Sunday, March 1, 2015

Darned If You Do by Monica Ferris

book cover
Darned If You Do
by Monica Ferris


ISBN-13: 9780425270103
Hardback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
Released: February 3, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Betsy Devonshire, owner of the Crewel World needlework shop, will need all her wits to dig a new friend out of a heap of trouble. After a tree falls on Tom Riordan’s house, landing him in the hospital, the police discover a mountain of junk piled high in his home. Locals offer to help with the cleanup while Tom recuperates.

But when Tom is found murdered in his hospital bed, the sole heir to his property—his cousin Valentina—becomes the number one suspect. Betsy believes there’s more to the case than meets the eye, but finding clues to the killer’s identity in the clutter Tom left behind will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.


My Review:
Darned If You Do is a cozy mystery. It's the eighteenth novel in the series. You don't need to read the previous books to understand this one, and this story didn't spoil the previous mysteries.

The murder didn't actually happen until halfway through the book, but the storyline of the aftermath of a bad storm along with cleaning out a kleptomaniac's house was intriguing. This was a clue-based mystery. There weren't a lot of clues, yet I could still correctly guess whodunit and why. I liked that the heroine reasoned things through logically when considering the clues. She was a nice person and accepted basic safety measures when friends suggested them. The characters were engaging and generally behaved realistically.

There was no sex. There was some bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting mystery.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

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Sabotaged
by Dani Pettrey


ISBN-13: 9780764211966
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Released: February 3, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now paired together on Yancey’s search-and-rescue canine unit, they begin to put aside old arguments as they come to see each other in a different light.

Then a call comes in from the Iditarod that will push them to their limits. Kirra’s uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing. Frank’s daughter has been kidnapped. In order to save her, Frank must use his knowledge as a mechanical engineer to do the kidnapper’s bidding or she will die.

Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl’s life, but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.


My Review:
Sabotaged is a Christian romantic suspense novel. It's the fifth book in a series. It can be read as a stand alone, and it didn't spoil the suspense storylines of the previous novels. The attraction that blooms into romance actually started in the previous book, so the starting intensity of their attraction might seem surprising if you haven't read the previous book. Also, the past main characters were highly involved in this story, so it might be more meaningful if you start earlier in the series.

The dog racing and SARs was a backdrop to the story; most of the story involved flying or driving around Alaska to track down Franks past and Meg's present. The mystery had clues about who was involved and why, so some of it was guessable, but the full story didn't come out until the end. The suspense was created by the physical danger to a number of characters and from the emotional healing that Kirra journeyed through before embracing the romantic relationship.

The Christian element was deeply entwined with the storyline as Reef was trying to depend more deeply on God and Kirra was wrestling with why God let something really bad happen to her in her past. I didn't find it preachy or abrupt. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this suspenseful novel.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt on author's website

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Crimson Cord by Jill Eileen Smith

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The Crimson Cord
by Jill Eileen Smith


ISBN-13: 9780800720346
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: February 17, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Wife to a gambler, Rahab is sold as a slave to cover her husband's debt. Rahab is forced into prostitution by Dabir, counselor to the king. When Israelite spies finally enter Jericho, they come to ask her about the mood of the city. In one risky moment, she vows to protect the spies from the authorities in return for her and her family's lives. She hopes they will not only keep their promise but allow her to become one of them.


My Review:
The Crimson Cord is a Biblical fiction novel. I found the first 142 pages very depressing because Rahab's suffering wasn't even the refining kind. She's a kind, caring woman who is repeatedly abused by her husband, then by her master and the men of her city. Though Rahab loses everyone and everything she cares about, she doesn't become bitter. Even though many men betray and abuse her, she's still very trusting. She reassures her sister that Joshua is a good man before she has even met him. I would have expected her abuse to have impacted her more deeply and in many more ways than it did.

The spies finally appear on page 143. Salmon briefly meets Rahab and falls instantly in lust with her though he despises her for being a prostitute. Rahab is instantly attracted to this handsome stranger whom she knows lusts after and despises her. Not a healthy start, and this is the basis of their few, brief interactions for most the book. Salmon isn't drawn to Rahab's ongoing faith until the last fifteen pages. Rahab rejects Salmon because she doesn't feel worthy. Somehow, she knew what sin was even without the Hebrew Law and believed what she was doing was wrong. She wants to feel clean before she can marry Salmon.

It bothered me that Joshua (without consulting God) kept pushing Salmon and Rahab to marry when she might still be married, was barren, and hadn't had time to show that she was serious about following God. And they acted like Rahab couldn't simply convert (with related teaching and rituals) but needed to become a "captive bride."

There were numerous cultural/historical errors. A few examples: Rahab's husband is left alive, but when Rahab is sold as a slave, she's taken as a "mistress" and "consort" by a powerful man. Culturally speaking, she's a concubine--a slave "second rank" wife. Her new husband then sells time in her bed to all of his political pals...and to rich, foreign men off the street. This would be like the Vice President pimping his wife to his political friends and strangers alike. He should have lost respect, but it's treated like he's a modern street pimp with Rahab as his modern high-class call girl. She calls him her "employer" rather than her master or husband.

Birth control and abortion drugs are treated like they were reliable and safe. Rahab's master stated that prostitutes never keep the children of their prostitution. Yet some do even in modern times, and more would have when birth control was ineffective and abortion dangerous and generally ineffective.

Salmon goes to battle, then buries dead--so he's ceremonially unclean--and yet he's allowed to go into the direct presence of God...and God, amazingly, doesn't even notice. Rahab prayed to her moon god like a Christian prays to God--like she assumes the god is always listening and willing to help. Pagan religions usually assume the petitioner has to do something (like a sacrifice) to get the god's attention and good will, and even then the god's reaction could be negative. Rahab just changes one god (who doesn't answer but at least doesn't appear to ask for much) for another god (a very exacting one who tends to punish with death) because at least He's more powerful. She hopes to find unconditional love and forgiveness in Salmon, not God, though she does finally accept that God forgives her.

There were no graphic descriptions of sex. There was no bad language. I suppose the writing itself must be fairly good to have provoked such a strong emotional response in me, but unfortunately, it was a largely negative response. I guess I was expecting a story as good as Tessa Afshar's "Pearl in the Sand," but I should have just re-read that story.

P.S. This author also overlooks Deut. 24:5 "If a man has recently married his wife, he is not to be subject to military service; he is to be free of external obligations and left at home for one year to make his new wife happy." Joshua makes this big deal about how they can't go to war without Salmon leading the army, yet he pushes for an immediate marriage that should have taken Salmon out of action for a year. That law is hard luck for romance writers, I guess, but great for new brides. Yes, God cares that much about the happiness of a new bride.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Drowning Spool by Monica Ferris

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The Drowning Spool
by Monica Ferris


ISBN-13: 9780425270097
Mass Market Paperback:
320 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: February 3, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Running her needlework shop keeps Betsy plenty busy, but she agrees to teach a class on the punch needle technique at the local senior complex, Watered Silk. A young woman is found floating in Watered Silk’s therapy pool, and the list of suspects is more twisted than any Betsy has encountered before. The young woman had three lovers—each with a motive for the murder.

It’s up to Betsy to sort out the snarl of romantic entanglements and find a killer, or the wrong man is bound to get pinned for a crime he didn’t commit…


My Review:
The Drowning Spool is a cozy mystery. It's the seventeenth novel in the series. You don't need to read the previous books to understand this one, and this story didn't spoil previous mysteries.

This was a clue-based puzzle mystery. Whodunit didn't surprise me, but parts of howdunit seemed improbable. But I enjoyed the mystery and the story enough that I'm interested in reading more of this author's books. I liked that the heroine reasoned things through logically and followed good leads. She acted professionally (not superior or self-entitled) when investigating and accepted basic safety measures when friends suggested them. The characters were engaging and generally behaved realistically.

There was no sex. There was a fair amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting mystery.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

HEART OF ADVENTURE Sweepstakes

Enter the HEART OF ADVENTURE Sweepstakes from Author Dani Pettrey!

In SABOTAGED, Kirra Jacobs and Reef McKenna experience the high stakes of Iditarod search-and-rescue when Kirra’s uncle, a musher in the race, goes missing. Frank’s daughter Meg has been kidnapped, and Frank must do the kidnapper’s bidding or Meg will die. It's a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl’s life, but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.

To celebrate their epic race, Dani and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the HEART OF ADVENTURE SWEEPSTAKES, and your chance to win one of three marvelous prizes.

GRAND PRIZE: LUXURIOUS LODGE GETAWAY
SECOND PRIZE: PALS WITH PAWS DONATION
THIRD PRIZE: SWEETHEART SURVIVAL SLED

This giveaway starts February 2, 2015 and ends February 22, 2015 @ 11:59 pm (PST). Entry is open to US residents only, age 18 and over. Winners will be selected Monday, February 23, 2015, and announced at DaniPettrey.com.

How to Enter: Go to http://www.danipettrey.com/heart-of-adventure-sweepstakes/ and complete the entry box, anytime between February 2 – 22, 2015.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E. Laureano

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Oath of the Brotherhood
by C.E. Laureano


ISBN-13: 9781612915876
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: NavPress
Released: April 18, 2014

Source: Advanced Reader Copy ebook from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man's worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king. When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king's sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine's ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic.

Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth. Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he's meant to play in Seare's future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything--even the woman he loves--to follow the path his God has laid before him?


My Review:
Oath of the Brotherhood is a Christian fantasy novel. It's the first in a series. It doesn't end with a cliffhanger, but it does end with the main goal (to get the harp) still not accomplished so it felt more serial than stand-alone.

The story wasn't bogged down in world-building detail yet the author still created an interesting culture and overarching conflict. I liked the characters, and I liked that the characters were willing to sacrifice to help others. That's what drew me to heroic fantasy when I was young.

The beginning was intriguing and the ending was exciting, but the middle lacked suspense. Conor received the training that he needed, but this training was largely described in highlight events as the years pass. There wasn't much ongoing conflict during that time, just learning new skills and momentary obstacles. If a problem came up, someone promptly made a noble sacrifice to remove that obstacle for Conor. Still, the story was an enjoyable read.

The Christian allegory was done well, both in not feeling forced into the story and in sound teachings (about trusting God). The Christian values were pretty obvious even though God and Jesus are given different names, but I think the audience is Christians who like heroic fantasy novels. There is magic (like help knowing what needs healing and wards of protection), and it's explained as a gift given by God.

There was no sex or bad language. I'd recommend this novel to Christians who enjoy heroic fantasy.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rescue Team by Candace Calvert

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Rescue Team
by Candace Calvert


ISBN-13: 9781414361123
ebook: 365 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: April 19, 2013

Source: A free ebook offer.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Tired of running from her past, nurse Kate Callison intends to become Austin Grace Hospital's permanent ER director and make Texas her home. Despite staff friction, she's moving ahead. Then the death of an abandoned baby wraps the ER in crime tape.

For Wes Tanner, nothing beats finding someone who's lost; he's known that helpless terror firsthand. He's ready for anything--except Austin Grace's prickly and dismissive ER director. But he can see the need behind the behavior--something haunts her.

Kate discovers that she enjoys Wes' company, and she wonders if her heart might have finally found a home. Then an unsolved missing persons case--and a startling new one--become catalysts that threaten the loss of all she and Wes have found.


My Review:
Rescue Team is a Christian romantic suspense novel. While this book can be read as a stand-alone novel, Kate is a main character in the previous book in this series. You can understand what's going on without reading Trauma Plan, but there are some references to things that happened to Kate in that book.

All of the character were complex and acted in realistic ways. I had a hard time liking Kate at the beginning, so I also had a hard time understanding why Wes was interested in her. If he was trying to "rescue" her, I'd understand it, but that doesn't seem to be his motivation. But once Kate relaxed a bit around Wes, I could understand their attraction.

Kate abandoned her baby as a teenager, which she felt was unforgivable. The Christian element was her coming to understand that God could forgive her and use her to help others in a similar situation. Wes was abandoned in the woods by his mother when he was young, so he struggled with why his mother--or any mother--would ever abandon her child.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.