Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Review: That Certain Summer by Irene Hannon

That Certain Summer by Irene Hannon
Revell, June 1, 2013

Karen and Val are family--yet they're anything but close. Karen has carried the burden of responsibility for her aging mother ever since her gorgeous sister left town years ago to pursue a career in theater. But Val had darker reasons for leaving town--as well as a secret to keep--and coming home has never been an option . . . until their mother suffers a stroke.

Reunited in their hometown, Karen and Val must grapple with their past mistakes, their relationship with each other, and their issues with a mother who is far from ideal. When a physical therapist raising his daughter alone and a handsome but hurting musician enter the picture, the summer takes on a whole new dimension. As their lives intersect and entwine, can each learn how to forgive, how to let go, and how to move on? And strengthened by the healing power of faith, might they also find the courage to love?

With her trademark compelling characters and heartwarming hope, fan favorite Irene Hannon offers her readers an inspiring true-to-life tale of complex family relationships, transgressions revealed and forgiven, and the complicated process of finding love.

I love Irene Hannon's suspense books and when I saw this, I thought I'd better try it. I know she has written in the straight romance genre before, I just haven't read any. What struck me about this book was the characterization. The three women (Karen, Val and their mother) are trying to sort their lives out. Karen and Val are living under the constant scrutiny of their mother. Karen takes it to heart and tries even harder to please her, while Val shrugs it off and pretends it doesn't bother her. Neither strategy really works and it only makes their mother more difficult. The relationship between the three women is very realistic. A mother's harsh criticism stays with the girls well into their adulthood and still holds sway over them. However Val and Karen are on a journey to free themselves from their mother's criticism, move on from the heartbreak of the past and look forward to a brighter, hopeful future.

As sisters estranged for many years, Val and Karen reconnect when Val returns to help their mother after her stroke. I loved the girl's weekly coffee dates while their mum slept! I liked the way they forged through some difficult stuff to see the truth behind their Mum's manipulations and this gave them a stronger bond. We even got to see the human side of their mother and slowly watch as she stopped her endless criticism and opted for silence - while not ideal, it was much better for the girls.

There's a lot going on emotionally for Karen and Val and I lapped up the difficult journey God has them on. What I struggled with was the love interests for them. Val's man seemed a little too perfect and Karen's guy didn't seem that appealing personality wise. They just didn't ring true for me and because of that I couldn't connect with them and thus the romances didn't have the effect I would have liked.

Overall though, this was a solid read from a good author!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jess' Thoughts: Musicals, Musicals, Musicals

image from

So I started watching The Sound of Music with Eleyna the other day, hopinig to find a movie that she wasn't scared of. My lovely girl doesn't like Disney and Disney/Pixar movies (she's 3) and so I put on the Julie Andrews classic. She loves it so far, but they don't sing enough for her liking! 

While watching it, I started thinking about my own favorite musicals. Both my parents grew up in the era of musicals, such as Oklahoma, State Fair, Brigadoon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane...you get the idea. As a result, I also enjoy musicals.

So what is my favourite musical/s? Well I've got two really.

Image From
Calamity Jane

I'm a big fan of Doris Day. Some people love Audrey Hepburn (yes, I like her and have seen many of her movies which are good) but I really love Doris Day. That sunny smile, great singing voice, that girl-next-door image etc. I saw this movie quite possibly before I was 10 years old and it captured my attention. Why? It's a little corny, amusing for the most part, but its got genuine heart behind it. I can't help but smile when I watch this movie.



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Singing In the Rain

I didn't see this movie till I was in my early 20s but I loved it. I thought it was clever and very, very funny! There was something magical about this movie and it swept me up in its charm. I made sure I bought it on DVD a few months ago. I have watched it a few times since purchasing it and always enjoy it.



What about you guys out there? Do you like musicals? do you have a favourite? I'd love to hear about it!



