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Monday, April 12, 2021

The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch (Book Review and Kindle Giveaway!)

The Indebted Earl is the third book in the Serendipity & Secrets series by Erica Vetsch. I loved all the books and this one ended up being the best one for me. Check out my review and enter the giveaway to win a Kindle HD Fire!

Book Details:

Title: The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch
Category: Adult Fiction, 288 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Christian Fiction
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Release date: March 2, 2021
Contact Rating: G

Book Description:

Can Captain Wyvern keep his new marriage of convenience all business--or will it turn into something more?

Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life--especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The best way to honor that hero's dying wish is for Wyvern to escort the man's grieving fiance and mother safely to a new cottage home by the sea. But along the way, he learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: his uncle has died and the captain is now the Earl of Rothwell.

When he and the ladies arrive at his new manor house in Devon, they discover an estate in need of a leader and a gaggle of girls, all wards of the former earl. War the new earl knows; young ladies and properties he does not. Still wishing to provide for the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience.

Sophie is surprised to find she isn't opposed to the idea. It will help her care for her betrothed's elderly mother, and she's already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, as well as divert her attention from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his sea commission, she'll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.

It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he's come to mean to her. Now she'll have to learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Indebted Earl is the third book in the Serendipity & Secrets series by Erica Vetsch. I enjoyed the first book The Lost Lieutenant and I loved the second book The Gentleman Spy and this third one was the best out of all three for me. Such a great story! The books are all stand-alone so you can enjoy them in whatever order you read them.

This engaging historical romance features Lady Sophia Haverly, the sister of Marcus, the main character from the second book, who makes a short appearance in this one too. Sophia's fiancé Rich dies overseas of battle wounds. His naval captain and friend, Charles Wyvern, returns to England after the war ends and visits Sophia to fulfill his promise to Rich that he would take care of her and his mother. Charles unexpectedly inherits an earldom and becomes guardian to three young girls. Sophie and Charles agree to a marriage of convenience and their life suddenly becomes filled with so much possibility.

I loved the premise of this story that had not one dull moment in it. Vetsch does such an amazing job bringing both the main characters and the secondary characters of the girls and Mamie, the mother-in-law to life. Such good character development, with bits of humor interspersed throughout. The characters are realistic, flawed, and grow with the arc of the story. I was touched by several scenes in this book. 

Vetsch writes very well with a good knowledge of the era and its language. The story moved along at a good pace and I could not help but want to read it quickly. I enjoyed it thoroughly from beginning to end. 

A feel-good marriage of convenience tale that is sure to please fans of historical romance with a touch of Christian elements. I'm a fan of Erica Vetsch and eagerly look forward to her next book!

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About the Author:

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor), Instagram (@EricaVetsch) and Pinterest (Erica Vetsch).

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Ends April 20, 2021

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Captain for Caroline Gray by Julie Wright (Book Review)

I enjoyed this Proper Romance story and recommend it to fans of clean Regency romances who enjoy adventurous stories on the high seas.

Book Details:

Title: A Captain for Caroline Gray (Proper Romance Regency) by Julie Wright
Category: Adult Fiction, 336 pages
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing 
Release date: March 2, 2021
Format: Trade Paperback, eBook, & audiobook
Contact Rating: PG 

Book Description:

Caroline Gray would rather be daring and intelligent than demure and insipid, which is why she is still unmatched after her third season in London. Her family’s threadbare finances leave Caroline with only one choice to secure her future: sail with the Fishing Fleet to India, where the son of a family friend is willing to consider an engagement to her.

Captain Thomas Scott loves the open sea as much as he despises the three-month, twice-yearly trip his ship makes as he ferries young English girls across the ocean. He can’t imagine what family would allow an innocent young woman to be matched up with the Englishmen of questionable reputation who work and live in India.

But when Miss Gray boards the HMS Persistence, all of Captain Scott’s plans are upended. Miss Gray’s fiery spirit can’t be contained, and he is shocked and secretly delighted at her boldness—and her beauty. But the rest of his passengers aren’t so kind.

Caroline finds herself an outcast among her peers, but Captain Scott becomes an unlikely ally. They share the same passions and interests, creating an undeniable attraction. But they both know any relationship between them is impossible. After all, Caroline has obligations to fulfill in India.

Caroline has until the end of the voyage to decide if she is going to marry a man she has never met or be brave enough to love a sea captain who just might break her heart.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

A Captain for Caroline Gray is an entertaining Regency romance about a bluestocking and a sea captain. Most of the story takes place on Captain Thomas Scott's ship. 

Caroline Gray is a beautiful intelligent woman who scares away potential husbands when she boldly speaks her opinions on politics and most topics that genteel women do not engage in. Because of her family situation, Caroline must marry or be destitute. She therefore feels she has no good option but to accept a proposition to meet the son of a family friend in India for the possibility of marriage. However, during her three-month journey, she begins to have feelings for Thomas, the captain of the ship. And he begins to have feeling for her until his pride gets stung over a misunderstanding and threatens to separate the duo for good.

