Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stress Test by Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

Dr. Matt Newman thought he was leaving his life in private practice for a better one in academic medicine. But the kidnappers who attacked him as he left his last shift in the ER have no such plans—they just want him dead. Bound and in the trunk of his car, Matt's only thought is escape. He does so, but at a price: a head injury that lands him in the ICU . . . where he awakens to discover he's being charged with murder.
Sandra Murray is a fiery, redheaded lawyer who swore she was done with doctors. But when Matt calls, she knows she can't walk away from defending someone who is truly innocent.
Matt's career is going down the drain. His freedom and perhaps his life may be next. But with the police convinced he's a murderer and the kidnappers still trying to finish what they started, finding the truth—and the faith to keep going—will be the toughest stress test Matt has ever endured.

Stress Test by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. was a suspenseful and intriguing novel that left me tied to the pages throughout the entire story. The plot was very interesting and included many plot twists, dangerous situations, and medical emergencies. I enjoyed getting an inside look into the interworking of a emergency room from the perspective of a doctor -Matt Newman. Because he had a medical student shadowing him, many of the questions I had about working in a emergency answered in the interactions between Matt and the student, Randy. I also liked the honesty and transparency Matt had with others and the reader concerning his lax faith in God and in sharing and acting on his beliefs. However, as Matt faces new struggles and attempts on his life, his faith and his ability to talk with others about God grows and he even begins to attend church again near the end of the novel. I also enjoyed seeing how Matt's friendship with Rick took on new depth as Rick helped Matt out in his time of need and as Matt began to help Rick understand more about God. The other main character, Sandra, has a personality and is persistent in her beliefs.  She also is not afraid to share her beliefs with others, nor she is willing to compromise her beliefs while dating or at the request of her past employers. She becomes a great friend to Matt during his trials, and it is very enjoyable to see how their relationship strengthens and grows. Overall, I highly enjoyed Stress Test, and I found it to be a very refreshing mystery that combined suspense, faith, and honesty in an interesting and enjoyable way. I would highly recommend this novel, and I look forward to reading the next two novels, Heart Failure and Critical Condition.

I received this novel for free from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Fiction Picks of 2013

Best of Books

I had not realized how many good novels I had read this year until I had to narrow it down to only my top ten novels. Here are my top ten, not in any particular order, along with my review and a description of each.

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker

 My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen and I’m about to die. I’m buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I’m lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won’t stop shaking.

Some will say that I’m not really here. Some will say I’m delusional. Some will say that I don’t even exist. But who are they? I’m the one buried in a grave.

My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen. I’m about to die.

 Read my review here.

Talent For Trouble Ladies of Distinction #3 by Jen Turano

Miss Felicia Murdock firmly believed her destiny was to become a minister's wife. When the minister on whom she had set her sights marries another lady, Felicia is forced to take a close look at her life and comes to a few uncomfortable conclusions. Determined that something needs to change--and soon--Felicia discovers she is finally ready to spread her wings and embrace life the way she's always wanted.

Grayson Sumner--or Lord Sefton, as he's officially known--has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a normal, respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some well-meaning friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter a young lady who seems to have become quite adventurous and quite determined to get herself into all sorts of troublesome situations.

Intent on remaining independent, Felicia is reluctant to accept Grayson's help, especially as she finds herself developing feelings for him. However, just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in her life has endangered Felicia. Will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?

Read my review here.

My Hope is Found, Cadence of Grace #3 by Joanne Bischof

After finally finding love with his sweet bride Lonnie, Gideon’s heart was torn when a woman from his past claimed to be his true and rightful wife, forcing him away from his family. God’s merciful hand saw Gideon through the heartache, and with Cassie’s blessing, he is able to return home. But his journey back through the Blue Ridge Mountains will hold a trial he never anticipated.

Meanwhile, Lonnie determines to seal off her heart from Gideon, convinced he is lost to her forever. Strengthening her resolve to move on is her growing fondness for the handsome Scotsman, Toby McKee—the young reverend she has come to care for deeply. His proposal of marriage offers a bright future for her and her young son.

Yearning to allow joy back into her life, Lonnie must put aside the broken pieces of her heart that still love Gideon. When he returns to find her betrothed to another, he has to place his hope in God, trusting that the One who redeemed their love once can do it again.

Read my review here.

City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii by Tracy L. Higley

A Jewish slave girl fights for her life in first-century Pompeii on the eve of the city’s destruction.
Wealthy Roman patrician Cato came to the seaside town of Pompeii to build a new business, but hostility and outright corruption threaten his carefully laid plans and ignite his desire for social justice. Meanwhile, Ariella, an escaped Jewish slave girl, comes to town with a gladiator troupe. Disguised as a young boy, Ariella’s only ambition is survival.
Ariella and Cato face political intrigue, religious persecution, and family peril even as the ominous mountain in the distance begins to spew its fire. They must bridge their differences to save the lives of those they love before fiery ash buries Pompeii, turning the city into a lost world.

Read my review here.

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.

When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor's daughter figure out which brother to blame... and which brother to trust with her heart?

Read my review here.

Misery Loves Company by Rene Gutteridge

Filled with grief, Jules Bellano rarely leaves the house since her husband’s death while on duty as a police officer. Other than the reviews Jules writes on her blog, she has little contact with the outside world.
One day when she ventures out to the local grocery store, Jules is bumped into by a fellow customer who apologizes profusely. She recognizes him as her favorite author, Patrick Reagan. Jules gushes and thoroughly embarrasses herself before Regan graciously talks with her.
And that’s the last thing she remembers—until she wakes up in a strange room with a splitting headache. She’s been kidnapped. And what she discovers will change everything she believed about her husband’s death . . . her career . . . and her faith.

Read my review here.

A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl

One minute Mia Quinn is in her basement, chatting on the phone with a colleague at the prosecutor's office. The next minute she hears a gunshot over the line, and Mia listens in horror as her colleague and friend Colleen bleeds to death.
Mia's a natural for heading up the murder investigation, but these days it's all she can do to hold her life together. As a new widow with a pile of debts, a troubled teenaged son, and a four-year-old who wakes up screaming at night, she needs more time with her family, not less--and working Colleen's case will be especially demanding. But Colleen was her friend, and she needs to keep her job. So Mia reluctantly teams up with detective Charlie Carlson to investigate. But the deeper they dig, the more complications unfold--even the unsettling possibility that someone may be coming after "her."

