Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Green Dress by Liz Tolsma

This is another good novel in the True Colors series, novels based on actual criminal events from time past. It takes place in Boston in the 1880s. The heroine is Harriet who had been taken in by the Robinson family in 1882, when Harriet first arrived in Boston. Several members of the extended Robinson family have died from the same malady. As the novel opens, another Robinson is dying, Harriet's good friend, Lizzie. Harriet enlists the aid of a new doctor in town and the situation becomes quite dangerous for her.

Tolsma is an accomplished historical fiction author and she does a good job of taking us into the tragic situation. The Author Notes at the end of the book reveal that most of the aspects of the novel are based on recorded facts. Tolsma does a good job of fleshing out the story by crafting the characters and building a budding romance between Harriet and the young doctor.

This is a good novel for readers who enjoy historical fiction done well.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Liz Tolsma is a popular speaker and editor and the owner of the Write Direction Editing. She has written several WW II novels, several prairie romance novellas,and an Amish novel. She lives in Wisconsin with with her husband and their children, all adopted internationally.

Barbour 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, May 30, 2020

Before & After: a Christian Poetry Collection by Larissa Hinton

I rarely read poetry, thanks to a high school English teacher convincing me I couldn't understand it. I am so glad I read this collection of poems expressing the difference in life without Christ and with Him. They are overflowing with expression I easily embraced. Hinton uses words with stunning clarity, words that draw out emotion, words that elicit a response.

I love how her pairs of poems contrast life before and after Christ. Her two poems about waiting clearly show the frustration of waiting without Christ and the blissful, relationship building of waiting for God to act with Christ. Her contrasts of worldly love and divine love are breath taking.

Here is one of my favorite sections of the Divine Love poem:

Despite the flaws
Love still reaches out with a single touch
And heals the brokenhearted
Cradles the tender heart
Hears the wounds of years of darkness
And yet still pours into them anyway. (35)

Here's a section from her poem about Evil::

You can never buy
Swindle
Hoodwink
Your way out of darkness.

Only a sacrifice will do. (19)

I think you'll want to have a journal with you when you read these poems. Her poems about weight and eating and the experience of fasting could well be life changing for you. Her poems challenge. They encourage. They invite you to feel, to think, to react.

I highly recommend this collection of well crafted poems of life before and after Christ.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Larissa Hinton is a young adult fantasy and paranormal romance author. She lives in northern Virginia.

Amazon Services, 73 pp.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. 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.)

The Neglected C S Lewis by Mark Neal and Jerry Root

I thought I was familiar with the works of C. S. Lewis. I'd read all his fiction and a few of his popular nonfiction books, like Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain. I now realize I was familiar with only a portion of Lewis's works. Lewis was a fellow at Oxford University and later Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English Literature at Cambridge University. He wrote a number of academic books, often bringing attention to neglected works of others he felt were of significance. He felt the knowledge gained from reading historical works was important and prevented what he called “chronological snobbery.”

Lewis's academic works are hard going and I wondered if they were worth pursuing. Neal and Root go through eight of the fifteen academic works Lewis wrote, highlighting major ideas. In An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis wrote about readers. He distinguished the few who totally immerse themselves in the literary experience. They need little detail because of a fertile imagination. On the other hand are the many. They require lots of action and are not changed by what they read. The concepts in the chapter on this book convinced me reading hard books is worthwhile.

Here are some highlights from the other Lewis books reviewed in this one. Lewis gave an example of an academic dialogue without rancor in The Personal Heresy. Another chapter includes Lewis's thoughts on poetry as well as interesting comments on Bible translations. Yet another includes Lewis on imagination and its use in comprehending reality. The chapter on The Allegory of Love, reveals the development of passionate love. Yet another chapter deals with how language changes over time.

Lewis drew the attention of his contemporaries to important works he felt were valuable but being neglected. Neal and Root have done the same for Lewis here. Whether one ultimately decides to read these obscure works of Lewis or not, reading this book will help gain insight into Lewis's ideas that formed the basis for much of his works with which we are familiar, such as his fiction.

I like how these authors glean lessons out of Lewis' more obscure books. They assure us that Lewis's writing, though academic, still holds readers' interest because of his writing style and humor. Reading the academic works of Lewis will give us windows onto a greater world, the authors say. Our perspective will be broadened.

I recommend reading this book to get a greater understanding of the writings of Lewis. It might be hard going for the general lay person but it is worth the effort to understand Lewis better and be introduced to concepts in his academic works.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mark Neal has lectured, taught and published internationally on Lewis for the last ten years. He is the co-author of The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis. He works as the VP of a Chicago-area marketing firm. He is married with two children.
Jerry Root is a Professor at Wheaton College and visiting Professor at Biola University. He has a MDiv from Talbot Graduate School of Theology and a PhD through the Open University at the Oxford Center for Mission Studies. He has been studying C S Lewis for 50 years and teaching about him for 40 years. He has lectured on Lewis in various universities world wide.

Paraclete Press, 196 pages. This book releases June 18.

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.)

Friday, May 29, 2020

Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing

I really liked this cozy mystery set in Colorado wine territory. I like Parker, who is desperate to make her new winery a successful enterprise. She turns into an amateur sleuth when a food critic is poisoned drinking her chardonnay on opening day. I have a bent toward amateur sleuths and liked the whole investigative process. The villain was no surprise to me as there were plenty of hints to this character along the way.

The strength of this cozy mystery is the information about wine. I had no idea, for example, that grapes take on the flavor of plants growing around them, such as peaches or apples. And I never understood the big deal of pairing food with wine. Lansing explained how the flavors compliment each other, bringing out the best but not overpowering the taste experience.

My favorite part of the book, however, was the life lesson it contained. It's the imperfections that give wine tannins, ultimately adding flavor and texture to the wine. Just like life, imperfections challenge us and make us better people.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery and Lansing's first full length novel. She's off to a good start on this series. I'll be watching for the next one. I liked the recipes included in the book too.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kate Lansing is an award-winning short story author with her work appearing in anthologies. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She and her husband live in Denver, Colorado, with their three year old daughter.

Berkeley, 304 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.)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Comparison Girl Blog Tour



About the Book:

Women compare constantly – on social media, in their neighborhood, at church, even in the school drop-off lane. They glance sideways and ask themselves, “How do I measure up?” All this assessment feels like a natural way of finding a place in the world. But it pulls them into feelings of inferiority or superiority, guiding them into a trap of antagonism by the enemy.

Satan would like women to strive to measure up, constantly adding to a tally sheet that can't ever be balanced. The way of Jesus is completely upside down from that philosophy. Instead, he says the last shall be first--and the greatest are those who empty themselves, lay down their lives, and serve each other.

Through conversations Jesus had and parables he shared, Shannon Popkin has created a seven-week Bible study to address this tendency to compare and judge ourselves and others. Each chapter is divided into lessons, allowing women on a time budget to read a Bible passage, engage in a complete train of thought related to the topic, and then make the content personal--all in one sitting. And the informal teaching tone will make women feel like they're meeting with a trusted friend.

Suited for both individual and group study, Comparison Girl will guide women to leave their measure-up ways behind, connect with those around them, and break free from the shackles of comparison!

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

I am impressed with this study. I found it well written and very challenging. I liked the format. There are six chapters but a total of 25 lessons. One could do a chapter a week for a six week study or do a lesson a week for a longer study. Each lesson contains a Bible reading, a story illustration, a teaching from Jesus, a meditation on lesson truths, and questions for application. I would suggest having a journal near by to write down thoughts and answers to the questions.

My favorite section was the lessons involving church. One explored the gifts we are given to use in ministry. Popkin reminds us that the gifts are differences meant to unify us. Another whole chapter was devoted to women's ministries. She uses the parable of the workers coming at different times yet all getting paid the same. She notes that equality is one of the wrong assumptions we have about the Kingdom. Wow. Those were hard hitting lessons.

This is a good study encouraging us to live by kingdom standards, not the measure of the world. Popkin encourages us to get the focus off ourselves and rather focus on helping others. This is a good study and I highly recommend it.

Food for thought: “Instead of measuring ourselves against each other, let's exalt God and serve one another.” (23)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Shannon Popkin is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves pointing others to the truth of God’s Word. She combines her gifts for humor and storytelling with her passion for Jesus. She regularly speaks at Christian women’s events and retreats, encouraging women of all ages to put their hope in God.

Popkin is also a regular contributor for the Revive Our Hearts True Woman and Leader Connection blogsHer articles have been published by Family Fun, Focus on the Family Magazine, MOMsense and others. She is the author of several books, including Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, Influence: Building a Platform That Elevates Jesus (Not Me), and Comparison Girl: Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-Up World.

Popkin and her husband, Ken, have been married for more than twenty years and live in West Michigan. They have three children—one in high school and two in college.


Connect with Shannon Popkin by visiting www.shannonpopkin.com, following her on Facebook (shanpopkin), Instagram (shannonpopkin), or Twitter (@ShannonPopkin).



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

(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.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Driftwood Dreams Blog Tour


About the Book


Book:  Driftwood Dreams
Author: T.I. Lowe
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 1, 2020

Josie Slater has allowed the circumstances anchoring her in Sunset Cove to become a life sentence. Since her mother’s death years before, she’s spent most of her waking hours helping her dad run the Driftwood Diner. As her best friends, Opal and Sophia, make their dreams come true, Josie watches her own art school aspirations drift on by. But when a French-speaking Southern gentleman from her past moves back from Europe, Josie is launched into a tizzy of what-ifs and I-sure-do-hope-sos.
August Bradford left Sunset Cove six years ago to sow some life oats and conquer his ambitious career goals. Finally ready to lay down some roots, the successful artist is back in town and determined to win Josie’s heart. When he enlists Josie’s help in the preparations for a children’s art camp, Josie finds herself unleashing her artistic side in a way she hasn’t since before her mother’s death. August hopes to convince Josie to paint a life with him, but the problem is convincing her to let go of her apprehensions and give him—and her dreams—a fair chance.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This novel is pure romance. No prominent supporting issues in the plot. Just romance. It's the setting and the characters that make the book. The coastal setting is interesting, but squid praline ice cream? The characters are crafted well. August is a charmer, liked by all the women. Josie is dorky but she has a heart for other people that will not quit. My favorite character was quirky Miss Dalma. What a smart woman in the end.

The obstacle to the romance between August and Josie centers around her sincere desire to help others, including her widowed father. She is hesitant to pursue love when it might leave her father with less support, something he needed from her when her mother died. Josie is so giving that she would rather suffer than inconvenience anyone. How can she possibly step out and fulfill her own desires?

I enjoyed this straight forward romance. I do like to learn something when I read a novel, rather than merely being entertained. There was a little about the art world but the plot almost completely centered on the romance. Lowe's writing style is good and the novel was fun.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author


Tonya “T.I.” Lowe is a native of coastal South Carolina. She attended Coastal Carolina University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she majored in Psychology but excelled in Creative Writing. In 2014, Tonya independently published her first novel, Lulu’s CafĂ©, which quickly became a bestseller. Now the author of 12 published novels with hundreds of thousands of copies sold, she knows she’s just getting started and has many more stories to tell. She resides near Myrtle Beach with her family.

Read an Excerpt


Josie’s reverie came to a screeching halt as the screen door squeaked open and ushered in not only a briny breeze, but also a vision from her past.
With a pronounced air of confidence, August Bradford walked over to the counter and halted in front of a dazed Josie. Her heart jolted at the sight of him, something only this man could elicit. He spoke—or at least his lips moved—but she couldn’t hear anything over the roar suddenly residing in her eardrums.
The Knitting Club’s table kicked up in volume, sounding like a bunch of hens clucking away, but there was no focusing on what they were clucking about either. She knew the answer anyway and had a feeling their timing wasn’t coincidental. All Josie could do was just stand there and stare, as if looking into his silvery-blue eyes had turned her to stone. With a hint of purple near the center, those uniquely hued eyes were made to belong to an artist such as August Bradford. The thick fringe of black eyelashes only emphasized their beauty. It was enough to spawn jealousy in Josie, her own fair lashes barely visible, but it didn’t. It only tempted her to stand there and stare unabashedly. Mouth agape, that’s exactly what she did.
“Are you okay?” A throaty voice penetrated the roar in her ears as a hand waved in front of her face.
Oh, my . . . that voice . . .
The words simply wouldn’t come—only pitiful squeaks of breaths escaped—so Josie did the only thing to come to mind. She hightailed it into the kitchen.

Blog Stops

Batya's Bits, May 28
CarpeDiem, May 28
Livin’ Lit, May 30
Hallie Reads, May 30
Remembrancy, June 2
Artistic Nobody, June 7 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
Simple Harvest Reads, June 7 (Guest review from Joni Truex)

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.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Shattered by Death Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book


Book:  Shattered by Death
Author: Catherine Finger
Genre:  Thriller/Suspense/Mystery
Release Date: June 2016

When Josie’s abusive soon-to-be-ex-husband had an affair with another woman, Josie could have murdered them. When someone does, Jo is the prime suspect and the only one who can solve the case.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review


I liked the plot of this mystery. Someone is framing Police Chief Jo, causing a great deal of tension within her police department. She has to investigate the murders while battling the doubt of her deputies and her own struggle to trust those close to her.

I have trouble liking Police Chief Jo. She is just not my idea of a heroine. She often exhibits immature behavior: “My inner sixth grader made an appearance.” (Loc 710) She often loses her cool. (Loc 1814) She doesn't control her speech: “That should not have left my mouth.” (Loc 1616) She is continually suspicious of people trying to help her and frequently over reacts. Her actions often require direction and control by others who love her, like Nick and Gino. She is just not my idea of an engaging character.

This is a novel for readers who like a good plot and don't mind a very troubled heroine. It is the second in a series. While it does read rather well on its own, there are many psychological issues in Jo's life that would be better understood by reading the first in the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author


Catherine Finger loves to dream, write, and tell stories. Recently retired from a wonderful career in public education, she celebrates the ability to choose how to spend her time in a new way during the second half of life. So far, she chooses to write books, ride horses, serve others, and generally find her way into and out of trouble both on the road and at home.  She lives in the Midwest with a warm and wonderful combination of family and friends.
Capsized by Death, the fourth novel in her Jo Oliver Thriller series, will be released by Elk Lake Publishing in November 2019. Anchored by Death, the third of her Jo Oliver novels, was a Bronze Medal winner at the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards; a 2018 Selah Awards finalist; and a finalist for the National Indie Excellence Awards. Her second Jo Oliver Thriller, Shattered by Death, was a finalist in the International Book Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards. Catherine and her novels have been featured on radio stations, blogs, and in numerous articles—all posted at www.CatherineFinger.com.
Catherine loves to interact with her readers at www.CatherineFinger.com. Follow her on Facebook at Catherine Finger, Author, and on Twitter at CatherineFinger@BeJoOliver.

More from Catherine


“If you could kill someone and get away with it, what would you do? How would you do it?”
Having posed this question over dessert during a really good first date several years ago—to my surprise and delight my date proceeded to share a story about an international cosmetic gone badly awry. I was so taken with this story, that I couldn’t wait to get home and start writing. And I did. That night I sat down to write a scene between two powerful women, intending one to toy with the other by playing with a jar of deadly moisturizer as they interacted.
As I wrote that night, an unexpected scene involving spiritual warfare popped into my head and onto the screen. The edgy, scary, lock-your-doors-before reading story I called Shattered by Death was born.
While the moisturizer scene didn’t ultimately stay in the book, the idea of powerful women pitted against each other did. I strive to create antagonists that are as strong—or stronger—than Jo Oliver. When I feel the tension of wondering whether or not Josie is going to make it out alive—that’s when I know I’m in the middle of a great story.
I hope you think so too.
Enjoy the read!
Catherine

Blog Stops

Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Catherine 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.)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Made in Hollywood Blog Tour


About the Book


Book:  Made in Hollywood
Author: Michelle Keener
Genre:  Christian Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 10, 2020

When a pastor’s son saves her life, can a prodigal daughter dare to believe in second chances?

Noah Shaw is almost thirty and he still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. Torn between running his business as a limo driver for Hollywood’s elite, and feeling called to ministry, he prays for direction. But he never expects that direction to include finding a woman near-death on the front steps of his father’s church.

Hannah left her family and her faith when she moved to Hollywood looking for adventure. Instead of finding fame in the movies, she was lured into the life of an exotic dancer. Hopeless and ashamed, suicide seems like her only escape. Until the night Noah saves her life.

The Shaw family welcomes her into their home and gives her a chance to start over. When the shadows of her former life threaten to expose her past, she must choose between running away or fighting for the new life she’s built and the man she’s grown to love.

Click here for your copy.

My Review

This is an engaging novel and a good retelling of the truth contained in the biblical story of the prodigal son. Hannah is a well crafted character although I was disappointed she did not have a better understanding of grace and forgiveness, having grown up as a pastor's kid. Noah is a good hero, a man with compassion and a desire to really do God's will, as soon as he figures it out. And Kate is a good foil, trying to plant doubt in Noah's mind about Hannah's motives.

This is a good novel showing the power of God in transforming a life through grace and forgiveness and the acceptance of others. You'll read of some of the tragic events that befall young runaway women. But you'll also see the restoration that can occur when God's people reach out and help those in need.

My rating:4/5.

About the Author


Michelle Keener is a wife, mom, and the author of five books. She lives in Southern California with her retired Marine husband, their two children, and one spoiled dog. When she isn’t writing, she is busy homeschooling, teaching creative writing workshops, or baking something involving chocolate.

More from Michelle


The Story of a Prodigal Daughter

Made in Hollywood is the sequel to my first Christian romance novel Mission Hollywood. It’s the story of Lily’s brother Noah and his search for love and direction. In the book, Noah meets a young girl who has been through some truly dark and terrible places. She’s been wounded, abused, and she’s lost hope. She’s worried that her past is too much for God to forgive, and that she’s fallen too far and doesn’t deserve God’s grace. She is a prodigal daughter lost on the streets of Hollywood.

One of the reasons I wrote Made in Hollywood (aside from the fact that I just adore Noah) is to be a reminder that God never gives up on us. Just like the story of the Prodigal Son, if we turn back to God, He will run to us and bring us home.

There is no place so dark that God light can’t reach.

There is no sin, no mistake, no circumstance that can separate us from the love of God. His arms are always open to us. His love is unchanging, unending, and unfailing. His amazing grace reaches the lost and restores what was broken. His love binds our wounds and heals our past. What the enemy intended for evil, God will turn to good. It’s a truth Hannah had to learn. It’s a truth I had to learn. And it’s a truth God wants His people to share. God’s love never fails.
I hope you enjoy Made in Hollywood!

Blog Stops


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.)