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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Up in Smoke by Hannah Conway - A Book Review

Up in Smoke by [Conway, Hannah R.]     An image posted by the author.

     Hannah Conway is a gifted storyteller. There are so many things to love about Up in Smoke. Hannah’s characters, main and secondary, are endearing. Her themes of forgiveness and the joy found in a life lived in Christ are clearly communicated without being preachy. The plot of Up in Smoke is suspenseful, yet realistic; the story would play well on 48 Hours and would not seem farfetched in today’s newspaper headlines. Hannah portrays twenty first century small town life in Kentucky without making it seem hokey or relying on stereotypes. The romance in the story is touching without lustful embellishments. The pace of the story and the twist and turns are well designed to keep the reader’s interest.
     Following the untimely death of her parents, Leanna Wilson leaves her New York law practice to return to her hometown in Kentucky to become guardian to her much younger sister. Unfortunately, a will written before she reached full adulthood and a surprising amount of debt left by her parents for her to contend with might strip her hurting sister from her loving care. At about the same time, Leanna’s childhood friend and former sweetheart, Garrison Burke, is struggling to put together an appropriate family care plan for his son and aging aunt in preparation for his deployment to the Middle East. A widower, Garrison had stayed behind the last two times his unit deployed. He knew what staying behind again would mean to his military career, and it wasn’t good. Was there a way that Leanna and Garrison could be the answer to one another’s problems, and if so, would it be a God-honoring solution? Each time Leanna and Garrison seem to be gaining some element of control over their situations, the past in the form of Leanna’s former fiancé, her aunt and uncle, and Garrison’s regrets and fears threw them into a tailspin. Might ceding control to God be a better choice?

     I received an advanced reader copy of Up in Smoke in exchange for my honest opinion. A favorable review was not required, and I received no monetary compensation for my review. I recommend this book to fans of both Christian romance and suspense novels. You won’t be disappointed. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Gone for a Soldier by Marsha Ward - A Book Review

Marsha Ward

     Marsha Ward is a new to me author, having only read one of her short stories prior to this book, and I was happy to be asked to read and review this Civil War novel as my reading has focused on this era a lot lately. Based on a wonderful monolog by a docent on a recent visit to the Lotz House in Franklin, Tennessee, I believe Marsha Ward did a marvelous job of capturing the horrors of the sights, sounds, smells and privations of the Civil War. I must admit, while not at all inappropriate in her word choice, the intensity and frequency with which Ward dealt with the desires of young, unmarried men was a bit over the top. Nevertheless, I did enjoy and would recommend the book with that caveat.
     The Owen family is blessed with both strong maternal and paternal characters, and a wealth of love within the family. Julia and Roderick Owen of Shenandoah County, Virginia have nine offspring, ages eight to twenty as the story begins. Father and five sons will serve on the side of the Confederacy during the war; not all are destined to return. Rather than focusing on the issues for which they fought, Ward concentrates on the toll military service in the Civil War took on relationships, on those on the front lines, on those left behind, and on the communities devastated by the invading troops.

     I thank Marsha Ward for providing me a copy of Gone for a Soldier in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. I do look forward to reading her novella, That Tender Light, which tells the story of how Rod and Julia met. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason - A Book Review

Chasing Secrets (Elite Guardians Book #4) by [Eason, Lynette]   Lynette Eason

     Chasing Secrets, book four in the Elite Guardians series, is equally as good as its predecessors. The Elite Guardians are a group of women bodyguards, previously trained in law enforcement, each coming to this line of work through unique circumstances. Each book in the series focuses on a different guardian. Haley Callaghan, the main character of Chasing Secrets, comes to the bodyguard agency from the G2, the Irish Intelligence Service, after graduating both high school and the school of hard knocks. Most of her childhood was spent on the streets with other homeless people becoming her family, especially after her mother’s passing. Her growing up years increased her empathy for others in similar circumstances, and her faith bore fruit in her volunteer work with underprivileged children and teens. Nothing in her past prepared her for learning that childhood nightmares were in reality memories from her earliest years, memories of a life she had been led to forget, of a life fraught with danger, danger that had already begun to seek her out once again.
     Detective Steven Rothwell recently returned to his hometown, joining the police force there, in order to be close to his parents during his father’s cancer treatment. He had absented himself in the years following his younger brother’s death at the hands of a drunk driver. A Christian, Steven was aware of, but seemingly unable to do anything about, his lack of forgiveness and continued bitterness toward the man who killed his brother. He had never met anyone like Haley before, someone so capable of forgiving great trespasses, someone displaying such great strength of character. Drawn to Haley, Steven makes it his job to protect her, in spite of his respect for her ability to do her job, and to do it well.

     New guardians join the agency in this fourth installation in the series, causing readers to hope for more books in the series’ future. Fans of action packed mysteries will love this book, and this series. I thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for providing me a copy of Chasing Secrets in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson - A Book Review

Fatal Trust by [Johnson, Todd M.]     Todd M. Johnson

     I would tend to classify this book as a clean mystery rather than Christian fiction. After finishing reading Fatal Trust, no particular Christian message came to mind. As a clean mystery, it was superb. I could not help but feel Ian Well’s anxiety as his life quickly became a train wreck. His mother is slipping further away due to Alzheimer’s. The law practice he joined following his father’s death is falling further and further into debt. The case that seemed like would pay the bills may involve an armed robbery and murder cold case, and might also incriminate his parents. To say Ian was in over his head would be an understatement, and his only life preserver might be his long-time friend Brook Daniels, an attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Would Brooke be willing to put her job, her career, on the line for him?

     Fatal Trust is a fast-moving, action-packed story. Johnson holds his readers’ emotions in the palm of his hand from start to finish. He masterfully times the revelation of new information, often startling his readers and misdirecting them. Fans of legal stories and mystery fiction will likely love Fatal Trust. I was happy to find that I already have another book by Todd M. Johnson on my bookshelf. I extend my thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for providing me a copy of Fatal Trust in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble - A Book Review

Beneath Copper Falls (Rock Harbor Series) by [Coble, Colleen]     Colleen Coble

     Relationships, they can be amazing and they can be really tough, even dangerous. Within the mystery of Beneath Copper Falls, Coble addresses many facets that may enrich or may complicate relationships. It becomes apparent that having a right view of self, and a right view of God are essential to having healthy, nourishing relationships. Without those views, one may seek fulfillment beyond human capability of providing, one may sacrifice principles and morals in order to earn approval, and one may find oneself in an abusive relationship with no easy avenue of escape.
     Finding common elements in the deaths of young brides-to-be, including her cousin, Renee, has led Allyson in search of a serial killer she has come to refer to as the Groom Reaper. A killer who may have ties to the small town of Rock Harbor in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and who may now have Allyson in his crosshairs. Boone, Renee’s brother, is skeptical of Allyson’s theory, but is ready to pay more attention after Dana’s abusive former fiancé follows her to Rock Harbor. More and more he’s ready to pay attention to anything that might involve Dana as he realizes that she is different from the other women he has known, women who saw his scarred face and caused much deeper emotional scarring. As always Coble masterfully provides clues to the killer’s identity and motivation, as well as an ample number of red herrings to keep her readers guessing and reading.

     I highly recommend Beneath Copper Falls to mystery and suspense fans. I want to thank NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation. 

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck - A Book Review

The Writing Desk by [Hauck, Rachel]       Rachel Hauck

          I really like books and movies that float back and forth between different eras. The Writing Desk did not disappoint. I was especially drawn to Birdie’s story. Birdie Shehorn lived a life of privilege during the Gilded Age, a position that usually included arranged marriages that were advantageous to the families of the American elite. Young women were raised to meet society’s standards; Birdie on the other hand had been allowed to attend and graduate from college. She had plans to pursue a writing career, to marry for love, and did not see that either of those excluded the other. Her strong-minded mother had different plans for Birdie. Birdie’s strength of character vs her mother’s strength of will, which woule prevail?
     Tensley’s story takes place during modern times. Her story is initially less compelling, but becomes more so as tension mounts. I wondered if the author selected Tensley’s name because of it’s similarities of the word tension. That word described her relationships to the mother who abandoned her, to her past, to her own writing, to her fiancé, and to the man she met in Cocoa Beach while caring for her mother who was undergoing chemo therapy. Tensley retreated from the world wrapped in an old robe until she exchanged the robe for the security of the God who sent her a special song, the same song He had sent to Birdie. Do not be dismayed. Do not worry or be afraid.
     The element that tied Birdie’s story to Tensley’s was a writing desk. The desk originally belonged to Birdie who loved it, and found inspiration to write many successful novels while seated at the desk. Tensley fell in love with the antique desk the moment she saw it in her mother’s home, and was certain it contained the secret to abolishing her writer’s block. The desk indeed held secrets, but not the type Tensley expected or longed for, rather secrets that led to a healing of a different sort.

     Fans of Christian romantic fiction and fans of the old Hallmark movie The Love Letter will likely love The Writing Desk. I would like to thank Zondervan and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Beloved Hope by Tracie Peterson - A Book Review


Beloved Hope (Heart of the Frontier Book #2) by [Peterson, Tracie]     Tracie Peterson
     This is the second book in Peterson’s Heart of the Frontier series. Book one, Treasured Grace focused on the eldest of the Flanigan sisters, while Beloved Hope focuses on the middle sister. Set in the area of Oregon City in the mid-1800s, this second installment largely revolves around the trial of five Cayuse men being tried for the atrocities of the Whitman Mission Massacre. Many townspeople and survivors of the massacre feared the men, including the one who repeatedly abused Hope Flanigan, would not be put to death in an effort to appease the local tribes and thus ward off future attacks. Hope was counting on their death to ease her fears, fears that had taken over her life, but would it?
     Hope, convinced her ordeal had ruined her for any decent man, had put aside any idea of falling and love and marrying. Lieutenant Lance Kenner, tasked with guarding the Cayuse waiting to stand trial, was fighting his own demons, filled with resentment toward the man he held responsible for both of his older brothers’ deaths. Now, ready to return from Oregon City to his plantation in New Orleans, he was not interested in forming any romantic alliances. Yet, Hope and Lance feel drawn to one another. Is there any chance for them, or will bitterness darken any hopes of happiness for either of them?
     I am anxiously awaiting the third book in this series, to learn of the important life decisions made by the youngest Flanigan sister as she considers a path just opening up to women, a college education, I highly recommend Beloved Hope, and Treasured Grace for fans of historical and romance fiction. Both readers of secular and Christian fiction will find this series appealing. While there is enough information provided to make this book comprehensible as a stand-alone read, much of the emotion will be lost by not reading the series in order.

     I thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Beloved Hope in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation for providing the review.