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: The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen

Wen’s debut was a surprising delight and I was eager to read her follow-up. This one can be read stand alone, however, don’t miss the first one as it’s fabulous. This story revolves around Lauren Anderson and her Grandma Rosie and the loves of their lives. Lauren is early 30s and Grandma Rosie is 85 and living with dementia.

Rosie’s story really grabbed my heart. She fell in love with a black man, Ephraim James, in the last year of school. It was the mid-1950s and in Wichita, Kansas a mixed relationship was unheard of and in fact frowned upon on both sides. Wen’s powerful story telling combined with her empathy and grace plus some great research really shone when we saw Rosie’s world back then. I also loved how Wen gave us an insight into Rosie’s 85 year old dementia-muddled mind. It was brilliant and eye-opening giving the reader a much better insight into the mind of one who has dementia.

Lauren’s love was local weatherman, Carter Douglas. They’d had a crazy 10 week courtship when they were late teens both starring in a local production of Fiddler on the Roof. Their breakup left some deep wounds for both of them. But Wen also explores other wounds and how addiction can manifest itself as a consequence. She also explores identity and God’s grace in helping us heal and recover.

Lauren and Carter’s romance didn’t grab me like Rosie and Ephraim’s did. It felt a bit immature and a little forced for the purposes of story. Certainly, Wen’s portrayal of brokenness, of acceptance and loving wisdom from others (take a bow Garrett and Jim Ford) were well presented.

There is heartbreak, some great questions asked about love and reflections on God’s grace and His ability to help us with our brokenness. Once again, Wen delivers a beautiful story that will linger for days after finishing it.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Kregel via Audra’s Jennings PR with no expectation of a favourable review.

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: “Shadows in the Mind’s Eye” by Janyre Tromp

Tromp’s debut was a pleasant surprise and I especially enjoyed the Southern voice she adopted. It’s the 1940s in the small town of Hot Springs and Sam Mattas has just returned from war suffering with combat fatigue (which we now know as PTSD). He arrives unexpectedly to an empty house which sets the scene for much of the early tension of the story.

Annie, his wife, returns from town to find Sam asleep in the barn and even though warmly welcomed it’s clear not all is as it should be. Annie has been well supported in Sam’s absence by his brother, Peter, and best friend, Doc and immediately he senses he’s the misfit. Sam also returns to his daughter, Rosie, who he hasn’t met, she being born soon after his departure for war.

The first half of the story focuses on the tension between Annie and Sam as they seek to settle into their new lives together. But his combat fatigue keeps getting in the way making both of them question his sanity and her safety. Doc’s strong friendship with Annie also adds cause for unease.

In parallel, there’s this undercurrent of corruption that is rife within the town and how Sam, at one point, was involved in it to some extent being employed by Annie’s father, The Judge, who happens to be up to his eyeballs in no good working for the Mayor who encourages it. Or is he?

A lot can happen in 3 years; people change, towns change.

A story that starts as a relatively sleepy small town tale of a marriage reunion suddenly takes off in the second half to a thrilling suspenseful one that makes the reader keep turning the pages. It’s tremendous writing as the twists and turns keep on coming. Who are the good guys and who can you trust?

The characters are rich in their portrayal and Tromp demonstrates her story telling skills with the deftness in which we are kept guessing.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook version of the story from Kregel via NetGalley as a result of being part of Audra Jennings PR Blogging tour. This had no impact 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.