Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review of "Just Look Up' by Courtney Walsh

Interior Designer Lane Kelley is forced to return from her big city job and life, to her small tourist town when her brother Nate is in a terrible motorcycle accident. She has avoided home like the plague since a devastating rift occurred. (The author doesn't tell you right away exactly what happened....so neither will I!) For years, Lane has intentionally buried herself in work - and she has been successful at both advancing her career and studiously avoiding the real issues.

Veteran Ryan Brooks has his own emotional scars; he and his sister barely survived their childhood with no mother, and an alcoholic dad. Now a renovator/businessman extraordinaire, Ryan is determined to do his part to revitalize the tourism for their lake front town. He was also in the accident with Nate; he has vague memories of what happened, but suspects there is more to it than he can fully remember. And what he does remember shames him deeply, even though none of it is his responsibility. Ryan is also buried in his huge development project, but still manages to find some balance; all the while, trying to draw Lane out of her shell and find the girl he once knew.

The layers the author has created with these characters and story were nuanced and well done. The quirkiness of some of the characters is fun, rather than odd; and although I know we must have conflict(!) the author does not take a cheap version of misunderstandings to create this tension. Instead, she draws from the character's backstory to find ways that are completely plausible rather than annoying. Do we think they will be together in the end? Will there ever be healing for Lane and her family relationships? Will Ryan ever be free of the stigma of his childhood, and will his business venture succeed? Probably, but how the author gets there is unusually well done.

I was provided a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review of "True to You" by Becky Wade

This book is the first in the Bradford Sisters series, new from author Becky Wade. I have to say that I'm almost sorry I read this now, because I can't stand the fact that I will have to wait who-knows-how-long for the next two. :/

Middle sister Nora Bradford was engaged to a childhood friend, and then one day, she was not. Since then (several years ago) she has chosen to focus on her work, her family, and a fairytale world of books and a BBC television series - but she has completely closed herself off to the possibility of romantic happiness. She is certain that things are just fine this way, and tells herself that she is content. For the most part she is successful and really believes it, until she meets......

...former Navy SEAL John Lawson. Retired from the Navy, he owns an emergency training company, is a real-life successful hero, and has known for years that he was adopted. However, he has recently been diagnosed with an inherited condition. When John reaches out to Nora for her research experience, an instant connection is formed.

I can't count the number LOL's or satisfied sighs I experienced reading this book. I have no idea how many sweet moments (all without being cheesy, predictable, or over the top) this book has. All I can say is that it was real, interesting, funny, touching, hit appropriate emotional points, the pacing was perfect, it made me think, and truly, the characters only charmed - never frustrated or annoyed me. Nora is incredibly likeable, as are her sisters, so really, I can't wait another second for the next installment. Please hurry, Becky. :)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review of "Behind the Scenes" by Jen Turano

Have you ever read any of Jen Turano's books?? If you haven't, I have to tell you that you're totally missing out. I'm serious. They are all super funny - so imagine my excitement when the opportunity to review her first in the "Apart From the Crowd" series came up.

"Behind the Scenes" features Miss Permilia Griswold, the brilliant and very self sufficient daughter of an extremely wealthy mine owner. Her mother died when she was very young, and as an only child she traveled with her father on all of his adventures, ladylike or not. She has always anticipated inheriting and then running the business - utterly unheard of in 1883 - but her father surprises her. He decides to marry again, and that his new wife will teach her how to become a lady. Her stepmother introduces her into society, but is quite disappointed to find that Permilia has her own way of navigating the social set - and she quickly becomes a dreaded "Wallflower."

However, this is only the beginning of Permilia's adventures. She soon meets fashionable store owner Asher Rutherford, overhears a plot to assassinate him, and rescues him from an attempt on his life. The stepmother and stepsister are not kind; they think her odd and embarassing. Her progressive attitude (she is an heiress suffragette and regularly supports causes that promote women's education" is refreshing! Too many hijinks ensue to cover them all here... (and really, you wouldn't want me to, because it's more fun to read about them in the book!)

The author's whimsical and especially clever style shines through the character's dialogue, their names, and of course the wild plot lines, all of which are often laugh out loud funny. I've read all of Jen Turano's books; none of them will disappoint!

I was given a copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review of "Deep Extraction" by DiAnn Mills

The second in the author's FBI Task Force series, "Deep Extraction" introduces us to FBI Agent Tori Templeton and Deputy US Marshall Cole Jeffers. They are both connected to the Moore family - Nathan Moore is a wealthy oil magnate who has recently been murdered. His wife Sally was a close college friend of Tori's, and prior to his death Nathan was a friend of Cole's. Is Nathan's death tied to a recent bombing of one of his oil rigs? Or is it more personal?