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review: Waking Hours by Lis Wielh with Pete Nelson

Waking Hours by Lis Wiehl with Pete Nelson
Thomas Nelson, October 4, 2011

Welcome to East Salem. A deceptively sleepy town where ancient supernatural forces are being awakened.
A local high-school girl is found murdered in a park amid horse farms and the wealthy homes of northern Westchester County, New York. The shocking manner of her death intrigues forensic psychiatrist Dani Harris. All the suspects are teenagers who were at a party with the girl—yet none remembers what happened. Could one of them be a vicious killer? Or is something more sinister afoot—something tied to an ancient evil?
Across town, former NFL linebacker Tommy Gunderson finds his state-of-the-art security system has been breached by an elderly woman. Mumbling threats in Latin, she attacks him with an uncanny, preternatural strength. Before he has time to process the attack, someone close to him is implicated in the girl’s murder at the park. He agrees to help—and finds himself working with Dani, the only girl who could resist his charm years ago when they were in high school.

A heavy darkness is spreading. Yet a heavenly force is also at work.

Dani and Tommy suspect there’s more to the mystery than murder, more to their growing friendship than chance . . . and more to the evil they’re facing than a mere human killer.

 I took a chance on this book. It was cheap in the specials bin. I'd never read Lis Wiehl and the book sounded interesting. I also really liked it! Usually supernatural thrillers don't work for me...I get too scared! But this one, wasn't scary (some might find it so) and it kept me enthralled along the way.

I found this book to be interesting with funny dialogue between the two leads plus their internal monologues had me chuckling! I found the characters to be well written and the mystery brings everything together only gets deeper as the novel progresses.

Overall, for a new author to me, I liked this book enough to go out and buy the second book in the series.  Stay tuned for my review of Darkness Rising soon.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September Feature Author and Book Giveaway: Candace Calvert



Candace Calvert writes gripping and at times heart rendering medical dramas filled with hope, great romance and hunky heroes! She has quickly become a favorite of mine as her stories are populated with real people facing real decisions, but who are still firmly planted in the world of fiction.

Thanks so much Candace for joining us on our blog today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Any hobbies you have?
It’s a delight to be here—thank you for this opportunity to connect with your readers.  In a nutshell, I’m a former ER nurse, wife, Mom, and proud grandmother to seven (ages 2 to 23!) When I’m not writing, I love to garden, hike, bird watch, and travel—in fact, hubby and I will be taking a Rhine River cruise this fall. Folks who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that I’m a passionate “foodie,” very happy wearing an apron and brandishing a wooden spoon.
Jess: Oh the Rhine River is beautiful! My hubby and I got a chance to see some of it a few years ago and it’s gorgeous! I can totally relate to wearing an apron and brandishing a wooden spoon. Baking is one of the joys of my life.
What got you into medical inspirational romance novels? What do you think it is about this genre that people like so much?
Of course, the classic advice is “write what you know,” and I spent three decades in the trenches of ER. But more than that, I was disappointed that while TV’s very popular medical shows offer the lights-and-siren action, hospital lingo, and loads of interpersonal drama, they very rarely address issues of faith. As a nurse, I know that’s unrealistic; so many prayers are sent heavenward by patients, family, and by medical and rescue professionals. I wanted to “help Grey’s Anatomy find its soul.”  People sometimes call me the author of “medical hope opera”. I like that!
Jess: I love what you have done for this genre. 
How much time do you usually spend on the research element for your books? Do you visit locations and conduct interviews?
Having worked in the emergency medical field for a long time, I’m accustomed to the hospital setting. And I ask still-practicing colleagues for clarification of new procedures. I’ve been blessed to work with professionals in law enforcement, firefighters, military, and search and rescue and chaplaincy volunteers. I do visit my story settings and enjoy offering readers imagery that puts them “into the scene” right down to the taste of scrumptious regional food, like the fajitas and pecan pralines in Trauma Plan—tough work, but I am very dedicated (wink).  And, of course, I did leap into my own skydiving research . . .
Jess: I’ve noticed and appreciated the way the setting is often included in your books. The “flavor” of each place is right there in the book. I couldn’t do the skydiving…I’ll leave that stuff to my hubby!

When you get writers block, what do you do to try and get out of it?
Oh dear, I try not to ever say the “block” word—it’s like saying things are “quiet” in the ER; stirs up all sort of trouble! Seriously, I find that physical exercise stimulates the brain as well as the body. And sometimes indulging in an alternate creative effort gets the juices flowing, like trying a great new recipe. Or painting a wall—evidenced by the small eggplant purple wall above the shower in our guest bathroom.

My (Jess) favorite book of yours is Trauma Plan, I just loved Jack! Which book has been the most joy to write? Any that were hard to write?
Thank you for enjoying Trauma Plan! I’d have to say that it was one of my favorites, too. I enjoyed writing Dr. Jack “Rambo” Travis, offering readers all the color of San Antonio. And I loved meeting former rodeo clown Bandy Biggs. He was one of those unplanned characters who sort of wandered (bowlegged) into the story, and captured my heart. He still hangs around my office offering peanut butter sandwiches . . . and hope.
Code Triage was perhaps most difficult to write because of the subject matter: my first marriage didn’t survive similar challenges. I’m so grateful for our God of second chances!

Can you tell us what's up next from you regarding books?
The third book in my Grace Medical series, Life Support, is scheduled for release in March—I’m eager to share this Houston set story.  And (drum roll) I’ve very recently signed a new 3-book contract with Tyndale House to bring readers another exciting medical fiction series! I couldn’t be more pleased.
Jess: Congratulations on the book contract! I’m sure there are many eager readers out there (myself included) looking forward to reading more from you.

If you could be any fictional book character for a day, who would you be, and why?
It’s too hard to choose what character I’d be! So many books, so many different experiences. Maybe I’ll pick a wild card here and say I’d be (the spider) Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web.  What a unique way to see the world, what a cool way to knock the socks of people (writing those words in her web)!  Charlotte had such a great, wise, and encouraging heart.  An expected and memorable heroine. 

What do you know about Australia, and is there anything in particular you would like to see if you came for a visit?
Some of my biggest impressions of Australia come from watching (over and over!) “The Man from Snowy River”—I love that movie. Horses, romance, action, and spectacular scenery, how can it get any better? Hubby and I love snorkeling, so we’d want to see The Great Barrier Reef. Do the sights in Sydney (local food, of course), and then arrange an opportunity to see Australian birds and wildlife—a must for us!  Your beautiful country is definitely on our travel list.
Jess: I’ve seen “The Man from Snowy River” and yes the scenery is spectacular. I’ve yet to visit that region of Australia, but would love to. I hope you get to visit Down Under Candace! Thanks for joining us today for a great interview! 
Thank you for hosting me here, ladies—this has been delightful.
I invite your readers to visit me online at:

Book giveaway!

Candace is kindly giving away a signed copy of one of her books. The competition is open to international residents. To be entered into the competition leave a comment with your email address and we will draw the winner on Friday the 20th September, 2013.

Candace Calvert Books (and links to our book reviews):


Critical Care (Mercy Hospital 1)











 Disaster Status (Mercy Hospital 2)
 Code Triage (Mercy Hospital 3)
Trauma Plan (Grace Medical 1)











Rescue Team (Grace Medical 2)













Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Rescue Team by Candace Calvert

Buy from Amazon
Rescue Team by Candace Calvert
Tyndale House Publishers, April 19 2013

Tired of running from her past, nurse Kate Callison intends to become Austin Grace Hospital’s permanent ER director and make Texas her home. Despite staff friction, she’s moving ahead. Then unthinkable tragedy wraps the ER in crime tape, bringing swarms of media, legal chaos—and a search-and-rescue hero who seems determined to meddle in her life.

For Wes Tanner, nothing beats finding someone who’s lost; he’s known that helpless terror firsthand. So he’ll expand his team’s lifeline of hope: K9 tracking, swift water rescue, even horse-mounted searches. He’s ready for anything—except Austin Grace’s prickly and dismissive ER director.

As Kate and Wes discover more about each other, new respect becomes something deeper. Kate wonders if her heart might have finally found a home. Then an unsolved missing persons case—and a startling new one—become catalysts that threaten the loss of all she and Wes have found.


I just had the pleasure of reading this great book a second time and it was just as good as if I'd read it the first time. I've become a Candace Calvert fan of late after discovering her books a few months ago and this one is neck and neck for favorite alongside Trauma Plan. But I'll discuss my love for both books in another post.

I realized what it is I love about these books - they combine contemporary fiction with romance, drama (medical drama to boot and I really like that), some intrigue and mystery, hunky heroes and strong yet loveable heroines - a perfect combination for me!

Speaking of hunky heroes and strong yet loveable heroines Rescue Team has two awesome ones. Wes Tanner is actually described like the guy on the cover (always a bonus) and he's a determined but quieter hero. After Jack from Trauma Plan, it was nice to have a quieter guy on the scene! Readers met Kate in Trauma Plan and she was an intriguing character even back then. Kate is hard to love because she doesn't feel worthy of anyone's love and the journey she takes with Wes and especially her father is really touching. I cried towards the end, as I so understood the emotions going on at that point in the book.

Wes needs to rescue people (stemming from events from his childhood) and Kate isn't interested in being rescued - she can handle life all by herself. Haven't we all thought that at some point? Hasn't stuff from our past kept us from truly moving forward? This is the stuff that pushes Kate and Wes forward, making them deal with things they'd rather not. Coupled with all this is a pushy hospital attorney, a missing ER director who was basically a saint (adding to Kate's woes) and disaster after disaster at the hospital pushes everyone to break point. Yet the characters find the courage to start the healing process and move towards reconciliation with family and themselves.

The romance between Wes and Kate is at times funny but I found it to be genuine. He's attracted to her, even though she prickly. She's attracted to him, even though he's bent on saving her. They clash, but underneath they really need each other. I really liked how Wes did respect the distance Kate demanded, it was hard for him to watch her emotionally withdraw but respecting it made him all the better a man. He did though, ignore her emotional withdrawal when she was too stubborn to admit that she needed him and this is why I love this quiet hero. He acts when he needs to and withdraws when it's required of him, even if it kills him.

Thank you Candace for giving your readers such a well thought out novel, filled with depth, love, emotions and for not hitting your readers over the head with faith and Christianity! I love my Christian fiction books, but sometimes, it drives me nuts when the Bible is quoted endlessly and characters do not act like they are human - by making mistakes all because they are a Christian. Candace this is not you at all with your books.

I can't wait to read the next one in this series!


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jess' Thoughts: God's People

So every Monday, my daughter and I go and have lunch with my adopted mother - by that I mean there is a wonderful lady who came into my life when I first moved to Newcastle. She was at my first church and she took me under her wing and as a young 18 year old, I loved that. She fed me once a week for years, would pick me up from the train station, drop me off if needed, would have me over at her house for a few days when I was sick and was (and still is) always a listening ear. I've since moved churches, but we have not lost contact. She is now my daughter's third grandmother!

God has truly blessed me through this wonderful Christian woman who opened her heart and home to me. Have you had something similar in your life?


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Fired Up by Mary Connealy

Fired Up by Mary Connealy
Bethany House Publishers, September 15, 2013
 
Rollicking Wild West Adventure and Romance from Bestselling Author Mary Connealy

Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can't let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he's trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she's determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she's terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner--never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can't help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There's the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna's diner into Dare's back. Are Flint's cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna's son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?


I had just finished an awful book and was looking for something well written, engaging and in short - a good reason to read a book. So I picked up Fired Up. I knew from many other Mary Connealy books that it would be a solid read.

I loved it! I laughed like crazy in some points and almost chocked on my drink from laughter in a few other places. I was just so happy to read a well constructed, well written and funny book.  It was the perfect remedy for a disappointed reader. It improved my mood and made my like books again!

The friendship between the four men (Dare, Vince, Luke and Jonas) is great to see. They are like brothers and treat each other accordingly. Their respect for each other, women and their selflessness is a balm to Glynna's battered soul. They prove to her over and over that decent men exist - ones that don't lie, cheat or abuse - all while cracking jokes along the way.

Glynna's weary of falling in love again (well at least getting married again) but can't seem to fight her attraction to town doctor, Dare Riker. Disaster after disaster follows Dare and Glynna seems to always (happily for the most part) dive right in with the drama and action. She's learning to trust again and Dare's learning to be a patient man.

Mary's trademark wit leaps off the pages and brings joy in what has been a bit of a dreary time for me regarding the quality of books I've encountered. Don't worry, these dreary books are not being reviewed.

I'm not going to spend any more time here analyzing characters etc. There's no need. Things are simple (even in the complicated), funny and a this is a joy to read.

I can't wait to read Vince's story Mary! I nearly died laughing when he met Jonas' sister!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.