Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"ashes to ashes" by mel starr


Mel Starr continues his delightfully charming Hugh de Singleton series with Ashes to Ashes.

The morning after the festivities of Midsummer's Eve, the villagers of Bampton make a grisly discovery

Master Hugh, Kate, and their children attend the Midsummer’s Eve fire. The next morning Hugh hears the passing bell ring from the Church of St. Beornwald, and moments later is summoned. Tenants collecting the ashes to spread upon their fields have found burned bones.

Master Hugh learns of several men of Bampton and nearby villages who have gone missing recently. Most are soon found, some alive, some dead. Master Hugh eventually learns that the bones are those of a bailiff from a nearby manor. Someone has slain him and placed his body in the fire to destroy evidence of murder.

Bailiffs are not popular men; they dictate labor service, collect rents, and enforce other obligations. Has this bailiff died at the hand of some angry tenant? Hugh soon discovers this is not the case. There is quite another reason for murder . . .

In Ashes to Ashes, Hugh de Singleton, bailiff to Lord Gilbert, is called upon to investigate a mysterious death. Though the death at first seems fairly straightforward, Hugh soon learns that there's more to the story, and he seeks to uncover a murderer. Along the way, he faces danger himself—and he finds several opportunities to use his skills as a surgeon.

The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton are unique novels—I don't know of any other inspirational novels set in the Middle Ages that feature a male protagonist. It's such an interesting perspective, one that I love returning to time and again. I find Master Hugh to be such a likeable and compelling character. Ashes to Ashes is written as though it's Hugh's journal, and I love his asides, as well as the foreshadowing. I also love the descriptions of the medical procedures he performs. While Ashes to Ashes isn't a high-stakes novel (one never doubts that Hugh will be fine, and his family is never in any danger), it does feature an intriguing mystery that keeps the pages rapidly turning. 4 stars.

Buy the novel.
Read my reviews of other Mel Starr novels.

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"make me a match" by melinda curtis, cari lynn webb, & anna j. stewart + giveaway


Make Me a Match: Baby, Baby\The Matchmaker Wore Skates\Suddenly SophieThree bachelors see a way out of their small Alaskan town when they make a bet with their high school hockey coach.

Make Me a Match
by Melinda Curtis, Cari Lynn Webb, and Anna J. Stewart
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
February 1st 2016 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Three bachelors turned…matchmakers?

One special night with Cooper Hamilton gave Nora Perry a precious gift. But no way is the sweet-talking salesman the right guy for her…or is he?

Former pro athlete Ty Porter could get burned when he falls for the beautiful reporter who ruined his career—and could now expose his most zealously guarded secret!

Gideon Walker has a long history with free-spirited flower shop owner Sophie Jennings. But when the banker-matchmaker fixes her up with potential candidates, he realizes he's made a terrible mistake…

Make Me a Match is an enjoyable novella collection centering on three best friends who are promised hockey jobs outside of Alaska if they can get six couples together before Valentine's Day. The premise is the stuff of Hallmark films, and it's great for a rainy day. (Or in my case today, a snow day!)

Baby, Baby by Melinda Curtis: When Nora shows up in town with a baby in tow, Coop is hesitant to believe she could be his. But soon Nora—and her baby—begin to soften Coop's heart. I really loved Nora, and I enjoyed her interactions with Coop's dad. It was Coop himself I didn't care much for, and the "happily ever after" ending came a little too quickly to be realistic. 3 stars.

The Matchmaker Wore Skates by Cari Lynn Webb: Journalist Kelsey ruined Ty's life once. When she returns to K-Bay looking for another story, Ty is determined to keep her away from his biggest secret. But the chemistry the two once had is stronger than ever, and Ty begins to wonder if he and Kelsey may really have a future. I definitely enjoyed this story, but I felt like I never truly understood Kelsey and her motivations. While the romance was believable, it also felt a bit rushed. 3-1/2 stars.

Suddenly Sophie by Anna J. Stewart: When Sophie asks Gideon to find her a match, he can't find anyone worthy of her ... because he wants her for himself. Of the three stories, this one was by far my favorite. I felt like it was the most complete of the stories, and I loved Gideon and Sophie's interactions. Also, it was quite funny! 4 stars.

While I enjoyed some of the novellas more than others, they all felt like they went together. Sometimes, novellas that are connected but are written by different authors don't feel cohesive, but in this case, the collection flowed seamlessly from one novella to the next. While I wouldn't call Make Me a Match a must-read, it is an enjoyable way to pass an afternoon. 3-1/2 stars.

Content note: The Harlequin Heartwarming line, of which Make Me a Match is a part, promises clean romances—no explicit sex or language and traditional values. These novellas do focus a little more on drinking than I'd have liked, and there are a few times where "God" is used as a curse word, rather than when someone is praying.

Buy the book: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Harlequin


Award winning, USA Today bestseller Melinda Curtis writes the Harmony Valley series of sweet and emotional romances for Harlequin Heartwarming, and the sweet romantic comedy Bridesmaid series. A Memory Away is Book 6 in the Harmony Valley series. Brenda Novak says: “Season of Change has found a place on my keeper shelf”. Melinda also writes hotter romances as Mel Curtis. Jayne Ann Krentz says of Blue Rules: “Wonderfully entertaining.”

Website - Goodreads - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest - Instagram
Cari Lynn Webb lives in Alabama with her family. If she isn’t at her computer, she can usually be found: picking up her daughters from school, dropping off at swimming or soccer practice or running into the grocery store for that one thing she forgot on her shopping list. She loves escaping into a romance and her e-reader can usually be found in her passenger seat. Visit her at: www.carilynnwebb.com.

Website - Goodreads - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest

You’ve met Anna J. Stewart (or someone like her) before. She was the girl who spun in circles on the playground hoping her Wonder Woman costume would magically appear before playing cops and robbers a la Charlie’s Angels–as Sabrina (she was the smart one). Anna was the girl in the back of the class with a paperback romance hidden in her algebra book (and yes, she failed algebra).

Growing up in the 70′s and 80′s meant there weren’t a lot of YA books, so she ventured early into mainstream fiction and read Stephen King’s CARRIE at the age of 8. Discovering Nora Roberts and romance novels early in high school opened her eyes to the wonders of storytelling and the beauty of a happily ever after.

So here she is, many years later with an English degree from CSU Sacramento, an RWA Golden Heart nomination behind her, countless stories in her head, and a serious addiction to STAR TREK, SUPERNATURAL, and SHERLOCK. She recently wrapped up a nearly 8-year stint working as assistant to NYTimes bestselling author Brenda Novak where she helped run Brenda's annual online auction for diabetes research. When she's not writing or reading (which she never has enough time for!), she's working on dollhouse miniatures and tolerating her overly-affectionate cat named Snickers (or perhaps it's Snickers who tolerates her).

Website - Goodreads - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest - Instagram

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.
Tour Schedule

January 31st: Launch
February 1st: Heidi Reads... & I Am A Reader
February 7th: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)
Copy of Make Me a Match (print if in the US, ebook if outside the US)
Copy of A Memory Away by Melinda Curtis (print if in the US, ebook if outside the US)
Ends February 12th
Copy of The Bad Boy of Butterfly Harbor by Anna J. Stewart (print if in the US, ebook if outside the US)

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

"where she belongs" by johnnie alexander


A woman faces more opposition—and receives more acceptance—than she'd expected when she buys back her family home.

Can love redeem a broken past?

Shelby Kincaid is ready to move forward after the death of her husband left her devastated. With high hopes for the future, she longs to purchase her family's homestead, Misty Willow, so she can raise her young daughters in the only place she ever truly belonged. She plans to transform the abandoned house into the perfect home of her memories. But she has her work cut out for her.

AJ Sullivan never wanted Shelby's family homestead in the first place. His grandfather left it to him as punishment for not following his wishes, and he's let it fall into ruin. AJ's more than happy to unload it to this spitfire of a woman. But even after angry exchanges over the state of the house, he can't get her off his mind.

With writing that evokes a strong sense of place and family history, Johnnie Alexander deftly explores the ties that bind us to home--and the irresistible forces that draw us to each other.

Where She Belongs is a sweet romance about a widow who returns to her family farm with her daughters to rebuild her life. Though there's a sweet, gentle feel to the novel that makes it easy and enjoyable to read, there's also mystery and opposition that add intrigue.

Alexander's writing is rich and descriptive, and I found myself immersed in Shelby's world.

Though the novel ended rather suddenly, and I didn't quite understand how the main conflict regarding the ownership of Shelby's house was resolved or what exactly happened to Shelby's grandfather, I was quite satisfied with the main story. I'm also very glad to know that the series will continue, with the next novel to focus on AJ's cousin (and Shelby's one-time pseudo suitor) Brett. I'm eager for a return trip to Misty Willow! 4 stars.

Buy the novel.

Johnnie Alexander is the award-winning author of Where Treasure Hides. Johnnie is an accomplished essayist and poet whose work has appeared in the Guideposts anthology A Cup of Christmas Cheer. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, spending time with her grandchildren, and taking road trips. She lives near Memphis, Tennessee.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, January 29, 2016

"whatever is lovely" by waterbrook press

Adult coloring books have certainly become a craze, haven't they? My youngest sister has been into coloring for as long as I can remember, but I never really had any interest. Several months ago, though, I decided to try coloring as a stress reliever. It worked! I've never been particularly creative or artistic, but coloring inside the lines is something I can do. So when I saw Whatever Is Lovely up for review, I eagerly requested this coloring book.

Color your way to peace and worship.

We live in such a busy, hectic world—but what waits for you inside this cover is a way to quiet the noise, express creativity, and spend some sweet time with God. Each page features an original design from one of a dozen different artists, beautifully illustrating a contemplative quote from an inspirational writer, a beloved hymn, or Scripture. 

When we create, we echo the heart of our Creative God who designed everything and gave us the capacity to recognize beauty. 

So go ahead! You have permission to pick up your colored pencil and be reminded of truth in a fresh way. 

To help set the perfect mood for worship, contemplation, and creative expression, a link to the “Whatever Is Lovely” playlist is included. 

I'll be honest: I judged the book by its cover. How could I not? It's beautiful, and it made me very excited for the coloring pages I'd find inside. What surprised me was the variety within the pages. Some feature very intricate designs (like this one I haven't finished yet).

Others are quite simple.

Still others remind me of pages you might find in a kids' coloring book.

Each page has a Bible verse, a saying, or song lyrics incorporated into the design. The intent is truly to draw the user into worship. I really enjoy coloring while I'm listening to my favorite sermon podcast or some worship music.

The pages have good weight to them, and my markers (used in the second photo) didn't bleed through at all. The only thing I'd change would be to perforate the pages for easy removal so they can be displayed.

If you're looking for an adult coloring book for yourself or to give as a gift, I'd highly recommend this one. 4 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.

WaterBrook Press is committed to creating products that both intensify and satisfy the elemental thirst for a deeper relationship with God. By communicating encouraging and life-enriching truths, WaterBrook provides resources that can be trusted to be spiritually sound and readers will find to be captivating and enlightening. In providing these products as a Christian publisher, we hope that readers of all ages will gain a deeper understanding of God and live a life pleasing to Him.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links on this page are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase a product, I will receive a commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

2016 reading challenge

My sisters and I have decided to participate in Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2016 reading challenge. Each month we'll read a book from the same category and then post our thoughts on my personal blog, Coffee & Conversation.

Our introductory post is live now, and our January post will go up on Sunday. This month, we're reading a book that can be finished in a day.

Here's a glimpse at some of the books I'll be reading this year:

We hope you'll join in the fun, too! Come read with us!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"the painter's daughter" by julie klassen

After I was completely charmed by The Maid of Fairbourne Hall several years ago, Julie Klassen became my go-to regency fiction author. Each year, I eagerly await her next release. When I learned The Painter's Daughter would soon be arriving on my doorstep, I was ecstatic!

Sophia Dupont assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. In private, she paints the picturesque north Devon Coast, popular with artists—including handsome Wesley Overtree, who seems more interested in her than the landscape.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother Wesley's responsibilities. Near the end of his leave, he is sent to find his brother and bring him home. Upon reaching Devonshire, however, Stephen is stunned to learn Wesley has sailed for Italy and left his host's daughter in serious trouble.

Stephen feels duty-bound to act, and strangely protective of the young lady, who seems somehow familiar. Wanting to make some recompense for his own past failings as well as his brother's, Stephen proposes to Miss Dupont. He does not offer love, but marriage "in name only" to save her from scandal. If he dies in battle as he fears, she will at least be a respectable widow.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie finds herself torn between her first love and this brooding man she barely knows. Dare she wait for Wesley to return? Or should she elope with the captain and pray she doesn't come to regret it?

The Painter's Daughter is just as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be! Full of heartache, scandal, mystery, and romance, the novel kept me completely engaged from beginning to end. I especially loved Stephen, a man who "did his duty" by offering to marry Sophie and soon found himself falling in love with her.

As much as I loved Stephen, I despised his brother Wesley. His selfishness and hesitancy to take responsibility for his actions grated on me to no end—and I think I was supposed to have that reaction!

By the plot's very nature—revolving around a woman pregnant out of wedlock—this book is slightly more mature than some. However, I never felt that it crossed the line into sensuality, and I think it would be perfectly appropriate for teen girls.

I greatly enjoyed The Painter's Daughter, and I look forward to Klassen's next novel. 5 stars.

Buy the novel.

Read my reviews of Klassen's The Apothecary's Daughter (3-1/2 stars), The Maid of Fairbourne Hall (4-1/2 stars), The Tutor's Daughter (5 stars), The Dancing Master (4-1/2 stars), and The Secret of Pembrooke Park (4 stars).

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She is a three-time Christy Award winner and a 2010 Midwest Book Award winner for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about Julie at http://julieklassen.com.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from the author and Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"if i run" by terri blackstock


Terri Blackstock is known for writing page-turning suspense, and her latest novel, If I Run, is a great addition to her catalog.

Casey knows the truth. But it won't set her free.

Casey Cox's DNA is all over the crime scene. There's no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she's arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn't matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That's the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren't adding up. Casey Cox doesn't fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan's skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn't guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan's damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

If I Run is fascinating, fast-paced suspense. It is written in first-person, present tense, alternating between Casey's and Dylan's point of view. While this perspective took a bit to get used to, once I did, I felt like I was right there with Casey and Dylan, experiencing the action as they did.

Casey's journey is particularly compelling, as she runs for her life and tries to stay out of anyone's notice but can't help caring for those she meets who are in need. Her quest to set things right—both in her own life and in a missing persons case she finds herself mixed up in—puts her in grave danger, yet she simply cannot walk away.

When the novel ends, some things are wrapped up, but Casey's story isn't resolved, giving me hope for another book in the future. I've never before read a book quite like If I Run, which is suspenseful without being grisly. I highly recommend it! 4-1/2 stars.

Watch the book trailer:

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Blackstock's Distortion (5 stars) and Twisted Innocence (4-1/2 stars).

Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention,Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series.

Connect with Terri: website, Twitter, Facebook

Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer . . . but her DNA is all over the crime scene, and she's now a fugitive. Don't miss Terri Blackstock's next page-turner, If I Run. Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than Dylan has, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. But as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

Join Terri in celebrating her new book with a Fitbit giveaway and a special $4.99 digital pre-order deal!

if i run-400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on February 16th. The winner will be announced February 17th on the Litfuse blog.

Plus don't miss out on the special $4.99 digital pre-order pricing, now through February 15. Pre-order the book through your favorite e-book retailer; details here.

if i run - enterbanner



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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