“Heart of Ice” by Lis Wiehl with April Henry


The Triple Threat Club is once again put to the test as they attempt so solve seemingly random crimes crimes across their home city of Portland.  Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce works to solve the murder of a local news intern, while FBI agent Nicole Hedges works to prove that murder suspect Colton Foley was indeed responsible for the deaths of women around the city.  News reporter Cassidy Shaw seeks to boost ratings and secure her position by being the first to scoop the other anchors – and by following the life advice of her captivating new friend, Elizabeth Avery.  With murder, arson, and drownings making the headlines, can the trio put aside their own health issues and relationships in time to find the killer – before one of them becomes the next victim?

I was worried about reading this book before the others in the series, but Wiehl does a fantastic job of catching the reader up at the beginning.  While I knew I was missing backstory, the author rapidly and smoothly fills you in on the highlights and keeps the plot moving right along – and it does move!  This story is a terrific blend of murder mystery and everyday life – which makes it seem very real.  From health scares to family problems and weight gain, Wiehl puts the reader in the middle of a believable and fast-paced tale.

As soon as I finished this book, I went in search of the first two – and you will, also.  This page-turner is not to be missed!

I received a free copy of Heart of Ice from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

“A Heartbeat Away” by S. Dionne Moore

When a band of runaway slaves brings Union-loyal Beth Bumgartner a wounded Confederate soldier named Joe, it is the catalyst that pushes her to defy her pacifist parents and become a nurse during the Battle of Antietam.

Her mother’s mysterious goodbye gift is filled with quilt blocks that bring comfort to Beth during the hard days and lonely nights, but as she sews each block, she realizes there is a hidden message of faith within the pattern that encourages and sustains her. Reunited with Joe, Beth learns his secret and puts the quilt’s message to its greatest test—but can betrayal be forgiven?

A Heartbeat Away is an intense look at the emotions of the Civil War from an angle rarely considered: those caught up in the blood of battle as civilians who want to help the wounded.  Never have I read a fictional account that dwelt on the hope that comes from the ashes of war like this one does.  The semi-graphic accounts will make your heart dip into your stomach just as your fingers grasp the straws of hope that Joe points out to Beth.

Beth learns amazing spiritual truths from her grandmother as she’s faced with the carnage of war and witnesses violence all around her.  Several of these lessons cut deep and are readily applicable to us, too, as we live and learn to trust and forgive just as Beth does.

This book isn’t going on my bookshelf of other historical fiction novels; instead, it’s getting a special place among my Civil War books.  I really enjoyed this fresh perspective and the way that Moore makes this era not just about love or slavery or North-vs-South but about people … people who are hurting and afraid, people who love, people with disabilities and families and have dreams for their futures.  When my children are old enough to study all of these aspects of this war, they’ll read this book.

To read other reviews in this bloggy hop, click here.  If you’d rather dig into this book sooner rather than later, click here to purchase your own copy.

Dionne Moore is a historical romance author who resides in South Central PA with her family, surrounded by the beautiful Cumberland Valley and lots of fun, historically rich locations. She is a weekly contributor to “The Borrowed Book”, a blog for book-lovers and “Cozy Mystery Magazine”, for all things cozy mystery. 

Learn more about Dionne at http://www.sdionnemoore.com.
I received a free copy of A Heartbeat Away from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Full Disclosure” by Dee Henderson

Full Disclosure

Ann Silver walks into Special Agent Paul Falcon’s office and hands him a lead on a long-cold murder investigation.  When the lead promises more information than Falcon’s caught in years, Silver catches Falcon’s attention – and suddenly she seems to be everywhere.  With friends in high places and myriads of talents, Falcon is interested in learning more about the mysterious and humble Silver.  People are not always what they seem, however; is Ann really what she appears to be?

Full Disclosure is a fantastic read!  Once I flipped past the title page, I could not put this book down.  Silver’s quiet and unassuming ways, contrasted with her intelligence and talents, made her a fascinating character.  Pit her up against Falcon’s intensity and research abilities, and you’ve got an exciting match – which is really only a small, though the most important, part of the cast.

One of the exciting things about this story is that it includes the O’Malley family as background characters.  With the O’Malleys providing support and information throughout the book, you not only keep up to date on this amazing family from a previous series, but the plot feels thicker and deeper.

Full Disclosure is both dramatic and exciting throughout its plot.  Henderson provides her signature blend of techno-political information steeped with emotional drama and interpersonal relationships.  I love the way that Henderson has filled this book with opposing forces; it will keep any reader on her mental toes.

Not that any reader of a Henderson book must be female.  My husband, who is not exactly a voracious reader, has read several of Henderson’s books before and enjoyed them, so when I mentioned that I had the newest on the shelf, he snagged it – and then we didn’t speak again for three days until he had finished it.  Any book that can hold my husband’s attention so thoroughly is both action-packed and well written.