Read my review here.

Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer

Landon Reed is an ex-quarterback convicted of organizing a points-shaving scheme. During his time in prison, he found forgiveness and faith and earned his law degree. Now he longs for an opportunity to prove his loyalty and worth. "Be careful what you ask for."

Harry McNaughton is one of the founding partners of McNaughton & Clay--and the only lawyer willing to take a chance employing an ex-con-turned-lawyer. Though Landon initially questions Harry's ethics and methods, it's clear the crusty old lawyer has one of the most brilliant legal minds Landon has ever encountered.

As Landon struggles to keep the firm together, he can't help but wonder, is the plot related to a shady case from McNaughton & Clay's past, or to the murder trial he's neck-deep in now? And will he survive long enough to find out?
Read my review here.

Afloat by Erin Healy

There’s sabotage lurking in the waters of Eagle’s Talon, an elite floating community designed by gifted architect Vance Nolan. There’s also something else in the water—a mysterious presence friendly to some and hostile to others. And when disaster strikes, not even the saboteur expects it to be the first in a series of crushing blows.
Stranded by a flood and surrounded by unnatural darkness, a limping band of residents, builders, and investors set their sights on escape. Single mom Danielle Clement will do whatever it takes to save her young son Simeon, but she doesn’t know who to follow: her charismatic lover and aspiring politician Tony Dean, who dotes on her and her boy, or the selfless Vance, who promises protection for everyone who stays with him—based on a vision and a faith she doesn’t share.
In this watery world where everyone’s secrets will eventually come to light, survival might have more to do with uncovering the truth than with getting out alive.

Read my review here.

Damascus Countdown by Joel Rosenberg

 Israel successfully launches a first strike on Iran, taking out all of their nuclear sites and six of their nuclear warheads. American president William Jackson threatens to support a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish State for unprovoked and unwarranted acts of aggression, and the Twelfth Imam prepares to order a genocidal retaliation.
Meanwhile, CIA operative David Shirazi has infiltrated the Iranian regime and intercepted top secret intelligence indicating that two Iranian nuclear warheads survived the attack and have been moved to a secure and undisclosed location. In danger not only from the ongoing war between Israel and Iran but also from the increasingly hostile governments in multiple countries, Shirazi and his team are in a race against time to find the remaining nuclear warheads before the most cataclysmic event in the history of the Middle East comes to pass.

Read my review here.

So those are my Top Ten Fiction Picks for 2013! I hope you found the reviews insightful, and I hope you will check out the other blog posts for the Best Of Blog Hop.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tattler's Branch by Jan Watson

Lilly Corbett Still has grown to love her life as the small-town doctor of Skip Rock, a tiny coal community in the Kentucky mountains. Though her husband, Tern, is away for a few months at a mining job, Lilly keeps busy with her patients and her younger sister visiting for the summer.

Her hands full, Lilly turns to her good friend and neighbor, Armina, to help keep things in order. But when a mysterious chain of events leaves Armina bedridden and an orphaned baby on her doorstep, Lilly must trust in God and her resilient country neighbors to help her uncover the truth.

While working late one night, Lilly cares for a patient whose odd behavior sets her on edge, but she’s unaware of what a mess she’s found herself in until a break-in at her office puts her on high alert. Struggling between what is right and what is safe, Lilly discovers the strength of her neighbors, her God, and herself.

Tattler's Branch by Jan Watson was a wonderful novel and is a sequel to Skip Rock Shallows. Having just discovered Jan Watson's novels, I have enjoyed both Skip Rock Shallows and Tattler's Branch, and I look forward to reading her earlier novels which reveal more about Lilly's past and her mother's story. Tattler's Branch has an excellent plot that flows well and includes elements of suspense, danger, sorrow, and humor that all lead to a beautifully woven and heart-wrenching story. The themes of this novel are clear and convicting and include topics such as the importance of family, honesty, and sacrificing one's own plans and desires in order to help others. I enjoyed seeing the same characters, plus a few more, in this novel that I first met in Skip Rock Shallows. The characters well all very realistic, each with their own quirks, strengths, and flaws. I liked seeing Lilly grow even more as a member of her community, as a doctor, and eventually possibly as a mother. I also enjoyed meeting Lilly's sister and seeing her mature as well learning even more about Armina as a character. My only dislike concerning Armina is that I wish Armina's thoughts and feelings had had a bigger part in the novel. I did learn more about Armina, but it was not from her perspective. The end of the novel was not what I expected and did bring some heartache, but I did find it to be perfect for the novel and in bringing the community together in a whole new way.

Overall I highly enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to reading Jan Watson's previous and future novels. I received this novel for free from NetGalley.com in exchange for a honest review.

Five Best of 2013 Teen/Young-Adult Books

Best of Books
Picking only five young adult novels was a tough choice. However, I did manage to pick five and rank them.

5. Fortress of Mist by Sigmund Brouwer

 The throne is redeemed, but the battle is just beginning.          
In the dark corners of an ancient land, evil lurks in the shadows. Powerful druids haunt the spaces of their lost territory. Double-minded noblemen fight for domain and influence. Invaders from the north threaten the kingdom of Magnus. This land of promise and redemption is mired in deceit and corruption.

The Orphan King, once victorious in conquest, appears to be losing his grip on his seat of power. Thomas rules Magnus, but does not know whom he can trust. His enemies anticipate his every move, thwarting him at each turn. Something is not right.

Under attack, both in the supernatural and natural worlds, Thomas must reach back into the secret layers of his past to find the strength and wisdom to fight his battles. When the mist clears, who will stand with him?

 Read my review here:

4. Martyr's Fire by Sigmund Brouwer

Will this dangerous quest lead the outcast King toward an ancient secret—or to certain destruction?
Posing as a beggar, Thomas escapes Magnus after fifteen men, who are calling themselves the Priests of the Holy Grail, arrive and take control of the castle through wondrous acts and apparent miracles. With the help of his longtime friend Gervaise, Thomas sets out on a journey that leads him to the ancient Holy Land. Unaware that Katherine and Hawkwood are watching over him, Thomas is tested in his beliefs and comes face to face with the ancient power that the Merlins and Druids have long been searching for.

Enter the world of Merlin’s Immortals, where ancient secrets and evil conspiracies take you on a breathless adventure of discovery, intrigue, and hidden knowledge.

See my review here:

3. If We Survive by Andrew Klavan

They came on a mission of mercy, but now they’re in a fight for their lives.
High schooler Will Peterson and three
friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor,
secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their
energy and kindness. But in one sudden moment, everything
went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are everywhere—and Americans are being targeted as the first to die.

Will and his friends have got to get
out fast. But streets full of killers . . .hills patrolled by armies . . . and
a jungle rife with danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of
escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them
at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home.

Read my review here:
Visit the author's website here: http://andrewklavan.com

2. Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan

What should have been an ordinary morning is about to spiral into a day of unrelenting terror.
As a reporter for his high school newspaper, Tom is always on the lookout for an offbeat story. But from the moment he woke up this morning, his own life has been more bizarre than any headline could ever tell. The streets of his town are suddenly empty and silent. A strange fog has drifted in from the sea and hangs over everything. And something is moving in that fog. Something evil. Something hungry. Closing in on Tom.

Only one thing is certain: with his world collapsing around him, Tom has only a few hours to recover the life he knew—before he, too, is lost forever in this nightmare city.

Read my review here
Visit the author's website here: http://andrewklavan.com

And finally #1!
1. Anomaly by Krista McGee

 Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.
Decades before Thalli’s birth, the world was decimated by a nuclear war. But life continued deep underground, thanks to a handful of scientists known as The Ten. There they created genetically engineered human beings who are free of emotions in the hope that war won’t threaten the world again.
Thalli is an anomaly, born with the ability to feel emotions and a sense of curiosity she can barely contain. She has survived so far by hiding her differences. But then her secret is discovered when she’s overwhelmed by the emotion of an ancient piece of music.
Thalli must sort out what to believe and who to trust, before her time runs out.

Read my review here:
Visit the author's website here: http://www.kristamcgeebooks.com/

So that is my Top Five Teen/Young Adult novels for 2013. I hope you found the reviews helpful and that you will check out other bloggers' posts in the Best Of Blog Hop.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

W.A.R.P.: A Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims' dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a nineteen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie's possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

W.A.R.P : A Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer was a charged and fascinating novel that took place across time and space in a fast paced manner. Certainly not for young children, this novel dives into the dirty places of Victorian England and brings back a horrendous villain who craves violence and death like no other. I have read all of Eoin Colfer's young adult novels and a couple of his adult books, but I was still a little shocked by the amount of description and the level of violence that existed in this novel. I still enjoyed the novel, but I would not recommend that very young children or anyone looking for a tame fantasy novel read this book. However, despite this issue, I did like the fast paced action of WARP, and the suspense and plot twists that filled its pages. The characters of Riley and Chevron were very realistic and were not angels by any means. They each had their share of flaws but also had considerable strengths, as they discovered throughout the course of the novel. The villain, Garrick is the epitome of both evil as well as a scientific genius, due to his travels through the wormhole. He is the perfect foil to Chevron and Riley, and at many times during the novel it appears that he will overcome them without any question. Overall, I enjoyed WARP and found it hard to put down. I look forward to seeing if Eoin Colfer will write a follow-up novel as he ended this book with the potential for a sequel.

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

All for a Song by Allison Pittman

Read first chapter excerpt here.
Dorothy Lynn Dunbar has everything she ever wanted: her family, her church, her community, and plans to marry the young pastor who took over her late father’s pulpit. Time spent in the woods, lifting her heart and voice in worship accompanied by her brother’s old guitar, makes her life complete . . . and yet she longs for something more.

Spending a few days in St. Louis with her sister’s family, Dorothy Lynn discovers a whole new way of life—movies, music, dancing; daring fashions and fancy cars. And a dynamic charismatic evangelist . . . who just happens to be a woman. When Dorothy Lynn is offered a chance to join Aimee Semple McPherson’s crusade team, she finds herself confronted with temptations she never dreamed of. Can Dorothy Lynn embrace all the Roaring Twenties has to offer without losing herself in the process?

All for a Song by Allison Pittman was a sweet and engaging novel that followed the path of a young girl torn between her love for music and her love for her home and her man. The set-up of this novel is unique in that alternates between Dorothy as a young girl and Dorothy in a nursing home decades later. The way this novel is constructed allows the reader to look back at Dorothy's young years as if they are the older Dorothy themselves, reliving her memories, her desires, her choices. I liked how, as the novel went on, the two storylines became more intertwined as a new character enters the elderly Dorothy's live that completes the picture of what happened when Dorothy was younger. The plot of All For a Song was interesting, quick paced, and was filled with romance, temptation, secrets, and suspense. The characters were realistic and well developed, especially Dorothy. I loved seeing how Dorothy was faced with relatable, tough decisions and how she learned to deal with her choices, both good and bad. Even though the majority of this novel was set in the 1920's, the temptations that Dorothy must resist are still very relevant today, and her thoughts and feelings as she tries to live according to her faith and what is right are both convicting and good warnings for modern readers as well.

Overall I found this novel to be both melancholy and entertaining at times but still a wonderfully engaging read. I would highly recommend All for a Song to any reader looking for a historical novel that leaves one guessing from cover to cover.

I received this novel for free from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

All For A Story by Allison Pittman

Monica Brisbaine loves being a modern girl in the Roaring Twenties. Her job writing a gossip column allows her access to all the local speakeasys in Washington, D.C., where she can dance the night away—and find fodder for her next article. But when the owner of the Capitol Chatter newspaper passes away, Monica wonders what will happen to her job, and the lifestyle she loves.

Max Moore may hold the title of editor-in-chief for evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson’s paper, The Bridal Call, but Aimee calls all the shots. So when Max learns that his great-uncle has passed away, leaving him all his earthly possessions, Max resigns and heads to D.C. Determined to take over the Capitol Chatter, infuse it with his values, and turn it into a respectable paper, Max is soon bumping up against the equally determined Monica Brisbane.

Under Max’s direction, Monica embarks on her most challenging assignment yet: infiltrating and reporting on the Anti-Flirt Society. Though reluctant at first, as Monica meets and mingles with the young women of the club, she begins to question the innocence of her flirtatious lifestyle. And when romance begins to blossom between Max and Monica, she must choose where her loyalties lie: with the young women of the society or the alluring pull of the speakeasy and its inhabitants.

All for a Story by Allison Pittman is a sweet and witty novel that captures the pace and beliefs of the Roaring Twenties with brilliant color. The plot line is fast paced, interesting, and contains an interesting blend of romance, humor, and heart-ache. The only thing that I did not really like was how the book ended. It concluded rather abruptly, and I would have loved to have had more closure on Monica's change of heart and her relationship with Max. The themes of the novel are clear and include topics such as trusting God, asking him and others for forgiveness, and choosing a life of morality over immorality. The narration of the novel was third person but the perspective from which it was told alternated between Max and Monica so that the reader had an idea of what both were thinking. The characters of Max and Monica were realistic and interesting. The complete oppositeness of their personalities made their exchanges amusing and enjoyable. As they learned more about each other, their oftentimes judgmental attitudes towards one another began to soften and they started to see beyond the flaws to the person beneath that God created. Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel, and I would highly recommend All for a Story and All for a Song by Allison Pittman to any reader looking for an inspiring and interesting historical novel.

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

Luminary by Krista McGee

After escaping an underground annihilation chamber, Thalli, Berk, Rhen, and John find themselves fleeing across the former United States, aboveground for the first time. As the defectors cross the forgotten landscape, the three youths see things they had only read about on screens: horses, rain, real books—and a colony of unsanctioned survivors living the ancient way in a town called New Hope.

When these survivors reveal the truth of what happened years ago, Thalli is left unsettled and skeptical of everything she’s ever been told. Can she trust anything from the State, including her own feelings for Berk? Meanwhile, John’s unwavering faith in the goodness of the Designer begins to make its mark on Thalli’s heart. But can Thalli really come to trust in a generous, protective Designer who rules over all things?

The time for her to decide is now . . . because the State is closing in.

Luminary by Krista McGee is the sequel to Anomaly, and it picks up right where it left off. As befits a dystopian style novel, Luminary features as world that has an all controlling government and a small group of rebels that seek to live out from under the State's control. The plot line has many unexpected twists and turns and relies on mystery, suspense, and youthful romance to keep the reader invested in the story. The themes of the novel are clear and heartfelt and add to the incredible truths and raw emotions that pervade the entire story. The narration of Luminary is first person and is from the perspective of Thalli, who fills the novel with her thoughts, emotions, and desires as she struggles to understand what is real and what is not. As she learns more about really happened in the past, she begins to doubt even her emotions. However, as she learns more about Earth, she also begins to trust in the great Designer who is stronger and better than anything that the State might produce. I really liked the honesty of Thalli's thoughts as she tried to grasp what real feelings are and if God is real. I found her feelings and struggles to be realistic and even in a non-dystopian present. Overall, I enjoyed Luminary immensely, and I would highly recommend both Anomaly and Luminary (in that order) to teen and adult readers alike who are looking for a well written, Christian, dystopian style novel. I look forward to seeing that will happen in future installments in this series.

I received this novel for free from Booksneeze.com and Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma

In a time of unprecedented darkness and fear, Cornelia must decide if saving a stranger's life is worth risking her own.

In the twilight of the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands, the Germans have taken everything Cornelia had to give, even what was most precious to her. Now Gerrit Laninga—a man who puts God and country above all else—arrives at her house, needing help. She is terrified for herself and terrified for her family, but most of all, terrified of the pain she might feel again if she allows herself to love Gerrit. Her hope is to be free from her paralyzing fear.

Gerrit is a known and hunted Dutch Resistance member. When he comes to Cornelia's home for shelter, he's drawn to her strength and kindness. When he asks her to contact the local Resistance on his behalf, she refuses. Gerrit is determined to find a way to continue his underground work without putting Cornelia or her family in harm's way.

When things start to unravel and Gerrit’s life depends on her actions, she must summon her courage and learn to depend on the perfect love that drives out all fear. But will her new love be snatched away before it has a chance to bloom?

Loosely based on a event that occurred in her extended family, Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma tells the story of a man who narrowly escapes death and a woman who helps him despite her paralyzing fear. The plot line is exciting and spell-binding and kept me tied to the pages throughout the entire novel. It contained a perfect combination of romance, mystery, suspenseful danger, and redemption. The themes of this novel were clear and well developed and included topics such as overcoming fear, trusting God and others, and putting one's faith in God even in the midst of pain and grief. The narration of this novel was third person, but the perspective it was told from alternated between Cornelia, Gerrit, Cornelia's sister, Ana, and Cornelia's brother, Johan.

All of the characters in Snow on the Tulips were realistic and well developed, with identifiable struggles and strengths. While Cornelia and Gerrit were obviously the main characters, other characters like Johan, Ana, and Ana's husband still had prominence in the story in order that the reader could identify with their struggles and feelings as well. Cornelia was an interesting character that was afraid of loving and of losing her family to the Germans. Gerrit was a sweet and passionate man that was bent on revenging his sister's hurt at the hand of the Germans. However, as he became closer to Cornelia and her family, his motivations and reasons changed and his relationship with God and Cornelia deepened. Ana was torn between protecting the life of a man, honoring her husband, and helping others as a nurse. In the end her choice was made for her, and she was left to trust God and His plan for the life of her and her family. Johan wanted to have a role in helping free his country from the Germans, but it took him awhile to realize that disobeying what Cornelia and Gerrit told him could potentially cause harm to both his family and to others. I enjoyed seeing how all of these characters interacted with one another and others and how they grew closer to each other and God as they experienced new trials and struggles.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to reading more of Liz Tolsma's novels. I received this novel for free from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dark Road Home (Edge of Freedom Book 2) by Elizabeth Ludwig

Read first chapter excerpt here

The nightmares of her past have found Ana Kavanagh an ocean away.Ana Kavanagh's memories of Ireland are mostly of fire and pain. As a girl she survived a blaze that left her an orphan, left her scarred, and left her angry at God. Now in New York, Ana finds a kindred spirit in Eoghan Hamilton, who's struggling with his own anger. His twin sister, Cara, betrayed him by falling in love with his enemy.

Cast aside by everyone, Eoghan hopes to rejoin the Fenians, an organization pushing for change back in Ireland, by securing information against Rourke, the man his sister married. Ana, Cara's friend, may be his best source, and despite the attraction he feels, Eoghan determines to use the girl's sweet nature to his advantage.

Adding to the danger is a specter from Eoghan's own past, one whose thirst for vengeance knows no bounds. Eoghan must choose which road to follow--bitterness or forgiveness--and where to finally place his trust.
Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig is the second novel in her Edge of Freedom series, and it picks up less than a year after the first novel, No Safe Harbor. The plot line for this novel is well developed and moves at a good pace. Dark Road Home was an interesting and enjoyable novel, and it contains a good mixture of suspense, romance, and mystery with unexpected twists and betrayal. The themes were clear and concise and included topics such as learning to trust God and friends even when you feel that you have been betrayed by both, being honest, and choosing forgiveness over bitterness. The narration of the novel was third person but was still told from either the perspective of Eoghan or Ana so that the reader that an idea of what each main character was thinking or feeling. 

The characters of Dark Road Home were interesting and realistic. Both Ana and Eoghan had experienced betrayal at the hand of people they considered friends and family and felt abandoned by God. As a result, both had to learn how to forgive, to trust again, and to rely on God in the midst of trials. They each had unique strengths and flaws that allowed them to work well together and find answers to the situations that they faced. The other minor characters also had important roles in the novel as they helped the main characters learn the truth about what they faced and about each other. Both Cara and Rourke, the main characters from No Safe Harbor, were involved in this novel and it was nice to see how they had changed and grown from the first novel. 

Overall, I found this novel to be exciting, convicting, and enjoyable, and I would highly recommend the series to anyone looking for a interesting historical series that contains both romance and mystery. 

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

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

Read an excerpt here.

Introducing Drew Farthering From The Tip of his black Homburg to the crease in his stylish cheviot trousers, he's the epitome of a stylish 1930s English gentleman. His only problem? The body he just discovered.

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate.

With the help of beautiful and whip-smart Madeline Parker, a guest from America, Drew proposes to use the lessons he's learned reading his mysteries to solve the crime. Before long, he realizes this is no lark, and no one at Farthering Place is who he or she appears to be--not the butler nor blackmailer, the chauffeur nor embezzler. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer--and trying harder to impress Madeline--Drew must decide how far to take this dangerous game.

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering was an interesting and intriguing novel that was filled with mystery and suspense. The storyline was exciting and had a good mix of romance, grief, and unexpected twists. The narration was third person, but alternated from being from the perspective of Drew and Madeline, which allowed the reader to have an idea of what each was thinking and feeling. The characters were interesting with endearing quirks in their personalities. They were fairly well developed, but I did sometimes have trouble believing the romance between Drew and Madeline since they hardly knew each other and barely spend any time together before this mystery. Overall, however, the novel was an enjoyable mystery that was spell binding but still easy to read. 

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

Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade

When Meg Cole's father dies unexpectedly, she's forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of his empire. The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father's Thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.

Bo knows he ought to resent the woman who's determined to take from him the only job he ever wanted. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them and earn her love.

Just when Meg realizes she can no longer deny the depth of her feelings for Bo, their fragile bond is broken by a force from Meg's past. Can their relationship--and their belief that God can work through every circumstance--survive?

Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade was a sweet and enjoyable novel that demonstrated the power of love, forgiveness, and putting others before oneself. The plot line is well developed and contains a good mix of romance, mystery, suspense and humor. The themes are clear and interesting, though are sometimes overshadowed by an abundance of romance. However, the romance was not typically overwhelming because it was sweetly portrayed and showed the strength of true love. The narration of the novel was third person, but it alternated between the perspective of Bo and Meg, with an occasional segment from the point of view of Stephen, Meg's ex-husband. These changes allowed the reader to connect with and understand the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

The characters were realistic and enjoyable. Meg and Bo were very cute together and complemented each other well. Meg had issues with anxiety and feeling purposeless and unloved. Bo was a wonderful character, full of love, trust, and acceptance, but he did seem like he had no faults which did sometimes make him seem unrealistic. I enjoyed seeing Meg and Bo's relationship grow and seeing as they worked through different situations and problems.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I would recommend it to any reader looking for a sweet but still thrilling romantic novel.

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Dawn of Christmas by Cindy Woodsmall


This Christmas, experience learning to trust alongside the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania in this heart-warming tale of second chances.

Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?

The Dawn of Christmas by Cindy Woodsmall is a sweet and enjoyable holiday read that really spoke to the importance of family and trust, especially during the Christmas season. This novel follows in the wake of the author's first two Christmas novels, The Sound of Sleighbells and The Christmas Singing, and includes many of the characters first seen in these books. The plot of The Dawn of Christmas was interesting and believable and contained important themes such as trusting one another, letting go of prejudices, and discerning if you are following God's will or your own plans. The storyline was smooth and well written and included entertaining and witty dialogue between the characters. The narration of the novel was third person, but the perspective of the chapters alternated between Sadie, Levi, and Beth (the main character from The Sound of Sleighbells).

The characters of The Dawn of Christmas were realistic and well-developed. Sadie and Levi both had flaws, such as a reluctance to trust God and one another and stubborn pride. Sadie is strong willed and stubborn and convinced that God's will is for her to forgo a relationship and to pursue mission work abroad. Levi has been hurt through seeing the relationships of those close to him fall apart. However despite these trials and flaws, they begin to trust God and one another as they learn more about one another and to understand what God has for them. Jonah and Beth, the characters of The Sound of Sleighbells, also had a prominent spot in this novel, and it was neat to see how they had grown and changed over the course of the different novels.

Overall, I found this novel to be a sweet and enjoyable read, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a short novel to read for this holiday season.
I received this novel for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Press in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker

"My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen and I'm about to die. I'm buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I'm lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won't stop shaking. Some will say that I'm not really here. Some will say I'm delusional. Some will say that I don't even exist. But who are they? I'm the one buried in a grave. My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen and I'm about to die."

