Precious, Christmas-themed PJs–Holy Pals (a review & giveaway, ends 11/20/22)

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Hello darlings!

I have the most wonderful family, faith-filled pajamas to tell you about–and the fantastic company who makes them, Holy Pals. I received the most precious pair for myself, thanks to Holy Pals and FrontGate Media. And you can also enter to win a pair for yourself, or for one of your family members (either parents or kiddos!) These really might be the most charming faith-based clothing items I’ve ever seen.

About Holy Pals

So. I LOVE this company. Their mission is this:

  • Give children the opportunity to draw near to Christ, and to help parents teach their children about their faith.
  • To shine a light on child-focused charities in need of support, raising awareness of their worthy causes and supporting them alongside our customers.

Every pajama sale supports the Littlest Lamb Orphanage, a privately funded orphanage in Egypt. They have built a home for orphaned and at-risk children who have lost parents to death, imprisonment, or abandonment. The Littlest Lamb provides these children with everything they need to thrive – shelter, food, clothing, education and most importantly A FAMILY that loves them. 

George, Jen, Nazareth, and Nile (pictured in the adorable family photos above) want people to know that Jesus is the reason for the season–and the pajama prints sweetly present that focus. Holy Pals has created this clothing to do just that. As they say, “Keeping Jesus the reason for the season in fun matching family Christmas pajamas focused on the true story of Christmas!”

We pray that Jesus is born inside the hearts of all who wear these pajamas. And that they may witness to their family and friends His amazing love.

George, Jen, Nazareth and Nile from Holy Pals

The Holy Pals pajamas:

  • are made from 100% soft and cozy cotton
  • the knit cotton is both very soft and comfortably stretchy
  • are consciously sourced and produced in India
  • are snug-fitting for women and children and loose-fitting for men
  • have a small label stitched on the right arm of each pair of Holy Pals pajamas, with the verse reference of the print
  • are available not only in Christmas prints, but also in prints featuring Easter, Palm Sunday, Esther, Noah, David & Goliath, Jonah, Adam & Even, and more

The Christmas patterns are pictured below, in clockwise starting from top left: Christmas Classic, Starry Night, Joy to the World, and Away in a Manger.

My Holy Pals pajamas experience

I received a pair of Holy Pals pajamas in Christmas Classic, the top left pattern above. I chose the men’s pajamas in size L for myself. I love the women’s pajamas pictured above, but I have had numerous abdominal surgeries over the years and felt that a looser fit might be better for me. I am so happy with my choice!

I wear, most of the time, a women’s M (sizes 8-10), and I am just over 5’7″ tall. But since the men’s pajama bottoms have a drawstring closure (with light elastic) on the waistband, I knew that even if the bottoms were a bit big, I’d be able to pull the drawstring closer and have them fit well. And, while the pajamas were large on me before I washed them, they did shrink just enough to create a perfect fit.

When I launder my own clothes, I *always* wash them in cold water, and I usually hang my shirts and pants to dry after wrinkle-releasing them by running them in the dryer for about 10 minutes. (This is because, over a lifetime of experience, I’ve had sleeves and leg lengths in my clothing end up too short, if I didn’t.) I followed that pattern after turning the pajamas inside out (as recommended) to wash. After the wrinkle release, I hung both the top and the pants to dry.

When I tried them on the next day, there had been a slight shrinkage, which is not surprising since the knit fabric is 100% cotton. But that really just helped them to size perfectly for my frame, in both length, width, and circumference. The quality fabric looked as rich and lovely after the washing as it did before.

Also, since I’m a woman and these are men’s pajamas, I wanted to mention the fly. There is a button halfway between the top and the bottom of the fly, so they felt modest and didn’t have an open gap. I didn’t think of that to begin with, but I appreciated it when I wore them!

…and my final impressions

First, the comfort. Interestingly, I noticed that ALL my pajamas and nightgowns (both winter and summer) are 100% cotton, and the Holy Pals pjs fit right into that preference. I gravitate towards cotton for sleepwear because it’s just so comfortable and doesn’t get too hot. The Holy Pals cotton is smooth, stretches in all directions, and is wonderfully comfortable on the skin. The fit was great as well. The men’s top fit loosely but really nicely, and the bottoms were so comfortable; cozy, but not too tight or constraining anywhere. I guess I felt a bit like Goldilocks–everything was “just right!”

Second, the look. The printed fabric is SO darling. The cartoon drawings of the Christmas Classic design have a plethora of Nativity personages (Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Three Kings, an angel, and even animals–a camel, a donkey, and a sheep!). Baby Jesus even has an ichthus fish on his swaddling clothes! It is joyful and just so pleasing on the eyes and to the spirit. Really, each one of the designs is wonderful and will provide tons of opportunities to talk with children about Jesus and our spiritual heritage as believers. And, they’ll provide the most adorable family Christmas jammie pics!

Third, the craftsmanship. I have a high appreciation for exceptional seams and tailoring work (just ask me about my mom’s hand-sewn creations!). So, when I see beautiful craftsmanship in clothing, I just value it all the more. The seams, buttonholes, hems, and plackets are superbly sewn. (The men’s pj’s white shirt placket even has the Christmas Classic fabric facing out!) The pajamas are just incredibly well-made and should last for many years to come.

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ ”

Matthew 19:14, The Holy Bible

Fourth, the company. I just love their vision for providing a quality product for families that will provide comfort, great fit, and beautiful moments for spiritual training. I so appreciate their donations to the orphanage in Egypt. How wonderful that their products can go to little ones whom Jesus describes as precious and loved.

Where you can purchase Holy Pals pajamas for your family–and even get a discount!

Holy Pals is making it possible for you to purchase these darling pajamas for your family–and they’re providing you with a 10% discount as well!

You can get this discount by using this link:

Holy Pals MELANIE10 discount

Or by applying this code when you purchase: MELANIE10 at the Holy Pals website.

