Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eva Marie Everson's The Road to Testament ~ Reviewed


The Road to Testament
Eva Marie Everson
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (April 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426757980

Description: 

Ashlynne Rothschild never wanted to be a people person. She learned a long time ago that the more she protected herself from the details of people’s personal lives, the better off her life would be. So it comes as a surprise when she finds herself liking—if not loving—the good, God-fearing people of Testament, North Carolina, where she is sent to earn her chops as a reporter. And it is with some anxiety that she unearths a story that could turn these people against her. Beneath the picturesque setting of the Blue Ridge Mountains, secrets are buried—one secret in particular. Keeping it hidden would go against Ashlynne’s journalistic integrity, but publishing the story would hurt those she’s learned to love—even her gruff, unapproachable boss, William Decker, who harbors mysteries of his own. Ashlynne has two options: run away or expose the truth of Testament . . . whatever the cost? 

Review:

The Road to Testament is about a young woman named Ashlynne Rothschild. She grew up in a life of privilege, having Grandparent's who own a successful magazine, which Ashlynne expects to inherit. However, her family decides she needs to expand her horizons a bit, and get out of her comfort zone. Therefore, before she can move up in the company, she is sent to a small town called Testament, North Carolina. It's in Testament where her Grandparent's started their first small magazine with their best friends, who now run the local paper and want to get the magazine going again. Ashlynne must prove herself there before she can return to the family magazine. She doesn't expect to have to work for the boss's handsome grandson, William Decker, who seems to dislike her from the very beginning. Ashlynne's low opinion of herself from early childhood experiences cause her to second guess herself, yet want to prove herself at the same time. In the meantime, she finds herself strangely attracted to this man that can't seem to stand her. In the meantime, amidst her journalistic digging, she uncovers some news that is going on town that could be devastating both to her career, to the town, and the new friendships she's made.

I loved this book. I don't know what it was about it. Maybe the big city girl going to the small town and finding she liked it. Maybe being envious of her getting to go to that small town America home to live, away from the city life. I was so excited to see her start to relax and enjoy the slow pace life there. The author did a great job of transporting me to Testament. I found myself wanting to vacation there. And I liked the characters and the storyline A LOT, too. I highly recommend this book. I had a hard time putting it down.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Linda White's Words of Conviction ~ Reviewed



Words of Conviction
by Linda J. White
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (April 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426735413

Description: 

There’s nothing as convicting as words that threaten your daughter’s life. You want your kid back? Do just as I say. You do not know who I am. But I’ve studied you, you and your family. I’ve been watching you. You’ve been using people. Because you’re greedy. Now, it’s payback time. Terrifying for any parent, these words are especially grim for Senator Bruce Grable, whose guilt may be the reason his five-year-old daughter, Zoe, has disappeared. Or is it because of his wife, whose words make her sound more the victim than their daughter? Or their nanny, whose silence harbors her own secrets? One thing is for sure: The words hold the clues to finding Zoe alive. And it’s up to Special Agent Mackenzie Graham, a forensic psycholinguist, and FBI agent John Crowfeather to decode the messages in time. 

Review: 

I love police procedurals, I read them, I watch them, oh yeah, I'm a fan.  

Linda White has a former FBI husband who steers her authentically down the path of her creative investigation in Words of Conviction. Nice. Authenticity is a major plus. New to me was the psycholinguist aspect heavily playing out in this cat and mouse story. A psycholinguist uses skill and probability to profile and to determine what words and word usage share about the person communicating.

The story unfolds as a powerful senator's small daughter is kidnapped. McKenzie Graham is on the case to find little Zoe before a just discovered health issue puts her life further in danger. On top of finding the kidnapper, McKenzie has to fight for respect among her peers, especially John Crowfeather. It doesn't help that she's drawn to his brooding good looks and strong, silent persona.

Tensions ramp up as the tale draws to a close. McKenzie draws the kidnapper into a carefully woven web. But as they get closer to the kidnapper's location things begin to go south. Time ticks away as the story twists and turns.

Fans of police procedurals should find quite a bit to like in this novel. There is a strong spiritual thread within the story line as well. Child endangerment and some violence might be a deal breaker for more sensitive folks.

I was sent an Advanced Reader Copy to read and review.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, April 13, 2015

Jocelyn Green's Spy of Richmond ~ Reviewed



SPY OF RICHMOND 
Jocelyn Green
  • Series: Heroines Behind the Lines
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: River North (March 1, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802405797


Description:

Trust none. Risk all.
Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Compelled to atone for the sins of her slaveholding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. But she can't do it alone.
Former slave Bella Jamison sacrifices her freedom to come to Richmond, where her Union soldier husband is imprisoned, and her twin sister still lives in bondage in Sophie's home. Though it may cost them their lives, they work with Sophie to betray Rebel authorities. Harrison Caldwell, a Northern freelance journalist who escorts Bella to Richmond, infiltrates the War Department as a clerk-but is conscripted to defend the city's fortifications.
As Sophie's spy network grows, she walks a tightrope of deception, using her father's position as newspaper editor and a suitor's position in the ordnance bureau for the advantage of the Union. One misstep could land her in prison, or worse. Suspicion hounds her until she barely even trusts herself. When her espionage endangers the people she loves, she makes a life-and-death gamble.
Will she follow her convictions even though it costs her everything-and everyone-she holds dear?



Review:

Spy of Richmond is book four in the “Heroines Behind the Lines, Civil War” series. In this book, we follow Sophie Kent. Raised in a Confederate home in Richmond, Virginia, she raised at a young age by her “Yankee” mother to oppose slavery, though she had to keep these feelings to herself. After her mother dies, she continues her efforts to help the Union by taking food to the prisoners at the Libby prison, which does not go over with the Confederates in her town. Before she knows it, she is a full blown spy for the Union, passing on relevant information to help turn the tide of the war. Also involved is Harrison Caldwell, the son of a family friend whom she met while attending a school up north. They had made a pact to be together before the war broke out, and now that circumstances have brought them back together, their feelings are even stronger. But between Harrison getting thrown in prison, and Sophie being under scrutiny as a Union sympathizer, it seems like there will never be a time for them to be together.

I LOVED this book. I didn't know that more stories in the series were being written. I hope there are more to follow. This one was so interesting, beings that even though we know how the war ended, we don't know how it ends for the characters in the story, and that just makes you want to keep reading. There are also appearances of characters from previous books, which helps tie things together, as well. I look forward to starting the series over and reading them one after the other.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Candace Calvert's By Your Side ~ Reviewed

By Your Side (Crisis Team)
by Candace Calvert (Author)
February 19, 2015
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414390327



Description:

ER nurse Macy Wynn learned essential, gritty lessons in the California foster care system: land on your feet and trust no one. She’s finally located the fellow foster child she loves like a sister, but the girl’s in deep trouble. Macy’s determined to help, no matter what it takes. Her motto is to “make it happen” in any situation life throws at her—even when she butts heads with an idealistic cop.

Deputy Fletcher Holt believes in a higher plan, the fair outcome—and his ability to handle that by himself if necessary. Now he’s been yanked from Houston, his mother is battling cancer, and he’s attracted to a strong-willed nurse who could be the target of a brutal sniper.

When everything goes wrong, where do they put their trust?

Review:

   If you enjoy medical thrillers, you will love By Your Side by Candace Calvert. As a former ER nurse, the author is able to write about medical issues with accuracy and in a realistic manner. To be honest, stories with lots of medical terms and details about sickness and disease are not my favorite. I had trouble with the first third of the book because of all the medical terminology but if you enjoy that kind of novel, this is a good one. 

The fact that I stuck with the book shows that Ms. Calvert wrote in a way that engaged me with the story in spite of those issues. She grabs the reader from the beginning by opening with action and drama. Right away we see that Deputy Fletcher Hope is a man you can depend on as he comes to the rescue when a sniper starts shooting. He rescues Macy (a nurse) who is more comfortable being the rescuer instead of the one being rescued.

The author has created characters that have depth and we discover more and more about them as the novel progresses. We learn why Macy has put such a protective guard around her heart. We feel her pain when she makes some shocking discoveries. I found myself really hoping for her to open up to Fletcher and allow him to know her. There are many other levels to the story. There is the medical side for those who enjoy that. There is the sniper who is killing in cold blood. Will they find out who it is? There is the story of Fletcher’s mom who is battling cancer. What about Macy’s longtime friend Elliot and his wife? Is there more to the story? The author gives insight into various other characters and leaves it open for more books to come, as this is book 1 in the Crisis Team series. The author also explains in detail about Crisis Care and what that involves. I do recommend this book, in spite of my own struggle with lots of medical terms. It is a great love story. It has action, suspense and a few surprises. It is also heartbreaking as one character shares their story of being a foster child. Overall, I enjoyed it.
   
I received a copy of By Your Side to review but I was under no obligation to give a positive review.

Reviewed by: Susan Aken

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Vannetta Chapman's Murder Tightly Knit ~ Reviewed

By Vannetta Chapman
Published by Zondervan
363 pages
ISBN: 978-0-310-32569-7

Back Cover:
Even before she heard of Owen Esch’s death, Hannah Troyer knew something was amiss at The Cat’s Meow yarn shop. The store has been closing at odd times, the ever-dependable Mary isn’t always at her post . . . and an Englisch man has been loitering around back.
Now, as leaves of brown, gold, and orange blanket Middlebury, Indiana, Owen lies dead on the Pumpkinvine Trail. The only clues to the murderer’s identity point in two very different directions—one of them leading right to The Cat’s Meow.
The police call in a federal investigator, but Hannah and village manager Amber Bowman are in no mood to wait for them to figure out what they already know—that no one from the Amish Village killed Owen Esch.
Amber and Hannah need to work quickly to solve the murder mystery and bring harmony back to the Amish community.
Review:
This may have been the first cozy mystery I’ve read. It’s certainly the first I remember reading, and the concept of an Amish murder mystery is truly unique.

My experience with the Amish is very limited. Outside of their candy—the Amish community midway between Kansas City, MO and Branson makes the best candy covered almonds ever!—I’ve not experienced their culture at all, except through a book or two. So it was intriguing to read about this small, close knit community, one where the Amish and Englisch often interacted. Middlebury reminded me of some beach and lakefront shopping areas our family has visited on vacations. In that aspect, Ms. Chapman did a great job of crafting a pleasant, touristy, close-knit community.

The mystery thread of this novel was truly well done. It was fun to follow the clues, form suspicions, then later, discover my suspicions had been misplaced! Although I also held a great deal of suspicion for the villain, and towards the end, was utterly convinced he was the murderer. I wasn’t, however, convinced the authorities would clue in to this fact.  

Not being an Amish fiction reader, I wasn’t hugely interested in a lot of the day-to-day details presented in this book, but I recognize many Amish fiction fans would be. (In fact, those very details could very well be what Amish fiction fans enjoy most!) I also found aspects of the book unnecessary, like much of Amber’s personal life, mainly because I never quite figured out how it related to the story. As a result, I did find myself skimming a bit and still able to keep up with the overall plot and various threads. However, for Amish fiction, the premise was unique, the mystery fun, and the setting endearing. Those who enjoy Amish fiction should give Murder Tightly Knit a try.   

Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Melody Carlson's Love Gently Falling ~ Reviewed


LOVE GENTLY FALLING
Melody Carlson
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Center Street (January 6, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1455528102



Description:

Rita Jansen is living her dream as a hairstylist in Hollywood when her father calls with news that her mother has suffered a stroke. When she gets home to Chicago, Rita finds her mother is healing but facing a long recovery. Worse, without being able to run their family-owned salon, her mother could lose the business. Rita decides to help, but she only has until Valentine's Day to come up with a plan. 
As Rita takes her mother's place at work, the nearby skating rink she loved as a child brings back fond memories. Rita also finds herself renewing friendships with her childhood best friend, Marley, as well as her classmate Johnny. Although they now lead such seemingly different lives, Rita is surprised by how well she and Johnny connect and how far he will go to help her. Though Rita believes Johnny is only being kind, with romance kindling in the air and on the ice, their friendship may just fall into something more. 

Review: 

Love Gently Falling is about Rita Jansen, a young woman who is currently living in Beverly Hills, working in an upscale salon as a successful hairdresser. When her mother, who owns her own beauty shop in Chicago, suddenly suffers from a stroke, Rita is forced to take time off to come home to see her. After her mother's condition stabilizes, Rita decides to go to her mother's salon, Hair and Now, to see how things are going, and is surprised to see how run down and shabby it's looking. When she finds some of the original d├ęcor and furniture in the storage room, she decides to take it upon herself, with her mother's permission, to “make over” the salon. With the help of longtime friend Marley, as well as a former classmate, Johnny, she is able to make the transformation happen in less than three weeks. But when it comes time for Rita to leave, she's having a hard time, not only leaving her family and the salon, but the possibility of a relationship with Johnny.

This was a really cute story. Just nice and sweet. I really enjoyed how Rita took up the task of saving her mother's salon, using her own savings to do so. Not a lot of children would do that now-a-days. It was an enjoyable story.

Review by: Sarah Meyers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Marissa Shrock's The First Principle ~ Reviewed

By Marissa Shrock
Published by Kregel Publications
Release Date: January, 2015
Pages: 237
ISBN: 978-0-8254-4357-2

About the book:

In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. High school seems pretty much the same--until one day, that controlling power steps right through the door during study hall.
When Vivica speaks out to defend her pregnant friend against the harsh treatment of Population Management Officer Marina Ward, she has no idea she's sowing the seeds of a revolution in her own life. But it isn't long before she discovers her own illegal pregnancy. Now she has to decide whether to get the mandatory abortion--or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother's chances at becoming president.
A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. Can Vivica trust these rebels to help her or will they bring everything crashing down around her? Accepting their help may come with consequences she isn't ready to face.
Marissa Shrock's debut novel crafts a chilling story of what may be to come if we allow the economic and moral crises currently facing our country to change the foundations on which we built our independence--and of the difference one person can make when they choose to trust God's lead.

Review:

I should read young adult novels more often. YA authors tend to be crazy-talented. They have to be, because most youth won’t waste their time reading otherwise. In The First Principle, Marissa Shrock gave credence to my point. Consider her first sentence:

The biggest rebellions begin with the smallest steps, and I took my first small step one December morning during study hall.

If I were a teen, that statement alone would capture my attention as I suspect every adolescent has a rebel lurking within. As they should, to some extent, or society would never change. We’d still be listening to Gregorian Chants and wearing corsets. Because sometimes to do what’s right, one must stand up against what’s wrong, and often our youth are the few with the courage to do so.

In that vein, Marissa Shrock is a talented author who challenged me to think outside the box while simultaneously encouraging me to evaluate my culture on a deeper level.

Though completely different than the Hunger Games in almost every way, this novel reminded me of the underlying thread presented in that best-selling series: Children, well, in this case, teens, controlled by adults. Adults the teens weren’t entirely sure they could trust. In that regard, I felt Marissa captured the struggle many of today’s teens face—that of wanting independence; of seeing societal rules, laws and customs as confining yet wanting to conform.

I empathized with and admired Vivica, the usually obedient and political correct heroine. As the daughter of a politician, she’s been raised to believe many of the rules of her time—the banning of unapproved Bibles, mandatory pregnancy tests and vaccines, and forced abortions, are for the good of all. Until a personal problem causes her to reevaluate everything she knows. For much of the novel, she wrestles with this uncertainty and the emotional angst that comes with it, because for her, changing beliefs means much more than pushing back against societal expectations. It could destroy her relationship with her mother. And maybe cost her her life.

This was a great book, authentically told, and literally kept me up well past my bedtime on numerous nights. I found the conversations between the teens in novel very true to life, and I loved how Marissa resolved the issues presented and the story. I will definitely be looking out for more Shrock novels, and I plan to tell the teens I know about her as well.  


Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery