Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Centralia

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Centralia
Mike Dellosso
Tyndale

Peter Ryan wakes up on a typical morning only to find his house empty, his wife and daughter nowhere to be found. His world is shattered after a phone call to a friend confirms the impossible: his wife and daughter died in a car accident he does not remember. Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn't right and begins to question reality. When he discovers a note in his daughter's handwriting, strange memories begin to surface that cause him to second-guess nearly everything he once believed. Suddenly armed men show up at Peter's home, turning the mysterious puzzle of his past into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. On the run and unsure whom to trust, Peter has to discover what's real and what isn't . . . before he loses everything.

   This book was one crazy ride from beginning to end. I had no idea that this book was going to be the first in a series...yeah, I didn't know what I was walking into :)

   Centralia was definitely different from most books I've read. Maybe that's because, while I'm not exactly a total stranger to the suspense genre, most of those that I do read are written by women. I have to admit this made a difference- this book focused a whole lot more on the actual action rather than the relationships...which I can't say I altogether mind.

   The book took a variety of twists and turns that at times got a little confusing. Even at the end, you're not quite sure whether the truth he's discovered is, in fact, the actual truth....I guess that's where the other books in the series will come in.

   There were a couple of really good scenes in this book that I loved reading (I couldn't help picturing some of the action scenes in movie form) but it was definitely violent. There were people dying all over the place. Also, Centralia itself is a seriously too-crazy-to-be-real town. (Literally, the mine underground the town has been on fire since the 60s)

   Anyway, though I didn't fall in love with this book, I did like it.

Objectionable content: quite a lot of action/violence. 

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Cactus Creek Challenge

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The Cactus Creek Challenge
Erica Vetsch
Shiloh Run

Anything he can do, I can do better. At least that was what Cassie Bucknell thought before she pinned on Ben Wilder’s badge and took to patrolling the streets of Cactus Creek, Texas. Cassie has been in love with Ben since primer school, but Ben treats her like a little sister. When they are picked to swap jobs for a month as part of the annual Cactus Creek Challenge in their Texas hometown, the schoolhouse is thrown into an uproar, the jail becomes a temporary bank vault, and Cassie and Ben square off in a battle of wills that becomes a battle for their hearts.

This novel is set in a Texas town in the late 1800s where the annual "Cactus Creek Challenge" takes place- when four people switch jobs for a month to raise money for various causes around the town. This year is a little different, though- the council has decided to allow the women to participate, which means that schoolteacher Cassie Bucknell is required to switch jobs with Sheriff Ben Wilder, and stable owner Carl Gustafson has to switch with baker Jenny Hart.

This book was really cute! The plot idea was perhaps a little unlikely, but interesting and unusual enough so that I knew I wanted to read it :) One thing I really liked was that it wasn't just Cassie and Ben's story; it was also about the other couple doing the challenge, too. There were several times this story had me smiling or even giggling to myself as they all made complete messes of each others' jobs.

    The characters could be pretty stubborn, though...sometimes I felt like they were getting upset over nothing and making bigger deals than were needed. Still, I did enjoy this one.

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hiding in the Light

Hiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus  -     By: Rifqa Bary

Hiding in the Light
Rifqa Bary
Waterbrook


“After four years of hiding my faith from my family, I knew that it was time. I wrote with shaky hands, ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I refuse to deny him….’ There was no turning back now. I had to get out of that house if I wanted to live. Was this worth risking everything for? Yes.”

Rifqa Bary grew up in a devout Muslim home, obediently following her parents’ orders to practice the rituals of Islam. But God was calling her to freedom and love. He was calling her to true faith. He was calling her to give up everything.
Leaving Islam for Christianity cost her more than she imagined
but gave more than she could have dreamed.
Hiding in the Light is the story of Rifqa’s remarkable spiritual journey from Islam to Christianity. It is also the untold story of how she ran from her father’s threats to find refuge with strangers in Florida, only to face a controversial court case that reached national headlines. Most of all, it is the story of a young girl who made life-changing sacrifices to follow Jesus—and who inspires us to do the same.


   A book like this is hard to review. Honestly, how can a person "critique" someone's very personal story? I wanted to read this book because I have a vague memory of seeing/reading Rifqa's story on the news back in 2009, and wished to know more.

    Hiding in the Light is not a long book, but the story inside of it is life-changing. The author's testimony is often hard to read, full of mistakes and God's grace, but ultimately a powerful one. It's also a book that can't help but affect the reader: if Rifqa was willing to do so much to follow Christ, at the risk of losing her family and even her life, how petty our own fears about sharing our faith become!

    Overall, I highly recommend this book to any Christian for encouragement, and to any reader for a hard look at the inevitable clash between Islam and Christianity.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Siren's Fury

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Siren's Fury
Mary Weber
Thomas Nelson

After a slight disappointment with the first book in this series, I admit I came into Siren's Fury with mixed feelings. I had hope that it would be better than the first book, but let's face it: most every trilogy suffers from that dreaded middle book slump. So I tried not to let my expectations get too high.

However, I was really, pleasantly surprised. I did like Siren's Fury better than Storm Siren! Part of the fact might have been because I felt that the writing was smoother and things seemed to click in place a little better. The worldbuilding still wasn't the book's strong point, but I felt like I had a better grasp of the setting here.

The characterizations were also enjoyable. While Nym isn't always exactly likable, I loved Princess Rasha and believe it or not, I felt like one of the best done characters was Myles. How did that happen??? Also, there was less romance which, for me anyway, was a plus.

