For the Record by Regina Jennings

Fans of Regina Jennings may remember the inquisitive (aka nosy) young reporter from her previous book, At Love’s Bidding. In For the Record, Betsy Huckabee is all grown up and determined to make it on her own. Even if that means trading in hard-hitting news for ladies’ serials. At least she’ll still be in the paper.

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And when the new deputy comes to town to restore justice and put an end to the vigilante group that has taken the law into their own hands, she discovers her inspiration. Deputy Joel Puckett isn’t exactly the perfect hero, though, so some fictionalization is in order. As Betsy spends more time with the handsome deputy, she comes to appreciate the flaws in the man and begins to uncover what truly makes a hero. But what will her stories cost them now that she’s gotten to know him?

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Jennings once again delivers a fun romp through the hills of Missouri in For the Record. With lines like, “If only she’d get her hands free, she’d slap the handsome clean off his face,” readers will find some laughs amidst the more serious topics in the book. As Betsy looks to her future and Joel puts his past behind him, these two characters take readers through the highs and lows of learning to trust someone new.

****I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Life Lessons from Lara (by Dandi Daley Mackall)

In Larger-Than-Life Lara, Dandi Daley Mackall approaches a difficult subject, one that is a life lesson every child should be taught at a young age, with grace, care and a pinch of humor. A book that should be required reading in every school class

larger-than-life-lararoom, Lara handles herself well in every situation—well, almost every one.

What’s even cooler about this book is it not only deals with the topic of bullying but it also teaches readers the different parts of telling a story as each chapter deals with one of these elements (Dialogue, Setting, Rising Action, Details, Cliff-Hangers, and Climax are all addressed).

Ten-year-old Laney Grafton is a tad relieved when the new girl enters her classroom because everyone’s mean words and teasing shifts away from her and onto Lara Phelps. But here’s the thing about Lara: she doesn’t react like she should. Nope. Instead, Lara accepts the bullying and returns each action with a kindness. And while the storyteller (Laney) doesn’t intervene, she does begin to change. As will every reader of this book.

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As a reader, I felt Laney’s hardships as well as Lara’s as I was taken along for the ride through the eyes of a fourth-grade girl shares a story through her eyes. The author portrays this excellently through the writing of the story. I was there in that class room with Laney and as she shares this impactful time in her life all the while commenting on what’s she’s learned about telling a story. And the results are sometimes humorous, sometimes heart-breaking, but always memorable.

If you have young children who are being bullied or if you know young children you want to encourage to help a friend who is being bullied or if you want to share how one person can make a difference, then Large-Than-Life Lara is a way in which to do it impactfully.

****I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Story People by Heather Kaufman

Step into Heather Kaufman’s debut novel, The Story People and experience the power of a good book. Friendships are formed, imaginations are stretched and grown, troubles disappear.

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Ben Palermo is discontent with his life. His original plan of taking care of his late uncle’s bookstore for a year before selling it has now become three years. While the people of the town are a draw, he has no direction for his future.

When Rosemary enters his store, Ben’s more engaged than he’s been in a long time. There’s something different about this woman, something familiar. But when three well-meaning busybodies decide they want to keep Ben in town, hilarity ensues. As do the misunderstanding between Rosemary and Ben.

Kaufman doesn’t shy away from real-life issues that are painful. Instead, she approaches them with care and compassion while giving the readers a chance to recover with a pump of humor. It took me a few chapters to get completely engaged in the book but after five or six chapters, I came to care about each of the characters and wanted to continue on this journey with them. Some of my favorite scenes were chapter beginnings with the boy and girl as they created the story people in their secret place.

And this would definitely be one of those books the story people spent a lot of time with.

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Christmas Conspiracy by Susan Sleeman

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And a fantastic book series is no exception.

Susan Sleeman’s final installment in the First Responders Series (FRS) is a satisfying and fitting conclusion. As a reader, I’ve gotten to know the six members of the team over the last five books, it is their leader who has held the most mystery for me.

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The commander of the team is focused, serious, and excellent at his job. He cares for each and every person under his protection, including the “family” he works with. But his focus has always been on his career, protecting people, and atoning for an event in his past he believes he could have stopped.

Rachael Long has devoted herself to her childcare facility and helping less fortunate parents get their feet under them. After losing two people she loved, she knows this is her role.

When someone attempts to kidnap one of the children in Rachael’s care, members of the FRS team are brought in to resolve the situation. As the investigation proceeds, Jake’s fierce drive to protect keeps him watching out for Rachael. But there’s something…more.

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Will Jake and the rest of the FRS team untangle the mystery behind who the attempted kidnapper is and who was the true victim of the crime? Before someone loses their life?

Once again, Susan Sleeman delivers an action-driven, heart-pounding story that kept me on the edge of my seat. There were some good surprises thrown into this one along with Christmas cheer despite the intense subject matter. And hints of happy additions to the team in the future.

Cuddle up by the fire or with your favorite blanket and savor another winning story full of hope and healing. Christmas Conspiracy delivers both and then some.

***The author provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write either a positive or negative review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

If you’re read any of Katherine Reay’s previous books, you know about her unique way of weaving classic fiction throughout her stories. A Portrait of Emily Price takes it to the next level not only giving readers bits of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and James Joyce but it also takes readers on a journey through the world of art.

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Fascinated by how things work, Emily Price is the go-to fix-it girl for the insurance company she works for. While in Atlanta on a job, Emily runs into the Vassallo brothers and agrees to help the younger brother, Ben, with fixing up his aunt and uncle’s restaurant. As the two spend time together, Emily and Ben’s relationship blooms, and when Ben asks Emily to travel to Italy with him, she agrees without hesitation.

But once in Ben’s small village in Italy, Emily finds herself out of place. Ben’s mother does not like her, the house is always crowded and more often than not, she’s lost in the conversations going on around her, and Ben’s busy at his family’s restaurant. It doesn’t take long for Emily to learn that instead of fixing Ben’s family, she’s breaking it. When she uncovers a family secret, she’s not sure she belongs there at all.

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From Atlanta to the Italian countryside, from literature to art, Reay paints Emily’s life in beautiful words. What I love about her books is that each of her characters is unique, likable but flawed, and we get to take the journey of discovery with them. For Emily Price, the lesson that has to be learned is that she can’t fix everything.

***The publisher provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.