Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Vanishing Point, Nikki Boyd Files #4 by Lisa Harris

Book description:


Six girls missing . . . and every clue leads to a dead end

During Garrett Addison's first week on the job as a criminal investigator for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, his team is called out to a murder scene of a young girl. She's just one in a string of disappearances with one thing in common--a Polaroid photo of each victim left behind at the crime scene.

The FBI is pulled into the case to help, and Garrett finds himself working with Special Agent Jordan Lambert, the woman he once loved. When yet another girl dies, Garrett wonders whether he really has what it takes to be an agent. Maybe he should just walk. But while he may be done with the killer, the killer is not done with him--or Jordan.


My review:

 I really enjoyed this series, and thought it had ended with book #3. When I got the email offering this one for review, I didn't even realize it was part of the series at first. The book doesn't have the same look as the others, and does not have the same main characters, though Nikki Boyd is in the book some.

 Vanishing Point actually starts around 13 years before the rest of the series, something I didn't understand at first. Once I caught onto the time line, it was easy to get caught up in the story. Unlike most novels of this type, this book covers around a 13-year time span. In the other books, many references are made to Nikki Boyd's missing sister. This book goes back to before the disappearance of that sister and comes up to beyond where book #3 ended.

 The romance in this book was also different from most suspense novels. The two main characters, Garrett and Jordan had previously dated and kept running across each other because of the case they were jointly working on. This was not a fast romance, but one that slowly took place over the same 13 year time span as the rest of the book.

 In spite of it being so different from the other books in the series, I loved the book. I liked the new characters, and the book was full of non stop suspense, action, and detective work. There were a lot of surprises, and the identity of the bad guy wasn't easy to figure out. Harris outdid herself with this one, and it was a great way to end a series I thought was done, but was happy to read one more book from.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Lisa Harris is a bestselling author, a Christy Award winner, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She has sold over thirty novels and novella collections. Along with her husband, she and her three children have spent over ten years living as missionaries in Africa where she homeschools, leads a women's group, and runs a nonprofit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry. The ECHO Project works in southern Africa promoting Education, Compassion, Health, and Opportunity and is a way for her to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves . . . the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice" (Proverbs 31:8).

When she's not working, she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, photography, and heading into the African bush on safari. For more information about her books and life in Africa, visit her website at www.lisaharriswrites.com or her blog at http://myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com. For more information about The ECHO Project, please visit www.theECHOproject.org.


Vanishing Point and the other 3 books in the Nikki Boyd Files are available from Revell, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Check out the rest of the series:


The Illuminated ESV Bible, with a giveaway

Bible description:

ESV ILLUMINATED BIBLE:

The ESV Illuminated Bible places the full ESV text alongside over 500 elegantly hand-lettered gold ink illustrations by renowned artist Dana Tanamachi. Printed on thick cream-colored paper, the Bible's single-column text setting and wide margins provide generous space for additional notes, prayers, and designs—inviting readers to creatively engage with and reflect on the beauty of God's Word.
9-point, Lexicon
Black letter text
2-color printing
64 full-page, custom book opener illustrations
50 full-page verse illustrations
250+ hand-lettered margin verses
100+ other illustrations throughout
Illustrated by Dana Tanamachi, whose work has been featured by Google, The Wall Street Journal, Random House, USPS, and Target
Thick, cream-colored paper
Wide margins
Single-column, paragraph format
Smyth-sewn binding
Packaging: Permanent Slipcase




My review:

  The ESV has become one of my favorite Bible versions. I have a couple different ESV Bibles already, but this one looked interesting, so I requested it.

 This is a pretty cool Bible. I am not one to journal in a Bible, but am becoming more and more interested in doing so. This Bible has a lot of room on the margins to jot thoughts or even draw, if that is your thing.

 The illustrations are eye catching and adds a lot to the Bible.

 The Bible has the look of an encyclopedia, and comes in a matching open end box such as a boxed set of books come in.

 If you are wanting a Bible to carry to church, this may not be the right Bible for that. However, if you want a Bible for personal reading and one you can journal and write notes in, this is a great Bible for that.

