Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: Death by the Book by Julianna Deering (2014)

Death by the Book by Julianna Deering
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is 1932 and only a few months have passed since the events that turned Drew Farthering's peaceful existence on its head. All he wants now is to convince Madeline, the love of his life, to marry him. Unfortunately for Drew, life throws another wrench in his plans, both by dropping off Madeline's aged, incredibly stubborn aunt on his doorstep as well as a new string of murders that connect to people Drew either knows personally, or knows of through a friend. Drew struggles with Aunt Ruth's disdain and mistrust of his intentions towards her niece, just as he is also dragged back into solving mysteries with the local constabulary. The last thing he anticipated was that the murders, people left slaughtered with a hat pin stuck into their chest bearing a note in Shakespearean script, would slowly creep ever closer to his home. Just as life was returning to normal, mayhem erupts again and Drew must find a solution before people close to him start dying.

There are very few authors I love enough to mentally note their name in anticipation of their next book. Julianna Deering happens to be one of my recent favorites so when the chance came to review her latest release via Netgalley, I jumped on it. And, exactly as I anticipated, she didn't disappoint! Death by the Book is a little bit of a slow starter, which is strange because it begins with a murder, slam-bang right on the first page. But it didn't really snag me fully until I was 50% in, but I blame that more on my distractions and less on Ms. Deering because her entertaining style remains exactly the same as her first book, Rules of Murder. In other words, she's a genius. And once I was able to dedicate lengthy periods of time to finishing the book, I literally didn't want to put it down.

One of the best things that happened at the end of Rules of Murder was Drew's salvation experience. Not that he wasn't a darling to begin with, but it's delightful seeing him run a God filter through his thoughts and actions before saying or doing something in Death by the Book. His salvation experience was genuine, and he did it for himself, not just for Madeline. The attraction between Madeline and Drew grows stronger with each book, which is probably why Aunt Ruth put in an appearance. Although I did find her fears amusing since Americans usually have worse reputations than Brits, but oh well. So, Drew and Madeline have to put barriers in place because the closer they get, the more temptation raises its ugly head. And I love that because it's a representation of real life, of genuine physical attraction. And Drew's resistance to physicality reveals that he loves her for more than just her physical self. It's fantastic.

The mystery itself was a tad confusing for me, mostly because I could only snatch snippets of time here and there to get a chapter read. Once I sat down and dedicated a few hours of time to the book, it clicked into place. I will say that some of the scenes read a little bit like Tommy and Tuppence by Agatha Christie, but that's not really such a bad thing. After all, Christie is one of the greats, and the Beresfords are amazing literary inventions. So, I can't complain. At the beginning I was a little dumbfounded that Drew would find himself embroiled in another mystery especially since he's a gentleman and not a detective or a lawyer or attached to the police force in any way. It made sense at the end of the book but for awhile I just didn't entirely buy Drew's presence at yet more crime scenes when he really didn't need to be involved. I only doubted for about half the book, and was thrilled when  Ms. Deering gave her readers a reason behind Drew's involvement.

I think that's what she does best. She makes the reader wonder how something fits, or makes us think something is a cliche, and then she turns it upside down with a brilliant AHA moment. I loved that about Rules of Murder and she keeps some of the same surprising twists and turns in Death by the Book. Plus, faith is a natural element in Ms. Deering's work. It's never forced, always natural, and I loved the sincerity of Drew's faith when we reach the end of this book. Once I reached that halfway mark, and had time to spend, I literally couldn't stop reading. Now, my one regret, is that yet again I have to wait some period of time for Ms. Deering's next book in the "Drew Farthering Mysteries," already titled Murder at the Mikado. Ooh, I hate waiting!

- I received this book from Bethany House publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Charity Bishop's "I, Claudia" in Kindle format is free this week on Amazon!

Hello to my faithful readers! This week I've got great news for you!

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett recently released the incredibly moving film Son of God in theaters everywhere. Seriously, it's probably in a theater near you, and if it is, you need to go see it. Mark and Roma have pledged a multi-million dollar fundraiser for Compassion International whose tagline is, "Releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name." It doesn't get much better than that.

