Sunday, March 22, 2015

Aloha Betrayed by Donald Bain

book cover
Murder, She Wrote:
Aloha Betrayed
by Jessica Fletcher
and Donald Bain


ISBN-13: 9780451466556
Mass Market Paperback:
304 pages
Publisher: Obsidian Mystery
Released: March 3, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Jessica is on the Hawaiian island of Maui, giving a lecture at Maui College on community involvement in police investigations. Her co-lecturer is legendary retired detective Mike Kane, who shares his love of Hawaiian lore, legends and culture with Jessica. But the talking stops when the body of a colleague is found at the rocky foot of a cliff.

Mala Kapule, a botanist and popular professor at Maui College, was known for her activism and efforts on behalf of the volcanic crater Haleakala. The high altitude crater is already the site of an observatory, but plans to place the world’s largest solar telescope there split the locals, with Mala fiercely arguing to preserve the delicate ecology of the area. Was someone trying to muffle the protestors? Or was Mala’s killer making a more personal statement?


My Review:
Aloha Betrayed is a cozy mystery. This is the forty-first book in the series. You don't have to read the previous novels to understand this one, and this one doesn't spoil the whodunit of previous novels.

Technically, this is a clue-based mystery, and whodunit can be guessed. The final clues that straighten out the muddle of who and why don't come until nearly the end. I like Jessica as a heroine, but there was a "no, don't do it!" moment that seemed to stretch reasonable caution. Jessica did a number of vacation events like a luau, dinner cruise, and a picnic in Iao Valley. It brought back memories of my Maui vacation.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this fun 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, March 15, 2015

Twisted Innocence by Terri Blackstock

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Twisted Innocence
by Terri Blackstock


ISBN-13: 9780310332367
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: February 3, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Holly Cramer has worked hard to keep the identity of her daughter's father a secret, shamed and embarrassed by the one-night stand. But when the police knock on her door searching for Creed Kershaw, she realizes his identity isn't as hidden as she thought. The fact that Creed is a person of interest in a recent drug-related murder only increases her humiliation.

Determined to keep him out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private investigating skills to search for him. But her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Holly realizes his connection to Leonard Miller--the man who has gunned down several members of her family. Creed claims he's innocent and that Miller is after him, too. His gentleness with Lily moves Holly, but she can't trust a man who has held her at gunpoint...even if he reminds her so much of herself.


My Review:
Twisted Innocence is a Christian suspense novel. This book was the third in a series, and I'd recommend reading the books in order. This novel is a continuation of the on-going story of Leonard Miller versus the families of these three sisters. We're given enough information to understand what's going on, but this information "spoils" events in the previous novels.

The suspense came from emotional tension in various relationships and from physical danger. Holly endured an attack, kidnapping, and repeated attempts to kill the people she cares about. Since this was the first I'd "met" Holly, I was a little confused by her early motives. If you don't want someone to find you, you...track them down? She's a proactive sort of gal who doesn't always make good decisions. Anyway, it was very suspenseful, and I quickly become engaged in the story even without reading the previous books.

The Christian element was some discussion about why bad things happen and about trying to redeem ourselves versus God redeeming us. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to suspense fans.


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, March 8, 2015

Petticoat Detective by Margaret Brownley

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Petticoat Detective
by Margaret Brownley


ISBN-13: 9781628366266
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Released: December 1, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Pinkerton detective Jennifer Layne is no stranger to undercover work. But posing as a lady companion named Amy at Miss Lillian’s Parlor House and Boots is a first for her. She’s finally landed a high-profile case and is on the trail of the notorious Gunnysack Bandit, when one of Miss Lillian’s girls essential to her investigation meets an untimely demise. Only a handful of people are in the house at the time of her death, including handsome Tom Colton, a former Texas Ranger determined to clear his brother’s name. Amy has many reasons to suspect Tom of murder—and one very personal reason to hope that she’s wrong about him.


My Review:
Petticoat Detective is a Christian historical romance set in 1883 in America. The historical backdrop is not the focus of the story, but the author took the time to learn everyday details and about the attitudes of the time period, and she used those details where appropriate. Happily, the hero and heroine spend a night talking about their pasts, so they have something to base their attraction on besides just physical looks.

The story has "a comedy of errors" characterizing many of the encounters. I normally don't mind that in romances, but we're obviously supposed to respect Jennifer's ability as a detective. While it was a matter of "if it can go wrong, it did go wrong" rather than a case of bad judgment, I find it difficult to respect error-prone detectives. Since the vital clues are withheld until the "whodunit" reveal, it wasn't a guessable, clue-based mystery, anyway.

The Christian element was the heroine realizing how God works in mysterious ways. Also, various characters try to convince the good-time girls to repent and become honest, church-attending citizens. It's not as bad as it sounds--comedy, remember?--but I doubt non-Christians would appreciate these scenes. There's some depth to the good-time girls, and the solution involves the Church ladies helping the "fallen women" find jobs they prefer rather than dropping their concern after "saving their souls."

There were no sex scenes. There was no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to fans of romantic comedies.


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, March 1, 2015

Darned If You Do by Monica Ferris

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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

book cover
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.