Thursday, June 26, 2014

Safe in His Arms by Colleen Coble

Born and raised on sprawling Texas land, Margaret O’Brien prides herself on her competence as a rancher. But her father believes she’s made for more than just dawn-to-dusk work. He wants her to have the love of a good man, to raise children, to build a life. But Margaret gave up such dreams years ago. She’s convinced no man would have her, that the ranch is her life now.

So when Margaret’s father hires Daniel Cutler as a new foreman, she’s frustrated and suspicious. Then an overheard conversation links him with a gang of bank robbers, and she’s downright worried. Daniel swears he’s not involved, but Margaret’s not convinced. She knows the man still has secrets. But would a criminal be so kind and talk so convincingly of his faith? As a series of tragic “accidents” threatens all she holds dear, Margaret must decide what to trust: her own ears, her best judgment . . . or what her heart keeps telling her.

Safe in His Arms by Colleen Coble was an interesting and romantic novel. The plot line was filled with mystery, romance, and suspense, and there were definitely unexpected developments that kept me riveted to the pages. The characters were intriguing and well developed, and I enjoyed seeing Margaret and Daniel interact with one another as they tried to figure each other out. They each had their own strengths and weaknesses, and as the story progressed, each had to learn to work past their misgivings in order to prevent the dangers that surround them. Overall, I enjoyed this second installment in the Under the Stars series, and I would recommend both Blue Moon Promise and Safe in His Arms to readers who enjoy western novels that have equal parts romance and mystery.

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

Water Walker by Ted Dekker

Second in the new series from Ted Dekker, master of suspense, whose books have sold 9 million copies. Humming with intensity, Water Walker is a raw adrenaline rush from first page to last.

"My name is Alice Ringwald, but the man who kidnapped me says that's a lie." Thirteen-ear 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 manhunt, he vanishes. 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.

Water Walker by Ted Dekker is part of the Outlaw Chronicles and continues on with same thrilling intensity as seen in Eyes Wide Open. The novel Water Walker contains characters previously seen in Eyes Wide Open (like Alice), themes and characters found in Outlaw, and mentions situations/characters that were first seen in Ted Dekker's Paradise novels.  The plot line was intriguing and spellbinding, containing elements of mystery, suspense, and danger that added to the intensity of the novel. The themes were well developed and convicting, and they were founded on topics such as the importance of forgiveness (both asking for it and accepting it), the great love and mercy offered by God, and having faith to trust God and His power, even when it seems impossible. I really enjoyed the images used to describe these important themes, and I liked the imagery and analogies the Outlaw used to illustrate important concepts to Alice. The characters of the novel were relatable and intriguing, and while not completely realistic, they all had different sins, desires, and problems that the majority of humanity experiences during life. Alice was the main character, and the majority of the novel was from her perspective, which really gave the reader insight to her in-depth thoughts, feelings, and emotions throughout the story. Overall, I highly enjoyed Water Walker, and I would certainly recommend all of the novels in the Outlaw Chronicles to those who enjoy psychological thrillers that are built on positive concepts and truth.

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Vanishings by Jerry B Jenkins and Tim LaHaye

 Read first chapter excerpt here

This book is the first book in the Left Behind: The Kids series, which is based on the best-selling adult Left Behind series. Readers will see the Rapture and Tribulation through the eyes of four kids who have been left behind. The Vanishings is equivalent to first quarter of Left Behind (Book 1 of the adult series) as only one fourth of the events that occurred in that book happen in the kids' novel. This novel is recommended for children betweenn 10-14 years old, but I would caution against letting kids younger than 13 read this series unless they are highly mature. I read this series when I was probably 14, and I had already read the adult series, so it was not too mature for me. However, the issues and past sins addressed in this novel cause this novel to possibly be too much for some young readers. I would recommend that parents read the books first so that they can discuss the issues and apocalyptic situations with their children. I would also suggest reading more than just this first novel as not much of the redemptive side of the story is expressed in this novel. The Vanishings kind of sets the stage for the rest of the series. I thought this novel and this series fit together quite well with the adult Left Behind series as many of the adult characters show up in the kids series. The plot line moves very quickly and the chapters are quite short. Overall, I enjoyed this series, but I would definitely recommend that parents read the books first to determine if their children are ready yet.

Haunted Waters by Jerry B Jenkins and Chris Fabry

Read first chapter excerpt here

Watch out! The Timberline twins are on the loose. Bryce and Ashley are ATV-riding tweens from Colorado who unearth action-packed mystery and adventure wherever they go. From clearing the name of a local miscreant to thwarting a gold-stealing heist, the twins' growing faith and the strong example of their parents guide them through even the most life-threatening situations.

Haunted Waters is Book 1 in the Red Rock Mystery Series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry, and it is a wonderful read for children ages 8-12 and even those who are older. The plot line is interesting and contains elements of mystery, suspense, and danger that keep the reader riveted to the pages. The ending is an exciting cliffhanger that makes the reader anxious for more. I read this series several years ago, but the entire series is very enjoyable, suspenseful, and includes the importance of family, faith in God, and forgiving and trusting one another. The characters are realistic and well developed, and they continue to grow and change as the series goes on. Overall, I would highly recommend this novel to children grades three and up and who enjoy a good mystery. 

Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

Read First Chapter Excerpt Here

Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has calmed down some, Fleur Landis, a former girlfriend, reappears, in dire need of his help. She's married now, no longer an actress--but the lead actor in her former troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect.

Drew would rather focus on his fiancée, Madeline Parker, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur and her family in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline begin investigating, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. It seems nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between.

Both the murder case and the presence of the beautiful, exotic Fleur put a heavy strain on Drew and Madeline's relationship. Will their still-young romance survive the pressure?

Murder and the Mikado (Book 3 in the Drew Farthering Mysteries) by Julianna Deering was an interesting and intriguing mystery full of unexpected twists, turns, and revelations. The alibis appeared to be unbreakable, and the murders were unexpected and hard to explain. But as the mystery continued, new and unsettling discoveries rocked all of those who were involved. Drew and Madeline's relationship reached an interesting point in this novel. Madeline was so unsettled and mistrusting of Fleur, Drew's old heartbreak, and Drew's interest in her case, that she became quite unreasonable and I had trouble understanding her because I could not believe why she went to such an extreme. However, since I have always thought that Madeline and Drew's relationship started too quickly, I was glad to see them take some time to reevaluate their feelings about each other and their own selves before entering marriage. It was good to see them begin to work through old trust issues and begin to trust one another (and God) better with their futures. Drew was rather unfeeling to Madeline's desires, but eventually he saw the truth and became a better person from his struggle. Overall, I thought the mystery in this novel was fantastic, and while I was not completely fond of how Drew and Madeline's relationship changed, it did seem realistic and necessary to the continuation of a strong relationship between them.

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

Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble

When Elin Summerall contracted a virus that damaged her heart, she was lucky to get a transplant. At first it was an overwhelmingly good gift. But then she began to remember a murder she never witnessed—the murder of her heart's donor. When she reveals what she knows to a disbelieving police officer, she's exposed as a witness and must flee for her life to a remote cottage on Hope Beach.

Fearing what might happen to her daughter and mother, she asks Marc Everton for help, though she hasn't seen him since the night her father died. Marc is less than convinced that Elin's "memories" are real.

As Elin tries to stay alive and bring the killer to justice, she begins to doubt her own identity. Did her new heart save her life only to cause her to lose herself? And if she's really changed, why does her new heart love Marc just as much as her old one did?

Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble is A Hope Beach novel but works perfectly well as a standalone novel. The plotline is well paced and includes an excellent mix of suspense, mystery, romance, and danger. There two storylines that weave together; one is the story of the house that Ellin is staying at and its hidden treasure, as narrated by the diary of the original owner. The second and more important storyline is the mysterious killer that is stalking Elin's every footstep. The author did an excellent job setting up the story so that I was left guessing who was the killer until almost the very end when I finally figured it out -and it was not what I expected.  The characters of this novel were interesting and fairly well developed. Both Marc and Elin had their share of flaws and misconceptions towards one another that they had to work through. The idea of Elin developing some of the likes/dislikes of her heart donor was very intriguing, and I have no idea if that is actually possible. There were two other important characters, Sara and Josh, who have been in the previous Hope Beach novels, and they finally had some interesting and sweet developments in their story. The one thing I did not really like about the characters/storyline was the very little mention of God and having faith in Him. He is mentioned a couple of times, but the importance of trusting and having faith in God could have been woven in a little more. Overall, I did enjoy this novel, and I would definitely recommend the series to those who enjoy mysteries and romance.

I received this novel from Book Look Bloggers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Runaway by Dandi Daley Mackall

 Read first chapter excerpt here

I've run away seven times—never once to anything, just away from. Maybe that's why they call me a “runaway,” and not a “run-to.”
Meet 16-year-old Dakota Brown. She used to love all things “horse” until she lost everything, including hope. The minute she sets foot on her foster parents' farm—Starlight Animal Rescue—she plans her escape. But can an “impossible” horse named Blackfire and this quirky collection of animal lovers be the home she's always dreamed of? Starlight Animal Rescue: Where problem horses are trained and loved, where abandoned dogs become heroes, where stray cats become loyal companions. And where people with nowhere to fit in find a place to belong.

Runaway by Dandi Daley Mackall was a sweet and enjoyable teen novel that demonstrated the importance of a loving and forgiving family and a trust in God. Dakota has never had a real family that cared for her, and she has never felt needed by anyone or anything. The new foster family she lives with is quite a different sort who rescue both children and animals, have very loving relationships with one another, and have such unique personalities that Dakota does not know what to think. All she knows is to make lists and to runaway. Runaway from others, from herself, and from God. This novel is the first in the Starlight Rescue series and contains references and contact with both Winnie and Catman from the Winnie the Horse Gentler series, which was a wonderful addition for those who have read that previous series. I also liked the characters because they were all very unique and each had their own quirky traits that set them apart. Dakota was the main character, and the novel was told in first person from her point of view. She had her own flaws, but as the book progressed, it was inspiring to see how her heart and attitude changed once she experienced love, trust, and forgiveness. Her relationship with Blackfire the abused horse was also enjoyable to see as both had experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of others. Runaway was an easy and quick read, but it was a good young teen novel, and I look forward to reading more of the series for fun this summer.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Critical Conditions by Richard L. Mabry M.D.

Dr. Frasier couldn't save the gunshot victim on her front lawn. Now she's fighting for her own life.
It began as a quiet dinner party honoring Dr. Shannon Frasier's colleague, but became a nightmare when a man was shot on her lawn, reviving emotions from a similar episode a decade ago. Then a midnight call from her sister, Megan, causes Shannon to fear that her sister is on drugs again.
Her "almost-fiancé" Dr. Mark Gilbert's support only adds to Shannon's feelings of guilt, since she can't bring herself to fully commit to him. She turns for help to her pastor-father, only to learn that he's just been diagnosed with leukemia.
Shannon thought it couldn't get any worse. Then the late-night, threatening phone calls begin, the rough voice asking, "What did he say before he died?"
With everything around her in a critical state, simply staying alive will require all the resources and focus Shannon has.

Critical Condition by Richard L. Mabry M.D. was an suspenseful and exciting read that kept me glued to its pages as I tried to discover who was responsible for the murders happening and why Shannon was suddenly involved. The plot line was well written and flawlessly switched between moments in the hospital to the dangers Shannon faced and then to the struggles in her own personal life with her fiance, sister, and father. I was drawn into Shannon's plight, and I was glad to see that as the struggles grew harder, Shannon began to return to God and to a faith in Him, something which Mark supported. I also really appreciated the clarity and the intensity in which the scenes in the hospital where Mark and Shannon worked were crafted so that I really felt like I was apart of the team and experiencing the scenes and situations as they unfolded as well. Overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely, and I liked how the mystery, medical field, and even matters of romance, tragedy, and spirituality were all integrated smoothly into one story. I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Trauma Plan by Candace Calvert

Sidelined by injuries from a vicious assault, chaplain Riley Hale is determined to return to her former duties as an ER nurse. But how can she show she’s competent when the hospital won’t let her attempt even simple tasks? Determined to prove herself, Riley volunteers at a controversial urban free clinic despite her fears about the maverick doctor in charge.

Dr. Jack Travis defends his clinic like he’s commander of the Alamo. He’ll fight the community’s efforts to shut its doors, even if he must use Riley Hale’s influential family name to make it happen.

As Riley strives to regain her skills, Jack finds that she shares his compassion—and stirs his lonely heart. Riley senses that beneath Jack’s rough exterior is a man she can believe in. But when clinic protests escalate and questions surface about his past, Jack goes into battle mode and Riley wonders if it’s dangerous to trust him with her heart.

Trauma Plan by Candace Calvert was an interesting and revealing novel about life working both in an emergency room and in a small clinic. As a person who is interested in going into the medical novel, I found this novel to be very illuminating and exciting. The plot line was filled with a good mixture of mystery, suspense, medical emergencies, and even a little romance. I was drawn into the many questions that surrounded Jack's past as well as the issue that currently threatened both Riley and Jack. The characters of this novel were both charming and unique. I felt for Riley as she struggled to continue working considering the injuries she had suffered and as she dealt with issues she had towards trusting God and have a deeper relationship with Him. I also liked Jack as he was very prickly on the outside but actually had a compassionate and kind heart underneath. The interactions between Riley and Jack were very interesting and sometimes humorous, and I enjoyed watching them grow closer to each other and to the Lord. Overall, I highly enjoyed this first Grace Medical Novel, and I look forward to reading future novels as well. I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Marvelous by Travis Thrasher

Read First Chapter Excerpt Here

Brandon Jeffery’s summer started out with a bang—as in, a friend crashed his car and now he has to work two jobs to pay it off. It’s at Fascination Street Records that he’s introduced to a beautiful but quiet girl named Marvel. She’s new to Hidden Cove and looking for a summer job, so Brandon secretly strikes a deal with their boss to work for free so she can be hired.

When a classmate is found murdered, however, their summer takes a turn for the mysterious. Brandon’s friend Devon is sure he knows just who’s to blame: the creepy recluse of the town quarry. But the police have few leads, and Brandon has the sneaking suspicion he’s being watched.

That’s not what’s in the forefront of on his mind, though. More than trying to pay off his car to his unemployed, alcoholic father and protecting Seth Belcher from the school bullies, he’s determined to date Marvel. He doesn’t understand why they seem so close and she refuses to date him, but as the mystery behind her tragic past begins to unravel, Marvel finally confesses her reasons....but can Brandon accept them, or will he find himself in deeper than he thought?

 First off, this is the first novel that I have read by Travis Thrasher, so I am not yet familiar with his style or series formatting. For me, I thought Marvelous by Travis Thrasher started off well enough. I was beginning to like the characters, to feel compassion for Brandon as he faced an abusive father, and I was intrigued by the mysteries that surrounded Brandon and his friends. However, as the book continued, I felt the story began to drag significantly as the summer began to come to a close and nothing had been resolved. Instead, the whole story seemed to center around Marvel and her quirky nature and Brandon's growing obsession with getting to know her better. In the end, everything else was just left to drag behind as unconnected strings, and I still had no idea what was going on with Seth, what person was murdering young teens, and what was going to happen with Brandon and his dad. The only thing that kept me from giving this book two stars was the fact that I found out it is just the first in the Books of Marvel, so I am hoping that the next book will offer more clarity. However, despite my issues with the overall plot of the book, I did enjoy getting to know Brandon, his friends, and Marvel. All of the characters were interesting and fairly realistic, besides Marvel of course. I am still not sure what I think of her, but she is definitely intriguing and appears to have a very close relationship with God, which I liked. I do look forward to seeing what will happen to her as she continues to press forward in following what she believes is God's plan for her life. Some of the visions and spiritual aspects of the book I did find to be a bit odd and certainly abnormal, but it did not detract too much from the book for me. It will be interesting to see how the author develops those in future books. Overall, Marvelous  was not my favorite book, nor does it have a very satisfying ending, but it was definitely still an interesting read. I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Butterfly Palace by Colleen Coble

Abandoned by the love of her life and still mourning the loss of her mother, Lily Donaldson has turned her back on the pain and come to Austin for a fresh start, working for the Marshall family as a kitchen maid in their luxurious mansion, the Butterfly Palace. The tasks before her are legion, and her mistress less than pleasant, but at least Lily’s new life will be, if nothing else, distracting.
But one night, while serving at a dinner party, Lily recognizes the man who abandoned her, Andy, her liaison from the livery stable, the blacksmith’s son . . . sitting among the distinguished guests. Though he recognizes her, Andy does not acknowledge her aloud, and Lily is left reeling, flabbergasted, and irate.

But before she can get an explanation, the path of the Servant Girl Killer swerves very close to the Butterfly Palace, sowing terror among the maids. Having come to Austin to start anew, Lily suddenly feels trapped in a spider web. How can she know who to trust in a house where lies come dressed in fine suits and deceit in silk gowns the colors of butterfly wings?

Butterfly Palace by Colleen Coble was an interesting and exciting novel that kept me glued to the pages. The plot line was fantastic as it was quick paced, filled with unexpected twists and turns, surprising events and villains and even a good deal of murder. It took me quite a while to figure out who was the Servant Girl Killer and who was actually involved or not. The plot was so intricate that I was still surprised when all was revealed at the end. The novel included several intriquing details such as several butterfly collections, a house fire, and a counterfeiting ring. While I highly enjoyed the plot, there characters often times left something to be desired. I felt like they were not very deep or realistic at times, and the fact that Andy and Lily already knew each other meant that their new romance seemed rushed and shallow for the reader. I also wished that several minor characters, like Belle, Jane, and even Andy had received more depth and explanation to their personalities. I was glad that Belle got a larger part in the story as the book went on, but I still thought that Lily was the only character that I got to know well at all. Despite the lacking in character development at times, I still enjoyed reading Butterfly Palace and found it to be a very intriguing mystery/suspense novel if not as romantic as some of Colleen Coble's other novels. I received this novel for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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.

 The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley was an interesting and passionate novel that explored the lives of Herod and his family as well as the changing times of Israel, Rome, and Egypt. Lydia has the 'privilege' of being the handmaiden to three different high ranking women: Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, the Caesar's wife, and Queen Mariamme of Israel. The plot line is well written and includes elements of tragedy, romance, mystery, and danger. There are few minor changes to the timeline of many of the historical events that happen in this novel, but these only occur in order for the novel to be a reasonable length. I was saddened by many of the true and terrible events that happen by both Cleopatra's hands and Herod's. Mariamme had a very unfortunate life under Herod's rule, and this book definitely made me more aware of this. Lydia also had her own struggles, but I enjoyed watching her work through those situations, begin to trust and to follow God, and as she tried to save those she was with and whom she loved. I also really liked the man who entered her life as well as their relationship and how each was drawn into a stronger relationship with the Lord. Overall, I found The Queen's Handmaid to be an excellent historical novel that drew me in and gave me a better understanding of life in Israel during Herod's reign. I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Advocate by Randy Singer

At the trial of Christ, Theophilus, brilliant young assessore raised in the Roman aristocracy, stands behind Pontius Pilate and whispers, “Offer to release Barabbas.” The strategy backfires, and Theophilus never forgets the sight of an innocent man unjustly suffering the worst of all possible deaths—Roman crucifixion.

Three decades later, Theophilus has proven himself in the legal ranks of the Roman Empire. He has survived the insane rule of Caligula and has weathered the cruel tyrant’s quest to control the woman he loves. He has endured the mindless violence of the gladiator games and the backstabbing intrigue of the treason trials.

Now he must face another evil Caesar, defending the man Paul in Nero’s deranged court. Can Theophilus mount a defense that will keep another innocent man from execution?

The advocate’s first trial altered the course of history. His last will change the fate of an empire.

The Advocate by Randy Singer was an excellent read that incorporated fact with fiction in a flawless and intriguing way. I have always been interested in who Theophilus actually was, and I thought this novel put together a story of his life that was captivating, compelling, and even credible. The history of Roman lifestyles, history, emperors, architecture, philosophy, and Greek philosophy that were a part of this story were very well researched and completely pulled me into the story and the time period. I was really intrigued by how the author orchestrated Theophilus' life to have him be at Jesus' crucifixion, then be involved in several Roman events, and finally defend Paul in front of Nero because of his guilt that Jesus, an innocent man, was killed while he stood by silently. I also liked the author's take on why the books of Luke and Acts were written to Theophilus in the first place. The descriptions of locations, people, and situations were detailed and helped me picture what was going on.

