Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fool For Books Giveaway Hop

Fool For Books Giveaway Hop<br />

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For my part of the Fool For Books Giveaway Hop, you can enter to win a copy of Formula for Murder by Diana Orgain.

This book will be autographed by the author!

Read my review to learn more about this humorous "mommy PI" 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 FORMULA FOR MURDER by Diana Orgain"


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. It'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

This giveaway ends April 2, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on April 3, 2011 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 seven days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Fool For Books Giveaway Hop:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Formula for Murder by Diana Orgain

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Formula for Murder
by Diana Orgain

ISBN-13: 9780425239889
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: March 1, 2011

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Review copy offered by author and sent from publisher.

Back Cover Description:
First-time mom Kate Connolly may have found the perfect work-from-home mommy job: private investigator. After all, the hours are flexible, she can bring the baby along on stakeouts, and if you're going to be up all night anyway, you might as well solve some crimes...

Kate and little Laurie are on their way to take baby's-first-holiday photos when they become the victims of a hit-and-run. Luckily, they escape unharmed, and a witness identifies the car's French diplomatic license plates. When Kate and her hubby, Jim, try to get some answers at the consulate, they get le cold shoulder--but not before noticing a pair of television reporters exiting the building.

A few days later, the dead body of one of the reporters is found in Golden Gate Park. Kate wonders if there's a connection to the consulate, and is hired by the dead reporters husband to get some answers. And she'll have to uncover a plot that's dirtier--and far deadlier--than any diaper...

Formula for Murder is a humorous "who-done-it" mystery. It's the third novel in the series, but you don't need to have read the first or second book to understand this one. Also, reading the books out of order won't spoil the previous mysteries.

The novel was fast-paced and a fun read. The suspense came from sorting out the clues of who-done-it and why, the ever-increasing body count, and the need for Kate to get all her Christmas things done before Christmas while also solving the mystery.

The details about Kate's first-time mommy moments and her learning to be a private investigator brought the story alive in my imagination. Kate, her family, and her friends were engaging and interesting. The characters were realistic, through most didn't come across as particularly deep (which is fine for a humorous novel).

There was a very minor amount of bad language. There were no sex scenes, though people having sex was sometimes referred to or implied. Overall, I'd recommend this 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
To Do:
1. Make holiday photo appointment for Laurie.
2. Send out Christmas cards. Get them printed first--then send out Christmas cards.
3. Complete Start Christmas shopping.
4. Find a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament.
5. Get Christmas tree.
6. Finish background checks Galigani gave me.
7. Get a new PI client. How do I do this?

I checked Laurie in the rearview mirror; she was sound asleep. As usual, the motion of the car had lulled her into slumber.

She looked adorable, wearing a tiny red satin dress with matching red booties. We were on our way to get her first holiday photos taken. I couldn't believe three months had evaporated; it seemed like she was born just yesterday. My best friend Paula had warned me the time would fly by, but this was ridiculous. How had I put off taking Laurie's holiday photos? Now it was the first week in December and I was hustling to get them taken, printed, and sent out as Christmas cards.

It's all right. From now on efficiency will be my middle name.

I cruised down the hill to the stoplight and stepped on the brake. Out of habit, I glanced in the rearview mirror again and saw a silver SUV barreling down the hill.

Was the car out of control? It continued to speed and there was no telltale sign of the nose dipping as it would if the driver were braking.

They were getting closer! Almost on top of us.

I quickly looked for a way to avoid impact.

Read more using Google Preview.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Winter Thief by Jenny White

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The Winter Thief
by Jenny White

ISBN-13: 978-0-393-33884-3
Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Released: February 21, 2011

Source: Unrequested review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In the bitter winter of 1888, police in Istanbul confiscate a shipload of illegal firearms, and the Imperial Ottoman Bank is blown up, killing many bystanders. Suspicion falls on a socialist commune being organized in the eastern mountains. Investigating, Special Prosecutor Kamil Pasha encounters his most ruthless adversary to date: Vahid, the ambitious head of the secret police, who has convinced the sultan that the commune is leading a secessionist movement.