This was a fun quick read. It's a clean romance with adventure and witty dialogue. I liked Caroline and Thomas, but I wanted to shake Thomas a few times for his immature behaviour. This was the first time I heard about the Fishing Fleet women who left their homes in hopes of finding a husband among the British officers in India.  I thought this made for an interesting backdrop to the story.

I enjoyed this Proper Romance story and recommend it to fans of clean Regency romances who enjoy adventurous stories on the high seas.

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Praise for A Captain for Caroline Gray:

"A charming historical romance in which smarts and sass are vindicated."— Foreword Reviews

"…a delightful, not exactly traditional Regency romance. Teen readers will enjoy this adventurous journey with its proactive heroine and exotic settings."— Booklist, starred review

"An unconventional woman finds herself at home at sea in this stirring Regency from Julie Wright…This adventure is sure to entice fans of historical romance."— Publishers Weekly

About the Author:

Julie Wright wrote her first book when she was fifteen and has written over twenty novels since then. She is a Whitney Awards winner for best romance with her books Cross My Heart and Lies Jane Austen Told Me, and she is a Crown Heart recipient for the novel The Fortune Café.

She has one husband, three kids, one dog, and a varying amount of fish, frogs, and salamanders (depending on attrition). She loves writing, reading, hiking, playing with her kids, and watching her husband make dinner.

She hates mayonnaise.

Connect with Julie:

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper (Book Review)

Well-written, with suspense and mystery, this historical novel is a good read. 

Book Details:

Book Title: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper
Category: Adult Fiction, 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release date: March 9, 2021
Content Rating: PG

Book Description:

A young prodigy in need of family. A painting that shatters a woman’s peace. And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship— having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and the present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel takes us on a mystery across continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Girl in the Painting is an enjoyable historical fiction novel set in Australia in the late 1800s during the Gold rush, with a dual timeline alternating with the early 1900s. Usually, I enjoy one timeline more than the other but in this case, I was equally interested in both and they come together beautifully by the end of the story.

This is both Jane's story as it is brother-and-sister duo Michael and Elizabeth's story. Jane is an orphan who is discovered to be a prodigy in math. She is taken under the wings of Michael and Elizabeth who further her schooling. As she grows into a young woman, Jane begins working alongside them in their business. When Elizabeth begins to have strange reactions to the art in an exhibit, and her mental health deteriorates, Jane's quick mind tries to gather the clues to try to discover what exactly happened to Elizabeth as a child and what mysterious past the duo has kept secret.

This was a good slow-burn mystery story with characters that are well-developed and a setting that taught me some Australian history. Jane was my favorite character and she propels the mystery forward. This is also an immigrant story brought to life when a young Michael and his little sister boarded a ship to go meet their parents in Hill's End, the rough Gold rush town filled with eager prospectors and Chinese immigrants. 

I particularly enjoyed how the author explored the psychological beliefs of certain behaviors, not yet understood at the time by the medical community. Well-written, with suspense and mystery, this historical novel is a good read. 

Disclosure: Thanks to Historical Fiction Blog Tours and Netgalley for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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About the Author:

Tea is an award-winning Australian author of historical fiction. In a past life, she was a teacher, a journalist, and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling. She is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Horse Thief, The Cedar Cutter, The Currency Lass, The Naturalist’s Daughter, The Woman in the Green Dress, and The Girl in the Painting.

Connect with Tea:

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It Happened in Tuscany by Gail Mencini (Book Review and Giveaway!)

It Happened in Tuscany was a very pleasant quick read.

Book Details:

Book Title: It Happened in Tuscany by Gail Mencini
Category: Adult Fiction, 408 pages
Genre: Mainstream Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Capriole Group
Release date: Feb 18, 2020
Tour dates: Mar 8 to Apr 2, 2021
Content Rating: PG-13. The novel includes violence in war scenes and non-explicit sex scenes. No bad language.

Book Description:

From the multiple-award-winning author of To Tuscany with Love comes a captivating story of the epic tug of war between honor and duty, the irrepressible power of love, and the concept of family.

In 1945, Will Mills and his fellow soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division scaled Italy’s treacherous Riva Ridge in the frigid night to break through the nearly impenetrable German line of defense. Severely wounded, Will was rescued by Italian partisans and one, a beautiful girl, tended his injuries until he had the strength to rejoin the U.S. troops.

Tormented and haunted by his decisions and actions during wartime, Will knows he has unfinished missions in Italy to complete. The passage of time and years of carrying this unfulfilled need have molded Will into a bitter, angry man.

Seventy-five years later, Will’s spunky thirty-two-year-old neighbor, Sophie Sparke, faces disaster in her life. Everything is going wrong—her job, her love life, even her dog. Part of the problem is that confident and fiercely independent Sophie lets her quick mouth get her into trouble.

Grouchy, mean-spirited Will finagles Sophie into traveling with him to Tuscany to find the partisan who saved his life. Will also secretly hopes to confront the demons his wartime actions created. Sophie and Will comb enchanting Tuscan hill towns on an improbable and unfolding mission with few clues to aid them. Will’s passionate tenacity drives their quest and in the process exposes their darkest secrets. The journey alters the course of their lives, and Will and Sophie find more than they had imagined in the hills of Tuscany.

Book Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

It Happened in Tuscany was a very pleasant read with short chapters that moves the story along quickly. I loved the premise of an American soldier going back to Italy after a lifetime to search for a lost love and answers. Will and Sophie are neighbors, but they are often at odds with each other because Will is grumpy and gripes at Sophie. Both have lost family and are lonely. Will convinces Sophie to embark on a journey with him to Italy. Sophie is reluctant because Will is over ninety, but Will is determined and soon they are off to Tuscany.

The story starts in 1945 with Will fighting the Germans in the Italian Alps. Just when it was getting very interesting, it switches to the present day and unfortunately does not go back to that time. Both Will and Sophie have hidden emotional burdens they carry, which come to light once they are in Italy. This was a really good story, however, I feel that it could have been longer, with more backstory scenes of both Sophie and Will's past, which I found were glossed over in exchange for more lighthearted cooking and touring scenes. I was hoping to discover more about Will's relationship with his first love Francesca, but we know very little of her. Also, I'm not a fan of insta-love so I thought the romance between Sophie and Niccolo was a little too quick.

Apart from this, the story flowed well and I enjoyed the setting and the Tuscany history. Will was my favorite character and grew on me as the story progressed. I wanted to get to know him better as a soldier in Italy. 

If you like quick reads set in Italy with romance and adventure, this one is a fun read.

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Meet the Author:

Gail Mencini is the acclaimed author of It Happened in Tuscany and To Tuscany with Love, both of which are Denver Post #1 bestsellers and award winners. Gail grew up in DeWitt, Nebraska, graduated from Wartburg College with a BA in Accounting and Economics, and earned a master of taxation degree from the University of Denver. A frequent visitor to Tuscany and a homegrown gourmet cook, Gail has toured Italy by car, train, bus, Vespa, and foot. She lives in Colorado with her husband.

Connect with the author: 

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Ends April 9, 2021

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Monday, March 15, 2021

War at the Ice Cream Store by Dave Gibson and Cheryl DaVeiga (Book Review and Giveaway!)

War at the Ice Cream Store is a super fun book with a great message. Scroll down to read my review and to enter the giveaway to win a copy!

Book Details:

Book Title: WAR AT THE ICE CREAM STORE by Cheryl DaVeiga and Dave Gibson
Category: Children's Fiction (Ages 3-7), 32 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Cheryl DaVeiga and Dave Gibson
Release date: January 2021
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

The first of the Frank TL Frogg and Friends series, War at the Ice Cream Store tells the story of one night at the Frozen Frogg, when Mustachio Pistachio and his “flavorite” flavor friends teach Bully Vanilli a lesson in kindness and acceptance.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

War at the Ice Cream Store is a super fun book with a great message. I read the interactive multimedia version, which included videos of Frank TL Frogg and friends narrating the story with every turn of the page. At the end of the book, there is a song sang in a Southern tune summarizing the story. The song is quite catchy and is sure to be a hit with kids. I found myself singing along!

The story is about the ice cream flavor vanilla (Bully Vanilli) who bullies the flavor pistachio (Mustachio Pistachio) because he is the least favorite. But Bully learns a valuable lesson when the other flavors, toppings, and ice cream tools show Bully Vanilli that he thinks too highly of himself. Without them, he is quite plain.

Parents reading this book with their young ones will enjoy the many witty puns used throughout the narrative. I chuckled a few times. What a fun book! The authors' talents are quite evident in this colorful book full of imagination and community feeling. The Frozen Frog ice cream store is filled with interesting characters that rallied together to bring about change.

I know my kids (now grown) would have loved this book because of the puppet characters that come alive on video to tell them the story. I think interactive books are a good way to get an immersive experience for children, especially those who are reluctant readers or who like songs related to a book they read.

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Meet the Authors:

Cheryl DaVeiga

Cheryl is an award-winning songwriter, children's song recording artist (as the cartoon character CADi Grace), and the co-creator of the puppet musical and comedy show, The Waterhole Bunch. After the success of The Waterhole Bunch, Cheryl along with co-creator Dave Gibson, spun off the main character, Frank TL (The Lucky) Frogg, into a children’s entertainment concept, Frank TL Frogg and Friends, featuring the puppets in a magical town called Lucky Fork, Tennessee. Frank TL Frogg and Friends includes books, songs, videos, games, and more for younger audiences. War at the Ice Cream Store is the first of the Frank TL Frogg and Friends children’s book series.

