Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Justice Delayed, by Patricia Bradley

Justice Delayed, by Patricia BradleyJustice Delayed, by Patricia Bradley (Revell, 2017)

Andi Hollister’s sister, Stephanie, was murdered 18 years ago. Finally, the man convicted of the crime will be executed, and Andi’s glad justice will be done.

Except another crime, and sudden fragments of new information, suggest the man on death row may not be the killer.

As an investigative reporter, Andi has a working relationship with the local police, as well as a personal connection: her brother is a detective, as is their long-time friend, Will. She’s determined to be part of finding the truth… and the real killer is determined to stop her.

Andi is a push-forward, impulsive woman who’ll do whatever it takes to get the story, always championing the cause of the underdog. Her nature, and the tragic loss of her sister, make it hard for her to trust God, especially when trust involves waiting.

She thinks her brother is over-protective when he tries to keep her safe, and these days she’s not sure what to think about Will. She’s developing feelings for him, but she knows his reputation for broken relationships… and it’s his cousin who’s to be executed for Stephanie’s murder.

Well-crafted and with satisfyingly-complex characters, Justice Delayed is a great start to Patricia Bradley’s new Memphis Cold Case series. As well as the main plot, there are layers of relational and spiritual subplots that all weave together to make a full-flavoured novel. Definitely a worthwhile read.

Patricia Bradley is also the author of the Logan Point romantic suspense series. For more about the author and her books, visit ptbradley.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Review: Something Buried, Something Blue, by Lorena McCourtney

Something Buried, Something Blue, by Lorena McCourtneySomething Buried, Something Blue, by Lorena McCourtney (Rogue Ridge Press, 2016)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Ivy Malone series, and it seems only fair that with Ivy and Mac planning to get married, we should have a new series to celebrate it. Something Buried, Something Blue is The Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries, Book #1.

Mac should have known there’d be more bodies ahead. Ivy attracts them, and it’s probably contagious. In this new series, Mac gets point of view chapters to balance Ivy’s, and they each have a part to play if they’re going to solve this crime and stay alive until their wedding day.

Mac and Ivy are senior citizens (she’s a self-proclaimed “LOL” – little old lady), and sometimes the “invisibility” that comes with age works to their advantage in solving crimes. Neither of them is known to back away from a challenge.

This book introduces Mac’s school-aged granddaughter, Elle, whose curiosity matches Ivy’s. I hope we’ll see more of this girl in the books to come.

It’s a fun story, amusing in places and without too much rough stuff. I did find it felt like some of the complication-causing characters kind of slipped off into the sunset before the final conflict, but other than that, another fine read. I’m looking forward to the next one.

For more about Lorena McCourtney and her books, see her Goodreads profile, and check out this interview: introducing-lorena-mccourtney.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: As the Ink Flows

As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers and SpeakersAs the Ink Flows, by Glenda Dekkema, Melony Teague, Carol Ford, Claudia Loopstra, and Marguerite Cummings (Judson Press, 2016)

As the Ink Flows is a collection of ninety devotions from five Canadian writers and speakers. The contents are divided by topic: “the craft, inspiration, know yourself, well-being, personalities, and faithfulness.”

The devotional component of each entry is the standard Scripture quote, devotional thought, and prayer, but what sets these devotions apart is the application portion. Each one includes a question for reflection and a writing prompt for the day.

This is an approachable resource that will encourage Christians who work with words, while encouraging them to build from a foundation of faith. It’s useful for writers and speakers in both the Christian and the general market.

Working through the reflections and writing prompts will enrich writing projects already in progress, and will inspire new ones. As the Ink Flows is suitable for individuals and small groups.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Reign of Error, by Christy Barritt

Reign of Error, by Christy BarrittReign of Error, by Christy Barritt (River Heights, 2017)

Reign of Error is book 2 in the Worst Detective Ever series, and while readers would have a better overall grasp of the series by starting with book 1, Ready to Fumble, they could begin here without feeling lost.

Joey Darling’s acting career is on hiatus while she looks for her missing father and tries to recover from some personal disasters. The problem is, she has one or more over-the-top fans who want her to play detective in real life, the way she did on TV.

The death of a stranger shortly after she’d spoken with him is all it takes for her invisible “fans” to start pushing her to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, the killer wants her to stop.

This is a light-hearted mystery series, complete with two appealing guys competing for Joey’s attention. Each novel is a complete story, with the over-arcing mystery of Joey’s missing father.

