Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Catching Dawn - Book Review

To what lengths would you go to keep a promise to a stranger?  To whom would you turn when fulfilling that promise proved to be beyond the scope of what you alone could do?

Catching Dawn starts as a rescue story that becomes a story, within a story, within a story.  There is the story of what it means to rewrite your own story as you do everything within your power to help the ones barely surviving.

And then there is the story of how the strays of the world find their belonging, their purpose, their peace.

Nested within those stories are the circular beginnings and endings where the lines blur between having rescued and having been the one most in need of saving.

When Melissa Armstrong is approached by a stranger about helping a litter of newborn puppies born to a dog living on the streets, she is quick to take on the mission.  After all, how hard could it be to gather up a nursing dog and her babies?

It turns out that a highly traumatized dog is one of the hardest things anyone could ever attempt to catch.  Six months of failures could have been the end of that story (and the end of those frail puppies).  Instead, this book reveals how both humans and animals in desperate need helped one another rise above those initial failures.

As a young girl, Armstrong grew up feeling there was something wrong with her that made her unlovable.  She felt out of place and knew great loneliness.  Her inner stray could relate to the fear and lack of trust displayed by dogs that felt a need to hide and avoid the kind of pain associated with people.

While going to great lengths to catch a dog that did not want to be caught, Armstrong simultaneously found herself catching the things that had proven so elusive during her earlier years: feeling loved, being needed, and discovering the embrace of a real family.

Having been immersed in challenging dog rescue scenarios, there was much that resonated for me in these embedded stories of transformation, friendship, and healing.  The writing revealed the beauty and wonder of the truest of relationships.  This book reminded me to never take for granted the many gifts offered up by my animals every single day.  It deepened my gratitude for how my rescue dogs have helped me rewrite my story.  

There are no small promises when lives are hanging in the balance.  There are no lengths too great when it comes to living out our promises.  Catching Dawn inspires us to be the promise needed in this world.





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Friday, July 9, 2021

A Better Country Book Series by Kristina Hall Reviewed

A Better Country Book Series
When I received a request to review "To the Uttermost", which is book 2 of A Better Country series by Kristina Hall, I quickly agreed to read it.  However, I wanted to start with book 1, "Strangers and Pilgrims" and I'm really glad I did.  

Reading Strangers and Pilgrims first allowed me the opportunity to get to know the main characters in the series.  Understanding their background and the struggles this created family survived, helped me appreciate and understand them.  I doubt I would have grasped the depth and reason for their close relationships without the revelations of book one.

Both books caused me to really stop and think about several things. When reading books, hearing stories, or visiting battleground sites of the American Civil War, I often consider how families were forever changed.  Reading a book, even a fiction book, about a soldier who returned home to find his parents dead and his home town overrun by the enemy, is not a scenario I previously considered. However, I have no doubt it is a plausible plot and was, most likely, a reality for far too many at that time in history.

As long as the reader keeps in mind that there are evil people in every region of every country and doesn't get locked up on Civil War sides, I believe "Strangers and Pilgrims" offers an excellent message for all.

It is unlikely anyone would struggle with the content in "To the Uttermost", but you will want the background provided in "Strangers and Pilgrims". 

 

Strangers and Pilgrims Synopsis

In book 1 of A Better Country series, Harry Reiner has just returned to his home town in Texas and to a very unwelcome reception.  He is easily identifiable as a Confederate soldier in this town overrun by Yankees, and they are intolerant of his presence.  He is shot and left for dead in the middle of the street. Only one woman has the courage to come to his aid.  

Rose Kendrick previously stood up against the self-appointed leader of the town, Edwin Burton, and is almost an outcast herself. She survives by taking in laundry, but once she takes in Harry, her business completely dries up. She finds herself, her home, and her loved ones under physical attack. 

Sally Guilford is an orphan who was previously taken in by Rose.  She is Rose's helper, adopted daughter, and biggest defender. Sally is also Rose's greatest area of weakness and evil people are not beyond threatening or even harming a child.

Doyle is an adult man who is Rose's only friend in town. Every time Rose is under attack, Doyle comes to her defense, which puts him in great danger.  Because he has previously taken a bullet while defending Rose, his physical strength is limited.

These four individuals don't stand much of a chance against a lawless town full of enemies lead by a vengeful and spiteful leader.

------

Throughout this book, Christians are reminded that they are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth".  (Hebrews 11:13)

 

To The Uttermost Synopsis

Book 2 of the series picks up a few years later where Harry Reiner and his family are living on his parents horse farm, but the book begins in the wilderness of Colorado with Owen Lockart and his 3 brothers escorting a captured outlaw to jail. 

The outlaw is a member of Vic Guilford's gang. When the 4 brothers are ambushed by the gang, only Owen survives.  He vows revenge for his brother's murders. 

Owen heads to a farm in Texas (Harry Reiner's farm) where Guilford's sister lives. He believes the brother will visit his sister there and give him opportunity to exact revenge.  Since Harry is familiar with the Lockart farm and their excellent horses, he doesn't hesitate to hire Owen.  Of course, Harry has no knowledge of Owen's true intentions.