 I was given a copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest review.

About the illustrator:

Dana Tanamachi is an American lettering artist, graphic designer, and illustrator whose exquisite typographic murals ignited the worldwide chalk-lettering trend.  She has been commissioned by clients such as Instagram, Target, Google, Time Magazine, Nike, and West Elm. Learn more at tanamachistudio.com.

Check out the website for the Bible: IlluminatedBible.org

Giveaway:
Just comment on this blog post to be entered to win a copy of this Bible. I will pick a winer using Random.org on November 25.


“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.


Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

How We Made the ESV Illuminated Bible from Crossway on Vimeo.

 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Murder In Disguise, A Preston Barclay Mystery # by Donn Taylor

Book description:

Official verdict:  Suicide.

But why would that vigorous department chairman commit suicide? And did he kill himself to avoid disgrace from the impending exposure of his activities on the dark side became known? When visiting professor Preston Barclay questions his long-time friend's suicide, he receives threats. Press has enough problems already in proving his competence to students and faculty in the newly-hostile environment of the state university. For the new department chairman and campus radicals do all they can to undermine him. And the sexy female siren assigned as his student assistant creates problems there and with Press's courtship of his colleague Mara Thorn.

Press's questions don't find adequate answers, rumors accuse his friend of involvement in disgraceful activities, and Mara's researches reveal a wide range of criminal activity stretching from the community onto the campus itself. The more things don't add up, the more dangerous the threats become, and the more determined Press becomes to clear his friend's name and find the truth about the alleged suicide.

But can Press and Mara's stumbling efforts to find the truth prevail against the entrenched forces of the police, the campus radicals, and an unseen criminal organization that increasingly puts their lives in danger. . . ?

My review:

 I enjoyed the first two books in this series, so I was up for reviewing this third book in the Preston Barclay Mystery Series.

 The setting for this book is the same as the other two: the college where Preston teaches. This mystery revolves around his friend's suicide, which  the friend's wife refuses to believe was a suicide.

 I enjoyed the book, and thought it was the best of the series so far. I had forgotten though how annoying the main character's constant hearing music in his head was that he hears on different occasions and different people. I find it a distraction as I read the books.

 Murder In Disguise had some very interesting and odd characters, and bad and good. The book not only has suspense and drama, but also a lot of humor. Taylor has a unique way of describing his characters, especially the more colorful ones.

 The end result of the mystery wasn't a surprise, as the description of the book lends to the idea of how it ends. However, there is a lot of suspense. mystery, and surprises along the way as Preston reluctantly investigates his friend's death.

About the author:


Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His publications include three suspense novels, one historical novel, and a book of poetry. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.


Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Christmas Star by Robert Tate Miller

Book description:

Paul Bennett had the perfect wife, the perfect family, the perfect life—until one fateful Christmas brought an unthinkable tragedy. In deep despair, he turns to drinking to drive away the pain, but he only succeeds in driving away his wife. His marriage shattered, his family gone, Paul now despises Christmas.

But can the holiday he so detests hold a miraculous surprise? After an accident in which he loses consciousness, he wakes up in the company of the shepherds who will soon travel to Bethlehem to see the newborn Christ in the manger. Can Paul find salvation on the night that forever changed the world? Can he discover the true spirit of Christmas?

My review:

 I read and reviewed this author's other Christmas novel a few years ago, and really liked it. A few weeks ago, he commented on that book review on my blog and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing his new Christmas novel. I can never turn down a Christmas book, and also since I liked his other book, I said yes. This is actually his third Christmas novel, but I have not read the second one.

 The title of this book is Christmas Star, A Love Story. A lot of the book does not take place at Christmas. It starts at Christmas, ends at Christmas, and there are a few Christmases celebrated by the main characters throughout the book. A big part of the book is a love story between the main character, Paul Bennett and his wife.

 The book starts with loss and sadness, and when the main character is in his mid 30's, to my calculations. The author then goes back in time to when the main character is in his childhood up through his late teens, and then onto him meeting the love of his life.

There are some sad parts of the book, and a lot of happy times also. It shows how badly one can deal with loss if their focus isn't completely on God and they are not fully surrendered to Him and His will. It shows how far a man can sink when he has no hope and no faith in God. And it shows that God can restore broken people and give them hope.

 I try not to give any spoilers away in a book review, so I will try to be careful not to do so here: at one point the main character goes back in time. The author doesn't really explain how, but a dream is a likely possibility. Through that experience, the wonder and hope of Christmas brings about the highest point in the book, and it ends on a good note showing the true meaning of Christmas.

 I liked this book even more than the previous Christmas novel by Miller. It was an emotional read, with sad and happy moments both stirring my emotions. If you are going to read one Christmas story this year, you should make it be this one.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Robert Tate Miller began his writing career with homespun essays of small town life that were published by Reader's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s and wrote successful family-oriented telefilms for NBC, ABC Family, and the Hallmark Channel. Robert lives in Northridge, CA, with his wife Gina and stepdaughter Chloe June.

Review of my 2017 Christmas CDs

Every Christmas I buy a few new Christmas CDs, and have posted brief reviews of them the last few years. I bought 4 new ones this year, not counting "new" used ones that I purchased since last Christmas:

Alabama: An American Christmas















  This is the third Christmas CD Alabama has done, and is the best in my opinion. Their first CD only had a few songs I liked very much, and I didn't like their second one at all. This one is definitely the best.

 An American Christmas has 15 songs. Three of those are 3 traditional carols. They do the traditional secular tunes Jingle Bells and Winter Wonderland and Auld Lang Syne, along with 7 new tunes, at least to me. Two of those new songs do a great job of getting at the true meaning of Christmas: Remember Me and The Greatest Gift. They also re-recorded their most famous and well-liked Christmas song, Christmas In Dixie.

Personal favorites:
The Greatest Gift
Christmas In Dixie
Jingle Bells

 This is a great CD to add to your music collection, especially if you like country Christmas music.


Doug Anderson: Back Porch Christmas













 Doug Anderson was baritone for Ernie Haase And Signature Sound for several years before going solo. I feel that was a good decision, and have liked his solo CDs. He collaborated on this CD with a new country group called 4th and Main that consists of 4 young guys. They sing back up on the CD, and I think may also do a guest vocal or two.

 Sadlly this CD only has 8 songs, though I did only pay $8.99 for it. I like at least 10 songs on a CD. It is a great CD though, and one I am really enjoying, Six of the songs are new, at least to me. On one of the new songs, he does Joy to the World with it. He recorded Christmas In Heaven, which is a great song done by country singer Scotty McCreery. He also did the old standard I'll Be Home for Christmas.

 The CD is Southern Gospel/Country, and 4th and Main added a lot to the CD with their vocals. Although the CD only has 8 songs, they are a great variety of songs that are done with style.

Personal favorites:
Christmas In Heaven
If It Wasn't For Christmas/Joy to the World
Back Porch Christmas


Sam Levine:  Smooth Christmas














 Sam Leving is a saxophone player, and I have several of his CDs. He does all styles of music: Hymns, Praise & Worship, 50's, 60's, movie tunes, and more. This is his second Christmas CD, and the better of the two, The other one was mostly or all newer Christmas songs, whereas this one is all traditional tunes. The CD has 12 songs, and all of them are total instrumental, sax with other instruments backing it up. There are no vocals at all. Of the 12 songs, all were familiar to me except for The Wexford Carol and All Is Well. This is a great CD to have playing in the background, or in the car when you aren't in the mood for someone singing. And I think he is as good as Kenny G.

Personal favorites:
O Come All Ye Faithful
Go Tell It On the Mountain/Children Go Where I Send Thee
Mary, Did You Know?
O Holy Night

Casting Crowns: It's Finally Christmas















 This is the only CCM Christmas CD I bought this year. It is what is considered an EP, so it only has 6 songs on it. Three of the songs are traditional carols/hymns, with two of them having a newer song put with them.

 The songs are done well, with no outrageous or wild arrangements, and one doesn't have to like the group's usual fare to like this.

Personal favorites:

Make Room
Somewhere In Your Silent Night

Monday, November 6, 2017

Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport

Book description:

Christmas in Gold
After eighty years, change is nothing new for Astrid. By the time she was twenty, she survived the destructive Nazi regime, caring for her family under brutal circumstances, moving to America, and losing her husband. At forty she was widowed again and left to build a new life with her children. Now, when she faces a move into an assisted living community and meets a young woman on the brink of despair, she resolves to stir up hope through tragedy one more time.

Christmas in Blue
In the wake of a personal loss deeper than anyone realizes, Angela plans to bypass as much of the season as possible and get through her duties as the church organist by going on autopilot. Instead, she finds herself in charge of the town’s celebration. After a mysterious young man arrives, townspeople suspect he is the reason that one set of plans after another disintegrate until little is left of their traditions. Yet Angela warms to Gabe because she suspects they share a secret—his real reason for coming to town. Even when all they have to work with is a garish supply of blue Christmas decorations, Gabe helps Angela discover the hidden beauty of hope.

My review:

 I am a sucker for Christmas books, and have way more than I could possibly read during one Christmas season.... but that doesn't stop me from reading and reviewing new ones that come out each year.

 This is the first Christmas book I have read and/or reviewed this year. It is also the first book I have read by this author. Christmas books often revolve around romance, but neither of the two stories in this book do, though there is a hint of a possible romance in the first story.

 I did enjoy both stories. It was neat the way the author brought the color gold into the first story, and the color blue into the first. Each story deals with a different type of loss, and the main character in each story has new challenges thrown her way. Newport not only came up with an endearing plot for both stories, but also endearing and likable characters. I liked Christmas In Blue better than Christmas In Gold. I thought the plot was better, and there were a lot more characters that made you want to like them and experience Christmas the way they were experiencing it. And that is not to say I didn't like Christmas In Gold.... I did. Both stories show the hope and magic of the Christmas season.

 I don't know if the author has previously written any Christmas books, but this is one she can be proud of and is one I recommend to other lovers of a good Christmas story.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and twentysomething children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.

Check out her website at www.olivianewport.com.


Colors of Christmas is available from Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of  Barbour Publishing.

Thanks to Barbour for the review copy.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty, with a giveaway

Book description:

Children's clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball's soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar- entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.

Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months' investigation against the woman's safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind.

When Mary Wade's safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn't the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.

An animal rescue, an abandoned house, and a kidnapping. Find out what happens in Hope Toler Dougherty's new release!

My review:

  I like trying out new authors, and this was a new author to me. She has a few other books, but they don't look like they are suspense, as this one is....which is my favorite genre'. And I definitely liked her suspense novel.

 The book starts out with a kidnapping and then a rescue, so it didn't take long for me to get pulled into the story. I found myself liking the two main characters right away, and loved the conversations and interplay between the two of them. The male hero of the story also had an interesting and amusing grandmother that played into the story a lot.

 The suspense element was done very well. You knew the bad guys were after the couple, but there were still some surprises along the way. I thought the book was very well written, had great characters, plot, and ending. It was a book I didn't want to put down and read through fairly quickly. Looking forward to reading more suspense from this author.

About the author:


Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master's degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. A member of ACFW, RWA and SinC, she writes for Almost an Author. Before writing novels, she published non-fiction articles on topics ranging from gardening with children to writing apprehension. She follows the Pittsburgh Steelers, ACC basketball, and Army West Point Football. Hope and her husband, Kevin, live in North Carolina and chat with their two daughters and twin sons through ooVoo. Her debut novel, Irish Encounter, is partially set in Ireland. Her second one, Mars . . . With Venus Rising, is published with Pelican Book Group.

Learn more at hopetolerdougherty.com.

Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy.



  Her personal safety isn't the only thing in jeopardy-so is her heart. In Hope Toler Dougherty's new novel, Rescued Hearts, children's clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball's soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Brett forsakes his three-month mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind . . . and then Mary Wade's safety is threatened once more.

Cozy up this fall with Hope's new book and enter to win a Kindle Fire!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Rescued Hearts
  • A Kindle Fire 7
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 13. The winner will be announced November 14 on the Litfuse blog.