Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock

I have enjoyed the novels in the True Colors series, ones about historical crime and unusual situations. This one was particularly interesting. Hitchcock did a good job of weaving historical fact and a fictional woman incarcerated on Blackwell's Island, a hospital for insane women. In the 1880s, women had few rights and few ways to find recourse when wronged. This novel paints a horrific picture of the conditions in the hospital, conditions that were being noted by the undercover female reporter, Nellie Bly.

I like the many issues covered in the plot. There is greed to the point of kidnapping an heiress and bribing doctors to see her declared insane. Women had defined social behavior at the time and going outside of the boundaries, such as riding a bicycle or learning to fence, was frowned upon. A major issue was faith in God, a challenge for the heroine under such cruel circumstances.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy thought provoking fiction about a dark situation in the past. You'll get a good dose of suspense along with historical reality and a hint of romance. While it is fiction, the author notes its basis in actual events.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Grace Hitchcock is the author of several novels and novellas. She is a member of ACFW and holds a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. She lives in southern Louisiana with her husband and son. You can find out more at http://gracehitchcockbooks.com/ .

Barbour, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sins of the Father by J A Jance

I have thoroughly enjoyed the J P Beaumont series from Jance. I have followed his career in the Seattle PD and then his retirement to Bellingham. Now he is a PI and here he is on a somewhat personal case. An old acquaintance with a new grandchild and a missing daughter. A daughter who looks so much like Beaumont's daughter he wonders if she might be the result of a one night stand decades ago.

This novel of Beaumont as a PI is a welcome change from the “shoot 'em up” police detective novels. The plot centers around investigation, not suspense. I was happy to see it included some historical information about Seattle and Bellingham, woven neatly into the narrative. I liked finding out more about Beaumont and his character, now sober but previously irresponsibly drunk at times. There is a good dose of family relationships too.

While this novel is part of a long running series, there is plenty of back story so it can be read on its own. It would be a good choice for senior citizens. Beaumont may not be able to move as fast as he did when in the Seattle PD but he can still solve a murder case.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

J A Jance knew in second grade she wanted to be a writer. Her ambitions were frustrated in college as the professor who taught creative writing did not think women should be writers. Refused admission to the program, she married a man who was allowed in. Her husband did not want her to write so she put it on hold for eleven years, until she was the divorced mother of two. She wrote early in the morning so she could sell insurance to put food on the table. She finally had her first novel published in 1985, a Detective Beaumont novel and 21 more featuring him followed. She added 17 Joanna Brady books and 11 Ali Reynolds books, those set in Arizona, her home state. She and her second husband spend their time in Seattle and Arizona. You can find out more at http://www.jajance.com/ .

William Morrow, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Counter Point Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book


Book: Counter Point
Author: Marji Laine
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: November 2016

Someone is determined to finish the final assignment of a murdered hitman.

Her father’s gone. Her diner’s closing. Her car’s in the lake. Cat McPherson has nothing left to lose.

Except her life. And a madman’s bent on taking that away. Her former boyfriend, Ray Alexander, returns as a hero from his foreign mission, bringing back souvenirs in the form of death threats. When several attempts are made on Cat’s life, she must find a way to trust Ray, the man who broke her heart.

Keeping Cat safe from a fallen cartel leader might prove impossible for Ray, but after seeing his mission destroyed and several godly people killed, he knows better than to ignore the man’s threats. Cat’s resistance to his protection and the stirring of his long-denied feelings for her complicate his intentions, placing them both in a fight for their lives.

How can a small-town girl survive when ultimate power wants her dead? 


Click here to get your copy.


My Review

I mostly enjoyed this Christian romantic suspense novel. I did have trouble liking Cat. In the face of being in grave danger, she made some strange decisions. She seemed immature and very stubborn. Ray was an interesting character in that he braved being in a dangerous place to do mission work yet could not articulate how he felt to those close to him. And I never understood the two percent deal on the diner and why Cat's dad would have made such an arrangement. It was a voluntary adjustment to the initial contract that hurt Cat terribly. While it made for a good subplot, it just didn't make sense to me that her dad would do that.