When the area farms are hit by rustlers, Harry and his workers establish around the clock watches. When the rustlers attack his farm, they kill one of his men and shoot Harry.  All of the remaining workers, except Owen, quit. They don't believe defending Reiner and his farm are worth their lives. 

Once again, Harry finds himself wounded and fighting a battle with little help.  Unfortunately, his one remaining healthy worker has ulterior motives and Vic Guilford is back in town.  Owen will go to great extremes to take down Guilford, but when another's life is threatened, will he go to the uttermost?

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The message of this book is clear as we watch how a desire for revenge will eat away at someone's character and overshadow all else.  

 

My Recommendation

Both of these books deal with the insidious nature of anger, hate, & revenge.  Conversely, they also include kindness, love, & forgiveness.  

Too often, books can make forgiveness look easy and don't really explore the depths of emotions.  I don't believe that is the case with either of these books.  I think the author did an excellent job of walking us through the events, as well as the hearts and thoughts of those involved.  She didn't try to make it all look simple or effortless, and everything isn't tied up neatly with the bow of Christianity.  

We all struggle with being humans.  I highly recommend this series to believers who recognize we are strangers on this earth seeking Him to the uttermost.





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Monday, July 5, 2021

Blink of an Eye – Book Review

 

by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen



Readers of the mystery genre may be familiar with best-selling author Iris Johansen, who is well-known for her Eve Duncan forensic sculptor series. To date, she has written 25 books in this series. She is also the author of 22 non-series books and 4 books with Catherine Ling as the main series character, who is a shadowy CIA operative raised on the streets of Hong Kong 


In 2012, she began a new series with a new character, Kendra Michaels, who has keen senses from being blind for 20 years. Kendra now uses those exceptional senses as a consultant to the FBI and local authorities to solve difficult cases. What makes this series different from her other novels is it is written in conjunction with Iris Johansen's son Roy.


Roy Johansen is an author in his own right, having published three mystery novels prior to collaborating with his mother on, to date, eight Kendra Michaels books. 


This is a book review of Iris and Roy Johansen's latest Kendra Michaels book, Blink of an Eye.


Blink of an Eye Synopsis:


Blink of an Eye
The story features investigator Kendra Michaels, whose observational skills are worthy of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.


Kendra was blind for her first 20 years of life, until a revolutionary surgical procedure allowed her to regain her sight.  Her powers of observation became honed during her years in the dark, allowing her to detect what other investigators don't. 


When Delilah (Dee) Winter, one of the hottest pop stars in today's music world, is kidnapped in the middle of a show at the Hollywood Bowl, authorities cannot figure out how it is done. Dr. Kendra Michaels agrees to lead the race to rescue the young singer before time runs out. 


Kendra is joined by Jessie Mercado, her long-time friend and the singer's former bodyguard who knows Delilah well. As they close in on the hideout location of the kidnappers, casualties mount up.  Desperate for leads to where Dee is being held, Kendra also joins forces with Department of Justice Special Agent Adam Lynch with whom she has had a personal relationship.  His special skills aid in the search for Dee Winter. 


But, as the true purpose of the kidnappers become clear, the trio uncover a plot they never could have imagined – leading to a showdown they won't soon forget.


Summary


Even though Blink of an Eye is Book #8 in the Kendra Michaels series, it reads easily as a stand-alone story, so it doesn't really matter in which order you read any of the books in the series. Starting with Book #8 works just fine as an introduction to this fast-paced thriller series.




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Blink of an Eye book review written by

Wednesday Elf







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Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort Book Review

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort by EllynAnne Geisel Book Review

When I was a child, I had the privilege of knowing and spending time with my great grandmother, who raised her family during the Great Depression. In those years, she was forced to be very frugal and learned some interesting tricks to stretch the family income that she later attempted to pass on to my sister and I. The time that I remember best is when she showed us how to turn an old dress into an apron. I could not do so today but I guess having participated in that activity with my great grandmother when I was a child created a fond spot in my heart for aprons.

It is very interesting to me then that aprons, both vintage and modern, are turning up everywhere from movies and television shows to magazines and shops the later of which cannot keep trendy aprons on the shelves. Many people collect them including celebrities like Julia Roberts and ordinary folk like you and I though my collection is small and well used. 

This book, The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort by EllynAnne Geisel, is a guide to old and new aprons. It features photographs of both new and vintage aprons, patterns for four basic styles and still more information including tips for collectors, instructions for preservation and even some apron stories.

Amazon calls this book a celebration of the apron and says that it reminds us of why we love this humble item. Homemaker's Magazine says, "this book provides easy-to-follow instructions, interesting facts and vintage illustrations which make it charming" and the Denver Post says "this book restores dignity to a domestic symbol and is part how-to and part history, which is comforting."  Finally, NPR says, "it unfolds like a bolt of fabric, the pattern of a life remembered through a homey object."

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort is a top ranking apron book. Originally published in 2006, it is still widely available in your choice of format be that hardback, paperback or Kindle. 

 If you are interested in making or even just reading about aprons, you can buy your new or pre-owned copy on Amazon by clicking right here though I was delighted to see that it is available for less than five dollars including shipping on eBay. See for yourself what is available on eBay today by clicking right here.

