Pawprints and Predicaments
by Bethany Blake
Pawprints and Predicaments continues the story of Daphne, a petsitter with a PhD in philosophy, who is preparing to open a bakery to sell healthy pet treats. Her small town of Sylvan Creek is hosting its Thirtieth Annual Tail Waggin’ Winterfest. Daphne joins in the fun of the first polar bear plunge in Lake Wallapawakee, but unfortunately she encounters more than icy waters.
There are several murders in this cozy mystery, and Daphne is determined to get to the bottom of them. The humor in the tale comes from an assortment of furry friends—especially Daphne’s interactions with her basset hound Socrates. There are lots of interesting characters including her friend Moxie, a vintage clothes lover who runs a spa for humans and their pets. Daphne has two love interests who are also involved in trying to solve the crimes: handsome detective Jonathan Black and newspaper owner, Gabriel Graham.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery Series, but works as a standalone
Publication: February 27, 2018—Kensington Books
My longtime sidekick nevertheless seemed to grasp that I was growing curious about a homicide and he lowered his freckled muzzle and buried it under his large paws, groaning softly, like he wished I would just mind my own business.
His mane was like a thick brown thundercloud swirling around his massive head, and he blinked at us with eyes that reminded me of the strange yellow color the sky had turned, right before I’d nearly been caught in a tornado while crossing Oklahoma on the back of a motorcycle.
Moxie picked up her own cell and swung it around, so for a second, I got queasy when the colorful, mismatched décor in her eclectic apartment swirled like paint dumped on an old spin art toy.
Who Do You Say That I AM?
by Becky Harling
Welcome to Who Do You Say That I AM?, an eight week Bible study by Becky Harling. I knew this was a study I wanted to experience as soon as I read the title. Jesus’ question to His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” has always made me pause. He was giving them an opportunity to think through what they knew about Him and make a declaration of faith. This Bible study gives us a chance to do the same thing. It examines what Jesus said about Himself in eight I AM statements, all recorded by His disciple John in the New Testament of the Bible.
Harling has a comfortable style of writing as she sets up her lessons (5/week) in a way that encourages the reader to delve into Scriptures looking for meaning based on the original Hebrew words. She guides the reader in the process so it is a facet of the study: it is not overwhelming or overly pedantic. The reader is always encouraged to apply the truths to her own life. There are practical tips as well, such as compiling an emergency Scripture kit for the tough times. She also emphasizes praise songs and prayer in each lesson. Each lesson is put in a cultural context including a Bible story or a recounting of personal experiences in contemporary settings.
Who Do You Say That I AM? will get you involved in really examining what Jesus says about Himself. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet, this could be the book that helps you understand the claims of the Bible (God’s Word) and make a decision. If you are already a follower of Jesus, this book is a great way to learn more about Him and turn your focus on Him moment by moment as you make your way through each day.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Bible study
Publication: February 6, 2018—Moody Publishing
In a culture that devalued women, Jesus makes His first I AM statement to a woman! While religious systems often devalue women, Jesus honors women.
The two best weapons I know for fighting Satan when he tries to throw guilt and shame at you are: Praise and Scripture.
Human love, wonderful as it is, will at some level disappoint us and let us down. It is only Christ’s perfect, infinite, complete love that comes with the promise of satisfaction.
As I began to be intentional about worshipping Jesus Christ every morning, the Holy Spirit began to radically change my life. Fear turned to courage, worry turned to calm, and doubt turned to faith. I now believe that becoming intentional in the realm of praise is essential for every believer.
by Tara Westover
Very few books leave me speechless, but Tara Westover’s memoir Educated is one of them. Well written, this is the author’s very personal story of growing up in a dysfunctional family with abuse of various types from several family members and later betrayal by others. Tara lived a secluded and physically difficult life with a large family dominated by an authoritative father with mental issues. He was an extremist Mormon with an antigovernment, end times, survivalist fixation.
Tara was supposedly homeschooled, but her education was basically nonexistent. She and several of her brothers in turn realized their only escape was through education. Self-taught, Tara scored high enough on her ACT test to qualify for admission to Brigham Young University as she turned 17. She was unprepared mentally and socially for a college experience. She did not even have basic hygiene skills.
Over the course of her academic education, she was confronted with multiple instances where the foundations of her beliefs from childhood were shattered by learning the true version of events. She was lied to, put in danger, and manipulated time after time. Tara’s journey to mental health and a new normalcy happened slowly and only after many confrontations with her family. Eventually she was forced by them to choose with whom her loyalties would lie and the direction of her life as an adult.
Educated is a powerful memoir and emotionally very difficult to read. Its focus on education, relationships, and faith results in a painful tale as Tara journeys from Idaho to Cambridge with forays to New England, Paris, Italy, and the Middle East—all places she could not even dream of because she previously knew nothing about them. This is a story that needed to be told, and one I am glad the author shared.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: links provided by Random House
LISTEN to Tara’s NPR Fresh Air interview: https://www.npr.org/2018/02/20/587244230/memoirist-retraces-her-journey-from-survivalist-childhood-to-cambridge-ph-d
WATCH Tara’s CBS This Morning segment: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/tara-westovers-journey-from-off-the-grid-childhood-to-cambridge/
DISCUSS the book with your book club: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/550168/educated-by-tara-westover/9780399590504/readers-guide/
Publication: February 20, 2018—Random House
I’d never learned how to talk to people who weren’t like us—people who went to school and visited the doctor. Who weren’t preparing, every day, for the End of the World.
“There’s a world out there, Tara,” he said. “And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear.”
It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.
In that moment part of me believed, as I had always believed, that it would be me who broke the spell, who caused it to break. When the stillness shattered and his fury rushed at me, I would know that something I had done was the catalyst, the cause. There is hope in such a superstition, there is the illusion of control.
Putting It Together Again When It’s All Fallen Apart
by Tom Holladay
We all have times when we need to rebuild, whether it is a “church, a business, a relationship, or a purpose in your life” says Tom Holladay. He is the senior teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, and he uses the book of Nehemiah in the Bible as his foundation for teachings about “putting it together again when it’s all fallen apart.”
Do you, like me, need a reminder, a prod—who was Nehemiah anyway? Holladay says “Nehemiah was a government leader who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem after it had fallen into ruin.” Actually, in the book I learned that Nehemiah also went on to reestablish the city, resettle its inhabitants, establish rules for commerce that aligned with God’s laws, and give thanks to God for completing the project which naysayers said couldn’t be done.
Holladay takes a book of the Old Testament that could be boring and makes it come alive. He analyzes the text well and applies it in a very practical way to a variety of situations from personal to business. He gives examples of how real people have used these principles successfully in their lives. I especially like that this is not a verse by verse study of Nehemiah; Holladay explains how Nehemiah worked through the problems of his building project and how we can apply the same Scriptures in our own lives.
I highly recommend this book for its interesting content and writing style and for its Scriptural insights and integrity. There are so many possible applications that I think every reader will come away enlightened and blessed in their daily walk with God.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Zondervan for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: This book ends with a Small Group Study Guide and references 10 minute videos available on YouTube to accompany each chapter.
Publication: February 6, 2018–Zondervan
Memorable Lines: (Just way too many—a sign of a book with a lot of wisdom—so I’ll just pull out a few of the first ones I highlighted.)
Gossipers love to destroy what others are building. It gives them a twisted sense of power.
Victory comes from your relationship with God. Nehemiah exemplifies dependence on God at every point in the battle: he talks to God in prayer, follows God in the changes, listens to God in his encouragement, and lives by means of God’s priorities through God’s Word.
Rebuilders must have thick skin because they’re going to face attack. That attack may come from an individual, but it can also come from within. One of the names for Satan in the Bible is “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10). He loves to ridicule your faith. So he’ll send a thought when you want to renew your faith, a relationship, a ministry, or a dream.
by Sophie Kinsella
I have really enjoyed books by Sophie Kinsella and was looking forward to reading her newest book Surprise Me. At first I felt like I was the one “surprised” in a disappointed kind of way. The characters in Surprise Me are two-dimensional, the premise is bland, and the attempts at humor are not very effective—for the first half of the book. The novel was good enough for me to plug on, however, and I’m glad I did. The pace and interest pick up dramatically in the second half. The characters grow and develop and become people you can actually care about. The original proposition seems silly: how do you live with and love the same person for over sixty years? I know the world is changing a lot in terms of longevity of marriages, but there are many examples that demonstrate the success of long marriages and the happiness of people in such marriages.
There are many surprises for the reader and the main character Sylvie as she discovers that she does not really know the people close to her as well as she thought she did. In encountering difficulties, she discovers a strength she never knew she had. There are a lot of negative feelings associated with this book and a lot less fun fluff than initially appears to be the case or is usually associated with Kinsella’s books such as the Shopaholic series. Although I came away with mixed feelings, I also took away some serious musings about the ability of testing in life to help build character.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Dial Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
Publication: February 13, 2018 — Random House (Dial Press)
Living with five-year-old twins is like living in a Communist state. I don’t quite count out the Shreddies into the bowls every morning to make sure things are equal, but… Actually, I did once count out the Shreddies into the bowls. It was quicker.
“Oh, marriage.” She makes a snorting sound. “Did you not read the disclaimers? ‘May cause headache, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, or general feelings of wanting to stab something.’ ”
“If we don’t stick up for the ones we love, then what are we good for?”