Joey is a bit of a drama queen, as one might expect of an actress, so she can be a bit tiring at times, but she’s a likeable character. The obstacles she faces make it easy to root for her to succeed.

Christy Barritt is a prolific author whose Christian fiction includes mysteries and suspense for adults and tweens. For more about the author, visit christybarritt.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Pursued, by Lisa Harris

Pursued, by Lisa HarrisPursued, by Lisa Harris (Revell, 2017)

Special Agent Nikki Boyd is a missing persons investigator in Nashville. Usually she hunts for strangers, but this time it’s more personal: she met Erika, the missing woman, on a plane, just before it crashed. Erika disappeared from the crash site, and Nikki must help the FBI find her before she’s found by the man who wants her dead.

I’ve enjoyed this series, and each book is better than the last. The pacing in this one is relentless, with the entire story packed into 48 hours. As the case becomes even more personal, Nikki can’t back away, despite being pushed beyond her physical and emotional limits.

At the same time, she’s trying to discover the next step in her relationship with Tyler, the friend she’s fallen in love with, and to process some devastating news from her doctor.

One of the things I most appreciate in this series is how Nikki faces the darkness of her cases with faith that God will help her do her job, and that He can take even the broken pieces and make something beautiful. This is never superficial, but grows out of deep struggle.

Pursued is book 3 in the Nikki Boyd Files series, and book 4, Vanishing Point, releases in the fall of 2017.

Author Lisa Harris writes romantic suspense and romance. For more about the author, visit lisaharriswrites.com. To follow the conversation about this series on Twitter, look for the hashtag #nikkiboydfiles.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]

Review: The Third Girl, by Nell Goddin

The Third Girl, by Nell GoddinThe Third Girl, by Nell Goddin (Beignet Books, 2015)

Isn’t that a beautiful cover? Unusual doors fascinate me, and each one of the Molly Sutton novels features a different one.

In the series-opener, Molly Sutton has used her divorce settlement to buy a home, sight unseen, in a village in France. She’s going to run a gîte, the French equivalent of a bed and breakfast. Her former neighbourhood in outer Boston was becoming unsafe, and she feels at home now, welcome, and secure in Castillac.

Until a female student from the local art college goes missing, and the villagers make references to previous, unsolved disappearances.

The main characters are Molly, struggling with limited French in new surroundings, and Benjamin Dufort, the local police chief, who feels a personal pressure to solve these crimes, which he fears are linked. Dufort’s staff are featured as well.

This is a very cozy mystery, filled with the gentle rhythm of village life. It’s told omnisciently, featuring one character at a time but expanding to narrate others’ thoughts or motivations in the same scene. The omniscience contributes to the gentle feel, and it works well for the story, but if you can’t stand hopping from head to head, you’ll want to give it a miss.

The story engages the heart through the characters’ ordinariness. When the missing girl’s parents come to stay with Molly, she struggles like any of us would with what to say, and whether to intrude or leave them to worry alone.

Favourite line:

“A little part of his brain, the weaselly part everyone has, wondered if perhaps it might be better to call later…” [Benjamin Dufort, reluctant to contact the missing girl’s family. Page 41.]

This is a mainstream novel, with the occasional mild curse word, but essentially a clean read. I look forward to reading the rest of the Molly Sutton Mysteries. Book two is The Luckiest Woman Ever. Nell Goddin is an American writer who knows how to bring the setting of a French village to life.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland

Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. WeilandCreating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland (PenForASword Publishing, 2016)

Often writing-craft books focus on one element in isolation. Not this time. Creating Character Arcs intertwines character change with story structure and theme.

The author asserts that “the Change Arc is all about the Lie Your Character Believes.” Through the plot, and interactions with other characters, the character will discover and ultimately accept or reject the truth that counters the particular lie. (Except in the flat arc, where he/she has a good grip on the truth in question and instead effects change in those around him or her.)

The book delves into different types of arcs: positive change, flat, and negative change. I appreciate the point-by-point way the author walks through the stages of each arc, with illustrations from well-known books and movies, and then asks specific questions to help writers discern what those points can look like in their current projects.

Later chapters address deciding which type of arc is right for your story, the importance of “impact characters,” how many characters should actually have arcs, and character arcs over the course of a series.

My copy of the book is heavily highlighted. The questions and illustrations helped deepen my understanding of my current work in progress, and I plan to work through the relevant sections for future projects.