Both Tori and Cole are heavily invested in finding the truth and hope to remove Sally as a suspect. They quickly become frustrated when the investigation seems to go in a million different directions, and the bodies keep piling up. Complicating matters is Tori's partner Max who is not being himself; one the Moore teens is not immediately forthcoming with some important information, and it's clear that Nathan had some big secrets.

The mystery is well done (I had a tiny suspicion of who, but not a clear picture of how everything fit together until the very end). The "why" is more vague - very glossed over, even now that I have finished the book. I do think there are a lot of people who will love this book; yet the somewhat choppy style of the character's conversations isn't my personal preference. The dialogue doesn't always read as complete, and I found it challenging to follow. It felt like there were gaps, multiple times where things were left out. I went back to re-read certain sections and still did not find clarity. I also found very little chemistry between our two main characters. And to be fair I can't say exactly why, so again we will chalk that up to a preference. However, the action seems realistic and the topic is interesting.

Please check out the book trailer at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-0h2iT3pQg&feature=youtu.be

I was given a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review of "Without Warning" by Joel Rosenberg

It's here! The third and final installment in the author's J.B. Collins series. The book opens with a meeting between J.B. and the President of the United States - in the Oval Office, no less. Just moments before the President will give a triumphant homecoming speech at the State of the Union address, J.B. challenges him on the depth of his willingness to see Abu Khalif taken out once and for all. However, it soon becomes clear that the President is not committed to this vision as clearly as J.B. is - and although they don't know it yet, they are both only moments away from a huge attack led by the ISIS emir.

Reeling from the tragedy and several other events where he barely escapes with his life, J.B. realizes this is even more personal than he once knew; now his family is at risk, and no one is safe. Still wrestling with all of his past life choices, he becomes determined to track Khalif himself. From there it's truly a roller coaster of events, where J.B. will learn who he can trust and just how far he will go to see justice served.

I have to say that I found it pretty difficult to write this review; not only is a great book series coming to an end, but so much happens that I felt was a spoiler, that it was a struggle to just give the highlights. All that to say, I recommend this book and series highly. If you are looking to up your game in knowledge of geography, this is your book. If you are interested in being forced to stay up past your bedtime to finish it, because you just have to know what happens, this is your book. If you want to laugh and cry and have an adrenaline rush all at the same time, this is your book.

I was provided a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review of "Maybe It's You" by Candace Calvert

Maybe It's You, the third installment in the author's Crisis Team series, continues the story of Nurse Sloane Ferrell (although this book can be read as a standalone, Sloane's story primarily began in Step by Step, book 2 in this series). Running away from her questionable background, she struggles to find her purpose as the past keeps rearing it's ugly head.

Micah Prescott is the interim Marketing Director for the hospital, determined to put a new face on the image smeared by a drunk driving Chief of Staff and other Employees who contributed to a cover up. He has created a campaign looking for the "Face of Hope" - and thinks it might be Sloane - but she is equally determined to stay out of the spotlight.

Throw in a Russian underworld connection, possible human trafficking, and a conniving ex-fiancée, creates a recipe for not only suspense, but possibly.....love?

I especially enjoyed learning about hospital protocol and politics; as the author is a former ER nurse it lends a great deal of credibility to what our characters experience. I have read all three Crisis Team books, and this is a strong wrap up to the series.

I was given a copy of this book by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review of "Larger-Than-Life Lara" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Although this is technically a Juvenile Fiction book, I believe it has great value for all ages.

A beautiful life lesson has been woven into a story told from the point of view of Laney Grafton: 10 years old, 4th grader, dreamer, story teller, actress, neglected child....the author uses the premise of Laney following her teacher's instructions about constructing a story, and the method is very effective.

Lara Phelps arrives in class one day and is immediately bullied for her size. Although Lara is indeed very overweight (to the point the teacher has to find a different desk, etc.) she remains seemingly unphased by the mean comments and demonstrates a unique insight into her classmate's lives. She just smiles and goes about her business, and quietly serves in any way she can. Laney observes this quietly and is initially just glad people are taking a break from picking on her, but soon learns that simply staying quiet is not enough.

When the book comes to a climax in the last few chapters, your eyes are likely to be at least a little damp - and the lessons that are taught in this book are invaluable. This book is well written, interesting, and shows a different way of getting the point across that will likely teach and delight your young readers all at once.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Cover: Larger-Than-Life Lara