Books reviewed prior on this site prior to March 2019 were provided to me, at no charge, by the publisher, or by the author, in exchange for an honest review. I have received no further compensation for these reviews. Reviews beginning March 2019 come from a variety of sources: advanced copies, library loans, and my own purchases. All reviews are my honest opinions.

April 28, 2016

Mars... with Venus Rising {Hope Toler Daugherty}

mars with venus rising hope toler daughtery
A meddling horse, paper bag floors and a flying saucer on the town square. The little town of Mars has it all--including a brand new resident who might spell heartache for one of its own. 

Twenty-something Penn Davenport yearns for an exciting life in the big city and wants to shed the label of orphan that she's worn for years. To achieve that dream, she must pass the CPA exam then move away from the two aunts who reared her after her parents died in a plane crash. 

When John Townsend—full of life and the joy of living—moves to town, he rattles Penn's view of herself, her life, and her dreams...which isn't such a bad thing until she falls for him and discovers he's a pilot.

My Thoughts:
I admit this one started very slow for me. So slow, I almost gave up on it. However, I kept going and it did redeem itself in the end.

I felt the character development happened very quickly. Because of this, I had a difficult time making a connection with the characters until about the halfway point in this book. However, once I felt like I really knew them, the characters grew on me.

Penn is a girl with a tragic past, and she lets that past dictate every move in her current life. It is irritating at times, and sympathetic at others. However, the entire story becomes about Penn overcoming her fears and letting her life run its course.

Penn’s aunts are hilarious. Older ladies who have taken care of Penn and only want the best for her, they meddle in all of her business and drive her crazy. However, Penn loves her aunts, and she would do anything for them. She discovers just how much she loves them and wants to be with them by the time the book ends.

And then there is John. John came out of nowhere in this book, and I had a hard time fitting him into a mold. But he becomes the saving grace for Penn and the one who helps her to finally overcome her fears. The relationship between Penn and John is slow moving but ends so sweetly.

Overall, I found this book to be just okay. It was slow, a little tough to hold my attention at times, but in the end an okay book.

April 21, 2016

Someone Like You {Victoria Bylin}

someone like you victoria bylin
Julia Dare is trying to run her own business, raise her young son, Max, and help her widowed mother. Her biggest worry, though, is keeping Max's father from being a bad influence while still allowing the boy to spend time with his dad. When an account from her event-planning business sends her to Caliente Springs resort, she's shocked to encounter Zeke Monroe, her college sweetheart. 

Zeke is determined to keep Caliente Springs running despite financial trouble. When Julia walks back into his life, he's surprised at the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client's wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. With Zeke and Julia both pushed to their limits, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

My Thoughts:
I loved, loved, loved, loved everything about this book. This was my first book of Victoria Bylin’s, but I am a fan.

This book tells the story of Julia and Zeke. They were college sweethearts but found themselves going separate ways when they could not get on the same page with their faith in God. Zeke, who was once a hard-core Christian, has turned his back on God and his faith and has landed as the general manager of a failing family resort.

Julia, once annoyed by Zeke’s faith, has landed as a single mom full of faith in God and wanting desperately to make a good life for her son. Julia now owns an event planning business, and we know as soon as she sets foot at Caliente Springs, she and Zeke are going to rekindle their old flame.

However, this book is about so much more than Julia and Zeke finding their way back to each other. This book is about God’s unconditional love and His never-ending mercy for His children. Through Julia’s character, we get to see God work through a new Christian as she sets her sights on raising her son and making a home for him. We see Julia become stronger in both her faith and her personality as this book progresses. Moreover, we see her rewarded for her unyielding faith that God will take care of her.

However, we see so much of God’s work through Zeke. Zeke has turned his back on God and believes he can never go back. Zeke is so full of guilt for his past sins he is afraid to even ask God to love him. Through Julia’s testament, Zeke begins a painful journey to reclaim his faith and return his love to God. God never promised us life was going to be easy, and Zeke sees that truth first hand. However, Zeke also gets to experience what God can do when you truly allow Him to break you down and build you back up.

This book has all the things I love in a good story. I highly recommend putting this one next on your reading list.

Known for her realistic, likable characters and vivid writing, Victoria Bylin writes both western and contemporary inspirational romance. Her next book, Until I Found You, hits the shelves in May 2014. Victoria's books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband currently live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons.

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April 20, 2016

Wee Read Wednesday: A Dolphin Wish

a dolphin wish natalie grant
Join twins Mia and Maddie and their sidekick little sister, LuLu, as they travel the country finding adventure, mystery, and sometimes mischief along the way. Together with their famous mother, singer Gloria Glimmer, and their slightly wacky nanny Miss Twist, the sisters learn lessons about being good friends, telling the truth, and a whole lot more.

In A Dolphin Wish a three-night stop in the city of San Diego seems like it might be just the break the girls need—lovely weather and great sights to see. That is until they hear animal handlers at “Watery World” talking about the trouble they’ve been having keeping the animals in their habitats. Mia and her sisters cannot resist a challenge and they talk Miss Twist into another visit to the educational amusement park to search for clues as to what or who is helping the animals escape.

My Thoughts:
What a fun book! My daughter selected this as one of her books for the month to preview, and she is really enjoying it. Mom did too J

For starters, Watery World sounds like an amusement park I want to visit. When the sisters first arrive they seem to be annoyed with each other, and still upset over happenings, we read about in the previous book in this series. But soon they find themselves wondering about the mystery of the escaping animals.

Once they get their heads together, they become a team and work hard to find out what is happening to the animals throughout the park. My daughter cannot wait to find me every few chapters so she can tell me what is going on (since she knows I have already read it). She is enjoying the Glimmer Girls and the adventures they seem to find themselves in.

From a parent’s perspective, it is refreshing to find young characters who are polite to their parents and those around them. These girls are a great role model for young children, and I hope these books continue to be published.

April 18, 2016

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder {Rachel McMillan}

bachelor girl guide to murder rachel mcmillan
In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city's underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto's premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever--if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

My Thoughts:
I wanted to like this book. It has great reviews, and there has been quite a bit of hype around it in my reading circles. However, it just didn’t do it for me.

I found I could not relate to these characters very well. One of them seemed over-the-top naïve while the other had a horrible attitude and even worse manners. They seemed to squabble more than they got along, and their personalities started to get on my nerves rather quickly.

I could not get “into” the case they were investigating and found myself speed reading through my boredom.

Please read reviews from other sources on this one, because many people are really enjoying it. It simply was not for me.

April 14, 2016

Traces of Guilt {Dee Henderson}

traces of guilt dee henderson
Evie Blackwell loves her life as an Illinois State Police Detective . . . mostly. She's very skilled at investigations and has steadily moved up through the ranks. She would like to find Mr. Right, but she has a hard time imagining how marriage could work, considering the demands of her job. 

Gabriel Thane is a lifetime resident of Carin County and now its sheriff, a job he loves. Gabe is committed to upholding the law and cares deeply for the residents he's sworn to protect. He too would like to find a lifetime companion, a marriage like his parents have. . . . 

When Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois, it's to help launch a new task force dedicated to reexamining unsolved crimes across the state. Spearheading this trial run, Evie will work with the sheriff's department on a couple of its most troubling missing-persons cases. As she reexamines old evidence to pull out a few tenuous new leads, she unearths a surprising connection . . . possibly to a third cold case. Evie's determined to solve the cases before she leaves Carin County, and Sheriff Thane, along with his family, will be key to those answers.

My Thoughts:
This book pulled me in and held on tight. This was my second read from Dee Henderson, but she has officially landed on my favorites list. I was happy to see some of the characters from my first Henderson experience appear pretty heavily in this one as well.

Evie is a lady I think I would like. She is determined, yet extremely caring and thoughtful. She has arrived in Carin County with the single goal of solving two very cold cases – a job local law enforcement sees as impossible. She is determined to prove she can do it, and she knows how to get a job done. I appreciated every aspect of Evie Blackwell and her dedication to spend every waking moment studying case files and leads. I also felt drawn to her feelings toward Gabe and how she handled their relationship.

Gabriel is the head of local law enforcement. Although he is convinced the cold cases cannot be solved, one look at Evie, and he is willing and able to do whatever it takes to help her. He becomes a vital role in both her investigation and her personal life. He seems like a guy who is dedicated to those around him, and always putting his family and his job ahead of himself. He also becomes a valuable member of the investigation team to solve the cases Evie is working on.

