Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Life After by Katie Ganshert – A Review

"22 Lives Lost.
One Survivor.
It could have been anyone.
Why her?"

Autumn Manning is far beyond survivor’s guilt. Her whole life’s purpose has become an obsession with the twenty-two passengers who lost their lives a year ago—the day a bomb blasted through the “L” train she boarded in Chicago. With no husband or children to need her, why did God choose to spare only her? And why was Autumn even aboard the late train? When she awakens in the hospital, she has no memory of the blast or the immediate hours before the disaster, nor does she know the reason she was even on that late train. Will Autumn be able to fill in the blanks and make sense of the situation?

As the one-year anniversary of Tragedy on the Tracks approaches, Autumn contacts a family member of one of the victims. That one regrettable action opens a Pandora’s box of emotions and events as grieving souls try to move forward with their lives.

Family members want their loved ones to be remembered—all but one. Paul Elliott wants to shield his children and safeguard his career and let the past stay in the past.

Such tragedies bring some closer to God, while others turn their backs to Him. Will Autumn and Paul be able to restore their weakened faith and return to a fulfilling life among the living?

This book has been on my want-to-read list since before it was released in April of 2017. I hadn’t got to it yet, so I’m glad it popped up on NetGalley’s site.

I’ve read a half-dozen of Ganshert’s books, so I expected good writing. I wasn’t disappointed. Kudos to the editors. The story moved along at a good pace. Ganshert did a great job of getting me into the characters heads, filling me with compassion for them. I wanted to read it straight through.

This book gives an authentic glimpse into PTSD and survivor’s guilt. You walk with the characters as they battle the demons birthed the day of the disaster. You cheer for them as they baby-step away from the chains that have bound them since that fateful day. You cry for joy as Autumn achieves each little success.

NO SPOILERS: The ending of the story was perfect. Not the happily-ever-after of a romance, but it’s oozing with hope and healing. This story has a very strong inspirational thread and rates a zero on the blush factor. A perfect read for a teen or her grandmother.

I give this book FIVE stars because that’s the max.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from
WaterBrook & Multnomah via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, November 5, 2018

One Fatal Mistake by Tom Hunt - A Review

Joshua has a bright future ahead until the night he hits a stranger in the middle of the road. If only the guy would’ve been killed on impact.

Circumstances cause the teenager to cover-up the accident. But did he leave something behind?

Being at the wrong place at the wrong time quickly escalates into a fight for their lives as Joshua and his single-mom Karen are drawn into a life-or-death situation as their path crosses that of a pair of criminals on the run. How far is Karen willing to go to protect her son?

The pace of this story moved rapidly along like an action movie. The plot was a little far-fetched at times, but it is fiction, so I overlooked it. The descriptive writing was on point. The characters were well developed, ranging from sympathetic do-gooders to a downright evil monster. I even felt a bit of sympathy for one of the “bad guys.” And sometimes there’s a fine line between the good guys and the bad guys.

Overall, I enjoyed this page-turner, although it had a little too much foul language for my tastes. There was a bit of goriness too. I suggest a mature reader.

I give this book four* stars (with an asterisk for language and content.)

One Fatal Mistake releases on January 22.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from
Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks - A Review

Harriet has never left her four-year-old daughter with anyone, even though Charlotte, her only friend, has repeatedly offered to watch her. Now that Harriet has signed up for a class to hopefully land employment, she has no choice but to allow Charlotte to babysit. Charlotte plans to take Alice along with her own three children for a day of fun.

Charlotte only looked away for a few moments—and now Alice is missing. The young child seems to have vanished without a trace from a heavily populated school fair.

As the investigation into the child abduction evolves, the story digs deep into the twisted marriage of Harriet and Brian, and into the seemingly one-sided friendship between Charlotte and Harriet.

I sympathized with both women in this painful dilemma. Could I face my best friend knowing I was responsible for her only child being taken? Could I face a friend that I trusted with my flesh and blood, only to learn that her carelessness ended in the loss of my child?

The tension mounts quickly in this riveting psychological suspense. Secrets trickled out as this story threw me for a loop! Expertly descriptive writing pulled me into the scenes. Twists and turns I didn’t see coming kept me glued to the pages to the very end.

I give this book five stars. I particularly enjoyed the lack of foul language and explicit sex.

Her One Mistake releases on January 8.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from
Gallery Books via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My Whole Truth by Mischa Thrace - A Review

For me, this book started off sensationally, but then came to a grinding almost-halt. The opening scene has the reader on the edge of her seat. After that, there seems to be a lot of whining about the character’s lousy mother. Granted, mom lives up to the reputation, but early on it reads more like a teen who’s mad for having to clean their room. But I hung in there. And it did pick up again. Still, the pace lags in many places.

Heads up: When reading about “the faction,” don’t wait for an explanation. It’s just what she calls her group of friends—nothing more.

The premise is good—a seventeen-year-old kills a bully, defending herself, and is then arrested for his murder. Except the details don’t add up. The author fails to make me understand why she would be charged in the first place. It seems highly unlikely based on the evidence. Still, it wasn’t so far-fetched that I stopped reading. (The whining almost achieved that effect, but not the criminal aspect.)

The writing is good, though I would have liked the supporting characters to be a little more developed. The main character is the underdog you want to root for. If you are bothered by foul language, same-sex attraction, and other mature (see warning below) situations, do not read this book. The first-person seemed an odd choice to me, as some of the narrative seemed beyond this high-schooler’s maturity level. But it worked quite well otherwise.

The entire story builds up toward the trial, so I found it rather strange that the actual trial seemed to run less than an hour long. I would have liked there to be more to the courtroom aspect. But then, this is not a legal drama. It’s the story of a victimized girl, who already was on the “lesser” side of society.

The ending was satisfying. No loose ends left hanging.

I give this book three stars* (with an asterisk for language and content.) Three seems a little low for the quality of the writing, but I just couldn’t go for four with this story. I would recommend this book for only mature teens or young adults. I think older adults would become bored with the pace and the prominent “high-school feel” of the story. A young reviewer would most likely give a higher rating.

Warning: Spoiler! There is an abortion in the book. I was uncomfortable with the details (though not graphic) of the procedure, but the author did a good job of portraying the character’s emotional state. And that event does play an important part in the later story.

My Whole Truth released on October 2.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from North Star Editions via
NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Nine-Eleven - Two Anniversaries

Seventeen years ago. 

I can't remember many of the events from last week, but I remember almost every detail of that day.

I've written here about the events of that day. My memories. I don't need to revisit them right now.

I'm sad.

Incredibly sad.

I miss the "after".

Remember those days in mid-September when we weren't black or white, Republican or Democrat, pro or anti? We were just Americans. We cared for each other like never before in my lifetime. I wasn't around for "the big one". This was THE time when OUR country was under attack. And WE--WE THE PEOPLE--did what we could. We cried together. We went or we sent, or we just prayed. I wish we were that country again. 



See that blue dot on this weather image? That's our new home. We had just moved in mid-June. 

We had already planned to visit the family in Ohio, so we bumped our plans up a week and left before the proverbial s**t hit the fan. 

When we passed gas station after gas station with no fuel and people with flatbed trucks selling bottled water in exchange for your first born, it really started hitting us what our new neighbors—our new family—were in for.

And then the guilt set in. We truly felt bad for leaving them behind. We did leave our generator with a neighbor for anyone with a need to use.

And they did. September 10, they lost power. Irma settled in to our beloved community with a vengeance.

At some point, a small tornado ripped through our neighborhood. A piece of one neighbor’s house went into the bedroom wall of another. Some carports were ripped apart. The storm tore some siding from our new home.

We were blessed. Not only because we had such little damage, but because of the love we experienced through it all.

My Facebook memory feed is flooded with offers of shelter and/or parking for our RV.

Our community has a private Facebook page. We watched it constantly for news. We read post after post of neighbor offering whatever they had to others. Extra gas. Water. Whatever they had that someone else might need. A neighbor we had met, but really didn’t know well, brought a ladder over and fixed our house so water wouldn’t enter through the missing siding.

After THE Nine-Eleven, the country went back to normal. The bickering and choosing sides grew worse until we have what we have today. Fortunately for us, our community was before, was then, and continues to be that place. Neighbor helping neighbor. People truly caring about others. Let them find out there’s a problem, and they circle the wagons!

Oh, how I wish it was everywhere again.

Never forget.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson – A Review

This story is an enjoyable time-hop, and a great read for true book lovers. The MC in this story is co-owner (with her sister) of a charming little book shop. You know—the old-fashioned kind where there’s story-time. I loved picturing myself in this shop, browsing through the used classics and listening to Callie talk about her love of them.

She and her sister log all the odd things they find left behind in used books they acquire, hoping to reunite many of the items with their rightful owners. Approaching her birthday, Callie stumbles upon an old edition meant to be a surprise gift from her sister. The real surprise is what she finds inside the book.

The 1930s edition of Bambi once belonged to a young girl named Annika. The former shop owner/surrogate mother of the sisters helps translate the notes she finds written to match the text of the book. Callie is sucked into the mystery of the notes and the story of Annika. She enlists the help of a college professor to learn the secrets hidden in the messages.

The book moves back and forth from present day to 1930s Austria, at the time Hitler’s troops have advanced into Annika’s city. It details the changes that follow in the lives of the teenage friends as the Jewish population is being shunned and forced out of the only life they know.

You won’t get lost in this well-written time-hop. The pace is wonderful, and the settings delicious! I thoroughly enjoyed the suspense of Annika’s story—and of the present day characters. They were all well-developed and quite likable.

This story has a strong religious current, though not overpowering of the story itself. A clean and solid read, I gave this book five stars. Hidden Among the Stars is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it will not be my last.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from
Tyndale House Publishers via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison – A Review

Willa can’t move on. It’s been three years since her husband died unexpectedly while alone at their beach house. She feels her teenage son Jamie has lost both parents, as she failed to be the mom he needed to work through his own grief.

Finally deciding it’s time to sell the beach house, she returns to it for the first time since Ben’s death. Arriving alone, she is quickly visited by Ben’s ghost. Is he real? Or is she losing her last connection to sanity? Reluctantly, Jamie joins his mother to help prepare the beach house for sale. Her best friend Kristin, and daughter Kelsey, soon join them.

I love it when an author takes a supernatural situation and makes it totally believable. Harbison accomplished this wonderfully. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, or in an afterlife, your heart will break for Willa as she questions her sanity and sinks into her grief.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was top-notch. The characters were developed, and the settings were detailed. The ending was very satisfying.

There were F bombs, though it wasn’t overflowing with foul language as many of today’s reads can be. Overall, I wasn’t put off by the language, but prefer a clean read.

I give this book 5 stars (with an asterisk for language.)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from
St.Martin’s Press via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Our House by Louise Candlish – A Review

Fiona Lawson’s fairy-tale life comes to a screeching halt in this story of betrayal and fraud. She returns home to find it isn’t hers anymore. Her house in the exclusive neighborhood—the one she shares with her estranged husband in a co-parenting arrangement—now belongs to someone else. And they claim she sold it to them!

This story is written in a unique contemporary style, with the MC telling a lot of the story via a podcast titled The Victim, complete with the typical twitter comments following each episode. A sign of the times? Add that to the Word document/suicide note penned by the estranged spouse, along with conventional chapters having POVs of the MC and of her husband, and you get quite an interesting read. Can’t say if I’d like to read this style a lot, but it was certainly fun.

The story centers around an unfaithful husband and his traffic citations. You read that right. Somehow this author manages to take a mundane topic like a speeding ticket and turn it into a full-length suspense that held my interest to the very “OMG” ending! And I mean that literally. The last three paragraphs of the book floored me! I can’t tell you the emotion I was feeling without spoiling the last twist, so I’ll just say, “Wow.”

There were places in the story where I thought it seemed a bit far-fetched, but then the author threw in a little back-story to make me buy it. Many of the twists and turns (and there were plenty) knocked me for a loop! I loved the way Candlish exposed the different characters’ motivations as the story unfolded.

The characters were developed, and the pace was good.

This is a British novel, not my favorite, but I tried to ignore that in my rating. I also tried to ignore the foul language. It’s hard to say if it was excessive. There was a lot, but it was true to character in those places. Structurally, I wasn’t crazy about the writing.

