Drawn In Bible Study “Esther – Finding Yourself in Times of Trouble” by Eugene H. Peterson/The Navigators – Book Review

Drawn In Bible Study “Esther – Finding Yourself in Times of Trouble”

Published By NavPress/Tyndale House Publishers  June 20, 2017

Genre: Devotionals, Personal Growth

Pages: 80

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Color with Friends. Be Drawn In to Scripture.
An unlikely queen. A murderous enemy. A miraculous turnaround. The story of Esther is breathtaking. Through study, coloring, and conversation, discover how to find your voice and grow your faith during times of trouble.

Deepen your friendships as you gather around Scripture for coloring and conversation. Drawn In offers simple four-week Bible studies—perfect for groups or personal devotions. Coloring quiets your heart and mind so you can enter fully into Scripture’s stories. The Bible’s passion and personality come through in The Message, surprising new and old Bible readers alike. Discover the delight of being Drawn In.

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Story Notes

Eugene Peterson partners up with The Navigators to bring a new and really fun way to study the book of Esther with a coloring book bible study!

Although I have not previously done a Bible study written by Eugene Peterson or The Navigators, I was really excited to do this study as it included two of my favorites: the book of Esther and coloring. I was a little apprehensive about how in depth the study would be as it seemed to be such a short book, however I found that Peterson and the Navigators had been careful not to neglect the importance of the actual study while offering the fun addition of an adult coloring book. It was really wonderful to ponder the Bible passage and questions to be answered while I colored the accompanying pages. I found that I spent longer considering the passage I read each day when I took the time to color the picture attached to the questions I was to answer. Add to this the relaxation that coloring brings to the mind and body and this was a perfect study for me. I was also very pleased with the actual study that was presented. The questions were very pointed and as I had to ponder them longer I found myself truly searching for what I would have said or done in a situation or recalling what I had done in the past. I have done studies on the book of Esther before but this study focused itself on the reasons why each of the characters acted in a certain way and if you agreed with their response or if you would have acted differently. It was thought provoking to consider how I would handle becoming the wife of a “heathen” king who was easily led by those around him. Another question that I found interesting was how I would have handled Haman and his evil intents while not being vengeful. So often we read a book or passage of scripture we have read several times before and yet never placed ourselves in the situation and considered if we would answer God’s calling in the same way. Peterson also pointed out an interesting happening in this powerful little book: God is not overtly seen or spoken of at all in the whole book, rather He is in the background, working and showing His children how to follow Him by serving. I had not realized this happening before and it gave me a new interest as I read to search out the subtle ways I could see God working in each situation that was included in Esther. I really enjoyed doing this study and coloring the pages that went with each chapter. I have already recommended it to several of my friends and am planning to purchase a copy for family members for either birthday or Christmas presents. I am also looking forward to purchasing the Drawn In study on the book of Ruth  as well as the study on Mary, the mother of Jesus, as I believe they will be just as good or better than this one has been.

I received a free copy of this book from NavPress/Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll – Book Review

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll

Published by Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press  June 01, 2017

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 320

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Two recovery specialists.
One murder.
A hunt for the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine becomes a race of survival.

Former Army MP Landry Parker fell into the recovery specialist role quite by accident—to help her ailing father. Now that she’s on her own, she is determined to prove herself and honor her family legacy.

After being shot in the line of duty, former police officer Nickolai Baptiste became a recovery specialist, and he’s good at his job—maybe even the best.

A potential client pits Landry and Nickolai against one another to find the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine map that was stolen from her murdered husband, and the potential payday is too enticing to pass up. The trail takes them from New Orleans to Weaver’s Needle in Arizona where legend claims the mine is hidden. Landry and Nickolai are no strangers to adventure, but the unlikely partners quickly discover there’s someone after the treasure and there are those who want to ensure the lost mine in Arizona’s Superstition Mountain stays lost forever.

Can Landry and Nickolai work together despite their distrust of each other to save the legend before more innocent lives are lost? Will they find the real treasure isn’t the gold, but something more valuable. . .true love and understanding?

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Story Notes

Robin Caroll’s newest venture into the world of recovery specialists (ie treasure hunters) promised excitement, adventure and romance but fell quite a bit short of its goal.