K.M. Weiland’s popular website, Helping Writers Become Authors, is a rich resource for writers. She’s also the author of historical and speculative fiction, including the dieselpunk adventure, Storming.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick

In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. DickIn a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2017)

Fifteen years after Luise Martens and her family escaped from Russia to China, the past catches up with them. Soon they must flee again, from a terrible enemy they thought they’d left behind.

The novel opens in 1945, and it’s a sequel to Other Side of the River. If you haven’t read that book, you may want to do so first. It’s not necessary for comprehension, but it adds a level of depth to understanding these characters’ lives and struggles.

Book one was Luise’s story as a young woman. Book two is partly her story, but partly the story of her son, Danny. It’s interesting to watch the dynamics between the son facing trials for the first time and the mother who has endured similar times.

I always appreciate Janice Dick’s historical fiction, for its richness of character and setting and for what it teaches me about the Russian Mennonites and their struggle to live as pacifists, trusting God’s care in the middle of dangerous times. As Luise says, “Sometimes living for a cause is more difficult than dying for it.” [Kindle location 412]

Luise’s faith has grown stronger through her suffering, but Danny can’t embrace a God who could allow so much to be taken from him.

In a Foreign Land is an inspiring tale of courage, danger, family, and love, set against a backdrop of international conflict and an oppressive regime. The novel is based on a true story.

The In Search of Freedom series will conclude with book 3, Far Side of the Sea. For more about the author and her books, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Ready to Fumble, by Christy Barritt

Ready to Fumble, by Christy BarrittReady to Fumble, by Christy Barritt (River Heights, 2017)

She’s a TV star who played a detective, but Joey Darling thinks of herself as the character’s klutzy opposite. Now her career is in ruins, and she’s fled Hollywood for the Outer Banks of North Carolina to search for her father.

Joey’s afraid to trust the local police, who may have been involved in his disappearance, but she doesn’t have many clues to follow. As if that weren’t enough challenge for this non-detective, a strange woman asks her to find her missing fiancé.

On the plus side, she’s a method actor who took some self-defense and investigative training. She actually has a PI license, just not for this state.

On the minus side, someone is recreating one of her TV episodes, and Joey doesn’t remember the ending but it might involve death: even her own, if she can’t pull off an escape like her alter ego.

The story is told in first person, and after Joey introduces herself, she asks:

Confused? Just keep reading. Please. Because maybe you can make sense of this mess I’ve made.

With an invitation like that, who won’t read on?

Christy Barritt kicks off her Worst Detective Ever mystery series with her signature snappy humour and upbeat delivery. This isn’t all a surface read, though. Joey has a lot of hurt and self-doubt from her abusive ex, and the two men who attract her more than she’ll admit each have layers of complexity that leave us wondering who they really are.

Plot, characters, and setting all work for me, and I’ll happily continue reading when the next book comes out. Here’s hoping I can keep up: she’s releasing “episodes” monthly. Just like Joey’s TV show. What I like about this is that each one is a full novel. Although the overall mystery of the missing dad spans individual books, Ready to Fumble is a complete story in its own right.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman

Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. FreemanGrace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2011)

This is a book for all the women whose honest desire to be good sets up impossible expectations and leads to hiding behind facades and fearing to be found out. Anxiety grows, and we struggle in our own strength instead of learning to rely on God. Hence the subtitle: “Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life.”

The author says, “Somewhere along the way, I got the message that salvation is by faith alone but anything after that is faith plus my hard work and sweet disposition” (page 13). Many of us fall into that trap, and Grace for the Good Girl can help us reset.

One of my favourite lines is about giving ourselves “permission to sit down on the inside and live like I have a God who knows what He’s doing” (page 65).

The book is in three sections: the hiding (in which we find out how we’re not alone in this after all), the finding, and the freedom of being found. It ends with a small group leader’s guide for an eight-week study.

Emily P. Freeman writes with transparency and candour about her own struggles, and shares the stories of other “recovering good girls.” The book is easy to read and encouraging. It points us back to relying on the character and grace of God, and to learning to live by faith instead of by feeling. It addresses core issues like anxiety, identity, emotions, and self-reliance, and while you likely won’t recognize yourself on every page, don’t be surprised to relate to at least a few of the stories.

The “try-hard life” is exhausting. Grace for the Good Girl points to freedom. Emily P. Freeman has also written A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. For more about the author and her ministry, visit emilypfreeman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]