I struggled with how to rate this one but ended up giving Our House 4 stars (with an asterisk for language and content) because I really did enjoy reading it. Three didn’t seem like enough, and the ending alone was worth at least an extra half.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from
Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall– A Review

Tallulah James is a burdened middle-child in a beyond-dysfunctional family wrecked by mental illness. Her grandmother has taught her well to protect the family secrets and reputation above all else. What secret could be worth this pain of holding it in? Her older brother Griff promises to someday sweep her away to a better life in California, until a tragic event tears them apart and leaves Tallulah alone to hold together her imploding family.

When the family disintegrates, Tallulah heads out on her own, seeking the California dream she shared with Griff, only to find the ghosts of her childhood followed her. Unable to give herself fully to anyone, she pours her all into her career—until another crisis pulls her back to Lamoyne, Mississippi.

Returning to the place of her oppressive memories, will Tallulah break? Or will she finally be able to make peace with her past?

This story had me hooked from the first page. I felt Tallulah’s pain. Understood why she hid her heart behind a wall. I wanted someone to hold her and tell her it would be alright. I was totally invested in this character.

The Myth of Perpetual Summer belongs on a shelf with other classics. Not only is the story riveting—it is important. It features a bi-racial friendship in 1960s Mississippi. It tells—though briefly—the tale of those who fought for equal rights as well as those who didn’t understand. It discusses the devastation mental illness can heap on a family. It even rolls in a pot of corruption. There is far too much in this story to write in a review.

The quality of the writing is outstanding. Descriptions will have you dabbing the Mississippi sweat from your brow and smelling the dark waters of the alligator-infested river. The pace is excellent, and the story never lags. I will read more books by this author.

I give this book FIVE stars, only because that’s the maximum. There is the tiniest bit of foul language and sexual situations (nothing graphic), but I felt those areas made the story and the characters genuine and revealed an important layer to their personalities. I wouldn’t have a problem with my fourteen-year-old granddaughter reading it—and I’m cautious with what I expose my grandchildren to.

This book is the book by which all other summer reads will be weighed.

The Myth of Perpetual Summer released today, June 19.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Gallery Books via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, June 4, 2018

When Through Deep Waters by Rachelle Dekker– A Review

I’ve read a lot of books.
Few like this.

I’ve read books that wowed me with the twist at the end. I’ve read books that were so-so yet had enough entertainment value to rate them worthwhile—and books that didn’t. I’ve read books that were of significance in the societal story they told. I’ve read books that made me laugh, books that made me cry, books that swept me away to a make-believe existence. But every once in a very long while, I read a book that grabs something inside of me and shakes it—grabs and won’t let go, pulling me into the life of a character so completely that I’m somehow melded with them in their struggle. 

To say I was invested in this character is a gross understatement. This is the kind of investment for which authors strive. Alicen McCaffrey begins her story quite unlikeable. A self-absorbed well-to-do, shallow, detached . . . Alicen quickly became someone I felt deeply sorry fornot just sympathetic, but my heart broke for her as I shared in her unbearable grief and resulting sickness. 

Having a brother with severe mental illness likely pulled me even stronger into this story. Witnessing his schizophrenia, it’s not hard to picture a non-existent world so real that you not only can touch it but be threatened by it—even to the point of death. Stay away if you are uncomfortable with a close-up story of grief and delusions. There were a few times early in where I wondered if this book would haunt me, leaving a scar on my sanity. Happy to say it didn’t. It just left a mark on my heart of a character so real I prayed she would make it through the darkness.

One minute I believed this was happening. A page later—no, it’s that. (Avoiding spoilers here.) The author is skilled at keeping me guessing throughout. The further I ventured, the harder it was to put down. I lost sleep. I love that about a book.

After finishing the last page (very late), my mind filled with tags: freaky, crazy, emotional, spiritually lifting, joy, grief, light, darkness, evil, goodness. Everything. Every emotion rolled into a very involved and evolving battle. I am desperate to forget everything about this book so that I can read it again with the same hope, fear, heartache, joy.

In other words, I really liked it. I give this book FIVE stars (because that’s the max.) I can’t wait to get my hands on another by this author. I guess I should ad that it’s well written and edited, and that the characters are well developed.

Available for pre-buy now, When Through Deep Waters releases on July 3.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks – A Review

Murphy Anderson is looking for answers. She’s also running. From the past. From an escaped murderer. She’s changed her name, her looks, and her hometown. Will Kodiak, Alaska bring her the answers she seeks about her twin? Or will she be pulled into a dark mystery that threatens the thread holding her sanity?

As an artist, she is called to draw a ten-year-old crime scene from the memory of a dying man—a crime scene that has ties to secretive experiments of World War II. But soon, people involved in the investigation begin to die by not-so-natural causes.

I liked the unique storyline. The author has knowledge to sprinkle into the details to give it belief. The plot was thick with potential suspects. There were lots of twists and turns to keep the pace going.

I was sympathetic to the main character. I was also surprised by revelations about her personal story that eventually come to light. The ending tied everything up nicely.

I did find it a little difficult to keep track of the characters and the details in the beginning. This is a book you should read in chunks—not bits and pieces—or you risk getting lost.

I give this book four stars, and would read more by this author.

Available for pre-buy now, Formula of Deception releases on July 3, 2018.

I received a complimentary copy of this 
book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. 
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble – A Review

Two people’s lives shattered.
Lied to by their own families—who
and what do they believe now?

When Ellie Blackmore’s sister goes missing and is presumed murdered, her path crosses with that of Coast Guard intelligence officer Grayson Bradshaw. Grayson believes Mackenzie faked her own death to cover her role in a cocaine theft. Ellie believes her sister is innocent—even when presented with stark evidence. Can they work together to solve the mystery of what happened to Mackenzie? And what does Mac’s disappearance have to do with Grayson’s hunt for a renowned terrorist?

I’m not a huge fan of Coble’s style of introducing several characters at once or stating their hair and eye-color when they enter a scene. Some of the extra details detracted from the flow of the story. (Like mentioning the two dogs and a cat by name.) I felt the secondary characters could have been developed more, but they weren’t prominent to the storyline. The plot wasn’t realistic to me, but it is fiction, after all. Still, I give this book four stars.

I enjoyed the setting and unique plot of this suspense. The characters are quite likable—except for the bad guys. There was a sideline about Grayson’s past that added a lot of emotional interest to the story. I liked the way the author tied the main characters together via Ellie’s friend. Coble threw in enough happenings and twists to keep the plot moving at a good pace. The story never felt redundant. A couple of times, I was thrown terribly off-course in guessing the culprit. I can honestly say I was entertained from beginning to end. 

Even though there was a romance involved, this story would appeal to men as well as women. I really enjoy clean Christian fiction. It is so refreshing to read good fiction without vulgar language or explicit sex scenes. This book’s focus is not about faith. In fact, the religious element in this story is almost non-existent, so secular readers will not have to roll their eyes. (Wink) I enjoyed this story enough to buy another of this author’s books for my TBR stack.

Available for pre-buy now, The House at Saltwater Point releases on July 3, 2018.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Together Forever (Orphan Train Book #2) by Jody Hedlund – A Review

In the first book of the series, With You Always, we followed the story of oldest sister Elise caring for her siblings in the difficult financial crisis of New York.

Set in 1858, Together Forever highlights the second sister, Marianne Neumann, and Andrew Brady, who work for the Children’s Aid Society, involved with the effort to resettle orphaned, abused, and abandoned children from the harsh conditions in the city—where many turn to crime as a means of survival—to a better life in the Midwest. Marianne has taken this job in an effort to locate her younger sister, for whom she feels responsible.

Shame and guilt rule Marianne’s heart as she tries to come to terms with her past mistakes. Drew also carries around a burden of a terrible accident from his past. Can they learn to forgive themselves and live in the present?

Together Forever gives a close-up view of the placing of these children as they arrive on the trains. The story exhibits the attitudes of the townsfolk where the children are sent, as well as the heart-wrenching emotions of the placement agents who feel an obligation to these children.

I couldn’t help but care about the characters of this story. You will root for Marianne and Drew to lay down their burdens and live life to the fullest. Your heart will ache for the children who are torn from the only life they’ve known. Hedlund does an excellent job of giving these children unique personality traits that help the reader truly know them. I wanted to reach into the story and hug so many of them. Not all have happy endings. The story has a sad reality to it but is still filled with hope and love.

As typical of Hedlund’s books, Together Forever is well-written and well-edited. The story flows steadily throughout, with twists and turns to keep the reader engaged, and situations are resolved in a way that give satisfaction.

As a historical romance, I give this book five stars. Together Forever released May 1 and is available now.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and contains my own thoughts and opinions.