Are you an apron collector?

See you in the kitchen!
Hopefully, with an apron on.
Brenda

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Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Emptiness of Our Hands - Book Review

Who would you become if you were to suddenly find yourself without a home?  Some of you here know the answer to that question because you have lived it.  For the authors of The Emptiness of Our Hands, the answer was far beyond what they could ever have imagined.  Living the question forever changed who they were and who they continue to become to this day.

Choosing to live on the streets of Columbus, Ohio for 47 days may not seem earth-shattering, but for Phyllis Cole-Dai, and her photographer friend, James Murray, the experience was, in many ways, soul-shattering.  They found themselves immersed in an alternate universe offering up the kind of devastation that stripped bare their psyches and spirits.  After just two nights, Murray was already broken to pieces. 

The decision to go to the streets had not been made lightly or done as a stunt.  Cole-Dai felt a deep call she could not ignore.  Her intent was to offer up the gift of presence to everyone she met.  

So then what transpires when you suddenly find yourself in deep survival mode?  How are you transformed while living in a world ill at ease with the homeless... with you?  How do you cope with feeling invisible, despised, and less than human?  When constantly wrestling with intense fear, uncertainty, and struggle, what gives?  What sustains?  

How is it that something as simple as being seen can be such a consolation?  Nothing is inconsequential to the one in need of the kind of attention that shelters, or the haven to be found in the eyes of compassion.  To be seen like that is to receive an act of love.

As one with an outreach to those without a home, immersing myself within The Emptiness of Our Hands has reaffirmed for me the power of "thereness" (really being there for, and with, someone).  It has stirred a deep desire to be a very present haven to the one who might need to rest for a moment in my embracing presence.  

This book is for anyone who seeks to express the kind of humanity that feeds and shelters souls.  Just as there are many ways to experience homelessness, there are also many ways to be the kind of home presence needed by the displaced, the lost, or the lonely souls we encounter all around us.  

I also highly recommend the companion volume entitled Practicing Presence.  This compilation of 47 reflections (one from each of the author's 47 days on the streets) enables each of us to more fully develop and engage our mindfulness intentions.  I consider these two books the most important reading I have done all year.  






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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals

Audiobooks are a wonderful complement to print, Kindle and other reading formats. Listening to a novel or non-fiction book while driving, walking, riding or waiting for public transit, traveling, sitting in waiting rooms, crafting, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or doing laundry or yard work can make these activities much more enjoyable. A talented narrator can significantly enhance the experience of consuming a good book. Jim Dale’s Grammy award-winning narration of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a perfect example. Unfortunately, production costs are higher than for print and digital books, which makes audiobooks more expensive to purchase.

This review will introduce my fellow bibliophiles to Chirp, a wonderful service that offers a changing selection of awesome, affordable, limited-time audiobook deals without the financial commitment of a monthly or annual membership fee that Audible requires.

Best-Selling Audiobooks for Less Than $5 - chirpbooks.com screenshot

Audiobooks Continue to Grow in Popularity

2020 was the ninth straight year of double-digit revenue growth for audiobook publishers, jumping 12% vs. 2019 revenues to reach $1.3 billion, according to this year’s sales survey conducted by research firm InterQ for the Audio Publishers Association (APA). More than 71,000 audiobooks were published in 2020, a 39% increase versus 2019, per the APA’s consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners conducted by Edison Research. [Source: Audio Publishers Association press release, June 1, 2021]

This rapidly growing trend toward publishing titles in audiobook editions as well as print and e-book formats is wonderful news to the many avid readers (including myself) who love listening to books as well as reading them. 

The quality of the narrators and their performances has improved dramatically in recent years. More and more books are being narrated by award-winning stage and film actors. Depending on their contracts, narrators may be paid at an hourly rate per “finished hour” of audio, and/or may earn royalties based on sales. A sound engineer, producer, or other people may be required, and production and editing costs are much higher than for other publishing formats. Consequently, audiobooks are priced higher than their print or e-book counterparts.

Buying vs. Borrowing Audio Books

Because of their higher price tag, many of us download at least some of the recorded books we want to read the public library. Unfortunately, most libraries can’t afford to make a wide selection of audiobooks available to their borrowers, and the very long waiting lists for popular titles can be quite frustrating. As a result, many of us who love listening to them purchase at least some audio books rather than borrowing them from the library. In fact, 38% of audiobook listeners who responded to the above-mentioned APA consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners indicated that they subscribe to at least one audio book service, such as Audible or Chirp.

Audible dominates the audiobook services market to the point where the Audible name is synonymous with this book format. As an Amazon company, no would-be rival can hope to compete with its enormous library, financial backing, in-house production studio, author and publisher relationships, and marketing and technology resources.

I have been an Audible member since 2006 and remain a huge fan and loyal customer. I appreciate the many major improvements, such as Whispersync for Voice technology (which allows you to switch seamlessly between listening to a book on Audible and reading it on a Kindle or Kindle app) and the excellent, exclusive content produced by Audible Studios. However, the steep increases in the cost of membership and the changes to their membership plan model in recent years has made it less affordable.