You won’t want to be on a waiting list for Full Disclosure.  It releases in just a few weeks – so pre-order or request it now.  You won’t be sorry.

I received a free ARC copy of Full Disclosure from Dee Henderson in exchange for an honest review.

“Friend Me” by John Faubion


 When a lonely wife and her frustrated husband each secretly pursue companionship online, neither dreams that a real woman is behind their virtual creations, threatening their marriage—and their lives.

Scott and Rachel’s marriage is on the brink of disaster. Scott, a businessman with a high-pressure job, just wants Rachel to understand him and accept his flaws. Rachel is a lonely housewife, desperate for attention and friendship. So she decides to create a virtual friend online, unaware that Scott is doing the exact same thing. As Rachel desperately tries to re-create a friendship with a friend who has passed, Scott becomes unfaithful and is torn between the love for his wife and the perfection of his cyber-girlfriend. But neither realizes that there’s a much larger problem looming . . .
Behind both of their online creations is Melissa, a woman who is brilliant—and totally insane. Masquerading as both friend and lover, Melissa programmed a search parameter into the virtual friend software to find her perfect man, but along the way she forgot to specify his marriage status. And Scott is her ideal match. Now Melissa is determined to have it all—Scott, his family, and Rachel’s life.
As Melissa grows bolder and her online manipulations transition into the real world, Scott and Rachel figure out they are being played. Now it’s a race against time as Scott and Rachel fight to save their marriage, and their lives, before it’s too late.
In today’s digital age, the Internet presents all kinds of opportunities to test our personal boundaries, and this exciting and suspenseful story raises important questions about the ethics of virtual relationships. Friend Me will open your eyes to a new—and terrifying—moral dimensions and how they play out in the real world.
What would you do if your wife was being targeted for murder – so that someone could take her place in your life?  That’s one of the questions being asked in the debut novel Friend Me by John Faubion. 
Another pertinent question is Where are the lines of fidelity and faithlessness drawn?  And Is it possible to cheat with a virtual friend, one who exists only digitally?  If there’s no flesh-and-blood involved?
In our modern digital age, these are not only relevant but important.  With cyber-everything at an all-time high, it is more important than ever to be open and honest in all of our relationships.  Friend Me, while it does address emotional marital infidelity and alludes to pornographic issues, would be a great book to illustrate the dangers of being too open online.  From what to tell friends, the kinds of pictures and scheduling information you post, the reader can extrapolate all sorts of valuable lessons from this book.
With good reason.  Faubion has penned a stunning debut novel.  He’s pegged the lonely housewife square on the head, and I think he must have nailed the hardworking, executive husband type, too. With each spouse stressed and not sure how to connect with the other, it becomes all too easy to maximize ‘harmless’ online relationships.  The ease with which he paints this fall is scary, and the danger that Melissa’s stalking presents to this family is beyond words. ‘Creepy’ doesn’t begin to explain it – making it a realistic, suspenseful, scary read.
The only part of the story that I didn’t like was the speed with which Rachel forgave and trusted Scott again.  It felt a bit unrealistic to have the entire episode – with trust restored – over in a day.  Maybe that’s just me being cynical, for we’re certainly called to forgive – but I feel as if while the forgiveness and restoration is great, the deeper issues weren’t addressed.  Granted, they were busy running for their lives, but that will need to be worked out before their marriage can again be a solid one.
Friend Me is fabulous.  Read it because you love suspense stories. Read it because you love techno-thrillers.  Read it so you can discuss it with your spouse and your teen.
Whatever your reason, just read it.

“Forever Hilltop” by Judy Baer

 Alex Armstrong is a newcomer to Hilltop Township, and he just might be labeled that way for a few decades.  Rural North Dakota doesn’t get many people moving in, so it has a culture all of its own – as does each of the two churches Alex will be leading.  With disgruntled parishioners, warring congregations, and single women on the prowl, can Alex bring peace to Hilltop?

Baer’s characters are honest and real, people with real problems, but even the curmudgeons are presented as challenges, not impossibilities.  If only all of us viewed those around us this way!  This perspective on life and problems gives the series a sweetness that is rare.

I thoroughly enjoyed Baer’s writing style.  Smooth, funny, dramatic in all the right places, she makes me long for my own piece of Hilltop.

Judy Baer was born and grew up on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota, experiencing many of the same things as her Hilltop characters. An only child, she spent most of her days with imaginary people-either those she read about or those she made up in her head. 
Baer graduated from Concordia College with majors in English and education and a minor in religion. While at the time, she was simply studying what interested her, Baer later realized that she was educating herself for her future career as a Christian writer. She certainly put her education to use as she is the author of more than 75 books. 
A certified professional life coach now certified in three coaching disciplines, Baer coaches primarily professional and aspiring writers. She is also a faculty advisor in the Department of Human Development at St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis, MN. Baer has two daughters and three step children. She and her husband live in Minnesota. 
She invites you to visit her at her web site www.judykbaer.com for more information on her and her books. 

@JudyKBaer is giving away a Kindle for YOU … and one for a Friend in her Forever Hilltop Giveaway! Celebrate with Judy by entering to win a Kindle for you and a friend!

One lucky winner will receive:

  • Brand New KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • Brand New KINDLE with Wi-Fi to Giveaway to a Friend!
  • Forever Hilltop by Judy K Baer for you and a one for a friend

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 22nd. Winner will be announced 5/24/12 on Judy’s Blog.

Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter

Don’t miss a moment of the fun. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!

To buy your own copy of Forever Hilltop, click here.  You can read other reviews on the blog tour here.

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

“Five Miles South of Peculiar” by Angela Hunt

Five Miles South of Peculiar Cover
Five Miles South of Peculiar is the story of the three Caldwell sisters and how they mature in their relationships with each other and with God.  Darlene is the happy homemaker type, a pillar in their small Southern town of Peculiar, and she rules the inherited family estate with an iron hand.  Her twin Carlene, a Broadway singer, decides to visit the family home after experiencing a personal tragedy and stirs up lots of past issues – especially jealousy from Darlene.  There’s also Nolie, who lives a simple life with her dogs and her flowers, sewing personalized aprons for everyone in town – but will she ever recover from being jilted at the altar and move on with her life?  Throw in a boyfriend/mayor, a jealous daughter, a fired hunk of a pastor-turned-handyman and 17 puppies, and you’ve got one creative story!
I really enjoyed this novel.  Hunt’s characters are quite creative, and their depth makes each story especially unique.  They’re easy to relate to – I could totally understand why Darlene would be upset when Carlene tries to move her furniture and why Nolie would choose to stay with her simplified lifestyle despite everyone’s urging to leave the nest.  They’re all fun and unique women with the same kind of crazy issues that the rest of us have, and that makes you want to run next door and invite them over for chocolate.  
Hunt wrote primarily about what was happening now to each woman, but she also explored how their past affected their ability to deal with their present and their futures.  This added depth to the story, but it also added a great deal of mystery as we didn’t learn about the special way that Darlene and Carlene’s pasts are entwined until near the very end.  While I thought I had a pretty good idea of what had happened, not knowing the details – or even if I was right – kept me guessing about how the women would handle this issue when it was revealed.
Romantic entanglements added fun drama to the story, as well.  While it was pretty obvious who would be paired off, this lighthearted element sweetened the mood of the drama and made for a very happy ending – and who doesn’t love that?  
All things considered, Five Miles South of Peculiar is definitely a cut above your dime-a-dozen romance novels.  Full of spiritual truths, the kinds of family spats we’ve all experienced, and summer romance, Hunt has penned a great read.
I received a free copy of Five Miles South of Peculiar from Glass Road in exchange for an honest review.
With nearly 4 million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, includingThe Tale of Three Trees,Don’t Bet Against MeThe Note, and The Nativity Story. Her nonfiction bookDon’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She and her husband make their home in Florida with their dogs. Learn more about Angela atAngelaElwellHunt.com.

“Fired Up” by Mary Connealy

Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can’t let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he’s trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she’s determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she’s terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner—never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can’t help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There’s the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna’s diner into Dare’s back. Are Flint’s cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna’s son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?

The men of this story make the series.  I generally try not to drool over characters, being quite happy with the one that I’m married to, but these men are the cream of the crop.  They’re manly men, if you know what I mean:  honest, hard-working, protective of others, chivalrous, and kind.  They’re not afraid of a good fight and they’ll do what it takes to defend those they love.  That’s how they rule in this series – because everyone around them needs defending in some way, and so they’re really knights in cowboy hats charging off to save the day.

I don’t know a woman alive who wouldn’t swoon at that.

Although Glynna’s no fainting lily herself.  She’s been married to two cruel men, and she’s had it rough.  She knows how to take care of her own, but she’s tired of the burden and wants to share it.  Her strength but tentative trust makes her a winner here.  She doesn’t back down when life gets hard, but she still hopes for a better tomorrow, and she’s not afraid to work hard to get it.

Plotwise, Connealy always writes winners.  The action and drama never stop in this story, except for the occasional one-liner that adds levity to the emotionally-charged pages.  I couldn’t stop turning pages from the first to the last – once you start, you just can’t stop.

Morally, I’ve always enjoyed the faith lessons in Connealy’s books, although that’s not necessarily why I read them – I just love the stories.  This one’s a bit different, though.  While there’s lots of romantic tension and mystery solving, there are also mentoring lessons between Dare, his Regulator friends, and Paul.  I appreciate the way that these men take the time to try to reach this troubled teen and the lessons that they pass along to the reader by proxy.  Personally, I can’t imagine too many teen boys will reap those lessons from the pages of this book, because while it IS full of masculine fighting, it’s primarily a love story. Moms, learn those lessons and pass them along, okay?  😉

As usual, I’m pretty sure that Vince’s story is coming up next, and I can’t wait to read it.  Connealy teases the reader with the beginning of his story in this one, and it, too, promises to entice.

Read other reviews in this blog hop here, or click here to purchase your own now.

Mary Connealy writes fun and lively “romantic comedy with cowboys” for the inspirational market. She is the author of the successful Kincaid Brides, Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie’s Daughters series, and she has been a finalist for a Rita and Christy Award and a two time winner of the Carol Award. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters.
Connect with Mary: http://maryconnealy.com/
I received a free copy of Fired Up from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.


“Finding Our Way Home” by Charlene Ann Baumbich

Sasha Davis fell – and now her career as a principal ballerina, her lifelong dream – has been cut short.  Back in her childhood home to recover, Sasha must come to terms with this change in her life’s plan.  Her live-in assistant, the young and vibrant Evelyn Burt, takes the brunt of Sasha’s pain as she blooms with first and forbidden love.  Can both women come to terms with a reality that doesn’t match her dreams and find God’s grace in the middle of their trials?

This book reads like Sasha’s favorite beverage:  a hot cup of tea, slowly steeped, warming your insides and calming your nerves.  At no point will the plot spike your blood pressure or make your toes dance, but the fluidity of the character development and the slow reveal of information will keep you reading.

Sasha and Evelyn complement each other well.  The women exhibit a near Naomi-and-Ruth relationship, stumbling at times, but each caring deeply for and investing in the other.  By the time I finished this book I felt as if I had done a study in personality types, as each character was detailed and in so many different ways.

If fast rides and action-packed adventure is your style, then this is not the book for you; however, if you’ve ever been hurt, needed to forgive, felt a dream die, or just felt the sweet gift of God’s grace in the middle of a trial, then curl up in a rocker and enjoy Sasha’s journey.

You can read an excerpt of Finding Our Way Home here.

I received a free copy of Finding Our Way Home from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for a free review.

“The Final Summit” by Andy Andrews

David Ponder is old.  Having recently lost his wife after amassing a fortune, going bankrupt, and acquiring an even larger one, he no longer cares about his growing fortune or place on this earth.  It’s while contemplating his purpose as a single man in his 70s that he’s visited by the archangel Gabriel, who whisks him away to a final Summit of other humans who have time traveled as he once did.  Ponder is charged with leading the meeting and finding the answer to restoring all of humanity’s individual and collective purpose before the current civilization self-destructs.  In only five attempts, can Ponder and his team of Travelers save civilization?

This is a sequel, and knowing that, I first sought out the initial book before reading this one.  Both are fascinating.  They sound deep and serious, and they are; but the books are written in a way that blends humor and history with deep thoughts and questions.  I love how Andrews pulls key people from history and dusts them off to share their stories and help Ponder find his answers.  Most of this book is one huge conversation, but because of the introduction of various historical figures and their quirks, it comes across as one big adventure with an important goal.
The best thing about “The Final Summit” is that Andrews teaches truth through the story.  His points are valid and apply to us all.  
This book would make a great gift – even better if given as a set with the first book, “The Traveler’s Gift.”
I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review. 

“The Fiddler” by Beverly Lewis

The Fiddler, Home to Hickory Hollow Series #1
Amelia Devries is a world-renowned violinist in the midst of an identity crisis.  Michael Hostetler doesn’t want to be Amish, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his family.  When Amelia gets lost in the middle of a huge storm, her detour leads her directly to Michael – and the possibility of a peace she’s always longed for.  Can they find their way to their dreams – together?

Beverly Lewis writes a distinctly different type of Amish book than most out there.  Not a thriller, not a mystery, not your usual to-be-or-not-to-be-Amish type, Lewis pens a story of young adults seeking peace with their chosen paths in life – and of gaining the courage and the voice to reach for it.

Amelia and Michael each travel the road to maturity in a parallel way in this book, a road of searching their own hearts and then reaching out beyond themselves.  There are no mysteries, no stalkers, no pressure to be anything except what they are from anyone but themselves; yet this can be a hard lesson to learn.  Lewis writes about it with grace and depth, making this a story that anyone from their teen years on up could relate to.

I really enjoyed this story.  I felt that the romantic ending was somewhat predictable, but the quality characters and unusual circumstances – as well as the life lessons explored – made it a very worthwhile read.

I received a free copy of The Fiddler from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.