Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday Thoughts: Freedom to Explore

I recently went on a spiritual retreat. I went to a small country town just outside of the city I live in. I spent two days and one night at a convent and had a surprising and meaningful experience.

I live in a city of about 250,000 people and I grew up in a small town of 10,000 people. Normally the size of my city doesn't bother me, but the other day it did. I recall exclaiming to my husband:

"There is no where to go where there is no one!"

So after discussing it with him and God, I decided to go on a spiritual retreat, just me and God. I didn't know much about what I wanted from it, just alone time with God. I did however know that I didn't want an ocean. I'm from the country (although I'm not a farm girl by any means) and I wanted space, land not water in front of me. God answered my prayers!
View from balcony  near my room

It was a very relaxing two days and I discovered something God has been trying to tell me for a while: He is here - in everything I'm doing. I want my heart to reflect His heart and when I realise he is here with me enjoying life with me, then my heart is reflecting His heart.

Something else God pointed out to me: He wants me to have the freedom to explore with Jesus. Explore with Him, take him along on whatever adventures unfold around me.

One of my most joyous experiences was taking my camera around and taking photos, experimenting with the cameras features! I had so much fun doing that. I'm no photographer, but I was filled with joy just exploring this huge place and snapping shots.

Here are some of my experiment photos :

A place to sit and think

A eerie take on the courtyard

Pink roses

Walkway captured

As I said I'm no photographer, but what joy it was to just have fun with the experience!



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, June 24, 2014

Book Review: Gathering Shadows by Nancy Mehl

Gathering Shadows by Nancy Mehl
Bethany House Publishers, May 6, 2014

Wynter Evans is a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis, but even a bright future doesn't take away her pain over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. So when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to him, she can't pass up the chance to track him down. With research for work as her cover, she sets out with one of the station's photogs for the place where the picture was taken: the town of Sanctuary.

Almost as soon as she arrives, she meets the town's handsome young mayor, Rueben King, and together they begin to uncover long held secrets that could tear the small town apart and change everything Wynter thought she knew about her life. As the truth of her family's past hides in the shadows, it's clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she's searching for hidden forever--even if the cost is Wynter's very life.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I started reading it. I had never read Nancy Mehl before but the premise intrigued me. This was a good book and kept me turning the pages ever so quickly. The mystery surrounding Wynter's missing brother was captivating. The secrets apparently held in the small town of Sanctuary had me asking lots of questions. The mystery deepened almost every other chapter as the book trotted along at it's quick pace. I didn't know who the criminal was until the end, but I was speculating widly throughout the book.

These are all great things for a suspense novel to have. I didn't really connect with the characters though. Wynter was so focused on the missing brother case that she seemed to miss much of what was going on around her - including clues to the case. Rueben, the cool headed, calm farmer/mayor of Sanctuary never seemed to work on his farm or do anything but follow Wynter around. These two didn't have a deep connection, or if they did, it needed more time to develop. I would have liked to see them spend more time together once this case was over because this case was huge for Wynter's life - everything about it was so confronting for Wynter that any real person going through the same thing wouldn't have the head or heart space to even contemplate a romance for several months.

Overall a good mystery book that needed more work on the characters. I would like to read more from this author in the future.

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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade
Bethany House Publishers, April 29, 2014

Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be her husband. He's a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he's long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he's known since childhood.

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia's trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?


So I became a Becky Wade fan after reading first Undeniably Yours and then My Stubborn Heart. I loved both books, so I have been looking forward to reading her latest one. In this book we meet Ty Porter, the brother of  Bo Porter from Undeniably Yours. Ty's leading lady is Celia Park, a girl who's had a thing for him since high school. When they reconnect after college resulting in a Vegas marriage, Ty realizing he's done something really dumb, leaves a heartbroken Celia.

Celia, as the heroine has a real personality, she's quick witted, sarcastic, loyal (almost to a fault), she loves fiercely and is determined to make a life for herself and her little girl. She loves baking, colour and nicks knacks around the house. She has held a torch for Ty since high school and when he thought she finally got the guy he trampled all over her heart. So she took her manged heart and made a life for herself and her little girl, put up walls and made sure she kept her promise of never seeing Ty again. Until Ty walked back into her life, after realizing he had much to apologize for. Begrudgingly she lets him into her daughter's life and slowly into her own still attracted heart.

When Ty works out that Celia still hates him, he can understand. When he works out that he has a daughter, he gets really mad. He then spends most of his time getting to know his little girl and trying to ignore his still there attraction to Celia. Ty is a charming and yes, I'll say it - a sexy hero. He uses his charm, wit and good looks to his best advantage. In short he knows Celia returns the attraction he feels, so he pushes her buttons and he does a great job of it. The banter between these two characters is great to see. They have chemistry, but Ty is still (at least at the start of the novel) trying to win back Tawny, his high school sweetheart and the girl everyone in Holley, Texas thinks Ty will end up with.

Why is it the women the guys in books often want to settle down with first, don't seem to have much personality? They seem bland, pretty, but bland. This is what Tawny is. Intimidatingly pretty to Celia, but there appears to be not hint of a real personality underneath the good looks. Celia may not be the poster girl kind of knockout that Tawny is, but her own good looks and ripper of a personality more than make up for her insecurities around Tawny.

There will be readers out there who won't like this book. It's Christian fiction and Ty and Celia find themselves growing more dependent and closer to God, but there is stuff in here that will put some readers off. The beginning features alcohol and lust (nothing described) and it gets sorted after the first chapter. There is a lot of kissing in this book and some scenes involving medication abuse. For those who have read Becky Wade before, her pushing the Christian boundaries is something she does well. I for one love it and I can't wait to read more from her!

Well done Becky!

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.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review: A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin
Revell, 01 March 2010


A Distant Melody was Sarah's debut novel, and the first in the Wings of Glory trilogy about three brothers. 

I wasn't sure what I felt like reading the other day as I scanned my bookshelf.  But then I saw I hadn't yet read this book, I decided now was the time. And I was totally hooked within the first two chapters.

In this first book we meet Walt Novak, the youngest brother, as he finishes his flight training and is posted to England.  But before leaving for his posting, he spends a week in his home town of Antioch where he meets Allie and life is never the same again.

Allie is trapped by her parents' plans and under pressure due to societal expectations.  Her week spent in Antioch for a friend's wedding is an unexpected breath of fresh air and returning home a dismal prospect.

Allie and Walt are ordinary people, but Sarah has brought them to life and made them extremely likeable and endearing.  It's so easy to identify with their insecurities and get emotionally involved with their plights.  And with a war back drop and the inevitable tragedies that follow, I was in tears on more than on occasion.

Both characters are forced into difficult situations and have to make gusty decisions.  This adds to the authenticity of the story.  There is a delightfully real, but happy, ending for the characters.

I loved this book.  This is my third Sarah Sundin book and I have to say, she's now officially one of my favourite authors.  And she has totally sold me on WWII fiction!

If you haven't already tried Sarah's books, give this one a go - particularly since right now, it's FREE for Kindle. Please check price before downloading!


Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

American Adventure Part II

So begins Part II of our American adventure!

Lincoln Memorial:
Mr Lincoln
Lots of stuff happened in our second week in the USA. We visited the Lincoln Memorial and although it looks warm it was actually 0C - we were so cold. It was so cool to see the Reflection Pool and my first thought was Forest Gump and Jenny running into the pool calling Forest's name! We ran around there for a bit, then did some quick shopping in the afternoon.








Mount Vernon:
One of the most special days for us was when we visited Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. It snowed and we got to walk around this beautiful property in gently falling snow. It made everything look so pretty and magical. After two hours we were all tired and freezing, so we trooped home to make cupcakes and Josh and Michaele made a fire for us in the fireplace and we had smores - which are yummy by the way!!
Standing in the snow outside George Washington's home.

The White House:
Outside the White House
Our much awaited White House tour started at 8am...so we had to hustle early in the morning to make it into DC and find a park before 8am. Well that didn't actually happen.

One of my fondest and funniest memories is Michaele pulling the car over; Eleyna and I jumping out and being told to run straight ahead, the White House is there, whilst she finds a park. So Eleyna and I are hustling towards the White House, we find it and I have no idea where the visitor center is. So after asking a few people, we bolted in the right direction, found Josh (Michaele's husband) and waited only a min or two until Michaele appeared, together we missed our 8am appointment but jumped in the queue. One hour of queuing in 0C temperatures, we finally made it inside the famed house.

So 45mins of touring the White House with a 3.5 year old  resulted in me basically chasing her around, telling her to stop swinging on the ropes that were keeping visitors out of certain rooms. It was fun though and I'm really glad we both got to. I loved seeing the rooms you get to see on TV or the movies and the history of the building is so amazing. What an experience for my girl and her mummy!

Williamsburg/Yorktown:

Carrie and I
So Friday the 28th March Michaele and I travelled with the three littlies to Williamsburg, a 2.5 hour drive from Alexandria. We made it in time for dinner at Chick-Fil-A (very yummy) and headed to our hotel. It was raining lightly when we got there. We were scheduled on Saturday to spend the day with Carrie Fancett Pagels at Yorktown where she lives. What a day it was. Yorktown was another highlight for me.