And, enter to win your own pair!

You can enter to win a pair of pjs from Holy Pals! To enter, just click on the link below. That will take you to the Blessed Freebies giveaway hosting page, where you can enter to win. Just follow the directions on the website.

Enter to win a pair of Holy Pals pjs!

Where to find Holy Pals online

Holy Pals website

Holy Pals Facebook

Holy Pals Instagram

Thanks for letting me share Holy Pals with you. I so recommend their lovely pajamas–and their company as well. Check them out, and don’t forget to use the purchase link above to get 10% off!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received these pajamas from Holy Pals. All opinions expressed here are my own honest ones.

“The Danger with Diamonds” ~ a book review & giveaway (ends 10/24/22)

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Are you a fan of exciting spy thrillers? Then, the book I just finished will delight you, just as it did me! I received a copy of The Danger with Diamonds from the authors, and it kept me turning the pages one after another until I reached the conclusion!

The Danger With Diamonds JustRead Blog + Review Tour Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for The Danger with Diamonds by Traci Hunter Abramson & Sian Ann Bessey, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Danger with Diamonds

Title: The Danger with Diamonds Series: Falcon Point Suspense #1 Authors: Traci Hunter Abramson & Sian Ann Bessey Publisher: Covenant Communications Release Date: October 10, 2022 Genre: Clean & Wholesome Romantic Suspense

Some secrets are worth keeping. Others are not.

When Lars Hendriks arranges to meet Marit Jansen in Vienna, he is hoping their friendship will blossom into romance. What he doesn’t expect is a surprise visit from his cousin Cole or the loose diamonds he brings with him.

As a CIA operative, Cole Bridger is used to uncertainty, but when his work takes him back to Vienna, he looks forward to reconnecting with Isabelle Roberts, the fellow agent he dated briefly before duty took him away from Austria. Unfortunately, his silence over the last few months has created a chasm that he can’t cross without help. He barely takes a step toward repairing the damaged relationship when a brazen jewel heist seemingly links Cole, Lars, Marit, and Isabelle to the crime. The group is drawn into a deadly mystery, and once again, the treasures of Falcon Point are threatened. It doesn’t take long for them to realize they have stumbled upon something far bigger and more dangerous than a simple robbery. And someone on the inside knows it.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Traci Hunter Abramson Sian Bessy

Traci Hunter Abramson was born in Arizona, where she lived until moving to Venezuela for a study-abroad program. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years, eventually resigning in order to raise her family. She credits the CIA with giving her a wealth of ideas for suspense novels as well as the skills needed to survive her children’s teenage years. She has gone on to write a number of bestselling suspense novels that have consistently been nominated as Whitney Award finalists. She considers shoes an optional accessory which became evident when she won her first three Whitney Awards in 2013 (Code Word), 2014 (Deep Cover), and 2016 (Failsafe.) Safe House won Whitney Awards for both the mystery/suspense category as well as 2017 Adult Novel of the Year. She added two additional awards in 2019 (Mistaken Reality – best mystery/suspense and Sanctuary – Adult Novel of the Year.) She currently lives in Virginia with her family where she enjoys sports, travel, writing, and recently retired from coaching high school swimming.

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

Sian Ann Bessey was born in Cambridge, England, but grew up on the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales. She left her homeland to attend university in the U.S. and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in English. She began her writing career as a student, publishing several magazine articles while still in college. Since then she has published historical romance and romantic suspense novels, along with a variety of children’s books. She is a USA Today best selling author, a Foreward Reviews Book of the Year finalist, and a Whitney Award finalist. Although Sian doesn’t have the opportunity to speak Welsh very often anymore, she can still wrap her tongue around, “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.” She loves to travel and experience other cultures, but when she’s home, her favorite activities are spending time with her family, cooking, and reading.

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


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, a signed copy of The Danger of Diamonds, and book-themed swag (including stickers, bookmark, and postcard).

The Danger with Diamonds JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight October 17, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on October 24, 2022. 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 HERE https://widget.gleamjs.io/e.js


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

JustRead Publicity Tours

Here’s what I thought of The Danger with Diamonds

Pink diamonds.

A kidnapping, terror attacks, thefts of priceless jewels. (Because there are more of those than just the gorgeous diamonds.)

Oh, and did I mention the CIA?

Co-authors Traci Hunter Abramson and Sian Ann Bessey wrote a fantastic and suspenseful novel set in lovely European capital Vienna, with interesting protagonists (and villains). Cousins Cole and Lars meet in Vienna when their family’s priceless heirloom jewels are stolen during a photography session. But Cole’s life is not what it seems. He’s employed by the U.S. Embassy (yet, unknown to his family and friends, works for the CIA), and his CIA non-official-cover friend Isabelle (who’s a Vienna banker during bankers’ hours) is also living the secret agent double life. However, their skills are incredibly handy when the precious jewels are stolen. For Cole wonders whether the jewels are connected with those he took into evidence when he helped to recover a kidnapped agent in Budapest.

Now: we have jewels, thefts, a kidnapping. Lars’ love interest (at least, he hopes) and fellow Dutch citizen Marit is the perfect person to complete their group. She is a high fashion model; and she’s incredibly observant as well. So now the pursuit of the stolen jewels can begin. The only concern that Cole and Isabelle have is that Marit and Lars have no idea that they’re working with Central Intelligence Agency personnel. But they hope that the criminals, whoever they are, will also miss that fact.

The Danger with Diamonds is a wonderful thriller with bits of clean romance thrown in as well. It is a fun and exciting read (pink diamonds! a ball! undercover CIA work!) that does include some minimal gun violence. But it’s a wonderful read. If you enjoy spy fiction set in gorgeous European capitals, you’ll love this book!

–Wren

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“If Mama Ain’t Happy” ~ a review of Rachel Norman’s new book (plus giveaway, ends 10/24/22)

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Friends, I have a wonderful new book to share with you! I was so blessed to receive a copy of Rachel Norman’s fantastic book for moms called If Mama Ain’t Happy. Let me share more about the book and how it impacted me. Plus, there’s a giveaway you can enter to win your own copy!

From the publisher:

If Mama Ain’t Happy
Why minding healthy boundaries is good for your whole family
 
Rachel used to be a mom who spent her days weary, anxious, and guilt laden. She had five kids in five years, lived on three different continents, and then was blindsided by a devastating health diagnosis. Neglecting her own physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs for so long—in an effort to be a selfless mother—had left her utterly depleted. And physically unwell. Then she began asking a question she’d never considered before: Could it be that taking good care of myself is not actually selfish, but maybe, just maybe, something a responsible adult does? 

In this countercultural book, Rachel takes some weight off your shoulders by:
 

  • Offering hands-on, rubber-meets-the-road strategies to cultivate a life you aren’t trying to constantly escape
  • Teaching you to discover and claim your own limits and boundaries so you can be a calm, resilient, peaceful mother
  • Showing you how to shape your daily life and values around the few things that really matter, and how to let the rest go


If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But when mama is at peace? Everyone benefits!

How If Mama Ain’t Happy touched me

What is your mom life journey looking like these days? I personally am still in a learning curve (even though my boy is in college!). I remember all too well the cartoon tiger Hobbes’ words to his best kid friend Calvin in the cartoon series bearing their names: “Live and don’t learn, that’s us.” I hate to admit it, but sometimes I learn more from the disasters or debacles than I do from the smooth moments of life. I’ve not been skilled in either setting boundaries or margin, which has brought me some hard lessons. And because those weren’t hard enough on their own, my self-talk made them even harder with the condemnation that we as Christian women seem all too ready to heap upon ourselves.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a kind, generous-hearted, wise friend or mentor who could help you get past those hard things, and guide you in making different choices with your time, your life, and your people (both little and big) so that your inner and outer lives could be smoother?

Well, Rachel Norman provides exactly that in her immensely helpful If Mama Ain’t Happy. She has been there! And even though she’s not with the reader in person, it feels as though she is. She openly shares what she’s learned as the mom of 5, with an incredibly (and she would say overly) busy life, when she was diagnosed with cancer. She survived it; and she learned so much about how to live a different life with principles of peace, wise choices, and boundaries, and in her book shares those with us. Or, as she says in chapter 1:

If my own daily life seemed too much to bear, something had to give. I was going to believe the promises of God’s Word. I was going to pay attention to my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries.

Rachel Norman

Why are boundaries important? Simply because, as humans, we only can give or do so much. (I missed that memo.) We have our own limits, and setting boundaries on only doing what we *can* do, and caring for ourselves, enables us to care for our families. Not to mention staying healthy in all the ways that make us human (in our minds, bodies, wills, emotions, and relationships). This not only models healthy adulthood for our kids, but enables us to be present with them as good parents who are not always on the edge of falling into a stress pit. Rachel discusses how to put those boundaries into practice in these life areas:

  • Our own rules and standards
  • Our friends
  • Our emotions
  • Our own daily care
  • Our responsibilities
  • Our home
  • and last but not least, our own lives

In chapter 4 and those following, Rachel offers thoughtful questions to help readers engage further with each topic, and to examine their lives to see where and how healthful change can happen.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book contained life-changing counsel and wisdom for me; plus, plans I could shape for my own life to bring health and happiness to, as poet Mary Oliver said, my “one wild and precious life.” For that’s really what we are given, right? One beautiful and precious life of our own; and the loved ones that we’ll interact with in that life.

Rachel Norman’s book gave me rich and wonderful ideas for how I can embrace my own limits even as I live my life as fully as I can. These ideas *seem* simple even as they’re profound; but they are DOABLE. And have the potential to bring glorious change and beauty to our lives. I recommend to you, from the bottom of my heart, her beautiful If Mama Ain’t Happy.

Some of my favorite moments in the book

I have to share some of Rachel’s quotes that were pivotal for me. (I’ve no doubt you’d find many yourself!) Here are some of my favorites:

  • “Have you tried to be perfect, excel at everything, and live outside your limits for most of your life, hoping that this would make you worthy or acceptable? Did it work?…No?…Now is a good time to find a more realistic and gracious motivation strategy that doesn’t make you hate your life.” (p. 93)
  • “As you try to navigate all your emotions, stop beating yourself up…The next time you’re tempted to put yourself down, try treating yourself with the same gentleness you’d offer a friend instead. It might just change your life.” (pp. 128-129)
  • “I realized I was experienced at abandoning my own needs and ignoring my own limits.” (p. 145)
  • “But there are likely many areas of life in which you can, with some thought, prayer, and intention, stop going against your limits and boundaries.” (p. 164)
  • “Once you realize that you can craft a life that is a blessing to you and those around you, you will start to see the things driving you crazy as flags indicating where your boundaries are being crossed. Next you can begin investigating these flags and start solving problems, because you realize that these problems are your responsibility….And then, guided by knowledge and the wisdom of the Lord, you can begin to act like a person who is balancing…who can steer away from potholes and go down easier paths. You can recognize your boundary lines and work to stay within them.” (p. 165)

Again, if you are that mom (like Rachel, like me, and like so many others) who has carried too many loads and is exhausted; who wants to learn how to create healthy boundaries; who wants to love your family and be able to enjoy precious and dear moments with them, unmarred by constant unnecessary stress; who wants to experience real rest–this book is for you, my friend. May it bless you and bring you peace.

How you can enter to win a copy of If Mama Ain’t Happy

You can enter to win a copy of the fabulous If Mama Ain’t Happy from BlessedFreebies! Just click on the pink link below. That will take you to the giveaway page. Giveaway ends on October 24, 2022. Best wishes!

Enter to win the giveaway for If Mama Ain’t Happy here!

Where you can find Rachel Norman on socials

You can follow Rachel Norman on her social media accounts:

Instagram

Facebook

Pinterest

YouTube

Twitter

Where you can purchase If Mama Ain’t Happy

You can purchase If Mama Ain’t Happy from Rachel Norman’s website. You’ll be able to visit lots of booksellers’ book links that way (on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, and more). Just click on the purchase link below!

Purchase here!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received this book from the author. All opinions shared here are my own honest ones.

“Dangerous Beauty” from Melissa Koslin ~ a review

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I LOVE Melissa Koslin’s books. And when I received the opportunity to review her latest novel from Revell Reads, I jumped at the opportunity. And, Dangerous Beauty was everything I hoped it would be!

A brief summary

Liliana, with tragedy behind her in her home country of Mexico, has been taken captive by human traffickers who are prepared to sell her to a high bidder. (Yes. Sell her.) When she manages to elude them for moments at a convenience store, an American citizen sees her plight and subdues her captors, calling the police. But since she is across the border and into the U.S. illegally (through no fault of her own), the police are prepared to remand her into custody.

Until her rescuer, Meric Toledan, offers to marry her.

What I saw as I read Dangerous Beauty

Strength. Courage. Faithfulness. And, yes, beauty.

When you see the gorgeous cover of this book, you know that there is a lovely woman at the heart of this story. In fact, she might even be a fairy tale princess. But when you look more closely, you see that she’s not wearing shoes. And that in the distance, there are city skyscrapers. So perhaps…not.

Actually, Liliana does indeed possess all the best qualities of the fanciful stories we might have read as children. She is brave. Loyal. She is a fighter. And while she’s terrified and in an awful situation that’s not of her own making, she is determined to learn, and to adjust.

Meric is almost surprised to find himself married (although he was the one doing the asking). But he too is determined. He’s going to make sure that Liliana can heal from her ordeal. That she can defend herself. He is honest and strong. Is it any surprise that the two begin to be drawn to each other?

Before them both are battles. Of both building their own individual strength, and of opening their wounded hearts. But beyond those are battles both treacherous and sinister: of the trafficking of women, to those who plan to use and abuse them.

And, my thoughts

Are you, like I am, noticing more fiction that has human trafficking, and the suffering caused by it, at its heart? I have said this before, and I still think it is true: I believe that God wants us to notice it, and to realize that there are precious ones made in His own image who are trapped and at the mercy of others, who are themselves not merciful.

Dangerous Beauty is a fantastic book. Its heroine, and its hero, drew me in and caused me to root for them–and to hope that somehow, they’d obtain their own love story. (And yes. There were a LOT of moments that made me worry that evil might win, and that they’d somehow lose that chance.) And if it’s not outright evil trying to separate them, it might be their own human brokenness.

I wholeheartedly recommend Dangerous Beauty to you. It reminds us that there IS beauty out there in the world, even if it’s trapped in evil. And that there is a Rescuer who inspires humans to rescue others. This might just be the best Melissa Koslin book yet (even if I am still quite partial to the four-legged character in her earlier book, Never Miss). You won’t regret reading it; I think you’ll fall in love with Liliana and Meric too!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions expressed here are my own honest ones.

Jennifer Moore’s wonderful “Healing Hazel” ~ & you can enter to win in the JustRead Blog & Review Tour! (Giveaway closes 9/27/22)

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Healing Hazel JustRead Blog + Review Tour Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for Healing Hazel by Jennifer Moore, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Healing Hazel

Title: Healing Hazel Series: The Blue Orchid Society #3 Author: Jennifer Moore Publisher: Covenant Communications Release Date: September 8, 2022 Genre: Clean & Wholesome Romance / Historical / Victorian

Hazel Thornton has one great ambition: to help the sick and wounded as a nurse. But that dream can never become a reality. After a devastating childhood trauma, she has spent her life battling fits of panic that make it impossible to finish her studies. Everything changes, however, when a trip to Spain takes a perilous turn that derails her plans to visit her father for Christmas and immediately plunges her into the dangers of a brutal war.

With single-minded focus, she springs into action to help her fellow travelers. To ensure their continued care, she begins work at a Spanish hospital alongside Dr. Jim Jackson, a man whose only emotion seems to be wariness of his new assistant. Armed with gifts of support from each of her dearest friends, a group that dubs themselves the Blue Orchid Society, Hazel embarks on a journey of hope and healing to battle the demons of her past with the help of the doctor who has captured her heart.

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore lives with one husband and four sons who produce heaps of laundry and laughter. She earned a BA from the University of Utah in Linguistics, which she uses mostly for Jeopardy. A reader of history and romance, she loves traveling, tall ships, scented candles, and watching cake decorating videos. When she’s not driving carpool, writing, or helping with homework, she’ll usually be found playing tennis.

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

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a signed copy of Healing Hazel, bookmark, blue orchid pin, themed stickers, and a $25 Amazon gift card!

Healing Hazel JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight September 20, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on September 27, 2022. 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. Gift card open internationally. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE https://widget.gleamjs.io/e.js


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

JustRead Publicity Tours

About Healing Hazel

Ah, the Victorian era.

The royal love story of Victoria and Albert. The fashion beginning of the white wedding dress, worn as legend has it first by Queen Victoria. But also–an era where restrictive corsets were the order of the day for women. When those with mental disorders were housed in the hospital nicknamed “Bedlam.” When the London Season was the way for well-brought-up young women to meet and marry, as they were displayed not as individuals to know but as prizes to be won.

But author Jennifer Moore’s members of The Blue Orchid Society (Dahlia, Vivian, Elizabeth, Sophronia, and, or course, Hazel) meet each other at a ball (in the library) and discover not only kindred spirits in each other, but gifts and skills that aren’t readily recognized as “appropriate” in their society. With devoted friendship and support, they encourage each other to pursue their unusual dreams.

