Monday, 6 August 2018

More than Meets the Eye - Karen Witemeyer

When the train carrying orphaned children overturns, Evangeline Hamilton loses everything that was important to her. Banding together with two survivors – Seth and Zach – the three know they have to rely on each other. Families didn’t want children who were troublesome, poorly and in Evangeline’s case, cursed. Did having one brown and one blue eye mean that she wasn’t worthy?

The three become a family and with Zach leading them, they start a new life together. He would do anything to protect his new ‘siblings’. 
Logan Fowler has returned to Pecan Gap to seek justice. 
When his father is cheated out of their home in a card game, there is only one man to blame. Zach Hamilton. A criminal who Logan blames wholeheartedly for the demise of his father and the loss of his birthright. As he camps out on the border of Hamilton’s land, he hears a rustling. Expecting trouble, Logan is surprised to come face to face with a beautiful woman and her pet pig. 
Discovering Logan is a happy accident as far as Evie is concerned. She hardly meets anyone on account that they treat her like a leper. But despite the different colored eyes, Logan treats her well. And, despite the warning signals going off in his mind, they develop a great camaraderie.
Becoming fast friends, Logan’s conscience pricks as he realizes that Eva, as he likes to call her, will no longer like him when she discovers the real reason behind his being in Pecan Gap. 
Bu,t when on a walk home from church Evie and Logan encounter a man disposing of a suspicious bundle, they immediately rush to the rescue of what they assume to be an unwanted animal. When they discover the truth, they are shocked and know they need to do more.
Taking an unexpected twist, Logan finds that he must work with the man who expected to take revenge upon. Will they be able to solve the mystery of not only who dumped the body in the river, but why they did so? To further his consternation, Logan worries that once Zach finds out who he is, Evie will too. And, will she want to have anything to do with him?
Another classic story from Witemeyer. The author creates characters that are easily likeable and identifiable. The want to be part of a loving family is key in this story. Elements of faith, loyalty and questioning God’s choices are interspersed in the tale combining to create a story that has moments of laughter and sadness. 

Overall, a lovely take on family values with a sweet love story thrown in the mix. Recommended for all fans of Witemeyer and Christian Fiction. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House publishers as part of their blogging program. The opinion expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Baby Sign Language Made Easy - Lane Rebelo

A book that does what it says on the cover. It does make baby sign language easy.

The author knows how busy parents are. They need a book that will get to the point and help them now. And, she says as much in her introduction - "I know you don't have the time to or desire to read hundreds of pages about the history of sign language.."

So, from the get go, the parent is given practical and useful tools to learn sign language and also teach them to baby. Words such as "milk", "ball" and "bed" are shown with an image of a child making the sign as well a brief explanation on how to create the word with their hands.

Divided in to eight chapters from Family and Feelings to Animals, the book quickly establishes confidence in teaching a child to communicate. Each word has it's own page and Rebelo gives memory tips regarding how to remember to sign a word. Example when signing "bath", the memory tip is "It's like you're washing your body in the bath." Furthermore, the book will give hints as to what to look for when seeing if the baby is signing (back).

This book is brilliant in its simplicity and ease of use. The chapters don't have to be read in order, it's simple to go from Chapter One to Chapter Five. I especially like that the author gives ideas on how to use the sign language when reading or singing songs. It's informative, humorous and filled with helpful suggestions. 

Overall, highly recommended for any parent or caregiver who wants to learn and introduce sign language in their everyday lives. And, it's not geared towards children with hearing problems. It's for every baby who can't talk yet, it's an effective tool for them to say "hey, change my diaper," in a few hand movements.

I received a copy of this book to review from the Callisto Media Inc.. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

First Impression - Debra White Smith (The Jane Austen Series)

Small town lawyer, Eddi Boswick calls London, Texas home. She needs to get to know the people a little better so auditions for the local theater group's production of Pride and Prejudice. Super excited to land the role of Elizabeth Bennet, the exuberance ebbs quickly when she meets the arrogant rancher who is to play the Darcy.

