Book Review: Shattered by Dani Pettrey

When her prodigal brother Reef’s return to Yancey, Alaska, is shattered by his arrest for murder, Piper McKenna is determined to protect him. 

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he’s also sworn to find the truth. And he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth puts Landon’s career in jeopardy.

When Piper launches her own investigation, Landon realizes he must protect her from herself–and whatever complications await as the two follow clues deep into Canada’s rugged backcountry. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.

I loved Landon and Piper in Submerged. I was so glad to see them get their own book!

I loved the two of them together. Working hard to prove Reef is innocent. I loved Alaska and Canada and California and the places they went to investigate. I loved the relationship between the siblings and the may-as-well-be-siblings McKennas. The changing relationship between Piper and one of those may-as-well-be-siblings is enough to make a girl shed a tear then smile and sigh happily.

This mystery didn’t have the same eyes-glazing moments that the first one did and I appreciated that. I loved it and the resolution.

I’ve heard Ms. Pettrey compared to Dee Henderson. I don’t know that I’d make that comparison but both books are great reads. I love the McKenna family and can’t wait to read more about them.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ecopy in exchange for my unbiased review.
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Book Review: Submerged by Dani Pettrey

A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers. 

One single clue.

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey, Alaska, again. She has a past, and a reputation–and Yancey’s a town that doesn’t forget. She’s returned only to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash, but then dark evidence emerges and Bailey’s own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can face dangerous rescue dives. He can face the fear a murderer may be threatening his town. But facing the reality of Bailey’s reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart…but doesn’t seem to be the same girl who left Yancey ten years ago. And he’s not the same guy she left behind. 

Racing against the clock and a rising body count, Bailey and Cole must move beyond the hurts of their pasts to work together until the truth of what is hidden in the depths finally surfaces.

I’d heard good things about this book – and about Cole in particular. I saw the sequel, Shattered, up for review on NetGalley and decided it was as good a time as any to read this one ;). And since I’m reviewing Shattered tomorrow, I may as well review Submerged today :D.

I loved Cole and Bailey. Bailey who’s trying so hard to overcome her past – her high school reputation. Her past as a child unloved by her parents.

Years earlier, she broke Cole’s heart and he’s not quite ready to trust her again – for good reason. But his family opens their arms to her and, before long, she’s one of them again.

Overall, I loved the book and the mystery, but some of the explanation at the end about what the bad guys are looking for and why gets a bit convoluted and I had a hard time following it. But I was able to just sort of nod and ‘uh huh’ and go with it ;).

Overall rating: 8.75 out of 10 stars

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Like to Garden? Check Out This Giveaway!

My friend Karen over at Only Sometimes Clever is hosting a seed giveaway on her blog!!

Below is a description of the prizes but to find out how to enter, you’ll need to follow this link.

Only Sometimes Clever Just Grow It Big Seed Giveaway From Botanical Interests

I’m late getting into this so you only have a few hours. Tonight at midnight Mountain Standard Time. So hurry on over!

  1. Can You Dig It?  Children’s Gardening Kit.  This retails for $29.99 and is a package that includes a colorfully illustrated instruction book, garden supply list, planting map, horticultural glossary, a reusable harvesting bag and garden markers.  The seed packets included in this collection are:  Carrot Baby Little Finger, Tomato Cherry Gardener’s Delight, Lettuce Butterhead Tom Thumb, Bean Bush Blue Lake 274, Radish Cherry Belle, and Marigold Dwarf Lemon Drop.  This would be perfect for a homeschooling project, a weekend family project, or as a project to do with your preschoolers!  You and your children can learn together!!


    Can You Dig It? Kit

    Can You Dig It? Kit

  2. Water-Wise Flower Mix.  Two large packets of seeds, enough to cover a total of about 500 square feet with water-wise color, both annuals and perennials.  It contains a mix of 20 different flowers like Arroyo Lupine, Sulphur Cosmos, Orange California Poppy, Moss Verbena, and Pink Evening Primrose.  Retail value:  $9.98. 

    Water-Wise Mix

    Water-Wise Mix

  3. Container Vegetable Seed Collection This collection retails for $15.00 and contains eight packets of seed, all selected to grow well in containers or other small spaces.  Included are:  Carrot Tonda di Parigi, Cucumber Spacemaster, Kale Dwarf Blue Curled, Lettuce Mesclun Farmer’s Market Blend, Onion Bunching/Scallion Tokyo Long White, Pepper Sweet Cherry Blend, Spinach Lavewa, and Tomato Bush Better Bush. 

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

  4. Karen’s Selection for February-March planting in the Phoenix area.  With a (small bit of) knowledge of what is likely to grow well in the Sonoran Desert, and using the reliable, indispensable University of Arizona Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County, I have personally selected a eleven varieties that are perfect for late-February and/or March planting.  Of course, you don’t have to be in the desert to plant these gems, but the seeds, some good compost, some water, and the spring Arizona sunshine should net you some great veggies in a couple of months, right about the time that most people in cooler climates are starting to plant!  Nine of the the eleven varieties can be direct-seeded:  You plant them directly into the soil of your garden;  no need for starting them indoors.  Included in this package are:  OrganicGreek Yevani Basil, Heirloom Pencil Pod Yellow bush beans, Organic Heirloom Gourmet Blend beets, Heirloom White Stem bok choySpacemaster cucumbers, Organic Heirloom Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Heirloom Tokyo Long White green onions (scallions), Organic Heirloom Early Jalapeno peppers, Organic Heirloom Cherry Belle radish, Heirloom Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and Organic Heirloom Italian Roma tomatoes.  (Approximate retail value $23.00.) 

    Tatuma Calabacita -- this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

    Tatuma Calabacita — this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

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Book Review: Rebekah by Jill Eileen Smith

Can love heal the rift between two souls?

When her beloved father dies and she is left in the care of her conniving brother Laban, Rebekah knows her life has changed forever. Though she should be married by now, it’s clear that Laban is dragging his feet, waiting for a higher bride-price to line his pockets. But then Rebekah is given a chance to leave her home to marry Isaac, a cousin she has never even seen, and her hope for the future is restored. Little does she know what a wondrous and heart-wrenching journey she is beginning.

As Rebekah experiences the joy of young love and the bitterness of misunderstanding and betrayal, her resolve is tested. When the rift between Isaac and her grows so wide it is surely too great to be mended, can she trust the God of Isaac’s father Abraham to bridge the gap?

Join bestselling author Jill Eileen Smith as she fills in the blanks around the life of the enigmatic Rebekah.

Isn’t that cover gorgeous? /sigh/

This is the second in Ms. Smith’s Wives of the Patriarchs series. I thoroughly enjoyed Sarai and have looked forward to Rebekah for nearly a year.

Ms. Smith does a fabulous job of pulling us into the world of ancient Israel. I love the relationship between Isaac and Rebekah – at least until Jacob and Esau are born and Jacob doesn’t quite believe Rebekah’s story that an angel appeared to her, telling her Jacob was to be the heir.

After that their relationship was strained – understandably so.

One… down side? to reading true stories is that the ending is a given and can’t be changed unless we don’t truly know the ending. Regardless, I was drawn into the world and Rebekah didn’t let go until I was finished several hours later.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Thanks to the author and publisher for a free copy in exchange for my review.
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Book Review: Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy. 

Lydia’s talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade, Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.

When Bane’s enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane’s mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.

When forces conspire against them from without and within, can their love survive?

I enjoyed Ms. Camden’s first two books and enjoyed this one as much.

Lydia’s past is tragic. Her present is nice, but lacking.

Bane’s past is also tragic though for different reasons. His present is even more lacking than hers is.

They both lack a sense of family. Of belonging. More than superficially anyway.

No matter how they try to fight it, the two of them are drawn to each other. They fight bad guys together. Try desperately to fight their attraction, but in the end, they can’t.

I liked the setting, the story, pretty much the whole thing and I can’t wait for Ms. Camden’s next offering.

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for my review.
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Book Review: Iscariot by Tosca Lee

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee brilliantly adapts the life of Judas Iscariot into a dazzling work of fiction—humanizing the man whose very name is synonymous with betrayal.

Based on extensive research into the life and times of Judas Iscariot, this triumph of fiction storytelling by the author of Havah: The Story of Eve revisits one of biblical history’s most maligned figures and brings the world he inhabited vividly to life.

In Jesus, Judas believes he has found the One—the promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule. Galvanized, he joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life. But soon Judas’s vision of a nation free from Rome is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention—who seems, in the end, to even turn against his own people. At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for, but a man bent on a drastically different agenda.

Iscariot is the story of Judas, from his tumultuous childhood to his emergence as the man known to the world as the betrayer of Jesus. But even more, it is a singular and surprising view into the life of Jesus that forces us to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous—and infamous—religious icons in history.

This is my first Tosca Lee book [though I think I may have Havah on my Kindle…] and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As most of you who follow my blog with any regularity know [that’s like 4 of you ;)], I have lots of writer friends and I’d heard from one of them – and the hubby of one of them – that this is Tosca’s best work yet. Since it’s my first book, I can’t attest to that but I can say it was very thought-provoking.

The story is, by necessity, made up.

There’s only so much we can get from the Bible itself and from extra-biblical sources like Josephus and so the rest of it must be made up.

I won’t begin to second guess her research [her list of resources is beyond impressive] and so will accept what she has at face value.

One thing I think I was hoping for was… a more human side of Jesus. Sitting around the campfire, shooting the breeze with the disciples. There wasn’t much here [that I noticed anyway] that was extra-Biblical in the sense of the words Jesus said or things he did. Perhaps a bit different interpretation than what I’d always presumed, but nothing that didn’t make sense or seem out of place to me.

I’ve never really given much thought to Judas other than he’s the ultimate in betrayal. The one traitor who almost everyone knows [he even got a shout out from Sheldon Cooper, alongside Benedict Arnold and Leonard Hoffstader on The Big Bang Theory].

After all, he betrayed Christ.

But the more I thought about it as I read Iscariot, the more I wasn’t sure he deserved the title. Sure, he betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver, but God the Father [and presumably, God the Son] knew before the foundation of the earth how this would play out. SOMEONE had to turn Jesus over to the leaders of the day.

I always figured Judas to be one who wouldn’t end up in heaven, when I thought about it at all.

But Tosca challenges all of those thoughts.

Why did Judas do what he did? Was there any possible reason that could justify what Judas did?

Sure, Christ had to die on the cross to absolve us of our sins [while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us], but to be the one to send him there? Sure, lots of others were complicit, but Judas turned him over.

In Iscariot, Tosca created a Judas I could sympathize with. Understand.

And even commend for turning Jesus over.

I know that doesn’t make much sense. I won’t spoil the whys and wherefores of it, but I understood Judas’s thinking. And why he would do what he did.

It doesn’t make sense. I know that.

To see for yourself why, you’ll need to read the book ;).

Or email me privately.

Immediately after finishing my ecopy of Iscariot, I ordered a hard copy to loan out.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ecopy in exchange for my honest review.
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Book Review: Picture Perfect by Janice Thompson

She’s trying to focus on her future. How can one make make everything feel so . . . fuzzy?

Hannah McDermott has a successful photography studio. She’ll soon be featured in Texas Bride magazine. And she has a celebrity client whose Galveston ceremony will be her ticket to the top spot on wedding coordinator Bella Neeley’s list of recommended photographers. But it could all come crashing down around her because of one man: archrival and photographer extraordinaire Drew Kincaid.

As the competition between Hannah and Drew heats up, Hannah is surprised to find that it’s not the only thing getting more intense. She can’t get the handsome man out of her thoughts–or even out of her line of sight–and the job of her dreams is turning into a nightmare. Will everything she’s worked for slip out of her hands? And can she see past her pride to find a picture-perfect love?

With contagious humor and a cast of quirky characters, Janice Thompson gives you crazy bridal-business drama, sweet romance, and a satisfying dose of laughter.

Bella’s Back!!!!

I’ve been excited about this series since I first heard about it. I loved Bella and the whole Galveston-Splendora crew! I also loved Janice’s Backstage Pass series which included a couple of the characters from Weddings by Bella. I’ve been looking forward to catching up with Bella, DJ, the Splendora Sisters and everyone else.

Janice doesn’t disappoint.

In fact, immediately after reading this I posted the following on Facebook:

Janice Thompson’s first offering in her Weddings by Design series is, quite simply, Picture Perfect.

Or something to that effect anyway ;).

I absolutely loved Hannah. I loved Drew. I loved Hannah and Drew together. I loved their families.

I really, really loved seeing Bella and the gang.

But Hannah is like most of us. She wrestles with insecurities much like the rest of us. Some from high school. Some well-founded. Some completely groundless. Through it all, she learns to trust God. She learns that not everyone has it as all-together as they seem. She learns to “let go and let God”. And when she lets God, everything seems to turn out all right.

The Bob and Bing Party is fabulous [and Janice will be having one on Facebook soon! See my post from last week for more details].

Everyone, it seems, learns to step outside their comfort zones and into the life God has planned for them.

If only I could learn that lesson as well ;).

Overall Rating: 9.25 out of 10 stars

Very special thanks to Janice and Revell for a copy in exchange for my review.
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