March 2, 2015

The Christian Manifesto

My three followers on here will have noticed that I've been reading a lot more lately :) First it was because I got involved with The Christian Manifesto's site to be a Guest Contributor to their reviews but starting this month I'm officially a Featured Reviewer! YAY!

Be sure to check out their brand new website and also my bio page!

Thanks for following!

March 1, 2015

By Your Side

By Your Side 
by Candace Calvert

I love Candace Calvert's books!!! She seriously cannot publish them fast enough to please me :) So when I saw Tyndale was offering reviewers the chance to read and review her latest I was super excited!!!

By Your Side is the first book in a new series by Calvert but it was just as good as her other two series were and I assume this series will also have 3 books so I'm already looking forward to books 2 and 3!!!

When you read her books you feel like you are in the scenes of a clean version of Grey's Anatomy with a little bit of police drama thrown in too. But she never leaves all of the book for just work - she always includes fun pastimes for her characters.

I loved the main characters in By Your Side. Macy is stubborn and independent and Fletcher is strong and always there for whoever in his life needs him. I love how each of the characters is dealing with their own struggles and problems - even the secondary characters. Calvert really has a talent for giving you just a taste of the secondary characters that will soon become the primary characters in her next book. I have my guesses for who the next book will be about but we'll see...

This book in paperback is 395 pages and I flew through it super fast because it was so good. I just couldn't help but read it in one sitting. There was never a dull moment whether the action was taking place in the ER, the streets, or out and about. The mix between work and pleasure was perfect. I loved the interactions between all of the workers in the hospital just as much as I loved the romantic interactions between Macy and Fletcher.

Another talent of Calverts is weaving a villain into the story so effortlessly. I'll admit I figured out who it was pretty fast but it didn't ruin the story for me because there was still plenty of suspense in figuring out how and when he would be caught.

There was tons of romantic tension in this book and I loved it. I hate it when two characters get together without any problems, disagreements, or drama. It just isn't realistic. So I love that Calvert includes characters that are flawed and working through things in their own lives that in turn interferes with romantic relationships. Of course I also love that her books end up 'happily ever after' but that doesn't mean I don't want to wonder in the middle how the couple will get there! And the romantic scenes between Macy and Fletcher were wonderful. Really wonderful!

But probably the best part about her books is the fact that she is writing from real-life experience as a former ER nurse. She throws in just enough medical jargon for it to be realistic without leaving us readers behind if we don't know a lot about ER medicine. Her personal experiences definitely add the perfect touch to her books.

Another thing I love about her books is that typically one character is a stronger Christian than the other and in the end the other comes back to Christ or sometimes even comes to Christ for the first time! I love books that challenge readers in their spirituality and beliefs and show characters growing in faith. In this book even though Fletcher is far from perfect he still leads by example and helps Macy realize what she is missing.

"Now is the tough part. When you're forced to ask yourself that hard question: Do you fully trust God, or do you simply trust him not to let something bad happen?"

More conservative readers may want to be warned that rape and alcohol are both mentioned quite a few times. Also the villain in the book is violent. But the romance is clean while still giving you goosebumps so that is my definition of a great Christian Romance :)

The only bad thing about getting to the end of this book is not knowing when book 2 will be out! I cannot wait for more!!!

If you're looking for similar books to read in the Christian genre you might check out Janice Cantore. She is a former police officer and writes police drama in the same fashion as Calvert writes ER drama!

Tyndale provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

February 28, 2015

Deadly Echoes

Deadly Echoes 
by Nancy Mehl

4 stars!

I'm sad to admit that Mehl is a new to me author. But when I was given the opportunity to read and review Deadly Echoes the cover intrigued me so I jumped at the chance... Then I realized it was book 2 in a series and I was blessed by my friend Amy who gifted me her copy of book 1!!!

Book 1, Gathering Shadows, was a good book but it wasn't one that I would read twice. Book 2 however redeemed the series for me! I truly enjoyed the characters in this story, felt the romance was better played, and loved that the book had me guessing to the very end! Now I cannot wait to read book 3!

Mehl uses a good balance of prose and dialogue in her writing. The conversations among characters seem realistic and well thought out. I especially enjoyed the interactions between the adults and the teenager because she didn't downplay the teenager's anger and angst.

The main character, Sarah, was really easy for me to relate with on a lot of levels since I used to be a teacher and I found myself reading her inner thoughts about her classroom and students reliving my own past. Of course I haven't been through the trauma she has been through but since I related on other levels it made it easier to feel her pain even in areas I couldn't relate to. I found myself admiring her commitment to her job and her family.

This book has a great pace. You are intrigued fairly quickly in what happened in Sarah's childhood and also what is happening in her present day and Mehl gives you just enough clues and twists and turns throughout the middle to keep the pages turning quickly. But even with all the clues I didn't figure out who the killer was and I loved that about this book. I hate it when I have the story figured out before the end!

For some readers this book might have too much tension but for me it was just about right. There are a lot of characters to keep track of but for me it just added to the suspense. Since it jumped between the fictional town of Sancutary and Kansas City quite a bit it meant extra characters but I enjoyed the challenge of keeping track of everyone. And of course I enjoyed references to KC since I'm from the area :)

I said in the beginning that the "romance was better played" because I was disappointed with the romance in book 1. I have to admit I wasn't 'wowed' with the romance in this book as much as some other "romantic suspense" books I've read but I really did think it played out very well. Obviously in the midst of grief and death is not the time for "swoon worthy romance" and I thought the amount in this book was well done for the setting. There were just enough "awww" moments to make me happy without it seeming inappropriate for the time and place.

This was a great suspense novel with just a twinge of "Mennonite fiction" thrown in since Sanctuary is a mixture of Mennonite and English characters. I didn't mind the hint of Mennonite fiction in the story but I was glad that it wasn't super prevalent since that isn't a genre I enjoy reading and had no idea it would be a part of the story line when I picked up the first book. I appreciated that both churches in the community accepted Sarah even though she isn't Mennonite since unfortunately some Mennonite churches are not that open and accepting to "outsiders"

As I said before I'm looking forward to where Mehl will take this series next. But I do hope that she'll include an epilogue of sorts with this books characters in the next one!

Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.