Dave Davidson moved to London, Texas to live a quiet and peaceful life – away from a previous life that he was reluctant for people to know of. His aunt, Madelynne DeBloom, runs the local theater and he attended a meeting to appease her. He’s not particularly happy about getting the part of Mr. Darcy. Especially when he has to spend the summer with Eddi, who ‘clearly despises him’. He knows why. She overheard him talking to his good friend Calvin Barclay. Overheard him when he said that he thought Eddie short and prissy.

Making assumptions about her without knowing her, riled Eddi. However, she would be professional and she wouldn’t let the infuriating comments interfere with her performance and/or the rehearsals.
Each time the two meet though, ‘sparks fly’. They both deny an attraction to each other, so spending so much time with each other is difficult. When Dave disappears into a mystery shed type building on his ranch, Eddie’s curiosity gets the better of her.

What she discovers the secret Dave rather no-one knew, it makes Eddie view him in a different light. But then any favorable thoughts are dismissed when Eddie realizes that he discouraged his friend Calvin from dating her sister Jenny. To compound the dislike, her younger sister Linda heads off on an ill-advised trip with the cad Rick Wallace. Coupled with the news of Linda being pregnant, Eddi berates herself for not listening to the warning from Dave.

Overall it was a nice read. However, I just felt that I was constantly comparing it to the Austen classic. For example, how was the author going to portray Mr. Collins (Connor Boswick). Although a good contemporary version, it seemed to be trying too hard to fit all the pertinent components of the original book. As the books falls under the ‘Christian Fiction’ category, I could understand Linda’s escapades (I won’t divulge further) as sinful, but living in 2018, how many people would be shocked to find she’s sleeps with men out of wedlock? Regardless, it was a good re-telling just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from Bethany House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A Chance at Forever (Teaville Moral Society series) - Melissa Jagears

Teaville, Kansas and Mercy McClain finds herself in a predicament. She will protect all children from the bullying she experienced as a child. So, when her former tormentor arrives for a job interview as a Math teacher, Mercy wonders if anyone on the board recognizes him. Should she tell them exactly who he is?

Changing his name from George to Aaron doesn't mean he can escape from his past. Not that he wants to. Aaron Firebrook is very much aware of what he did when he was younger. And, he's returned to Teaville make amends.Then he meets with Mercy at the interview. She can make or break his new found career in teaching. He'll find employment elsewhere until he hears news of the position.

Aaron finds the job he needs and strives to keep himself to himself. He's on a mission to seek out those he mistreated. Some have forgiven his actions, others, like Mercy, have not and are making him work hard for redemption. Again, not that he's complaining. He was a bully but he has to solicit forgiveness of others.

Mercy bites her tongue when she discovers that Aaron has a job at the orphanage. Should she say something to Mr. Lowe about who Aaron is...was? A bully shouldn't be around children. But, the young woman has to put her trust firmly in the hands of God. Yet, is so difficult. Can she stand being around Aaron when he evokes awful memories of his teasing? Running the orphanage along with her brother and sister-in-law will mean that she can avoid as much as possible.

Then she finds her brother, Timothy frequenting the town's saloon. Whilst the work at the orphanage is geared toward the unwanted children of prostitutes, Mercy doesn't expect to see kin in the less than desired parts of town. Timothy would lose his job if she mentions anything to Nicholas Lowe (owner of the orphanage). But Timothy is hardly around and then she finds him drunk in the kitchen.With no help from his wife Caroline, who enjoys the finer points of living at the orphanage but wants little to do with the children themselves. However, with confession comes consequences such as will they all lose their jobs and a home.

When Aaron shows a gentler, kinder side, especially with a troublesome child called Jimmy, Mercy starts to doubt her prejudice. Has she been wrong to hold on to the past so vehemently? After all, she's not facing Aaron, a schoolboy, but a man. Can a bully change?

With Timothy's questionable behavior, Caroline's apathy, and then the unexpected request for Aaron to adopt one of the orphans, can Mercy accept her bully's help but even more so, God's?

A great story of redemption, forgiveness and understanding. Many stories will portray a bully, few will show what led them to that point. Jagears has written an understanding tale, one that captures the emotions of its lead characters, all of which are well defined. Although part of a series, the story reads well as a 'stand-alone'. A recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House to review. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Lullaby Road - James Anderson

Route 117 is a remote, lonely road that runs through the desert of Utah. When winter arrives, the road can become treacherous. Ben Jones, delivery driver, knows too well how the road is unforgiving.

Delivering what the people need – water, horse feed, food – Ben meets an eclectic number of characters. Some, he has more of a history with than others. Including Walt, owner of the ‘never open diner’ and father to the woman Ben loved and who was murdered. Still battling the loss, and the heartache, he continues his deliveries ‘serving as the region’s sole lifeline to the outside world’.

When Cecil, owner of a seedy truck stop informs him of a package left for him, Ben is astounded to find a small child and a dog with a note attached from Pedro, a man who worked at the tire shop. A note which ominously asks the truck driver to look after Juan and to ‘tell no-one’.  With the cold temperatures, there’s no way Ben can leave a defenseless child. Reluctantly he takes his new ward – and the dog – with him.

Then his next-door neighbor, Ginny, suddenly appears at the stop. She’s desperate. Working and studying, plus a million other things she does, including being a mother to Annabelle, she needs help. Can Ben look after her sweet baby whilst she goes to class? Ben can’t seem to say no. Ginny’s mother is a no-good woman and Ben’s affection for Ginny is founded on the young girls amazing fortitude despite a mother that isn’t around for her.

Along his route, he bumps in to Preacher John. A man who carries a very large, very heavy cross along the route. One day, a vehicle won’t see him and he’ll be mown down. And, yet it hasn’t happened. Ben and John share an imaginary cigarette every now and then. Ben likes John. So, when he gets knocked over and is suffering with severe injuries, Ben makes the arduous journey to Price to get much needed medical supplies, until Life Flight can get to John. And then Ben finds out that someone has cancelled the helicopter.

In a complicated six degrees of separation, the residents of Rockmuse, Price and Route 117 are intertwined and Ben is seemingly caught up in their stories. With little choice but to take his precious cargo along the way, he finds himself slowly unravelling the reason why Pedro left his child with him, the reason for John’s accident all the while keeping his truck moving along the highway, where drivers he meets succumb to stupidity and the weather.

A slow-moving narrative that is packed with details. The characters are all very well developed and the plot is very intriguing. Told from the viewpoint of Ben, it’s an insiders view to life on the road. Whilst I enjoyed it, I felt that I should have read the previous authors novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner to get a better understanding of his relationship with Walt and Claire, his murdered daughter. Overall, it is a very well plotted and well written novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books as part of their review program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Hearts Entwined - Historical Romance Novellas : Witemeyer, Connealy, Jennings, Jagears

The Love Knot: Karen Witemeyer

Since moving from the slums of New York on a fool hardy whim, Claire Nevin has worried about her family she left behind, especially as her father was prone to drink away the hard-earned money that she sent back. So, when a letter arrives from her younger sister, Polly, admitting she’s in trouble, the last thing Claire expects to see walking off the train is Pieter Duran. A man she dated once, but who still holds her heart.

The package he bought is even more surprising and one that turns Claire’s world upside down. However, family is important and she is determined to help Polly. There is a high possibility that Pieter will be able to explain what happened all those years ago between them and that, Claire fears, will mean that there is no reason to not continue to love him.
A sweet novella centering around vibrant characters. 
The Tangled Ties that Bind: Mary Connealy
Returning home after five years determined to win the heart of his best friend, Maggie, Connor Kincaid knows he’s older and possibly wiser, and therefore ready to settle down to be a rancher.

But when he arrives, besides having to steer clear of a buffalo, he finds Maggie, beautiful as ever, only she’s training to be a doctor. Connor expected her to be waiting for him - should he have been na├»ve to think that?

Maggie will not compromise. She waited for a long time for Connor but no more. Set on a new path to being medically trained, she’s not going to let anyone, even the handsome Connor sway her. When Connor decides to join her in Denver, their lives take an unexpected turn.

A story fuelled by family loyalty, responsibilities and underlying sexism.

Bound and Determined: Regina Jennings
Private Bradley Willis has been reckless – again. This time the punishment is to help retired officer, Captain Herald move a herd across Indian Territory. Expecting cattle, he’s surprised to find camels. They’re not the most attractive of creatures and they spook the horses. Even more of a surprise is the Captain’s vivacious daughter, Ambrosia. For reasons yet unknown, she doesn’t want the camels to head back to her home – she’s managed to scare off a bunch of cowboys. But, Bradley doesn’t scare off easily.

