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Book Review: Imperfect Justice

18 Jan

The police say the woman was a murderer. Emilie Wesley knows they can’t be talking about her client . . .  can they?

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister — right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him.

Thrown together in the race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl — and find a future for themselves in the process?

Cara Putman is a homeschooling mom of four, attorney, lecturer at a Big Ten university, active in women’s ministry, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, her husband, and her kids. Cara graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Huskers!), George Mason Law School, and Purdue University’s MBA program. You can learn more about her books at http://www.caraputman.com. And if you’d like a copy of her legal suspense novella, Dying for Love, simply connect with her here (http://www.caraputman.com/contact/) , and she’ll send you the link.

My Impressions:

Imperfect Justice is the first book by Cara Putman that my book club has read. And judging from the demands of members, it certainly won’t be the last. This page-turning romantic suspense got two thumbs-up from By The Book.

Emilie Wesley is a lawyer who fights to protect her clients from abuse and harassment. She knows a thing or two about that, having encountered an abusive boyfriend and a stalker. But something goes horribly wrong with one of her clients, and the woman she vowed to protect is dead and so is the daughter she is accused of killing. Emilie teams up with her client’s brother to find the truth and protect Kaylene’s surviving child.

Imperfect Justice combines suspense, romance and legal drama in one satisfying read. Members of By The Book found the characters real and relatable and the plot realistic. We had a great discussion of the aspects of protective orders and family violence. We also agreed that we never saw the ending coming — a big plus with our group. We read a lot of suspense, and if a book manages to surprise us, that is a big plus! Members also agreed that we liked the sincere faith of the characters, especially Reid. There were some minor plot points that we found a bit convenient and we thought Reid’s niece recovered a bit quickly, but all in all we recommend this novel.

Imperfect Justice is the second book in the series, but is easily read as a standalone. By the time we finished our discussion, many were clamoring to get a copy of book 1, Beyond Justice. And, I imagine that book 3, Delayed Justice will make more than one member’s TBR list.

Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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Book Review: Missing Isaac

17 Jan

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete — and the people he loves most — will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

 

Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others. As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master’s degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.

 

My Impressions:

This review is going to be difficult to write. Although Missing Isaac, the debut novel of Valerie Fraser Luesse, is a book that has it all — relatable and complex characters, a story that grabs your heart, and a voice speaks to the soul — it is difficult to get past the emotions that it elicited and name specifics as to why you should read it. And read it, you must! This book will win awards, I guarantee. And it most definitely will be on my best of the best list for 2018, if not of all time. It gets the very rare Very Highly Recommended distinction from me.

The time is the 1960s and the place is rural Alabama. It is a simple time for 11 year-old Pete who adores his father and has not a care in the world. But things can change in an instant, and Pete is swept up into a world of loss and grief. His anchor in the storm is an unlikely friend — a 30-something black man who has worked most of his life as a field hand for Pete’s family. They form an easy bond, but in another life-changing moment, Isaac disappears, leaving Pete unsettled and determined to find our what has happened to Isaac Reynolds.

Luesse has a beautiful writing style. The language of the different classes and races shines through in her flowing narrative and dialogue. The characters, quirky and oh so Southern, are real. I found myself quickly immersed in the story. And though Missing Isaac is a novel to be savored, it was a surprisingly quick read. I just could not put it down, and the many distractions around me faded the minute I stepped into the world of Glory, Alabama. There’s a lot going on in Glory, the nuances and undercurrents of which Pete is innocent. His encounter with a girl from the Hollow expands his experiences with life and love beyond his safe home. You see, there are all kinds of worlds out there that we have no knowledge of. As Dovey puts it — “Pete, what’s throwin’ you off is that you think there’s just one world we all live in, but there’s not. There’s a bunch of ’em. There’s the world you come from and the world I come from and the world Isaac comes from — there’s all kinda worlds. And the only people that don’t seem to know that are the ones that come from yours.” What I especially liked about this book is that Luesse merged those worlds, those different classes of people that made their home in Glory, in a beautiful way.

Missing Isaac is a poignant look at a time gone by that is not so distant from our own time, a time that hasn’t changed enough. But while it handles some heavy issues, there is a lightness and a wit about it that keeps the darkness at bay. There are some really funny moments in the midst of fear and grief and discouragement — a picture of real life. Missing Isaac has a wonderful foundation of faith as well. It is as natural and living as the fields that surround the small farming community.

I hope my ramblings will get you interested enough to pick this one up. Missing Isaac is my book club’s February selection. I cannot wait for my friends to read it!

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: young adults through adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinion expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: Oath of Honor

15 Jan

Police officer Isabelle St. John loves her crazy, loud, law-enforcement family. With three brothers and two sisters, she’s never without someone to hang out with –o r fight with. And she knows they’ll be there for her when things get tough. Like when her partner is murdered and she barely escapes with her own life.

Determined to discover exactly what happened, Izzy’s investigation sends her headfirst into a criminal organization, possibly with cops on the payroll — including someone from her own family. With her dead partner’s handsome homicide detective brother Ryan shadowing her every move, Izzy’s head is spinning. How can she secure justice for her partner when doing so could mean sending someone she loves to prison? And how will she guard her heart when the man she’s had a secret crush on for years won’t leave her side?

 

Award-winning, best-selling author, Lynette Eason writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense line and for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Her books have hit the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won numerous awards such as the prestigious Carol Award, the Selah, the Daphne, the IRCC award and more. Lynette is married, has two children, and lives in Greenville, SC.

 

My Impressions:

I started the New Year with a bang when I picked up Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason. This romantic suspense novel, the first installment in the Blue Justice series, promises more great reading for Eason’s fans. Fast-paced with an extensive supporting cast that will no doubt headline future novels, this one is a page-turner. Recommended.

Isabelle (Izzy) St. John is part of a huge family who put their money where there mouths are when it comes to fighting crime. Izzy is a police officer and takes her position very seriously. When the unthinkable occurs during a stake-out, Izzy vows to bring to justice those who killed her partner. Izzy, along with detective Ryan Marshall, follows the leads in a race against time to uncover just what really is going on.

Fans of Blue Bloods will love Oath of Honor. The St. John family includes an FBI agent, the Chief of Police, police officers and detectives, a K-9 officer, an attorney, and a surgeon. This novel focuses on Izzy and her twin brother Derek, an undercover policeman and SWAT team member. As stated above, the pace is fast — the action takes place in just a few days, and the stakes are high — an election is jeopardized and people are dying. The facts of the case unfold for the reader as the characters discover them. There are a lot of twists and turns and dangerous situations, and I was never sure just what was going on. I certainly was surprised by the ending! Despite the short timeframe of the book, the romance progressed in a reasonable and believable manner. Izzy and Ryan were friends from childhood and their families were close neighbors — this allowed for a natural growth in their relationship. While I liked Oath of Honor overall, it was a bit daunting keeping up with the many characters. I finally just focused on the main characters. However, I do look forward to more books involving Izzy’s brothers and sisters. I anticipate more edge-of-the-seat stories from the St. John clan.

All in all, I liked Oath of Honor. If you are a fan of action packed romantic suspense, this one is for you.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

#ThrowbackThursday! Snapshot by Lis Wiehl

11 Jan

I have seen a number of #ThrowbackThursday posts today and thought, I have got to get in on that action! What a great way to highlight books that are still with me — those I think about long after I have closed the cover. This week I am sharing Snapshot by Lis Wiehl. My book club read this suspense novel several years ago and it was a hit. Our favorite genre is definitely mystery/suspense so of course we had to read it, but it also brought back the turbulent times of the 1960s. If you haven’t read Snapshot, we recommend it to you. If you have, we’d love to know your thoughts.

Two little girls, frozen in black and white. One picture worth killing for.

The Civil Rights Movement is less than a distant memory to Lisa Waldren—it is someone else’s memory altogether, passed on to her through the pages of history. Her life as a federal prosecutor in Boston feels utterly remote from the marches in the South that changed her father’s generation—and the entire nation—forever.

But the truth is, she was there.

When a photograph surfaces showing a blond, four-year-old Lisa playing with an African-American girl at a civil rights march in Fort Worth, Lisa is faced with a jarring revelation: the girls may have been the only witnesses who observed the killer of civil rights leader Benjamin Gray . . . and therefore the only ones who can exonerate the death row inmate falsely accused of the murder.

Soon, Lisa finds herself in the dangerous world her father had shielded her from as a child. After some searching, the Waldrens find the other little girl from the photo and, in the process, uncover conspiracy mere steps away from the likes of Bobby Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and J. Edgar Hoover.

Lis Wiehl is one of the nation’s most prominent trial lawyers and highly regarded commentators. Currently, she is the legal analyst and reporter on the Fox News Channel and Bill O’Reilly’s sparring partner in the weekly “Is It Legal?” segment on The O’Reilly Factor. Prior to that she was O’Reilly’s co-host on the nationally syndicated show The Radio Factor. She is also a Professor of Law at New York Law School. Her column “Lis on Law” appears weekly on FoxNews.com.

Prior to joining Fox News Channel in New York City, Wiehl served as a legal analyst and reporter for NBC News and NPR’s All Things Considered. Before that, Wiehl served as a Federal Prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s office.

Wiehl earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School and her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland.

Wiehl is also the author of The 51% Minority, which won the 2008 award for Books for a Better Life in the motivational category, and Winning Every Time.

She lives with her husband and two children in New York.

My Impressions:

Lis Wiehl has become a favorite author of my book club, By The Book. We love suspense, so we chose Snapshot for our November selection. Inspired by Wiehl’s father and a real-life snapshot of Wiehl as a child, this novel has all the elements for those who love suspense — fast-paced plot, smart and savvy characters, and conspiracies galore. It also has a tie to real events in our nation’s history. Perfect for history buffs and mystery/suspense fans.

Federal prosecutor Lisa Waldren has had a strained relationship with her ex-FBI agent dad for years. When he calls with a plea to help him uncover the real killer of a Civil Rights activist from the 1960s, she is persuaded to join the case not just to bring justice to a man on death row, but to build some bridges. With the help of her father’s unconventional PI girlfriend, Lisa’s friend Drew and Molly the now grown up little girl from the long ago snapshot, the team uncovers long kept secrets and unearths the truth surrounding long lost friends.

I imagine that my book club will have lots to talk about when we meet at the end of the week. Snapshot is inspired by real events in Wiehl and her father’s past. There should be good discussion on the current state of race relations in the U.S. as well as what has or hasn’t changed from the mid-196os. We have a large age span in our group (from 30s to 90+), so it should be interesting to hear everyone’s insights. The plot of this novel should also satisfy those of us who like a good mystery. Although the bad actors are disclosed early on in the book, the reader is left guessing motivations. There are also a number of shadow characters that come to light at the end of the book. There are only brief references to faith in Snapshot. Only one character seems to really live her life for God and she is a minister. Her influence is big at the end and should elicit good discussion as well.

All in all, I liked Snapshot. In fact, it is probably my favorite by Wiehl to date. Have you read this one? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Recommended.

Audience: Adults

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Book Review + Giveaway: A Song of Home

10 Jan

Pearl Spence has finally settled into a routine in Bliss, Michigan, far from her home in Red River, Oklahoma. Like all the other kids, she goes to school each day, plays in the woods, and does her chores. But there’s one big difference: Mama is still gone, and doesn’t seem to have a thought for the family she’s left behind.

Escaping from her worries is another part of Pearl’s new routine, whether that’s running to Aunt Carrie’s farm, listening to the radio with Ray, or losing herself in a book. In fact, a chair in the stacks, surrounded by books, might be her favorite place on earth–until she discovers swing dancing. The music transports Pearl to a whole other world.

When Mama unexpectedly returns, it isn’t the happy occasion Pearl had imagined. Mama is distant and Pearl can’t figure out how to please her. And the horrible way she treats Daddy is more than Pearl can bear. Seems life would be better if Mama would just stay away.

Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. She is the bestselling author of A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (Kregel, 2015), A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression, and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (Kregel, 2017)

She is also the author of My Mother’s Chamomile (WhiteFire, 2014) and Paint Chips (WhiteFire, 2013).

Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.

 

My Impressions:

A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner speaks to the issue of home and just how tenuous the concept is. Set in the mid-1930s its historical setting is spot-on showing the depth of research undertaken by the author. But its message is universal, making this novel more than just genre fiction. I fell in love with main character, Pearl Spence, in the first book in the series. Her voice is strong in spite of her young age. This third installment is no exception and earns a highly recommended rating from me.

It has been a tough year for Pearl Spence. The death of her older sister, the relocation of her family from dust bowl Oklahoma to the abundant and green Bliss, MI, and the seeming abandonment of her mother impact her inner life and insecurities. Confused by the adult world that continues to influence her life, Pearl copes as best she can, escaping into books and creating stories to work through the situations that surround her. But she never loses her hope that someday home will be real.

A Song of Home is told from the first person perspective of 11 year old Pearl. The language and insights are pure preadolescent, but Pearl has lived through enough trauma to make her older and a bit wiser beyond her years. Pearl’s interactions with family and friends are important in understanding what is happening around her, but it is her introspective voice that adds depth to the novel. Pearl collects stories, images, and beliefs of what a home should look like as she tries to maneuver the ups and downs of life. Finkbeiner created a vivid world in which Pearl lives. Swing music, dances, government relief, and deeply rooted prejudices are important elements in the story.  Most of the issues explored in the book are relevant today, making this novel a good choice for book clubs. Biblical stories and allusions are woven throughout and show the foundation on which Pearl establishes her life — a foundation that sometimes is rocked, but never crumbles. I have loved every book in this series, and A Song of Home is the crowning finale. I am sad about this, because Pearl, Ray, Daddy, Mama, Aunt Carrie, and Bert have become like dear friends. As I finished the last page, I thought how wonderful a book 4 would be, perhaps one set in the early years of WWII. *hint, hint*

A Song of Home really needs to be read as part of a series, so I suggest you begin with A Cup of Dust then progress through A Trail of Crumbs. And because all three are currently available, you will have no trouble binge-reading to your heart’s content and delight!

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Giveaway!

I have an extra copy of A Song of Home to give away. Just leave a comment to enter. The giveaway runs through 1/24/18.

 

 

Book Review: On This Foundation

8 Jan

When news that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire, Nehemiah, Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia, seeks God’s guidance. After fasting and prayer, he’s given leave to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, not anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and halt the work. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is a powerful exploration of faith in the midst of oppression, and hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.

 

Lynn Austin is the author of many Christian fiction novels and holds the record for most Christy Awards won: eight. One of her books, Hidden Places was turned into a Hallmark Channel movie. She and her husband have three children and live in the Chicago area.

 

My Impressions:

On This Foundation, the third and concluding novel in Lynn Austin’s Restoration Chronicles, has been on my shelf way too long. I read the first two books, Return to Me and Keepers of The Covenant, in quick succession. Why, oh why, did I wait so long to read this wonderful novel? I can only plead ignorance — ignorance to how great this thoroughly researched and beautifully constructed book is. I expect writing Biblical fiction can be a daunting task, but Austin makes it look effortless. From the opening page to the last sentence, I devoured this book. It gets a highly recommended rating from me!

On This Foundation tells the story of Nehemiah, cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, who takes on the challenge of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He is heartbroken by the state of his nation and the city that houses the worship center of the Almighty One. His determination to glorify God fuels the project threatened by obstacles from without and within Jerusalem.

Because On This Foundation is a re-telling of a Biblical story, it had to be accurate. As I read, I referred to the Biblical record to ensure that Austin had her facts straight. She did! The novel also did what all great Christian fiction should do — it pointed me to what God had to say on the matter. Nehemiah is believably written. He is an heroic figure, but has flaws common to all men. That’s important to portray, since God always chooses regular people to achieve his goals. I liked that Austin had Nehemiah struggle with trusting God and focusing on His goals. There are two other storylines that added depth to the story. Austin’s use of women characters makes the novel real and relatable. Trust in God is a major theme for these characters as well. As one character puts it — “All our lives, we’ve believed that Abba’s decisions were for our own good. We have to trust our heavenly Father the same way. Everything He does is for our good and for His purposes, even if we don’t understand it.” Prayer also plays a significant role in the life of the characters, and they have the same doubts and fears as the modern-day reader. Although On This Foundation takes place in 445 BC, its message is spot-on for contemporary readers.

On This Foundation is part of a series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. I am using it in my Faith And Fiction Bible study later this month and am looking forward to its being a great compliment to our Bible study.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Dark Deception

4 Jan

Kate O’Brien’s quiet life in small-town Shelter Cove, Arkansas is shaken when her past suddenly comes roaring back to life. Four years ago, she and her twin sister were attacked by an elusive serial killer. Only Kate survived, and she’s been in witness protection ever since.

When new evidence arises to suggest the convicted man wasn’t the murderer, she’s subpoenaed to testify in the new trial. Afraid to go back into that world, Kate only agrees if Tony DeLuca, the deputy Marshal who protected her during the original trial, escorts her to St. Louis.

 

Nancy Mehl lives in Missouri, with her husband Norman, and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored thirty books and is currently at work on a new FBI suspense series for Bethany House Publishing.

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “It’s a part of me and of everything I think or do. God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan especially for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”

You can find out more about Nancy by visiting her Web site at: http://www.nancymehl.com. She also is active on the Suspense Sisters: http://www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com and on FaceBook!

 

My Impressions:

Nancy Mehl is a favorite of mine. She always delivers heart-pounding suspense paired with sweet romance. In Dark Deception, the second book in her Defenders of Justice series, Mehl has upped the ante. This novel is one of the more twisting, turning books I have read in a long time. If you like non-stop action, this one is for you. Recommended!

As the only survivor of a serial killer, Kate O’Brien is in witness protection. Still reeling from her ordeal, new DNA evidence has cleared her sister’s murderer. Deputy US Marshall Tony DeLuca was Kate’s protector during the trial and now, six years later, he vows to protect her again. But danger awaits the pair as they struggle to survive.

The action starts at page one and continues for one long breath-holding read. Chilling and creepy are apt words to describe the crimes and the killer. But Dark Deception never lapses into graphic detail. Mehl does a great job of engaging the imagination of the reader without lurid details. I for one was glad of that. There was enough to keep the pages turning without causing nightmares when I finally put it down. 😉 Main characters Kate and Tony have good chemistry, but the romance never seemed rushed or unbelievable. Secondary characters kept this reader guessing — just what are their motives? There are a number of seemingly random threads that the author ties together to provide some good aha moments. I especially liked the secondary plot involving a policeman named Leon. I won’t spoil anything, but that storyline really added depth to the novel. While the bad guys truly are bad, the good guys are on varying faith journeys — very realistic.

Dark Deception is book 2 in a series, but is easily read as a standalone. I have not read book 1, Fatal Frost, but need to get on that ASAP. Especially since book 3, Blind Betrayal, will be released in April 2018!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a providing a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)