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A Valley of Betrayal
Tricia Goyer
The Legion of Honor
Sharon Yoset, Sharon Yoset
Impostors at Blue Heron Lake
Susan Page Davis, Megan Elaine Davis
The Sacred Cipher: A Novel
Terry Brennan
Sons of Thunder
Susan May Warren
Blood Ransom PB (Mission Hope)
Harris Lisa
The Inheritance - Jo-Anne Berthelsen Michael Trevelyan is thirty-four and a successful orthopaedic surgeon, but still hasn’t forgiven his mother (or himself) for the accident that killed his sister when he was a teenager, and his mother’s deathbed revelation makes forgiveness even less likely. He will inherit Whitecross, the family estate near Winchester, England, but if he doesn’t live there, it will go to his younger brother, Geoffrey, a Christian do-gooder who will turn it into a half-way house. Dr Alexandra Hope is the locum GP for Cranton while her father takes a holiday and she waits for her Ethiopian visa to arrive—she’s planning on being a medical missionary. She meets Justine Trevelyan and her son, and develops relationships with both as the story progresses. While the story and characters had potential, I don’t entirely think they delivered on that promise. I didn’t ever get the sense that Michael had fully come to grips with the implications of his mother’s revelation, and while his character underwent a great deal of emotional and spiritual change and maturation during the story, I never saw it happening. Rather, it simply appeared at some point as having happened. I also found Alexandra’s story was missing something, particularly in the later portions of the book where she disappeared entirely. This was a shame, as she was a strong and likeable character who had a great impact on others. There were some factual errors and timing inconsistencies that I found distracting, as well as some annoying creative dialogue tags and excessive punctuation (I don’t like the use of italics for emphasis, and exclamation marks only make it worse!). Thanks to Even Before for providing a free ebook for review.

What Would Jesus Drive?

What Would Jesus Drive? - Paul Clark It’s Palm Sunday, and the cars are wondering what it’s all about. Mr T tells them the church is celebrating the morning Jesus rode into Jerusalem, which starts a debate: what would Jesus drive? Each vehicle has their own view, from a motorcycle to a tank, with each vehicle telling the reader a little more about Jesus and his mission and an end that reminds children and adults of what Jesus did. This is the eighth book in the Car Park Parables series, each of which takes a well-known bible story and retells it for primary school-aged children using a cast of motor vehicles. The books are illustrated by Graham Preston with appealing colour pencil drawings. Recommended for car-loving children and their parents.Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free book for review.
Critical Pursuit - Janice Cantore Police Office Brinna Caruso is a dog handler in Long Beach (it’s a strange name, but the character does tell us the origin of the name, which illustrates a lot about her relationship with her parents). Her passion is finding kidnapped children—because she once was a kidnap victim. But Brinna’s role is placed under review when an arrest goes wrong, a suspect ends up dead and her name is plastered all over the newspapers.She is partnered with Detective Jack O’Reilly, coming back to work for the first time since his wife died a year ago. He can’t face homicide—he can barely face life—so he is put out on patrol with Brinna. They are both initially uncertain about their new partners, as their reputations have preceeded them, but they will have to work out how to work together. The first couple of chapters are a bit slow, but the pace soon picks up when the reader realises that Brinna’s kidnapper is back in Long Beach, and is searching for his next ‘Special Girl’ to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Brinna’s rescue. We can see what is going to happen, but Brinna, Jack and the rest of the police force are oblivious, as records show the culprit died ten years ago. They think the messages left for Brinna at crime scenes are from a copycat killer, or perhaps a local paedophile who knows about Brinna’s Wall of Slime… This was a really good technique, as it really ramped up the tension and made the second half of the book a real page-turner. This is Christian fiction, and while it’s more gritty than most, it still manages to convey the damage done to Brinna all those years ago without getting into detail, and I appreciated that. The characters were strong, the writing was excellent, and the Christian aspects of the story were handled well. Recommended for those who enjoy a good thriller. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what’s next in store for Brinna and Jack.This title was first published by OakTara as The Kevlar Heart in 2007. Thanks to Tyndale House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
Fired Up - Mary Connealy Glynna Greer has just been widowed for the second time, and is determined not to marry again. But that means finding an honest way to support herself and her two children, Paul and Janny. Dare Riker, the town doctor, is interested in Glynna, but there’s not only Glynna’s resistance to another relationship: there’s Paul, who is hostile at the idea of his mother marrying another no-hoper. So Dare will have to prove himself …Dare is one of the Regulators, a group of men imprisoned together during the War. They help each other, and it seems Dare needs a lot of help. First he is caught in a major rockfall in a canyon, then his house is burned down around him. The doctor needs doctoring, and Glynna is the only person to do it. I liked Dare; I liked Glynna. But I wasn’t convinced by the relationship. Fired Up has solid characters, an adventure-filled plot, a strong Christian message and is an easy if lightweight read from the Queen of the Christian Western. I enjoyed reading it, but can’t say there was anything especially memorable about it, nor any reason to continue with the series. Fired Up is the sequel to Swept Away, which I have also reviewed. There’s enough recap of the Swept Away story for Fired Up to be read as a stand-alone novel, although it’s more enjoyable read as part of a series (it’s possible there was too much recap, but I could hardly remember the first story so it was welcome). Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