Hazel’s dream was to become a nurse. Unfortunately, a condition related to a terrifying experience she endured as a tiny child interfered with her abilities to attend lectures, and what we’d describe now as panic attacks ended her schooling. Hazel’s friends say goodbye to her as she and a companion head instead to the Canary Islands, where she’ll meet her father, Major General Thornton, for a holiday over Christmas. But his unexpected military engagement interferes with their meeting; and it’s on the return to England that Hazel’s adventure truly begins.

My thoughts

Jennifer Moore’s wonderful heroine and her quite unusual adventure engaged me thoroughly! Hazel is plagued by panic attacks (which I can’t imagine would have gone over well in the Victorian era, with treatment at Bedlam something many feared, and rightfully so). All our current understanding of PTSD, which I readily admit is growing all the time, is so vastly different than the Victorians’ was. Yet here is Hazel, a faithful, loving, and strong young woman, who is barred from pursuing her dream simply because of her inability to be in crowded, small rooms or lecture halls.

But Hazel is thrown into nursing adjacent to the battlegrounds of the Carlist (or Spanish Civil) Wars in Spain, literally. When she and those she’s traveling with (along with others) are injured, she readily jumps in to help with what knowledge she possesses. And later, she is able to assist (at the grumblings of Dr. Jim) at the hospital where injured soldiers are brought. She has a good foundation of nursing care, and, as you can imagine, learns immensely more as she serves at the hospital.

She is wonderful–as is the clean romance that develops! I love Moore’s characters and their development, and the story that they find themselves in. I have read few books about the Spanish Civil War, and appreciated what I learned here. Most of all, I was moved and encouraged by Hazel and her friends of The Blue Orchid Society. Like Moore, the female friends of my life have been so dear and my source of support, love, and encouragement through the years (and NOT that I don’t adore my husband and son!). I loved seeing that happen with Hazel and her friends. Because of that, more of Jennifer Moore’s books are now most definitely on my reading list. Don’t miss Healing Hazel, for a loving look at a bright young woman who learns she CAN fulfill her dreams, despite society’s and her own health’s strictures. Just marvelous.

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Fantastic new cyber-suspense novel: Elizabeth Goddard’s “Critical Alliance” (a Revell Reads review)

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I DO love a great suspense book–with a little romance! Elizabeth Goddard’s newest, book 3 in the Rocky Mountain Courage series, has all of that and more. Revell Reads was kind enough to send me a copy of this wonderful book. And I won’t be giving anything away–except how fantastic it was–if I tell you I read it all in one day!

Okay. I have to give a LITTLE away…to let you know why you’ll want to read this.

About Critical Alliance

Years ago, bright and talented Mackenzie Hanson wandered a little too far into the hacking world…and negatively altered her potential future (and her family relationships) as a result. She was able to recover to a degree, and managed to create a career as a university professor, teaching cybersecurity. (Having broken the law when she was a juvenile enabled her court records to be sealed.) But when she spots her former fellow hacker Julian, who hands her a mysterious card–just before a terrible accident–at a carnival while on a date with a fellow faculty member, her professional life suddenly didn’t seem to matter that much. All Mackenzie wanted was to get home to Montana to see her family. Even though that family sort of informally disowned her when she made her foray into illegal activities.

But when Mackenzie makes it home, she has some terrible discoveries to make, about her family and her family business. Now not only Hanstech, founded by her deceased father, is under attack; but she and her siblings are as well. Will Mackenzie’s exceptional hacking skills save Hanstech in time; or could they target her in the eyes of the feds? Or, worse, expose her to the deadly person behind the attacks? Diplomatic Security Services agent Alex Knight, who’s on mandated “vacation” following an op gone bad, might be Mackenzie’s only hope. If even he can help her.

Drones. Hackers. A broken family. And danger. Maybe even the brightest and strongest won’t be able to overcome these.

My thoughts

Well–I told you earlier that I read Critical Alliance in one day!

I am a huge fan of police procedurals and thrillers. And Elizabeth Goddard captivated me immediately with her slightly flawed hacker turned college professor Mackenzie. A woman who’d made an enormous series of mistakes as a teen admitted her errors, turned over evidence to the FBI, and sought to redeem herself. Only to be rejected by the siblings I’m sure she’d hoped would support her on her new road. So alone, except for God and her faith, she crafted a different future. Yet Mackenzie’s love for her family caused her to run back home immediately to help them when she discovered they were in danger.

And then, there’s Alex. The sparks of attraction between the former hacker and the special agent are enormous. But Alex has mistakes–grave ones–in his own past. I loved seeing how he puts Mackenzie’s safety above his attraction to her, and how he drops everything to help her and try to keep her alive.

The combination of cybersecurity, video-gaming, drones, and people who may or may not be who you think they are kept me turning page after page as quickly as I could. The only thing I’m sorry about after finishing Critical Alliance is that it is the last book in a series of three!

Pick up a copy of Critical Alliance for yourself. You’ll love Mackenzie and Alex; and then, like me, you’ll want to grab books 1 & 2 of the Rocky Mountain Courage series. (Just FYI: they’re called Present Danger and Deadly Target. And you’ll meet some of their characters in Critical Alliance!)

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions are my own.

