Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Respectable Actress - Dorothy Love

Title: A Respectable Actress
Author: Dorothy Love
Paperback: 363 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published date: October 2015
FTC: Received from publisher to review

Back of the book:

When the illustrious India Hartley is accused of murder, she has to uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.

India Hartley, the famous and beautiful actress, is now alone in the world after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.

A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.

Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia low country and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.

My thoughts:

I enjoy receiving books to review like this because I wouldn't have normally picked this one up on my own. It was a historical fiction crime mystery with dashes of romance that was perfect for me. I was reading it when I was eight months pregnant and it was the exact book I needed to read at night when I couldn't sleep.

I love the Southern setting. In the Author's Note at the end of the book, she points out that while Indigo Point is fictional, she based it on a real plantation called King's Retreat on the southern tip of St. Simons Island. I loved her descriptions of the island and just the beautiful southern flora. I want to visit somewhere like this.
Retreat on St Simon's Island

I also loved that she based her character, India Hartley, on a real historical actress named Frances "Fanny" Anne Kemble.  The real Fanny Kemble's story is actually quite fascinating. I'd love to read a book or watch a movie of her life!  Slavery is an issue covered in this novel and it was something that concerned the real Fanny Kemble as well. I also think it's so interesting that while today actors/actresses are quite huge celebrities, back in the day it wasn't quite respectable to be an actress.  You must check out Dorothy Love's Pinterest board for A Respectable Actress.  The clothes!!
Fanny Kemble

I really enjoyed A Respectable Actress and love the author's attention to historical detail and research. I will definitely check out more of her novels in the future.  In particular, The Bracelet looks so interesting.

Ooo and on Dorothy Love's website, her newest one looks interesting! The relationship between Robert E. Lee's wife and her slave.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

If I Run - Terri Blackstock

Title: If I Run
Author: Terri Blackstock
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Published date: February 2016
FTC: Received from publisher

I had never read a Terri Blackstock book and so when I cracked open this one I was pleasantly surprised.  I've checked out on Goodreads that she has quite a few books so I'll have to check more of her books out. I would label her, well this book, as a Christian suspense/crime thriller. Pick this one up if you like stories more character driven than mystery driven. There wasn't really any twists, at least to me, in the story and it was kind of predictable, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the story and the characters. Right now I am enjoying a six week old baby and am a mom to three boys, so this was the perfect novel to just suck me in during my me time.

Warning: This is book one of a series. I did not know this wasn't a stand-alone book. I almost wanted to throw the book at the end because, well, there isn't really an end. I'm going to have to wait until book #2. Not sure how many she is planning in the series.

Back of the book:

Casey knows the truth.

But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

My thoughts:

I had never read a Terri Blackstock book before but after reading If I Run, I will be checking out more of her books. Like I said, I had no clue this was book one in a series so I'll definitely be reading book two because now I need to know the conclusion.

The weird thing about If I Run, is that while the story is fairly predictable and it kind of reminds me of Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven (I watched the movie but haven't read the book) without the romance, but it still pulled me into the story and I was invested in the characters. I really enjoyed the duel perspectives of Casey and Dylan. I liked that there were multiple stories and themes going on in the novel. I don't want to give away all of them but, for instance, Dylan is going through PTSD as a war veteran and my heart just went out to his character and people who are struggling with this. There's also a lot of instances where we question why do bad things happen to good people? It's a great theme to delve into as a Christian book. My only complaint is that I didn't know it was first in a series and I'm still a little confused as to why she couldn't just write a bit longer and wrap it all up. So I'm interested in checking out where she is taking the story next and why it's meant to be a series. 

Have you read any of Terri Blackstock's books? If so, any recommendations of what I should read of hers next?

Check out the book trailer for If I Run and check out TNZ's website:

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Girl from the Train - Irma Joubert

Title: The Girl from the Train
Author: Irma Joubert
Paperback: 370 pages (my version ARC)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published date: 2015
FTC: Received to review from publisher

I love WWII stories. Irma Joubert's The Girl from the Train would be a book I would have picked up to read whether I had received it to review or not.  As the cover states, it was an international bestseller (South Africa and The Netherlands) and was Target's Book Club Pick for November last year.  So it would have been on my radar. Overall I'd say I liked the book but somewhere in the middle it started dragging. Not sure if it was the book's fault or just where I was in my life.

Back of the book:

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakob Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakob fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl's unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakob discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and the little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can't stay with him forever. Jakob sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families - so long as Gretl's Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakob and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

My thoughts:

Overall, The Girl from the Train was a great book. I am always intrigued by books that were originally written in a different language.  It was translated from Afrikaans by Elsa Silke and she did a wonderful job.  It makes me want to read more books that take place in South Africa - past or present. Have any of you read any good Afrikaans literature?

Joubert's book is all about characters and relationships. You can't but help fall in love with Gretl and wonder how she can manage to end up so sane. It reminded me of another book Broken Birds: The story of my momila which really shows how even though people survived the war they still carried heavy emotional scars.  Jakob is a beautifully written character. I love that people like him are out in the world. You can't help but fall in love with Gretl and Jakob.

Somewhere in the middle of the story, while Gretl is growing up in South Africa, I felt the story dragged just a bit. I'm not sure if it's because I was prepared for more of a WWII story, less of a love story, or just felt that part was overly long...maybe it was just because I was pregnant and got tired easily. Who knows. Still, it's a great story and would make for an interesting book club selection.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Tears of Dark Water - Corban Addison

Title: The Tears of Dark Water
Author: Corban Addison
Hardcover: 439 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published date: October 2015
FTC: Received to review from publisher

Wow. I loved this book. One of my favorite things about getting review books is finding and loving stories and authors that I normally would never have checked out. Corban Addison's The Tears of Dark Water is one of these.  I loved his writing and the story is one that will stick with you for a long long time. This is a must read.

Back of the book:

Daniel and Vanessa Parker are an American success story. He is a Washington, DC, power broker, and she is a physician with a thriving practice. But behind the gilded facade, their marriage is a shambles, and their teenage son, Quentin, is self-destructing. In desperation, Daniel dusts off a long-delayed dream a sailing trip around the world. Little does he know, the voyage he hopes will save them may destroy them instead.

Half a world away on the lawless coast of Somalia, Ismail Adan Ibrahim is living a life of crime in violation of everything he was raised to believe except for the love and loyalty driving him to hijack ships for ransom and plot the rescue of his sister, Yasmin, from the man who murdered their father. There is nothing he will not do to save her, even if it means taking innocent lives.

Paul Derrick is the FBI s top hostage negotiator. His twin sister, Megan, is a celebrated defense attorney. They have reached the summit of their careers by savvy, grit, and a secret determination to escape the memory of the day their family died. When Paul is dispatched to handle a hostage crisis at sea, he has no idea how far it will take him and Megan into the past or the chance it will give them to redeem the future.

Across continents and oceans, through storms and civil wars, the paths of these individuals converge in a single, explosive moment. It is a moment that will test them and break them, but it will also leave behind an unexpected glimmer of hope that out of the ashes of tragedy and misfortune, the seeds of justice and reconciliation can grow.

My thoughts:

There are so many characters and relationships in this novel that can be explored. Corban Addison has multiple characters narrate to really get you sucked into the story.  First there's the failing relationship but possibly hopeful reconciliation between Daniel and Vanessa Parker.  It's one of those marriages that probably look perfect in the family photo but in reality is a crumbling mess.  Quentin is their only child and is in the throes of serious self-destruction.  I found it absolutely awesome that Daniel felt that his son and their relationship was so important that while the family was well off, they did make sacrifices for father and son to travel and bond.  But of course, my two favorite characters were Ismail, the Somalian pirate and Paul, the FBI negotiator.  Ismail is awesomely portrayed not as a terrorist, pirate, or ethnic stereotype but as a sympathetic character who's situation and plight are almost unfathomable to much of the Western world. Paul Derrick's character makes me wish this story was made into a movie. He's one of those characters that has me thinking who would be cast to play his character.

I am going to start following Corban Addison as an author and check out more of his novels. The writing is superb, the story absorbing, and the characters moving. I dare you not to get emotionally involved in this story. Dare you not to shove this book on someone else to read. I'm keeping this one to share with my husband.

Side note: Just read on Corban Addison's Goodreads site that The Tears of Dark Water was listed as John Grisham's favorite reads of 2015. Very cool!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hiding Places - Erin Healy

Title: Hiding Places
Author: Erin Healy
Paperback: 351 pages
Published date: September 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
FTC: Received from publisher

I love when I receive review books that I wouldn't normally have picked up and I end up really enjoying them. I tend to gravitate towards historical fiction, even in my suspense or mystery category. But Erin Healy's Hiding Places reminded me to branch out more often. I was also excited that Erin Healy lives in Colorado, which is where I am from, and the story takes place there. Yay!

Back of the book:

Eleven-year old Kate keeps her knowledge to herself - one sister's stash of marijuana, the other's petty cash pilfering, her grandfather's contraband candy bars. She protects her mother and Gran, too, screening out critical comments from the hotel suggestions box. But suddenly the stakes are raised; her grandfather's best friend is murdered the day after Kate heard the two men arguing.

At the same time, far from the quiet mountain resort, a homeless man flees a robbery gone wrong...a gang member seeks revenge for the death of his son...and a boy chooses the worst time to wield spray paint on a store window. In a strange and spiraling sequence of events, their disparate worlds collide at Harrison Lodge.

Kate offers shelter to one of them, unaware of the terrible consequences to the family she loves. But people can hide in all kinds of ways, sometimes even in plain sight...and some secrets are just waiting to be exposed.

My thoughts:

I've probably mentioned this before, but I love when an author shows events unfold through a child's point of view and it actually works and sounds authentic.  I loved the character of Kate. You can tell that she's very smart, self-aware, and able to take care of herself. She's trying to make sense of it all without seeing things through adult eyes but also not completely naive.

Erin Healy also shows the points of view of a couple other characters, including Charlie a young adult who left an abusive home situation and has been homeless for a few years. And then there's the Fox, a man who's torn between life as a gang member and his role as a caring father who is trying to keep his son from following the same path. He was such an interesting character because while he made a lot of bad decisions, he was such a sympathetic character. Well done! Then there's Pearl who is Kate's great-grandmother and who is kind of used to pretending to be crazy and staying out of the way. I liked that she has this awakening of realization that she needs to be more involved in her life and her family.

Hiding Places is technically a Christian fiction book but there really isn't a big Christian theme that I could notice.  I do like that it shows real world people who aren't "bad" or "good" but just living life as it is dealt...making good decisions and bad but once you get into their heads and stories, while you might not agree, there is an understanding. People don't often get up one day and think to themselves, this is the day I'm going to mess up my life.  Often, events and things just spiral out of control.  But then you see people who could make the easy decision and way out but decide to do the right thing and it's amazing.

Again, I liked that the whole story took place in Colorado - Denver and a fictional mountain lodge. I mean we all know that the underbelly of the world exists but to read about it in a familiar setting just makes it hit home a little bit more.

I haven't read anything else by Erin Healy but I will be checking her books out in the future.

Check out Erin Healy's website and Facebook page

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Once Upon a Crime - P.J. Brackston

Title: Once Upon a Crime (A Brothers Grimm Mystery #2)
Author: P.J. Brackston
Paperback: 245 pages (ARC version)
Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Published date: July 2015
FTC: Received from publisher for review

Earlier this year I reviewed P.J. Brackston's first Grimm Mystery Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So when the publishing company asked if I wanted to read and review mystery #2 I said yes! I am so glad I did. This series is going to be one of my go-to vacation mystery books. You know, the books you read on vacation knowing that you will enjoy it.

While Once Upon a Crime is #2 in the series, it actually goes back in time a tad and clears up some of the interesting story lines that were introduced in book #1.  For instance, what is Gretel's connection with the royal family and how did she meet the dashing General Ferdinand? I am pretty sure that if you read this book first it wouldn't be confusing at all for you.

There are a few things about this series that makes me want to recommend it. First, I absolutely love the enigma that is Gretel of Gesternstadt (yes, that Gretel) from Hansel and Gretel fame and private detective for hire.  She's overweight, complains quite a bit, and is a little obsessed with food, hair, and clothing. On paper, she should be irritating and unlikeable but I do...I really like her. The humor that runs throughout the book has you chuckling amidst all the mystery, murder, and mayhem. I also love the historical setting of the story. It takes place not in some mythical fairy tale realm but in a real German local and she makes the cobblestone setting all too believable.

I'm definitely looking forward to further adventures of Gretel of Gesternstadt.

Back of the book:

From New York Times bestselling author P. J. Brackston comes the prequel to Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints, the new novel in the rollicking series featuring Gretel, all grown up and working as a private investigator in 18th century Bavaria.

Gretel (yes, that Gretel) is now 35, very large, still living with her brother Hans, and working as a private investigator. The small, sleepy town of Gesternstadt is shaken to its pretty foundations when the workshop of the local cart maker is burnt to the ground, and a body is discovered in the ashes. It is Gretel who notices that the cadaver is missing a finger. 

At first, she does not see this as significant, as her mind is fully focused on a new case. Not that she wouldn’t far rather be investigating an intriguing murder, but her client is willing to pay over the odds, so she must content herself with trying to trace three missing cats. It is not until she is further into her investigations that she realizes the two events are inextricably and dangerously connected, and that the mystery of the missing cats will lead her into perilous situations and frightening company. 

Very soon Gretel finds herself accused of kidnapping Princess Charlotte, twice locked up in the cells at the Summer Schloss, repelling the advances of an amorous troll, strapped to a rack in Herr Schmerz’s torture chamber, and fleeing a murder charge. With dubious help from her brother (whose scant wits are habitually addled by drink), she must prove her innocence, solve the puzzle of the unidentified corpse, and find the stolen cats before they meet a grisly end.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

R.I.P. X

I have been horrible at blogging lately but how could I not join this year's TENTH R.I.P.!! I love the celebration that Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings started and have been participating for a few years. This year The Estella Society is hosting the event. In case you haven't seen this before:

R.I.P. X officially runs from September 1st through October 31st

Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.
That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.
I think I am going to live dangerously this time and join in on this one:
Peril the First: Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) ofR.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

I know I've already have one mystery under my belt, one of P.J. Brackston's fun A Brothers Grimm Crime Mystery.  I am in the middle of reading a Poisoned Pen Press classic British mystery written in 1932 and I'm also starting Alan Furst's first Night Soldiers novel.

Don't you just love this season? I love that Carl's event just perfectly sums up how I feel about the changing weather and my favorite season.