Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Daily Question Conversation Card Set

You want to get to know the new people in your neighborhood or church so you invite them and others in for a social gathering. But your one concern is preventing that awkward silence when no one is talking and you know there must be some good questions to ask but your mind is a blank.

Ink & Willow to the rescue. They have provided 100 questions arranged in five categories. There are questions for friends and family, like favorite or funniest childhood memories. My favorite question in this set: How do you enjoy showing love to others?

Other questions are on travel. What is the one place you visited that was unexpectedly beautiful? There are questions on faith, especially appropriate for a gathering of church friends. There are some questions that are just for fun, ones that would be good ice breakers. What's your favorite thing to do that's free? There are even some questions for an older crowd, such as asking about hobbies as a child.

The collection of questions would be great for family discussions too. The questions range from thought provoking to just plain fun and would bring some joy and insight to family times together.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ink & Willow is a division of WaterBrook Multnomah producing a line of interactive products for contemplation and inspiration.

Ink & Willow, 100 pages.

I received a complimentary box of this product 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.)

The Pilot's Daughter by Audrey J Cole

This is another engaging novel from Cole. The plot reflects every airline passenger's nightmare, terrorists taking over the plane. Hold on to your seat when you read this novel as the suspense is intense.

It was clever how Cole got pistols on the plane. I trust the method, while happening in the novel, really isn't possible. The drama on the airplane seemed very realistic to me. The motive of revenge is a powerful one and we see it in full operation. A woman was willing to cause the death of many to carry out her vengeful hatred toward one person.

I liked Cora as our heroine. She is a good example of overcoming fear to do what is necessary. I liked Kyle being on board, playing the hero. While we have met him in previous novels in this series, it was interesting to see him in a situation other than his occupation as a police detective. A romance develops between the two. While it may seem to have gone really quickly, romantic feelings can blossom when people are in intense situations.

While this novel is part of a series it reads really well on its own. The narrative alternates character points of view and that did seem to disrupt the flow of the plot. Other than that, an entertaining novel. Just don't take it with you on your next flight.

You can read my reviews of previous novels in this series: The Recipient, Inspired by Murder, Summer Nanny, Viable Hostage, and Fatal Deception.  

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Audrey J Cole is a registered nurse and a USA Today bestselling author of thrillers set in Seattle. A Sequim native, Cole lived in Australia for five years before returning to the U.S. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children. You can find out more at

Rainier Publishing, 311 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.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright

I had no idea Confederate gold might have ended up in Michigan. Learning about historical possibilities like that is one reason I like to read Wright's novels. Wright's daughter, with her love of Civil War history and missing Confederate gold, inspired the creation of this novel.

Wright's story telling technique is in the dual time genre. The historical story takes place over a century ago, at a manor on the shores of Lake Superior, while there were still Confederate loyalists hoping to rekindle the cause, even long after the Civil War. The narrative alternates with a contemporary account of a young woman trying to solve a mystery surrounding her visit to the manor two decades ago.

Wright does well revealing information in the two narratives, moving both stories along at the same engaging pace. I liked the Gothic feel of the historical setting of the manor, the crashing waves below the dangerous cliffs. I like that Wright includes a bit of ghostly intrigue and deadly suspense. The characters are crafted well. The plots, while complex, flowed rather well. While sometimes puzzling, all the actions made sense in the end.

This is a good book for readers who like a novel that keeps you entertained while introducing you to some very interesting history.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jaime Jo Wright is the author of six novels, is a winner of the Christy, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards and a Carol Award finalist. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their two children. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publisher, 362 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book form 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, June 21, 2021

Faces of Courage by Susan K Beatty Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  Faces of Courage

Author: Susan K. Beatty

Genre: Christian Woman’s Fiction

Release date: May 11, 2021

Fear strangles even the faithful sometimes.

Despite every attempt to be brave, fear has defined Olivia Stanford’s life: with each new foster home, when her adopted parents died leaving her all alone again, trusting and marrying her husband, Frank, and coping with his football injuries and career loss.

Without faith, fear only grows in the face of adversity.

When Frank becomes abusive, Olivia enters a terror-filled life in her upscale Southern California home. Common sense demands she dig deep for the courage to confront him–to demand change. Fear and confusion push back.

And just as courage finally blooms within her comes the terrifying diagnosis: breast cancer.

Some say courage is found at the intersection of faith and grit. How will Olivia manage to summon either in the midst of this new battle?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review 

Beatty has done a good job of exploring the character of a woman who must have courage to deal with serious issues in her life. Olivia's first struggle is with an abusive husband. He is controlling and verbally, emotionally and ultimately physically abusive. Beatty spends over half of the book giving us a very real sense of Olivia's experiences, thoughts and feelings in the face of her husband's behavior. The intensity of the story may be difficult for some to read if they have been in a similar situation.

There are several issues Beatty includes in this novel. One concerns the biblical model for wives. Does a Christian wife stay in an abusive marriage, even to the point of physical harm? Another issue is how events from the past, such as Olivia's abusive father, affect the present. Another issue is the emotional and physical trauma a woman experiences when she is given the diagnosis of breast cancer.

