“Eventide” by Shelley Shepard Gray

 

 A young Amish woman harbors a difficult secret. Does she dare share the truth with the man she hopes to marry?

Elsie Keim doesn’t want to be left behind. Her twin sister, Viola, and her older brother, Roman, have both found love and are building lives of their own. But Elsie? She’s still stuck at home, being treated like a child. No one seems to consider her a capable woman-all they see are the thick lenses of her glasses, constant reminders that Elsie suffers from keratoconus and is slowly going blind.

Elsie knows there’s much more to her than her disease. That’s why when a new neighbor, Landon Troyer, shows some interest in her, she doesn’t want anything to scare him away . . . even if it means keeping her condition a secret.

Landon is ready to start a new life and feels like Elsie may just be the right woman to start it with. But when Roman steps in and shares the truth about Elsie’s illness, Landon is floored. His job is demanding and takes him away from home, sometimes for days at a time. How could he keep up with his responsibilities and take care of Elsie?


Eventide is an enjoyable story with a great faith lesson.  It’s a story of contrasts – an Amish family with more issues than a newspaper who find their way back to each other and to peace.

Most of the story is anything but peaceful, however.  With the full extended family trying to tell her what to do, Elsie has to figure out what she wants and how to get it – while dealing with her family at the same time.  Throw in a new love interest – a first love interest – and Elsie’s storyline alone will keep the pages turning.

What I appreciated most by the end of the story, however, was how aptly named this book truly is.  Gray ties up all the loose ends with thoughtful, peaceful reflection, which contrasts starkly to the drama of the story and shows just how far everyone has come.  She paints a picture of relaxing in God’s grace that is both beautiful and hopeful.

Eventide is the perfect ending to this series – and I can’t wait to begin the next one.

You can read other reviews on this blog hop here.  Click here to purchase your own copy now.


Shelley Shepard Gray is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the “Sisters of the Heart”, “Seasons of Sugarcreek”, “Secrets of Crittenden County”, and Families of Honor series. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.

Connect with Shelley here: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/


I received a free copy of Eventide from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Duchess” by Susan May Warren

When her country needs her, will she have the courage to surrender her glittering world and her one true love?

 
The golden age of Hollywood is in the business of creating stars. Rosie Worth, now starlet Roxy Price, has found everything she’s wanted in the glamour of the silver screen. With adoring fans and a studio-mogul husband, she’s finally silenced the voices-and grief-of the past. Her future shines bright…until the fated Black Friday when it all comes crashing down. When Roxy loses everything, she finds herself disgraced and penniless. Her only hope is to join forces with Belgian duke Rolfe Van Horne, a longtime film investor. But Rolfe is not who he seems, and he has other plans for Roxy and her movies-plans to support a growing unrest in Europe, plans that could break her heart and endanger her life. Find out more about the series by clicking on these links. HeiressBaroness.
 
Duchess is all about Rosie Worth’s search for significance – and significant it is.  Written in a sweeping epic style, traveling through history with unforgettable movie star Rosie, she puts her value in all the wrong places.  As she makes mistake after mistake, chasing all that glitters in an attempt to find value and meaning, Rosie learns that nothing of this world will ultimately give us peace.
 
Warren’s way of crafting this story – and ultimately this series – is wonderful.  Rosie’s background and current fame allow her to meet a few famous people and to rub elbows with many others.  She is perfectly positioned to play a large role in world affairs, and in that way she begins to realize that joy is found in service.
 
I loved Rosie’s transformation in this book.  As interested as I was at the beginning to learn about Rosie’s choices and how they might play out, the Hollywood starlet angle holds little appeal for me.  The lifestyle – including Rosie’s choices – felt shallow and pointless, but as time passes for Rosie, her choices improve.  
 
The final third of the book is riveting.  Set in Europe, where the second book began, the family drama that begins to unfold alongside the world events will fascinate.  To this history buff, this was by far the best part of the series.  Matching Rosie’s story so closely with history, not just with one novel but three, was brilliant – the perfect ending to a dramatic and sweeping saga.
 
