Friday, April 27, 2012

A Deadly Grind by Victoria Hamilton

book cover
A Deadly Grind
by Victoria Hamilton

ISBN-13: 9780425248010
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: May 1, 2012

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modifier from Back Cover:
When vintage cookware and cookbook collector Jaymie Leighton spies an original 1920s Hoosier brand kitchen cabinet at an estate auction, it’s love at first sight. Despite the protests of her sister that the 19th-century yellow-brick house they share in Michigan is already too cluttered with Jaymie’s “junk,” she successfully outbids the other buyers and triumphantly takes home her Hoosier.

But that night on the summer porch where they’ve left the Hoosier to be cleaned up, a man is murdered, struck on the head with the steel meat grinder that is part of the cabinet. Who is this stranger—and what was he doing on their porch? Does his death have anything to do with the Hoosier?

As the police struggle to determine the man’s identity, Jaymie can’t help doing a little digging on her own. If the murderer isn't found, how will she ever feel safe in her home again?

My Review:
A Deadly Grind is a cozy mystery. It's the first novel in a series. I found the characters engaging and realistic, and they reacted in realistic ways. There was a nice level of detail about the settling and Jaymie's activities. There was some suspense caused by relationship tensions and not knowing how things would turn out.

One main plot was Jaymie coming to terms with how her last boyfriend had hurt her so badly and her starting to realize what she did and didn't want in a man based on that relationship. By the end, she was ready to risk hurt by starting to date again, and she had a better idea of what's worth-while in a man (as in, not just looks). I liked watching this process, and I found her reactions realistic and believable. I also liked how Jaymie realistically reacted to a man being murderer on her porch, though she wasn't going to let her fear and upset run her out of her house.

The mystery started out well as everyone tried to identify who the dead man was and why he was murdered on Jaymie's porch. There were enough clues to know who was involved but not whodunit. Near the end, though, suddenly Jaymie did something stupid. One moment she's, "Gee, I know everyone is after this and someone is willing to kill for it, and the cops will want to know about it, but it's too late to call them (which it wasn't) and I'll reject a sensible offer to get it out of the house and somewhere safe." The next morning, she's "Oh, I kept this so long the police will think I'm withholding evidence, so I'll go plant a garden and keep risking it getting stolen until sometime late this afternoon!" I felt like it was done just so some more exciting events could happen, though the author might have made it believable for me if she'd made Jayme's motives for acting this way more clear at the time she was making these decisions.

The ending also reminded me of Clue (the movie)--it might have happened this way...or this way...but it really happened this way. Though we're given a long explanation of exactly what everyone did and why, I honestly don't remember it since the previous explanation fit the clues better and made more sense to me. I wasn't really satisfied with the whodunit explanation, though it still neatly tied everything up.

There was no explicit sex. There was some explicit bad language and some fake bad language. Overall, I'd recommend the novel for the characters and the fact that the mystery was intriguing.

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:
No one would expect to find a new love at an estate auction, but Jaymie Leighton just had: her heat skipped a beat when she first saw the Indiana housewife's dream. She wasn't in Indiana and she wasn't a housewife, but those were just details. Tall, stately and handsome, if a little worse for wear, the Hoosier stood alone on the long porch of the deserted yellow-brick farmhouse. The hubbub of the crowd melted away as Jaymie mounted the steps, strode down the creaky wooden porch floor and approached, reverently.

"You are so beautiful!" she crooned, stroking the dusty porcelain work top and gently fiddling with the chromed latch of the Hoosier cabinet cupboard, handled by so many generations of housewives before her eager, yet inexperienced, hands touched it. It was a genuine Hoosier, if the metal plate affixed above the top cupboards of the cabinet was to be believed, and she had no cause to doubt it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Big Kitty by Claire Donally

book cover
The Big Kitty
by Claire Donally

ISBN-13: 9780425248027
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: May 1, 2012

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Sunny Coolidge left her New York City newspaper job to go back to Maine and take care of her ailing father. But there’s not much excitement—or interesting work—in Kittery Harbor. So when Ada Spruance, the town’s elderly cat lady, asks for help finding her supposedly-winning lottery ticket, Sunny agrees. But when she arrives at Ada’s, with a stray tomcat named Shadow tagging along, they discover the poor woman dead at the bottom of her stairs. Was it an accident—or did Ada’s death have to do with that missing lottery ticket, which turns out to be worth six million dollars?

Town Constable Will Price suspects the worst. And Sunny’s reporter instincts soon drive her to do some investigating of her own. Even Shadow seems to have a nose for detective work. Following the trail of the purrloined ticket, Sunny and Shadow try to shed some light on a killer’s dark motives—before their own numbers are up...

My Review:
The Big Kitty is a cozy mystery. Though Sunny is supposed to have lived in New York as a reporter for several years, she seems very naive. She's not street smart. She doesn't even know what commonly used abbreviations mean, and someone has to explain these things to her. She didn't think her actions through very well, either. She started off the story doing something that made me think, "Do you want the old lady to be killed?!" yet she rationalized that her actions were going to help the woman. At least no one in the book acted like she was especially clever, and her partner in investigation was "street smart." I found them and the other characters interesting and engaging.

The story had sections from the cat's point of view. I thought that the language--or something about how the cat expressed himself--was a little too human at first, but this got better throughout the story. He was given very cat motives for the things he did, and things were set up very naturally for the cat to act the way he did at the end. I liked the cat.

The mystery wasn't very complex. It was more like in real life, where people have a good idea of whodunit--or at least who was behind it--but not exactly who all was involved. In this case, they also didn't know where the main suspect was, though I thought they were a little slow in considering the possibilities. The suspense was created by physical danger to Sunny and on wondering if the lottery ticket would be found. There was also some relationship tensions.

There was no sex. There was a fair amount of explicit bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel.

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

Excerpt from Chapter One:
[Short bit from the cat's POV] 
Still rubbing her arms, Sunny Coolidge returned to her computer and the latest crisis. She should have been home an hour and a half ago, but that was before some jackass had started acting out on a flight from Paris to Atlanta, getting his plane diverted to the customs and TSA facilities at Pease Airport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Frantic Web searches by stranded passengers in search of nearby accommodations had led to a surge of e-mails at MAX--the Maine Adventure X-perience sites--and Sunny's computer. Since the travel agency here in Kittery Harbor, Maine, was just across the state border and less than five miles from the airport in New Hampshire, she'd gone into overtime matchmaking passengers with local B&Bs, beating the bushes for whatever additional accommodations she could find, and arranging transportation.

Well, at least Ollie--Oliver Barnstable, a.k.a. "Ollie the Barnacle," the owner of MAX--should be happy tomorrow with all the extra revenue. And in spite of the late hour, Sunny was glad to help out the stuck travelers. It made her feel a little less like a mere Web lackey tending the site. When she'd come home to Maine eight months ago to take care of her ailing father, she'd only intended to take a brief leave of absence from her reporter job at the New York Standard. But unfortunately, the sickly state of the newspaper business had led her editor at the Standard to make her absence more permanent.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock

book cover

Covenant Child
by Terri Blackstock

ISBN-13: 9780849943010
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Released: January 1, 2001

Source: Borrow from my local library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Beautiful, three-year-old twins Kara and Lizzie Holbrooke live a charmed life with their widowed but doting father, Jack. When Jack finds love and marries again, it seems all their lives will finally be "happy ever after." That new life shatters when Jack and his wealthy parents are killed in a plane crash. Jack's new wife, Amanda, inherits the family's estate but fails to gain custody of the twins.

Devastated but bound by her covenant to care for the girls, Amanda manages the estate, hopeful she'll be able to return it to Kara and Lizzie one day. Meanwhile, the twins grow up in an abysmal home environment with distant family members and become hard-drinking, shoplifting, promiscuous teenagers.

After years of trying to reach them, Amanda is finally able to offer them love, comfort, wealth--the life they have always wanted. But when all you've known is deprivation, how can you believe a gift of grace? When you've been lied to for so long, how can you ever know the truth?

My Review:
Covenant Child is a Christian general fiction with an underlying allegory to it. The characters were realistic, complex people acting in realistic ways, but sometimes the dialogue wasn't completely natural because of the allegory. Still, I enjoyed the story, and I had a hard time putting down this quick read. The details about the people, their interactions, and the setting brought the story vividly alive in my imagination. I really enjoyed the story for itself and for the underlying allegory.

There was no graphic sex. There was a very minor amount of fake or "he cursed" style of bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this engaging novel.

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

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

First Date by Krista McGee

book cover

First Date
by Krista McGee

ISBN-13: 9781401684884
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: January 10, 2012

Source: An egalley from the publisher sent through NetGalley.

Book Description, my take:
Addy Davidson's uncle and her high school principle convince Addy to enter a reality TV show competition for a prom date with the president's gorgeous teenage son, Jonathon Jackson. She grudging goes but, exasperated with the whole beauty pageant feel of the competition, she impulsively tells Jonathon--on live TV--that she doesn't want to be on the show.

Her comment and way of doing things stand out among the uniformly super-talented, gorgeous girls she's competing against. She gains the attention of the show's watchers as well as the president's son, but most of the other girls hate her. Addy decides that she needs to use this opportunity to show Christ's love to others (like her dead, missionary parents would have done)...and also finds herself increasingly interested in getting to know Jonathon better.

My Review:
First Date is a young adult Christian romance novel, though I suspect younger teens would also like it. The story is loosely based on the biblical story of Esther. The influence was strong enough I recognized the connection, but the story didn't always translate well into a modern setting.

For example, Addy strongly objected to being entered in this competition, but the adults had already entered her without her consent. That didn't seem realistic, nor did some other parts of the story. I also didn't appreciate how the adults in Addy's life manipulated her into joining the competition by telling her that this was God's will for her. It very clearly was their will, though God did use it.

Despite the somewhat rocky beginning, I enjoyed this charming story. The "good guy" characters were fun and engaging, though the "bad guys" were petty cliche. I enjoyed Addy's and Jonathon's romance. Considering how superficial their attraction and relationship could have been, these two still managed to connect based on shared interests and meaningful conversations.

There was a strong Christian element to this story. Addy feels like God is using the experience to grow her, and she prays and occasionally reads her Bible. She's scared about sharing that she's a Christian with people (though, as another character pointed out, it wasn't exactly hard to guess), and she does eventually share her faith. One reaction to this didn't seem realistic, but the others were.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "he cursed" style of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as long as you're not looking for a serious, realistic read.

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

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Silent Pledge by Hannah Alexander

book cover

Silent Pledge
by Hannah Alexander

ISBN-13: 9780764224447
Trade Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Released: January 28, 2001

Source: Bought through

Book Description, modified from Back Cover:
While Knolls Community Hospital is under reconstruction after a fire, Dr. Lukas Bower takes a temporary position in another small town. He soon regrets his decision as he's surrounded by unethical co-workers and a flood of patients--including a drunk motorcycle gang. A patient's baby is kidnapped from her apartment when she's rushed to the hospital and the baby is accidentally overlooked by the ambulance crew. The motorcycle gang is suspected, but Lukas has reasons to believe they're innocent.

Dr. Mercy Richmond wrestles with how to live out her new faith and how to balance the needs of her patients with the needs of her daughter. One of her patients struggles to lose weight while another struggles to put on weight. Another patient's abusive husband is trying to hunt down his run-away wife, and he blames Mercy for his wife leaving him. All of her patients seek a hope that will last through all circumstances.

Mercy longs for Lukas to return, but her ex-husband is trying to win her back...but Mercy and her daughter are still working on just forgiving him.

My Review:
Silent Pledge is Christian general fiction with a lot of suspense. This novel is the third and last in a series, but you can understand this book without having to read the others. This novel did spoil some events in the previous novels, though, and the previous novels are excellent, so I'd recommend starting with Sacred Trust and Solemn Oath.

The characters were interesting, complex, and acted realistically. The various characters dealt with real issues (like spouse abuse, the after-effects of rape, and more). The medical scenes were plentiful. While the technical terms were rarely explained, I could still follow what was going on and the medical details didn't slow the fast pace.

The main characters were Christians. The Christian characters' faith affected their decisions and everyday life, and the Christian elements felt like a natural part of the story. I also felt Christianity was portrayed in a realistic manner, from the struggles the Christians had to the reactions of the non-Christians. If you like faith as a major part of the novels you read, then you'll probably enjoy this novel.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "he cursed" style of bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this suspenseful, realistic novel.

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

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, April 13, 2012

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Hoppy Easter Eggstravagana Giveaway Hop. Including Twitter entries, we had 57 entries. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

who won "Dancing at the Chance"

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

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Crown in the Stars by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow

book cover

A Crown in the Stars
by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow

ISBN-13: 0-8024-1369-2
Trade Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: April 1, 2005

Source: Bought through Books-A-Millions.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Since the death of Nimr-Rada (Nimrod), the people of the Great City have continued to build his enormous Tower. Due to carelessness by her host during a visit to some kinsfolk, Shoshannah is captured by her mother's enemies and is intended to be the lure that brings her mother back into their hands.

Shoshannah is used as a political pawn between the powers that control the city--some want her dead, others want her to serve as priestess to their sun god, and some want to use her to increase their own power. Shoshannah's beloved, Kaleb, comes to rescue her but there appears to be no opportunity until the Most High makes His response to the City's rebellion against Him.

My Review:
A Crown in the Stars is Biblical fiction. It's the third and final book in the series. You can understand this book without first reading the previous books, but it did spoil some events that occurred in the second book. Personally, I enjoyed the first book the most and this book the least in the series (though I did like it), so I'd suggest starting with the first book: The Heavens Before.

One of the things I've enjoyed about this series is that the author stayed true to the information given in the Bible. The author also clearly did her research as to what the culture would have been like, and those details brought the story alive in my imagination.

However, according to ancient chroniclers, the confusion of languages and dispersion happened before Nimrod's death--which also makes sense based on what the Bible says. However, this book had Nimrod dying years before the confusion of languages. I had a hard time getting into the story since I knew events couldn't actually have happened like that (except for her depiction of how the confusion of languages caused the dispersion, which was interesting and possible).

The characters were complex and realistic--even the "bad guys." There was a low level of suspense throughout the story as various characters were in potential physical danger due to the other characters' political scheming.

Shoshannah believed in the Most High, but she questioned why He didn't help her escape her captivity. However, she did come to see how He was protecting her. There was no explicit sex. There was no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting novel.

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

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hoppy Easter Eggstravagana Giveaway Hop

Follower Love Giveaway Hop

As a part of the Hoppy Easter Eggstravagana Giveaway Hop, I'm holding a giveaway for your choice of one of the following books. Please notice that I have not reviewed these books, but they come from an imprint that has minimal to no bad language and "fade to black" sex scenes in their books.

book coverThe Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas is a historical fiction.

Rinette Leslie of Granmuir has the ancient gift of divining the future in flowers, but her gift cannot prepare her for the turmoil that comes when the dying queen regent entrusts her with a casket full of Scotland's darkest secrets. On the very day she means to deliver it to newly crowned Mary, Queen of Scots, Rinette's husband is brutally assassinated. Devastated, Rinette demands justice before she will surrender the casket, but she is surrounded by ruthless men who will do anything to possess it.

book coverDancing at the Chance by DeAnna Cameron is a historical novel.

New York City in 1907 is a kingdom of endless possibilities for anyone who dares to dream. The Gilded Age has ended, and immigrants fill the bustling streets. The glamour of Broadway lures those who desire the limelight...

Pepper MacClair and her mother arrived penniless in New York thirteen years ago, and their fortune has not changed. Pepper dances at The Chance, a rundown venue long past its prime. It is not only Pepper's workplace, but also her home. And as the larger world changes around her and she is pulled into the intrigues of New York's elite, it is her last hope, not only to fulfill her dream, but to fulfill her heart.

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 [give the book name and author's name]."


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.

This giveaway ends on April 12, 2012 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on April 13, 2012 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 Hoppy Easter Eggstravagana Giveaway Hop:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Danger In The Wind by Jane Finnis

book cover

Danger In The Wind
by Jane Finnis

ISBN-13: 9781590588901
Hardcover: 330 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Released: December 6, 2011

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
A fine summer in 100 AD and good government under Trajan Caesar promise well for the Roman settlers in the frontier province of Britannia.

Aurelia Marcella runs an inn on a busy road to York. June is always busy, but one day two unusual events occur: a soldier is murdered in his bed at the inn, and a letter arrives from Isurium, a small fort north of the city. It is from a cousin, Jovina, inviting Aurelia to a midsummer birthday party. But the missive also reads as a plea for help, referring to “danger in the wind.”

The murdered soldier also bore a message, locked in Aurelia’s strongbox, indicating violence would erupt at the very same fort on the day of the party.

At Isurium, Aurelia finds Jovina and her drunken husband and unruly children caught in a tangled web of greed, love, intrigue, and death. When violence engulfs the district, Aurelia suddenly finds herself in peril from enemies engaged in an anti-Roman plot and from family members bent on misguided or evil agendas of their own.

My Review:
Danger In The Wind is a historical mystery set in 100 AD in England. This book is the fourth in the series, but you don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one, and the previous novels are not spoiled if you read this one first.

There was a nice level of cultural and everyday historical detail, and it didn't slow the fast pacing. However, the characters used modern phrases and wordings in the dialogue which tended to break my immersion in the time period.

The characters were engaging, but we didn't get to know them very well. Aurelia was a very practical heroine. Her lover is basically a detective, and they worked together to ask questions and find clues to solve the mystery.

The mystery was of the more realistic sort, where "whodunit" wasn't an unexpected surprise. The problem was sorting through the events and clues to determine which of the "obvious suspects" had done the deed. I wasn't certain whodunit until Aurelia was, though it was technically possible to understand the critical clue before she did. The suspense was partly from the potential physical danger to the main characters and partly from wondering how the whole mystery was going to settle out in the end.

There were no sex scenes (or sex, though affairs were talked about). There was a minor amount of "he cursed" style of bad language. Overall, I would recommend this enjoyable mystery.

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

Excerpt from Chapter One:
The letter arrived at breakfast. It jolted me out of my quiet morning mood and sounded an alarm in my head as shrill as a bugle.

I don't get many letters, and they still give me a childish thrill of excitement. Half the fun is trying to guess who they're from before I look inside. This one gave nothing away: it was an ordinary wooden note-tablet, folded in half and tied with a cord. It was addressed to Aurelia Marcella, the Oak Tree Mansio, coast road from Eburacum, and someone had written URGENT in large black letters above my name. But then everyone does that, even though we all know it makes precious little difference to how quickly the message arrives.

I gave up the guessing game and untied the cord. I was pleased to see the note was from my cousin, and the first few lines were cheerful enough.

Read more using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature.