Friday, 12 May 2017

Recruits by Thomas Locke

It's a world they've seen only in their dreams--until now.

Twins Sean and Dillon Kirrel have dreamed about a world beyond their own since they were children, but it has always been a fantasy. Not long before their eighteenth birthday, however, the arrival of a mysterious new neighbor and the revelations he shares bring that far-off world within reach. 

When Sean and Dillon learn they share a unique gift--the ability to transfer instantly between worlds--they are offered an opportunity to prove themselves as recruits to the planetary Assembly. But unlocking their abilities awakens an enemy beyond anything they ever imagined, thrusting them into an interplanetary conflict that could consume the entire human race.

Review:  Recruits is a fast paced, action packed blend of Avatar and Star Trek with a whole lot of unique spins, clever ideas, new worlds, romance, and teenage super powers. 

It is pretty hard not to enjoy a book like this one. It has everything. 

Action? This book is fast paced from start to finish and simply leaves you wanting more. Romance? Absolutely. Creativity? You bet. The potential for these books is limitless with hundreds of worlds left to explore. Magical powers? Of course! This was probably my favorite part of this story. I loved following along as Sean and Dillon figured out their abilities, pushed the borders of their skills, and kicked butt with their mad new talents. Good story line? Yes. Very clever. 

So in short, I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it as a young adult sci fi read (Not saying an adult wouldn't like it, I think they very much would).

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

To The Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden

The unpredictability of her upbringing prepared army nurse Jenny Bennett to face any challenge at the Presidio Army base, but the sudden reappearance in her life of the dashing naval officer who broke her heart six years ago is enough to rattle even her. 

Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher is one of the few men in the world qualified to carry out a daring government mission overseas--an assignment that destroyed his reputation and broke the heart of the only woman he ever loved. Honor-bound never to reveal where he was during those years, he can't tell Jenny the truth, or it will endanger an ongoing mission and put thousands of lives at risk. 

Ryan thinks he may have finally found a solution to his impossible situation, but he needs Jenny's help. While her loyalty to her country compels her to agree, she was too badly hurt to fall for Ryan again despite his determination to win her back. When an unknown threat from Ryan's past puts everything at risk--including his life--can they overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them in time?

Review: I give this book a ten out of ten. Gold star! Two thumbs up! Well, you get the picture... I loved it! 

First, it was so believable. The way Elizabeth Camden wrote the character of Jenny is breathtaking. She is so real I half expected her to leap off the page and come to life. As a budding writer myself, this book bears re-reading as a study on how to write dynamic and complex characters. Jenny lives and breathes within these pages. Her reactions to situations are so believable - you can tell Ms Camden didn't just write in flaws for the sake of making her character flawed. She created a character whose very essence from the core IS flawed...if that makes any sense. Also, unlike most romances, Jenny doesn't just throw her good sense into the wind and fall head over heals for her fallen hero, she reacts the way any sane and confident woman would - she tells him to take a hike. She keeps her wits and her brains about her. She's in love but not stupid. Basically, this romance didn't feel pushed at all. Often times it feels like authors force their characters to love each other despite conflicts and mistakes. Ms. Camden doesn't do that. The relationship between Jenny and Ryan is so natural - I'm basking in the glory of this book right now. SO WELL DONE!

Second, I really really liked how historical events were incorporated into this story. I have to be careful here not to give out spoilers so I won't get into it, but needless to say the historical aspects of this story are so interesting and really add to this story.

Third, I loved the espionage woven through this tale and the multiple layers of intrigue. This book is an amazing story of two people's emotional journey back to each other, but it is also a very interesting spy book set in a rather tense period of American-Japanese history.

I give this book full marks. Absolutely excellent!

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for the complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley

In one week, the wrong man will be executed for murder.
Let the chase for the real killer begin.

Eighteen years ago, TV crime reporter Andi Hollister's sister was murdered. The convicted killer sits behind bars, his execution date looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned didn't do the crime, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, this case is personal: the man who confessed to the crime is Will's cousin. Andi and Will must find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But what can happen in only a week? Uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and, perhaps, falling in love?

With the perfect mixture of intrigue and nail-biting suspense, award-winning author Patricia Bradley invites you to crack the case--if you can--alongside the best Memphis has to offer.

Review: This was a good read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a clean, non-graphic, entertaining murder mystery. After reading several incredibly graphic crime novels (from Christian publishing houses) recently it was really nice to read something that didn't make my stomach turn or give me nightmares. This is proof you can have a good mystery without resorting to awful graphic detail. Well done, Patricia Bradley! More Christian authors needs to take note of what you've accomplished here.

As to why else I liked it, I really enjoyed how the plot of this book was laid out! It was done a little differently, in that the forward of the book pretty much explains why Andi Hollister's sister was murdered and gives some large hints as to who did it. As the author jumps into present time and follows Andi as she tries to figure out the crime the reader is a step ahead. I haven't read a book written in this style for a while, and it was fun cheering on Andi and her friends as they wandered closer and closer to the truth. Patricia Bradley also did an impressive job on maintaining the suspense even though the reader does have the upper hand with the knowledge she shares in the beginning. It didn't get dull at all. 

Another interesting part of this book that really got to me was Andi Hollister's narcotic habit. I don't want to get into it too much, but what starts out as an innocent prescription for a little of back pain slowly turns into a monster. What starts out as one pill on occasion, when her back is really hurting her, suddenly become ten then twelve pills a day as the stress of finding her sister's true murderer builds. Almost by accident, Andi finds herself in the sort of trouble she never would have dreamed would befall her. This fall into addiction was wonderfully and insightfully written. Again, well done Patricia Bradley.

The romance in this novel is tentative and sweet, but certainly not the main focus of the story - more like a nice side dish. 

A well done novel and one that I would definitely recommend. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

For the Record by Regina Jennings

Rather Than Wait for a Hero, She Decided to Create One 

Betsy Huckabee has big-city dreams, but nobody outside of tiny Pine Gap, Missouri, seems interested in the articles she writes for her uncle's newspaper. Her hopes for independence may be crushed, until the best idea she's ever had comes riding into town. 

Deputy Joel Puckett didn't want to leave Texas, but unfair circumstances have made moving to Pine Gap his only shot at keeping a badge. Worse, this small town has big problems, and masked marauders have become too comfortable taking justice into their own hands. He needs to make clear that he's the law in this town--and that job is made more difficult with a nosy reporter who seems to follow him everywhere he goes. 

The hero Betsy creates to be the star in a serial for the ladies' pages is based on the dashing deputy, but he's definitely fictional. And since the pieces run only in newspapers far away, no one will ever know. But the more time she spends with Deputy Puckett, the more she appreciates the real hero--and the more she realizes what her ambition could cost him. 
Review: Oh dear! Betsy Huckabee thought she had the perfect plot to finally move out of her uncle and aunt's home and into her own place. It should have worked. Really it should have. The new Deputy in town simply had to be dramatically heroic - enough to make the ladies swoon - and she'd have the perfect stories to send into the lady's fictional section of the newspaper in order to make a few dollars.

The problem is... he really is heroic (when he isn't being a complete annoyance) and he's also incredibly handsome (Too handsome). The big city newspaper also makes a rather big mistake and publishes her fictional stories in the true news section.... the results of which are NOT pretty.

Between masked vigilantes, stubborn ponies, crazy mountain men, and vivid imaginations... this story is a fun read.

This is a classic romantic comedy: light hearted, fun, enough mystery to keep you turning the pages, and corny but in a really sweet way.

There are a few romantic sections that might not be appropriate for a younger audience - nothing scandalous, by any means - but I wouldn't give this book to someone under 15.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Discipline that Connects with Your Child's Heart by Jim and Lynne Jackson

Ever feel stuck in a discipline rut? This book will help you develop a new "lens" for effective, caring discipline with your child. "Discipline that Connects" is a profound and deeply Biblical way of thinking about corrective discipline. In these pages you'll grow in insight about yourself and your child. You'll learn to: 

Prepare your heart and stay calm when your kids are not.

Think on your feet and respond with confidence and wisdom.

Turn behavior problems into opportunities.

Help children learn to be responsible for their own actions and truly reconcile with others.

Use creative consequences that build skills, values, and faith in your children.

Review: There are a lot of parenting books out there and I, personally, have never read one. I wasn't sure what to think of this one. 

This book has a lot of case studies to emphasize the authors' points. While interesting to read, it's hard to see how some of the scenarios are transferable. 

I suppose if you take the parenting advise in this book as a very loose guideline it would give you some nice ideas about how to deal with some challenging issues that your current parenting tactics aren't successfully dealing with. However, their recipe for success and their suggested dialogues do seem a bit far fetched at times and more than a little complicated. 

Please note that I've never parented... so perhaps I am missing something that this book has to offer. 

Thank-you Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Back Cover: 
A master violinist trained in ViennaRebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the maestro at the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic. But women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah's hopes are swiftly dashed because the conductor—determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music—bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Acklen Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah's new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville's new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse—and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head—he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city's new opera hall. But far more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music—his father, who is dying.

As Tate's ailment worsens, he believes Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman's trust when you've robbed her of her dream?

As music moves us to tears yet makes our hearts soar, A Note Yet Unsung captures the splendor of classical music at a time when women's hard-won strides in cultural issues changed not only world history—but the hearts of men. 

Review: A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander is the third and final series in the Belmont Mansion trilogy. This series is very well written and each book is a lovely read. I would highly recommend all three books. As for A Note Yet Unsung... it is the best book I have read in a while. Why, you may ask? 

First, the characters of this story really came to life for me. It may sound cliche to say such, but it is true. Rebekah and Nathaniel have passion, drive, insecurities, daring to push the boundaries, love, fear, tempers... a combination of beauty and flaws written together to make almost magically believable individuals. With the story in such capable hands as Rebekah's and Nathaniel's this latest Belmont Mansion novel can't help but be spectacular. 

The second reason I really enjoyed this story was the historical significance. I had no idea that women were not permitted to perform publicly in symphonies/orchestras until after the 19th century. Apparently it was unseemly and considered too provocative for a woman to play outside of her drawing room. Like many feminist rights that we take for granted today, the right to perform in public came at a hefty cost to many brave women who dared push the boundaries of propriety in order to live their dreams. In this story, Rebekah is a masterfully trained violinist, but her rare talent is pushed to the side due to her gender. With a little luck, however, and some daring on her part, she refuses to simply settle as a meek music tutor and strives to become one of the first women in her country to play in an orchestra. While the character of Rebekah is fictional, the fight for this freedom is not, and I imagine that there were women very much like Rebekah who worked hard to change history.

The third reason for my glowing review of this book is the number of story lines. I was fascinated by the different cultures portrayed in this book, the in depth story telling behind the musical scenes, the dark side-story of Rebekah's family, and the mystery behind Nathaniel Tate. I won't say more - don't want to spoil the story! But it all makes for a very entertaining and difficult-to-put-down read. 

I would definitely recommend this novel.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn't be happier he is not the duke in the family. Free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, he has grand plans of someday wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he barely knows, his dream of a loving marriage like his parents' seems lost forever.

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier when she hid in her older sister's shadow--which worked until her sister got married. But even with her socially ambitious mother's focus entirely on her, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience before she's been introduced to society.

With nothing going as expected, can Trent and Adelaide's marriage of obligation survive their own missteps and the pressures of London society to grow into a true meeting of hearts and minds?
Review: An Uncommon Courtship is part of the Hawthorne House series written by Kristi Ann Hunter. It is a delightful series with each book reading well on its own. That being said, I would recommend reading all of the books in order to avoid spoilers as many of the main characters in previous novels show up in the subsequent stories. 

An Uncommon Courtship is uncommon for an regency novel in that Lord Trent and Lady Adelaide are essentially forced into an arranged marriage. Many novels based on this era entertain couples breaking the 'arranged marriage trend' and instead marring for love. Realistically, many couples married for wealth and position and not for love during this time period - particularly those who were part of the London's elite ton.

Lord Trent and Lady Adelaide fall prey to her scheming mother and find themselves married to a stranger. Lord Trent has witnessed his siblings' love matches and desires the same for himself. However, what does loving your spouse really mean? What does love actually look like? He hardly knows his wife, but does that mean he can't love her? I really admired the way this novel looked to the scriptural definition of marital love and dug deep into what loving your spouse actually looks like - even when you don't feel the emotional part of it. 

I really enjoyed how this novel broke away from couples falling in love based on physical attraction, high emotions, and simply lust. Instead, you get a first hand look at what true love in action actually looks like. There are some surprisingly deep and insightful moments. 

As a word of caution, I would recommend An Uncommon Courtship for adults or older teens. While there are no specific bedroom descriptions, this books does go into more detail than is common for most Christian romances and I would hesitate to hand this to a young teen. 

Thank-you very much to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.