Vanishing Point (Nikki Boyd Files) by Lisa Harris – Book Review

Vanishing Point (Nikki Boyd Files) by Lisa Harris

Published by Revell Publishing November 07, 2017

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Drama

Pages: 173

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

During Garrett Addison’s first week on the job as a criminal investigator for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, his team is called out to a murder scene of a young girl. She’s the third victim in a string of disappearances with one thing in common–a Polaroid photo of each victim left behind at the crime scene.

The FBI is pulled into the case to help, and Garrett finds himself working with Special Agent Jordan Lambert, the woman he once loved. When yet another girl dies–number six–Garrett blames himself and believes he doesn’t have what it takes to be an agent. What he’ll discover is that, while he may be done with the killer, the killer is not done with him–or Jordan.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Harris unveils an unforgettable story of a case that has haunted the public and law enforcement for more than a decade. Fans of the Nikki Boyd Files will thrill to finally discover what actually happened to Nikki’s sister, Sarah. New readers will become instant fans after devouring this chilling tale.

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Story Notes

Lisa Harris finally delivers the long awaited back story to her Nikki Boyd Files readers – what happened to Sarah Boyd?

With a story that spans more than 10 years of time Lisa Harris presents the unsolved case of Sarah Boyd – sister to FBI Agent Nikki Boyd and suspected victim of the Angel Abductor. This case has remained unsolved for many years and is the very reason Nikki Boyd walked away from her teaching career to become a cop. Ms. Harris takes her readers back to 2004 and starts at the beginning – with the first three girls taken and only two bodies found. Instead of focusing on Nikki, however, she will turn to the lead investigator on this case Garrett Addison and tell the story through his eyes. Garrett has been handed the case of the three missing girls his first week as an investigator for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation – a case that has turned deadly with the finding of two bodies. Determined to find the one responsible before someone else goes missing, Garrett jumps in with both feet, praying for the wisdom to see what may have been missed before. As his team investigates the latest crime scene, they find a Polaroid of the deceased girl before she died, great fear evident on her face. They also find the intact wallet of the victim in a nearby trashcan. Shocked at the brazen way in which this killer leaves clues, they quickly realize that whoever this murderer is has a precise and calculating mind. And, in spite of their best efforts, this case will not be closed anytime soon. Working alongside Garrett is his former girlfriend, Jordan Lambert, who works as an case analyzer for the FBI. Jordan spends much of her days behind a desk as she reviews cases and finds new leads to follow. This case will bring an end to that work, as she finds herself both drawn to the field work of the Angel Abductor case and Garrett. Neither of them really got over their breakup but they have tried to move forward with their lives and their work. But this case will take its toll on both of them, teaching lessons and breaking them down to what matters most – justice and forgiveness. And as more girls are taken and found dead, Garrett must keep his focus or he will risk losing his ability to find the killer. Ms. Harris created some very good characters with this back story of Nikki’s life. However, I found that the pacing of this story was a little slow. Her writing was excellent and the mystery well developed but I felt it just dragged a little in the middle of the book. Not to say that this isn’t very likely how cases of this magnitude work, I know that there are many cases that remain unsolved for decades before a resolution is found. I think the main problem I found was that the story was so far removed from the focus of the previous Nikki Boyd stories that I had a hard time connecting this plot to the others. On the other hand, I really loved the way that Ms. Harris developed her main characters to show a deeply human side of these investigators. Walking the fine line between hope and despair is a daily struggle for crime investigators and Ms. Harris was deliberate in showing the toll it takes on them. How often we forget that these men and women have family life outside of their work and it can greatly affect their ability to do their job. Sharing the grief of losing a beloved parent, the pain of a parent who disapproves of career choices, and the loss of true love from the choice to keep feelings inside allowed Ms. Harris to make her story real and relatable. So while there were a few pieces of this story that made it difficult to read there was so much more that made me glad I did. I had been given glimpses into this background of Nikki’s life and was happy to finally get the whole story. It seemed to me that this was one of those “necessary but not the best story” books that comes with every series. The one where there is a lot of information that needs to be told and therefore the plot will be a bit slower. But I have been able to round out my depiction of Nikki better in my imagination through this story so I believe that the next ones will only get better. I have this book on my birthday list and look forward to adding it to my shelves to read again. I will recommend this book to others as an important part of the story of Nikki Boyd – one that is not to be missed for those who are fans of these books. I am hoping there will be another installment of this excellent series soon as I am loving getting to know all of the ins and outs of this character.

I received this E-book free of charge from Revell Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

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A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden – Book Review

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

Published by Bethany House Publishers October 03, 2017

Genre: Suspense, Historical, Romance, Drama, Christian

Pages: 343

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Page-Turning Romance and Intrigue in Award-Winning Author’s Next Historical Novel

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

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Story Notes

Elizabeth Camden begins a new series in the Empire State with a story that brings intrigue, danger, legal fights and a sweet love story that will have to wage war if it is to survive against all its foes.

This story was a welcome change from the past books I had been reading. With its history-packed pages centered around the offices of the Associated Press and Reuters News agencies, Ms. Camden presented a story that had me feeling closely connected to the characters involved. Lucy Drake and her brother Nick are a hardworking pair who are caught up in their family’s legal feud that began with their grandfather Eustace and his brother Jacob. The battle started right before the Civil War: Eustace was a brilliant engineer who had created a pipe valve that would help pump water up pipes in multi-story buildings. He and Jacob had begun selling them before the war engulfed the country but Eustace felt he needed to defend his country and set off for the front lines. Before he left, he signed an agreement with Jacob that allowed Jacob to make all necessary decisions and expansions pertaining to the valve’s manufacture and distribution. When he returned after the war, Eustace approached Jacob, wanting to get back to work and split the profits equally as before. But Jacob had no interest in allowing his brother back into the business. So began a long, grueling court battle that would filter down through two succeeding generations to Lucy and Nick. Still feeling they need to make things right, not just for themselves but for others, they continue to attend court dates, hopeful for a prompt ending. Nick works as a plumber for the city of New York and quietly helps the poor tenement owners provide clean water for their tenants. Lucy works as telegraph operator/translator for the Associated Press and further ensures the pneumatic tube system stays in working order. When her boss notices, not for the first time, that their new stories are being “scooped” by the Reuters newspapers, Lucy is sent to the man in charge: Sir Colin Beckwith. Having some unpleasant history with Colin, Lucy is loath to spend any time with him but knows her job is worth a few minutes of discomfort. What follows is the start of an unexpected friendship that will grow into something more as they get to know each other. Colin has determined to marry an American heiress to save his family home which is in great disrepair but it is Lucy he really wants to spend time with each day. And as he learns her family history, he becomes personally involved, knowing his title and reputation could help her gain the leverage her family needs to win the lawsuit. But Lucy isn’t sure that Colin is all portrays. For one thing, he makes a business deal with her uncle which allows Colin 4% of the proceeds from Drake valves installed in Europe – a move she sees as quite a betrayal, given one of the focuses of the lawsuit is ensuring Eustace’s descendants receive back-payments for valves sold. And for another, in spite of his sweet words towards her, he seems incredibly focused on marrying a woman with money for his English estate. As they walk the dangerous line of truth and lies, both Colin and Lucy will have to decide what means the most to them: money or freedom. And no matter which they choose, either path requires sacrifice. Ms. Camden gave her characters such life and personalities that I often felt as if I were sitting in the same room. The suspense as Colin returned again to Oakmonte was palpable and the events of that visit caused me anger, fear and a deep desire for everyone to get what they deserved. Have no fear, Ms. Camden carries the plot extremely well and brings everything to a most satisfactory end. She requires her characters to grow, stretch and feel real pain so that they can come off the page and into a readers imagination. She is not satisfied with leaving them as they are in the spiritual sense either – her story takes them to the very bottom of their faith so they can break free of their chains of greed, selfishness and revenge. By portraying the fire-cleansing of God in a very vivid way in Lucy’s life, Ms. Camden inspired me to look within myself to see if there is anything I hold more dear than the Will of God. I smiled as I read the final pages of this book and was happy to realize that this was the first of a series that will involve the Drake family. I am most excited to see how Ms. Camden will tell Nick’s story in the following book. If this current book is any indication, it will have much snappy dialogue and good character challenges. I will most certainly recommend this book to others and look forward to adding it to my book shelves soon.

I received this E-book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Wayne and Ford by Nancy Schoenberger – Book Review

Wayne and Ford by Nancy Schoenberger

Published by DoubleDay Books October 24, 2017

Genre: Biographies and Memoirs

Pages: 211

Rating 2 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Desription

John Ford and John Wayne, two titans of classic film, made some of the most enduring movies of all time. The genre they defined—the Western—and the heroic archetype they built still matter today.

For more than twenty years John Ford and John Wayne were a blockbuster Hollywood team, turning out many of the finest Western films ever made. Ford, known for his black eye patch and for his hard-drinking, brawling masculinity, was a son of Irish immigrants and was renowned as a director for both his craftsmanship and his brutality. John “Duke” Wayne was a mere stagehand and bit player in “B” Westerns, but he was strapping and handsome, and Ford saw his potential. In 1939 Ford made Wayne a star in Stagecoach, and from there the two men established a close, often turbulent relationship.
Their most productive years saw the release of one iconic film after another: Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. But by 1960 the bond of their friendship had frayed, and Wayne felt he could move beyond his mentor with his first solo project, The Alamo. Few of Wayne’s subsequent films would have the brilliance or the cachet of a John Ford Western, but viewed together the careers of these two men changed moviemaking in ways that endure to this day. Despite the decline of the Western in contemporary cinema, its cultural legacy, particularly the type of hero codified by Ford and Wayne—tough, self-reliant, and unafraid to fight but also honorable, trustworthy, and kind—resonates in everything from Star Wars to today’s superhero franchises.
Drawing on previously untapped caches of letters and personal documents, Nancy Schoenberger dramatically narrates a complicated, poignant, and iconic friendship and the lasting legacy of that friendship on American culture.

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Story Notes

Nancy Schoenberger offers readers a double biography of two of Hollywood most famous men, John Ford and John Wayne, that come across as a bit odd: one minute seemingly biographical and another stating facts one can find available on any movie description site.

I was both dreading and excited to read this book given its subject. Both of the men featured are two of my favorites from movies growing up and I hoped that it would be both fair and informative while also bringing in unbeknownst tidbits from the sets of the movies they worked together. It seems I was to be most disappointed as this book was not as I had hoped. Obviously I knew I would have some bias going in as I was raised on Wayne/Ford movies given that both my grandfathers watched little else and my paternal grandfather greatly resembled John Wayne in my eyes. Saturday mornings at my Grandparents house when I was little and even at home when I was older meant “Saturdays with the Duke”. But I was saddened to find that while Ms. Schoenberger included quite a bit of what happened on the sets, she presented this book with little feeling or focus on the real relationship between the two men. I know she wasn’t able to actually talk to either of them as they are deceased but it seemed to me that she relied more on the letters Dan Ford (John Ford’s son) had in his home and what she had read in other biographies to paint their picture. While this is a good back up for research, I think she could have done better if she had gone about finding more people who had known or worked with them. And her oft referenced insistence that John Ford was a closet homosexual was a bit annoying as it was written in at the oddest spots. While it might have had a bit to do with how John Ford directed the men in his movies I would have rather had her focus her time on Ford’s directive style which was barely acknowledged beyond his tendency to be harsh taskmaster. Ms. Schoenberger should have talked more about his process of making a film rather than frequently discussing how cruel and dictating Ford was all actors – a given for most directors back then as they were entirely responsible to shareholders for how a movie turned out. I could tell she really didn’t like John Ford as a person and it showed in her writing about him. John Wayne on the other hand seemed to be her underdog hero who persevered in spite of everyone being against him. I agree that he had much to prove in a career field so dominated by capable and strong actors, but Ms. Schoenberger also seemed determined to make Wayne out to be a repressed man who just couldn’t win at life or in his career. According to his children, he enjoyed his work and was honored to present the roles he was hired to complete. Wayne felt it was his job to make sure people knew that the characters he portrayed were real, honest, and had to work hard to succeed at life – giving audiences a way to identify. As to Ms. Schenberger’s descriptions of the movies that Ford and Wayne made, I believe this is where her writing could have been the best but fell rather flat. It seemed to me that her descriptions of the story lines and basics of what happened on set came from a movie site. The style of writing changed at these parts of the book, becoming more coldly factual than warm storytelling which made it hard for me to feel like I needed the information to follow the more biographical parts of the book. Granted, I loved these parts as it was fun to see a little “behind the scenes” about the actors involved but it just didn’t gel with the rest of Ms. Schoeberger’s writing.  It was because of these “behind the scenes” passages that I gave this book more than one star – the rest of the book didn’t really warrant a higher rating. I believe Ms. Schoenberger needs to work a bit harder on her research to include more references and create a more cohesive book that will help readers want to find out what happens next. I will recommend this book to someone only if they have read all other biographies of Wayne and Ford and would like one more to read. Otherwise I would advise readers to find a more in depth book that offers greater insight into two of Hollywood’s most iconic men.

I received this E-book free of charge from Doubleday Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings – Book Review

Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

Published by Bethany House Publishers December 05, 2017

Genre: Romance, Christian

Pages: 211

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Jennings Winningly Combines Humor, History, and Romance

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

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Story Notes

Regina Jennings shares her story of love, acceptance and forgiveness out in the Indian Territory – a story that was good but lacks a little oomph.

Ms. Jennings offers to her readers a story that brings to light the workings of a military fort in the middle of Indian territory while also telling the fictional story of a Major and his “governess”. Louisa Bell is a former dance hall singer who is looking for a new job – until she hears of her brother’s recent trouble in the military. Determined to find a way to help him out of his current kerfuffle, Louisa heads for Fort Reno to speak with his commanding officer, Major Daniel Adams. Along the way she meets a missionary woman who is to be governess to the Major’s daughters – who also becomes ill and asks Louisa to take the teaching materials she brought so the girls will be prepared when another woman can be sent. Yet, through a series of assumptions, Louisa finds herself with the unexpected but welcome job as the girl’s governess. Not having completed her own studies, Louisa will have to work hard to ensure that her pupils are being challenged and that no one suspects her lack of qualifications. Trying to find ways to speak to her brother creates tension between her and the Major but Louisa has firmly decided that Bradley will not suffer for her presence at the fort. Major Daniel Adams keeps a tight rein on all the soldiers under his command. However, when it comes to his daughters, he is not sure how to give them the education they need for life and society. Hence, the decision to send for a governess from the missionary society in Darlington. But Louisa Bell is not exactly who Daniel imagined when he sent for a governess. For one thing, she is entirely too young and pretty and for another, she doesn’t seem to have all the proprieties he remembers from his years growing up. But as time passes, Louisa proves herself to be perfectly adequate to the tasks she is assigned and even proves an equal opponent in the game of Chess. If Daniel can only figure out what secrets Louisa is so desperate to protect, he might have a fair shot at making her see how much he needs her – and not just to teach his children. To all this drama is added the possible 600 Indian attack on the territory and the impending arrival of General Sheridan, who hopes to fend off the attack with a council meeting with the chiefs or sheer force if necessary. Is there a real chance for Daniel and Louisa to put the past behind them and make a life here on the edge of civilization or will all the trouble prove to be too much to handle? For me, this was what I would call a good book. Its not a great read with lots of drama, romance, danger or vocabulary but it was enjoyable. I won’t say that it will be going on my re-read soon list but I would recommend it to others who wish for a clean romance with a little drama to make it interesting. My main issue I had with this story is the lack of “Christianity” in this “Christian” book. Ms. Jennings failed to impart to her readers the saving grace that was available to Louisa which would have taught her that only through Christ she can find the forgiveness and belonging she desires. Yes, all are equal under the Mercy of God but there was very little concentration on this concept which was a shame given Louisa’s search for absolution for her “sordid” past. There was some mention of Louisa’s search for God, but there was no real decision moment for her that I found which should have been included. But with regard to the rest of the book, I did find that the inclusion of real historical events and people added well to this book and gave it the necessary drama to bring all situations to satisfying close. Not having read Ms. Jennings before I was a bit worried about how well she would be able to handle this story but she did fairly well. I have couple others of her works borrowed from the library and perhaps I will like those better than this. I think if she would have made her characters a little more realistic than imaginary this story would have been better for readers.

I received this E-book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

 

The Christmas List – Dixie Jo Jarchow – Book Review

The Christmas List – Dixie Jo Jarchow

Published by Prism Book Group December 01, 2017

Genre: Romance, Christian

Pages: 60

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description:

Mandy believes everything can be made better by making a list—including choosing a husband. Lists make everything clear and easy. Lists keep all the pluses and minuses of life in their own neat little columns with no room for surprises…and the key to happiness is structure and avoiding surprises.

 

Max is a free spirit with a God-given gift for sculpture. If he’s ever made a list, it was by mistake. He insists the key to happiness is to let God take the reins of his life.

 

When Max lands a huge project, and employs Mandy to handle his business’s accounting, she struggles to accept that God can keep all her checks in balance.

 

This December, can Max learn that sometimes a little structure is a good thing? And can Mandy relax enough to enjoy the holidays and actually fall in love, or will she firmly stick to The Christmas List?

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Story Notes

Dixie Jo Jarchow attempts to bring a Christmas timed story of trust to her readers that quite frankly falls flat as it has gaping holes in the plot and character development.

I’m going to apologize for bringing this book to anyone’s attention but let’s call this review a PSA to bring a warning: Run far away from this book!! I’m smart enough to know that the author was attempting to bring the concepts of trust and contentment that are found in God to the fore but I’m also smart enough to know that those concepts cannot be taught without examples from others and personal experience. Ms. Jarchow begins her story fairly well with her main character spending the evening with her best friend for her birthday. As they are both single, they are discussing what they look for in men. Mandy (main character and accountant) has a list for a specific type of man – even having a preference for brown hair and eyes, while Jennifer is looking for someone who would love God and her. They head out for an evening of painting and wine and at the studio they meet Max, who turns out to be just the opposite of the type of man Mandy is looking to date. But Max has other ideas, the most important of which is to convince Mandy that she is the one he has been waiting his whole life to love. All of this is great, a wonderful plot with several ways to go about playing out the romance. However, Ms. Jarchow proceeds to subject her readers to an unbelievable story that left me feeling like I wasted 45 minutes reading this book. Yes, that’s what I said, 45 minutes to finish this story – not a good thing in my opinion. First, she is trying to convey the idea that Mandy needs to let go of her controlling tendencies and rely more fully on God, so she brings Max into her life to convince her. Max asks Mandy to be his financial advisor and help him with his taxes given that he has never had to file taxes before. But reading a little closer into the story I found that Max apparently made more than the minimum required to pay taxes in years past but never has. This is not a good concept to share with readers as Christians are not supposed to skip paying their taxes, even if they are tithing faithfully. Jesus himself tells us to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” and therefore honor God by obeying leadership. In fact, if you’re in debt, God would prefer that you go and pay that off before you bring any offerings to Him (above your tithe). So that really bothered me and now I will turn to Max himself. I think I might have run away screaming if this guy had shown any interest in me. Not only does he not show up when he says he will but further he makes no plans at all. He says that he “relies on God to provide for him what he needs to live by simply trusting Him” but I would argue that God does provide for us all very well with the gifts and talents with which He graces us. God does not expect us to just stand idly by and let Him run our lives, never entering into His work with Him. He gives us our gifts and talents so we may share them with others and point the glory back to Him. Through those gifts and talents He also provides the means for us to live – food, clothes, homes etc. I’m sure that Ms. Jarchow was trying to convey the idea that if we wish to grow closer to God then we need to let go of the control of our lives and let Him work through us. But as there was not real discussion of this, I was left a bit angry at the flippant way in which Max views God – as an indulgent father who will never allow His children to go without. Yes, when we are in the will of God, He cares for us well but that does not mean that His care does not also include fiery testing at times to stretch and grow us into the people He desires for us to be. I was also offended at the way in which Ms. Jarchow really knocked on Mandy for her lists she had made – like it was really bad to make lists for anything. She was probably intending to show that Mandy needed to trust God more and not rely on what she thought she needed out of life but it was not expressed very well at all. I’m a list person too and while I would say that I’m learning greater trust in God daily, I also feel that my lists are the way He has gifted me to keep in mind the goals He has given me. Lastly, there were so many pieces of this story that were missing and there wasn’t really any attempt to ensure that they were all found. From Max’s background of wealth and Mandy’s lack of family, I felt like I was thrown off the train of this story before it reached the end station (there was also no “Christmas List” to be found anywhere in the book…….guess there wasn’t time to include it??) Perhaps Ms. Jarchow should have taken this one back to the drawing board – there is a lot of potential here for it to be a much better story if she would have given it more room to expand and develop. Hopefully she will spend more time on her future works and create characters that readers will be able to root for. I will not be recommending this book to anyone and will not purchase a copy for my shelves as I couldn’t stand to spend money on it. Try harder next time Ms. Jarchow!!

I received this e-book from Prism Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano – Book Review

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano

Published by Revell Publishing October 03, 2017

Genre: Drama, Mystery/Suspense, Romance

Pages: 416

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

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Story Notes

Joanna Politano offers her readers a story of a young woman who is seeking her purpose and place in life while also trying to solve her mother’s disappearance.

I “snatched” this book right up when I saw it available to me for review for two reasons: First, Lady Jayne Disappears – just the name brings to mind all kinds of possible storylines and deep characters hoping for a voice; and second, the description reminded me forcefully of my favorite Charles Dickens book, Little Dorrit. Ms. Politano introduced me to a wonderful heroine named Aurelie Rosette Harcourt who is looking for a place to belong. Her father has recently passed away and she is being sent to live with her wealthy Aunt Eudora at Lynhurst Manor. Despite finding little welcome from her relatives, Auralie hopes she will still find a way to be at home in her new situation. She does, however, carry a secret with her into her new life: the pen name and avid literary following of her father, Nathaniel Droll. For years, Auralie was the transcriber of her father’s famous stories which were printed as serials but his death has left his latest story unfinished. Knowing God has given her the gift of storytelling, Auralie decides she will finish her father’s work and perhaps solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance – given that her disappearance is the plot of the story. But finding the courage to write as her father did eludes Auralie at first, especially as she is trying to speak and act as her wealthy relatives expect if she is to remain in their home. Finding a friend in Silas Rotherham, the houseguest who brought Auralie to Lynhurst, and a co-conspirator in the seamstress Nelle Wicke, Auralie determines to use the talents she possesses to teach her readers about love, kindness, compassion and sacrifice. And God will use her writing to grow her not only as a writer but as a person who can extend His Love to those around her who desperately need it. But Auralie’s resolve will be put to the test as she slowly uncovers the truth of her birth and early life and she will have to decide if she will be willing to offer forgiveness and love those who did much to wrong her. While I did find several similarities in this story and Dicken’s Little Dorrit, I have to applaud Ms. Politano for making this story quite original in the development of the plot. She kept the idea of a girl who had grown up in a debtor’s prison and moved into a life of luxury but having her heroine be one who bends societal expectations was a wonderful twist. And to have said heroine not only discover her purpose in life but also learn her personal history while solving the mystery of her father’s unexpected death, that ensured that I would enjoy this story very much. I was further delighted to find out that Ms. Politano created a complicated and well-developed romance that she wove into each chapter of this wonderful story. Silas Rotherham was an incredibly attractive literary character – especially as there was no picture of him available. I would be hard pressed not to give my heart away to a man such as him if we were to meet in real life. How interesting that we find some of the best people we will ever meet to be fictional characters! It is hard for me to write this review and tell what is necessary while also not spoiling the best parts of the story. So, I will conclude now with a pleading for everyone to go and get a copy of this story for yourself and anyone who loves to read. This will for sure be going on my “re-read soon” list and I will pass it on to my friends and family as well. I’m greatly looking forward to Ms. Politano’s next story that is set to release in July and hope this will be the start of her long and excellent career of writing.

I received this E-book free of charge from Revell Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin – Book Review

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Published by Bethany House Publishers October 03, 2017

Genre: Drama, Romance, Christian

Pages: 291

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

The Adventure of a Lifetime for Two Indomitable Socialite Sisters

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

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Story Notes

Lynn Austin brings to vivid life the story of two sisters who were not content to let life happen to them – rather they sought to create a life of discovery, compassion and lasting love.

This story was a surprise to me. When I began reading this story I was a bit bored with the slow start, but as I read further I discovered a good read that contained many life lessons encased within its pages. Understand that this story is not one that is going on my all-time favorites list but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the time spent with it. Ms. Austin presents the story of two sisters who decide that if they are going to enjoy the life God has given them, then they must move beyond the finishing school they are attending. Finding the world abroad a far better place to learn and study, Rebecca and Flora Hawes convince their father to take them to Europe for several extended tours – a plan he agrees to given they learn the languages of the countries they plan to visit. On one such journey, they meet with a widow named Mrs. Worthington who quickly attaches herself to their party. Knowing Mrs. Worthington can help his daughters step out into society, Edward Hawes encourages the girls to learn the social graces Mrs. Worthington offers to impart. Returning to Chicago for several years, attending social engagements and allowing suitors to pay court, Becky and Flora begin to find themselves disappearing once again into a predictable life – something they had vowed never to do. And the unexpected death of the father will spur them to go “adventuring” once again.  Resolving to strike out on their own to visit the places they’ve read of in the Bible, the sisters pack their things and go in search of knowledge. As they make their way from Cairo to Jerusalem along the Gaza road, they meet with Edmund Merriday – a fellow scholar from Cambridge England. Upon learning of Edmund’s being swindled by his agent, the sisters quickly offer him a job as a guide for their travels. Along the way, Edmund tells them of his plan to write a book about how historical places and artifacts point to the validity of the Bible. As Becky listens and learns from Edmund, she feels a deep desire to help Edmund create said book – a task he is most willing to share with her. Flora, on the other hand, finds herself falling in love with Edmund and his quiet ways – causing herself some heartache as she is supposed to be engaged to another man back in Chicago. But upon returning to Chicago, Flora quickly sees that any love she might have had for Thomas pales in comparison with the deep love she has for Edmund. Breaking off their engagement gives Flora relief, which is soon turned to joy when Edmund appears in Chicago hoping to marry Flora. Their marriage brings much joy and a bit of heartache for Becky, who was also slightly in love with Edmund herself. But the friendship and writing partnership that she is able to have with Edmund goes far to heal that heartache and gives Becky a chance to complete a project she has long desired – to publish a book that would point others to Christ. And the publication of that and several other books leads to the arrival of Professor Timothy Dyk, a man who will be the perfect foil for Becky, both intellectually and romantically. Spending a year debating all topics from the Bible, Becky begins to despair of Timothy ever coming to belief in Christ. She knows she cannot marry him as an unbeliever but she cannot seemed to find anything to “convince” Timothy of the existence of a loving God. Determining to find definitive proof, Becky decides to travel to the Sinai library in search of an ancient Bible that mirrors current versions. And when Flora agrees to go with her ( along with two young adult orphans they have taken into their home), the sisters will be in for the adventure of their lives. From a sheik who wishes to wed Kate – one of the orphans – to sandstorms that last for days, to the finding of an ancient biblical text in the library’s records, the sisters will have to rely on God to carry them through the situations in which they find themselves. And what they bring back from this trip will change many lives, including their own.  I was so pleased with the lessons of trust, love and forgiveness that Ms. Austin strove to teach through the lives of these two lively sisters. She made sure at all times to point to the true Source of these themes but offered these truths within the wrappings of kindness. Ms. Austin used a very effective way of story telling in that she had the story told from different character’s points of view. It was good to see the background story of each character during their telling but it was also a bit distracting from the main story. Its always hard to keep things in order if an author goes back and forth between time periods and although Ms. Austin did well at weaving everything together, it was difficult at times to not skip ahead to what I wanted to find out. So I will say that I enjoyed the book and might recommend it to others, however, I don’t believe it will be one that I will be adding to my shelf. I wish Ms. Austin had included a bit more snappy dialogue from Becky Hawes; she is a firecracker of a character and could have had many quotable lines attributed to her. I also wish Ms. Austin had included a better ending for the two orphans, Kate and Soren. She doesn’t tell if they fall in love with each other or go on to find other loves – a gaping fault for this story in my opinion. For these reasons I have given the book 3.5 stars. I will keep this author in mind in the future and hope that she will offer better rounded characters and stories in her next works.

I received this E-book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by ASHERITAH CIUCIU – Book Review

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu

Published by Moody Publishers October 03, 2017

Genre: Devotional, Christian Living

Pages: 128

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Most Christians agree that Christmas is all about Jesus, yet most of us spend little time preparing our hearts to celebrate Him. Why is this? Partly because we don’t know how.

In Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Asheritah Ciuciu leads readers through the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Preparation, Joy, and Love). Each week:

  • Begins with an interactive family devotional that equips readers to celebrate Advent together
  • Offers five daily reflections that focus on that week’s name of Jesus
  • Includes suggestions for fun-filled family activities or service projects

This devotional can be used by readers in their own personal worship times or as a tool to engage in family worship during the busy holiday season. Either way, participants will gain a greater sense of awe and wonder at who Jesus is.

By focusing on the person and character of Jesus throughout the Advent season, readers will prepare their hearts so that when they admire the live nativity, sit in the candlelight service, or wake up on Christian morning, they can join the faithful who sing from the bottom of their hearts, “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

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Story Notes

Asheritah Ciuciu created an truly wonderful Advent study that puts the focus of the Season right where it belongs – on Jesus and why He came.