Kamil, sent to investigate the commune, finds the commune has peaceful intentions. But the army begins destroying the surrounding Armenian villages--Vahid has convinced the Sultan not to wait for Kamil's report. Kamil feels obligated to stop the massacre, especially when it seems partly aimed at killing him. But doing so will put him on the wrong side of the law and put his life and the woman he loves in grave danger.

My Review:
The Winter Thief is a historical mystery set in 1888 in Istanbul and in some rural villages along the border with Russia. This book was the third in the series and may spoil events in the previous novels, however, you don't need to read them to understand this one. It wasn't until I was about to write this review that I even realized this book was a part of a series.

The vivid setting details and historical political and everyday details were expertly woven into the story, bringing it alive in my imagination without slowing the pace or falling into a history lesson. The suspense was created by mystery, physical danger, and relationship tensions. Curiosity about what happened to or would happen to the characters kept me turning the pages. However, it's a rather dark novel and included torture and a lot of people dying needlessly for Vahid's ambition.

The characters were interesting, complex, and realistic. The author did an excellent job of letting the reader know why people were acting the way they were and it was consistent with their background. She even worked some subtle symbolism into various scenes.

There was a minor amount of cussing and swearing. There was one page containing a graphic sex scene and several very brief but sometimes graphic scenes of torture and rape. Overall, I found the novel very well written even though I didn't really enjoy the story. While realistic, the story was too depressing for me to enjoy. However, if you're in the mood for a dark story and like historicals, I'd 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.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Christmas Day, January 6, 1888

The elderly publisher put on his spectacles to examine the enameled pin in his hand. It displayed a symbol of broken chains draped across a sword, an ax, and a red flag. He handed the pin back to the young woman as if it were poison.

Vera had gotten lost in the twisted lanes leading to Bab-i Ali, the publishing district, and ended up down by the harbor, then had to work her way back up the hill on the boulevard, where she might be seen. But she had been late for her meeting with the publisher and didn't want to risk getting lost again.

Read more using Google Preview.

Monday, March 21, 2011

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop. Including the many Twitter entries, 108 people entered! Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

who won The Second Duchess

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.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Shooting Star by Brock & Bodie Thoene

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Shooting Star
by Brock & Bodie Thoene

ISBN: 1556613202
Trade Paperback: 206 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: April 1993

Source: Checked out from the library.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Andrew Jackson Sinnickson had crossed paths with Jack Powers long before Powers' name was known and feared as the genuine article: the first and worst of the California bad men. Total contrasts in character, in values, in approach to life, the two men locked horns from their original encounter in the southern presidio of Santa Barbara to the gold miners' hovels of Angel's Camp in the Sierras.

Sinnickson had been on hand when the Bear Flag rebellion had carried California from Mexican to American ownership. Now to the sleepy, sparsely populated western outposts came hordes of treasure seekers honest miners, greenhorns, gamblers, sharps, and cutthroats. Gold-fever madness in a land without law burst open a door for exploitation, and Powers and his bandits soon established their upper hand.

When the price of steers jumps from $2 to $100 to feed the starving miners, Sinnickson gets involved in the first-ever California cattle drive. But it's three hundred treacherous miles that lead into the heart of Powers' strength.

Discover the Roots of the Shiloh Legacy Left to Grandson Birch Tucker by Andrew Jackson Sinnickson.

My Review:
Shooting Star is a western set in 1848 in California at the start of the gold rush. Though this novel is the last book in the series, it's only lightly tied to the Will Reed novels in this series. It's essentially a stand-alone novel.

Historical details about everyday life in the gold camps and on a cattle drive were woven into the story. There were a couple of spots where the action stopped to give a history lesson, but they were brief. The authors tended to find everything that could go wrong and use every problem--using the very worst way things could go wrong--in the novel. So they pushed credulity at some points, but the story was exciting and suspenseful. The suspense was created primarily by physical danger.

The characters were interesting and varied. Will Reed's boys and Andrew were Christians. Andrew was called upon to give a funeral sermon. Later, a series of miracles occur to save their lives, and God was given the credit. So it was a Christian novel.

A word or short phrase of Spanish was often dropped into the writing. They usually weren't explained, but one could usually still follow what was going on. There was no bad language and no sex. The ending left some minor things unresolved.

If you're interested in this book because of the prologue in A Thousand Shall Fall, you should know that only the shooting star fragment was explained. You do get a good idea of where the $20 gold coins came from, but they weren't specifically mentioned. However, the pocket watch and fob was never explained or mentioned.

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
Jack Powers. Now there is a name to frighten children into behaving. "Straighten up!" the Californio mothers would say, "or Jack Powers will get you!"

Long before Joaquin Murrieta rode into legend on a flashy stallion named Revenge, and much earlier than Black Bart ever penned his first poem, Powers was well known and feared. From the southern California cantinas of the City of Angels, to the miners' hovels of Angel's Camp in the Sierras, Powers had a name as the genuine article: the first and worst of the California bad men.

I first crossed trails with Powers in the sleepy sunlit presidio town of Santa Barbara. Powers was a sergeant in Stevenson's regiment--New York boys they were--sent to garrison Santa Barbara against rebellion in the spring of '47. They were a crude, cutthroat band right from the beginning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag

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The Shadow Things
by Jennifer Freitag

ISBN-13: 9781935507390
Trade Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Ambassador International
Released: October 29, 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The Legions have left the province of Britain and the Western Roman Empire has dissolved into chaos. With the world plunged into darkness, paganism and superstition are as rampant as ever. In the Down country of southern Britain, young Indi has grown up knowing nothing more than his gods of horses and thunder; so when a man from across the sea comes preaching a single God slain on a cross, Indi must choose between his gods or the one God and face the consequences of his decision.

My Review:
The Shadow Things is a Christian historical novel set in southern Britain, apparently sometime in the late 5th century. There was a nice level of setting and everyday historical detail to bring the story alive in my imagination.

The main focus of the story was about a few members of a pagan tribe choosing to follow Christ and the conflict between them and those in the tribe who still followed the pagan ways. The story contained a number of discussions about God and how Christ can give salvation, but they flowed naturally from the story. There was a statement made by a recent convert on page 71 about what becoming "children of God" meant that sounded a bit mixed with pagan ideas, but otherwise the theology was standard.

The characters were interesting and struggled realistically with whether or not to follow Christ. However, after they made that decision, time passed so quickly that we didn't really get to see their struggle to live in a truly Christian way. They just lived that way with occasional conversations with each other about "it's hard." The portrayal of living under persecution was nicely done, though, and added tension to the relationship conflicts. However, I agree with the reviewer who said that the story "ended the way I wanted it end, but not exactly the way I thought it should end." You'll have to read the story to find out what that means. :)

There was no bad language or graphic sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable historical 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
There was a strong, heavy scent of heather in the air, and a purple ranking of clouds above. These were the clear signs of a summer thunderstorm. The ponies in the bramble pens were anxious. There was not a breath of wind anywhere over the Downs; the oak-boughs down the southward slopes hung limply and the turf was laid low. Lightning flicked its stallion-tails of light far away over the hills. But the rain did not come; it was as though the clouds were holding their breath; it made one light-headed and oppressed at once.

Indi squatted in a doorway, one leg outstretched over the alert form of a hound. Both sets of eyes were upturned to the heavy sky. The hound was brindled like a wolf, and was shaped like the wild canine so much that his ancestry was very clear. The young man shifted out of the dun shadows into the dim grey of the early twilight; his features could be seen as sharp and stern, though still clinging to its boyhood. The brows sloped downward over the dark golden eyes and the thin lips curled back in a low whistle.

“Eh, looks like the first of the summer’s storms, what say you, Thern?” he poked the hound.

The scraggly dog turned its eyes from the sky and beat its tail once on the flat, dusty ground. It yawned, snapping it jaws together.

Indi scratched the head that was thrust near him and surveyed the dun-yard of his father’s house. The timber-and-gravel steps ran down before him across the short level space of dirt before the houseplace. They went between the retainers’ quarters where his father’s friends and weapon-hounds ate and slept. Then the steps stopped at the wide court at the foot of the hill, around which was set the rest of the steading: the servants’ houses, the workers’ houses, the byres, the kennels. Usually it was very busy, especially around suppertime when the young men would be riding in after leaving the mare-guard on the hills, and the womenfolk would be going about making the meal, and the children would be screaming and the dogs barking.

But not this evening. It was very quiet this evening, and Indi felt his hackles rise as they always did with the coming of the first summer storms. There was always something very alive about the thunderstorm. Indi shivered and pulled back into the shadows of the doorway, fearful lest the Gods of Thunder become angry with him—though what he might have done against them, he did not know. The thunder, he knew, was the pounding hooves of Tir, Taranis’ horse, and the lightning was the spark of the thunder-God’s spear as it rent the heavens. The rain from the thunderstorms was the weeping of the many Taranis had wounded, among them his children and wife, Ancasta.

Twisting his head, Indi looked up at the lintel of the houseplace and saw the ash-white form of Tir carved into the wood. It was a sign of blessing for the household: all under the sign of Tir should be strong and swift and fruitful, both the men and the women, and the horses and sheep on which the Downspeople made their livelihood.

But the Gods were erratic. Even now, across the dun sprawling at his feet with its huddles of women about the doorways and darting bodies of youngsters, Indi could see the wavering blue smudge of smoke rising into the heavy air as the priests burned sacrifices to the Gods of Thunder in the hopes to appease them, and he knew it would do as much to stop the charge of Tir as a bramble-fence would stop the flood of the sea.

“You feel it also, the coming of the storm?” a voice suddenly spoke above Indi.

Turning around, the young man looked up at his mother. She was very straight and tall, and showed no physical signs that she had borne her noble husband a son and two daughters. Apart from her wise and weathered face, she looked very like a girl who had not been wed to a man. Her eyes were very deep and as green as the sea with tints of gold in them; at present, they were fixed on the dark rows of clouds in the west.

“Yes, Mother, I feel it over-strongly.” Indi got to his feet and stood by her. Though she was tall, he was taller. His frame nearly filled the doorway, and he had to turn aside to let her see around him. His ruddy hair came down to his tattooed shoulders, but his face was still clean as a boy’s; he was still too young to have much of a beard. In a moment he spoke again. “But, it is in my heart that you feel something else.”

Read more from chapter one.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

book coverAs a part of the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop, you can enter to win one of the three historical novels below:

Unexpected Love by Andrea Boeshaar. Read my review to learn more about this Christian historical romance novel.

book coverThe Irish Princess by Karen Harper. Read my review to learn more about this historical novel with intrigue and some romance.

book coverThe Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas. Read my review to learn more about this historical novel with a true, historical mystery involved.

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 UNEXPECTED LOVE by Andrea Boeshaar" or "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for THE IRISH PRINCESS by Karen Harper" or "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for THE SECOND DUCHESS by Elizabeth Loupas" depending on which book you'd like to win.


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and naming which book 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, a few 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 March 20, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on March 21, 2011 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 seven days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop:

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Complaints by Ian Rankin

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The Complaints
by Ian Rankin

ISBN-13: 9780316039741
Hardback: 448 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Released: March 7, 2011

Source: Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Nobody likes The Complaints--they're the cops who investigate other cops--and it's where Malcolm Fox works. He's a serious man and recovering alcoholic with a father in a nursing home and a sister who persists in an abusive relationship.

Then his sister's abusive boyfriend is found dead, brutally murdered. A cop who hates Fox's guts is in charge of the murder investigation and uses this opportunity to harass Fox and his sister.

Worse, Fox has been assigned to help another department investigate a cop named Jamie Breck. Breck is working on the murder case, and he seems like an honest cop. He's also the only one really trying to solve the murder. When one wrong move gets both of them put on suspension and under investigation by Complaints detectives, they begin to wonder if there's more to their cases than meets the eye.

My Review:
The Complaints is a British detective mystery. Despite Fox's job in Complaints, Fox ended up investigating a murder (with some conspiracy thrown in) rather than the ethical behavior of another cop. The details of the job and setting were woven into the story and did a good job of bringing the story alive in my imagination.

There were a few slow spots in the story, and I never felt much suspense since the main character didn't seem upset or scared. The mystery was fairly complex and kept my interest, but I found the characters more engaging than the mystery.

Breck and the other characters were interesting and engaging, but Fox--our viewpoint character--didn't seem to feel much in reaction to what was going on. We got hints that he was upset through his actions. However, I'm used to getting an "inside look" at the emotions and motives of the viewpoint character even if they're supposed to appear calm or reserved to everyone else. I liked Fox well enough, but this meant I sometimes didn't understand his actions.

The main thing I didn't understand was also a critical one. I understand that Fox wanted his sister's boyfriend's murderer caught so that the cop in charge of the case would stop harassing her to get revenge on Fox. However, Breck was doing a good job on the case, didn't need Fox's help, and kept Fox up-to-date. Fox knew that butting in on the case could get him in major trouble, yet he did anyway. I never understood why.

There was no sex. There were a few obscene gestures and a minor amount of explicit bad language. Overall, it was an interesting but not outstanding 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 except of chapter one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Love Me Back to Life by Missy Horsfall and Susan Stevens

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Love Me Back to Life
by Missy Horsfall and Susan Stevens

ISBN-13: 9781616263287
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Released: February 1, 2011

Source: ebook provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

Book Description, my take:
Mallory Carlisle's marriage is being torn apart, and she doesn't understand why. She wants her husband around more but sometimes she can't stand to have him touch her. He claims he can't seem to please her, so he'll give her what she obviously wants: space. He moves out in hopes it will help her figure things out, but she sees it as abandonment when she needs him the most.

Ashamed by how her husband's leaving her will look, Mallory stops going to her church Bible study and avoids her friends. But, finally, the news of a seven-year-old girl being raped and murdered at a nearby park sends her into a breakdown where she remembers abuse from her childhood--a memory she'd repressed. Now she must face a long struggle toward healing if she wants to regain everything she's lost.

My Review:
Love Me Back to Life is Christian general fiction about a woman who suffered sexual abuse as a child. The story was about how this abuse caused Mallory to react to her husband in ways that caused tension in her marriage, a breakdown were she remembered the repressed memory of the abuse, and her journey to healing assisted by a Christian therapist.

The authors used vivid details that brought the various settings and the children alive in my imagination. However, in the first half (which was the lead-up to Mallory's breakdown), all the scenes were of Mallory fighting with someone at her home or in an extended family setting. It felt like she had no life beyond the fighting. Mallory's and Jake's inner thoughts also came across as simplistic, somehow...not fully fleshed out. Perhaps this is because I've never come across two more self-righteous characters in all my reading. Nothing was their own fault (even in their inner thoughts), so I had a hard time liking them though I did feel sympathetic.

In the second half, Mallory's recovery was very interesting and drew me into the story. However, some things happened very abruptly (from the reader perspective) since time would pass and we missed some of the struggles. For example, we knew she had a shopping addiction (which played a major role in the marital discord). Suddenly, near the end, we find out she's dealt with and conquered this addiction without us getting to see her confront and overcome it.

There was a lot of God-talk in the novel. Though Christian, Mallory initially avoided praying and later simply told God what she wanted. However, at the very end, she finally talked with God (instead of at him), listened, and showed her reliance on God in her actions instead of just her words.

There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. There was no graphic sex. I think I would have enjoyed this novel more if the first half had been condensed and more time spent on Mallory's struggle for healing since I found the writing more engaging in that part. However, if you've been abused as a child and it's affected your marriage, you may be engaged by the characters from the start.

