Christmas In July!!!!

Welcome to the 2017 Christmas in July Reading Challenge. Hosted by A Simply Enchanted Life.
Christmas in July

This challenge runs from
July 1, 2017-July 31, 2017

How the Christmas in July Reading Challenge Works:

Choose your goals for the month of July. You can read as little or as much as you want.

  • The books should be Christmas or winter holiday themed.
  • When you have reviewed a book, you are encouraged to come back to this post and add the link to your review in the comments.

Additional Rules:

  • This challenge begins July 1, 2017, and ends July 31, 2015.
  • You may sign up anytime during the challenge.
  • Read as little or as many books as you want.
  • You may include books of any format including traditional books, ebooks, or audiobooks.
  • Books may be any genre. Example: YA, adult, nonfiction, mystery, romance, etc.
  • You are allowed to reread. This doesn’t have to be a “new to you” book.
  • Books may count towards other reading challenges.
  • Use the hashtag #ReadChristmasinJuly
  • If you write a review, please use the above header in your post or link to this blog post in some way.
  • Optional (but appreciated) place this graphic on your blog sidebar

Christmas in July

  • You may sign up using your blog, Youtube channel, Goodreads, Twitter, etc.

This reading challenge is hosted by A Simply Enchanted Life. For more information and to sign-up, please see this post.

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Such a Tease (Meddlin’ Madeline Book 2) by Chautona Havig

Publisher’s Summary

Madeline, with a little assistance, discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! Can she expose him for the fraud she’s sure he is?

Rockland:1901
In book two of the Meddlin’ Madeline series, Madeline Brown has a new endeavor to occupy her time. But is it to keep her out of the way or a reward for her work in Sweet on You? With the help of her young friends, Madeline discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! What’s a girl to do?

However, her new position also gives her opportunities to observe, and what she sees sets more than one new investigation in motion. What does her old suitor, Delbert Jackson, know? Why is Mr. Merton giving important papers to that scoundrel, Vernon Smythe, and whatever happened to poor Abigail Cooper?

Add to these intriguing questions Henry Hardwick’s continued attentions, Edith’s newfound devotion to the temperance movement and Madeline’s determination to find her a more reliable suitor, and strange behavior from her Aunt Louisa and things heat up as summer fades from Rockland.

Unfortunately, her dear friend, Russell, busy with an important project at work, finds himself unable to help keep her out of trouble and away from danger. Is Madeline going too far? Will her meddling get her in serious trouble this time, will it destroy her reputation irreparably, or will she rid Rockland of a scoundrel once and for all?

My Review

Madeline is now stretching her wings in book two of the Meddlin’ Madeline series. She has taken a job as a bank teller, a job some feel, as a woman, she has no business doing. Others are thankful it will keep her out of trouble. Well, they just don’t know Madeline very well!

Such A Tease picks up not long after Sweet on You (see review here).  Even though you could read it without reading the first book, I feel you will get more out of book two if you read book one first. In Sweet on You, the cast of characters and the investigative skills of Madeline appear.

I love Madeline; she’s spunky, sassy, outspoken and virtually fearless. She sees something unusual or disconcerting, and she “teases” it like a dog with a bone, until she figures it out. She also has a deep abiding faith, surprising herself sometimes with how much she believes.

Chautona Havig has a keen imagination and a wicked sense of humor spilling into her stories, making them a delight to read. Her attention to detail and obvious research into the era she’s writing about lend a richness to her books that makes you eager for the next installment.

I received this book from Celebrate Lit. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

Such a Tease was part of this blog tour, but due to illness, I had not read it, and I was unable to do a review in the time for the tour.

Conspiracy of Silence (The Tox Files Book 1) by Ronie Kendig

Publisher’s Summary

Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine–he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed, Tox is lured back into action.

Partnered with FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox has to pull together a team to begin a globe-spanning search for answers–and a cure. As their quest leads them from continent to continent, it slowly becomes clear they’re not just fighting a plague–but battling against an ancient secret society whose true goals remain hidden.

With time running out and opposition growing on every side, the key to everything may rest in an antique codex, the Crown of Jerusalem–but will Tox and his team be able to trust each other enough to break this century-spanning conspiracy of silence?

My Review

WOW! I don’t know that I even know how to describe Conspiracy of Silence! I am constantly amazed at Ronie Kendig’s books. Having been a military wife, I especially enjoy how true to life her books appear.

Cole Russel, more commonly known as “Tox,” (shortened from the nickname Toxic) is called back into duty for his country. If there’s one thing Tox can’t turn down, it’s a mission for his country. He puts together a team from his former Special Forces group and goes into action.

I came to really care for Tox and his buddy Chijioke (shortened to Chiji). Chiji works hard to keep Tox grounded and focused on God. He knows Tox well, and you can tell he loves him as a brother, too. In fact, Chiji is represented in the beginning of the book as Tox’s own Jiminy Cricket, which is an apt portrayal.

Mesmerized by the riveting action and enthralled with the suspense are a few of the ways I would characterize my reaction to book one of The Tox Files. Be forewarned, the nature of the book lends itself to several violent scenes.

Conspiracy of Silence covers a LOT of territory. Geographically, we travel from Israel and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, to the jungles of Nigeria, to the cosmopolitan cities of North America and Europe. We are immersed in the cultures of military special ops, Biblical archaeology and Jewish history-ancient and modern. Miss Kendig drops us right into the middle of the action and doesn’t release us until the book ends. Even then, you are wanting more, and luckily for us, there is a prequel (that is currently free for Kindle) and book 2 is scheduled for September of this year.

I received this book from Ronie Kendig via Mikal Dawn. I was not required to write a review. However, I enjoyed the book so much I decided to write one.

A Stranger at Fellsworth By Sarah E. Ladd

Publisher’s Summary

In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, where her estranged uncle serves as the school’s superintendent. Upon arrival, Annabelle learns that she must shed her life of high society and work for her wages for the first time in her life.

Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to purchase land he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s death, Owen begins to consider a second chance at love.

As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.

My Review

Annabelle Thorley is shocked when her brother, Thomas, starts selling off the furnishings in her home. However, that’s not the worst of what he does, and her shock sends her fleeing.

Owen Locke is the gamekeeper for Mr. Treadwell, owner of Bancroft Park, in the Fellsworth area. During Treadwell’s visit to the Thorleys, Locke meets Annabelle and sets off an unimaginable chain of events.

Sarah Ladd does a very good job of portraying the angst, anguish and anxiety suffered by Annabelle when she finds herself in an untenable position. Miss Ladd describes the time frame, situation and plot in a realistic and intriguing manner. The story draws you in and doesn’t let go, beginning when Annabelle discovers her family’s financial straits and her brother’s treachery. Then she figuratively pulls herself up by her bootstraps and devises ways to better herself and her financial condition.

I enjoyed reading about the time period, the disparities in the social classes and the way society, in general, was so different. The imagery is well depicted and enhances the story, richly illustrating the variations in clothing and even the distinctions between living in city and country living.

A Stranger at Fellsworth is novel three in the set of Treasures of Surrey. Nevertheless, the story works well as a stand-alone book.

I received a copy of A Stranger at Fellsworth from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Publisher’s Review

Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric–even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My Review

Wren Lockhart becomes embroiled in a mystery of epic proportions when, not long after Houdini’s death, she is at the scene of a possible murder.

Elliot Matthews is an agent in the recently formed FBI. He notices Wren, an eccentric woman dressed in men’s clothing, while attending the same event that culminates with a man’s death.

Kristy Cambron has written a lengthy story about the life of an illusionist in the 1920s. Her attention to detail during that era is noteworthy. However, the story is slow-paced with a lot of flashbacks, tending to cause the reader to lose interest. Wren is a very closed up character whom you never really get to know until near the end of the book. Because of this, it is hard to be invested her life, and she is one of the main characters!

Miss Cambron shows, through dialogue and some illustrations, the differences between illusion and magic. I feel she wants readers to be sure they know magic isn’t healthy, and illusion is just sleight of hand-a tenuous difference at best.

I tried to read the book with an open mind, but it was too dark and mystical, not to mention, just too ponderous for me.

I received a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

If I’m Found (Book Two of If I Run Series) By Terri Blackstock

Publisher’s Summary

In this riveting sequel to the USA TODAY bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows . . . but there is light shining in the darkness.

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail cell.

My Review

Casey Cox is running for her life. She’s accused of a horrendous murder she didn’t commit. In addition, she stumbles upon other situations she feels require her immediate attention, putting her in even more danger of being found.

Dylan Roberts, a private investigator, has been hired to find Casey. However, the deeper he gets into the assignment, the more uncertainties and questions he has and the more perplexing the case.

If I’m Found is written in Blackstock’s traditional spine-tingling and suspenseful way. As a reader, you will be on the edge of your seat as the book carries you through fast-moving and riveting scenarios, moving from locale to locale as Casey is being hunted. She is an author I have come to enjoy and admire. Her books are always gripping and thrilling, with a faith-based emphasis I appreciate.

Terri Blackstock’s book, If I’m Found, is the second in her If I Run Series. Initially, there are a few confusing things in the story if you haven’t read the first book, If I Run. In spite of this, you can very quickly catch up on the story.

I can’t wait to read book one, and I am eagerly looking forward to book three. Unfortunately, it doesn’t debut until next year.

I received a copy of If I’m Found from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

*************************FOREWARNING*************************

If I’m Found has several incidences of graphic violence.

 

The Memory of You by Catherine West

Publisher’s Summary

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so.

And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. He knows Natalie intends to close the gates, and he’s determined to convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

But finding freedom from the past means facing it. For both of them.

My Review

Natalie Mitchell has faced tragedy no one should have to face, but she is trying to hold it together. During a business presentation, she starts to have flashbacks and is barely able to continue the presentation. Natalie’s father, head of the corporation, won’t settle for weakness.

Natalie’s grandfather, who is handling the family’s winery, Mailios, recently had a heart attack. Natalie’s father thinks he can take care of two problems at once by sending her to care for her grandfather. He can get Natalie away from his business for a while and have her force the closure of the now unprofitable winery.

Tanner Collins, the vintner, is trying to recoup previous losses and put the winery back in the black. Natalie’s unannounced and unwanted arrival appears to put his plans in peril.

The Memory of You deals with some of the very tough issues in the novel in a realistic way. However, (and I don’t want to give a spoiler) there are similarities in Natalie and Tanner’s lives that are just too closely related. I felt part of the story detracted from its entirety and could have been left out, or a different scenario could have been used to explain some circumstances. I also felt that Tanner never truly dealt with his issues, and although Natalie began to cope with hers, neither seemed ready for a healthy relationship. Yet they were dropped into one. I don’t know if the implication was supposed to be they were “miraculously” restored to good mental health or whether, even though things were really bad, things weren’t quite as bad as they appeared to be.

Miss West does a very good job of explaining information about the winery, making it come to life and helping the reader understand facts pertinent to its operations. Her understanding and descriptions of mental health issues are credible and authentic, but she wraps up the characters’ struggles too quickly.

Catherine West has written an interesting story about a young woman with PTSD, a winery and a young man trying to deal with his own heartaches. Even though there were some shortcomings to the story, overall, I feel it was well written and inspirational.

I received a copy of The Memory of You from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.

Beyond Justice by Cara Putman

Publisher’s Summary

Hayden McCarthy is on track to become the youngest partner in her prestigious D.C. law firm . . . if the case she’s just been handed doesn’t destroy her first.

Hayden McCarthy knows firsthand the pain when justice is not served. It’s why she became an attorney and why she’s so driven in her career. When she’s assigned a wrongful death case against the government, she isn’t sure if it’s the lucky break she needs to secure a partnership—or an attempt to make sure she never gets there.

Further complicating matters is Andrew, her roommate’s distractingly attractive cousin. But Andrew’s father is a Congressman, and Hayden’s currently taking on the government. Could the timing be any worse?

The longer she keeps the case active, the higher the stakes become. Unknown enemies seem determined to kill the case—or her. Logic and self-preservation would indicate she should close the case. But how can she, when justice is still just beyond her reach?

My Review

Hayden McCarthy is assigned a seemingly impossible case, representing the family of a young man apparently murdered in a juvenile facility for immigrants. However, it was assigned to her because the partners know she can win the seemingly hopeless cases. But the deeper she digs, the more alarming the case becomes.

Her roommate, Emilie Wesley, left a legal career to become an expose journalist and decides to help Hayden unravel the mysteries, thus getting tangled up in the conspiracy.

Andrew, Emilie’s cousin, champion to the underdogs, works at a community center helping integrate young immigrants into the community and is fast becoming a charming distraction to Hayden.

In addition to Hayden, Miss Putman has two casts of characters; one set has a diverse mixture of interesting, faith-filled and compassionate natures, and the other set is more cold-blooded, cruel and sadistic than one can imagine. She does an exemplary job of weaving the characters and their interactions in ways that leave you holding your breath, wondering what will happen next.

Beyond Justice is a hair-raising novel, rife with surprising turns and plot developments that ensure the reader is kept engaged throughout the entire story.

Cara Putman has written an edge of your seat suspense story, full of intrigue and faith. She has taken her experiences as an attorney and turned them into a gripping novel.

I received a copy of Beyond Justice from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

*******************FOREWARNING*******************

Beyond Justice, due to the nature of the story, has many instances of violence.