Saturday, December 31, 2011

First Date: A Review

For most teen girls, the chance to be on a reality TV show and compete for a prom date with the president's son would be a dream come true, but for quiet, small-town Addy, it's more like a nightmare. As the show progresses, will Addy realize that perhaps God has bigger plans for her (and the show) than just a first date?

Loosely based on the Biblical story of Esther, First Date is a fun read. Although the premise of the book is light, the book does delve into deeper topics of faith and family without being preachy or condescending. The characters are real, and I especially like Kara, Addy's roommate and friend, and Mike, the uncle who gave up his career to raise Addy after her parents were killed. Hopefully, the teens who read it will want to check out the story of Esther in the Bible and perhaps even realize that whatever situation God has them in, He placed them there for such a time as this.

Fans of YA will enjoy this book. The author's voice and style reflects her familiarity with teens.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Addison Blakely Confessions of a PK: A Review

Summary: Addison Blakely lives in a fishbowl: not only does she live in a small town where everyone knows her business, but she's the pastor's kid. Up until now, she's lived up to the expectations. Then enters Wes, a motorcycle riding, leather jacket wearing brooder. His attention has her wanting to rebel and to follow her heart instead of the "rules" she's always followed. Will she be able to find her way and learn to balance faith and love?

My thoughts: Even though Addison is a PK, I think she's a great representative of teens who grew up in Christian homes. They have heard the truth for as long as they can remember, but at some point, it has to become THEIR faith, not their parents. This discovery was what stood out to me most in this book. Addison is a likable but boring character, but as she begins to find her own faith and standards, she becomes more interesting. The supporting characters were more intriguing than Addison, perhaps because they were their own people. Marta, my favorite character, shines as an exchange student, and Wes' character growth made him my second favorite...or maybe I'm just a sucker for a bad boy.

The plot keeps a steady pace with typical teen drama when Addison's dad begins dating her teacher and Addison becomes involved in a school talent show. The ending is satisfying, but I hope it becomes a series because I would like to see how Addison develops further. (Or if it's not a series, I would love to see a book on Marta.)

I enjoyed this first YA book by Betsy St. Amant, and I look forward to reading more by her. I think Christian teens, especially those who grew up in Christian homes, will relate to the topics and experiences in this book.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Heart of Ice: A Review

Nicole (an FBI agent), Cassidy (a TV reporter), and Allison (a prosecutor) are best friends and a triple threat to crime. When the Want Ad Killer attacks several ladies in the area, the three are on the case. While they investigate the murders, they become unaware of a psychopath Elizabeth who has wormed her way into their lives, pretending to be a friend while orchestrating events to get what she wants. Will the three friends be able to discover Elizabeth's plan before another person dies?

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read in the series, so I felt a little disconnected from the characters, who were probably developed through the first two books. (I am a character-driven reader.) I love the idea of their friendship and their careers intermingling, but I felt like I didn't really know them. However, the character of Elizabeth was well-developed and quite interesting....her manipulation to have others do her dirty work was fascinating. The action was face-paced and full of twists and turns. This fast read is sure to keep your attention from the first to the last page.

Fans of action packed suspense will love this book, but I do suggest reading the books in order. I do plan to go back and read Face of Betrayal and Hand of Fate.  

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Southern Fried Sushi: A Review

Summary: When Shiloh P. Jacob's mother passes away suddenly, Shiloh leaves her fast-paced life in Tokyo, Japan (where she's a reporter for AP and engaged to Carlos) to bury her mother in Virginia. While she is coming to terms with the death of her mother, who was never a real mother, Shiloh loses her job and her fiance. Stuck in redneck country, Shiloh has to put together the pieces of her life with a little help from some country folk.

My thoughts: The first few chapters had too many details and not enough action, but once Shiloh sets foot in Virgina, the story picks up and becomes a great read. The author's fun style is evident in the vivid, colorful characters (although a bit stereotypical of the South). The character development of Shiloh is heart-felt and authentic. The supporting characters of Becky and Faye are quirky additions and epitomize what's best about the South.
The spiritual truths are evident but not's more of a development of character than a lecture to the reader.

I loved this book: from the cute cover, to the notebook Shiloh keeps of Southern sayings, to the roses in her mother's garden, to the truth that with God, things can bloom again.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Protection for Hire: A Review

When Tessa was just sixteen she began working for her Uncle Teruo's Japanese Mafia gang, so when she takes the fall for someone else's crime and gets seven years in prison, she isn't surprised that people still expect her to be a criminal. Instead, she's a Christian trying to make a fresh start. When she agrees to become a bodyguard for Elizabeth St. Amant, an abused woman whose life is in danger, Tessa finds herself back into her old world...except this time, she's on the right side. Will Tessa be able to stop the people who want Elizabeth dead?

I've read most of Camy Tang's work and enjoyed it. However, this is by far her best book. The action and character development were amazing. As always, the Chinese and Japanese cultures are woven throughout the novel. One of Tang's best writing qualities is her grasp of family dynamics, and this book had one of the best as Tessa forged a relationship with her mother and sister.

Tang did a great job peeling back the layers in her characters, pushing past the superficial and getting to their hearts and motivations....all while out-driving trails and fighting assassins.

Fans of Camy Tang will love this novel. It has a little of everything: culture, romance, action, and family. I look forward to reading the second book in the series!

