Book Review: The Number of Love By Roseanna M. White

The Number of Love Cover

Blurb:

The Toughest Puzzle She’ll Have to Solve
Might Be the Wishes of Her Own Heart

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack German telegrams for hints of the enemy’s plans. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, she discovers for the first time in her life that numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the quick and brainy Margot, but soon the dangers of the war draw ever closer. Margot and Drake will have to team up to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

General Thoughts:

The strength of this story was in the characters. The author is good at creating complex and unconventional characters who are likeable and relatable. The story follows Margot, who’s a numbers girl decoding secret messages in the Great War of 1917. I have to be honest, I found it challenging to follow her communication in numbers, but overall, I understood her ambitions and view of the world.

I like the progressive spirit Margot had and how her newfound friendship with Dot and Drake—siblings, challenged that. She was the woman not interested in marriage and family, but mathematics, yet Dot and Drake forced her to consider one over the other, and if she could have both.

The story is full of subtle suspense and intrigue, starting with the questionable death of Margot’s mother. During the war, fear loomed that the enemy was threatening their territory with things like anthrax, so this lead Margot to go on her own investigation on the real cause of her mother’s death.

In addition, there’s another man (the antagonist) after Dot and Drake, avenging his brother’s death—the result of Drake’s actions (unintentional). This forced the three’s relationship to develop, and in the end, Margot was left to decide where she wanted her future to go.

Strengths, weaknesses?

As mention before, the characters’ personalities and beliefs were clear strengths. Each of the main characters, even secondary characters, was unique, distinguishable, and surprisingly likeable, in the case of the protagonist. With the protagonist, I understood his reasons for vengeance and even sympathize with him (though I did not agree with it).

For weaknesses, Margot’s use of numbers to communicate and understand things was confusing and threw me off at times. From a bird’s eye view, I knew what her mission and motivations were, it just took me longer to reach that.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story. I believe it will appeal to those who like historical fiction, especially during the wartime era in Europe. Also readers who like character driven stories of people who are unconventional and bold, will enjoy this as well.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. The story was evenly paced. I didn’t feel any lulls, and each chapter served a purpose. The characters were well developed and it looked like the author spent a good amount of time making them unique.

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

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Book Review: In Places Hidden By Tracie Peterson

In Places Hidden Cover

Blurb:

The search for her missing brother leads to the most dangerous part of the city . . .

Camrianne Coulter’s brother Caleb is a successful San Francisco attorney. But when three months go by without a word from the usually communicative Caleb, Camri boards a train to the booming West Coast city to find out for herself why he hasn’t written. When she arrives at his home, nobody seems to know where he is, or what has become of him.

Camri’s search for her brother leads her deep into the political corruption of the city–and into the acquaintance of Patrick Murdock, who Caleb successfully defended from a false murder charge. Getting to know this handsome Irish contractor challenges all of Camri’s privileged beliefs, but Patrick is unshakably loyal to her brother, and he seems to know more about what happened to Caleb than anyone else. As the two edge closer to the truth behind Caleb’s disappearance, they risk angering the powerful forces that control the city. Can Camri trust Patrick to protect her from the dangers that lie hidden in San Francisco’s backstreets?

General Thoughts:

I’ll start by saying that Tracie knows how to create authentic characters, characters who are believable in terms of what they say and do, and even how they speak. If nothing else, I enjoyed getting to know Camri and Patrick, even secondary characters such as her friends, Judith and Kenzie, and their caretakers, the Wongs.

In short, the plot centered on Camri traveling to San Francisco to find her lost brother Caleb. Upon her arrival, she met and quickly befriended Judith and Kenzie, who were embarking on their own mission to find lost relatives. They decided to stick together and support each other’s endeavors, first starting with Camri.

The women lived together in Caleb’s abandoned house, getting jobs and using their funds to survive and support the search for Caleb. Camri pretty much ended up doing the searching, looking into Caleb’s life and relationships, which eventually led her to Patrick.

To me, the strength of the story wasn’t in Camri looking for Caleb, but in how she developed as a person. Camri was quite progressive for her time, which was the early 1900s. She was all about women’s rights, fighting for them to get a proper education, advance their careers, and especially vote. In her dialogue with Judith and Kenzie, she was quick to challenge their ideas of wanting to get married and be homemakers. She believed every woman should want more.

This caused her to clash with them, including Patrick, but through some self searching and understanding their life stories, she came to realize that as smart and progressive as she was, she still had a lot to learn that could only be done through listening to people and taking the time to walk in their shoes.

With this, and the goal of finding Caleb, this made for an enjoyable read. I got through it fairly quickly and was happily surprised how things turned out with the Caleb situation. I think the author succeeded in keeping things unpredictable.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story for those who not only love historical fiction, but who are interested in character development, seeing an internal transformation that can enlighten one to think about their own self and the world around them.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. I found this story to be a fairly good read. The plot was well developed without a predictable ending, and I like how believable the characters were. Especially where Camri and Patrick’s relationship was concerned, I like how the author made them acknowledge that though they loved each other, they still needed to get to know each other before rushing into things.

Book Review: Mind Games By Nancy Mehl

mind games cover

Blurb:

FBI Behavioral Analyst Kaely Quinn’s methods may be highly unorthodox, but her talent is undeniable. She’s done her best to establish a new life for herself after being demoted and transferred to St. Louis when a reporter revealed she’s the daughter of an infamous serial killer. But when that same reporter claims to have received an anonymous poem predicting a string of murders, ending with Kaely’s, it seems her old life has followed her.

When a body is found that fits the poem’s morbid predictions, Kaely and her new partner, Special Agent Noah Hunter, are forced to move past his skepticism of her approach and work together to unravel the deadly riddle.

With a brazen serial killer who breaks all the normal patterns on the loose, Noah and Kaely must race to catch the murderer before anyone else, including Kaely, is killed.

General Thoughts:

From the moment I opened up this book, I knew it was going to be interesting. Immediately I was given glimpses of the Kaely’s past, the tragedy that fell on her family, and what led her to pursuing a career in the FBI. This story doesn’t leave room for dull moments, and I can honestly say that was a major strength of it.

Kaely, though tough on her own, was a sympathetic character. She was immediately villainized by many in her community and members in the field due to her family background, which was out of her control. This led to an unknown killer who wanted her to pay for the sins of her family’s past, and I like how the author made it somewhat like a riddle to figure out who that killer was.

I kept wanting to turn the pages to see who that killer was. I like how the killer was connected to Kaely and not some random killer they’ve never seen before. This made the story more interesting, especially knowing that the killer could be someone she talks to every day.

Another strength of the story was the relationship between her and Noah, her FBI partner. After facing his own tragedy in losing his wife to an illness, he struggled to accept that God was real. I like how the author used Kaely, who is a believer, to explain how God was working in her life in a way that considered Noah’s lack of understanding. I think she made her points easy to comprehend.

In the end, I was a little surprised to find out who the killer was and it made sense. Sometimes it can be challenging to weave a thriller/mystery story together, but I have to say that this author succeeded. Though this story came to an end, I see that another book is coming out in 2019 with Kaely and Noah, so I can’t wait to see how their relationship unfolds and what other problems they face as FBI agents.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this to anyone who likes crime scene stories that weave thriller and mystery into them. Also who like stories that focus on characters with internal struggles and growth.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars. The story kept me interested from start to finish. I think the pacing was good, there was always something going on, whether with the characters internally or the plot. I would have loved to see Noah’s personal transformation with the internal struggles he had, but I realized there’s another book coming out, so we may see it there. Great overall, and I would definitely recommend it. It won’t disappoint.

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

Book Review: This Tiny Perfect World By Lauren Gibaldi

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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

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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: First Impressions by Debra White Smith

 

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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.***

 

Book Review: I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

I am watching you

Blurb:

What would it take to make you intervene?

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realizes they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.

A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.

Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.

Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.

 General Thoughts:

 The blurb got me with this one, it seemed like one of those mysteries I could possibly play along with, guessing who was the perpetrator. However, that wasn’t the case.

I will start off by saying that I liked the author’s voice in this story. It made the characters, who I assume she wanted the reader to like, likeable, such as the witness Ella. Ella’s concern and understanding for the victim Anna, as well as the other people in her life, such as her son, the private detective, and even Anna’s mother, made me want things to end well for her. As I turned the pages, I hoped that whoever was secretly harassing Ella would meet justice.

I also liked how the story was arranged. There were several points of views, I believe about seven of them. However, the story was very easy to follow since each chapter was titled with the character’s name. Also, the points of views shifted from first to third, but again, that generally corresponded with the character. So Ella, for example, was always written in first person, while Anna’s father, was always in third.

Some things that I didn’t like about the story, was how it was misleading in some ways. The actual perpetrator didn’t come into view until the end of the story. A few characters and their situations were emphasized too much that I initially thought they tied in to Anna’s disappearance, but actually had nothing to do with it. They were basically filler information. Though I believe the story was paced well, there were some slow unrelated things that took more space than needed, such as the private investigator’s personal life and Ella’s job as a florist. It’s okay to mention them, but chapters devoted to these things were irrelevant and boring for me.

Overall, I finished the story feeling okay about it. I was thrown off a little with the ending, realizing the perpetrator was barely mentioned (if at all, I can’t remember), but I wasn’t disappointed as much about it.

Recommendation:

 Yes, I would recommend this story to those who like lighthearted mysteries. There wasn’t so much suspense and given that there were no clues leading up to the perpetrator, didn’t make for an intriguing read.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. I think the voice of the writer made the main characters likeable, even the not so likeable ones engaging at times. However, I didn’t view this story to be a solid mystery where one could gather up the information to come to a conclusion.