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January 21, 2017

Series Saturday: The Redemption Series {Karen Kingsbury}

Note: This year I am reading some "older" series from some of my favorite authors. Rather than do reviews of these individual books, I will be reviewing the series as a whole. You can look for these Series Saturday posts through the year.

From the moment I became a fan of Christian Fiction I have been hearing about Karen Kingsbury and the Baxter Family. I have heard fans rave about these characters and I've heard fans tell of the way this family changed their lives. I just knew I had to jump in.

One of my reading goals for 2017 is to get through the entire Baxter Family series. This family is actually spread out across five series and three books from Kingsbury, so I am going to review each individual series as I conquer it. I started at the very beginning - THE REDEMPTION SERIES.

In THE REDEMPTION SERIES, we meet the Baxters - John & Elizabeth, Erin, Brooke, Kari, Ashley, and Luke. Although the books are laid out so that each kid is the focus of each book, the entire family is intertwined into these stories in a way I have never experienced with a book series. And this family, they have their issues. But they also have a solid foundation in their faith in God, and John & Elizabeth do an amazing job of continuing to guide their adult children in their faith while also allowing them to be the individuals they have grown to be.

In this series we follow the family through an affair, murder, September 11, unexpected pregnancies, health scares, tragedy, broken hearts, and death. We watch this family pull away from each other, and we watch them come back together to give the kind of support you can only receive from your family. I fell head-over-heels in love with each member of the Baxter Family and found myself wide awake at night wondering how they were doing!

But this series does so much more than simply provide reading entertainment. From this series, I learned better strategies for working through life in my marriage, interacting with my children, being a friend to those in need, and growing my faith in God. While these books are full of fictional characters and their fictional issues, they are also some of the most amazing self-help books I've ever had in my hands.

I cried through most of this series - both sad and happy tears. When Elizabeth writes a poem to one of her children on their wedding day, I cried so hard it took me 20 minutes to read the poem! It is gut wrenching and will make you a better parent.

So overall - YES! If you have never heard of the Baxter Family, if you read it a long time ago, or if you have ever just considered it - find a copy of this series and get to it. I can tell this journey is going to be amazing.

January 16, 2017

Justice Delayed {Patricia Bradley}

justice delayed patricia bradley
It's been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister's sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn't actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, this case is personal: the person who confessed to the crime is Will's cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in that week--including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love.

With the perfect mixture of intrigue and nail-biting suspense, award-winning author Patricia Bradley invites her readers to crack the case--if they can--alongside the best Memphis has to offer.

My Thoughts:
This first book in a new series brought entertainment and new characters but didn't bring enough to have me itching for the rest of the series.

Brad and Andi lost their sister, Stephanie, to murder almost 20 years ago, and the supposed killer is about to be executed. However, a recent suicide has just enough doubt and circumstance to suddenly make Stephanie murderer look innocent. It is this plot line where we meet an array of characters who somehow are all tied together by Stephanie’s past.

Honestly, I found it a little unbelievable that so many people would have jobs that just happened to be what was needed to finally solve the case of Stephanie’s murder. I had a hard time believing that many of these people would be ‘in the right place at the right time’ to make this story all come together.

Much of this book seemed either predictable or unbelievable to the point I was uninterested with how it would all turn out. The bit of suspense at the end seemed to be the redeeming quality, but even it turned out to be a little convenient for those involved.

Bottom line - not looking towards the rest of this series.

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January 9, 2017

An Uncommon Protector {Shelley Shepard Gray}

an uncommon protector shelley shepard gray
Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a ranch on her own, Laurel Tracey decides to hire a convict—a man who’s just scary enough to take care of squatters and just desperate enough to agree to a one-year post.

The years following the war have been hard on Laurel Tracey. Both her brother and her father died in battle, and her mother passed away shortly after receiving word of their demise. Laurel has been trying to run her two hundred acre ranch as best she can.

When she discovers that squatters have settled in her north pasture and have no intention of leaving, Laurel decides to use the last of her money to free a prisoner from the local jail. If she agrees to offer him room and board for one year, he will have to work for her to pay off his debt.

Former soldier Thomas Baker knows he’s in trouble when he finds himself jailed because he couldn’t pay a few fines. Laurel’s offer might be his only ticket out. Though she’s everything he ever dreamed of in a woman—sweet and tender-hearted, yet strong—he’s determined to remain detached, work hard on her behalf, and count the days until he’s free again.

But when cattle start dying and the squatters damage a barn, Thomas realizes more than just his freedom is on the line. Laurel needs someone to believe in her and protect her property. And it isn’t long before Laurel realizes that Thomas Baker is far more than just a former soldier. He’s a trustworthy hero who’s survived a terrible past. He needs more than just his freedom, he needs her love and care too.

My Thoughts:
It's not every day I pick up a book and actually like both of the main characters, but this was one of those instances. I absolutely loved both Laurel and Thomas, and for many of the same reasons.

