Book review: ‘Silenced’ by Dani Pettrey

From the back cover:

A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna’s route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake’s past now revealed, he’s ready to use his talent for investigation again–but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him.
Kayden’s climbing expertise soon leads her and Jake to the realization that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is onto them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine.

My review:

This is now the second book I have read in the Alaskan Courage series by Dani Pettrey (see my review of Stranded here). As I mentioned in my earlier review, I recommend reading this series from the start, as there was a lot of back story I missed by reading only the third and fourth books.

Silenced begins with a murder mystery, as Kayden McKenna finds a dead rock climber and immediately suspects foul play. With her climbing expertise, she is the logical choice to accompany former cop (and newly appointed deputy sheriff), Jake Westin, in his quest to find out the truth.

The book is written largely from Kayden and Jake’s point of view, although there are several passages written from the perspective of minor characters in the book. I felt that the point of view changed too frequently, often due to very short scenes, and I got confused as to whose head I was in at times. I think this was the main reason why I didn’t feel as invested in the characters as I could have been. The other thing that bothered me was the inefficiency of Kayden and Jake’s interviewing technique – meaning they had to visit/revisit suspects because they didn’t ask the right questions first time around (although I guess the book would have been too short if they got all their answers straight away).

Throughout the book, Kayden has to come to terms with her fear of letting anyone get close to her, and her fear of dying. It was nice to see her heart warm to Jake throughout their investigation, and his protectiveness was touching. I particularly enjoyed the last third of the book, when Jake’s past catches up with him and Kayden’s life is on the line – this part of the story was very suspenseful.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book, although I’m not sure whether I would read the next book in the series.

Thank you, NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for providing me a free copy of this book  in exchange for my honest opinion.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

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Book Review: ‘A Home For My Heart’ by Anne Mateer

From the back cover:

Sadie Sillsby works as the assistant to the matron at the Raystown Home for Orphan and Friendless Children and dreams of the day she’ll marry her beau, Blaine. But when the matron surprises everyone by announcing her own engagement, Sadie is suddenly next in line for the job. For a young woman who was once an orphan herself, a shot at such an esteemed position is a wish come true.

But the matron of the Home cannot be married. Is Sadie willing to give up her dreams of a life with Blaine and a family of her own? Is she prepared to forgo daily involvement with the children as she instead manages the financial, legal, and logistical aspects of the orphanage?

And when it’s revealed that the Home is spending a lot more money than it’s taking in, can Sadie turn things around before the place is forced to close forever?

My review:

The first thing that struck me about this book was that it was written from the first person perspective, which is very unusual in historical Christian romance. While I do enjoy first person narratives in other genres, eg young adult or chick lit, I wasn’t sure at first if it was really working for the book – however, I soon forgot about my initial hesitation.

Sadie Sillsby, a former orphan, finds herself in the position of matron at the orphanage where she grew up. Having worked there for years, she feels more than qualified for the job and is even willing to give up a chance at love to take on the position she feels God has called her to.

Much of this story revolves around events at the orphanage and the dilemma that Sadie faces in keeping the orphanage open. Sadie has a lot to learn in her new position and it is satisfying to see her grow in the role and in maturity as a woman. In addition to all this, she has the added confusion of how to act around Blaine, whom she rejected for the role, and Earl, a charming gentleman from The Children’s Aid Society. Will her heart ever find a home?

The storyline was fairly predictable, without too much conflict, but the character development was interesting enough to make this an enjoyable read for me. Recommended for those who enjoy sweet, easy-read, historical romances.

Thank you, NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

Interview with author Laura Jackson

Today, I’m interviewing Christian author Laura Jackson about her new book and how she became a writer.

2013-07-08 23.15.16-1 (2)Me: Hi, Laura. You must be excited, having recently published your first novel. How long has it been since you began your writing journey?

Laura: Not very long but forever, I guess. I remember writing as a kid, and I wrote some in high school for fun. I taught middle school language arts, so I wrote with my kids. When I became a librarian, I missed writing with my students. So, I started writing a book. The first attempt was so bad I quit in the middle. Worth the Wait is my second attempt.

Me: What have been the highlights and lowlights in your experience so far?

Laura: I’m new at this, so I don’t have a lot of experience. I got an early review from a reader I’ve never met. She wrote about how much the book affected her even though she’s an adult.

The worst thing is just seeing my “baby” covered in red ink from the editor. It was so discouraging for just a minute, and then I dived into it and enjoyed making it better.

Me: I can relate to that – seeing the track changes in a manuscript is disheartening, but once you get into it, it is exciting to see how much better it will be. How long did it take you to write Worth the Wait?

Laura: I wrote Worth the Wait during NaNoWriMo 2012. I did over 50,000 words that month and then added to it the next two months. The book I’m working on now is going so slowly…maybe because I was editing Worth the Wait, working on marketing, etc in addition to my fulltime job as a librarian.

Me: As a librarian, you must come across a lot of books. Do you have a favourite author/s?

E.A West: I love reading just about everything. I love the Pigeon books by Mo Willems to my library kids. Have you read them? SO FUNNY!

YA—I love Jenny B. Jones, Sarah Dessen, and Ally Carter.

Romantic Suspense—Dee Henderson, Irene Hannon, Dani Pettrey.

Chick Lit—Kristin Billerbeck, Erynn Mangum.

I could list a ton more, but those are my favorite.

Me: That is a great selection. Thanks for the tips! Can you tell us a bit more about Worth the Wait?

9781938708268Laura: Ellie Lansing has a picture-perfect life with a close-knit family and the perfect boyfriend. But her world is suddenly knocked off center when her drool-worthy boyfriend cheats, and her always-has-it-together mother is diagnosed with cancer. Ellie doesn’t get it. She always does the right thing – doesn’t God owe her a happy life? Through her heartache, Ellie learns that sometimes what seems like the end is really just the beginning and that what God has for us is always worth the wait.

Me: That sounds fantastic. I’m already hooked 🙂 What kind of readers do you think would enjoy your book?

Laura: Christian teens as well as older women. I’m 33, but I love YA. It’s always my first choice for reading although lately, a lot of it seems really dark. I hope Worth the Wait will be an encouragement to teens to wait for God’s best…not just about sex but about every aspect of their future.

Me: I’m sure it will be. I also enjoy reading YA, even though I’m in my thirties too – we must be young at heart! Now that you are out of your teenage years, looking back, what advice would you give to your teenage self?

Laura: Focus less on boys! I was boy crazy. My poor parents!

Me: A great piece of advice! I’m sooo not looking forward to when my daughters are that age. Thanks for visiting my blog today, Laura. I hope God uses your book to touch many hearts.

Laura: Thanks so much!

Author bio:

Laura Jackson loves books – reading and writing them. A life-long reader, Laura studied English in college and taught 7th grade language arts before earning her Master’s degree and becoming a school librarian. Now, she spends her days sharing great books with kids and her evenings writing books about teenage girls discovering God and His plan for their lives.

http://authorlaurajackson.blogspot.com/

Worth the Wait, a Christian YA novel, was released on 4 February 2014.

Find it on Amazon: Worth the Wait on Amazon
Find it at Barnes and Noble: Worth the Wait on BN.com

 

Book Review: ‘Be Still My Soul’ by Joanne Bischof

From the back cover:

Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith.  But when handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate.

Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with Gideon—a man she barely knows and does not love. Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing  Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob.

Her distant groom can’t seem to surrender his rage at the injustice of the forced matrimony or give Lonnie any claim in his life.  What will it take for Gideon to give up his past, embrace Lonnie’s God, and discover a hope that can heal their two fractured hearts?

Gideon only ever cared about himself. Now that Lonnie is his wife, will he ever be worthy of her heart?

My review:

This was the first book I’ve read by Joanne Bischof. I rarely buy hard-copy books these days (e-books are easier to carry around) but from the reviews I’d read from other bloggers, I really wanted to have this one sitting on my shelf. Be Still My Soul is Bishof’s début novel and she has done a fantastic job.

I quickly found myself drawn into the book and the setting, initially appalled by the way Lonnie was treated by her father, and then by Gideon.
I really hated Gideon, the ‘hero’, from the start of the book and I felt like Bischof would have to perform a miracle to get me to like him again, but she did just that. By the end of the book, to my surprise, I was cheering for him.

I didn’t feel like I got to know Lonnie as well as I would have liked – maybe if there was more reflection on her background, the way she related to her mother, her relationship with God, her likes/dislikes. Having said that, there are two more books in the series, so hopefully Lonnie’s character is developed some more in these.

The plot moved along at a swift pace, with many conflicts and heartbreaking moments. I was really pleased that there was a satisfying ending to the story, although I know I’m in for more angst with book #2 from reading the back cover.

The spiritual element of this book was present throughout, with references to God and verses from the Bible. I liked how Lonnie’s relationship with her aunt was a source of strength and reminded her to trust that God’s eyes were upon her. I look forward to seeing how the future books build on Gideon’s developing faith.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful story and I will definitely buy the next two books in the series to see how Gideon and Lonnie trust God as they face the challenges before them.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here

Interview with author E.A West

Today, I’m interviewing Christian author E.A West about her writing process and her books.

BattlefieldOfTheHeartMe: Hi, E.A. Thanks for joining me on my blog. I’ve just finished reading one of your books, so it was great to have the opportunity to ask you some questions about yourself and your stories. First up, how long have you been writing, and what do you love about it?

E.A West: Hi, Alison. I started writing my freshman year of high school. A creative writing class I was in required us to create a fictional character and write a short biography for him or her. I created a cat-owning hippie for the assignment, but I wanted to know more than the short biography told me. Ideas began flowing, and I’ve been creating characters and writing their stories ever since.

