Fire Storm

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Title: Fire Storm
Author: Mackenzie Dare
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Published: February 16, 2013
Pages: 288

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When an incident occurs that threatens the life of young, happily married, mother Jess, it’s chocked up as an accident. That is until another incident happens right after with no logical explanation why. Jess is now a target in a murderer’s sights and no one knows why. She’s innocent and untouched by evil but she is marked for murder despite not having any enemies.

Jess’s husband, Jim, is a firefighter and loves excitement and danger, that is until that danger creeps closer to the one thing he loves most – his wife. Jim is trying to protect his family, but protecting them from someone unseen is harder than it sounds and Jim begins to feel helpless as more attempts begin to occur and he can’t stop them. He’s determined to keep his family safe but with an unknown enemy the only thing he can do is pray.

With Jim and Jess struggling to stay alive, their relationships to each other and God begin to grow but their determination to find the killer is just as strong. When one attempt goes too far, both Jim and Jess are pushed to the limit and their faith is tested as they find out just how much they trust God to take care of the ones they love and just how much they’re willing to let God have.

Why would a killer come after this family? Who is a secret enemy of the family or do they even know them at all? Will Jim and Jess be able to live through attempt after attempt or will one or both of them succumb to killer’s weapons? How will they find a killer that leaves almost no trace that he was there? Will everything work out for this farm grown Illinois family or will their lives be destroyed by the attempts of a killer?
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I tend to avoid self published books or books published by upstart or little known publishers because the quality of story usually isn’t as high as a well known publisher’s offerings, not to mention the covers and editing usually isn’t up to par. However, I’m very glad to have broken habit here because this book genuinely surprised me with how well it was written. There are some typos and flow issues but in general this book’s story was a very well written one and one I’m glad I got to read.

Being a first book by Mackenzie Dare, this book was actually really good. The suspense was actually pretty unpredictable with an unknown enemy, that I didn’t guess and was shocked to find out who he actually was, and a surprisingly taut pace. I was pleasantly surprised at the ability of the author to successfully keep me hooked until the very end, particularly after a somewhat slow start to the action. There was some pacing issues and at the end it felt a little forced and had a bit too much action but was still enjoyable and actually was one of the better suspenses that I’ve read.

The characters in this story were a bit too perfect with absolutely no real doubts about God or anything, but one part of this book stuck with me and I think it deserves a little nod. Without saying too much it’s basically a scene where Jess, instead of disregarding same instruction and being a hero, listens to her husband and goes and gets help without second thought. That’s usually not something a heroine does in a story and it showed extreme trust for her husband’s leadership to me. I felt it was worth noting. I think that detail was a nice addition on the author’s part.

There was a touch too little dialogue, a bit too much repetition of thoughts and ideas, and not enough portrayal of the character’s feelings so I could connect to them, but as I type this I remember my own failed attempts at a novel and how I struggled with these very same things so I give every new author a little leeway in this area. Another thing worth noting is that this book delves into some deep issues about Christianity and people sensitive to that could possibly did this book a bit preachy but for me I liked all the bible verses and answers to tough questions, I don’t get that very often in books so it was refreshing.

I don’t know anything about this author but I think I know that she lives around horses, possibly in the Mid-West, maybe even in Illinois herself because her knowledge and love of the area came out through these pages and made me fall for the land and horses too (and I’m a city girl). I also know that this author has amazing talent and with some work, she could easily become a household name in Christian fiction. If she isn’t published with a big publishing company in five to ten years I think I’ll have take up a petition to get her published. I actually really look forward to Mackenzie Dare’s next book and to seeing how she grows as an author.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book particularly for a self-published debut. Fans of complex suspenses will enjoy this one and people who like a book that answers the tough questions will enjoy parts of this book. This book is actually a pretty family friendly read despite the genre it falls in. I’d say be careful of the age range but anyone thirteen and over should enjoy this one. I give this book a three out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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Slow Moon Rising

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Title: Slow Moon Rising
Series: Cedar Key
Author: Eva Marie Everson
Publisher: Revell
Published: June 1, 2013
Pages: 384

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Cedar Key has long been a place of rest, healing and release for the Claybourne family. But it’s also the birthplace of a dark secret that’s tearing their family apart from within. Everyone in this family had unique struggles and secrets that they keep and each have a journey they must go through to conquer their secrets and be released from the darkness haunting their lives, but the journey to that point is long, hard, and filled with many tear along the way.