“Shoal Waters” ~ a JustRead Blog & Review Tour & Giveaway (ends 8/17/22)

#sponsor #partner

Shoal Waters JustRead Blog + Review Blitz Welcome to the Blog + Review Blitz for Shoal Waters by Normandie Fischer, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Shoal Waters

Title: Shoal Waters Series: Carolina Coast Stories #6 Author: Normandie Fischer Publisher: Sleepy Creek Press Release Date: June 14, 2022 Genre: Inspirational/Clean Women’s Fiction Dementia, mad gunmen, and a yearning for something more make life difficult for the Beaufort folk in this series finale. Georgie’s mind threatens to go walkabout, and she’d better get help soon if she’s to stop her daughter from taking over. Enter granddaughter, Jeminy, a songwriter from L.A., and Eric, her lawyer. Jeminy hates herself and is pretty sure God does, too. There’s that huge unforgiveable sin, plus the boyfriend/manager who dumped her and lost her a music deal. Her mistakes. Her fault. When Mother plots to tuck Nana Georgie neatly into a nursing home to gain access to Nana’s money, Jeminy hightails it out of L.A. and back to Beaufort. God may still hate her in North Carolina, but at least she’ll be on hand to protect her beloved grandmother. Enter Eric, the lawyer hired to help Georgie protect herself–and possibly Jeminy, too. But Eric just rescued his orphaned stepson from Social Services, and while he’s adept at legal briefs and courtroom dramas, classrooms and angry second graders are brand new territory. Guitar in hand, Jeminy tries to write songs to jumpstart her flagging career, but when someone threatens her life, she has to ask why. Could it have to do with the money missing from her bank accounts (and maybe her unstable ex)? If she prays for help, will God even listen to someone with her baggage? With the help of the Beaufort crew, a new father and a terrified musician struggle to safeguard everyone they love, but it’s going to take more than good neighbors to show each of them the true meaning of grace. PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | IndieBound | BookBub  

MORE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES

Becalmed Heavy Weather Twilight Christmas Sailing out of Darkness The Sea Prayers


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Normandie Fischer

Normandie Fischer had the best of several worlds: a Southern heritage, access to schooling in the DC area (which meant lots of cultural adventures), and several years of sculpture studies in Italy. It might have been better for her if she’d used all these opportunities more wisely, but it’s possible that the imperfect and the unwise also add fodder for the artist and the writer.

Her life changed radically when she married the love of her life at an age when some would have said she was over the hill and way past her prime. (Clichés often speak the truth, don’t they?) A lifelong sailor, she was delighted to find that Michael also longed to cruise lovely waters, which is what they did from Northern CA to Mexico, spending too-few years in the incomparable Sea of Cortez. Sea Venture, their 50′ ketch, is back home in North Carolina now because Normandie’s mama needed care. Still, it’s gorgeous there, too, and she can write from home as easily as she could on the boat. Her two grown children and two step-sons are handsome (or gorgeous, as the case may be), talented, and a delight. And now there’s a granddaughter and grandson in the mix–woohoo! She just wishes they lived a lot closer to home.

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


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card and one signed book written by Normandie Fischer (winner’s choice)!

Shoal Waters JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight August 10, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on August 17, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US/CAN only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

My thoughts

I entered Normandie Fischer’s Carolina Coast series late in the game; all the way to book #6, Shoal Waters. And yet, the author brought enough backstory along with each character that I didn’t feel lost at all. (Of course, those little tastes of each peripheral character’s stories just made me want to go back and read books #1-5!)

So the protagonists of Shoal Waters are all different types of people, with different challenges going on; grandmother Georgie, who’s struggling with some occasional dementia symptoms. Then, there’s her granddaughter Jeminy, who’s pursuing the songwriting business in LA but who had untrustworthy people doing the so-called “management” of her assets and royalties. Eric is an attorney whose wife left him four years ago, with their son; his ex takes the money he transfers to her each month but doesn’t allow him to see the boy.

But life happens. And even though it’s not always evident, God’s hand and His love for His children is intertwined with the events that each character experiences. Loss–then a move back home, to new life. A different kind of loss–and then the beloved child is back. Georgie’s momentary losses of her short-term memories–but then companions to lighten the load and support.

Redemption. Love. Renewal. Community. Pick up Normandie (isn’t that the most lovely name?) Fischer’s Shoal Waters. Her characters go through hard things (sometimes truly terrible ones). Yet rescue is waiting on the other side; and sometimes, right in the middle of the trials. You will cheer for Georgie, for Jeminy, for Eric and Danny; and sometimes even for the more “villainous” characters. In the end, good just might come for them as well!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Encouraging book on the end times: “Global Reset” (a review)

**This is a sponsored post**

Do you read books that explore the prophetic books in the Bible–or those about the end times? FrontGate Media provided one for me that was an exemplary read; full of encouragement and Scripture. It’s co-written by Mark Hitchcock and Jeff Kinley, and it’s called Global Reset.

How my reading began

Global Reset and I had a bit of a rocky start.

You see, I caught a horrible summer cold or virus a few weeks ago. (Not corona.) But, it sent me to bed for a good 35+ hours.

I thought that a cup of coffee would be nice to have one morning as I rested. So I filled my cup, went back upstairs, and as I walked toward the bed the cup and its handle separated themselves. (Kind of like when you see someone slice off the top of a champagne bottle with a katana.) I was left holding the handle and the (FULL) cup of coffee and half-and-half fell to the ground, spewing its contents all over the carpet and my stack of books beside the bed. Including Global Reset, which was drenched.

I hollered for help, my husband came running, and we grabbed towels and wipes and cleaned the liquid from the carpet and off the books. So Global Reset had to dry. And when it did and I could begin to read, I discovered that the book starts with an art theft that has always been one of the saddest stories to me, an aficionado and former teacher of art. So yes, that was rocky. (Also, it was my favorite cup.) I might have been predisposed to have an attitude about this book simply because of those things. But, I read, and continued to read.

a favorite passage–with coffee stain

What I discovered as I read

The authors do begin the book by describing some current events that we’ve all lived through in recent years (coronavirus, etc.). These current events serve as a springboard to discuss what the book is actually about: what the Bible says about the end times, and specifically, about these Biblical teachings deriving from Revelation, Daniel, Matthew, and Ezekiel, among others:

  • The rapture, the Tribulation, and the church
  • The mark of the Beast (what the Bible says it is and what it is NOT) and the Antichrist
  • Nations and their mentions in the Bible (spoiler: America is not one of them)
  • How current events *might* be setting the stage for these future events
  • And what, perhaps most importantly, Christ-followers should be doing in light of these

The effect the book had on me

The more I read of Global Reset, the more it moved me. Now. I am not a Bible scholar, but I am a woman who’s loved studying the Bible inductively. I believe, deeply, that one must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. This can be done by looking at the original Hebrew and Greek (for me, that means with dictionaries and concordances), and by cross-referencing verses which speak about the same topics. Also, one considers what the verses meant to the original audience. At this point, one can utilize commentaries by Bible scholars. But if one is inductively studying the Bible, it helps to leave the opinions of others until personal study is concluded.

