Sunday, March 4, 2018

Beneath the Surface, Dive Team Investigations #1 by Lynn H Blackburn

Book description:

After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change. She thought she'd left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. She reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.

Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff's Office dive team. When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer--one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.

Dive into the depths of fear with an exciting new voice in romantic suspense. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn grabs readers by the throat and doesn't let go until the final heart-pounding page.

My review:

  I started following Lynn on Facebook awhile back, being interested in her books. I had not read her previous books, as they are Love Inspired Suspense novels and there are way too many of those to keep up with. I saw she had a trader paperback book coming out from Revell, who always puts out quality Christian suspense, and put it on my list of to-read books. Then she posted one day she needed people for her street team....people to read, review, and help get the word out. I applied, and one thing I wrote under reasons I should be on it was this "You probably won't get many guys apply, and you need guys on your team too....." I got on, and I am  the only guy :)

 Onto the book:

  I enjoy reading books by new authors, finding out what their writing style is, and how much I am going to like their books. Blackburn did not disappoint, but exceeded my expectations. I love a good suspense novel, and good doesn't begin to describe this book. I made the mistake of starting the book one day on my lunch break at work, and man was it difficult to put the book aside to go back to work. The action and suspense start immediately, and never let up.

 Here's what I liked:

 The suspense: There were two mysteries going on at the same time. There were bodies being found that had been murdered, and the main chick, Leigh, had a stalker that grew more and more threatening and daring as the book raced towards an end.

The characters: Characters can make or break a book, and Blackburn came up with some awesome characters for this book and series. The two main characters, Ryan & Leigh were very easy to like and get caught up in their story. The dive team over all was also full of great characters, and I found myself hoping the next book would be about Gabe Sanchez, but I don't think it will be.

The romance: Maybe I am becoming a romantic sap, but I am enjoying the romantic parts of these books more than I used to. This one was more believable than some, in that the couple had had feelings for each other since high school, but Ryan had never acted on them because her brother had warned all his friends away from her....something that made the romance and story amusing.

The bad guy: I like a book that is complex enough that you can't figure out a motive or who the killer is, and this book certainly fell into that category. It was interesting to read the theories as the team would gather to brainstorm, and the author made that interesting and believable, yet keeps the reader guessing who and why.

The ending: What would a book be without an ending? And this one had a great one. I kind of guessed a certain thing would happen (no spoilers here!), but when it did happen I still was kept guessing what was going to happen next. The book came to a very suspenseful and climatic happening, followed by the romantic ending....which I thoroughly enjoyed and approved of.

 This lady can indeed write a great suspense novel that has everything I enjoy, and had me turning pages as fast as I could read them. I am definitely looking forward to reading more about this great team of investigators, and am eyeing the author's Love Inspired Suspense novels. Definitely 5 star material here.

About the author:

Lynn H. Blackburn is the author of Beneath the Surface, Hidden Legacy, and Covert Justice, winner of the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She's passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don't make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with her true love, Brian, and their three children.

Check out her website at

Beneath the Surface is available March 6 from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to the author for the review copy.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Set Free to Choose Right by Josh McDowell

Book description:

Popular Author, Speaker, and Founder of the Josh McDowell Ministry Speaks Out on the Popular, Culturally Relevant Topic of Right vs. Wrong

Directed to parents and gatekeepers of today’s youth, renowned speaker and author Josh McDowell focuses on the how-to’s of teaching teens and pre-teens to make right moral choices. 

Set Free to Choose Right will help you come to understand:
why today’s kids feel they have the right to determine what is “right” or “wrong” for themselves
how culture reinforces that there are no universal truths and. . .
where this misconception historically originated
how to motivate kids to make good choices
it is God’s character and nature that makes right, right and wrong, wrong

Engaging stories and helpful illustration are provided to model how a person (of any age) can distinguish between right and wrong and make the right choice—every time.

My review:

  Any book by Josh McDowell can be guaranteed to be worth reading, as is proven by this one. There are a lot of books out there about pornography and other moral issues, but this one is different from those. McDowell did something that makes this book more interesting and easy to read than other books of this type. For this book, he created some fictional characters. Jayden is a 14 year old boy in a Christian home. Throughout the book, his parents catch him looking at porn in a few different ways, and they are also shown reacting in different ways. The topic of sending sexual photos to others is also covered in the book, along with other moral issues teens - and adults - will face, but pornography is covered in more detail.

  Although I have no kids of my own, I do have nieces and nephews, so this book was of interest to me. It is very well written, and McDowell does a great job of addressing these issues and showing parents how to deal with them with their kids. I love how he showed the fictional parents' different ways of talking to their son about his pornography viewing. And he shows there is a right way and a wrong way to react, and what to say and not to say.

 The uses and problems of smart phones, tablets, and other electronic devices is addressed, and McDowell also gives some statistics on kids and porn viewing, which is rather scary.

 The internet is a wonderful thing, and our lives are made easier by smart phones, tablets, etc. However, there is a lot of bad out there and these devices make it easier to access porn and other bad things. This book is a great resource for parents as they attempt to raise their kids in this porn and immorality deluged world we live in.

About the author:

As a young man, Josh McDowell considered himself an agnostic. He truly believed that Christianity was worthless. However, when challenged to intellectually examine the claims of Christianity, Josh discovered compelling, overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Christian faith. After trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, Josh’s life changed dramatically as he experienced the power of God’s love.

After his conversion, his plans for law school turned instead to plans to tell a doubting world about the truth of Jesus Christ. After studying at Kellogg College, Josh completed his college degree at Wheaton College and then attended Talbot Theological Seminary, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Master of Divinity degree.

In 1961, Josh joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ International. Not long after, he started the Josh McDowell Ministry to reach young people worldwide with the truth and love of Jesus.

Well known as an articulate speaker, Josh has addressed more than 10 million young people, giving over 24,000 talks in 118 countries.

As he traveled to other countries, Josh quickly realized that where people were sick, homeless, and hungry, words were not enough. In 1991, Josh founded Operation Carelift to meet the physical and spiritual needs he discovered in orphanages, hospitals, schools, and prisons in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Since that time, Operation Carelift has delivered humanitarian aid (food, clothing, and medical supplies) worth more than $46,000,000. That is the equivalent of 278 forty-ton containers. Nearly one million children have received school supplies, food items, hygiene items, and toys from the volunteers that traveled twice a year to share God’s love with them.

Josh has received two significant honors from the Russian people because of these efforts. He was elected as an honorary fellow of the Medical Society (The Medical Union of Pediatrics) of Russia on January 24, 1995—in recognition of his work among the children of Russia. Also, Josh is the only foreigner to become a member of the prestigious Russian Club of Scientists. Operation Carelift, which has grown into in one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations based in the United States, is now a part of Global Aid Network (GAiN USA).

In the United States, Josh and his team have created many cutting-edge live events to help young people stand strong and firm in their faith in the face of a rapidly-changing culture. These have often developed into full-blown campaigns, such as:

Six Hours with Josh
Why Wait?
Counter the Culture
Right From Wrong
True Foundations

Since 1960, Josh has written or co-authored 120 books including:

More Than a Carpenter -- 15 million copies in 85 languages.
New Evidence That Demands a Verdict -- named one the twentieth century’s top 40 books and one of the thirteen most influential books of the last 50 years on Christian thought by World Magazine.

In addition to many other awards, Josh has been nominated 36 times for the Gold Medallion Award and has received that award on four occasions.

In spite of all the honors and awards he has received, Josh will tell anyone that his greatest joys and pleasures come from his family. He and his wife Dottie have been married 40 years. They have four children and five grandchildren.

Set Free to Choose Right is available from Shiloh Run, an imprint of Barbour Books.

Thanks to Barbour for the review copy.

Amish Cooking Class Cookbook by Wanda E Brunstetter

Book description:

Amish Cooking Basic Enough for Beginners 

Fans of New York Times bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Amish romance novels are invited to go back to cooking basics with characters from the bestselling Amish Cooking Class series. Heidi Troyer, her students, and other contributors share over 200 practical recipes for use in any kitchen, along with tips to keep things running smoothly. From learning how to boil eggs and knead biscuits to building a German Pizza and an Amish Haystack feast, The Amish Cooking Class Cookbook includes something beneficial for every age and skill set. Divided into traditional cookbook categories, there is a recipe everyone will find to love.

My review:

 The author did a series of fiction books called the Amish Cooking Class Series. This cookbook is based on those books, but one does not need to read the books to use or appreciate the cookbook.

  The cookbook starts out with a list of the cast of characters from the books, and a description of each book. That is followed by a description of Amish cooking, and then several tips from different cooks.

 There are several categories of recipes in the book, and I won't list all of  them. A few are beverages, soups, and desserts. There is even a category for children, including foods for babies. At the back of the book is an index for all foods. The front of the book has an index of the categories in the book. The book is spiral bound, making it easy to keep the pages open you are using.

 The cookbook has a lot of great recipes that have easy to follow directions. There are a lot of pictures,  and I was impressed with the wide variety of recipes throughout the book. I am a single guy with only one cookbook to my name, so I was happy to get the chance to review it.... and I have used it a couple of times already to make recipes are part of my reviewing the book.......but it is a great cookbook I plan on using after posting this review.

To be honest, I don't have a lot of experience with cookbooks, but this one does seem like a great one to have around, and may have some different recipes than the ones out there already. I do recommend it.

About the author:

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written close to 90 books translated in four languages. With over 10 million copies sold, Wanda's stories consistently earn spots on the nations most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards.

Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.

When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

To learn more about Wanda, visit her website at

The Amish Cooking Class Cookbook is available from Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Books.

Thanks to Barbour for the review copy.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Mayflower Bride, Daughters of the Mayflower #1 by Kimberly Woodhouse

Book description:

A New Series Begins for Lovers of History, Adventure, Romance, and Ancestry 
A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

Mary Chapman boards the Speedwell in 1620 as a Separatist seeking a better life in the New World. William Lytton embarks on the Mayflower as a carpenter looking for opportunities to succeed—and he may have found one when a man from the Virginia Company offers William a hefty sum to keep a stealth eye on company interests in the new colony. The season is far too late for good sailing and storms rage, but reaching land is no better as food is scarce and the people are weak. Will Mary survive to face the spring planting and unknown natives? Will William be branded a traitor and expelled?

Book review:

  Admittedly, this book may not fall into my normal reading material.....but when a favorite author and a very nice all around lady asked me if I wanted a copy, what was I supposed to say? Of course I said yes, with no reservations of whether I would like it or not.

 I have read the story many times of the Mayflower and those who settled here from that ship, and have even read a few fictionalized accounts of it. Kimberly does the story great justice, and adds several fictionalized characters to the story.

   There are a lot of great characters in the book, but I found myself liking the hero of the story most of all, William. Orphaned very young, turned out into the street at the age of nine, and then raised from the age of 13 by a godly man, William has had a rough life. His passage on the Mayflower paid by his benefactor before he died, this hardened young man is hoping for a better future.

 As with any book of this type, there is of a course a romance at the center of it all, and I found myself rooting for it to work out as people became sick and died all around the couple falling in love.

 It has been years since I have read of the Mayflower and those who settled here in those early days, and Kimberly did a great job of retelling that story while spinning fictional characters and events around the historical facts and people.

 I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Mayflower Bride. I enjoyed reading again the historical events and enjoyed the romance and stories of the fictional characters. It also helped renew my appreciation for our freedoms and for those who helped found our country. Although this wasn't my favorite genre' of suspense, I found it difficult to put the book down when I needed to go back to work from my break. It is definitely worth reading.

 And might I add, I met the author a couple of years ago, and she is indeed a lovely lady inside and out, and a great author.

About the author:

Kim is a devoted wife and mother, and a third generation Liszt student. She has passed down her love of the arts to hundreds of students over the years, recorded three albums, and appeared at over 700 venues.

Her quick wit, enthusiasm, and positive outlook through difficult circumstances have gained her audiences at conferences, retreats, churches, military functions, and seminars all over the country.

The Woodhouse family’s story has been on the front page of newspapers, in magazines, articles, medical journals, and most recently featured on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They were also asked to share their story on The Montel Williams Show and Discovery Health Channel’s Mystery ER.

Kim has been writing seriously for fifteen years. Songs, plays, short stories, novels, picture books, articles, newsletters – you name it – she’s written it. It wasn’t until a dear friend challenged her to “do something with it”, that she pursued publication. She now has multiple books to her credit, with more on the way.

Kim lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and their two children in a truly “Extreme” home.

Check out her website.

The Mayflower Bride is available from Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Books.

Thanks to the author for the review copy.

If I Live, If I Run #3 by Terri Blackstock

Book description:

Casey is hiding again—in Memphis this time—but it’s different now. She knows without a doubt that Dylan believes her and is doing all he can to help bring Brent’s killer to justice. He’s become an unexpected friend . . . and even, maybe, something more. Hope makes everything more bearable.

Casey makes a deal with the DA to turn over all the evidence she and Dylan have gathered against Keegan and Rollins—only to discover that the DA is in league with them too. After a desperate escape, who can they possibly turn to now?

Time is running out for Casey, but master suspense writer Terri Blackstock will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last, utterly satisfying page.

My review:

   One of the first Christian suspense novels, if not the very first that I read was by Terri Blackstock. I have read all of her suspense novels she has written over the years, and this series shows she is just as good, if not better, than she was years ago.

 This series was different than most series of books I read. The story went on through all 3 books, and all 3 had non stop action and suspense.

 In brief, the main character is on the run, accused of murdering her best friend. The guilty parties are actually bad cops on the police force, who are determined to find her and shut her up before they can be implicated. A private detective is also hired by the family of the murdered young man, who ends up falling for the fugitive and she for him.

 I knew the truth would come out in book three, but it was fun getting there. I got the book in the mail Monday, and immediately started reading it and did not stop until I finished, and man....what a read it was. This whole series has been awesome, but Blackstock pulled out all of the stops for her thrilling conclusion to this awesome series. Thought the end result was predicable, there were a lot of surprises and plenty of suspense in the book to keep me turning the pages as fast as I could devour the words on them.

 The book had a great ending, deserving of this great series. In addition to  the suspense and romantic angle, Blackstock also addressed issues of faith, with Casey growing in her newfound faith and Dylan rediscovering his as they both fight for their lives from the very ones that were supposed to protect and serve.

About the author:

Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist.

Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in a U.S. Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.

Recent books include Truth Stained Lies (Book 1 of her Moonlighters Series), and her acclaimed Intervention Series (Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall). Other recent favorites include Predator, Double Minds, the Restoration Series, the Newpointe 911 Series, the Cape Refuge Series, and the SunCoast Chronicles series.

In 1994 Terri was writing romance novels under two pseudonyms for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. At the time, she was reading more suspense than romance, and felt drawn to write thrillers about ordinary people in grave danger. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots, while challenging her readers to think and grow. She hopes to remind them that they’re valued by God and that their trials have a purpose.

If I Live is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the review copy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Man He Never Was: A Modern Reimagining of Jekyll and Hyde by James Rubart

Book description:

What if You Woke up One Morning and the Darkest Parts of Yourself Were Gone?

Toren Daniels vanished eight months back, and his wife and kids have moved on--with more than a little relief. Toren was a good man but carried a raging temper that often exploded without warning. So when he shows up on their doorstep out of the blue, they're shocked to see him alive. But more shocked to see he's changed. Radically.

His anger is gone. He's oddly patient. Kind. Fun. The man he always wanted to be. Toren has no clue where he's been but knows he's been utterly transformed. He focuses on three things: Finding out where he's been. Finding out how it happened. And winning back his family.

But then shards of his old self start to rise from deep inside--like the man kicked out of the NFL for his fury--and Toren must face the supreme battle of his life.

In this fresh take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, James L. Rubart explores the war between the good and evil within each of us--and one man's only chance to overcome the greatest divide of the soul.

My review:
 James Rubart is an author who doesn't have a lot of books out yet - I think this is his 9th - but they are all amazing and different reads. You don't get the run of the mill book. This one is no departure from his usual fare.

 I was intrigued by the idea of a modern retelling of the classic Jekyll and Hyde story, and he did not disappoint. As with all of his books, this one had a supernatural aspect that only made the book more of an enjoyable read.

 The classic story is mentioned in the book, and the main character has to fight his bad side which is referred to as Hyde. Ultimately, it comes down to Toren totally believing in and embracing God's love for him, and he in turn totally loving his family unselfishly.

 I loved the book, and it really makes the reader think. The plot was great, and Rubart again came up with a terrific cast of characters, not the least of them, Toren, the man battling his own self. Although the book and story are fictional, there is a lot of great insight and spiritual truth throughout the book. I definitely recommend it.

About the author:

James L. Rubart is a 28 year old trapped in an older man's body, who loves to water ski and dirt bike with his two grown sons. He's the bestselling, Christy, Carol, INSPY, and RT award winning author of eight novels, including his latest, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington.

The Man He Never Was is available from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the review copy.

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Book description:

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

My review:

 They say you can't judge a book by its cover. You can however, often judge a book by its description. Ever since I read about this book, I have been eagerly looking forward to reading it. Francine Rivers is a great author who does not put books out as fast as other authors, and she never disappoints when she does come out with a new book.

 And what a book it is. The title is a very appropriate title for it: The Masterpiece, for it is indeed a masterpiece of writing. The book is long, coming in at 496 pages, and every page is worth reading. Rivers created two very hurt and flawed characters and spun a masterpiece of a story around them. That many pages leaves a lot of time and space for character development, and Rivers did just that. She goes back in time often into both of the two main characters' pasts to show what made them what they are when the book begins.....and they are great characters.

 Roman is not a very nice guy for much of the book, but you can't help but like him and cheer him on. Grace is the ideal Christian woman with a not so ideal past. You pretty much figure these very opposite people are going to end up together by the end of the book, but it is quite an amazing journey watching it happen.

 Roman is a well known painter, part of the reason for the title of the book. However, the title captures much more than that as Rivers takes the readers on his journey from a man who hates and does not believe in God, a womanizer who uses women for sex and tosses them aside, to a faithful man of God and a husband who honors his wife and his children.

This was truly an amazing read. I started it on my lunch break yesterday, read more on my second break, read it on my breaks at work today, and finished it at home this evening. I was not only entertained, but was inspired and moved by this fictional account that shows how God can change lives even of those who seem the most hopeless. Five out of five stars, hands down. A masterpiece indeed.

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

About the author:

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers continues to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her numerous bestsellers include Redeeming Love, A Voice in the Wind, and Bridge to Haven, and her work has been translated into more than thirty different languages. She is a member of Romance Writers of America's coveted Hall of Fame as well as a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). 
Twitter: @FrancineRivers

The Masterpiece is available from Tyndale Publishers.

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy.