Monday, June 29, 2020

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Book description:


Rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at forty. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what's next, never imagining what God had in mind.

When her estranged sister returns to town, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a five-year-old nephew she never knew she had. In 1960s small-town Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

My review:

  This was a new author to me, but the book intrigued me. The idea of storytelling healing and drawing two people together was something that made me want to read the book.

  The book was different, but I found myself enjoying it. Hugo was such a great character, and it was cool to see how storytelling drew he and his aunt together. I would have preferred the book to have been told in the third person point of view, but first person point of view worked OK for the book - it just isn't my favorite.

 The book covers and deals with a variety of topics, including depression. I thought the author did a great job of weaving a story around the various issues she dealt with in the book. And it was cool to see how Betty tried to make a normal childhood for this little boy she suddenly had thrust on her.

 Though this wasn't an exciting or fast paced book, it was an interesting and enjoyable read.

I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.

About the author:


Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, which was selected as a 2020 Michigan Notable Book, as well as A Cup of Dust, A Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women's events across the country. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.

  Stories That Bind Us is available from Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing Group.

 Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Dream Within a Dream, Coffey and Hill Series #3 by Mike Nappa and Melissa Kosci

Book description:

He may be the key to solving one of the greatest unsolved art heists in history

Trudi Coffey hasn't seen Samuel Hill in weeks. Then the FBI shows up asking about him. After a strange encounter with an armed man demanding her help and an attack by a member of the Boston mob looking for someone named Dream, Trudi manages to find Samuel--or rather, he finds her. He's made some pretty powerful enemies, but right now his full attention is on protecting Dream from the mob. Because Dream has something they want--the map to the location of artwork stolen from the Gardner Museum during the infamous 1990 heist.

With danger closing in from all sides, Trudi and Samuel will have to call on all their allies to keep Dream safe and discover the identities of the people who have been hunting down Samuel. The real questions are, whom can they trust? And who will make it out of this alive?

My review:

  Two odd things about this book: The first two were published in 2016 and I reviewed both. It had been so long, I was about to get rid of the other two, thinking the series was not going to be finished. Secondly, the first two were solo works by Mike Nappa. This book has two authors.

  This book was kind of weird, but in a good way...but then each book in this series is based on one of Edgar Allen Poe's works...which are weird.

  There were times in the book I wasn't sure what was going on. The one character, nicknamed "Dream" would go back into his memories without any warning, and it wasn't always easy to realize right away where he was in his timeline. That did make him an interesting character.

 I like the two main characters a lot: Sam Hill and his ex-wife Trudi. They make an excellent pair in  their detecting and protecting "Dream." It did take me a while to realize everything revolved around a big art heist, and where "Dream" played into things. However, the authors did a great job on spinning their tale and keeping the reader guessing as to what was going on.

 Even with the confusing mind of "Dream" and the occasional weirdness, I did enjoy the book. It had a lot of suspense and action. I did think the ending was a bit abrupt, and am hoping there is another book to pick up where it left off....hopefully not in 4 years. :)

 And this series should be read in order.

I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.


About the authors:


Mike Nappa is an entertainment journalist at FamilyFans.com, as well as a bestselling and award-winning author with more than one million books sold worldwide. When he was a kid, the stories of Edgar Allen Poe scared him silly. Today he owns everything Poe ever wrote. A former fiction acquisitions editor, Mike earned his MA in English literature and now writes full-time. He is the author of Annabel Lee and The Raven.







Melissa Kosci is a fourth-degree black belt in and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. In her day job as a commercial property manager, she secretly notes personal quirks and funny situations, ready to tweak them into colorful additions for her books. She and Corey, her husband of twenty years, live in Florida, where they do their best not to melt in the sun.




A Dream Withing a Dream is available from Revell, part of the Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Revell for the review copy.





The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Book description:

"Promise me you'll never come back here, Peyton. It's too much--it's just way too much."

Peyton Cabot's fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from World War II a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents' devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle from St. Augustine, Florida, all the way to Key West. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton's journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined--namely, the key to his unknowable father, a longed-for reunion, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

My review:

  My favorite genre' is Christian suspense, so I don't always gravitate towards this kind of book...especially by an author I have never read. The description intrigued me enough to request it to review, and I am glad I did. I'll admit after I got it, I wondered if I'd be able to get into it. No worries there.

  I loved the author's style of writing. She put so much emotion and description into the story, I felt myself pulled into the story and didn't want to put it down. The main character is 15 year old Peyton, who is an awesome and very likable character. The author did a tremendous job of describing his long bicycle ride, and brought into the story the emotions he experienced as he made the same journey his dad had made when he was the same age. I loved the characters he met on his journey and the colorful descriptions of them. The scene with the dollar bill about did me in, I'll admit.

 Though this is not a suspense novel, it was a book that was extremely difficult to put down. And when I picked it up the second time, I was determined to read it til the end, which I did.

  This novel is set in 1947, when things were different. It wouldn't be safe for a 15 year old boy to bicycle what I figured out must be close to 500 miles. Plus, this is fiction.

 There is not a lot of Christian content in the book - not a criticism, just an observation. However, it is a clean book that was an absolute delight to read. After I finished it, I went on Amazon and ordered another book by the author. This one was that good. It is the best non-suspense novel I have read in quite a while. I definitely recommend it.

I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.

About the author:


Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and Almost Home, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave.

The Key to Everything is available from Revell, part of the Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Check out the author's other books, Almost Home, and Missing Isaac.






Friday, June 5, 2020

A Shepherd Suspense Novel, #2: Cross Shadow by Andrew Huff

Book description:

All journalist Christine Lewis wants is the truth. All pastor John Cross wants is to avoid it.

Former CIA agent turned evangelical pastor John Cross is busy caring for the small community of believers he ministers to in Virginia. Journalist Christine Lewis is busy with the demand for her talents from top news agencies in New York City. Neither has any time left for their relationship, which began eight months before when they paired up to prevent the detonation of a chemical bomb in the nation's capital.

But when Christine hears that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Texas, they team up again to discover the truth about the crime. Untangling a web of conspiracy, the couple finds themselves in the center of another dangerous situation-and in trouble far deeper than they expected.

With an assassin on the loose, a trusted colleague acting as a double agent, and unreliable artificial intelligence connected to mercenaries who have Cross on their hit list, these two may not get out of the Lone Star State alive.

My review:

  Cross Shadow is one of the books I have been most looking forward to in 2020. Huff's first book in this series - and his first book ever - released in November. This second book in the trilogy was released on my birthday, something I worked out with the author. (Just kidding!)

  The Christian fiction market tends to be a women's market, so it is great to have male authors putting out quality suspense like this, and they are too few.

  This second book in the Shepherd Suspense series was just as great as the first was. I hate to over-use the word awesome, but John Cross is such an awesome character: former CIA agent turned pastor. Side note: I find myself envying his spirituality, which is crazy since he is fictional.

  The description of Cross Shadow sounds a bit tame, but the book has a lot of action and suspense in it. There are a couple of high speed chases, and Huff did an excellent job of describing everything going on in the chases. I could easily visualize it in my mind, and it rivaled some of the high speed chases I have seen in movies.

 The plot was a good one, and there were some things that happened that I did not see coming. I was a little disappointed about the romantic angle - I won't give spoilers away, and that may change in the third book, which cannot come out any time soon!

 Cross Shadow is as much of a thrilling ride of suspense and action as A Cross to Kill. Huff is setting a standard of Christian suspense which is a standard others should strive for. Definitely five stars out of 5.

 By the way, the first chapter of the third and last book, Right Cross, is that the end of this book. And yes, I made the mistake of reading it. Can't wait to read the rest of the book.


I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.

About the author:

Huff spent ten years in local church ministry as a youth pastor and creative arts pastor before pursuing God’s calling into creative storytelling and media production as the product director at Igniter Media, a church media company (ignitermedia.com).

He is a two-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest for unpublished authors (2014, 2017) and also won the best screenplay award at the 2015 48 Hour Film Festival in Richmond, VA. A Cross to Kill and Cross Shadow in the Shepherd Suspense series are his first releases.

Huff holds a bachelor of science in religion degree from Liberty University and a master of arts in Christian education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He resides in Plano, TX, with his beautiful wife, Jae, and their two boys.

Learn more Andrew Huff and the Shepherd Suspense novels at www.andrewhuffbooks.com. He can also be found on Facebook (@huffwrites), Twitter (@andrewjohnhuff) and Instagram (@andyhuff).


What others are saying:

“In the tradition of Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, Cross Shadow is a strong, taut thriller that retains a Christian sense of optimism and hope while acknowledging the existence of great evil in the world. Huff raises the stakes on every page all the way through the white-knuckle finale—like watching an action movie through the written word.”

~ Kyle Mann, editor in chief of The Babylon Bee and author of How to Be a Perfect Christian

“Andrew Huff’s writing is as fast-paced and tight as his enticing story lines. Masterfully balancing a well-developed plot with a cast of characters you feel like you’ve known forever, Huff creates one page-turner after another in his Shepherd Suspense trilogy. He may be a new author, but his talented word-spinning is anything but novice and will linger long in the reader’s subconscious.”

~ Betsy St. Amant Haddox, author of All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes


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Friday, May 22, 2020

Hadley Beckett's Next Dish by Bethany Turner

Book description:

Get ready for a heaping helping of humor, romance, and second chances

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanagh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show, To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel's other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum and is sent packing, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public's good graces is to work alongside Hadley. As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love.

In the meantime, hide the knives.

My review:

  This isn't the type of book I usually review, but it grabbed my attention since it sounded like it was an amusing read. I wasn't at all familiar with the author, but I decided to review it anyway..... and I am glad I did.

  Hadley Beckett's Next Dish isn't an overtly Christian novel, but that is OK. It is a clean book with Christian themes. And the book is definitely amusing. Throw two very different chefs in the kitchen together and hilarity definitely ensues.

 Hadley and Max are both great and likable characters.....well, Max isn't likable at the beginning of the book. The only thing that did kind of bother me about the book was Max's transformation from a jerk with a temper who drank too much into a very likable and decent guy abstaining from drinking, bad temper, and cursing...for the most part. Hadley was a Christian, but I would like to have seen Max's change come from Christ, not from a rehab center. And yes, these kind of books can be predictable with boy meets girl, one is not a Christian, but there is a conversion and they live happily ever after. Slight spoiler: if Max became a Christian, there is no mention of it in the book. It was still cool to see a the change in him throughout the book.

 That aside, it was a truly entertaining read. I found myself laughing out loud more than once as these two very different personalities clashed, and Max spent more time apologizing than cooking. It was also interesting to watch as they went from barely tolerating each other, to becoming the most important person in each other's lives.

 On the serious side, were themes of forgiveness, trust, and the lesson that fear can hold us back from happiness and fulfilling lives.

 I loved the climatic moment of the book, along with the "6 years later" part at the end. I definitely recommend the book.

I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.

About the author:


Bethany Turner is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck and Wooing Cadie McCaffrey and the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former bank executive and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn't matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she's chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.


Hadley Beckett's Next Dish is available from Revell Publishing.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Standoff, Natchez Trace Park Rangers #1 by Patricia Bradley

Book description:

The Natchez Trace National Parkway stretches 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, the oldest town on the Mississippi River. It's the perfect road for a relaxed pleasure drive. Unfortunately for Luke Fereday, it's also perfect for moving drugs.

Sent to Natchez to infiltrate the organization at the center of the drug ring, Luke arrives too late to a stakeout and discovers the body of his friend, park ranger John Danvers. John's daughter Brooke is determined to investigate her father's murder but soon finds herself the target of a killer who will do anything to silence her.

Luke will have his hands full keeping her safe. But who's going to keep him safe when he realizes he's falling--hard--for the daughter of the man he failed to save?

My review:

 I always hate to see a series end by an author I like, and the last series by Bradley was quite awesome. Now she is starting a new series, which made me happy.

 Bradley has never written anything that disappointed me, so it is no surprise to me that I thoroughly enjoyed this great start to a new series. I was barely a few pages into the book, and two murders had already been committed, so I knew it was going to be an exciting read.

 I enjoyed the setting for the book. By the way, Natchez is not a fictional town. I googled it, and it sounds like the town described in the book.

 I loved the main characters, especially Luke. Undercover work intrigues me a lot, so he was an even more likable character since that was his role in the story.

 And there was a lot of action and suspense. This was a book where you don't know what is going to happen next, nor who the bad guys all are. There was one I was suspicious of, and was correct. (Score!)

 There was of course the obligatory romance, but this was one where the the couple had known each other for years, and had had feelings for each other for a long time. (Sometimes the boy meets girl while someone is trying to murder them as they fall in love can be a bit unbelievable...but then I am a bachelor) :)

  Standoff is a great start to what promises to be another awesome series from this author. It left me wanting more, and I am looking forward to however many books are in this series.


I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.


About the author: 


Patricia Bradley is the author of Justice Delayed, Justice Buried, Justice Betrayed, and Justice Delivered, as well as the Logan Point series. Bradley won an Inspirational Reader's Choice Award in Romantic Suspense, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and a Touched by Love Award, and she was a Carol Award finalist. She is cofounder of Aiming for Healthy Families, Inc., and she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Bradley makes her home in Mississippi. Learn more at www.ptbradley.com.


Standoff is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Lost Lieutenant (Serendipity & Secrets #1) by Erica Vetsch

Book description: 

He's doing what he can to save the Prince Regent's life . . . but can he save his new marriage as well? Evan Eldridge never meant to be a war hero--he just wanted to fight Napoleon for the future of his country. And he certainly didn't think that saving the life of a peer would mean being made the Earl of Whitelock. But when the life you save is dear to the Prince Regent, things can change in a hurry.

Now Evan has a new title, a manor house in shambles, and a stranger for a bride, all thrust upon him by a grateful ruler. What he doesn't have are all his memories. Traumatized as a result of his wounds and bravery on the battlefield, Evan knows there's something he can't quite remember. It's important, dangerous--and if he doesn't recall it in time, will jeopardize not only his marriage but someone's very life.

Readers who enjoy Julie Klassen, Carolyn Miller, and Kristi Ann Hunter will love diving into this brand-new Regency series filled with suspense, aristocratic struggles, and a firm foundation of faith.

My review:

  The cover of this book didn't do much for me - at least the guy on the cover, nor did it seem like a book I would normally read: regency. And then there is the fact I wasn't familiar with the author. However, it did sound good, and the description made it sound suspenseful.

 Once I started reading the book, I couldn't put it down. Yes, it is regency. It has nobility with all of its rules and proper ways to talk and act, but it was an awesome read. It had enough suspense to pull me in and keep me reading, even thought it isn't what I'd call a suspense novel.

 I loved the two main characters, Diana and Evan. Thrown together in a marriage ordered by royalty, each carrying secrets, and each determined to do the right thing. I thoroughly enjoyed their back and forth and progressing relationship, along with the descriptions of what was expected of nobility.

 The book had a great plot and settings, and the author made even the restoration and repairs interesting that were needed on their new residence. I found the whole book quite interesting and entertaining, and it is one that I read in one setting. With breaks, of course.

 And it had a great ending. I enjoyed the book enough that I am already eyeing book two that is due out in July. Even though this isn't a book that falls into my usual reading genre', it was definitely worth reading, and is one I recommend.


I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.

About the author:



Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.  

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor)Twitter (@EricaVetsch)Instagram (@EricaVetsch) and Pinterest (Erica Vetsch).



Giveaway:



Go here to enter: http://www.audrajennings.com/2020/04/the-lost-lieutenant-by-erica-vetsch.html




Read an excerpt here: https://www.kregel.com/books/pdfs/excerpts/9780825446177.pdf