This is an emotionally packed book. Potential readers need to be aware of the spousal abuse and cancer diagnosis contained within. These topics may be difficult for some to read about. Readers will be challenged and inspired to have courage in facing struggles.

Food for thought: “Show the face of courage God has given you.” (1816/4912)

My rating: 4/5 stars. 


About the Author

”Courage: The intersection of faith and Grit”

Susan K. Beatty is passionate about finding courage through faith and grit, particularly through the trials of breast cancer. Her daughter is a metastatic breast cancer “thriver” and has been an inspiration for her writing. Susan retired from a full-time job in 2017 and is now pursuing a novel-writing career. Her first novel, “Faces of Courage,” is in revision. Susan is the author of “An Introduction to Home Education” (AKA “California Homeschool Manual”), was the assistant director of the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference and is the president of her local ACFW-OC Chapter. She is a professional writer/journalist. Susan is proof you can begin a fiction writing career after age seventy.

More from Susan

The words “You have breast cancer” can drop you to your knees. What’s worse is when those words are spoken to your thirty-one-year-old daughter. And worse yet when they are spoken to her more than once. My daughter Melanie has had three bouts with breast cancer, the second time classified her with stage IV metastatic breast cancer of which there is no cure. Over an eleven-year period, Melanie has undergone twelve surgeries, one removing two-thirds of her sternum to be replaced by a donor bone with titanium clamps.

Melanie’s courage during these battles inspired me to write about courage at the intersection of faith and grit. True-to-life stories follow characters through cancer and other issues confronting women today.

In Faces of Courage, I wanted to tell a story like Melanie’s but not exactly Melanie’s, a story nevertheless filled with growing courage. Melanie’s journey doesn’t include an abusive husband (Praise God!), but our terrorized heroine Olivia suffers from her husband’s mistreatment, confused by her misunderstanding of how God views her, and challenged by her lack of strong faith. Just as her courage matures and strengthen through these problems, she’s thrown by those knee-buckling words, “You have breast cancer.”

It is necessarily a gritty look at domestic abuse and the realities of dealing with cancer and its various treatments. I wanted to show Olivia’s growth as a wife, how she experienced the cancer, and how, with the help of faith and grit, her courage flourished.

In many ways, this novel is a tribute to women who fight these battles with bravery, even if that valor takes time to develop. I pray the reader, by witnessing another’s journey, is strengthened in her own battles.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 21

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, June 22

Texas Book-aholic, June 23

Inklings and notions, June 24

For Him and My Family, June 25

deb's Book Review, June 26

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 27

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 28 (Author Interview)

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 28

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, June 29

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 30

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, July 1

cats in the cradle blog, July 1

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 2

Rebecca Tews, July 3

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 4


To celebrate her tour, Susan is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 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, June 20, 2021

The Sunday Van Club by Dot Powell

Powell was a principal at an elementary school in the Fresno Unified School District where many immigrant Hmong families settled. She befriended nine Hmong girls and would take them to church and adventures on Sunday in her van. She shares some background of the Hmong people and the personal stories of the girls.

I appreciate the informative section on the Hmong people. I discovered how they got to the Vietnam and Thailand area, how they were part of the resistance to communism, became refugees living in camps then coming to America. Many settled in the Central Valley of California, the land being similar to their farming homeland. I learned that, while the Hmong lived in several places in Asia, they maintained their own customs and language.

One little Hmong girl befriended the principal of her elementary school. Then more joined her. Powell kept up with the girls, even after she retired. She shares her thoughts and various communications with the young women.

The format of the material contained in the book could have been presented in a way that flowed better and was more cohesive. At times, some of the material seems to be email exchanges, such as “Let's meet at Starbucks.” (1561/3131) Their were memoirs from the girls and Powell's thoughts and advice in return. There were also sections by Powell giving us more information on her experiences. Some sections were in italics and there seemed to be no consistency, at times Powell's comments while at other times a girl's thoughts. I did read a galley and some of the inconsistencies may have been cleared up in the final text.

The stories included in this book are encouraging, seeing young women rising above difficulties to pursue life. It is an example of a book introducing readers to another culture and the challenges it presents in a new country. It is also an example of how one person can influence so many by caring. Retirement was not the end for Powell, she continues providing life lessons for the girls well into her second half of life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dot Powell is the author of two previous books. After her retirement as an elementary school principal, she served as the Executive Director of the nonprofit, READFresno, which focused on community-wide literacy. She also served as the co-founder and Executive Director of SALT Fresno, a nonprofit magazine inspiring Christ-believers to go public with their faith. A native of Kentucky, she moves to California in 1970. She spent more than three decades in education with the Fresno Unified School District. You can find out more at

Independently published, 148 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through The Violet Agency. 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, June 19, 2021

Reserved for Murder by Victoria Gilbert

This is another enjoyable cozy mystery from Gilbert. I like the setting of a B & B as we get to see the murder suspects in a variety of situations. Much of the investigation Charlotte, our amateur sleuth, does is by listening to conversations. Charlotte is a good investigative heroine too. She's nosy so pays attention to conversations others miss. I like her sidekick, Ellen. Next door neighbor and previous government agent during the cold war, she adds some spice and expertise to the work.

