Monday, December 4, 2017

A Dark, Magical, Russian Winter

In this sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya is off on an adventure. Accused of witchcraft by her village, she rejected the choice of marriage or a convent, and, disguised as a boy, took off on her magical horse, Solovey. In her travels she helps defeat a group of bandits who are destroying villages and taking the young girls to sell. She meets the Grand Prince of Moscow and wins his respect as a fighter, but must be careful to keep him from learning her sex. In Moscow, she reunites with her brother, Sasha, and her sister, Olga, and helps defend the city from a political war that threatens its existence.

As in the previous book, the text is filled with lyrical descriptions of the countryside, fairy tales, and courageous escapades. The deep winter and tales of spirits, weave a dark tapestry against which the action occurs. I loved the fairy tales, but I found the descriptions of medieval Russia more interesting. This book is faster paced with more action than the first book, but the spell is still captivating.

Vasya has grown in this book. She’s no longer a child and faces adult challenges. She finds difficulty reuniting with her family, particularly her sister, Olga.

This is an excellent sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale. If you love atmospheric stories with good characters, this is a book you’ll enjoy.


I received this book from Random Hou
se for this review.

The Story of Byron’s Daughter, Ada Lovelace

Ada’s parents were mismatched from the start. Byron, the scandalous romantic poet, and Annabella, her scientifically inclined mother, had little in comon. Their romance ended in marriage and finally a bitter divorce. Annabella refused to allow Byron access to his daughter, so she grew up with only his portrait and poems.

As a child, Ada was secluded by her mother, but she yearned for more intellectual discourse. Finally, as a debutante, she was introduced to the social circles in London that she craved. She married Thomas, Lord Lovelace, but the marriage suffered from Ada’s propensity for gambling and affairs. Her greatest and most well known achievement was helping Babbage with his computing machine. Some people call her the first computer programmer.

This is a very well researched book spanning not only Ada’s life, but her parents brief marriage. The book opens with her parent’s courtship then moves into Ada’s early life and finally her marriage. I enjoyed the brief description of her parent’s courtship and marriage. However, I found Ada’s early life slow going. The best part was the ending where she helped Babbage. Although the early life was interesting and gave us a picture of the factors that shaped Ada, I thought it was a bit too comprehensive.

If you’re interested in a strong female figure, I recommend this book. Ada worked at a scientific project at a time when most women were content to be wives and mothers.


I received this book from Dutton for this review.
 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Space Themed Bible for Children

May the Faith Be With You Holy Bible is a great Bible for six to ten-year-old children who are interested in space. It reminds you of Star Wars, but the theme is appropriate for the Bible which focuses on creation and God.

The Bible has a limited vocabulary and is easy to read for the older children in this age group, or for children for whom English is a second language. The illustrations are colorful and consistent with the theme. The Bible contains several sections on heavy, glazed paper that answer questions, like who is God, how Jesus came to the world, and what he said.

The pages, except for the inserts, are very thin as is the case with most Bibles, but the book is sturdy. I don’t think children will have trouble with these pages.

I highly recommend this gift for a child, particularly one interested in science and space.


I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.
 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Shoshana and Aaron Tie the Knot: A Pike Logan Thriller

Pike and Jennifer are on a case in Jerusalem. There is a rumor that a terrorist cell is planning an attack on the West Wall. However, that’s not the reason they’re there. They’ve been hired to look into the illegal sale of artifacts and attend the wedding of Shoshana and Aaron.

The action is non-stop with an Israeli agent trying to use the terrorist attack to get the Arabs out of the holy city. However, the best part for me was the view of Shoshana as a bride. She’s happy and although she hasn’t lost her skills, she shows us her gentler side.

The big question is will the wedding be a factor in pushing Jennifer and Pike closer to matrimony. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

This is a great short read. The action is fast paced and the characters are delightful. I highly recommend this short novel if you’re a Pike fan, or just curious about the series.


I received this book from Dutton for this review.

Techno-Thriller with Drone Technology

Marshall Hail, a Physics Nobel prize winner and billionaire, was devastated when his family was killed in a terrorist attack. In retaliation, he turned to using his assets to fight terrorism, planning to kill all the terrorists on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

His primary mode of attack is a group of advanced drones manipulated by young gamers, they allow him to target his enemies anywhere in the world. The story opens with one of these drones operating over North Korea.

The plot involves someone selling nuclear warheads to North Korea. The plan is to destroy these weapons before they can be used to devastate the free world.

In addition to Marshall, one of the main characters is a beautiful CIA agent who joins him in the quest to keep the government informed about his activities. The characters are basically stereotypes, the brilliant scientist and the beautiful spy. This doesn’t matter too much in a thriller where the action is more important than character development, but I found the characters flat, and it didn’t add to the enjoyment of the book.

The best part of this novel is the description of technology. The descriptions are detailed and very well done. The drone technology is particularly current and fascinating. The only problem I had was that they tended to become somewhat repetitious slowing the action.

If you like thrillers with a heavy dose of technology, you may enjoy this book.

I received this book from the author for this review.




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Chip Gaines’ Philosophy

Chip Gaines thinks clearly about what’s important in his life. This includes his wife, children and businesses. Other things are great to have, but not if they cause you to sacrifice the first three. This led him and Johanna to give up their TV show, Fixer Upper. Chip describes in detail how much he loved the show, but also why they had to leave.

The book is not a business book. It’s Chip’s story, but it has valuable information for the would be entrepreneur. The major advice is be ready for hard work. Take risks, but be ready to deal with failure not as a setback, but as a learning experience so that you can do better the next time.

Chip has excellent principles and a serious work ethic. He also knows how to give young people a chance to shine in the workplace. People need to learn things for themselves. Being spoon-fed doesn’t build the resilience you need to succeed in business.

I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for advice on how to view becoming an entrepreneur. The gains can be substantial, but it’s important to have an outlook that lets you grow from all your experiences. If you fail, get up, figure out what went wrong, and try again.

This book is also great fun, if you’re a fan of Fixer Upper. The behind the scenes look at keeping up with four kids, a television show, and several businesses is well worth reading.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Slower Way to Connect with God

In our culture, we love fast food, social media, anything that gives us instant gratification. As Chole points out, this may not be the most effective way to connect with God. Conferences and spiritual retreats are great for the quick fix, but we need something on a daily basis that connects us to our Savior.

This book consists of 52 chapters. The format is a devotional followed by exercises. One exercise focuses on how your heart responds to the reading. The other is a more in depth exercise that encourages you to look at your life by filling out a Life Scroll. I found both exercises useful. The scroll is more demanding, asking you to take a person inventory of your life.

I highly recommend this book. Too much in our lives are brief not giving us time to meditate on the things that are important to us. This book, if followed, opens the way for you to find a calm way to connect with your life and God, and see his plans for you.


I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

IQ Tracks His Brother’s Killer

IQ idolized his older brother, Marcus. When Marcus was killed by a hit-and-run driver, his grief was overwhelming. When he recovered, he stopped searching for the hit-and-run vehicle. Then, by chance, he finds the car and deduces that Marcus death was not an accident, but a hit. Now he’s on the trial of the killer.

Another relationship from the past comes back to haunt IQ. His brother’s girlfriend, Sarita, calls and asks to see him. He’s had a crush on her for years, but fears his social skills aren’t up to attracting her. Sarita has a problem for him to solve. Her half-sister, Janine, and her boyfriend, Benny, are in serious trouble. They’re in hock for their gambling debts to loan shark who specializes in violence to collect his money.

This is a good followup to the original IQ book. Many of the same characters, Dodson, Deronda, TK and others are featured in the story. IQ now has a pit bull which adds a nice element to the story. As with the previous book, the action is non-stop.

The story is set in LA, but IQ travels to Vegas to try to resolve Janine’s issues. Both setting are realistically portrayed. The two story lines, IQ’s search for his brothers killer, and Janine’s gambling problems, are interwoven throughout the story. The author cleverly brings them together at the end.

IQ is a very likable character. He knows he has problems, his lack of social skills, and trying to reconcile to his brother’s death, the book shows him trying to rise above his problems and presents his struggles in a realistic light.

If you enjoy a fast moving thriller with good characters, you’ll enjoy this book.


I received this book from Mulholland Books for this review.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fates and Traitors Available in Paperback

Fates and Traitors, the novel of John Wilkes Booth and  the women in his life, is available to day in paperback. I reviewed the book last year. Here's a link to the review. 

http://nancyfamolari.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-lincoln-assassinations-effect-on.html.

 I enjoyed the book. I hope you do, too.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rediscovering the Joys of Home

Eva at forth-five is a successful advertising executive in Phoenix, Arizona. She grew up in Oxford, Mississippi surrounded by her mother’s perennial gardens and the history and literary background of the beautiful Southern town.

However, not everything was peaceful in her family. Eva’s older sister, Bitsy, was rabidly jealous constantly accusing Eva of telling lies. Bitsy finally drove Eva away. She stayed at home, married an account executive, and took the position of good daughter.

It’s the parents’ fiftieth anniversary. Eva’s parents call begging her to come home for the celebration. She’s reluctant. A major project is about to launch, but her father is insistent to the point of buying an airline ticket, so Eva finds herself back at home having to deal with all the unresolved issues she left behind.

The book is filled with lush descriptions of the Mississippi landscape and Eva’s mother’s gardens. I loved the historical anecdotes about the area and particularly the information about the gardens.

Eva is a character you can sympathize with. If you’ve been bullied for your whole childhood, you’re not anxious to go back and repeat the experience. From her phone conversations with her sister, she knows that Bitsy will be sniping at her again.

What I didn’t like about the book was the attitude of the parents. They knew that Eva was being bullied by Bitsy, but they retreated behind a wall of wanting peace in the family and let it continue. I think this is a bad message for parents. Eva managed to survive, but it tainted her whole life.

The book is worth reading if only to linger in Oxford, Mississippi for a few hours.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pain and Hope Shape Our Lives

Our lives are filled with loss, pain, memory and hope. Beuchner writes poignantly about each of these emotions in his life.

Perhaps the hardest part to read is the first chapters on pain. Beuchner’s father committed suicide when Frederick was a young boy. For many years he couldn’t grieve, pushing the memory down. Because the memory was pushed down so hard it haunted him until finally he was able to talk about it. Now he writes beautifully about it. If you’ve lost someone under difficult circumstances, his story will resonate with you.

The other painful story is of his daughter’s struggle with anorexia and his difficultly coping with it. He recalls a friend coming to sit with him during this trying time. It reminds us how sometimes just being there for someone is enough.

At the end of the book Beuchner focuses on memory and what comes next. He conjures up memories of his grandmother. Although she has been dead for many years he feels close to her and has wonderful imaginative dialogues about the meaning of life and remembering.

If you struggle with loss, this is a good book. I particularly enjoyed the section of reflections at the end, short musings that give you something to meditate on.

I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.


Thoughts about Finding God in Your Life

Frederick Beuchner writes as though he were having a friendly visit with you, sharing his views on God and reflecting on his own story. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

In the first part of the book Beuchner focuses on the arts, music, painting and literature as a way to become attuned to your life. Music is a particularly good way to be present in the moment. In music we can feel time. It helps us focus on being in the world.

In the second half of the book, Beuchner tells stories from his own life. I particularly liked the one about Maya Angelou. They were featured on the same program each telling their story. When he introduced Angelou, he spoke of the differences between their stories, but Maya focused on the similarities. Beuchner concludes that the justification for telling your own story is that it will resonate with others.

Some of the stories are poignant. Beuchner talks of his father’s suicide. It took many years for him to come to grips with his feelings. I think that’s why he so often tells the story.

This is a lovely book. It gives you much food for thought, a book to be savored not taken at a gulp.


I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.
 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blessings from a Struggle with Mental Illness

Sheila Walsh has struggled with thoughts of suicide. When she was a child, her father committed suicide and like many small children she was afraid she was responsible. For years Walsh struggled alone, not willing to let others into her deepest secrets.

Then she collapsed on stage with a mental breakdown and was hospitalized. This enforced hospitalization and a confrontation with her mother finally started her on the road to embracing her problems and coming closer to God.

The basic message of this book is that God loves us, and he’s there to support us in both small problems and big tragedies. Through meditation and prayer Walsh encourages us to be truthful and not hide our deepest problems. God is there for us. She found that when she was able to confront her problems and suicidal tendencies, she became closer to God and could more easily feel his presence.

I think one of my favorite scenes in the book is when during a speech, she feels the urge to tell people about her struggles and to invite those who face similar problems to come to the stage. She was emotionally humbled when not one or two women headed for the stage. Most of the audiance came. Too many of us struggle alone and try to hide our problems even from God. I recommend this book is for anyone suffering alone.

I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.



Thursday, November 2, 2017

Friendship and an Escape to Regency England

Mary Davies, a talented design engineer, works at WATTS, a high tech company in which she was one of the first employees. She loves her job, but her current project, Golightly, is not going well and Mary can’t seem to involve others in giving her help.

A very attractive management consultant, Nathan, tries to help her through the difficulty. He’s obviously interested in her, but Mary can’t let him in. In fact, she pushes him away although she’d like nothing better than to chase him.

With her job going sour, Isabel, Mary’s childhood friend, invites her to a two week trip to England to stay in a gorgeous Regency estate for a Jane Austen costume party. Each person will adopt a character from Austen and dress the part of a Regency lady or gentleman for the week.

Mary doesn’t want to go, but her father, who considers Isabel a second daughter, convinces her that Isabel needs her and she needs to get away. As the week progresses, Mary realizes in a frightening way how correct he was.

This is a lovely book. The start is rather slow, introducing us to Mary and her work problems, but when the two girls get to Bath, the action picks up. The descriptions of the house, Braithwaite, the grounds, and the wardrobes for the girls are delicious. They make you want to take the same holiday.

The characters, particularly Mary, Isabel and Nathan, are very well done. You may not like Isabel all the time, but her character is perfect for her difficult childhood. The other guests staying at the house are wonderful, particularly the child, Clara, and Helene, on a holiday with her much loved eighty-year-old husband. As the characters play their roles in the Austen party, they learn about themselves and become more accepting of each other.

I highly recommend this book, particularly if you’re an Austen Fan.


I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.   

Devotions for Young Women

Although this book is aimed at young women, I think it could be enjoyed by all woman. In today’s world, young women face many challenges from dating and social pressures to bullying and friendship. The devotions in this book address these issues and others in easy to read language that brings the love of God to the young woman.

The book is structured for a full year of devotions. Each page contains a scriptural message and a devotion that focuses on an aspect of the message. In addition, there are lines at the bottom of the page for making notes.

I love the design of the book. It feels solid in your hand. The pages are thick giving it a feel of permanence. This is a book that you can use for years. The art on the pages echoes the cover design and gives the book an attractive artistic appearance.

I enjoyed the devotions and highly recommend the book. I think while they are designed for young women, mothers and grandmothers would also like the book. It gives insight on how to deal with some of the issues facing their daughters and granddaughters.


I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.
 

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Art of Thinking

In this short, entertaining book, Alan Jacobs gives us a course on how to think. First he dispels some of the myths about thinking. Thinking is more art than science. You can’t really think for yourself. You’re not as good at evaluating ideas as you’d like to think you are.

Perhaps for me the most important point he makes is the importance of listening. He talks about a debating society where instead of immediately refuting the argument made by the other side, they have to first restate what the other side is trying to say. If you can do this, you’re on your way to understanding what you opponent is saying.

Throughout the books he tells stories to illustrate his points. My favorite, and I think it’s his also, is about a woman whose church hated homosexuals to the point that she got a social media account to spread their views. In the course of this, she met a man who had different views. Through their discussions, she came to see him as an individual and it changed her outlook to the point where she couldn’t wholeheartedly embrace the views of her church.

At the end of the book he gives a useful list for how to improve your thinking. Taking five minutes to cool off in the heat of an argument is one of my favorites. I highly recommend this book. There is so much information today that it’s often hard to really think, but Jacobs book offers good suggestions for how to become a better thinker.


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

A Muslim American Fights for America

Elnoury’s family immigrated to the US from Egypt when he was only four years old. He is a devout Muslim, but also a loyal American. From his early years, he wanted to be involved in police work and became an undercover agent in drug enforcement. From the stories early in the book, he must have been very good at it.

Then 911 came. The author couldn’t believe his fellow Muslims would do this. He offered his services to the FBI, but at the time they were unable to take advantage of him. Years later, he met another FBI agent and this time, as a Muslim fluent in Arabic, they wanted to use him. He became Tamer Elnoury. The FBI created this individual and backstopped his identity. Under this cover, he brought down a terrorist network.

