Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Snapshot by Lis Wiehl

Federal prosecutor Lisa Waldren’s estranged father wants her to investigate a cold case from his FBI days. Lisa nearly refuses, even though a wrongly convicted man faces execution for murder. Then her father reveals a photograph: a little white girl playing alongside a little black girl at a rally in 1965 where the shooting of a civil rights leader took place. She recognizes herself in the photo. She was there.

Lisa agrees to help, resolved to boldly seek answers she’s skirted for decades. What she discovers are layers of deception, both personal and professional, reaching as high as the head of the FBI. Possibly even the president.

And though Lisa and the other girl may have escaped the 1965 shooting physically unharmed, her little friend, now grown, bears the scars of it. All because of the color of her skin. As Lisa and her father get closer to the truth, the real killer turns the hunt around.

Snapshot by Lis Wiehl was a beautiful yet haunting picture of the racial tension that existed in the 1960's and how even two little girls could still be affected by it decades later. I loved how the author used an actual photograph taken of her and another girl, plus the fact that her father was also an FBI agent, to craft this story. These facts make the story more credible and certainly more realistic and helped draw me into the story. The storylines started in the 1960's and then jumped forward to present day.The plot line was also well written and contained multiple suspenseful twists that kept me glued to the pages. There were many themes that were clear and well written in this novel, but the two largest that jumped out at me were the importance of forgiveness and family and the sad truth of racial tensions that ruled America even in the 1960's. These tensions are the reasons for all tragedy, injustice, and violence that occurs in this novel. Even the decisions that are made in the present day portions of this novel are marred by past and present racist behaviors. It is a sad testament to what our country used to be like and still faces (though often less openly) today. The narration of the story was primarily from Lisa's perspective, but there were a few sections told from her father and another important character.

One of the best parts of this novel were the character interactions. There were many different and unique characters that were all well developed and realistic. At first it seemed hard to see how they were all related to one another, but as the story continued and more of the truth was revealed, they were all drawn together by past and present situations in sometimes a surprising fashion. I really liked Lisa, and I enjoyed watching her grow as she learned more about trusting God, her father's character and the reasons for his past decisions, and why having friendships and closer relationships is important. Her father also experienced some growth as he tried to reconcile with his daughter and right his past mistakes. There were two father-daughter pairs in this novel. One was Lisa and her father, the other was Gwen and her father. These pairings really demonstrate the differences in what can happen when you seek forgiveness and to do good versus choosing evil and pain at the expense of other relationships. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I would highly recommend it to any reader looking for a thought-provoking and suspenseful thriller.

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

Friday, January 3, 2014

Smitten Book Club by Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter

"Consider that your beau is like a coveted novel whose compelling first lines you’ve just begun to read.” —A Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship
At a rummage sale, Heather, a member of the Fireside Book Club, discovers a turn-of-the-century romantic advice book written by a once-famous Smitten, Vermont, resident. When she shares the precious volume with her friends in the club, they find clues about a hidden treasure rumored to be buried in their tiny town.

As Heather, Abby, Lia, and Molly take turns reading the book, each projects onto it her own literary tastes. Heather sees it as a mystery. Abby discovers delicious dashes of Jane Austen. Lia sees in it the idealism of a bygone day. And Molly just wishes they'd made the book into a movie!

One by one, each of the women finds romantic love—often in spite of the historic book’s advice. And in searching for the legendary gold, the friends discover the best kind of treasure. The kind that brings hope and healing to each of their hearts.

Smitten Book Club is the third and final novella collection in the Smitten, Vermont series. For the four best friends who have written all three novella sets, this is the last novel that all four will write together as one of their number, Diann Hunt, passed away from cancer this past November. With this knowledge in mind, I was almost hesitant to begin Smitten Book Club because I did not want the romantic magic of Smitten to end. As I turned the first pages, I was immediately caught up again in the whimsy romance and mystery loving style of Colleen Coble as her character, Heather, found an old romantic advice book called A Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship and the lives of her and her three best friends began to change. Heather also found that her old flame, Paul, was in town to stay, and she began to learn to trust and love again despite his past character flaws and decisions.

The second novella was by Kristen Billerbeck and starred the shy, unadventurous Abby who dressed and lived as if she was an eighty year old librarian instead of a twenty-seven year old one. However, she was in for a rough ride as she discovered her father had left her a mission before she died- to have an adventure. And in the steady hands of Wyatt, Abby soon found that she might actually be more like the main character of Jane Austen's Persuasion than she thought.

The third novella in Smitten Book Club is by Diann Hunt, and this novella was made bittersweet for me as I realized that this was the last new book I would ever read of hers. Diann's main characters, Lia, was a sweet and patient kindergarten teacher who realized that she had a second chance at showing her best friend, Joey, how she really felt about him. However, her way seemed blocked by the senseless tragedy that claimed his wife and traumatized him and his young daughter. However, as Lia and Joey rekindle their old friendship, Joey sees the importance of forgiveness, moving on, and trusting God in the wake of sadness and anger.

