Don’t Keep Silent

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729865: Don"t Keep Silent, #3 Don’t Keep Silent, #3
By Elizabeth Goddard / Revell

I want to state this loud and clear: “Don’t Keep Silent” by Elizabeth Goddard is a fantastic novel. She builds a multi-layered mystery around the disappearance of Zoey, a young mother with a secret identity.  Her sister in law Rae Burke, a veteran investigative reporter is called in to search for clues and find the missing person before the trail goes ice cold.

The entire novel spans one action packed week and two Rocky Mountain states. Rae and her brother Alan decide to start the search by interviewing Zoey’s estranged mom back in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Alan stays in Denver, Colorado to care for Callie, the daughter that is the center of Alan and Zoey’s home. Alan’s sister, Rae sets off for Wyoming with hopes that she and a hired P.I. can cover more ground faster than the law enforcement personnel assigned to the case. Rae trusts only Liam McKade to be her partner on the job. Their partnership ebbs and flows between harmony and division. Rae and Liam have a stormy history. They both crashed and burned from a previous incident and have spent recent months rebuilding from this epic fail. Liam was forced to walk away from his undercover assignment since his cover was blown while trying to rescue Rae from an armed assailant. At the start of this novel, Liam is living in Jackson Hole on the family ranch. He has multiple new job offers but is confused over which one to accept. Rae seeks him out and together they acquire the puzzle pieces required to solve the missing person mystery.

The setting based primarily at ski resorts in Wyoming is perfectly suited to the plot. Elizabeth Goddard builds her story around the grim activities connected to human trafficking. In addition to hiring Liam as a P.I, she brings in Reggie, a cyber-sleuth who works the deep web angles for leads.

The book is a page-turner with smart characters and plenty of action. The suspect list expands and contracts until a major breakthrough brings the plot to a dramatic end. It’s a great book to share with mystery fans. Don’t Keep Silent is Book 3 in the Uncommon Justice series. I had not read the previous two books, but I jumped right into book 3 and never missed a beat. The plot’s pace is fast, just like the run an expert skier would take on an black diamond trail with plenty of life threatening obstacles. I received an advanced reader’s copy from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing, in exchange for my honest review.

Standoff

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735732: Standoff, #1 Standoff, #1

By Patricia Bradley / Revell

The National Park setting of this book caught my eye, but it was the clues, red herrings, and sustained slow release of the mystery that kept me hooked. It’s a book I highly recommend. The Natchez Trace National Parkway in Mississippi is the scene for some of the climax moments. The cast of characters is well developed. Brooke Danver’s story, the female protagonist, is very engaging. She is a young lady who has followed her dreams and is about to start on a career in law enforcement throughout the Park. In her wildest dreams, she never could have guessed what her first days on the job would entail. Just prior to her swearing in ceremony, her father dies. It’s ruled a suicide, but Brooke rejects this decision. Her primary goal is to solve the mystery surrounding his death. As the action unfolds, Brooke must lean on Luke Fereday, an undercover agent, to discover answers. Luke arrives on the scene to bust a drug ring. The illegal drug trade along the Natchez Trace is a dangerous network spanning two continents. Brooke and Luke team up to solve the crime and they discover a handful of likely suspects with valid motives. All of them are close acquaintances or colleagues or Brooke and Luke, so it’s hard to know who to trust.

The subplots are as interesting as the main mystery. Standoff by Patricia Bradley is Book 1 in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series. It’s a great opening to a series that certainly will win over many fans. I reviewed a complimentary copy from the publisher, Revell Books in exchange for an honest review of this new release.

 

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

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103933EB: Hadley Beckett"s Next Dish - eBook Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish – eBook
By Bethany Turner / Revell

Read this book for sheer enjoyment. You’ll chuckle and adore the happy ending. This book is a contemporary novel with great appeal for fans of the Food Network. The main characters are celebrity chefs with opposite styles. But hold on because as you know… opposites attract.

Our main female protagonist, Hadley Beckett cooks in a Southern Style. She whips up delightful desserts from her own recipes that feature butter, sugar, and more butter. Her career soon catapults to the big leagues where she continues to thrive. Her arch-rival, Max Cavanaugh, explodes on the scene in a fiery TV episode, but works on redeeming himself throughout the rest of the story.

I loved the strategy Hadley uses to manage stress. She makes an alphabetical mental list of kitchen gadgets or ingredients. Now that’s clever. I did notice when angry words flew between she and Max, the gadgets she envisioned were the sharp pointy kind: Fillet knife, Grapefruit knife, Herb chopper, Ice Pick

As their relationship develops, and a future together looks promising, Max’s declaration of what he can offer is delightful, sincere, and appealing. Respect and fidelity. Top shelf ingredients for any relationship.

This was a fun read, and I’m glad I picked it up to review. The opinions are my own. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley. #HadleyBeckettsNextDish, #NetGalley

Starfish Pier: Hope Harbor Book 6

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0736149: Starfish Pier, Hope Harbor Series #6 Starfish Pier, Hope Harbor Series #6

By Irene Hannon / Revell

Let’s just rename Starfish Pier…. “Five-Star-fish Pier!” It’s that good.

Irene Hannon’s characters are fun and full of life. It was a delight to meet the gang that have populated earlier books in the Hope Harbor series. My favorites include Charlie, the artist and food truck owner, who specializes in tantalizing fish tacos and words of wisdom. Then the cleric duo of Father Murphy and Reverend Baker reappear who bring the right dose of amusement to the story.

Amidst the fun, are some serious issues about alcoholism, mental health, and fostering community connections. Author Irene Hannon deals with both the serious issues and fun with great skill. The story is appealing because we are not only drawn into a great love story, but we also get to see how bridges are built between hurting people. Bridges that set people on healing paths. Her character list is an all-star roster of caring friends who look outside themselves and find ways to support those in need.

I thought each plot line resolved in a believable and satisfactory fashion. One element to appreciate is the multigenerational plotlines surrounding Pete and his new circle of friends.

The phrase “Never say Never” applies here, or as Hanon writes “God’s delay is not denial” While the way forward looked bleak for some, at the story’s conclusion not just one but three characters all find bright futures in new careers. These outcomes were so unexpected, but highly satisfying.

I haven’t read the entire Hope Harbor series, just three books out of six. It was nice to read in the epilogue one more is expected next fall. Oh my…. Where will the story go next?

I recommend this book. There’s romance, a story about dysfunctional families that mend, forgiveness, and second chances. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. #Starfish Pier #NetGalley

Out of the Embers Book 1

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735351: #1: Out of the Embers #1: Out of the Embers
By Amanda Cabot / Revell

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 It’s 1855 and the story opens Texas style, big and bold with great dramatic flare. An orphanage burns to the ground from the hand of a devilish arsonist. Evelyn and Polly are the only two survivors who happen on the scene after returning in their wagon from a day away on errands. Under a full moon sky, they make a run for it thinking their only route to safety is a quick escape. As they rush enroute to a new home, we’re introduced to three other plot lines. The spotlight switches to Rufus and Winnie who mourn the tragic loss of their two children. Their daughter was taken by scarlet fever and their son by the hangman’s noose. Rufus and Winnie can’t seem to claim a foothold on level ground. Their loss is overwhelming and Rufus especially seeks healing that always eludes him. At the chapter’s close, we meet Basil Marlow, the black sheep of the Marlow family driven by greed and revenge. Basil’s first action in the story is to raise a whiskey toast to the conclusion of a dastardly deed and fire his pistol. He’ll  shoot again before the story’s conclusion. Finally we meet Wyatt Clark and his mother. Wyatt is the story’s male protagonist. He’s a gem. A natural born leader with a love for raising the fastest race horses in Texas. All of this action takes place in just the first two chapters. The title of Amanda Cabot’s new book is Out of the Embers, and this story comes to life in a vibrant fashion out of these dying embers. 