If you enjoy police procedurals and spy stories, you’ll love this book. This is a real life thriller. The early chapters give insight into the undercover work in drug enforcement. The latter chapters are as exciting as a spy story, but they’re real. The writing is good and the action is non-stop.

This is an important book. It’s incontrovertible that Muslim radicals have done a great deal of harm in the world, but not all Muslims are radicals. The author is a devote Muslim who has risked his life to keep the rest of us safe. I recommend reading the epilogue. Elnoury makes a good case for why we should welcome Muslims into the country. All religions have adherents who use the sacred books to substantiate their own beliefs. That doesn’t equate to all members of a religious group being terrorists.

I highly recommend this book. It’s an entertaining read and makes an important point for today’s world.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Nightmare in France Brings Unexpected Blessings

Jessica, a thirty-four-year-old woman, is spending time in Paris with her roommates from Denver, Vonda and Patrick. Patrick is staying in France where he has been studying, but Vonda and Jessica are headed home. There’s a choice of what to do on the last night in Paris. Patrick has tickets to an art show, Vonda has tickets to a concert at the Bataclan Theater. Although she’d rather be with Patrick, Jessica accompanies the much younger Vonda to the Bataclan. It turns out to be a terrible decision.

Vonda and Jessica are caught in the massacre that night where gunmen rush into the theater and gun down the concert goers. Jessica escapes, but is wounded. She recovers but is terribly shaken by the event. Although her parents want her to come home, Patrick, who has been with her throughout her recovery, encourages her to stay and take the trip through southern France they had planned.

Patrick is a “picker.” He loves going to flea markets and out of the way antique stores to find valuable antiques. Once settled in their bed and breakfast, he and Jessica find a rundown antique store. It’s a paradise for Patrick, and Jessica finds a beautiful sewing box that once belonged to Adeline, a Huguenot girl in the 1700s. As Jessica continues to suffer from PTSD, the box becomes a way to deal with life again.

This story is told between two time periods, but unlike many novels with this pattern, the historical portion is limited to excerpts from Adeline’s diary that Jessica finds hidden in the false bottom of the sewing box. I prefer this way of telling a two time period story. It puts the focus sharply on one time or the other. In this case, the story is Jessica’s.

The descriptions of the massacre are horrific. Although very well written, I found them hard to read because the pictures are so immediate. I recommend this book. It’s filled with characters you come to admire and the plot twists keep you reading.


I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Family Quarantined for Seven Days in an Old Manor House

It’s Christmas and a very special Christmas for the Birch Family. The oldest daughter, Olivia, is coming home from an assignment in Monrovia, Liberia taking care of victims of the highly contagious Haag Virus. Because of the contagious nature of the virus, Olivia and her family must be quarantined for seven days after she arrives.

As usual, they elect to spend Christmas at Weyfield Hall, the old Manor House passed down through Emma, the mother’s family. Each family member is dealing with secrets: love, a fraught engagement, a cancer diagnosis and the appearance of an illegitimate child. As the family members struggle with their demons, they begin to come together as a supportive family, gaining understanding of each other.

The novel starts slowly with Olivia’s romance in Monrovia. At first I found the characters not likable. They were all steeped in their own problems. Andrew, the father, was rude; Emma, clingy; and the younger daughter, Phoebe, totally self centered. However, as the week progressed they began to come out of their isolated personas and become attuned to eachother’s needs.

By the end of the novel, I enjoyed the family’s interactions. I can’t say this is a humorous book. The problems and interactions are rather sad than amusing. However, the characters are well developed and the story line has twists. If you enjoy family dramas, you may like this book.


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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Food, Adventure, Love, and Spirituality

Lia Huber has had an interesting life so far. It’s not a life that is carefully planned. Lia seems to leap from one thing to another. However, there are stable themes: her love of food, the companionship with her husband, Christopher, spirituality, and a love of adventure.

The book starts in Greece where as an eighteen-year-old, she’s engaged to a Greek man and is beginning to develop her love affair with food. The Greek romance didn’t work out, but Lia found the theme of her life in cooking and writing about good food. I found all the parts of the book discussing her culinary adventures excellent. The recipes included at the end of each chapter will have you heading for the kitchen.

I also enjoyed her travels. The trip through Mexico to spend time in Costa Rica made me want to visit the places she described. I hadn’t realized how delightful some on the interior towns in Mexico are.

Lia hasn’t had an easy time with Lupus and a hysterectomy. She does make impulsive decisions that get her and her husband into trouble, but it’s all interesting to read. I recommend this book if you’re up for an armchair adventure.


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

The Pluses and Minuses of Middle Age

Into your forties and approaching fifty, you’re in the throes of middle age. Significant events include: children leaving home for college, menopause, death of friends, and health concerns. Each essay in this book traces the author’s journey through this sometimes difficult period. Some of the vignettes are affecting, some try to be amusing, and some are sad.

I enjoyed the essays dealing with children going to college, particularly the one where the author celebrates the fact that her son is on his way to being independent. The essays on death, particularly the death of her sister, are affecting. It’s hard to see a sibling die and raises issues about our own mortality.

I didn’t find the book particularly humorous. The tone of some of the essays is light, but like the one about her concern that her bio wasn’t as good as her friends, it was rather sad. If you’re facing middle or already in it, this is an interesting book. It will tell you that what you’re experiencing is not all that unusual,
and there is an end in sight which may be much happier than where you are now.


I received this book from Handlebar for this review.   

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Missing Child, A Double Murder, and Gwen’s Past

Gwen Marcey has taken a job with the Interagency Major Crime Unit (IMCU). Although she was planning to spend time with Blake, her new love, the case of a missing child whose parents were murdered recalls her own tragic history. She grabs the case and head for Idaho and the Nez Pierce reservation
leaving Blake behind.

From the beginning, someone wants Gwen off the case. When checking out the murder scene, her car is stolen. Without transportation, she seeks help from her friend Beth, who does research for her on her cases. Beth arrives with Winston, Gwen’s huge dog, in tow. They manage to find a bed and breakfast that will take dogs. It seems an ideal situation, but the building brings back memories, and in addition to the case Gwen is immersed in the search for her own history.

The plot is well done. The threads of the missing child case meld with Gwen’s history. In solving one, she comes closer to understanding who she is. I enjoyed the setting in the Nez Pierce tribe. The background was unusual and very interesting.

I enjoy the Gwen Marcey books, but Gwen’s character in this one seemed rather strained. She makes poor decisions which put her and Beth in danger. She manages to get out of the situations, but the actions are more like a superhero than a lady with a double mastectomy.

If you enjoy mysteries in unusual locals, this is a good one.

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.



Monday, October 9, 2017

A Spree Killing and Finding Your Place in a Foster Family

Telly and Shalah Nash grew up in an abusive home. One night their drug addicted father stabbed their mother and took after the kids with a kitchen knife. Nine-year-old Telly managed to kill his father with a baseball bat, but in the process he broke Shalah’s arm. Because of the trauma, the siblings have been separated for eight years.

Each child has found a foster family they can begin to love. Shalah lives with Quincy and Rainie, FBI profilers, and a retired police dog, Luka. Shalah has gradually begun to love and trust her foster parents and they are ready to adopt her. Telly has also found a family he feels comfortable with. Frank and Sandra Duval, a science teacher and a homemaker, took Telly on as a project to get him ready to face the adult world when their own son, Henry, went off to college.

The security the siblings are finding is shattered when Sandra and Frank are found brutally murdered. Quincy and Rainie are recruited to help in the search for Telly who they believe is on a spree killing triggered by something that happened in the Duval family.

The characters in this book are all working on trust issues. The author has done an excellent job showing how difficult it is for foster parents and their children to deal with trust issues. The problems of teens coming from abusive homes are well portrayed. It’s worth reading this book because of the well developed characters.

The plot is good and has a number of twists. The author lays down enough clues that you can play the game along with the profilers. However, the beginning of the book is rather slow. As Quincy and Rainie try to discover what could have caused Telly to snap, they go over the same story numerous times. The action doesn’t really get going until after the middle of the book.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it. If you’re looking for violence and sex, this isn’t your book. However, it you like thrillers with well done psychological background, you’ll enjoy this one.


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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What Does it Take to Lead a Meaningful Life?

Why do so many people in the happiest countries in the world take their own lives, while fewer people in poorer countries do? The surprising answer is meaning. Too many people in the richer countries don’t feel their lives are meaningful. I particularly enjoyed the incident where Will Durante was asked by a man why he should go on living. Durante had no easy answer, so the man walked away, but it inspired Durante to search for the answers for himself.

This book is organized around the four aspect of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. In each of these sections, the author relies on psychology, sociology, philosophy, and theology to present information and look at the way, philosophers, poets, scientists, and others have answered the question, or looked for meaning.

The book is well researched. The author does a commendable job of presenting somewhat difficult material in a form that the average reader can enjoy. Her storytelling ability is one of the major reason for this. I recommend reading this book if you’re looking for a more fulfilling life. Reading the stories and questions can change your outlook and lead you to find more meaning in your own life.

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

A Haunted Southern Mansion and Murder

The Ducote sisters, An’gel and Dickce, live in a lovely southern mansion that might have some ghosts. They’re experienced with old houses and strange occurrences. So when Mary Turner Catlin and her husband, Howard, ask for help because of the strange occurrences in the Natchez mansion they are fixing up as a bed and breakfast, the sisters can’t resist the adventure.

The bed and breakfast is supposedly closed during the time the sisters will be there. However, soon unexpected guests arrive. First a psychic comes saying she was called by the spirits inhabiting the house. Then distant cousins, Nathan and Serenity, arrive with Serenity’s lawyer in tow. Serenity wants to convince Nathan to give her some of her trust fund, while Nathan wants to look for papers that will give him title to some of the mansion’s valuable furniture housed in the French room.

Strange things happen almost immediately, but the action warms up considerably when Nathan is found dead in the French room with the furniture he’s trying to claim.

The Ducote sisters are delightful, proper ladies who can’t resist solving a mystery. The scenery was lovely and the descriptions of the mansion made me want to visit. The only criticism I have is that it took a long time for the murder to occur, nearly halfway through the book. However, the plot is full of twists. It’s hard to guess the murderer until the very end.


I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Community Torn Apart by Racial Tension

Officer Luke Nelson is feeling good. He loves his job with the Sheriff’s department. He loves his wife and baby girl. Life appears to be heading in the right direction until after a robbery in a convenience store, he shoots a black teenager running toward him. He thinks he hears a gun shot, assumes the teen is armed and pulls the trigger.

Adisa, a young black lawyer, loses her job with a prestigious law firm in Atlanta. At the same time her Aunt Josie suffers a stroke. Since Aunt Josie raised her and her sister, Adisa feels that she needs take care of her aunt. When a law firm in the small town where Aunt Josie lives offers her a job, it seems like the answer to a prayer, but it comes with strings attached. The partner who hires her wants her to help him defend Officer Nelson.

The is a novel fraught with racial tension. Adisa makes the unpopular decision to defend the young police officer. Neither the blacks nor the whites are happy about the decision. As tension mounts, families on both sides are torn apart and each character must face truths about themselves and what they believe.

This is a very timely book. It raises the issue that all of us must fact about what we truly believe and what we will do to live up to our beliefs. I highly recommend this book. It’s not an easy book to read. The characters struggle and have to come to grips with forgiveness and justice, as we all must.


I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.
 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Doomed Marriage in the South of WWII

It’s 1944. Tess DeMello is in love. She’s always been in love with Vincent. They grew up together and planned to wed. Vincent, a doctor, has finished his residency. Tess is finishing her nurses’ training when a polio epidemic strikes Chicago. Vincent feels he must go. At first Tess is understanding, but when weeks grow into months, she finds it hard to remain complacent.

Henry Kraft is visiting Washington DC. Tess is there with a girlfriend. They meet, and in one ill advised encounter, Tess becomes pregnant. She wants to marry Vincent, but she can’t tell him the truth. She turns to Henry, and he agrees to marry her, but when they arrive in Hickory, a traditional, segregated, southern town, Tess believes she may have made a mistake.

Henry is not affectionate. His mother is standoffish, and when his sister dies in a tragic accident, Tess doesn’t know what to do. When a polio epidemic strikes the town. She finds her place working in the hospital created by the townspeople.

History and romance combine to make this a good read. The South during WWII was a difficult place for a northern girl to understand. Mixed race marriages were forbidden and could lead to jail time. The town was stratified with the rich, the poor, and the blacks living in separate areas. The author has done a good job recreating this difficult era. The characters are true to life and the plot has twists that you can’t anticipate. I recommend this book. The difficulty of living in times when prejudice was accepted is well described.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.



A Dark Scandinavian Mystery

Max, a private detective and former Norwegian police officer, learns of the suicide of his former colleague, Kurt. Although the men worked together thirty years ago, Max has trouble believing that his friend would commit suicide. When he arrives in Norway and learns more about the death, he decides to investigate.

People have a habit of disappearing around Midsummer Eve. Thirty years ago, a researcher disappeared. In the last year another researcher also disappeared. The disappearances seem to be related to pagan rituals. When Max is gathering material about the death and the history of the area, he meets a librarian, Tirill, who wants to be involved. She loves mysteries and has visions of being an investigator. As the pair come closer to the truth, someone or several people try to stop them.

If you like dark mysteries, you will enjoy this book. The characters, particularly Tirill, are engaging. The scenery is magnificent, and the dark aura of magic and occult rituals is creepy, but intriguing. I particularly enjoyed learning about the Stave Church, a relic from earlier times when pagan rituals were being replaced by enforced Christian worship.

The writing is good although sometimes the translation seemed awkward to me. However, I recommend this book once you start, it’s hard to put down.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.





A Heartwarming Christmas Romance

It’s the Christmas season. Merry Knight is extremely busy. In addition to getting ready for Christmas and taking care of her family, which includes a mother with multiple sclerosis and a brother with Down’s Syndrome, her boss at the consulting firm where she works is increasingly difficult and demanding because of a big project that must be finished.

Christmas is also Merry’s birthday. Since she has no time for social life, her mother and brother decide that something must be done about it. They sign her up on an Internet dating site. Her little brother comes up with a clever idea for the picture. He posts a picture of their dog. Surprisingly this picture attracts a man. Soon Merry is chatting with this man and finding him very attractive.

This is a delightful Christmas story. Merry is a good character. You can’t help but respect her desire to take care of her family. However, it’s the family that steals the show, particularly her little brother. It was wonderful to see how charming a child with Downs Syndrome can be.

I recommend this story for Christmas or if you just love romance. The characters are well drawn. Their emotions are true to life and make you root for them to succeed. Although you know how the story must end, you want to keep reading because the characters are so likable.


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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Being a Driven Person Verses Being a Called Person

Life is stressful and fast paced. Gordon MacDonald has been there. As a young pastor, he found himself running to meetings, counseling parishioners, writing sermons, trying to start big projects for the church, and he discovered that he was losing his family. His solid base was disintegrating.

Driven people are often running on empty. They are exhausted, but feel it’s what has to be because there are so many things to do, and they are the ones who have to do them. This leads to a terrible problem of being unable to let go. Too many people reach retirement not knowing what to do with time and often it leads to their death.

Called people are secure in themselves. MacDonald used John the Baptist as an example of a called person. He was secure in the knowledge that his job was to prepare the way for the Messiah. When Christ appeared he didn’t try to hang on to his followers. He relinquished his role to Jesus. If we’re secure in ourselves, we don’t have to constantly prove things, or work too hard to prove to the external world that we exist.

I highly recommend this book. If you see yourself in the example of a driven person, perhaps it’s time to take stock and find ways to get back your internal solidity. The first half of the book discusses the concept of the driven person versus the called person. The remaining chapters provide hints and ideas for how to begin to order your life to become less driven. In our fast paced society, I think all Christians should read this book.

I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.



An Exceptional Devotional for Tween Girls

Girls are told to be brave and find themselves. This isn’t an easy task in today’s busy world. This devotional gives a girl a chance to take time to figure out who she is. The tone of the book is conversational. It’s like having an older friend to talk to.

The book is full of stories and insights from the author’s growing up years. These are stories a tween can relate to and make the book personal. There are also quizzes and space for the girls to respond to questions. The questions are designed to help her think about who she is and what she wants.

The book is divided into 100 chapters. If taken a day at a time, the devotionals cover about three months. However, they can be used more slowly. The content focuses on areas important to young girls, school, family, friends, and, of course, Jesus.

