Another Winner in the First Responders Series by Susan Sleeman

Susan Sleeman has delivered another page-turning romantic suspense with book number five in her First Responders series. Readers who have followed from book one know that there are two team members who have yet to meet their match—negotiator Archer Reed and team leader Jake Marsh (whose story is coming this December).

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Emily Graves is threatened by a lone gunman, and Deputy Archer Reed makes it his personal mission to protect Emily and her failing aunt. When Emily shares some more incidents that seemed like accidents, Archer is convinced someone is out to ruin Emily and her aunt’s B and B.

The chemistry between Archer and Emily is electric and I was rooting for them from the beginning. This may have included wanting to yell at them to get out of their own heads or to move on from the past. The return of a few team members, including Darcie from Emergency Response, was also enjoyable.

While the non-stop action and a plot in Silent Sabotage will keep you guessing to the end will keep you turning the pages, it’s the personal journeys that both Archer and Emily take that speak to the heart of the reader. It is so easy for us to want to control the events in our lives, to avoid those things that ***might*** be painful. Sometimes we avoid them to our detriment because coming out on the other side can be beautiful.

The entire First Responders series has been a joy to read as I’ve gotten to know this team of good-hearted law enforcement professionals who are also human (with struggles and fears of their own to overcome). Can’t wait to read about their fearless leader this December!

Available Aug 1 in eBook format and Aug 9 in paperback. Both are available for pre-order now.

Keep up with Susan Sleeman’s latest releases here.

***The author provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Punderdome: A Barrel of Laughs

Do you often find yourself uttering the phrase, “No pun intended.”? Does a play on words make you chuckle or even guffaw? Well, step into a whole new experience and bring your friends or family along with Punderdome. A game that will have your rolling your eyes, looking blankly at some players and laughing outright at others.

punderdome game box

The concept of the game is simple. Coming up with your own puns, however, is not so much so. You start with a host (this can be anyone as you are going to be rotating the host). The host first of all writes down two prizes—which can be something great like twenty bucks to something not so great like a used napkin—and tucks each into an envelope. At the end of the game, the winner gets to choose his or her prize.

punderdome jokes

Now the fun begins. The host reads one of the jokes (think Laffy Taffy wrappers) on the back of the card. The person who gives the closest answer gets an additional 30 seconds to come up with their pun. Everyone else gets 90 seconds. The host draws two prompt cards (one white and one green) and reads them aloud. When we played this game, we showed the person with the extra time the cards, gave them their 30 seconds and read them to everyone but you could also tack the 30 seconds to the end.

punderdome cards

When time is up, everyone goes around and reads their puns. The host chooses whose pun was the most groan-worth and that player keeps the pair of cards. Whoever gets 10 cards wins (admittedly, we stopped at 5 cards. This came can be catered to whatever you want it to be).

I’ll give you an example of a round we had and include a couple of our puns. The cards drawn were breaking up and fruit. And the puns:

Now that we’re no longer together, we cantaloupe.

My heart is broken. We were the perfect pear.

Some of these were hard to come up with, some pretty simple.

Warning: you will find yourself (and other players) making up puns on the fly long after the game is over!!

A fun game that is entertaining and hilarious. This one is definitely one to keep for family game night!!

***Blogging for Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this game in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Defining Normal

How do you define normal in your life? Are you comparing yourself to others around you? Is it dependent upon your paycheck? How successful you, your spouse, or your kids are? How well-adjusted your family appears to those around you?

The title of Shawn Thornton’s memoir, All but Normal, gives you a sense right away that his childhood, his family were different. As I read this book and walked through many of the events of Shawn and his brother’s childhood, one think struck me over and over again throughout this book.

all but normal cover

While their family was not at all like those around the Thorntons—whether it be a messy house in which the members cleaned dishes in order to eat and cleared a space amidst the piles of stuff on the table, the yelling and cursing, or trying to stop his mom from hurting them or herself—Shawn never seemed resentful.

Sure, he questioned why they lived the way they did, he cried out to God, he rebelled, but throughout it all, he loved his mother. A mother who, quite frankly, at times would be unlovable.

The true heart of this story is in unconditional love. You see it in the interactions between Shawn’s mother and those she meets who are hurting. You see it in how, even though he fights back with her, Shawn’s father is protective of his wife (and later when he makes a conscious decision to handle things with her differently). And you see it in the hope that Shawn finds during his struggles (it comes in many forms, a mutt who shows up at the door and won’t leave, an encouraging word spoken by someone when he needs it most, and a conversation with one of his dad’s co-workers).