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker was a book that truly opened my eyes wide to the power of the mind and the illusions that it is capable of creating. This novel left me spellbound and unsure of what was going to happen. Even as the story concluded, I found myself questioning what was real and what was all the in the mind of the characters. One of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a while, Eyes Wide Open has a fantastic storyline that explores what it means to be loved and accepted by God especially once you realize just how messed up you really are. Set in a supposed mental hospital, Christy and her friend Austin find themselves in the midst of a cover up that leaves them admitted into the mental ward under fictional names with no way to get out or to reveal the truth. As the story unfolds, Christy and Austin find their perceptions challenged, their thoughts confused, and the truth of who they are clouded as they face their worst fears and characteristics. Will they discover the truth in time, or will they remain in a state of clouded illusion, not realizing the love and beauty of following the Outlaw?

The plot line of Eyes Wide Open was beautifully crafted and consisted of series of twists and turns that left me dizzy and truly able to connect to the characters as they struggled to understand what was going on. The imagery and illusions that filled this book were excellently described and added to the intrigue and complexity of the story. The characters of Eyes Wide Open were well developed and realistic. Both Christy and Austin struggled with fundamental issues, such as body image and what is truth, that every person has struggled with at some point in time. As they are forced to wrestle with these thoughts, it becomes obvious how truly clouded one's perceptions can be about what is true apart from God. The themes of this novel were woven in incredibly well and were convicting in their message. Eyes Wide Open addressed the importance of God's love and acceptance and how it is only through his love and his Son that we can see beyond the clouds of sin and death to what we are in Him. That through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are made Outlaws, outside of the law and redeemed from the death that our sins require and that the law demands.

Overall, I highly enjoyed the depth and complexity of Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker. I loved how it pulled me in yet still made me think about deep, base issues that reside all hearts. I highly recommend this novel to any person looking for a novel that both thrills and convicts, and I look forward to seeing what happens next in this series.

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

Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

Patience Creighton has dedicated herself to the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. But the return of the enigmatic master of the estate puts everything she loves at risk.

Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she invests herself in teaching at her father’s school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to make the school successful.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin’s edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of property -- including the land where Rosemere School is located -- but possesses little money to manage its upkeep. When debtors start calling, he is desperate to find a new source of income, even if it means sacrificing Rosemere.

When a fire threatens the school grounds, William must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect his birthright. And when Patience’s brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience suddenly finds herself unsure of her calling. After a surprising truth about William’s past is brought to light, both William and Patience will have to seek God’s plans for their lives—and their hearts.

Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah Ladd was a sweet and intriguing novel that kept me captivated the entire time. This book is the second novel in the Whispers of the Moor series, but I was still able to connect with the story and the characters even though I have not read the first installment. The plot line was interesting and had its share of mystery, romance, suspense, and tragedy. The storyline was well developed and contained beautiful descriptions and language. The narration of the novel was third person but was still told from the perspective of Patience and sometimes William so the reader had an idea of what they were thinking.

The characters in Headmistress of Rosemere were well developed and realistic. I enjoyed seeing the character growth that occurred in both Patience and William as they faced impossible situations and as they had to learn to trust God's plans even the outcome was not clear. Both Patience and William did have their own flaws, but they also strengths, such as perseverance and love, that helped them grow stronger as people and together.

Overall I enjoyed Headmistress of Rosemere immensely, and I would highly recommend it to any reader looking for a romantic historical novel that is captivating from beginning to end.

I received this novel from Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan

Tom Harding only wants the truth. But the truth is becoming more dangerous with every passing minute.

As a reporter for his high school newspaper, Tom Harding was tracking the best story of his life—when, suddenly, his life turned very, very weird. He woke up one morning to find his house empty . . . his street empty . . . his whole town empty . . . empty except for an eerie, creeping fog—and whatever creatures were slowly moving toward him through the fog.

Now Tom’s once-ordinary world has become something out of a horror movie. How did it happen? Is it real? Is he dreaming? Has there been a zombie apocalypse? Has he died and gone to hell?

Tom is a good reporter—he knows how to look for answers—but no one has ever covered a story like this before. With the fog closing in and the hungry creatures of the fog surrounding him, he has only a few hours to find out how he lost the world he knew. In this bizarre universe nothing is what it seems and everything—including Tom’s life—hangs in the balance.

Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan was an exciting and suspenseful novel that teens and adults both can enjoy. The plot line was well written and very interesting. There were a lot of plot twists as the reader follows Tom's investigation into what is occurring. The plot contained a good mix of suspense, mystery, romance, and danger and kept me engaged the entire novel. The themes of this novel included the importance of believing and trusting in God, knowing who your real friends are, and being honest with others and yourself. I also really liked how the author  illustrated his points about God and trust in a way that was truthful and clear. Nightmare City had third person narration, but was still told from the perspective of  Tom so that the reader understood his thoughts and feelings. There were a few times where the narration changed and added to the suspense of the storyline.

The characters of this novel were well developed and realistic. The main character, Tom, was very engaging and had a good mix of strengths and flaws. It was interesting to see how both his past and present decisions impacted his character and the events that unfolded around him. The majority of the novel focused only on Tom and how he had interacted with other people in his past, but there were a few times where other characters, such as Marie, Lisa, Gordon, and Tom's mother entered the story and added to the complexity and tone of the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I would highly recommend Nightmare City and any of the Andrew Klavan's novels to teen and young adult readers who are looking for an exciting yet thought provoking read.

I received this novel from Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Martyer's Fire by Sigmund Brouwer

Read first chapter here
Will this dangerous quest lead the outcast Orphan King toward an ancient secret—or to certain destruction?
Posing as a beggar, Thomas escapes Magnus after fifteen men, who are calling themselves the Priests of the Holy Grail, arrive and take control of the castle through wondrous acts and apparent miracles. With the help of his longtime friend Gervaise, Thomas sets out on a journey that leads him to the ancient Holy Land. Unaware that Katherine and Hawkwood are watching over him, Thomas is tested in his beliefs and comes face to face with the ancient power that the Merlins and Druids have long been searching for.

Enter the world of Merlin’s Immortals, where ancient secrets and evil conspiracies take you on a breathless adventure of discovery, intrigue, and hidden knowledge.

Martyr's Fire by Sigmund Brouwer is the third novel in his Merlin's Immortals series. This novel follows in the footsteps of Fortress of Mist and provides more information about the elusive group started by Merlin -the Immortals. The plot of this novel was interesting and contained mystery, sadness, suspense, and betrayal. However, the plot felt very fractured and I had trouble connecting to the storyline and characters at various points throughout the novel. The novel is narrated in third person, with the point of view alternating between that of Katherine and Thomas.

The characters of this novel were not very dynamic though fairly realistic. Even though this novel is the third in the series, I still feel like I do not know the characters well or that I can relate to them. I did learn a little bit more about Katherine's past and Thomas's expected future and the new struggles and resentments that lie between them. However, there was still very little connection established with the true personalities of the characters and the readers.

Overall I have trouble enjoying this series and really connecting with its plot and characters. I wish the novels were longer, more structured, and contained more relatable characters.

I received this novel for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Payback in Panama by Noel Hynd

After two attempts on her life, Alex is faced with the ultimate decision . . . kill or be killed.

U.S. Treasury Agent Alexandra LaDuca is at a crossroads. Her job is beating her up, emotionally and psychologically. And the moral battle between her faith and her responsibilities is taking its toll on her effectiveness. For the first time, she wonders how long she can last.

Forcing an end to her long-running and treacherous duel with the heads of the Dosi Cartel, Alex knows this is her last do-or-die operation. It’s time call in all the favors owed to her.

Her fight takes her into the criminal underground of America’s east coast, south into the violent underworld of Central America, across Honduras and El Salvador, and finally to Panama for a shattering confrontation.

Alex’s career, her life, and her future with the man she loves---a future she never expected after the violent death of her fiancĂ© two years earlier---are all at stake. After a final payback in Panama, nothing will be the same . . . if she even survives.

Payback in Panama was an interesting novel that was full of suspenseful elements. The plot line was well written and had a good mix of romance, suspense, humor, and danger within it. I liked the inclusion of background information concerning cartels, politics, and other issues existing in the criminal underground. The themes introduced in this novel were well developed and clear and included the importance of choosing what matters most in life and trusting in God even during tough times.

The characters in this novel were realistic and fairly well developed. I liked Alex as a character, but I wish that her interactions with other characters had contained more emotion and development. She did experience growth during the novel, especially through her personal struggles and the other situations that she experienced. The other more minor characters added some depth to the story and contributed to the situations and choices that Alex experienced throughout the novel. However, their interactions still came off slightly dry and could have been more realistic.

Overall, I enjoyed Payback in Panama,  and I look forward to reading more novels by Noel Hynd.
I received this novel for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Unspoken by Dee Henderson

Read an excerpt here!
Charlotte Graham is at the center of the most famous kidnapping in Chicago history.

The task force of FBI and local cops found her two abductors, killed them, rescued her, but it took four very long years. The fact she was found less than three miles from her home, had been there the entire time, haunts them. She's changed her identity, found a profession she loves, and rebuilt her life.

She's never said a word--to the cops, to her doctors, to family--about those four years.
A family legacy has brought her back to Chicago where a reporter is writing a book about the kidnapping. The cops who worked the case are cooperating with him. Her options are limited: Hope the reporter doesn't find the full truth, or break her silence about what happened. And her silence is what has protected her family for years.

Bryce Bishop doesn't know her past, he only knows she has coins to sell from her grandfather's estate--and that the FBI director for the Chicago office made the introduction. The more he gets to know Charlotte, the more interested he becomes, an interest encouraged by those closest to her. But nothing else is working in his favor--she's decided she is single for life, she struggles with her faith, and she's willing to forego a huge inheritance to keep her privacy. She's not giving him much of an opening to work with.

Charlotte wants to trust him. She needs to tell him what happened. Because a crime cops thought was solved, has only opened another chapter...

Unspoken by Dee Henderson is contemplative novel that mixes the suspense and heartbreak of a kidnapping with the healing that only comes with time, friends, and the love of God. The novel is very long, and the plot sometimes does drag, but I liked the slow pace of the novel. It allowed me to soak in what was happening in the novel and really connect with the characters. The story line was interesting as it took two separate old investigations and then shocked the reader at the end with the truth about them. The themes of this novel were well developed and included topics such as forgiveness after terrible hurt, being patient, the true importance (or lack of) of money, trusting others and God even after pain, and learning to share one's burdens with friends and with God. The story was told from the perspective of Bryce for the most part with some sections told from Charlotte's point of view and some from Paul and Ann Falcon's (from Full Disclosure) perspectives as well.

The characters of this novel were extremely well developed and realistic. The slow pace of the novel allowed a deep connection between the characters and the readers to occur. Bryce is a strong Christian, a good and ethical business, and a very patient and loving man. Charlotte is a very wounded woman who has never truly shared or worked past the horrendous things that happened to her as a young teen. The relationship that begins between Charlotte and Bryce is slow, believable, and extremely interesting. The conversations they have about money, God, faith, and other topics are very relatable and convicting. The end of the novel shows a lot of growth in both Charlotte and Bryce's lives as their new lives are disturbed by developments that they thought were well over. However, it is these final moments that truly get through to Charlotte and lead to her ultimate growth as a person.

Overall, I highly enjoyed Unspoken by Dee Henderson, and I would highly recommend it and the previous novel, Full Disclosure to any reader looking for a thriller that goes beyond the suspense to the emotion and pain beneath horrific events.

I received this novel for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

A Talent for Trouble by Jen Turano

Read an excerpt here.

For years, Miss Felicia Murdock's every thought and action have been in pursuit of becoming a minister's wife. When the minister she'd set her sights on has other ideas, she decides something in her life needs to change--and soon--before she wastes any more time pretending to be someone she's not. If that means spreading her wings and embracing a more lively way of life, who's to say nay?

Grayson Sumner, Lord Sefton, has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter an adventurous young lady with an unfortunate knack for stumbling into troublesome situations.

Just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in Felicia's life endangers her. As they work together to extricate themselves from this latest complication, will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?

A Talent For Trouble by Jen Turano was a spunky and fun novel that I enjoyed immensely. This novel is a sequel to both A Change in Fortune and A Peculiar Circumstance and adds additional depth to characters seen in both previous novels. The plot line is fun, with humorous situations and witty dialogue. It also has some suspense, and, of course, lots of day dreams and romance. The suspense felt contrived at times and was not particularly thrilling or believable, but I enjoyed the rest of the storyline immensely. The story was told from the alternating perspectives of Felicia and Grayson, which allowed the reader to have an idea of what both were feeling.

