Monday, October 31, 2016

Susan May Warren's "Wild Montana Skies"

Wild Montana Skies #1When Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Kacey Fairing returns to her hometown following a traumatic tour in Afghanistan, she doesn't want to relive her past mistakes. However, it turns out her childhood sweetheart--and father of her teenage daughter--is home from Nashville, helping his injured dad. Ben King is in a slump in his singing career, and coming home gives him a much-needed escape. But working with the woman who broke his heart is not what he'd been planning on. Nor is the news that she assumed he knew thirteen years ago, a revelation that changes everything for him . . .

I enjoyed the sense of outdoor adventure, with the massive flooding and needing to rescue stranded hikers from the wilderness. I have always enjoyed stories of wilderness survival, and while this one isn't quite that desperate, I can feel the potential for it somewhere in the series.

I've found that I really like stories of reconciliation--where a couple with a past is thrown back together and must find a way to work through what separated them in the first place. It's a wonderful example in world where divorce is so common. I can just imagine the dismay Kacey feels as she watches her daughter following the exact same path she did in her teen years--sneaking off to the same places, being there to rescue her crush, taking comfort from him when her world explodes.

As much as I enjoyed Kacey and Ben's story, I found myself more fascinated with Sierra and Ian's (and then learned after the fact that there's a prequel novella that tells more background on them). And they're definitely what will keep me coming back, since, well, let's just say, not all is wrapped up for them.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Montana Rescue
0.5: "If Ever I Would Leave You"
1. Wild Montana Skies
2. Rescue Me
3. A Matter of Trust
4. Troubled Waters
5. Storm Front
6. Wait for Me (November 2018)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Another Day, Another Dali" by Sandra Orchard - a fun mystery with a quirky cast

#2: Another Day, Another Dali  -     By: Sandra Orchard
When FBI Special Agent Serena Jones takes on a forgery case for her grandmother's friend, she hopes that it will be a simple case of returning a masterpiece they'd recently recovered in a bust, but it turns out the Dali isn't the only painting that has been replaced by a forgery. Between this case, a connection to her grandfather's unsolved murder years before, and another FBI case she's been helping out with, Serena's got a lot to juggle--and a pretty large pool of people who are unhappy with her. At least one of which appears to be out to murder her. But isn't that just a typical day's work for an FBI agent?

I enjoy a good mystery, and this one is plenty mysterious. But even more than the mysteries (both the current art forgery case and the cold case of Serena's murdered grandfather), I love the characters that Orchard has created. All of them are fun and quirky; from Serena's family who are way too good at reading her, to her best friend and her friend's Casanova cousin; to Tanner (who's way more than just a co-worker), to her eccentric apartment neighbors. I'm growing suspicious that there's more to Aunt Martha than meets the eye. And Nate, of course--there's something definitely going on with him. Which brings me to:

Nate or Tanner? Tanner or Nate? Which will it be that she falls in love with? The suspense is killing me. Both are great guys. And every time one of them looks like he's winning, I start feeling sorry for the other one and rooting for him instead. I'm doomed to be disappointed. And thrilled. I'm stuck in the same boat as Serena--I really like both of them. It's good writing to be able to make two very different yet equally appealing heroes.

As Serena's search for her grandfather's murderer--and her indecisive love life--are not yet solved, I am highly looking forward to book three. And for the record, I adore the clever titles in this series.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book. I was not required to make a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Serena Jones Mysteries
1. A Fool and His Monet
2. Another Day, Another Dali
3. Over Maya Dead Body

Friday, October 21, 2016

Connilyn Cossette's "Shadow of the Storm" - at the base of Mount Sinai

#2: Shadow of the Storm  -     By: Connilyn Cossette
Hebrew weaver Shira has struggled with fear since her days of slavery in Egypt. Now wandering in the wilderness with the rest of the Israelites on the way to the Promised Land, Shira discovers her calling: midwifery. But when a birth goes tragically wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her. But could this also be a chance to see her dreams come true?

I really enjoyed this different perspective of the exodus; not from the point of view of the main characters, like Moses and Aaron, but from the unimportant people who are following blindly through the wilderness. How terrifying would it have been when all of sudden the Levites started killing the idol worshipers? Or when God struck down Aaron's sons without most of the people knowing why? The division amongst the different tribes of Israel, the fear of the mixed multitude who came with them--Cossette brings up a lot of points to think about.

Shira is a sweet heroine that I could connect to--we struggle with some similar things, and I can understand her not wanting to ruffle feathers. I'm the same the same way. Dvorah was quite the contrast to her. I can understand why she does what she does--I don't like it, but I can understand it.

