Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Cantaloupe Thief - Book Review

The Cantaloupe Thief 
A Branigan Powers Mystery
By Deb Richardson-Moore
The Cantaloupe Thief
9781782641926 | $14.99 | Paperback | Lion Fiction

Tour Dates: July 18-22, 2016
Books Delivered By: June 18, 2016
Register By: May 9, 2016

About the book:

Branigan Powers knows a good story when she sees one—and the ten-year-old cold case of wealthy Alberta Grambling Resnick's murder definitely makes the cut. Resnick was stabbed in her home after she let it slip that she was planning to change her will. There are plenty of suspects in the death of the matriarch of the town's founding family, but the killer has never been caught.

Now Branigan must do some serious digging to get her story. She knows the town's homeless community might have seen something; she also knows that the local cops wouldn't have thought of questioning these often-invisible people. There's a big problem, though: as Branigan starts digging, the homeless start dying. When her twin brother, a long-time addict, gets involved, the consequences of her investigation may hit a little too close to home.

Set in the fictional small town of Grambling, Georgia, The Cantaloupe Thief is the first in a new mystery series by Deb Richardson-Moore. The author is herself a former journalist and works extensively with the homeless, lending weight to the portrayal of a believable and engaging whodunit.

Purchase a Copy

My Thoughts:
Is it possible to solve a decade-long unsolved murder? Settled in cozy, upscale Grambling, Georgia, all is not what it seems. There's an underside to this city that many residents simply don't care to see. Invisible transients, homeless to the residents of Grambling, are starting to die under mysterious circumstances. Can the unsolved murder that happened ten years ago hold a clue to what is actually going on?

Hardworking and driven, Branigan Powers is given the assignment to write about the 10 year unsolved murder for The Rambler newspaper. Once her story runs, homeless people start dying. Feeling as though she's somehow responsible, things start to spiral out of her control until the climactic ending.

The author is a talented writer and this story was interesting. There were a couple of times I thought I knew who the murderer was—only to find out I was wrong. I like that in a story. There were a few swear words that were unnecessary. Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before, they're just trying to make a gritty story realistic, but in my opinion, that's not something that makes a story realistic. How she wrote the various homeless personalities was gritty and realistic enough. Also, the watered down religion angle was something that I couldn't quite be comfortable with. I understand that these homeless people don't always want to change—but the Gospel changes lives. I've seen it; it happened to me.

Like I said, it's an interesting read. I very much liked how she made the reader care for the homeless, and it did make me look at people around me in a different manner.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson Book Review

The Beautiful Pretender
The Beautiful Pretender (Thomas Nelson, May 2016)

What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?
Learn more and purchase a copy.

My Thoughts:
I like books that I can pick up at the end of the day and read to put the tasks of the day behind me. Books that take me away from the monotonous and mundane without making me sad or despondent. This book fits the bill nicely. While it was a little predictable, it was a good book that I will definitely make time to read again. Recommend for those like me who like light yet satisfying love stories. My thanks to the author, publisher and LitFuse who gave me a copy in exchange for my honest review. These opinions are my own.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Melanie Dickerson’s ‘The Beautiful Pretender’ Once Upon a Kindle Giveaway

Inheriting the new title of margrave means Reinhart has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise? Find out in the new medieval fairy tale, The Beautiful Pretender, by Melanie Dickerson. Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

Join Melanie in celebrating the release of The Beautiful Pretender by entering to win her Once Upon a Kindle giveaway!

beautiful pretender - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of The Beautiful Pretender
  • A Kindle Fire tablet
  • A $25 Amazon gift card
  • The choice between a Funko POP Disney Beauty or Beast doll
beautiful pretender - prize collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on June 7th. The winner will be announced June 8th on Melanie's blog.

beautiful pretender - enter banner

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The End of Law - Book Review

The End of Law
A novel of Hitler's Germany
By Thérèse Down

9781782641902| $14.99 | Paperback | Lion Fiction

About the book:

Two SS officers—both involved in Hitler's Final Solution, both in love with a beautiful woman— but only one can live with his conscience 
Thérèse Down delivers a powerful story set in Berlin in the 1930s and early 1940s and woven around the fortunes of three people: an ambitious SS officer, Walter Gunter; his naíve wife, Hedda; and a guilt-ridden SS officer, Karl Muller.
Gunter— intensely loyal to the Third Reich, entirely ruthless, with dreams of military renown—is outraged to be placed in charge of the T4 euthanasia program.
Muller, an engineer and trainee doctor, reluctantly oversees the safe delivery of lethal gases and drugs to the killing centers, and is required to convert shower rooms and bathrooms into gas chambers in commandeered hospitals and prisons. Both detest their jobs.
Meanwhile Hedda is treated with increasing brutality by her sadistic and permanently enraged husband. Desperate to protect her two young children, she faces agonizing choices of her own.
A magnificent and meticulously researched novel based on real people and events, The End of Law focuses on the difficult moral choices made by soldiers and civilians under a corrupt regime, and on the disruptive power of an awakened conscience.
My Thoughts:
I've always been interested in this particular time period. How an entire country could condone the genocide of a race of people is disturbing, to put it mildly. But, taking instances out of our own generation that people wouldn't have even dreamed of allowing to happen ten years ago, things become a little clearer.
Therese Downs' book is an excellent look at the struggles of ordinary people. Some were called upon to serve their country - albeit wrongly - they answered that call. Honestly, what would you do if that call had come to you? If your country was wrongly imprisoning, torturing and murdering people that spoke out against an out of control regime, would you be numbered among their victims? Or would you be among the silent masses who knew the government was wrong but was afraid-or worse-unwilling to do anything about it?

I wondered if there were people in Germany at that time who were against this killing, lawless machine, and I was very glad to read there were. The author's research definitely shows in these pages. I did my own research on some of the things in this book to see if it was factual and was surprised to see that they were. I wish I could tell you which things I'm referring to, but I don't want to give away spoilers. 

In all, this book is very good. There is some swearing and some 'things' are alluded to, but I felt they were presented correctly. Definitely not for younger readers.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I'm Building the Yellow Brick Road

You heard me. I'm building the yellow brick road. Complete with trees...

Hubby and I work with the children's club at our church every Wednesday. To keep things active and not stagnant, the leaders (not hubby and I, praise the Lord) have different things they like to do to keep the kids excited to come. A couple weeks ago it was boat races. A few weeks before that, it was dress up as a cartoon character night. (The entire leader staff dressed up as the Peanuts gang. It was so cool. I was Peppermint Patty and hubster was Snoopy. One day maybe I'll post the pictures.)

This coming Wednesday is drama night. And I was asked to build the set. I am so stoked! I mean, letting my creativity loose with a Wizard of Oz type of plot?! Yes please!

As of this morning, I have the yellow brick road almost complete. I just need gold glitter and it will get done. Currently, I have over 150 leaves cut for the trees we're going to make - thank you Cricut! - and now, all I need is to finish the tree trunks and adhere the leaves.

It's going to be so much fun! I'll try to remember to take pictures and post them.

What have you created recently?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

GraphicStock - Friend or Foe? A Review From a User

Did you receive this in your email box recently?

Obviously I did. After I checked it out a little, I decided to take the plunge and see if it's something I would like. I'm always on the lookout for graphics for work and home, so why not?

- As stated in their terms of use, I can use these graphics and pictures for commercial as well as personal purposes. Plus 2.

- There's a lot to choose from. You will have lots and lots and lots to look at. Plus 1.

- You create an account, which is quick and easy (you do have to fill out payment information just in case you go past your 7 days free they can conveniently bill you. Personally, I dislike that part, but I see that it is necessary. Make sure to write your start date down and be prepared to cancel after your last 20 downloads on your last day!) They provide folders for you to save what you like for future daily downloads. Plus 1.

- The graphics, vectors and illustrations are nice. Overall, I'm pleased with them. I have found a few that were a little risque, but on the whole, they seem to be family-friendly. Plus 2.
- Compared to other sites out there, the yearly membership fee for this one is by far the best priced. Plus 2.

- Their pricing scale was not easily identifiable on their website. I did have to do a lot of searching before I found it. I would have signed up quicker if they had been upfront with costs. Minus 1.

- You only get 20 downloads per day. While this in itself isn't a bad thing, if you don't use up your 20 downloads on one day, they do not roll over. You must download 20 or you will lose them. Minus 2. I say minus 2 because that just seems dishonest. Face it, it's not going to break their bank account if they allow me to actually download 140 graphics. Can I get an Amen?

- Be careful when you download to note what you're actually getting. I have four duplicate downloads. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?! Honestly, the first two were my fault. I relied on the site to say something like 'you have previously downloaded this file'. But that feature only worked half the time, which is why I'm very careful now before downloading because guess what? Yep. The duplicates count against your 20. The second two duplicate files, weirdly those just showed up. No, I didn't double click and I know I didn't download them twice. Makes me go hmm. But seriously, at this point, it's their word against mine. Would they even listen to me if I complained? Don't know. I'll send them a nice email and see what happens. Minus 2.

- You will spend a lot of time on this site. With 2 jobs, homeschooling, running a house and karate, I don't have a lot of time, but if I only get 20 downloads a day and those don't roll over, yeah. I'm going to get my 20. See point 2 above. Neutral score as I knew I didn't have a lot of time going into this.

- When you join, make sure to note what time zone you are. I thought I had time to get back upstairs and finish my 20 downloads for the day after we watched a movie as a family, but sadly I was mistaken. I'm in the Central time zone and they are in Eastern time. Which I found on the bottom of their contact us email page. They did not post that on the front page of their site and make it clear what time they're going by. Because this happened, I lost out on 8 downloads. Not happy Bob. Minus 8.  

At the moment, Foe.  I did write them an email regarding the rollover time issue. We'll see if anything happens. My opinion? Be cautious before proceeding with this GraphicStock offer and be tedious to learn the details. I won't be coming back. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Body Under the Bridge - Book Review

The Body Under the Bridge
A Father Gilbert Mystery
By Paul McCusker

9781782641070 | $14.99 | Paperback | Lion Fiction

About the book:

First in a series of modern whodunits from an accomplished author with a worldwide following

A former Scotland Yard detective, Father Gilbert knows about death. But, now a priest of a modest Anglican church in the small town of Hailsham, he didn't expect it to show up like this--in the suicide of a man who threw himself off the church tower, and in the discovery of a two-hundred-year-old body beneath an ancient bridge.

The deaths are linked. The mummified corpse under the bridge, a murder victim, reignites a centuries-old battle between two local families--the Todds and the aristocratic Hayshams. Then both David Todd and Lord Haysham begin to act strangely. They are fearful for reasons they won’t explain.

When Lord Haysham is murdered, David Todd is the prime suspect. But Todd is maniacal, claiming great forces of evil are at work. An entire history of violence and depravity begins to emerge, interweaving the history of several local families with a secret occult society that engages in Black Masses. Has the Society emerged again?

My Review:
Let me preface this review by stating that thoughts on books are highly subjective. What I like, you may not, and vice versa. My purpose for writing these book reviews is to let other parents/adults know what is in them. Just in case someone out there is as picky as I am.
With that said, here we go.

I was very excited to receive this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you Kregel. The cover is striking; it sparked my interest and made me want to delve into this mystery. 
There were plenty of twists and turns in this plot. This propelled the story forward.
The author wrote about new things I haven't seen in print before. However, to be blatantly honest, I don't read a ton of books. I simply don't have time, so I could be wrong about that.

I was very disappointed on how much the author delved into sexual thoughts. While those thoughts weren't acted upon, the point was there and it was uncomfortable. I don't read books with sexual overtones. I have raised my children to know that if a book is here in my library, they are more than welcome to read it. This is one that I feel I have to hide. There's quite enough in the world to make child rearing difficult that I don't need to put temptation in their path. Home should be a place of safety and refuge, not refuse (garbage).

I picked this book because I knew the author was associated with Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey series. This isn't something that settles well with me. I understand wanting to branch out, believe me. I myself am writing a speculative fiction novel that deals with unexplainable things that some Christians may not accept. But I do not delve into the sexual. I feel the Bible expressly discourages such subjects as sex was made only for marriage so I treat it as a subject that shouldn't be in Christian novels. If I wanted to read a worldly book, there are plenty for me to choose from.

I also understand that this review is harsh and I do apologize. I feel terrible for that, but I cannot in good conscience with God nor myself recommend this book. If I'm uncomfortable having this book on my shelf, I feel it is my duty to warn others that may feel the same as I do. I won't be reading any more Father Gilbert books.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ashes to Ashes Book Review

Ashes to Ashes

Mel Starr

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

Ashes to Ashes by Mel StarrMaster 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 . . . -

Purchase a Copy!

My Thoughts:
Like everyone else on planet earth, my time is severely limited. I don't have time for frivolities unless it's going to be worth my while. When I received notification that another Hugh de Singleton book was coming out, it was a no brainer. I knew this would be a book that I would enjoy spending time on. Perusing. Reading. Enjoying. I wasn't disappointed.

Set during the 1300's, we get a glimpse into the everyday life of peasants, lords, and bailiffs. Not many fiction books out there are written in this timeframe. That alone sparked my curiosity with the first Master Hugh book I read, The Tainted Coin. (Another good book.) In short, Mel Starr is a very gifted writer that puts time and much research into his Master Hugh books. All I've read enthrall me and make me anxious for the next one. The characters aren't cardboard cutouts that are all perfect and pretty (Master Hugh has a large nose) and they are written so that we care for them.

If you like time period books set during a time that hasn't been over-written, this is a great series of books to begin. Very good read.

My thanks to Kregel and the author who provided this book in exchange for an honest review. These thoughts are my own.


Monday, January 4, 2016

He Made me Cry in the Store

I talked with a piece of living history today. I don't know how, but I knew he was special as soon as I saw him standing behind me in the line at the checkout. It could have been his hat that announced that he was a World War II veteran. Or it could have been his graying hair, his age spots, his once strong back now hunched over with care. The perfect picture of what my husband and I are going to become if the Lord tarries.

That's when I felt it. The nudge from the Holy Spirit. I don't talk too much about the Holy Spirit because let's face it. Somehow, instead of being the third part of the Holy Trinity, the world has begun treating Him as Santa Claus with their 'If I say He has to do something, according to Scriptures, He has to do it!' I say, bah. Not like taking the Bible out of context and making it what you want it to say. But that's a rant for another time.

Iwo Jima MemorialAnyway, I seriously felt the push. The gentle leading. The gentle whisper to pay for this man's item. It was only one small thing, and yet, I was afraid to do it. I can't explain why I feared doing something like that, but that fear was there.

"Are you sure, God? Are You leading me to do this, or am I doing this for a selfish reason?" You see, my dad is a veteran of Vietnam. And every time someone does something nice like say "Thank you for serving our country" it makes me cry. Without fail. I didn't want to do this for the wrong reason.

But really. Is there a wrong reason to do something kind for someone else? Yeah. That's what the Holy Spirit said too. So without fanfare and very quietly, I asked the cashier to ring up his purchase as well. It didn't matter that she looked at me like I was stupid. This was what I needed to do. God had asked me to do it, and I was going to do it.

Afterward, he thanked me, and we talked a little bit. He said I was welcome for his serving the country, and that he had fought at Iwo Jima. That if he lived one more day, it would be 70 years since he got his release papers. That his wife was sick and he had to go get her at the pharmacy.

And I was crying because he was so grateful that I bought his bag of chicken when really, it was me getting the blessing. That I wish I could have done so much more. Compared to his sacrifices, mine amounted to nothing. While mine was simple, his had cost him so much.

Truly it is better to give than to receive. Now at the oddest times of day (and night) I find myself praying for that man and his wife, and I wonder, do they know Jesus as their Saviour? And I beg God that if they don't, that somehow He would send someone to tell them about His love for them and His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. Because that's one Sacrifice only He could make to save us.

Friday, January 1, 2016

On This Day in History

37 years ago, my mom and I were sitting in the car waiting for my brother and my dad. I don't know where they were, but we were waiting. I was sitting in the red backseat of that old white Nova staring into the starlit sky.

It was cold. Usually is in Michigan in January. We had just rung in the New Year watching a Christian film at our church, A Thief in the Night. Literally scared me to pieces. I remember asking my mom,

"Mom, why didn't those people come back?" (referring to Christians that God raptured up in the movie)

"Because they were raptured up and once you go to Heaven, you can't come back."

I knew I wanted to go to Heaven when it was time for everyone to go. I knew that if He was going to rapture people to Heaven, I didn't want to be left alone without my parents. I knew at the tender age of 4 (it was the night before my birthday, so I could technically be considered 5) that I wasn't going to go. So I asked Jesus to take me to Heaven when I die. Just like that. Simple. But I believed that He would.

I consider that night the night I received Jesus as my Saviour. When I tell people that, they always ask me if I knew what I was doing. If I understood enough to really believe that God heard me and saved me. To be honest, for quite a few years, those questions threw me for a loop.

I knew that I needed Jesus to take me to Heaven. I knew He was the only Way there. I knew I was a sinner - sheesh, I'm a redhead, for crying out loud! Good night, everyone knew I was a sinner! I knew that if the rapture occurred that night, I wouldn't be on my way to Heaven if I didn't do something about it.

I made sure I was saved a little later with my parents. Then I made sure again with an older, wiser friend. Then I made sure again after our first child was born. Goodness, I made sure over and over and over and over. I was scared spitless that somehow, I had messed it up and didn't do everything correctly. That I didn't say the right words. Or that I didn't understand enough. Or a million other what ifs. Those questions haunted me for many years.

Reading your Bible can really answer a lot of questions. All in fact. I was a bit older when I read:

Mark 10:13-15 (KJV)
13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

and again: 
I John 5:13 (KJV)
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

And I knew that God heard me. So, today is my spiritual birthday. Today, I turn 37 as a born-again believer in the finished work of Christ on Calvary, and tomorrow is my physical birthday. I'll be 42. Not too bad.

I sit here and wonder. How often do we discourage others from receiving Christ as their Saviour on the grounds that "they probably don't understand it all yet"?  Will we 'seasoned' Christians ever understand everything that God did for us in sending Jesus to die for us? Praise the Good Lord if you do, because honestly, I'm still in awe of this Perfect Sacrifice. I don't understand everything there is to understand about salvation or Hell or Heaven or even the rapture, but I do understand that Jesus is the only Way to Heaven.

So Happy Birthday to me and to all the people out there who have Jesus in their heart. May 2016 be an excellent year for us!