check-in from her brother, the extorter-in-chief.

“I figured you’d have called by now. Everything on track?” Joe’s strained voice conveyed his own jangled nerves. They’d agreed to be vague when communicating. In these days of Siri and Alexa, anyone could be listening.

“Finally. Took forever to get through to our friend, but she said she’d take care of ‘our project’ as soon as her meetings wrapped up. From here on out though, I’m sticking to fiction. Real-life intrigue is too stressful.”

Andrea missed Joe’s response, instead perplexed by her cats’ sudden change of behavior. Denver had tilted his head and leapt from the table; Vail and Aspen sat frozen, ears perked, staring toward the foyer. Then she heard it too, the sound of papers shuffling in the living room. She leaned forward, muscles taut, hackles raised, ready to pounce. “Joe, hold on a sec. I think someone’s in the house. I’ll call you back later.”


“Wait, what? Andrea??” Silence. The connection was dead.

After twenty minutes of weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic to travel one mile, Joe “Hack” Hackford pulled up outside his sister’s Ridgewood home. Adrenaline pumping on overdrive, he jumped from his car and sprinted toward the house. Door wide open—not an encouraging sign. He steeled his nerves and hastened inside. The living room looked like a hurricane’s aftermath, with furniture overturned and papers littering the carpets and floor.

“Andrea? Are you here?” He rushed into the kitchen, which lacked any signs of their celebratory dinner—no spaghetti boiling on the stove, no cake rising in the oven. Only the door to the backyard ajar and a shriek emanating from the next room, piercing the eerie silence. Hair stiffening at the back of his neck, he raced into the dining room where a redheaded woman stood frozen, staring across the room.

“Who the hell are you?” he growled.

The stranger remained wide-eyed and unresponsive. He followed her gaze to the floor, where he witnessed the unthinkable. His beloved sister lay in the corner, surrounded by a pool of blood, a kitchen knife stuck in her chest. Her eyes remained fixed on the ceiling. A trio of feline guards circled her lifeless body.

Hack’s knees turned to jelly, and he grabbed onto a chair for support, forcing back the remains of the snack he’d consumed only minutes earlier. Once the initial shock waned, he reverted his attention back to the intruder. At second glance, she did look somewhat familiar, though the woman he’d met a few weeks back—the missing heiress whose computer they’d just hacked—was brunette. Had she uncovered their con? With a bolt of fury, he reached forward and pulled the wig from her head. A thousand questions zigzagged in his brain, but only one forced its way past his lips:

“Oh my God. Grace. Oh my God. What the hell have you done?”


Excerpt from Saving Grace by D.M. Barr. Copyright 2020 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.

My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they're off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won't friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.

The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I've never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed anyone at my local diet clinic. And I haven't run away from home in fear that my husband was planning to off me.

But that's not to say that I haven't wanted to…

Catch Up With Our Author On:, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Click here to view Saving Grace by D.M. Barr Participants


Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 12, 2020 and runs through November 15, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. 
(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Death Long Overdue by Eva Gates

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. It is the first one I've read in this series but found it enjoyable without having read the previous books. Lucy is a likable heroine. A librarian, she has good instincts and a desire to know the truth. When a murder occurs during her boss's reunion of college classmates, Lucy is on the case. I like her procedure of doggedly pursuing leads.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this cozy mystery was the setting, a library in a lighthouse. While there is a real working Bodie Island Lighthouse on the outer banks of North Carolina, Gates says it is not large enough to house a library so she imagined one that was.

This is a fun mystery with some entertaining and quirky characters, a good amateur sleuth, a fun setting, and just a hint of romance.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Eva Gates is a national bestselling author who began her writing career as a Sunday writer: a single mother of three high-spirited daughters, with a full time job as a computer programmer. She has now written more than twenty novels, some under the Vicki Delany name. She lives in Ontario. You can find out more at and

Crooked Lane Books, 372 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)