How to Stop Time
by Matt Haig
The typical work of historical fiction takes a character from a specific time and place and imagines, hopefully based on some research, what life would have been like for that person. How to Stop Time is not a “typical work of historical fiction.” Author Matt Haig dares to explore what would happen if certain people were naturally genetically designed to age slowly, to live hundreds of years. What would life be like for that person? What would the response of others be to them? How do you form a relationship with someone who will certainly age at a different rate? What if one of these “albatrosses” becomes powerful enough to use various means to control the others?
How to Stop Time follows Tom Hazard as he negotiates life in the twenty-first century and reflects on events in his past spanning multiple centuries, locations, careers and aliases. He is musically inclined and along the way discovers an aptitude for teaching history.
Tom is a likable character whose situation is in some ways different from the circumstances of “normal” human beings. In many aspects, however, his struggles are the same as he tries to fit in, decides how open to be with those he meets, and battles with opening his heart. We all on occasion want to stop time to savor the moment, to revisit past decisions, and to look ahead into the future.
How to Stop Time is an excellent work of fiction, well-written and interesting. It introduces historical characters such as Shakespeare and Captain Cook, but there are equally fascinating fictional characters who convincingly embody the everyday men and women of past generations. With its fast-moving storyline, this book is one I recommend you add to your To Be Read list.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to the Penguin Group (Viking) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction
Publication: February 6, 2018—Penguin Group (Viking)
I had no idea I had been looking for her, but now I had found her, I had no idea what would happen. I felt like I was spinning fast and out of control, like the seed of a sycamore, traveling on a changing wind.
I kept going cross the desert and over dry hills and mountains and past a large quarry that seemed to my delirious mind like the blackness of death itself calling me towards it like the River Styx.
I can’t right now think of a better purpose in life than to be a teacher. To teach feels like you are a guardian of time itself, protecting the future happiness of the world via the minds that are yet to shape it.
The Fast and the Furriest
by Sophie Ryan
Looking for a cozy mystery with a good plot, interesting characters, and humorous overtones? Do you enjoy reading a story that features a cat as a supporting character? If so, then Sophie Ryan’s The Fast and the Furriest fits the bill.
This mystery will keep you guessing as Sarah, owner of Second Chance repurpose shop joins with her grandmother’s friends (Charlotte’s Angels) to help prove that her employee Mac is innocent of murder. Sarah’s sidekick is an endearing, Jeopardy-watching cat named Elvis who accompanies her almost everywhere. Sarah discovers she knows almost nothing about Mac, and Mac discovers that he does not really know his friends and family members as well as he thought he did.
I’m already looking forward to reading the next book in this series for some relaxing fun. Meanwhile there are several other books in this series purring out an enticing welcome.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Berkley Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in the Second Chance Cat Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.
Publication: February 6, 2018—Berkley Publishing
I’d worked in radio after college, eventually hosting a popular evening program playing classic rock and interviewing some of the genre’s best musicians. Then one day I was replaced by a syndicated music feed out of Los Angeles and a nineteen-year-old who read the weather twice an hour and called everyone “dude.”
She made her way over to him, a tiny woman with short, white hair, warm gray eyes and a stubborn streak that made a mule look easygoing.
“He can walk, Rose,” I said. “The pavement is too hot for his feet.” She picked the cat up and Elvis meowed and wrinkled his whispers at me, cat for “nyah, nyah, nyah.”
Lies Women Believe
by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Lies Women Believe is a hard hitting book that encourages women to overcome problems in their lives by following Biblical principles rather than the lies of Satan as broadcast through the untrue words of others, whether family, friends, the media (both news and social), books, and movies. The author, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, has written chapters on various problem issues for women such as parenting, sexuality, and marriage. After explaining how sin began with lies that Satan told Eve in the garden of Eden, Wolgemuth starts each chapter with an imagined journal entry depicting Eve’s life experiences and the consequences of sin as it applies to that chapter’s topic. She then discusses the topic in depth including lots of Scripture to support her stance and many related examples from friends and from women who have attended her conference sessions. She ties up each chapter with the lies Satan tells about the topic and counters each lie with God’s truth and supporting Scripture references.
One of the chapters I think is excellent is “Lies Women Believe About Children.” In it Wolgemuth discusses the “Mommy Wars” where mothers engage in the comparison game considering themselves failures or better than other mothers. She clarifies that there are many choices that parents make that are simply that—choices. There is no Scriptural basis for the decision. She writes that parents need to pray about the choice as each family is different. An example would be schooling—homeschool, private, or public? Mothers should not look down on others based on their choices in areas like that.
As a reviewer I read this book over the course of several days, and I must admit to being overwhelmed about three-fourths of the way through. The book is Scripturally based, well written, and has great organization. The problem is that as I read each section, I found myself second-guessing past decisions and choices that I feel sure were made with God’s leadership. I suspect this kind of condemnation and doubt is not what Wolgemuth intended. I think God wants us to step out in confidence based on trust in Him. I do not think the unease in my heart is God moving in my life, but Satan using a good book to sow seeds of doubt. I understand the importance of thinking and praying about our choices in the light of God’s Word and because of this book I will be more aware in the future of the way Satan uses lies and half-truths to change our thinking.
I found the last part of Lies Women Believe to be especially helpful; so if you are having a hard time with some of the issues, I suggest you keep reading. The chapter “Lies About Circumstances” addresses this all encompassing part of life, which we all go through in various ways, in a very practical manner. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was reading about condemnation and perfection, but about how real women survive real circumstances with the help of a very real God. I also found the last two chapters “Countering Lies with the Truth” and “The Truth that Sets us Free” to be very practical and an offering of hope for the future.
In conclusion, my “take away” from Lies Women Believe is to be more aware of the many subtle forms of attack by Satan. At the same time I will keep Isaiah 26:3 in remembrance: “ You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: This is a major update and expansion of the original version.
Publication: February 6, 2018—Moody Publishing
What we read or hear may sound right, may feel right, may seem right—but if it’s contrary to the Word of God, it isn’t right.
Like a rock thrown into a pond, the ripples caused by sin go on and on. If only we could see that every single sin is a big deal, that every sin is an act of rebellion and cosmic treason, that every time we choose our way instead of God’s way, we are revolting against the God and King of the universe.
Through His sinless life, His death on Calvary as the sinner’s substitute, and His victorious resurrection, we can be fully forgiven for all our sin, we can be reconciled to the God we have offended, and we can have the power to live holy lives.
Murder on the Rocks
by Shawn Reilly Simmons
Murder on the Rocks is an engaging and relaxing cozy mystery. It begins with a motorcycle chase and moves on to a relaxing gathering of friends for brunch at a Glendale, New Jersey, café. Violent crime enters the picture and follows Penelope all the way to Vermont where her catering company has been hired to provide food for a movie production. The movie stars her friend and roommate Arlena for whom Penelope also acts as personal chef. Arlena portrays Helen Mills, tennis star from the 1930’s and 1940’s.
I have read another mystery in this series and from a comparison of the types of services provided in the two books and a short Internet search, I discovered that the sorts of food and service provided by companies like Penelope’s vary widely depending on the event, location, and needs and desires of the hiring group. That part of the story is almost as fascinating as the mystery. Penelope and her crew necessarily display a huge amount of professional flexibility. I recommend this book for both the mystery and the culinary background.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery
Notes: # 5 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series
Publication: February 6, 2018—Henery Press
Francis shifted his weight and Lewis cleared his throat, the universal signs of being witness to an uncomfortable encounter.
“You’re here because Arlena believes you’re up to the challenge of nurturing our crew, providing our film family with life-sustaining fuel, nourishing our bodies and souls while we embark on this artistic venture together.”
Penelope’s thoughts drifted and grew soft around the edges as she fell asleep.
Murder on a Midsummer Night
by Kerry Greenwood
In Murder on a Midsummer Night, there are two major non-connected mysteries and one minor mystery. A man with no apparent reason to commit suicide is found drowned, and Phryne Fisher is hired to discover what really happened to him. Simultaneously she takes on a case to find a person who was given up for adoption many years prior. A mother has died and her will indicates that this person should be included in receiving monetary benefits. At the end of each chapter is a brief part of yet another tale. It appears very disconnected from the main plot lines until the very end of the book at which time it is tied into one of the threads. Rather than being clever, I found it distracting.
This is the first Phryne Fisher mystery that I have not totally enjoyed. In addition to the dangling mini-mystery, the characters did not have the pizazz that they normally have. The author relates the actions the characters take rather than allowing the reader to watch the action, participating vicariously. I regretted that Phryne’s family members as well as other regulars in the series are present but not very active. The result is a flat feeling to the story. In addition there are a number of truly distasteful characters in this book. Phryne doesn’t like them, and the reader has no reason to like them.
I am a big fan of the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series, but this mystery was disappointing. If this were my first experience with the series, it would probably be my last. Knowing the usual quality of the books in this series, however, I will be back.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Notes: #17 in the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series
Publication: February 6, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press
There was never any point being cross about weather, it was like politicians: to be born patiently, because it was compulsory.
She didn’t care what anyone said about the association of Phryne and Lin Chung, especially James, who was leaning against the white-painted wall, looking exquisite and drinking his third glass of the revolting port. That appeared to be the sum total of his social skills but Phryne supposed that he might have hidden depths.
But then, every country has its mistral, its meltemi, its own terrible wind.