     Cabot’s story is historically accurate. The United States was reluctant to admit Texas to the Union since Texas ranchers and cotton growers used large numbers of slave laborers. In 1855, the issue of slave labor was already causing a split in the U.S. The Mexican American War had already happened and soldiers who returned home lived with unpleasant after effects. One of Cabot’s characters is plagued by mental health problems following his battle experience.  

      Evelyn poses as Polly’s older sister even though Polly is a child who was just recently brought to the orphanage under dubious circumstances. Once they choose a new place to call home, they adopt new last names and carry on as sisters who always feel most at home in the kitchen. They meet many kind and generous people in Mesquite Springs. Evelyn and Polly are invited to stay with the Clark’s but Evelyn knows she must find a way to earn a living. Her exceptional baking skills give her confidence to open a restaurant. The idea is a good fit for the town and Evelyn and Polly have found a place to settle in. I thought Evelyn was a smart, independent, and courageous female leading character. 

     Several suitors compete for Evelyn’s eye, but she only has eyes for Wyatt. Marriage and settling down is not his goal when we first meet Wyatt, but eventually he realizes that a life with Evelyn and Polly will give him his heart’s desire. 

   In the middle of the story, there’s a mayor’s race. Wyatt and his childhood friend Sam are the two candidates. Wyatt pulls off a big victory which causes Sam to spiral downward. Sam follows through on some bad choices and exits the story soon after the election. 

    This is the second Amanda Cabot book I’ve read. I enjoyed the fast pace and well developed characters. If I  had to predict what book two in the series will bring I would say I’m expecting Sam to reappear. I’m lukewarm about how he left the story. To me, he is a dark horse that will send shivers down your spine when he rides back into town. 

   Her leading characters were terrific with caring hearts and interesting goals. The Clark’s are the supportive family Evelyn has been longing for since her own parents died ten years ago. I look forward to all future books in the Mesquite Springs series.  

   I received a complimentary book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Fun Christian Romance, Characters to Love

This book appealed to me because of the setting. The agriculture of Australia, the climate, and terrain captured my interest. This book transports you to another continent. You’re introduced to some Australian vocabulary, animals, and a glimpse of favorite edibles. These details are seamlessly woven into the story.

It’s a sweet romance with fun characters. One day maybe we’ll see this Christian Romance made into a feature movie for the Hallmark Channel. After all, the matriarch of the family does make her appearance just before Christmas. She’s a formidable woman, whose middle name should be “TILIS” (tell it like it is)! The twenty something main characters have real depth, solid skills, and some issues to resolve that speak to everyone. Through Sam we get a good glimpse of how adopting a risk-adverse nature can hold us back and make us too fearful to follow God’s lead. Kimberly shows us that possessing a first rate business acumen is wonderful but can be empty without a sense of belonging that is found in family. Jules shows us how blindly following after what we think we should do might not bring the rest, peace, and joy we’re meant to experience. The author shares an accurate story of agriculture and how things operate on a modern dairy farm; the unique setting adds to the story. I recommend this story for anyone who is looking for an upbeat story. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley. This is my honest review. #AGirlsGuideToTheOutback, #NetGalley

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229615: A Girl"s Guide to the OutbackA Girl’s Guide to the Outback
By Jessica Kate / Thomas Nelson

A Novel of Prophets and Kings: Isaiah’s Legacy

291882: Isaiah"s Legacy: A Novel of Prophets and Kings Isaiah’s Legacy: A Novel of Prophets and Kings By Mesu Andrews / WaterBrook Buy with this link at Christianbook.com 
Buy at Amazon.com; Isaiah’s Legacy: A Novel of Prophets and Kings Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews is thought provoking. I’ve read her previous three releases and found them compelling reads. Her research is complete and from this foundation she develops characters with unique points of view. Another strength of Isaiah’s Legacy is the uniquely crafted dialogue. The characters speak words that are inventive, fresh, and wise. The title is fitting as the prophet Isaiah remained a voice sharing Biblical truths despite persecution, complacency, and tolerance run amok. The Old Testament is filled with harsh and brutal practices of the Ancient World. These practices include holding women down and viewing their importance only as members of a harem to build a legacy and political coalitions, human sacrifice, and the ever present brutal conquests by invading armies. Andrews does not sugarcoat the past so each element finds a place in her story. Some of the plot details had to be difficult to write. The weight of these evils only proves the depth and sincerity of the Lord’s forgiveness. Manasseh found forgiveness after following a serpentine and dark path away from the Lord. Mesu Andrews calls Manasseh’s story the greatest prodigal journey in scripture. In Isaiah’s Legacy, she shines a convincing light on an important truth. Forgiveness offered in centuries past is available in the same measure today; even when it’s late in life and after a long string of poor choices. I plan to share this book with friends who name Biblical fiction as their favorite genre. I’ll be interested to hear their feedback. I’m quite sure from this point forward, I’ll be reading the Bible’s record of Kings and Prophets with a greater appreciation. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. #isaiahslegacy, #chainbreakers, @mesuandrews

