Friday, October 30, 2015

High-Caliber Holiday (First Responders #3) by Susan Sleeman

Title: High-Caliber Holiday (First Responders #3)
Author: Susan Sleeman
Pages: 224
Release Date: November 1, 2015 (eBook); November 3, 2015 (paperback)
Genre: Suspense/Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense
Format: Paperback
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Caught in the crosshairs!

     Held hostage on a train, ex-lawyer Morgan Thorsby finds her powers of persuasion failing her for the first time. Former marine sniper Brady Owens is her only hope – but his split-second hesitation on the trigger leaves her wounded. Yet when an obsessed stalker threatens Morgan, Brady steps up. Protecting someone so tough and beautiful is hardly a chore, but Brady pulls back every time they get close. Morgan isn’t ready for the connection forming between them, either, but she knows she needs his help. Can Brady capture the culprit in time for Christmas?

My review:

     An absolutely wonderful suspense novel!

     The characters are fantastic. I connected with them immediately. Taking center stage in this novel are Morgan Thorsby and Brady Owens. Morgan is the only daughter of a wealthy business owner who has become dissatisfied with that lifestyle and wants to be independent. Brady is a former marine sniper and currently the sniper for the First Responders Squad (FRS).

     It was great to get updated on all the other members of the FRS. I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know each team member better when they are the focus of one of these books.

     The action in each book is a stand-alone story. But there is so much interaction within the FRS as they support, and work with, each other that it is important to read these books in order.

     The book starts with an adrenaline rush, life threatening situation. Then once we have been given a chance to catch our breath and meet the characters a secondary mystery starts to appear. This mystery is built slowly with a fantastic balance of calm and tension building. It is incredible at keeping the reader’s interest.

     As with each of Susan Sleeman’s books that I’ve read, I loved this one. I’m giving it a rating of 5 stars and highly recommending it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles #2) by Lynn Austin

Title: Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles #2)
Author: Lynn Austin
Pages: 477
Year: 2014
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)

About the book:

     In their darkest hour, where would hope be found?

     In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king’s palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire in less than one year.

     Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future – of family and love – seem impossible.

     In Keepers of the Covenant, acclaimed novelist Lynn Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God’s unwavering love for His people.

My review:

     This is an absolutely fabulous biblical novel!

     It is very obvious that Lynn Austin spent a LOT of time studying scripture. She also had to have studied historical records and customs of the time in preparation for writing this wonderful book.

     This is the second book in what I consider to be a “true” series. By that I mean that you should read the first book before picking this one up. There is really only one character from the first book that I remember. But reading book one will help to set the stage historically for this novel.

     I was quickly captivated by the main characters in each location at the start of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how each of their individual lives intersected with the others.

     I have read the story of Esther a number of times and heard some sermons from it. I have never “seen” such a vivid account of what life was like for the Jews in the months after the decree was written calling for their annihilation. That is truly what it seemed like to me. I could see their despair and feel their fear and heartache.

     Then after the Thirteenth of Adar each of the survivors had to figure out how to deal with the outcome. Were they going to accept what God had allowed to happen? Or were they going to spend the rest of their lives blaming Him and hating their enemies from that day?

     The stories of redemption and forgiveness are beautifully interwoven and presented. At the same time Ezra is searching the Torah doing all that he can to interpret the law of God so that the Jewish nation can be built up and follow God faithfully. The biggest question that he had to deal with was, “How can man find God’s balance between judgment and mercy?”

     I absolutely loved this book! I’m highly recommending it and giving it 10 stars here on my own blog!

     This is the link for my review of Return to Me, book one in this series:

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Imposter (The Bishop's Family #1) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Title: The Imposter (The Bishop’s Family #1)
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Pages: 320
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Amish Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     A heart once deceived should not be easily fooled again…

     Katrina Stoltzfus thought she had life and love all figured out: she was going to marry John and live happily ever after. But as her plans crumble before her eyes, she struggles to face an uncertain future. When a widow asks for help starting a new business, Katrina quickly agrees. She needs time to heal her broken heart, to untangle her messy life, to find a purpose.

     What she doesn’t need is attention from Andy Miller, a farmhand who arrives at the widow’s farm just when help is most needed – and who always seems to say the right thing and be in the right place, at the right time. Is Andy for real or too good to be true? She’s been deceived once before, and she isn’t planning on experiencing it again.

     Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Stoney Ridge for a tale of love, uncertainty, and trusting God to write your story.

My review:

     This is an incredibly thought provoking novel!

     My interest was captured from the very beginning of the book. During a church service the old bishop of the Amish church at Stoney Ridge had a major heart attack. He grabbed David Stoltzfus’ shirt and whispered, “Beware, David. A snake is in the garden.”

     I knew right then that I was going to have to find out what he was talking about. Over the course of the book we have a great look at how people live in community with each other. Yet I knew that at some point I would be finding out what “the snake in the garden” was. I was aware that it had to be affecting how the different people interacted with each other even if they didn’t know about it. This was a great look at human nature.

     There seemed to be three actual story lines in this wonderful book. They are all connected by the fact that one main person in each of them is a member of the Stoltzfus family. I found this to be very realistic. In each of these stories there were great insights into how we should treat other people and live our lives.

     One character had made a mistake and the consequences of that decision had to be dealt with almost immediately. I enjoyed seeing how it was handled in a forthright manner and no attempt at deception was made.

     In contrast to that another decision had been made years before by someone else. Over the course of the book we saw how that decision affected a number of different people. Many of them didn’t even know about that initial choice made by one person.

     Throughout all of these stories there were a few people who strongly held onto God and what He teaches through the bible. One woman in particular had a marvelous way of seeing God’s handiwork in nature which I found to be a joy to read about. This was a fantastic encouragement to trust God through hard times.

     I absolutely loved this story and will be looking forward to the next book in this series. This book gets a 5 star rating from me and I’m highly recommending it.

     There are a number of books written by this author set in this same town. I haven’t read them so I don’t know if doing so would enhance the enjoyment of this story or not. I was able to determine that some of the secondary characters in this novel are in the earlier books as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Photograph by Beverly Lewis

Title: The Photograph
Author: Beverly Lewis
Pages: 320
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Genre: Amish
Publisher: Bethany House
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     He studied the picture more closely, finding it curious that the young woman looked so boldly into the camera while wearing a white prayer Kapp shaped like a heart – the characteristic head covering for the Lancaster County Old Order Amish.

     Why would a devout girl have her picture taken?

     When her sister Lily disappears only months after their widowed mother’s passing, Eva Esch fears she has been wooed away from the People. Yet Lily’s disappearance isn’t Eva’s only concern: She and her sisters must relocate once their older brother takes over the family farmhouse. Then Jed Stutzman, an Amish buggy maker from Ohio, shows up in Eden Valley with a photo of a Plain young woman. Eva feels powerfully drawn to the charming stranger – but the woman in the forbidden photograph is no stranger at all . . .

My review:

     An incredible Amish novel filled with heartache.

     After Lily Esch disappears everyone connected with the family is heartbroken. I really loved the sensitive way that this subject was dealt with. She is considered an adult and she left a goodbye note for her sister Eva. Therefore the biggest concern is determining how far to go in trying to find her. When should they give up and let her live her life? How much should be done to try and bring her back into the fold of the Amish believers?

     In the midst of this, Eva and Jed Stutzman meet. Is their meeting God’s direction for their lives? How will they know?

     They are both dealing with grief. There is an amazing amount of sound advice given and received about this difficult issue as well. It is something that we will all have to face at some point in our lives and I really felt that the information about how to help others going through it was fantastic.

     The characters are so well written that I connected with them almost immediately. There were a number of sweet gentle people that were easy to love. There were also a few that were overbearing and difficult. It was wonderful to read about how the different personalities interacted with each other.

     I absolutely loved this book and am highly recommending it. It gets a rating of 5 stars from me.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Destination Weddings #1) by Beth K. Vogt

Title: Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Destination Weddings #1)
Author: Beth K. Vogt
Pages: 361
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Howard Books
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book through The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     What if what you thought was your biggest mistake was actually the right choice?

     Vanessa Hollister is newly engaged and planning an elegant Florida destination wedding. Now if she can only dodge the memories of her first “What was I thinking?” marriage to Logan Hollister.

     Logan and Vanessa met during their senior year of high school when she moved to Florida because her father was stationed at the local military base. Having the same last name threw Vanessa and Logan together, and Logan’s friendship helped Vanessa get past being the new girl in school – again. Within months, the two eighteen-year-olds had eloped, a crazy, impulsive decision spurred on by Vanessa’s heartbreak at the looming possibility of moving one more time. They truly believed they could make their teenage marriage work, but in less than two years, they divorced because of competing dreams and unresolved expectations.

     Eight years later, Vanessa is stunned to meet Logan on their favorite stretch of beach in Destin, Florida. When a hurricane hits the Gulf Coast, she and Logan seek safety at the same hurricane shelter and end up battling unexpected renewed feelings for each other. Now they have to answer the question: Was their impetuous adolescent marriage a mistake? Or are they wrong to not seize a second chance at a life together?

     Wedding bells and storm clouds collide in the first engaging novel of a brand-new series about destination weddings, and the power of love, and the mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle to “I do.”

My review:

     This is a delightful contemporary romance!

     I fell in love with both Vanessa Hollister and Logan Hollister as soon as I met them. Their high school friendship/romance is the stuff that dreams are made of. Then things fell apart. Years later they are both struggling with regrets and second guessing choices that they have made over the years.

     They are both such wonderfully realistic and human characters that I’ve met through the pages of a book. They are also surrounded with supportive and caring family and friends that are trying their hardest to help them sort out the past and move into the future that God has for them. On that journey they each have to find a way for ask for forgiveness, forgive themselves and others, and trust God. It is an incredible journey and I thoroughly enjoyed going on it with them.

     As an Air Force veteran and wife who dealt with lots of moves, thanks to the military, I liked reading Vanessa’s viewpoint on all the moves as a child who’s dad was in the Air Force. It helped me to understand better what my children went through.

     I really enjoy historical romances more than contemporary ones. But this book is fantastic and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It gets a 5 star rating from me.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Island Christmas (Wildflower B&B Romance #3) by Kimberly Rose Johonson

Title: Island Christmas (Wildflower B&B Romance #3)
Author: Kimberly Rose Johnson
Pages: 153
Release Date: November 1, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Mountain Brook INK
Format: eBook
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Should Rachel take a risk, or play it safe and possibly lose the man who could help fulfill her dreams?

     Sous Chef Rachel Narrelli returns to Wildflower Island looking for a fresh start for herself and her young son, but discovers that life has a lot of bumps in the road even in idyllic Wildflower Island. She is grateful when new friend Chris Campbell offers support as she faces obstacles with her new job and new life. She care for Chris but must decide if she is willing to risk her heart to a man with an uncertain future.

     A self-proclaimed workaholic, Chris Campbell comes to Wildflower Island hoping to take life at a slower pace. When a new guest at the Wildflower B&B catches his eye, he is drawn to her. But how will a woman and her young son fit into his future – a future that’s uncertain at best? And most of all, how can he reconcile her lack of faith in God with his strong religious beliefs.

My review:

     An absolutely incredible Christmas romance!

     I loved all three of the main characters; Rachel Narrelli, her son Jason, and Chris Campbell. We met Rachel in the first book of this series. It was wonderful having her come back to Wildflower Island after 3 years away. I really enjoyed seeing how she had matured over that period of time. But she has some baggage that she had to work through during this story. I liked the fact that she dealt with it in a forthright manner without trying to hide it.

     Chris was a wonderful Christian, very strong in his beliefs. He wanted to deal with life and even relationships according to the Bible and his beliefs.

     I think my favorite thing was that both Rachel and Chris happy to take things slowly and work at developing a friendship before anything else.

     Add on all the wonderful atmosphere and holiday settings and this book is definitely a winner for reading during Christmastime. I’m highly recommending this enchanting story and giving it a 5 star rating.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

Title: An Endless Christmas
Author: Cynthia Ruchti
Pages: 240
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Christmas Novella
Publisher: Worthy Inspired
Format: Hardback
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Both in their eighties, Dodie and Wilson Binder celebrate every Christmas as if it were their last. This year, their only grandson, Micah asks his girlfriend Katie, to marry him – in front of the whole Binder family. But things go terribly wrong when she says no. Now Katie is stuck. Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster. But, sometimes too much is just enough. Especially, when it’s Christmas.

     Will Katie let herself love and be loved before it is too late?

My review:

     This is an enchanting Christmas story!

     I really loved all of the characters in this book. Katie and Micah take the center stage but it really felt more like an ensemble cast. The outlook on life and family is so heartwarming. The charming setting really added to the ambience set, and really put me in the mood for Christmas to come.

     Katie is thrust into the middle of this bringing along her emotional, family challenged, background and has no idea how to deal with it. As the story progresses insight is given from a number of the other characters as to how they reached the point they are at. Each of these looks into other people’s background shows how God can help people grow through their heartaches. It is truly an inspirational and encouraging story.

     I loved this story and I may find myself re-reading it each year at Christmastime. I’m highly recommending it and giving it a rating of 5 stars.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Fruitcake Murders by Ace Collins

Title: The Fruitcake Murders
Author: Ace Collins
Pages: 320
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     As Christmas 1946 draws near, thirty-something marine officer-turned-homicide detective Lane Walker has his hands full. Three men with seemingly no relationship to each other have been murdered, including the powerful District Attorney. The only connection between the crimes? The weapons: twenty-year-old unopened fruitcake tins manufactured by a company that is no longer in business.

     While some foods may be to die for, fruitcake isn’t one of them! This heaping helping of murder will be no easy task for Walker, and he certainly doesn’t need the determined and feisty Tiffany Clayton, the political reporter for The Chicago Herald, getting in the way.

     Employing witty dialogue and historical accuracy, The Fruitcake Murders offers equal parts murder, mystery, and mayhem in a perplexing whodunit set in the days just after World War II.

My review:

     An incredibly well crafted cozy mystery!

     I was fascinated with the variety of personalities in the three main characters: Lane Walker, Tiffany Clayton, and Bret Garner. There was some overlapping of traits amongst them as well as many differences. I especially liked the way Tiffany was able to put both of the men in their places at times. It was apparent to me that even though there was friction between each pair there was a lot of respect also.

     The mystery itself was so well developed and slowly unfolded that I was quickly caught up in it. I was feverishly trying to sort the clues out so I could solve the case before the unveiling of the solution. There were a number of humorous situations and verbal put downs interspersed throughout the story.

     I was captivated by all of the details about life in 1946 that were included. I really enjoyed the description of how cars were started at that time. I wish my parents were still alive so I could have them read it and confirm the accuracy of it.

     I found this to be a very enjoyable mystery. I am highly recommending it and it gets a 5 star rating from me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My Brother's Crown (Cousins of the Dove #1) by Mindy Starns Clark & Leslie Gould

Title: My Brother’s Crown (Cousins of the Dove #1)
Author: Mindy Starns Clark & Leslie Gould
Pages: 368
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Genre: Historical (1685, France) / Contemporary (Virginia)
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Format: eBook (paperback & hardback are also available)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

France, 1685.
     Catherine Gillet knows her brother, Jules, wants to protect her from the sinister threats of the French crown. But Jules is involved in a potentially deadly enterprise, one connected with an encoded document. When his actions put the whole family at risk, will Catherine find a way to save them?

Virginia, present day.
     Renee Talbot, a direct descendant of Catherine’s, is fascinated by the document that’s been part of her family legacy for more than three centuries. Certain its pages hold hidden secrets, she takes a closer look – and makes a shocking discovery. But when memories of a childhood trauma are rekindled, she’s forced to seek answers of a different kind. Inspired by the faith and bravery of Catherine, can Renee find the truth and face her deepest fears at last?

     From the authors of the Christy Award-winning The Amish Midwife comes an epic story of two women, centuries apart, each discovering her own hidden bravery, standing for what she believes in, and finding love in unexpected places.

My review:

     This is a compelling look at life in 1685 France.

     I am amazed at the vast cast of incredibly well developed and written characters there are in both time periods. A number of them grew and matured over the course of the story which was wonderful. I really enjoyed reading of the faith and belief in God that was contained, especially in the historical segments.

     I was fascinated with the pamphlet that had survived from 1685 and how it was used to tie the two time periods together. Before reading this book I had only heard the term Huguenots. I didn’t know anything at all about them or the persecution that they faced. Now that I have read this wonderful book I think I will be trying to learn more about their lifestyle and the trials they faced as a group.

     This is the first book by this team of authors that I have ever read. I will definitely be looking for more books by them. I am highly recommending this fantastic story and giving it a rating of 5 stars.