The plot was well written and contained a good mixture of slow and fast paced sections as well as including mystery, romance, danger, and sorrow. The majority of the story was narrated in first person from Theophilus' perspective; however, one section was third person from Flavia's perspective and the last section was third person but still from Theophilus' point of view. The novel was supposed to be like Theophilus was writing his memoirs except for the last section which supposedly occurred after he  finished his memoirs. The characters in The Advocate, especially Theophilus were realistic and well developed. I really felt like I could relate to Theophilus and his emotions and thoughts because of the way the novel was written. There were times where I was deeply sad because of the situations that he and several others faced, especially at the end and another time when one particular person died. Overall, I really enjoyed the depth and content of this novel, and while it was not Randy Singer's normal style, The Advocate was definitely an excellent read that I would highly recommend.

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

In 1944, blond and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy.

Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin is a powerful re-telling of the story of Esther set during World War II. I loved how Kate Breslin took the story of Esther and crafted a moving story of redemption, salvation, and love even during the terrible times of the concentration camps and the atrocities committed against the Jews. Each chapter starts with a verse or two from Esther that corresponds in some way to the events that occur in that chapter. The story is not merely the story of Esther moved to a new time period; this is a novel that perfectly fits the WWII time period and which incorporates some of the main aspects of the story into its plot. For Such a Time includes poignant descriptions of the horrors of the German concentration camps, how the Nazis tricked Jews into the camps, how they forced the Jewish elders to choose which of their people they would send to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and other heart-wrenching actions that occurred. While there is terrible heartache and sadness in this novel, there is still a bright hope of salvation that resides within the people as they believe Hadassah (Stella) will save them. What they, Stella, and even Aric discover is that salvation comes with trusting and believing in God and not a person can do alone. I liked how Stella began to read the Bible, even the New Testament, and then how she discovered the truth of love, forgiveness, and faith in God.

The characters of For Such a Time were heartwarming and moving. I loved the interactions between Aric and Stella as they learned more about each other and about themselves. Both had their faults, but both were able to move past those as they began to love and to trust one another and God again. Aric was probably my favorite character because even with the brokenness he had experienced and the atmosphere of animosity towards Jews in which he lived, he still was able to show compassion and love towards Stella and others. I also loved Morty, Stella's aunt, his friend, and the small boy Joseph who had suffered so much. They all added so much depth to the story and made it even more realistic. Even the evil Hermann and the other Nazis contributed to the plot twists and complexity of the story. However, my favorite part was probably the ending when the unexpected happened, and I could finally relax from the gripping storyline. Overall, I found this novel to be a compelling and powerful story, and I would highly recommend For Such a Time to any reader who enjoys historical fiction that combines facts with romance, Biblical truths, and mystery.

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

Wild Thing by Dandi Daley Mackall

Read the first chapter Here
Twelve-year-old Winnie Willis has a way with horses. She can gentle the wildest mare, but other parts of her life don't always come as easily. Along with her dad and sister, Lizzy, Winnie is learning how to live without her mom, who was also a natural horse gentler. As Winnie teaches her horses about unconditional love and blind trust, God shows Winnie that he can be trusted too. Readers will be hooked on the series' vivid characters, whose quirky personalities fill Winnie's life with friendship and adventure.

In #1 Wild Thing, Winnie's fearful heart finally begins to trust God again as she tries to gentle the horse of her dreams, Wild Thing. This novel was a sweet book and a great start to the Winnie the Horse Gentler series. Winnie is very shy when interacting with people, but she absolutely loves horses. I loved how she compared people and their behaviors to horses, especially when the people in question acted little better than animals. However, I enjoyed seeing Winnie's transformation as she began to make friends, trust God, and pursue her dreams to help horses and (indirectly) people as well. The characters were very interesting and realistic with unique personalities. The descriptions were beautiful, especially of the horses. Overall, Wild Thing and the rest of the series are great reads for teens or young readers who love horses and a little mystery.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

Read Chapter Excerpt Here
Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong
Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white. 
If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