We met Carrie who was dressed in PINK - so we couldn't miss her! And with her knee roller, accompanied by more light rain she showed us around the Victory Center. She's such a fountain of knowledge, telling us all this information relating to the area and the center itself. What fun it was to learn from her. I loved seeing the replica Revolutionary village, especially the houses. Since I read a lot of historical fiction, seeing the inside of a typical house of that era made many of historical books I've read come to life.

Inside typical house of the era
Carrie then guided us into Yorktown town center and I fell in love with it. The pictures below don't really show just how pretty it is, but it just captured my imagination. We then went to lunch at this gorgeous restaurant by the York River and the food was amazing! I loved the clam chowder (I've always wanted to try it) and just sitting and talking with Carrie was such a delight. The three little girls behaved themselves so well. If I can return one day, I would love to do Yorktown again in more depth and really explore the place and do it in warmer weather!


Yorktown town center
Yorktown town center
Thanks again Carrie for giving us such a fun and special day!

I have decided to do a Part III devoted to food and the last few days in USA.

Stayed tuned!


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, June 10, 2014

Book Review: Silenced by Danni Pettrey

Silenced by Danni Pettrey
April 29, 2014
Bethany house Publishers

Jake Knew Something Was Wrong.
But He Never Guessed
How Wrong.
A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna's route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake's past now revealed, he's ready to use his talent for investigation again--but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him.

Kayden's climbing expertise soon leads her and Jake to the realization that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is onto them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine. 


I've been waiting for this book in the Alaskan Courage Series since book 2, Shattered. Jake and Kayden's story felt really ready for it's own book by the time this published. For the first three books readers were treated to Kayden and Jake's love/mistrust relationship and finally we see it out in the open -well except neither of them admit it their feelings for the other until the end.

The mystery of Jake's past was solved in the last book Stranded by Darcy.So how does Kayden react to all this? She quietly, stoically loves him without telling him because she can't go there emotionally. Jake loves Kayden as well. He loves her with his whole heart, but doesn't think she could ever love him back. So he stays silent. All the while the two of them are thrown together by the investigation of a dead climber. With Kayden being a climber and Jake reinstated as a cop, they work together to solve the mystery.

I liked this book better than Stranded, which I felt was a little too busy with characters and plot lines. The author returns here with a focus on Kayden and Jake while managing to keep the large McKenna clan a little more in the background throughout. However, as well as Danni Pettrey gets the chemistry between the two main characters right - more than right - it's great we don't get to see them have the conversations needed to bring their feelings into the open - until the very end where it feels rushed. Parts of this book feel rushed and sometimes tedious, especially when Kayden and Jake question the same characters over and over again while only getting the same answers.

Something funny happens in this book, just as the mystery is solved another ones pops up. It's unexpected and a little confusing to the reader. Overall I liked this book more for the history of the other three. It stands alone well, but new readers to the series might like to start with Submerged, the first book. As I said I enjoyed this book, but I wanted more from Kayden and Jake than what the reader was given, consdering the build up they'd had over the past three books.

Will I read more from this series? Yes. Will I read other books by this author? Yes


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.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin


Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin
Bethany House Publishers
May 6, 2014

When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life: “God, if you’re real, I want to know you.”

It’s Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate’s rescue. Nick is handsome, confident, and seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She’s not planning to fall in love with one of the locals.

Nick Sheridan is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn’t expect to be swept off his feet by the car’s occupant. He’s made a vow: no dating for a year. And it’s a vow he intends to keep in spite of his attraction to Kate Darby . . .

So a book cover can really do something for a person to pick up a book and this cover is gorgeous!! When I read the blurb, well there was nothing left to do but read the book. However, before I started it I just knew it was going to be good. Sometimes that happens with me, something about a book just tells me it's going to be good, different. This book was that on both counts!

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this book is the depth of emotions the characters go through. Nick, Kate and her Grandmother experience a lot of real emotions and situations. When I say that, they aren't facing tragedy after tragedy, just life in it's realness - the bitter, the sweet and the hard decisions people have to make. It was really nice to see both hero and heroine making mistakes -  in short acting like people!

Nick is a flawed hero, who is trying to get this faith even deeper with God, but he forgets about God's grace sometimes. He's a strong and capable man, who is well aware of his failings and weaknesses. Kate is lonely and she has been for most of her life. Time and experience have taught her that she must always be in control and that people you love are all too often taken away from you. When she meets Nick, the guard slowly comes down until life gets messy again, where she finds herself running away from her new faith and Nick. 

Nick and Kate in the end sort out the issues between them and it's a beautful ending to a beautulf story full of facing the things in life that scare us and learning to trust in the God who is bigger than our fears.

A fantastic book and I'm so excited to be reading more from this author in the future.

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.