I don’t know personally what Hitchcock’s and Kinley’s study methods were. But I do believe, after reading Global Reset, that they handle the Scriptures and these prophetic passages (which, let’s face it, are some of the most difficult to interpret by readers) carefully and respectfully, not utilizing verses willy-nilly or to prove their own points.

I believe that Global Reset is a book which will encourage believers about the end times, about the order of events in that era, and about what Christians can do in light of these teachings. Because isn’t that the point? I don’t think that God put these verses in His Word to terrify Christians and cause us to focus on our own personal fears about these end-time events. Rather, I think it is so that we know what is coming–and so that we can live accordingly, sharing Jesus and His love and salvation with those who don’t know Him. And following Him and loving Him ourselves.

Some of my favorite passages

You know if you read my reviews, that I love including meaningful book passages so that readers can get a taste of the books I’m sharing. Here are some of the parts of Global Reset that I loved!

  • “This should bring supreme comfort to everyone who reads these words. What we are seeing played out before our eyes is part of the divine script leading to the coming of Jesus Christ…And the same God who rules time and nations rules the intimate details of your life and mine.” (p. 74)
  • “If you are running low on hope these days, set aside time often to think about the world to come. Take time to read Revelation 20-22, develop an eternal perspective, and seek to live a righteous live in view of what lies ahead.” (p. 163)
  • “[We are to be] looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13, emphasis added)…Waiting. Looking. Purifying. Exactly what you would expect a loving bride to do.” (p. 131)
  • “Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly to my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among these chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone!” (Missionary John G. Paton’s account of hiding in a tree after having fled for his life; p. 177-178)

What hope these passages stir up in me! So often I forget (as Paton shares in his quote) that Jesus is waiting for me to tell all my heart to Him. All my hurts and sorrows; my confusion and pain; and yes, also my joys. He is the best and most intimate Friend to us.

And finally, Global Reset‘s impact on me, a reader

I read a lot of books, as you might imagine, as a book reviewer. They’re often fun, or full of helpful advice or ideas. But sometimes, a book will impact me at the deepest heart level. And Global Reset is that kind of book.

What I felt as I moved closer to the final pages of Global Reset is that it is a book that makes me love Jesus more; that it inspires me to draw closer to Him and more deeply into His Word. It made a difference in my own faith, seeing the end time events and all their accompanying Scriptures laid out in order. It caused me to see God and His love in a deeper and quite significant way; and His tender love for us all. It is drawing me to a place of closer study of the Scriptures. And, I believe it can do the same thing for you.

THAT is incredibly wonderful and amazing to me!

Where you can purchase

You can find Global Reset on Amazon at the link below.

Purchase Global Reset here

Enjoy–and be blessed! –Wren

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own honest ones.

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift: Scott Drew’s “The Road to J.O.Y.” (a review)

*this is a sponsored post*

I have the immense pleasure today of sharing about a wonderful book with you! I received Scott Drew’s The Road to J.O.Y. from FrontGate Media a few weeks ago. And although I am not a basketball player, I read this book in only one day (well, almost, anyway: I read the first few chapters the night before but then it got to be midnight so I put the book down until the next morning, and spent the day reading until I finished!). It’s not only a ridiculously amazing Cinderella story; it is, more importantly perhaps, the story of what God did that transformed a disgraced college basketball program AND those who coached it and played for it. Including Coach Scott Drew, the author of this exceptional book.

About The Road to J.O.Y.

Back in the early 2000s, the Baylor University’s men’s basketball program was rocked by scandals, including murder, drug use, improper payments, and recruiting violations; as well as an attempted cover-up. Baylor imposed sanctions on its own program and the NCAA later did as well. So, when basketball coach Scott Drew was hired as the new head coach, to say that he and his staff would be in charge of rebuilding Baylor’s men’s basketball program would be an understatement. Yet Drew accepted the position and moved his family to Waco, Texas, from Indiana. And the rebuilding began.

The Road to J.O.Y. tells the story of that journey, from Scott’s childhood as the son of college basketball coach Homer Drew (and brother of “The Shot” maker Bryce Drew), to his own assistant coaching position at Valparaiso University, to beginning his head coach career at Baylor–and the 18-year pilgrimage from there to Baylor’s win over Gonzaga of the 2021 NCAA National Championship.

It is a remarkable story. And Coach Drew tells it like the story that it is; of God taking him, his family, his coaching staff, and years of Bears players from, as the old Wide World of Sports promo would say (but in reverse), “the agony of defeat” to the “thrill of victory.”

In Coach Drew’s book, you’ll find his thoughts, along with Scriptures, on topics like: seeking God; spreading joy; God’s formation of us throughout our lives; creating a culture and holding to that; using your lows to prepare for the upcoming heights; and more.

If you’re wondering what the “J.O.Y.” in the title is, it stands for “Jesus. Others. Yourself.” That model is what Coach Drew, his staff, and players built their program on. His book chronicles not only the Baylor Bears’ journey to the NCAA championship, but the spiritual lessons that they learned in the process. It is remarkable, encouraging, and a book that doesn’t just tell a story of winning but that can transform the reader’s life with its lessons.