Dave Gibson

Dave is an award-winning Nashville-based songwriter, having written hundreds of hit songs for artists including Alabama, Montgomery Gentry and Marie Osmond. Dave’s own group, The Gibson/Miller Band, won the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Award for a best new group in the early nineties. He is the co-creator of the puppet musical and comedy show, The Waterhole Bunch. After the success of The Waterhole Bunch, Dave, along with co-creator Cheryl DaVeiga, spun off the main character, Frank TL (The Lucky) Frogg, into a children’s entertainment concept, Frank TL Frogg and Friends, featuring the puppets in a magical town called Lucky Fork, Tennessee. Frank TL Frogg and Friends includes books, songs, videos, games, and more for younger audiences. War at the Ice Cream Store is the first of the Frank TL Frogg and Friends children’s book series.

Connect with the authors: 

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Ends April 2, 2021

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Relentless Solution Focus by Dr. Jason Selk and Dr. Ellen Reed (Book Review)

If you are motivated to make changes in the way you think so that you can clarify and achieve your goals as you strengthen your mind, this book can certainly help you with this.

Book Details:

Book Title: Relentless Solution Focus by Dr. Jason Selk and Dr. Ellen Reed
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 256 pages
Genre: Psychology, Self-help
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
Release dates: January 7, 2021
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

From bestselling author and mental toughness expert Jason Selk comes a mind-training regimen for reframing every problem into an opportunity for productive action.

The most common cause of failing to reach our professional and personal goals is hardwired in us: Humans instinctively focus on problems. Over millennia, our very survival relied on our ability to be alert to any potential dangers that could threaten our existence. But today this negativity bias significantly limits our potential and increases stress, pressure, and underperformance.

The one characteristic all phenomenally successful people share is mental toughness. Mentally tough people are better at making decisions more quickly and with better results. They possess the uncanny ability to control what goes on between their ears. Instead of allowing their minds to focus on their problems when adversity strikes, the most successful people have learned to direct their thoughts in a systematic manner that produces positive emotions and productive actions: they have a Relentless Solution Focus.

In this book, top performance coach Dr. Jason Selk, former Director of Mental Training for the World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals, and his colleague Dr. Ellen Reed provide the insight, tools, and proven step-by-step framework for you to do the same. When you have Relentless Solution Focus, you think better. Your decisions garner positive results. You take action and follow through, every time. And when you do get off track, you get back on with less effort and less drama. Weakness shrinks and strength grows, creating confidence and momentum, taking you and your team to higher levels of performance and achievement.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I'm a firm believer in the branch of positive psychology and neuroplasticity. I haven't read any of Dr. Selk's previous books but I was curious about his latest release. Relentless Solution Focus (RSF) is his three-step process to developing mental strength. In a nutshell, it trains you to 1) Recognize when negative thinking sets in, 2) Replace negative thinking with positive thoughts, and 3) Retrain your mind to be more solution-focused and positive. 

I've read enough books on the subject to know that this is nothing new, however, this book is easy to read and is infused with the authors' own experiences working with elite athletes and business leaders. Therefore, it is very much performance-based and perfect for the target audience of those in competitive environments.

I am the type of person that I love to learn the same subject from different perspectives, and I did enjoy very much the method outlined in this book with the anecdotes that gave me a fresh perspective on my own way of doing things. Furthermore, the keyword is relentless. In other words, consistency in retraining your mind and using your new skill set. This is the growth mindset, striving to improve oneself continuously. I paid particular attention to the section on prioritizing and perfectionist mentality because I know I need to work on these on a regular basis. I realized I need to focus on less so that I can achieve more of what is important to me. I've just got too much going on in my life. 

If you are motivated to make changes in the way you think so that you can clarify and achieve your goals as you strengthen your mind, this book can certainly help you with this. Written in the first-person, the author coaches you along in an easy-going manner, making this a pleasure to read as well. A good resource for all readers with an eagerness for improvement.

Disclosure: Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

About Dr. Jason Selk

Dr. Jason Selk, one of the nation’s premier performance coaches, has worked with business titans and superstar athletes. As Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, he played an important role in the team’s first World Series victory in over 20 years, in 2006, and their second in 2011. He is the bestselling author of Executive Toughness, 10-Minute Toughness, Organize Tomorrow Today, and Lead Any Team to Win.

Find out more about Dr. Selk on his website, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About Dr. Ellen Reed

Dr. Ellen Reed has worked side by side with Dr. Selk for 15 years, and has extensive experience in mental training for consistency, accountability, and execution in business, athletics, academics, and the performing arts. She helps business leaders and elite athletes reach their peak performance by developing the mental toughness necessary for success.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola by Melissa Muldoon (Book Review)

This is the fourth book I read by Melissa Muldoon, and once again she succeeded in transporting me to another time in history. 

Book Details:

Book Title: The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola by Melissa Muldoon
Category: Adult Fiction, 345 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction
Publisher: Matta Press
Release date: December 2020
Content Rating: PG-13 + M includes mature themes (suicide, adultery, sexual relations, murder)

Book Description:

Set in the sixteenth-century, The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola tells the story of a woman’s passion for painting and adventure. In a world where women painters had little to no acknowledgment, she was singled out by Michelangelo and Vasari who recognized and praised her talent. Gaining the Milanese elite’s acclaim, she went on to become court painter to Spanish King Philip II and taught his queen to paint. 

One can’t live such an extraordinary life without having stories to tell, and tell them Sofonisba does to Sir Anthony Van Dyke, who comes to visit her toward the end of her life. During their meeting, she agrees to reveal her secrets but first challenges the younger painter to find the one lie hidden in her tale. In a saga filled with intrigue, jealousy, buried treasure, unrequited love, espionage, and murder, Sofonisba’s story is played out against the backdrop of Italy, Spain, and Sicily. Throughout her life, she encounters talented artists, authoritative dukes, mad princes, religious kings, spying queens, vivacious viscounts, and dashing sea captains—even a Barbary pirate. But of all the people who fell in love with Sofonisba, only one captured her heart. 

The painter may have many secrets but the truth of her life is crystal clear from the beginning. Always a strong, passionate woman with a dream, she was an intelligent artist who knew her self-worth and in the end, as Michelangelo had done for her, Sofonisba passed her brush to a new generation.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This is the fourth book I read by Melissa Muldoon, and once again she succeeded in transporting me to another time in history. Her books just keep getting better and better! This time, under Muldoon's deft penmanship, 16th century Italy and Spain came to life as she brings forth from obscurity yet another strong female historical figure. If there is one thing I can be certain of when I pick up one of Muldoon's books is that I will learn more about the world of Renaissance art.

This time Muldoon writes a fictionalized tale (based on known life events) of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first female painter to achieve fame and respect in the 16th century. Her father recognized her talent, encouraged it, and let her study under the tutelage of several painting masters. She became known for her portraits and went on to become the court painter to Spanish King Philip II. This allowed her to forge a friendship with Elizabeth his queen whom she taught to paint too.

Muldoon succeeds in taking these facts from Sofonisba's life and weaving a good story filled with art, court intrigue, love, murder, and adventure. I enjoyed reading this story very much and was motivated to do more research on this feminist historical figure who put her painting career above marriage and children. She was intelligent, talented, ambitious, and an inspiration to other artists. The author brings her to life beautifully with a story that flows well and gets better as it unfolds, especially in the last third of the book. I couldn't wait to see how it would all end.

If you love stories with strong female characters based on real historical figures, The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola is sure to please. This medieval tale set in Renaissance Italy and Inquisition Spain kept me turning the pages until the satisfying end.

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Meet the Author:

Melissa Muldoon is the author of four novels set in Italy: Dreaming Sophia, Waking Isabella, Eternally Artemisia, and The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola. All four books tell the stories of women and their journeys of self-discovery to find love, uncover hidden truths, and follow their destinies to shape a better future for themselves. Melissa is also the author of the Studentessa Matta website, where she promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog written in Italian and English ( Studentessa Matta means the “crazy linguist” and has grown to include a podcast, Tutti Matti per l’Italiano and the Studentessa Matta, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram feed. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Programs, which she co-leads with Italian schools in Italy to learn Italian in Italy. Through her website, she also offers the opportunities to live and study in Italy through Homestay programs. Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history, and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence. She is an artist, designer, and illustrated the cover art for all four of her books. Melissa is the managing director of Matta Press

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Friday, March 5, 2021

Marvellous Macey: The Delightful Days by Caitlin Bangsund (Book Review and Giveaway!)

Marvellous Macey is about a little girl, who despite difficulties, has a zest for life that she loves to share with others. Enter the giveaway to win a copy!

Book Details:

Book Title: Marvellous Macey: The Delightful Days by Caitlin Bangsund
Illustrations by Csongor Veres
Category: Children's Fiction (Ages 3-8), 40 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Caitlin E. Bangsund
Release date: March 2021
Tour dates: Mar 1 to 28, 2021
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Can you va va voom? Do you light up the room? Marvellous Macey does! She may not quite fit the mould, but she is living delightful days. Embrace Macey's world of imagination and ability to love and accept everyone. Life may not be perfect and some things might be hard, but Macey shows us how to live in the moment and find the delight! Be inspired by Macey to make everyday the BEST day.

My Review: 
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Marvellous Macey is about a little girl, who despite difficulties, has a zest for life that she loves to share with others. She loves to sing, laugh and play, and interact with people and animals. But school is hard for Macey and makes her brain very tired. Despite certain disabilities, Macey makes every day her best day ever. She is a delightful girl and her enthusiasm comes across beautifully in this book.

