Book Review: I Will Make You Pay By Teresa Driscoll

Blurb:

Every Wednesday, like clockwork, the terror returns.

It seems like an ordinary Wednesday, until the phone rings. A mysterious caller with a chilling threat. Journalist Alice Henderson hangs up, ready to dismiss it as a hoax against the newspaper. But the next Wednesday, the stalker makes another move—and it becomes clear that this is all about Alice.

Someone wants her to suffer, but for what? Her articles have made her a popular local champion—could it be her past rather than her work that’s put her life in danger? Alice is determined not to give in to fear, but with the police investigation at a dead end, her boyfriend insists on hiring private investigator Matthew Hill.

With every Wednesday the warnings escalate, until it’s not only Alice but also her family in the stalker’s sights. As her tormentor closes in, can Alice uncover what she’s being punished for before the terrifying threats become an unthinkable reality?

General Thoughts:

This is the second book I’ve read from the author, the first one being her best seller, I Am Watching You. This story kept my interest just as the first one did, and I now realize that this author does a great job at keeping the reader at bay.

This is a mystery that will steer you off the path to who the villain—in this case, the stalker, is. Just like I Am Watching You, I had no idea who the stalker was, but the funny thing is, I thought I did.

This story follows primarily Alice, starting with her first threat that initiates the investigation. It’s a multiple POV story, with Matthew, Alice, and the stalker taking over different chapters. This format is easy to follow and with each character having a unique voice and tone, you know who’s speaking even without the chapter titles.

This story is effective in leading the reader on, making them think that it has to be a certain character because the clues match up to them. But with this story and previous one, when you think you know who the villain is, you don’t, which is a strength of the story. I believe a good mystery is one that surprises you at the end.

Of course, I was surprised to find who was after Alice, though it all made sense why they were.

A weakness of the story was it contained too much filler at times. Reading about Matthew’s family life and so on made the reading drag a bit, but I know the author wanted to add context and possibly hint at what was at stake throughout the investigation.

Beyond that, the story had enough suspense and activity going on that held my interest. It wasn’t a dark read, though the situation was for the characters, and I like how the author camouflaged sensitive topics that came up in the story. This makes this read accessible to many.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story to those who like unpredictable, suspenseful mysteries. Also those who want to read something frightening, but not something that will stick with them for a long time in a negative way.

Rating:

4 stars out of 5. I like how I was wrong who the stalker was, it made the ending exciting. The story also held my interest for the most part, though there were some areas that lagged due to filler scenes that went on too long.

***This book was given to me by NetGalley for an honest review.***

Advertisements

Book Review: Until the Mountains Fall By Connilyn Cossette

Blurb:

Recently widowed, Rivkah refuses to submit to the Torah law compelling her to marry her husband’s brother and instead flees Kedesh, hoping to use her talents as a scribe to support herself. Without the protection of her father, Kedesh’s head priest, and the safety of the city of refuge, Rivkah soon discovers that the cost of recklessness is her own freedom.

Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but he never imagined his older brother’s death would mean wedding her. After her disappearance, he throws himself into the ongoing fight against the Canaanites instead of dwelling on all he has lost. But with war looming over Israel, Rivkah’s father comes to Malakhi with an impossible request.

As the enemies that Rivkah and Malakhi face from within and without Israel grow more threatening each day, is it too late for the restoration their wounded souls seek?

General Thoughts:

I’ve read most of Connilyn’s books but one, which is the very first book she wrote (and is currently in my e-book library), and I can now say that I won’t be disappointed with any new book she writes (or maybe the correct words are I have confidence that I won’t be disappointed). Her strength as a writer is in her characters, her ability to draw out vivid and deeply felt personalities in each one of them, even the tertiary extras. With each word spoken from a character, I can almost see them on the page and envision their tone, personality, and expression.

Okay, so on with the story.

This story is the third installment of the Cities of Refuge series. You don’t have to read the other books to understand what takes place in this story, but it is a progression of what happened in the first and second books. In other words, characters from the first stories show up, but their roles are secondary and don’t affect the overall plot.

What I liked about this story, other than the authenticity of characters, was the underlying message, which is a theme in Connilyn’s books. It follows Rivkah, a young widow forced to marry Malakhi, the “annoying” little brother of her late husband. Of course Rivkah’s not interested, due to the childhood follies that occurred between her and Malakhi, and decides to run away when the opportunity arises.

As the story progresses, there is a transformation in Rivkah and Malakhi, one of overcoming rebellion, dealing with its consequences, and finding forgiveness, not only to others who were affected by one’s choices, but in one’s self. If you love transformation and redemption stories, this is a perfect example of that.

What I didn’t like? I gave this some thought and still struggled to find any real issues. I thought the pacing was well—each chapter served a purpose, either that of internal growth or evolution in Rivkah or Malakhi, or a progression of the plot. I didn’t find myself confused over anything, and there were several moments where something “shocking” or alarming happened that prevented me from putting the book down (even when I needed to). The only thing I would say is if you haven’t read the first two books, you might be curious to know why certain relationships between characters are the way they are, but even with that, I think Connilyn does a good job hinting at what led to such relationships.

In closing, I loved how the story wrapped up and I felt content as a reader. I also loved seeing a bit of the character who will be the heroine for the last book in the series that comes out next year.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this book to those who like biblical historical fiction or fiction that takes place during the biblical times, and those who love character driven stories that have messages of transformation and redemption.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I did my best to find parts that were issues in the story, and honestly, there was none that kept me from turning the pages or asking questions that should be answered. I enjoyed the subtle suspense at times and the deep internal insight Rivkah and Malakhi had about themselves.

***This book was given to me by NetGallery for an honest review.***

Book Review: Between Two Shores By Jocelyn Green

Between Two Shores Cover

Blurb:

The daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father in 1759 Montreal, Catherine Duval would rather remain neutral in a world tearing itself apart. Content to trade with both the French and the British, Catherine is pulled into the Seven Years’ War against her wishes when her British ex-fiancé, Samuel Crane, is taken prisoner by her father. Samuel claims he has information that could help end the war, and he asks Catherine to help him escape.

Peace appeals to Catherine, even if helping the man who broke her heart does not. But New France is starving, and she and her loved ones may not survive another winter of conflict-induced famine. When the dangers of war arrive on her doorstep, Catherine and Samuel flee by river toward the epicenter of the battle between England and France. She and Samuel may impact history, but she fears the ultimate cost will be higher than she can bear.

General Thoughts:

This author is all about the details, and that’s a good thing. From the very first chapter, I was thrown into a vivid world in mid 18th century America. I could feel the tension a high turmoil environment brought for Catherine, her family, and Samuel.

Catherine, a French-Mohawk woman, was caught between her French side and Mohawk side of the family. With the death of her mother, she made the decision to go to her French father, leaving her siblings behind. This isolated Catherine for a while, especially as she struggled to gain acceptance from her father, who showed very little of it. But when Englishman Samuel came into the picture as her father’s servant, they forged a friendship, which later turned into love.

Eventually Samuel escaped with the promise of reuniting and marrying Catherine, but that never happened. However as war ravaged on, he returned as his father’s servant, which led to greater challenges for Catherine, such as learning to forgive him for his failed promise and helping him flee once again from her father to deliver information that could end the war, in the British’s favor.

I like how the author created complicated characters. They weren’t predictable, knowing everything and having everything under control. This led to many surprises, especially on Samuel’s end. Catherine was the most compelling character to me, because she had the hardest battle to overcome: accepting reality and learning to forgive. This led to some self-reflection on my part. I considered my own reality, realizing that no matter how brave, strong-willed, or determined one is, there are some things one can’t control or change, especially in regards to people. However, one can always overcome and grow.

I will say the ending was bittersweet to me. I believe things ended as best as they could, giving what was revealed about the characters and plot. However, there were some things I wished wouldn’t have happened between Catherine, her family, and Samuel, which if you read the story, you will understand what I’m referring to. But then again, the story depicted the reality of a war-torn, high conflict world, so to me, it’s representation was believable.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story to readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially American history. The author definitely did her homework, not holding back on the reality of the time period (mid-1700s). I also think readers who are looking for realism, characters who don’t always get a happily ever after, but who still reach a light at the end of the tunnel will like this book as well.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. This was a well-written story. The author was vivid in her world building and character behaviors. As I read each page, I could easily visualize the scenes and feel the tension. As a story that includes war, it can be a little graphic so for readers who are sensitive to this, they should be aware. Nevertheless, reading the story is worthwhile as it delivers a strong message of acceptance and forgiveness.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: This Tiny Perfect World By Lauren Gibaldi

tinyperfectworldcover

Blurb:

Penny loves her small-town Florida life, and she has her future mapped out. She’s going to community college after graduation to stay close to home and her best friend, Faye. She’ll take over the family diner that her dad has been managing since her mother died. And one day, she’ll marry her high school sweetheart, Logan.

But when she unexpectedly lands a scholarship to a prestigious summer theater camp, she is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And suddenly, her future gets a little hazy. As she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that maybe the life everyone (including her) expects her to lead is not the one she was meant to have.

General Thoughts:

I have to be honest, it was the cover that made to pick up this book, and after reading it, I can say that I was not disappointed. This story was a little different from what I generally read or have read before, but I liked how it was a simple everyday life kind of story. I found it refreshing and easy to read.

The strength of this story was the main character Penny and her internal battle to choose a different path in life from what was already set up for her. Here she was, a 17 year old who already had her career guaranteed for her (her mother’s diner), a boyfriend whom she planned to marry, a best friend, everything she supposedly wanted in life. But after going to acting camp and meeting others with big goals and dreams, she started to question whether she truly wanted what she already had.

This was a perfect story of finding yourself, a coming of age story. As a reader, I liked the idea of going inside Penny’s mind, seeing the transformation of her figuring out what she wanted in life to finally reaching a conclusion. Although I am not a teenager like Penny, I related to that struggle of forging a different path that is far from the norm or what is expected of you.

A major weakness of the story was the characters came across a little one dimensional, there was not a lot of depth to them. I felt like the author was afraid to mess up the characters a bit, I felt like she was trying to perfect them, in their expressions, image, and speech. Even Penny, who was the most developed character, still had a slightly flat personality. It would have been nice to make her more unique. All this gave the story a slightly bland feel.

Another weakness I could see, although for me it was not a problem since I was more interested in Penny’s internal struggle, was that there wasn’t a major conflict in the story. There was no great challenge that Penny had to overcome or face. I would say the closest was her decision on whether to break up with her boyfriend. So as said before, this was one of your everyday simple life type of stories.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this to those who like young adult, coming of age stories, or more specifically, stories about finding yourself. Also to those who like simple everyday life stories that don’t have a lot of drama or conflict, but focus on the character’s internal struggles and eventual growth.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. While the story was relatable and easy to read, I felt it lacked the depth needed to make it memorable and as powerful as it could have been. The characters seemed one dimensional, like they didn’t have unique personalities of their own.

Book Review: Shelter of the Most High By Connilyn Cossette

shelterofthemosthighimage

Blurb:

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a city of refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood, yet chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Can they uncover the betrayal in time to save their lives and the lives of those they love?

General Thoughts:

I’ve read most of Connilyn’s books at this point and they continue to deliver deeply carved characters and intriguing plots. Though this is a standalone book, if you’ve read the first book in the series, A Light on the Hill, it continues with the story of Moriah’s (the main character in the first book) adopted son, Eitan. They now live under the protection of a city of refuge, Kedesh, however Eitan struggles to let go of the accidental tragedy that was placed on Moriah.

When Sofea and her cousin are brought into their lives, Eitan immediately is drawn to Sofea. Sofea is unsure about Eitan and his people. As she slowly learns his language, she begins to ask questions, which leads to Eitan revealing what Kedesh is and who his people are.

Sofea initially struggles to accept that Kedesh is a refuge for accused criminals, and that only strengthens Eitan’s struggle to accept what he did when he was a child. Even when he realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Sofea, his past becomes a barrier in making that possible.

Overall, this story is about redemption and forgiveness, not necessarily that which comes from others, but one’s self. Even as those around him, including Sofea later on, accept and understand him for who he is and what he’s done, he can’t seem to accept himself. It’s relatable to me and I believe it is for many. Often our unwillingness to forgive ourselves and offer ourselves redemption, prevents us from receiving the blessings and having the life that God wants us to have. In other words, living our life to the fullest.

It takes a near tragedy and Eitan potentially losing what he wants the most before he considers life as a forgiven man. As I read the story, Eitan’s internal journey resonated with me. As the plot unfolded, my interest increased and I felt I wasn’t reading the story anymore, but was a part of it. Connilyn is good with world and character building. I doubt they’ll be a story of hers that will disappoint me.

Recommendation:

Yes, I recommend this book to those who like biblical historical fiction and especially to those who are looking for themes of forgiveness and redemption. This author does a good job at getting to the heart of matter with her character arcs, really diving deep into their minds and creatively sorting out their problems. I also like how she uses their current circumstances to force them to come to terms with their demons inside.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. The story was evenly paced and the plot had enough high points and intrigue to keep my interest. There was a perfect balance between the character’s internal struggles and external struggles. I quickly identified with Eitan, which made me want to root for him and see how things end.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Together Forever By Jody Hedlund

togetherforvercover

Blurb:

Will the Mistakes of Their Past Cost Them a Chance at Love?

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

General Thoughts:

I’ve long enjoyed Jody’s stories and if you view my other reviews of her lighthouse series, you’ll notice that I gave them high ratings. The primary reason is due to her ability to create characters that are resonating, that I see a bit of myself in, thus feeling the weight of their fall, and the rise of their victory.

This story follows Marianne, one of the main characters. As I was reading, I realized that this story was the second book in the Orphan Train series, so this story was sort of a continuation of a character that was introduced in the first book. However, this did not make it difficult for me to understand and connect with her. The author did a seamless job in weaving in elements from Marianne’s past that influenced her goals and actions pursued in the story.

What carried the story for me and kept my interest was the interaction between Andrew and Marianne. I thought it was clever how the author brought them together as they were initially working partners set out to find families for the orphans in their care. The struggle with guilt that Andrew harbored inside related to his past negligence, as well as feelings of rejection and disappointing his family, was the strength of this story.

As things started to unfold, and Andrew’s reasons behind his hesitation to pursue a relationship with Marianne became clear, he was forced to confront the people that he was trying to get away from. He thought pushing Marianne to marry another man would solve his problems but I like how Marianne refused to give up on him and how through her, and the orphans who saw the genuine person inside him, he was able to forgive himself, accept God’s redemption, and have the life he truly wanted.

As far as weaknesses this story had, there were really none for me. The colorful dialogue that occurred between the orphans, Andrew, and Marianne as they traveled across the United States was humorous, lighthearted, and charming. There were no slow parts and every chapter had a purpose to the plot. I was sort of sad when I got to the end of the book because I still wanted to see what else unfolded in their lives.

If I have to nitpick, I was a little disappointed that Marianne’s personal goal was not fulfilled. From the beginning of the story, the reader is made aware that Marianne is searching her sister Sophie who was separated from her some time ago. While Marianne’s goal is to place the orphans with families as they travel from New York to Illinois, she also hopes to find Sophie, or at least get some leads to where she could be.

Long story short, she never finds Sophie or gets any leads. It seems the drama with Drew and her clouds her pursuit, which is realistic. Finding Sophie wasn’t necessary the goal of the plot, but I couldn’t help having thoughts of where she could be lingering in my head.

Perhaps in the next book we’ll find out what became of Sophie.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this book to everyone, unless you’re really not a fan of historical fiction. I think the character of Andrew Brady was the strength of this story, due to his personal battles of guilt and struggle to accept forgiveness and redemption. I think those are universal issues that will resonate with a lot of people.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I really loved the characters and the orphans were very endearing. The book moved at a balanced speed and every chapter had a purpose, not getting carried away. Even with the disappointment of not finding out what happened to Sophie, I still ended the book feeling that the story came full circle.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: First Impressions by Debra White Smith

 

230676

Blurb:

In an attempt to get to know the people of London, Texas–the small town that lawyer Eddi Boswick now calls home–she tries out for a local theater group’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She’s thrilled to get the role of lively Elizabeth Bennet . . . until she meets the arrogant–and eligible–rancher playing her leading man.

Dave Davidson chose London, Texas, as the perfect place to live under the radar. Here, no one knows his past, and he can live a quiet, peaceful life with his elderly aunt, who also happens to own the local theater. Dave doesn’t even try out for the play, but suddenly he is thrust into the role of Mr. Darcy and forced to spend the entire summer with Eddi, who clearly despises him.

Sparks fly every time Eddi and Dave meet, whether on the stage or off. But when Eddi discovers Dave’s secret, she has to admit there might be more to him than she thought. Maybe even enough to change her mind . . . and win her heart.

General Thoughts:

This story is a retelling of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice and I have to be honest, I have not read the original story, but I have seen a film version of it and definitely could see the similarities between the two characters, Eddi and Dave.

This story read like a serious comedy for me and that’s what kept me turning the pages. I instantly connected with Eddi and found her confidence, intelligence, sometimes blunt personality refreshing, although it did sometimes get the best of her and created a stumbling block in her relationships with people. However, I loved how she was unwilling to budge on certain things in life, how she unwilling to settle for less. I especially liked that although she was a person of means, she didn’t care for money all that much, she was more concerned with the wellbeing of others.

The story focuses primarily on Eddi’s and Dave’s rollercoaster relationship. Eddi, the intelligent person she is, quickly assumes the worst of Dave, based off of his personality (something they shared in common), wealth, and status. From the first day, it’s apparent that they like each other and I thought the author did a good job illustrating the internal battles they both had inside to accept that fact. As the story progresses, I found it comical, though in a concerned way, the state of Eddi’s family, especially her mother and sister Linda, who were two peas in a pod and reckless with their lives. I wasn’t surprised when I found out what happen to Linda, but it was an nice ending to see how things came together, especially with Dave helping Linda make the most of what became of her life, which I believe ultimately drew him close to Eddi.

As far as negatives, with the amount of natural humor and personalities that poured out of the book, I couldn’t find one. The story progressed at an even pace, every page was worth reading, and the message of redemption, restoration, and not being quick to judge was easily understood.

Recommendation:

I would definitely recommend this story to those who are fans of Jane Austin’s stories, or Pride and Prejudice to say the least. Also, to those who like witty, serious stories with natural humor that contain characters with big personalities.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. There wasn’t a moment that I found boring or dragging. The strength of the story was the characters’ personalities. They were sharp, blunt, witty, and full of energy. Though some of them were crazy and destructive, they eliminated the possibility for any dull moments.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***