We meet Thomas first, and our first impression is he is a hard working man, willing to pay his dues and deal with whatever life hands him. He has fought in the war, spent time as a prisoner of war, and then found himself in the local jail over gambling debts. Because of his willingness to take whatever he gets, he finds himself the victim of abuse from those in authority around him.

As we get to know him, we learn he had a very tough childhood, provided for himself until he entered the military, and came out a better man because of all of it. The way Thomas immediately fell into the protector role with Laurel made me want to give him a big hug. He is such a gentleman, and I wanted nothing but the best for him in life.

Laurel has a heart of gold. We first meet her as she is serving water to the prisoners working on her land. It is this glimpse into the kind of woman she is that wins your heart immediately. She thinks very little of herself, but not in an annoying way. She simply believes she is a plain girl just trying to save the ranch she inherited from her family.

Laurel also recognizes she needs help, and she finds herself purchasing Thomas from the jail. As soon as these two make their way back to her ranch, it becomes obvious they belong together. Unfortunately, each of them is determined to honor the employer/employee relationship created for them.

As they find themselves in danger on the ranch, we get to see a vulnerable and protective side to each of them. These traits just made me like each of them even more. I could not wait for them to figure out they were supposed to be together.

This is a wonderful story of love, grace, forgiveness, and redemption. It is beautifully written and deserves a spot on your reading list this year. 

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January 2, 2017

Maybe it's You {Candace Calvert}

maybe its you candace calvert
ER nurse Sloane Ferrell escaped her risky past—new name, zip code, job, and a fresh start. She’s finally safe, if she avoids a paper trail and doesn’t let people get too close. Like the hospital’s too-smooth marketing man with his relentless campaign to plaster one “lucky” employee’s face on freeway billboards.

Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive Sloane Ferrell.

Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past.

Can hope spring from crisis?

My Thoughts:
This book captured my attention from the very beginning. I am the marketing director at a hospital, so the fact that one of the main characters in this book was a hospital marketing director just pulled me in.

I didn't read the first two books in this series, but I had no problems getting to know these characters and the situations they were in. Sloane is a mystery of a woman, but we quickly learn she has a very dark background that has her life in danger, as well as the lives of those around her. The simple fact that she is a nurse shows she has compassion, but the way she interacts with her patients is perfection in showing the kind of person she is. Unfortunately, Sloan is always looking over her shoulder for the danger that is determined to find her, and it makes her a very private person unwilling to open up to those around her.

I had a love-hate relationship with Micah. I felt a connection to him because of his career and understood the premise behind his behavior as a marketing person. I know how hard it can be to balance compassion with advertising and he seemed to have a great handle on the task at hand. Unfortunately, his task at hand had him constantly going after the stories and people who preferred to keep their lives under wraps. I wanted to tell him to back off but then found myself hoping he would fight for the love he was feeling in his heart.

When danger does finally catch up with Sloan, it takes down everyone and everything in her life. I was so sad with the situations her friends found themselves in but was proud of the way everyone reacted and rallied around her. I completely loved how this story ended and where everyone found themselves when the danger made its way out of their lives.

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December 12, 2016

Because You're Mine {Colleen Coble}

because you're mine colleen coble
Alanna has been plagued by tragedy. So it should come as no surprise that in the beauty that surrounds Charleston, all is not as it seems.

When her husband is killed by a car bomb while their band is on tour in Charleston, Alanna doesn’t know where to turn. Her father-in-law is threatening to take custody of the baby she carries, but the one thing she knows for sure is that she can’t lose the last piece of Liam she has left.

Their manager offers her a marriage of convenience to gain her U.S. citizenship and allow her to escape her father-in-law’s control. It seems like the perfect solution . . . but her doubts begin almost as soon as she arrives at Barry’s family home, a decaying mansion surrounded by swamp.

To make matters worse, Liam’s best friend survived the car bomb. She’s never really liked Jesse and now she can’t seem to get away from him. When he takes Liam’s place in their band, it’s almost more than she can bear.

But then things start happening. Things that could easily cost Alanna her life—or the life of her unborn child. Are they merely coincidences? Or is there something much more sinister at work?

My Thoughts:
When you pick up a book from Colleen Coble, you can be guaranteed you will get that perfect recipe of suspense and romance.

As soon as we were introduced to Alanna and Liam, I fell in love with them. The seemingly perfect couple with love so deep. When Liam is suddenly killed, Alanna's life falls into a tailspin that she must find a way out of - and fast.

Barry seemed like a creep from the moment we met him, and I never trusted him. When he offers to help Alanna I found myself trying to tell her not to do it, but she didn't listen to me, and the result was a new life in a family of deep dark secrets. As we got to know Barry and his family, it becomes evident Alanna has gotten herself into a situation she may not be able to find a way out of.

And then there is Jess. Jess started out as a jerk, but surviving the accident apparently made him rethink his life. As he appears to be working through the issues he once had, I found myself liking the guy and hoping he would get a break in life. I wanted him to find true happiness, as well as figure out who he was deep inside.

As all these characters find themselves in danger, there is only one way they can possibly find survival - through God's grace. These characters called upon God for help, and He delivered in a way only He can.