However, even though this is by a Christian publisher, I still wouldn't label it "Christian fiction." There's nothing too terrible, but it's not one for younger readers- it can be violent, and magic is involved. (There is one scene where Nym goes to see a witch to get her help. *SPOILER* this is ultimately seen as a bad thing, but the scene was creepy and something a Christian reader might wish to be aware of *END OF SPOILER*)

It did take me a few chapters to really get into, but I did enjoy this book, and I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion to this series!

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sophia

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Sophia
Paul Kremser
Cedar Fort

Small-town Sophia Spencer can’t believe her luck when an unexpected inheritance allows her to experience London’s social scene. But her happiness disappears when she is caught napping in a grumpy gentleman’s room—and forced into an engagement to protect her reputation! Personalities collide and love blooms in this stunning debut novel.

     I'm not sure why this book caught my eye. Was it the short but amusing synopsis? The pretty, feminine cover? Maybe I'll never know, but it interested me enough so that when I saw it on sale on Amazon, I swooped in and bought it up.

    The first word that comes to mind about this book is cute. I wasn't overly fond of the writing style, which at times felt a little stilted, but the plot really was enjoyable and I liked the characters. Overall, I felt like this was a book that, though it could have been done a little better, was still fun and adorable.

     One minor issue that has nothing to do with the story at all: it's a little difficult to pin down the exact time period of this novel, but from other reviews (and the author's bio) it sounds like it's a Regency...which doesn't at all match with the photo, as the girl on the cover is very clearly Victorian/Edwardian. Which probably does not bother most people, but as a fashion history nut, I found it a little confusing.

Anyway, it was short, sweet little (around 200 pages) book and I'd love to check out other books by this author in the future.

Rating: 7

Love's Rescue

#1: Love's Rescue  -     By: Christine Johnson

Love's Rescue
Christine Johnson
Revell

When her mother dies, Elizabeth Benjamin heads home to Key West, determined to transform herself into the perfect Southern belle her parents always wished her to be. But nothing goes according to plan. Her crippled brother resents her, the servants do not obey her, and Rourke O'Malley, the dashing man she vowed to forget, refuses to relinquish his hold on her heart. Worst of all, it becomes painfully obvious that her father is not the upright man he appears to be.

As family secrets come to light, Elizabeth is faced with a difficult choice: to do her duty and abandon her dreams, or to leave her life of privilege behind to chase the man her father sees as little better than a pirate.

From the first emotional page, author Christine Johnson throws readers into a world of impossible choices, hidden desires, and heart-melting romance in the steamy south. Readers will cheer for Elizabeth and Rourke as they battle the odds and the elements to secure their future.

     This ended up being one of those books that I wished I hadn't requested for review, simply because I overall felt really lackluster about it. I found some of the characters' motivations a little contradictory at times, and most of the plot twists were somewhat predictable. I really had to pull myself through it.

     However, I did enjoy the seafaring bits, and the setting was not something I've read a whole lot about before. While I wasn't particularly attached to any of the characters, I admit that Elizabeth's brother Charlie stood out and was probably the most interesting to me.

    Overall, this seemed like a pretty standard, if not particularly memorable, piece of Christian fiction.

Rating: 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Taken

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Taken
Dee Henderson
Bethany House Publishers

Abducted at the age of sixteen and coerced into assisting the Jacoby crime family, Shannon Bliss has finally found a way out. She desperately wants to resume some semblance of normal life, but she also knows she has some unfinished business to attend to. She has enough evidence to put her captors behind bars for a very long time.

When Shannon contacts private investigator and former cop Matthew Dane to help her navigate her reentry into society, she quickly discovers that gaining her freedom doesn’t mean her troubles are over. For one thing, her brother is the leading candidate in the race for Illinois governor, and news of her escape will create a media frenzy. For another, the ransom her family reportedly paid years earlier appears to have been a scam; no one knows what happened to the money. And then there’s the fact that Shannon’s escape involved faking her own death. If the Jacoby family learns she is still alive, they’ll stop at nothing to silence her.

If justice is to be done, and if Shannon’s life is ever to get on track again, Matthew will need to discover exactly what happened to her–even if it means stirring up a hornet’s nest of secrets

   Remember my review of Undetected last year? Though it wasn't a favorite, it did remind me of how I enjoyed past books by Dee Henderson, so I decided to check this one out.

   While I definitely enjoyed this book better than the last, I had a lot of the same problems. Despite being labeled "romantic suspense" there was very little of either in this novel. There were never any moments where my heart pounded or where I didn't know what was going to happen, and all of the character's actions were very controlled...everyone seemed to act perfectly somehow? I don't know if I'm really making sense here, but the characters, while not being unrealistic or even shallow were very...controlled. Yes, repeating myself there but that's the only word I can think of. Nothing unexpected happened and I never really felt like anyone was in danger at all during the course of the story; the book seemed to be dealing with the aftermath of something that had already happened.

   Also, I feel like the romance fell really short. Believe me, I'm not a "romanc-y" person but the relationship between the two characters, while it could have really worked, fell a little flat. Not that I wanted a whole lot of "mushiness," but some conflict or lively conversation between the characters would have been nice, at least.

   I wasn't bored with this book; it kept my interest and, like I said, I liked it better than Undetected. But it wasn't quite what I was hoping for and I admit to being a little disappointed.

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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