Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore – If you like mysteries and police novels, give it a try.

I had previously read a novel by Janice Cantore and was looking forward to her new book Crisis Shot.

The story starts out with Long Beach Police Commander, Tess O’Rourke answering an emergency call where a fellow officer is imminent danger.  How Tess responds, right or wrong, will affect her future.  The story could be taken out today’s headline news, where every action a police officer takes is scrutinized and condemned, even when there is little merit to critic’s narrative.

When the fallout from Tess’ action doesn’t seem to be winding down, she decides to make a move to a small town in Oregon, with the hope of being able to resume the career she loves in law enforcement.  It a huge change in her life.  As Chief of Police in the small town of Rogue’s Hallow, she will be answering to the mayor and city council.  It might be a small town but even there, evil is at work.

I sort of liked the main character Tess, but didn’t feel like I got to know her well or really care about her like I wanted to.  There was a bit of a disconnect.  At first, I struggled with how Tess continually compared police work and what people were like in the small town compared where she had spent most of her life, in Long Beach, CA.  Then I realized if I had made such a drastic change in my life, I would likely be reflecting back on where I came from and what it was like back then.  The reader will get an understanding of how police work in a big city differs from a small town.  I liked how the relationships with fellow police officers changed as they worked with their new Police Chief.

The overall pace of the novel seemed to drag.  Tess encountered many obstacles and people seemed to be tight lipped and withheld important information.  I didn’t guess who the bad guy was, there weren’t a lot of clues along the way, just lots of suspicious behavior on the part of several towns people.  I didn’t really connect with the characters.  I didn’t come away from reading the book saying, “I can’t wait to find out what happens with Tess next.”  Something was missing, but I’m not sure what it was.

The Christian faith is a small part of the story.  Tess is not a believer, but there are several Christians she encounters along the way.  If there is a sequel I hope that Christian faith is a bigger part of the story.

Crisis Shot is okay.  I would definitely read Janice Cantore’s future books because of my good experience with her earlier novels.  If you like mysteries and police novels, give Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore a try and be sure to read some of her earlier books.

I would like to thank Tyndale House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Janice Cantore’s newest book Crisis Shot.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

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Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman – Faith Strengthened and Encouraged, Rooted and Grounded in the Truth of Scripture

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to read Steven Curtis Chapman’s autobiography, Between Heaven and The Real World.  Steven’s professional career started in the late 1980’s, which was a few years before I became a Christian.  When I think of the music that influenced me as young Christian and throughout the years, Steven’s music is at the top of that list.  That’s why I wanted to read this book.

I loved and enjoyed Between Heaven and the Real World and want to read it again and share it with others.  I wept as Steven shared in a very humble, open and transparent way the pains and trials he and his wife Mary Beth and their family endured over the years, most notable was the death for their precious daughter Maria Sue.

When you connect with an artist’s work and feel like he expresses in words some of the thoughts and emotions you’ve experienced, it’s interesting to learn the genesis of the songs and what was going on in his life when they were written.  It was heartening to see the providential hand of God in Steven’s life.  How He had gifted him from a young age to love and write songs that gave a voice to what he was feeling, his faith and capture his reflections about God.

I appreciated the honesty in which Steven writes.  It’s real, but also reverent towards God.  He so obviously loves, honors and respects God, his parents, brother, wife and children.  Somehow, he manages to do so while being open and real about circumstances, choices and events.  Kind of like his music.  I appreciate Steven and Mary Beth’s deep and abiding faith that they cling to in the face tribulation, never more so than in tragedy.  It was heartening to read about the support of family, friends and professionals that came alongside them when needed most.  I applaud their commitment to their marriage and efforts to recognize that their spouse is not their enemy and that they fought for each other, not against.

While the hearts of a mother and father longs to see, their child healed and alive, the Chapman’s have allowed God to redeem their losses and impact others for good and for eternity.

If you’ve listened to Steven’s music, you can’t help but come away encouraged, strengthened and your faith built up as he drives a stake in the truth of Scripture.  It’s almost like reading one of David’s psalms.  He may start out low and in the depths of despair, but as he focuses on God, hope is restored and a light is found to illumine the next step.

I highly recommend Between Heaven and the Real World, especially if you are a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman’s music.  It’s encouraging to see someone’s faith proven genuine and real.  Even if you aren’t familiar with his music, I think you will benefit from reading this book.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Revell/Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to read Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig – Not My Cup of Tea

As a mystery lover, I was excited to read a mystery by an author, Caroline Fardig, who new to me.  After reading the description of her new book, Brew or Die, I decided to give it a try.

One of the descriptions, by USA Today, for this mystery is a “cozy mystery” which is defined as a crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed and it takes place in a small community.

If Brew or Die lined up with that description, I probably would have liked it.  Unfortunately, it was a lot different than I expected.

So, what’s not to like about Brew or Die?  The story opens with character Juliet Langley at work in the local coffeehouse, Java Jive.  The reader is introduced to a cast of characters that are in Jules life, including her current boyfriend, Stafford, who is a police officer, longtime friend Pete and her old boyfriend Ryder.  At first I thought this book would be clean.

But beginning on pages 12 & 13, started a trend of vulgarity which continued on throughout the book.  Profanity was used well over one-hundred times, perhaps much more.  It was to the point of distraction.  I don’t understand why authors resort to the use of profanity.

If I had picked up this book to read on my own, at the beginning of the profanity, I would have put it down and not finished it.  But because I agreed to read it for a review, I read the entire book and couldn’t wait to be done with it.

In addition to the excessive use of profanity, Juliet (Jules) seemed to be attracted to any male that had a pulse.  Thus, sexual immorality also included in the book.

Based on the profanity (used excessively), casual sexual and sexual immorality, I do not recommend this book.  Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig was a big disappointment and not my cup of tea.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the opportunity to read Brew or Die in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Flora’s Secret – by Anita Davison – Enjoyable and A Nice Surprise – I look forward to reading more books by Anita Davison

floras-secret-murder-on-the-minneapolis-cover97157-mediumSince mysteries are one of my favorite genres I was excited at the opportunity to read a book by an author whose work is new to me.  That’s why I selected this historical fiction by Anita Davison, Flora’s Secret.

Flora’s Secret is the story about a young governess, Flora Maguire, who is accompanying her charge Eddy Vaughn as they journey home to England on the maiden voyage of the Minneapolis.  Any hope for smooth sailing is quickly abandoned when Flora finds a dead body at the bottom of stairway.  Is it an accident or murder?  Spunky Miss Maguire is not one to be easily deterred and will do whatever she can to get to the bottom of this man’s untimely death.  Thrown into the mix is a shipboard romance with a fine gentleman Mr. Bunny Harrington.

I really enjoyed this book.  The main characters well developed, interesting and very likable.  The author did a great job in describing people and scenes.  She gave enough details for the reader to imagine the scenes, but not too much.  The characters, Flora and Bunny, where very likable; people I would want to know.  I’m hopeful their story will continue in another book.  Other characters were intriguing and it was fun to try and figure out who the good guys were and the bad guys were.

While this book is not from a Christian writer and publisher, I appreciated the fact that the story was told and developed without profanity and sexually explicit scenes.  It’s clean historical fiction, a mystery with a bit of romance, that focused on developing characters and the storyline.  This was the first book I’ve read by Anita Davison and I look forward to reading more of her books.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Aria Publishers for the opportunity to read Flora’s Secret by Anita Davison.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Cracked to Death by Cheryl Hollon – So-so

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I enjoy reading a good mystery book, especially during the summer.  That’s why I selected Cheryl Hollon’s newest book Cracked to Death.  This was the first book I’ve read by this author and I had some mixed feelings about it.

On the positive side, I liked the character Savannah Webb and her boyfriend Edward Morris.  Both characters seemed likable and cared about others.  I found the premise of a mystery involving the art of glasswork interesting.  A few of the characters had disabilities and Savannah was quite caring towards them.  Homicide detective David Parker was interesting, but not fully developed.

What I didn’t like:  Some of the characters (Rachel and Faith, SueAnn, Officer Boulli to name a few) seemed like caricatures not real people.  There were a lot of politically correct, edgy things included in the book, to the point of distraction.  It took away from the storyline.  For example, when a homeless person urinates on the side of an art studio, Edward suggests that America needs to build more public toilets.  I don’t read mystery books to have PC views shoved in my face.  There was one curse word but it was unnecessary.

Previously I mentioned that the story included characters with disabilities.  The one I didn’t understand was Arthur who had Crohn’s disease.  He was not a major character and he goes into a detailed explanation about the disease.  Since his character was a minor part of the story it wasn’t value added to the story.

I thought it was interesting that the two overweight characters where portrayed negatively.  An emphasis was made on their physical appearance and one is incompetent and the other is rather stupid.

One of the most obnoxious characters was Amanda.  There is a reference to her sexting.  Thankfully the book didn’t go in to detail.  But it was not a good or necessary part of the story.  I felt like it was thrown in to be edgy.  This character makes some ridiculous choices and it gets tiring after a while.  Bad choice after bad choice and of course she’s “sorry”, weepy and didn’t mean it.  She felt like people where judging her.  Perhaps they were just astonished at her bad nonsensical judgment.

I didn’t care for Savannah “smiling down at these two absurd looking elders.”  Really?  That was uncalled for.

Later when Amanda is telling about her relationship with Martin, she is assured by Edward and Savannah that her friends wouldn’t judge her.  Perhaps instead, Amanda needed friends to lovingly speak up when they see her exercising lack of wisdom and discernment.

Another edgy reference:  “You know how liberal this community is.  It’s not quite as diverse as deliberately quirky Gulfport.”

Amanda wasn’t the only person using poor judgment.  Savannah had her fair share of bad choices, most of which revolved around her acting as a “consultant” for the police.  There were times when she should have called the police and given them information and not talked to a witnesses or suspects.  This wasn’t very realistic.

All this adds up to the story not being really believable.  Many people and references seemed like they were thrown in just to make the story edgy or politically correct.  The character of Amada was irritating rather than interesting.  Savannah overstepping her bounds as a consultant about glass seemed to go too far to be believable.

There may have been a few errors in the book.  Location 625 – screenedin should have been screened in.  Location 1049 – references a third bottle that was found that was an original Bristol blue bottle, like the first one.  A little later, in location 1111, the third bottle is referenced again, “Jacob noticed was also a copy.”  Location 1155:  the word should have been “frequented” instead of frequent.

All in all, I found the story in Cracked to Death, by Cheryl Hollon, so-so.  Some of the storyline and characters were not believable or they were downright annoying.  At the same time, there were some characters that were likeable and the setting in a glass art studio was interesting.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Kensington Publishing Corp for the opportunity to read Cracked to Death by Cheryl Hollon in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

 

Love Gently Falling by Melody Carlson – Missed the Boat

Love Gently Falling cover50505-mediumIt’s always easier and fun to write a review on a book that you really like. Unfortunately, this review is a little more of a challenge.

When I first became a Christian I had read some books by author Melody Carlson that I really liked. So I was excited at the opportunity to read Melody’s newest novel Love Gently Falling (available January 6, 2015). But that excitement was short lived.

Let me start with what’s good about the book. When the story’s main character Rita gets the news that her mother has suffered a stroke she quickly makes arrangements to travel home to be there with her mom, dad and brother. I appreciated how Rita made amends with an old friend with whom she had a falling out and their friendship was restored. I appreciated the character examining herself to see if she was a snob when she found herself liking a man who was a janitor. I appreciated that the book did not include sexually immorality or filthy language.

One of the main things I struggled with is that there was really nothing in this book that would lead me to conclusion that it was from a Christian author. I came back to a question I ask when reading books published by Christian authors. If a Christian writes a fiction book does that make it “Christian fiction”? I would say no.

In the book, Love Gently Falling, prayer was mentioned several times, but the author didn’t show Rita or the other characters dealing with issues of their faith. There were some plot developments that would have made good platforms to share the gospel message and what God’s word says. It would have been good to see characters work through the challenges they are facing through the grid of their Christian faith. But Melody Carlson didn’t take the opportunity to weave Christian faith into her newest book Love Gently Falling. Something else that bothered me was the way the main character Rita “came to the rescue” to help save her mother’s outdated and failing beauty salon. It smacked of the world’s view often seen in movies with children being wiser and smarter than their parents.

Apart from my criticism about this not being “Christian fiction”, the book is not overly deep. It was on the anemic side, but could have gone deeper with the storyline. I think that Melody Carlson missed the boat with Love Gently Falling and I was disappointed.

I would like to thank the publisher FaithWords and Net Galley for the opportunity to read Love Gently Falling in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

 

Angels Walking by Karen Kingsbury – Heartwarming, Touching, Loving and Redemptive

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Angels Walking, by Karen Kingsbury, is her newest book about Tyler Ames, a talented up and coming baseball player, whose life takes an unexpected turn.  Just how would Alzheimer’s patient Virginia Hutchinson impact Tyler’s life for eternity?  How would those changes ripple out and affect Tyler’s broken relationships with his parents and former girlfriend Sami Dawson?  How in the world do angels figure into the story?  Well…you’ll have to read it to find out.

I’ve only read one other Karen Kingsbury book, but there was something about Angels Walking that drew me in.  Perhaps it was Virginia the Alzheimer’s patient or maybe I was intrigued by the thought of angels, God’s messengers, at work in our lives.  I knew I would find this book somewhat painful because my mother had Alzheimer’s but I wanted to read it and I’m so glad I did.

Karen Kingsbury is a very gifted writer and has a beautiful turn of a phrase.  She has a way of expressing feelings or a scene in a very vivid way that stays in the mind of the reader.  What came through in this book were love, grace, forgiveness and redemption.  I was reminded to never give up or stop praying and know that God is at work in our lives.  Karen’s Christian faith is interwoven throughout this book in a beautiful way.

There were a couple of times when Jesus Christ and salvation came up, but I found it fell short of a clear presentation of the gospel because sin wasn’t mentioned.  Without knowledge of my sin, I don’t know of my need for a Savior.

I recommend Angels Walking by Karen Kingsbury and look forward to future books in this series.  Your heart will be touched when you read this book and perhaps some healing will also take place in those broken places in your life.

I would like to thank the publishers at Howard Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Angels Walking in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.