Tag: reading

Book Review: Southern Harm, by Caroline Fardig

southern harm
Image belongs to Alibi.

Title:  Southern Harm
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery/thriller, women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Quinn Bellandini just wants to enjoy her quiet life with her new boyfriend, Tucker, running her family’s B&B—and staying away from murder investigations. But when Quinn finds bones in Tucker’s Aunt Lela’s yard and Lela is accused of the 33-year-old murder of a homecoming queen, she and her sister Delilah end up on the case again.

Tucker is devastated by his aunt’s arrest, so Quinn wants to help. Soon she and Delilah are asking questions, talking to everyone from busybody neighbors to old high school teachers to society matrons. The case is cold, and people don’t want to talk, but Quinn keeps asking questions, and turns up answers that seem to lead to the least likely of suspects—including her own parents!

I enjoyed the second novel in the Southern B&B Mystery series. Fardig’s novels are always so enjoyable:  light, funny, and charming, with quirky, likable characters. There’s a lot of family drama in this one—we are talking about the South, after all—and even the secondary characters are excellent. Lela is especially memorable, but so are the rest of this delightful cast.

Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Harm is her newest novel, the second book in the Southern B&B Mystery series.

(Galley courtesy of Alibi via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Synapse, by Steven James

synapse
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Synapse
AuthorSteven James
Genre:  Suspense, thriller
Rating:  5 out of 5

Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but what they believe. Is hope real for them, or merely an illusion? 

Kestrel Hathaway is a minister reeling from unthinkable tragedy when she witnesses a terrorist attack and steps in to render aid. When she’s questioned by the officials, she realizes the possibility of another attack—a devastating one—is looming, and she and her Artificial, Jordan, work together to untangle the lies and secrets wrapped around the attack.

Federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon is determined to stop the attack he knows is coming. He doesn’t want Kestrel in danger—but her insight might be just the thing he needs to break the case.

And Jordan is asking questions an Artificial should never ask; questions about life, God, and the afterlife. Where does the line between humanity and Artificial blur?

This book was a wild ride from the very first page. I read it straight through because I had to know what happened! I was very intrigued with Kestrel, who is a minister asking tough questions in the wake of tragedy. I’ve never read a suspense/thriller book with a minister as the main character, and I think every novel of this type set in the future that I’ve read has done away with the idea of faith and religion, so this was fascinating to read. I highly recommend this novel—but don’t start it unless you have a few free hours to kill right then!

Steven James is a bestselling author with a master’s degree in Storytelling. Synapse is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Lake Season, by Denise Hunter

lake season
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Lake Season
Author:   Denise Hunter
Genre:  Romance, Christian
Rating:  5 out of 5

After their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her brother and sister decide to make their parents’ dream a reality:  turning their historic home back into an inn. Molly will have to give up her dreams of Italy, but she knows it’s worth it to see her youngest sister finish high school at home in tiny Bluebell, North Carolina. Then Molly finds an unsent letter in the wall of the inn—a letter that tells of a love lost years ago in Bluebell. She wants to return the letter to its rightful owners but has no idea how to find them.

Adam Bradford, secretly bestselling novelist Nathaniel Quinn, is in Bluebell to research his next novel. Quiet and reclusive, he takes no chance on people finding out who he really is. But Molly and Adam become instant friends and soon he is just as fascinated with finding the lost letter’s recipient as she is. But Molly doesn’t know Adam is keeping secrets—and trust is one thing she holds sacred.

I loved this book! Sweet and simple, mixing the past and present together seamlessly as it explores Adam and Molly’s fears and issues as well as secrets from the past. I was invested from the first page, and I loved the characters—and the small town of Bluebell—as well as the family bond between Molly and her siblings.

Denise Hunter is a bestselling author who lives in Indiana. Lake Season is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Scared Little Rabbits, by A.V. Geiger

scared little rabbits
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:  Scared Little Rabbits
AuthorA.V. Geiger  
Genre:  YA, suspense
Rating:  4 out of 5

Nora was thrilled to be chosen for the Maker Project:  three weeks at the elite Winthrop Academy where she’ll have the chance to put her coding skills to use on the dazzling new project she’s sure she’ll have an idea for. But everyone seems to know each other already and have formed their groups, and Nora’s left on the fringes, watching.

