Friday, July 4, 2014

Review ~ For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

Hello Friends!

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!! Sorry I've been away for so long. Life has been crazy!

Today I have a fantastic book for you by debut author Kate Breslin. It is entitled For Such a Time and is an incredible re-telling of the story of Esther during World War II.  I received my copy in exchange for my honest review from the publisher, Bethany House, but this is a book I will gladly go buy for myself and for others. This is one of those books that I couldn't put down, and absolutely enjoyed! I cannot believe that I'd never thought of writing Esther during WWII before, but I'm sure glad somebody did - and so well at that. Ok, on to the review:

Summary (as provided by the publisher)In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself? 

What I liked: First, I loved how closely the book followed the biblical story of Esther. It was fun to refresh myself on the original version and then kind of see where the book was heading, but still wondering how it would all actually play out. The story itself was engaging and unique. I've read dozens of WWII stories both fiction and non-fiction, and this is in my top three favorites for sure, and probably the most innovative of them all.

The character development was great too. Ms. Breslin brought Stella(Hadassah), Aric(Xerxes) and the rest to life. I felt like I really got to know each character, both good and bad, and it really helped me get a better feel for both what happened to the Jews in WWII and what happened to them during the life of Esther.

Stella and Aric's romance is wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. I loved getting another glimpse of what might have happened with Esther.

I also enjoyed the spiritual aspect of the book. Stella struggled with the idea of the Christian God and reconciling it with her Jewish faith. Aric also had to reconcile his beliefs with his allegiance to the Nazi Party.

What I didn't care for: There wasn't really anything that stood out to me that I can recall. However, at times the story did get a bit graphic. Nothing out of the ordinary for books such as this, but it might be a bit intense for younger readers. I'd recommend they be at least teens.

This is one of those books that has stayed with me in the months since I have read it, and it is definitely on my re-read list. Ms. Breslin showed me a side of the Holocaust I hadn't really seen before, and told the story of Esther in an intriguing way that kept me reading until the wee hours of the night. She had me weeping at times, and sighing at others. I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone who loves WWII, Biblical, or romantic fiction.

Happy Readings!

Sarah K.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review ~ Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

Hello Friends,

Today's book is a cute historical romance by Siri Mitchell called Love Comes Calling, which I received from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for my honest review. Taking place in the 1920's, it's a fun read that will keep you entertained until the last page. 

Summary (from the publisher): Dreaming of becoming an actress, Boston socialite Ellis Eaton captures Griff Phillips' attention. But while filling in for a look-alike friend at the telephone exchange, she overhears a call that threatens Griff's safety. With handsome policeman Jack Flanigan investigating - and her heart in a muddle - will she discover what might be the role of a lifetime?

What I liked: This is probably one of my favorite time periods in history, and it is so much fun to read about! One thing I love about Siri Mitchell's books is how well researched they are and how much I learn about the time and place in which they occurred. I loved learning about the "Hello Girls" and the difficulties of their job. It was also interesting to see into the lives of the wealthy elite of Boston during Prohibition. I also didn't know that there was a woman's college across the lawn from Harvard that had the same professors teaching the same classes for women, who didn't actually receive a Harvard degree. 

I also really liked Griff. He was sweet and caring, but not overly so, despite Ellis' fears. Ellis was well written also, but more on her in a minute.

It was also fun having a bit of a mystery thrown in as well. Bad things can happen when you accidentally overhear a conversation you weren't supposed to.

What I didn't care for: There is just one word to describe Ellis Eaton: whirlwind. She was written to have ADHD, which obviously wasn't diagnosed back then, and Ms. Mitchell does a fantastic job with that. However, it got a bit overwhelming and somewhat frustrating at times trying to keep up with Ellis. I'd say that means she did a fantastic job writing her. Ellis was likable, just so scatterbrained it drove me nuts! I definitely have a better understanding of what it is like to have ADHD after reading this book! So, I guess this isn't really a bad thing, more than a preference thing. :) I also wish Ellis had gotten more support from her family, but Griff more than made up for that, in my opinion.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It wasn't my favorite by her, but not my least favorite either. It was sweet, and fun, and high energy. If you like 1920's era stories, or want to learn more about Boston during Prohibition, or a fun mystery involving a "Hello Girl," this is the book for you! 

Happy Readings!

Sarah K.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review ~ The Advocate by Randy Singer

Good Afternoon, Friends!

Today I have a very special book for you. This book is going down on my top three favorite books of all time - not to build it up too much or anything. ;) While I did receive a copy from Tyndale House via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion, this is one of those books that I would have reviewed anyway because it was that good. I have read every book by this author, and this is by far his best. I love this book so much, I really hope I can do it justice.

So, with no further ado, I give you The Advocate by Randy Singer, a fantastic legal thriller meets biblical fiction.

Summary (as provided by the publisher): At the trial of Christ, Theophilus, brilliant young "assessore" raised in the Roman aristocracy, stands behind Pontius Pilate and whispers, "Offer to release Barabbas." The strategy backfires, and Theophilus never forgets the sight of an innocent man unjustly suffering the worst of all possible deaths--Roman crucifixion.Three decades later, Theophilus has proven himself in the legal ranks of the Roman Empire. He has survived the insane rule of Caligula and has weathered the cruel tyrant's quest to control the woman he loves. He has endured the mindless violence of the gladiator games and the backstabbing intrigue of the treason trials.Now he must face another evil Caesar, defending the man Paul in Nero's deranged court. Can Theophilus mount a defense that will keep another innocent man from execution? The advocate's first trial altered the course of history. His last will change the fate of an empire.

*While I normally write my own summaries for books, I chose to use the publishers in this case, because I did not want to give too much away.

What I liked: First, the story was well thought out. Very little is known about who Theophilus was, or if he was even a real person. Mr. Singer did a fantastic job of creating this man's story, and fitting it in with Scripture and history. You can tell that Mr. Singer is well versed in the law, and Biblical history, as both parts are portrayed well.  The story flowed nicely and every piece made sense and had a purpose. While there were parts that didn't make sense at first, once I got past them, I saw how they fit into the overall narrative perfectly. 

Second, I really enjoyed that the majority of the book was written in first person. There are two ways this can be done. The first, you know you are reading first person and it is somewhat distracting. The second, it is no longer about reading, you become that person, and it's like you are really there. This is what The Advocate does. I felt like I was Theophilus, that I was in first century Rome and Jerusalem. I could see the places and hear the conversations around me. Mr. Singer made it so REAL. He brought it all to life in a way I have never experienced in a book before. He reminded me that the people in the time of the New Testament were the same as you and me. They went to sporting matches, they gambled, they drank, they played politics, they had to pay rent, they had friends and enemies, and they fell in love. 

Third, I loved the characters themselves. They were all so well written. Everyone was more than a character, they were real people. I often found myself looking things up to find out if that person really existed or not, because of how real they seemed. From what I can tell minus Theophilus, his love interest, and a few other minor characters, the majority of the people in this book really existed. Caligula was entirely too creepy to me, until I realized that Singer didn't cover the half of it! Many other well known first century people appear as well. Seneca, Tiberius Caesar, Nero, Paul, Luke, Jesus, Pilate and Procula, along with pretty much every person that Paul and Luke mention as being in Rome in their New Testament works. 

I also really appreciated how historically and biblically accurate this book was. I learned so much about Roman culture and law without it feeling like I was learning. As I mentioned earlier, I often found myself pausing to go see if something was real or not, and almost every time, it was, down to the names of the people involved. As for biblical accuracy, it was fun getting to see the author's theories on things that scholars have wrestled with for years. For example, there is a nod to the theory that Luke used Mark as a source document, the reasoning behind Paul's abandonment by several "friends" in Rome, why Luke wrote the Luke-Acts, and why Acts ended so suddenly. He even throws out a theory about what happened to Paul after his trial with Nero - whether he was killed or went on to Spain. My favorite though, is the explanation of Romans 10:9-10. All of these things are woven into the story in such a way that if you didn't know about them before hand, you would never notice them. . 

What I didn't care for: The only complaint I had actually answered itself later on. The first quarter of the book follows Theophilus' growing up years, and his time in Jerusalem. The next half of the book returns to Rome and there is no mention really of Christianity or the Way or anything. It is entirely about Roman life, religion, and culture, with some legal stuff thrown it. It is great, but at first I was confused as to why it was there. I kept reading, and it all made sense with the last quarter of the book, where Christianity comes back to the forefront. I realized that you need to have that middle section in order to understand Rome, and why things happened they way they did. The last quarter of the book takes place under the rule of Nero and the rise of Christianity and persecution in Rome, which I understood better because of the middle.

Takeaway: I already mentioned some of the cool biblical stuff thrown in up above. One of the other ideas I found interesting was not spelled out in the book, but was something I was able to infer because of what I had learned about Roman law and culture. All my life, I've heard that tradition states that Peter was crucified upside down, and Paul was beheaded, but I never really knew why that was what tradition said. Why was Peter crucified, but Paul wasn't? It wasn't until reading this book, that I was able to piece together a theory. Crucifixion was the worst death Rome could inflict on someone, and was reserved for their enemies. No Roman citizen could be killed by crucifixion. Granted, Nero found a way around this, but that was the law. Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he was probably beheaded, because beheading was considered the most humane death. Crazy stuff.

Aside from trivia, this book challenged me to live my faith to the fullest. It reminded me that confessing with my mouth is not just speaking aloud, but is me claiming that my life if forfeit. When Rome conquered a new area, they forced everyone to confess Caesar as lord, or be killed in the spot. So when Paul speaks of confessing Jesus as Lord, this is what he is referring to. It was the potential for a death sentence then, and many places around the world, still is. Is my faith strong enough to withstand that? Am I really saying my life is forfeit but for Jesus when I call him my Lord and Savior? If that day comes when my life will depend on my answer, will I give the right one? Will you?

This is one of those books that I think every Christian should read. It does have some very intense (and sometimes creepy) scenes, so I'd say it is for teens and older. The end is so powerful, I wept the last several chapters. If you want a fantastic read that will challenge you and bring the New Testament to life, you will love this book! I also want to point out that while this has a bit of legal drama in it, it is not just a legal thriller. It is so much more than that. This is a story that makes faith come alive. It challenges the reader to live their faith to the fullest, to understand what "confess with your mouth" really means, and what the true cost if salvation is. 

Please tell me what you think about it! If you don't like it as much as me, I totally understand, but I still want to hear your thoughts! 

Happy Readings,

Sarah K.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review ~ The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Hello Friends!

Today, I've got a historical romance for you by one of my favorite authors in this genre: The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen. I did receive a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for my honest review.

Summary: After losing his father, Alec Valcourt, along with his mourning mother and sister, move from London to a small town in Devonshire to live with his uncle. A dancing and fencing master, Alec expects to pick right up where he left off in London, only to find out that this small hamlet has unofficially banned dancing for the past twenty years. Determined to get people dancing again, Alec does his best to find pupils for his new business with little success. Humbling himself, he takes a job as a clerk with Lady Amelia, the patron of the village, and the one behind the moratorium on dancing. Hoping to get into her good graces, Alec does his best to obey her wishes to keep away from her beautiful daughter, Miss Julia Midwinter, and to drop the silly idea of teaching dance again.

Miss Julia Midwinter, on the other hand, feels trapped in this small village under what she believes is her mother's iron fist. So in revenge, she does whatever she is told not to. She flirts with men, she walks on the roof of an abandoned church, and she does whatever she can to disappoint her mother, since it would happen anyway. When she meets Alec, she is instantly smitten, and not just because her mother would disapprove. Captivated by his dancing abilities, she begins taking private lessons from him with her best friends, all while trying to unravel the secret that started the ban on dancing to begin with.

