Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review ~ Stranded by Dani Pettrey

Hello, Friends! I have a fantastic book for you today! This is Stranded by Dani Pettrey,* and it is the third book in her Alaskan Courage series. If you haven't read the previous two, its ok, but I highly recommend doing so because they are so fantastic. The cover alone is breathtaking. Just look:

The back is even more beautiful, but I'm not tech savvy enough to figure out how to show it to you. :( Seriously, whoever did the cover photos and design, my hat goes off to you! It makes me want to just dive right in to that frigid water - or at least take an Alaskan cruise so I can see it in person!

Summary: Darcy St. James gets an urgent call from her old undercover reporting partner, Abby. Abby is on an Alaskan Cruise working undercover and something has gone terribly wrong. She needs Darcy's help, but doesn't have time to explain. Using her cover as an adventure writer, Darcy gets hired on to give good publicity to the cruise line and go on the excursions with the passengers to help boost the trips with her interviews and first person accounts. Once she arrives, Darcy discovers three things. First, Abby is missing and no one seems to care. Second, someone fell overboard the night before, but no one will talk about it, and Darcy believes it may have been Abby. Third, Gage McKenna and the rest of the family have been hired on to run the excursions on this cruise, meaning Darcy will be stuck with him the rest of her trip. As Darcy learns more about Abby's disappearance, patterns start to appear, and the mystery gets even more intense. Meanwhile, Darcy and Gage seem tossed together at every turn. As they explore the outer regions of Alaska, the two of them must fight their mutual attraction while also trying to find out what happened to Abby and solve the mystery she risked everything to uncover.

What I loved: Did I mention the cover yet? Ok moving on. I loved Darcy and Gage and their story. I also loved FINALLY getting to learn the truth about Jake, and watching Kayden have to eat her words. Sometimes, I want to smack that girl, but only sometimes - I can't wait for their story, which I hope is next. The mystery itself was fantastic! The suspense kept me hanging on late into the night! Great plot, though I did kinda figure out the what pretty quickly...but I also watch too many cop shows, so that may have just been me. :) I also loved the scenery and it makes me both excited and terrified to possibly go visit Alaska on a cruise. As long as I stay away from railings, I'll be fine...oh and no kayaking either.

What I didn't care for: I didn't like how much Darcy had to lie to keep her cover, and that she did some really stupid stuff to keep it - like leading on a fellow crew member, and going to all these secluded places with him on the chance she might get info. Come on, be smart!

What does this mean for us?: I love the importance Ms. Pettrey gives faith. Darcy was terrified to go anywhere near water, and yet she knew she had to do whatever it took to keep her cover and save her friend.


Human Trafficking is on the rise worldwide, and is something we need to be very aware of. Ladies, don't do stupid stuff like going off with some guy you just met, especially in a place you are not familiar with. Just because he seems nice, or appears to be crew/authority, doesn't mean he/she is. Travel in pairs, and be on guard. Use common sense. If you wish to get involved in stopping human trafficking and bringing these evil people to justice, a really great organization is the International Justice Mission  visit their website at 


One of the best parts of this book application wise, is the reminder that we are not responsible for someone else's salvation. Darcy feels guilty that Abby is not saved, and that she may die not knowing Jesus. Darcy blames herself for not sharing enough times. This is wrong. We are not responsible for someone else's salvation. We are responsible, however, for sharing the Gospel with them in a way they will understand, and that does not compromise the truth, and for living in a way that glorifies Christ. Salvation is up to the Holy Spirit and the person themselves. We can pray our hearts out for them, but we must not fall into the trap of false guilt and pride, thinking we are responsible for their salvation. I've struggled with this many times, and the reminder was a good one. :)

I also love that she quotes 2 Corinthians 1 - the God of all comfort passage. Paul is writing to the believers in Corinth, encouraging them to stay strong no matter what their circumstance, and to turn to God in every situation. Why? Because. God will bring people into our lives to comfort us who have already been there, and once we make it through, he will bring people to us that are still struggling who need encouragement. Basically, its a pay it forward type of thing. God comforts us, and brings people along to walk with us through our trials so that we can walk wither others when they need it. Pretty awesome, right? The point is: we are never alone. No matter what we are going through, we are NEVER alone. There will always be someone else suffering in the same manner we are. So go find that person and get each other through it! Or remember, that God will use this situation in your life someday.

In my life, I have definitely experienced this passage first hand. Born blind with cataracts, I had to have my lenses removed in both eyes at 6 months old, causing damage to my eyes including glaucoma. When I was 21, I randomly started losing peripheral vision in both eyes. They thought I had tumors on my optic nerves. Turns out, it was a benign one on my pituitary gland that had leaked and caused the vision loss. The vision loss stopped, thankfully, but it was really scary at the time. I was terrified of losing my vision, of the possibility of surgery, and the fear of being alone with no one understanding what I was going through. God got me through it and brought many people along side me to encourage me. The crazy part? Since then I have met at least half a dozen people who have had nearly the EXACT SAME THING HAPPEN to them! How CRAZY is that?! Some have fared better than I, others have lost their eyesight completely, or had to deal with cancer on top of it. They still fought on though, and sought God out. The best part is, God used them to encourage me, and me to encourage them - a reminder that we are never alone, and Jesus will get us through everything in our lives, good and bad. I hope this encourages you, and if you've ever had a time when God has used a really bad situation to help you and others, I'd love to hear about it! If you need prayer or encouragement for something you are going through right now, let me know that too! :) You can comment here, or if you want it to be kept private, my email is sarahbearbenson+blog [at] gmail   Hope this helps!

This book is fantastic! It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time! I REALLY want to go on an Alaskan Cruise now. If you enjoy suspense, mystery, fantastic scenery, and a bit of romance, this book is for you!

Happy Readings!


*I received an early copy of the book from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review ~ Dolled Up to Die by Lorena McCourtney

Hello Friends! Today a have for you a book review of Lorena McCourtney's Dolled Up to Die. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review, but don't worry - that hasn't influenced what I have to say about the book. :)

Dolled Up To Die is the second book in her Cate Kincaid Files series, which I actually didn't realize when I first got the book. I have not read the first book, and while I missed a tiny bit of background, the overall story and mystery were not affected by not reading the first book. I've read some of her other books, and enjoyed them, which is why I chose this one when I saw it available.

Summary: Ok, on to the story! Cate Kincaid is an assistant PI in her uncle's firm. Working on getting her full PI license, Cate helps her uncle with his cases, and even finds some of her own to solve. Her uncle's only rule: we don't do murder. Of course, Cate does her best to avoid those cases, but well, they just keep falling into her lap. Once there, she can't just ignore them - people are counting on her! This is the case with her latest adventure. Called to the home of Jo-Jo, the ex-wife of one of Eugene, Oregon's wealthiest business owners, Cate is there to investigate what she thought were three homicides. Once there, she discovers no homicides, but three life-size dolls that have been shot. As she tries to calm Jo-Jo, their owner and creator down, she discovers there really has been a murder! Eddie the Ex - Jo-Jo's ex-husband has been shot in another room of the house! With the help of her boyfriend, Mitch, and sometimes the police, Cate must help Jo-Jo find out who killed Eddie the Ex and why. Filled with murder, a deaf cat, a friend's "has to be perfect" wedding, and some interesting twists, this cozy mystery is a good afternoon's read.

What I liked: I enjoyed the cat, Octavia, who is apparently a mainstay in the first book as well. She is a hoot and causes just a bit too much trouble for Cate sometimes. I also enjoyed the interplay between Cate and her boyfriend Mitch. Cate's interactions with the suspects are also fun. I also appreciate that the importance of attention to detail is emphasized as well. Sometimes we miss things because we are too frazzled, or aren't paying attention. Other times there is too much detail, and we have to pick and choose what does matter. They mystery itself was good and kept me guessing.

What I didn't care for: Some of the suspects are into New Age type stuff, and past life regression, and while the focus wasn't on that, the presence of it did make me a bit uncomfortable. The situation was dealt with appropriately, and Cate and Mitch used those situations to share Christ, but it is just one of those things that people need to be careful about dabbling in, in my opinion. Some things at the end weren't wrapped up all that well, but I suppose that makes it more realistic to not have all the answers. Still, for the reader, it can be a bit annoying.

Overall, a fun read on a rainy afternoon. Good mystery, fun and quirky characters. Hope you enjoy it!

Sarah K.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review ~ Beauty to Die For by Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clark

Hi Friends! Today I have a fun mystery for you called Beauty to Die For by Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clark.* I've never read anything by Kim Alexis (a former 80's supermodel herself), but I LOVE Ms. Clark's books. (Her Million Dollar Mysteries are currently on sale in ebook format for those interested) This particular book is a contemporary chick-lit mystery.

Summary: Juliette Taylor, former 80's supermodel and now beauty supply mogul is on her way to a spa retreat at the Palm Grotto Spa with her best friend and business partner, Didi when she runs into a former colleague and supermodel Raven. Famous for her red hair, Raven is infamous for her fantastic tips and vicious personality. When Raven and Juliette end up at the same spa, Juliette fears that Raven is trying to steal her business, but soon discovers that isn't the case when Raven ends up dead. Faced with counterfeiters selling a potentially dangerous version of her product, as well as being a suspect in the murder of her former frenemie,  Juliette must figure out who is behind the counterfeiting, the murder, and keep the retreat going all at the same time. Just when she thought things couldn't get more complicated, her TOTGA (the one that got away), Marcus Stone, shows up and is ready to rekindle their relationship - or is that just a cover to protect her from the trouble she seems to find herself in?

What I Liked: I love that Juliette and Marcus' candy was a Peppermint Pattie (and all the cute jokes that went with that). They happen to be my favorite candy as well, and I went and got a few to munch on while I was reading. :) Marcus and Juliette were also sweet. They were able to find each other after so long. Their stories really shows the impact that a single meeting can have on a person. You never know what your words and actions will do in a person's life. I also loved the importance Juliette placed on inner beauty and taking time out for yourself, not in a selfish way, but in a balanced way in order that every part of your life is maintained. Sometimes we get so caught up in ourselves, or in helping others, that we forget that we need to keep Christ at the center of everything and maintain a balance of the two. Helping others is great, but not at the neglect of ourselves. Similarly, taking time out for ourselves is great, but not at the expense of helping others and being selfless. (Conviction alert! ;) )

I also loved the mystery and the government investigation side of things. That made the story more interesting for sure. The side characters were mostly all good too. I loved Marcus' mother. She was a hoot!

What I didn't like: How predictable and naive Crystal was. Overall she was ok, but I could see some of her plot points coming a mile away, and it was aggravating. I also got a bit lost in some of the beauty treatments, but hey, it was at a spa, so I suppose I can't really complain.

Overall, a fun read and I learned quite a bit about spa treatments. I had to laugh when the police couldn't figure out which fridge was for food and which was for products because they were so similar! heehee!
If you enjoy chick lit, or cozy mysteries, you'll enjoy this book!

Happy Reading!


*Although I received this book from B&H publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a review, this review was not influenced by either group in any way, and is made up entirely of my own thoughts and opinions.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review ~ Ring of Secrets by Roseanna White

Hello Friends! Today I have for you a fantastic Revolutionary War era book by Roseanna White. This is the first book of hers that I have read, and I won it in a giveaway on her blog. (No, that didn't influence my review, but just wanted to let you know to be safe :) )

Ring of Secrets  is the first in her Culper Ring series. and is followed by a free e-novella called Fairchild's Lady, which takes place in France during the French Revolution . The second book in the series, Whisper of Secrets takes place back in the United States during the War of 1812, and was just released yesterday! YAY! I can't wait to get my hands on it! :D

Summary: Ok, so in this book, Winter Reeves is a Colonial girl from Long Island. Her mother was an aristocrat whose family had strong Loyalist ties and her father a poor farmer and a Patriot. After her parents are gone, she is sent to New York City to live with her maternal grandparents, who are Loyalists through and through, and despise her because of her poor father. They see her as their only chance for redemption in society. Winter, on the other hand, has been recruited into the Culper Spy ring by her old friend Robert Townsend, to gather information on the British to send to General Washington, or 711 as he is know to the spies. Forced to conceal her brilliant mind and snappy comebacks, Winter pretends to be a clueless debutante to get information on the British to send to Robert via hidden codes.

Meanwhile, Bennet Lane, a professor at Yale, and the firstborn son of a wealthy land owner in England, has been sent to New York to discover the hidden spy in New York's elite. At the same time, his search for a wife is made excruciatingly more difficult by his inability to speak to women without stuttering - every woman that is, except for Winter Reeves. Together, the two must pursue their secret quests all while trying not to fall in love with each other. Filled with codes, intrigue and a bit of romance, Ring of Secrets will keep you reading and waiting to see what happens next!

A Little History: If you are like me, you had never heard of the Culper Spies before now - or at least not until recently. (I learned about them through an episode of White Collar and thought they were amazing!) If that's the case, I'll give you a brief history of their existence. Basically, the Culper Spy Ring was started during the Revolutionary War in order to gather information on the British and their troops and send the information to General Washington. In 1778, at the request of General Washington, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, also known as Culper Senior drafted Robert Townsend, Culper Jr., and between the two of them a number of other spies to relay information using invisible ink, coded messages, ciphers, and other tricks to let keep the information hidden in plain sight. They created their own language and used it in their conversations and communications. While not all the members of the Culper Ring are known today, many believe that a woman was among the ranks of the spies. Not even Washington knew who they all were. While the Culpers were originally thought to have been disbanded after the Revolutionary War, many believe that the Culper Ring still exists today. This is what Ms. White is basing both this book and the rest in the series on. Fun, right?!

What I loved: I loved the history. I love that Ms. White brought in real people and tried to keep their characters true to life. For example, Robert Townsend is known to have dealt with severe mood swings, and this is touched on in the book. I also learned quite a bit more about Benedict Arnold as well. I knew very little about him before reading this book, and it was quite informative. Other real characters: Major Andre, and Major Tallmadge, and some of the other military men who appear.

I loved the codes and spy stuff too. Ms. White made it very clear that these were just regular people who were asked to help their country in this very special way, and they did it - risking their lives to do so. The main characters were really well written also, as is the plot!

I also enjoyed the challenges that Winter gave to Bennet about his faith and making it real. I'm currently taking a class on American Christianity and we spent a fair bit of time discussing the religious sentiment during this time. It was very heavily split between the "feelers" and the "thinkers" - that is those who made religion about their experience and those who viewed it as an academic ideal (not much different than today, eh? ;) ) and very few people were in the both/and camp. This book was a good reminder that religion isn't just about the head or the heart, but both are needed to better understand and be in a relationship with God.

What I didn't like: I didn't like how fake Winter had to be at times, but I do understand why she did. I also didn't care for her grandfather either, but again, a necessary plot point. I found the term "Holy Ground" as a place for prostitutes to be ironic - and then I looked it up and discovered it was a real place! Right around where the World Trade Center complex is now. I also didn't like how much she used Fairchild and deceived him, but again, plot points that worked, so just my personal opinion.

Overall a fantastic book! I'm looking forward to reading book two Whisper of Secrets and learning more about the War of 1812! If you enjoy history, spies, or a little romance, you will definitely enjoy this book! It reeled me in and didn't let go!

Happy Reading!

Sarah K