Friday, December 31, 2010

Unexpected Love by Andrea Boeshaar

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Unexpected Love
by Andrea Boeshaar

ISBN-13: 978-1-61638-192-9
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms
Released: Jan. 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Lorenna Fields always taken her job at Chicago's Mercy Hospital seriously, determined never to becomes personally involved with her patients. But when a mysterious man with eyes like onyx is admitted after a shipwreck on Lake Michigan, she develops a connection with him that she can't deny.

Slowly her patient regains consciousness, but to Renna's dismay he has lost both his sight and his memory. Dubbed "Mr. Blackeyes" by her, the two build a strong, trusting friendship as they search for clues to his past. But part of her dreads the day of his recovery, convinced that his memories will take him away from her and his regained sight will reveal a secret about herself that Renna has been trying hard to hide.

My Review:
Unexpected Love is a historical romance (with the emphasis on the romance) set in 1866 in Chicago and Milwaukee. This book is the third in the series, but you can understand it even if you haven't read the previous novels. However, the main characters in the second novel play a large role in this novel, and the male lead in this novel was a main character in the previous novel, so this novel does "spoil" the previous one.

The romance was predictable; I never doubted they'd get together and it hit all the common beats. However, the "romance novel misunderstanding" was nicely set up and more realistic than most: Renna couldn't believe that a 'playboy' rich man who could have any woman he wanted would be interested in a middle class girl like her who had an ugly birthmark on her cheek. "Mr. Blackeyes" was drawn to her earnest personality but felt that he had to lie to soothe her fears or he'd lose his chance to get to know her better. But the lie becomes increasingly difficult to keep up.

There was a nice level of historical detail about the setting and everyday life woven into the story, but it's not as heavy on these details as some historical romances. The suspense was created by the relationship tensions, some physical danger, and some uncertainty about "Mr. Blackeyes" being able to resume his life after being thought dead for several months.

Many of the characters were Christians. Several Bible verses were quoted. The characters did get a bit preachy at each other at times, but it was in-character and flowed naturally.

There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like heart-warming romances.

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 from Chapter One
Chicago, Illinois, September 4, 1866

"Do you think he'll live, Dr. Hamilton?"

The gray-haired man with bushy whiskers pondered the question for several moments, chewing on his thick lips as he weighed his reply. "Yes, I think he will," he finally said. "Of course, he's not out of the woods yet, but it seems he's coming around."

Lorenna Fields breathed a sigh of relief. It had been two whole days with nary a sign of life from this half-drowned man, but finally--finally--he showed signs of improvement.

"You've done a good job with this patient, Nurse Fields." The physician drew himself up to his full height, which barely met Renna's five feet six inches. "I don't think he'd be alive today if you hadn't given him such extraordinary care."

"Thank you, Dr. Hamilton, but it was the Lord who spared this man and the Lord who gave me the strength and skill to nurse him"

The old physician snorted in disgust. "Yes, well, it might have had something to do with the fact that you've got a brain in your head, Nurse Fields, and the fact that you used it too, I might add!"

Read more from chapter one.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Simonsen

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The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy
by Mary Lydon Simonsen

ISBN-13: 9781402240256
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: January 1, 2011

Source: Advanced Reader's Copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
In an attempt to get out of dancing, which he dislikes, Mr. Darcy snubs Miss Elizabeth Bennet. A little later, when he gets a better look at her beauty, he regrets his tactless words. He doesn't think he'll ever see her again, though, so he doesn't take the time to apologize. Still, he can't stop thinking about her.

When he hears that Elizabeth is in Kent, he makes an unexpected visit to his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. One evening, on impulse, he makes Elizabeth an offer of marriage while thinking through the cons of such a match out loud. Yet again, he's unintentionally offended Elizabeth. In a private talk with his cousin, Anne de Bourgh, he confesses that he proposed to Elizabeth and was rejected.

Anne wants to remain single, so she comes up with a scheme to bring Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth together again. She urges Elizabeth to visit Pemberley during her upcoming trip and causes Mr. Darcy to return home earlier than planned. Surely Darcy and Lizzy will see that they're the perfect match, but little goes as planned...

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy is a historical romance set in 1808 in England, and it's a Pride and Prejudice re-write. The author referred to several historical events occurring outside of England and had them affect the characters in the story, but she generally didn't delve deeply into the day-to-day historical aspects.

The characters weren't faithful portrayals of those in Pride and Prejudice. In this version, Mr. Darcy had a couple of mistresses before meeting Lizzy. The author made Lizzy's family poorer and of lesser social class. And while Lizzy had wit, it's a different kind of wit. The characters also forgave all wrongs and fell in love much more quickly than in the Pride and Prejudice timelime. In fact, multiple events were changed slightly though the overall framework was maintained.

The author did assume the reader was familiar with the original story. She mainly filled in the scenes that Jane Austen didn't write. She also created a number of new characters and had them play major roles. Even though the story "wasn't really Pride and Prejudice," I enjoyed her characters and her version of events. Overall, the story was quite engaging.

I found one stylistic thing confusing, though. The author would sometimes start a new section with a new point-of-view character but jump back in time without clearly indicating this backward time change.

There was a minor amount of British and American bad language. There were a few, very brief, vaguely explicit lustful thoughts on Darcy's part, but no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to Pride and Prejudice fans as enjoyable reading.

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 from Chapter One
Summer 1808

Fitzwilliam Darcy paced up and down the side of the road. He had been within five miles of Netherfield Park, the country estate of his friend, Charles Bingley, when the carriage had veered violently to the right. After learning from his driver that the axle was bent, he had sent his footman in search of a horse, so that he might continue his journey.

A month earlier, Bingley had signed a lease on a handsome two-hundred-acre estate in Hertfordshire with a well-stocked lake and an uninterrupted view of the surrounding countryside. The manor house was the perfect size for Bingley and his small party. The rent on the house, which was owned by the Darlingtons, was reasonable, and above all, it had stables and pastures for Charles's horses.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Man From Shadow Ridge by Brock & Bodie Thoene

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The Man From Shadow Ridge
by Brock & Bodie Thoene

ISBN: 1-55661-098-X
Trade Paperback: 239 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Released: 1990

Source: Checked out from my local library.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
The year is 1863. In the East, the Civil War rages on. The mountains of California seem remote and untouched by the struggle of the young nation.

Tom Dawson thought he left the political and social conflict behind when he joined his brother's little family beneath Shadow Ridge to help his brother run his small ranch. Then a stagecoach is robbed and six people murdered by a gang of Confederate sympathizers stealing Union gold for the South.

Tom and his brother unintentionally place themselves in the middle of the conflict when they take in a now-free slave child whose master was killed nearby. The Confederate sympathizers need certain papers, and they think that the boy knows were they are. And they're willing to kill anyone who stands in their way...

My Review:
The Man From Shadow Ridge is a historical (with some western elements) set in 1863 in California. The historical details of everyday life and Civil War politics were woven into the story. It's clear that the authors did in-depth research yet the details never overloaded the story or slowed the pace.

The suspense was created mainly by the physical danger that the "good guys" were in. The characters were varied, interesting, and somewhat complex. Tom, his brother, his family, and the local parson were Christians. There were some references to them praying or going to church or believing God would help them, but the Christian element was spotty and not lecture-y.