Macey is also inspirational, even more so because this book is based on the author's own daughter, who as a toddler, fought leukemia cancer, and a bacterial infection that turned septic. I learned this from reading Macey's journey on the author's website. She truly is a miracle child. Although the book's narration says that when Macey was younger she had some mountains to climb and battles to fight, it does not give any details as to what these battles were. I think that the book would be more relatable to children suffering from serious illnesses had it given some indication as to what these battles had been.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Csongor Veres. With whimsical illustrations, he captures the essence of Macey, her spunk for life, and her delightful days. In addition, from the beginning, the reader is encouraged to search for a weasel that shows up throughout the pages 16 times. I loved this because I know my kids used to love books that included some searching in the pages.

Marvellous Macey is a beautiful book with a positive message for everyone, children and adults alike. She inspired me! As a person and as a parent. Her zest for life is contagious and her exuberance for life, despite all that she went through, is inspirational. A delightful book that is timely and can help children to focus on others as they overcome their own difficulties.

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Meet the Author:

Caitlin Bangsund is the author of Marvellous Macey, The Delightful Days. It is the first in a series based on true life. Caitlin knows the trial and trauma of childhood cancer, childhood disability, and the fear of almost losing her daughter — the star of the series — Macey. She encourages readers to look for the treasures that hide in the rubble and gloom. Life is beautiful chaos and her message is to press on and conquer. Read her stories and help create a world that is full of kindness and acceptance.

Connect with the author: website ~ facebook ~ instagram ~ goodreads

Meet the Illustrator:

Csongor Veres is a freelance Children's Book Illustrator. He has a strong art background and 10+ years of experience in illustration and in graphic design.

He loves producing magic pictures, whimsical and unique environments for his characters. He keeps his work simple and clear but he pays meticulous attention to detail. He works in both traditional and digital media and he also loves combining traditional and digital techniques while retaining the traditional feel of the illustration.

He creates illustrations for picture books, fairy tales, book covers, and posters. He loves stories about nature, children, dreams, traveling, magic and kindnesses. His works have been published in a number of international publishing houses and publications like Hallmark and Happiness Mountain Inc. 

Connect with the illustrator on his website:

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Ends April 2, 2021

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Monday, March 1, 2021

A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel (Book Review)

A Dance in Donegal

A Dance in Donegal is a historical fiction novel set in a small town in Ireland and filled with its culture and traditions.

Book Details:

Book Title: A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel
Category: Adult Fiction,  pages
Genre: Christian Romance
Publisher: Revell Publications
Release dates: February 2, 2021
Content Rating: PG-13 (an attack with intent to rape scene)

Book Description:

All her life, Boston-born Moira Doherty has relished her mother's descriptions of the Emerald Isle. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira is compelled to fulfill her dying wish--that she become the teacher in Ballymann, the beloved village in Donegal, Ireland, she's heard so much about.

After an arduous voyage, Moira begins a challenging new job in an unfamiliar and ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira's mother are unspoken in her presence but threaten to derail everything she's journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends--and the strength of Sean, an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced--as she seeks to navigate a life she'd never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

A Dance in Donegal is a historical fiction novel set in a small town in Ireland and filled with its culture and traditions. It's well-written and lovers of "the auld Irish ways and language" will delight with the details of town life in 1920s Donegal. 

When Moira decides to travel from Boston to Ireland after accepting the post as the new schoolteacher, she encounters a frosty welcome from most villagers which immediately has the reader wondering what happened with her mother in this village. Moira makes friends with some God-fearing neighbors and eventually comes to discover the mystery surrounding her mother and what it means to be a true Christian.

For the most part, I enjoyed this story which has a good pace and a great setting. Moira has a good heart and she is compassionate and empathetic, however, I did find her quite clueless for a schoolteacher. She looked confused when people whispered about her behind her back and did not take the initiative to ask her friends what people were speculating about until more than halfway into the story. It wasn't clear to me why her mother never disclosed to her what happened to her, and why in heaven's name she would want her daughter to go to a village she herself fled from. I felt that there were missing details to the story. I had so many questions that were never answered by the end of the book. 

There was an incident with a dirt-poor student that had me wondering about his parents, and how could Moira and even her God-fearing friends wait to see what she decided to do when he was deathly ill before helping him. That whole episode had me somewhat shocked. As a parent, it really upset me. And there was another grave incident with a gentleman that I felt was unnecessary and did not add much to the story except to make me see how gullible Moira was. 

This book is heavy on scripture, which felt preachy at times coming from a character who did not attend church and practiced Irish traditions clearly based on superstition and pagan origins. Apart from these foibles, I enjoyed being transported to an Irish village to follow the journey of a young woman searching for answers.