Anyone who has been to our home during the Christmas season will quickly realize that we LOVE Christmas. From the fun decorations to the beautiful outdoor lights, we do Christmas up big in my family. But one thing that is really important to us, beyond all the wonderful hubbub, is remembering that Jesus is the true reason for celebrating Christmas. We carefully place the 25+ nativities around the house (one, or five, for each room) so that at no time will we forget the grace of our Savior who came to redeem our hopeless world. Please don’t think we are perfect Christians who have an amazing amount of righteousness, because we don’t. But we have determined in our home to surround ourselves with constant reminders of the mercy God gifted to us 2000 years ago. And this year I made a further determination to find an Advent study that would give me a chance to reflect and worship my Savior each day of the Holy Season. How excited I was when this study came across my email list in October! I had recently completed two other Advent studies that were good as well but I was earnestly seeking a study that spent each day focused on Jesus himself. And I fully believe that God brought me this study by Ms. Ciuciu to teach me not only a lot more about Jesus’ character but about the true JOY that is to be found throughout the Christmas season. I have not finished the study as yet since it ends on December 25th but I know the last week of this study will be a good as the first three. Ms. Ciuciu begins each week of her study with a reading from the Christmas story in Matthew or Luke (given Mark and John do not include an account of Jesus’ birth), questions to ponder and a Christmas carol to sing. This was a bit different from other studies I have done and for which I was most thankful – all of these inclusions were well chosen for the week’s study. Each day’s study took a name that Jesus was called and dissected its meaning literally and spiritually. Some of my favorite days were those which looked at Jesus as the “Lamb of God”, the “Lion of Judah” and the “High Priest”. Ms. Ciuciu points out that as a lamb, Jesus came meekly (but with full authority) to be the perfect sacrifice for us. How wonderful to remember that He was willing to lay aside His rightful place as King to become the perfect servant, meeting the requirements of sacrifice before our Holy God. The Lion refers both to Jesus’ destruction of sin’s hold and His coming return – both powerful images that resonated within me as I deep dived their meaning. And as the High Priest, Jesus makes intersession for us continually before our Father God, a staggering reality if you carefully consider it – that the perfect Son of God sits beside the Father and speaks on our behalf. I am so excited to jump into the last week of study with Ms. Ciuciu and know there will be much to learn each day. How thankful I am that I was given the opportunity to complete this study for review, it has given me much to ponder and made the season seem so much better. Not only has the season seemed longer ( a good thing in my book), the normal frazzled parts have been much less stressful and a lot more fun. I have been striving to keep an attitude of kindness and peace whenever I venture out and I’ve been surprised a how much better my attitude is towards people who are rude or ugly – I’ve managed to keep a smile and remain patient. I hope that many others will pick up a copy of this book for study now or for next year’s Advent season – it will absolutely change how you go through the season. I will certainly be highly recommending this study to others as I believe it will be greatly used by God to bring joy to lives that are eagerly seeking it out.

I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from this company for this review.

Life on the Porcelain Edge by C. E. Hilbert – Book Review

Life on the Porcelain Edge by C.E. Hilbert

Published by Pelican Book Group November 01, 2017

Genre: Drama, Romance, Mystery

Pages: 366

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Tessa Tarrington’s life is swirling out of control. No job. No apartment. Sick Dad…And she’s back in high school! Teaching at her Gibson’s Run alma mater would be tolerable, except she’s sharing purgatory with her mortal enemy, Ryland Jessup. But eight years post-high-school, and after tragedies she can barely understand, Ryland no longer fits her mental image of the over-sized bully he once was. In fact, much to her disgust, he’s finding his way into her heart. After the sudden death of his wife, Ryland hung up his professional shoulder pads and picked up a whistle. Now he’s focused on coaching the high school football team and raising his daughter. The sudden return of his childhood crush, Tessa Tarrington, has reawakened long-ago feelings. But if God’s giving him a second chance to impress Tessa, the Man Upstairs has a funny way of showing it. Just when Tessa starts to lighten up, Ryland’s best friend returns. Will the always-irresistible Joey Taylor stifle any hope Ryland has to ignite the dream of a relationship with Tessa?

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Story Notes

C. E. Hilbert takes her readers back to Gibson’s Run for another story full of snappy humor and a couple learning to forgive and find real love.

Tessa Tarrington was finally making it on her own – huge loft apartment at deep discount rent, successful job as a ghost writer for celebrities, and close friends to share her free time – when her safe life is flushed. Someone discovered her ghost writing job and stole several in-progress works from her apartment – effectively making Tessa unemployed and untouchable in the world of background writers. Then her “friend” Bobbi Jo swoops in to taunt Tessa in faux compassionate words, also hinting she might be taking Tessa’s job. Additionally, Tessa receives word her father has suffered a heart attack and needs her back home in Gibson Run. Returning home seems the best option at the moment and she is given a bit of hope as there is a substitute English teacher job available for the semester. But going home means facing all her worst memories and the one person who is responsible for the start of them all – Ryland Jessup. Ryland told his mother when he was six years old that he was going to marry Tessa Tarrington. The problem is, Ryland’s innocent birthday present of “days of the week” underwear for Tessa’s sixth birthday caused her to be so embarrassed she wet her pants. To further add to her humiliation, Ryland’s childhood stutter created a despised nickname of “Pee-Pee T. T.”  when he tried to whisper quietly to her about the problem. Carrying the burden of that cruel name all the way through high school, Tessa harbored a deep resentment towards Ryland and his best friend Joey – believing they are responsible for keeping the name going. But as Tessa begins to get to know Ryland again, she discovers that he is not the monster she had created in her mind. For one thing, he defends her in front of the sports team players who thought her class would be an easy A if they caused enough trouble. Ryland is infamous for his Saturday Suicide Sessions – suicide drills for 2 hours straight – for any high school sports player who gets into trouble. Ryland uses the exhaustion of the players to teach respect and discipline – of their teachers and themselves, so the players can grow in more than size and talent. Overhearing Ryland’s teaching moments, Tessa realizes that he is a kind, compassionate and loving man who truly wants those around him to be their absolute best. Add to this his deliberate and careful care of his daughter Emma, and Ryland is quickly working his way beneath Tessa’s heart walls and becoming a man she could love. But Tessa is not the only one who needs help with forgiveness – Ryland is still carrying the hurt of his deceased wife’s unhappiness and betrayal. It will take Tessa being strong enough to show Ryland his deepest hurts before they can both move into forgiveness and lasting love. And to all this drama, Ms. Hilbert adds the wonderful character of Lily Mae Benton ( a Cajun force of nature) and another love interest for Tessa – her highschool crush Joey Taylor. Tessa’s life quickly becomes flooded with new understanding of how much she really was and is liked by all who know her, and that she is capable of much more than she has let herself believe. Ms. Hilbert took a situation that many have found themselves in and interjected humor, forgiveness and love to show that God does not leave His children in safe situations if there is an opportunity for them to be stretched and grown by hardship. There were so many great moments of spiritual learning included in this book that I couldn’t begin to name them all. The concepts of bitterness, resentment and forgiveness are deep and hard to convey without sounding harsh or unconcerned. Ms. Hilbert did a wonderful job of telling the truth in a real way but making sure those who heard the truth also knew they were loved in their problem.  Additionally, as I am a lover of words, I was thrilled to see how much grammar and alliteration were used throughout the story to bring moments of laughter and stress relief. Lily Mae’s way of using alliteration was just so entertaining; I felt like she and I would be good friends were she a real person. Ms. Hilbert’s way of making the characters of her story real made this book one I loved to read and one I will certainly re-read. I will most certainly share this book with others and might also purchase copies for others soon. I look forward to Ms. Hilbert’s next works and hope she will bring another story out in the very near future.