Picking up from the new series by Jennings, Private Willis escapades are taken down a notch or two when he meets a beautiful woman. 

Tied and True: Melissa Jagears

Marianne Lister is helplessly in love with business assistant Calvin Hochstetler. The only thing getting in their way is Calvin’s obstinacy over the difference in status. Marianne is heiress to the Lister fortune and Calvin has just enough money to live on.

Calvin knows what it’s like to live hand to mouth and he doesn’t want Marianne to ever experience that want. He lets her down gently and hopes, no matter how it hurts, that she meets someone who will give her the life she deserves. Determined to prove that love can cross the class barrier, Marianne starts work at a cotton factory. Will Calvin see that the woman he’s in love with cannot be compared to the mother who abandoned him when they became too poor?

An unexpected premise of class being an obstruction to being happy.

These four stand alone novellas all have likeable characters and good plots. They cram a lot in to a short story and whilst I found that it gave a slightly hurried feel to the stories, nothing was really lost. There is a link to previous novels, but the stories still work and if anything, encouraged me to read the authors other novels. Overall, they are all well written and I think a good introduction for anyone wanting to read historical romances and not sure where to start.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from Bethany House Publishers as part of their blogger program. The opinions express are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Holding the Fort (BK 1 The Fort Reno Series) – Regina Jennings

When Louisa Bell loses her job at the Cat-Eye saloon, as a dance hall singer, her options available as to what to do next, are few. Cimarron Ted then tells her he hears news that her brother, Bradley Willis a Calvary soldier in Indian Territory, is in trouble - again. 
Having lost her job, Louisa thought she'd visit Bradley, but this will be a problem if he’s in trouble. But Louisa is determined to set him on the straight and narrow – and hopefully ask for a job.
On her way to Fort Reno, she makes her acquaintance with Mrs. Townsend. A missionary on her way to the Fort to be a governess. Unfortunately, the dust is playing havoc with the older lady's allergies and she asks Louisa to take the books she bought with her to the girls.
Whilst waiting for the next stagecoach, and able to sing in a wide-open field, the young woman happens upon a man standing on top of a horse only for him to fall. As she rushes to help him, she not only wonders who he is, but notices his handsome features.
The last thing Major Daniel Adams expects to see is a beautiful woman in the middle of a field, singing. But the trick he’s doing, in grudging deference to Private Willis, has been on his mind. If a Private can do this, whilst drunk, surely, he can? It’s a break from everything else. Running a Fort with half an army, ensuring tensions don’t escalate between the army, cowboys and the Indian’s. And then there are his two young girls. If this new governess doesn’t work out, he knows his mother -in-law will insist on raising them away from the ravages of the fort in Galveston.  
With the exception of Lieutenant Jack Hennessey’s knowledge of the incident, when Louisa and Daniel finally meet, their recognition of who they are is a secret they have to maintain. Hoping the incident will become a distant memory for him, the Commander is somewhat surprised to discover that Louisa is to be the new governess. Not only is she a lot younger than he expected a governess to be, but she’s also quite beautiful.
Expecting to meet children, Louisa is surprised to find Caroline and Daisy a lot older and it causes concern for the young woman. Once thing Louisa prides herself on is being able to put on a show. But will these, vibrant, willful and intelligent girls see through her act?
Whilst the saloon singer’s intention is to set her brother on the right path, Louisa finds herself getting more involved with the Commanders family – something she wasn’t planning on.
Soon enough Louisa betrays her roots and slips up here and there, however, Daniel is fine to look the other way. There is something about his new governess that he likes, admires. Maybe she will work out as the new governess. Can Louisa convince her new employer that she has the makings of a governess? Or will her past come back to haunt her and ruin her life for good?
A heartwarming story of love, family and the wild west. Jennings' characters have a realistic quality to them, have depth and are well thought out. The secondary plot line of tensions between the Indians and Cowboys is a good break but works together with the main story in a climax that I didn't fully expect. Easy to read, engaging and well written. A recommended read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House as part of their blogging program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.