There was a lot of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book, coming from the mouths of many characters. My favorite quote, though, is from the midwife Reva:
"We have to endure the storms, dear one, so we know how deep our roots go. So we can appreciate the depths of our strength and the freshness of the gentle breezes afterward." (164) 
Trials are when we see what our faith truly looks like--when we put faith into practice.

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Out from Egypt
1. Counted with the Stars
2. Shadow of the Storm
3. Wings of the Wind

Related series:
Cities of Refuge
1. A Light on the Hill
2. Shelter of the Most High (October 2018)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lynn Austin's "Waves of Mercy" - a profound story about faith and true love

Waves of Mercy  -     By: Lynn Austin
In 1897, Geesje de Jonge is asked to write a memoir about her experience emigrating from the Netherlands to Michigan. As Geesje recalls the events of her past---including the story of her one true love---a young visitor named Anna mourns a broken engagement. What life-altering surprises await the two women before the summer ends?

I know a number of people who don't read fiction. Why waste time on stories when you can be learning more about God through the bible and nonfiction? And they read highly reputable, good works to get to know God better. But for me, of all the books I've read, it's fiction that touches me the most, and what God uses to speak to me. And He had a lot to say through this book.

To be honest, though I enjoyed the story (or stories--both Geesje's and Anna's and how they so beautifully tied together), it's far from my favorite of the author's works. It's much more real-life-ish than romance-novel-ish. Yet even so, I can't deny that it has some powerful things to say; things that I needed to hear and do.

Geesje's work recounting her life--her struggles--is a way she could look back and see how her faith has grown, even through the incredible trials in her life. And even though I fully intend to live another 60-70 years, I felt compelled to do the same (which interrupted my reading, but better to strike while the iron's hot than chicken out later), simply putting my testimony into words on paper. It reminded me of the book of Deuteronomy, when the Israelites recount their journey of the exodus to the Promised Land and all the milestones--both good and bad--along the way. Then they place stones of remembrance in the Jordan before setting off into the new land. This story is Geesje's stone of remembrance.

There is so much one can take home from this novel, about faith, about true love, about the choices we make. Though Geesje's story shows the maturation of her faith, I love her interpretation of it: "It has more to do with God's faithfulness to me than the other way around." Isn't that how it is? God is truly the faithful one in the relationship, not us.

One small thing--I'm not a big fan of present tense stories. Anna and old Geesje (in 1897) have their point of view in the present tense, while Geesje's history is told in the past tense, making it easy to differentiate what year one is reading about. It works, but I still don't love the present tense.

Thank you Bethany House for providing an e-book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Irene Hannon's "Tangled Webs"

Tangled Webs #3In the final Men of Valor book, Finn McGregor, a retired Army Ranger, secludes himself in a remote cabin while trying to recover from a mission gone wrong. Publishing Executive Dana Lewis is staying at the neighboring cabin she inherited from her grandfather. When someone starts vandalizing her property, Finn helps protect her, and they work together to discover who is behind it. As the pranks escalate, it turns out relaxing in the woods is not an option for either one of them.

There's not a hint of mystery with this novel. Just pure suspense. You know the villain is planning on upping the game; you just don't know exactly how or when. Only that it will be soon, and it's going to go from bad to worse.

When reading a Hannon book, you know you can depend on a complex villain as well as complex protagonists. Even so, I was surprised by her incredible characterization of the conflicted sheriff, who is neither a villain nor one of the romantic leads. He's sympathetic. Likeable. A good guy. But he makes some bad choices. It's definitely an example of how even good people can be put into a position of great temptation and fail to run away. The title certainly applies to him.

I liked how Finn and Dana complemented each other; both have recently been through a traumatic experience, and it helps them understand each other--a safe person to open up too. I highly enjoyed Finn's interactions with his brothers; they definitely acted like family--both loving and annoying. Buried Secrets is still my favorite of the trilogy, but I enjoyed this conclusion to the series.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Men of Valor
1. Buried Secrets
2. Thin Ice
3. Tangled Webs

Monday, October 10, 2016

"Newton and Polly" by Jody Hedlund - How "Amazing Grace" came to be story of John Newton's journey to grace and the woman who loved him:

From the moment he sets eyes on Polly Catlett, John Newton is smitten. But for all his family ties and how much the devout Polly likes his back, his recklessness and disregard for both responsibility and authority take him far from her side and into utter depravity. When grace finally leads him home, will his love still be waiting?

As I've come to expect from the author, Hedlund has really done her research for writing this novel. It may be fiction, but it's stretched over the framework of John Newton's life leading up to his marriage.

