Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mine Is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

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Mine Is the Night
by Liz Curtis Higgs

Trade Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Released: March 15, 2011

ISBN-10: 1400070023
ISBN-13: 978-1400070022
List Price: $14.99
Language: English

Buy from Amazon

Source: Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky of Random House Inc. for sending me a review copy. This post is part of the FIRST Wild Card Tour.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Stepping from a battered coach on a rainy April eve, newly widowed Elisabeth Kerr must begin again, without husband or title, property or fortune. She is unafraid of work and gifted with a needle, but how will she stitch together the tattered remnants of her life? And who will mend her heart, torn asunder by betrayal and deception?

Elisabeth has not come to Selkirk alone. Her mother-in-law, Marjory Kerr, is a woman undone, having buried her husband, her sons, and any promise of grandchildren. Dependent upon a distant cousin with meager resources, Marjory dreads the future almost as much as she regrets the past. Yet joy still comes knocking, and hope is often found in unexpected places.

Then a worthy hero steps forward, rekindling a spark of hope. Will he risk his reputation to defend two women labeled as traitors to the Crown?

The heartrending journey of the Kerr women comes to a glorious finish in Mine Is the Night, a sparkling gem of redemption and restoration set in eighteenth-century Scotland.

About the Author:
Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of 28 books with three million copies in print, including: her best-selling historical novels, Here Burns My Candle, Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Christy Award-winner Whence Came a Prince, Grace in Thine Eyes, a Christy Award finalist, and Here Burns My Candle, a RT Book Reviews Award finalist; My Heart’s in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland, an armchair travel guide to Galloway; and her contemporary novels, Mixed Signals, a Rita Award finalist, and Bookends, a Christy Award finalist.

Visit the author's website. You’ll also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Trailer:

My Review:
Mine Is the Night is a Christian historical (with several romances in it) set in 1746 in Scotland right after the bonny Prince Charlie insurrection was defeated. This is the second and last novel in the series, but you don't have to read the first novel to understand this one. However, if you read this one first, it will spoil some major events in Here Burns My Candle.

The characters were engaging, complex, and had realistic struggles. Marjory struggled with her sudden poverty, the realization of wrongs she's done, and the fallout of her wrong political alliances (in the previous book). Elizabeth struggled with trusting men with her heart since, in her experience, men don't stay faithful to their wives.

The historical aspects covered the politics of the time down to the details of everyday life and manners. These interesting details were woven into the story creating a somewhat slower pacing typical of historical novels. The ending was very satisfying (though you can guess what's coming because the story is loosely based on Ruth 1:19-4:17).

The main characters were Christians. They prayed for help and guidance, praised God for His blessings, and thought about Scripture (mainly Psalms that they'd memorized) and how it applied to their situation.

Some Scottish words were used in the novel, but I never had a problem figuring out what was meant. However, there was a glossary in the very back for those who need it. There was no bad language. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend it 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

Foul whisperings are abroad.

26 April 1746

The distant hoofbeats were growing louder.

Elisabeth Kerr quickly pushed aside the curtain and leaned out the carriage window. A cool spring rain, borne on a blustery wind, stung her cheeks. She could not see the riders on horseback, hidden by the steep hill behind her. But she could hear them galloping hard, closing the gap.

Her mother-in-law seemed unconcerned, her attention drawn to the puddle forming at their feet. A frown creased her brow. “Do you mean for us to arrive in Selkirk even more disheveled than we already are?” Three long days of being jostled about in a cramped and dirty coach had left Marjory Kerr in a mood as foul as the weather.

“’Tis not the rain that concerns me.” Elisabeth resumed her seat, feeling a bit unsteady. “No ordinary traveling party would ride with such haste.”

Marjory’s breath caught. “Surely you do not think—”

“I do.”

Had they not heard the rumors at every inn and coaching halt? King George’s men were scouring the countryside for anyone who’d aided bonny Prince Charlie in his disastrous bid to reclaim the British throne for the long-deposed Stuarts. Each whispered account was worse than the last. Wounded rebel soldiers clubbed to death. Houses burned with entire families inside. Wives and daughters ravished by British dragoons.

Help us, Lord. Please. Elisabeth slipped her arm round her mother-in-law’s shoulders as she heard the riders crest the hill and bear down on them.

“We were almost home,” Marjory fretted.

“The Lord will rescue us,” Elisabeth said firmly, and then they were overtaken. A male voice cut through the rain-soaked air, and the carriage jarred to a halt.

Mr. Dewar, their round-bellied coachman, dropped from his perch and landed by the window with a grunt. He rocked back on his heels until he found his balance, then yanked open the carriage door without ceremony. “Beg yer pardon, leddies. The captain here would have a wird with ye.”

Marjory’s temper flared. “He cannot expect us to stand in the rain.”

“On the contrary, madam.” A British dragoon dismounted and rolled into view like a loaded cannon. His shoulders were broad, his legs short, his neck invisible. “I insist upon it. At once, if you please.”

With a silent prayer for strength, Elisabeth gathered her hoops and maneuvered through the narrow carriage doorway. She was grateful for Mr. Dewar’s hand as she stepped down, trying not to drag her skirts through the mud. Despite the evening gloom, her eyes traced the outline of a hillside town not far south. Almost home.

The captain, whom Elisabeth guessed to be about five-and-forty years, watched in stony silence as Marjory disembarked. His scarlet coat was drenched, his cuffed, black boots were covered with filth, and the soggy brim of his cocked hat bore a noticeable wave.

He was also shorter than Elisabeth had first imagined. When she lifted her head, making the most of her long neck, she was fully two inches taller than he. Some days she bemoaned her height but not this day.

By the time Marjory joined her on the roadside, a half-dozen uniformed men had crowded round. Broadswords hung at their sides, yet their scowls were far more menacing.

“Come now,” Mr. Dewar said gruffly. “Ye’ve nae need to frighten my passengers. State yer business, and be done with it. We’ve little daylight left and less than a mile to travel.”

“Selkirk is your destination?” The captain seemed disappointed. “Not many Highland rebels to be found there.”

“’Tis a royal burgh,” Marjory told him, her irritation showing. “Our townsfolk have been loyal to the crown for centuries.”

Elisabeth shot her a guarded look. Have a care, dear Marjory.

The captain ignored her mother-in-law’s comments, all the while studying their plain black gowns, a curious light in his eyes. “In mourning, are we? For husbands, I’ll wager.” He took a brazen step toward Elisabeth, standing entirely too close. “Tell me, lass. Did your men give their lives in service to King George? At Falkirk perhaps? Or Culloden?”

She could not risk a lie. Yet she could not speak the truth.

Please, Lord, give me the right words.

Elisabeth took a long, slow breath, then spoke from her heart. “Our brave men died at Falkirk honoring the King who has no equal.”

He cocked one eyebrow. “Did they now?”

“Aye.” She met the captain’s gaze without flinching, well aware of which sovereign she had in mind. I am God, and there is none like me. She’d not lied. Nor had the dragoon grasped the truth behind her words: by divine right the crown belonged to Prince Charlie.

“No one compares to His Royal Highness, King George,” he said expansively. “Though I am sorry for your loss. No doubt your men died heroes.”

Elisabeth merely nodded, praying he’d not ask their names. A list of royalist soldiers killed at Falkirk had circulated round Edinburgh for weeks. The captain might recall that Lord Donald and Andrew Kerr were not named among the British casualties. Instead, her handsome husband and his younger brother were counted among the fallen rebels on that stormy January evening.

My sweet Donald. However grievous his sins, however much he’d wounded her, she’d loved him once and mourned him still.

Her courage bolstered by the thought of Donald in his dark blue uniform, Elisabeth squared her shoulders and ignored the rain sluicing down her neck. “My mother-in-law and I are eager to resume our journey. If we are done here—”

“We are not.” Still lingering too near, the captain inclined his head, measuring her. “A shame your husband left such a bonny widow. Though if you fancy another soldier in your bed, one of my men will gladly oblige—”

“Sir!” Marjory protested. “How dare you address a lady in so coarse a manner.”

His dragoons quickly closed ranks. “A lady?” one of them grumbled. “She sounds more like a Highlander to my ear.”

The captain’s expression darkened. “Aye, so she does.” Without warning he grasped the belled cuff of Elisabeth’s sleeve and turned back the fabric. “Where is it, lass? Where is your silk Jacobite rose?”

“You’ve no need to look.” Elisabeth tried to wrest free of him. “I haven’t one.”

Ignoring her objections, he roughly examined the other cuff, nearly tearing apart the seam. “The white rose of Scotland was Prince Charlie’s favorite, was it not? I’ve plucked them off many a Highland rebel.”

“I imagine you have.” Elisabeth freed her sleeve from his grasp. “Are you quite satisfied?”

“Far from it, lass.” The captain eyed the neckline of her gown, his mouth twisting into an ugly sneer. “It seems your flower is well hidden. Nevertheless, I mean to have it.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop. Including Twitter entries, 123 people entered. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

who won Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark

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, April 25, 2011

Eona by Alison Goodman

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by Alison Goodman

ISBN-13: 9780670063116
Hardcover: 656 pages
Publisher: Viking Children's
Released: April 19, 2011

Source: Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher Website (modified):
Eon has been revealed as Eona, the first female Dragoneye in hundreds of years. Along with fellow rebels Ryko and Lady Dela, she is on the run from High Lord Sethon's army. The renegades are on a quest for the black folio, stolen by the drug-riddled Dillon; they must also find Kygo, the young Pearl Emperor, who needs Eona's power and the black folio if he is to wrest back his throne from the self-styled "Emperor" Sethon.

Through it all, Eona must learn to use her new Dragoneye power despite being assaulted by ten of the energy dragons every time she bonds with her own energy dragon. As the odds turn against Emperor Kygo, Eona struggles against her traitorous ancestress' desire for the pearl embedded in Kygo's throat, pressure from Emperor Kygo's allies to break the moral limits on her power in order to help Kygo regain his throne, and Lord Ido's ambitions for dragon power.

My Review:
Eona is an action-packed young adult fantasy novel. It's the second and final novel in the series. If you read Eona first, it will spoil many of the events in Eon. It contained enough information that you can probably still follow everything that's going on without having read Eon, but I'd still recommend reading Eon first.

Eona was much more original than Eon and much less predictable. While males would probably enjoy Eona more than Eon, I still think these novels will appeal most to girls and women.

Again, the world-building of an Asian-based culture was excellent. The characters were complex and varied. Practically every character had their own goals and Eona was stuck in the middle of conflicting desires for using her and her power. Even previous allies have a love-hate relationship with her after her power shows some unexpected aspects. While very realistic, it was a bit emotionally tiring to have Eona pressured by her friends and allies into morally murky areas where she didn't want to go only to be despised by them when she did.

There was one explicit modern bad word and a very minor amount of insulting language that isn't commonly used but may or may not count as a modern bad word. There was some intense kissing, but no sex scenes (or, at least, no explicit ones). There was some torture, but it wasn't highly graphic or gory.

There was a main character who had "a man's body and a woman's spirit" (referred to as "she") and a eunuch who loved each other though their relationship was not an easy one. The magic was "fantasy magic" with a somewhat unique twist: the characters bond with their energy dragon and use the dragon's power to manipulate the physical world.

Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable fantasy novel, though I wouldn't read it when in a depressed mood.

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 dragons were crying.

I stared across the choppy, gray sea and concentrated on the soft sound within me. For three daybreaks, ever since we had fled the conquered palace, I had stood on this same rock and felt the keening of the ten bereft dragons. Usually it was only a faint wail beneath the golden song of my own Mirror Dragon. This morning it was stronger. Harsher.

Perhaps the ten spirit beasts had rallied from their grief and returned to the Circle of Twelve. I took a deep breath and eased into the unnerving sensation of mind-sight. The sea before me blurred into surging silver as my focus moved beyond the earthly plane, into the pulsing colors of the parallel energy world. Above me, only two of the twelve dragons were in their celestial domains: Lord Ido's blue Rat Dragon in the north-northwest, the beast's massive body ached in pain, and my own red dragon in the east. The Mirror Dragon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Eon by Alison Goodman

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by Alison Goodman

ISBN-13: 9780670062270
Hardcover: 536 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Released: August 1, 2008

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description from Google Books (modified):
For years, Eon has been studying sword-work and magic toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye--an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers her secret, her death is assured.

It's the year for the Rat Dragon to choose an apprentice, but the Mirror Dragon--missing for 500 years--appears and also chooses one: Eon. Yet the connection was never properly completed and grows thinner by the day. The Emperor is counting on her power to hold off his ambitious brother who has the help of the charismatic leader of the Dragoneye council.

With so many people placing their hopes on her, Eon must find allies to guide her through the complicated court politics and help her discover how to truly connect to the power of the Mirror Dragon.