What I liked: First, I liked the characters. Alec and Julia were wonderful leads, and their interactions were sweet, though somewhat brief in my opinion. I also enjoyed getting to hear Lady Amelia's story. The overall plot was a bit slow at first, but picked up around page 75 or so. I really enjoyed the mystery woven into the story, as well as its conclusion. Finally, I enjoyed getting to learn a bit about 19th century English dances.

What I didn't care for: As I said, it was a bit slow at the beginning, but did eventually draw me in. I felt the romance was a bit lacking as well, but the story didn't really suffer because of that, so that's good.

Overall, a good read. If you like 19th century England, and learning about the local history with some romance and mystery thrown in, you will enjoy this book.

Happy Readings!

Sarah K

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review ~ The Turning by Davis Bunn

Hi Friends!

Today I have the newest book by Davis Bunn called The Turning.*  This will be the third book by Mr. Bunn that I have reviewed since starting this blog. The other two, Strait of Hormuz, and Unlimited can be found here and here. This book is completely different from the two mentioned above. It is contemporary fiction that addresses the idea that a single act of obedience to God's promptings can literally change the world.

Summary (as provided to me by the author): The message was unexpected but instantly recognizable.

A voice resonated from a distance and somehow from within.  Against all earthly logic, it carried a divine command.  And five very different people knew they were summoned to obey.

Their actions were demanding, but not particularly grand.  Only later would they see a pattern emerge - one that links their tasks together and comes to challenge the cultural direction of the nation.  They realize that one small personal response unveiled a new realm of moral responsibility.  And this affirmation of everyday hope captures the attention of millions.

But power and money are at stake.  Malicious elements soon align themselves to counter the trend.  To succeed they must also undermine its source.  Can we really believe that God speaks to people today? 
 Surely this must be dismissed as superstition or delusion.  These well-intentioned but misguided individuals should not be allowed to cast our society back into the Dark Ages.

The public debate and media frenzy place an unprecedented spotlight on knowing and doing God's will.  The five encounter threats, but try to remain steadfast in their faith.  Had God indeed imparted wisdom on selected individuals?  Is this sweep of events part of his divine purpose? 
The movement may herald a profound renewal - one that some are calling The Turning...

What I liked: Great story. I enjoyed how all the pieces fit together. I also enjoyed the characters and learning about their struggles. I liked that it challenged me to think about my life, and whether or not I will respond if/when God speaks to me. It was a fast read, but it also made me stop and think at the same time. I also enjoyed that Mr. Bunn let you know where and when things happened, and gave you warned when you jumped between characters. 

What I didn't care for: I felt it was a bit choppy at times, and the fact that all these people suddenly ended up in the same place was kind of glossed over. The story still worked, that part just left me wanting a little. I also thought it was odd that of the ENTIRE multi-billion dollar company, the only two people that had a problem with the Hope is Dead campaign were from a recent acquisition, and that even if there weren't other believers, that everyone went along with the idea. 

Spiritual Application: Although no one has outright come out with a "Hope is Dead" campaign, the idea is very prevalent in our society today. Look at the top best sellers on the NYTimes or Amazon lists. They are dystopian, vampires, or sex related. None of those things offer hope. In fact, they offer the exact opposite. They say that there is no hope, so you may as well live it up while you can. How depressing. Yet, this is the message that people are buying into every day. People have lost hope. They have given up on God, and the church, and believe they have no way out - or don't want to find one. This is why this book and its message matter. More importantly, this is why the Bible matters - because it is the only true source of hope.