For all that he is the author of the famous song "Amazing Grace," I had a hard time liking John Newton for the majority of the novel. He's charming, to be sure, but all that charm was wasted on me when I realized how utterly irresponsible he is. For whatever reason, I found his slave-trading to be more forgivable than his complete disregard for commitment and authority. To be fair, John finds grace by the end and turns his life around, but his downward spiral for most of the story was painful to read about. Polly is sweet, but she is not without flaws either, though hers were less frustrating to me than John's.

I can understand the challenge of writing a romance in which the main characters spend such little time together over the course of eight years, but it was believably depicted, and still managed to be romantic. It isn't my favorite of the author's novels, but it has a powerful message about God's grace--the story of the prodigal son could just as well as have been written with John Newton in mind.

Thank you Blogging for Books for providing a free book to review. I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Other novels by Jody Hedlund based on historical couples:
Luther and Katharina (Martin and Katharina Luther)
Rebellious Heart (John and Abigail Adams - 2nd US president)
The Doctor's Lady (Marcus and Narcissa Whitman - one of the first two white woman to cross the Rocky Mountains)
The Preacher's Bride (John and Elizabeth Bunyan)

Friday, October 7, 2016

"The Captive Heart" by Michelle Griep

The Captive HeartWhen English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies, her indenture is not purchased by the wealthy Charles Towne employer she expected, but by a rough backwoodsman looking for a mother for his child. In the choice between imprisonment and marriage, Eleanor chooses marriage, but frontier life is not what she'd been brought up to handle. Nor is marriage to a murderer.

When I read a historical novel, I always enjoy learning something new, and this time I was immersed in colonial South Carolina--a state (or should I say, colony) that receives little attention in the events leading up the Revolutionary War. Maybe because it was pretty backwater and frontier justice ruled the area. Politics aren't usually my thing, but I did appreciate learning a little more about the British and Americans and their fight to woo the Indians to their side; in this case, it was over the Cherokee. I had actually heard of Dragging Canoe, so it was fun to see a name I recognized.

I liked Samuel--he's smart, strong, and wounded--but I did get frustrated with his lack of communication. He's really bad about telling his wife anything, and that means she doesn't know where she stands with him, she doesn't understand what he's doing, and she suspects things that are entirely false. But, to be fair, she doesn't exactly take these concerns to him, either. Communication is key to any relationship!

I enjoyed the secondary characters quite a bit, especially Biz and Molly, Eleanor's friends from the passage. They make an unusual crew, the three of them, but I wouldn't mind hearing more of their stories. I set my expectations a little too high for this one, but it was still good.

Thank you Barbour and NetGalley for providing an e-book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Christian Fiction releases for October 2016!

A fair variety in the new books coming out in September, from historical to suspense to contemporary romance:

#2: Shadow of the Storm The Captive Heart Waves of Mercy

Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette (Bethany House) - Out from Egypt, book 2

The Israelites have fled Egypt and are wandering in the wilderness, when a wounded Hebrew midwife finds her calling.

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep (Barbour)

A woman fleeing England discovers her only hope for salvation is to become colonial bride--but can she really marry a murderer?

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin (Bethany House)

After breaking her engagement for her newfound faith, a Chicago socialite retreats to Holland MI, where an old Dutchwoman recounts her life story for town's semi-centennial. One young man, seeing the parallels in their journeys, seeks to bring the two together to a place where past and present collide.

#2: Another Day, Another Dali Tangled Webs #3

Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard (Revell) - Serena Jones Mysteries, book 2

FBI Special Agent Serena Jones takes on a case of a forged Dali as a favor for her grandmother, little expecting the trouble--and extensive forgery ring--it will lead to.

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon (Revell) - Men of Valor, book 3

Seeking peace after a disastrous military mission ends his career, a former army ranger settles in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, only to discover his neighbor, nursing wounds of her own, is the target of an escalating assailant.

Can't Help Falling #2: Home on the Range
Contemporary Romance:

Can't Help Falling by Kara Isaac (Howard Books)

After one of her stories results in tragedy, a former tabloid reporter flees to Oxford to revive a dying charity in recompense. There she meets a former champion rower, who shares a common love of Narnia, but will that love be enough to overcome the pain of reality?

Home on the Range by Ruth Logan Herne (Waterbrook/Multnomah) - book 2

A single dad intent on raising his daughters on the family ranch discovers something isn't going right when the girls start having trouble in school. A former family therapist gets dragged into the problem by her sister, the principal--and it may be that more than just the little girls will get the help they need.