Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Thriller Set in the Cable News Business

Erica Sparks has just taken a job with a new cable news station, GNN, Global News Network. She's thrilled to be in New York and hungry for success. Her first assignment, to interview the Duchess of Cambridge, turns into an unexpected news break when a ferry crashes into the seawall very close to where the duchess is scheduled to have lunch.

The news story catapults Erica into one of the top reporters at GNN and opens her to the jealousy of rival reporters. It also brings her to the notice of the billionaire owner of the network. The immediate fame has payoffs, but as Erica and her colleagues pursue the story about the ferry accident, it leads them into danger.

This is a very fast paced read with action based on current events. If you like a thriller that moves quickly from crisis to crisis, this is a good one. However, the writing is merely okay and the character development is minimal. We learn a great deal about Erica, her past and her drive to succeed. However, the other characters have almost no background information and act as foils for Erica.

Although this book is sold by a Christian publisher, it's not typically Christian fiction. Erica doesn't rely on God or pray, except for the Serenity Prayer. None of the other characters appear to have any religious conviction. If you read secular thrillers, this isn't a problem, but if you're looking for a typical Christian novel, this may disappoint.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Can Death Follow a Person?

Death seems to follow Maya Burkett. When the story opens, she is attending the funeral of her husband. He was murdered in Central Park in what appears to have been a robbery gone bad. Now Maya is a widow with a two-year-old daughter, Lily, who she loves very much and wants to protect. When a friend gives her a nanny cam, she sets it up in the den where Lily plays. Everything goes well until watching the pictures from the nanny cam she sees her dead husband enter the room and play with her daughter.

This is not Maya's first experience with death. Her sister was recently murdered. While in Iraq, Maya was responsible for the death of civilians. These deaths haunt her and now she has to deal with what happened to her husband and how he could have appeared on the nanny cam.

If you enjoy thrillers with lots of twists, outstanding characters, and a riveting plot, don't miss this one. Maya is one of the strongest female characters I've read about in a long time. She's well trained military and completely fearless. Her friends in the book and even the evil characters are engaging. The plot is filled with twists. Every time you think you've figured out what's happening the frame shifts and you see it from a different angle.

Perhaps the most poignant scenes are those where Maya, who is troubled with PTSD from her experiences in Iraq, is with people who are laughing and enjoying time is the sun with their families. It's a stark contrast.

I highly recommend this book. I enjoyed it. The pace is fast and the plot is hard to figure out until the end.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Romance, Secrets, and Football

When Leila Hart, the new sideline reporter, is introduced to Jackson Gray, the senior football analyst, there's instant chemistry. She's a sexy, sassy, little thing trying to hide her knowledge of football. Jackson wonders why. The chemistry draws them together, but each has secrets that keep them from a more committed relationship. As their romance progresses keeping the secrets becomes more and more difficult. They not only lust for each other, they like each other.

If you like romance, Leila and Jackson are good characters. She's sexy, but intelligent and has a strong desire to make her own way. Jackson is a hunk, but basically a very nice guy. He wants a committed relationship, but his secrets keep getting in the way.

Depending on your perspective, this book has features that will be pluses for some, minuses for others. The first chapters are devoted to Leila and Jackson having lustful thoughts about each other. The actual plot doesn't get going until about a third of the way through the book. If you want fast action, you'll be disappointed. However, if you like the romantic back and forth, you'll enjoy the opening.

Another plus or minus is the background in football stats. Personally, I found it fascinating, but if you're primarily reading for plot and romance all the discussion of football can be distracting.

The book is easy to read. There are plenty of twists that keep the plot interesting. I enjoyed the book and recommend it if you enjoy well-written romance.

I received this book for Net Galley for this review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When a Perfect Life Ends in Divorce

When Nicole finds that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful and his lover is pregnant, she immediately starts divorce proceedings. Her mother-in-law, Leanne, has been turning a blind eye to her husband's infidelity for 30 years, but seeing Nicole take steps to end her marriage, Leanne decides to do the same thing. The two women are strong support for each other in their new, less affluent lives.

Both Leanne and Nicole find ways to get out, volunteer, and meet new people; a great way to stop feeling sorry for yourself. The volunteer activities lead to new friends and launch the women into more successful lives.

This is a very positive book about divorce. I loved the fact the the women decided to get out, increase their circle of friends and help others. Of course, the emotional impact of divorce is not easy to overcome, but the ladies in the book found ways to move ahead.

Nicole and Leanne are good characters. You can't help but like them and root for them to get their lives back on track. The men, Jake and his father, are scoundrels and not very likable, but that emphasizes how right the women were to leave them.