Buy the Book:

View the trailer:

About the Author:

Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and other publications. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children.

You can find her online at, Facebook (@JenniferDeibelAuthor), and Instagram (@jenniferdeibel_author).

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron (Book Review and Giveaway!)

Once again, Cambron transports us to an unforgettable time in WWII history, this time through the fashion and art world.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron
Category: Adult Fiction, 400 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Dual timeline/WWII Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release dates: February 16, 2021
Content Rating: PG (Mature theme of WWII)

Book Description:

Based on true accounts of how Parisiennes resisted the Nazi occupation in World War II—from fashion houses to the city streets—comes a story of two courageous women who risked everything to fight an evil they couldn’t abide.

Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquarters. But when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between the determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.

Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.

Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I have read three previous books by Kristy Cambron so I was excited about her latest release The Paris Dressmaker. Once again, Cambron transports us to an unforgettable time in WWII history, this time through the fashion and art world. 

The story is about two brave women who use their work positions to get information for the resistance. Lila de Laurent is an haute couture dressmaker and Sandrine Pacquet works with an art historian cataloging art confiscated by the Germans. The story follows the lives of these two women during the four-year occupation in Paris. I enjoyed both of these women's stories that gave us a glimpse of what it must have been like living in Paris during those difficult war years and how some women chose to collaborate with the Germans while others courageously smuggled information to the underground resistance.

I usually love dual timeline stories, however, in this case, I did find it slowed the pace of the story. The reason is that there was a dual timeline for both women, so it became confusing sometimes to remember where the story left off for that particular character. The novel has a strong beginning with Lila de Laurent running for her life in the Meudon Forest as she is hunted by the Nazis. Then it switches to Sandrine's story. Then it switches back to Lila's story but to a previous timeline. The chapters had cliffhanger endings but it was a while before we would get back to it and this was at times frustrating. I think, in this case, this story would have been better told with one timeline and the use of well-placed flashbacks.

Also, I was waiting for the connection between the two women but it was minor and did not converge as I had hoped. That beautiful Chanel gown that is on the front cover concealing a cryptic message ended up being an anticlimactic plot for me.

However, I appreciated the research the author did and how she based some parts of her story on true accounts. I found Sandrine's story more heartbreaking and relatable to me since she was married and a mother. She was forced into certain situations and had to make the most of it, and she did so stoically. I found she had inner strength and poise.

The Paris Dressmaker was a good read but I did like her Hidden Masterpiece books better.

Buy the Book:

About the Author:

Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author of historical fiction, including her bestselling debut The Butterfly and the Violin, and an author of nonfiction, including the Verse Mapping Series Bibles and Bible studies. Kristy’s work has been named to Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, received 2015 & 2017 INSPY Award nominations, and has been featured at CBN, Lifeway Women, Jesus Calling, Country Woman Magazine, MICI Magazine, Faithwire, Declare, (in)Courage, and Bible Gateway. She holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing and lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a peppermint mocha latte and a good read.

Connect with the author:

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Ends Feb 26, 2021

The Paris Dressmaker

Be a Superhero in the Kitchen by Donna Glass (Book Review and Guest Post)

This book is a fun recipe book with delicious kid-friendly recipes that are easy to make. Perfect for the picky eater in your family!

Book Details:

Book Title: BE A SUPERHERO IN THE KITCHEN by Donna Glass
Illustrated by Alejandro Chamberlain
Category: Children's Fiction (Ages 6-10), 48 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Cook Book
Publisher: Mascot
Release date: March 2021
Tour dates: Feb 22 to Mar 5, 2021
Content Rating: G. This children's book is for everyone.

Book Description:

Every caregiver knows the trials of feeding a picky eater. Some nights are truly a battle. Nerves are frayed, and a pleasant, relaxing dinner can quickly be filled with tears, tantrums, and some nights, a battle of wills. Well, my goal with this book is to tip the scales in our favor. One surefire way I've discovered to get my picky eaters to eat is to let them help make the meal. After all, food tastes better when you've had a hand in fixing it. Let your child try their hand with the recipes in this book. A child who becomes the superhero of dinnertime is one who eats super well.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Having raised a son who has been a picky eater ever since he was a babe, I appreciated reading Be a Superhero in the Kitchen. I agree that including children in the cooking or preparation process is part of teaching them to love eating and trying different foods.

The first thing that I noticed about this book is that it's bright and colorful. The recipes have cool names, such as Gutsy Garlic Bread Burgers and Boomtastic Butter Cookies. We get some smart tips right at the beginning, written in such a way that is easily understood even by very young kids. Essentially, this book is a fun recipe book with delicious kid-friendly recipes that are easy to make. I got some ideas that I think my teen son would like! The kids depicted in the book are of various nationalities and one child is also in a wheelchair. That impressed me! I've worked in special education and I don't see too many disabled children represented in books that aren't focused on special needs.

The illustrations are cute and pop off the page. They are age-appropriate and I think they suit the topic well. I loved the girl with the colander on her head. The idea is that kids can be superheroes in the kitchen because they are participating in an adult activity and making a difference. They are also being creative. Each recipe comes with superhero tips too. Once kids get used to manipulating food and creating meals, this can become a lifelong habit. The kitchen is a place where many good useful lessons can be learned.

If you have a picky eater and are looking to stimulate your child at mealtimes, getting them involved is the best way to do it. Who knows, the recipes in this book can also motivate you to try inventing some of your own or bring you to search out other children's recipe books for continued learning. 

Buy the Book

Guest Post:
My Advice to Budding Writers
by Donna Glass

Since I write children's books, I can only describe my journey and what I learned. I hope my following words help any inspiring author.

Bringing a book to life requires patience and, in some cases, lots of time. There are edits on the manuscript, selecting an illustrator, and rounds of revisions with an illustrator to get your vision just right. You'll also have to handle modifications on design and layout. Then, there's the waiting game on when your baby goes live.

If you have a publisher, your book will be sent off to the printer. Mine took months to be delivered. If you go indie, you can select Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lulu, or a number of other places to print your book on-demand.

Despite all the frustrations you'll face, and you'll face some, focus on when you have the book in your hands. Visual a smiling customer is holding your book, eager to read it, or overjoyed because they just did, and it's that good.

Nothing in life is rarely easy. However, every time I get mentioned online with a Super Chef in action, I am grateful I remained patient and put this book on the market.

One day, you'll have a similar moment with a reader, and it'll make your whole day brighter. I wish you all luck and great success.


Meet the Author:

I am a wife, mother of two kids, a lover of comic books, and a home cook. I believe in making mealtime an enjoyable experience through joint cooking and kid-friendly meals. I also believe kids that help with the cooking process are more likely to eat their meals, which leads to a happy, peaceful dining experience. Be a Superhero in the Kitchen is my first children’s cookbook, but I strive to publish more.

Connect with the author: 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Mickey on the Move by Michelle Wagner (Book Review and Giveaway!)

Mickey on the Move is a story about a deaf boy who wears cochlear implants to help him hear. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy.

Book Details:

Book Title: Mickey on the Move by Michelle Wagner
Illustrated by: Jenny Phelps
Category: Children's Non-Fiction (Ages 3-7), 38 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Mascot Books
Release date: Jan 2021
Tour dates: Feb 1 to Mar 5, 2021
Content Rating: G for everyone.

Book Description:

In this big-hearted book, the real story of a young boy with deafness in his ears is aided by his mother and teachers in navigating new school experiences. Mickey is just like everyone else, except he wears cochlear implants and has to do things just a little differently than most. This charming tale reminds us that we can all find happiness if we lean on and support each other.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Mickey on the Move is a story about a deaf boy who wears cochlear implants to help him hear. Mickey is starting sixth grade at a big new school but he isn't worried because he has changed schools five times and is used to being on the move. At school, his teacher wears a special microphone that is connected to Mickey's implants so that he can hear everything. When he has a hard time in the noisy cafeteria, his mother and teacher sit with Mickey to brainstorm a solution.

Having worked with special needs children, I recognize that books that deal with topics such as this one are essential in children's literature. This book can help children learn more about deafness and cochlear implants. However, it is written in such a way that makes it come across as a short journalistic recounting of a deaf boy's journey to getting cochlear implants. I did not really get a good sense of what it felt like to be a boy who spent his whole childhood dealing with a deafness problem. For example, Mickey has attended various special schools that were far away from his home. How did he feel about being the new kid with special needs in five different schools? Had he ever felt scared, apprehensive, a little nervous? When children read stories, they want to meet characters that express feelings they can relate to.

When Mickey sneaks into the library to eat lunch, his mother figures the reason is that it's too noisy, so they sit down with his teacher to figure out a solution. We never get Mickey's version of how he felt, needing to isolate himself from his friends because of the noisy environment. There is not enough characterization in this story. Mickey, who is 11 or 12, seems to breeze through life with wonderful friends and virtually no problems as he navigates his tween years. 

The illustrations were age-appropriate, but I did find some of the facial proportions slightly off. Apart from these issues, Mickey on the Move is a book that can introduce deafness to children and open up this topic for parents to discuss with their children. Being different is nothing new, but the more special needs topics our children are exposed to the better this will prepare them to show acceptance and tolerance.

Buy the Book

Meet the Author:

Born and raised in Chicago, Michelle Wagner was always a very positive and outgoing woman. Her energetic love for children and zest for life was admired by everyone who knew her. Michelle is a realtor whose career background involved restaurants and always helping other people. She has dedicated time and support to charities and events to help other children with hearing loss and assist families as they work through the different approaches to raising a special needs child in a typical environment.

Connect with the author: 

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Ends March 12, 2021

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