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.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Glass Castle - Trisha Priebe and Jerry Jenkins

On her 13th birthday, Avery is out playing in the woods when she finds herself captured.  The next thing she knows, she's living behind the castle walls within a community of other 13-year-old orphans who are secretly performing all the work for the castle.  Why are they all here?  Who has ordered the 13-year-olds captured, and why?

The premise of this story was intriguing enough for me to choose it to review; but I had a hard time accepting the world once I tried to enter it.  Why are all of the kids 13?  Why does nobody question this?  Who's in charge?  While I wanted to like these kids, and root for them, I wasn't even entirely sure what I would be rooting for.  In order to feel invested in these characters, I felt like there needed to be more background to the world within which they were living, and I needed more life stories to get to know them as characters.

Also, from the ending, this is clearly the beginning to a new series, but nowhere within the description was that made clear.  It is a pet peeve of mine to start a book not knowing it is not going to come to a satisfying conclusion.

I give this book 2 stars.  I don't even know if I care about these characters enough at this point to follow up if and when the next book is released.  That's unfortunate, because I thought the plot sounded fairly original, and I was interested to see where it could go.

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

You can find The Glass Castle HERE.
You can find Jerry Jenkins' website HERE.
You can find the publisher, Shiloh Run Press - an imprint of Barbour Publishing, HERE.

Playing the Part - Jen Turano

Playing the Part is the third installment in the series "A Class of Their Own," where we get a deeper look into the life of Lucetta Plum, the actress friend of Harriet and Millie.  Independent, intelligent, and secretive, Lucetta is not impressed by admirers or gentlemen seeking her hand.  Rather, she keeps a personal bodyguard to fend off unwanted intentions and lives her life on her own terms.  Until a particularly determined admirer attempts to force her hand, and her life takes an unexpected turn - not only leaving her to depend on others, but entwining her in her protectors' own mysterious situation.

I really enjoyed both previous books in this series, In Good Company, and After a Fashion.  I love Jen Turano's witty, bright, and strong heroines.  Unfortunately, I felt that this story fell a little short of the previous two.  Maybe it was because the character of Lucetta Plum doesn't really let herself be known by the people in her life, it also makes her feel aloof to the reader.  Although many of her secrets, as well as Bram's - the leading male character - were eventually revealed, it was more of an exchange of portfolios than a true revelation of character.  Bram, however, was a delightful counterpart to Lucetta, a "collector of misfits," as she describes him.

Perhaps my discontentment with this story is similar to that of how I felt of the conclusion to Ms. Turano's last series - "The Ladies of Distinction" series.  She creates such fabulous relationships between her characters, but then marries them off one by one, book by book, and the final character is left to stand alone in her own story.  The friends make token appearances, and a few of the side characters carry over, but we're introduced to so many brand new characters without the support of the ones we've come to love, that it's missing that extra special something.

Regardless, I still enjoyed this series, and I particularly enjoyed the ending of this book.  I give it 3.5 stars, rounded to 4 - not my favorite of the series, but still a fun read.

You can find Playing the Part HERE.
You can find Jen Turano's site HERE.
You can connect with her on Facebook HERE.

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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

From Scratch - C.E. Hilbert

Maggie McKitrick has opened a bakery in Gibson's Run, Ohio.  Other than bickering with her police chief landlord over her rented space, she seems to be settling in with new friends and a growing business.  But what brought her to Gibson's Run, and why is she so easily spooked by a few out-of-place incidents?  Why does Chief Taylor feel that he's not getting all of the answers he's looking for, even as they set their differences aside?

I am a sucker for books about bakers and chefs; and I loved those scenes within this book, where Maggie is creating and interacting with customers and friends over the fantastic desserts she has crafted.  The highlight of the book, however, was watching Maggie take root in this life she'd begun without any ties.  As strangers became friends, and friends became family, it was uplifting to watch her be able to trust God in settling her in this place, allowing herself to stop hiding and confide in someone about her past.  It was also refreshing to have that happen before it was revealed through other means.  There are some disturbing sections regarding the reason for her running, but they're not over-the-top, and they serve as the means for Maggie's life as it is and give foundation to her deep faith in God.  While the online descriptions of the book promote it heavily as a romance, I would say that's only a minor portion of this bigger story of faith, friends, and family.  I do hope that this will become a series, and that we will get to look more into the characters of Gibson's Run, and perhaps the remaining Taylor brothers?

I give this book 3.5 stars.

You can find From Scratch HERE.
(Although it says that's due to be published April 1, 2016, it appears to be available now)
You can connect with the author on Facebook HERE.

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