Until Maddox befriends her and they have a great idea for their project. But Maddox’s girlfriend is atop the hierarchy at the Maker Project and making her angry is the last thing Nora wants to do. Then someone winds up dead…and Nora is left wondering if anyone is who they say they are.

I’m not a huge social media person, but I can see where the InstaLove App would be hugely popular, especially for wallflowers like Nora. I liked her well enough, even if her social awkwardness was sometimes a bit much. Surely she wasn’t really that naïve? I enjoyed this book for what it was and read it in one sitting, but nothing in it was completely unexpected (except maybe the scene with Nora and the pool).

A.V. Geiger is an epidemiologist. Scared Little Rabbits is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in November (2019)

Books Read in November: 22

Books Read for the Year: 210/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Discerning the Voice of God, by Priscilla Shirer (spiritual). Loved this!

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, (classic). Can we talk about how much I disliked EVERY SINGLE character? Seriously. I read this 20+ years ago and had forgotten just about all of it. Wishing it had remained that way…

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness (TBR). Honestly…I thought this sucked. It just wasn’t to my taste at all.

On the Shoulders of Hobbits, by Louis Markos (nonfiction). This was a really fascinating read about faith and fiction.

The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth E. Wein. (cultural). The first I’ve read by this author, and I enjoyed it.

For Review:

we met in december

We Met in December, by Rosie Curtis. This was such a fun read! I enjoyed discovering London and all Jess’s adventures as she falls for her charming flatmate.

the family upstairs

The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell. This was a creepy read, and one almost unbelievable to me. If everyone sees the signs their life is becoming a cult, why not take action, before people die?

the bake shop

The Bake Shop, by Amy Clipston. I thoroughly enjoyed this Amish romance about Christiana, who opens a bake shop in the Amish marketplace, next to the cranky Jeff, who just can’t seem to get his words to come out right.

9781335008480.indd

Day Zero, by Kelly deVos. Jinx’s dad is a doomsday prepper, so she’s spent years training for the end of the world. When it happens, though, Jinx is stuck trying to take care of her little brother, her opinionated stepsister, her stepbrother…pretty much everyone, as they struggle to find her dad, accused of causing the destruction. But the truth is far harsher than the rumors.

navigating the stars

Navigating the Stars, by Maria V. Snyder. Sci-fi, YA, romance…Terra Cotta Warriors are found on other planets, and Lyra’s parents are the experts studying them. How cool is that premise? I couldn’t put this one down!

tracking game

Tracking Game, by Margaret Mizushima. I wasn’t really a fan of this K-9 murder mystery. The writing wasn’t solid enough, and the MC was…I don’t know. I just couldn’t connect with her.

chasing the shadows

Chasing the Shadows, by Maria V. Snyder. Loved this second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series even more than the first!

mercy road

Mercy Road, by Ann Howard Creel. An excellent historical fiction about Arlene, who joins an all-women team on the front lines of World War I as an ambulance driver.

the confession club

The Confession Club, by Elizabeth Berg. When a group of friends who meet weekly for dinner start confessing secrets in their get-togethers, they aren’t expecting the depths of each other they’ll explore. One of them is in love with a troubled homeless man. Another is hiding the truth from her husband. Will The Confession Club help them deal with their secrets? I thoroughly enjoyed this read!

this really happened

This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen. This is told in alternating timelines: Erin’s day-to-day life when she comes to university, where she meets her group of friends and falls in love with one of them, and blog posts she writes in the future, after a tragic accident.

A Silken Thread

A Silken Thread, by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale sent in Atlanta a few years after the Civil War. The Atlanta Exposition is the setting, and I found it fascinating.

a christmas haven

A Christmas Haven, by Cindy Woodsmall. A sweet Amish romance about Ivy, who wants to leave her faith to start her party-planning business, and Arlan, who’d do anything to keep his sister safe.

the chosen one

The Chosen One, by Walt Gragg. I cannot recommend this military fiction. The POV was too distant, and the (very) few female characters were ridiculous caricatures.

safe harbour

Safe Harbour, by Christina Kilbourne. Harbour has been living in a a tent outside Toronto for months, waiting for her dad to arrive with their sailboat. But winter is approaching and her dad still isn’t here, and Harbour will have to find a way to survive the bitter cold.

lake season

Lake Season, by Denise Hunter (review forthcoming). When Molly’s parts died in a tragic accident, she, her brother, and her sister decided to fulfill their dream of turning their childhood home into an inn. Then Molly finds an unsent letter from 30 years before, and decides to find who wrote it—and deliver it if she can.

synapse

Synapse, by Steven James (review forthcoming). This thriller about a minister and her AI robot seeking to stop a terrorist attack was riveting from the very first page!

southern harm

Southern Harm, by Caroline Fardig (review forthcoming). Another of Fardig’s charming Southern tales has Quinn and her sister investigating a 30-year-old murder that just might hit closer to home than they suspect.

