Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sarah Sundin's "When Tides Turn" - a spectacular series finale

When Tides Turn (Waves of Freedom, #3)Gorgeous Quintessa Beaumont is tired of being valued for nothing but her looks, and, determining to do her part in the war, joins the newly established WAVES. Lieutenant Dan Avery, married to the navy, has no desire to be distracted by a beautiful woman like Tess--they're only trouble. All he wants is to get back to sea the moment his desk duty is up. But when Tess is assigned to his office and he really gets to know the woman beneath the beautiful facade, his well-laid plans start to steer off course . . .

Though it seems impossible given how much I loved the first book in the series, I just might like When Tides Turn a smidgen more. Both are spectacular. Once again, Sundin takes us deep into the historical details of the war, with fun and engaging characters to guide us. After a recent weekend playing the boardgame Axis and Allies, I found the battles more interesting than usual, and I was picturing the movements of the various ships and u-boats on the giant world map as I read.

Dan is the best--he's stoic, stubborn, and a workaholic (definitely a work in progress), but I love his subtle humor and that honorable streak that his conscience won't let him deny. He grows so much over the course of the story, though I loved him from the get-go. Tess, too, is a great character; she's fun without being flighty, sensitive yet sensible. Whether plain or stunning, it's a rare woman who doesn't struggle with feelings of worth, and beautiful Tess is no different. They make a very complementary pair, and it plays out well in everything they do, even in sketching drawings.

There was a lot of food for thought in this book. I loved the analogy of Sabbath rest as a form of tithe. In tithing, one keeps 90% of one's income and gives the Lord 10%, and it is an exercise in trusting the Lord. In the story, Tess says, "It's the same with time. God gives us a week and says, 'Work hard on six days, give me one day for your worship and rest, and trust me to meet your needs out of those six days.' Choosing to rest is an exercise in trust." (location 3375). In fact, the story has a lot of good points about the importance of a day of rest, and in our busy American culture, I think they're more relevant than ever before. Sundin doesn't stop with just the Sabbath, but takes the story further into trusting God even when there seems to be no hope.

A wonderful finale to the series! 5 stars!

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Waves of Freedom
1. Through Waters Deep
2. Anchor in the Storm
3. When Tides Turn

Friday, March 24, 2017

Karen Witemeyer's "Worth the Wait"

Worth the Wait (Ladies of Harper's Station): A Ladies of Harper's Station Novella - eBook  -     By: Karen Witemeyer
Shopkeeper for women's colony in Texas, Tori Adams is working on expanding her business to bring in more income for the ladies whose goods she is selling. This means going against her preferences and accepting the help of a man--Ben Porter--to drive her freight from farm to farm. Ben knows when a critter--be it animal or human--has been abused, and brave, beautiful Tori shows all the signs. Will this new partnership be the opportunity he has been looking for to win her heart?

"Worth the Wait" has Witemeyer's characteristic blend of humor and heart, and if anything, they're more intensified in this short novella. There were some pretty funny moments involving a little boy and appropriate terminology regarding bodily functions. For a novella, it addresses some pretty intense subjects, but at the same time, there's some intense healing happening too. While I always prefer the longer books, this still makes a nice interlude between novels--don't have to wait as long for the next book, and it provides another fun opportunity to learn more about the ladies of Harper's Station!

Ladies of Harper's Station
1. No Other Will Do
1.5: "Worth the Wait"
2. Heart on the Line
2.5 "The Love Knot" - found in the Hearts Entwined novella collection

Monday, March 20, 2017

"A Secret Courage" by Tricia Goyer--spies and counterspies

A Secret Courage (The London Chronicles #1)Emma Hanson, a photograph interpreter working for British intelligence, is doing her part to end the war as quickly as possible so that no more boys get killed, like her brother the year before. A seemingly chance encounter with an engaging stranger at a London bookstore, though, proves to be a distraction for the otherwise work-obsessed WAC. Will Fleming's job--running a spy ring and flushing out other spies--leaves little room for personal entanglements, but Emma catches his eye, and she is the in he needs to infiltrate her place of employment. But will the secrets they hold for their country be too much for a relationship?

I loved learning about the intelligence work that went into the war. I had no idea that the Allies sent planes over Germany purely to photograph the land, while a host of intelligencers were sitting back home interpreting each bit of camouflage and shadow that the photos revealed. I can't imagine how difficult it would be not to let things slip--not even to coworkers! If I were in Emma's shoes, I'm not sure if I could stand the pressure, especially when falling in love with someone who has no part in the work. I enjoyed watching Emma's spiritual growth; we all need God's work in our lives--even  pretty put-together people like Emma.

