Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

This is a cute summer read set in Savannah, where we find art teacher Nicole house-sitting for a family friend and working at an art gallery. Nicole thought she’d have a quiet summer with plenty of time to paint, but instead finds herself overwhelmed with a difficult co-worker, childhood friends-turned-handsome-men, and a teenager who just needs a little love and direction. 

I loved all the references to art and architecture, the Savannah sunsets, and the diplomatic way Nicole finessed her way through a few unexpected situations. As usual for her novels, Carlson includes a little bit of God to illustrate his presence, but doesn’t use the novel to preach or proselytize. And as usual for my favorite summer reads, this one ends in a happily ever after. 

-Calliope 

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Review: Christmas Roses by Amanda Cabot

This month I’m making a nice dent in the “Christmas” folder on my kindle… and although I probably bought Christmas Roses years ago, I’ve just gotten to it this week. I’m glad I did! 

This is a Christmas story set in the 1800s. Celia is a young widow, raising her infant alone, and running a boardinghouse out west for a living. Though life isn’t easy for anyone living in the copper mining town, Celia struggles to deal with her baby’s health issues, the stress of staying financially stable, and the affections of too many men who just aren’t right for her. 

Enter Mark, a wandering carpenter looking for a lost relative. 

I loved how Mark’s presence changed everything in subtle ways, and how the Reverend compared Mark’s compassion for people and fear of the unknown to that of Mary’s husband Joseph in the story of the Nativity. 

Though slightly predictable, I also enjoyed the ending that demonstrated the importance of communication, attentiveness, and honesty. This is a quiet, traditional story that highlights the best in people, and the endless possibilities when you reach out in love. 

Celia had a very merry Christmas, as did so many of the characters, which is even better than a regular happily ever after.  

-calliope

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Review: Two Christmas novellas- Forever Christmas & My True Love Gave to Me by Christine Lynxwiler

November means Christmas reading, so I hunkered down the past couple nights with two novellas in my Kindle’s “Christmas” folder. 

These charming and heartfelt stories felt like full-length novels in that the characters were many and varied, the plots had time to twist and meander a bit, and the main characters were wonderfully developed. 

In Forever Christmas, Kristianna tries to live out her own authentic life, fighting through family pressures and a stressful romantic past. I loved that Kristianna’s best friends never wavered in their love and loyalty to her. I enjoyed Kristianna’s fun dates, her surprise gifts, and the relationships she had with the quirky townspeople. Although saving her town of Jingle Bells from corporate intrusion was top of mind, Kristianna eventually got the message that working together for a solution is more effective than cutting off your nose to spite your face. 

In My True Love Gave to Me, loving wife and mom of two Penny has had it up to here with her newly-unemployed husband’s moping. But when he finally does something to snap out of it, she’s not truly on board with that either. The plan? A family RV trip. The reaction? Horror, as you might guess. However, in the spirit of a good Christmas story, the lessons are in the journey. Lynxwiler gives us an entertaining road trip where relationships are strengthened, trust is built, and true love abounds. 

Both novellas have a Christian perspective, with a mentions of “God’s plan” and positively describing other characters as Christian. They both have a happily ever after, too. 

You’ll be glad to know my Kindle’s Christmas folder is full of myriad holiday novels. These were only the tip of the iceberg! 

-calliope 

Buy MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME
Buy FOREVER CHRISTMAS

Review: Thou Art With Me by Debbie Viguie



I’ve been reading and enjoying The Psalm 23 Mysteries since Book 1. Number 11 – Thou Art With Me – might be the best one yet. 

As with the other books in the series, church secretary Cindy  and rabbi Jeremiah pair up to solve a murder. In prior books they developed a friendship and then something deeper. This installment is set around Valentine’s Day, so it’s apt that their relationship evolves even more. 

The murder is a serious one, and there’s real danger to Cindy and Jeremiah. I loved how Cindy got to have the upper hand in this investigation. Her poker skills were amazing, and had I not already loved her she would’ve become my favorite character based on that poker game scene alone.

Debbie Viguie is one of the few authors I’ve read who has a talent for writing a high-quality novel quickly. The dialogue, character depth and authenticity, consistency, and writing technique are TOP NOTCH. Viguie moves the plot along very quickly without sacrificing detail. With this book, and every Psalm 23 Mystery, I am on an amusement park ride that’s fast, fun, and life-changing. I remain impressed, and can’t wait for Book 12. 

-calliope

As of this writing, you can buy books 1-11 on Amazon. If you’d like to order Book 12 or pre-order subsequent books, you may go to Debbie Viguie’s blog and web site.

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Review: Dubiosity by Christy Barritt

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Barritt rocks at setting up the suspense in Dubiosity. I was on the edge of my seat the whole ride.

Savannah is taking a break, grieving a personal loss, but she can’t let go of the investigative reporter side of herself. Add Clive, the mysterious newcomer who needs a place to stay, and we’ve got amateur sleuthing in the making.

But the mystery is no joke. Migrant workers are disappearing – and dying. Savannah and Clive come at the crimes separately, but their investigations bring them to the same place. I did guess the culprit mid-story – but it was only a guess. And I was pleasantly satisfied when my guess was confirmed. 🙂

Dubiosity mixes a little romance in with the suspense, and a little God-guidance, too. I liked the variety, the characters, and the wide-eye-inducing scenes.

Christy Barritt, I’ve read a few of your books, and this won’t be the last!

-calliope
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Review: Mocha Sunrise by Julie Carobini

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Best friends Livi, Bri and Gaby love each other like sisters, including telling it to each other straight even when the truth hurts. When Livi is mentally tortured by her antagonistic cousin/roommate, Bri and Gaby give Livi good advice – that she fails to follow.

Then Caleb enters the picture. Though he’s fighting his own demons, he forms a trifecta with Bri and Gaby to defend Livi. They push Livi to get out of her rut, push through, face her fears, make some decisions.

I like that Julie Carobini writes this story based on friendship, and maintains that main plot even while other things are happening to Livi – getting arrested, having job problems, meeting a new guy. I read a lot of contemporary romances, and none seem to hold the friendships in as high a regard as the romantic relationship. Mocha Sunrise focuses on the strength of friendship even while the best friends have romance in their lives.

I totally loved seeing Livi and Caleb find themselves as individuals and come together as a couple. Their transformations were amazing – from two uncertain and uneasy characters to honest and discerning people who were so authentic that I shed tears for them. 🙂

I appreciated Carobini’s hopeful and uplifting messages delivered by Caleb. And as I read Mocha Sunrise I felt a sense of peace and joy. How appropriate for this Christmas season.

-calliope

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Review: Hazardous Duty (Squeaky Clean Mysteries #1) by Christy Barritt

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Since I’m on a mystery roll, I scoured my early kindle purchases for a fun cozy mystery title. Hazardous Duty fit the bill. It reminds me of Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum books – but subtler, cleaner, and with a smidge of God talk in there.

Gabby is a crime scene cleaner, so she runs into murders and mayhem all the time. Difference is, usually no one tries to kill her! Gabby tries to help a friend and solve a crime while maneuvering around politics and a dirty politician. Between trying to save her own life, spending time in her apartment house of quirky friends, and trying not to fall in love with a man anything like her loser dad, Gabby is a little bit scattered and a lot scared!

Thanks to two new friends who happen to be male, good-looking, and on the right side of the law, Gabby makes it to the end of the book alive. On her way, a little seed of faith is planted, and I can’t wait to see where it takes her in Book 2.

This is a deal at 99¢, and so good that I gladly paid $10 for book 2. 🙂 Yes. I did.

-Calliope

buy HAZARDOUS DUTY