Book Review: Mind Games By Nancy Mehl

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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.***

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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

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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.

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng

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Blurb:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.  

General Thoughts:

This story sat in the middle of the road for me. There were some things that I liked about it, but some things that I didn’t. I will just get to it.

I think the author has the potential to be a good storyteller. She has a hauntingly detailed way of telling a story, of making the characters come to life and immersing the reader into their minds and thought processes. As I read the story, I had a strong sense of who all the main characters were from the inside, understanding the actions they took in the story fully.

Though the story was full of layered plots, they all came together in the end. Each character’s story met up with another leading to an interesting ending, which the author reveals in the first chapter. I think she used this effectively to keep my interest by creating a sense of mystery and intrigue to why things ended the way it did.

One weakness was the author muddied the story a bit with so many points of views (POVs). The POVs were mixed up within most of the chapters, and as a reader, I had to read ahead to sometimes understand who the writer was referring to, who was thinking, sometimes who was even talking. I think section breaks or even creating new chapters, possibly having things explained through dialogue, would have helped with clarity.

There was also a lot of telling instead of showing. It seemed like the author wanted to reader to understand every single thing or doubted the reader’s ability to understand some things. The over explanation things, especially concerning Mia’s past, dulled the story and dragged it to a boring level.

Lastly, I found none of the characters likeable, even relatable. They were very much cliché’s of teenagers, mothers, etc. from the ‘90s. Although I don’t mind the use of clichés as there can sometimes be a bit of truth to them, it offered nothing of interest or insight that I often look for in stories and characters. The characters seemed to be the worse versions of themselves, not learning or growing in any positive way. The only one who was remotely relatable in terms of her frustration with the other characters was Izzy, who was unfortunately too much of a rebel for her own good.

Recommendation:

I don’t know if I would recommend this book, so I guess I’ll say no. Its not so much due to the plot that’s the problem, it’s the frustrating characters and the fact that the writing style is a little messy with multiple POVs mixed in one scene, over explanation of character backstories, thoughts, and actions, things that slow down the pace.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. The story was slow moving and had a lot of information that could have been omitted or rewritten to propel the story forward. Also there were multiple POVs that took place in a scene that made the story confusing to read at times.

Book Review: A Light On The Hill By Connilyn Cossette

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Blurb:

Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.

Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. Seeking safety at one of the newly-established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face, and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

General Thoughts:

The message of this book stuck with me and it still does as I write this review. I honestly believe that this story will mean something to all who decide to read it. Having read 2 books previously from this author, I know she has the ability to write in ways that make the reader think and consider how what they just read can apply to their life. She does this in unassuming ways, woven deeply in the character’s story.

Moriyah, the main character of the story, was a sympathetic and highly relatable character. Though this is a standalone story and doesn’t require you read any of the author’s previous books, she is introduced in Wings Of The Wind (which I reviewed also—click here to read). If you read that book, it will give you a stronger sense of who Moriyah was before the tragedy she faced and how that transformed her afterwards. In short, she lived like one whose spirit was stolen.

I like how Moriyah’s self consciousness served like a universal problem that many people struggle with some time in their lives. It wasn’t until she was forced to leave her hidden world and step outside into the greater, that she had to face her insecurities and accept her flaws.

Moriyah went through a great deal in this story. Having to flee her safe confines and go on a long journey, just to have a chance to spare her life, Darek, another primarily character and unexpected ally, helped her realize who she was inside—the value she held inside. That she was more than what she looked like on the outside, or even her scar. From there, the old Moriyah started to return a bit, once she realized that though she may still face judgement, there were many others who saw the beauty that lived inside of her and radiated out.

Recommendation:

For readers who love biblical historical fiction, they will love this story, but I am challenged to say that those who struggle with external and internal scars of whatever kind will find a connection to this story. It was an easy read and I think that’s due to the writer’s powerful voice and use of intrigue and suspense. There was a lot of adventure and action that was woven throughout as well.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. As I read this story, I couldn’t find areas that I struggled with. It was paced well, there was enough action going on to keep me turning the pages and the main character, Moriyah was so relatable that I instantly loved her and was rooting for her throughout the book.

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