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 chapter one using Google Preview.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

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The Second Duchess
by Elizabeth Loupas

ISBN-13: 9780451232151
Trade Paperback: 390 pages
Publisher: New American Library
Released: March 1, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
In a city-state known for magnificence, where love affairs and conspiracies play out amidst brilliant painters, poets and musicians, the powerful and ambitious Alfonso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, takes a new bride. Half of Europe is certain he murdered his first wife, Lucrezia, the luminous child of the Medici. But no one dares accuse him, and no one has proof--least of all his second duchess, the far less beautiful but delightfully clever Barbara of Austria.

At first determined to ignore the rumors about her new husband, Barbara embraces the pleasures of the Ferrarese court. Yet wherever she turns she hears whispers of the first duchess's wayward life and mysterious death. Barbara asks questions--a dangerous mistake for a duchess of Ferrara. Suddenly, to save her own life, Barbara has no choice but to risk the duke's terrifying displeasure and discover the truth of Lucrezia's death--or she will share her fate.

My Review:
The Second Duchess is a historical novel set in December of 1565 in Ferrara, Italy. The story revolved around an intriguing "true life" mystery about how the first duchess died, and the author wrote about one possibility. The writing was rich with historical details, from the politics to details about Barbara's wedding dress, wedding supper, and even the steps of the dances. While not uninteresting, this level of detail in the first half of the book slowed the pacing enough that the story had a slow start.

The characters were interesting and the mystery intriguing, however I didn't really understand (until later) why Barbara--when frightened by her husband--decided to do the one thing that was sure to anger him further. About halfway through, though, the details thinned some, the pacing picked up, and I started to better understand and even like the main characters.

There were several attempts on Barbara's life due to her stirring up the past and some relationship troubles for her with her husband and some of the others at court. I liked that Barbara came to realize that the consequences of her actions affected others as well as herself, and I really enjoyed the second half of the book. There was a spattering of Italian words strewn throughout the text, but the meaning of the Italian word was either clear from the context or it didn't matter to the story.

There was no bad language in English, but it's implied that there was some crude language in Italian. (I don't know for certain since I don't know Italian.) Sex in general--either the attempt to get an heir or signs of others' affairs--was discussed a lot in the book. There were some vague descriptions of foreplay, but there were no graphic sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this intriguing novel to those interested in this time period.

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
5 December 1565

"He murdered his first duchess with his own hands, they say," the Ferrarese hairdressing-woman whispered as she braided a string of pearls into my hair. "She was so young, so beautiful."

And I, Barbara of Austria, neither young nor beautiful, would be the duke's second duchess before the pale December sun set. What did the woman expect me to do, shriek and fall down in a faint? Jump up and swear I would not marry the Duke of Ferrara after all, but return straightaway to Innsbruck with my household and dowry and bride-goods down to the last box of silver pins? For all practical purposes I was married already, the contracts signed, the marriage-by-proxy performed. And truth be told, half-a-hundred people had already told me Alfonso d'Este had murdered his first wife.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Say To This Mountain by Bodie Thoene

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Say To This Mountain
by Bodie Thoene

ISBN-13: 9781556611919
Trade Paperback: 447 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: August 1, 1993

Source: From the local library.

Book Description from Back Cover:
City-boy Davey Meyer, street-smart and gutsy, had this inner longing too belong to somebody-.Max Meyer, a city-boy grown up and a Wall Street regular, also wanted to belong.

Jefferson Canfield had been unjustly incarcerated for a decade. But his escape didn't mean freedom--he didn't really belong anywhere until he came home to Shiloh...Lily's husband had died not long after their baby was conceived. Could she ever feel she belonged to anyone again?....Willa-Mae and Hock Canfield had belonged to each other for nearly as long as they could remember. And for ten years they had made a life for themselves far away from Shiloh and the killing. Now it seemed to have found them once again.

Like his father before him, Ellis Warne belonged in the medical profession. But now he was required to do some things that made him wonder if he could remain a doctor...Becky Warne's empty arms reflected her empty heart. A baby belonged there! Why couldn't Ellis have saved his own?...And two little boys who had a mother, but who didn't really belong to anybody.

