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Book Review: Still Life

24 Mar

Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

 

 

Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. She’s a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her web site at http://www.DaniPettrey.com.

 

My Impressions:

Still Life by Dani Pettrey was my book club’s March selection. We all liked it, perhaps not as much as book 1 in the Chesapeake Valor series, Cold Shot, but all of us liked the fast-paced suspense and the developing romance between main characters, Avery and Parker. There was one thing we did have trouble with: the number of characters that were involved — lots of characters in the ensemble cast and lots of characters that were involved with the investigations the book undertook. I actually had trouble with the names given to the main characters. Most are gender non-specific and are usually last names. I know, I know, this is hardly a real problem and I am a bit old-fashioned (my 3 kids all have very traditional names), but it still took me out of the story as I tried to remember just who was who. As I looked at the lower starred Amazon ratings, I found some had trouble with the darker turn to Pettrey’s novel. My group members are big fans of Criminal Minds, CSI, and other shows of the same genre, so the creep-factor was a bonus for us! Still Life also made us want to explore Baltimore and environs. When a book’s setting inspires, that is a really good thing. The spiritual theme of forgiveness and its impact on past guilt is a relevant issue and we found it well-handled. For readers that may not be able to road trip to Maryland, Pettrey has a Book Club Kit for Still Life that includes recipes, pictures of Fells Point in Baltimore, discussion questions and more. What a great resource!.

Still Life is book 2 in the series and many story threads are still to be untangled. We are looking forward to more thrilling rides with Dani Pettrey.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Book Review: The Senator’s Youngest Daughter

22 Mar

Senator A.C. McFerren has been missing for more than six months. The obvious prime suspect in his disappearance is the homegrown terrorist group known as the Army of Social Justice. Searching for her kidnapped father leads Brenna McFerren Jefferson to the terrorists’ elusive “Death of Government” headquarters, known as The Doghouse. But nosing around where the federal government won’t investigate puts a target on her family… and sets in motion a rebellion she isn’t prepared to lead. Dreams of liberty cause the Senator’s daughter to disguise herself for undercover recon, recruit a high-ranking defector, and partner with a subversive news agency that combats government propaganda. As Brenna’s strength and family ties are tested, she unites a political party that commands the power to transform the United States.

 

 

Kelley Rose Waller writes fiction to imagine new life experiences. Her debut novel, The Senator’s Youngest Daughter, was released October 1, 2016. This conservative political thriller pits a young woman and her family against a media tycoon backed by the president of a very different United States.

Kelley’s day job as a marketing strategist offers her the opportunity to write and plan for clients in diverse fields. Kelley and her husband are Pennsylvania foster parents. She lives and writes to uplift and glorify the name of Jesus Christ.

Kelley is a ridiculous fan of science fiction and board games. She has a B.A. in English and lives in Lancaster, PA, with her husband, three sons, and their dog.

 

My Impressions:

The Senator’s Youngest Daughter is Kelly Rose Waller’s debut novel featuring a futuristic United States that has abandoned its constitutional foundation to become a benevolent dictatorship. But as the old adage goes, absolute power will result in absolute corruption. This novel is a fast-paced, action-packed political thriller that hits a little too close to home in its portrayal of a nation given over to one man’s ideology.

Waller’s debut is first person, present tense which can be a bit jarring, but in this case kept this reader in the action and definitely guessing at what would come next. Main character Brenna is the narrator, and her strengths and weaknesses are focused as she joins in her family and friends’ struggle against an oppressive US government. The novel kept me engaged when the action was at its highest, but the story bogged down when the characters expounded on political ideas. That came off as a bit preachy. The Senator’s Youngest Daughter has a YA vibe, but many scenes were a little too adult for that designation. I think it falls more into the New Adult designation. It is a clean-read, but not a Christian book, although the author’s Christian worldview does impact the subject matter.

For fans of political thrillers and dystopian fiction, The Senator’s Youngest Daughter is worth a look.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE. (The Kindle version is $1.99)

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

 

Book Review + Giveaway!: The Elusive Miss Ellison

20 Mar

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That’s the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister’s daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won’t take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia’s pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother–who stole the most important person in Livvie’s world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he’s just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there’s already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn’t the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

 

Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn’’s novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.

Find out more about Carolyn at https://www.carolynmiller.org.

 

My Impressions:

Fans of Austen-esque Regency novels will be happy to have another go-to author. Carolyn Miller’s debut novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison, meets all the requirements: an independent heroine, a hunky hero with more than a few flaws, and a love story filled with obstacles, yet possessing sweet hints of a happily-ever-after. Jane aficionados will recognize the many nods to Pride And Prejudice, but this novel is not a copy-cat. It’s firm foundation in faith is a very welcome addition. I give this one a recommended rating.

Miss Lavinia Ellison has very decided opinions, one of which is that the newest Earl of Hawkesbury should be helping his tenants and the village of St. Hampton Heath. But the relationship between the independent Miss Ellison and Nicholas Stamford is marred by their common past, a past filled with tragedy and unforgiveness. Both will need to break through their walls for a future that just may include love.

As stated above, The Elusive Miss Ellison pays homage to Jane Austen. You can hear hints of Austen in the dialog and in the characters that Miller has created. Familiar phrases sprinkle the conversations and there may be more than a little bit of Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins and Caroline Bingley in a few of the minor characters. Miller even uses a familiar plot device — get a sick heroine into the home of the hero to advance the story. But Miller’s theme of forgiveness extended and accepted is all her own. That theme, as well as a heroine that holds if not modern, then before-her-time, convictions, adds depth to the novel.

If you are looking for a Regency romance that is more than just fluff, then The Elusive Miss Ellison is one to try.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase, click HERE. (Hurry! Today it is FREE for Kindle!)

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

Giveaway!

Settle in for a cozy night of reading with a cuppa and a Kindle from Carolyn!

One grand prize winner will receive:
A copy of The Elusive Miss Ellison
A Kindle Fire
Two William Morris mugs (winner’s choice)
A box of tea

Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on March 22. The winner will be announced March 23 on the Litfuse blog.

Book Review: Redeeming Grace

16 Mar

When famine visits Bethlehem, Boaz holds out hope for rain while his relative Elimelech moves his wife Naomi and their sons to Moab. For a while, it appears the Lord is blessing Elimelech’s family, and his sons marry two lovely Moabite women. But calamities strike, one after another, leaving Naomi alone in a foreign land with only her childless daughters-in-law for comfort. When news reaches Naomi that the famine in Bethlehem has lifted, only Ruth will hazard the journey to her mother-in-law’s homeland. Destitute and downhearted, Naomi resigns herself to a life of bitter poverty, but Ruth holds out hope for a better future. And Boaz may be the one God has chosen to provide it.

Combining meticulous research with her endless imagination, Jill Eileen Smith gorgeously renders one of the most beautiful stories in Scripture. Readers will adore this third installment of the inspiring Daughters of the Promised Land series.

 

Jill Eileen Smith is the author of Desert Princess (ebook short) #1 Loves of King Solomon series, the Wives of the Patriarchs series, the Daughters of the Promised Land series, and the bestselling author of the Wives of King David series. When she isn’t writing, she can often be found reading, biking, traveling, spending time with friends, or snugging her feline writing buddy Tiger. She especially enjoys spending time with her family.

To learn more about Jill or for more information about her books, visit her website at http://www.jilleileensmith.com. You can also contact Jill at jill@jilleileensmith.com. She loves hearing from her readers.

 

My Impressions:

I loved the first two books in Jill Eileen Smith’s Daughters of The Promised Land series, The Crimson Cord and The Prophetess. But I think my favorite so far is the latest installment, Redeeming Grace. This retelling of the beloved story of Ruth added dimension to a very familiar tale. Smith is a master at capturing the historical setting and creating believable characters that speak to modern readers while being faithful to the culture of their day. I’ve read and re-read the book of Ruth many times, but this fresh take opened my eyes to the depth of God’s sovereignty portrayed in the Biblical narrative. Thanks Jill, for a wonderful book!

It’s the time of the Judges in ancient Israel, and a famine has gripped the land for years. Naomi’s husband Elimelech seeks prosperity in the land of the enemy, Moab. As the family prospers materially, a spiritual decline occurs, and Naomi yearns for a return to the home of her God. When tragedy strikes, Naomi, bitter in heart, begins the return journey with few possessions, but with a faithful daughter-in-law, Ruth. Can hope replace Naomi’s bitterness?

I loved the backstories that Smith created for each of the main characters. Plausible what-ifs add to the story without altering the truth taken from the biblical record. The reader will take Naomi, Ruth and Boaz into her heart as they struggle with doubts, grief, and questions. Many questions and prayers seem to go unanswered, but God’s sovereignty is powerfully displayed as the rest of the story unfolds. This is really the strength of the novel — a God who is faithful even when we can only see with darkened eyes and partial understanding.

For fans of biblical fiction, Redeeming Grace is a must read, but it is also for anyone who enjoys a good story well-told. It gets a highly recommended rating from me.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Home at Last

9 Mar

Why did their differences matter so much?

Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite — well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?
Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

DEBORAH RANEY dreamed of writing a book since the summer she read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and discovered that a Kansas farm girl could, indeed, grow up to be a writer. Her more than 30 books have garnered multiple industry awards including the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers’ Choice Award, Carol Award, Silver Angel from Excellence in Media, and have three times been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, shed light on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The novel inspired the highly acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title and continues to be a tool for Alzheimer’s families and caregivers. Deborah is on faculty for several national writers’ conferences and serves on the executive board of the 2700-member American Christian Fiction Writers organization. She and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas –– the setting of many of Deb’s novels –– for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita. They often travel to teach at writers conferences across the country, and to visit their four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at http://www.deborahraney.com.

 

My Impressions:

Deborah Raney creates highly readable family dramas that are not afraid to tackle tough issues. Her Chicory Inn series has looked at infertility and infidelity, among other things. In the fifth and final book in the series, Home at Last, racism is explored in an honest manner. Home at Last made me think and re-think the issues surrounding race relations and my own expectations and attitudes. A great ending for a great series.

Link Whitman, the only surviving son in the Whitman clan, is the focus of Home at Last. At twenty-nine his life has settled into a routine, and he is wondering if he settling for a life that is somehow less. Shayla Michaels is struggling to raise her niece and help run her father’s business and doesn’t have time for superficial flirtations. But there seems to be something different about Link. Obstacles abound in their new-found love, not the least are objections from family and differences in how they view the world.

First and foremost, Home at Last is a well-written story that makes the reader care about its likable characters. Main characters Link and Shayla have a lot going for them and a lot going against them. Raney doesn’t sugar-coat the real problems that face biracial couples. This reader’s eyes were certainly opened. Faith is naturally woven throughout the novel with characters struggling to keep believing in the face of hardships that pile up. I loved the support that Link provided Shayla and the way they faced the future with realistic expectations, but with a big dose of hope.

You don’t have to read the other books in the Chicory Inn series to enjoy Home at Last. But I would suggest you start at the beginning. You won’t want to miss this excellent series. And with this one being the last, you can binge read without  having to wait for the next installment!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Litfuse and Abingdon for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Children’s Corner (+ A Giveaway) — NIV The Plans I Have for You Holy Bible

8 Mar

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11

God has great plans for you. It’s true. The Plans I Have for You Holy Bible will inspire readers to dream about their future and to trust that God has great plans for each and every one of us.

The features of this latest addition to The Plans I Have for You collection include:

Introduction from author Amy Parker
50 God’s Big Plans pages tell how God had big plans for individuals in the Bible and his people as a whole, for example, Moses, Noah, Jonah, Esther, and YOU!
25 Promise Prayers pages focus on children asking God to help them fulfill his plans for them.
100 highlighted verses, including God’s promises as well as hopeful and uplifting verses
Presentation Page
Index to features
Index of highlighted verses
Lively two-color art from Vanessa Brantley Newton, illustrator of The Plans I Have for You picture book

My Impressions:

I loved Amy Parker’s The Plans I Have for You — a children’s book with Jeremiah 29:11 as its foundation. Now a Bible is available for children ages 8-12 that reinforces God’s big plans for them and the world. Using the very readable NIV translation, The Plans I Have for You Holy Bible includes highlighted key verses featuring the plans God has for His people, explanations of God’s plans with applications for kids, and prayers that can jump start quiet times. If you are looking for a Bible for that special child in your life, you need to check this one out.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 8-12

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

 

Giveaway

I have a copy of NIV The Plans I Have for You Holy Bible to give away. To enter, leave me a comment stating who you will be sharing this Bible with. I will pick a winner on March 22. (Due to shipping costs, US entries only please.)

Children’s Corner — NIV Investigator’s Holy Bible

8 Mar

Have you ever used a magnifying glass? It makes everything bigger and easier to see, right? Detectives and scientists magnify things to understand them better. Well that’s just what this Bible does—it’s a magnifying glass to help children understand the Word of God better.

The Bible is a gift from God, but many of the things written in the Bible are hard for kids to understand. In fact, sometimes they’re downright mysterious to kids. Using kid-friendly language and a detective theme, the two color NIV Investigator’s Holy Bible explains the Bible text for kids ages 6–10. Two central mystery-solving characters invite children to investigate the Bible using the following features:

Evidence—Bible book introductions answer what kind of book it is, who wrote it, what happens, and the “best part”
Breakthrough—answers questions kids might ask, such as “Who were the Philistines?” and “What is The Spirit of God?”
Scene—includes descriptions highlighting geographical information pertinent to a verse
Witness—explains the meaning and history behind Biblical names
Detective—quizzes students on what they have learned
Case Closed—explores how the events of a particular book of the Bible relate to children as individuals

 

My Impressions:

Wow! What a great Bible for kids! The NIV Investigator’s Holy Bible is a study Bible that will appeal to elementary aged children as they discover all that God’s Word holds for them. Using the easily readable NIV translation, this Bible adds a number of features that will make the Bible real — information on setting and author, meanings of names, and explanations of concepts. There’s even a quick quiz to help kids retain what they have just read. This Bible is just the thing to engage young minds and encourage them to explore what God has for them.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 6-10.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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