Ann and Paul appear in this book from previous Dee Henderson reads, and they are close friends with Gabe and his family. With the intense turn of events throughout the book, the entire clan finds themselves working together and leaning on each other through some pretty tough times.

I became very attached to these characters – more than I usually do in a book. By the time I turned the final page, I was mentally exhausted. However, it was worth it because I loved this book and am looking forward to more from Evie and her teams.

Dee Henderson is the author of 14 best-selling novels, including the acclaimed O'Malley series and the Uncommon Heroes series. As a leader in the inspirational romantic suspense category, her books have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, including the RWA's RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, the Holt Medallion, the National Readers' Choice Award, and the Golden Quill. Dee is a lifelong resident of Illinois and is active online.

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April 13, 2016

Wee Read Wednesday: Brave Girls Beautiful You

brave girls beautiful you
Whether you are outgoing or shy, a tomboy or a girly girl, silly or serious, it can be really hard to feel comfortable with yourself. This devotional is filled with stories and thoughts about how God created us to be healthy, strong, and confident—both with our bodies and our minds—because we are daughters of the great heavenly Father.

The goal of Brave Girls® is to encourage you to appreciate yourself as God made you and to help you grow strong in your relationship with Him. Beautiful You will help you really see yourself as brave and beautiful inside and out . . . just like God made you!

My Thoughts:
My daughter loves the Brave Girls, so I was excited to have the third devotional in our home. We have been reading through this one together each night and this might be my favorite one.

The world is so centered around how people – especially girls – look through their outward appearance. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be a girl having to grow up with all that pressure to be perfect. But the Beautiful You devotional takes each topic that is relevant to girls today and creates a beautiful devotional to point out how special they are to God.

The topics in this devotional have also been a great conversation starter for some of those tough questions I want to talk through with my daughter. By using this book, we are able to talk through them and also reassure her she is made exactly how God intended her to be.

Each devotional also closes with prayer pointers to help girls get started with a prayer centered around what they just studied. I have very much enjoyed having this book in our house and look forward to continued reading with my daughter.

April 11, 2016

Sit, Stay, Love {Dana Mentink}

sit stay love dana mentink
Take one abrasive professional athlete, a quirky out-of-work schoolteacher, and an overweight geriatric dog, and you're ready for a lesson in love...Tippy style.

Pro baseball pitcher Cal Crawford is not a dog guy. When he inherits his deceased mother's elderly dog, Tippy, he's quick to call on a pet-sitting service.

Gina isn't thrilled to be a dog sitter when her aspirations lie in the classroom. Furthermore, she can't abide the unfriendly Cal, a man with all the charm of a wet towel. But with no other prospects and a deep love for all things canine, she takes the job caring for Tippy.

As Gina travels through Cal's world with Tippy in tow, she begins to see Cal in a different light. Gina longs to show Cal the God-given blessings in his life that have nothing to do with baseball or fame. When her longing blooms into attraction, Gina does her best to suppress it. But Cal is falling in love with her too...

My Thoughts:
Dana Mentink is a new author for me, but this was such a fun book. It seems so many of today's romances are built around the same common theme, and it was entertaining to take a new approach by adding a dog as the central character.

Tippy is a stubborn dog. She is old, set in her ways, and determined to teach the humans in her life a thing or two. She immediately befriends both Gina and Cal, although Gina is the only one willing to care for Tippy. Gina is a dog-lover and a happy person in general. We learn throughout the story she has been hurt in the recent past, and she is ready to move on with her life without the love of a man. She knows God's goodness, and she wants to spread it to those around her.

Cal is superstar baseball player. He had an unfair life growing up, and he truly believes baseball is the only thing that defines who he is. He is unwilling to let others into his life, and he holds grudges well beyond the time most would consider it allowed.

When Gina and Cal come into each other's lives, it is oil and water. Cal does everything in his power to alienate Gina, and he refuses to have anything to do with Tippy. Of course, it is Tippy who finally brings peace to Gina and Cal's relationship. Once they find their common ground, their relationship begins to bloom.

But one thing still stands between them - Cal's feelings about himself. As Cal finally begins to let God into his life, we see a man changed. Cal's heart truly changes as he finally sees himself as God sees him, and works to forgive the people in his past.