In today’s world where everyone wants others to believe they have it all together, people hide their hurt. Perhaps the couple next door is on the verge of divorce, a parent struggles with a teenager’s addiction to drugs or alcohol, a mother’s struggle to care for a young one with a disability, or something else, people need love. People need others to come alongside them and show them Jesus. And despite her rages, her cursing, her attempts to injure her family, that the truth that Beverly Thornton taught her children (who, by the way, both went into ministry as adults).

A book that tugged at my heart, had my laughing in a few places and in tears in even more, All but Normal is anything but your usual memoir. If you need encouragement, hope, or love, this book offers all of those and more.

****Tyndale Blog Network provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

No Way Up (Cimarron Legacy) by Mary Connealy

Over the past year or so, I’ve come to realize I enjoy the cowboy romances as much as I do the contemporary ones. I guess there’s just something about the rugged, tough cowboys falling in love with a woman and softening just a bit.

One author who is a pro at this romance trope is Mary Connealy. She infuses tough heroes, even tougher (and often stubborn heroines), and a whole lot of trouble into each of her stories. No Way Up is no exception.

no way up cover

Meet the Boden siblings—Cole, Justin, and Sadie. Three adults who fight and argue with each other but will stand united for a cause that threatens their family home or their loved ones. When Chance Boden is injured, he issues an edict that all three of his children must live together for a year, ranch hand Heath Kincaid quickly experiences the fiery Boden siblings.

When Heath begins to wonder if there was malicious intent behind his boss’s injury, Heath is embroiled in a mystery along with the three Boden heirs. Spending time with the beautiful Sadie is no hardship, especially as he sees her fierce determination, unwavering love for her family (even if she wants to punch her brothers sometimes) and the orphans she worked with, and her faith. But will he lose her to the people after the Cimarron Ranch?

Meet the Boden siblings—Cole, Justin, and Sadie. Three adults who fight and argue with each other but will stand united for a cause that threatens their family home or their loved ones. When Chance Boden is injured, he issues an edict that all three of his children must live together for a year, ranch hand Heath Kincaid quickly experiences the fiery Boden siblings. When Heath begins to wonder if there was malicious intent behind his boss’s injury, Heath is embroiled in a mystery along with the three Boden heirs. Spending time with the beautiful Sadie is no hardship, especially as he sees her fierce determination, unwavering love for her family (even if she wants to punch her brothers sometimes) and the orphans she worked with, and her faith. But will he lose her to the people after the Cimarron Ranch?

The first book in Connealy’s Cimarron Legacy series, No Way Up is an ample introduction to the Boden family (even though there is a novella available called The Boden Birthright that is the official introduction to the Boden patriarch). Readers will get a hint of what’s to come with one of Sadie’s brothers as well as journey with the siblings as they fight for their home and their family—their legacy.

***Bethany House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Nikki Boyd Files Book #2

While I realize I could never be a police investigator or detective, I am fascinated by the process. Romantic Suspense books with strong female law enforcement officials are usually an engaging and fast read for me. Lisa Harris’s Nikki Boyd series has become a fast favorite.

Missing (book 2 in The Nikki Boyd Files) find Nikki and her crew at the scene of a double homicide. They’ve been called in because two people are missing and as Nikki, Jack, and Gwen are well-aware, the first 48 hours are crucial in any missing persons investigation. And, I have to admit, I love that this book is set in Nashville (my city)

missing cover

But Nikki is also human, dealing with her growing feelings for her best friend’s widow, a brother who has a knack for getting in trouble, and her own guilt over the disappearance of her younger sister over a decade ago, this woman is someone I feel compassion toward. And someone I’m cheering to find her happy endings—in both love and in closure for her sister.

If you read Vendetta, you will enjoy reconnecting with Nikki, Jack, Gwen, Tyler, and Liam. But if you missed the first book and want to jump right into the second (available everywhere July 5), Harris doesn’t leave her readers feeling like they’re jumping in during the middle of the story. You get just enough background to know what happened in the first book without feeling like you are re-reading the entire book again. Although, I’m sure after reading Missing, you’ll be hooked and want to read book one. I’m already ready for book three (due out Spring 2017).

***Lisa Harris and Bethany House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of Missing in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.