Tag Archives: book review

Review: When a Secret Kills, by Lynette Eason

When A Secret Kills, by Lynette EasonWhen a Secret Kills, by Lynette Eason (Revell, 2013)

Three friends, separated the night of their high school graduation. Alexia left town as planned, to escape her troubled home life. Serena went on to university. Jillian fled, terrified by something she’d witnessed—a secret that could still kill her ten years later.

In fact, the danger’s mounting. Her enemies have discovered her new identity. She can’t let them find out about her daughter.

Jillian returns to her hometown to find the evidence needed to convict a prominent citizen of murder. Finding that evidence will mean working with Colton Brady, nephew of the murderer. Colton is also her former boyfriend, hurt that she didn’t say goodbye, and unaware that he has a daughter.

This is another fast-paced read to complete the series, and it delivers some satisfying twists.

When a Secret Kills is book 3 in the Deadly Reunions series, and while each one can be read as a stand-alone, there are spoilers for the previous books so they’re best read in order.

Lynette Eason is a multi-published author and a trusted name in Christian suspense. For more about the author and her books, visit lynetteeason.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Review: Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, by Deborah Barr, Edward G. Shaw, and Gary Chapman

Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, by Deborah Barr, Edward G. Shaw, and Gary Chapman
Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, by Deborah Barr, Edward G. Shaw, and Gary Chapman (Northfield Publishing, 2016)

This book includes personal stories, practical information, and candid responses from people walking this “unchosen journey” with loved ones. It relies on input from studies and other key books on the subject of dementia and caregiving.

Don’t stop half-way through, daunted by the prospect of what Alzheimer’s can bring. Once the authors have given that grounding, they move on to share strategies, stories, and hope.

And don’t say we could never do what these care partners have chosen to do. Maybe we couldn’t, but we never truly know what we can do until we’re in a situation and we rely on God.

The authors contend that, like coma patients, persons with dementia hear more than they can respond to. Also, studies show their emotional reaction to a stimulus lasts after they’ve forgotten the cause. So do visit, do show love in ways they can receive.

In the call to choose to love unconditionally, I heard the same thing I hear from parents of handicapped children, about the role of loving becoming a gift.

Among the many books on the topic of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, this one focuses on applying the 5 Love Languages® for both the patient and the care partner. It includes a simple self-assessment of the reader’s own love languages, plus suggestions on how to assess the person with dementia if they’ve progressed to the point of being unable to comprehend it themselves.

The authors say, “We believe that the love languages are tools for gently lifting a corner of the dark curtain of dementia, making it possible to sustain an emotional connection with a memory-impaired person.” [p. 41]

Then they provide practical tips and examples of how to show love as cognitive ability fades, including ways to help the person with dementia feel useful. The authors also advise that in the mid- to advanced stages of the disease, care partners should use all five love languages because the person’s languages will change.

This is not a book advocating keeping Alzheimer’s sufferers home in the later stages, nor does it push putting them into care facilities. It’s an honest look at different case studies that recognize the uniqueness of each situation and the people in it.

The authors warn care partners not to do this alone, due to the health risks. It’s important to form a team—and the members who’ll choose to step up to help may not be those you’d expect.

They suggest early testing for dementia because some forms are treatable (eg. depression, brain tumours) and also because the testing can take time to reach a true diagnosis. This is especially true if more than one type of dementia is involved or if it’s one of the less common varieties. They note that personality change can be an early sign.

Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade is an excellent resource equipping care partners to not only demonstrate love to persons with dementia but to also identify how to keep their own “love tank” filled. In that sense, I think it would be helpful for all types of caregivers as well.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: When a Heart Stops, by Lynette Eason

When a Heart Stops, by Lynette Eason. Deadly Reunions book 2. #Christianfiction #romanticsuspenseWhen a Heart Stops, by Lynette Eason (Revell, 2012)

Work becomes personal for Medical Examiner Serena Hopkins when she realizes the victims of a copycat serial killer are all members of her high school graduating class. Tension grows as the killer (or killers) seem to be stalking Serena herself.

Meanwhile, she’s also being targeted by someone who wants documents she’s been entrusted with by her friend Jillian, who vanished at graduation after witnessing something too terrifying to share with her friends.

Serena must work with the local police—and with high school crush, FBI agent Dominic Allen—to find clues to end this new string of deaths.

When a Heart Stops is book 2 in the Deadly Reunions series, and it’s another strong read. Because the crimes in this book are more disturbing (although not graphic), I found parts of it harder to read. As in book 1, When the Smoke Clears, this is a stand-alone novel that also points toward the mystery of why Jillian disappeared.

Lynette Eason is a multi-published author and a trusted name in Christian suspense. For more about the author and her books, visit lynetteeason.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Review: Worlds Unseen, by Rachel Starr Thomson

Worlds Unseen, by Rachel Starr Thomson #Christianfiction #fantasyWorlds Unseen, by Rachel Starr Thomson (Little Dozen Press, 2007)

A richly-imagined fantasy set in a vaguely British Isles world, in a time where the weapons are sword and spears, and transportation is by horse, boat, or train.