Having read some of Ms. Caroll’s collaborative work with Colleen Coble, I approached her latest story with some happy anticipation, hoping for a good plot with well developed characters. I was somewhat disappointed with the story as it went along given the anticipation that Ms. Caroll built at the beginning of the story was not well carried with the fleshing out of the plot. She begins her story with two characters, Landry Parker and Nickolai Baptiste, who are recovery specialists called to bid on the same venture – to find a map that possibly leads to gold mine in Arizona. With the circumstances surrounding the map’s disappearance both Landry and Nickolai are reluctant to sign on but neither can afford to pass up the finders fee that’s offered. As they take their respective paths to seeking out the details of how and why the map went missing they both find that all  answers are leading to Apache Juction, Arizona and its surrounding towns. Both Landry and Nickolai have personal financial reasons for taking this case and as they find themselves working together they have to remember that there can only be one collection fee given for the map’s finding. The question Ms. Caroll then presents is whether working together will keep them safe or make them more of a target for whomever stole the map? And further will this case bring them together forever or keep them divided as they seek the map and the treasure it indicates exists. With the plot presented there is much room for an author to really make the characters involved come alive and create a real feeling of danger and excitement. However, I found the “excitement” and “danger” to be rather lukewarm and not anxiety-inducing in the least.  If you are going to write about brakes failing or a napalm fire breaking out in a hotel room and you want your readers to really be afraid for your characters you have to be very descriptive with the details of those happenings and the reactions of your characters. I never really felt fear or anxiety for Landry or Nickolai, rather I felt like the “danger” was an afterthought added to make the story seem more interesting. And the random angry lady involved in the wreck caused by Nickolai’s failed brakes was really annoying and not helpful to the scene at all. Another inclusion that bothered me was the random inserts of Apache ceremonies and rituals that were not well connected to or explained within the story. Usually those scenes are inserted to explain the actions of participating characters but I was halfway through the book before I finally understood the reason Ms. Caroll included them. Furthermore, the character that was to carry out the decisions of the Apache council was not revealed until the last two chapters; making him unhelpful to the carriage of the plot. And the whole ending where Nickolai was given the choice of “saving Landry’s life if he gave up his memories of the location of the gold mine” was so very weird and not possible I laughed and shook my head when I read it. This is supposed to be a Christian book so why do the Apache have any power over who lives and who dies based on one person’s choice? That power rests in the hands of Almighty God who does not give the power of life and death to any man! Not good, Ms. Caroll! Finally, Ms. Caroll’s “bad guy” was so evident from the first third of the book that I was bored with his revelation at the end. I find that the best “bad guys” are those who are concealed or are working unsuspected alongside the “heroes” until the end and their revelation comes as a shock to all those involved. Not that all criminals are masterminds but I do expect fictional ones to be capable of more stealth than your average sneak thief or drug dealer. I did find some redeeming qualities in this book so all is not completely lost. I was very happy with the way in which Ms. Caroll dealt openly with the mental illness Nickolai’s sister suffers from. She showed that Schizophrenia is a real disorder and that those who suffer from it often harm those who are closest to them in very brutal ways. And when Ms. Caroll showed that faith in Christ is the best way for any Schizophrenic to find the strength to overcome their tendencies, that impressed me and made me see that her intentions were headed in the right direction. I was also glad to see that Ms. Caroll had Nickolai see that the blame for his parents deaths was not his to carry. His family had no history of mental illness and his sister’s actions were not unlike those of her friends, therefore her condition was not to be anticipated or realized until it turned violent in a tragic way. Additionally, the romance between Landry and Nickolai was fairly well written, with a sweetness and carefulness that I have come to expect from Christian Romance. I was a little against it at first, given that Nickolai was an unbeliever but was happy to see them together at the end of the story. So although there were some things that were good about this story, I’m not sure I will be recommending this book to anyone as it was rather disappointing. I hope that Ms. Caroll will spend more time honing her craft before she writes another like this. For avid readers of adventure/dramatic stories she will have to make her writing much sharper and more descriptive if she wishes to have devoted fans.

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

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter – Book Review

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Published by Thomas Nelson Fiction  June 13, 2017

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 320

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

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Story Notes

Denise Hunter’s most recent release not only answers her readers love of romance but undertakes the challenge of a Christian marrying a non-Christian.

Denise Hunter is a favorite author of mine because she always takes issues head on, refusing to give any quarter to untruth, while still providing loving relationships for her characters. Her latest story is one that I think has much to teach and I, for one, found myself convicted several times while reading. Ms. Hunter begins her book with a predicament – a couple who believe they have been divorced for 18 months suddenly find out that the paperwork was never signed by a judge, meaning they are still married. Both are expectedly upset, but this plot provides excellent material for Ms. Hunter to examine their relationship in detail.  Neither Noah Mitchell nor Josephine Dupree have truly moved on from their divorce, given they were so deeply in love. But both were also hurt deeply by the other and have yet to forgive each other or themselves for allowing the hurt to happen. But as always happens when God is working in people’s lives, they find themselves having to face what happened when they are accidentally stranded at Noah’s ranch during a fast set-in snowstorm. Without cell signal and eventually without electricity, they will have to find ways to work out a truce and keep from freezing to death. Given time to talk, they slowly start to ask and answer the questions they didn’t make time for before. As they work through the pain of what happened, they will be further challenged as they set out to find Noah’s runaway horse, becoming stranded miles from shelter when their snowmobile runs out of gas. Learning to work together on their trek home will bring them closer together and give them a chance to take a good look at their past. How they met is told in flashbacks between the present day story: Noah and Josephine met three and a half years ago when Noah came into her new barber shop for a long overdue haircut. Knowing she was new in town didn’t stop Noah from stopping in as it meant he didn’t have to go to further away Ellijay whenever he needed a trim. One look at Josephine and Noah knew he was in trouble; she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He quickly decided to help her with her build out to expand her shop, paying no heed to the advice of his friend and pastor Jack who warns Noah not to lose his heart until he knows her beliefs. Working together quickly leads to dating and within six months they were engaged and married by Christmas. But Josephine carries a secret, one that, without being told, becomes the breaking point for their marriage. Josephine grew up in a small town on the “wrong side of the tracks” in a single-wide trailer with her mom and mean step-dad. After her mom dies when she’s twelve she continues to live with her step dad, Eddie, as she has no other living relatives who will take her in. A drunk and a gambler, Eddie makes a deal one night that if his buddy beats him at poker he can have anything Eddie owns as payment. This deal will spell tragedy for Josephine as she is the item that Eddie’s buddy, Shark will claim as his for whatever purpose he decides. Rather than protecting her Eddie allows Shark to rape Josephine on multiple occasions, telling her no one will really love her and she is only good for one thing: sex. And after “friends” at school start rumors about her promiscuity with a fellow student, Josephine decides to own that label: she will give her body to men, but only when, where and with whom SHE says. Given this upbringing, Josephine has no idea how to handle God-fearing, respectful Noah who loves her enough to wait for sex until after marriage. And her fear of never being loved unconditionally will be realized throughout the months of their marriage in which Josephine pushes Noah to prove his love repeatedly. Needing complete acceptance, she commits the ultimate betrayal – an affair – desperately wanting to know if Noah loves her enough to stay with her anyways. When he turns away and requests divorce, Josephine decides Eddie was right and no one will ever really love her unconditionally. Fast forward to present day – Noah and Josephine are stranded out in the ever-dropping temperatures, miles from anyone’s home or property. As they fight to get home, they will find that forgiveness is waiting and all they had to do was ask. Josephine will find that the love she craves from people can be found only in the One who is capable of unconditional love. Noah will discover that Josephine isn’t the only one who needs to be forgiven, and that his pursuance of a relationship with her was wrong as she was an un-believer when they got together. Ms. Hunter takes all this hurt and pain and points her readers to the true Source of healing, never shying away from making her characters real and raw. I have known several people who have walked a painful road like this and I believe they would say as Ms. Hunter does, that God gives his children rules to follow to keep them from hurt and sorrow. Noah was so enamored by Josephine that he forgot to look to God for leadership in their relationship. He assumed because she talked about going to Sunday School as a child she was a Christian, never imagining that such a “nice” person didn’t have a relationship with God. How much Noah gave himself to endure when he failed to discuss this critical point. I was glad to see Ms. Hunter be very candid in her take on this issue – she leaves her readers in no doubt that what Noah did was wrong and that he was responsible for much of their marriage trouble. Josephine as an unbeliever acted wrongly as well, but the expectations for her were much different than for Noah. Ms. Hunter had her come to realize her deepest needs and turn to the One who could help her be forgiven and changed. How good it was to read a story that not only explored the dangers of “unequally yoked” relationships but also included true forgiveness and re-found love. I was so very pleased to see that Noah and Josephine were able to forgive each other and find deeper, more lasting love because of placing their marriage in God’s hands. I will most certainly be recommending this book to others as I believe the truths included in this story are vitally important and relevant. Very well done, Ms. Hunter! Please keep writing these challenging love stories that include such truths that needs to be learned by so many Christians today.

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

Pursued: The Nikki Boyd Files by Lisa Harris – Book Review

Pursued: The Nikki Boyd Files  by Lisa Harris

Published by Revell Publishing  April 04, 2017

Genre:  Suspense, Mystery

Pages:  320

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Nikki Boyd’s flight into Nashville was routine–up until the crash landing at the airport. When the dust settles, Nikki discovers that the woman who had been seated next to her on the plane is missing–and no one will admit she was ever there. Erika Hamilton had been flying to Nashville with an air marshal as a key witness in an upcoming grand jury trial. When she flees from the crash, is she running from trouble or straight into it? Before Nikki can even see her family, she and her team are pulled into a missing persons case where the motives are as unclear as the suspects.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Harris has planted danger around every turn in this can’t-put-it-down thrill ride that will leave readers stunned.

