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Audiobook Mini-Review: Deadly Deceit

16 Jan

Independent and tenacious journalist Vivian DeMarco is back in Walton, Georgia, for one reason–to do her job and get out. When her boss suddenly dies under suspicious circumstances, Vivian’s only hope for finding the truth–and the next big story — is small-town law enforcement’s lanky poster boy, Deputy Ryan Frost. But the deeper they dig, the more twisted the truth becomes, and Vivian finds herself fighting for not only answers but also her life. False leads, incriminating emails, and someone called The Watcher force Vivian to confront the secret of her past and decide: How much is she willing to risk for the sake of a headline?

Author Natalie Walters welcomes you back to Walton, Georgia, where everyone knows your name — but no one knows your secret.

Natalie Walters is a military wife of 22 years and currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and their three kids. She writes full-time and has been published in Proverbs 31 magazine and has blogged for Guideposts online. In addition to balancing life as a military spouse, mom, and writer, she loves connecting on social media, sharing her love of books, cooking, and traveling. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.

 

My Impressions:

I love discovering new authors, and Natalie Walters is certainly one I will search out again. In fact, I already have another of her books ready to go for book club in a few months. I chose the audio version of Deadly Deceit for an online book club. Alas, I missed the discussion, but I enjoyed the book. This romantic suspense is the second in her Harbored Secrets series. While it can be read as a standalone, I recommend you start from the beginning since characters from book 1, Living Lies, make an appearance and the mystery that was the focus of that book was mentioned a time or two. Main characters Vivian and Ryan have a great attraction, but clash when it comes to the case of murder and blackmail. Vivian is a reporter and Ryan is a sheriff’s deputy, and they don’t always see eye to eye on how the investigation should be managed. Both characters are portrayed in a realistic manner, and their romance develops naturally. The setting is a fictional small town in my home state of Georgia — what’s not to love?! The mystery kept me engaged as the villain, the Watcher, is revealed bit by bit. Both Vivian and Ryan have father issues and must learn to trust their heavenly father.

I am really glad I read Deadly Deceit and am anxious to return to Walton, Georgia for more romantic suspense.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

 

Children’s Corner — Two from Zonderkidz

15 Jan

Zonderkidz has two adorable children’s books for your special child. Check them out!

 

Love You, Love You is a cute and cuddly board book that shows the love between family members of all kinds. With heartwarming read-aloud rhymes and sweet illustrations by international artist Alison Brown, Love You, Love You is the perfect way to say, “I love you!” to the little ones in your life any time of year.

With an adorable cover case adorned with glitter, this book is perfect for Valentine’s Day, baby showers, baptisms, birthdays, new parents or grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, or anyone who wants to express love to the precious child in their life.

Love you, Love you,
Mama squeaked.
Into her nest she quickly peeked.
Sleeping babies
softly snore.
I couldn’t love you any more.

My Impressions: 

Love You, Love You is headed to my new grand baby this Valentine’s Day. The sturdy board book perfect for the littlest reader shares how much a child is loved — any time of the year. Every member of the family gets involved — parents, grands, and siblings. I thought the illustrations were adorable, even when Nana is portrayed as a snake 😉 ! Simple rhymes and bright colors will keep your child engaged.

Recommended.

Audience: babies and toddlers.

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

 

Piper & Mabel is written by Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author of four books and the hilarious voice behind the wildly popular Big Mama Blog. In her debut children’s book, Melanie shares the adventures of her two very wild but very good dogs, Piper and Mabel.

When the family plans a vacation to the beach, Piper and Mabel are shocked to discover they won’t be joining their people. Instead, they’re headed to doggie day care at the Happy Tails Ranch where they create all kinds of mischief when they discover the accommodations are not exactly what they were expecting.

Dog-lovers everywhere will enjoy the adventures of Piper and Mabel. 

My Impressions:

Piper And Mabel is so stinking cute! The two dog sisters are described as wild, but very good — a pretty apt description as they navigate being left behind when their family goes on vacation. An engaging story with two adorable main characters is complimented with highly detailed and whimsical illustrations. This book is great for a family read-along or for readers practicing their skills. It is definitely a must-read for the dog-loving child in your life!

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-8.

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

 

Book Review: End Game

9 Jan

When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper whom Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.

When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, including a link to a powerful defense contractor, they wonder if there’s a deeper cover-up at play. Then Bailey is targeted, and it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.

With the stakes getting higher by the moment in a twisted conspiracy, there’s a rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of all of them.

 

Rachel Dylan is an award-winning and bestselling author of legal thrillers and romantic suspense. Rachel has practiced law for over a decade including being a litigator at one of the nation’s top law firms. Rachel writes the Atlanta Justice Series which features strong, female attorneys in Atlanta. Deadly Proof, the first book in the Atlanta Justice series, is a CBA bestseller, an FHL Reader’s Choice Award winner, a Daphne du Maurier Finalist, and a Holt Medallion Finalist. Lone Witness is the winner of a Holt Medallion, the Maggie Award, and is a Selah Finalist. Rachel lives in Michigan with her husband and five furkids — two dogs and three cats. Rachel loves to connect with readers. You can find Rachel at racheldylan.com.

 

My Impressions:

Rachel Dylan’s newest book is the first in her Capital Intrigue series. And intrigue is what you get in End Game. This book was a puzzler from the start and had everything a fan of romantic suspense could want. It is definitely a recommended read!

Main characters Bailey Ryan and Marco Angostini become the lead investigators when a civilian and a Navy SEAL are murdered within days of each other. The striking similarities in their deaths bring together the FBI and NCIS agents to use all of their deductive skills and the assets of their respective agencies. I loved the collaborative nature of the case — many people, including those from JAG, the army, and even the local DA office, participate. End Game was a glimpse into how law enforcement personnel cooperate. The case involves three separate murders, and the team must pursue all leads. There’s danger around every corner! The novel’s Washington, D. C. setting adds an extra layer as contractors, foreign agents, and government officials are all under the microscope. End Game has great romance — there are definite sparks between Bailey and Marco — and it develops in a satisfying, yet natural manner. Dylan also interjects an inspirational message, and I loved how she had characters at all stages in their faith journey.

While the investigators closed the twisting case in End Game, I can see some more great reading ahead. I can’t wait to see what Dylan has in store in the next books.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Book Review: Echoes among The Stones

6 Jan

After Aggie Dunkirk’s career is unceremoniously ended by her own mistakes, she finds herself traveling to Wisconsin, where her grandmother, Mumsie, lives alone in her rambling old home. She didn’t plan for how eccentric Mumsie has become, obsessing over an old, unsolved crime scene — even going so far as to re-create it in the dollhouse.

Mystery seems to follow her when she finds work as a secretary helping to restore the flooded historical part of the cemetery. Forced to work with the cemetery’s puzzling, yet attractive archeologist, she exhumes the past’s secrets and unwittingly uncovers a crime that some will go to any length to keep quiet — even if it means silencing Aggie.

In 1946, Imogene Flannigan works in a local factory and has eyes on owning her own beauty salon. But coming home to discover her younger sister’s body in the attic changes everything. Unfamiliar with the newly burgeoning world of criminal forensics and not particularly welcomed as a woman, Imogene is nonetheless determined to stay involved. As her sister’s case grows cold, Imogene vows to find justice . . . even if it costs her everything.

Daphne du Maurier and Christy Award-Winning author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful, mysteries stained with history’s secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!

 

My Impressions:

Let me first say that Echoes among The Stones is a riveting mystery! This is the fourth book by Wright — I have read them all — and it is evident that she has been perfecting her writing craft. The result is a dual timeline book that keeps the reader guessing and wanting more with each successive page. The book is set in small town Mill Creek, Wisconsin today and 1946. Wright’s depiction of a time in America following WWII is not all rose-colored nostalgia. There were definite challenges for the men returning from the fight and their families. Two women are at the center of the mystery past and present — Aggie and Imogene. Each are stuck in their grief. so mired that they cannot get on with the future. I felt a kinship with these two women as they navigated lives filled with sorrow. I also liked the secondary characters with their quirks and charms. As the book progressed, the mystery deepened causing me to suspect just about everyone. I loved the twists, turns, and surprises Wright threw along the path.

While Echoes among The Stones is a fascinating and atmospheric mystery, the theme of grief was what spoke to my heart. I finished this book just 2 days before the anniversary of my first child’s loss. Tyler was stillborn, leaving my husband and I with unfulfilled hopes and dreams. While I have not spent the last 31 years stuck in that grief, the book was a good reminder that God shares our pain, hides blessings in the hurts, and does not leave us without hope. The message was subtly woven throughout the book. Wright handles loss and its accompanying grief with a sensitive hand. No platitudes, just a deep sense of understanding and empathy.

So if you are looking for a good mystery to curl up with, you should choose Echoes among The Stones. I promise it will deliver that and much more. You will get a story to ponder long after the last page is turned.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley and Bethany House. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Audiobook Mini-Review: Mark of The King

30 Dec

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Jocelyn Green is a former journalist who puts her investigative skills to work in writing both nonfiction and historical fiction to inspire faith and courage.

The honors her books have received include the Christy Award in historical fiction, and gold medals from the Military Writers Society of America and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

Complex and nuanced characters, rich historical detail and twisting plots make her novels immersive experiences. Her fiction has been praised by Historical Novel Society, Romantic Times, Library Journal, historians specializing in her novels’ time periods, as well as popular and acclaimed authors Laura Frantz, Lori Benton, Jody Hedlund, Sarah Sundin, Joanne Bischof, Julie Lessman, and more.

Jocelyn loves Broadway musicals, the color red, strawberry-rhubarb pie, Mexican food, and well-done documentaries. She lives in Iowa with her husband, two children, and two cats she should have named Catticus Finch and Purrman Meowville.

Visit her at jocelyngreen.com.

 

My Impressions:

Jocelyn Green has become a must-read author for me. Her historical novels are marvels of meticulous research — the reader truly feels like she has stepped back in time. I have been trying to catch up on my Green reading, and chose an audiobook for The Mark of The King. This novel took me to a familiar place — New Orleans — but an unfamiliar time in the city’s history. The beginning of the French colony is explored in this novel, especially the time period in which the French government sought to populate the area by arranging marriages and shipping the new couples to settle and multiply. I found the history fascinating, and Green does a wonderful job of supplying details to make the era and the people come to life. The story line and main characters are fictional, but the author includes historical figures to add to the novel’s authenticity. I loved main character Julianne. Her indomitable spirit and hopes for a future are heroic. She faces obstacles and hardships that ring true. Other characters, including leading man Marc-Paul, are also well-developed and so very real. You will find many to love, and many to despise. The subtle spiritual truth of being more than what the world brands us runs throughout the novel and applies to many of the characters. It is also a message very relevant to today. As stated, I listened to the audiobook. The narration was excellent — character voices were especially good.

I loved The Mark of The King. If you haven’t yet read this novel, I highly recommend it.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

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

 

 

Mini-Book Review: The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis

26 Dec

Her past refuses to be silenced.

In a desperate attempt to save her company from bankruptcy, designer Evelyn Lewis decides to sell the only memento from her past worth anything — the family farmland. Determined to get in and get out of the abandoned property, she finds the valuable land tangled in a trust, and wonders who she can really trust, Not the property manager and affable southern gentleman, Taylor Simpson.

Caught up in the mechanics of a farm, a legal document she can’t break, and pressure from her company for money, Evelyn turns to her own wiles and willpower . . . but can she resist the South’s wooing?

 

Jane Rubietta — A writer who speaks, a speaker who writes, and a coach who helps people turn wishes into dreams into action. For two decades, Jane Rubietta has helped people rock out of their past and live with purpose into their passion. She’s funny, vulnerable, deep, and practical. Her award-winning books and her depth and vulnerability as an author and speaker have led people to say, “Have you been reading my emails?” “If you ever need another job, you could do stand-up comedy.” She doubts that — she would be terrified if she had to be strictly funny — but she loves to be part of the lives of her audiences, both in person as a speaker and in print as a writer.

With training in theater, a production assistant for dozens of musicals, and a brief stint as a runway model (don’t get excited, you didn’t see her in magazine ads), Jane has published millions of words, written 21 books, hundreds of articles, and contributed to a bunch of other books. She’s assistant director of Write-to-Publish Writers Conference, where she’s Exhibit A for “it works if you work it.”

Thanks to all those published words, Jane keynotes on platforms worldwide, inspiring thousands to maximize their potential & impact, learn tools for Worry Less Live More lives, and shake free of their past.

She co-founded Life Launch Me, an organization that moves people from dreaming to doing, from wishing to actually creating.

As a Master Instructor, Jane has helped hundreds of people launch their writing, speaking, personal, and professional dreams. She is a book and platform coach in addition to offering life-coaching.

In spite of her B.S. in Business from Indiana University (Marketing and Management), post-grad studies in Germany (no, she doesn’t speak or understand German but can pronounce it pretty well), and working on her Master’s degree at Trinity Divinity School, Jane’s hilarious and helpful with a whole lot of heart.

She’s passionate about empowering people to live their best life ever.

Learn more at http://www.JaneRubietta.com and http://www.LifeLaunchMe.com.

 

My Impressions:

Big city girl forced to live in a small farm community — that is the premise of The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis. But this is not a modern take on Green Acres. Evelyn Evie Lewis feels the lure and allure of the small town of Walker, Tennessee as she learns about her shadowy past, the family she has forgotten, and the community that takes her into their heart. There is a very cute 8-year old, a hunky (although slightly dense) cotton farmer, a wayward rooster, and a needy kitten along for the ride too. If you like chick lit, small town stories, and the message of God’s faithfulness, then this book is for you. I had a slow start with this book — its choppy prose took some getting used to — but its wonderful characters, interesting subject and setting, and the growth of main character Evie soon had me hooked. I look forward to more from debut author Jane Rubietta.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Book Review: Seconds to Live

23 Dec

When cybercriminals hack into the US Marshals’ Witness Protection database and auction off witnesses’ personal details to the highest bidders, the RED Team led by FBI Agent Sean Nichols begins a high-stakes chase to find the hacker. But before he can even get started, the first witness is targeted and barely escapes with her life. Sean believes Phantom, an obsessed hacker who previously outwitted the top minds in the field, is behind the attack, and Sean needs this witness’s help, as she’s the person who has come closest to discovering Phantom’s identity.

Trouble is, she’s a witness under the care of US Marshal Taylor Mills, and Sean is reluctant to work with the captivating marshal who knows his deepest secrets. But Phantom claims he knows where the witness is hiding and will kill her, so to stop the hacker, Sean and Taylor must work through their personal pain and learn to trust each other . . . . The seconds are ticking down before someone dies. 

 

Susan Sleeman is the bestselling author of over thirty-five novels with more than one million books sold. She writes romantic suspense novels that are clean with inspiring messages of faith. Readers love her series for the well-drawn characters and edge-of-your-seat action. She graduated from the FBI and local police citizen academies, so her research is spot-on and her characters are real.

In addition to writing, Susan also hosts TheSuspenseZone.com. She has lived in nine states but now calls Oregon home. Her husband is a retired church music director, and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law, and an adorable grandson.

To learn more about Susan’s books sign up for her monthly email that includes exclusive excerpts, giveaways, and other goodies. http://www.susansleeman.com/susans-newsletter/.

 

My Impressions:

Seconds to Live is the first book in a new romantic suspense series by Susan Sleeman. In this Homeland Heroes novel, cyber threats against people in the nation’s witness protection program bring together an elite team of highly trained technical experts from a variety of federal agencies. The book involves an ensemble cast, but it is team leader Sean Nichols and US Marshall Taylor Mills who are the focus of the romantic thread. If you like a big dose of romance along with your suspense, then this book is for you.

The techie-aspect of Seconds to Live, involving hacking and forensic investigations, is very interesting, and there are a number of twists and turns that the characters and this reader never saw coming. I really liked that about this book. There is definite chemistry between Sean and Taylor. The two were online friends for months before coming face to face for this case. But these characters have major trust issues that motivate and limit their interactions with others. Their romance is definitely not a smooth one! I would have preferred more action and less thinking — Sean and Taylor spend a lot of time analyzing themselves and others — but that certainly made these characters believable. God is an important part of their lives, but they (like a lot of us) often rely on self rather than turning to God.

All in all, I enjoyed Seconds to Live. While it started a bit slow, the action and suspense ramped up towards the end culminating in an exciting ending. All of the characters were very likable, and I am really looking forward to joining the RED team on their next case!

Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

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