Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jen Turano's "Behind the Scenes" - high jinks and hilarity

Behind the Scenes (Apart from the Crowd, #1)
In the midst of Alva Vanderbilt's society event of the century, Miss Permilia Griswold, a wallflower, has no plans but to take notes for her secret job as Miss Quill, a society columnist. However, little at the ball goes right for her, and in the course of helping a friend, she overhears a death threat against the highly eligible Asher Rutherford. When Asher doesn't take the threat seriously, Permilia takes matters into her own hands to keep him safe.

You know it's a good book when people come asking why you're laughing. Mostly it's the author's turn of phrase and ability to stick characters in crazy situations (the dumbwaiter scene is great), but this time the historical fancy dress ball of Alva Vanderbilt was sufficiently bizarre as to provide details full of humor on their own. Like costumes made with taxidermied cat heads and tails, or battery operated electric lights in the dress (in 1883, when electrical safety was not quite as much a thing).

I'm always so glad that the author uses recurring characters (or gives them their own book)--be they main characters or supporting, Turano excels at writing quirky, lovable characters. Permilia is fun, especially after getting a taste of her personality in "At Your Request," but I can't wait to read more about Gertrude and her highly suspect employer, Miss Davenport, in the next book.

Mora. Miss Kate Fearing Strong
(later Mrs. Arthur Welman). 1883.
Museum of the City of New York.
If you're in need of a laugh, look no farther. The book doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's not without heart.

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

Apart from the Crowd
0.5: "At Your Request"
1. Behind the Scenes
2. Out of the Ordinary
3. Caught by Surprise (August 2018)

Friday, April 21, 2017

"A Stranger at Fellsworth" by Sarah E. Ladd

A Stranger at Fellsworth (Treasures of Surrey, #3)Fleeing her controlling brother's plans for her life, Annabelle Thorley imposes on the kindness of a stranger, Owen Locke, to escort her to her estranged uncle in Surrey, with whom she takes refuge. For the first time in her life Annabelle has to work for a living, and it is a rude awakening. With a small daughter at the school, Owen finds himself spending more and more time with the woman he rescued, and with a shot at purchasing neighboring land, he finally feels reason to hope. But the peace they've found is tenuous--there are poachers in the woods, strange doings at the school, and Annabelle's brother and his cronies could descend at any minute to shatter their hopes for the future.

The story was over really quickly, and I'm still trying to decide if I'd have liked it drawn out and developed more (as there were things I would have enjoyed expansion on), or if the fast-paced plot makes it more appealing. Even by the end, I'm not sure that Annabelle is actually prepared for her life in reduced circumstances, and that is the biggest thing that should have been more strongly addressed.

I enjoyed Owen's position as a gamekeeper--it's something new and different. Annabelle and her maid's relationship went in a different direction than I was expecting, which kept things interesting as well. I wouldn't have minded a little more time with her uncle--he is a different fellow, and some of the things he lets slip about his sister (Annabelle's mother) and his tough love practices are quite interesting.

It wasn't a story that held me riveted at all times, but neither did I feel like I had to work to get through it. It's pretty fast-paced.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Treasures of Surrey

Monday, April 17, 2017

"The White Feather Murders" by Rachel McMillan

The White Feather Murders (Herringford and Watts Mysteries #3)With Great Britain preparing to enter the Great War against Germany, Canada is in an uproar, and unrest towards immigrants abounds. As Toronto institutes policies against the immigrant population, including Jem's husband Ray Deluca, a murderer begins targeting members of a club that focuses on integrating the recent immigrants into society. Can Merinda and Jem find the murderer before becoming targets themselves?

The final Herringford & Watts mystery is as humorous as the others as Merinda and Jem once more work to keep Toronto safe.

The author does a good job of making Ray and Jem's marriage realistic--just because they're married with a child doesn't mean they have everything figured out. I don't like to see conflict in marriage, which dimmed my enjoyment a trifle, but to give credit where it's due, their struggle to balance careers and family is portrayed realistically and is still plenty relevant today.

For all the fear-mongering over the impending war, the story is light and entertaining. I don't think it's a shining example of the ladies' detective work, as they have a tendency to jump to conclusions with little support for their theories. I was enjoyed learning who the villain was, but disappointed with the ladies for running after the person without a plan or backup. Not that either was really necessary--once again, the villain gives up the upper hand to run their mouth and Reveal All. Truly clever villains are so few and far between.

Thank you Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book to review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Herringford & Watts Mysteries
1. The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder
1.25-ish: "A Singular and Whimsical Problem" (novella taking place in Dec 1910, during the events of Bachelor Girl, but a separate case only briefly mentioned)
1.5:  "Of Dubious and Questionable Memory" (novella)
2. A Lesson in Love and Murder
2.5: "Conductor of Light" (short story)
3. The White Feather Murders

Friday, April 14, 2017

Becky Wade's "Then Came You" - a unique novella

Then Came You (Bradford Sisters Romance #0.5)In the prequel to Becky Wade's upcoming series, Garner Bradford has just become a single father to an infant girl. With a shattered heart, a family company to consume him, and a child he doesn't know what to do with, he feels lost and broken. Meanwhile, career girl Kathleen Burke settles for a job at Bradford Shipping, waiting for her dream job to open up in New York, yet several years later, she's still stuck in Washington. The main perk is her boss, Garner Bradford, whose tragic life and beautiful eyes may have captured her heart. But with his past and her future goals, will they have anything beyond the present?

The story is pieced together from journal entries, phone messages and conversations, and letters, some sent, others not, making for a unique way of telling the story. I loved that just their words were able to bring out the personalities of all the characters, not just of Garner and Kathleen, and they (especially's Kathleen's letters and messages) conveyed a lot of humor. While the epistolary approach is not one I'd care to read all the time, it is perfect for this story, and it completely captured my attention.

Garner's story, though, was surprisingly moving for a short novella. He makes mistakes, does things that aren't okay by Christian standards. But through his journal entries, he shows a lot of growth and maturation.

It took me a while to figure out how the story precisely ties in to (or rather, sets up) the upcoming series, as I didn't notice any dates early on. But by the end I figured it out, and I'd love to see how Garner's story will affect the three girls in the upcoming books. I'm really looking forward to book one!

Bradford Sisters
0.5: "Then Came You"
1. True to You 
2. Falling for You

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Pursued" by Lisa Harris

Pursued #3   -     By: Lisa Harris
Missing Persons Investigator Nikki Boyd is on a plane that crashes upon landing at the airport. In the aftermath of the wreck, Nikki can't find the woman who'd been seated next to her, and no one can remember if--or will admit that--she was ever there. When information comes to light that she was being flown in as a key witness to a grand jury trial, Nikki suspects that the woman is fleeing from trouble--unless she's at the heart of it.

The first 48 hours are the most critical.

With the entire book taking place in little over 48 hours, it is comprised of non-stop action and danger. After all that Nikki goes through in the first 24 hours (never mind the second), it's amazing she can function at all. I just can't believe, after all the physical and psychological trauma she goes through, that her superiors would allow her to remain on the case, not with the FBI and the rest of the missing persons task force on the case. Even if she is great at her job, she's not the only one able to do it. While it keeps things moving, I feel like it would have had more impact if not quite so many (and so varied) life-threatening disasters befell her.

The personal news Nikki receives after the crash is one more vicious blow, but it at least adds a poignant note to the story and pushes her to be vulnerable with her almost-boyfriend Tyler--something she is not accustomed to being in her everyday life of law enforcement.

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

Nikki Boyd Files
1. Vendetta
2. Missing
3. Pursued
4. Vanishing Point

Friday, April 7, 2017

"To the Farthest Shores" by Elizabeth Camden

To the Farthest Shores  -     By: Elizabeth Camden
Thanks to his unusual upbringing and language skills, Lt. Ryan Gallagher was chosen for a secret overseas mission that destroyed his reputation and broke his beloved Jenny Bennett's heart. When Ryan returns six years later, Jenny is unprepared to deal with the emotions of his return, and due to the secrecy of the mission, Ryan can't share why he left her. Now he believes he may have found the solution to his situation, which would put him back in the States for good, but it means bringing Jenny and her nursing skills in to help. But will she be willing to face the heartache of working with him?

I have to say, the book didn't go in the direction I'd expected from reading the back blurb (which, by the way, accurately describes the book--I just interpreted it incorrectly). There was less suspense than I'd anticipated, but it was balanced by interesting subject matter. I greatly enjoy learning about different cultures, and the Japanese aspect is an interesting twist. Camden never fails to bring out in depth new and interesting topics--especially cultures--in her books.

I have to admit, I really liked Finn; maybe not as much in the beginning, but he grew on me. Ryan was a great guy--dense as all get-out, though sweet--but Finn has the harder road to travel and the most growth. He comes mighty close to upstaging Ryan. I would nominate him for best supporting (though not always supportive) character. And as much as I liked him, I also appreciated his decidedly non-romantic relationship with Jenny. They're fun to watch together because of their professional relationship, though I'd say it comes closer to friendship by the end.

There wasn't as much of a spiritual thread in this book as in others, though there is a lot about working through forgiveness--both of others and of self.

For the record, I will gladly take a book about Finn. Can't resist a good spy.

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

Since it came up, here are some of Camden's other multicultural novels:
Romanian - The Rose of Winslow Street
Greek - Against the Tide
Polish - Into the Whirlwind
Dutch - Until the Dawn

Monday, April 3, 2017

April 2017 Christian Fiction Releases!

April promises some interesting reads--from romantic comedy to suspense, WWII to legal thriller.

Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano (Bethany House);  Apart from the Crowd, book 1

Thanks to her secret job as a notorious gossip columnist, a society wallflower overhears a threat to one of New York's finest bachelors, so she takes it upon herself to warn the man.

A Secret Courage by Tricia Goyer (Harvest House); London Chronicles, book 1

A WWII photograph analyst working for British cryptography finds herself falling for an artist, but the man is far more than he seems.

Behind the Scenes (Apart from the Crowd, #1) A Secret Courage (The London Chronicles #1) Pursued (Nikki Boyd Files #3)
Beyond Justice (Hidden Justice #1)
Pursued by Lisa Harris (Revell); Nikki Boyd, book 3

Nikki Boyd's flight is routine until it crash lands at the airport. The dust clears only to reveal the woman next to her has vanished, and no one will admit that she ever existed.

Beyond Justice by Cara Putman (Thomas Nelson); Hidden Justice, book 1

In this legal thriller, a young attorney is given the case that could make or break her career--but could breaking it be the intention of her law firm?