Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway: Sprinkled with Sabotage

"Miss Peach in the Courtyard with a Rope!" I announced to Robert and Gracie when I tried to guess who-dun-it in our latest game of Clue Master Detective.  I opened the envelope and was stunned to see Fountain written on the card instead of Courtyard.  I looked at my notes and, chagrinned, admitted, "I forgot I had the Courtyard."  My daughter had already guessed wrongly - because she didn't realize I had two cards when she guessed in one particular room - which meant my husband won yet again - but this time only because we messed up.  Oh well, it goes like that sometimes.

I love a good mystery with some suspense thrown in and Sprinkled with Sabotage was a good story in that genre.  Like in my most recent game of Clue, I was able to put together most of the unknowns but not in the way I thought it would be.  That, to me, makes for a good story.  Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I only put it down when there was something else I had to do (like take my daughter home from two different activities - how dare they not go into overtime?!).  The story is riveting and the setting is very realistic.  The characters come alive on the page and grow through the book. Lizzy Bennet is tough as nails and yet vulnerable to some degree.  Koby is a down-to-earth, simple comforts kind of guy who becomes a hero to Lizzy more than once.

The only thing I didn't like about the book is that it became quite obvious early on that this was not the first book of a series.  There were a couple of backstories alluded to, one of which was essential to the story and came out in small doses, so that was fine.  The other backstory (perhaps more than one?) was mentioned but was confusing to me since I have not read the other books.  I'm not sure if I would rather have not had those details in the story or not.  At the very least, I think I would've appreciated a page or two summarizing what had happened before this book took place in the front part of the book.  I did enjoy the book well enough that I want to (someday) go back and read the other books in the series.  Also, I think that there should be at least one more book in the series as a nefarious character mentioned seems to be in an ongoing subplot, and I would like to see that person caught.

I only highlighted one quote this time, although I wish I had highlighted more:

"What they intended for bad, God intended for good."  Koby's attention was drawn back to the pastor's words as he closed the service in prayer.  God, if [name redacted]'s intentions are bad, give me the opportunity to turn it around for good.

I requested a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit so that I could read and review it.

About the Book

Book:  Sprinkled with Sabotage

Author: Allison Pearl

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense


Lizzy Bennet loves life as a lawyer in the city. And not just because of the miles it puts between her and her ex. However, when she’s attacked on the street just hours after learning her identity was stolen, she tries to call home for help and ends up with the last person she expects: the very same high school boyfriend who broke her heart. He says he’s there to help, but she’s not so sure, and now, all the endless questions and regrets are clouding her judgment and preventing her from seeing the dangerous saboteur closing in.

Small-town auto mechanic, Koby Knightly, is looking forward to seeing a car show in the city. But when an unexpected call from his old girlfriend disconnects suddenly, he rushes to her apartment only to find her limping and bleeding. Throwing his plans out the window, Koby makes it his mission to protect her and discover the identity of the person trying to frame her. Will he also be able to figure out what went wrong between them back in high school or will a killer get to her first?


Click here to get your copy!


About the Author


Allison Pearl is a small-town girl who’s lived just about everywhere. She loves books, tea, chocolate, and watching old movies with her husband and black lab, Sal. To keep in touch and get updates on new releases follow her Facebook page ‘Books by Pearl’ at www.facebook.com/allisonnicolepearl/ or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonPearl5 and Instagram at @allisonnicolepearl.


More from Allison

Doughnuts and Suspense: Now’s the Time


In a lot of ways, this pandemic season we are in is encouraging. Quarantined families are spending time together that sports, events, and the demands of normal everyday life wouldn’t otherwise have allowed. Churches are finding new and creative ways to connect with people and share hope. Stories of mind-blowing generosity are popping up on social media all the time. Yes, there’s a lot to be excited about.

But in a lot of other ways, this all sucks. Domestic violence. Drug addiction. Unemployment. Their numbers are all up. And on top of that, hundreds and thousands of people have died from this coronavirus.

We’re all doing our best to hang in there. But you know what, it’s okay to not be okay. And it’s okay to do something for yourself. Do it now. Do it five minutes ago. We’ve all earned it. Don’t stress about the COVID 15 creeping up your bathroom scale. Go get a doughnut. Get two. And then pour yourself a coffee and sit down with a book and escape. Worry about what’s going to happen in a made-up person’s life for a few minutes instead of what new catastrophe is about to drop. Escape into those I-didn’t-see-that-coming moments. Pick up a suspense that will beg you to keep turning the pages and spend an evening in a comfy chair reading chapters instead of headlines. God can handle the news. You handle you.

Above all, I want Sprinkled with Sabotage and the whole Love and Danger in St. Claire series to give you a break and the comfort that faith brings. Enjoy!

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, January 6

Sara Jane Jacobs, January 6

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, January 7

Reflections From My Bookshelves, January 8

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, January 8

Artistic Nobody, January 9 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, January 10

Texas Book-aholic, January 11

Stephanie's Life of Determination, January 11

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 12

deb's Book Review, January 13

CarpeDiem, January 13

Inklings and notions, January 14

For Him and My Family, January 15

Blogging With Carol, January 15

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 16

Splashes of Joy, January 17

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, January 18

Maureen's Musings, January 18

Batya's Bits, January 19

A Novel Pursuit, January 19


To celebrate her tour, Allison is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway: Restoring Fairhaven

Restoring Fairhaven is the latest book in the Independence Islands series.  If you're not familiar with the series, the books are set on different fictitious islands that are located off the coast of Georgia.  This is the last book in the series of books about Merriweather Island.  If you want to read my reviews of the other books, go to my former blog (http://21stcenturykeeperathome.blogspot.com/p/p.html) and scroll down to the list of book reviews.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  The characters are real and funny and I enjoyed the interaction between Sam and Max.  It was a great, quick, light read.  I was surprised to see that the author's other books have all been Regency-themed (not my personal favorite genre); she did quite well writing contemporary fiction.

I received this book from Celebrate Lit after requesting it with the goal of reading and reviewing it.

About the Book

Book: Restoring Fairhaven

Author: Carolyn Miller

Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance


Love hurts, or so the songs say, so who wants it?

Taking on her ailing father’s gardening business on Merriweather Island, Samantha Green only wants to escape her ex and to make her father proud.

But Sam gets more than she bargained for when Greener Gardens accepts the job of restoring the gardens of a reclusive writer, Max Fairhaven, whose historical novels about romance and unrequited love litter bookstore shelves and movie marquees all over the world.

Max much prefers the fictional world to the real, and the gardening girl’s interruptions mean he’s driven from his writing cave far too often for his liking.

How’s he supposed to craft stories with her distracting him all the time?

Things change when he learns something of Sam’s family challenges, and his admiration slowly kindles. With his secretary’s goading, he’s forced to confront the past, while facing the fact that he needs to change in order to avoid a lonely future.

Gentle pruning and a whole lot of banter forges a friendship between this not-so-Southern belle landscaper and the half-British author. But is their budding attraction enough to grow into a flourishing happily-ever-after?

Restoring Fairhaven is the final “Merriweather book,” but don’t forget to embark on a tour of the next island in this series featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily-ever-afters.

The Independence Island Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.


Click here to get your copy!


About the Author


Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher.
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Winning Miss Winthrop, Miss Serena’s Secret, The Making of Mrs. Hale, A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh, Underestimating Miss Cecilia, and Misleading Miss Verity, all available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Koorong, etc Her contemporary novels include Restoring Fairhaven and Regaining Mercy, as part of the Independence Islands series.

More from Carolyn

I’m a long time lover of gardens, plants, flowers and trees! I’m married to a horticulturalist, who once upon a time worked at Lyme Park, the site of Mr. Darcy’s magnificent Pemberley from the 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, and who has also worked at Kew Gardens in England.

Some of my garden and plant highlights include visiting Blarney Castle’s Poison Garden in Ireland, New Zealand’s Hamilton Gardens, Dunrobin Castle in Scotland, Frederik Meijer Gardens in Michigan, the redwoods of Yosemite, California, Butchart Gardens in Victoria Island, Canada, and Jardin Botanique in Montreal, Canada.