Over the years, I looked into several less expensive sources for audio books that others had recommended, but the limited selection and desirability of the titles on offer, the number of abridged versus unabridged books and, in some cases, the quality of the narrations (some of which were machine-generated) was always disappointing. After being an Audible member for so many years, the bar for a good audiobook acquisition and listening experience was set high, and nothing else I found came close to measuring up. I gave up on finding a less expensive Audible alternative for my own needs. 

However, Chirp, a competing service that offers amazing limited-time deals on popular audiobook titles at incredibly low prices, has turned out to be a fantastic complement to my Audible membership. And for less hardcore audiobook listeners who haven't built up a library of audiobooks in Audible's proprietary format over the past 15 years, Chirp might be a viable and much less expensive alternative. 

Chirp Audiobook Deals Make Listening to Books Affordable

Last year, as I bemoaned how much money I was spending on my growing Audible library, a close friend and fellow avid reader told me about Chirp, where he frequently found titles that interested him at a fraction of list price. Given my previous experience with lower-cost audiobook sources, I was somewhat skeptical about how good this Audible alternative could be. But, based on my friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, I went online to learn more about it.

I found several articles about Chirp that concurred with my friend’s opinion about this new-to-me site and book listening app. The more I read about the company and its audiobook deals, the more interested I became.

I went to the Chirp website and browsed their limited-time audiobook deals. If the selection of steeply discounted books didn’t interest me or had lots of negative reviews, they wouldn’t be a bargain at any price. To my surprise, that day’s featured deals included a few bestselling fiction and non-fiction titles priced at less than $5 each! I returned to check out the update crop of deals several times over the following week or two and was impressed by quality of the books across a wide range of genres being offered for just a few dollars apiece.

I signed up for the Chirp featured audiobook deals emails in October 2020 and have added quite a few new titles to my recorded books library since then. I still maintain my Audible membership for its enormous catalog, and because I own so many audiobooks in Audible’s proprietary format that I don’t want to lose access to. But, thanks to Chirp’s limited-time deals and notification emails, I’ve also discovered several new authors and series without paying a small fortune.

Here are the things I love most about using Chirp.

Find Fabulous Deals on Popular Audiobooks

Every day, you’ll find a good selection of limited-time Chirp Featured Deals that sell for a fraction of their list prices, with discounts up to 95% off!

At the time of publication, for example, there were 381 featured deals from $0.99 to $6.99, with the vast majority priced between $1.99 and $4.99, from popular authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich, Jane Austen, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Robert Heinlein, James Patterson, Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton, David Sedaris, Jeffrey Archer, John Steinbeck, Stephanie Laurens and Robert Frost.

Chirp screenshot - audiobook Featured Deals

No Membership Fees, No Minimum Purchase

With Chirp, there is no ongoing financial commitment. Unlike Audible, whose listening plans are based on monthly or annual subscription fees, Chirp lets you buy as few or as many books as you want, as seldom or as often as you want. Never Miss a Great Audiobook Bargain You can sign up for Chirp’s daily or weekly featured deals notification emails to make sure you don’t miss a great deal. Or, if you prefer, you can opt out of the emails and visit the site whenever you wish to check out the bargains on offer that day.

A Low Cost Way to Try Audiobooks

If you're curious about audiobooks and want to give them a try, Chirp is a great way to start building a listening library without spending a lot of money.

Listen When You Want, the Way You Want

You can use the Chirp app on your iOS or Android phone or tablet, stream audiobooks from your Chirp library in a web browser on a laptop or other device, and even listen to your Chirp audiobooks on your Alexa-enabled devices after you enable the Chirp skill on the device and link your Chirp account.

Buy Once, Listen Again and Again

All books you purchase are yours to keep, so you can revisit your favorites even years later.

A Perfect Complement to Other Audiobook Sources

Whether you’re borrowing audiobooks from the library or buying them on Amazon or Audible, Chirp’s limited-time deals can help you listen to more of the books you want while saving you money.

A More Flexible Alternative to Audible, With A Smaller Catalog

In addition to the deeply discounted, limited-time deals, Chirp also sells many other audiobook titles at what they call "everyday value" pricing. Although you won’t find the vast selection of titles that Audible offers, there are still plenty of books to choose from. So, if you’re new to audiobooks or listen to them less frequently, Chirp can be a viable and far less expensive alternative to an Audible subscription plan.

Discover Great Reads With Book List Recommendations

The Chirp website has a well organized Book Lists section with smart, well written recommendations to help you discover titles you might not have known about otherwise.

Chirp website screenshot - top of Book Lists page

Books for Adults, Books for Kids

While the majority of titles on Chirp are for an adult audience, you'll also find plenty of books for kids, as well as some excellent recommendations in the "For the Kids" section of Chirp's Book Lists.

Screenshot of Chirp's recommended book lists for kids

Get 20% Off Your First Audiobook Purchase on Chirp

If you use my Chirp referral link, you'll get 20% off your first audiobook purchase (and I’ll also get 20% off my next purchase). It’s a win-win!

Explore today's limited-time audiobook deals on Chirp and save 20% on your first order!

Do you have other favorite sources for buying or borrowing audiobooks? If so, please share them below in the comments. 



Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals product review by Margaret Schindel

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Beneath Devils Bridge by Loreth Anne White-A Book Review

 

A Book Review
Beneath Devils Bridge is a compelling mystery that had my attention from page one.  In this story the author weaves a tale about a ambitious podcaster, Trinity  Scott, who is interviewing a condemned murderer. She wants to tell the story of a 24 year old murder of a 14  year old girl in a small town in British Columbia.  The  story flips between the present day story of the podcaster and her quest for the truth and the crime that took place 24 years in the past.  The murderer Clayton Jay Pelley confessed to the crime and is now serving a life sentence, but is that all there is to the story.  When Trinity starts to dig into the past the members of the small town community are not anxious to help her uncover what really happened.



Characters

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the way the author developed the characters as the story progressed.  Here is a short synopsis of some of the main characters.

 Trinity Scott

 Trinity is an interesting character.  She is a podcaster who is very ambitious.  She researches cold cases and features them  on her podcasts.  At first glance you feel that her interest in this case is purely to have a great podcast.  But is that completely true or does she have some ulterior motive?

Leena Rai

Leena Rae is the murder victim in this mystery.  She is a fourteen year old girl who wants very much to belong, but she is very plain, shy and awkward.  She is often bullied and made fun of by others in her class.  On a cold November night she is brutally murdered on her way home from a "secret" bonfire in the small town of Twin Falls.  The circumstances of her murder are covered up by the people in the village till podcaster Trinity Scott brings up the case 24 years later.

Rachel Walczak

Rachel is the lead detective on the case and also the mother of one of Leena's classmates.  When she and the other detective start interviewing the students after the murder they both feel something is being hidden from them, but when a teacher confesses the case is quickly closed.

My Thoughts on the Book

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I like the way it was written giving both Trinity's and Rachel's perspective.  The book really pulls you in and has several twist and turns that I did  not anticipate.  It also has a lesson to be learned on what happens when bullying becomes the norm and a small town sticks together to hide the truth.



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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner – A Book Review



Before She Disappeared introduces us to Frankie Elkin, an ordinary woman and recovering alcoholic who has more regrets than belongings, more sad stories than happy ones. To cope with them, she has devoted her life to finding missing people the rest of the world has given up on. This seems too often to happen to minorities. 


When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never bothered to care, Frankie starts looking. For no money, no recognition, and most of the time, no help. Why does she do it? 


Maybe the question shouldn't be why am I doing this, but why isn't everyone looking?

                                                        ~Frankie Elkin


Synopsis


Frankie gets her new cases from online research; from national chat rooms where family members and concerned neighbors compare notes on various missing persons cases. There are too many such cases for local resources to handle, so Frankie, and others like her, step into the vacuum. 


Available now
on Amazon
Frankie's new case, the basis of this story, brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation.  She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier and has never been found. The Boston PD did search for Angel for awhile, but is just about convinced that she is basically a runaway who doesn't want to be found.  Angel's family believes differently.


As Frankie begins to ask questions, she discovers that someone doesn't want them answered. As she takes risks to discover the truth, Frankie might become the next person to go missing. 


Summary


Lisa Gardner has written 23 suspense novels to date, including this one just published in 2021. Her novels are well written and enjoyable to read.

*Reviewer's Note: Lisa Gardner, best-selling author of suspense novels in both her FBI Profiler Series and her D.D. Warren Series, appears to have begun a new series with this Frankie Elkin thriller.  Before She Disappeared is listed as a Frankie Elkin Novel Book 1.  One Step Too Far (a Frankie Elkin Novel Book 2) will be released on January 18, 2022. It is available for 'Pre-Order' here.


*More Reviews of Lisa Gardner Books on ReviewThisReviews.com


Book Review of "Before She Disappeared" written by 

~Wednesday Elf





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Monday, June 21, 2021

Book Review: Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

In this tale we meet a variety of people who are living the best they are able after the Second Conflict. The Second Conflict which was also called "The Fall",  "The Reformation", and most commonly, "The Big Stupid". Nana said that some called it the Rapture. Her grandchild is only seven years old and doesn't remember a time before it. Regardless of the name, it was an event that set everyone back to zero in relation to technology, created massive weather events, and left people living hard lives trying to survive.


Wolf Road is an apocalyptic psychological thriller. It will not be eveyone's cup of tea.   The villain (or villains?) in this story function along the lines of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs or Colin Stanton in Bone Collector.

Nana

"My house, girl" she said "you just a guest here till your parents come back. Pray that it be soon"

Nana was caring for her 7 year old grandchild because her daughter had run off with a man. They had run off to look for gold in  the north. Nana lived in a shack that she had built and rebuilt with Grandpa. He was killed in the Second Conflict and left Nana to fend for herself during these hard times. Now she also had to care for a child. A sassy, disrespectful child. 

Our introduction to Nana is brief as a thunderhead roared into their small town which was situation in the valley between the hills. 

Seven-year-old Girl a.k.a Elka

A seven year old child was arguing with Nana after being told to go collect pine resin. During their argument it was clear that conflict between the two was not a one-time thing. The child continued to refuse and Nana left the house with the final words "Don't you follow me. I don't even want to look at you no more."

While Nana was gone, the thunderhead rolled into town; terrifying the little girl who shouted for her grandmother to return. She hid under the table and before she knew it, both she and the table were in the air, being carried off in the storm. When she landed, she had no clue where she was or how to return to Nana's shack. But terrified, tired, and hungry she set off to find her way back.

Trapper a.k.a Kreagar

The man found a little girl eating his meat that was hanging on drying racks outside of his hut. She ran and hid but he tracked her (probably very easily given his skill living off the land). When she woke, with her head wrapped in a bandage from being knocked unconscious with the butt of his gun she noted

He sat on a chair by the door, staing at me with eyes like the devil. Shotgun rested against his leg, his hat on his knee. He must a' fallen asleep, his face was all covered in streaks of black dirt. "Where'd you come from?" he said. His voice had a breath of kindness to it.

 The little girl referred to him as Trapper. He was "the strangest I'd met" and after he couldn't locate Nana (did he really try?), he named the girl Elka (she could not remember her real name) and trained her how to hunt and trap.  It was not until much later that she learned his name was Kreagar and the grotesque things he was accused of doing.      

Magistrate Lyon

Magistrate Lyon is after Kreagar. She is the law, such as it is during those times. And she rides with a posse. They ride horseback from town to town and posted black and white printed wanted flyers everywhere. Magistrate Lyon wants justice. She wants revenge. 

Penelope

During and after an apocalypse, it is not safe for a young lady. Elka figures it is especially unsafe for a pretty, feminine, delicate girl who doesn't know her way around the woods. Who has absolutely no outdoors skills. A girl like Penelope. However, Elka learns that Penelope has other life-saving skills such as reading and quick-thinking in situations that involve people. 

The two very young ladies have a love-hate relationship and take care of each other (mostly) while both are fleeing danger and while Elka is on the road north to find her parents. Based on the one letter she had received from them, and the letter she had Nana read to her over and over, she pictured her parents living a happy life on their gold claim and her singularly focused plan was to join them. 

Wolf Road 

This story kept me interested with it's blend of apocalyptic fiction with hints of old western. I wasn't sure if I were reading about future events or events that occurred in the past. Even though I was unsure, it worked for me. The characters were unique and easy to imagine. Each one both villain and hero. So much so that it was hard to know who to root for at times.

Due to the pollution and weather related to whatever occurred during the Damn Stupid, there was a slight element of fantasy. Or was it? It is hard to say what would happen when the environment is polluted following bombings.

This was Elka's coming of age story. Where she survives childhood and begins making adult decisions for her life. During a time that she struggles with understanding whether or not she was Trapper's adopted daughter or Kreager's evil accomplice. She has great difficulty understanding those two as the same man. And difficulty deciding how to manage the situation.

This story is about nature versus nurture. Are children born with their instincts and desires, or do we train those things into them? Are evil people inherently evil? Or taught to be evil? Are those who are taught to be evil able to overcome it? 

Elka struggles with these things until the very last pages.





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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars Book Review

Journey to Dublin, Ireland, during the time of the Spanish Flu in 1918 and discover parallels with the world's pandemic experience in 2020 in this fascinating page turner by Emma Donoghue.

I will start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the book The Pull of the Stars by Irish Canadian author Emma Donoghue. My book club chose it and when I first picked it up to read, I had forgotten that it was about a pandemic. It is a story of the Great Flu or the 1918 Influenza, which we now call the Spanish Flu. As it turns out, it was good and it was doubly interesting because of the current pandemic.

Set in Ireland in 1918, it tells a fictional story based on the very real world of a midwife working in a Dublin hospital who is assigned to the maternity fever ward. Not much bigger than a closet, this ward is where they quarantine pregnant women who are stricken with influenza. 

We meet a young midwife named Julia Powers who finds herself alone on her shift with the responsibility for all of the care of these sick, pregnant women.  She is at times aided by one of two women. Firstly, Doctor Kathleen Lynn, who is based on a real historical figure and who is wanted by the Dublin police because she was involved in the 1916 Irish Uprising. Secondly, she is assisted by a young volunteer from an orphanage named Bridie Sweeney who has absolutely no training or education but is quick on her feet and ready to do whatever is required of her.

Included within the story is a peek at the science of the time with regard to the flu and midwifery. It is a visit to the Dublin of the times where they were struggling with not just the flu but the devastation caused by World War I and the 1916 Uprising. Along the way, it also shares a look at some of the Irish societal injustices that existed at the time.  

The book is eerily similar to the current world situation even though we have the advantage of modern day science. Amongst other similarities are the facts that some still managed to question the value of wearing masks and others recommended taking weird remedies.

The Pull of the Stars is a page turner, a non-stop story that happens mostly during one long shift in the hospital during which Powers, sometimes aided by Doctor Lynn and/or Bridie, go from crisis to crisis to crisis. 

The timing of the writing of this book may have been a bit unfortunate though it was written before the current pandemic. After all, who wants to read a story based on a pandemic when they are living through one? However, the timing was not deliberate. Donoghue started writing the story in 2018 and the manuscript was sent to the publishers in March of 2020. 

After possibly a brief moment of hesitation because of the subject matter, the book drew me in and it became interesting to see, as the author says, "the way it mirrors our current situation."  The Guardian says, it is "a beautifully modulated historical novel."  I agree.

Reading this book now is different than it might have been before, for sure. NPR says, "The fourth wall of fiction is broken here. The pandemic spreads out beyond the pages into whatever rooms we are quarantined in.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Do I recommend The Pull of the Stars? Yes, I do. I highly recommend it. It is a fast moving account of life in a maternity fever ward with parallels to the current world situation.  Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, has an interest in Ireland and/or midwifery will enjoy this book.  

I think NPR gives another good reason to pick up this book when they say that that Donoghue has "given us our first pandemic caregiver novel - an engrossing and inadvertently topical story about health care workers inside small rooms fighting to preserve life." 

I say, don't miss it. Order your copy from Amazon now by clicking right here.

See you 
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Ireland:

Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes


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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Reviewing Her Last Breath by Hilary Davidson

Today I'm going to review a book that is set for release on 1st July 2021 which I was able to read prior to release as part of the First Reads for Amazon Prime Readers

Her Last Breath by Hilary Davidson Reviewed


One of the things that made me choose this book to read was in the blurb about it, "On the day of her sister Caroline’s funeral, Deirdre Crawley receives a message her sister wrote before she died: If you’re reading this, I’m already dead." That hook was irresistible for me so I downloaded the book and settled down for what I hoped would be a great read, I have to say I have very mixed feelings about this book. 

I have never heard of the author before so I had no expectations. I actually read the book in one sitting and two of the things I loved about the book were the plot and the way that the pandemic was handled. I mention the pandemic because the book was based in NY and it's the first book I've read where it's even mentioned - it has been done so in a way that is easy to miss, but to me added another dimension and makes me surprised at the biggest failing this book has. 

As I said the plot was great and I would recommend reading it just because I did enjoy the plot, but the characters were another story. They seemed very one-dimensional. Even with a character that wasn't very fleshed out, there were a few things that Diedre said that just didn't seem in line with other things. 

I, personally, think one of the best characters in the book was Theo, the person who Diedre's sister claimed had killed her. If this book was a first draft I would have given it really high marks, but as a completed book it's disappointing. 

I don't usually like to write book reviews that I have mixed feelings about, but this author shows amazing talent. I see so many glimpses in this book that tell me she can write and I truly believe that she could have made these characters more real to me. 

If you like suspenseful thrillers do I still think you'd enjoy the plot lines of this book, but if you are more into sinking your teeth into the characters then you may want to pass. I will definitely be happy to read this author again though as I did see a lot of promise in the pages. 

I should clarify it's not that I disliked the characters, I reviewed a book called Girls Night Out where I really didn't like the characters, but they definitely seemed real to me. In this particular book it's that I couldn't envisage these characters as being real. When I read a book I can almost see things happening in my mind like I'm watching a movie - this time the characters wouldn't appear clearly for me.




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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – A Book Review

Fredrik Backman is an absolutely delightful writer from Sweden. He writes about people in a special way that portrays who they are, what they are and who and what they appear to be, yet often are not. He describes their hurts and grievances, secrets and passions in a way the reader can relate. Oh, yes, the reader thinks, I recognize this character in my brother, father, best friend, maybe even myself.


Backman's stories take place in Sweden, but it could be anywhere, as people are the same all over. 


Synopsis



Available on Amazon

In Anxious People, we meet a group of people who are attending an apartment open house. Then a failed bank robber bursts in and takes them hostage.  The captives range from a retired couple who hunt down fixer-uppers, a wealthy banker who only cared about making money and can't relate to people, a young couple about to have their first baby and an 87-year-old woman. Then there is the mystery man in the bathroom and the flustered, but still-ready-to-make-a- deal real estate agent. Even the bank robber has issues. 


Add in the authorities trying to negotiate the hostages release. The main ones are a father and son who both work for the local police department. They fluster each other and take care of each other.


As the book progresses, we learn who the bank robber is (who failed to rob the bank because it is a cashless bank) and why an attempt was made.  We are given some backgrounds on the people who became hostages. We hear about the police involvement.  The story goes back and forth between what is happening during the hostage situation in the apartment to the individual people and what brought them to this open house on New Year's Eve (a strange day to have an Open House, for sure) to the interviews the police try to conduct with the witnesses after their release. All through this they try to figure out what happened to the bank robber who was no where to be found after releasing the hostages.


As The Story Begins.... in the Author's Words


A bank robbery, a hostage drama, a stairwell full of police officers on their way to storm an apartment.  It was easy to get to this point, Much easier than you might think. All it took was one single really bad idea. 


This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots. So it needs saying from the outset that it's always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is.  Especially if you have other people you are trying to be a reasonably good human being for.


One single really bad idea. That's all it takes.


There is also the part about how ten years ago a man was standing on a bridge. This seems to be a non sequitur, because this is a story about a bank robber and a hostage situation and the people involved. So why does the author keep bringing up the bridge throughout the story? 


Summary


So, to summarize, we have a charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common then they ever imaged. Oh, and don't forget the bridge! 


If you have read any of Fredrik Backman's previous books, two of which have been reviewed here on ReviewThisReviews, you will be drawn to Anxious People immediately because they were such delightful reads. This one is the same – a very enjoyable read; a book you can't put down to the final page; a book whose ending is as delightful (and surprising) as the rest.


Backman's books are so good that when I finish the last paragraph on the last page, I feel a strong pull to return to page one and begin the book all over again. It's that hard to leave this world of words that is so humorous, compassionate and wise. 


More...


For your future reading after you finish Anxious People, check out these other Backman book reviews on ReviewThisReviews.



Anxious People, a book review written by

~Wednesday Elf





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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Joanna Brady Mystery Series – Book Reviews.


The Brady Novel of Suspense series is written by J.A. Jance, the New York Times bestselling author of the J.P. Beaumont series and the Ali Reynolds series, plus five interrelated thrillers about the Walker Family.


The Joanna Brady series are filled with beloved characters, small-town charm, vivid history, intriguing mystery, all with the scenic Arizona desert as a backdrop.

~ Quote from the book jacket of Book #18 'Field of Bones'



Joanna Brady (main character) 


Desert Heat - Book 1 in the Joanna Brady Series

When the series begins in “Desert Heat”, Joanna is a young widow with a 9-year-old daughter (Jenny). Her husband Andy, a police detective in Bisbee, Arizona, was running for sheriff when he was killed by a hit man sent by the Mexican Drug Cartel he had been investigating. Encouraged to run for the office in his place, Joanna, who is also the daughter of a former Bisbee Sheriff, may have originally been elected on a sympathy vote, but she goes on to prove herself as a boots-on-the ground law enforcement officer. 


Cochise County in SE Arizona is 80 x 80 miles square with the southernmost county line the international border with Mexico and the eastern country line the state line with New Mexico. The stories in this series of books take place in and around the town of Bisbee, AZ and throughout the 6400 square miles of the sheriff's office domain.  As you can imagine, this large of a territory to police produces a wide variety of crimes which often have to be investigated under extreme conditions of difficult 4-wheel drive locations and desert weather.


Each book begins with a Prologue which sets the scene for the storyline and introduces you to one or more of the characters. Sometimes the character is a victim; sometimes it's the protagonist whose identity we learn as the story progresses.


Another interesting thing about this continuing series is quite often when a new character is introduced in one book, we find that character appearing in subsequent books. We meet the character in one book and when they appear in later books, the author gives a brief summary of who they are as a reminder to the reader. It is a great way to keep track of who they are and what parts they played. From book to book, the characters all become very familiar to the reader. It also becomes a good way to know what happened to that character we first met, and what they are doing now. 


*Note: It's rather like your new neighbors who just moved to town. They are strangers at first, but after awhile they become familiar friends. 


The storylines in the Joanna Brady series may have murder and mayhem, but they are also filled with family life, interactions with friends and neighbors, introductions to new babies and the latest dog or cat or horse. After all, the sheriff, the deputies and detectives and support staff of the Cochise County Sheriff's Department are also people with family lives that exist outside of work. The stories also give fascinating descriptions to the countryside of southeastern Arizona filled with both desert and mountain areas complete with the sizzling heat of desert summers and the cold of mountain winters. 


Summary


If you enjoy novels of suspense with a good story-line which also gives you the back-story of the interesting characters, you will enjoy this Joanna Brady book series. 


Book #19 in the Joanna Brady Novels of Suspense


List of Joanna Brady Books:


Joanna Brady, a deputy sheriff's widow, daughter of a former town sheriff, and now elected sheriff in Cochise County, Arizona.


  1. Desert Heat(1993)
  2. Tombstone Courage (1994)
  3. Shoot, Don't Shoot (1995)
  4. Dead to Rights (1996)
  5. Skeleton Canyon (1997)
  6. Rattlesnake Crossing (1998)
  7. Outlaw Mountain (1999)
  8. Devil's Claw (2000)
  9. Paradise Lost (2001)
  10. Partner in Crime (2002)
  11. Exit Wounds (2003)
  12. Dead Wrong (2006)
  13. Damage Control (2008)
  14. Fire and Ice (2009)
  15. Judgment Call (2012)
  16. Remains of Innocence (2014)
  17. Downfall (2016)
  18. Field of Bones (2018)
  19. Missing and Endangered (2021)


*Reviewer's Note:  Author J.A. (Judith) Jance grew up in Bisbee, Arizona, a small copper mining town in SE Arizona. I find it interesting that she bases her stories in a real town. one she is so familiar with, and includes real location descriptions. It makes the fiction stories appear very real as if they are happening right now, along with giving you a bit of history of the town and the area. It's a history lesson, a murder mystery, and a suspenseful story, all with interesting characters  who, although fictional, seem like people you have always known. 


I highly recommend the 'Brady Novels of Suspense' series by J.A. Jance.


Related Links:

Book Review of the Ali Reynolds Series by J. A. Jance


(c) The Joanna Brady Mystery Series book review written by Wednesday Elf





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