My thoughts

One of the things I like to do sometimes when a non-fiction book has been powerful for me is to show you the tabs I’ve put on pages that had important thoughts or quotes that I knew could be difference-makers for me. You might laugh when I explain that that’s what you’re seeing in the picture above! (I think my son found the sheer number of them overwhelming!)

I realize that, to some of you, that might look like “too much of a good thing.” I understand! But what I found as I read Coach Drew’s book, is that, in his road to the NCAA championships (remember, that was an eighteen-year journey), he experienced God in so many different types of circumstances, challenges, and of course, joys. I realized early on in my reading that Drew was chronicling his spiritual journey via the ups and downs (and there were a lot of downs) that he walked through. And what I found to be so helpful and noteworthy was that process. I feel as though, in American Christian culture, we can magnify the mountaintop experiences. And don’t get me wrong, they are great! But perhaps in our lives, we might come up against a struggle that we don’t know how to walk through; where God seems very distant and silent; where we are groping for examples of HOW to live faithfully.

That is what I found to be so noteworthy in Drew’s book. I love the story of how God walked them all from horrific scandal to the heights of victory. It’s a great one! But all my tabs marked the thoughts, ideas, and Bible verses that I want to think and write on in my journal. To consider the ways Drew learned to walk through difficulty, that are Scripture-based and full of the life experience I can also take hold of in my own life. It’s an incredible book, and one that could actually be a disciple-making experience for the reader.

So all those tabs? They’re marking things I’ll be writing in my journal. Praying over. And seeing God in ways I might have missed as I look back over some difficult years in our family’s life, and in my own. I believe that He is going to use this book for such good!

Some of my favorite passages

Now that I’ve explained to you what all those tabs ARE, let me share some of my favorite book passages with you!

  • “That the story of a man struggling to deal with the things God has put in his life, and his open questioning of God in that process, can be considered poetic is pretty awesome. That’s real life. God is good. So is the struggle he gives us. And reading through Job with my dad helped remind me of that. Because there were a lot of struggles.” (p. 65)
  • “But a lot of times, God doesn’t make sense. That’s the point. The Bible tells us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis added). (p. 74)
  • “The Bible tells us that God’s ways are not our ways, and we can’t begin to comprehend them. By definition, that means sometimes things will happen that you don’t understand. But does that mean God isn’t working in your life? As Paul would say, “By no means!”” (p. 99)
  • “Sometimes, when you find that you aren’t having the success you want, ask yourself if what you want is what God would consider success. He’s very clear: his goal is to be known.” (p.126)
  • “God often uses the least of us to make amazing things happen, not so much to bless the vessels he chooses for the mission but so that when people look and see what has happened, they have no choice but to see it as a thing God has done.” (p.191)

Obviously, those are only 5 of the many I’ve marked. But I think they’ll give you a wonderful flavor of what you can find in The Road to J.O.Y.

Where you can purchase The Road to J.O.Y.

So, here is the link where you can purchase The Road to J.O.Y. for a Father’s Day gift, a devotional reading for yourself, or a fantastic book for anyone you know who loves basketball! (Or is a Baylor grad, for that matter!)

Purchase link for The Road to J.O.Y.

This link will take you to the book’s main page, which also has a variety of booksellers’ links (like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Christianbook.com, and BAM! Books-a-Million). There’s also an audio link where you can listen to the first chapter.

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: This was a sponsored post. All the thoughts and opinions listed here are my own and are honest.

“The Catch” by Lisa Harris ~ a Revell Reads review

#sponsor #partner

Revell Reads was kind enough to send me a copy of Lisa Harris’s newest novel, The Catch. I just finished it and I’d love to share about it!

About The Catch

The Catch is Lisa Harris’s third book in her US Marshals Series. (It does definitely work as a stand-alone novel; but since I’m sure you’ll want to read the first two, The Escape and The Chase, also featuring US Marshals Madison James and Jonas Quinn, I wanted to mention them!) In The Catch, the book begins with two women; and the first, Myra, is threatening to take the second’s, Becca’s, infant son. Suddenly, a gun is brandished.

In another part of town, accused criminal Maxim Cervantes is scheduled to appear before a judge to learn whether he can post bail or if he’ll be denied that opportunity. Madison and Jonas, along with numerous other marshals, have been assigned to the courthouse since Cervantes, who’s on the Most Wanted list for racketeering, kidnapping, and felony murder, has a cadre of foot soldiers who are a serious cause for concern. And sure enough, that concern is warranted, and the two marshals are forced into immediate action to protect the judge.

It’s not just the judge whose life is in danger, however. Before it’s all over, the marshals will be searching for Becca and her baby, attempting to solve a murder, and to rescue someone from Cervantes’ hit men’s grasp. And they STILL haven’t had a moment to talk about their feelings for one another; but with several innocents’ lives at risks, their personal lives have to be put aside for the moment.

My thoughts

I couldn’t put The Catch down once I started reading it! Although I wasn’t familiar with Madison (and her past) or Jonas, and their earlier adventures, I really liked their characters. I sympathized with Becca (even though some of her decisions started the rollercoaster of crime and events) and was anxious for her baby to be found. I also do love police and federal agent-types of fiction, and I’m so satisfied when I’ve reached the ends of the books and the crimes have been solved. The twists and turns of the criminals’ choices weren’t easy to predict (actually, I rarely knew where things were going to go!) and Harris definitely kept my anticipation at a high level.

I enjoyed reading The Catch and felt that I was able to get a grasp of the protagonists’ characters and motivations, although I do wish that I’d gotten to know Madison and Jonas in the two earlier books of the series first. I appreciated their commitment and professionalism and loved learning a bit about their pasts and inner worlds. I can recommend this book for sure to you! (But I’d also say, read the first two books in the series too!)

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions stated here are my own.