I love to post pictures of flowers and trees on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/carolynmillerauthor/)  and have included pictures of some of these places at my website (www.carolynmillerauthor.com) I have incorporated some of the gardens and plants in a number of my historical novels, including the gorgeous gardens at a castle in Scotland where I set Misleading Miss Verity.


I’m so excited to be introducing readers to my new contemporary books, where I can bring some of my love of gardens (& my hubby’s expertise!) to a new audience. Restoring Fairhaven sees readers introduced to a range of gardening experts who together will bring the gardens of the Independence Islands back to life.

If you’re someone who has enjoyed The Secret Garden, or Becky Wade’s My Stubborn Heart, you’ll be sure to enjoy this story of a reclusive writer and the gardening guru sent to restore his gardens – and his heart.

Happy reading!


Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, January 16

lakesidelivingsite, January 16

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, January 17

April Hayman, Author, January 17

A Novel Pursuit, January 17

Texas Book-aholic, January 18

Rebekah Reads, January 18

Blogging With Carol, January 18

Inklings and notions, January 19

Library Lady's Kid Lit, January 19

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, January 20

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 20

Mary Hake, January 20

Sara Jane Jacobs, January 21

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, January 21

CarpeDiem, January 21

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, January 22

Cultivating Us, January 22

Kathleen Neely, January 22

Livin’ Lit, January 23

Ashley’s Bookshelf, January 23

Simple Harvest Reads, January 23 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Older & Smarter?, January 24

Artistic Nobody, January 24 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

For Him and My Family, January 25

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, January 25

Inkwell Inspirations, January 25

deb's Book Review, January 26

Blossoms and Blessings, January 26

Joanne Markey, January 26

She Lives To Read, January 27

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 27

Christian Chick's Thoughts, January 28

Splashes of Joy, January 28

Godly Book Reviews, January 28

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, January 29

Daysong Reflections, January 29


To celebrate her tour, Carolyn is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon prize and a paperback copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


Book Review and Giveaway: Justified Means

This is probably the third, maybe the fourth time, I have read this book!  It is That Good!  I love the premise of a private organization rescuing those in danger, even against their will, in order to keep them safe.  I love the characters.  Keith is a truly humble kind of hero who kind of struggles with the part of his job but does his best to ensure safety and even comfort for his clients.  Erika is a fiesty thing who doesn't just submit willingly to being kidnapped.  One of the best things about all of Chautona's books is that she infuses real life with well-thought-out emotions and actions of her characters.  Even though this is completely fictional, I felt like I was there witnessing the events that could very well be a thing in America and we don't even know it!  The book is exciting but not over the top.  I would give this book to anybody who enjoys suspense.

I can't remember how many other books are in this series (5?), but I think there's one more due out sometime to end this particular series and I know that Chautona has planned for a couple of spin-offs featuring the beginning of The Agency and another branch located on the West Coast.  I can't wait for all of these books to come out!

I received this book from Celebrate Lit after requesting it with the goal of reading and reviewing it.

About the Book

Book:  Justified Means

Author: Chautona Havig

Genre: Christian Suspense

Release date: January 7, 2013

How could she not be terrified?

When Erika Polowski is abducted from her bed and held captive without explanation, she has one goal. Get away before they kill her.

Keith Auger’s job as an agent is to keep Erika safe—even if it means keeping her locked in an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere. At gunpoint.

What should be a routine “involuntary extraction” goes south when someone finds out where they’re hiding. Add to that a coworker with a chip on her shoulder and too many unexplained “accidents,” and it all adds up to one unlikely, terrifying explanation.

There’s a mole in The Agency.

He’s promised to protect her, but can Erika trust a man whose job it is to hold people against their wills? Does his deep faith make it any better or just a whole lot creepier.

And just who wants Erika dead anyway?

The Agency Files: They’ll do whatever it takes to keep their clients safe. Period.

Grab this first book in the series today.


Click here to get your copy!


About the Author

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.


More from Chautona

Isn’t That Idea a Bit Crazy and Farfetched?

Black ops teams. They’re the stuff of TV shows and movies. I have no doubt such things exist—military groups that have to exist and work outside the normal scheme of things to give those who answer to the public plausible deniability or some such thing.

Then one of those “what if?” questions hit me. They’re an occupational hazard, those “what if?” questions. They appear out of nowhere and start crazy thoughts in your head.  Ones like, “What if a private company existed to do things that couldn’t be tied to the government in any way—no money exchanged?”

What if sometimes a protection company had to work outside the law in order to do the job they needed to do?  What if that meant they might just have to abduct someone to save his or her life?

Those of course led to the granddaddy of all questions. What if that someone didn’t appreciate being saved?

The Agency was born and with it their motto:  Whatever it takes.

That’s what they’ll do to keep their clients safe. Only the wealthy can afford their services. Some of the poorest of the poor receive them. But it always boils down to one primary goal.  Protect their clients at all costs.

Even if the client doesn’t want protection.

Is the idea a bit crazy and far-fetched?  Yeah… probably. But I wouldn’t be surprised to discover there are similar agencies out there, and if there are, I hope they save lives with the sort of compassion my guys have.

Blog Stops

Blog Stops

For the Love of Literature, January 5

Inklings and notions, January 5

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, January 6

Texas Book-aholic, January 7

Artistic Nobody, January 7 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Amanda Tero, Blog, January 8

deb’s Book Review, January 9

For Him and My Family, January 9

Through the Fire Blogs, January 10

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 11

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, January 11

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 12

Lots of Helpers, January 13

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 13

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 14

Spoken from the Heart, January 15

Blogging With Carol, January 15

Pause for Tales, January 16

Adventures Of a Travelers Wife, January 17

A Novel Pursuit, January 17

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, January 18 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, January 18


To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a paperback of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


Monday, December 7, 2020

God's Smuggler: A Warning for Parents


God's Smuggler
To skip my long story and read the warning, scroll down for the header.

Every year, one of my favorite things to do is to go to used book sales for homeschoolers.  Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, the biggest one of the year, sponsored by our local homeschool association (MHEA),  had to be canceled.  However, another favorite book sale which was begun by a mom five years ago was held earlier this year.  This one is great because it is held at a local park, there is no entry fee, and I always see people I know!

Somehow I slept through my alarm and woke up at 8:22 -- just  23 minutes before I'd planned to leave to go to the book sale.  It took several tries to get my daughter up, in between getting dressed, chugging down a protein drink, switching my wallet to my Kavu backpack, and locating a couple of bottled waters to take.  I learned my lesson last year, almost passing out from the extreme heat.  #BecauseMemphis 

We managed to get out the door, to the bank for a quick cash withdrawal, and to the park where about half of the sellers were already set up.  The moms (I never see dads -- probably because they're at work earning the money for us so we can buy All the Stuff) were opening up their car trunks and setting up tables full of all kinds of homeschool material.

My daughter enjoys this sale, too, because she can run around with her friends, make new friends, and, after I'm done, go to the playground to play.  I usually give her a little bit of money (if she doesn't have her own) so she can buy something that she is interested in (and to keep her out of my hair because I have a list and I need to think!).  We both saw several friends whom we had not seen in over 3 months which was great.  Unfortunately, the playground is closed because of Covid-19 restrictions, but Gracie still had a good time.

I mostly bought books for our read alouds and for Gracie to read independently.  I had hoped to find some of the curricula that I know I'll be using for 5th grade, but I was out of luck this time.

One lady has a good side business of selling books both online and at these sales.  She's awesome because she puts the books in plastic bins in alphabetical order and can look up her inventory on her phone.  I bought a good chunk of my reading list plus a few others I was interested in from her.  I could have bought more, but after perusing book lists and recognizing many book covers, I couldn't remember what I had and what I didn't.

While at the wonderful book tables, a friend of mine was also looking through the books to grab the ones she needs for her four girls.  She is switching to Sonlight for at least one of her daughters.  (I have never tried Sonlight, but I love that it is literature-based!)

While I was picking through and being nosey, I noticed that my friend had picked out the book God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  I read this book a long time ago when I was a teacher at my church's Christian school back in the early 2000s.  At the time, it was part of ACE's literature curriculum.  Their accompanying literature guide (composed of questions to answer) was not very well developed.  I preread all of the books before the students read them (it helps that I love to read) and typed up the questions divided by chapter just to make it a little easier for them.  When I read God's Smuggler, I was shocked at some of the content.  I don't remember what grade it was assigned to, perhaps 6th or 7th?  At any rate, the snippets that bothered me, I felt like were too mature for that age group.  And, honestly, some of it, I would've thought was too mature and wicked for even a high school student. (That's my opinion, take it or leave it.)

I told my friend, "You might want to preview that book.  It has some things that I personally would not want Gracie to know about until she's much older."  She said ok.  I didn't want to be interfering, but I did want her to be forewarned.

When I got home, I loaded my Kindle version of the book, found the highlights I had made several years ago (when I had told another friend about it), took a screenshot, and emailed it to the friend I saw at the book sale.  I wanted to save her the time of reading and finding what I'd been concerned about.  She emailed me back and thanked me for showing it to her.  I thought that other parents might also want to know about this.

God's Smuggler: A Warning for Parents

Troublesome snippets from the book 

1.  (Language)  From Chapter 2: The Yellow Straw Hat
"But I was going off to take back our colonies for the Queen, and perhaps gets a few of those dirty revolutionaries who everyone said were Communists and b*st*rds.  The two words automatically went together."

2.  (Sexual innuendo)  From Chapter 2:  The Yellow Straw Hat
"When I woke up from these org**s, I would wonder why I was doing these things..."

3.  (Homosexuality/Bestiality)  From Chapter 5: The Step of Yes
"The leader of the foul wisecracking, I discovered, was a girl named Greetje.  Her favorite subject was s*d*my: she speculated aloud on which animal would find a soul mate in me."

4.  (Sexual innuendo)  From Chapter 5:  The Step of Yes
"I can see," Greetje was booming, "how you might not be sure."  She caught sight of me and grinned maliciously.  "All men are alike in the dark, eh, Amy?" she shouted.

5.  (Sexual innuendo)  From Chapter 5:  The Step of Yes
"...let us know that she was coming only to find out what really went on after the lights went off."

Some of these might be rather tame to other parents, but keep in mind that my daughter is only 10.  Also, we are very conservative and limit her exposure to know about wickedness (although some things cannot be avoided).   The third snippet with reference to bestiality was the one that shocked me.  There's no way I would want my young daughter exposed to such a thought that that kind of wickedness exists at all, and I sure wouldn't want to explain what any of that meant at such a young age.

The Rest of the Story

When I was a teacher pre-reading the books, I was so horrified by what I read that I showed it to my pastor.  He, too, didn't approve of it at all.  ACE had just had a change in leadership and a man of whom we knew and had heard preach was serving as ACE's president.  I typed up a letter from my pastor and enclosed photocopies of the pages with the sentences highlighted.  The man wrote back thanking my pastor for bringing it to his attention and promptly removed the book from their literature package and stated that they did not have another book to replace it.

I was curious to find out if they had put the book back in since then.  I couldn't easily find out from the ACE website, so I went to ChristianBook.com which is very good about providing detailed information on the material that they sell.

I found out several things:
  1. They still use the same Basic Literature Study Guide that they did back in the early 2000s.  This should have been updated LONG ago.  The elementary grades are far better, in my opinion.
  2. It was for 7th grade, too young for mature content, in my opinion.
  3. They still have God's Smuggler included in the Basic Literature Study Guide; however, they do not include the book as part of the package.
  4. They included a disclaimer of sorts saying, "Please Note: The ACE Literature & Creative Writing Grade 7 Resource Book Kit (sold-separately) is required to use this curriculum. This pack does NOT include the book "God's Smuggler" due to a publisher decision."  In my opinion, they should've stated why it's not included or replaced it with something else.  It just feels like a passive acceptance.  Not to mention the need to update it after 16+ years!!
Aside from the opinions I stated (and a few others I didn't because they're irrelevant to this discussion), I have nothing against ACE/School of Tomorrow.  It served us well for the Christian school for which I taught.  As a matter of fact, I plan on using their Bible and Social Studies PACES for my daughter this year.

Book Review and Giveaway: Sprinkled with Sabotage

"Miss Peach in the Courtyard with a Rope!" I announced to Robert and Gracie when I tried to guess who-dun-it in our latest game of...