I highly recommend this book. A young girl would love it. The book itself is lovely, a pleasure to read. It also gives a chance for a mother or grandmother to read the book with the girl and talk about the content. The content could also be used in more formal situations. It could form the basis for discussions in a Sunday school class, for example.


I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.    

Friday, September 29, 2017

An Inspiring Friendship

Jim Bradford thought he and his wife, Brenda, would start working on their bucket list when their girls were grown. Then one day he went to an out-of-the way diner for a cup of coffee. A small boy, HK Derryberry, was sitting at a table with his ear glued to an old radio. HK had braces on his legs, he was blind, and wearing ill-fitting clothes. Once Jim Bradford saw him, he couldn’t look away. This was the start of an unusual friendship and the beginning of HK Derryberry overcoming his blindness and cerebral palsy to become an intriguing young man.

This is a wonderful story. Through Bradford we get to know HK, his grandmother, Pearl, and the sad tale of his early life when his mother was killed and his father abandoned him to his grandmother. So many people did amazing things to help this small boy realize his potential. A teacher took a special interest in him and helped him to learn to use a machine to read braille with one hand. His other hand was affected by cerebral palsy.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a wonderful story of how a boy came to find a father figure and a man found a son. There are too many dreadful stories. This one is uplifting. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read lately.


I received this book from Handlebar Publishing for this review.
 

Thoughts Determine Actions

The premise of Hahn’s book is that thoughts influence actions. Our thoughts shape who we are. If our thoughts are focused on anxiety and temptations, we don’t leave room for Jesus. What the book suggests is that we can order our thought to live a more godly life, a life of peace and happiness rather than anxiety and fear.

The book makes important points for not only our individual lives but for how our communities can be better places to live. One of the most important chapters for me was Chapter 10, Replacement Therapy. Hahn makes the point that God wants us to be filled with love and peace. Too often we are encouraged to remove things from our lives, sin and wicked ways. Hahn makes the point that it’s important to fill our live and learn how to make our thoughts close to the mind Christ. When we’re full of good thoughts there is no place for sinful imaginings. Chapter 11, Who’s the Boss, is also an excellent chapter. God is the boss and we need to train our thoughts to bring them into conformity with that idea.

This is an excellent book. If you’d like to free yourself to lead a happier more peace life in conformity with God, I highly recommend it. It’s not a particularly easy book to read. It’s filled more with Bible teaching than examples from everyday life. However, it’s well worth taking the time to read and appreciate it.


I received this book from Handlebar for this review.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Teenage Couple Died Too Young

Fifteen years ago, Leo and Diana were struck by a train. Were they playing chicken with the locomotive; was it bad luck; or something more sinister?Detective Napoleon, Nap, Dumas wants to know why his twin brother, Leo, died. The same night, Nap’s girlfriend, Maura disappeared. Now her finger prints have appeared in another murder scene and the victim is another classmate. Nap wants to know what happened to his brother, and particularly why Maura disappeared.

This is a great mystery. I didn’t figure out all the connections until the very end. Nap is a good character. You can’t help liking him and rooting for him to solve the old mystery even if the final solution is much darker than he wants.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. Coban is at his best. Nap is a good cop, but to solve murders, he is capable of bending the rules. In this case when Rex Canton dies, he can’t help but see the connection to his brother’s death, since Canton was a classmate. When other former classmates, feel threatened, Nap believes that he is on the track of what caused his brother’s death.

If you like thrillers with great characters and a plot that’s hard to unravel until the end, this is a very good one. The pace is fast. I found it hard to put down. I highly recommend it.


I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

Cold Cases, the Swedish Welfare System, and Murder

Denise and her young friends appear to be gaming the Swedish Welfare System. They dress well, party, and don’t want to work. Anne-Line, their case worker,is frustrated. Why should they receive benefits when they’re so clearly gaming the system? Then the young girls become the victims of a serial killer. Department Q is assigned the case.

The murder of an elderly woman in a park resembles a cold case Department Q is investigating. This puts them in conflict with the department upstairs and affects Department Q’s future. The members of the cold case team, Detective Carl, Assad, and Rose are experiencing their own problems. Rose is recovering from a mental breakdown and appears to be on her way to another one. Assad and Carl care for Rose and want to help her, but the resemblance of one of their cases to her past may be pushing her over the edge.

I found this book hard to get into. It’s part of a series and while it can be read as a standalone, I found parts confusing. The opening is devoted primarily to the welfare system and the young girls who are gaming it. When Department Q comes in, they’re trying to wrap up an old case and worried about the existence of their department. In the end all the threads come together for a satisfying ending, but you have to get well into the book to become immersed in the cases.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.



Friday, September 22, 2017

Murder, Corruption, and the Mistral

Captaine Roger Blanc specializes in ferreting our corruption. He thinks he’s solved an important case in Paris when suddenly he’s transferred to Provence, to a small provincial hamlet. His wife decides to stay behind in Paris with her lover, so he’s alone in a crumbling house that was once housed an olive olive press.

On his first day on the job, the Commandant assigns a murder case that looks like a drug related death that will go immediately to Marseilles. Unfortunately, Blanc’s partner Tonon recognizes the body as belonging to a local thug who delights in terrorizing his neighbors. The Commandant expects the case to go away, but when another body turns up, this time a builder who may or may not have been accidentally killed on his sailboat, Blanc can’t give up the hunt.

The best part of this book is the scenes of Provence, the scent of wild thyme, and the haunting winds of the Mistral. I enjoyed the way Blanc, the Parisian, begins to appreciate his new home. He’s a character you can’t help but relate to. He knows that he may be getting himself crosswise with his new superior, but when he scents the mystery, he has to go after the culprit.

