Average Boy’s Above Average Year

Author: Bob Smiley

Series: Adventures of Average Boy

Publisher: Focus on the Family

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Average Boy’s Above-Average Year is just the fun clean read that I have been looking for to give my boys to read for a long time. It is funny, cute, clever and clean with no content that I have to worry about my kids reading!

Adventures of Average Boy has been a longtime character from the Clubhouse magazine that follows Average Boy through the school year with all the hilarious ups and downs he faces. A middle-grade fiction to be both funny and clean without the potty humor or other vulgarities so frequent in the books these days is very rare. Readers will follow Bob (Average Boy) through the year as he works through the challenges of his youth group to stand up for God. With each passing day, Bob encounters kids at school that are set on making his life difficult no matter what. Will he be able to come out on top or continue his average streak?

Finding books for middle school boys that are filled with good moments and none of the negative the world has to offer is one of the most difficult things I have encountered as a mother. I know that the world is full of both great and horrible things and trying to navigate what to expose our kids to and how to handle what they are exposed to without our control is hard. There were several laugh out loud moments throughout the novel that didn’t have anything crude or the normal potty humor so many kids books include. I loved the way Smiley made these characters out to be funny and also relatable making the book a fun and quick read for all ages. I read it in a day and can’t wait to pass it down to my sons to enjoy as well.

When the Meadows Bloom

Author: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 3, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When the Meadows Bloom can fit into several categories: historical, romance, inspirational and contemporary. It’s hard to limit to just one, which makes it a great read for many to enjoy!

In the early 1900s, Rose Meadows is trying to recover from an illness that has put her in the hospital and away from her girls who have to be in an orphanage while she recovers. Her husband passed away during the influenza epidemic and she was never close with his brother, Dirk. It has been years since Dirk was badly burned in a fire and has since kept to himself for the most part. After hearing of the trouble his sister-in-law is in with being ill and away from her children, he comes to help and brings them back to his land in Kentucky. Having to navigate being at a new place and around family they have never spent much time around, Rose and her girls, along with Dirk, will have to learn new routines and find a way to bring light back into all their lives while healing.

Historical novels are not my normal go to reads but this one was on my shelf and I decided to give it a try. There isn’t much tension or fast paced moments in the book, but there are lots of sweet moments and great bonding moments between the family. Rose and her daughters have gone through a lot and are in need of a break, which they hope to get by moving to Meadowland with Dirk. The interactions between Dirk and Calla were probably the best for me, it showed a softer side of him which helped move the story along. This is the perfect book for those that love historical romances with inspirational moments that can be read in a quick few days. Ann H. Gabhart has become an expert in the historical romance department and readers will not want to miss this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Master Craftsman

Author: Kelli Stuart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 5, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the best time-slip novels of the year!  This should be on your summer reading list!

Karl Faberge has been charged with creating some of the most memorable sculptors during his time, many that have become known as the Faberge Eggs, which were produced for the Russian Tsar family during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  But when Karl began to see the effect of the Tsar’s rule over Russia, he created one egg that hardly anyone knew about.  The secret keeper of this egg was none other than Alma Phil, one of the best craftsmen of the House of Faberge. 

Fast forward to present day, Ava Laine learns that her estranged father and famed treasure hunter Nick Laine has developed a fatal illness.  Encouraged by her mother, Ava visits Nick and learns that there is one last treasure that he wants to find and hopes that she will do it for him.  With little to hold her back, Ava, her mother, and her next-door neighbor team together for a wild trip to Russia in hopes of locating the missing egg.  But they get more than they bargained for when they find out they are not the only ones after the egg.

This is one of the best books I’ve read all year!  Not only was the historical fiction portion of the story super interesting, but the present-day mystery and treasure hunting aspect took the whole book to another level.  I couldn’t decide which of the two stories that I wanted to read more and they pretty well blended altogether.  Such a great story for anytime of the year.  I’ll even read it again before this year is up!

I enjoyed getting to watch Ava’s character growth throughout the book.  She went from feeling abandoned with a little self-centeredness to becoming a family member and genuine concern for others.  I don’t know if Stuart has considered making this into a series, but I would be on board for any future installments.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

No Small Target

Author: James Tyler Brooks

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: May 17, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fast paced thriller that blew me away by a debut author. No Small Target is one to add to the To Be Read pile for thriller fans!

Jack Case thought he had left Hawaii behind until he gets a call from Kamakoa, his closest friend asking for his help on a case. When he arrives, Kamakoa is missing and Jack is now in charge of finding him and stopping a traitor from selling defense secrets to North Korea. Being back in Hawaii is hard, but nothing could keep him from being there for the only family he has left. As the search continues for Kamakoe, Jack must figure out who he can trust and with every turn the stakes are higher as the threats to those around him continue to grow.

For No Small Target being a debut novel, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Just knowing what the story was going to be about intrigued me and made me want to read it; suspense novels are my go-to and this one did not disappoint! Jack Case was a great protagonist that had me hooked from page one.  He had a rough past that was unveiled little by little making it more interesting for me as the reader. Not only were the characters well written, but the story itself and the setting really transported me and kept me engaged the whole time. I was a little worried at first with it being set in Hawaii because a few books I have read recently have had characters from there and they have been over the top annoying, so I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case here and it wasn’t. This is the first in a new series and I can’t wait to see what else comes from James Tyler Brooks.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Greetings from Asbury Park

Author: Daniel H. Turtel

Publisher: Blackstone

Release Date: April 5, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A look into the lives of children of a dysfunctional father.

A man dies, but life must go on for those around him.  Such is the case for three half siblings in the small New Jersey boardwalk town of Asbury Park.  The legitimate son David, the illegitimate son Casey, and the maid’s daughter Gabrielle.  All three have their own lives to consider, but when their father dies, the three are suddenly thrown together to cope with the aftermath.  Casey has been living in the city for some time but returns to Asbury Park for the summer to help.  He barely gets by and doesn’t want to ask for money.  Although David gets the lion’s share of the inheritance, he does get $50,000 and a house in Asbury Park, which is where he discovers his father’s maid lives with her daughter, who ends up being his half-sister.  Casey and Gabrielle really hit it off while his brother David begins to drink himself to death and buys anyone a round who will sit with him.  As the summer ends, some decisions have to be made that will again affect all three lives.

This is a good read that follows the lives of David, Casey, and Gabrielle as they all deal uniquely with their father’s death.  The story centers largely around Casey but throws occasional glimpses of Gabrielle’s life in for some backstory.  There are also some stories from supporting characters that add some context and ramp up the tension and climax of the story.  There is quite a bit of self-destruction in this story and sibling tension (not so much rivalry) that will makes readers side with different characters for different reasons.  It’s not so much just a story to read, but one to resonate with.

There is some foul language throughout and some implied sex scenes that will make this book recommended for mature audiences.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

100 Great American Parks

Author: Stephanie Pearson

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: May 10, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A great book to give readers the traveling itch and hit the road!

If you love to travel, and visit national parks in particular, this book is a must for you.  This book selects 100 of the best National Parks throughout American with a glimpse into each one.  The book is organized around different regions, so if you live in a particular area or just want to travel there, you can skip to that section and find out what parks are available by state (or territory) and get your travel list in order.

I love that this makes it easy and fun to get the travel bug.  I’ve been to some of these parks, but there are still so many more to go.  Just yesterday we hit up Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan and I can’t wait to see what else we can see.  With amazing pictures and history of the parks, it makes it fun to just read about and plan your visit.

I recommend this book to travelers and those who just love a good book on travel for reference.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

No More Lies

Author: Kerry Lonsdale

Series: No More #2

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: May 10, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Lonsdale continues to impress her suspense game with the next No More book!

Jenna Mason has a past that she would rather forget, but it always seems to follow her where she goes.  She and her young son Josh have constantly moved from place to place to stay one step ahead of anyone who might be after her or him.  For years they barely got by on the charity of strangers, but when she starts making a little money from some of her drawings and cartoons she has developed, she begins to get tired of running and she and Josh decide to settle down in one place for a little longer.  Jenna even manages to fall in love with someone and Josh is thriving at this new school.  Then one day her past remerges when a reporter shows up asking questions and dredging up a murder that happened when she was sixteen.  Is it time to run again? 

If you enjoyed No More Words, then you will love this book even more.  I was initially expecting a continuation, but this is a retelling of the same time period from Jenna and Josh’s perspective.  So, readers now the elements of what happened to Lily, but now get to read about it firsthand and understand how the characters became who they are today.  Needless to say, Lonsdale placed plenty of intrigue throughout the pages to keep her readers hooked through the full story.  There are references to events in the first book that readers may need to go back and enjoy again to get the full effect.  Either one can be read as a standalone, but the true masterpiece is reading them together.  And it doesn’t matter in which order. And there are three sides to every story, so be sure to grab Lucas’s version next year!

Lonsdale continues to shine a light on the condition of aphasia that can occur after a brain bleed.  She manages to bring much more than just a fictional tale in each one of her books and this is no different.  There is a bit of foul language throughout (to be expected with the characters) as well as a couple of sex scenes, but nothing overly graphic in this one.  I would still recommend this book for mature readers. 

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Spark of Love

Author: Amanda Cabot

Series: Mesquite Springs #3

Publisher: revell

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a great conclusion to the Mesquite Springs series!

Some people just won’t take no for an answer, especially when money is involved.  Alexandra Tarkington must leave New York for her own sanity and safety and decides to go to the booming metropolis of Mesquite Springs, Texas, which is nestled in the hill county and the town where her father is building a hotel.  After leaving a false trail, she arrives in Mesquite Springs to find that the hotel is nowhere close to finished and her father seems to have aged twenty years and taken on a different name.  Instead of being happy to see her, he urges her to return to her aunt in New York, but she knows she can’t and decides to carve out a life for herself here. 

However, things aren’t always as they seem.  The nice man who accompanied her to Texas known as Gabe Seymore happens to be an investigator hired to out her father as a swindler.  But as things progress, Gabe and Alexandra continue to find themselves in dangerous situations that can help but make sparks between them. 

I’ve loved this entire series and each year I get to spend a few days in Mesquite Springs with my favorite characters.  I was glad to see some characters from previous books and how they have been getting along in the town.  Each book is a little predictable, but they are still fun with a little twist of suspense thrown in at the end.  If you love western type clean romances, this is a series for you!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

All That Fills Us

Author: Autumn Lytle

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 3, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A story that is more of a journey about healing and how hard life can be but there are still good people in the world!

Mel Ellis has an eating disorder and knows full well that it is killing her. She has been trying to get a handle on it for years with no luck. Rehab is her next step, but she can’t bring herself to go. Instead, she decides to do something memorable, walk a trail across the North American Wilderness. There is no way she has the strength, physically or mentally, to make this journey but she sets out anyway and leaves Grand Rapids, Michigan to walk all the way to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. The trip is hard and several times she almost doesn’t make it, except for the help and kindness of strangers along the way. She learns from each of these strangers and confronts the ghosts of her pasts to live through the adventure she has set out on.

I want to start with the good about this book. This is a hard story with real issues. Eating disorders are a horrible thing to live through for all those involved. And it does take a lot of courage to come back from that. Autumn Lytle does a fantastic job of portraying this. Maybe too good of a job at times, especially for someone who has never lived through that or knows what it is like to be in that situation. With that said, I did find myself annoyed at moments with Mel and her over the top counting of calories and excessive workouts. I say this not to be offensive in any way but as someone who has never gone through this type of thing to understand how hard it is to deal with feeling this way. For someone going through this, I would imagine that this would be a fairly accurate portrayal of dealing with an eating disorder and how it makes you feel. By the back half of the book, I could see a growth in Mel as a character and the way the story unfolded leaves something for everyone to relate to. It is not just about Mel having an eating disorder, it is about her finding her self-worth and loving herself before she can let anyone else love her. To me, that is the overall point of the story and it is a beautiful one that we all need to hear. I would recommend this story to anyone who needs to find a way to let go of the hurt and find a way to love themselves with a reminder that there are really good people left in the world that will come along at just the right time to help us in our hour of need.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Fatal Code

Author: Natalie Walters

Series: Snap Agency #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 3, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The second book in the SNAP agency series is full of action, adventure, and plenty of tension to keep the pages turning. Fans of romantic suspense will not want to miss Fatal Code!

Elinor Mitchell is an aerospace engineer that finds herself with a target on her back after her grandfather passes away and she ends up with some of his work from decades ago that have to do with a nuclear energy project. The project she is working on has connections to the work her grandfather did and it is very sensitive. SNAP agent and cryptologist Kekoa Young is assigned to help keep Elinor safe. Elinor is Kekoa’s neighbor, and he is tasked with using his close status to spy on her. The more they work together, the closer they become. When she finds out he has been spying on her, she is more hurt than when she found out someone was trying to kill her to get her grandfather’s work. Even after he betrayed her, she must trust him in order to keep her safe and her work away from the enemy.

This book was good but not quite as good as the first in my opinion. I enjoyed the interaction between Elinor and Kekoa, but some of the other minor characters just didn’t sit well with me. The only other thing that bothered me was some of the dialogue with Kekoa; with him being from Hawaii it got into that a little much for my taste. There was some good humor at times and the story flowed well making it a quick read, which was enjoyable. The book sets a pretty steady pace but does speed up at the end with a powerful conclusion that was satisfying and leaving me wanting more from the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next in the series. I recommend this book and series to those that love romantic suspense and have enjoyed the first in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.