Maggie Sheffield’s world is upended when she takes on a simple quest that makes her a target for evil beyond her imagination. Along the way, she befriends a boy who can hear what animals say, meets Gypsies and revolutionaries, and learns that there’s more to see than the world around her.

Maggie’s world is the Seventh World, and the other worlds seem to be spiritual realms. There are various types of spirits, some good, some evil. Ruler of all is the King, who loves humans greatly and who left the Seventh World when human rebellion broke His heart. But promise and prophecy say He will return.

Framing Maggie’s adventures are occasional entries from an ancient book written by one who calls himself the Poet, the Prophet. He remained behind when the other spiritual beings left, to leave a record for those whose hearts would one day seek the truth.

On one level, this is a classic fantasy with an oppressive regime and a handful of humans who want a better way. On another, it’s a spiritual allegory I found encouraging for living in my own world, where the key to courage is to remember the King and trust Him.

Worlds Unseen is a clean read with a bit of a C.S. Lewis feel, and although the evil beings and deeds are dark, the author doesn’t stray from fantasy into horror. This is a book both adults and young adults can enjoy. Highly recommended!

The novel is book 1 in the Seventh World series. It’s free in ebook form (also available in print), and well worth reading. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Rachel Starr Thomson writes both fiction and non-fiction, both from a Christian perspective. She’s also a speaker. For more about the author and her work, visit rachelstarrthomson.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Dying to Remember, by Karin Kaufman

Dying to Remember, A Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery by Karen KaufmanDying to Remember (Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery #1), by Karin Kaufman (2018)

Smithwell, Maine. An ordinary town in an ordinary New England state. On her 50th birthday, newly-widowed Kate Brewer is feeling her ordinariness and wishing there was something – just a little bit – more to life.

But when she encounters a fairy, she’s terrified. Fairies don’t exist outside of folklore. Is she losing her mind?

When a neighbour is killed, Kate and her best friend, Emily, are sure it’s linked to a previous murder in the town. Not trusting the police, they start investigating on their own. The fairy, Minette, insists on helping Kate while keeping her presence hidden from everyone else.

I enjoyed the mystery, the characters, and the descriptions of the people – including the fairy – and their small town. I also thought it was a neat touch that Minette sees herself as created by God (years ago) and sent by Him (now) to help Kate with this investigation. Kate, a church-goer, rejects the idea that God would send anyone – especially a fairy – to do anything in her life. I’m curious to see how Kate and Minette’s relationship will develop over the series, and if Emily will ever meet Minette.

Tea and chocolate aficionados will find other details to appreciate in the book. It’s a quick read, at 129 pages. Book 2, A Fatal Fall, is coming soon.

Karin Kaufman is the author of the Juniper Grove mystery series and the Anna Denning mysteries. Dying to Remember is book 1 in her new Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery series. I’m looking forward to reading more. For more about the author and her books, visit karinkaufman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Should You Try Harder? (Guest Post)

Do you need to try harder?

Photo credit: Pixabay

Should You Try Harder?

by Steph Beth Nickel

I’ve never written a book review for Janet’s blog. But today I’d like to share one I wrote for HopeStreamRadio.

Before I purchased the e-version of You Don’t Have to Try Harder by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory, I debated whether I needed one more book. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of physical and ebooks awaiting my attention, more than I’ll likely ever read. However, this was a purchase well worth making.

Below is my invitation for you to read this book along with me. You see … I just got started.

You Don’t Have to Try So Hard is the newest book by Kathi Lip and Cheri Gregory. And it looks like it’s going to be perfect … well, not perfect exactly, but we’ll get to that.

I read the introduction this morning and can’t wait to dig in.

Kathi Lipp opens the book like this: “No one would ever label me a perfectionist. You can’t eat off my floor. (Well, you could, but I wouldn’t suggest it.)”

I can relate already.

Further into the intro, Kathi gives three insightful examples of what she calls “the bully of perfectionism.”

“I will pick up the check … because I feel that I’ve taken up the other person’s time.”

“I will run out the night before an event and spend too much on clothes so that I appear to fit in.”

“I spend ten times more time worrying about how other people feel … than being concerned about my own health in these relationships.”

Do you see yourself in any of these statements?

She ends by saying, “Perfectionism isn’t Christian. It’s just crazy.”

Although Cheri Gregory’s mother apologized to her daughter’s husband when she saw the state of their home, Cheri’s perfectionism surfaced in other ways.

She was …

“A student who argued for the extra point when she got 99 percent …”

“A teacher who skipped family gatherings because she couldn’t face her students until her lesson plans were just right.”

“A wife who tried to overhaul her husband so she could finally have a happy marriage.”

When she realized it wasn’t simply a matter of trying harder, she went to the other extreme.

She became …

“An employee who didn’t speak up during staff meetings so her input couldn’t get shot down.”

“A friend who let a call from a BFF in crisis go to voice mail because she felt too inadequate to answer.”

“A pastor’s wife who skipped church because her own family drama had left her too drained to put on her game face for the day.”

Both authors realized the “try harder” motto simply didn’t work.

They came to this conclusion: “There is no nice, polite way to do this. There’s no easy way to leave the life that’s been expected of us and to start living the brave, not-so-neatly-tied-up life God is calling us to.”

If you’re ready to learn how to live the life God is calling you to and abandon the idea that you can do so simply by making more of an effort, by trying harder, then you may want to add You Don’t Have to Try So Hard to your To Be Read pile of books.

Chapters include …

Meet the Bullies of Try-Harder Living, Take Your First Brave Steps, Perfect is for Pinterest, Give Yourself a Time Out, No More Last Minute, Enough Really is Enough, and others.

The authors have several lofty goals for this book, ones many—if not most—of us are in the process of learning.

Kathi and Cheri invite us to …

“Exchange outdated views of who [we] ‘should be’ for a clear vision of who [we] are in Christ.”

“Take control of that too long to-do list …”

“Stop striving to maintain an image and live with more freedom …”

“Overcome the tyranny of ‘more’ and live radically with the abundance of ‘enough.’”

“Stop trying to earn others’ approval and learn to rest in God’s lavish, unconditional love.”

Does any of this sound good to you?

Yeah, me too!

So, today I invite you to pick up your own copy of You Don’t Have to Try So Hard and learn how to overcome the bully of perfectionism—whether we can eat off your floor or not.

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.

Review: Miramar Bay, by Davis Bunn

Miramar Bay, by Davis Bunn Miramar Bay, by Davis Bunn (Kensington Books, 2017)

Sometimes you need to run away to find yourself. And so we meet Connor Larkin, up-and-coming actor, seeking anonymity on the midnight bus out of Hollywood after his highly-publicized engagement event.

Connor has been to the town of Miramar Bay once before, and he thinks it’s the place he’ll find some clarity. He’s not expecting to find an ally in the local police chief, or to be brought to tears by the music drifting from a local restaurant.

Sophie Cassick, the restaurant owner, can’t let her own troubles keep her from hiring “Connor Smith” when he pleads for a job. Whatever his secrets, he’ll fit in with the rest of her loyal crew of misfits.

Miramar Bay is a heart-warming, feel-good novel, perfect for a summer read. Complex characters and meticulous details make it more than a romance. It’s also a story of friendship, loyalty, estrangement, regrets, and second chances. It’s about remembering to dream again.

Internationally-bestselling author Davis Bunn is most known for his Christian fiction. Miramar Bay is a general-market book, so don’t expect an overt faith thread. As a Christian reader, I see God’s work through the characters and circumstances and in response to one woman’s cry of “I need help,” but the characters themselves don’t fully think that through on-page.

Although lawyers only play a small part in the novel, my favourite lines both describe them:

Everything was very normal about Harold. However, Sylvie often suspected that given the right motivation, the top would spring open to his tight little box, and out would pop the evil clown. [p. 181]

Sol offered a cat’s smile, all teeth and malice. [p. 257]

For more about the author and his books, visit Davis Bunn Books. Writers and aspiring writers are strongly encouraged to check out his blog, Notes from Davis. Curious readers may find it interesting too, to peek behind the scenes at the struggles many writers face.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Review: A Sticky Inheritance, by Emily James

A Sticky Inheritance, by Emily James Maple Syrup Mysteries book 1A Sticky Inheritance, by Emily James (Stronghold Books, 2016)

When Nicole Fitzhenry-Dawes’ beloved uncle dies, she travels to a small, tourist town in Northern Michigan to handle the funeral arrangements.

Uncle Stan disgraced himself in her family by leaving a lucrative medical career for an obscure maple syrup farm, and now he’s left the farm to her. For all her doubts about being a lawyer, she’s not sure this would be better. Plus, her parents would never forgive her.

More important in the short term is proving that Uncle Stan did not commit suicide, as originally thought, and finding his killer.

Along the way, Nicole gets herself into some amusingly awkward situations and begins to make what could be some good friends – if she lives and decides to stay.

Nicole has some fun quirks, like the novelty socks she wears despite her upscale lawyer image, and her occasional references to geek culture. I was happy to recognize a nod to the movie, “The Princess Bride,” as well as a classic Star Wars reference. Readers who don’t get those comments won’t miss any of the story.

This isn’t a Christian novel, but it’s a clean mainstream read, and I am highly enjoying this series. So far, each book includes a recipe involving maple syrup.

Favourite line:

It was strange watching twins arguing, like seeing a person fight with their reflection in a mirror. [Kindle location 319]

To find out more about author Emily James and the Maple Syrup Mysteries, or to sign up for your free ebook copy of the prequel, Sapped, visit authoremilyjames.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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.]