These characters and more fill the pages of Say to This Mountain with the stuff of life tragedy and laughter, pain and joy, the dramatic and the ordinary. And through it all over it all is the sense, the wonder, of faith that moves mountains.

My Review:
Say To This Mountain is set in 1929 right after the stock market crash. It picked up immediately after the end of A Thousand Shall Fall. This book was my favorite of the trilogy and was the third in the series. You really need to read at least A Thousand Shall Fall before this book to fully understand the events in this one. Besides, reading this novel out of order will spoil many events in the previous two novels.

There were several point of view characters from different parts of America and different stations in life. The characters were interesting, engaging, and dealt with realistic struggles. However, one character did do a pet peeve of mine: he decided not to tell his wife and child that they were in danger might worry them.

The story was a fast read. The suspense was fairly high from beginning to end due to relationship tensions and threat of physical danger to several of the main characters. The historical and setting details brought the story alive in my imagination. The backdrop of this book was the fall-out from the market crash and how it affected various types of people.

Several of the main characters were Christians. There were multiple occasions where the characters briefly had conversations about God and how He worked, but they flowed naturally as a part of the story and weren't "preachy."

There was no explicit sex. There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this enjoyable, well-written historical 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
November 1929

The storm arrived in the late evening. A slow drizzle erupted into a torrent that drenched the carpet of fallen leaves beneath the old hickory tree in the yard. Raindrops drummed a rhythm against the roof and windowpanes. A steady stream gushed from the water spout into the enormous oak rain barrel beside the back steps. Single drops joined company to become rivulets in search of the low places on the rutted roads of Shiloh. The James Fork Creek swelled and tugged at the roots of water oaks. Leaping up, the flood buried the fording place beneath two feet of rushing water.

In the hills, deer took cover in thickets. In pastures, mules and cattle clustered together and stood with drooping heads as water dripped from hides and ears and tails. In farmhouses, families gathered around kitchen tables and looked out from silver windows at the darkness that hid the storm from view. Wood stoves crackled and cast-iron kettles rattled on the burners, while outside the downpour rumbled on.

And then it was over. As suddenly as it had begun, the roar abated and the world became a melody of single sounds again. Water dripping from the eves. The distant rushing of the James Fork. The bellow of a cow answered by the indignant croak of a bullfrog turned out of his burrow. Voices dropped to a whisper...

Jefferson Canfield stepped from the warmth of the Tucker farmhouse into the cold night. He breathed in the sweet scents of rain-washed air and raised his face toward a still black sky. The moon was full and bright behind the clouds, yet not a glimmer of silver light showed through. The storm was not yet spent. Soon enough rain would begin again.

Jefferson frowned up toward where the moon should have been and hoped that Birch Tucker would make it back with Doc Brown before then. He thought of the waters of the James Fork streaming across the road down at the ford. Birch had ridden out toward Hartford four hours ago, before the full force of the storm hit, and even then the creek had been high. The young mule Birch rode was strong enough to handle the current, but there was no way Doc Brown's old Model T could cross over now.

It was a bad night to need a doctor. A bad night to be out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In the Shadow of Evil by Robin Caroll

book cover

In the Shadow of Evil
by Robin Caroll

Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books
Released: March 1, 2011

List Price: $14.98
ISBN-10: 0805449795
ISBN-13: 978-0805449792

Author Website
Book on Amazon

Source: Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, Trade Book Marketing, B&H Publishing Group for sending me an Advanced Reader's Copy as a review copy. This post is part of the FIRST Wild Card Tour.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Informed by the real-life fallout of the U.S. economy and devastation caused by multiple hurricanes along the southern coast, In the Shadow of Evil tells a modern day story involving the exposure of a building rebound scam. Amidst the layers of unethical practices, supply shortages, and excess murders, a top Louisiana homicide detective loses his heart to a charitable contractor while uncovering a secret about his tragic past.