I thought this book as well written with great characters and enough suspense to keep you turning the pages. It definitely deserves a place on your reading list.

USAToday bestselling author Colleen Coble lives with her husband, Dave, in Indiana. She is the author of dozens of novels including the Rock Harbor Series, the Aloha Reef Series, the Mercy Falls Series, the Hope Beach Series, the Lonestar Series and two Women of Faith fiction selections, Alaska Twilight and Midnight Sea. She has more than 2 million books in print.

December 8, 2016

Holding Out for Love {Debra Clopton}

holding out for love debra clopton
Jillian Sinclair needs a man and she needs him now. She dreams of being a mother-but the doctor just gave her the news that if she plans to carry a baby herself then her time is running out. She also wants true love like her sisters but will she have to settle for something less than that in order to get her baby? The last thing she needs is the only man she's loved and lost coming back to town. 

Undercover cop, Ryan Locke is back in Windswept Bay but for how long? He broke her heart once when he chose his career over her. Can he be the answer to her prayers or will his dedication to justice take him away from her once more? 

My Thoughts:
The final Sinclair sister finally gets her story, and it is a good one.  Jillian is the only one of the Sinclair sisters not to find love yet, but the one who wants to fall in love and be a mother the most. When the doctor tells her babies better come fast, it completely rocks her world.

My heart hurt for Jillian as I watched her struggle with the news the doctor gave her. She tried to keep the news from her sisters to keep them from feeling guilty about their own happiness. Watching Jillian quietly deal with her heartache made me want so much happiness for her.

The moment Jillian and Ryan lock eyes, we know they are meant to be. Unfortunately, people let their heads and their emotions get in the way of what is meant to be far too often. Ryan is dealing with the struggles of his past and the undercover job he just completed. Jillian is dealing with the reality that any man she falls in love with is going to have to know the truth about her ability to have a baby. Both of them seem to be dwelling on their hurt to the point they cannot see what is right in front of them.

I loved Jillian and Ryan’s story. I appreciated the struggle these characters had to go through and how circumstances of life brought them to the place they were supposed to be. I cannot wait for this series to continue with the Sinclair brothers. I know their stories are going to be amazing.

Award-winning, Bestselling author Debra Clopton has sold over 2.5 million books and her holiday story, OPERATION: MARRIED BY CHRISTMAS has been optioned for an ABC Family Movie. Debra is known for her snappy dialogue, cowboy heroes and spunky heroines set in Texas. Her awards include: The Book Sellers Best, Romantic Times Magazine's Book of the Year. She's also a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Finalist, and a triple finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award.

A sixth generation Texan, Debra lives on a ranch in central Texas with her husband Chuck. She loves to travel and spend time with her family. She is the author of the much loved Mule Hollow Matchmakers series where you never know what the Matchmaking "Posse" is going to do next! She's written for Harlequin Love Inspired and Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins Christian and DCP Publishing. 

She is currently working on her 38th novel surrounded by cows, dogs and even renegade donkey herds that keep her writing authentic and often find their way into her stories. She loves helping people smile with her fun, fast paced stories. 
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Sparks of Love {Mary L Ball}

sparks of love mary l ball
Misjudged and accused, Lynette Cunningham walks away from God and everything she loves.

Ten years later, a phone call from father offers hope when he announces he may have a clue to the unsolved crime that forced her to run. She’s scared, but encouraged. Maybe this will clear her name from slander in her small North Carolina hometown.

Before Lynette returns tragedy strikes. A fire destroys her childhood home and kills her father. While she sorts through the ruins and hopes to find the clue, Lynette meets the new pastor, Price Fletcher. She must face the two things that scare her most. The past and a man of God.

The past wants to stay buried. Will Lynette stay alive long enough to prove her innocence and accept the love that is offered?

My Thoughts:
I'm glad I said ‘yes’ to a new-to-me author and read this book. I loved the story, the romance, and the fast-paced suspense this book offers.

This book opens with Lynette leaning her father may have uncovered proof that she was not involved in a crime she was previously accused of. Lynette is excited and ready to return home to learn what her father has in store. But her father dies that night leaving Lynette hurt, confused, and alone. She returns home anyway to sort through his things and decide what to do with the rest of her life.

As Lynette finds herself spending more time in her hometown, she rekindles and the old friendship with Van. I loved how their friendship just picked back up, and they were able to share secrets and be an important part of each other's lives.

I also loved the role Pastor Price played in Lynette’s life. He was a pastor willing to help her through a traumatic event in her life, but I never expected him to fall for her. But Lynette is not looking for a relationship, and especially not from a pastor.

Of course, God does His things His way. As Lynette works through the loss of her earthly father, we get to see her rediscover her Heavenly father. Her life begins to change and things begin to fall into place. All because she was willing to listen and give her life back to God.

The suspense in this book will keep you guessing until the very end. I enjoyed the fast pace and the way the story keeps you engaged. I definitely recommend this book and will be adding more books from Ball to my reading list.