Spotlight on Romance — Christmas Cakes And Kisses

25 Jan

Is it too late or too early for a Christmas-y romance? I say NO! Today’s spotlight on romance features Christmas Cakes And Kisses by Lara Van Hulzen. If you are still in a holiday mood check it out! If not, make sure to add it to you TBR wishlist. Is July too soon to read it? LOL!

Eva Endicott comes to Silver Bay to prove to her family that she can make it on her own. Working in the local bakery, she’s determined to save enough to open her own cake decorating business. Winning an upcoming Christmas cake competition is the key to her dream, so Eva has no time for distractions, especially not devastatingly handsome ones that maker her heart skip a beat.

Tyler Vance is the personal trainer for professional baseball pitcher, Drew MacIntyre. After following a retired Drew to Silver Bay, Tyler’s own future is uncertain. Things become more unsettled when a beautiful baker enters his world. Eva fascinates Tyler and as he gets to know her better, he considers planting his roots in Silver Bay. But when the location Tyler chooses for his training facility is the same one Eva wants for her bakery, something has to give..

With the contest deadline looming, Eva can barely think about Tyler. Until a blinding moment finally reveals her true feelings.

Is it too late? Or will a Christmas miracle give them both more than they ever dreamed?

To purchase, click HERE.

What Readers Are Saying 

“. . . a lovely story about family, friends, and fulfilling your dreams.” PAULA, GOODREADS

“This is a sweet, clean romance. The readers are reminded of the important of family. ” —YVONNE, BOOKBUB

“What a heartwarming story and a wonderful addition to this series.” —SHERRI BABB, GOODREADS

Writing stories since she was a young girl, Lara Van Hulzen‘s dream of being a novelist became a reality with her Men of Honor series. An avid reader, she worked as a book reviewer for 18 years with various organizations. She has a BA in Journalism and a Masters of Divinity in Chaplaincy. Lara loves tea, baseball and living in Idaho with her husband and Great Dane.

Top 10 Tuesday — New-To-Me Authors in 2022

24 Jan

Happy Tuesday! Today bloggers are sharing new-to-them authors from 2022. I love discovering new authors. Often their books become must-reads. A few of the books may be debuts, but by and large, the authors on my list have other books to their credit. More great books to read! 😉

For more new authors, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top New-To-Me Authors in 2022

Among The Innocent by Mary Alford

The Blackout Book Club by Amy Green

Driving Force by Kate Angelo

Firefly Diaries by C. C. Warrens

Honor’s Refuge by Hallee Bridgeman

In Search of A Prince by Toni Shiloh

A Light on A Hill by Connilyn Cossette

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

Operation Joktan by Amir Tsarfati and Steve Yohn

Shadows in The Mind’s Eye by Janyre Tromp

When The Day Comes by Gabrielle Meyer

Where The Blue Sky Begins by Katie Powner

Audiobook Mini-Review: Dark Intercept

23 Jan

My husband and I chose Dark Intercept by Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson as a road trip listen. I thought this thriller with a military tie-in and lack of romance would appeal to my husband. We diligently listened to the end, but our take-away was that the writing was just okay, the plot a bit ludicrous, and the adult language and graphic violence somewhat offensive. This book was a 2022 Christy Award finalist and a Carol Award winner in the Speculative category. It is heavy on spiritual warfare which we had no problem with, but it was difficult for us to buy into the scenario presented. It does have non-stop action if that is what you are looking for, but as I said the violence was jarring, especially at the end, and both the bad guys and good guys use adult language. There is a twist at the end that we saw coming that will probably be addressed in the next book in the series. However, my husband and I will not be joining in on that mission. 😉

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

When dark forces rise, are faith and firepower enough?
On the eve of his medical retirement, Navy SEAL Jedidiah Johnson receives a frantic call from his estranged childhood best friend David Yarnell. David’s daughter has been kidnapped off the streets of Nashville in broad daylight. The police have no suspects and no leads. The only clue: the body of a dead priest left behind at the scene. With the clock ticking, David is growing desperate, as is his wife, Rachel . . . Jed’s first love.

Despite his painful history with David and Rachel, Jed agrees to help. But he’s spent his career as a door-kicking Navy SEAL, not an investigator. His presence immediately draws unwanted attention, creates friction with the local police, and triggers a mysterious attempt on his life. Just when he thinks things can’t get worse, it starts to happen again—the voices in his head, the nightmares, the visions. Dark memories and strange abilities, things he believed he’d left behind when he fled Nashville for the Navy at eighteen, begin to resurface.

Jed realizes that to save the missing girl, he must take a leap of faith and embrace the gifts he’s denied for all these years. To foil this dark intercept, he’ll need more than just his years as a SEAL operator, because he has no choice now but to take up arms and join the battle in the unseen spiritual warfare raging all around him. And there is far more at stake than just a missing girl: the world is not the place he thought it was—and he is not alone.

Follow the military heroes of The Shepherds series as they bring the power of light into the dark mystery of Sara Beth’s abduction.

First Line Friday — Everything Is Just Beginning

20 Jan

Happy Friday! I am having an excellent reading year! Next up for me is Everything Is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels. I haven’t read all of her books, but the ones I have are excellent. This looks to be no exception!

Here’s the first line:

I never wanted to live at my Uncle Mike’s.

Michael Sullivan is a talented lyricist and a decent guitarist, but since he was kicked out of his band (and his apartment), he’s not sure he’ll ever get a record deal. Living with his loser uncle in a beat-up trailer and working a dead-end job, Michael has little reason to hope for a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year’s Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It’s for his uncle, with whom he shares his name, but his uncle is going out of town . . . 

On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989–as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is inching toward democracy, and anything seems possible–Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures. 

Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels enchants with this story of two lonely souls who have exactly what the other one needs–if they could simply turn their focus from what is ending to what is just beginning.

Book Review: Within These Walls Of Sorrow

18 Jan

I visited Krakow in the spring of 2018. Poland is such a wonderful place — the people are friendly, the city is beautiful, the food is amazing. And history surrounds the visitor. We walked through the old Jewish sector which after WWII houses no Jews despite a large synagogue and vibrant Jewish and Israeli restaurants. We toured Shindler’s factory and marveled at how he saved so many people. We walked in silence through the gates of Auschwitz and among the bombed crematories of Birkenau. Our trip was memorable for many reasons, and I am very glad I was able to travel there. Then I read Within These Walls of Sorrow by Amanda Barratt. It was almost like a return visit, but this time I walked the streets of Krakow and entered the buildings of the concentration camps with friends who lived through the era and ordeal. If you are a reader, you know how characters can become real, and, yes, like cherished friends. This book is amazing and very highly recommended.

“This tense WWII historical from Barratt (My Dearest Dietrich) follows a woman’s efforts to help her neighbors survive the Kraków ghetto. . . . Moving and effective, this inspirational finds light in the darkest of places.”–Publishers Weekly


Zosia Lewandowska knows the brutal realities of war all too well. Within weeks of Germany’s invasion of her Polish homeland, she lost the man she loves. As ghetto walls rise and the occupiers tighten their grip on the city of Krakow, Zosia joins pharmacist Tadeusz Pankiewicz and his staff in the heart of the Krakow ghetto as they risk their lives to aid the Jewish people trapped by Nazi oppression. 

Hania Silverman’s carefree girlhood is shattered as her family is forced into the ghetto. Struggling to survive in a world hemmed in by walls and rife with cruelty and despair, she encounters Zosia, her former neighbor, at the pharmacy. As deportation winnow the ghetto’s population and snatch those she holds dear, Hania’s natural resiliency is exhausted by reality. 
Zodia and Hania’s lives intertwine as they face the griefs and fears thrust upon them by war, until one day, they are forced to make a desperate choice . . . one that will inexorably bind them together, even as they are torn apart. 

Amanda Barratt’s meticulous research and lush, award-winning writing shine once again in this moving look at a group of unsung heroes who fought for hope and humanity in the most harrowing of times. 

ECPA best-selling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spin-off of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical fiction, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. She’s the author of over a dozen novels and novellas including The White Rose Resists: A Novel of the German Students Who Defied Hitler and My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.

Amanda lives in the woods of Michigan with her family, where she can be found reading way too many books, plotting her next novel, and jotting down imaginary travel itineraries for her dream vacation to Europe.

Connect with her on Facebook and visit her online at amandabarratt.net.

My Impressions:

I can start off by saying that Within These Walls of Sorrow by Amanda Barratt is one of the best books I have ever read. Not an exaggeration, this novel is so well-researched that the time and place of the book came to life for me. A few years ago I visited Krakow, the setting of the book, and this novel brought back all those images and memories. But this time I felt like I lived alongside the characters. That’s an amazing thing to experience, but also heartbreaking because of the subject matter — the Krakow Ghetto and the Nazi plans for exterminating the Jews. The author details this honestly and realistically. I admit I had to pause my reading in order not to be overcome by the cruelty depicted. Yet, Barratt shines a light in all the darkness with her characters’ love and sacrifice and their faltering, yet continuing faith. The historical detail is key to the novel, but the characterization is what makes this book a 5-star. Many historical figures make their appearances on the pages, including the owner and employees of the Pharmacy Under The Eagle, the Polish-owned pharmacy the Nazi’s uncharacteristically let continue within the walls of Krakow’s ghetto. But the two mains, Zosia and Hania, are fictional, although influenced by the those who lived during these dark days. I won’t go into those things that the characters faced, but just say that the indomitable spirit that helped them survive is a testament to the real people they are based upon. The novel takes the reader from the early days of the Nazi occupation with the beginnings of persecution, through the increasing danger and the plans the Nazi put in place, to the aftermath of the war when those who survived are faced with living with extreme losses and their own futures. Within These Walls of Sorrow will make you think all along the way — would I have succumbed to despair, would I have rallied to face death with dignity, would I have turned a blind eye to what other people were going through? Long after the last page was turned, I continued to ask myself questions that examined what I believe and what I live.

Within These Walls of Sorrow is a must-read. Be prepared to be shocked, but also be prepared to be changed. I also recommend you read this book with someone — you will need to talk about it.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Happy Release Day — Within These Walls Of Sorrow

17 Jan

It’s release day for Within These Walls of Sorrow by Amanda Barratt. This WWII-era novel is a moving tribute to the love and sacrifice of ordinary people who are placed in horrifying situations. This was a hard book to read because of the subject matter, but well worth it. Masterfully written depicting the time of German occupation of Krakow, it will definitely make my best of the best list this year. I very highly recommend it! And now it is finally available — make sure you get your copy now!


“This tense WWII historical from Barratt (My Dearest Dietrich) follows a woman’s efforts to help her neighbors survive the Kraków ghetto. . . . Moving and effective, this inspirational finds light in the darkest of places.”–Publishers Weekly


Zosia Lewandowska knows the brutal realities of war all too well. Within weeks of Germany’s invasion of her Polish homeland, she lost the man she loves. As ghetto walls rise and the occupiers tighten their grip on the city of Krakow, Zosia joins pharmacist Tadeusz Pankiewicz and his staff in the heart of the Krakow ghetto as they risk their lives to aid the Jewish people trapped by Nazi oppression. 

Hania Silverman’s carefree girlhood is shattered as her family is forced into the ghetto. Struggling to survive in a world hemmed in by walls and rife with cruelty and despair, she encounters Zosia, her former neighbor, at the pharmacy. As deportation winnow the ghetto’s population and snatch those she holds dear, Hania’s natural resiliency is exhausted by reality. 
Zodia and Hania’s lives intertwine as they face the griefs and fears thrust upon them by war, until one day, they are forced to make a desperate choice . . . one that will inexorably bind them together, even as they are torn apart. 

Amanda Barratt’s meticulous research and lush, award-winning writing shine once again in this moving look at a group of unsung heroes who fought for hope and humanity in the most harrowing of times. 

To purchase, click HERE.

ECPA best-selling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spin-off of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical fiction, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. She’s the author of over a dozen novels and novellas including The White Rose Resists: A Novel of the German Students Who Defied Hitler and My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.

Amanda lives in the woods of Michigan with her family, where she can be found reading way too many books, plotting her next novel, and jotting down imaginary travel itineraries for her dream vacation to Europe.

Connect with her on Facebook and visit her online at amandabarratt.net.

Top 10 Tuesday — Bookish Goals

17 Jan

Happy Tuesday! Welcome to the blog where all good intentions are soon thrown out the window! LOL! Last year I had great goals to improve my reading experience. I can’t quite remember what they all were, but I am pretty sure I didn’t stick to very many. 😉 It’s January, so resolutions are all the rage — if they haven’t been abandoned yet. When thinking about this topic I resolved (see what I did there) to make goals that I know I can keep. The trick is if I actually will. Time will tell.

For more bloggers’ bookish goals, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Bookish Goals

Resolved — read books.

Okay, this one is very easy to achieve because I don’t intend to give up reading. I have one win.

Resolved — read outside my comfort zone.

I am a member of a book club that has been challenging me to read books that I would not naturally pick up on my own. Have I liked them all? No. But I’ve liked more than I haven’t. This year I hope to stretch my reading horizons even more.

Resolved — read more books that I already own.

This goal is a bit trickier. I have tons of books that I bought with the express purpose of reading, not to take up space or look pretty on the shelf. But still they sit neglected, some after years and years. I am going to write some in on my reading calendar (yes, I actually have one of those) and try to really read them.

Resolved — read more books from my NetGalley shelf.

Like my physical books, I have lots of unread NetGalley books. This is really embarrassing since publishers have approved me to read these books, and I feel like I have let them and the authors down. I certainly have let myself down. Again I will be deliberately adding them to my reading calendar.

Resolved — read what I want to read.

This one goes hand in hand with reading more from my actual shelves. I plan to read more on a whim than on a have-to basis. Yes, I will still be reviewing and accumulating more books — its a fatal flaw — but I want to have a little more flexibility and fun in my reading.

So there you go. I think 5 goals is plenty!

Here are a few of the books that will help me achieve my goals this year:

Blind Trust by Natalie Walters

Roots of Wood And Stone by Amanda Wen

Secrets in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis

Sunburst by Susan May Warren

To Love A Viking by Heather Day Gilbert and Jen Cudmore

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

Spotlight On Contemporary Romance — Midnight Blue

16 Jan

Midnight Blue JustRead Blog + Review Tour
Do you like contemporary romance? Then you are in luck!

Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for Midnight Blue by Suzie Waltner, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About The Book

Midnight Bllue

Title: Midnight Blue
Series: Love in Color #1
Author: Suzie Waltner
Publisher: Anaiah Press Publishing
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance

A series of heartbreaking setbacks behind her, Scarlett Sykes is now focused on creating the best life possible for her daughter. One where innocence and joy is not colored by rejection or loss. While finances are tight and Scarlett’s job isn’t ideal for a single mother, her child will always know she’s loved. Especially since Harmony’s father wanted nothing to do with them.

As lead singer and the face of a successful country band, Jake Turnquist’s closest friends depend on him, but life in the spotlight is quickly losing its appeal. At a party celebrating another accomplishment, he’s stunned to discover Scarlett assisting the caterer. Almost ten years have passed, but he’s never forgotten his first love.

In the hours after a surprise revelation, Jake scrambles to orchestrate a way to spend time with Scarlett and Harmony—the family he’s always wanted but never knew he had. He once gave her up to pursue his music. What will he have to surrender to win her back?

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookBub

EXCERPT

Scarlett twisted until her backside came into view in the mirror. The jeans were tighter than the last time she’d worn them, but they would have to do.

With a sigh, she slumped onto the bed piled with the other clothes she’d tried on. Her search for something that said “look what you missed out on” and “I’m not affected by you” was futile. Ha. She flopped onto her back and stared at the popcorn ceiling. No outfit in the world that would meet those criteria.


About The Author

Suzie Waltner

Suzie Waltner is a lover of fiction and is first and foremost a reader. When she’s not at work or reading or writing, you can find her cheering on the Nashville Predators (hockey) or dancing an hour away in Zumba class. Until her second year of college, her life plan was to become a veterinarian. A fainting spell while watching a surgery performed on a sheep changed that plan. Now she works in the corporate world during the day while creating stories in her free time. Suzie resides in a suburb of Nashville, TN and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers as well as Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers. She currently serves as the president of the Middle Tennessee ACFW chapter.

Connect with Suzie by visiting suziewaltner.com to follow her on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.


Tour Giveaway

(1) winner will receive a Everything But the Book Cozy Reading Basket: sherpa throw, I’d Rather Be Reading mug, I Read Past My Bedtime socks, 12 oz orange spice candle, portable power bank, book cozy, and some reading snacks plus a $20 Amazon gift card!

Midnight Blue JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight January 16, 2023 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on January 23, 2023. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Enter Giveaway


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

First Line Friday — Sarah’s Choice (Forts of Refuge, Book 1)

13 Jan

Happy Friday! Today I am sharing the first line from an upcoming read — Sarah’s Choice (Forts of Refuge, Book 1) by Pegg Thomas. I haven’t read a book set in Colonial America in a while, so I am definitely looking forward to digging into this historical romance!

Here’s the first line:

The forest smelled of warming earth, new growth, and hope.

Sarah Feight has her life planned with a loving husband, a promising new settlement, and big dreams to shape the future of trade on Pennsylvania’s frontier. An Indian attack at dawn changes everything.

When he pulls his freight wagons into Fort Pitt, Leith McCully never dreams he’ll be conscripted into the militia and ordered to defend the fort. Worried about trader friends on his delivery route, he rides to their settlement and returns with Sarah, the only survivor.

Fort Pitt is crowded to twice its capacity with the settlers who have taken refuge there and surrounded by the rising smoke of burned-out settlements. Tempers flare, disease breaks out, and the constant fear of the next attack has everyone on edge.

Cully keeps an eye on Sarah because he feels responsible for her. And, though he doesn’t admit as much, she tugs at his heart. Sarah sees Cully as the last link to her past. A friend of her husband’s family. She’s going to need someone she can trust, and she trusts Cully. Her rescuer.

Are trust and admiration enough to help them survive the siege and its devastating consequences? Is there any hope for a future beyond?

Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Lower Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. Besides writing, she enjoys a variety of crafts including spinning sheep’s wool into yarn and knitting. Together, she and Michael enjoy camping, fishing, boat-nerding (you have to be a Great Lakes person to know about that), and thoroughbred horse racing.

A life-long history geek, it’s no surprise that historical fiction is her genre. Colonial America and the Civil War era are favorite time periods to both read and write. Her favorite type of book centers on a great fiction story surrounded by factual historical events.

Mini-Book Review: Operation Joktan

12 Jan

I read Operation Joktan by Amir Tsarfati and Steve Yohn a few months ago, but it has remained on my mind. I admit I had my doubts about liking this book. Some military-type books set in the Middle East that my husband loves leave my eyes glazed over. 😉 Not the case with Operation Joktan! While the book centers on Israel’s Mossad and their clandestine operations to circumvent terrorists, the characters and their relationships were not lost in the action. (If you know, you know.) The book takes some time to build with backstory for the two main characters and the terrorists. There is a great balance between the edge-of-the-seat action and the characters’ development. A couple of the story threads seemed superfluous to me, until, in retrospect, I found the authors making me see those who are swept up in a terrorist’s plot. Those incidental characters teach of the real human costs and the necessity for action by elite groups like the Mossad. While the operation is concluded, the relationships are left with some loose threads. Last, but certainly not least, the book explores the faith journeys of the characters in a natural, never preachy way. I look forward to reading book 2, By Way of Deception which released last fall.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

“It was the perfect day—until the gunfire.”

Nir Tavor is an Israeli secret service operative turned talented Mossad agent.

Nicole le Roux is a model with a hidden skill.

A terrorist attack brings them together, and then work forces them apart—until they’re unexpectedly called back into each other’s lives.

But there’s no time for romance. As violent radicals threaten chaos across the Middle East, the two must work together to stop these extremists, pooling Nicole’s knack for technology and Nir’s adeptness with on-the-ground missions. Each heart-racing step of their operation gets them closer to the truth—and closer to danger.

In this thrilling first book in a new series, authors Amir Tsarfati and Steve Yohn draw on true events as well as tactical insights Amir learned from his time in the Israeli Defense Forces. For believers in God’s life-changing promises, Operation Joktan is a suspense-filled page-turner that illuminates the blessing Israel is to the world.

Amir Tsarfati was born in Israel and has lived there most of his life. Since fulfilling his mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Force, he has continued as a major in the IDF Reserve. Amir has been a tour guide in Israel for the last twenty years, and served as chief tour guide of Sar El Tours and CEO of Sar El Tours and Conferences. In 2001, he became founder and president of Behold Israel – a non-profit organization which provides worldwide real-time access to reliable sources of news and information about Israel from within the powerful context of Bible history and prophecy.

Amir is married to Miriam, and together they have four children. His home overlooks the valley of Megiddo (Armageddon) which is a constant reminder of the call that the Lord has placed on him to teach from the Bible what God’s plans are for the end of times.

Steve Yohn grew up as a pastor’s kid in Fresno, California, and both of those facts contributed significantly to his slightly warped perspective on life. Steve graduated from Multnomah Bible College with a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and barely survived a stint as a youth pastor.

While studying at Denver Seminary, Steve worked as a videographer for Youth for Christ International, traveling throughout the world capturing the ministry’s global impact. Later, he spent a decade as pastor of Strasburg Community Church in Strasburg, Colorado. Currently, he is the Senior Writer and Editor at Behold Israel. Steve has co-written five books, and ghost-written five others.

Surprisingly, although his hobbies are reading classic literature, translating the New Testament from the Greek, and maintaining a list of political leaders of every country of the world over the last 25 years, he still occasionally gets invited to parties and has a few friends. His wife, Nancy, and their daughter are the joys of his life.