Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tapestry of Secrets - Sarah Loudin Thomas


A Tapestry of Secrets is both the conclusion and the prequel to the Appalachian Blessings series.  Blending together Perla's story in the present, and her look back into the past, as she attempts to convey her life's story and lessons to her daughter and granddaughter, this book fills in the questions raised by Perla's mysterious appearance in Wise, West Virginia, so many years ago.  Who is Sadie's father? What makes a family?  How do we convey the lessons we've learned to the people we love, while allowing them to learn their own lessons?

Ella has come home for several reasons, to escape her former fiancee, and to assist her grandmother as she recovers from a stroke.  As she spends more time at home, she is forced to examine why she's there, and what she wants her life to be.  There's a section in the book where she "thought about how Jesus told His followers again and again that He would be back.  But they didn't understand.  [She] sympathized with them.  She might have a knack for understanding people, yet she knew how easy it was to miss hearing God's voice when blinded by the world."  Therein lies the truth and depth of this novel; Ella has to be able to search for God by herself, without allowing all of her fears and reservations and ties to this world to deafen her to His voice.

I read that this novel was actually written first, but took the author years and a complete rewrite to publish.  While it stands alone as a well-written book, it doesn't have the flavor of the other two to wrap it into the series; there are no carryover characters, apart from family, and it doesn't touch as much on the supernatural gifts that the other novels center on.  There is an allusion or two to Perla's gift with food, but it is easily overlooked.  Several times, Ella's "knack" for understanding her grandmother without words is key to their communication, yet it's never the focus.  It almost feels that this book could be read first or last, as its timeline fits in both places, and there's a slightly disjointed feel with its focus.

I still really enjoyed this book, and I give it 4 stars.  I am looking forward to the author's next release that she's already previewing on her website.

You can find A Tapestry of Secrets HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a copy of this e-book, via NetGalley, from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

To Have and to Hold - Three Autumn Love Stories



This collection of wedding novellas includes:
Love Takes the Cake, by Betsy St. Amant
The Perfect Arrangement, by Katie Ganshert
Love in the Details, by Becky Wade

Three authors join together in this autumn-themed collection of short, romantic wedding stories.  In Love Takes the Cake, Charlotte finds herself baking for a wedding involving the worst Bridezilla she's encountered, but also giving her the chance to interact with her mysterious weekly patron.  Is he available or isn't he?  Should she even be wondering, because he doesn't look safe, and "safe" is what she wants, isn't it? Amelia finds herself literally running into a handsome man in The Perfect Arrangement, and somehow that invites him into her life more than she intended.  What will happen if he finds out just how intertwined their lives are?  In Love in the Details, Holly is coordinating a wedding where her ex-boyfriend, her high school sweetheart, is the best man.  Having broken up with him years ago, under false pretenses, what kind of interactions can she expect?  Should she let her heart get more involved?

This collection involved some of my favorite romance authors, and I jumped at the chance to review it.  I probably shouldn't have jumped quite so quickly, as it turned out I had already read two of the three novellas!  I guess I'm consistent in my author choices.  Despite the slight disappointment of 2/3 of the book not being new, I enjoyed the book anyway.

Novellas are a difficult genre for me to enjoy; either there isn't enough time to develop the characters well, or the characters are well done and the story feels too short.  These three stories, however, manage to create well-rounded characters, and feel complete within their limited space.  Of course, it doesn't mean I wouldn't love to read longer novels with these characters!  In particular, I would love to see Will and Charlotte take on life together, and to see how their difficult backgrounds play out in their life as a family.  I really loved Nate and Amelia's e-mail exchanges, and would enjoy reading more of their movie-banter references.  Also - who was the mystery man for real?!  Holly and Josh's story served pretty well as a stand-alone, but how would their lives change going forward?

I give this collection 5 stars; short, easy to read, yet complete, this is a great book for some light, fun reading.

You can find the authors:
Besty St. Amant HERE
Katie Ganshert HERE
Becky Wade HERE

All three authors have active social media presences, and I recommend you follow them!

You can find To Have and to Hold HERE.

I received this e-book, via NetGalley, from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

The Domino Effect


"Esther unfolded the paper and read silently, 'Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?'"

Esther Larsen is a brilliant mathematician; she fought her way into college at 14, and graduated with dual degrees at 17.  For the past nine years, she has turned her amazing gifts into a job as a top risk analyst for one of the country's largest banks.  In her own time, she gathers data and analyzes the implications.  Now, she begins to fear what those implications mean for the country, and the global economy as a whole.  Does she risk speaking up?  Will anyone believe her?  Like her biblical namesake, has she been brought here for "such a time as this"?

Books with brilliant heroines are an immediate draw for me.  Esther is above and beyond even the typical gifted character, if there is such a thing.  The world of banking and investments and economies is completely over my head, and yet, this book is so well written, and the characters so well drawn, that it didn't matter.  I felt their tension, and their fear (perhaps a bit too much, sometimes!), and I was completely engaged in their journey, even though I didn't understand even a fraction of what they were afraid of.  I actually had to put the book aside for a short time, to let my own fears generated by the book subside!  But the author draws his characters together so well, and they come to care for each other in such honest ways, that I had to come back to them to find out how they fared.

I give this book 4 stars - if you're interested in the banking world, I'm sure you'll love it even more, but even if you don't know what an algorithm is, you'll still find plenty in this story to enjoy. I have read several of Davis Bunn's books in the past, and have found them all equally engaging.

You can find The Domino Effect HERE.
You can connect with the author on Facebook HERE.
You can also connect with him on Twitter HERE.


I received a copy of this book form Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Song of Silence - Cynthia Ruchti


Lucy is not just another music teacher; she's a music teacher driven by passion for music, as well as facing the challenge of engaging kids and helping them to appreciate music whatever their initial point of view.  Not only that, but she is carrying on the legacy of her father, who started the music program at Willowcrest.  Now, facing forced early retirement, she's left floundering, without a known purpose in life.  How does she handle the loss of her passion and identity, while dealing with a husband who's happy to have her home and grown children who suddenly need her again?  Does music even fit into this new life of hers?  What about when a deaf woman and her autistic son suddenly are added to the mix? Where is God and the gift He's given her now?

There were so many vibrant characters and poignant storylines in this book that it's difficult to know where to begin.  Lucy faced such a daunting journey of learning whether her job made her important in people's lives, or whether the person she was in that job surpassed the position and could continue to change people's lives for the better.  Finding new ways to improve her marriage, even at 56 years old, was daunting to her, and I appreciated the interactions with her therapist and her book club, HHATT (He's Home ALL the Time).  It was a good mix of humor at their husbands' lack of awareness to their true needs and feeling, but their own awareness that their husbands were good men, doing the best they could to show their wives they loved them.  Lucy's husband, Charlie, was a good representation of this paradox - throwing Lucy an unwanted retirement party one day, and yet giving her sign language lessons another.

There were some deeper issues and relationships in this story that could have been delved into a little deeper - Sasha's background and relationship with Sam, Caden's upbringing and separation from his mom, the individual members of the HHATT club and how they came through therapy, as well as several of Lucy's students.  However, they served to enrich the story and bring depth to Lucy's journey to finding her new identity in Christ, and where music fit in, so it wasn't a major detraction; it just shows well-written characters that the reader will want more of.  Personally, I could have done with a little less of Lucy's wallowing in her job loss and could have used more interactions with the other characters.  Being stuck, however, was probably more realistic, and didn't ring untrue.

I give this book 4 stars.  Even though I am not a music person by talent, interest, or training, the musical references were not over the top, and Lucy's search for meaning after her life upheaval was relatable to any career or passion.  Learning to love her people well, and to appreciate their love for her made for rich and engaging reading that I think many people could enjoy and benefit from.

You can find Song of Silence HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a copy of this e-book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Traces of Guilt - Dee Henderson


Lieutenant Evie Blackwell is taking a "vacation."  A vacation that involves trying to solve several missing person cold cases centered in Carin County, Illinois, as a test case for a special task force that the Governor Elect is trying to form.  Gabriel Thane is the current Sheriff, son of the former Sheriff, and as such, becomes Evie's partner in sifting through the old evidence and searching for new links that may help them to solve these cases that have not been forgotten within the local community.  These cases may be linked by more than just the memories and relationships of the Thane family.

When Ann Falcon first appeared in this book, and mentioned "three brothers," I was excited to think maybe we'd finally gotten the story of the third Bishop brother.   Alas, it was not to be, but instead centered around three new brothers - the Thane brothers: Gabriel, Josh, and Will - who are equally interesting and engaging.  I enjoyed getting to know this new family, but I feel like they were such rich characters that they would have been better served if they'd gotten their own books.  Even still, the author manages to tuck quirky little personality traits into such a full story, like a habit of leaving SweeTarts behind.  This family would have made for a rich trilogy, and instead, their story felt under-served by condensing it into a single book.

The loose tie-in of Ann is an interesting thread to hold these stand-alone novels together.  This particular installment was made more interesting by the introduction of Evie Blackwell, who, it appears, is going to get her own series.  The concept of a task force to solve cold cases is intriguing, and I hope that the series does each case justice, as well as giving its lead characters room to grow.  This one hooked me, but I wanted tighter focus on a few characters and one or two cases, rather than trying to tie so many people, romances, and mysteries together into one novel.  I hope that Evie stays in touch with the Thane family, so that we can as well.

I give this book 3.5 stars.  I look forward to reading more about Evie (and I still want to read about Jim Bishop!).

You can find Traces of Guilt HERE.
You can find Dee Henderson's site HERE.
You can find more from the publisher, including an excerpt and author Q&A HERE.

I received an e-book copy of this book from Bethany House, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Her One and Only - Becky Wade


Dru Porter is the youngest of the Porter siblings, and as the only girl, has spent her whole life trying to keep up and prove herself.  She has served in the Marines, she rides a motorcycle, and now she is a bodyguard.  Er..."Executive Protection Agent."  Her newest client is Gray Fowler, a tight end for the Dallas Mustangs, and she is tasked with keeping him safe from a stalker who seems to be escalating his threats.  Dru has vowed to not get personally attached to her clients, but Gray might have other plans.

I have really enjoyed the Porter Family Series; Ty, Jake, and Bo were characters bigger than life, with family bonds and romantic storylines that made for light-hearted, fun reading.  Dru's story didn't feel quite as fleshed out, leaving me feeling like I didn't really know her.  I enjoyed her interactions with Gray, and I thought that his story of needing to learn about forgiveness and about his relationship with God was well done.  I just wanted to know Dru as well as I felt I knew the Porter brothers. The scenes with her family, as well as the intertwined story of Meg and Bo, were some of the most engaging in the book.  Seeing her among her family helped define her, and gave warmth to the coldness of her persona as a bodyguard.  I wish that there was a way for the author to tie these characters into future books so that we didn't have to let go of them yet!

I was excited to receive this book, and I did enjoy it; I just wanted to know Dru more!  
I give this book 3.5 stars.  Within the series, I felt the least invested in this installment, but I was still glad to catch up with the Porter family.

You can find Her One and Only HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.
You can connect with her on Facebook HERE.  (She and Katie Ganshert have an ongoing Pinterest war on Facebook, and it is SO much fun!)

I received a copy of this e-book from Bethany House, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Live Free, Adult Coloring Book - Margaret Fienberg


Live Free - Craft God's Word into Your Heart through Creative Expression

This adult coloring book is a creative combination of journal, coloring book, and scripture study.  It encourages its user to linger on each page, drawing the printed scripture into their hearts and minds.  Each coloring page comes with an accompanying journal page for reflections and prayers.  There are no journaling or prayer prompts, just pure scripture to inspire and reflect upon.

The coloring pages themselves are a good mix of geometric, floral, and nature designs.  The paper is high quality and I have had no leak-through with the gel pens I've been using.  My only complaint with this book might be that there aren't enough pages!  It does seem to be on the thin side for a coloring book, and comes with a relatively high retail price.  However, I'm sure you could find better deals and sales if you watch (There's one now on CBD, and on Amazon!)

I really enjoy this adult coloring book craze, and I was excited to receive this one as a review copy from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

You can find Live Free HERE.
You can find Margaret Feinberg's site HERE.