Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book Review with a Giveaway: Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano


About the Book

Title: Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe
Author: Carla Laureano
Genre: Christian Romance
Release date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Tyndale


Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review
In the latest installment of the Supper Club series, Carla Laureana focuses on Melody, a baker and pastry chef who is stuck in a low-wage job and is trying to figure out how she could ever make her dreams to come true.  It was wonderful to get to know Melody in this book.  Laureano really fleshes out her characters well, as Melody goes through some real struggles, and some really great things, as well.  Although this novel can be read as a stand-alone, it was great to be able to read Rachel's continuing story from the previous books in the series.

In this contemporary novel, the author really instills compassion on the singles having to negotiate the dating world and what a struggle that can be.  All the characters were authentic.

Anyone who has read a Supper Club novel will definitely want to continue reading this series.  I recommend this book for those who enjoy contemporary fiction, romance, and dessert.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Tyndale, through Celebrate Lit, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author

Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.






Guest Post from Carla

“Confessions of An Erstwhile Baker”

Like most females, baking is encoded somewhere deep down in my DNA. Call it nature or call it nurture, but at the earliest age, I figured out that the cute boy in my English class would talk to me if it involved chocolate chip cookies. Got my heart broken or had a friend betray me? I grabbed the mixing bowl and went for the brownies (even better if they’re served à la mode.) My friend was having a birthday? I made a cake drowned in pounds of buttercream.

I quickly graduated from the boxed mixes to the real thing when I got married and had a kitchen large enough to roll out dough. I would comb magazines for the best recipes and spend my weekends trying them out. I quickly became known for bringing beautifully iced Christmas cookies and delicious homemade cakes to work.

Then my husband and I moved our young family from Los Angeles to Denver, a relocation that was about 1000 miles northeast and 5000 feet up. Suddenly, every recipe I’d perfected in the previous eight years failed. Cookies burned to crisps, cakes fell, and don’t get me started on candy making. Gradually, I adapted my recipes (my beloved never-fail Toll House recipe took eight tries to get right) and even became an avid artisan bread-baker.

Then disaster. Or at least, what a baker would consider a disaster. After developing chronic health problems, I discovered that among other things, I was sensitive to gluten. The horror! In order to heal, I turned to the paleo diet, which eliminates all grains (there goes most gluten free recipes) and all processed sugars (there goes everything else). I’ve tried baking paleo-style, and while I can now make cakes that even my gluten-fiend family enjoy, it’s just not the same.

So what’s a once-obsessive baker do when she can’t eat her creations? She bakes for other people and goes on faith that they actually taste good… considering she can’t taste them herself.

It struck me that there was a spiritual lesson in that, and an obvious tie to Brunch at Bittersweet Café, which deals in large part with Melody’s faith journey. There are times when we have no idea if things are working out the way they’re supposed to, in which case we just have to trust the “recipe” and the input of friends and family who love us. Sometimes our instincts tell us when we’re off track, and sometimes we need that outside nudge from our “taste-testers” to put us back on course.

In any case, what Melody and I have in common is that we both bake to show our love for the people around us. And the process of baking my favorites, even knowing that I can’t enjoy them myself, can still be a selfless way to show people they’re important to me.

Fortunately, macarons, which happen to be made with almond flour, are still on the menu.

Blog Stops

Quiet Quilter, February 12
Among the Reads, February 12
Lighthouse Academy, February 12
By The Book, February 12
The Power of Words, February 13
As He Leads is Joy, February 13
Cultivating Us, February 13
Blossoms and Blessings, February 13
Fiction Aficionado, February 14
The Lit Addict, February 14
Christian Chick’s Thoughts, February 14
This Chattanooga Mommy Saves, February 14
All-of-a-kind Mom, February 15
Just the Write Escape, February 15
100 Pages per Hour, February 15
Splashes of Joy, February 15
Bibliophile Reviews, February 16
Texas Book-aholic, February 16
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 16
C Jane Read, February 17
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 17
Moments, February 17
Back Porch Reads, February 17
Cordially Barbara, February 18
Genesis 5020, February 18
Simple Harvest Reads, February 18 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 18
Livin’ Lit, February 19
Kat’s Corner Books, February 19
Life with the Tribe, February 19
Stephanie’s Life of Determination, February 19
Through the Fire Blogs, February 20
Remembrancy, February 20
Vicky Sluiter, February 20
Living Life Free in Christ, February 20
2014 and Beyond!, February 21
Daysong Reflections, February 21
Inklings and Notions, February 21
Pause for Tales, February 21
Cafinated Reads, February 22
Tell Tale Book Reviews, February 22
two points of interest, February 22
Ashley’s Bookshelf, February 22
My Devotional Thoughts, February 23
Two Girls and a Book, February 23
The Christian Fiction Girl, February 23
For the love of books, February 23
God is Love, February 24
Book by Book, February 24
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, February 24
Janices book reviews, February 24
Lukewarm Tea, February 25
Carpe Diem, February 25
A Baker’s Perspective, February 25
Bigreadersite, February 25

Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Carla is giving away a grand prize package of a macaron baking mat, a macaron book, and a paperback copy of Brunch at Bittersweet Café!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/db0f/brunch-at-bittersweet-cafe-celebration-tour-giveaway

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book review with a Giveaway: The Seamstress by Allison Pittman

About the Book

Title: The Seamstress
Author: Allison Pittman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Tyndale


A beautifully crafted story breathes life into the cameo character from the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities.

France, 1788


It is the best of times . . .

On a tranquil farm nestled in the French countryside, two orphaned cousins—Renée and Laurette—have been raised under the caring guardianship of young Émile Gagnon, the last of a once-prosperous family. No longer starving girls, Laurette and Renée now spend days tending Gagnon’s sheep, and nights in their cozy loft, whispering secrets and dreams in this time of waning innocence and peace.

It is the worst of times . . .


Paris groans with a restlessness that can no longer be contained within its city streets. Hunger and hatred fuel her people. Violence seeps into the ornate halls of Versailles. Even Gagnon’s table in the quiet village of Mouton Blanc bears witness to the rumbles of rebellion, where Marcel Moreau embodies its voice and heart.

It is the story that has never been told.

In one night, the best and worst of fate collide. A chance encounter with a fashionable woman will bring Renée’s sewing skills to light and secure a place in the court of Queen Marie Antoinette. An act of reckless passion will throw Laurette into the arms of the increasingly militant Marcel. And Gagnon, steadfast in his faith in God and country, can only watch as those he loves march straight into the heart of the revolution.

Click here to purchase your copy!

My Review

This was a sweet story, the images bringing to mind Belle from Beauty and the Beast singing about her provincial life.  But it was also tragic, as the words to "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables filled my head throughout the book. The combination resulted in a beautiful, yet angry story set during the French Revolution.

This may be the first novel that I've read by Allison Pittman, but let me tell you, she can write!  Whether it was hunger pangs, passion, fear, or an idyllic afternoon gazing at the clouds she had me fully present in the moment.  In spite of the violent nature of the events, Pittman kept it clean.  This book was easy to read, much more than its inspiration, A Tale of Two Cities.

This book is why I love historical fiction.  It taught me about the real events of another time and place, and gave me insights into the characters involved.  Anyone with a special interest in the French Revolution will certainly appreciate this novel.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Tyndale House, through Celebrate Lit, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author

Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a three-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series and once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website, allisonkpittman.com.









Guest Post from Allison


My dream of being an author began by “finishing” other author’s works, fleshing out the stories of neglected characters. When I read the final books in the Little House series, I was far more interested in Cap Garland than I was in Almanzo Wilder, and I imagined all kinds of stories in which he was the hero.

This, The Seamstress, is one of those stories that came to me in a single burst of thought. I was teaching my sophomore English class, discussing through the final scenes in A Tale of Two Cities, when the little seamstress in those final pages reached out to me. She is a nameless character, seemingly more symbolic than anything. Dickens, however, gives her an entire back story in a single phrase: I have a cousin who lives in the country. How will she ever know what became of me? I remember pausing right then and there in front of my students and saying, “Now, there’s the story I want to write.”

Now, years later, I have.

While every word of every Charles Dickens novel is a master class in writing, what he gave to me for The Seamstress is the kind of stuff that brings life and breath to fiction. I have to convey the fact that any character on my pages—no matter how much story space he or she is allotted—has a life between them. Every man was once a child; every woman a vulnerable young girl.

So, Dickens gave me the bones of the story. A seamstress. A cousin in the country. A country ripped apart; family torn from family. I did my very best to put flesh on those bones, but no writer can ever bring the life and breath. Only a reader can do that.

Blog Stops

Fiction Aficionado, February 9
The Lit Addict, February 9
The Power of Words, February 9
Jennifer Sienes: Where Crisis & Christ Collide, February 10
Lis Loves Reading, February 10
Maureen’s Musings, February 10
Carpe Diem, February 11
A Baker’s Perspective, February 11
All-of-a-kind Mom, February 12
Emily Yager, February 12
Mary Hake, February 12
Stories By Gina, February 13
Stephanie’s Life of Determination, February 13
The Christian Fiction Girl, February 13
Inspired by fiction, February 14
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 14
Remembrancy, February 14
Through the Fire Blogs, February 15
Seasonsofopportunities, February 15
Inspiration Clothesline, February 15
Books, Books, and More Books, February 16
Inklings and Notions, February 16
Locks, Hooks and Books, February 16
Bibliophile Reviews, February 17
Texas Book-aholic, February 17
Margaret Kazmierczak, February 18
A Reader’s Brain, February 18
By The Book, February 18
Multifarious, February 19
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 19
Pause for Tales, February 19
Bigreadersite, February 20
Simple Harvest Reads, February 20
Janices book reviews, February 20
For the Love of Books, February 21
Book by Book, February 21
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, February 21
Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, February 22
To Everything A Season, February 22
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 22

Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Allison is giving away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card, a hardcover copy of The Seamstress, and this copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/db0e/the-seamstress-celebration-tour-giveaway


Book review: Breach of Trust by Rachel Dylan

About the Book:

Corporate litigator Mia Shaw suffers the shock of her life when she finds her colleague and friend brutally murdered. Grief-stricken and furious, Mia vows that she will do anything to seek justice and make the killer pay.

The man accused of the murder is a friend of security tech guru Noah Ramirez, but the evidence just doesn't add up. To save his former ATF partner, Noah needs to convince Mia that the real killer is still on the loose.

Mia soon has more than the criminal prosecution to worry about, however. She is tasked with taking over her friend's last case and learns he was hiding secrets about his client. She thinks she may have stumbled upon corporate espionage that has turned deadly, but she has no idea of the danger involved. Her only ally is Noah, despite their difference of opinion on the homicide case. Can he win Mia over to his side and protect her from ever-growing threats?

This book is available to purchase here.

My Review:

Breach of Trust is an exciting, suspense-filled conclusion to the Atlanta Justice series.  In the previous novels, Mia had been the one who was more difficult to get to know.  In this novel, we quickly develop compassion for her, and respect for her character and skills as the book progresses.  This novel does stand alone.

Not knowing whom was trustworthy made this an exciting book.  Just when we think the investigation is over, there was a new development, which kept the action going throughout the book.

Fans of suspense and courtroom drama will enjoy this book.  I recommend it for men and women.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author:

Rachel Dylan is an award-winning and bestselling author of legal thrillers and romantic suspense. Rachel has practiced law for over a decade including being a litigator at one of the nation's top law firms. She enjoys weaving together legal and suspenseful stories. Rachel writes the Atlanta Justice Series which features strong, female attorneys in Atlanta. Deadly Proof, the first book in the Atlanta Justice series, is a CBA bestseller, an FHL Reader's Choice Award winner, a Daphne du Maurier Finalist, and a Holt Medallion Finalist. Rachel lives in Michigan with her husband and five furkids--two dogs and three cats. Rachel loves to connect with readers. You can find Rachel at www.racheldylan.com.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Book review with a giveaway: The Amish Candy Maker by Laura V. Hilton

About the Book

Title: The Amish Candy Maker
Author: Laura V. Hilton
Genre: Amish Christian Fiction
Release date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Whitaker House


Agnes Zook finds herself on her own in a small Amish community in Mackinac County after a tragedy kills her family. Most of the Amish call her “off in den Kopf” (strange) since she’s starting her own business and forging her own way in the community instead of relying on the bishop to take care of her. Since she’s viewed as non-submissive and too-forward for an Amish woman, she’s not courted by young men in the area.

Isaac Mast is on the verge of leaving the Amish church. He’s become a sought-after auctioneer and has a thriving business, but he feels confined by the strict rules. When his brother is severely injured in a wild fire, Isaac receives a letter from his sister-in-law, begging him to come to Mackinac County to help out while his brother is hospitalized. Isaac agrees but is unsure how to manage their young children when he has weekend auctions he’s expected to attend.

Agnes may be the answer to a prayer. Sparks fly when she and Isaac meet. But could their differences help them form a deeper connection to their faith…and each other?

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review

Something I love about Hilton's writing style is that it lets me forget that I am reading an Amish book, and I can just concentrate on and enjoy the story.  The Amish cultural details are there, but in a way that doesn't take precedence over the story.

I really loved the heroine, Agnes.  In the previous Amish of Mackinac County book, Agnes was a character that was easy to dislike.  In this book, she has clearly learned from her past mistakes, with no desire to repeat them.  She was also very relatable to readers because she was not the most popular person in town.  Who can't relate to not being picked first for the team?  She struggled, yet she was competent and honest, and it was easy to root for her.

If you like Amish fiction, you'll like this book.  If not, you'll still like this story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Whitaker House, through Celebrate Lit, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author

Laura Hilton is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and is a professional book reviewer for the Christian market, with more than a thousand reviews published on the web. Her first series with Whitaker was The Amish of Seymour, comprising Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts (2012 Laurel Award winner, first place in the Amish Genre Clash), and Promised to Another; and her second was The Amish of Webster County, comprising Healing Love, Awakened Love, and Surrendered Love. Her next series was The Amish of Jamesport, featuring The Post Card, Snow Globe, and The Birdhouse. Her latest books include The Amish Firefighter, The Amish Wanderer, and Love By the Numbers. Laura and her husband, Steve, live in Arkansas with their five children, whom Laura home schools.

Guest Post from Laura

RECIPE FOR FUDGE À LA AGNES ZOOK

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge

Courtesy of Laura V. Hilton

1 bag (12 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1 bag (10 ounces) peanut butter chips
2 cans sweetened condensed milk, divided
6 tablespoons butter, divided
20 to 30 miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or six regular-size ones broken into four or five pieces each

For the chocolate layer: Line a greased 8-by-11.5-inch baking dish with parchment paper.

In a double boiler or metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, combine milk chocolate chips, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and 4 tablespoons butter. Stir until melted and smooth.

Pour into prepared baking dish and allow to cool to room temperature, then move to the refrigerator while preparing next layer.

For the peanut butter layer: In a double boiler or metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, combine peanut butter chips, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and 2 tablespoons butter. Stir until melted and smooth.

Pour on to the milk chocolate fudge layer and press pieces of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into the surface. If desired, group candy pieces in a grid-like fashion for easier cutting later.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight or until set.

Remove from refrigerator, lift out of the pan by the edges of the parchment paper, and cut into squares, with roughly one miniature peanut butter cup or piece of a cup per square.

Store in the refrigerator.

Blog Stops

Christian Author, J. E. Grace, February 5
My Devotional Thoughts, February 5
Carla Loves To Read, February 5
Among the Reads, February 6
Girl’s In White Dresses, February 6
Britt Reads Fiction, February 6
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, February 7
The Avid Reader, February 7
Random Thoughts From a Bookworm, February 7
Emily Yager, February 8
Quiet quilter, February 8
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, February 8
Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, February 9
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, February 9
Maureen’s Musings, February 9
Bibliophile Reviews, February 10
Vicky Sluiter, February 10
Through the Fire Blogs, February 11
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 11
Daysong Reflections, February 11
Texas Book-aholic, February 12
Janices book reviews, February 12
Carpe Diem, February 13
A Baker’s Perspective, February 13
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 14
SusanLovesBooks, February 14
Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, February 14
Blossoms and Blessings, February 15
Stephanie’s Life of Perseverance, February 15
Inspiration Clothesline, February 15
Inklings and Notions, February 16
Locks, Hooks and Books, February 16
Pause for Tales, February 16
Have A Wonderful Day, February 17
For the Love of Books, February 17
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, February 17
Little Homeschool on the Prairie, February 18
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 18
Bigreadersite, February 18

Giveaway



To celebrate her tour, Laura is giving away a grand prize of a large and small spatula set and a $10 Starbucks gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d9a6/the-amish-candy-maker-celebration-tour-giveaway

Book Review: Code of Valor by Lynette Eason

About the Book:

What Detective Brady St. John really needs is a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, just as the sun is setting on his second day at a friend's cabin on Lake Henley, he hears a scream and races to rescue a woman from her would-be killer. When the killer escapes only to return to finish the job, Brady vows to utilize all of his many resources to keep her safe--and catch those who would see her dead.

Financial crimes investigator Emily Chastain doesn't trust many people. And even though she let the detective who saved her life in on a few pertinent facts about why she was being attacked, there are some things you just don't share with a stranger. Little does she suspect that the secret she is keeping just might get them both killed.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lynette Eason sends readers on a race for the truth in this heart-stopping story of risk, regret, and redemption.

You can purchase your copy here.

My Review:

This book was can't-put-it-down amazing!  The third of the Blue Justice series by Lynette Eason, Code of Valor told the story of Brady St. John as he rescued Emily Chastain from certain death many times, and then tried to figure out who was after her and why.  It reads well as a stand-alone.

As soon as the scene was set in Chapter One, the action began in earnest and did not let up until the end.  In the midst of all that, Brady's and Emily's character and faith was able to shine though.  They were both able to work through issues which eventually allowed them to open up to each other.

If you're looking for plenty of suspense and police drama, this is a book you'll love.  There is enough action and suspense in it to recommend this book to men as well as women.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Revell, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author:

Award-winning, best-selling author, Lynette Eason writes for Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense line and for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Her books have hit the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won numerous awards such as the prestigious Carol Award, the Selah, the Daphne, the IRCC award and more. Lynette is married, has two children, and lives in Greenville, SC.

Book review: Called to Protect by Lynette Eason

About the Book:

For the past year, Chloe St. John has been working as a K-9 cop with her German shepherd partner, Hank. After being dumped by her fiancé for another woman, Chloe has decided that Hank is just about the only male she likes. She's over the whole romance thing and focuses her attention on doing her job. Because a serious case of human trafficking with connections to her missing cousin just landed in her lap.

When US Marshall Blake MacCallum's daughter goes missing, he's ordered to kill the judge he's protecting and tell no one about his daughter's disappearance or she will die. Blake races against the clock to rescue his daughter while Chloe and Hank are asked to be a part of the task force assembled to bring down the traffickers. Chloe finds herself attracted to the silent, suffering man, but thanks to her previous bad judgment, she wonders if she can trust him. And can Blake trust himself around this firecracker of a woman?

Bestselling author Lynette Eason warns readers to buckle in for a fast and furious ride that will have their hearts pumping from the very start.

You can get your copy here.

My Review:

Author Lynette Eason got my attention during the first line of the second Blue Justice novel, and didn't let it go until the end.  With a can't-put-it-down plot and well-developed characters, this was a great read!

Men and women who enjoy police drama and suspense will certainly enjoy this book.  The romance takes a back seat to the investigation, action, and suspense throughout the book.  While the bad guys are really bad, and the premise involves human trafficking, Eason manages to keep it clean and readable.  The story focuses on Chloe St. John, sister of Izzy from Book One, but this reads well as a stand-alone.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Revell, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author:

Award-winning, best-selling author, Lynette Eason writes for Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense line and for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Her books have hit the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won numerous awards such as the prestigious Carol Award, the Selah, the Daphne, the IRCC award and more. Lynette is married, has two children, and lives in Greenville, SC.