As a hobby-ist historian, I appreciate the attention to detail and historical lessons woven throughout this book.  As a Christian, I love the story for its redemptive quality and worthwhile lessons shared.  As a woman, I can relate to the lessons learned by Jinx, Lily, and Rosie as they crave love.  As a book reviewer, I think Duchess has wide appeal.  Don’t miss it.
 
To read more reviews in this blog hop, click here.  To order your own copy now, click here.
 

 


Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors. Visit MyBookTherapy.com to learn more. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at www.susanmaywarren.com


I received a free copy of Duchess in exchange for an honest review.

“Downfall” by Terri Blackstock

Emily Covington has been clean and sober for nearly a year, and that’s after completing a year-long rehab program.  Her family has moved away from her former haunts and she’s enrolled in school, working hard to show the dramatic change that has taken place inside her – and then her car blows up.  Suddenly people are dying and Emily’s mother’s worst fears are coming true:  is Emily having a relapse?  Are the drugs, the lapses in time logical or the result of something more sinister?

While I’ve been known to laugh out loud or cry at a book, rarely do I have any other outward reaction, but there’s something about the Covington family that makes me become more involved.  Several times during the reading of this book I nearly had to put down the book and walk away – only because I could see how Emily’s current train of thought could lead her to trouble, and being unable to warn her, I had to take a breather.

Misunderstandings and communication issues caused many of the family issues in this book, and isn’t that totally common?  Typical teenagers, Emily and her brother Lance assume that harm can’t come to them because they have pure motives, while Mrs. Covington worries herself sick instead of talking matter-of-factly with her children about her fears.  The sheer reality of these problems made me think about how I might handle these issues with my teens, and I have a few years to go!

The best books write you into the script; you become the main character and channel their thoughts, feelings, and abilities, but in Downfall, you don’t just become Emily, you are Lance and Mrs. Covington, too.  Blackstock writes each character so seamlessly and completely that your mind and emotions transition smoothly from one to another.  You see each side of every conflict, and the result is a more thorough examination of the Covington family and how you, the reader, might handle their issues.

Downfall is the perfect ending to the Intervention series.  Another wonderful suspense story from Terri Blackstock – I wonder what is next?

I received a free copy of Downfall from Shelton Interactive in exchange for an honest review.

“The Doctor’s Lady” by Jody Hedlund

 

Called to be a missionary in the far-away land of India, Priscilla White eagerly awaited her first appointment.  Dr. Eli Ernest had spent a year exploring the wilds of Oregon, meeting the native Nez Perce and establishing support for the first Christian mission in the area.  Both were devastated ed when their backers refused to send them to the mission field unmarried.  With few choices and their calls urgent on their hearts, they quickly marry and set off overland for Oregon.  Yet faced with a rigorous six-month journey never before faced by a white woman, will their vision of a mission … their marriage … will they survive?

As a huge fan of the old Oregon Trail computer game and women’s history in the American West altogether, I devoured this book.  I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen around the next bend in the trail!

Periodically I would wonder just how realistic it was to marry someone after only a few brief discussions and travel across a continent to begin something new, yet I realize in that time women were forced to do just that.  Still, I was shocked when I read the author’s note at the end and found that this book was based upon the very true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman!  Not only did Hedlund’s characters seem real, but they were.  Their trials, tribulations, and victories were true, and yet I never felt as if I was reading from a history text.

I loved Hedlund’s tapestry of fiction, truth, and history.  I can’t wait to read more!

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

“Distortion” by Terri Blackstock


Juliet Cole’s life has been dismantled by the murder of her husband. She doesn’t know who—or what—to trust when everything she has believed to be true about her marriage has been a lie.

A husband’s lies can have deadly consequences.
When Juliet Cole’s husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her boys. But a threatening voicemail takes this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.
Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too, unless she meets the killers’ demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband’s dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more of her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?
 
Location may make a real estate deal, but the details make or break a book – and they totally make DistortionAs I read this book, I could see Juliet Cole.  I could see her wrinkles and determination and mom shoes.  I could see just how devastated was and then how determined she became.I could see the difference in appearance and attitudes between Juliet and another woman character, and those differences in the physical put the emotional differences in the spotlight.
 
The basic premise has been done before, I must admit:  husband dies, woman finds out secret life and must determine how to handle it.  It’s not that new.  The twist is that not only is there a secret life, but that the killers played a big part in that secret life and they’re now after the wife and kids.  That twist adds a huge amount of suspense to the story and likeability to Juliet.  She’s not just a victimized, naive wife – she’s a mama bear  protecting her family at any cost, and it’s that angle that Blackstock wrote so well.
 
Juliet’s family had tragic stories, as well, which appear to have been told in other books.  Blackstock filled in the basics, but I would’ve loved a bit more information about them – not so much because I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but just because it was interesting.  
 
I haven’t met a Blackstock book yet that I haven’t liked, and Distortion is no exception.  It’s fast-paced, suspenseful, and full of mysterious drama.  This was definitely my kind of mystery.
 
Pre-order a copy for just $4.99 on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, or the eBook version on CBD until March 10th.


Readother reviews on this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy now.

 

 

 
 
 
 
Terri Blackstock has sold over six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, Restoration, and Moonlighters.
 
Learn more about Terri at: http://terriblackstockbooks.com
 
I received a free copy of Distortion from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Deadly Disclosures” Review

Win the Complete Dinah Harris Trilogy Here!

Have you ever been contacted by an author directly?  I haven’t been – until a few months ago when Australian author Julie Cave wrote to me about her new trilogy, a series of books featuring Dinah Harris, FBI detective.  She offered me a set of books to keep and one to giveaway in exchange for a review.

Now, realize that at this point I was nearly bouncing out of my chair with excitement over hearing from a real, live author. (Actually, I may have bounced around the living room a few times – let’s be honest.)  I was worried about the subject, though – a mystery/suspense book sounded right right up my alley, but one about apologetics?  I didn’t know much about that subject, and just how exciting could it be?  Since that’s a topic that I’ve been wanting to learn more about, I decided to go for it – and I’m so glad I did.

Here’s why:

Dinah Harris is a down-and-out FBI agent who’s survived a family tragedy – barely.  Once a rising star in the Bureau, she now struggles to get through each workday until she can drown in her favorite wine.  When her former partner pushes buttons and removes her from her day-to-day teaching job and gets her reinstated to agent status, can she keep it together to find the missing Secretary of the Smithsonian?


I love real characters.  You know the kind I mean – the kind with the sort of flaws that we’ve struggled with personally, the kind that the guy down the street has or that we see in the carpool line at school.  Dinah Harris is such a character.

Following a huge personal tragedy, she falls into a deep depression and tries to numb the pain with alcohol – which only adds an alcoholic’s problems to her original ones.  It doesn’t help that she’s been demoted to a teacher at the FBI academy and lost her dream position of star agent.

The story opens as her partner returns, having gotten permission for her to work the case of the missing Smithsonian secretary, and you can feel Dinah’s pain as you read.  Knowing that she was once totally different than she is now, you can’t help but cheer her on through this rare second chance.  As she makes mistake after mistake and you learn more of her story, you just want to hand her a box of tissues and give her a big hug.


If Deadly Disclosures were only the story of Dinah Harris solving a high-profile case, it would be a good one.  What makes it even better is the other side of it – the shady political deals happening behind the scenes.  While I’m about as political as a slug, I found this fascinating, mainly because I learned so much from this part of the story.

Thomas Whitfield, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, was a devout evolutionist – until the day he became a Christian.  With Whitfield interested in Creationism before he disappeared, Dinah finds herself in a no-holds-barred search for the truth – as bodies begin to appear and her own downward spiral continues.

I feared that a story where the author had a distinct desire to teach something would be preachy, but Deadly Disclosures is anything but.  With politicians and heads of organizations interviewed throughout the book, the information is shared at just the right pace for a newbie to understand, and, better yet, both sides of the issue are explained.

Cave uses natural dialogue and the twists and turns of the case to educate the reader about creationism.  It is clear that she stands on a distinct side of this issue, but scientific information is shared to support all premises.  Both sides of the issues are very well explained and inherent to the story, making it come across as a really well-researched suspense novel.

Now, with that technical stuff out of the way, this is a really awesome start to a great trilogy.  It’s fast-paced, action-packed, and a dramatic mystery that makes you feel for the main character even as you try to solve the mystery before she does.  (I liked it so much that I read the whole series in two days.  I can’t wait for Cave’s next book!)

What could be better?

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

“Dancing with Fireflies” by Denise Hunter

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.
As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt.” Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.
 
 I’ve got a new favorite Denise Hunter book.  
 
On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a perky book.  Jade is trying to overcome some pretty heavy wounds, and Daniel’s family isn’t exactly a picnic, either.  Trying to forge a romantic relationship where there has been a strong friendship, however, is the best kind of basis for love, and Jade and Daniel do much to help each other.
 
It’s those strong feelings that pave the way for a sweet, strong story.  Hunter doesn’t focus on the pain of the past but the strength of the present to reach for future’s hope.  It’s the acknowledgement of the pain that lends credence to the growth of the character and of the storyline, and therein lies the very best part of the story: the stretching of maturity, the sacrifice of love, and the melding of individuals into a couple – and a family.
 
Stories of healing and hope are among my favorites, but when the characters don’t just survive the trauma but grow through it, that’s the very best scenario ever – because in real life, isn’t that exactly what Jesus asks of us?
 
Click here to read other bloggy reviews or here to purchase your own copy now.
 
Denise Hunter is an internationally published best-selling author. Her books have won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and was a RITA finalist. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all of her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps, too. When Denise isn’t writing, she’s busy raising three heroes-in-the-making with her husband.

 
Learn more about Denise at: http://www.denisehunterbooks.com
 
I received a free copy of Dancing with Fireflies in exchange for an honest review.

“The Dancing Master” by Julie Klassen

 

 

 Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.


Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul—and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master—a man her mother would never approve of—but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village . . . and to her mother’s tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a “good match” in Regency England.

 
I have loved every Julie Klassen book to this date, which is why I was disappointed when the beginning of this one didn’t hold my attention.  There is mystery and drama from the very first page, so I’m not sure of the problem.  Was it the headache I was fighting?  Possibly, but after the initial swirl of suspense, the action slowed to a dribble while we became acquainted with each character and their story.
 
By the middle of the book, however, I was enthralled.  By this point you knew that there was far more to each character than meets the eye, and I couldn’t wait to figure out who did what.  I was cheering for Alec and his family and was flying through the pages to find out how this crazy situation would reach resolution.
 
Unlike most of my favorite books, I didn’t love Julia.  I thought I would, at first, but her manipulative ways didn’t endear her to me.  I’m not sure that I wouldn’t behave differently if put into the same situation, but, still … there you go.  Her maturation at the very end of the book helped, and I was definitely fascinated with her situation. 
 
It was the strength and determination of the other characters that made this book for me, character-wise, and the suspenseful way that Klassen played out the twenty-year-old mystery.  She completely nailed it in this one.  I’ve never seen an author delicately pluck mysterious threads in a way quite like this before – one that masterfully shows the hidden backstory of several major characters and of the area overall in distinct, slow, suspenseful ways.  
 
So while I enjoyed this story, and the suspense even more, Klassen revealed herself to be the true master here:  The Mystery Master.
 
Read other reviews in this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy now.
 
 
 
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She is a three-time Christy Award winner and a 2010 Midwest Book Award winner for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about Julie at: http://julieklassen.com
 

I received a free copy of The Dancing Master from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. 

“Damascus Countdown” by Joel C. Rosenberg


If you only read one book this year – or perhaps one series – it should be this one.

Described as a ‘geopolitical thriller,’ I never would have picked up a Rosenberg book on my own.  I’m about as political as a daisy, and trying to figure out the truth from all of the he saids/she saids that are popular in politics these days are way beyond me.

But then a friend lent me Rosenberg’s first series, and I couldn’t put it down.

This one is just as, or perhaps more, relevent to world events than the first that I read.

We often hear people speculating about what might happen when Jesus returns, but Rosenberg takes a different tack in this series:  What might happen if the Muslims believe that their end-time prophecies are being fulfilled?

Many Muslims believe that this fulfillment is imminent, and they are actively working to push towards that day – to be prepared for what they consider to be a holy war against Israel and the US when the Twelfth Imam returns.

This is the story of Damascus Countdown.  A fast-paced, around-the-world story of a lone CIA agent hidden inside Iran trying to locate and neutralize nuclear warheads at all costs – before they could be used to neutralize Israel or the US.

I’ve had Damascus Countdown on my bookshelf for a few weeks now, and I can’t get the plot out of my head – in large part, because it could be playing out in the Middle East right now.  With Iran working frantically to go nuclear, with Israel trying to keep the US as a strong ally, with many wanting the US to do more to stop Iran’s nuclear efforts, this book is straight out of today’s headlines.

David Shirazi, the main character, is kind, determined, and brilliant.  He doesn’t want to be violent but is totally committed to stopping the kind of nuclear war that he is positive is coming – and this smart intensity makes him a fascinating character.  It doesn’t hurt that he has a kind, praying love interest back in the States, either.  The love angle softens the sharp edges of the story and adds a softness that would be missing otherwise.

Despite Shirazi’s perfection as a lead character, the reader can never be totally sure that he will survive through the plot.  He is, of course, an American spy in Iran, with bombs and gunfights exploding on nearly every page – and Rosenberg keeps you in suspense in every single chapter.  Generally one is sure that the main character will survive the story victorious, but Rosenberg writes his plots as he sees them, not as we do, and he does not provide this certainty.  This makes Damascus Countdown a suspenseful thriller on every single level.

You shouldn’t miss this book – it’s a must-read – but you should also be prepared with some chocolate and a day off, because neither will you be able to put it down.  It has some heft to it, so clear your schedule and get reading.  This one is demanding your attention now.

I received a free copy of Damascus Countdown from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.

“The Crossing” by Serita Jakes

Cheerleader Claudia King refuses to leave her teacher and friend when she’s shot aboard the athletic bus following Friday night’s football game.  Her boyfriend Casio Hightower is also shot in the altercation, but unlike Ms. Remington, he survives – though their relationship does not.  Ten years later both have moved on – Claudia is married with a child, and Casio is dating seriously – but neither have forgotten their experience on board the bus.  When Claudia’s lawyer husband decides to reopen the case, can he and Casio find the elusive killer – before anyone else dies?

I have very mixed feelings about this book.  The characters are not the cardboard Christian type – they’re real and flawed and confused, much like any other human on this planet.  For that reason, I was enthralled by the mystery in this story and couldn’t wait to solve the case.  I cheered Claudia for taking steps toward her healing even as I mourned the way she was often hurting those who loved her most.  I wanted to like Casio as I could see great potential in him, but his flaws made him difficult to like.  Ultimately, I would have liked to see more of Claudia’s husband Victor as he seemed to have the best handle on what was happening.  Without him, this would have been just another mystery – but his faithful influence made all the difference.

As much as I liked the authenticity of the characters, I disliked the ending.  A sudden twist at the end kept me from predicting the ending entirely, but the conclusion came abruptly, and even though all loose ends were wrapped up, I felt at odds when the book ended.  The major issues that kept Claudia suffering from PTSD for a decade seemed gone too quickly, and with faith issues on the peripheral of the main characters’ vision for much of the book, the resolution just seemed too fast.

Ultimately, this book explored trauma and our reactions to it in several different ways.  Many books pull you in and make you feel as if you’ve experienced what the characters have – and so you can see yourself taking similar actions if you’re ever in that kind of situation.  Not so with this story – I felt as if this was more of a “what not to do” than “here’s how you do it.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Jakes’ writing style and am interested in reading more of her work for the realistic characters – but this story is not one I’ll read over and over due to the negative feeling I was left with.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.