Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sadie's Secret

Sadie's Secret
Kathleen Y'Barbo
Harvest House Publishers
February 1, 2014
Mystery, Romance, Historical

From bestselling author Kathleen Y'Barbo comes Sadie's Secret, the third book in The Secret Lives of Will Tucker series. These historical novels capture the romance of the South mingled with adventure and laced with secret identities and hidden agendas.

Louisiana, 1890--Sarah Louise "Sadie" Callum is a master of disguise, mostly due to her training as a Pinkerton agent but also from evading overprotective brothers as she grew up. When she takes on a new assignment with international connections, she has no idea her new cover will lead her on the adventure of a lifetime.

Undercover agent William Jefferson Tucker is not looking for marriage--pretend or otherwise--but his past is a secret, his twin brother has stolen his present, and his future is in the hands of the lovely Sadie Callum. Without her connections to the world of upper-crust New Orleans, Jefferson might never find a way to clear his name and solve the art forgery case that has eluded him for years.

Only God can help these two secret agents find a way to solve their case and uncover the truth about what is going on in their hearts.

Y'Barbo grabbed my attention with this book. The premise is completely intriguing and indeed much of the book is fun to read. Sadie and Tucker are likable characters that pull you in easily. I will admit I found myself often confused regarding the twin brothers. Who is who? What is going on? I felt like I needed cliff notes to try and follow along.  

Sadie is cute and perhaps a bit too squelched by her whole family situation. Her family ended up being quite endearing and interesting. I found she lacked a bit of emotion, I wanted to know more about what she was thinking and feeling. There wasn't much to get inside her head with. 

Jefferson, while confusing, is handsome and believable. You'll enjoy reading about him saving the day, or not saving the day, or trying to guess who it was that just saved the day. 

My thanks to Harvest House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Junipero Serra

Junipero Serra
Steve W. Hackel 
Hill and Wang
September 2013

In the 1770s, just as Britain’s American subjects were freeing themselves from the burdens of colonial rule, Spaniards moved up the California coast to build frontier outposts of empire and church. At the head of this effort was Junípero Serra, an ambitious Franciscan who hoped to convert California Indians to Catholicism and turn them into European-style farmers. For his efforts, he has been beatified by the Catholic Church and widely celebrated as the man who laid the foundation for modern California. But his legacy is divisive. The missions Serra founded would devastate California’s Native American population, and much more than his counterparts in colonial America, he remains a contentious and contested figure to this day.

 I'm a sucker for a biography that's engaging and easy to read, this book does not disappoint. Eye opening and historically accurate I was fascinated. While consider the founding father of California Serra had a dark side that was carefully navigated in this book. Worth reading. Don't expect to get warm fuzzies but do expect to get to know a historical figure that is first, and foremost, just a man. 

My thanks to Hill and Wang for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Emmy's Equal

Emmy's Equal
Marcia Gruver
Barbour Books
Fiction, Historical, Romance

Get ready for a suspenseful romantic adventure deep in the heart of Texas. Emmy Dane doesn’t want to give up her petticoats and frills for boots and spurs when her family decides to learn ranching in South Texas. 

Diego Marcelo’s mother tells him God will soon deliver him from his loneliness—but he assures her he has no need of deliverance. . .that is, until Emmy disrupts the entire way of life at the ranch. Can Diego put his jealousy aside before time runs out? And will Emmy admit she’s found her match in the stubborn foreman?

This was an average book with average characters. Emmy is 21 and yet she acts much younger through much of the book, seriously immature at times. The whole "lover's triangle" thing was a bit overdone and tired. Diego is a character with a unique story and background which makes him fascinating to get to know. Without his background I'm afraid he wouldn't be all that interesting. 

Growth does take place and maturity begins to flourish. It's an easy read with an even pace. Good for a cold night at home when you need a temporary distraction. 

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

For Love or Loyalty

For Love or Loyalty 
Jennifer Hudson Taylor 
Abingdon Press
November 2013
Fiction, Historical, Romance 

Scotland to Carolina, 1760

One conquest could destroy her, but avenge his family.

Malcolm MacGregor vows to free his family and exact revenge against Duncan Campbell. When the opportunity arises, Malcolm decides to use Duncan’s daughter as the bargaining price. Lauren Campbell is the perfect answer, until she begins chipping away at the bitterness in Malcolm’s heart and changing everything. Her bold faith and forgiveness ignites guilt he would rather avoid and a love he doesn’t deserve.

Lauren Campbell never expected to discover such a caring and protective man behind the façade of Malcolm MacGregor’s fierce reputation. When they arrive in America, things turn against them, and Lauren finds herself in a fate worse than death. Now Malcolm has the dilemma of freeing the rest of his family or rescuing Lauren, but time is short and with little means, he needs a miracle.

This book started off rocky and confusing and I nearly put it down. I'm glad I didn't. Taylor introduced a number of characters as the very beginning that were very hard to follow. I actually thought I had stumbled into the middle of a series rather than the start of one. I stuck with it and the main characters quickly grew on me. 

Malcolm was a bit confusing as if he couldn't quite decide whether he was bad or good. Lauren is a sweetheart of a character that seemed to have emerged from a very dark place. I had to remind myself that things were very different back in the "ole days" because it seemed quite unbelievable that Lauren and Malcolm could just disappear as they did. 

The love story was believable and intriguing. It's one of those books where you feel like the writer has maybe written herself into a corner and you're just along for the ride. It was a good ride. While a bit amateur in writing and story development I did enjoy this one and would be willing to pick up another book from Taylor. 

My thanks to Abingdon Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Dee Henderson
Bethany House Publishers
Fiction, Romance, Suspense
October 2013

Charlotte Graham is at the center of the most famous kidnapping in Chicago history. 

The task force of FBI and local cops found her two abductors, killed them, rescued her, but it took four very long years. The fact she was found less than three miles from her home, had been there the entire time, haunts them. She's changed her identity, found a profession she loves, and rebuilt her life. 

She's never said a word--to the cops, to her doctors, to family--about those four years.

A family legacy has brought her back to Chicago where a reporter is writing a book about the kidnapping. The cops who worked the case are cooperating with him. Her options are limited: Hope the reporter doesn't find the full truth, or break her silence about what happened. And her silence is what has protected her family for years. 

Bryce Bishop doesn't know her past, he only knows she has coins to sell from her grandfather's estate--and that the FBI director for the Chicago office made the introduction. The more he gets to know Charlotte, the more interested he becomes, an interest encouraged by those closest to her. But nothing else is working in his favor--she's decided she is single for life, she struggles with her faith, and she's willing to forego a huge inheritance to keep her privacy. She's not giving him much of an opening to work with. 

Charlotte wants to trust him. She needs to tell him what happened. Because a crime cops thought was solved, has only opened another chapter...

In a world full of non discerning reviewers I feel like I need to step out against the flow and be completely honest. Oh my goodness. That was my response reading this book and that's not a positive thing.....

1. Coins. For the love of all that is good in this world how boring can you get? I mean honestly. All the intrigue and mystique the book starts out with ends quite abruptly in a showroom full of antique coins. Yawn. I'm sure the 4 people who are into extremely rare coins will appreciate the detail Henderson goes into. I, however, was less than interested. I actually skipped a number of pages hoping to escape it. 

2. Charlotte. Henderson typically writes a bit far fetched characters but they have depth and are relatable. Charlotte is far from one of those characters. I understand she was terrorized but at some point either get her counseling and lead her towards healing or make her a secondary character. She was stuck and I felt stuck reading her. 

3. Money. Oh the money. So much of it and on and on it went. Seriously, how many people really deal with that kind of money and have that kind of disposable wealth? It was laughable. The money kept coming and as it approached the billions I found myself checking to make sure I wasn't reading a comedy by mistake. It was both fantasy and comedy. Neither of which I wanted to find in this book. 

4. Characters. In general the characters were an awful mixture of cold superheroes. They were unbelievable and it was disappointing. They were also boring and broken to the point of beyond repair. Very little redemptive message here. 

There were a few bright spots and a few Henderson moments that give you hope for something more but in general this lacked in almost every area. Perhaps Henderson wrote herself into a corner niche and would like to get out, this ain't the way to do it. Clumsy, LONG, and lacking passion I don't recommend this one. It's neither easy to read or enjoyable. I'm hoping for more next time but I'm not sure I have the energy to try again.....

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

The Dancing Master

The Dancing Master
Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publisher
January 7, 2014
Fiction, Historical, Romance

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

Klassen is typically one of my very favorite authors and her books always go right to the top of my list. I'm sad to say I was disappointed in this book. It did not grab my attention right away and left me lagging through much of it. As characters both Julia and Alex were annoying to the point of ridiculousness. Alec lacked leadership and Julia was shallow. Yes, they did grow throughout, but unfortunately that growth couldn't recover a rocky start for both of them as characters. 

The whole dancing master thing may have been a bit of a weak platform for a main plot. I could see it doing well as a subplot but as a main plot it lacked intrigue. I typically appreciate Klassen's ability to bring to light lesser known occupations from the regency era but in this case the book was needing a bit less dancing and a little more story. 