The fourth novella is by Denise Hunter and brings to a close the storyline that underlies all four novellas- the mystery of the gold and where it is hidden. The main character in this novella, Molly, is still reeling from the death of her husband and his betrayal of her trust before his death. In addition, the outdoors business that her husband left behind is more than she can handle and is slowly heading towards ruin. When business competitor and next-door neighbor Gage offers to help her out, Molly is instantly suspicious and only grudgingly says yes. However, as they become closer, Molly realizes that she can learn to trust again and to follow her own dreams instead following in the footsteps of her late husband.

Overall, I really enjoyed all four novellas. They were cute, well written, and very sweet. The characters were fairly realistic for the length of the novellas, and I thought all four novellas were woven together very well. I love how the four authors are such dear friends that the reader can feel the true friendship of the characters rise up from the pages. I also loved how past characters from the last two sets of novellas are still present in these books, which makes me feel like I am catching up with old friends. I have enjoyed all three sets of Smitten novellas, and I will treasure this last one all the more because of its dear reminder of what lasting friendship is all about.

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top Twelve Most Anticipated Books of 2014

Best of Books

It is hard to believe that it is already 2014, but I am excited to see what happens in this upcoming year. One of the events I am most looking forward to is the incredible number of good books that are being released in 2014. I was surprised to see how many of my favorite authors are releasing one or more novels, and I had the hardest time narrowing down the ones I anticipate the most to twelve, much less ten. Here below are some of the novels that I look forward to the most, and I hope you enjoy them as well.

Snapshot by Lis Wiehl

The Civil Rights Movement is less than a distant memory to Lisa Waldren--it is someone else's memory altogether, passed on to her through the pages of history. Her life as a federal prosecutor in Boston feels utterly remote from the marches in the South that changed her father's generation--and the entire nation--forever. But the truth is, she was there.

When a photograph surfaces showing a blond, four-year-old Lisa playing with an African-American girl at a civil rights march in Fort Worth, Lisa is faced with a jarring revelation: the girls may have been the only witnesses who observed the real killer of civil rights leader Benjamin Gray . . . and therefore the only ones who can exonerate the death row inmate falsely accused of the murder. Soon, Lisa finds herself in the dangerous world her father had shielded her from as a child...

The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley

Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.

But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.

Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.

A Match of Wits, Ladies of Distinction #4, by Jen Turano

Two years ago, Zayne Beckett's departure from New York City to meet up with his almost-fiance caused Agatha Watson no small amount of grief. So he is the last person she wanted to stumble upon in her travels as a reporter with the New York Tribune. Looking worse for the wear, he clearly needs to be taken in hand and taken back East to his family. Even though she's over him, Agatha can't help feeling sorry for him and realizes she'll have to be the one to get the stubborn man back home.

Zayne has no desire to be taken anywhere. Content to sit and mope over his recent bad fortune and the desertion of his not-quite-fiance, he's prepared to drag his heels all the way back to New York. That is, until he and Agatha find themselves slipping back into the strangely enjoyable bickering and bantering of their old friendship.

It isn't until they arrive in New York City that Zayne realizes Agatha's determined nose for news has earned her a few enemies. When his attempts to repay her for helping him go sadly awry, Agatha proves herself just as stubborn as Zayne. Everyone else may think them a match, but nothing could be further from the truth--until Agatha finds herself in real trouble. Have these two stubborn, too-smart-for-their-own-good people been meant for each other all along?

Truth Be Told by Carol Cox

When Amelia Wagner takes over the running of her father's newspaper in Granite Springs, Arizona, she vows to carry on the paper's commitment to reporting only the truth. But Amelia soon learns that even the truth can have consequences. Her father's revealing articles about Great Western Investment
Company's business methods have caught the notice of the wrong person, and pressure mounts for Amelia to retract her father's statements.
Determined to find the truth, Amelia goes through her father's notes and begins to interview members of the community. She can't seem to shake Benjamin Stone, a Great Western employee who's been assigned to keep tabs on her for the good of the company.
The more Ben and Amelia learn, the more Amelia's father's claims appear to be accurate. In fact, it's probably worse than he realized. Even Ben is beginning to wonder if he's become a pawn in the workings of a corrupt empire. But Great Western isn't about to stand for a female reporter and one of their own men bringing down their lucrative schemes. Working against time, and never knowing what danger lurks around the next corner, Ben and Amelia set out to reveal all they've discovered before Great Western silences them for good.

Water Walker, The Outlaw Chronicles #3, by Ted Dekker

"My name is Alice Ringwald, but the man who kidnapped me says that's a lie."
Thirteen-year-old orphan Alice Ringwald has no memory beyond six months ago. The only life she knows is the new one she's creating one day at a time with the loving couple that recently adopted her and gave her new hope. That hope, however, is shattered one night when she is abducted by a strange man. In a frantic FBI man hunt, the kidnapper vanished with Alice. So begins Water Walker, a modern-day parable that examines the staggering power of forgiveness, and reminds us that it's possible to live free of the hurt that keeps our souls in chains.

With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

In the shadow of the nation's capital, Kate Livingston holds a respectable position as a government statistician when she encounters a rival from her past, the insufferable Trevor McDonough. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and she's bewildered at the way he suddenly seeks her out. Surprising even herself, Kate agrees to Trevor's entirely unexpected and risky proposal to work side-by-side with him in his quest to rid the world of tuberculosis, a contagious and deadly disease.
As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor's past, she realizes there is much more to him than she could have imagined. His hidden depths may fascinate her, but his most closely guarded secrets and a shadowy enemy lurking in the background carry a serious threat to their future.
When the truth of the past comes out, threatening to destroy everything they hold dear, how will Trevor and Kate ever overcome all that stands in their way?

Meant to be Mine, A Porter Family Novel #2,  by Becky Wade

Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--still irresistible. This time, though, Ty feels exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be anybody's husband. As a professional bull rider, he lives on the road and can't bring himself to settle down.

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the face of the one woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had. How much will Ty sacrifice to make Celia's dreams come true, to win her trust, and to prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?

Undetected by Dee Henderson

When asked what he does for a living, Commander Mark Bishop is deliberately low-key: "I'm in the navy." But commanding the ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada, keeping its crew trained and focused during 90-day submerged patrols, and being prepared to launch weapons on valid presidential orders, carries a burden of command like few other jobs in the military. Mark Bishop is a man who accepts that responsibility, and carries it well. And at a time when tensions are escalating in the Pacific Rim, the navy is glad to have him.

Mark wants someone to come home to after sea patrols. The woman he has in mind is young, pretty, and very smart. She's a civilian, but she understands life in the navy. And he has a strong sense that life with her would never be boring. But she may be too deep in her work to see the potential in a relationship with him.

Gina Gray would love to be married. She has always envisioned her life that way. But a breakup she didn't see coming has her focusing all her attention on what she does best--ocean science research. She's on the cusp of a breakthrough, and she needs Mark Bishop's perspective and help. Because what she's told the navy she's figured out is only the beginning. If she's right, submarine warfare is about to enter a new and dangerous chapter...

Tide and Tempest, Edge of Freedom #3,  by Elizabeth Ludwig

Dreaming of a better life, Tillie McGrath leaves Ireland behind and, with her beloved fiance by her side, sets sail for America. But when illness robs her of the man she holds dear, she's left alone with only a handful of tattered memories. While forging on proves difficult, Tillie soon finds some new friends at her New York boardinghouse, and begins pursuing a new dream--to open a home for orphaned children.

Despite two years passing, Captain Keondric Morgan has never forgotten the lass who left his ship so heartbroken. When a crewman's deathbed confession reveals her fiance's demise was the result of murder, the captain knows he must try to contact her. But his attention draws the notice of others as well--dangerous men who believe Tillie has in her possession something that could expose their crimes. And to their way of thinking, the best way to prevent such an outcome is to seize the evidence and then hand Tillie the same fate as her naïve fiancé.

Death by the Book, Drew Farthering Mystery #2,  by Julianna Deering

 Drew Farthering wanted nothing more than to end the summer of 1932 with the announcement of his engagement. Instead, he finds himself caught up in another mysterious case when the family solicitor is found murdered, an antique hatpin with a cryptic message, Advice to Jack, piercing his chest.

Evidence of secret meetings and a young girl's tearful confession point to the victim's double life, but what does the solicitor's murder have to do with the murder of a physician on the local golf course? Nothing, it would seem--except for another puzzling note, affixed with a similar-looking bloodied hatpin.

Soon the police make an arrest in connection with the murders, but Drew isn't at all certain they have the right suspect in custody. And why does his investigation seem to be drawing him closer and closer to home?

Visible Threat by Janice Cantore

Officer Brinna Caruso wants perfection--perfect justice and a perfect world. She wants to save and protect all the innocents in the world, no matter the cost.Orphaned and struggling to get by, Ivana and her sister left Bulgaria for America with dreams of a better life. But since they arrived in Long Beach, everything they were promised has turned out to be a lie.After a dead girl is found in the river with a mysterious tattoo on her hip, homicide detective Jack O'Reilly asks for Brinna's help. Unaware of the depths of evil that will be uncovered, Brinna finds herself flung into a dangerous frontier--an organized human trafficking ring.

Love Comes Calling, Against All Expectations, by Siri Mitchell

Dreaming of becoming an actress, Boston socialite Ellis Eaton captures Griff Phillips' attention. But while filling in for a look-alike friend at the telephone exchange, she overhears a call that threatens Griff's safety. With handsome policeman Jack Flanigan investigating - and her heart in a muddle - will she discover what might be the role of a lifetime?

Thanks for checking out my blog, and I hope you will check out my blog posts concerning Best of Teen/ Young Adult Books in 2013 and Top Ten Fiction Novels of 2013 as well as any of my other reviews. Please be sure to check out the other bloggers participating in the Best Of Blog Hop.