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Story Notes

Lisa Harris’ highly anticipated third Nikki Boyd novel promises danger, suspense and drama but falls a little short in the first two categories.

I was given the first Nikki Boyd story for my birthday last year and really enjoyed the complex mystery and ongoing personal drama that Lisa Harris introduced to her readers. I have since read the second story and was really looking forward to her newest installment, however I was rather disappointed with this story. Ms. Harris began her book with Nikki being on-board a flight to Nashville, Tennessee, anticipating spending some time off with the man she is quickly coming to love, Tyler Grant. They have been through much together in the past few years and their shared tragedies have brought them together for more than friendship. Those plans are quickly shoved to the back burner when Nikki’s plane experiences engine failure and has to make an emergency crash landing. After escaping the wreckage with the rest of the passengers, Nikki searches for the woman who had been in the seat next to her who has disappeared. But upon asking the flight crew for the woman’s full name, Nikki is told that there was no one in the seat next to her and that no one with the name of Erika was on board her flight. Being a member of the Missing Persons Task Force, however, is Nikki’s career and she knows there is something going on here. What her investigation brings her to will test her physical, mental and investigative limits in the most brutal ways possible, and throw her into the middle of a case full of danger and murder. Anticipation and anxiety are meant to be a part of every good mystery and I felt that there was some of those intense feelings that were missing from this story. Like many who read mysteries or suspense stories often, I am looking to be truly terrified or anxious alongside the main characters of the story. I couldn’t get there with this story, and it was disappointing as I was “anticipating” a good read with this latest Nikki Boyd story. The main reason it was hard to feel anxiety was that the “danger” or “chase” scenes were not very descriptive or long. The action was not completely described in a way that was tense and “close call” like. I wasn’t really scared for Nikki or for the other characters like I had been in the two passed books and that was a little sad for me. The other reason I didn’t find it very thrilling is that the “bad guy” was not very well developed or explained. I prefer that my bad guys have some really awful behavior that makes you despise them throughout the whole book. I also prefer that they remain unnamed or if they are named, they have to be very good at getting away with their crimes; and this needs to be described well in the story so I can really understand why he or she is the bad guy. If there had been one of these two that was better done I think I would have enjoyed this book much more. I am choosing to believe this is just a “one-off” for Ms. Harris and the next Nikki Boyd will be much improved in the mystery/suspense department. I was, however, very pleased with the personal growth of Nikki herself throughout the story and am glad she finally sorted out her feelings for Tyler. Nikki carries much guilt and sorrow from her sister’s disappearance and supposed murder, which is one of her main drives for taking a position on the Missing Persons Task Force. Although she may never find out the whole story of her sister’s disappearance she is ready to move on and make a life with Tyler.  Tyler has spent several years sorting through the grief of his murdered wife, trying to raise their son, Liam, and still do the cyber security job he loves.  His recent trip to Liberia has helped him sort out his feelings for Nikki and he is looking forward to spending more time with her and Liam. I was so glad to see that Ms. Harris was having their relationship grow as they both grow in their faith. I’ve been rooting for them to get together since book one and am so excited to see where Ms. Harris will take them next. So, although this book was not as well-developed as I would have liked to have seen, I will still recommend this book as part of the Nikki Boyd series. I would not recommend that it be read as a stand alone as I think it is more of a transitional story rather than one that really drives the series. I will be looking for the next story in the series and hope that it will have more of the “umph” that I’m looking for in my mysteries.

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.

 

True to You by Becky Wade – Book Review

True to You by Becky Wade

Published by Bethany House Publishers  May 02, 2017

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 384

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

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Story Notes

Becky Wade’s latest foray into the world of fiction will leave her readers pondering their ability to forgive, take on tough issues, and love again.

Again I have been presented with a new-to-me author, and this one I am most certainly going to add to my “must read” list. I had an idea of how I thought this story would go and although I had some aspects of it right, Ms. Wade just blew all of my preconceptions out of the water and delivered a story that really made me consider the issues at hand. She began with a young genealogist/librarian named Nora Bradford who has decided to focus all her attention on the books, TV dramas, and village she loves rather than her love life, which in recent years has taken a devastating hit. Her fiance Harrison fell in love with another woman and has since married her and started a family – all in the same town where Nora lives. Finding more comfort in her books and projects, Nora has decided that God will have to bring her the right person, although she’s not sure He can as she believes He betrayed her with Harrison. Enter John Lawson, former Navy Seal and current emergency preparedness instructor who literally sweeps Nora off her feet. Only one problem: John already has a girlfriend. But when John discovers Nora’s occupation he immediately employs her to find his biological mother. John is mysterious about his reasons for finding his mother, but that doesn’t stop Nora from jumping feet first into this quest for information. As they follow all the clues to find out John’s history they will find real friendship, and perhaps, something more. I loved the way which Ms. Wade presented this story – well developed plot and characters with excellent dialogue and some great vocabulary thrown in that made the story really fun. And it was interesting to see that she ended each of her chapters with a text message or email that gave a hint of where her story was going next – what a great idea! I loved the razzing that went on between the sisters that was fun but never went beyond teasing to hurtful words. I could tell Ms. Wade really wanted you to get to know both her main characters and the sub characters who are in their lives. She was careful to have the three sisters respond respectfully and graciously in spite of their grandmother’s unkind diatribes while making sure their grandmother knew she was wrong. I further enjoyed her way of writing the growing romance between Nora and John – they both are attracted to each other but are unsure how to proceed given that John has a girlfriend and Nora is wary of relationships. I was glad to see that Ms. Wade had John break things off nicely with his girlfriend, Allie, before she allowed him and Nora to get together. Their relationship was so well described  it made me feel I was one of Nora’s sisters watching it play out. I loved their conversations and how John was always asking Nora if she had really just used an advanced vocabulary word in everyday speech. But when their search for John’s mother brings good as well as heartbreaking news, their relationship with each other and with God will face the greatest test of all: trust. How good it was that Ms. Wade did not shy away from the difficult topics of rape conception and whether a child of a rapist can have any tendencies passed on in genetics. I was happy to see she made it very clear that our faith in God, our families and our choices are what define us rather than the circumstances of our conception or birth. And Ms. Wade also took on the topic of trust with both John and Nora. John had to remember that God made him exactly the way He wanted him and that He could be trusted to redeem that which John’s father had destroyed. Nora had to learn that God is the one she must trust first of all if she is going to have any hope of a real relationship with John. She will have to lay aside her anger and hurt if she is to find her true identity in God. The “Redeeming” theme that Ms. Wade’s story carried is what made it to very special to me. Too often we forget that we have all been redeemed by a Savior and everyone is a new creation in Him. And when we come face-to-face with a situation that demands that we decide if we believe that’s true, that is how we see the enormity of what was done for us. I truly look forward to sharing this story with others as well as the stories of the other two Bradford sisters as I hear this will be the first in a trilogy called “The Bradford Sisters Romance”.  I have also placed several of Ms. Wade’s former works on hold at my library to enjoy very soon as well.

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.

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson – Book Review

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson

Published by Bethany House Publishers   May 02, 2017

Genre: Mystery and Suspense, Christian

Pages: 432

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publishers Description

Evie Blackwell’s reputation as a top investigator for the Illinois State Police has landed her an appointment to the governor’s new Missing Persons Task Force. This elite investigative team is launched with plenty of public fanfare. The governor has made this initiative a high priority, so they will have to produce results–and quickly.

Evie and her new partner, David Marshal, are assigned to a pair of unrelated cases in suburban Chicago, and while both involve persons now missing for several years, the cases couldn’t be more different. While Evie opens old wounds in a close-knit neighborhood to find a missing college student, David searches for a private investigator working for a high-powered client.

With a deep conviction that “justice for all” truly matters, Evie and David are unrelenting in their search for the truth. But Evie must also find answers to the questions that lie just beneath the surface in her personal life.

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Story Notes

This latest Evie Blackwell Cold Case is anything but cold and Dee Henderson makes sure her readers will read to the very last page to discover the extremely elusive culprit. Her ability to make you feel like you are the one investigating the case or belong in the situation she presents is why I and so many others always love her books. This new series brings a whole new meaning to the word Tenacious, with a team dedicated to solving the crimes law enforcement has deemed unsolvable. Evie has picked a missing person’s case involving a college student who disappeared without a trace and whose body was never found. As she dives into the police reports and investigation notes she finds a thoroughness in them that makes her confident the detectives and officers in charge worked the case as far as they could before all leads ran out. But with the FBI and the Govenor’s office behind her, Evie hopes to use all her resources to find out what happened and bring the family the closure they desire. Digging deep below the surface of people’s lives is her life’s work and the deeper she digs into Jenna Greenhill, the more she finds that Jenna was not the sweet, smart friend parents and professors believed her to be. Jenna specialized in manipulation and used her “friends” to get her whatever she wanted, be it a new “boyfriend” or just the attention of everyone around. And this manipulation leads Evie to a suspect pool that grows larger with every question she asks. Evie has learned well from her mentor, Ann Falcon, that more information is always the best way to solve one’s case and although it means lots of reading and sorting this will serve Evie well when she starts finding ‘threads’ she can pull to find an answer to the mystery of Jenna’s disappearance. When one of the threads starts to lead in a direction that becomes personal for Evie’s friends and co-workers, she begins to pray the answers will not bring trouble or harm to those she loves most. Add to this the discovery that everyone who was interviewed after Jenna’s disappearance did not tell all they knew and Evie will have to work hard and fast to eliminate her ever expanding list of suspects. As she follows the evidence she begins to see that her case may be connected to other missing person’s cases that have yet to be fully resolved as well. And the linchpin of those connections may be the concert performances of her co-worker David Marshall’s fiancée, Maggie McDonald. Ms. Henderson brings from this tangled ball of threads a conclusion that is sure to leave her readers feeling that all questions were answered and all culprits caught. I loved reading every page of this story, from the descriptive ways that Ms. Henderson had Evie set up her suspect/questions boards to the interviews she conducted with those suspects. It was very much like walking alongside an investigator’s daily work without the aching feet to show for it. I also loved that Ms. Henderson included another case alongside the Greenhill disappearance that Evie consulted on. David has chosen to work the cold case of a missing PI who disappeared in the middle of multiple cases, several of which could have been the reason for his disappearance. I enjoyed seeing how Evie and David worked separately and together on both cases, each bringing new ideas and theories for the happenings of the crimes. Ms. Henderson was careful to give each their own distinctive voice and method of approaching a case. Their discussion of how they go about examining the evidence and reports was a fun conversation that helped me understand their ways of thinking about a case. And that Ms. Henderson also included excellent insights into both Evie and David’s personal lives was another of my favorite parts of this story. Evie is trying to sort out whether she loves her boyfriend Rob Turney enough to marry him, and if she will fit well into his life permanently. She loves that he is there for her at all times and that he lets her do her job without getting offended when the job breaks their plans. But is that enough to build a marriage on? And could she be the wife Rob needs to support his reputation as a much-sought-after fiscal banking advisor. David helps Evie ask the tough questions about her and Rob, making sure she tells Rob what her concerns are and how they can work through them. Ms Henderson is careful not to close out all of Evie’s relationship questions though, keeping the ultimate conclusion of that for another story in the series. With David, Ms. Henderson takes on the difficult situation of a person who has recently become a Christian but who is also engaged to a person who is not a Christian. I was thrilled to see that she made the situation as complicated as it should be but tempered it with kindness and grace. David loves Maggie very deeply but knows he can’t marry her unless she becomes a Christian. However he doesn’t feel God is calling him to break things off with Maggie, rather he understands that he must wait and let God bring her to Himself in His timing. Their story is so wonderfully powerful and sweet, showing that following God may be painful but trust is required if we wish to have the best that God has for us.  Ms. Henderson closes out her story with the conclusion of both cases and both relationships growing in new and better ways. She also included a great new character named Lori Nesbitt who I hope will take on a larger role in later books. Ms. Henderson provides the perfect segue way between her books by solving the relevant crimes but leaving the persons involved incomplete in their decisions, both personally and professionally. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing how she will bring about the next phase of cold cases and personal lives of her characters. I have already recommended this book multiple times to others and will certainly continue to do so. Thank you Ms. Henderson for such a well written story!

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.

Spring Raine by Delia Latham – Book Review

Spring Raine by Delia Latham

Published by Pelican Book Group   February 24, 2017

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 252

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

An uncharacteristic, last-minute decision to do something “wild and crazy” before entering the stressful world of forensic science sends Raine Presley to Cambria, California. Against a cloud of disapproval from her slightly manipulative, over-protective parents, she signs a seasonal lease at the beautiful Paradise Pines Lodge…and winds up over her head in life and love.

Declan Keller’s just minding his own business—literally—when Raine drops into his world and turns it upside down. He’s far too busy carving beautiful shapes out of chunks of wood to be babysitting a gal from Pasadena. Even so, his father’s promise to an old friend obligates him, despite a looming deadline that could make or break his career in the art world. He’s praying for anything but Raine when she comes along.

Neither Declan nor Raine is prepared for the seemingly divine influence of Paradise Pines—and Miss Angelina Love. A mysterious lady who may or may not own the lodge, Miss Angie possesses an amazing talent for mending ruffled feathers, spouting proverbs, and somehow bending even the most determined of hearts to the power of love.

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Story Notes

Delia Latham’s first book in the Paradise Pines series will be a delight to her readers looking for a good romance, an insight into the power of Godly relationships, and the joy that comes from discovering one’s true calling in life.

Not having previously read a book by this author, I was curious to see her writing style and ability to create and complete a multi-level plot . There is always a bit of skepticism when I am presented with a new-to-me author, skepticism that thankfully gave way to enjoyment as I read further into Ms Latham’s first Paradise Pines story. I was most happy to see that she made the most of the pages in her story, given it was shorter than the usual length of novels. She jumped right into the story, drawing me in with her lovely descriptions of the Paradise Pines lodge and its unusual owner  – making me wish I could spend a vacation in the home of sweet Angelina Love. And her main character, Raine, was one I could relate to, both with parental expectations and discovering the path God has called me to walk. Although my parents were never in any way the extremists that Raine’s parents seem to be, I knew growing up that I was expected to give my best efforts to my schooling and personal life. But Raine finds herself in need of what my parents encouraged but hers did not – a break to decide if her life was headed in the direction that would most glorify God. And her three month stay at Paradise Pines will certainly bring her the answers she desires most – how to honor the time and efforts her parents poured into her life and still do what God would have her do. Ms. Latham used Raine to tell a story that illustrates the importance of a close relationship with God that will lead to finding the path He has planned for you. How fun it was to walk along side Raine as she discovered the joy to be found all around her in the Creation of God as well as opening her eyes to seeing those around her who had lost hope of finding a place to belong. Raine meets two young teens who both seem in need of someone to care that they exist – meetings that spark a desire to establish a place for them and others who need a home and family to call their own. But Raine will have to make the choice of whether to return to the life waiting for her or stay in Cambria to run the new home, Chrysalis. And to all this wonderful drama Ms. Latham adds a sweet romance between Raine and Ms. Angelina’s neighbor Declan Kellar. Declan is happy with his quiet existence, carving works of art from wood in preparation for a gallery showing. He has little time for the favor his father asks of him to keep an eye on a friend’s “spoiled” daughter who is staying next door for the next three months, but he can’t refuse his father’s request. Little does he know that meeting Raine Presley will change his life in many ways, and all of them for the better. I loved that Ms. Latham had them become friends first before they moved on to romance. There was a real credibility that came through and helped me connect with them in a better way – from feeling joy at their first kiss to feeling the intense hurt they both felt when Raine breaks up with Declan after finding out her father hired him as he bodyguard. Ms. Latham’s story was one I truly enjoyed and will most certainly re-read. I loved the way she described the incredible power of God that radiated from Angelina Love and depth of her relationship that would lead Raine to seek a real relationship with God herself. And one of her sub-characters Shay was one of the best I’ve read in some time; her overwhelmingly kind and loving personality reminding me of several friends God has brought into my life. How good it was to be reminded that God gives us just what and whom we need when we are seeking to serve Him with our lives. I will certainly be recommending this story to others and be purchasing a copy of this and the rest of the series in the near future.

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

 

Deep Extraction by Diann Mills – Book Review

Deep Extraction by Diann Mills

Published by Tyndale House Publishers  April 4, 2017

Genres: Suspense, Christian

Pages: 379

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

A pacemaker should have saved oil and gas magnate Nathan Moore’s life. Instead, it provided his killer with a seemingly perfect means of execution.

A bombing at one of Nathan’s oil rigs days earlier indicates his death could be part of a bigger conspiracy, a web Special Agent Tori Templeton must untangle. But her first order of business is separating the personal from the professional―the victim’s wife, her best friend, is one of the FBI’s prime suspects.

Clearing Sally’s name may be the biggest challenge of her career, but Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer―and to each other―the more intent someone is on silencing them for good.

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Story Notes

Diann Mills non-stop second book in the FBI Task Force series will keep her readers guessing who is really guilty and who is just in the wrong place at the right time.

Although I have met Diann Mills before and know she attends my church as well, I had not had the opportunity to read one of her books before this story was offered to me for review. I was very impressed with the depth of her writing and will certainly be looking to read more of her past and future works. Ms. Mills’ story is not a new plot but her development of the characters and the story line was done in such a different way as to make it seem it was a new idea. The twists, turns and complications of the entire case kept me from guessing the ultimate culprit until he was discovered by the agent’s investigation. And choosing that particular culprit meant that Ms. Mills could spend the majority of the book telling the rest of the characters stories without revealing him before the end. She began with an oil mogul whose pacemaker was hacked remotely causing immediate heart failure. Add to this the bombing of one of his oil rigs days before, his out-of-the-blue request for divorce from his wife, condemning evidence of an affair with his administrative assistant and his recent purchase of oil rigs overseas and Ms. Mills created a story that had so many threads to unravel that I wasn’t sure she could manage them all. But manage she did, exceeding my expectations by not only answering all my questions but giving such total answers that I felt I had been the one investigating the case. I always enjoy a book that also employs a faith journey for one of the main characters, so Ms. Mills’ inclusion of Special Agent Tori Templeton’s “investigation” of the faith her deceased brother held close was a welcome subplot to this excellent story. Tori needed undeniable proof to satisfy her detective’s mind that God not only knew about her but cared what happened to her life. And Ms. Mills thoroughly answered that desire for proof by having her involved in a major fire fight that Tori and US Marshall Cole Jeffers should not have walked away from. Tori’s acceptance of God’s love brings her a peace she had searched for a long time and she will then seek to share it with those close to her. Cole had challenged her to test God and is very pleased when she finds Him to be as trustworthy as he has found Him to be in his life. But they still have a case to solve that will take every investigative skill they’ve ever developed to solve, especially as every answer they find begs 10 new questions. I truly enjoyed reading this story as if I was walking beside Tori and Cole every day of this case. To see their frustration when legalities stalled them, feel the hurt they felt over asking their friends intimate questions about relationships, and getting angry along with them at the pain selfish or vengeful people caused those thought responsible, these are just some of the emotions Ms. Mills helped me to feel while reading. She also included a really nice love relationship between Tori and Cole that was a perfect complement to the many relationships that were tearing apart all around them. Their careers, and later, faith brought them together, giving them a great basis to grow their friendship into a deeper relationship neither of them had actively been looking for. Deep Extraction is one book that I know I will reread and will certainly share with my friends and family. I’ve got a request in for several of her other works and am looking forward to going back to the first story in the FBI Task Force series – Deadly Encounter. Hope the next one in the series will be out soon!

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

Here’s a video link for the book if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-0h2iT3pQg&feature=youtu.be

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock – Book Review

If I’m Found  by  Terri Blackstock

Published By  Zondervan Fiction   March  21, 2017

Genres: Mystery and Thrillers, Christian

Pages:  384

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Copenhagen Cozenage by Kristen Joy Wilks – Book Review

Copenhagen Cozenage by Kristen Joy Wilks

Published by White Rose Publishing/Pelican Group Publishing  September 25, 2015

Genre:  Romance, Christian

Pages: 120

Rating:  4.5 of 5 stars

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Publishers Description

Morgan Ravn arrives in Denmark seeking clues about her mysterious heritage. What she finds is a flirtatious stranger who regales her with a story about a jewel thief from 1958 and then abandons her with a large unruly dog. Can Morgan locate the irresponsible pet owner before his monstrous canine drags her through every puddle in Copenhagen and sheds all over her last dress? And why are strangers dogging her every step, snapping photos? Is the shutter happy behavior a bizarre Danish custom or something more sinister?

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Story Notes

Kristen Joy Wilks’ first published work is a really wonderful read that will have readers putting it down only to rest their ab muscles and dry their streaming eyes from laughing so much at this hilarious romp through Denmark’s capital city.

FUN, FUN, FUN!! This was one of the fastest books I’ve ever read, not because it was a shorter story(which it was), but because it was such a fun and fast-paced story. And what a clever title Ms. Wilks chose, making a vocabulary lover like me take fast note. Ms. Wilks drew me it on page one and I felt like I was in Denmark on this crazy adventure right along with her main character Morgan. I love stories that have a character searching out history or their family they never knew and this one had just enough family mystery to be intriguing without being overwhelmingly complicated. And Ms. Wilks kept the mystery going all the way to the last chapter, revealing enough to keep me figuring but still wondering. However, it is rare that I laugh all the way through a mystery book and I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit as the pages turned. Morgan’s troubles were literally everyone’s ‘worst fear’ days all rolled into one. From being left with an oversized Newfoundland dog that sheds massive amounts of fur constantly, to ruining all but one of her outfits she packed for her weeks stay as she chased the dog through the famous sites and parks of Copenhagen, to nearly drowning multiple times, poor Morgan cannot catch a break. And to make matters worse for her, everyone seems to be bent on photographing or videoing her series of unfortunate events. When she finally figures out the reason behind all the photography – for her favorite comic artist to be provided with a subject for his latest drawings – she is mad enough to spit! Well, at least spit the dog hair out of her mouth. And discovering further that the family member who she was to meet for lunch only wants to steal the key her grandmother left her, leaves Morgan feeling heart-sore and more than a little angry. But her faith will give her the courage she needs to get out of this latest kerfuffle and she just might find true love hiding in the most unlikely place – with August, the man who abandoned the dog with her. Ms. Wilks wrote a well-developed and really wonderful story. I truly enjoyed reading the entirety of the story and was pleased to see her character employed her faith through all her troubles. It was really great to see Morgan not only discover the family history she longed for but also find love with August, even if he was part of the reason for her mis-adventures. And Ms. Wilks’ epilogue gave the story a complete and very satisfying conclusion that included a couple passages that inspire laughter once again. Ms. Wilks has shown she has a genuine skill in storytelling and I am looking forward to her next works. I heard the next book from Ms. Wilks will be coming out later this year and I have already pre-ordered a copy. I will most certainly recommend this book to my friends and family and hope to enjoy Ms. Wilks new book soon.

I received this E-Book free of charge from White Rose Publishing/Pelican Group Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.