Veiled in Smoke – Windy City Saga #1

102770EB: Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga Book #1) - eBook Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga Book #1) – eBook
By Jocelyn Green / Bethany House

Superb! The epic beginning grabs you and the way the plot is a thread drawn out from these events makes for a tremendous story. I decided some of Jocelyn Green’s previous books often end in very dramatic fashion with a battle either on land or sea. In both The Mark of the King and Between Two Shores this conclusion holds true. I like that in Veiled in Smoke, a pivotal moment in the action appears at the beginning and this sets in motion all the consequences that follow.

This book is such a fine example of historical fiction. The details add a layer of richness to the story that I surmise will propel this book onto many recommended reading lists. Her skill in writing stories with an appreciation for the military certainly is on display between these pages. Her handling of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in early times is eye opening.

We meet a big cast of characters and each one is so memorable. The characters through their words and actions clearly show their goals, inward struggles, and values. Each character was so well developed. Every character added an essential dimension to the story. I think this lineup of characters in the the historical Chicago setting is a cornucopia of stories just waiting to be told. I’m eagerly looking forward to Windy City Saga Book 2.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of Veiled in Smoke from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

#VeiledinSmoke #NetGalley

An Uncommon Woman By Laura Frantz

102700EB: An Uncommon Woman - eBookAn Uncommon Woman – eBook
By Laura Frantz / Revell

An Uncommon Woman

A satisfying read from beginning to end. There is so much to enjoy in this new book from Laura Frantz. The main character, Tessa, is not the only uncommon woman. As stated in the author notes, Keturah’s wisdom and generous nature is rare and exceptional. Hester is a character to love for her directness and ability to serve all in unflustered fashion.

Each of the book’s elements are presented with great skill. The alliterative phrases, sense of place, and historical accurateness add to the book’s appeal. I loved learning about coffin pie, dittany tea, fort life, and the Lenape of Mid-Atlantic. Her portrayal of Native Americans stayed clear of stereotypes that might offend and instead shared with readers a realistic glimpse of Lenape culture, daily customs, fears, even acts of aggression.

Throughout the story, I was impressed that there were no loose ends. Tessa was allowed sufficient time to grieve over the tragedy that befell Jasper and Ross. Despite Tessa and Clay’s budding romance, it would have been so dissatisfying for our main character to rush through this time of loss.

The conclusion was inventive and I love that the end had its beginnings in a network of relationships that began at such an earlier point in the characters’ lives. As Clay said, “You just never know where help is going to come from.”

I recommend this book with enthusiasm. I received an advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Smart Choice

032661: Life Is _____ Forty-Day Experience: A Devotional Journey Through God"s Illogical Love Life Is _____ Forty-Day Experience: A Devotional Journey Through God’s Illogical Love
By Judah Smith / Thomas Nelson

A remarkable book. Judah Smith’s style is accessible and filled with humor. Each day’s reading is concise and memorable. It’s a smart choice for Christians looking for a devotional that speaks to important issues. I recommend this book with enthusiasm. Quite often I finished the daily reading and then turned to my Study Bible for additional research and perspectives on the passage. This author was unknown to me before purchasing this book. I would certainly choose other titles he has written now that I’m familiar with his style and message.