The characters and their relationships with one another were by far the best part of A Talent For Trouble. Grayson is the brother of Eliza (the main character of A Change in Fortune), and it is neat to see him grow as a character and learn more about his past. He was very mysterious in the first book and experiencing his struggles with faith in God and trusting others was convicting and believable. Felicia had appeared previously in the first and second novels and the reader learned more about her in each novel. However, in this novel her full, vibrant personality was finally revealed, and it was very pleasing to see. She is very mischievous, fun loving, and a truly kind person, and her interactions with her family and friends were very amusing. She also experienced growth as she tried to understand what God's plan for her life was and as she tried to help Grayson re-evaluate his supposed lack of belief. Felicia and Grayson were hilarious together, and it was great to watch Grayson try to understand her complete change of personality as she revealed who she really was. The other minor characters were all familiar from the previous novels, especially Agatha, whom I really hope gets her own novel soon.

Overall, I really enjoyed A Talent for Trouble, and I would highly recommend this novel and all of Jen Turano's novels to anyone looking for a fun and enjoyable read.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins

"An adventurous seminary professor, Augustine Knox, is drawn into a deadly race to save priceless parchments from antiquities thieves, and discovers a two-thousand-year-old connection with another who faced death for the sake of the truth. I, Saul consists of two riveting adventures in one as readers are transported between the stories of Augustine Knox and the man who would become the Apostle Paul.
I, Saul will keep readers turning pages as it offers new insight into the fiery early days of Christianity when Saul of Tarsus vowed to put an end to the new sect, whatever the cost. A fast-paced story filled with political intrigue, mystery, and rich historical detail, I, Saul is the thrilling tale of loyal friendships tested by life-or-death quests, set two millennia apart."

 I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins was an excellent novel that seamlessly wove together a story of modern day intrigue and the narration of both the beginning and end of Paul's journey on the earth. The chapters of this novel alternated between 3 connected story lines. The first was set in the present day and concerned Augustine Knox, a seminary professor who finds himself trying to beat the clock to save both his friends and a manuscript concerning the life of the Apostle Paul. The second storyline is set in the early years of the Christian church and is narrated by Luke, writer of the third Gospel, and is about his ministry to Paul during Paul's last days as he is imprisoned in Rome awaiting execution. The third storyline is connected to both the first and second plots, and it is about the content of Paul's memoirs, which Luke is reading over for Paul in order to correct any errors. These memoirs stretch from Paul's earliest beginnings as a young child all the way until he becomes a Christian and begins to evangelize far and wide. These three story lines alternate throughout the chapters, and they allow the reader to glimpse the importance of why Augustine Knox must save the memoirs as well as have an idea of what Paul might have gone through during his last imprisonment.

I enjoyed the three different story lines, but at times I did find the setup to detract from the overall plot as I had to mentally switch gears constantly in order to keep up with everything that was happening. I did enjoy the suspense, romance, and unexpected plot twists that occurred in the Augustine Knox storyline, and I felt like the characters were fairly well developed with various strengths and weaknesses. Augustine Knox grew significantly in his relationship with his father throughout the course of the novel, and at strategic points the author provided background information about Augustine's life, his father's life, and their past relationship so that the reader understood how much they had changed and why there were issues from the beginning. The other more minor characters also added humor, doubts, and difficult choices to the mix that helped further develop the plot and the characters. I also enjoyed learning more about what might have taken place in Paul's life before his conversion and also seeing how he related to others, especially friends such as Luke, during his last days. His desire to preach the Gospel even at his execution was very convicting for me. I felt like Jerry B. Jenkins did an excellent job researching about modern day Israel politics and especially about Saul/Paul's early life and his last days in Rome. These parts of the novel were very realistic, I could certainly see them having actually occurred in Paul's life.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely, and I look forward to reading the next novel in the series, I, Paul, when it is released. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking to a action packed historical fiction novel that leaves you on your toes the entire time.

I received this novel for free from Worthy Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Jerry B. Jenkins’s novels have sold more than 70 million copies, including the phenomenal mega-best-selling Left Behind series. Twenty of his books have reached the New York Times best-seller list, including seven that debuted at number one, as well as the USA TodayPublishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. Jenkins has been featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine. Jerry and his wife, Dianna, live in Colorado.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher

Best-selling author Robin Lee Hatcher returns to the adventurous American West in the final book of her Where the Heart Lives series. This story is filled with Robin’s trademark heartwarming and emotionally charged message of faith, courage, and love.

When Diana Brennan’s husband returns eight years after abandoning her, can she find it in her heart to forgive him?

Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him for eight years, Diana’s infatuation with her dashing husband died an ugly death, and she is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when her husband returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom. He agrees with one condition––she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher is the third installment in the Where the Heart Lives series, and it follows wonderfully in path set by the first two novels. These novels are not strictly tied together, however, so it is possible to read them out of order.  The plot of this novel was well developed and interesting, and it included a good mixture of mystery, suspense, past mistakes, and, of course, romance. For example, the novel starts out at a party where Diana's engagement is being announced. All of a sudden, in walks her husband whom everyone thought was dead. This scenario adds to the feeling of suspense and intrigue that surrounds the events in this novel. Beloved is written in third person, but the storyline is still told from different characters' perspectives so that the reader has an idea of what the different characters are feeling about certain situations. Some of the characters that the chapters are told from include Diana, Tyson, Tyson's father, and Diana's supposed fiancĂ©. The novel also alternates between the present situation between Diana and Tyson and their past history, such as when they married, etc. These memories are also presented from either Diana or Tyson's point of view.
The characters in this novel are well developed and realistic. The way the novel is set up allows the reader to really see some of the growth that has occurred in Diana and Tyson from the time they married to the present. My sister is also reading the novel mentions that "originally Tyson had mistreated Diana, but when he comes back, he has changed and tries to win her heart over a second time. She is determined not to let him but slowly through his acts of love and kindness, he is begins to win her over against her will and better judgment." Both characters do experience growth as the novel continues, and it is cool to see how having a relationship with God can completely change the relationships you have (for the better).
Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I would highly recommend Beloved as well as the first two novels in the Where the Heart Lives series by Robin Lee Hatcher.
I received this novel for free from Booksneeze.com and Zondervan Publishers in exchange for an honest review.