"Fear Not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." Isaiah 43:1. These words are central to A Broken Kind of Beautiful, because Ivy has never been wanted by anyone for anything other than her beauty and her body. As a result, she is an empty person who has been broken by harsh circumstances and a lack of love but who remains a mask of beauty on the outside. Except for Davis, who seems to see beneath her mask, and his family, who longs to show her the love of a real family and a true Father. This novel masterfully relays both the sad reality of the physical beauty-consumed world we live in and the awesome truth of the power of the great forgiveness and love that can be found when we are redeemed by our Heavenly Father. I was greatly convicted of the fact that we often overlook the inner beauty of individuals for the physical. In addition, we ignore the true needs of people, even the 'beautiful', to be loved, cherished, and respected. The setting of the novel is varied and descriptive and demonstrates both the true beauty of the natural world (like the small town of Greenbriar, SC) and the flashy and gaudy 'beauty' that often rules the club and fashion scenes of New York and other cities. The plot line is well written and filled with truths about love, forgiveness, and beauty. I was drawn into the story right away as my heart hurt for Ivy, Marilyn, Sara, and Davis who all lived with their own demons and as they struggled to turn their worries and past mistakes over to God.

The characters of this novel were vibrant and realistic. Each character had their own weaknesses, their own broken areas in their lives, and the novel became a beautiful picture of true redemption looks like for those who seek to be redeemed by God. Davis and Ivy had a very interesting story together, and I loved watching them interact and seeing as Ivy's walls began to slowly break down. Even the moments of pain and sadness were orchestrated in a way to point towards God and the forgiveness and hope He offers. Overall, I highly enjoyed A Broken Kind of Beautiful, and I found to be a poignant and powerful story of love, hope, and forgiveness that touched my heart. I was left thinking of the lyrics of the song Beneath Your Beautiful, which states, 
"You've carried on so long,
You couldn't stop if you tried it.
You've built your wall so high
That no one could climb it,
But I'm gonna try.

Would you let me see beneath your beautiful?
Would you let me see beneath your perfect?
I want to see inside
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful tonight."

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Death Trap by Sigmund Brouwer

 Read an excerpt here

Set in an experimental community on Mars in the year 2039, The Robot Wars series features 14-year-old virtual reality specialist Tyce Sanders. Life on the red planet is not always easy, but it is definitely exciting. Tyce finds that the mysteries of the planet point to his greatest discovery—a new relationship with God. He talks about his growing faith and curiosity in a manner that kids can relate to as they are probably wondering some of the same things. Each book contains two exciting adventures. In the first adventure, the Mars project is in trouble and only Tyce holds the key. In the second adventure, Tyce has discovered there may be killer aliens on the loose.
Robot Wars is a repackaged and updated version of Mars Diaries. There are now five books in the series; each book contains two stories. These new books contain a foreword about how far science has brought us.

Death Trap by Sigmund Brouwer was an interesting young adult novel that stretched the mind with living on another planet with potential aliens about. I was intrigued both by the plot line and the robot suits that Tyce created for himself which were controlled both by using the mind and the body. Tyce was an interesting character who faced a lot of hurt and misgiving because of his crippled status but who ultimately found peace through trusting God and His design and through helping others. I found this novel to be very suspenseful with several unexpected twists and situations that kept me glued to the short book. I would definitely recommend this novel to any young (or older) reader who enjoys a good science fiction read that holds a bit of the unexpected. 

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.

Truth Be Told by Carol Cox was an exciting novel filled with mystery, suspense, and even some romance. The plot line was well written and interesting with good descriptions of the Old West, how newspapers used to be made, and some of the scandalous business practices that may or may not have existed. The characters well also realistic and well-developed. I liked Amelia with her heart to discover and to proclaim the truth even if she did not like what she found. She quickly learned that it was important to trust and to rely on God and others because she could not do it all alone. Ben was another interesting character who was quick to re-examine his life, his job, and his company in search of the truth. I liked how he was willing to find the truth even at the risk of losing his job. The other more minor characters each added their own flair and personality to the story and helped to add to the depth and flavor of the story. Overall, I enjoyed the mystery and history contained in Truth Be Told, and I look forward to Carol Cox's next book! I received this novel for free from Bethany House and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Meant to Be Mine 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 seems to feel 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 her husband. He's a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he's long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he's known since childhood.