Scared Little Rabbits, by A.V. Geiger (review forthcoming). This ended ip being a total guilty-pleasure read!

Just Because:

Call Down the Hawk, by Maggie Stiefvater. A spin-off series to The Raven Boys? I’m in! Loved this read. A bit…quirky, but the wry humor had me snorting with laughter. Some beautiful sentences in there, too.

Book Review: Safe Harbour, by Christina Kilbourne

safe harbour
Image belongs to Dundurn Press.

Title:  Safe Harbour
Author:    Christina Kilbourne
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Harbour is fourteen years old and living in a tent in a ravine outside Toronto with her dog and what feels like a million cans of tuna. She’s not homeless—she’s just waiting for her dad and their thirty-six-foot sailboat to arrive. She can’t tell a soul about her past, not if she wants to remain safe. So she ignores the overtures of friendship from homeless Lise as she waits for her dad.

Then summer turns to fall and her dad still hasn’t arrived. The eccentric reading list he left her didn’t cover how to survive in a tent in the winter, and soon Harbour’s confidence in her father fades, and she’s forced to accept Lise’s help if she wants to survive.

This was an excellent read. Harbour doesn’t seem like she’s only fourteen—she has a much more mature voice—and with everything she’s been through, I can see why not. Her struggles were so vividly portrayed that I almost felt cold when she did. There are a lot of scenes that show an intimate look at being homeless—and surviving—and this book was both sad and full of hope.

Christina Kilbourne is from Ontario. Safe Harbour is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Dundurn Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Chosen One, by Walt Gragg

the chosen one
Image belongs to the publisher.

Title:  The Chosen One
Author:   Walt Gragg
Genre:  Military fiction
Rating:  2.5 out of 5

The Mahdi—The Chosen One—is a fundamentalist Islamic leader who rose to power a few months ago, at the head of an army numbering in the millions. Now he’s pushing into Egypt and Saudi Arabia intent on conquering the entire Middle East—including Jerusalem. An Allied force, mainly Americans, stands in his way, but they are vastly outnumbered. It will take both skill and luck if they are to stop the inexorable tide willing to die for the Mahdi.

Okay. Military fiction is not one of my favorite genres. But…I’ve read—and enjoyed—several Clancy novels, so it’s not an automatic dislike for me. Honestly, the military part of this book wasn’t the problem.

The idea of a fundamentalist Islamic leader at the head of an enormous jihadist army is, frankly, terrifyingly possible. Even with zero military experience, I found the battles—about 90% of the book—to be believable and understandable.

What I didn’t like:

-the distant point-of-view that kept me from making a connection with, or even liking, any of the characters.

-the vocabulary usage comes across as pompous and condescending (I’m a firm believer in Stephen King’s writing advice about using big words unnecessarily:  don’t. See #4.).

-the female characters are caricatures, completely one-dimensional, and totally unbelievable. Do you really expect me to believe that a top-tier journalist like Lauren Adams (beautiful, because that’s the ONE defining trait all the female characters share—and they really only have two traits each here) would sit around moping over a guy she barely met instead of focusing on covering the story of a lifetime? I have a master’s degree in journalism, so this is so unbelievable as to be ridiculous. Then we have the female jihadist soldier who is nearly killed, and ends up feeling affection to the American soldier who saves her life after only a few days when she can’t even understand what he’s saying…and who the soldier then kills because she suddenly decides to betray him. Really? I know basically nothing about fundamentalist Islam, and I know that’s completely unlikely—she’d have killed him in his sleep the first chance she got, with zero chance of affection. And, lastly, is the shrewish trophy wife back home who has her important senator daddy call in a favor to get her husband to come home from the front lines in the midst of battle and drive the kids across the country to his parents. I really wish I were joking. Why make your female characters so one-dimensional and…pathetic?

Walt Gragg is an attorney, former state prosecutor, and Vietnam veteran. The Chosen One is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Christmas Haven, by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall

a christmas haven
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  A Christmas Haven
AuthorCindy and Erin Woodsmall
Genre:  Romance, Christian, Amish
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Ivy Zook is Old Order Amish and is tired of milking cows when what she really wants is to leave her old life behind and get her party planning business off the ground. But it’s hard to build her business when she’s stuck without internet and other modern tools. Even worse, if she leaves too soon, she’s afraid she’ll ruin her sister, Holly’s wedding.

When a car crashes into Greene’s Pharmacy, where Holly works, things get even worse. The driver is Arlan, a Swartzentruber (ultra-conservative) Amish, and his sister Magda, who is very ill. Arlan and Magda are hiding a secret, but he’s determined to keep his sister safe, even if it means staying on the Zook’s dairy farm and working. Arlan wants to return to his home and Ivy wants to leave hers, but soon they realize what home really means.

I must admit, I had never heard of Swartzentruber Amish—I didn’t even realize the Amish had more sects than Amish/Old Order Amish, so this was an interesting read just for that reason alone. But the characters in this novel are wonderful, and I loved the journeys they all took:  Ivy, Arlan, Magda, and even Holly (I think I liked her strength, courage, and faith the best). A wonderful read!

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author who writes Amish fiction. A Christmas Haven is one of her newest releases.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Silken Thread, by Kim Vogel Sawyer

A Silken Thread
Image courtesy of WaterBrook.

Title:  A Silken Thread
Author:    Kim Vogel Sawyer
Genre:  Historical, romance, Christian
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Just a few short years after the Civil War, Atlanta is set to host the Atlanta Exposition, which will draw visitors to the city from far and wide. Eighteen-year-old Laurel, the youngest of seven, is expected by her siblings to stay home and take care of their mother. But Laurel dreams of a family of her own and hopes that operating a silk loom at the Exposition will give her the opportunity to meet a man wealthy enough to care for her mother as well.

Brendan Rochester, only son of a very wealthy family, wants to continue his drinking and carousing, but his father has given him an ultimatum:  settle down and get married or lose everything. Brendan doesn’t want that. He likes Laurel well enough and her beauty would complement his reputation, so he chooses to pursue her and decides nothing will stand in the way of getting what he wants.

Willie Sharp is poor and caring for his ailing father, so he takes a job as security guard at the Exposition. Willie’s friendship with his best friend—a black man—is normal to him, but results in hatred from others, and when a break-in at the Women’s Building at the Exposition happens, Willie is chosen to be guard there, to keep him away from the others. As he and Laurel become friends, his feelings for her change—but he has nothing to offer her.

I really enjoyed this novel. Although it dealt with subjects that I don’t like—racism, sexism—I think it’s probably an accurate portrayal of life in the late 1800s. I loved how all the characters seemed to learn and grow during the course of the novel, and I found the scenes from the Exposition and the Silk Room to be fascinating. If you’re looking for a sweet, clean read, this one is an excellent choice.

Kim Vogel Sawyer has published over fifty books. A Silken Thread is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen

this really happened
Image belongs to the author.

Title:  This Really Happened
Author:    Annmarie McQueen
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

For Erin, university is her chance to stretch her wings. She’d like to make some friends, but she also must focus on her studies—economics, which her emotionally-distant parents approve of. Then she meets her five flatmates, including Allen, the quiet, creative boy who just seems to get her. Their friendship grows, as do Erin’s feelings for Allen, until one day Allen starts dating Charlotte, another of their flatmates.

Erin is devastated but struggles to be okay with it and be happy for her friends. Then one night leaving a crowded club, Charlotte is struck by a car, and everything changes.

This Really Happened is told in alternating timelines:  Erin’s experiences in the present day and her blog posts about Charlotte’s accident and its aftermath, the times slowly growing closer together as the reader gets closer to the truth. Erin only has one friend—her older sister—when she comes to university. She’s not close to her parents, so having a ready-made group of friends is a heady experience with her.

I enjoyed reading about how the friendships developed and I was fascinated by the alternating timelines. I found Allen a bit annoying, but I can see how he interested Erin. This is a solid read for anyone who likes to be intrigued with their reading choice.

Annmarie McQueen is a London-based writer and blogger who loves tea. This Really Happened is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)