This novel was the first in a series. While it can stand alone, the ending was a bit quick and left some minor things to be resolved in the next novel. There were a few horse-related practical details that were wrong (including a boy being carried stomach-down over a saddle horn without sustaining internal injury) and parts of the ending felt improbable.

There was no bad language and no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like historical novels.

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 from Chapter One
Harness leather groaned as the weary horses leaned into the last steep climb before Granite Station. The wagon was heavily loaded with flour, beans, salt and seed. Two sleeping boys and a bolt of calico cloth completed the freight.

Tom Dawson looked like a man more at ease on the back of a green-broke Indian pony than holding the lines of a team of farm horses. His rugged, sun-browned face was creviced from the weather like the landscape. His dark brown eyes matched the color of the hair that straggled across his forehead from beneath a black broad-brimmed hat. His features had the lean, angular look of a man by no means settled into an easy life, but the small wrinkles at the corners of his eyes betrayed the fact that he smiled on occasion, too.

It was late, past dark already. Tom had expected to reach his stop for the night hours before. The Army quartermaster sergeant who was to have met Tom early that morning had not arrived until midafternoon. The sergeant had sent Tom off with the warning that the stagecoach from Keyesville had been robbed. All five passengers and the driver had been brutally murdered.

Now Tom wished he had camped on the flat along the banks of Poso Creek with other travelers who had stopped for the night. His wagonload of goods might be just as tempting as gold to outlaws hiding out in the lower reaches of the Sierras.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway winner. Including Twitter entries, we had 50 people enter. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from your favorite bookstore or see if they have it at your local library.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway: Leaving Yesterday

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop

book coverAs a part of the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop, I'm giving away my copy of Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman.

Read my review to learn more about this Christian general fiction novel.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for LEAVING YESTERDAY by Kathryn Cushman."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

This giveaway ends Dec. 22, 2010 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on Dec. 23, 2010 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman

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Leaving Yesterday
by Kathryn Cushman

ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-0382-4
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: October 1, 2009

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Alisa Stewart gives presentations on dealing with grief but feels like she's living a pretense. Her oldest son was beaten to death while trying to reach the lost for Christ. Kurt, her other son, started using drugs to avoid his guilt at not being there to protect his brother. Alisa's husband kicked Kurt out of the house two years ago and is now living apart from her because he blames her religion for the tragedy.

When a policeman asks Alisa about her son's whereabouts so he can question Kurt about the murder of a drug dealer, she's terrified. But then her son calls from rehab! He's turning his life around, and surely her son would never murder someone. Even if he did, he's a different person now and should be given his chance.

Then a violent young man is arrested for the murder, and Alisa learns that his family had a similar tragedy in their past. Alisa begins to question if she can live with always wondering about her son and feels guilt over the pain the other mother is suffering. But what will the truth cost her?

My Review:
Leaving Yesterday is a Christian general fiction. The characters were complex and dealt with realistic issues. I understood why they acted as they did even if I didn't agree with it. The suspense was created by the uncertainty about whether Alisa's son did kill the guy or not and whether her husband was going to divorce her or not.

I'd thought this would be a story about a mother having to decide whether or not to turn her son in and dealing with trusting that God will help the police uncover the truth. But Alisa was so deeply in denial about everything that it was more about her leaving the perceived safety of the pretense she was living to face the truth.

Alisa was a Christian struggling to understand why God was letting all these bad things happen to her family. Her belief (or hope) that God would reward her suffering with her desired "happy ending" was partly why she was in denial. The Christian message was woven throughout the story and felt natural and not "lecture-y" to me.

There was a minor amount of "he cursed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this thought-provoking 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 from Chapter One
My son was dead. I knew it the minute I saw the black-and-white car pull to the curb in front of my house.

Clods of potting soil still clinging to my gloves--like the debris of the last few years clung to everything in my life--I turned back to my house, walked up the porch steps, opened the front door, then closed and locked it behind me. Perhaps a reasonable person would understand that the clink of the deadbolt sliding into place did nothing to stop the impending news. Well, show me the mother who thinks with reason when faced with the news that her only remaining son is dead.

I walked into my kitchen and tossed my gloves on the counter, ignoring the splatter of soil they left over what had been spotless granite. I grabbed a cup from the top shelf and shoved it against the slot in the refrigerator door, holding it in place with such force I thought the glass might shatter. Cold water filled it almost to the rim. Just taking a little break from gardening, that's what I was doing. That policeman outside had turned onto the wrong street, that's all. He had probably realized his mistake and was gone by now.

Read more from chapter one using Google Preview.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia Unabridged Boxed Set - Audiobook on CD

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The Chronicles of Narnia Unabridged Boxed Set - Audiobook on CD

ISBN-13: 9780694524754
Format: Compact disc
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 2004

Source: Bought through

Book Description:
C.S. Lewis's seven timeless tales of the land of Narnia are rendered in this collection of unabridged recordings. 33 CDs.

In order: 1. The Magician's Nephew; 2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; 3. The Horse and His Boy; 4. Prince Caspian; 5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; 6. The Silver Chair; 7. The Last Battle.

My Review:

I have a nephew who is learning to read by reading a book at the same time he listens to the audio book of it. I got the Narnia set for him, but I listened to them before giving them to him. The stories still charm me, and I'm almost tempted to get this audio set for myself, too. All seven of the books--and every word in them--are included in this set.

This is a very nice set, with maps of Narnia and drawings illustrating the story on the discs and CD holder. The CDs are in a cardboard multi-CD holder with the book's name on the spine. A different actor narrated each story...6 men and one woman, including Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Stewart. The reading quality was very good, and I really enjoyed the voice work for The Magician's Nephew and The Horse and His Boy.

If you're thinking about getting an audio set of The Chronicles of Narnia, I'd highly recommend this one.

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.

You can listen to audio snippets at

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chronicle Books announced...

Chronicle Books announced today that the winner of their Happy Haul-idays contest was CakeSpy.

They also said that anyone interested in buying books from Chronicle Books can get a discount of 35% off plus free shipping through December 16, 2011. Use this promo code at checkout: HAULIDAYS

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Black Sea Affair by Don Brown

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Black Sea Affair
by Don Brown

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27214-4
Trade Paperback: 322 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
It starts with a high-stakes theft: weapons-grade plutonium is stolen from Russia. The Russian army is about to attack Chechnya to get it back. But U.S. intelligence discovers that the stolen shipment is actually on a rogue Russian freighter in the Black Sea.

As the U.S. Navy hunts down the rogue Russian freighter, a mishap escalates into an international crisis. It is a heart-stopping race against the clock. With Russian missiles activated and programmed for American cities, the U.S. Navy frantically searches the high seas for a floating hydrogen bomb that could be headed for America or one of her allies.

My Review:
Black Sea Affair is a Christian military thriller. It's the fourth in a series, but the connecting character was a very minor character in this book. I didn't need to read the previous novels to understand this one.

There were a fairly large number of point-of-view characters from all sides of the conflict, yet the author skillfully maintained uncertainty about several closely timed events involving those characters. The suspense was high from the first page to the last. The suspense was created by physical danger to the characters and the knowledge that their decisions, if wrong, could cause the deaths of thousands.