I think the strength of the novel is in the discussion of what it means to be in mission for God. Is it only going to a very dangerous foreign place to spread the gospel or can it include feeding the hungry homeless nearby?

There is quite a bit of suspense in the novel. There is also a very good Christian message included as the characters discuss issues. The author's writing style is one that kept my interest. Overall I enjoyed the novel and look forward to the next in the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author


Marji Laine has completed seventeen years of homeschooling, but with her publishing business, her various volunteer activities, and her large family, she will likely never live a life of leisure. When she does find spare time, she enjoys watching sports and Hallmark movies and mysteries, loves having game night with her family and friends, and enjoys talking “shop” with other authors. You can usually find her in her favorite recliner, plucking away at her keyboard with her rescue fur-babies at her feet or at www.MarjiLaine.com.

More from Marji


COUNTER POINT takes place in a small town in East Texas. A family-owned diner provides the backdrop for many of the scenes. The owner, Cat McPherson, makes a point of smiling and chatting with everyone who stops by. Even the superior and difficult Mrs. Heath—of the Heath’s Point Heath’s, make no mistake. Mrs. Heath might think she’s all that, but she is still dependent on Cat’s diner for a slice of her favorite Magnolia Pie. Have you ever had a piece of this custard paradise? Smooth, creamy, and with the minutest crisp of a glazed caramel on top of it. I can practically taste one now. This favorite of mine had to go into my book. I first tasted a Magnolia Pie (my adopted grandmother called it Buttermilk Pie because Magnolia Pie sounded too southern and she was from New Jersey) at a Christmas Eve celebration. It was my instant favorite. I’ve searched for my grandmother’s recipe through old books that she gave me and a collection that she and several others put together when I got married. Sadly, I cannot find that original recipe that she used. But I think it must have been something like the one I was thinking of when I included Magnolia Pie in my book. Let me know if you make this recipe! I’d love to enjoy a virtual slice of pie with you!
Magnolia Pie
Ingredients: 3 eggs at room temperature 1 stick of softened butter 1½ cups white sugar 3½ tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 cup buttermilk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk the eggs until foamy.
  3. Cream together sugar, butter, nutmeg, and flour. Add the eggs and other ingredients, beating until smooth.
  4. Pour into pie shell and bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool completely or chill before serving.

Blog Stops

Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Marji is giving away the grand prize package of a “reading S’mores” Christmas Ornament, a book light, and copies of COUNTER POINT and the first book of the Grime Fighter series, GRIME BEAT!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Finding Joy Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book


Book: Finding Joy
Author: J.C. Lafler
Genre: Christian Fiction, Generational Fiction
Release Date: November, 2019

No matter what complications life throws your way, search until you find something to be joyful for.”
Elisabeth Davis has lived by these words for most of her eighty years. Through good times and bad, this mindset has served her well, and she hopes and prays that her grandchildren will carry this sentiment forward when she is gone.

But Max has heard his grandmother say this so many times, he is almost oblivious. And while he understands her point, putting it into action is not always easy.

When his girlfriend demands he make a choice between her and his best friend—in the same week his grandmother has a stroke!—Max struggles to find joy anywhere. He is forced to reexamine his life, his relationships, and even his faith in this heartwarming story of coming of age and leaving a lasting legacy.

Click here to get your copy.

My Review

Lafler has crafted a heartwarming novel filled with the love of family. Elizabeth is a wonderful matriarch, mentoring her adult grandchildren after they had lost their parents. She is a godly woman and a good example of a life well lived – a life marked with finding joy. She encourages others to look for the joy in life too, no matter the circumstances. There is a little romance in the book involving the grandson but mostly this is a novel of family and the joy that comes from relationships. It is a pleasant novel with pleasant characters, an overall pleasant read.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author


J.C. Lafler has always enjoyed writing and dreamed of being published, but it wasn’t until she retired in 2015 that she realized her dream. J. C. and her husband, David, live in Battle Creek, Michigan—except in winter, when they escape to sunny Texas. Along with writing, she enjoys public speaking, reading, puzzles, traveling, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. Finding Joy is J. C.’s fifth novel to date. Her other books, also released through Redemption Press, include Lost and Found, Amazing Grace, Hope Everlasting, and Leap of Faith.


More from J.C.


“Finding Joy” by J.C. Lafler is a story about the challenge of finding joy in life’s most trying circumstances, and corresponding verses in the Bible that lead us to choose joy. This story came about because of a comment made by one of my children, who’s middle name just happens to be Joy. She (Lynsey) made the comment to me one day that her middle name reminded her that every day it is up to her to choose joy. Jokingly telling her that “Choosing Joy” would be a great title for my next novel, I let it go for a couple of months. While preparing to began said novel, I wrote “Choose Joy” at the top of the page and started writing. During editing I changed the title to “Finding Joy,” but the whole story developed around the idea of choosing to find a bit of joy every day, no matter what is happening in your life.

Blog Stops

Inklings and notions, December 10
A Reader's Brain, December 11
janicesbookreviews, December 13
Texas Book-aholic, December 14
Artistic Nobody, December 15 (Author Interview)
For Him and My Family, December 15
Lighthouse Academy, December 17 (Guest Review from Marilyn Ridgway)
Aryn the Libraryan 📚, December 20
CarpeDiem, December 21
Simple Harvest Reads, December 22 (Author Interview)
Mary Hake, December 22

Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, J.C. is giving away the grand prize package of a signed copy of her book with a matching mug!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

Wright is a master at crafting the time slip novel. In this case, a contemporary, Agnes, tries to solve the seventy year old murder of her great aunt. Agnes is caring for her 92 year old grandmother as well as reorganizing the local cemetery, disturbed by recent flooding. Her life is complicated by the handsome Collin, the archaeologist hired by the cemetery district to aid in identifying remains.

The narrative covers the present action and what happened in 1946. Wright does a good job of transitioning from one era to the other, revealing information in parallel form, as it happened then and as it is discovered now. Solving the murder is a complex task and I felt there was a bit too much brought in at the end without enough foreshadowing.

Wright covers several interesting issues in this novel. One is the government taking over land during war time, often at an undervalued price. We get a good sense of the unrest that caused among the land owners. Another prominent issue is how people process (or hang on to) grief. There are also several good discussions about the struggles one might have as to why God allows tragedy, such as the death of a young woman.

This is a good novel of contemporary family members overcoming their hurts combined with an old mystery still having ramifications and including a touch of romance.

By the way, like Agnes's 92 year old grandmother, I wash and reuse my resealable plastic bags. Do you?

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jaime Jo Wright is the author of several previous novels, The House on Foster Hill winning both the Christy Award and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense. She has also won the Carol and INSPY Awards. She is the Publishers Weekly and ACPA bestselling author of three novellas. She works as a human resources director in Wisconsin where she lives with her husband and their two children. You can find out more at www.jaimewrightbooks.com

Bethany House, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Operating in the Power of God's Grace by Robert Henderson

This book gave me an increased understanding of the breadth of God's grace. I had generally associated grace with salvation. I found out from this book that grace has a much larger role in how we live our lives than I had ever imagined.

God's grace empowers us to make our lives effective and fruitful. Henderson goes to Col. 1:5-6 to show the connection between grace and bearing fruit. I also found out that grace is not just a theological concept but should be a spiritual experience. (p. 46) Henderson uses the story of the woman caught in adultery to show the relationship between grace and shame. I was impressed with the insight that shame does not motivate us to righteousness and holiness. Being forgiven and freed from condemnation empowers us to live our new identity. Henderson uses other passages to reveal the relationships of mercy and grace, repentance and grace, bitterness and grace, grace and the gifts, and even grace and grease.

I was probably surprised the most with Henderson's teaching on levels of grace – and he shows it using Scripture passages. Having associated grace with salvation and vaguely with living the Christian life, I had not considered we could experience levels of grace. “The grace of God in our lives is a result of intimacy as we get to know Him.” (p. 188) The more we know Him, the more we walk in grace. Grace should always be increasing in our lives, empowering us to be more effective and fruitful.

I really appreciated this book on grace. I learned a great deal, perhaps because Henderson is very good at helping readers like me understand biblical concepts and then translate my understanding into purposeful living. I recommend this book.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Robert Henderson is a global apostolic leader teaching others to see clearly truth contained in Scripture. He and his wife have six children and a growing number of grandchildren. They live in Midlothian, Texas.

Chosen, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Camera Never Lies by David Rawlings Blog Tour


About the Book


Book:  The Camera Never Lies
Author: David Rawlings
Genre: General fiction/allegory/magical realism

Release Date: December 3, 2019


David Rawlings, author of The Baggage Handler, returns with another probing story: what would you do if your secrets were revealed to those around you?

Daniel Whiteley is a successful couples counselor who regularly puts families back together, helping them face up to the things in life they hide. But his own marriage is falling apart.

His wife, Kelly, knows Daniel is hiding something from her, but she doesn’t dare probe for fear her own secrets will be revealed.

When his grandfather dies, Daniel inherits an old SLR camera from a time when cameras pointed away from the person taking the photograph. On the camera is an inscription: “Use this camera wisely and remember, regardless of the picture you think you took, the camera never lies.”
When Daniel first uses his new camera he finds someone has already filled the roll of film. Annoyed, he processes the film and finds photos of a secret that he’s been hiding from his wife and daughter.
He has no idea who took them.

Now every time he uses the camera, the photographs reveal another secret about himself the he is desperate to keep-as well as those of his wife, which he is desperate to uncover.

Click here to get your copy.

My Review

I like it when a novel challenges me to live a better version of myself. This novel did that in the realm of keeping secrets. Rawlings portrays well the desire to keep secrets in order to maintain one's reputation, status in society, income, etc. There is generally a high cost in revealing secrets, however, and I was disappointed Rawlings failed to ultimately portray that. I feel the struggle does not end when secrets are revealed but does include the task of picking up the shattered pieces of life. I was also disappointed there was not a strong spiritual message about truth telling included in the plot. The plot itself might be more suited to novella length as I felt the action a bit repetitive.

Rawlings has an entertaining writing style and is a good story teller. This story is one that will make you think about the secrets you keep.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

About the Author


David Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father of three who loves humor and a clever turn of phrase. Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page to put food on the table, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication. Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face.  

Read an Excerpt


Read an excerpt of The Camera Never Lies here.

Blog Stops

amandainpa, December 5
Older & Smarter?, December 6
Blogging With Carol, December 6
Emily Yager, December 8
Splashes of Joy, December 8
As He Leads is Joy, December 9
Mamma Loves Books, December 9
Vicky Sluiter, December 10
Robin's Nest, December 10
Bigreadersite, December 11
Genesis 5020, December 12
Remembrancy, December 12
Pause for Tales, December 13
A Reader's Brain, December 13
Inklings and notions, December 14
Artistic Nobody, December 15
Texas Book-aholic, December 15
Just the Write Escape, December 16
janicesbookreviews, December 16
Hallie Reads, December 17
Quiet Quilter, December 18
Godly Book Reviews, December 18

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Find Your Weigh by Shellie Bowdoin

This is not another “diet book.” Rather, it is a thought provoking journey of self discovery. Bowdoin takes us through her struggles and her insights in her relationship to food.

I appreciate many of the areas she covers. She helps us understand our mindset toward food and toward a healthy life style. She writes about weighing and exercise. She helps us identify mental blocks, such as expecting food to entertain us. She suggests journaling to understand our feelings toward food, our self talk, when and why we eat, etc. She suggests this will help reveal patterns and habits. She did it for 50 days and suggests we do the same. She provides space at the back of the book for doing so, giving weekly questions to help us learn from our journal.

I like that Bowdoin is very realistic. She suggests eating in moderation, even allowing a few bites of foods we crave. She also allows eating more at special events but with understanding that the occasion warrants it.

This is a good book for readers looking to understand their relationship with food. You'll find insights, penetrating questions, and good suggestions for people who over eat for a variety of reasons. Reading this book and using the journal section will help you on your way to healthier living.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Shellie Bowdoin lives in Asia with her husband. She has two adult children. Find Your Weigh is her first book. You can find out more at https://thefabjourney.com/ .

Source Publishing, 238 pages. This book will release in January, 2020.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.