I received this E-book free of charge from Pelican Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from this company for this review.

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano – Book Review

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano

Published by Bethany House Publishers November 07, 2017

Genre: Romance, Humor, Drama, Christian

Pages: 352

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publishers Description

Rollicking New Release from Humorous Historical Romance Author Jen Turano

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader hoped her position as the paid companion to Mrs. Davenport would be easy. But as she becomes acquainted with her employer, she realizes the wealthy Mrs. Davenport has a strange tendency to be a bit light-fingered with other people’s trinkets. Gertrude is relieved when Mrs. Davenport decides to have a quiet summer away from the social scene–until the woman changes her mind in order to help a young socialite launch into society.

When Gertrude is caught in the act of trying to return one of the trinkets by Mrs. Sinclair, the mother of shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair, the woman jumps to an unfortunate conclusion. Harrison is determined to mend fences with Miss Cadwalader, but he’s unprepared for the escapades a friendship with her will entail.

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Story Notes

Jen Turano brings her hilarious ability to entertain into the life of a couple who are both just looking for someone to love them just as they are – odd quirks and all!

After literally laughing my way through Ms. Turano’s first installment of her Apart From The Crowd  series, I was actively looking for the opportunity to read and review her second – Out of the Ordinary. Ms. Turano has the wonderful ability to create humorous circumstances that lead to necessary personal or spiritual revelations. And further, she creates characters that storm those circumstances with determined attitudes and a sense of humor that provides spicy dialogue and phrasing. Gertrude Cadwalader is the paid companion for a older society matron by the name of Mrs. Davenport – a woman who has a peculiar habit of taking things that don’t belong to her. Not that she couldn’t afford to purchase the items in question herself, she simply cannot keep her hands to herself. Often taking it upon herself to return the pilfered items before they are discovered missing, Gertrude is quickly coming to regret taking a job she thought would be fairly easy. Relieved that Mrs. Davenport’s annual trip to Newport is fast approaching and she will soon have a break from the thievery, Gertrude is frustrated and a bit resentful when Mrs. Davenport announces she will instead remain in the city and take on the societal coming out of a new-found young friend. Said young friend just happens to be the little sister of the man that Gertrude is coming to love – Harrison Sinclair. And it will be while Gertrude is attempting to return items Mrs. Davenport took from Harrison’s family that all the real trouble starts. To start with, Gertrude finds herself removing her outer clothes in order to free herself from the sofa to which she became attached due to the breakage of Mrs. Davenport’s “new bustle”. During which time Harrison happens to come into the room trying to find his friend’s fiance Permilia, causing Gertrude to leap behind the sofa in order to hide herself – wedging herself quite tightly into the space. Embarrassed, sore and now without proper clothing, Gertrude finds herself the further victim of “helping friends” who strap her into a dress 2 sizes too small  – a circumstance that will lead to comical happenings in the very near future. Trying to keep herself out of trouble, out of jail and away from Mrs. Davenport’s additional ideas, Gertrude turns to Harrison, hoping for help in keeping her sanity and job. What happens next is a hilarious run through the city including another thief, stolen paintings, stolen tiaras and lots of confused identities that will all lead both Gertrude and Harrison to realize they have fallen in love through all the madness they’ve endured. They will also find that God is the love they have been looking for all along – and with Him they will discover that they are lovable just the way they are. Ms. Turano’s books are ones that her readers always look forward to reading. She has a unique ability to bring humor to situations that could be very dark and depressing – she uses those situations instead for moments of light and joy. She invites you fully into the story to walk alongside Gertrude, Harrison and their friends to experience laughter, frustration, love, friendship and spiritual growth. Ms. Turano will bring you tears of mirth with Gertrude and Harrison’s misadventures and tears of sorrow as you see them almost give up the love neither knows the other has for them. And the last few chapters as Harrison tries to show Gertrude his true feelings for her will have you rolling on the floor.Please read this book and share it will others as I will – it is one you will also want to reread one day when you need a lifting of spirits. I am eagerly awaiting Ms. Turano’s next book and cannot wait to who she will turn her focus to next!

I received this book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers both in print and in ebook form from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.