The characters were varied and interesting enough, but they didn't really "come alive" as real humans. Military details were woven into the story, but I wondered about some of them. Still, I'm not an expert. I liked that maps of the areas being talked about were included.

Some of the characters were Christian and their faith helped them through the tough times (mainly as "he prayed for wisdom" style statements) and, in some cases, helped them make decisions. (Note: Overall, the bad guys were immoral, greedy atheists or vengeful Muslims who had lost loved ones. All of the characters were a bit cliche, but this depiction of atheists and Muslims apparently has offended some readers.)

There was no explicit sex. There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. I'd recommend this suspenseful novel to those who like military thrillers.

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 from Chapter One
Aircraft carrier
The Pacific Ocean

The admiral took a long draw from his cigarette as he scanned the horizon. The ships under his command consisted of an aircraft carrier, a heavy cruiser, and two destroyers. The small armada plowed through rolling blue-green seas, due east into the rising sun. Already steaming in battle formation, the ships' crews stood ready to launch their aircraft.

Based on intelligence being fed into their combat-information center on board the flagship, they had not been spotted yet.

Good. They were about to execute the most devastating attack by a naval force in all human history. Thousands in San Diego would die in the initial nuclear fallout. Coming from the sea, this attack would take them all by surprise. A surprise that would never be forgotten.

The commander dropped his binoculars and considered his situation. At the moment, at least, the target was vulnerable and unsuspecting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Low Country by Eric L. Haney

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Low Country
by Eric L. Haney

ISBN-13: 978-0425238141
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Released: December 7, 2010

Source: Bound manuscript from the publisher for review purposes.

Book Description from Publisher's Website, modified:
Kennesaw Tanner used to be a shadow operative. Now, he operates on his own. Tanner is in the coastal swamps of Georgia, trying to discover if a teen girl died from suicide or murder. He comes up against a ring of brutal sex slavers for whom human life is a cheap commodity. Can he put them out of business and avenge the dead girl?

My Review:
Low Country is a suspense novel. Kennesaw was only in danger once in the first 195 (of 295) pages, so it's not a thriller like the author's first novel. The first two-thirds of the novel lacked suspense and focus. The plot rambled about in a leisurely fashion with the characters pessimistically commenting on various social issues or past events that had no direct impact on the plot. The action seemed to consist mainly of several dates with a lady cop and interacting with various friends rather than pursuing answers to the mystery.

In the last 100 pages, Kennesaw actually made some (dialogued) effort to solve the mystery, and the action and danger picked up. This part was exciting. The author vividly described the setting throughout, and the characters were interesting and varied.

There were a variety of religions represented in this novel. Though Christianity was not highly thought of by Kennesaw, he did go to a church to ask questions of the pastor of the dead girl. At that time, the verses of several Christian songs were quoted. There were no sex scenes. There was a very minor amount of bad language.

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 from Chapter One
The dead have a mysterious way of returning. Three weeks ago I was working on the deck of my boat, the Miss Rosalie, when my friend Danny Ray Pledger came roaring up in his skiff, trembling and stuttering, unable to talk, and clearly in distress. He needed help, and he needed it badly.

While fishing, Danny Ray had found the badly decomposed body of a girl cast up by the tide in the remote wilderness of the great salt marsh of coastal Georgia. Not knowing what to do, he had come to me. We jumped in my sea skiff, and I returned with Danny Ray to the site of his grisly find. After calling the Coast Guard and having them alert the Chatham County Police, I sent Danny Ray back to my dock to guide the authorities while I stayed with the body.

Why had Danny Ray come to me first instead of going directly to the police himself? Well, the answer is a pretty simple one. Danny is a constituent part of society that always gets the short end of the stick.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Savvy Rest Organic Latex Pillows: great for reading & sleeping

I enjoy reading while lying in bed and spend at least 2 hours each day doing so. I also like using organically grown and processed products--partly for environmental reasons, but also because I'm somewhat chemically sensitive and because non-synthetic, organic products are healthier.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review Savvy Rest's Shredded Latex Pillow. It's made from organic natural latex (which comes from a tree). I already have an organic wool pillow--I replaced my memory foam pillow with the wool pillow and my insomnia problems disappeared. I woke up feeling refreshed and clear-headed instead of tired and groggy. So I'm hooked on organic pillows. It's worth the expense when you realize you're spending about 8 hours a day with your head right next to the pillow, breathing in whatever chemicals it's off-gassing.

Savvy Rest agreed to send me a free standard-sized shredded latex pillow (for review purposes). The pillow arrived 9 days after the order date.

I eagerly unpacked my new pillow, took it to a bed, and tried it out. The pillow has a soft, organic cotton casing and is intentionally overstuffed with a fill of soft, shredded latex. The pillow feels like a gel pad: your head makes a depression that moves as you move. The fill doesn't compress except where the weight is. I wanted to show this off, so I took it to my mom and said, "You try it!" She did and said, "I think this might be what I need for my sore neck and shoulders. Can I try it tonight?"

It's not like I could say no to my mom...

My mom likes to fluff her pillow every morning, so I could see why she'd like a pillow that doesn't need fluffing.

The latex in the pillow had a noticeable smell, but it wasn't bothersome. Both my mom and I have minor skin reactions to synthetic latex gloves, but neither of us has had any reaction to touching or smelling the organic natural latex in this pillow. (More about latex allergy.)

After the first night using this pillow, my mom said that her neck felt a little better, but she wanted to remove some of the fill. The pillow actually has both an outer casing and an inner casing. The zippers for both were facing the same direction, so it was easy to open both and remove several handfuls of fill. The pillow still looked very full, but this fill level felt comfortable to my mom. After the second night, her neck and shoulders were feeling even better and her range of motion for turning her head was much better.

The latex smell was still strong, so we put the pillow outside in the shade on a brisk, windy day to air it out for several hours. When we brought it in, the smell was much reduced but still noticeable.

My mom has used the pillow for five nights now, and she wants to keep it. She said, "For years, I've woken up with a stiff neck and shoulders. It hurt to turn my head very far. But now, that's lessening with each night!"

I've also used the pillow during the day to test it out for reading while lying on my belly and side. I like that the pillow doesn't stay compressed after each use and that it offers nice head and neck support however I lie on it. So I highly recommend this pillow.

A standard-sized Savvy Rest shredded latex pillow costs $79, a queen-sized costs $89, and a king-sized costs $99. You can buy them from Savvy Rest.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Waiting for Daybreak by Kathryn Cushman

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Waiting for Daybreak
by Kathryn Cushman

ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-0381-7
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: October 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Paige Woodward loves working as a pharmacist, but she was blamed and fired for a medication mistake at her last job. Now few people are willing to hire her. Paige's mother's last chance is an experimental cancer treatment, and Paige is determined to earn the money to pay for it.

She takes the job when a man, impressed by her work at a charity clinic, offers her a well-paying job at a small, new pharmacy that his granddaughter runs. Since he doesn't ask about her past, she decides it's safer not to tell him.

Clarissa Richardson, her new boss, fears that adding a new employee will prevent her from meeting her goal. If she can get the pharmacy in the black by a certain date, her grandfather will build her a dream pharmacy in the city.