My own little plug aside, Charity Bishop, a long-time friend of mine and self-published author, is offering her book, I, Claudia, absolutely free in KINDLE format on Amazon. This is a special promotion that ends on March 15th so you have limited time to take her up on the offer!

For those of you unfamiliar with Claudia, she is the wife of Pontius Pilate, the man who ultimately washed his hands of Jesus' fate, thereby condemning him to death. This is Claudia's story as you have never read it before, and will never read it again.

Let's be honest, guys. It's tough being a self-published author! This is a fantastic book and it deserves a little added attention. You can't go wrong with a free Kindle download. So please, head on over to I, Claudia's page on Amazon and click the little button. Make me happy!

If it all possible, even consider adding a review to Amazon for the book. Goodreads is another great option to give a book a little extra push to get it in the public sphere. I loved it, and I hope you'll love it too!

Also, I reviewed I, Claudia several months ago when Charity first released it. So, if you like, check out MY REVIEW!

The promotion ends 3/15 so get your copy now!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Book Review: Ripples Along the Shore by Mona Hodgson (2013)

Ripples Along the Shore (Quilted Hearts, #3)Ripples Along the Shore by Mona Hodgson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Caroline is slowly resigning herself to being a widow after receiving news that her husband, Phillip, died during the war between the states. Her options are limited, and she must live with her sister and family until she gets her feet under her again. Which had better be sooner rather than later since Jack, her sister's husband, makes certain she knows that she's not a welcome presence. Perhaps her only option of any value is to go west with the wagon train that will be heading out from St. Charles in a few months time. Add to her uncertain life situation, Caroline finds the tingling attraction to southerner Garrett Cowlishaw most disconcerting. Her husband and Garrett fought on opposite sides of the war and while a part of her fights against hatred, another part of her knows the hatred is unfounded and she feels something deeper for the man.

I'm not entirely certain what happened with this third installment to Ms. Hodgson's The Quilted Heart novella series. At least with the first two books she maintained continuity and resolved the romances in a positive manner. In this third and final installment, she leaves the story hanging. Caroline is going to travel in the wagon train, but that shouldn't be what this book is about because there is a full-length book to cover that story. Caroline and Garrett have no resolution at all, the story just ends. Which is quite a shame because I liked Caroline the best of the three heroines and would have liked to see a positive conclusion to the story, not having it be a lead-in for a full-length novel. I was just disappointed by the lack of a conclusion to the story. Perhaps the full-length novel about Anna resolves Garrett and Caroline's relationship too.

- I received this book for free from Blogging for Books and Netgalley for this review.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book Review: Bending Toward the Sun by Mona Hodgson (2013)

Bending Toward the Sun (Quilted Hearts, #2)Bending Toward the Sun by Mona Hodgson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Quaid McFarland returns safely from the war between the states, Emilie Heinrich's heart skips an unusual beat. He's grown from a boy into a man, not quite what she expected, and he in turn finds her to be a handsome lass quite different from the girl in pigtails that he once knew. Emilie's loyalty is torn between her feelings for the handsome Irishman and the needs of her father who has no one else to care for him and help him run their general store. Can Quaid and Emilie convince Mr. Heinrich to bend his over-protectiveness towards his daughter and bless their union?

As I've said before, novellas are not really my thing. There's not enough time for character development and that's what I really value in fiction. At least in Bending Toward the Sun, I enjoyed the male lead better than in the 1st in the series. I happen to like Irish characters in fiction so Quaid endeared himself to me quickly. Perhaps it's the reluctant part of me that loves Branson in Downton Abbey that's done it, who knows. So, the male lead caught my attention quickly. The female lead is adequate too. I appreciate her loyalty to family, and her willingness to follow Quaid's lead in how they handle her father's wishes. They're nice, sweet characters that deserve a little happiness. Plus they knew each other when they were younger which makes the love story much more convincing.

Even though Ms. Hodgson didn't quite grab my attention with the 1st novella in the series, this 2nd one accomplished its goal for me of providing an easy reading for a grey and foggy afternoon.

- I received this book for free from Blogging for Books and Netgalley for this review.

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Book Review: Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3, 2017)

Original Summary Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges ...