Monday, July 18, 2016

5-Star Review of "Like Never Before"

Review of Like Never Before 

(Walker Family #2)

by Melissa Tagg

25170227

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher...if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime--a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he's inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

MY REVIEW:   The close-knit and loving Walker family is back and this time, Logan is the target of Cupid's arrow.   He returns to Maple Valley to sell the small-town paper he surprisingly inherited from his friend and former employer, but he didn't know he would have to contend with the beautiful, sassy young editor who wanted to save the paper and keep the jobs of all the current employees.  What is a man to do?  A man who already has a job he loves clear across the country in California and an adopted daughter he is singlehandedly parenting and the opportunity to work for the next Presidential Nominee.   Yes, that is the question....what is a man to do?  A man who is quickly falling under the spell of Amelia and her charm.   Will he keep the paper or sell it?  Will he keep the girl or leave her to take on new adventures?   How will all of this affect his young daughter, Charlie?
       I fell in love with the Walker family in book one, and the affection for these characters continued to grow as I delved into book two.   Amelia, Logan, and Charlie are hard to resist and they would be the perfect family in my opinion.   So what is holding the two back from taking the next big step in their relationship?  They do have a great deal to overcome, but it feels like they can handle it.   I love the way Melissa Tagg brings the rich array of characters to life and made me feel as if I were walking the streets of Maple Valley with them.  Maple Valley, though a fictional town, seems like such a quiet, peaceful place to live.   I don't blame Amelia for wanting to stay FOREVER.  I typically prefer romance novels that include some mystery or suspense or historical features, but Melissa Tagg's books are a delightful exception to the rule.
      I rated this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to lovers of clean, romance novels.  
      I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She writes romantic comedies in the banter-filled style of her favorite 1930s and 40s classic films. Her latest book, Like Never Before, was named by Publishers Weekly to their spring 2016 "Religion and Spirituality" Top 10 list. When she's not writing she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Instagram.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5-Star Review of "Saving My Assassin"

Review of Saving My Assassin: A Memoir

by Virginia Prodan

28075710

“I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.”

At just under five feet tall, Virginia Prodan was no match for the towering 6' 10" gun-wielding assassin the Romanian government sent to her office to take her life. It was not the first time her life had been threatened—nor would it be the last.

As a young attorney under Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal communist regime, Virginia had spent her entire life searching for the truth. When she finally found it in the pages of the most forbidden book in all of Romania, Virginia accepted the divine call to defend fellow followers of Christ against unjust persecution in an otherwise ungodly land.

For this act of treason, she was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, placed under house arrest, and came within seconds of being executed under the orders of Ceausescu himself. How Virginia not only managed to elude her enemies time and again, but how she also helped expose the appalling secret that would ultimately lead to the demise of Ceausescu’s evil empire is one of the most extraordinary stories ever told.

A must-read for all generations, Saving My Assassin is the unforgettable account of one woman’s search for truth, her defiance in the face of evil, and a surprise encounter that proves without a shadow of a doubt that nothing is impossible with God.

MY REVIEW:  Religious persecution is so foreign to us in America that this book was quite shocking to me.  The people of Romania endured such hardship and even death from the Communist leaders that it is unimaginable.   Virginia Prodan endured abuse and hatred from her mother all her life and then she received a true gift from God.  She was finally allowed to visit her Aunt Cassandra and then admitted to college and law school.   She used her gifts and talents to defend the victims of religious persecution in the homeland she loves.  She is incredibly good at saving her clients from jail time or even execution.   But she puts her own life and the lives of her husband and two young daughters in danger with her defense of the enemies of the government.   Even though she has the American Embassy watching and attempting to help her, she is followed, watched, threatened and put on house arrest with her two young daughters while her husband is away.   Read her story to find out how God works in her life and the citizens of Romania.   I think you will be as compelled as I was to read her story.  
         I rated this memoir 5 stars.   I wish all Christians would read this book.  
         I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.  

About the Author:
Virginia Prodan

Virginia Prodan is an international human rights attorney, an Allied Attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, and a sought-after speaker. Exiled from Romania since 1988, Virginia currently resides in Dallas, TX. She has two daughters, Anca and Andreea, and a son, Emanuel. Visit her on twitter @virginiaprodan, Facebook and on LinkedIn.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

5-Star Review of "Someone Must Die"

Review of Someone Must Die

by Sharon Potts

29057904

When her six-year-old nephew vanishes from a neighborhood carnival, Aubrey Lynd’s safe, snow-globe world fractures; it shatters when the FBI’s investigation raises questions about her own family that Aubrey can’t answer.

Aubrey picks apart the inconsistencies to expose the first of many lies: a ransom note—concealed from the FBI—with a terrifying and impossible ultimatum. Aubrey doesn’t know what to believe or whom to trust. The abduction is clearly personal—but why would someone play a high-stakes game with the life of a child? The more she presses for answers, the more Aubrey is convinced that her mother is hiding something.

Desperate to save her young nephew, Aubrey must face harsh truths and choose between loyalty to her family and doing the right thing. And she’d better hurry, because vengeance sets its own schedule, and time is running out.
 

MY REVIEW:  A missing child, a grandmother who just reconciled her relationship with her son's family....the father and mother of the missing child, her own precious grandson who she finally is able to spend time with ....she takes him to a carnival and loses him.  Ethan is gone!   She looks everywhere....she asks people around her......she calls the police and her daughter, Aubrey.   Ethan is gone!  Ethan is gone!  Ethan is gone!  Is this a nightmare?  Will they all wake up and find it was just a dream?  Just a horrible, terrible dream?  When they wake up the next day, Ethan is still gone.   How will they all survive ?  How?  Where?  When will they find him?   Her son now blames her.   Kevin, the son who recently called her and told her that they wanted all of Ethan's grandparents to be involved in his life....now he blames her.  Why wouldn't he blame her?  She lost him.  She lost her precious grandson the first time he has ever been allowed to come to her home and stay with her.  Ever.  He has never been there with her before and she lost him.  She lost him.   She pleads with the FBI and the police to find him.  Please please find Ethan.  
             I love psychological thrillers and this one is so incredible.  I had to keep reading.   I read in the bed until I couldn't hold my eyes open.  I read in the car on the way to visit family.  I read in the car on the way home as my husband drove.  I read as we watched a television show.  I read until the very end, but I wasn't paying attention to the show on the television.   The book was that good, that engaging, that fascinating, that suspenseful.  I just love it when I don't figure out who did it and why they did it.  It makes the resolution that much more exciting and I could not figure this one out.   There was murder.  There were bombs.   There were psychological games.   There was cheating. There were lies.   But I could not figure out who committed these crimes and I wanted to know desperately.  You will want to know too.  So you will have to read this book because someone must die and you will want to know who and why and where and when.    
            I rated this book 5 stars because I couldn't figure it out and I just had to know.
            I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Sharon Potts

Sharon Potts is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of five psychological thrillers, including In Their Blood—winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award and recipient of a starred review in Publishers Weekly. A former CPA, corporate executive, and entrepreneur, Sharon has served as treasurer of the national board of Mystery Writers of America, as well as president of that organization’s Florida chapter. She has also co-chaired SleuthFest, a national writers’ conference. Sharon lives in Miami Beach with her husband and a spirited Australian shepherd named Gidget.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

5-Star Review of "Delivering the Truth"

Review of Delivering the Truth

Quaker Midwife Mystery #1

by Edith Maxwell

25834931

Quaker midwife Rose Carroll hears secrets and keeps con­fi­dences as she attends births of the rich and poor alike in an 1888 Massachusetts mill town. When the town’s world-famed car­riage indus­try is threat­ened by the work of an arson­ist, and a car­riage fac­tory owner’s adult son is stabbed to death with Rose's own knitting needle, she is drawn into solv­ing the mys­tery. Things get dicey after the same owner’s mis­tress is also mur­dered, leav­ing her one-week-old baby with­out a mother. The Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier helps Rose by lending words of advice and support. While strug­gling with being less than the per­fect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and prob­lem solver to bring two mur­der­ers to justice before they destroy the town’s carriage industry and the people who run it.