The other main spiritual theme running through this book is the idea of a turning point. What would happen if we listened to God's voice, and obeyed his promptings - even if what he asked us to do was the hardest thing we had ever done? Obedience to God is just as important as listening to him. The Bible commands us to be not just hearers of the Word, but doers also. When God speaks we ought to listen, and when he tells us to do something, we ought to obey. God won't let us down, and he will work things out for his purposes. In the book, the main characters had the choice to obey God's promptings, and look what happened! God did great things. They weren't forced to obey. There's a section where the believers talk about feeling not complete - like there were supposed to be more people there, but those people didn't respond to God's call. I've totally had those times in my life, where I felt God prompting me to do or say something. When I've obeyed, it's been pretty cool. When I've disobeyed, I felt sad, and knew I had missed out on something really great. So, when that call comes - how will you respond? How will I? Are we ready?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and have rated it five stars on Amazon and Goodreads. It challenged me, and forced me to think about my relationship with God and his plan for my life. It has made me want to look for ways to be used by God, and I hope it does for you, as well. Also, if you check out, you will find videos explaining the book, it's need, and a free devotional to go along with it. 

Happy Readings!

Sarah K

*I received a complimentary copy of The Turning from River North Fiction in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Review ~ Death by the Book by Julianna Deering

Hello Friends!

It's gonna be a busy month here on my blog. I've got a bunch of reviews for you over the next few weeks ranging from murder mysteries, biblical fiction, contemporary, and some good ole fashion historical romance.

Today's book is Death by a Book, the second in Julianna Deering's Drew Farthering Mysteries series, which I received from the publisher, Bethany House via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.  The first book, Rules of Murder, can be found at your local bookseller, and is a fun mystery. This book is even better than the first! These books take place in England during the 1930's, and are quite enjoyable! While the mysteries are separate, the main characters are the same, and some of the previous mystery is discussed in the second book, so I'd recommend reading it first. You don't have to, but it helps with side details.

Summary: Some say that meeting with a lawyer can be hazardous to your health, but Drew Farthering didn't expect it to be deadly - especially not to the lawyer! Arriving to meet with his late parent's solicitor, Drew arrives to find him dead - murdered - with a nonsensical message attached to the body with a hatpin. Dubbed the "Hatpin Murderer" by the locals, Drew suddenly finds himself pulled into the murder's web, and feels compelled to help the police solve the mystery before more people end up dead.

Meanwhile, Drew is still waiting for the lovely Madeline to agree to marry him, which becomes complicated further by the arrival of two Americans. The first, Madeline's Aunt Ruth, is a grumpy spinster who has the disposition of a porcupine, and who believes Drew's only motivation is to ruin and destroy her niece's reputation and break her heart. The second, a handsome American who is on holiday, takes an interest in Madeline as a fellow American - too much of one in Drew's opinion. Drew must balance his quest to find the truth with his desire to woo Madeline while avoiding her aunt's barbs and prickles. Hopefully, our dashing hero can do it all while not falling victim to the "Hatpin Murderer"!

What I liked: First off: GREAT mystery! For those of you who have read my blog, you know that i'm generally pretty good at figuring out the whodunit, or at least the motive, fairly quickly. Well, not this time! Ms. Deering totally stumped my on both counts this time. Her first book, I figured out pretty quickly, and was expecting the same thing here. Boy was I fooled! I had NO CLUE who the murderer was or why, and for that reason alone, I LOVE this book! The clues were awesome, the murderer was a surprise - but at the same time, it totally worked. There were several plot twists, and in the end I am completely satisfied with the overall story. I also enjoyed the wit and the one liners. The characters were well developed, and while some were annoying, they served their purpose.

What I didn't like: Aunt Ruth grated on me for a bit at first. She was almost too well written, if that makes sense. Her grumpiness and general behavior was frustrating, especially since she was a guest! However, she eventually mellowed out, which was a VERY good thing. Also - I had to stop myself from googleing the clues to find out where they came from. I realized if they couldn't use Google, then I couldn't cheat and use it either!

Overall, a fun murder mystery with plenty of plot twists, red herrings and just a touch of romance! This book is for anyone who enjoys mysteries, and since it is written from a man's perspective, it might draw in male readers as well. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!

Happy Readings!

Sarah K

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review ~ Love at Any Cost by Julie Lessman

Hello Friends, another historical romance for you today!

I truly enjoyed this book by Julie Lessman. (Note, while I did receive an ARC of this book via NetGalley from the publisher, I used my own copy for this review). This book is the first in her The Heart of San Francisco series.

Summary: Cassidy McClare is a Texas girl through and through. Moving to San Francisco to live with her aunt, uncle and cousins is about to change her life. Upon arriving, she meets "pretty boy" Jamie McKenna - a man she knows she can't fall for, or he will break her heart. Jamie, a poor boy from the wrong side of town, is determined to make a name for himself and marry a wealthy socialite so he can save his family and the people he grew up with from poverty and shame. After meeting Cassidy, he decides that she is his new goal. Sparks fly as these two spar back and forth over just about everything - the most important being Jamie's lack of faith - a deal breaker for Cassidy. Full of twists, turns, drama, and lots of wit, this book will keep you rooting for them both, and longing for more!

What I loved: As usual, Julie makes her characters come alive! I also loved the romance between Cassidy and Jamie. I also appreciated that there wasn't quite as much drama/love triangle in this book as her others. This book was definitely lighter than her other series, but still super enjoyable. Cassidy's strength was also inspiring. She held on to her convictions and never let them go for anything or anymore.

What I didn't care for: One thing I noticed that I felt was odd, was although faith plays an important role in the story, and there is even a "conversion of sorts" there is never any mention of the name of Jesus. The characters only mention God. I get that some people get turned off by preachy-ness, but if you are going to share the salvation message, why wouldn't you just say the name of Christ. It made it feel watered down to me. Whether this was an intentional choice, or just how the author writes, I don't know, and it isn't THAT big of a deal, but I did notice it it, and thought I'd say something about it. :)

Overall a fantastic read, and one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys historical romance!

Happy Reading!

Sarah K.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review ~ A Match Made in Texas by Karen Witemeyer

Hello Friends! Just in time for Valentines Day, I have a wonderfully romantic novella collection for you by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Carol Cox called A Match Made in Texas. I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This set of four novellas is Bethany House Publisher's first attempt at a novella collection, and I think it is probably one of the best I have ever read.

Summary: These four stories take place in a little town in Texas in the 1800's. Dry Gulch is a fairly normal town, until a matchmaker suddenly appears on the scene. Secretly helping three couples find love in the fourth story, the tables are turned on her, and she is matched with a wonderful man as well! In the first story, "A Cowboy Unmatched," widow Clara is shocked to see Neill on her doorstep. She thinks he is there to fill an ad for a husband, and he thinks he is there to repair her barn roof. As he fixes her roof, they find themselves falling in love.

In "An Unforeseen Match," Grace, the town's schoolteacher finds herself out of a job and dropped into Clara's old farm as her new home. Going blind, the school board doesn't know what else to do with her, so they give her the land as compensation. Meanwhile, Clayton is just passing through on his way to the land rush in Oklahoma, when he is hired by a classified ad to help her out. As Grace's eyesight fades, she finds herself drawn to Clayton as the one who can help her live a more normal and less lonely life, but will Clayton see that while he is so blinded by the need for land of his own?

"No Match for Love" follows Andrew and Lucy, and Andrew's sweet aunt, who seems to be losing her mind. When odd things start happening around the ranch that only his aunt sees, he hires Lucy to help care for her, but when Lucy sees them too, he is baffled. Are both women crazy, or is something more sinister going on?

In "Meeting her Match" the matchmaker is caught in her own web, and finds herself being set up by her friends in the town. Will she finally be able to catch the eye of the man she has loved secretly for years?

What I Liked: First, I have read dozens of novella collections and it is extremely rare that all of the stories, or even most of them, are good. Usually, there are one or two stories that I want to re-read, but that's it. This is the first time that I can recall that all four stories were enjoyable, and ones I would go re-read. I enjoyed that many of the characters appeared in all four stories, and that they were interwoven. I also enjoyed the individual stories themselves. They were so romantic and sweet.

I will admit that the second story is my favorite. I related to Grace in a very personal level. I've had  poor eyesight all my life, and for a while, thought I was going blind before my vision stabilized. Many mornings I would wake up, wondering if this would be the day it would go completely. Thankfully, God has had other plans thus far, and I can still see. :)

I also enjoyed the mystery in the third story. That was a fun change of pace. Each book had great lessons about faith as well, especially Grace's story. The reminder to rely on God first hit me hard.

What I didn't care for:  I honestly can't think of anything I didn't like.

Overall, these were well written novellas and as a whole made a very sweet book. If you are looking for a good read for Valentines Day, or any day, this is a great historical romance collection, and I will be reading it over and over again.

Happy Readings!

Sarah K.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review ~ Critical Reaction by Todd M. Johnson

Hello Friends!

Sorry I have been away so long! Life got nuts! Christmas was awesome, and then I finished my M.Div - yay! And now, I have nothing to do but read for a while. WIN! I also got behind on my reviews, so over the next week or so, hopefully I can catch up. I've got several great books I really want to share with you.

The first one is Critical Reaction by Todd M. Johnson, which I received as an ARC in exchange from my honest review from the publisher vie NetGalley. This is my first book by him, and I really enjoyed it! It is kind of a legal thriller with some mystery/suspense thrown in.

Summary: Hanford Nuclear Facility in Washington State was used for decades by the US Government to grow its nuclear arsenal. After the Cold War ended, however, it was shut down, and mostly abandoned. That is, except for those few who stayed behind to make sure nothing "explosive" happened. Then, one Fall night, something does. Nothing major - no mushroom clouds or anything, but major enough to set off the radiation lights, and release an eerie green cloud to the buildings and their immediate surroundings. Hanford authorities claimed it was nothing, but its now a few months later, and those exposed are feeling a bit funny, even though their tests are coming back negative. Oh, and a couple of people have disappeared, or died suddenly. Is it natural, or is something more sinister going on?

Enter famed trial lawyer Ryan Hart and his newly barred daughter Emily. Emily hears of the situation from an old college friend who was there the night it happened, Kieran Mullaney. Kieran is one of those experiencing problems, and decides to sue the owners of Hanford. After one lawyer backs out, Kieran relies on Emily and her father to get to the truth of what really happened at Hanford. Ryan, meanwhile, is skeptical that anything can be done with so little evidence, but as time goes on and things get more mysterious, he too is drawn into the case. As the case heats up, so does the mystery behind it. A dirty judge, a smarmy cooperate lawyer, and someone willing to go to great lengths to keep Hanford's secrets safe. What is really going on at Hanford?

What I liked: This was the first book I read by Mr. Johnson, and I really enjoyed it. I liked that it was a combination legal thriller and mystery. There wasn't too much of one or the other - a perfect combination. I enjoyed meeting the characters and hearing their stories. I also enjoyed learning about Hanford. Even though I grew up in WA state, I had never heard of Hanford, and was surprised to know it was only a few hours away from me my whole life. I also enjoyed the suspense Mr. Johnson kept us in throughout the book. He did a great job keeping the bad guy's motives hidden for the majority of the book - a rare treat!

What I didn't care for: This is one is definitely my personal opinion - it drove me nuts how many times characters would pass by each other or have short conversations but not actually share information. Now, I realize, that is probably realistic, but as the reader who already knows what each character does, it was aggravating watching them interact and not share their knowledge! AAAHH!!! Things could have been figured out so much sooner if that had happened. However, I know that isn't how real life works, and for the story line, it worked too. For example, one security guard, Paddy, who is also experiencing symptoms but is not a part of the lawsuit, interacts several times with Kieran, whom Paddy knows is suing, yet does not bother to share his suspicions, or research about the missing guard. I know, it fits the story, but for the reader, it is a bit frustrating. I wanted to reach in and throttle the characters...which probably means Mr. Johnson did a fantastic job making them realistic and true to life. :)

Overall, a very intense and enjoyable read. If you like legal thrillers, suspense, or mysteries, you should enjoy this book!

Happy Readings,

Sarah K