Join the strong Claybourne women – Anise, Kimberly, Jayme-Leigh, Heather, and Ami as they face heartbreak, misunderstandings, and pain to bring reconciliation with each other and renewed love into their lives. Cedar Key had long been a place to turn to in times of confusion, loss, and hurt. They go their to get their spirits renewed and their hearts restored. Cedar Key is part of their journey and not all of it is easy.

As these women start down their journey, none could have anticipated how hard it would be or how much yet would lean on their family to help them through their times of trial. No one could’ve anticipated how hat those trials would’ve been or how much healing would happen along the way, but one thing thy do know is that a family isn’t made up of the secrets but how you survive them.

Can Anise win over her new family or will she be forever shunned? Can Kimberly overcome her husband’s choices or will she forever be scarred by her husband’s choices? Will Jayme-Leigh recover from a life altering disease and decision or will she be resentful about it forever? Will Heather’s journey help her heal from a problem or will she end up similar to her mother? Will Ami be able to forgive her dad and herself or will the guilt engulf her until she dies?
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The one thing I love about Eva Marie Everson is that she is a master at creating characters that captivate and capture your heart. These characters were no different than the last book in this beautifully heartbreaking series. She manages to create such realistically broken characters and create a story that’s heart wrenching yet hopeful and full of healing too in every story she crafts and I love the complexity and uniqueness of every story she weaves.

Each character had their own set of struggles to overcome and I could relate to every character in some way. Even when I couldn’t relate I still felt for every character in the story. Each struggle was something that became real for me. I felt the weight of the secrets they carried and felt their frustration and sorrow. I have no idea how the author manages to do it but it amazes me every time I read one of her lovingly painful books.

The setting is perfect too. What a better place for healing and peace than a place like Cedar Key. It sounds like an idyllic small town and the perfect place to go if you need some time and space to think or even to just be. I can imagine what the town might look like and how many people have found healing there. I don’t know if this place exists but it’s my wish to find a place that I can escape to just like Cedar Key.

The storyline is a mixture of problems ranging in severity and duration but each is special and a common problem. Though there was possibly too many characters I never felt too confused as to who was who (except for the husbands, those were hard to keep track of), but I did find that the amount of characters made some of their journeys shorter than I would’ve liked. It’s also written in first person, but in this book’s case it fit so perfectly that I actually enjoyed it.

This author captured me with her amazing characters with the second book in this series and I had to come back for more. This story is no different and made the characters real for me. I love this author’s gift for characters and that’s why I will be reading more from her in the future ad hopefully enjoy them as much as this one.

Overall, this is a great book about struggles and family. There was a but too many characters which cut all their stories a bit short but I still enjoyed it and recommend it. I recommend this to people who like books that are more about family secrets and the drama that comes with them. Keep this book away from your kids, teen and children alike, and leave this one strictly for the adults. I give this book a four out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

That Certain Summer

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Title: That Certain Summer
Author: Irene Hannon
Publisher: Revell
Published: June 1, 2013
Pages: 304

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Karen and Val are family, but they’re anything but close. Karen has carried the burden of responsibility for her aging mother ever since her sister left to pursue a career in theater. Karen overextends herself by having a career, recovering from her divorce, taking care of her newly rebellious daughter and her ailing mother. So she does the unthinkable. She calls her sister for help.

Val had her reasons for leaving town. Besides to pursue a a career, she left to get away from her controlling mother and to run away from a secret no one else knows but her. Coming home has never been an option, until her mother suffers from a stroke and she hears the weariness in her sister’s voice. Val now feels the need to breach the secrets of the past and move on from the guilt she carries.

Reunited, the sisters now have to care for their controlling mother and grapple with their past mistakes. Hopefully they can repair their torn relationship and become not only friends but sisters again. As they battle that their summer takes an interesting new spin as two handsome men come into their lives and offer them a hope for something better. Each one has issues and trouble but when their lives intersect they might just be able to learn to forgive and love again.