Figuring out exactly what Will's role is was a little confusing. Would he be a triple agent? He has a cover as a British artist as he runs a German spy ring that he set up as a British agent for the purpose of controlling the information that gets sent to Germany. A British spy pretending to be a German spy pretending to be an innocent Brit. It's a smart way to control the flow of information, not to mention being able to keep tabs on the German spies in place. Better the enemy you know than the one you don't! But it is a concept that's a little hard to wrap one's head around.

As much as I didn't like it, I also appreciated the consequences of Emma's choices. However, I feel like the story ended a little prematurely--not that things weren't basically resolved, but it felt very abrupt. I wouldn't have minded an epilogue or something just to know that things for sure turn out all right--there's still another year of war to survive, after all. However, it was an enjoyable story.

Thank you Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book to review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cara Putman's "Beyond Justice" - an exciting legal thriller

Beyond Justice (Hidden Justice #1)After yet another brilliant win in the courtroom, Hayden McCarthy is handed the case that could make or break her law career. But nothing is adding up about this case, and the partners of the law firm are acting erratically at best over it. With some creative help from her roommate and Emilie's distracting cousin Andrew, she keeps the case alive. But someone out there wants this case shut down, and they're not above violence to do it.

I always enjoy learning something new in a book, though in this case, it was how little I actually know and understand about lawyers. I definitely didn't understand all the terms for parts of the legal process, but it didn't really dampen my enjoyment of the novel; it was clear when things were going well for Hayden and when they weren't. When she was pushing for a particular meeting, I rooted for her, and when she was being stonewalled, I felt her frustration. So even if you don't understand legalese, it's a good story.

I liked how the author brings social justice to the forefront, raising awareness about illegal immigration, but in aspects of it that I've never thought of before--namely, the juveniles who cross the border and get caught. What happens to kids who are caught? How are they treated? How are they reconnected with their families? Do the children receive justice? Though many of these questions aren't answered, it's a big step that they are even being asked.

The prequel novella didn't thrill me, but the author nailed this book. The suspense, investigative work, and various threats to both Hayden and Andrew, as well as friendships and romance, are all woven skillfully together in a story that's hard to put down. This perfectly fit the bill of the legal thriller I was looking for.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Hidden Justice
0.5: Dying for Love
1. Beyond Justice
2. Imperfect Justice
3. Delayed Justice (2018)

Monday, March 13, 2017

"A Stolen Heart" by Amanda Cabot - a sweet Texas romance

A Stolen Heart  -     By: Amanda Cabot
Lydia Crawford arrives in Texas to marry her fiance, only to discover him missing and the man's pregnant wife frantic with worry. Dreams crushed, she has nothing to return to in New York, so she stays in Cimarron Creek--a small town where not everyone has moved past the Civil War, though it has been over for fifteen years. Thankfully, Sheriff Travis Whitfield is intent on making her welcome, placing her under the generous wing of his great aunt. Will Lydia, a Yankee, find a place here in the South?

For the most part it's a gentle love story, as Lydia learns how to get past the disappointment of a broken heart and move on. I especially liked her relationship with Opal and the lessons she learned by befriending her; it takes even more character than dealing with certain prejudiced people who haven't got past the Civil War [cough cough, Travis's dad].

Aunt Bertha is a dear--one of those great characters who steals the show from the principal leads. I really liked the supporting cast in general, especially Catherine and Opal (and Bertha, of course). I'm pleased to see it looks like book two will be about Catherine. And even though he's largely a gruff old curmudgeon, Travis's dad cracked me up in his constant reference of Lydia as the "Cursed Enemy." Pretty big title for a girl who was barely born at the start of the war.

There is some mystery and danger, keeping Travis hopping in his role as sheriff. I was pleased to have figured out the villain, though I was disappointed that the person has a villain-reveals-all moment. So many villains in stories would have a decent chance at succeeding if they just kept their mouths shut.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Cimarron Creek
1. A Stolen Heart
2. A Borrowed Dream

Friday, March 10, 2017

"A Lady in Disguise" by Sandra Byrd - a Gothic suspense

A Lady in Disguise (Daughters of Hampshire, #3)In this Gothic suspense, Gillian Young, a seamstress and costumer for Drury Lane, is disturbed when, shortly following her father's funeral, word comes out that he was corrupt policeman. Not wanting to believe the allegations that even his friends on the force are convinced of, she begins investigating his death on her own. However, each step she takes seems to bring more threats and danger to not only herself, but the girls she has hired as apprentice seamstresses. Who can she trust? A dashing viscount, who may have ulterior motives regarding her property, or an old friend on the force, whose father appears to be a threat himself?

I generally consider myself fairly well educated in history and period detail, but I learned a surprising amount about Victorian England in this book, from missions, to children's theatre, to Victorian era human trafficking. It's all woven together in a delightfully menacing plot.

Gillian is a strong heroine. Having done costuming and taken in commissions myself, I really enjoyed that she is not only a seamstress, but an independent business woman, not dependent on anyone (save occasional employers). Thanks to her profession (and, to a degree, her heritage) she is able to travel some between classes, though she herself is rooted in the middle class. I can't imagine the devastation as it feels like the world is conspiring to take everything away from her, yet she remains strong and compassionate throughout.

I enjoyed the allusions to classic literature and fairy tales; it was a fun change to see Little Women take a prominent place in the story. Over all, it was an enjoyable suspense.

Thank you Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Daughters of Hampshire
1. Mist of Midnight
2. Bride of a Distant Isle
3. A Lady in Disguise

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mary Connealy's "Long Time Gone" - the saga continues

Long Time GoneWhen Justin Boden's brother gets shot during an assault on their family over a decades-old secret, they call in the doctor, who brings along a pretty city girl to assist him. Though the threat continues on the Boden family, Justin can't help his attraction to the delicate Angie Dupree, and with as much time as she's spending there nursing his brother back to health, she's caught up in their family's problems too. Can Justin protect her from the danger coming their way? And will they be able to figure out who's out to steal their ranch from under them?

I'd forgotten some of what had happened in the first book of the series, and it was helpful to go back and skim some to refresh my memory. Being as the entire series is focused on a single family and an assault against their ranch, these books are pretty closely tied together, and I'd recommend reading the previous books first.

I really enjoy the family dynamics in this series; the siblings really act like siblings, squabbles and all. There's a definite brotherly rivalry between Justin and Cole, with comments about how one of Justin's favorite activities includes punching his big brother, yet there's definitely strong love too. With such an extensive history of squabbles, they tend to fall back on their old habits of annoying each other to express that love rather than a sudden sentimentality. I get it--there are just some siblings you can't get too sentimental with, or they'll assume something is really wrong, and it's easier to fall back on old habits than to change too fast.

I really liked how the author took Angie--a proper, obedient, quiet, city girl--and proved that anyone, when faced with danger, can be brave. And just because one is trapped in unfamiliar surroundings doesn't mean that one has to be helpless. Angie may not know much about the New Mexican wilderness or defending herself, but she makes good use of common sense, and that goes a long way. She's the kind of heroine I like best--the kind that balances femininity with intelligence and bravery, who's willing to both help and accept help.

As usual, lots of humor and fun writing. I look forward to the conclusion to the series!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Cimarron Legacy
0.5:  "The Boden Birthright" (free e-novella prequel)
1. No Way Up
2. Long Time Gone
3. Too Far Down 

Kincaid Brides (related series)
0.5: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (a related prequel)
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep
3. Over the Edge

"The Tangled Ties that Bind" (novella in Hearts Entwined)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 2017 Christian Fiction releases!

Lots of releases for March 2017!
Long Time Gone (The Cimarron Legacy, #2) A Stolen Heart (Cimarron Creek Trilogy #1) To the Farthest Shores
Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy (Bethany House); Cimarron Legacy, book 2

The Boden family fights to keep their ranch after a decades-old secret comes to light.

A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot (Revell); Cimarron Creek, book 1

When a Yankee woman heads south to meet her fiance in Texas, she discovers not only intense prejudice, but also that her fiance has disappeared--and left behind a pregnant wife.

To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House)

After leaving his fiancee six years earlier, a naval officer returns needing her help--but he can't tell her anything about where he'd gone, lest it endanger the mission he is still carrying out.

The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)

Teaming up with the FBI, an eccentric illusionist works to prove the innocence of a charlatan mystic who has been accused of murder.

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin (Revell); Waves of Freedom, book 3

When a WAVE discovers a possible spy ring on shore, she turns to a friend's brother, a Navy lieutenant, for help.

The Illusionist's Apprentice When Tides Turn (Waves of Freedom, #3) Murder Is No Accident (Hidden Springs Mystery #3) 
Contemporary Mystery:

Murder is No Accident by Ann H Gabhart (Revell); Hidden Springs Mysteries, book 3

At first glance, a dead body in an abandoned Victorian mansion looks like the result of an accident, but clues are pointing in another direction.