Monday, January 30, 2017

Review (+Tour Giveaway): One Dead, Two to Go




One Dead, Two to Go
By Elena Hartwell
Eddie Shoes Mystery #1
Camel Press, 2016


Summary

Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman… alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.


My thoughts

It’s been a good while since I’ve read a female PI story and I enjoyed Elena Hartwell’s debut very much. One Dead, Two to Go opens with Eddie on a stake out, hoping to collect evidence of an unfaithful husband, and the ride gets interesting from there.

The story is well written and fast paced, hooking me from the first page, but it was the humor that delighted me most. Eddie (Edwina) is quite a character – and her mother, Chava, even more so. The mother/daughter relationship had been a little dysfunctional in the past, but works well now. Together they make quite the detecting pair.

The mystery itself is well plotted and the suspects aren’t so numerous that you can’t keep up with everybody. The story is told from Eddie’s point of view, which I liked because it enabled me to get to know her fairly well.

One Dead, Two to Go is a fun read. There’s a little mild profanity, but a very entertaining story overall.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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After twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduces Eddie Shoes, private eye. Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct,” by author Peter Clines, I’DTale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”

In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.

When she’s not writing or teaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their trio of cats, Jackson, Coal Train, and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs.” Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: Eden: The Animals' Parable


Eden: The Animals’ Parable
By Keith Korman
Liberty Island, 2016


Summary

"Ask the animals, and they will teach you." -Job 12:7

Experience the Gospels in a way that you never imagined.

In this beautifully inspired retelling of the Gospels, we see Jesus and his disciples in the Holy Land through the eyes of the animals---especially his intrepid and loyal dog, Eden.

With a wise, old donkey, innocent lambs, and legions of curious field mice---the animals follow their master's journey across Galilee and onto Jerusalem, rapt with awe and wonder and bearing great tidings---even if they don't fully comprehend the divine events they witness.

Simple, clear, and spiritually profound, Eden is for readers of all ages, this artful retelling is captivating, moving, and alive with the joy you felt the first time you opened the Bible.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/2icLyBY


My thoughts

Eden: The Animals' Parable is a unique book and I loved it. The reader becomes an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, from birth to resurrection, through the eyes of the animal kingdom. The story is well written and I was impressed by how seamlessly it flowed. I was also surprised by how completely I was pulled into the narrative. The original artwork by Lisa Paris is creative and adds interest. 

Allegory or parable is a great vehicle for giving fresh approach and insight to something that is very familiar to most of us. Each day was filled with new experiences for Eden, the Master's dog, and I was inspired by letting myself feel the same. Honestly, I really felt like I was there. I couldn't help but think of the many Scripture references that talk about all creation giving praise.

Eden: The Animals' Parable is a touching book for all ages and a great way to share the Gospel with children. I think anyone reading this story to young children would have their undivided attention. And what a wonderful message to end with . . .

      The animals left the Gardener behind the garden wall and once more trotted to catch up. Maryam was glad to see them and put her arm over Samson's neck as they walked along.
      "Where shall we go now?" the donkey asked.
      Eden ran on ahead. "Everywhere," she barked.
      "Who shall we tell?" asked the littlest lamb.
      "Everyone!" Eden said.

Recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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Keith Korman is a literary agent and novelist. Over the years he has represented many nationally-known writers of fiction and non-fiction at his family's literary agency, Raines & Raines. The idea for Eden first came to him as a child when he saw the little calf jump across the stable in the prelude to William Wyler's Ben Hur. And he's been thinking about it ever since. 

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http://litfusegroup.com/author/kkorman

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review (+Tour Giveaway): Scheduled to Death




Scheduled to Death
By Mary Feliz
A Maggie McDonald Mystery #2
Lyrical Underground, 2017


Summary

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald has a knack for cleaning up other people’s messes. So when the fiancĂ©e of her latest client turns up dead, it’s up to her to sort through the untidy list of suspects and identify the real killer.