MY REVIEW:   Rose Carroll specializes in bringing new life into the world, but all around her, people are dying.   While the local detective is investigating and assuring the community that he will find the killer and the arsonist, Rose feels compelled to give him a little help.   She tells him that she is inquisitive.   But we all know the saying, "curiosity killed the cat".   Reading about the practice of midwifery in the 1880's was very informative and extremely interesting.  Rose relies on her Quaker friend, who is also a poet and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier, to advise and offer his wise counsel.   There is a bit of romance between Rose and the good doctor in town, David.   
              I feel that readers of historical fiction and mysteries will thoroughly enjoy this book as I did.  I was not overly familiar with the Quaker faith, even though I had read a little bit about it.   The characters in this story make the hard work of the times seem easy, but I'm sure they were not.  The sanitary conditions of the streets shocked me.  I didn't realize that lack of sanitation carried so far into our country's history.   
             I rated this book 5 stars and can hardly wait for the next book in the series.  This is my first book by Edith Maxwell and it won't be my last!  
             I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Edith Maxwell

Edith Maxwell is an Agatha-nominated mystery author. MURDER MOST FOWL, book four in her Local Foods Mystery series, released in 2016. Edith once owned and operated the smallest certified-organic farm in Essex County, Massachusetts. 

Edith also writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries. DELIVERING THE TRUTH, featuring a Quaker midwife sleuth in 1888, released in 2016. Edith is Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. Her story, "A Questionable Death," was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story.

As Maddie Day, Edith writes the Country Store Mysteries set in southern Indiana. GRILLED FOR MURDER released in 2016.

BLUFFING IS MURDER, the second in Edith’s Lauren Rousseau mystery series (written as Tace Baker), features a Quaker linguistics professor. Edith holds a PhD in linguistics.

Her short stories have appeared in more than a dozen juried anthologies and magazines. She is active in Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and is the Vice President of SINC New England.

Edith, a fourth-generation Californian, has two grown sons and lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau, their three cats, a small organic garden, and some impressive garden statuary. She worked as a software technical writer for almost two decades but now writes fiction full time.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

5-Star Review of "Sweet as Honey"

Review of Sweet as Honey

The Honeybee Sisters #1

by Jennifer Beckstrand

27204472

Smart, kind, and good-hearted, the three Christner girls are affectionately known as The Honeybee Sisters in the beloved Wisconsin Amish community where, under the care of their aunt, they've grown into skilled beekeepers--and lovely, sought-after young women. . .

Though she has blossomed into a beauty, Lily Christner doesn't really believe it. Deep down, she still feels like a lonely, gawky teenager. Maybe that's why she's all but promised herself to Paul Glick, the one boy who never teased her in her awkward girlhood--unlike Dan Kanagy, whose creative name-calling left her in tears many a time. Now he's back in town after two years away--and being surprisingly sweet, suspiciously attentive--and making Lily unsettlingly yet deliciously nervous. It seems Dan wants Lily's forgiveness--and her heart. But can he convince her--not to mention her protective schwesters and aendi--that despite the past, her future lies with him?... 

MY REVIEW:  Everyone knows that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar and the Christner sisters have plenty of honey.  But who's the fly they catch and who's the fly they really need to catch for Lily?  Paul Glick has already been caught in the honey, but is he the right one?   He might just be a bad fly...full of insults and hurtful remarks to his girlfriend, Lily.  Dan Kanagy returns to the Wisconsin Amish community after two years away, but Lily has never forgotten him.  All through their school years, he called her names that hurt her feelings.  Unfortunately, he's still using these same names.  Paul Glick was the only one who befriended Lily at school when Dan picked on Lily, and he's not very happy with Dan returning to town and hanging around his girlfriend.  Lily's sisters and Aendi (Aunt) aren't too sure that they like Dan either, but he sure becomes helpful on the honeybee farm.   Will Dan endear himself to the Christner sisters and Aendi Bitsy or will she marry Paul even though her heart isn't quite feeling happy around him?   
               The Christner sisters are so sweet and they deserve the very best.  I fell in love with these sisters and their Aendi and felt badly for the way the community treats them.   Their own grandparents didn't treat them as I would have wished.    This book drew me into the story and made me root for the girls.  I wanted the best for them and felt like they were my own best friends instead of characters in a book.   It was very interesting to learn so many facts and details about the bee keeping and honey making business and the author had obviously researched this extensively.   Many Amish facts are presented as well which will be informative to readers who are new to the Amish faith and ways.  
             I rated this book 5 stars and am already anxious to read book two in the series.   
             I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand

I grew up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. After all that literary immersion, I naturally decided to get a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of my six children needed help with homework. After my fourth daughter was born, I started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, I finished my first manuscript—a Western—in just under fourteen years.

I have always been fascinated by the Amish way of life and now write Inspirational Amish Romance. I am drawn to the strong faith of the Plain people and admire the importance they put on enduring family ties. I have visited and studied Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where I met with a bishop and a minister as well as several Amish mamms, dats, and children. It has always impressed me at what salt-of-the-earth people they are. My interactions with these kind people have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have a dear Amish friend with whom I correspond in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She helps me keep my facts straight and gives me inspiration for my stories.

My goal is to write uplifting, inspiring stories with happy endings and hopeful messages. If my books make readers want to give themselves a big hug or jump up and down for joy, I’ve done my job. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

There are three Amish romances in the Forever After in Apple Lake Series (Summerside/Guideposts). Kate’s Song, Rebecca’s Rose, and Miriam’s Quilt are all now available.

I have six Amish Romances in the works with Kensington Books. The first and second books, Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Summer, are now available in stores and online. The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill is set in northern Wisconsin Amish country.

The series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, is about an elderly Amish couple who try to find suitable mates for their grandchildren. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? No one would ever suspect two octogenarian Amish folks of mischief.

Romantic Times gave Huckleberry Hill 4 1/2 stars and chose Huckleberry Summer as a TOP PICK.

I have four daughters, two sons, three sons-in-law, and two adorable grandsons. I live in the foothills of the Wasatch Front with my husband and one son still left at home.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

4-Star Review of "Haunted Summer"

Review of Haunted Summer

by Anne Edwards


Bereaved and alone, Mary Shelley looks back on the first magical summer abroad she shared with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. 

As a teenage Mary knew as soon as she saw Shelley that her life had been touched by genius. 

There was immediately between them the volcanic forces of the erotic and the intellectual that made their final union predestined. 

But Shelley was already wed. 

Along with Mary’s half sister, Claire Clairmont, nineteen-year old Mary, and twenty-three year old Shelly eloped to Switzerland, damning themselves, and becoming fugitives from their own country. 

And Claire was also harbouring a secret: she was carrying the bastard child of Lord Byron, and had directed their trip in the hope of finding him. 

To Claire’s delight Byron shares their hotel, but Mary is worried for her, as she catches him looking upon her with disgust. 

Along with Byron was his attendant, Dr. Polidori, a handsome half-Italian, who Mary instantly takes a dislike to. 

But Shelley and Lord Byron are instantly drawn together. Both are poets; children of the Revolution; and exiles. 

And their friendship meant the five became a close group. 

Byron proposes a challenge: each should tell a ghost story. 

At firstF Mary struggles, but after searching deep within her soul, Frankenstein is born… 

As the summer days stretch on, tension starts to grow within the group. 

And it soon becomes apparent that they will eventually have to return to reality. 

Can Mary protect Claire from Byron’s true feelings? 

Will Byron’s destructive streak sabotage her relationship with Shelley? 

Haunted Summer tells a spine-chilling, gothic tale of the dark tangle of love and madness that bound together literature’s greatest Romantic figures. 

My Review:  I had a very difficult time getting into this book.  I also felt that the more complex vocabulary and language would likely be almost impossible for the average person to be able to understand.    This book was classified as "mystery, thriller" and I didn't find that appropriate.  It seemed more of a drama to me.   This book leaned heavily towards the occult and this would likely be off putting to many as it was to me.  As I read further into the book, it became more interesting to me.   It was highly unusual though and is based on the true story of the author of Frankenstein.  The story tells of the inspiration for her creation of the plot for Frankenstein,  a highly successful and popular story.  Mary and Shelley considered themselves to be "married" but he, in fact, was already married and thus became a bygamist.   Claire was mistreated and treated with disgust by Lord Byron, the father of her unborn child.   He planned to take the child to raise and would allow Claire visits with their child in disguise as an aunt of the child.   I found this to honestly be very weird.   I didn't understand how Claire could so willingly give up constant contact with her child.  I could never do this and would not even consider the possibility.   Lord Byron and his attendant, Dr. Polidori, use opium and encourage Mary, Shelley, and Claire to do the same.   They do agree after some time of refusal.   They tell ghost stories in the dark, damp cellar of the castle Lord Byron rents for the summer in Switzerland.   This adds to the gothic, frightening aspect of the ghost stories.   Shelley and Lord Byron forge a strong friendship, in great part due to the fact that both are poets.   Their poems are featured through the body of the book.   Again, I think the average reader would not comprehend the language and symbolism of these poems.  
          I rated this book 4-stars and would recommend it to a limited audience of highly educated readers and those with an appreciation for Frankenstein.
          I received this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.  