My Review:
Eon is a YA fantasy novel that will appeal most to girls and women since most of the men are jerks or eunuchs (and Eona thinks in detail about her period). The world-building was excellent. It was based on Asian culture and had a zodiac energy-dragon magic system.

The characters were complex, varied, and engaging. I understand that Eona was blinded by cultural assumptions and I understand why she acted the way she did, but I was mildly exasperated by her ignoring all the signs that she was doing exactly the wrong thing (to prepare for an upcoming test of her power). At least when that failed in a big way, she quickly realized that many of her assumptions were wrong. She had courage and was honorable. I liked that she needed and gratefully accepted the help of others, but she wasn't a damsel in distress.

There was no bad language. Eona was twice threatened with rape (which went as far as forced kissing), but there was no sex. One main character was a cross-dresser (a person "with a man's body and a woman's spirit"). The magic was "fantasy magic" with a somewhat unique twist: the characters bond with their energy dragon and use the dragon's power to protect their land from natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, etc.).

Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable fantasy 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
I let the tips of both my swords dig into the sandy arena floor. It was the wrong move, but the dragging pain in my gut was pulling me into a crouch. I watched Swordmaster Ranne's bare feet shuffle forward, rebalancing his weight for a sweep cut. Training with him always made my innards cramp with fear, but this was different. This was the bleeding pain. Had I miscounted the moon days?

"What are you doing, boy?" he said.

I looked up. Ranne was standing poised, both of his swords ready for the elegant cross cut that could have taken my head. His hands tightened around the hilts. I knew he wanted to follow through and rid the school of the cripple. But he didn't dare.

"Are you spent already?" he demanded. "That third form was even worse than usual."

I shook my head, gritting my teeth against another clamping pain.

"It is nothing, Swordmaster." I carefully straightened, keeping my swords down.

Ranne relaxed his stance and stepped back. "You're not ready for the ceremony tomorrow," he said. "You'll never be ready. You can't even finish the approach sequence."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

book coverAs a part of the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop, you can enter to win one of the two novels below:

The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag. Read my review to learn more about this Christian historical novel set in the late 5th century in southern cover

My Advanced Reading Copy of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark. Read my review to learn more about this detective suspense novel. (Please note that this novel has a fair amount of explicit bad language in it.)

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 THE SHADOW THINGS by Jennifer Freitag" or "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark" 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.

Every time I do a "your choice" giveaway, a few people choose 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 April 25 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on April 26, 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 Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark

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Guilt By Association
by Marcia Clark

ISBN-13: 9780316129510
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Released: April 20, 2011

Source: Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
D.A. Rachel Knight is a tenacious, wise-cracking prosecutor in Los Angeles' most elite division. Her close colleague, Jake, is found dead at a seedy hotel with a teenage male prostitute. The evidence points to Jake having secretly been a gay pedophile who committed a murder-suicide. Rachel doesn't believe the accusation and wants to clear his name, but the Feds aren't trying hard enough. She's determined to solve his murder even if it means risking her career by doing things illegally. She also must take over Jake's toughest case: the rape of a young woman from a rich, influential family.

Dead end follows dead end, but she and her friends aren't going to give up...even after someone starts taking shots at them.

About the Author:
Marcia Clark is a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney.

My Review:
Guilt By Association is a fast-paced mystery/detective suspense novel. Though Rachel is a D.A., she spent most of her time solving the mystery at the side of her police detective friend rather than in the court room. However, details about her job and the investigation were woven into the story along with vivid details about the setting. (This is an example of an author giving more description than was vital to telling the story, but she'd connect it in to the story to make it relevant even if it wasn't vital.)

The characters were quirky, varied, and interesting...though the amount of drinking and illegal behavior made me start to have doubts about our legal system. (It's just a story...written by a D.A., but it's just a story...I hope.) Rachel did deal with doubts about Jake even as she worked to clear his name. Several of the characters had relationship hang-ups, though we never learned all of the details of why Rachel had her hang-up.

The end wrapped up a bit quickly when things finally came together. The detective and Rachel followed up on the leads as soon as they had the evidence--and, in one case, made an arrest before all of the evidence was confirmed. Since, for most of the book, they'd held off on making judgments until all the evidence was in, it almost seemed like they jumped to conclusions on slim evidence in that one case. Nonetheless, it was a clever mystery, but it wasn't the type where readers have a chance to guess whodunit ahead of time.

There was a fair amount of crude language and explicit bad language. There were no sex scenes. Overall, it was an entertaining 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
"Guilty? Already? What'd they do, just walk around the table and hit the buzzer?" Jake said, shaking his head incredulously.

I laughed, nodding. "I know, it's crazy. Forty-five-minute verdict after a three-month trial," I said as I shook my head. "I thought the clerk was kidding when she called and told me to come back to court." I paused. "Now that I think about it, this might be my fastest win ever on a first-degree."

"[Bad word], sistah, that's the fastest win I done heard on anythang," Toni said as she plopped down into the chair facing my desk. She only talked ghetto as a joke.

"Y'all gotta admit," I said, "homegirl brought game this time."

Toni gave me a disdainful look. "Uh-uh, snowflake. You can't pull it off, so don't try." She reached for the mug I kept clean and at the ready for her on the windowsill.

I raised an eyebrow. "You've got a choice: take that back and have a drink, or enjoy your little put-down and stay dry."

Toni eyed the bottle of Glenlivet on my desk, her lips firmly pressed together, as she weighed her options. It didn't take long. "It's amazing. For a minute there, I thought Sister Souljah was in the room," she said with no conviction whatsoever. She slammed her mug down on my desk. "Happy?"

I shrugged. "Not your best effort, but they can't all be gold." I broke the small ice tray out of my mini-fridge, dumped the cubes into her cup, and poured the equivalent of two generous shots of Glenlivet.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Unforgivable by Tessa Stockton

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The Unforgivable
by Tessa Stockton

ISBN-13: 978-1-936835-00-3
Trade Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Risen Fiction
Released: April 1, 2011

Source: Review copy from the author.

Book Description, my take:
Genevieve, a middle-aged professional quilter from Tennessee, has come to Buenos Aires, Argentina to sell her goods at a South American quilting expo. While eating at a restaurant after the first day of the show, a handsome gentleman shows concern over her onion-induced tears. Carlos Cornella makes her feel special and, during their brief encounter, she feels like their souls connected.

However, when her Argentine friends show up, they chase him away and warn her against him. He's notorious as a military officer that oversaw the torture of many civilians during the Dirty War.

Every time Gen spends time with Carlos, she can't believe that such a kind, caring man could really do such things. Her friends step up their efforts by telling her about the war and taking her to hear survivors tell about their torture at Carlos' command. Her strong attraction for Carlos clashes with these horrific stories and makes her lose her appetite and have trouble sleeping. Then one night she has a vivid dream of Jesus telling her to love Carlos unconditionally like Jesus loves her unconditionally. Also, Jesus says that Carlos is the man He has chosen for her, and He asks her to devote herself to Carlos.

Though Carlos isn't a Christian and views himself as unforgivable, she decides to follow her divine mission to love her soul matter where it may lead.

My Review:
Note: From the brief description I was given for this novel, I thought it was about a wife learning her husband was a war criminal, having to reconcile how well he treated her with how cruel he was to others, and learning to love him with Christ's love. It's not. Carlos is more what women wish men were like than what men really are like. In real life, if a handsome, charming man approached a unknown, crying foreigner, it would be because he intended to scam her. While I agree with the story's theme that no one is beyond Christ's forgiveness if they truly repent, I don't like that this story promotes co-dependency as love as well as seriously dating and getting physically intense with a man while not intending to marry him (or have sex with him) unless he becomes a Christian.

The Unforgivable is a romance novel with a historical element. The romance had typical elements--fall in lust at first sight, feel souls touch, play with temptation--but added an unusual element by having Gen's friends warn her away from him. He tortured and "disappeared" civilians during the Dirty War, and now he's harassed as a symbol of all those who committed war crimes during that time. He's desperate for love, and she's drawn to being needed by him.

As her friends try to warn her away from him, we learn about Argentina's Dirty War. A lot of time in the first half was spent describing what happened in all its shades of gray. If you're not interested in learning about the horrors committed as the military tried to track down militant guerrillas who blended in with civilians, then this isn't the book for you. The author included detailed descriptions of torture.

The characters were interesting but a bit single-dimensional considering the material. I didn't understand why Gen never questioned her dreams even though her close friend reminded her that they've been wrong before (on page 164). Also, I think the author was trying to portray Gen as having wavering intentions when it came to not marrying Carlos until he converted, but those sentences just sent me back to see if I'd misunderstood her previous, resolutely stated intentions--either to marry him even if he wasn't a Christian, or to wait however long until he converted. Also, the author would sometimes use a word that didn't quite fit which made me pause in my reading.

There was a strong Christian element throughout, including praying, several "vision" dreams including a dream of Jesus talking to her, and a message of forgiveness for all. However, the story wasn't really about "a bad man finding redemption and forgiveness in Christ" but "a broken and hurting good man finding comfort and peace from a painful past."

Though the story builds up to a trial where Carlos will be tried for war crimes, the story ends when the Christian and romantic elements are wrapped up. The trial was left unresolved. There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. There were no sex scenes (although rape was referred to in the torture stories).

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 had been a long first day at the quilting expo in Buenos Aires. Tired, I sat back in my chair and rubbed the stiffness from my neck, then worked the headache from my temples. At least the worst of the jet lag had finally waned.

Sally, my lifelong friend from back home, and Paloma, a native Argentine Sally and I became fast friends with a while back on an online quilters-unite site, approached my kiosk looking just as exhausted as I felt.

"So, how did you do?" Sally asked.

I glanced over my display pieces, mentally tallying the sale of the day and the orders for future pieces. "Today's orders alone will keep my hands busy sewing and stitching once we get back to Sweetwater, that's for sure."

"Good for you! I had a good turnout, too. We did well by coming here, Genevieve."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paid in Blood by Mel Odom

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Paid in Blood
by Mel Odom

ISBN-13: 9781414340609
eBook: 375 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
Released: 2005

Source: I got this eBook free through Tyndale House's April Free eBooks promotion.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The death of a fellow NCIS agent in North Carolina leads Will Coburn and his special team of naval crime-scene investigators to discover a drug-and-arms smuggling ring. The investigation leads them to a U.S. military base in South Korea. When a body is stolen from a crime scene, the team discovers that their suspect is not who he seems. Nuclear weapons have gone missing, and it's a race against time as the NCIS team uncovers the true face of evil.

My Review:
Paid in Blood is a detective suspense novel which ended like an action-packed military thriller. While the reader knows who the main bad guy is and the broad picture of his evil plan, the reader had to learn the details of the scheme along with the heroes and hope they'd solve it in time. Suspense was also created by the various family problems that the characters were dealing with and the physical danger at various points.

The forensic details of the investigation were excellent and woven into the story without slowing the action. However, apparently there were many inaccurate details about how the Naval Criminal Investigation Service is actually run.

The characters were interesting, varied, and complex. They dealt with realistic family problems (a marriage falling apart, an unwanted marriage, a single mom feeling guilty about leaving her child so much, etc.) in addition to the investigation. The bad guys seemed unrealistically unwavering in their motives (a.k.a. cliche bad guys), but that's true for many thrillers.

Several of the main characters were Christians. Mel was bitter toward God for letting his marriage fall apart after all his prayers and efforts to save it, and several other main characters felt that God had let them down in their family situations. However, their parents or friends urged them to trust God despite circumstances.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this fast-paced, exciting 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
Wilmington, North Carolina
The Present
2053 Hours

Will Coburn stopped in front of the dead woman lying crumpled on the threadbare carpet. He stared down at her. Violent death still gave him pause even after years of seeing it.

He held his flashlight steady and examined the woman's body. She was in her midtwenties. She'd kept her black hair short and neat, but blood matted it now. More blood streaked her face and made her look of pained surprise even more stark. She wore blue jeans and a dove gray blouse under a nondescript green Windbreaker.

Someone had cut the woman's throat. Crimson streaked the front of her blouse and Windbreaker.

Read more using Google Preview.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Diagnosis Death by Richard Mabry

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Diagnosis Death
by Richard Mabry, MD

ISBN-13: 9781426710216
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: April 1, 2011

Source: eBook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Back Cover (somewhat modified):
When her comatose husband dies in the ICU while on life support, the whispers about Dr. Elena Gardner begin. Another death during her training puts her under suspicion. When the pattern is repeated in the hospital where she is attempting to start over, the whispers turn into a shout: "mercy killing."

Elena doesn't remember killing anyone, but she also isn't sure what did happen. She secretly fears she really did kill these patients but doesn't remember it. Despite her move to a new city, the midnight phone calls that started after her husband's death follow Elena. Who is the woman who sobs out, "I know what you did" and promises to make her pay? And what can Elena do to prevent it?

Several men, one of them a physician who is a divorcee, offer support to beautiful, Hispanic-looking Elena. Is it safe to trust anyone with her secret fear?

My Review:
Diagnosis Death is a medical suspense novel with a romance. While I was able to figure out whodunit before the big reveal, the answer to the last mysterious bit was a surprise. While the reader wasn't told from the beginning who was behind the calls, etc., the story wasn't really about investigating the mystery. The mystery wasn't solved earlier only because Elena was terrified that she might be the killer. She avoided investigating what was going on though she hated what not knowing as doing to her and what the rumors were doing to her career. She had to find the courage to face the truth.

The suspense was created by wondering who was behind the calls, what was going to go wrong next, various medical emergencies, and some physical danger to the characters near the end. The characters were 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.

Many of the characters were Christian. Elena struggled with why God didn't answer her prayers to heal her husband. She wasn't on "speaking terms" with God during most of the book though she still believed in Him. The story had a Christian theme running throughout it. There were frequent mentions of "I'm praying for you," a brief sermon summary by a pastor's wife, and a Bible verse that impacted Elena.

This book was the third in the series, but you don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one. However, the characters from the first novel, Code Blue, show up in this one, so reading this novel out of order will spoil the romantic outcome of Code Blue. There was no sex and no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this suspenseful novel.

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

Excerpt from Chapter One
Dr. Elena Gardner approached her apartment as she had every night for six months--filled with emptiness and dread. The feeling grew with each step, and by the time she put the key in the door, fear enveloped her like a shroud. Some nights it was all she could do to put her foot over the threshold. This was one of those nights.

She turned the key and pushed open the door. The dark shadows reached out at her like a boogeyman from her childhood. The utter stillness magnified every sound in the old apartment, turning creaking boards into the footsteps of an unknown enemy.

She flipped on the light and watched the shadows turn into familiar surroundings. Even though the thermostat was set at a comfortable temperature, she shivered a bit.

Elena dropped her backpack by the door and collapsed into the one comfortable chair in the living room. The TV remote was in its usual place on the table beside her. She punched the set into life, paying no attention to what was on. Didn't matter. Just something to drown out the silence, something to remind her that there was life outside these four walls.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heart of Ice by Lis Wiehl and April Henry

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Heart of Ice
by Lis Wiehl &
April Henry

ISBN-13: 9781595547071
Hardback: 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: April 5, 2011

Source: Review copy from publisher through BookSneeze.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The Triple Threat Club novels follow three fiercely intelligent women—a TV reporter, a Federal prosecutor and an FBI agent—as they investigate crimes as current as today’s headlines.

The Triple Threat women have faced intense situations before…but never such a cunningly cold-blooded murderer.

Elizabeth Avery is a stunningly beautiful woman. But her perfectly managed exterior hides the ice cold heart of a killer. She ingeniously manipulates everyone who crosses her path to do exactly as she wishes--from crime reporter Cassidy Shaw, who thinks Elizabeth is her new best friend, to a shy young man Elizabeth persuades to kill for her.

As Elizabeth leaves a trail of bodies in her wake, Federal prosecuter Allison Pierce and FBI agent Nicole Hedges must piece together clues from seemingly unrelated crimes. Can they stop her before she reaches her unthinkable, ultimate end-game?

My Review:
Heart of Ice is a suspense novel. Unlike the previous two novels in the series, there was no mystery in this one--you know who the killer is from the beginning. Actually, the first 84 pages read like a women's fiction novel because our three heroines focused most of their attention on their personal troubles (a recent miscarriage; loneliness; and possible breast cancer).

If you've read the previous novels in the series, then you'll probably care enough about the main characters that you'll be interested their personal issues. However, the authors didn't spend much time in this novel developing the reoccurring characters, so newcomers starting with this novel may lose interest before the action kicks in and the pace picks up.

By the way, this novel didn't spoil the mystery--only the personal issues--of the previous novels. It also contained enough information that you could read them out of order, but I'd still recommend reading the previous novels first.

In the first half of the novel, the characters spent a lot of time alone in their thoughts thinking about things--like the psychotic killer spent pages thinking about how lying didn't bother her (among other lessons about the traits of a psychotic killer). Once the interactions between characters increased and the psycho decided someone had to die, the pacing and suspense picked up nicely. There were some details about the heroine's jobs woven into the story, but not as much as in the previous novels.

One of the main characters was a Christian and another rejected God, but these convictions played only a very minor role in the novel. There was a very minor amount of explicit bad language. Sex was implied, but there were no sex scenes. Overall, fans of the series will probably enjoy this novel, especially if it doesn't matter to them that there was no mystery element.

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
Southwest Portland

The fuel sloshed inside the red metal gas can, splashing in rhythm with Joey Decicco's steps. As soon as the house at the end of the long driveaway came into view, he stopped and took stock. Sprawling. Lots of windows. Two-story. Wooden. On the porch, two Adirondack chairs and a blue bike with training wheels. And no lights on, no car parked in front. Nobody home.

Just like Sissy--or Elizabeth, as she called herself now--had said.

Because Joey didn't want to kill anyone. He had already caused enough death.

The sun was setting, but the fading light was enough for what he needed to do. Joey walked to one corner, carefully tilted the can, and began to trace a line around the house, drawing an invisible noose.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Fool for Books Giveaway Hop for Formula for Murder by Diana Orgain. Including Twitter entries, 66 people entered. 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.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Dead Saint by Marilyn Brown Oden

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The Dead Saint
by Marilyn Brown Oden

ISBN-13: 9781426708671
Trade Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Released: April 1, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Bishop Lynn Peterson watches in horror as her good friend, a member of the New Orleans Saints, is shot by a sniper and dies on the streets of New Orleans. Lynn agrees to return the strange medal he wore to his mother in Sarajevo, Bosnia during her upcoming trip there. However, the medal is immediately stolen from her by the man she's sure is the killer...except the police say the killer has been found and is dead.

Then, at an event involving the Vice President, he speaks with her privately. The Vice President asks her to secretly deliver a message during her trip to Bosnia. Someone is tapping Madam President's communications and this will help her uncover which trusted person is listening in and using the information to spread chaos and war.

Lynn agrees to act as a courier and begins a dangerous journey filled with assassinations, bombs, an attempt on her life, and a behind-the-scenes conspiracy that somehow involves an ancient society.

My Review:
The Dead Saint is a political thriller with an anti-war theme. Unfortunately, there's an excess of unnecessary detail that slowed the pace. There were whole scenes that could have been cut and the reader wouldn't have missed them. However, some suspense was created by physical danger to various nice people.

The main characters were interesting. However, the majority of the characters were described in an idealized way or were cliche. Lynn and her husband also seemed too naive and hero-worshiping for their given backgrounds. Lynn also seemed to have a mental illness--something like a split personality--which just struck me as weird. However, she did act intelligently, though realistically, to the unexpectedly dangerous situations she was in.

Though Lynn visited several foreign countries, I didn't get a vivid mental image of the settings or a real feel for the cultures. We got descriptions of a few tourist spots and a generic "war-zone neighborhood." They felt like descriptions you could get off of photographs, though you could tell the author has been through foreign airports.

Lynn was an episcopal bishop whose focus was on social activism for peace and to help the poor. Her theology seemed to consist of frequent centering to find peace, removing "sin" from her vocabulary because it led to feeling guilty, and an occasional prayer to become a better person. She also talked with others about the similarities between religions and how she thinks they're all reaching toward the same God and same goal of self-transformation.

I don't recall any bad language. There was no sex. Overall, the novel wasn't bad, it just wasn't as exciting and engaging as I'd expect of such a plot.

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
At 10:17 on Wednesday morning, three minutes before a bullet whizzed through the French Quarter and severed her shelters yesterdays from her sinister tomorrows, Bishop Lynn Peterson sat at her favorite outdoor table at Cafe du Monde. She was incognito behind sunglasses and dressed like a tourist in a teal knit shirt that matched her eyes, khaki walking shorts and sandals, with her black hair swooped up under a straw hat. She'd escaped her office to read over her lecture for the conference in Vienna. No phone calls. No "emergency" appointments. No interruptions. She smiled.

Lynn sipped cafe au lait, resisted the third beignet and listened to the calliope's happy tune drifting from a paddleboat on the river. Nearby a wannabe king of jazz improvised on soprano sax, playing the music like it should've been written. Feet tapped to the beat. She loved to sit here. Loved New Orleans. The city suited her.

She heard Bubba Broussard's laughter resound like a bass solo from half a block away. The six-five, 250-pound ProBowl linebacker for the New Orleans Saints ambled down Decatur Street, green polo shirt stretched over his biceps. Elias Darwish sauntered along beside him, the never-miss place kicker who hailed from Sarajevo and helped turn to "Aints" into the Saints.