Maggie McDonald is hoping to raise the profile of her new Orchard View organizing business via her first high-profile client. Professor Lincoln Sinclair may be up for a Nobel Prize, but he’s hopeless when it comes to organizing anything other than his thoughts. For an academic, he’s also amassed more than his share of enemies. When Sinclair’s fiancĂ©e is found dead on the floor of his home laboratory—electrocuted in a puddle of water—Maggie takes on the added task of finding the woman’s murderer. To do so, she’ll have to outmaneuver the suspicious, obnoxious police investigator she’s nicknamed “Detective Awful” before a shadowy figure can check off the first item on their personal to-do list—Kill Maggie McDonald.

Purchase Links:  Amazon  B&N


My thoughts

I really enjoy the Maggie McDonald mystery series – and while Scheduled to Death is book #2, it easily stands alone. Maggie runs her own organizing business, something I’m not very good at, which is why I might relate to her so well. I love how each chapter begins with a tip for organization and have already applied a few.

Maggie, along with her family and friends, are ordinary people who might live in your neighborhood, and it’s great to continue with them after the previous book. I enjoyed getting to know her husband, Max, in this story. I also appreciate that there’s no profanity or graphic scenes.

The plot is well developed, suspects are numerous, and I enjoyed using my detecting skills right along with Maggie. Her efforts are thwarted by the rude and incompetent police investigator brought in while Jason recovers from an injury, nicknamed “Detective Awful.” Murder victims are often someone not very likeable, but that’s not the case this time, which makes the story bittersweet.

Recommended to all who enjoy a well-written cozy mystery.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country.

A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, Mary strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and National Association of Professional Organizers. Mary is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Sociology. She lives in Northern California with her husband, near the homes of their two adult offspring.

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On February 10, the Mary Feliz will be giving away five ebook editions of both books in this series to randomly selected names on her newsletter list. Please click on this link to sign up:





Review: A Moonbow Night


A Moonbow Night
By Laura Frantz
Revell, 2017


Summary

Her wilderness survival skills are without rival.
But her greatest talent is keeping other people's secrets.

After fleeing Virginia, Temperance Tucker and her family established an inn along the Shawnee River. It's a welcome way station for settlers and frontiersmen traveling through the wild Cumberland region of Kentucke--men like Sion Morgan, a Virginia surveyor who arrives at the inn with his crew, looking for an experienced guide.

Though he balks when Tempe is appointed to lead his team through the wilderness, it isn't long before Sion must admit that her abilities may outmatch his own. But can the tenuous tie they are forming survive the dangers waiting just around the bend?

With her signature sweeping style and ability to bring the distant past to vivid life, Laura Frantz beckons you to join her in a land of Indian ambushes, conflicting loyalties, and a tentative love that meanders like a cool mountain stream.





My thoughts

There is an impalpable quality that makes A Moonbow Night stand out in the field of historical fiction. Characters and setting are imbued with life and breath, living on in my mind long after the last page is turned. Words on the printed page literally become an artist’s paintbrush in the capable hands of Laura Frantz. Hooked from the first page, I want to read quickly as the story builds, yet the exquisite prose and descriptive passages demand that I linger to savor all that my senses are experiencing.

The Kentucky wilderness of 1877 becomes a major character – rugged and beautiful at the same time, yet difficult “to master or make peace with.” Laura is one of the best at submerging you into her world, utilizing all the senses. I came away with a greater understanding and deeper appreciation for America’s frontier men and women.


Sion and Tempe share qualities of strength and determination, and both have erected emotional walls because of a painful past. Sion “had that same air of intense quietness, that inbred strength and stealth that marked an able woodsman.” Tempe embodies what I think of as a frontier heroine – strong, hardworking, brave, and with an intimate knowledge of the rugged wilderness. The Moonbow Inn – a place of respite along the Shawnee river – is run by Tempe, her lame brother, (supposedly) widowed mother, and a serving girl. Gazing at the lights shining through its shuttered windows one evening, Sion realized “he’d forgotten what it was like to feel a bond, kinship. To come home. To be greeted, open-armed and openhearted . . .”

Like all of Laura’s books, A Moonbow Night is rich in historical detail and character complexity, but this story also has a spellbinding and ethereal feel. One of my favorite scenes was when Tempe and the half white/half Cherkee Raven shared a moonbow experience at the falls...

The moonbow spanned the river in a gentle arc, its ends resting on far limestone banks, the sight most vivid against the froth of the falls. As if it were a seam of brightly colored clay the Indians used for war paint, Tempe could make out rich red hues that melded to a fetching bluish purple and then pale green, the very green of the river itself.

Sion’s initial lack of faith stands in sharp contrast to the strong faith of his friend, Nate – and the effect of Tempe’s steady witness as the story unfolds is moving. The moonbow leaves an unforgettable impression, God’s faithful reminder “that even on the darkest nights there was a glimmer of hope, of promise, however hazy.”

A Moonbow Night is the first book to go on my 2017 “best of the best” list. Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book from Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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Laura Frantz is a Christy Award finalist and the author of several books, including The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel's Lady, The Mistress of Tall Acre, and the Ballantyne Legacy series. She lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Review (+Tour Giveaway): Summer on Sunset Ridge




Summer on Sunset Ridge
By Sharlene MacLaren
Forever Freedom #1
Whitaker House, 2017


Summary

Brought up on a Quaker farm near Philadelphia at the brink of the Civil War, plainspoken Rebecca Albright is charitable, peace-loving, submissive—and a feisty abolitionist. Determined to aid the Underground Railroad no matter what the cost, her path collides with that of formidable slave-catcher Clay Dalton. When Rebecca is assigned to nurse Clay back to health following a near-fatal gunshot wound, her uneasiness around him and the questions surrounding his mysterious past complicate their strained but developing relationship.

Sherriff Clay Dalton is grimly fighting several battles of his own as he stays on at the Albright farm to work off his debt to the family that has saved his life and taken him in. He is torn between his past commitments in the South and his unlikely present among this quiet Quaker community in the North. Almost against his will, he begins to ponder the impossible idea of a future with Rebecca.…

When tensions between North and South escalate, Rebecca and Clay find themselves propelled on a journey to discover just who God has called them to be, and they soon realize that each holds a key to the other’s answer.

Click here to purchase your copy.


My thoughts

Summer on Sunset Ridge begins a promising new series entitled Forever Freedom, set during the years just prior to the Civil War. Sharlene MacLaren crafts a spirited narrative filled with interesting historical detail and strong spiritual themes that add richness to the story.

Rebecca Albright is an engaging character and I especially enjoyed her family, which included many siblings. Rebecca is kind, compassionate, and has a burning desire to help with the Underground railroad, which forms a backdrop for the story. The initial meeting between Rebecca and Clay, a sheriff searching for a run-away slave, doesn’t bode well for their future – and this makes for great storytelling. The chemistry between these two is great.

The historical detail about the Quaker faith and the Underground railroad was an integral part of the story, pulling me right into the setting – although the Underground railroad didn’t play as big a part as I had expected. I thought spiritual themes were relevant for us today, such as when man’s laws and God’s laws conflict with each other. And I loved how Clay’s temporary memory loss provided the foundation for him to make life decisions that he might not have made otherwise.

I enjoyed Summer on Sunset Ridge and look forward to future books in the series.

Recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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Sharlene MacLaren Born and raised in western Michigan, award-winning, bestselling author Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. After graduating, she traveled with a nationally touring Christian vocal ensemble, returning home to Spring Arbor to marry her husband, Cecil, whom she’d known since childhood. Together they raised two daughters. Now happily retired after teaching elementary school for 31 years, “Shar” enjoys reading, singing in the church choir and worship teams, traveling, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Her novels include the contemporary romances Through Every Storm, Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; the beloved Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane, Sarah, My Beloved, Courting Emma, and Christmas Comes to Little Hickman Creek, a novella), and three historic romance trilogies: The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, andAbbie Ann); River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret); Tennessee Dreams: Heart of Mercy, Threads of Joy, and Gift of Grace.


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