The book is an easy read with realistic setting and a moderate pace. The pace gives time to get to know the characters. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone going through a divorce. It's also a good read for the inspirational aspects even if your marriage is stable.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Beautifully Written Account of the Love of Saint Augustine's Life

Augustine, now Bishop of Hippo, is dying. In the courtyard outside, an old woman sits and waits. At one time she was his concubine and bore him a son. Now they are both very old, and as she waits, she recounts the story of her life.

The story is an illustration of the heartache caused by love across class boundaries in the ancient world. Augustine was the scion of a wealthy family, but being the youngest had to make his own way. His lover was from a lower class. Her father was skilled at laying mosaics, but that was the profession of an artisan, not a member of the upper classes. In order to live together, she became his concubine. Although the word today has pejorative connotations, at the time it mean common-law wife.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The writing is lyrical, but supports the telling of the old woman's life story without drawing attention to itself. The setting is historically accurate. I could feel what the world she lived in was like.

I highly recommend this book. It's a serious work of historical fiction. I chose it because having read the Confessions of Saint Augustine, I wanted to know more about the woman who appears, but is never named. I wasn't disappointed. This is a very well done book.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Delicious Recipes and Recommendations for a Healthy Lifestyle

Not just a recipe-book, this cookbook from the American Heart Association contains valuable information on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The opening chapter discusses how to choose food that is the most likely to promote health. The second chapters gives suggestions for a healthy lifestyle. Even if you don't follow all the suggestions, trying to use as many as possible will improve your health and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The final chapters of the book contain suggestions for healthy shopping, cooking and stocking your pantry. There is also a chapter reviewing the science behind the recommendations. I like to know how recommendations for eating are derived. This gives easy to understand information.

In addition to all the information on how to live a healthy lifestyle, the recipes are delicious. I found an old favorite for Tabbouleh. The page features cook's tips as well as nutritional information. I find the nutritional information at the end of each recipe very helpful for meal planning.

I'm always looking for interesting vegetable recipes because we eat a lot of vegetables. My favorites in this cookbook are rosemary-artichoke frittata and grilled portobello mushrooms with couscous and greens. They're quick and easy to prepare for
supper or lunch.

My one disappointment with this cookbook is the lack of pictures. However, my meals never turn out looking as beautiful as the pictures, so perhaps it's just as well. I highly recommend this cookbook, if you're trying to live a healthy lifestyle. If you're just starting to explore healthy eating, this is a delicious way to begin.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Mystery with Its Origins in the Island of Jersey During WWII

Forensic anthropologist, Gideon Oliver, and his wife Julie are attending a conference on forensics in Spain. Their friend John, an FBI agent is also attending. Gideon is feeling bored when Rafe Carlisle, also a conference attendee, presents him with an interesting problem.

Rafe's father was killed. The remains of his skeleton and that of another man were found in the tar pit on Rafe's property. There were very few bones making identification difficult so the bones sat in a cardboard box in Rafe's garage for years. Gideon is intrigued by the problem and agrees to go to Jersey to see the bones first hand. John is also fascinated and agrees to come along.

The first chapters of the book lay out the background of the mystery. During WWII the British government virtually abandoned the Channel Islands to the Nazis. The islanders suffered horribly. Those who could escaped to Britain before the Nazis arrived, or sent their children. This is what happened to Rafe's father and his cousin.

I thought the first chapters were interesting. I knew about the Nazis taking over the Channel Islands, but the chapters bring the horror of it to life. The only quibble I have is that the setup for they mystery takes up the first five chapters which is a fair portion of the book. It's only in chapter six that Gideon appears. From then on, the focus of the book is on the forensic investigation. The history pretty much hangs in abeyance until the end.

The thing I enjoyed most about the book was the use of obscure scientific facts to help solve the mystery. It was very clever. If you enjoy cozy mysteries. This is an interesting one.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Hollywood Couple Solve a Small Town Mystery

Ten years ago, Jake left Hanover, Pennsylvania with the unsolved murder of a teenage girl behind him. His father had a stroke and needed him. Today with his writing career on the skids, Jake is faced with the mother of the girl. She's dying and wants him to come back and solve the case to give her closure.

Jake is undecided. Laura has just finished a film and needs to return to Hollywood, and he needs to work on his novel, but the desire to finish the case is very strong. At Laura's insistence, they return to Hanover to find a very different town. It's the height of the depression and the town isn't too pleased at the idea of the murder investigation being reopened.

Jake and Laura are wonderful characters. They are a good husband and wife team, loving and supporting each other. The setting is true to the era. Jake remembers the town as a prosperous small town with happy, friendly residents. When he returns, the town is shabby and the residents surly.

I very much enjoyed the book. It was like watching an old movie. The mystery was all right, but the real emphasis was on the interesting characters. If you like cozy mysteries this is a good one.

I received the book from Alibi for this review.