Posted in Historical

Shelley Gray’s A Texan’s Choice: The Heart of a Hero

Texas, 1874. Long ago, Scout Proffitt gave up on ever being a man of honor like his Civil War hero brother Clayton. But when Scout steps foot on the rundown remnants of the Circle C ranch, he wonders if maybe—just maybe—the Lord has something different intended for him.

Rosemarie has lived most of her life doubting her worth and shouldering the blame for her brother’s death. But when a stranger rides onto her ranch, claiming he owns it, she suddenly is given a choice: either keep looking at the dark side of life . . . or dare to dream.

What a stunning conclusion to a great series! I loved this book! The best thing about Ms. Gray’s novels, is that they are layered with realism. Her women are not 20th century women, but women who need to survive. Her men are men who have had to make choices that are not always easy and you can take ’em or leave ’em. Of the three novels by Ms. Gray, I think this one is my favorite. Scout’s character is so fully developed from this novel and the previous that you feel like you can understand this complex hero. Rosemarie is the perfect heroine for a man like Scout. Spiritually, they just live their faith. It comes as natural to them as breathing. That’s the only way to describe it. Highly Recommended!

** I got this copy from Netgalley through Abingdon Press. My opinion was not influenced in anyway.**

Posted in Historical

Elizabeth Camden’s Against the Tide

Love and Lives are Threatened in Camden’s Latest Offering

As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she’s finally carved out a perfect life for herself–a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or “Bane,” a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head.

Just as Bane’s charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia’s part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.

So I loved the character of Bane from The Lady of Bolton Hill. In my opinion, Bane completely stole the show in that novel, so I was thrilled to learn he would have his own novel. It did not disappoint. I so enjoyed this novel! Bane’s character is just so savvy and I was skeptical that he could meet his match, but Lydia lived up to it. I loved that this novel was so original. Everytime I thought I could predict what would happen next, I was wrong. So much fun! Spiritually, Bane has to realize that his forgiveness does not require penance and Lydia realizes that she needs Jesus. He is the only person she should be relying on. Her salvation story was unique and not the least bit chessy. I’ve read every novel by this author, but she has me completely sold with this one. Highly Recommended and while you don’t need to read The Lady of Bolton Hill, I suggest you do!.

Posted in Historical

Lynn Austin’s All Things New

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.

Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival–and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine’s mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak…but a bitter hatred fuels her.

With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women–daughter, mother, and freed slave–in a riveting tale.

If you love Lynn Austin, then you’ll love this book. And I love Lynn Austin. While it may take a minute to get into the novel, once you’re pulled in, you won’t want to put it down. One of the things I appreciated about this book was that it took place right after the Civil War, such uncharted territory gave the novel originality. Ms. Austin was able to capture three different points of view so well in the persons of Josephine, Eugenia, and Lizzie. Spiritually, Josephine has to learn to let go of her bitterness and to talk to God, Eugenia has to learn that the past was not always glorious, and Lizzie has to learn to let go of her fear…though all of them have good reasons to hold onto their baggage. It just goes to show that no matter how good your reasoning is, God still requires our faith. Such a good book. I already want to pick it up and flip through the pages again. Highly Recommended!

Posted in Contemporary

Susan May Warren’s You Don’t Know Me

To everyone who knows her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses her kids’ sporting events, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.

No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the sleepy town of Deep Haven, Deidre got a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan Decker. Twenty years later, Annalise couldn’t be more unprepared for her past to catch up with her. When Agent Frank Harrison arrives with news that the man she testified against is out on bail and out for revenge, Annalise is forced to face the consequences of her secrets. Will she run again, or will she finally find the grace to trust those she loves most with both her past and her future?

Boy was this a page-turner. Soon as I started it, I could hardly contain my excitement to know what would happen next. Ms. Warren, as always, does an excellent job on character development so that by the end of the novel you feel like you know these people so well. The premise behind the book is don’t keep secrets. I’m not usually a fan of deception, but these people had some good reasons to keep secrets so at no point did I feel annoyance towards them. Spiritually, the novel addresses secrets in marriage and the concept of God’s grace which so conflicts with what we deserve. Highly Recommended!

In honor of the release of this novel, I am holding a giveaway. Just answer the question “which Susan May Warren novel is your favorite?” and you will be entered into the contest to win a copy of My Foolish Heart!

*Contest Rules: In order to win the copy, you must leave a comment and the winner will be randomly selected. If you are interested in participating in the contest, your comment must include your email address. If you are notified as the winner, please respond within 48 hours. Winner will be announced on October 9th!

Posted in Personal

Monday Musings…The End of an Era

Does anyone else miss bookstores? I know I do. I was a freshman in high school when a Borders was built half a mile from my house. To say I was there all the time is an understatement. Dad often jokes that I’m the reason Borders closed; because I read so many book there without buying them (um…that may or may not be true). When Borders closed, in spite of my 20+ years, I did tear up. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live the next closest bookstore is about 30 to 40 min. away. So, what do I miss about bookstores?

1) Browsing the Shelves. Sometimes you just want to look and see what’s new. I bought a lot of books at my neighborhood Borders just trying new authors. With this new online business, I think reviews are the way (at least in my opinion) of getting me to check out a new author. Gone are the days where you flip through pages to see if its what you want.

2) Meeting new people. Yes, this is an odd one considering I’m not a people person, but I have met a lot of interesting people at bookstores. Not lifelong friends mind you, but others who just enjoy reading and being there.

3) The environment. I’m not a huge fan of reading at the library. Too many bad experiences. Now I just pick up my books and go. But there is always someting nice about sitting down with a book, with music playing in the background and the smell of coffee and new books wafting over the shelves.

4) It gives you something to do. I’m not a huge shopping fan, so more often than not I would run to the bookstore while my mom shopped. It’s not an option anymore, now I drag a book from store to store and pray I can find a seat.

Do I like Amazon? Uh…yes. And the Kindle was revolutionary. But I still miss the bookstore, talk about an end of an era.

Anyone else miss bookstores? Glad they’re gone?

Posted in Interview

Interview of Steven James

When writing a mystery/crime novel, for you, what comes first: the crime, the villain, or how it is solved?
I’d say probably the crime. Sometimes as I’m gathering ideas for a new book, I’ll think of a creepy scene and work on that for a little bit, fleshing it out, without knowing exactly who will be in it or what that villain will be like.
That said, since I’m writing a series, there are some villains that overlap from book to book, and in those cases I would have that person in mind when I shape the scenes. I kind of enjoy that since I already know what that villain might think or how he would act. I like brainstorming some of the most disturbing things I can think of and then bringing them into the books. This really is a weird life.
The last thing I come up with when writing a novel is how to solve a crime. I try to create impossible crimes and then eventually solve them in a way no one would expect, but will still be satisfied with. That’s hard and it takes me a long time, often as much as a year, to figure out how to solve them. It’s wild.

Opening Moves is your sixth novel with Patrick Bowers, does his character become easier or harder to write with each book?
Easier, yes. Imagine spending several hours a day with someone for six years. You’d be able to anticipate pretty well how that person would react to different situations. That’s the way it is with Bowers. I know him pretty well by now. However, the books don’t seem to get any easier because I keep learning more about writing and end up being more and more critical of myself and having to go through more drafts until I reach the final product, so there are challenges and payoffs from doing this over a number of years.

 Patrick Bowers brings a unique platform to the crime novel table, in the sense that he specializes in geographic profiling. What made you choose this area of expertise?
I was doing research on different investigative techniques, and I kept seeing information on the same thing—forensics, profiling, traditional investigative approaches. I didn’t want to do what everyone else was so when I stumbled across geospatial investigative techniques, it was a perfect fit.
Bowers doesn’t look for means, motive or opportunity, doesn’t have anything to do with DNA, and hates profiling. This all makes him unique, and I think that’s one of the things that attracts readers to the series.

Having read Opening Moves, I was left with the desire to pray for the protection of my family as well as to pray for those people, who, as we speak may be at the mercy of some very sick and evil person. What is the message that you want people to leave with when they finish Opening Moves?
I don’t really start a book with a message in mind, but more of a dilemma or a question. In this case I wanted to explore the themes of sin and redemption in regard to some pretty violent crimes. Specifically I was asking myself “At what point do we become accountable for our choices?” I found that it wasn’t an easy question, and I’m still not sure I know what my answer to it is.

 So I was very excited to learn that there will be another Patrick Bowers book coming out next year called The King, but you have a new protagonist debuting in November in the novel Placebo. Is there anything you can share about that?
Jevin Banks is one of the world’s greatest illusionists and escape artists. In this first book in the series he uncovers a pharmaceutical firm conspiracy and has to use all of his skills to try and stop an assassination attempt. These books have a different feel than the gritty suspense of the Bowers books. The Jevin Banks novels are more science thrillers. It’s been fun to create another fictional world, one that I can move back and forth from. Who knows where this one will lead.

Thank you Mr. James! Check out my review of Opening Moves: