Posts

Book Review: ‘Critical Alliance’ by Elizabeth Goddard

I’ve enjoyed this series and Goddard leaves the best one til last. Mackenzie Hanson, a cybersecurity expert with a criminal past, makes for a tremendous protagonist. She’s arrived at her family’s estate in Montana on a tip from an old colleague on a mission to save the family business, Hanstech.

Hanstech specialises in drone technology and is now run by Mackenzie’s older siblings, Rowan and Nora. Something shocking happens on her arrival which throws Mackenzie deeper into discovering what’s going on behind the scenes in the business.

Alex Knight, a DSS supervisor, is holidaying in Montana at the ranch run by childhood friends. Alex and Mackenzie have a history (a very short one) but neither has forgotten the day they spent together in DC three years prior.

Goddard sets up the suspense with a shocking death, Mackenzie being shot at while being chased by a drone while going on a trail ride. Alex takes it upon himself to be her protector before he realises the magnitude and security implications of what Mackenzie has gotten herself caught up in.

The pace is good, the cybercrime detail is sufficient to make it interesting without being an unwanted distraction, and the threats on Hanstech and Mackenzie ratchet up. As does the heat between Mackenzie and Alex.

It’s a fun read that keeps you on your toes, the resolution perhaps ends a little too easily and stretches believability, but overall I enjoyed Critical Alliance and would recommend it for romantic suspense readers.

I was fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from the publisher via NetGalley as part of Revell’s early reader’s program. This had no bearing on my review.

Book Review: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs Kip by Sara Brunsvold

It’s rare that a story leaves me speechless or unable to draft a review that reflects the absolute quality of it but this is one of those times. Brunsvold has given us a stunning story, her first, with a character, Mrs Clara Kip who shall live long in one’s memory.

What most captured my heart was that we have a story categorised as Christian fiction that gives us a character in Mrs Kip who demonstrates Christ-likeness in how she lives on these pages of Brunsvold’s story. It’s a rare thing in my experience simply because it can be very hard to bring to the page a believer who is visibly overflowing with the love of Jesus. Mrs Kip is such a wonderful role model, not just for Christian novelists but also for those of us who seek to live a life to the glory of Jesus.

Interestingly and quite incredibly, this is a story of Mrs Kip’s last week of life. Even though she’s ready for her next adventure in the next life, we see Mrs Kip be very intentional in making each one of her final hours count. Whether it’s loving Mr Slesher in his final days or more particularly in apprenticing Aidyn Kelley as the latter writes Mrs Kip’s obit and life story.

Brunsvold’s story is also a wonderful demonstration of how the love of an individual can profoundly impact another. Aidyn, only spends a few days with Mrs Kip, but in that time her life is completely transformed. Because of the love of Jesus pouring out of Mrs Kip. It’s quite breathtaking to behold.

There is also a fascinating insight into how the Laotian refugee program got started in Kansas post-American’s withdrawal from Vietnam plus the workings of a busy newspaper.

Congratulations, Sara Brunsvold and thank you. I can’t wait to see what you have instore for your next story.

I am so pleased I was able to receive an early ebook copy from Revell via NetGalley as part of their bloggers program with no expectation of a positive review. I expect I’ll be purchasing my own copy so I can have it for future reading pleasure.

Book Review: Elysium Tide by James R. Hannibal

I so enjoyed Elysium Tide. It was clever how Hannibal used an overworked English neurosurgeon who lands in Maui at a medical conference only to become an amateur sleuth in investigating a murder. This one criminal episode morphs into something much bigger involving wealthy businessmen and gang leaders.

Dr Peter Chesterfield is the classic super smart and egocentric neurosurgeon. When it comes to solving problems and healing patients he’s best of breed. You want this Dr to be the one who is going to open up your head. But he’s become too self-absorbed and rude to members of his operating team. He needs a break, to recharge and self-examine his bedside manner.

Lisa Kealoha has recently relocated from the mainland to head up the Gang Unit in Maui. She;’s a good detective. She’s got lots of history in Maui as it was her home until she left for the mainland to train to be a cop. She knows the people, the customs and the families. She also ran with a bad crowd as a teenager and knows how criminals think.

Lisa and Peter become a oddball team. She doesn’t want him interfering but he can’t help himself, especially when he becomes the key witness in a murder at the hotel he’s staying in.

With many twists and turns, Hannibal constructs a tremendous crime story where it’s not always easy to see who are the bad guys and who committed what crime. We’re kept on our toes as Lisa and Peter go deeper into the heartland of Maui chasing the activities of two nefarious characters new to the island.

Lisa and Peter are strong characters. There’s professional chemistry between them which I appreciated. They worked well together. Peter is also given much to think about as he’s faced with some extremely dangerous situations. I liked Hannibal’s gentle reflections through Lisa and her family on faith and how God works in one’s life.

I wonder if there’s another story for the two of them. Perhaps separately or together. It would be fun.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Revell via NetGalley as part of their Readers Program. This had no influence on my review.

Book Review: The Catch by Lisa Harris

This final story pulls together all the loose threads the first 2 stories leftover. Like all Harris stories, this one starts fast and doesn’t let up. Going back to one of Harris’s stories is always a joy for this reason – it’s consistent pace. She keeps the reader turning pages.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Madison and Jonas’s characters arcs. The 3 stories provide the page depth to really develop characters and Harris does this marvellously with these two. We finally get to discover who killed Madison’s husband, Luke, and her stalker, but Harris sure keeps us guessing with this one.

This story had so much going on and Harris does a good job keeping the reader on top of it. It could easily have run out of control but Harris links the threads of the various plots really well. I was a little surprised by a couple of the end outcomes but they are all generally satisfying.

If you’re a romantic suspense reader who likes to be challenged in their reading you’ll enjoy this US Marshalls series. Start with Book 1 so you get the full picture.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy via NetGalley as part of the Revell Readers program but this had no bearing on my review.

Book Review: Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin







This is my first Sundin novel and wow, I realise I’ve been missing out on a wonderful story teller. Set in 1941 in German-occupied Paris, we meet Lucie Girard and Paul Aubrey, two Americans who choose to stay in Paris to serve the war effort in different ways. Lucie, a ballerina at the esteemed Paris Opera Ballet, retires from her great love to purchase a bookshop of her much loved friends, the Greenblatts. They are Jewish and sensibly choose to return to America.

Paul, a widower, elects to convert his successful automobile factory into one that builds civilian trucks for the Germans. Or so he believes. But in so doing, he also elects to use his esteemed position in Parisian society to spy on the Germans and feed the information back to his American comrades.

On first meeting, Lucie and Paul have an immediate attraction but she is opposed to the fact he is a German collaborator. Gradually, circumstances change and she too becomes a willing member of the resistance using her bookshop as a front for the distribution of messages. Paul’s daughter, Josie, plays a pivotal role in capturing Lucie’s heart and in so doing forcing the two of them to keep meeting. But how can Lucie let down her strong stance against Paul being a collaborator?

Sundin writes beautifully and brings the Paris of 1941 alive. It’s definitely a bit more grim than one comes to typically expect from the City of Lights. I learnt much about the German occupation of this wonderful city that I wasn’t previously aware and its impact on its residents and society in general.

The romance is very special. Sundin brings the passion and beauty of new love and the hope and wonder that goes with it. It was wonderfully portrayed on the page.

There is suspense, some good conflict, and plenty of twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing as to what the outcome will be. Will our two lovers finally be able to declare their love and be united?

I must now read some of Sundin’s early works.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy of the novel from the publisher via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: “Never Leave Me” by Jody Hedlund

I was pleasantly surprised by the first in this series: time travel, holy water that could heal, medieval England, and a dastardly chase to find the source of this special cure. I was looking forward to the sequel to see what Hedlund would do to and particularly how Ellen and Harrison would tackle the obstacles in their way.

Hedlund writes with great pace which allows you to easily turn pages. There was always something going on which made the reading experience fun and interesting. I liked Ellen and Harrison. Yes, there were some frustrating moments through the story and perhaps too many will I/won't I's, however, having such a strong caring friendship makes taking the next step a scary prospect as you don't want to lose what you already have.

I was thoroughly entertained and appreciated that neither Ellen nor Harrison were perfect creations as no good fictional characters are. The ongoing chase for one more bottle of holy water did get a little tiresome especially as it kept being used by one of our leads plus the kidnapping was surprising since it was used in the first story. It was fun going back in time and seeing Marian and Will again plus meeting Nicholas and some medieval scoundrels like Simon Worth.

It's a 3.5 for me.

I was fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Revell via NetGalley as part of their Readers Program. However, this had no bearing on my opinion of the story.

Book Review: ‘The Girl who Could Breathe Under Water’ by Erin Bartels

Following her bestselling debut novel, Kendra Brennan, is in a writing slump. She puts it down to the receipt of an inflammatory note from “A Very Disappointed Reader”. Believing she had a hunch to the identity of the note writer, Kendra decides to return to her old holiday cabin on the lake. She now owns it having inherited it from her loving grandfather who had recently passed away.

The story starts with Kendra ‘thinking’ in the second person to her old best friend, Cami, who she spent many wonderful summers as teenagers. However, they haven’t seen each other since the last time Kendra visited the lake, eight years ago. It was an unusual method of sharing the story but I found it tremendous and worked relatively seamlessly when Kendra jumped into 1st person POV.

I was quickly engrossed by Kendra’s recollections of her past summers and her relationships with the Rainier family: father Robert, mother Beth, and adopted children: Cami and Tyler. ‘That Summer’, her breakout smash debut story included many fictionalised elements of these summers on the lake. All the Rainiers, bar Cami, have returned for the summer. Kendra realises she must confront each of them to ascertain which one of them may be the “Disappointed Reader.”

Kendra’s on a tight deadline for her second novel and as she endeavours to start it along comes a stranger, Andreas, who has arrived announced to translate her debut into German. They soon develop a friendship as well as a professional connection.

This is an emotionally gripping story as Kendra confronts people and issues in her past that are terribly challenging. She discovers much about each one of her relationships with the Rainier family. Some of them indeed are quite a shock. But it’s what Kendra discovers about herself which I found most stirring. Self-absorption is one of our great struggles as humans and it’s in both returning to her past and drafting her second story that Kendra is able to self-discover much about herself. Further, the notion of stepping into another’s shoes before casting judgement or criticism is another valuable insight for Kendra.

Kendra’s fortunate to have a supportive ally in Andreas who demonstrates so many positive attributes in his gentleness and kindness while a certain naivety in the romance department.

It’s a powerful story that was so pleasurable to read as Bartels deals with some tremendously important personal matters which many of us can all relate to.

Bartels characters are very beautifully crafted humans, no cardboard cutouts here. Robert and Beth’s marriage, Tyler’s struggles as a child, Kendra and Cami’s friendship, Andreas’ passion for stories and willingness to listen to someone tell theirs, are all wonderfully brought to the stage.

I loved this story for its intricacy, powerful themes, wonderful writing which kept us guessing and the cast of characters.

I fell very blessed to have received an early ebook copy of the story from Revell as party of their Readers Program via NetGalley. This has no influence over my review.

Book Review: “Deadly Target” by Elizabeth Goddard

I’d read the first one in this series but this could be read as a standalone. The main characters in the first story are really just ‘bit’ players in this one and the plots aren’t related.

It took a little while to get into this story as the initial inciting event didn’t connect for me until later in the story. Goddard makes this quite an involved story with various potential possibilities for the antagonist which keeps you on your toes but also perhaps could have been connected with a little more precision.

I liked Erin Larson and Nathan Campbell. I particularly appreciated Erin’s anxieties and we spend a bit of time in her head as she grapples with her past and also running away from Nathan once before. Nathan is a good cop chasing after his father’s killer when specifically asked not to by his boss which makes him wonder whether his boss knows more than he’s letting on.

There’s some dramatic action with dam’s being blown up and chasing down mines which really keeps us guessing especially when everyone’s in darkness.

The suspense ratchets up in the end but it wrapped up a little quickly for me and the fact we need to be ‘told’ the who, what and why tells me the plot could have been more precise and easier for the reader to determine all the connections.

I enjoyed reading it and I look forward to the final in the series.

I received an early ebook copy as part of the Revell Readers Blogging Program via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: “Lights Out” by Natalie Walters

Walters is a new author for me this year. But she knows how to write quality realistic suspense stories with a great attention to detail and plenty of romance tossed in. I had read Initium, the SNAP Agency prequel, and it set me up for the team that I was soon to become very familiar with. Interestingly, Initium features Director Tom Walsh as the focal point and how he goes about setting up SNAP. However, he has a very minor role in Lights Out which surprised me but didn’t affect my view of this story.

This story moves fast and throws the reader into the action immediately which gets you turning pages which I love. Our two leads, Brynn Taylor and Jack Hudson, have a history and this creates an additional layer of intrigue and tension which adds to the reading experience. I liked the chemistry between them and also how Walters creates a positive encouraging vibe within the small SNAP team. They sound like a team that would function well and look after each other.

Walters is good with the detail too which I suspect has something to do with her military connections. This adds authenticity to Lights Out especially when it comes to cyber security and cyber terrorism. Tough concepts to write about but Walters does it well. In this story, what initially appears to be an isolated situation blows out into becoming a major domestic and global one that sure grabs the reader’s notice.

The supporting cast are well crafted especially Kekoa, the Jason Momoa-esque Hawaiian giant who also happens to be a crazy computer nerd and a very fun guy to have around. Garcia was the quiet one and I hope we see more of him in a later story.

My only reservation was the conflict got resolved a little too quickly and I thought some of the detail of the resolution was missed which took a little away from the authenticity of the detail that had come before.

Thoroughly entertaining story and I’m excited for the next instalment.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Revell as part of their Readers Program via NetGalley with no expectation of a positive review.

Book Review: “Tacos for Two” by Betsy St.Amant

“You’ve Got Mail” is a movie I watch regularly as there is so much to like about it. ‘Tacos’ borrows from it in many ways including a romance that starts via online messaging (as against AOL email), the two lead characters duelling over similar career paths (this one Mexican food trucks), Rory Perez inspired by her great aunt and Jude Worthington coming from a rich pompous family, the patriarch of which is not a very nice fellow.

It was an easy fun read with two well crafted lead characters in Rory and Jude plus a supporting cast that had plenty of likeable people especially on Rory’s side. Like Rory and Jude looked forward to their ‘night time messaging date’ I looked forward to the next instalment in their cooking adventures and the will she/he, won’t she/he combative nature of their initial in-person connection.

One of the great aspects of the movie is that after initially sparring and hurting each other, the two characters: Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox, spent time getting to know each other as regular friends do. This didn’t really happen in this story and St. Amant relied on the online connection to initiate healing in Rory and Jude’s relationship. Hence, it wasn’t as believable and tended to rely on the electricity of physical touch and passionate kisses.

Overall, I enjoyed Tacos for Two and if you’re someone who loves ‘You’ve Got Mail’ you’ll certainly enjoy whiling away some hours reading this enjoyable romance.

I was fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Revell via NetGalley as part of the former’s ‘Revell Read’s” bloggers program with no expectation of a positive review.