The mystery is not hard to figure out. The author gives us all the clues early in the novel. However, because the French police and criminal justice system are
so different from ours, it’s a fascinating read. If you enjoy a good mystery, and likable characters in an exotic local, you’ll enjoy this book.


I received this book from Net Galley for this review.   

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Legal Thriller with an Intertwined Romance

Mason Pharmaceutical Company (MPC) is being sued by numerous plaintiffs. Their drug, Celix , taken by migraine sufferers, allegedly causes brain tumors. Kate Sullivan, a rising star in the Atlanta legal community, wants to be chief counsel on the combined cases. She achieves her wish, but is thrown into a dangerous situation.

One of the chief scientists at MPC, Ellie Proctor, contacts her about possible problems with the testing of the drug. Kate hires a professional investigator, Landon James, to find whether Ellie can be trusted. When the scientist is murdered, Kate and Landon are thrown into a deadly struggle to keep Kate safe.

The plot in this book is fast paced and keeps you wondering how the case will be resolved. For me the best part was seeing the detailed workings of a big law firm preparing for a civil case. It was very realistic. I was a little disappointed in the conclusion. I thought is was a little too violent for the pace of the novel. 

Kate is a character you can relate to. She is consumed by her job and sincerely wants the best for her clients. Landon is likewise a good character. He’s pursued by his demons from his time as an Army Ranger in Iraq, but he wants to keep Kate safe and gradually he begins to fall in love with her. It’s not easy for these two serious people to finally admit to the feelings they have for each other.

This book is Christian fiction, but Kate’s belief fits well into the story and is not overpowering. If you enjoy a good thriller without sex and little violence, you’ll like this book.


I received this book from Net Galley for this review.   

Thursday, September 14, 2017

An English Village Full of Secrets

Miss Seeton is back. In this, the twenty-second Miss Seeton mystery, she’s returned in the same form as before. For those unfamiliar with Miss Seeton, she carries a sketch pad, umbrella, and her pictures help the police to solve crimes.

Back from a tour of the North where a golden heron was one of the featured sights, Miss Seeton is ready for another adventure. Nigel Colveden has married a French girl, the daughter of a count. The couple plans to live in local cottage and the ladies have decided that a quilt where each lady provides a square in her choice of embroidery or applique will be the perfect gift. While sketching the newlyweds cottage for inspiration on her part of the quilt, Miss Seeton’s drawing reveals something quite unexpected. This is in addition to the mural portrait of Henry VII found when renovating the Tudor cottage.

Happenings in the village are not the only secrets. Scotland yard and Miss Seeton’s old friends, Chief Superintendent Delphick and Sargeant Ranger, are involved in international secrets. Miss Seeton is helpful as usual.

If you enjoy English village mysteries, this is a fun one. The plot is full of complications, the characters are quirky, and Miss Seeton overcomes all to solve the case. I found the book rather slow. The characters take their time gossiping about Miss Seeton, the village happenings, and in the case of Scotland Yard, the new case.

If you’re a Miss Seeton fan, this book will be a delight. It’s also standalone, if you’re new to the series, but you have to love the slower pace of English mysteries. It can get a bit tiresome waiting for all the village ladies to have their gossip and get on with the action.


I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Memoir of the Restaurant Business

Jan Agg owns bars and restaurants. Perhaps the one most people have heard of is The Black Hoof in Toronto. It’s a restaurant and bar that specializes in charcuterie. I have never been to a bar specializing in serving a selection of spicy meats, but it sounds delicious.

The book is the story of how Jen found her passion in developing and owning great restaurants. It’s not an easy life to provide delicious food for a varied clientele, but according to Jen, it can be very satisfying. The story covers her early life, first marriage, and subsequent success in the restaurant business with her second husband. I enjoyed the history. It’s good to read about people overcoming obstacles to achieve success, However, I found the amount of time devoted to her early life less interesting than the rest of the book.

My favorite chapters were the first two where she describes her method of running a restaurant and takes you behind the scenes to discuss how she expects her servers to act and how she keeps the restaurant functioning at top speed
.

The author has a great many opinions and is not afraid to share them This makes the book fun to read. She’s also quite open about her sexual experiences. This doesn’t have much to do with her success as a restaurateur, so if you’re offended by her frankness, you can skip those parts.

I recommend this book. It’s a lively memoir and gives a very interesting picture of the restaurant and bar business. I found myself looking more carefully at the service in the restaurants I enjoy.

I received this book from Viking/Penguin for his review.



A Double Murder in the French Wine Country

An old couple is found shot to death in their cottage near the famous Chateau Yquem. Benjamin Cooker, wine expert and amateur detective, is intrigued by the double homicide, particularly because it reminds him of the famous sauternes produced by the Chateau.

Virgilie, Cooker’s assistant, has a long term friend managing his wife’s family vineyards in the area. Cooker has him contact the friend to learn more about the tragedy. With the scent of a mystery and the promise of memorable wines to sample, Benjamin and Vergilie set off for the Sauternes wine region.

As with the other books in this series, the descriptions of the wine and the countryside are magnificent. They draw you into the setting and make it real.

The mystery in this book is much more a typical mystery than some of the earlier books. Benjamin and Vergilie are caught up in the search for the killer. I was pleased to see Vergilie getting a much larger role. With a beautiful girl, the granddaughter of the murdered couple, and his friend, who has more than a passing connection to the mystery, Virgilie has a major part in this novel.

Benjamin, Elizabeth, his wife, and Virgilie are wonderful characters. I particularly love hearing about the feasts Elizabeth prepares. Benjamin is a source of information about the wine country, and Virgilie adds a light touch with his romantic escapades.

I highly recommend this book if you love wine, or just like a good mystery.

I received this book from Le French Book for this review.