Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review of "Promise Me This" by Cathy Gohlke

This is the second book I've read recently related to the sinking of the Titanic - and I loved this perspective.

Siblings Annie and Owen Allen are orphaned in England and their wealthy (and awful) Aunt Eleanor is calling all the shots.  When Owen decides to sail to America on the Titanic to make a better life for he and his sister, he has no idea what impact that decision will have on all of their lives.

Michael Dunnagan is another orphan who has known no kindness since his parents died and his beloved younger sister was stolen away.  He and Owen strike up an unlikely friendship, and the intense circumstances surrounding the Titanic will change all of their lives forever.

I really enjoyed not only the story, but the obvious research the author did and how she went one step further into history, writing about WWI.

I highly recommend this book and I will definitely be seeking out the past and future books of Cathy Gohlke!

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Review of "The Search Committee" by Tim Owens

A church in the south is looking for a new pastor and a group of individuals who are to represent the church's wishes are sent on a number of church "field trips" to find one.  They are all struggling in different areas, some on several serious topics, and we see glimpses of them not only together but in their individual lives, trying to figure things out.

As a pastor's daughter, sister, and wife (yep -surrounded), the concept of a Search Committee is not new to me.  I can't say I've ever read a book about one in theory, this book's premise was super appealing to me.

In reality, in complete honesty I had a hard time finishing it.  I thought the writing was fine, especially for a first time author, and initially I had a hard time putting my finger on what specifically I didn't love, but the bottom line?  It just didn't come together for me.  I think the primary reason is that I found many of the main characters unlikeable.  I get that they were supposed to be "flawed" (and that is a large part of the point), but I just didn't find it to be enough.

I did enjoy the differing viewpoints and the layering approach the author seemed to take in revealing more and more about the main characters as the story goes on.  And the ending seems fitting!  Ultimately, I will be happy to read more by Tim Owens but this one, for me, wasn't my favorite.

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Review of "Flame of Resistance" by Tracy Groot

This is the first book I have had the opportunity to read by this author.  The setting is just before D-Day in Normandy, and the Nazis are not making France a pleasant place to live. Brigitte Durand is an interesting main character - she is a prostitute at a Germans-only brothel, who longs for not just her freedom but her country's as well, and she is willing to fight however she can for it.  She has a deep love for France and struggles with the choices she has made to get to this place.  Tom Jaeger is an American fighter pilot shot down during a battle, discovered by the Resistance.  Because his appearance is so strikingly 'German', he is pressed into service with Flame, a resistance cell - and things begin to change very rapidly.

Although I enjoyed this novel and overall would recommend it, it took me some time to really get going, to truly get a feel for it.  I also struggled at times to understand their "languaging", especially since many of the references (some historical, some the expressions of the times) felt a little obscure to me at first.  However, once I got a little further along it all began to come together.  And the end made it all worthwhile!

I will look forward to reading more from Tracy Groot.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review of "Accused" by Janice Cantore

Janice Cantore is a former police officer and this book is the first in a new series focusing on the main character, Carly Edwards.

Carly is a veteran member of the (fictional) town of Las Playas in Southern California.  Recently divorced because her fellow cop husband, Nick, cheated on her, she is on the verge of becoming bitter, and is often defensive towards just about everyone she comes into contact with - work, friends, and family alike.  Additionally, her father died of cancer five years ago, and she just cannot reconcile God loving her with Him allowing her father die.  This thought process, combined with her husband's infidelity, has very much shaped her into the person we meet in this book.

The plot focuses on solving the murder of Las Playas' mayor, complicated by a potential corruption in the police department that appears to have very far reaching tentacles.  Carly just isn't sure who she can trust, but is compelled to solve the mystery.

I had mixed feelings about this book....I enjoyed knowing the author clearly knew what she was writing about, but felt that some of the conversations were stilted and seemed unnatural.  However, overall I enjoyed trying to figure out the mystery along with Carly, and I will read the second book in this new series when it comes out.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review of "Trauma Plan" by Candace Calvert

Riley Hale was a great ER nurse before being cruelly attacked - she was pushed down a flight of stairs and broke her neck.  A year later, she still hasn't fully regained the use (to the level she needs to return to her former position) of her dominant arm - and her frustration is mounting.

Dr. Jackson Travis is somewhat of a maverick who runs a local community clinic.  This clinic is the source of ire for the upscale neighbors, and they are determined to shut it down.

Cross the paths of these medical professionals, add in a little heiress angst and daredevil doctor along with some excellent supporting characters, and you've got a great story!  Although I guessed the "mystery" portion of the plot early on (and I was right), it in no way diminished my enjoyment of this book.  It was great to see how she brought it all together.  I highly recommend it!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

"The First Gardener" by Denise Hildreth Jones

I'm not sure I can say ENOUGH nice things about this book, but here goes.

Let me preface this by sharing that Denise Hildreth Jones is one of my all time favorite authors.  I have read every book she has written.  Some more than once (I can't get enough Savannah...I laugh out loud - even in the second and third readings....but I digress) and "The First Gardener" truly exceeded my expectations.  It's true, I was prepared to like it, but really, I *loved* it.

We begin with the enviable and lovely life of the first family of the great state of Tennessee.  They are beautiful inside and out, successful, in love, kind to others...the happy list goes on and on.  They long for many children but have only one, their 5 year old daughter, Maddie.  She is the light of their lives and a delight to all.  Jeremiah Williams is the Head Gardener of the governor's mansion and has been tending the first families' gardens for 25 years.  He has a special place in his heart for this entire family.  When tragedy strikes and all of their lives are forever changed, he is an integral part of their healing.

The entire story is handled in ways that I found realistic without being hopeless; funny, yet never irreverent; and most importantly, it communicated biblical truths without being even a little trite - especially in the face of such major heartbreak.  At the risk of sounding a little dramatic, The First Gardener actually changed my life.

I can't recommend it enough.

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Review of "The Shadow of Your Smile" by Susan May Warren

I love coming back to Deep Haven, and I don't even like snow!  :)

Noelle & Eli Hueston have been married for many years, but the last few have been, well, worse than routine.  Struggling already, things were compounded by the death of their only daughter, and at the point we meet them, they have genuinely lost their way.  The book begins with Noelle attempting to evade a robbery when she slips and falls on a patch of ice and suffers a head injury, which in turn causes some pretty serious amnesia.  She doesn't remember being married or her children, she definitely doesn't remember her daughter Kelsey, and she thinks she is in college -she is very upset that her (deceased) parents won't come visit her in the hospital!  You can imagine the confusion this causes, as the amnesia lasts for some time.

There are also several great "sub"-story, one that includes her oldest son & Kelsey's best friend, and I really enjoyed how they were all tied together in the end.  This book deals with a number of serious issues and still manages to retain a sense of humor and emotional pull, all without being overdone.  Well played, Susan May Warren!

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Review of "Heart Echoes" by Sally John

This is book number three in the Side Roads series by Sally John.  They have all been great books and I appreciate that they are all stand-alone titles, but still have the same feel and style to them.

We begin with a massive, life changing earthquake, and Teal Morgan-Adams will never be the same.  She is a woman with a huge heart, a passion for life, and a big secret.  For 17 years she has never discussed her daughter Maiya's dad.  With anyone.  EVER.  Estranged from her family in Oregon, she lives in LA with her husband River and Maiya.  And although River is the awesomest stepdad ever, Maiya begins to act out and wants to know the truth about her heritage.  This begins their journey (literally and figuratively) to forgiveness and healing, and what a path it is!

River, by the way, is one of the most understanding men I have ever seen.  Just saying.  :)

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Review of "Forsaking All Others" by Allison Pittman

This is the sequel to "For Time & Eternity", continuing the story of Camilla Fox.  A young girl desperate for love from the father who doesn't understand her, she is drawn to Nathan Fox and marries him almost immediately.  Set in the early days of Mormonism, they are madly in love and soon have two little girls but when tragedy strikes and their third child, a boy, dies, things begin to unravel.  Her husband brings a second woman to their marriage, a "sister wife", and Camilla truly cannot live with it.  She literally escapes and "Forsaking All Others" begins with her rescue from a snowstorm, by the United States Army.

