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Some Choose Darkness
by Charlie Donlea
I am very conflicted as I finish Charlie Donlea’s Some Choose Darkness. The reason? It turned out to be more of a thriller than I had anticipated. This reader’s taste leans towards Agatha Christie and cozy mysteries. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I avoid thrillers because they stir me up too much. I chose to read Some Choose Darkness because I had read a book by Donlea previously and enjoyed it. Somehow I did not expect an intense work of fiction about a serial killer. The problem is that although in some ways I didn’t enjoy reading it, I felt compelled to finish the tale, to make all of the pieces fit together. Donlea has masterfully crafted a thriller with so many layers and connections that rapid page turning is a necessity. Add to the plot not one, but two characters with autism and obsessive/compulsive disorder and this retired teacher is all over it.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller
Publication: May 28, 2019—Kensington Books
With Lane’s reputation as a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, and Rory’s credentials as a reconstructionist who pieced together the very findings the algorithm looked for, they made the perfect team. Police departments listened to their conclusions, and many had started using Lane’s software to track homicides on their own.
Like a tuning fork that has been tapped, the vibration from the mystery surrounding the woman was at once barely audible but yet impossible to ignore.
Rory’s greatest gift was her ability to piece together cold cases, to pore over the facts and discover things other investigators missed until a picture of the crime—and sometimes the perpetrator—became clear in her mind. Her understanding of a killer’s thinking and motive came from examining the carnage he left behind.
Sweet Tea and Secrets
by Joy Avon
Like the main character, Callie Aspen, the plot of Sweet Tea and Secrets seems to exist in limbo in Joy Avon’s latest cozy mystery. Callie has quit a job she loves as an international tour guide and moved back to Heart’s Harbor to help her Aunt Iphy run Book Tea, the local tea shop. She is waiting for a local rental to be restored to livable condition. She doesn’t actually contribute much help to the tea room in this book. To top it off, Deputy Falk, an additional enticement when she decided to move, seems less than enthusiastic about Callie’s return to town.
The plot follows the same erratic pacing and intensity as we see in Callie’s personal life. Callie gets pulled into the investigation of a cold murder case that revolves around a web of lies. It is hard for Callie and the reader to know which characters are reliable. My interest would ramp up, and then I would find myself wondering when the book would end. The ending was a surprise in regards to the mystery, and the author didn’t leave any loose ends. There were a number of subplots that were interesting but sometimes too distracting when acting as red herrings. I was glad Callie’s personal relationship with Falk showed forward progress. I would read another book in the series, but I hope it will have more of a focus on the tea room like the first books in the series do.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Book Tea Shop Mystery Series
Publication: June 11, 2019—Crooked Lane Books
But nothing happened. Just those lights teasing her from the darkness. Telling her she wasn’t alone.
“So far everybody seems to have been lying about everything.”
by Pam Tebow
Author Pam Tebow is the mother of Tim Tebow, a football and baseball star. Tim uses his talents and fame as a platform to share God’s love and to make a difference in the lives of those who can’t help themselves through the many outreaches of the Tim Tebow foundation.
In Ripple Effects we learn how Tim Tebow and all of his brothers and sisters were affected by the Christian witness and guidance of their mom and dad. More importantly, Pam Tebow shares how what we do has ripple effects on those around us. When you take the time to help a neighbor or smile at a stranger, your actions can affect you, them, and the people they interact with.
Pam focuses on our relationship with Jesus, finding our purpose, mission and influence, reading the Bible, prayer, our mindset, and living with passion. She shows how all of these can and should be integrated into our lives. The book is full of anecdotes and examples demonstrating how she and her husband Bob learned to yield to God’s will as they followed His prompting to begin missions in the Philippines as well as speak and lead all over the world.
Pam is very practical, explaining the importance of memorizing Bible verses. She made up tunes to go with the Scriptures to help herself and her children remember them. One example of the ripple effect is that her grandchildren can now sing these same Scriptures as they have been passed on to a new generation. Bob and Pam used teachable moments in their daily lives to share Biblical truths through life experiences. They taught humility and giving God the glory with consistency in their teaching and lives and by always drawing their children’s attention back to God, the source of their talents and gifts.
Although a lot of the book focuses on raising children from a pioneering homeschooling mother’s perspective, the lessons of ripple effects are for everyone. People are watching you; what will they take away about you and your God?
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Self-Help
Publication: May 7, 2019—Tyndale House Publishers
Put simply, faith is trusting God, even when we don’t have a clue how His plan will unfold.
The most effective way to influence people in our sphere to trust God is for them to watch us trust Him…Influence is not accidental; it results from making deliberate, determined, and repeated choices, beginning in the mind and then acted out day by day. Choices empowered by God and HIs Word.
Reading, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture has had an unmistakable impact on me, and it has served as one of my greatest opportunities to influence others—with ripple effects on my family, my friends, and the people I meet along the way.
Loving people is hard, but next to loving God, it should be our number one priority. You may have someone in your sphere who is not especially lovable…But when people are at their worst, they need love the most.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson
Two tales woven seamlessly into one—that’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a work of historical fiction carefully researched and crafted by Kim Michele Richardson. Cussy Carter is a blue-skinned young woman, strong, determined, and the subject of suspicion, hatred, and discrimination in the backwoods of the Kentucky Appalachians in the 1930’s. She is also a Book Woman, a librarian who travels by mule to deliver books to the far reaches of the mountains to patrons who otherwise would have no reading options. Cussy, also called Bluet, knows her place in society as does her Black friend Queenie. They are both considered “colored.” Most people are disgusted by looking at Cussy and certainly avoid any kind of touch.
Richardson paints a moving portrait of Cussy and what it must be like to be an object of ridicule and perhaps the last of her kind. You will be hoping for the best for Cussy who, as a coal miner’s daughter, lives in poverty but shares freely with her even more impoverished patrons. Her father, also a Blue, suffers from lung issues and horrible working conditions.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a work you will read with your heart in your throat, amazed at the struggles and sufferings of Cussy, her pa, her patrons, and those who dare show kindness to her. At the same time, the book is uplifting because there are good people included in the story and Cussy always stands as a model of someone who does what is right because it is right and in spite of those who would hurt her.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction
Notes: There are helpful Author’s Notes at the end of the book discussing the rare condition called methemoglobinemia. Richardson also gives background on the Pack Horse Library Project and courting candles. She explains that she altered one fact regarding dates so that she could include certain medical information.
Publication: May 7, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark
I lived for the joy of bringing books and reading materials to the hillfolk who were desperate for my visits, the printed word that brought a hopeful world into their dreary lives and dark hollers. It was necessary. And for the first time in my life, I felt necessary.
I couldn’t help notice again how the students waited for me, looked up at me, all quiet and not a single fidget or wiggle, as hungry for the stories in these books as they were for the food that always seemed sparse in this real land.
Nary a townsfolk, not one God-fearing soul, had welcomed me or mine into town, their churches, or homes in all my nineteen years on this earth. Instead, every hard Kentucky second they’d filled us with an emptiness from their hate and scorn. It was as if Blues weren’t allowed to breathe the very same air their loving God had given them…
by Dana Dratch
Living right across the street from a four story Victorian turned into a B&B and run by a handsome, blue-eyed British gent could be a real plus for Alex who is currently single and a freelance writer. In Seeing Red by Dana Dratch, there are an abundance of interesting characters, lots of twists and turns, and an adorable pup named Lucy. Alex ends up with a full house of temporarily upended friends as she tries to discover the identity of a baby as well as several frozen bodies. Throw in some art fraud and a vengeful health inspector and you have an engaging plot with lots of twists and turns. I enjoyed the book but was a little let down at the end as things just got tidied up a little too quickly and easily with few apparent consequences. I do want to read the next in the series to follow the characters and look for improvement in the resolution of the next plot line in Red Hot.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Red Herring Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone
Publication: May 28, 2019—Kensington
“She’s been looking at that poor innkeeper the way a hungry freshman looks at a vending machine.”
Baba, our dads mother, was ninety pounds of Russian dynamite. Not quite five feet tall and who knows how old, she was a strike force of one. Literally. She’d recently saved me from a psycho killer armed with nothing but common sense and a cast-iron frying pan.
“Mom can’t stay here,” Nick said, quietly. “Not with Baba here. Those two are like garlic and chocolate. You can have one or the other, but never both.”
Tell Me No Secrets
by Lynn Chandler Willis
I’m gong to work hard at sharing Tell Me No Secrets by Lynn Chandler Willis without giving away a very important theme that emerges and defines the rest of the book. Ava Logan, publisher of a small-town weekly, has her own difficult childhood history but was rescued and raised by her foster mother Doretha, who is also a preacher. Later she escapes from an abusive marriage when her policeman husband is killed on the job. She has three children and is in a relationship with the county sheriff Grayson Ridge who is the complete opposite of her deceased husband.
Trouble starts when Ava spies a backpack in the river during her daughter’s baptism. It belongs to Scott, an employee of the paper who has gone missing. The rest of this page turner is devoted to an investigation to discover what happened to Scott and why. Setting is extremely important in this book as much of it relates to customs of the backwoods of the Appalachians where there are “granny witches” who don’t really practice witchcraft; they treat people with herbal remedies. Religion has different flavors there, and dousing rods are not uncommon.
You’ll enjoy meeting the regular characters that populate this book. Not everyone is painted with the same brush, but they are all depicted realistically. There are also characters to feel ambivalent about and those that are downright evil. Social problems both in and out of the “holler” are addressed as well. Just when you think the book has drawn to a satisfactory conclusion, the investigation takes a turn and everyone is presented with a surprise ending.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: This is #2 in the Ava Logan Mystery Series but works well as a standalone. We jump right into the current mystery with the first lines of the book: “People don’t just disappear. Unless they do.” The author, however, does an excellent job in the first chapter of putting the new mystery in the context of what we need to know of the characters’ backgrounds.
Publication: June 11, 2019—Henery Press
Praying for the best, expecting the worst. Sooner or later, the two collide and you’re left numb to both.
“Just cause you ain’t the enemy don’t mean you’re our friend. Right, Momma?” Such wisdom from someone deemed simple.
You could set your clock by the depth of Nola’s southern accent. Up until lunchtime, she worked to keep it in check, careful with her pronunciations. After lunch, tire became tar and fire became far.
by Karen Barnett
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The middle of the Great Depression
Ever Faithful is the tale of young people from various walks of life joined by employment at Yellowstone. Some are pack rats (porters), some pillow punchers (maids), and others pearl divers (dishwashers). Additional college students working the summer are tour bus drivers and laundry workers. Throw into the mix a contingent of down and out, unemployed and often uneducated young men from the cities, part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) founded by President Roosevelt to combat unemployment and the problems that can arise from idleness and defeated attitudes. All of these young people have pasts that affect their presents.
Elsie, the daughter of a park ranger, loves Yellowstone and has spent many summers working hard at the inns at the park to achieve her dream—to go to college to become a teacher. She and her friends have romantic entanglements typical of summer romances. Some, however, seem more serious than others. Vaughn, a park ranger, sets his eyes on Elsie as does Nate Webber who has taken a CCC job to get out of trouble and provide money for his family in New York. Secrets abound and some are potentially deadly as they are linked to wildfires that could destroy the dry, pine beetle infested forests of Yellowstone.
After an interesting story with a historically accurate setting, author Karen Barnett moves the story ahead four years with a quite satisfactory epilogue. Then she provides information on the main aspects of this work of historical fiction and notes a few minor discrepancies as well as how the park has changed.
Yellowstone with its bears, bison, geysers, and vistas is on many a bucket list. Some of the original inns remain while others have been replaced. There are probably too many tourists, but it is still a park that belongs to the people, and it is a wonderful setting for this tale.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Historical Fiction
Notes: 1. Thematically a part of the Vintage National Parks Novels but remains a standalone in terms of characters, setting, and plot.
2. Gentle reminders of God’s presence and plan.
Publication: June 18, 2019—WaterBrook (Penguin Random House)
“It’s hard for men to be out of work. It wears at their souls, tears them down piece by piece like a crumbling brick wall.”
It was odd how teaching both energized her and sapped her at the same time. During class, she flitted from one student to another, each one’s progress sending a wave of satisfaction through her chest. But when the room emptied, her strength seemed to go with them.
Nate reached into his pocket and pulled out the pine cone he’d picked up at Roosevelt and squeezed it in his fist. The scales were closed, glued shut by sap. According to Ranger Brookes, without fire it wouldn’t open to disperse the seeds hidden within. God could bring good out of disaster.