This murder plot revolves around authors and publishing and is quite informative. We learn about fandom and fan fiction. We also learn about the pressure bestselling authors are under to produce the next hot novel. We find out about ghost writers and how they come to an author's rescue when burnout occurs. And then there is the elephant in the room, plagiarism. As we find out in this novel, it can be deadly.

This is a good cozy mystery for readers who like an informative murder plot with engaging characters. It is the second in The Booklover's B&B series but reads very well on its own. You can read my review of the first in this series, Booked for Death, here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Victoria Gilbert, raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers and lives in North Carolina. You can find out more at

Crooked Lane Books, 336 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, June 18, 2021

Capitol in Crisis by Kathy Roy Johnson Blog Tour

About the Book

Book:  Capitol in Crisis

Author: Kathy Roy Johnson

Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Christian Thriller

Release date: September 2020

Simone Perez, Architect of the Capitol, is stunned when a terrible explosion which rocks the Capitol, totally collapsing the tunnel which connects the House and Senate Chambers and trapping several people. Simone promptly assembles an Interagency Committee to help her assess the damage to the Capitol and develop a strategy to rescue survivors. .  She also assumes responsibility for briefing the press, making her job even more daunting.  As the story unfolds, members of the Committee work together to find survivors and bring them to safety. We meet several true-to-life characters like Fire Chief Earl Bentsen who recognizes that time is of the essence and Rob Tate, a skinny maintenance worker who realizes that he can reach the CafĂ© as well as the mechanical room by crawling through an old vent space.  Through several twists and turns, Simone maintains a steady hand, aided by the Speaker of the House, John McIntyre, who finds her very attractive. Although it seems an impossible task, one by one, victims reunite with their families.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is an informative novel about some aspects of the buildings housing Congress. The plot revolves around getting to people trapped in the Capitol basement when an electrical upgrade goes wrong. The action is slow but methodical. The strength of the novel is the way characters and their actions are portrayed. We see a number of people come together to share their expertise to help rescue those trapped. We also see the struggle to find a balance between a quick rescue and saving the integrity of the historic building. We see how people react differently when in a crisis, both those trapped and those brought in to help. We also see the effect the disaster has on survivors.

Readers who enjoy a novel revolving around people and how they act in crisis will appreciate this novel. You'll also get some insight into some structure of the Capitol and how various agencies work together. You'll also find a little romance and a subtle lesson on faith. It is a good debut effort and I'll be looking for more from this author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Kathy Roy Johnson worked for a U.S. Senator for three years in the mid 1970’s. Thereafter, she worked as a lobbyist for United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc. before joining the Federal government as Congressional Liaison. She retired in 2015 and live in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband, Ed and their beagle/basset hound, Jake.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, June 16

The Sacred Line, June 16

lakesidelivingsite, June 17

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 18

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 18

For Him and My Family, June 19

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, June 20

Blogging With Carol, June 20

Inklings and notions, June 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 22

Mary Hake, June 22

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting June 23

Betti Mace, June 23

Older & Smarter?, June 24

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 25

Spoken from the Heart, June 25

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, June 26

deb's Book Review, June 27

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 27 (Author Interview)

Lights in a Dark World, June 28

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 29

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.)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Happy Not Perfect by Poppy Jamie

I appreciate this interesting account of one women finding out her relationship to happiness. She discovered that happiness does not rely on external things but rather who one is inside.

Jamie shares her journey so this is a more personal book than one often finds in the wellness genre. She ended up in the hospital with exhaustion and that set her on a quest to understand why she did what she did, what she was working so hard to acquire. She shares what she learned from reading books and talking to people.

I have read many books in this genre but learned some new ideas from this book. I think I finally came to understood how we arrive at our core beliefs. Jamie explained it in a way I had not seen before. I was surprised to find out about memory, that our brain does not file away every detail but only enough for us to make sense of the event. Jamie encouraged us to reframe memories, not to forget but to be able to make peace with them.

Her technique consists of four steps. We connect with with our body, our feelings. We become curious about our thoughts and actions. We make choices about thoughts and actions. We make a commitment to uphold our values. Jamie has included some very good exercises to explain the steps and how they work.

This is a good book for people who like insights in the context of personal experience. Jamie will help you develop a nurturing and caring approach to reprogramming our minds. One caveat: Jamie uses some foul language that is unnecessary.

Read an excerpt and listen to a sample of the audio here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Poppy Jamie is an entrepreneur, influencer, and rising star in the mental health and mindfulness space. She launched the Not Perfect podcast and the Happy Not Perfect app after four years of aggregating behavioral studies and developing the app with neuroscientists, researchers, and her neurotherapist mom. She has been featured in the New York Times, Wired, Fast Company, Refinery29, Forbes, Vogue, Bustle, Cosmo, E!, NBC News, and MTV.

Rodale Books, 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.)