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 eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia's trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade was a sweet novel (the second in the Porter Family series) that underscored the reality of how love can exist even when bad choices and unfortunate situations seek to snuff it out. Despite the poor choices that Ty and Celia made, they both learn important lessons from their mistakes and they become better people as they seek to rectify those mistakes. Both young people have to choose to forgive one another and themselves and to seek God's forgiveness and to trust Him to guide their lives. I really enjoyed seeing how the couple had to learn to work together, to try to trust again, and to make the best of the circumstances that faced them. I was inspired at times when they acted selflessly out of love even when it came at a great cost. Ty and Celia's little daughter was precious, and she did a great deal to help fix the situation. Overall, I found this novel to have a sweet and interesting plot line, enjoyable characters, difficult situations, and a quick read. I would recommend this novel to any reader looking for interesting and genuine romance novel. I received this novel for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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 her crew trained and alert during ninety-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 handles it well. And at a time when tensions are escalating around 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, with a lovely smile, and very smart. She's a civilian, yet she understands the U.S. Navy culture. 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. A breakup she didn't see coming, though, has her focusing all her attention on what she does best--ocean science research. She's on the cusp of a major breakthrough, and she needs Mark Bishop's perspective and help. Because what she 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.

Undetected by Dee Henderson was a fantastic novel that delved into the depths of the lives of those on Navy submarines and what it means to find and to pursue love. Not a fast paced novel by any means, Undetected has a slow, measured stride that really allows the reader to connect with both the storyline and the characters. The plot line is well developed and interesting and contains a lot of details about what it means to work with the Navy, to live on a Navy submarine, to live on land only one third of the year, and many of the strategies and tactics (and possible new ones) that are a part of keeping the peace in international waters. I was intrigued by all of the issues and underworkings that make up submarine life and warfare, and I also enjoyed the potential ideas that could (and maybe have) completely changed the way the Navy and submarine tactics work. The plot also centered around a multitude of deep and important conversations that occurred between the major characters in the novel. These conversations delved into significant topics like trusting God, finding love and marriage, valuing oneself and others, as well as the value of patience.

The characters in this novel were very realistic and well developed. Since the novel was slow paced, I really was able to connect with the characters and to feel like I actually knew them. Mark was a very dynamic character who was not afraid to fight for what he wanted wholeheartedly but who still had a great amount of patience, care, and kindness for those he loved. I enjoyed seeing his relationship with those he worked with, with Gina, and with the others whom he cared about. I liked Daniel too, and I enjoyed how he made the novel interesting and really added to the conflicts that Gina faced. Gina was amazingly smart but at the same time naive and frightened about how to find and to recognize love and then how to accept it from others. I was touched by her concern for others, and I really felt for her as she struggled to make several important life choices. Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel, and I would definitely recommend Undetected and Dee Henderson's other novels to any reader looking for a touching and interesting read.

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

When Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston from an eastern finishing school, she's stunned to find her father in ill health. Though she loves him, he's only ever focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run their family business, Renard Shipping.Vowing to secure a suitable marriage partner to alleviate her father's fears and save their family from danger, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure.

Darius Thornton needs a secretary--someone to help him get his notes in order. Ever since the boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana, Darius has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. The pretty young socialite who applies for the job baffles him with her knowledge of mathematics and steamships. He decides to take a risk and hire her, but he's determined her attractive face and fancy clothes won't distract him from his important research.

As Darius' experiments get more dangerous, Nicole cannot help but feel that sparks are beginning to fly between them. Darius Thornton is not the sort of man debutante Nicole Renard could ever marry. But can she stop her heart from surging full steam ahead?

Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer was a sweet and charming novel that was a perfect summer time read. Quick paced and exciting, I was glued to the pages for the entire novel. The plot was entertaining and contained some suspense, mystery, and, of course, romance. I found the topic of steamboats and how they were originally extremely unreliable and could blow up at any change to be very interesting. The characters were well written and relatable to the reader. While I did not like how quickly the romance developed between Darius and Nicole, I did enjoy their interactions with one another and how Nicole directed Darius to trust God's plan and to forgive himself instead of trying to overwork himself to find a solution to the steamboat problem. I liked how Darius developed from the first chapter until after he met Nicole. I also found Nicole to be a good character who had her own strengths and weaknesses, especially as she struggled to see her own worth as the only child (and as a daughter) to a father who desperately wanted a son. I also enjoyed how Darius and Nicole interacted with the housekeeper and butler who were basically family to Darius and how they extended kindness to a young boy who had no one. I thought all the fuss about a dagger to be a bit ridiculous, but it did show how some people believe that an object can bring prosperity instead of hard work. Overall, I enjoyed this historical romance, and I thought Full Steam Ahead made for a great summer afternoon read.

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