There were bright spots in the book but they were few and far between. A disappointing performance from Klassen for the first time in her writing career. She has remained strong throughout and I'll eagerly jump for her next book as well with high hopes for a much less clunky read. 

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Dare to Love Again

Dare to Love Again
Julie Lessman 
Revell Publishing 
January 2014
Fiction, Romance, Historical 

Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman, resorting to a mammoth hat pin for protection on her way to and from the school where she teaches. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast she quickly discovers she is no match for rum-soaked brute strength.

Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite jiu-jitsu, but it seems he has little choice in the matter. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But when Nick suddenly leaves town, Allison realizes he’s a fraud just like all the rest of the men she’s cared for. Does she dare love again?

Lessman always delivers in the romance department with depth and solid character development. Perhaps I read too many of her books in a row or was just not completely in the mood but this book was not my favorite. Allie and Nick are predictable and their age did not seem to match their life experience. Could have been a lack of story development. They did become endearing as the story continued and the mysterious side of Nick had me interested. The sub plot between Uncle Logan and Allie's mother almost overtook the main plot and I'll keep reading this series to find out what happens with them. 

Predictably the women are the strong spiritual characters, the men are the rogues, the children are precocious, and the kisses are all encompassing. While they're isn't anything wrong with that I personally was a bit over it all. I'd love to see Lessman break out of the predictable cycle and truly surprise the reader. She does, however, have a niche that works so who am I to say differently? Just know ahead of time what you're going to get.  Surface level spirituality and romance that possibly sizzles just a bit too much. 

My thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review.   

The Big Book of Laugh Out Loud Jokes for Kids

The Big Book of Laugh Out Loud Jokes for Kids
Rob Elliott
Baker Publishing

The gut-bustingest, knee-slappingest, guffaw-inducingest collection of clean jokes you can find!

All kids like to laugh, and The Big Book of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids delivers! Combining his three bestselling joke books for kids, Rob Elliott will have you doubled over for days. You'll get jokes like

Q: Why did the invisible man turn down a job offer?
A: He just couldn't see himself doing it.

Q: What do you get if you mix a rabbit and a snake?
A: A jump rope.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Cook who?
Are you as crazy as you sound?

Great on car rides, at the dinner table, on the playground, and anywhere in between, this collection of wholesome hilarity will make you and those around you smile from ear to ear.

This book is legitimate good clean fun. I will admit to not being a big fan of jokes but this book could almost make me a believer. Elliott has some seriously funny jokes that kids and parents alike will enjoy. There are also random little "did you know" tidbits sprinkled throughout that kids will love. Did you know an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain? 

Q. Where do you take a sick wasp? 
A. To the wasp-ital. 

Knock knock
Who's there? 
Bruce who? 
I'll Bruce my knuckles if I keep on knocking! 

You'll enjoy this one, I promise. 

My thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a free book in exchange for a real and honest review. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gone South

Gone South
Meg Moseley
Multnomah Publishers
May 2013
Fiction, Romance

Leaving frosty Michigan for the Deep South was never a blip in the simple plans Tish McComb imagined for her life, dreams of marriage and family that were dashed five years earlier in a tragic accident. Now an opportunity to buy her great-great-great-grandparents’ Civil War era home beckons Tish to Noble, Alabama, a Southern town in every sense of the word. She wonders if God has given her a new dream— the old house filled with friends, her vintage percolator bubbling on the sideboard.
When Tish discovers that McCombs aren’t welcome in town, she feels like a Yankee behind enemy lines. Only local antiques dealer George Zorbas seems willing to give her a chance. What’s a lonely outcast to do but take in Noble’s resident prodigal, Melanie Hamilton, and hope that the two can find some much needed acceptance in each other.
Problem is, old habits die hard, and Mel is quite set in her destructive ways. With Melanie blocked from going home, Tish must try to manage her incorrigible houseguest as she attempts to prove her own worth in a town that seems to have forgotten that every sinner needs God-given mercy, love and forgiveness.

You know, Meg Moseley is quickly elevating herself into one of my favorite authors. She writes with a wonderful mixture of heart and realism. This book invited me, like a porch swing on a warm day, and kept me coming back for more. Tish is a real character. Completely annoying and uptight at some points, and completely lovable at others. The mix of modern day with Civil War history thrown in was a delight. 

And then there is George. I loved that guy. He's got depth as a character that is rarely seen. I wanted to sit down with him and hear his story. His gentle interference into Tish's life is as cute as can be. 

I'd tell you more about the characters but honestly, you just need to read it. It's a jewel of a book. Grab some sweet tea and settle in for a "just right" kind of read. 

My thanks to Multnomah Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

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