My Review:
In the Shadow of Evil is a Christian romantic suspense novel. It's the third in a series, but it's essentially a stand-alone novel. You don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one, and reading this novel first will spoil only the romantic outcome of the second novel.

The characters were likable, complex, and dealt with realistic struggles. The main theme was forgiveness. The suspense was created by physical danger to the main characters and conflict between the romantic pair. The setting details were sparse, but there were a fair amount of job details (for police, contractor, and "halfway house") woven into the story.

Some of the main characters were Christians. One main character believed in God, but he didn't believe God was good. There was some praying and some Scripture remembered by the characters.

There was no sex. I don't recall any bad language (but if it was there, it was in the "he cussed" style). Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable, suspenseful novel to those who like romantic suspense.

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.

About the Author:
Robin Caroll is a leading Christian suspense novelist. She gives back to the writing community as conference director for the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. A proud southerner through and through, Robin lives with her husband and three daughters in Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.

Book Trailer:

Excerpt from Prologue
Eighteen Years Earlier

What a night!

Maddox turned his car into the residential area and glanced at the digital display on the dash—12:28. Great, late for curfew. He smiled. Being late was worth it when he’d had a hot date with Julie Cordon. Man, the girl was something else. Beautiful, sexy, and funny. Just being with her made him feel special. Made him forget lots of things, including time.

Besides, he was seventeen. Curfews were for kids! A senior in high school, and he had to be home by midnight? All his Pop’s doing.

Tyson Bishop…Mr. Air Force man, determined to force the entire family to live by rules and regulations.

But his dad was over foreign soil right now, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. Mom understood better, wasn’t quite the stickler about curfews like his dad. Good thing, too. Maddox was almost thirty minutes late tonight. Pop would blow his top and ground him for at least a month. Probably take away his car. But not Mom. She’d just caution him to pay closer attention to the time. Launch into the whole spiel about responsibility and accountability. He could recite it from memory.

Maddox whipped into the driveway and pressed the garage door opener. The light from the kitchen door spilled into the garage. Mom would be up…waiting. He should’ve called.

But being around Julie was like being caught in a time warp. Even the car’s interior held her smell. Light, flowery…teasing and tempting.

He killed the engine and jogged up the steps, slipping his charming smile into place. His mom had never been able to stay mad or disappointed when he flashed his dimples at her. He’d promise to mow the grass tomorrow before Pop got home, and she’d forget all about his tardiness.

He shut the garage door behind him and entered the kitchen. “Mom? I’m home.” The hint of roast lingered in the air.

The house was as silent as a tomb.

Odd. She would normally be on her feet to meet him.

He passed the kitchen’s butcher-block island and continued into the living room. A soft light filled the space beside her reading chair, but no sign of her.


Maddox backtracked to the kitchen. Maybe she was in the downstairs bathroom.

“Hello?” His voice rose an octave as his pulse hammered. The bathroom door was wide open, the room dark.

Where was she?

His steps faltered as he pressed into the kitchen again. The backdoor stood open, the glass pane closest to the knob—shattered. His heart jumped into his throat.


Using the agility that had garnered him the wide receiver place on the varsity football team, Maddox flew down the hall toward his parents’ bedroom. He pushed open the door with shaking hands.

His mother lay sprawled on the floor, a pool of blood staining the carpet around her. Her face pale against the dark red spilling from her chest. A metallic odor permeated the room.

What? He blinked repeatedly, his mind not processing what his eyes saw. Then…he did. And nearly vomited.

He raced to her side, lifting her head into his lap. “Mom.” Tears backed up in his eyes as he smoothed her hair.

“Mad-dy,” she croaked.

He grabbed the phone from the nightstand, the base landing on the floor with a resounding thud. He grabbed the receiver and punched in 9-1-1.

“Hang on, Mom. I’m calling for help.” Every nerve in his body stood at high alert.

“Too. Late.” She grimaced. A gurgling seeped from between her lips. Her body went slack in his arms.

“911, what is the nature of your emergency?”

He closed his eyes. Fought back scalding tears. “My mother. She’s been murdered.”