I absolutely love coming up with unique ideas for characters and plots and seeing where it takes me. Outlining and I have never gotten along well, so I’m what they call a pantser (I write by the seat of my pants). That allows me to watch the story unfold as it happens. Sometimes the characters take over and go in an unexpected direction, but that’s just part of the fun of writing.

Me: That sounds like a lot of fun. Most writers I know are avid readers. What do you like to read? Do you have any favourite author/s?

E.A West: I’m an eclectic reader. If a book catches my interest, I’ll read it regardless of genre. I do prefer clean fiction to the racier stuff out there and try to avoid books that contain sex scenes and foul language. Beyond that, I’m not picky about genre. I do enjoy a good thriller now and then, as well as romance, mystery/suspense, historical, non-fiction, and the occasional sci-fi or fantasy. I don’t really have an all-time favorite author, but I can always count on Sigmund Brouwer, Terri Blackstock, and Max Lucado to produce books I’ll enjoy.

Me: It is good not being limited to one kind of genre. I imagine this would influence your writing too. How do you come up with new ideas for your own books? What inspires you?

E.A West: My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. I was once inspired by part of a scene in an episode of Bonanza. Conversations, books, movies, music, even just a passing comment somewhere can trigger my imagination and send me down the road of “what if…?”

Me: One of the main characters in your book Battlefield of the Heart suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What prompted you to want to write about this disorder?

E.A West: With Battlefield of the Heart, my inspiration came from a few years of a nearly constant flow of news reports, documentaries, interviews, etc. concerning the War on Terror, veterans, and the effects of PTSD in combat vets. After a while, my imagination took all of that information I’d absorbed and started putting together Danny Flynn, the hero of the book.

When I started thinking about writing a book with vets going to college, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to share a deeper look at a disorder nearly everyone has heard of but few know much about. Since the prevalence of PTSD ranges from 11-20% in those who have served
in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I knew that what life with PTSD looks like was something that needed to be shared.

It also offered an opportunity to help combat the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues that was extremely prevalent in the military at the time I started writing the book. Thankfully, that stigma isn’t nearly as strong now as it was then, but there’s still a long way to go before it’s commonly accepted that PTSD isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you have survived something traumatic that affected you deeply.

Me: It definitely opened my eyes to what sufferers of PTSD, and their loved ones, might experience. What kind of readers do you think would enjoy Battlefield of the Heart and your other books.

E.A West: Anyone who enjoys sweet and/or inspirational romance. Many of my books would also appeal to those who are curious about a side of life they may never experience themselves (i.e. autism, PTSD, etc.).TheKeyToCharlotte_w5071_300

Me: Thanks so much for sharing with us today. Before I let you go, I have one final question – what one piece of advice would you give to your teenage self?

E.A West: Stay strong and hold on to your faith. No matter how difficult life gets, those two things will get you through. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up for what you believe in. Not everyone will agree with you and some may even ridicule you, but more will respect you for standing up for your beliefs.

Author bio:

EAWestProviding journeys of hope, one story at a time. E.A. West, award-winning author of sweet and inspirational romance, is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. She lives in Indiana with her family and a small zoo of pets.

Find out more about books by E.A West on her Amazon author page (http://amazon.com/author/eawest) or the books page on her blog, which contains links to
various retailers (http://thewestcorner.wordpress.com/books).

Connect with E.A. West in the following places:

FTWB_NewCover_300 TrustOfTheHeart_coverImperfectBeauty-200x300

Book Review: ‘A Bride for Keeps’ by Melissa Jagears

From the back cover:

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won’t humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again–not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She’s the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and it’s just not possible she’s there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she’s determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

My review:

This book, a début novel by Melissa Jagears, is probably the best mail-order bride story I’ve read. Right from the first chapter, Jagears’ easy-to-read and engaging writing style left me in no doubt that this book was a keeper (excuse the pun). So good, in fact, that I kept my husband awake by reading it into the wee hours of the night.

One of the things I liked the best about this book was that a least half of the story was written from the viewpoint of Everett. His character was very believable, especially the way he struggled with his feelings for Julia. After having two mail-order brides leave him for other men, and another one turn up on the train dead, it was no wonder it took him so long to trust Julia. I think many guys would relate to him and he was the perfect Christian romance hero – a little rough around the edges, but gentle and kind.

Julia’s lack of interest in Everett was really annoying – in a good way. There were plenty of hurdles for them to overcome in their marriage, and I enjoyed the slow build of their romantic connection, and the lessons they learned along the way.

The spiritual element of this book was woven into the story in a way that wasn’t forced or preachy, as both characters turn to God for forgiveness and healing.

The only negative for me was that I felt the viewpoint changed a little too often and it was hard to know at times when the changeover had occurred.

Thank you, NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for providing me a free copy of this book  in exchange for my honest opinion.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

To see my ratings system, click here