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Waiting for Dawn: A Review

As a fan of the Team Hope series, I was excited to read this prequel to the books I enjoyed so much. Although this story is short, there is a lot of action packed into each page.
When Jim Micah's team is captured in Afghanistan, Lacey and John risk their lives to save him through a covert mission. When bullets fly, so do emotions. Lacey finds herself pulled between an exciting love and a strong, stable love.
This story/novella was a great introduction to the characters for new readers and an extra adventure for faithful readers.
I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Bittersweet Surrender: A Review

The last few years of Carly's life have been tough: she beat breast cancer but lost her husband in the process. She runs a successful spa, but her best friend and spa manager passed away. With a little chocolate and support from her friend Scott, her life seems to be on the upswing, especially when her high school crush Jake moves back to town. When old secrets are revealed, will Carly have the strength to trust and to love again? 

This book is more than a romance. It's about life's secrets and the ripple effects they have on others. Although the topics are hard (cancer, divorce, gambling, lies), this book is still a light read with funny characters like Magnolia and humorous incidents like mishaps with spa clients.

I also enjoyed the fact that the characters were their 40s or so. Although I'm not yet at that age, I think it's a nice break from the 20-something year old heroine in most Christian romance novels.

Overall, fans of Christian fiction will enjoy this sweet novel.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lonestar Angel: A Review

Eden and Clay Larson have endured every parent's worst nightmare. Their precious little girl was kidnapped and presumed dead. Unable to face their loss, the two drifted apart. Now they are reunited as the kidnapper makes contact after years of silence. Will the two be able to find their daughter and their way back to one another?

This book kept me intrigued from the first to the last page. The fast-paced plot was intricately woven and contained twists and turns in each chapter. I had read the previous books in the series, and it was nice to see familiar characters play a supporting role in Eden and Clay's story. The romance element was interesting as well since it was a couple who was already married...that was a nice change from the typical romance.

I have a heart for kids in foster care. I taught several kids in the system and mentor a teen in foster care now. The storyline of girls in foster care was done well---showing the flaws and successes. The girls' stories added an emotional element to a suspense novel, raising the overall impact of the story and making it my favorite book in the series.

Fans of Christian fiction will enjoy this addition to the Lonestar tales by Colleen Coble.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Attracted to Fire: A Review

When the vice president's daughter receives death threats, Meghan is given the assignment of protecting the young woman as she goes through therapy for drug addiction on a secluded Texas ranch. When the vice president is sworn in as president, the threats against Lindsay increase and the ranch is attacked. Will Meghan be able to save the president's daughter even if it means losing her heart to the Special Agent in Charge?

I enjoyed this book. I loved the characters, especially Meghan, from the first chapter. She's a great heroine: strong and independent. Even the supporting characters were well-developed and added to the overall theme of the novel. The mystery of who was threatening Lindsay was fast-paced and even though the reader finds out who it is by the middle of the book, the adventure was in finding out how the person would be caught.

Overall, fans of Christian suspense will be delighted with another great book by DiAnn  Mills.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Wedding Invitation: A Review

When Samantha Bravencourt receives an invitation to Avery's wedding, she assumes it is her old college friend. However, when she arrives at the wedding, she discovers it's a different Avery. Deciding to stay at the wedding despite not knowing the bride or groom, Samantha runs into a former student, a Vietnamese refugee who is now in America, and her fellow teacher who broke her heart years before. Will Samantha be able to move on from the past hurt to see a beautiful future?

Although slow in some parts, this book is much  more than a romance. It is about past hurts hindering a happy future. The book alternates between the past when Samantha taught the refugees and the current storyline, set in 1993/94. The flashbacks give depth to the plot and, more importantly, the characters although there sometimes seemed to be too many characters. Because there were such great characters, it seemed most of the book was about the characters themselves, not necessarily them doing anything, which stalled the pace of the novel.

Overall, A Wedding Invitation is a thought-provoking read.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Bittersweet Summer: A Review

Nine-year-old Katie is not having a good summer. Her best friend is gone for the summer, her father is thinking about moving to another city, and her annoying neighbor Claire is determined to get their teacher to fall in love with her dad. When she and her brother get a surprise visit from their country music star mother, Katie learns what bittersweet means and what a family really is.

I found this to be a wonderful book. Although I have not read the previous books in the series, I was able to catch up quickly. The characters are well-developed and intriguing. The book deals with difficult topics like a mother who walked out on her family to pursue her dreams, moving, and family dynamics. Each topic is handled in an age-appropriate way with humor keeping the book a fun read.

I recommend this book for younger readers, and I plan to read the rest of the books in the series.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Lasting Impression: A Review

When Claire Laurent flees New Orleans, she hopes to leave her past behind, a past of forging paintings for her father and uncle. She ends up at Belmont Mansion as a personal liaison for Adelicia Acklen, one of the wealthiest women in America after the Civil War. When her past comes back to haunt her, will Claire be able to right the wrongs and look to creating a beautiful future?

This book is amazing. I love that Tamera Alexander set the book in the mansion of a real historical legend. The characters are vivid, fresh, and compelling. The plot develops slowly, with each event leading to the revelation of Clarie's past and her final redemption.

I could go on and on about the plots in this book. In addition to the main story of Claire are vivid stories of the effects of the Civil War, family dynamics, and the arrangement of relationships and marriages in that time. These stories add to the overall story of Claire and give a beautiful glimpse into one of America's most tumultuous times.

I recommend this book to Christian fiction lovers. This book captured my attention from the first page and kept me enthralled until the last page.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Fireman Dad: A Review

Marissa has been burned by firemen before. Her father always chose his job over his family, and Marissa grew up longing for a relationship with him. Her late husband lost his life fighting a fire. So when she meets Jake, a firefighter, she is determined to ignore her growing feelings for him. As they plan a fundraiser for firefighters who lost their jobs together, will they be able to get over their differences to find a common ground--love?

Betsy St. Amant knows the world of firefighting since her husband is one, and it shows in this book. The characters and their character growth is realistic and compelling. The added mystery of threats to the fire department adds a little spice to this sweet romance. Fans of Christian romance will enjoy this book.