I did love this book and the story of Tippy. I will put Mentink on my list of authors to keep an eye on for future releases.

Dana Mentink enjoys writing in many different capacities. She currently writes for Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House Publishers.

Dana is the recipient of a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award and an ACFW Carol Award as well as a Holt Medallion Merit Award winner. 

Dana loves feedback from her readers. Contact her via her website

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April 7, 2016

Her One and Only {Becky Wade}

her one and only becky wade
Gray Fowler, star NFL tight end, is being pursued by a stalker, so his team hires a protection agency to keep Gray under the watch of a bodyguard at all times. When Gray meets Dru Porter, an agent assigned to him, he's indignant. How can an attractive young female half his size possibly protect him? 

But Dru's a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt. She's also ferociously determined to uncover the identity of Gray's stalker. And she's just as determined to avoid any kind of romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past. But the closer they get to finding the stalker, the closer they grow to each other. As the danger rises, can Dru and Gray entrust their hearts--and their lives--to one another? 

My Thoughts:
If you let God in, He can truly change your heart. That amazing theme is the cornerstone of this final book in the Porter family series.

Dru is the little sister of the Porter clan. She has lived the wild and crazy life, and she has experienced the hurt that comes along with it. She has returned to Dallas trusting God and determined to live her life in the way He has laid out.

Dru’s newest client is pro football superstar, Grey. Grey is your typical athlete playboy but has apparently made someone made enough to send threats his way. Dru and her team have been assigned to protect Grey and keep him alive. Only Dru finds she cares about Grey in ways beyond being a member of his protection detail.

Dru finds herself struggling between the choices she knows God would want her to make and the feelings she has for Grey. But she is determined not to fall for Grey if he is not right with God.

And then we get to see God work in Grey’s life in a way that only He can. We get to see him remove the desires for temptation and replace them with a heart longing to live for God and love in the way He wants us to love. We get to see God do spectacular things.

With this being the conclusion of the Porter family series, we also get to wrap up some story lines from previous books and catch up with the Porter brothers and their families. It is a bittersweet ending to such an amazing series. We are all going to miss the Porter family.

During her childhood in California, Becky frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins. These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending. She's been a fan of all things romantic ever since.

Becky and her husband lived overseas in the Caribbean and Australia before settling in Dallas, Texas. It was during her years abroad that Becky's passion for reading turned into a passion for writing. She published three historical romances with Avon Books, then put her career on hold for several years to care for her three kids, then recently returned to writing sheerly for the love of it. She felt led to move to the genre of contemporary Christian romance and couldn’t be more thrilled with it. 

These days Becky can be found failing but trying to keep up with her housework, sweating at the gym, carting her kids around town, playing tennis, hunched over her computer, eating chocolate, or collapsed on the sofa watching TV with her husband.

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April 6, 2016

Wee Read Wednesday: I Can Learn to Pray

i can learn to pray
The more we talk with God in prayer—bringing Him thanks, praise, joys, hurts, confessions, and requests—the stronger our faith becomes. We’re not always sure how to pray . . . but Jesus says that prayer is something to be learned. And what better time to learn how to pray than during childhood, when habits that will last a lifetime are formed?

This 52-week experience is a terrific guide for families to understand prayer. From “Wow!” and “Thank you!” prayers to “I’m sorry!” and “Help!” prayers, children will learn what it means to draw near to God and to be changed by Him. Holly Hawkins Shivers, a mother gifted at connecting with kids, makes every discussion engaging and relatable, and helps young believers grow leaps and bounds in their faith.

My Thoughts:
One of the most important aspects of our walk with Jesus is being able to talk to Him and have Him listen. This amazing gift is something I want to instill in my children at their age so they can take it with them for the rest of their lives.

In I Can Learn to Pray we can take our children on a year-long journey of learning how to pray and learning how God is listening when we talk to Him. The quick devotionals are laid out so that it teaches about prayer and then builds on the lessons for the remainder of the book. Children can hold their attention to the short lessons, and give feedback at the end of each one.

My kids have enjoyed the lessons we have done so far, and I look forward to completing this book with them. I know we will use this book for the remainder of the year, and in years to come.

Be sure to check out I Can Learn to Pray from Tommy Nelson, or wherever you purchase your kid books.