Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl.

With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he's irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance.

What Colin doesn't know is that Georgina's desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina's plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.
This novel was an excellent read. It is the second novel in the Hawthorne House series, and it actually starts about halfway through the first novel, a Noble Masquerade, only from Georgeanna's perspective. It was really interesting to see her from her own point of view, especially since she puts on a completely different front with the rest of her family. So having read the first novel, I was quite surprised to see her actual character. The plot of An Elegant Facade was entertaining and thought provoking as Georgeanna had to work through what it meant to love someone, to actually be a lady, and what it means to follow after God. I really enjoyed seeing her relationship with Collin grow from hatred to indifference to confusion to something more. Collin was also an excellent character that I already appreciated from the first novel, and I enjoyed watching his interactions both with the characters from the first novel in this book and from Georgeanna. Overall, I really enjoyed the new take on the first novel, plus the continuation into Georgeanna's own story, and I liked watching both her and Collin's growth throughout the story.

I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Delilah by Angela Hunt


Life is not easy in Philistia, especially not for a woman and child alone. When beautiful, wounded Delilah finds herself begging for food to survive, she resolves that she will find a way to defeat all the men who have taken advantage of her. She will overcome the roadblocks life has set before her, and she will find riches and victory for herself.

When she meets a legendary man called Samson, she senses that in him lies the means for her victory. By winning, seducing, and betraying the hero of the Hebrews, she will attain a position of national prominence. After all, she is beautiful, she is charming, and she is smart. No man, not even a supernaturally gifted strongman, can best her in a war of wits.
Delilah by Angela Hunt was a fascinating look into the story of Samson from the perspective of Delilah. Instead of Delilah being portrayed as basically a witch out to destroy Samson, instead we see a woman who has suffered much and is just as confused and sinful as the rest of us apart from God. The storyline is told in third person, but it alternates between Delilah and Samson's perspective. The plot holds pretty true to the biblical story, but I enjoyed how the author wove the back story of Delilah: her past, her thoughts, and her changes in character. I have always wondered about what kind of person Delilah was to be so conniving and manipulative, but after reading this perspective of how her life might have been like, I was able to understand her possible point of view and how she was just trying to live and survive. I thought the author's portrayal of Samson was very believable, and I love how Samson's servant was really probably an angel or the Holy Spirit sent to guide Samson. I liked how both characters were flawed but yet at the end both received some measure of forgiveness, redemption and hope in a future, unflawed Savior.

I would highly recommend this novel, and I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks


Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey’s job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey takes a temporary case in Pikeville, KY to attempt to draw a serial rapist. However, as soon as she arrives on the scene she finds that no one wants her there and that this latest victim has mysteriously left town just like all the others. Instead, the sheriff grudgingly takes her help in sketching an unidentified body that had been killed by a rattler. What she discovers is that this the latest in many snake deaths and that they all seem to be related to a Pentecostal serpent handling church. Since serpent handling is illegal in Kentucky, this church has gone underground, and the city's leading politician gives Gwen a hefty reward to go undercover and find out who is behind the church and these deaths. What Gwen quickly discovers is that multiple persons seem to be trying to kill her and that there might be more to both the serial rapist and the serpent related deaths than she thought. As the death count rises and as her teenage daughter joins her, Gwen is in a race against time to save both herself and her daughter from the unknown evil threatening to take over Pikeville. 

When Death Draws Near is suspenseful and well written novel that is brimming with mystery, danger, and even a little romance. This a Gwen Marcey novel, but it can be read as a standalone novel. I thought the plot line was interesting and contained enough twists and unexpected developments to keep me glued to the pages. I liked how there were multiple people what could have been behind the disappearances and deaths and that the reader was left in the dark with only slight glimpses until the very end. I also thought the author's take on the Pentecostal church was interesting and thought provoking, even though I did not agree with the church's literal interpretation of parts of the Bible. I also thought that while God and Jesus were mentioned, it was often from an extremist point of view or when Gwen was trying to bargain with God instead of a more biblical representation. I think that Gwen's end turning point to God should have been more about redemption and less about trying to bargain her way out of a struggle. However, in the end, Gwen did seem to turn to God less for what He could do for her and more because of who He is. 

I thought the characters, particularly Gwen, were interesting and fairly well developed. Most of the characters remained fairly flat with little development, only secrets. However, Gwen was a more rounded character who did experience growth during the story. I thought the other minor characters added to the suspense of the story if not necessarily to its depth. The little romantic aspect of the story was intriguing, but seemed a little contrived and forced due to the speed of its development. However, at the end of the story it slowed down and looked to be an interesting development for future Gwen Marcey novels. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and its plot line was both suspenseful and thought provoking. 

I received this novel from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris


This fifth installment to the Ministry Peculiar Occurrences series lived to my expectations and even surpassed it some instances. In the aftermath left by the Maestro's dastardly plans for Queen Victoria and England, we see the Ministry struggling to put the pieces back together and rebuild their ranks. Agents Books and Braun are as dashing a pair as ever, with even more sparks flying between them as they delve into a deeper and more meaningful relationship while trying to simultaneously hunt down the terrible Dr. Jekyll-Hyde. Meanwhile, while Books and Braun find themselves on a mission in India, Agents Hill and Campbell are once again paired up and sent off into the bitter cold of Russia to find a secret ingredient that might save Queen Victoria's life. Hill and Campbell find more than they bargained for as they begin to unravel the latest scheme by the House of Usher and its new master.

Meanwhile, back in India, Books and Braun meet an unexpectedly familiar agent who may not be as innocent as they are led to believe. In addition, they discover disturbing technology that can transport Indian rebels from one spot to another without physical transportation, but that has an unfortunate side effect -it creates ghosts. Braun and Books must race against the clock to discover those behind this technology and how to stop it, without losing their lives or their very souls. Sophia del Morte also shows up again, but in some very surprising ways, and we learn just a little bit more about her history even during the midst of tragedy.

I liked how the Ghost Rebellion had two separate plotlines that ran simultaneously but that were more linked than I originally thought. I enjoyed watching Campbell and Hill learn to work together in a more seamless fashion and how Bruce Campbell began to change from his selfish past ways. Braun and Book also had some serious issues to work through as they found out more about Book's past and as they discovered what was happening in India. It was interesting how the authors wove in aspects of the prejudices seen in British India during those times towards both women and the natives. I liked how the main characters had to work through both these situations and their own growing feelings toward one another. There were also small snippets thrown in about Dr. Jekyll, changes in the House of Usher, and Miss. Del Morte that added to the suspense of the story and began setting the stage for the next book. Overall I really enjoyed this novel, and I cannot wait to see what our daring duo get into in future novels.

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. 
http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com/novels/

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Playing the Part by Jen Turano


Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but must abandon her starring role when a fan's interest turns threatening. Lucetta's widowed friend, Abigail Hart, seizes the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta's life and promptly whisks her away to safety at her eligible grandson's estate.

At first glance, Bram Haverstein appears to be a gentleman of means--albeit an eccentric one--but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there's much more to him than society knows.

While Lucetta has no interest in Abigail's matchmaking machinations, she can't ignore the strange things going on in Bram's house and the secrets he hides. As the hijinks and hilarity that Bram, Lucetta, and their friends are swept into take a more dangerous turn, can they accept who they are behind the parts they play in time to save the day?

Playing the Part is the third book in the A Class of Their Own series by Jen Turano, and it flows in wonderfully with the other two novels in the series. After Millie and Harriet find love, Lucetta alone is left for Abigail to contemplate matchmaking. And when Lucetta's life and freedom is threatened, Abigail brings her to Bram, her grandson's, house. The interactions between Bram, Lucetta, and their friends, relatives, and Bram's household staff are hilarious and engaging. The plot line is well written and filled with moments of comedy, suspense, danger, and of course romance. The whole book is very lighthearted and even the moments of danger are obviously not life threatening. However, the main characters did have their moments of serious reflection on their own and with one another as they began to understand their own failings and their misconceptions about one another. There are several great moments throughout the book where Lucetta and Bram are both completely taken by surprise when they learn the other one's secrets.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Parts were predictable, and the romance between Bram and Lucetta seemed unreal at times, but as a whole it was a lighthearted yet still contemplative novel that kept me glued to the pages with its comedy and storyline. I received this novel from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Game Over: The MindWar Trilogy Book 3 by Andrew Klavan


This time, there’s no escape from The Realm.
The MindWar Realm is a computerized world created by a deranged terrorist named Kurodar. Built through a link between Kurodar’s mind and a network of supercomputers, The Realm is a pathway through which the madman can project himself into any computer system on the planet.
Twice before, Rick Dial has entered the Realm as a Mind Warrior and come back alive. But now, something has gone terribly wrong. A connection has formed in Rick’s brain that sends him hurtling into The Realm without his consent—and brings the Realm’s monsters into the Real World.
As Kurodar works to turn Rick’s brain to his own purposes, Rick’s waking and sleeping life is ravaged by terrors he never imagined.
Rick knows he has no choice but to face The Realm’s final and most powerful protector. But can Rick destroy MindWar without destroying himself and the people he loves?

Game Over by Andrew Klavan was a decent young adult novel, interesting and exciting but not my favorite by any means. I have enjoyed the overall plot idea of this trilogy, but it definitely has not been Klavan's best work. The writing seems very choppy and undeveloped, and the characters' emotions and thoughts are blatantly laid before the reader instead of allowing them to uncover them slowly as they read. As far as the storyline goes, I thought Game Over was better than Book 2 and about the same as the first one. It was a very easy book to skim due to the underdeveloped writing style, and I finished it in an hour. I did think that this book provided a very good conclusion for the book, but I still struggle to agree with Klavan's theology points, something I have had issues with in his other novels too. Overall, if you have read the other two books in this series and liked them, definitely read this one as well. If you did not like the others, don't expect a big difference in this book.

I received this from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

If I Run by Terri Blackstock


Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.
Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.
But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?
Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

If I Run was one of my favorite novels by Terri Blackstock that I have read so far. The story pulled you in from the very beginning and held your attention until the cliffhanger at the end. I was drawn into Casey's dilemma and her race to stay safe from an unknown killer. The plot was filled with danger, suspense, mystery, but still a touch of hope, love, and trust in God. I liked both of the main characters, Casey and Dylan. I was very impressed by Casey's determination and street smarts as she attempted to stay off the police's radar. I was intrigued as I learned more about her character and her desire to both learn more about her father's death and still help the hurting people that she encountered while on the run. She did not start out as a believer, but it was inspiring to see how her views and thoughts changed as she met Miss Lucy and began to understand how even suffering and hurt might have a purpose. Dylan was also a complex character, though not as much of the book focused on him. He was a believer, but he was still struggling to understand suffering as well as the truth about Casey. I appreciated his open mind as he fought to uncover what really happened, despite the negative attitude of the officers he encountered. Overall, I highly enjoyed If I Run, and its lightning fast ending has me waiting in anticipation for the next novel. 

One of my favorite parts is actually in the afterword the author was talking about how discouraged she had been by all the suffering and pain in the world in the midst of God's beautiful creation.

And in her devotions she read Isaiah 42:1-4 [insert: which happened to be the chapter I was reading this week]: "Behold my servant in whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit in Him, He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth.

She said, "Knowing that Jesus will not be disheartened or crushed, that He won't feel the need to shout in the streets or rail against anything, that He will bring forth justice in the twinkle of the eye, encourages me. Things look grim, but God is in control.
Sometimes terrible things happen in our culture. Logic seems upside down, and the masses march in step to the drumbeat of political correctness.
Out job is to stand up for our beliefs and cling to them no matter what, and wait for our redemption.
Jesus will not let us down."


I received this novel from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.