About the Author:

Anne Edwards (born August 20, 1927,[1] Port Chester, New York, USA[2]) is an American author best known for her biographies of celebrities that include Princess DianaMaria CallasJudy GarlandKatharine HepburnVivien LeighMargaret MitchellRonald ReaganBarbra StreisandShirley Temple and Countess Sonya Tolstoy.
She attended University of California, Los Angeles (1943–46) and Southern Methodist University (1947–48).[2] A child performer on stage and radio, she began her writing career as a junior writer at MGM in 1944 and became a noted Hollywood screenwriter and television writer during the late 1940s and early 1950s.[2] She lived in the UK and Europe from the mid-1950s until 1972.[2] After returning to the United States in 1973, she lived in Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut before returning to Beverly Hills, California where she currently resides.[3] Her film credits include co-writing the first draft of the screenplay for the film Funny Girl(1968)[3] starring Barbra Streisand. She wrote her first novel, the best-selling The Survivors, in 1968 and subsequently (as of 2015) has written eight novels, sixteen biographies, three children's books, two memoirs (one with her late husband—composer-musicologist-pianist Stephen Citron[3]) and an autobiography. She is a past president of the Authors Guild and currently serves on its Board of Directors.[4] Her collection of literary manuscripts, papers, and related materials is now part of the Special Collections Department of theCharles E. Young Research Library[5] at UCLA, where she has taught writing.
In an interview for Publishers Weekly, Edwards said, "An idea hits me, then I develop the story or, in the case of a biography, think of a person who exemplifies that theme. Vivien [Leigh], Judy [Garland] and Sonya [Tolstoy] were vastly interesting people and symbolic of certain things: Judy, the exploitation of a woman; Vivien, somebody who suffered from manic-depression; Sonya, an intelligent woman subjugated to a man who used her, drained her, made a villain of her.

Monday, June 27, 2016

5-Star Review of "A Fistful of God"

Review of A Fistful of God


by Therese M. Travis


17783117

She's never taken a drink, but she's recovering from alcoholism all the same. After the death of her father, teenager Aidyn Pierce spends all her time cleaning up her mother's messes. So when Mom announces she's getting sober, Aidyn doesn't believe her. Mom has tried before, and Aidyn knows there will come a time?a day, a week, maybe even a month from now—when the cravings will be too much, and her mother will start drinking again. So, when Aidyn is encouraged to attend support meetings, she refuses. No point in wasting her time when her mother's going to drink again, anyway. But what Aidyn doesn't count on is the healing power of love and friendship, and the incredible strength of God to walk both mother and daughter through the dark valley of addiction and recovery.

MY REVIEW:   Is she really going to remain sober? How can I ever by sure?  I know she's going to drink again.  She's probably lying anyway.   She never keeps her word.  I can't let anyone know either.   These thoughts and many others like them are constantly running through Aidyn Pierce's mind.  As if it isn't difficult enough to be a teenager.  Only Aidyn does not allow herself to be a normal teen because she's too afraid if anyone gets close to her that they will find out about her drunk mother. But when her mother insists they go to Mass together (and Aidyn doesn't trust that this will last either), Aidyn finds some teenagers reaching out to her, pulling her into their youth group, and actually including her and caring about her.  Is this for real? why would the popular kids from school want anything to do with her?

       This book touched me in so many ways. I grew up with an alcoholic father and even though he didn't actively drink during my growing up years after a car accident while drinking that almost killed him, he exhibited "dry drunk" behaviors because he did not seek any help such as counseling or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  The feelings Aidyn experiences will help many teens to feel that they are not alone and this book certainly appeals to adults as well.   

       I rated this book 5 stars and am delighted to recommend it to readers of YA novels.       I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:

Therese M. Travis, author of the powerful coming of age, young adult novel, A Fistful of God.  Therese has been writing since she found out that her beloved books were written by real people—about the age of eight. Since then, she’s always had a story going on in her head, and sometimes forgets reality. She loves going to church, volunteering there, spending time with her family, crafting with friends, and reading.