In "Forsaking All Others", we follow Camilla as she tries to reconcile her deepened faith and relationship with God to surviving the separation from her children and husband.  One of the main takeaways I got from this book is that God had to be most important to her, and at times her sole source of courage and strength.  I thought she was inspiring.

This book is beautifully written and all of the historical aspects, the rules, the faith ring so true.  At the end of the book Allison shares that her husband is a former Mormon, which I thought was so interesting to have the perspective while writing this amazing book.

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Review of "Dry as Rain" by Gina Holmes

On some levels this was tough book to read.  I don't mean that in a negative way, more in that it made me think a lot.  Anyone who has been married would probably relate to some aspects of this story, and for those that aren't, perhaps it would provide some cautionary elements.

Eric & Kyra Yoshida have been together for about 20 years, married for most of that time.  They have one grown son, Benji, and used to be madly in love but are now experiencing some serious problems.  During their separation, Eric has an affair, Benji is discharged from the military, and Kyra is in a car accident serious enough to cause some memory loss.  Conveniently for Eric, who has now decided he wants to reconcile, Kyra doesn't recall their separation and views him in a way she hasn't for quite a while.  Although he wants to tell her, he wants her back more and justifies that on some level, being completely honest isn't in her best interests.

There are a lot of layers to this book, and although I would overall be glad to recommend it - Gina Holmes is an excellent writer (loved Crossing Oceans), there were times when reading it was a challenge. Since the main character wasn't extremely likeable to me, I had a hard time rooting for him when I just wanted to give him a good shake.  And then kick him in the shins.  That said - it's a worthwhile read.

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Review of "Attracted to Fire" by DiAnn Mills

I have read numerous books about the police, FBI, CIA, etc. but don't typically come across (fiction) books about the Secret Service.  So, reading "Attracted to Fire" was fun!  Special Agent Meghan Connors is currently assigned to protect the VP's daughter, who has a reputation for not only being badly behaved, she has a drug problem.  Meghan, daughter 'protectee' Lindsay, and the other agents are sent to a ranch in Texas for Lindsay to receive treatment and be out of the public eye.  While they are there some very strange and dangerous things begin to occur.  There is also romantic tension with the Special Agent in Charge (I had fun figuring out some of the abbreviations) Ash Zinders.  Overall Meghan is to be admired, Ash eventually has a softer side, and there is a mystery to solve - who can be trusted?  Whose motives are pure and whose are deadly?

I've read a few other books by DiAnn Mills and this was definitely one of my favorites.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review of "The Last Plea Bargain" by Randy Singer

Jamie Brock is an assistant DA with some very specific beliefs.  She is known for her unwillingness to plea bargain - ever.  Part of her passion lies in the fact that her mother was murdered in their home when she was 16, and this truly sets the tone for the course of her life.  During the time period of this story, she is under extreme stress for a number of reasons - the execution of her mother's killer is looming, her father has had a stroke and is on life support, things at work go a tiny bit haywire.  Additionally, (in a sub- yet related storyline), a well known local lawyer is arrested for allegedly killing his wife - and while in jail creates a serious stir with the gangs in the system, where no one will take a plea of any kind (and those that do, they or their loved ones are killed.)  This greatly affects her workload, and she is most definitely in need of a break.

It was nice to catch up with Jamie Brock again (a character originally introduced in "False Witness", where she was a law student) - this time as a full fledged lawyer.  This book focuses a great deal on ethics and behind the scenes of the justice system, as well as the death penalty.  I love reading Randy Singer because he obviously knows a lot about the law, so the rules, etc. ring very true - but he also knows people.  And these characters were interesting to me.

This was a very well done mystery, lots of detail but not ever overwhelming, and I enjoyed trying to figure out "who done it"....(and I was half right!)  :)

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