On Writing - Stephen King I used to think I’d never read a book by Stephen King (well, I don’t like horror. Why would I have?). Then one day I was looking at an edition of a science fiction novel I’d read as a teen, The Running Man. I found it now appeared to be by Stephen King—he’d published it under the pen name of Richard Bachmann. As far as I recall, it was well-written, if a little violent for my tastes (but not nearly as violent as the movie).I’ve recently read On Writing, so now I’ve read two Stephen King books. On Writing is part memoir and part writing tutorial. The memoir was honest, funny and sad. The writing tutorial was pithy and funny, and draws in large parts from King’s own writing, so parts of it were (still) a little too violent for my tastes. I admire his writing, but don’t think I want to read any more of it.But he has some great advice that works for writers across all genres. He advises all writers to read—he personally reads around seventy books a year and listens to more as audiobooks. King is opinionated: he says if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. I agree (and I’d go further and say it’s not good enough to read the classics like Austen and Dickens: the modern author has to read other modern authors to understand what readers read. Otherwise they’ll be writing in a style that slipped out of fashion decades ago). One thing that surprised me was his view on plotting: he doesn’t. He says:“My basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow … I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible … if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety.”Page-turning anxiety. Also known as conflict. The other point that struck me was King’s view of the purpose of good fiction: to tell the truth, to find the truth within the story’s “web of lies”. The one part I didn’t like was the last 10%, the story of his recovery from an almost-fatal accident. I’m not a fan of medical drama, and this portion had a little too much real life for my taste. Overall, On Writing is well worth reading. Recommended.
Latter-Day Cipher - Latayne C. Scott I finished 80 pages, then gave up. Plot: great hook, interesting opening chapter. We then get a strong Mormons-are-strange theme coming through at the expense of moving the plot forward. It's supposed to be suspense, so should be focusing on the bodies or the code, not the fact that the protagonist's mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.Characters: The guy who found the murder victim had potential. The main character? Not so much. Her LDS cousin? Shallow. He's a TV presenter so that could be intentional, but still. Christian themes: none. Writing: Bad. Distant POV, which doesn't endear me to the characters.The author has commented on some of the critical reviews on Amazon, which is 'off' IMO.
The Country House Courtship (A Regency Inspirational Romance Series) - Linore Rose Burkard Tried to read it on three separate occasions, but it's missing all the things I liked about the first book in the series. So, sorry, but DNF. I just didn't like it.
Love by the Letter - Melissa Jagears A novella, so too short. But I've read the full-length novel that follows on from this, and it's really good.
Love by the Letter - Melissa Jagears A novella, so too short. But I've read the full-length novel that follows on from this, and it's really good.
Stranded - Dani Pettrey If you like classic Dee Henderson (the True Devotion and O’Malley series), then you’ll love Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series—Submerged, Shattered and Stranded. I’ve read all three, and really enjoyed them all. Stranded is the third in a series, but you don’t have to read the other two first (although that might help you sort out all the characters—the McKenna family is large and growing).When Darcy St James gets a call from her college roommate asking for help, she’s immediately packed and up to Alaska, taking an undercover job as a journalist on the cruise ship Bering. Abby has arranged to meet her on board, but is nowhere to be found. Darcy thinks the crew members are hiding something, because no one wants to mention Abby—it seems that single women disappear from the ship all the time with no explanation. Darcy’s both relieved and apprehensive when she finds her new job involves working with Gage McKenna, who she met last winter on a journalism assignment in his home town (in Shattered). She’s attracted to Gage, but he’s not a Christian—but he is trustworthy, and she doesn’t know who to trust on the Bering. Stranded is well-put together, and is a real page-turner, as a romantic suspense novel should be. There are plenty of characters with secrets (always a good sign), and there are some good hints of what might be coming in future books in the series. The characters are all realistic, intelligent and have some personal depth, and the romance between Darcy and Gage is well-played. Pettrey has that enviable skill of making the feelings bounce off the page without specifically telling the reader what is happening. I think that romantic subtext is one of the things that all romance writers should aspire to.One thing I think is weird: Darcy St James is also the name of the heroine in one of Dee Henderson’s books, and Dani Pettrey thanks ‘Dee’ at the end of the book (this might be a random Dee, not Dee Henderson, but Dee Henderson has blurbed Stranded, so it probably is her). It’s weird enough to use the name of a character from another well-known book in the same genre; it’s very weird if that person is your mentor. I found this jarring, and that’s why I haven’t rated Stranded five stars. Especially as Stranded is miles better than Dee Henderson’s recent release, Full Disclosure. I’ve got a review copy of Henderson’s next book, Unspoken, and I’m nervous about reading it in case it’s like Full Disclosure.Recommended for those who like romantic suspense from authors such as Susan May Warren, Irene Hannon or Diann Mills.Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
Planet Willie - Josh Shoemake Willie Lee is a member of “an elite unit of highly bored individuals”, better known as angels. He’s been an angel since he got topped by the guy in the pink paisley shirt four years ago, but sometimes gets sent back to Texas to answer someone’s prayers (which is funny in itself: it seems Willie’s ‘friends’ don’t know he’s supposed to be dead). He’s a detective with the Lost Souls department. His case this time is Harry Shore, who is concerned about his daughter, Fernanda—mostly because he thinks she’s stolen his million-dollar Botticelli painting of the Madonna. Willie travels to New York to find Fernanda, and runs into a group of Albanians calling themselves the Art Liberation Front, and their current project: to devalue Shore’s Botticelli. This sets Willie (and the ALF) off on a cross-country chase to track down the original painting (which is reminiscent of the 1980’s British comedy, ’Allo ’Allo, and their perpetual search for the painting of the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies). Willie’s a great first-person narrator. He has a very healthy self-image, particularly when it comes to his opinion of how he is seen by the ladies (he has a collection of smiles he gives the ladies, and has names for them all. What does that tell you?). His narration is rather stream-of-consciousness which is usually a criticism, but Willie’s voice is strong and engaging enough that it works. He also has great collection of one line jokes.But hidden in the comedy are some thought-provoking lines:“If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you won’t do it, and it won’t happen.”That’s good advice—thinking too much is a recipe for procrastination. We need to do things, not think about them. Planet Willie is an irreverent comedy that’s a lot of fun. It can be hard to read on the Kindle—the paragraphs are too long, and the plot sometimes disappears in the comedy,there is the occasional use of bad language and the plotline isn’t exactly the normal Christian fiction I review, but I enjoyed it. A good read for those who don’t take life (or death) too seriously. Thanks to Opium Books for providing a free ebook for review.
My Foolish Heart - Susan May Warren Not as strong as Happily Ever After or The Perfect Match, but still a quick, fun read.Updated: I've just re-read it, and I liked it more the second time around. Or perhaps I've just been reading some read duds lately.
An Unholy Communion - Donna Fletcher Crow While attending the dawn service of Ascension, Felicity is horrified to see someone fall from the tower and land at her feet. It seems there is another mystery when she picks up a piece of paper with a strange symbol that dropped from the victim’s fingers and it bursts into flame as she opens it. Although it looks like an accident or suicide, it’s obviously a murder (otherwise why is it the opening scene in a book series called The Monastery Murders?).Felicity agrees to accompany her fiancé, Antony, to supervise a pilgrimage to Wales for teenagers as a way to get her mind off the fatal fall, but that’s not easy with her dreams. And when she finds the strange symbol represents an ancient heretical society, it seems escaping might be harder than she thought. This is a murder mystery, and starts well with a body appearing almost immediately. But the mystery of poor Hwyl’s death is then ignored as Antony and Felicity go walking in Wales, and apart from the obvious fact that Hwyl is Welsh, this has no apparent relevance to the mystery. In fact, I was about 75% of the way through the novel before they started to address the mystery at all, and then it was quickly apparent (to me at least) who was behind it. The walk, as described, was much like I imagine a real walk across Wales would be: long and boring, with occasional short bursts of action. It was supposed to be ecumenical (i.e. representing all the Christian world), but was actually Anglican—and high Anglican at that, complete with bells and smells, praying exclusively out of the prayer book, and saying the Stations of the Cross at regular intervals. This wouldn’t have bothered me except the characters made a point of saying the walk was ecumenical, and it detracted from what was supposed to be the mystery of Hywl’s death. An Unholy Communion made a lot of references to deliverance, exorcism and demonic powers working against Christianity. While this was relatively well explained, I didn’t feel either of the main characters had real understanding. Antony displayed a solid practical understanding (e.g. knowing which prayers to pray), but didn’t seem to see the bigger picture linkages (like wondering if two teenagers who wear black decorated with black and constantly quote Twilight are actually Christians). And Felicity seemed to be entirely ignorant of the dark side—she reminded me a little of some of Dr Who’s companions from the 1960’s.One bugbear I constantly have with American authors setting books in Britain is their research and language. I was happy to find the research in An Unholy Communion was excellent (as I expected it to be. I’ve read several of her historical fiction epics, and they were outstanding). Given all the excellent research, it was distracting to see language issues: the reference to Cwm Rhondda spelled incorrectly, and the very English Antony using several Americanisms (gotten, granola bar, grill). An Unholy Communion is the third in The Monastery Murders series, the first one I’ve read and probably the last. It didn’t work for me as a murder mystery, and I didn’t like the characters sufficiently to care what happens next. Thanks to ARCBA, Lion Fiction and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
They Shoot Birds, Don't They? (also known as Mason Wilson & The Dead Bird Debacle) - M.P. Jones It’s the end of term, and Mason Wilson has been assigned an unusual homework project for the holidays: research a conspiracy theory. Normally he’d just leave it until the last minute then cobble something together from Wikipedia, but this project is different: his teacher will submit the best project to the competition being run by a national newspaper—a competition which has a GBP 20,000 prize, a prize his family needs.Mason knows that to win the prize he’s going to have to do something special, so he starts researching. Two ideas catch his attention: why do you never see dead birds, and what is the secret ingredient in Coola Cola? He decides that might be too difficult to find out, and when he sees a strange cat in the neighbourhood with a bird in its’ mouth, he decides to follow it …There were quite a few English jokes that foreigners (or children) might not get, such as Clifford Machs, the public relations guru. I enjoyed the writing style and the characters, there was just the right amount of humour, the plot was well thought through, and the story had a clear Christian message. Children, especially boys, will be intrigued by the mystery of where dead birds go, the idea of the secret ingredient in Coola Cola … and the slightly disturbing way in which the two come together. Mason Wilson and the Dead Bird Debacle has echoes of Roald Dahl and new children’s fiction such as Diary of A Wimpy Kid. It’s enjoyable Christian fiction for 8-12 year olds who enjoy the slightly quirky nature of an English setting.Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.
They Shoot Birds, Don't They? (also known as Mason Wilson & The Dead Bird Debacle) - M.P. Jones It’s the end of term, and Mason Wilson has been assigned an unusual homework project for the holidays: research a conspiracy theory. Normally he’d just leave it until the last minute then cobble something together from Wikipedia, but this project is different: his teacher will submit the best project to the competition being run by a national newspaper—a competition which has a GBP 20,000 prize, a prize his family needs.Mason knows that to win the prize he’s going to have to do something special, so he starts researching. Two ideas catch his attention: why do you never see dead birds, and what is the secret ingredient in Coola Cola? He decides that might be too difficult to find out, and when he sees a strange cat in the neighbourhood with a bird in its’ mouth, he decides to follow it …There were quite a few English jokes that foreigners (or children) might not get, such as Clifford Machs, the public relations guru. I enjoyed the writing style and the characters, there was just the right amount of humour, the plot was well thought through, and the story had a clear Christian message. Children, especially boys, will be intrigued by the mystery of where dead birds go, the idea of the secret ingredient in Coola Cola … and the slightly disturbing way in which the two come together. Mason Wilson and the Dead Bird Debacle has echoes of Roald Dahl and new children’s fiction such as Diary of A Wimpy Kid. It’s enjoyable Christian fiction for 8-12 year olds who enjoy the slightly quirky nature of an English setting.Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.
Five Days in Skye - Carla Laureano Andrea Sullivan may have sabotaged her career with that last potential client. Now, as punishment, she has to convince TV chef James MacDonald, owner of three Michelin-starred London restaurants, that her company is perfect to help him renovate and market the family hotel he has inherited on the Isle of Skye. She has just a few days, and her job is on the line.There is an immediate attraction when Andrea and James meet, but Andrea wants nothing to do with men, and especially wants nothing to do with a client. James has his own problematic romantic history, not to mention an even more problematic relationship with his brother, who owns one-third of the hotel. I found all the characters to be intelligent and likeable, and I was especially impressed by the research. I’ve not been to Skye but I’ve lived in London and visited Scotland, and Five Days in Skye made me feel I was there. I had to laugh Andrea’s reaction to James calling her ‘love’. It’s a common term, particularly in the hospitality industry. Right, love? This is a Christian novel, but the Christian element is somewhat understated. Both Andrea and James come from rural backgrounds where the Christian faith was an integral part of the family. But both have abandoned that faith, yet realise on Skye that perhaps they need to pursue God once more. Five Days in Syke has it all: an excellent opening, a funny first meeting between Andrea and James, intelligent lead characters who are both successes in their chosen careers, excellent attention to detail, and the Isle of Skye, a beautiful and unique setting. And the last line is a beautiful illustration of the eternal romance between us and God. Recommended for romance lovers. Thanks to David C Cook and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.