Clarissa has been cutting corners and breaking rules to run the pharmacy with only two employees. Habits don't change when Paige arrives, so Paige urges her boss to follow the rules. Paige knows what can happen when you don't, but she can't tell her boss why she's being "so picky" about it. When trouble hits, Clarissa realizes how she can save her dream and get rid of her busybody employee at the same time...

Can Paige hold on through the darkness until daybreak?

My Review:
Waiting for Daybreak is Christian general fiction. The characters were complex and dealt with realistic issues. I understood why they acted as they did--even the characters that weren't as likable. The details of the store and job were superbly done, which makes sense since the author was a pharmacist in the past.

I could hardly put the book down. The suspense was created by wanting Paige to succeed and her mother to survive her cancer treatment, yet things kept getting worse. But, strangely, it was by things continuing to get worse that Paige finally found peace.

Paige was a Christian struggling to understand why it seemed like God wasn't there for her when she was unjustly blamed and her godly mother was so sick with cancer. She looked up several verses dealing with that, and she also got a few off-the-wall Scripture references from a quirky new friend. Though definitely there, the Christian message didn't feel "lecture-y" to me.

There was no bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this suspenseful, insightful 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 from Chapter One
Paige Woodward contemplated the reinforced back door of Nashville's Free Clinic and the patchwork of blue covering the exterior. Each shade of navy, indigo, or azure covered another level of graffiti. The defacing spray paint wasn't gone, simply hidden beneath a layer of color that didn't quite match the original. Patch jobs. They didn't change the truth; they only covered it up.

She shook off the thought and put her key in the door. The musty odor never seemed to fade here, in spite of the janitorial crew's best efforts. This dingy lobby would soon be packed to capacity with illness, hunger, and hopeless faces looking to Paige for help--but she could only do so much. Some pain went beyond the bounds of medicine. She had been living that truth for the last few months.

Rufus Toskins emerged from a back hallway, wearing his usual overburdened expression, baggy suit, and bow tie. Paige stopped and waited for him. Today, at least, would bring good news, and now would be a perfect time for him to walk over and deliver it.

Rufus did not acknowledge her presence. In fact, he jerked his head around and blitzed through a door to the opposite hall--like a medical resident rushing toward a code blue.

Strange. Her stomach tightened, just a little. You're imagining things. Get busy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

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The Virgin Widow
by Anne O'Brien

ISBN-13: 9780451231291
Trade Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: New American Library
Released: November 2, 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Anne Neville is born during the War of the Roses--the many battles fought by the York and Lancaster houses to gain and keep the throne of England. Her father, the powerful Earl of Warwick, helps to elevate King Edward IV to the throne. The king's third brother, Richard, is sent to train with the Earl and there Richard encounters Anne. Over the years, the two fall in love.

However, the Earl feels insulted that the king shows greater favor to his wife's family than to the Nevilles who made him king. The Earl marries his eldest daughter to Edward's second brother (and heir). When he fails to put his son-in-law on the throne, his family flees to France. He joins forces with Margaret of Anjou, the queen he deposed to make Edward IV the king.

He betroths Anne to Margaret's son, Edward of Westminster. Anne tries to make the best of a bad situation: the cruel treatment by her distrustful husband and mother-in-law and the jealousy of her sister. But her worst pain is the knowledge that her father and her true love are on opposite sides now and either could be killed in the conflict to come...

My Review:
The Virgin Widow is a historical romance set in England and France during the War of the Roses. Though not a typical romance, the story started with the budding romance in 1462 and ended with it's seemingly impossible fulfillment in 1472. It did cover her child's birth in 1473, but that's where it stopped. It didn't cover Anne becoming queen.

Considering how young Anne Neville was (ages 6 to 16 years old during the story) and how little control she had over her future, I felt the author did a good job of portraying her as not completely passive within those constraints. Political, social, and every-day historical details were skillfully woven into the story. The rich, vivid detail brought the story alive in my imagination. The author followed the overall known facts of Anne Neville's life but, as the author explained in the back, she chose the more dramatic possibilities when facts weren't certain or known.

The pacing was typical of a historical, and the characters were intriguing. The suspense was created by the two characters loving each other but ending up on opposite sides of the war and by the situation seeming to go from bad to worse.

There was a minor amount of cursing and swearing. The sex scenes were brief and not graphic. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like historical romances and who want to know more about this period of time.

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 from Chapter One
APRIL 1469
On board ship, off the English port of Calais

Isabel whimpered. With creaks and groans the ship listed and thumped against the force of water as if it would be torn apart by the next wave, casting us into the depths. Isabel clapped her hands to her mouth, her eyes staring at the heaving wooden walls that hemmed us in, the sides of a coffin.

"Now what's wrong with you?" It was not fear of a watery death. I knew what it was, even as I prayed that it was not. The ship rolled again in the heavy swell, wallowing queasily in the dips before lifting and lurching. Sweat prickled on my forehead. Nausea clutched my belly before fear rapidly drove it out again. "Isabel." I nudged her arm sharply to get her attention. She was sitting in a high-backed chair, the only available chair in the cabin and the property of the captain, her whole body rigid, braced. Eyes tight-closed to shut out the desperate pitch and roll, she kept one hand closed clawlike on the arm. I shuffled forward on my stool. "Is it the baby?"

"Yes," she said with a gasp. Then: " Just a quick pain." On a deep breath her body relaxed fractionally, fingers uncurling from the carved end. "There, it's gone. Perhaps I mistook it."

And perhaps she didn't. I watched her cautiously as she eased her body in the confined space.

Read more using Google Preview.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt

book cover

Breaking Up is Hard to Do
by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt

ISBN: 0446407569
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: FaithWords
Released: April 16, 2009

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover (somewhat modified):
It's been a little over a year since Christine Lee's mom passed away in a tragic car accident. Now her dad is engaged to Candace, and Christine takes out her anger at her dad "getting over" her mother so quickly by trying to break them up...without success. It doesn't help that her dad never talks about her mom's death and doesn't have time for her in his busy political schedule.

To make matters worse, her only friends, the Miracle Girls, aren't there for her. The pressures of high school threaten to break the girls up when they need each other the most. Will they find a way to join together to help Christine come to terms with her mother's death and her father's remarriage?

My Review:
Breaking Up is Hard to Do is a well-written young adult general fiction book. It's written in first person, present tense. It's also the second book in the series, but I didn't need to read first novel to understand what's going on in this one (though probably I would understand the girls' bond better if I had).

The characters were complex and engaging though not always likable (for example, Christine's to-be step-mom was perfect when relating to Christine, but Christine was spiteful toward her even though she recognized this). Teen social and school life were realistically and vividly portrayed. BTW, something you can't tell from the cover picture is that Christine has Asian physical looks and doesn't like dresses.

Three of the four "miracle girls" were Christians. Christine started doubting God's existence after her devout mother died in a car crash yet wants "someone bigger" to be out there so that she's not really all alone. Christine's mother's ghost subtly visited Christine several times throughout the story.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "she cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to female teens as a well-written, 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 from Chapter One
"It looks like a cheerleader's soul exploded all over the gym." I scrunch up my nose and catch a glimpse of my nose ring. It still surprises me to see it there.

Ana laughs at my joke, but Zoe rolls her eyes and starts clapping loudly, probably to cover for our silence. The bleachers shake as everyone around us gets pumped up on school spirit. Everywhere you look, there's garnet and gold bunting, streamers, and posters--one of which is misspelled. At least I don't think the cheer-nerds meant to say "Starfish Have School Sprit." It's bad enough that our mascot is the Starfish, but if people find out we have "sprit" too, we'll be the laughingstock of the country.

It's first period of the first day back in school. I rarely feel all that peppy on a very good day, and I'm certainly not chipper on a day like this. At least we were allowed to sit with anyone we wanted. The only requirement was that we had to sit by class. So here are the Miracle Girls, after an incredible summer together, parked under the big "Sophomores" sign. Woo.

The cheerleaders tumble onto the basketball court as the band cues up to play our fight song. Riley trails behind the tumblers, galloping sideways and "sparkling" her fingers at the crowd. The doctors don't want her tumbling this year. I give her a nod. She waves back.

Monday, November 29, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the Gratitude Giveaways winner. Including Twitter entries, we had 65 people enter. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

Cindy W.
who won Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from your favorite bookstore.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Medical Error by Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

book cover

Medical Error
by Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4267-1000-1
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: Sept. 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Dr. Anna McIntyre’s life was going along just fine until someone else started living it.

Her patient died because of an identity mix-up; her medical career is in jeopardy because of forged prescriptions; and her credit is in ruins. She thought things couldn’t get worse, but that was before she opened the envelope and saw a positive HIV test with her name on it.

Her allies are two men who are also competing for her affection. Dr. Nick Valentine is a cynic who carries a load of guilt. Attorney Ross Donovan is a recovering alcoholic. The deeper Anna digs to discover who’s behind the identity thefts the higher the stakes. Finally, when her life is on the line, Anna finds that her determination to clear her name might have been a prescription for trouble.

My Review:
Medical Error is a well-written medical suspense novel with a romance. (While the culprit was unknown and was on my suspect list as someone who could have done it, there weren't enough clues to narrow it down to a specific name unless I missed something.) The suspense was created mainly by wondering what was going to go wrong next, but there was also physical danger to the characters near the end.

The characters were engaging, complex, and acted in realistic ways. The details about the job and setting brought the story alive in my imagination without slowing the fast pacing.

Anna was a Christian, but her main romantic interest felt he'd done something God wouldn't forgive. There were several comments made about God that occurred briefly and naturally in the conversation.

There was no sex and no bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written and 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 from Chapter One
Eric Hatley’s last day alive began routinely enough.

He paused beside his brown delivery truck, shifted the bulky package, and turned in a tight circle to search for the right apartment.

Shouts filled the air. Firecrackers exploded all around him. A dozen red-hot pokers bored holes through his gut.

The package flew from his arms. He crumpled into a privet hedge at the edge of the sidewalk, clutching his midsection and recoiling when his fingers encountered something wet and slimy.

A wave of nausea swept over him. Cold sweat engulfed him.

Eric managed one strangled cry before everything faded to black.


Dr. Anna McIntyre bumped the swinging door with her hip and backed into Parkland Hospital’s Operating Room Six, her dripping hands held in front of her, palms inward. "Luc, tell me what you’ve got."

Chief surgical resident, Dr. Luc Nguyn, didn’t look up from the rectangle of abdomen outlined by green draping sheets and illuminated by strong surgical lights. "UPS driver, making a delivery in the Projects. Got caught in the crossfire of a gang rumble. Took four bullets in the belly. Pretty shocky by the time he got here."

"Find the bleeding source?"

"Most of it was from the gastric artery. Just finished tying it off."

Anna took a sterile towel from the scrub nurse and began the ritual of gowning and gloving made automatic by countless repetitions. "How about fluids and blood replacement?"

Luc held out his hand, and the nurse slapped a clamp into it. “Lactated Ringer’s still running wide open. We’ve already pushed one unit of unmatched O negative. He’s finishing his first unit of cross-matched blood. We’ve got another one ready and four more holding in the the blood bank."

"How’s he responding?"

"BP is still low but stable, pulse is slower. I think we’re catching up with the blood loss."

Read more of chapter one.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Don't Count on Homecoming Queen by Nancy Rue

book cover

Don't Count on Homecoming Queen
by Nancy Rue

ISBN: 1-57856-032-2
Trade Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Released: 1998

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover (slightly modified):
At King High, six girls who met at See You at the Pole meet again to pray for each other and for their school. And it's a good thing they do, because they're all going to need prayer this year. Even popular Tobey, who's in for more trouble than she could have dreamed up in a lifetime.

As junior class president, member of the Judicial Board, cross-country team member, and star of the speech club, Tobey has gained a lot of friends on campus. But when she realizes the school's most popular coach is intimidating a freshman Hispanic girl into having sex with him, Tobey is faced with questions unlike any she has asked before. How could her favorite coach be doing this? She trusted him! And what should she do?

She wouldn't have chosen the backlash of standing up for what's right, but in the process she discovers a whole new meaning for the word "friend."

My Review:
Don't Count on Homecoming Queen is a young adult novel aimed at Christian, high-school-aged girls. I'd also recommend it to the parents of these girls so that they can see how much their teens need their support when standing up for what's right.

It's very well written, and I found myself deeply empathizing with what Tobey was going through. She dealt with realistic struggles (harassment for making an unpopular choice, deciding to stand up against a popular adult to help an outcast Hispanic girl, etc.) and hard issues (what to do when an adult sexually abuses a kid). And the author made the results of Tobey's decision about as hard as they realistically could be.

The novel was fast-paced and a quick read. The suspense was created mainly by relationship tensions (whose side everyone would take, verbal abuse, etc.) though some students threatened to beat Tobey up, too.

Tobey, her new Flag Pole friends, and her family were Christians, and the Christian elements felt like a natural part of the story. They prayed their way through this hard time, they credited God for helping them, and one time they each quoted a Scripture that spoke to them about struggles.

The sex wasn't graphically described. There was a very minimal amount of "he cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written and relevant novel to mature Christian teen girls and their parents.

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 from Chapter One
I was an aide in PE first period. Coach Gatney told me it was a waste for me to be in study hall when she could use somebody like me to keep "those little chickies" in line.

More like "those little vultures." They were already going after some poor little Hispanic freshman in the locker room when I walked in.

"I don't mean to be rude," Emily Yates was saying to her, "but why do you all wear your hair like that?"

Emily shot her hand straight up from her own forehead to imitate the sort of stiff wall Angelica Benitez had made with her bangs and a can of hair spray.

Okay, so it wasn't a good look for her, maybe for anybody. But it wasn't worth crushing the poor kid's feelings over it. I glared at Emily around my locker door. She ignored me. I went on to Step Two. "By 'you all,' you mean Angelica's whole culture?" I said.

Behind us, I heard Hayley Hatcher whisper, "Yeah, all the Beaners."

Emily caught it, too, and grinned.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Master's Wall by Sandi Rog

book cover

The Master's Wall
by Sandi Rog

ISBN-13: 978-1-936341-02-3
Trade Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: DeWard Publishing Company
Released: 2010

Source: Won from a giveaway on another blog.

Book Description, my take:
As a boy, David watches his parents dragged away to their death for being Christians. He's badly injured while trying to stop the soldiers from raping his mother, so a slaver easily captures the Hebrew boy and sells him to a wealthy Roman living just outside of Rome. There he meets Alethea, the granddaughter of his owner.

Alethea watched as her grandfather ordered her father tied to a horse and dragged to death because her father refused to stop being a Christian. Alethea now lives in fear of her abusive grandfather and with the hurt that her father didn't love her more than his God.

David and Alethea strike up a friendship based on their mutual loss. As they grow up, David tries to teach her about Christianity, but she refuses to convert out of fear for her life. She also believes that she's never sinned and so doesn't need saving. David is tempted to escape but decides to stay and protect Alethea as best he can.

Then, in order to escape a painful punishment for disobedience, Alethea tells her grandfather that David put her in danger when the truth was that he saved her life. Can David forgive Alethea for her deep betrayal? Can Alethea become a woman who can win David's heart and find a way to marry him instead of her cruel betrothed?

My Review:
The Master's Wall is a Christian historical romance novel. It's set in Rome from 76 AD to about 84 AD. The characters were complex and realistic, and I liked Alethea even though she was a spoiled child. (She's 14 at the end of the book.) The romance didn't feel like a sure thing and had it's genuine struggles and problems. The Christian content was woven throughout the whole story and played a critical role in the story.

The setting was vividly described. While the historical detail was fairly good, it sometimes intruded on the story. Some details seemed present just to show off what the author had learned, but these instances were brief when they happened. However, the pacing would have been a little better in the first half if this excess detail was cut out along with some of the details of David's fight training. Incidentally, I doubted the fighting style that David was learning since, as described, it sounded impractical (mostly for show) but was supposed to be for actual combat.

There were also some historical and practical inaccuracies, though these were minor and uncritical to the story. One thing that confused me was that David called Jesus "Yahshua" instead of "Yeshua." (I looked it up, and apparently this is a re-naming of Jesus coined in 1930 AD and followed by a few people.) David referred to God as "Jehovah," which is also not historically accurate. Since I keep mentioning this, here's a quote from The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern (page 4):

Long before Yeshua's day, however, the word "Adonai" had, out of respect, been substituted in speaking and in reading aloud for God's personal name, the four Hebrew letters yud-heh-vav-heh, variously written in English as "YHVH," "Yahweh," and "Jehovah." The Talmud (Pesachim 50a) made it a requirement not to pronounce the...("four letter name" of God), and this remains the rule in most modern Jewish settings....(Incidentally, the name "Jehovah" is a modern invention, an English hybrid based on the four Hebrew letters as transliterated into German, J-H-V-H, with the individually transliterated Hebrew vowel-points of "Adonai," e-o-a....

The Hebrew word for "he will save" is "yoshia'," which has the same Hebrew root (yud-shin-'ayin) as the name Yeshua (yud-shin-vav-'ayin). Thus the Messiah's name is explained on the basis of what he will do. Etymologically, the name Yeshua' is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y'hoshua' (English "Joshua"), which means "YHVH saves." It is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word "yeshu'ah," which means "salvation."

There was no bad language or explicit sex. Overall, I'd recommend it as an interesting and 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 from Chapter One
Rome, AD 76
David tried not to cry, tried not to breathe or make a sound as he crept along the dark street. Careful not to trip on the flat stones, he recalled how that morning he'd taken this same path, chasing friends between the alleys, pretending they were gladiators fighting at the Circus Maximus. Now again he followed the enemy. Only this enemy was real. There were three of them. And they had taken his parents.

Mamma. Abba. He wanted to shout out their names, to cry out to them.

He could still feel Mamma’s hand in his. Could feel her letting go as the soldiers pulled her away. Could feel her stola ripping as he clutched it. All he had left was the shredded fabric from her dress still in his hand. How empty his hand felt now that she was gone.

He made a fist. All he had in the world. Snatched away. And now their lives might depend on him. On what he would do at this moment. But he was just a child, a boy. What could he do? He'd follow them, see where they were taken. Then he could get help. Manius would know what to do.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Price by Kathi Mills-Macias

book cover

The Price
by Kathi Mills-Macias

ISBN: 080542566-7
Trade Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers
Released: Sept. 2002

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Toni Matthews is growing closer to police detective Abe Matthews, but she's still not sure she wants to become a private investigator like her father had hoped. Her younger sister, Melissa, appears to be recovering from the trauma of her recent kidnapping, but it worries Toni that Melissa isn't talking with her about it.

Then a teenage high school drop-out comes back to school and starts shooting students and teachers. Melissa survives without a scratch, but her best friend who was standing right next to her is hit, hurt badly, and is paralyzed from the waist down by the bullet. Melissa struggles with why her best friend was hit when she wasn't. Meanwhile, Toni feels prompted by God that--despite all evidence to the contrary--the boy shooter was convinced to do the shooting by an accomplice. But how can she prove it, especially when troubles in her relationship with Abe are distracting her?

My Review:
The Price is a romance novel with a mystery. The romance was pretty typical: worries that could easily be put to rest if they simply asked about them came between the "perfectly matched" pair, Toni and Abe. The main "whodunit" was never in question, but Toni did question some people about a possible accomplice. Though the unknown accomplice was not obvious, anyone who reads a lot of mystery novels should have no trouble spotting the accomplice. However, Toni and the police--though getting close--were stumped until said accomplice decided to kill Toni (for being nosy) instead of sensibly going into hiding in another state.

Anyway. The Christian general fiction aspect of the novel was very good. Teenaged Melissa had to deal with why God would allow her best friend--who loves God and wanted to be a missionary--to be shot by a school shooter and paralyzed by the bullet, yet Melissa and others weren't even hurt. Melissa's friend and an elderly lady living with Toni and Melissa gave good, godly answers to her questions.

Melissa's turmoil, struggle, and way of reacting to the people around her was realistic, and her best friend also struggled realistically with forgiving (or not) the boy who shot her. The other characters were complex but their actions sometimes didn't seem realistic to me.

There was no sex or bad language. This book was the second in the series, and it thoroughly discussed the case and "whodunit" of the first novel. However, the first novel hit about every pet peeve I have, so I'd recommend you just start with this book if it sounds interesting to you.

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 from Chapter One
Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Healing Promises by Amy Wallace

book cover

Healing Promises
by Amy Wallace

ISBN: 1601420102
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Publishers
Released: April 15, 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
FBI Agent Clint Rollins is working on an urgent Crimes Against Children Unit case when he discovers that he has cancer with only a 40% chance to live--and he must start treatment immediately. But young boys are being kidnapped and may be killed if the kidnapper isn't stopped soon. Clint struggles with his body betraying him right when he's needed most. Can Clint trust God to get those children home safe even if Clint isn't personally there to handle it?

His wife, Sara Rollins, is an oncologist who has been fighting cancer with treatment and prayers for years. She's shocked by how different it is to be the wife of a cancer patient instead of the doctor treating it. She feels like a failure and begins to lose hope when a favorite, godly patient dies and her husband fights her concerns at how he's risking his health to get back on the case. A friend asks Sarah if she's depending on God or circumstances. She knows what she should be doing, but how does one get there?

My Review:
Healing Promises is a Christian general fiction book. Much of the story was about the stress that Clint's cancer put on Sarah and Clint's relationship to each other and with God. Near the end, though, the FBI case came to the forefront and resolved with a suspenseful standoff with the bad guy. The story's suspense came from wondering if Clint would survive the cancer and, if he did, if his marriage would survive. It also came from the danger that the missing children were in.

The characters were realistic and complex, and they dealt with realistic struggles. The details about the cancer treatment and FBI unit were good but didn't have a lot of depth to them. The story felt slower-paced because there were really four overlapping stories going on: Clint and Sarah, Steven and Grace, Hannah and Michael, and the FBI case.

A major element woven into the story was the characters' struggle to understand and trust God when everything seemed to be going wrong. I thought it was handled well and liked what was said, but those who prefer minimal Christian content probably won't like it.

This book is the second in the series. I felt like the author assumed I knew the characters and relationships from the previous novel (which I haven't read), but if you remember what everyone's first and last name is, you can follow this story well enough without having read the first. However, there were vague references to "whodunit" in the first story, so read Ransomed Dreams first if you want to be completely surprised.

There was no bad language or explicit sex. Overall, I'd recommend this well-written book.

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 from Chapter One
Most days, Clint Rollins loved his work.

Most days. But not today.

He leaned back in his swivel chair and listened to the hum of voice, computer keys, and his partner's detailed explanation of a new case. Only a week back to work, and he already needed a quiet weekend to rest.

"You listening, Rollins, or still suffering from vacation withdrawal? Maybe it's just too early on a Friday morning."

Steven Kessler's ribbing jerked Clint back to the reality of working in the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit. Another child missing. No easy cases.

"I'm listening." Clint rubbed the back of his neck.

Too bad criminals didn't care if cops were up to snuff or not. His head still ached from a nasty cold that'd been dogging him for weeks. According to his physician wife, he needed a vacation to recover from his unprecedented two-week vacation. But no one in DC stayed home with just a cold. So he was back on the job in mid-January, doing his second favorite thing.

Putting criminals in jail

He'd still rather be hanging out with Sara and the munchkins.

Read more using Google Preview

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When the Devil Whistles by Rick Acker

book cover

When the Devil Whistles
by Rick Acker

ISBN-13: 978-1-4267-0767-4
Trade Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: Oct. 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Allie Whitman, a temp-for-hire accountant and professional whistleblower, excels at finding and exposing corporations that over-charge on government contracts. Her lawyer and friend, Connor Norman, keeps her identity a secret while helping her rake in the money that finances Allie's opulent lifestyle.

But when she goes to work at a new corporation, the tables are suddenly turned. The corporation figures out that she's the whistleblower behind Devil to Pay. They threaten to expose her to all those corporations that hate her unless she takes down their competition--and that may mean planting false evidence. Then Allie's live-in rock-star boyfriend sells drugs to a teen at a concert, the teen dies, and Allie's worried she'll go to jail, too, if she turns her boyfriend in.

Allie's afraid to ask Connor for help since he glories in making criminals pay for their crimes. Does that mean her, too? There seems to be only one option that will keep her safe, but there's more at risk than even Allie knows.

My Review:
When the Devil Whistles is a legal thriller that also works in some military suspense. It's fast-paced and keeps the reader guessing as to how everything will work out. The suspense was created by possible physical danger to the various characters as well as curiosity about the various decisions they will make and how it will all play out. The characters were complex and dealt with realistic problems (though--specifically--not ones most people face). The vivid details of the job and setting brought the story alive in my imagination.

For those who care, Allie sometimes drank to excess and lived with her boyfriend. (It's implied they have sex.) She knew he used meth and he knew she disapproved, but she didn't take a strong stand on it until worried for her own neck. But she found some healing and made some hard choices after seeing where the easy ones got her, and I liked who she was by the end.

There was no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this suspenseful and intriguing 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 from Chapter One
Connor Norman loved a good fireworks show. He especially liked the ones that took place once or twice a year in the conference rooms at the California Department of Justice. Some executive or general counsel whose company was under investigation would come in for a witness interview, would lie, and would get caught. Then Deputy Attorney General Max Volusca would go off and the show would start. DAG Volusca did not suffer liars gladly. Fools he would tolerate, often longer than Connor. But if Max felt he was being misled, he soon lived up to his nickname, "Max Volume."

Connor didn’t mind it when Max got loud. In fact, he liked the DAG’s outbursts because they usually rattled whoever was sitting across the table from him. And that usually meant more money for Connor and his qui tam clients. A qui tam plaintiff is a whistleblower who sues on behalf of the government and gets a cut (generally 15-20 percent) of whatever the government recovers. Better yet, if the Department of Justice likes a case, it takes on the lion’s share of the work. Envious defense counsel sometimes complained to Connor that he wasn’t really litigating these cases, just riding a gravy train driven by DOJ. Though Connor never told opposing lawyers, the real fun wasn’t the train ride so much as tying corporate criminals to the tracks in front of the engine.

Today, Connor’s client was Devil to Pay, Inc., a shell company he had created to bring qui tam lawsuits while protecting the identity of its owner. Most contractors assumed that Connor was the force behind Devil to Pay and that he recruited new whistleblowers for every lawsuit. In fact, all those suits were the work of a single woman: a professional whistleblower named Allie Whitman.

The corners of Connor’s mouth twitched. Allie was probably the most widely hated and feared woman in California’s government contracting industry, even though no one knew she existed.

The person who probably hated Allie most at this particular moment was Hiram Hamilton, the CEO of Hamilton Construction. He was sitting at a cheap wood table in conference room 11436 at the San Francisco office of the California Department of Justice, where he was being grilled by Max Volusca.

Read more from chapter one.

Happy Haul-idays: a chance to win books from Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books is doing a Happy Haul-idays promotion. It works like this: I, as a blogger, post a list of Chronicle Books valued at up to $500 that I’d like to win. I'm automatically entered into a drawing to WIN that list of books. Now, if any of my readers would like to win this same list of books, you just comment on this post and you'll be entered to win the list, too!

My list:

Shell Games by Kirk Russell.

The discovery of thousands of empty abalone shells and two murdered divers sends Lieutenant John Marquez's poaching investigation in a new—and very risky—direction. Former DEA agent and now head of a special operations unit of the California Department of Fish and Game, Marquez learns he himself has been targeted as the next victim. Stalking him is Kline, a vicious drug smuggler turned abalone poacher who has a vendetta against Marquez. John Marquez is supposed to protect wildlife, not solve murders, but the only way he can break the multi-million-dollar abalone-smuggling ring, as well as save his own life, is to find and stop Kline. A fast-paced crime novel set along the majestic Northern California coastline, Shell Games introduces a tough, complex, and appealing hero and a masterful new series.

Night Game by Kirk Russell.

The tough, caring, and distinctive John Marquez is back. In this gripping new crime novel, former federal drug agent Marquez again pushes the boundaries of safety and politics when he takes his team of Fish and Game officers on a dangerous operation in pursuit of bear poachers. Night Game hits hard and moves fast toward a finish that ricochets through wilderness, backwoods towns, and the darker recesses of love and greed. A second novel that delivers -- and firmly establishes a great series.

Dead Game by Kirk Russell.

Ex-DEA agent John Marquez, now head of the undercover unit of the California Department of Fish and Game, is closing in on sturgeon poachers, whose highly profitable caviar trade is backed by the Russian mafia. When his key confidential informant disappears, Marquez follows the trail directly into the middle of a deadly FBI operation and a web of conflicting loyalties. This fast-paced, compelling, and vivid ecothriller pushes the tough-but-sensitive Marquez to the limit.

Hieroglyph Detective: How to Decode the Sacred Language of the Ancient Egyptians by Nigel Strudwick.

Egyptian hieroglyphs have long fascinated people the world over, though traditionally only specially trained scholars have been able to unlock their esoteric secrets. In Hieroglyph Detective, renowned Egyptologist Nigel Strudwick offers a historical background for the symbols as he takes the reader on a visual tour of museums around the world and provides step-by-step instructions on how to decipher inscriptions from ancient Egyptian tombs and temples. This hands-on field guide contains everything one needs to uncover age-old mysteries like a true detective!

Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D'Agnese.

In July 1776, fifty-six men risked their lives and livelihood to defy the British and sign the most important document in the history of the United States—and yet how many of them do we actually remember? Signing Their Lives Away introduces readers to the eclectic group of statesmen, soldiers, criminals, and crackpots who were chosen to sign this historic document—and the many strange fates that awaited them. Some died from war-related injuries; others had their homes and farms seized by British soldiers; a few rose to the highest levels of U.S. government (ten signers were later elected to Congress). George Wythe was murdered by his nephew; Button Gwinnet was killed in a duel; and of course Sam Adams went on to fame and fortune as a patriot/brewer. Complete with a reversible parchment jacket (offering a facsimile of the Declaration on the reverse), Signing Their Lives Away provides an entertaining and enlightening narrative for history buffs of all ages.

The Worst-Case Scenario Almanac: History by Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht, Piers Marchant, and Melissa Wagner.

Best-seller history repeats itself with this dynamic new "almanac" format that broadens the scope and content of the Worst-Case Scenario handbooks. The Worst-Case Scenario Almanac: History offers step-by-step illustrated scenarios on how to win a joust, survive in a dungeon, and overcome other plights of yesteryear, but the volume also features hundreds of pages of additional—and hilarious—information in the form of lists (the worst jobs to have during the Industrial Revolution), offbeat profiles (Attila the Hun, Idi Amin), Worst-Case Wisdom (bad advice), descriptions of disasters narrowly averted, and much more. Packed with charts, graphs, maps, and timelines, The Worst-Case Scenario Almanac: History is an invigorating look at all that's gone wrong in the past and the best way to prepare for the future.

Extreme Encounters: How It Feels to Be Drowned in Quicksand, Shredded by Piranhas, Swept Up in a Tornado, and Dozens of Other Unpleasant Experiences by Greg Emmanuel.

Did you ever wonder what it’s like to be struck by lightning? To run with the bulls in Pamplona? To ride the crushing swell of an avalanche? Extreme Encounters describes these adventures and 37 others with endlessly addictive “you-are-there” second-person narratives—so you chill to the numbing effects of frostbite, you hear the 110-decibel roar of a grizzly bear, and you feel the stomach-lurching drop of an elevator freefall. Extreme Encounters is a moment-by-moment, blow-by-blow account of what happens to you physically, emotionally, and scientifically during life’s most perilous experiences. Like a cross between The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and Into Thin Air, these heart-racing stories take readers where few have gone before.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gratitude Giveaways: Shadowed Mind or Christmas at Harrington's

Gratitude Giveaways Hop

As a part of the Gratitude Giveaways - Blog Follower Appreciation Hop, I'm holding a "your choice" giveaway.

book coverYou can enter to win either
Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson
or The Shadowed Mind by Julie Cave.

Read my review to learn more about Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson, a Christian "Christmas lit" novel.

book cover
Read my review to learn more about The Shadowed Mind by Julie Cave, a Christian suspense/mystery novel.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for ___________." For example, if you wanted The Shadowed Mind, you'd twitter: "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for THE SHADOWED MIND by Julie Cave."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and naming which novel you'd like to win. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

Last time I did a "your choice" giveaway, people chose more than one book. If you do this, you still only have one entry (like everyone else) but, if you win, I'll select which novel to send to you.

This giveaway ends on November 28, 2010 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on Nov. 29, 2010 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Gratitude Giveaways Hop:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson

book cover

Christmas at Harrington's
by Melody Carlson

ISBN-13: 978-0-8007-1925-8
Hardback: 176 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: Oct. 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Sometimes the best gift is a second chance

Christmas is approaching, and Lena Markham finds herself penniless, friendless, and nearly hopeless. She is trying to restart her life, but job opportunities are practically nonexistent. When a secondhand red coat unexpectedly lands her a job as Mrs. Santa at a department store, Lena finally thinks her luck is changing. But can she keep her past a secret?

Reading Christmas at Harrington's, a story full of redemption and true holiday spirit, will be your newest Christmas tradition.

My Review:
Christmas at Harrington's is Christian general fiction. It's got the heart-warming ending expected in a Christian Christmas short novel, but it dealt with a subject I think most people haven't even considered: how tough it is for those released from prison to find a person willing to give them a job. In Lena's case, it hurts even worse because she's innocent. She was set up by her pastor husband to take the fall for his theft. So Lena hides her past to get a job, and she makes some friends. But someone that she knew "from before" wants to make sure "she pays for what she's done" even though she's lost everything and served her time.

The characters were engaging and dealt with realistic troubles. (There was also a mom and a young daughter trying to make it after running away from an abusive husband and a single mom who was dealing with potentially having to close her store and with her teen daughter having cancer.)

The Christian element was mainly Lena comparing the hard, legalistic God that she grew up with (parents & husband) to the caring, forgiving God that her few, new friends showed her by their actions. She has to decide whether or not to take a chance on trusting people and God again.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this heart-warming, enjoyable book.

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 from Chapter One
The slate-colored sky matched Lena's spirits as she sprinted toward the bus stop. "Don't be late," Mrs. Stanfield had warned earlier. "The bus leaves promptly at 5:15 and there won't be another until tomorrow morning."

Lena hadn't planned to be late. But with two hours to spare, she had ducked into the public library to use the restroom and escape the elements, then found a comfy easy chair. While reading a recipe for cranberry cake in the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens, Lena had dozed off, lulled by the warmth, the flickering fluorescent lights, and the sweet, musty smell of books. If not for the librarian's nudge, since the library closed at six, Lena would probably still be sleeping.

Instead, she was running down the sidewalk with the icy wind in her face and her purple parka flapping wildly behind her like a parachute. She waved her arms, calling frantically to the bus driver. "Wait! Please, wait!"

"You were cutting that mighty close," he told her as he opened the door for her. "Hurry up, lady, I've got a schedule to keep."

"Thanks," she gasped breathlessly as she handed him her wrinkled ticket. "I really appreciate--"

"Grab a seat--now." He jerked his thumb backward.

As the bus lurched forward, Lena found an empty pair of seats near the back and quickly ducked in. Scooting next to the window, she clutched her handbag in her lap with trembling hands. That had been close. But she'd made it.

Read more from chapter one.