Can Val forgive herself for the mistake she made when she was just a teenager or will she give up everything and hold onto the guilt she carries? Will Karen learn to stand up for herself and forgive her ex-husband for cheating on her or will she stay the quiet church mouse that is still angry with her husband? Will Karen and Val find love this summer or will they get their hearts broken once again?
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I love Irene Hannon’s work and I have been a fan since reading a couple of her Love Inspired novellas. For a few years she has stuck to just suspense so I was a bit surprised when she decided to write a contemporary novel. However, I’m so happy she did. This book is, in my opinion, her best yet. This book was well developed and heart-tugging. It got my emotions involved and I loved it.

The characters of Karen, Val, Scott, and David were realistic and I loved seeing them grow and finally learn to forgive whether it was themselves or someone else. Their journeys got my heart involved and made me feel like the characters were real making this book a breeze to read and finish. This author definitely has a gift of creating great characters that attach to your heart and don’t really release themselves out of your life.

The romances were also some of the best I’ve seen out of this author. The emotional development was amazing and I could really see the relationship grow into a love strong enough to conquer some tough choices and realizations. There isn’t much heat in this romance but the lack of it didn’t bother me at all and in fact in this particular novel I probably wouldn’t want it. The slow emotional attachment that grows into love fits this novels so well that I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

This storyline follows a few really real and tough situations a lot of people are facing today. There was coping with the aftermath of divorce, partial paralysis, being the lone survivor of a car accident, falling in love with a woman who will leave, and most importantly, abortion. Every struggle during the course of this novel made the story even more real and made each character more realistic and lovable to me. I loved this novel and want more like it.

I’ve been a fan of this author for years and have loved her suspense work but I feel like this is her best work yet. I loved this and want more contemporary fiction from her. I look forward to seeing what else Irene Hannon will throw my way. This book and author come highly recommended and I definitely want more like this novel from her.

Overall, a great novel. I have absolutely no complaints. This book is perfect for people who like a well constructed romance that broaches hard topics. I don’t recommend this book for younger readers but adults and possibly teens will enjoy this one. I give this book a five out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Perfectly Ridiculous

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Title: Perfectly Ridiculous
Author: Kristin Billerbeck
Series: Universally Misunderstood
Publisher: Revell
Published: July 1, 2012
Pages: 256

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Daisy Crispin is happy to leave high school behind and is looking forward to starting new in college. Before she goes away she is planning an all-expenses-paid trip with her best friend Claire to Argentina. She can’t wait to sink her teeth in some exotic food, watch the tango, and possibly assess the relationship between her and her sort-of boyfriend, Max.

Her vacation comes to a screeching halt when she learns that she has to do missions work to fulfill the requirements for her college scholarship, not to mention her parents insist on coming with her. Now what was supposed to be a relaxing time in the lap of luxury turns into hard work, cots, avoiding scorpions, and stressing about her relationship with Max.

However, as she learns what life is like in true poverty, she becomes thankful for her life surrounded by toilet paper, homemade close, and too much family stuffed into one home. She also meets a boy who shows her what a healthy relationship can look like. If only she could forget Max and start something that doesn’t make her feel less than worthy.

Can Daisy finish her scholarship requirement or will she be stuck not going? Will Daisy learn to put more trust in God or will she rely on herself her whole life? Will trouble find her like it always does or will she finally have some time that’s trouble free? Will she be able to move on from Max or will she still allow him to have some hold over her?
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Having never read a book by this author, let alone this series, I didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a book filled with adventure and trouble. Not reading the first two books in the series seems to be a mistake not just because of the mention of previous stories but because I missed all the trouble and sticky situation that Daisy and her friend seem to get into.

I connected with Daisy right away because of her parents. Like her, my parents are overly protective, but thankfully that’s where most of the similarities end. My family doesn’t make our own clothes, I don’t live in the garage surrounded by toilet paper, nor do my family use our home as a storage unit for the rest of my family’s stuff. Despite that, I felt a kinship with Daisy because, though I don’t know what it feels like to go to school with knockoffs and homemade clothes, I do know what embarrassment feels like. The portrayal of that embarrassment and teen angst that comes with wanting to grow up, is spot on and I give the author huge credit for being able to portray that in a way that someone not even close to being in that situation can understand.

My favorite part is her parents on vacation. I loved it. Her parents are the A-typical tourist floral shirt, muumuu and all. Which is totally embarrassing but I felt that it was a slightly humorous quirky touch to the story. Another thing I liked as well, was her parents role in the story, in the end, they trusted her and vice versa, and were really cool when Daisy needed them to be most. It really makes you appreciate the role your parents have in your life.

One thing I was really looking forward to was the ministry part of the book, unfortunately the author decided to not delve into that part and I was a little disappointed. In my opinion it was a huge opportunity wasted. I wanted to be shown the need there is for ministries in poverty stricken areas and the change it can bring the people who need help and the volunteers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given that, only slight touches and mentions, but because I wasn’t painted a real picture, I have to take the character’s word on how they live. Not to mention Daisy’s view on her role in this amazing thing is something she has to check off her list, not something life changing for her an those around her.

This book was a quick, enjoyable read. It wasn’t one that I would make my favorites list, but it was one that I feel most teen would probably enjoy. Though this book didn’t make this author one I have to read again, I will look forward to any more releases by her and will probably read more from her later.

Overall, an enjoyable, quick read, but not one that makes a real lasting impression. I recommend this to any teenage girl and those who love a young adult genre book that involves a lot of trouble. I give it’s book a three and a half out of five.

*I received this complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Five Miles South Of Peculiar

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Title: Five Miles South Of Peculiar
Author: Angela Hunt
Publisher: Howard Books
Published: June 5, 2012
Pages: 374

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Darlene Caldwell has spent a lifetime tending to Sycamores, the estate her family has been caring for for almost fifty years. Located five miles south of a tiny town called Peculiar, Darlene has found and married her husband as well as raised a family all on the spacious home that her grandfather left behind. And until her limelight stealing twin unexpectedly returns, she was the queen that reigned over her kingdom, Sycamores.

Carlene Caldwell’s life is thrown into disarray when an unsuccessful throat surgery has ruined her voice and her musical career as a Broadway performer. When she is invited back to Sycamores to celebrate her and her sister’s birthday she decides to take a break from big city life and regroup. Although her Broadway career is over, she believes she can use her knowledge and experience to fashion a new life in Peculiar, her childhood town she left behind. If only her sister seemed to want her here.

Magnolia Caldwell, called Nolie, is haunted by a tragic romance that ended long ago. The youngest of the Caldwell sisters, she’s never wanted to live anywhere but Sycamores. She spends her days tending to her gardens and dogs as well as making aprons for the whole town. When a man haunted by his own tragedy comes to Sycamores looking for work and somewhere to lick his wounds, Nolie is starting to see what she missed all those years ago. She now has to make a choice, deny her heart or cut the apron strings that tie her to a dear and familiar place.

Will Darlene and Carlene be able to bridge the gap that separated how close they used to be? Will Carlene end up staying in Peculiar or will he end up going back to the city that never sleeps? Will Nolie be able to embrace the future instead of holding onto the past?
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This author is very talented at what she does. She is incredible at family drama and conflict and makes the story completely realistic in the problems that face and trouble sisters as they grow up. Her take on sibling rivalry is also accurate, though extreme. With a sister of my own I read this book and just hoped that what tore apart Darlene and Carlene’s relationship wouldn’t happen to me and my sister. The author, despite not having this happen to her, was fantastic in her portrayal of sibling rivalry.

The author’s take on Nolie’s life might be a bit extreme and unrealistic in my opinion, however, I’ve never had a fianc├ę go off and elope with a different woman the night before our wedding and just skip town without saying a word to me. So, maybe the author’s portrayal is accurate just an extreme version of it. I do love Nolie’s character, though, her love for her family and her pets is overflowing and the love she puts into each handcrafted apron makes me jealous that she’s a fictional character and I will never be able to own a custom designed apron.

The romance isn’t a huge part of the book, but it’s a sweet one. The changes that occur to both Nolie and Erik is unbelievable, in a good way. It shows that love is sometimes that kick in the pants you need to get out of the rut you’re in. There isn’t a whole lot in the sense of affection in this book, at least until the very end. This romance is unique however and special in it’s own way.

Like I said before this author knows drama. The animosity between the twins is so palpable that it could be cut with a knife. The author was fantastic with it, though, because she correctly portrayed the jealousy and hurt that occurs when one sister is more talented than the other. Also, it’s easy to hold a grudge about things when you’re not close and never talk about it and the author shows that properly. My favorite part about this drama is that it’s not something completely insurmountable and unforgivable and the whole time you root for the sisters to finally vent all their frustrations and misgivings and move on.

Though this book is perfectly written and realistic, it’s not something that I normally pick or read. Though, this is the best one I’ve read of this genre, I still am not a huge fan of this type of book. This book probably isn’t the best book for someone who’s never anything by this author, aka me, but I will read more by this author because of the talent that was prevalent throughout the book.

Overall, a greatly written book just not my type of book. This book is perfect for someone who loves family dramas and probably older readers. I give this book a three out of five.

*I received this book from publisher in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

When The Smoke Clears

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Title: When the Smoke Clears
Author: Lynette Eason
Publisher: Revell
Series: Deadly Encounters
Pages: 352
Released: February 1, 2012

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Alexia Allen, a smokejumper, almost died due to equipment failure and is ordered to take some time off while the situation is under investigation. With a little begging from her friend, Alexia decides to recuperate at her mother’s house and attend her high school reunion. Unfortunately, someone isn’t going to make that easy for her. Within hours of arriving home she finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery unlike any other.

The conflicts ahead stir up old ghosts and she struggles with forgiveness, but with the help of friends, family, and a handsome detective, she might just be able to unearth the secret she’s been keeping for ten years.
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I didn’t expect anything of what this book dished out. I expected a mystery that was mainly involved in firefighters. I didn’t get it. However, that didn’t disappoint me. Lynette Eason weaved a surprisingly suspenseful story. This book kept me on my toes, which isn’t easy to do. Even more shocking, this author wrote this suspense so well and with so much mystery and conflict, that she actually prevented me from guessing who the killer really was. That is almost impossible to do, and because she did the near impossible, this author surprised me by creeping up to my top suspense author’s list and didn’t budge throughout the entire book.

One thing you can’t say about this book is that it’s boring or slow-paced. This book started going during the prologue and didn’t slow down for one second throughout the entire book. It’s literally one murder or attempted murder after another. The main character doesn’t get to relax for a minute before her life is put on the brink of death again. Now, that many encounters in the small course of a week is a lot to keep track of and most authors get as jumbled as the reader when trying to differentiate between each attempt, however, this author made each attempt different and organized. Never once did I have to backtrack to figure out what the characters were referring to nor did an encounter slip through the crack of my memory.

Not only is the suspense great but, the way the suspense is written is fantastic. This author practically strikes fear into the reader, she made the attacks and attempts so real I practically could see and feel the flames licking at houses and the bullets whizzing past heads as the duck for cover. This author has a gift that she uses well and glorifies her Savior in the process. It’s a great combination that makes an incredible suspense with the perfect amount of faith and scripture integrated throughout.

The romance in this book was an afterthought, the way it should be in a suspense, and it was basically starting where they refused to go in high school. The really neat part about Hunter, Alexia’s love interest, was that he never doubted her innocence, not once, despite evidence to the contrary. Lynette Eason made the romance an interesting part of the book. I looked forward to every encounter and every kiss, it was another plus to a book that was incredible on it’s own.

Like I said in the first paragraph, I didn’t guess the killer, which is an incredible feat due to my love for suspense novels. However, not only was I wrong as to who the killer was but, I was way off. This author forever kept a character as a suspect there were at least three suspects and because of the forever changing suspects and motives, it keeps you on your toes. All I could do in this book is guess who it wasn’t.

The ending of this book was a shocker, not just to find out who the killer was, but because of the massive loose ends and cliff hanger the author left behind. This is the only part of this book that I’m on the fence about. On the one hand I hate the cliff hanger because how much of a hole it left in the story and now I have to wait who knows how long before I get to find out (grrrr). On the other hand, however, I love the cliffhanger because it makes me want to read the next book, in fact, it practically forces you to read the next book in the series. I look forward to reading the next book in this series, in fact, I’m determined to read the next book. I have to.

Overall, absolutely fantastic suspense with a touch of romance and an almost impossible killer to figure out; however the cliffhanger might be a major downfall in this story. This book is perfect for the suspense obsessed that just want a glimpse of what it was like before they could guess who did it after the first few chapters or who someone who just wants to read a great romantic suspense that makes you lose a little sleep in the process. I give this book a five out of five.

I received this complimentary copy of this book for the sole purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are my own.