Category Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Still Life

Book Review: Still Life

Author: Dani Pettrey

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Amazon of Still Life:

Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

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            Dani Pettrey is brilliant at what she does. I loved her previous series set in Alaska, and I’m finding that I like these just as much. Still Life is the second book in the series, and I would definitely recommend reading them in order, it helps to set up some of the relationships and dynamics that happen in this book.

Still Life is…chilling. Reading it at night is not recommended. I rushed through this book in the same break-neck pace that Dani sets, with each ending to the chapter begging me to continue reading. I love how each character has their specialty that they bring to the team, but they don’t have those because they’re just unnaturally good at them, they all have motivation and reasons. The setting is different than her other series, but where the wilds of Alaska and its animals were an issue, abandoned buildings and unstable people are just as dangerous in the Chesapeake Valor series. The mystery, suspense, and adventure are great in this series, but the romance keeps perfect pace with it.

Over all, I really enjoyed Still Life, and would definitely recommend it!

About the Author

Biography from Amazon’s website: Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. She’s a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her web site at www.DaniPettrey.com!

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Rescue Me

rescue-me-book-cover-final-smlBook Review: Rescue Me

Author: Susan May Warren

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Revell’s website of Rescue Me:

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job but in his private life. He’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding-heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job of her dreams. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

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            If I thought the first book of the Montana Rescue series was good, then this one is great. It’s hard to believe that Rescue Me only spans a week or two, but so much is packed into that time frame that it feels way longer.

Rescue Me is full of action and adventure. If it’s not a bear mauling—which, hello people? Stop going into the woods! Bears! *Ahem* Anyways. If it’s not a bear mauling, it’s a youth group that’s in serious trouble. I could NOT stop reading because each page brought a new challenge to the PEAK team and to Willow and Sam.

Per usual, Susan creates a great plot, with fantastic characters. Willow and Sam are not perfect by any means, which made me identify so well with them. Their struggles looked a lot like some that I’ve gone through, some questions that I’m asking myself right now. And how they learned about redemption and knowing more about God really taught me a lesson too. This novel dug down deep in my heart and planted truths there that I so appreciate. It’s rare, even in Christian fiction, that I read a book that actually changes me, but this one did.

The romance between the characters was spot-on, typical Susan May Warren writing. And the secondary characters, Jess and Pete, I loved, but I am still frustrated by them! C’mon guys, get your act together!

All in all, I really loved this book. With Susan’s writing, it goes beyond entertainment, down to the heart of a person, and that’s why I love her novels, and I love Rescue Me.

About the Author

Biography from Revell’s website: Susan May Warren is the ECPA and CBA bestselling author of over fifty novels, including Wild Montana Skies, with more than one million books sold. Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT and numerous Readers’ Choice Awards, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy, and novellas. She can be found online at http://www.susanmaywarren.com, on Facebook at SusanMayWarrenFiction, and on Twitter @susanmaywarren.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wild Montana Skies

wmskies-coverBook Review: Wild Montana Skies

Author: Susan May Warren

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Revell’s website for Wild Montana Skies:

The last thing Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Kacey Fairing needs upon returning home to Mercy Falls, Montana, is to run into her mistakes. After a devastating crash during her recent military tour in Afghanistan, she is emotionally broken but ready to start putting her life back together. She just wants to reconnect with her teenage daughter and spend the summer working as the new lead pilot of PEAK Rescue in Glacier National Park.

But her mistakes aren’t so easily forgotten. Because Ben King is also back in town.

Country music star Ben King abandoned his past when he moved to Nashville thirteen years ago to start his career. He hoped to heal his broken heart, caused by losing the woman he loved. But when his father is injured, Ben is called home to help manage PEAK Rescue during his recovery. He doesn’t realize his father has ulterior motives until his old flame, Kacey, walks into his house and back into his heart.

Now, with Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods, Kacey and Ben will have to work together to save lives. But when secrets are uncovered and old hurts rise to the surface, will they walk away again? Or can they find a different ending to their country love song?

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            I have been an avid fan of Susan May Warren for several years now, and it doesn’t look like that’ll change any time soon! I am so excited about her Montana Rescue series, and after reading the first book in the series, I have some reasons to tell you why you should be excited too!

  1. The spiritual themes.

In this book, Ben and Kacey have a lot to learn about forgiveness and trust and letting God take control of their lives. Susan writes in such a way that it was a lesson that touched my heart as well. She writes about God’s love and His desire to have us trust Him in a way that fills up the heart and points it towards Him.

  1. The unique characters.

I’m not sure how she does it, but in each book her characters are so different and varied that it never feels like you’ve read about them before. Ben King is a country music star. Kacey is a soldier who flies choppers. She is able to learn what that consists of for both characters and make it come alive on the page. As was touched on earlier, she also develops the characters in such a way that it’s hard to believe sometimes that they’re not real people. The romance is always well-crafted and tasteful, and the plot continues to thicken throughout the book.

  1. The small-town setting.

This seems to be her special niche, her forte. And she carries that through into these Montana Rescue books. All the characters live in the same town, they’re involved in each other’s lives. She writes about it in such a way that when you step into one of her novels, it feels like you’re coming home. This series, set in Montana, on the edge of Glacier National Park, promises to be full of suspense, danger, beauty, and fun.

So there you go. Three very good reasons why you too should read (and hopefully love!) Susan’s books, but specifically her latest, Wild Montana Skies.

About the Author

Biography from Revell’s website: Susan May Warren is the ECPA and CBA bestselling author of over fifty novels, including Wild Montana Skies, with more than one million books sold. Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT and numerous Readers’ Choice Awards, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy, and novellas. She can be found online at http://www.susanmaywarren.com, on Facebook at SusanMayWarrenFiction, and on Twitter @susanmaywarren

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tangled Webs

28637715Book Review: Tangled Webs

Author: Irene Hannon

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Revell’s website for Tangled Webs:

Finn has packed away his combat instincts–but he may need them again when danger begins to stalk his quiet hideaway . . .

After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime. A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress. But peace isn’t on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own. Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather. As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone. And when it becomes apparent Dana’s foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action–ready or not.

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            I’ve read a couple other books by Irene Hannon, which I’ve enjoyed, but this one just wasn’t for me. Neither of the characters really resonated with me, and the plot seemed to lag. Part of the problem was that the book is somewhat suspenseful, but the antagonist’s viewpoint is included in the book, so I knew whodunit and why. So, for me, it just didn’t work. However, I know plenty of other people have enjoyed this series, so that’s just one opinion among many.

About the Author

Biography from Revell’s website: Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including One Perfect Spring, Hope Harbor, and Sea Rose Lane, as well as the Private Justice and Men of Valor suspense series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, two Carol Awards, two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers’ Choice Award, three HOLT Medallions, two Booksellers’ Best Awards, and a National Readers’ Choice Award. She is also a two-time Christy Award finalist. Learn more at www.irenehannon.com

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Can’t Help Falling

cant-help-falling-9781501117343_hrBook Review: Can’t Help Falling

Author: Kara Isaac

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Simon and Schuster’s website for Can’t Help Falling:

A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter façade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

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            I have heard an incredible amount of buzz over the internet and in person about Kara Isaac and her books. Not only does the author have a great connection with her readers, but she also writes very well. I haven’t read her first book, Close to You, but oooh, I want to now.

Kara’s writing style is light and easy to read, which is deceptive, because this story about second chances with people and with God packs a punch. I could tell that she was from New Zealand every now and then, because she had knowledge about things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. 😉 Even though this book is set in Great Britain, she does a fantastic job with creating a vivid picture of the area and its culture.

My heart went out to the heroine, Emelia, many times, as her story unfolded. The life she lived previous to coming to Oxford was messy and harsh, and her warped view of God did nothing to help her along. The change that took place in her was long in coming, but that’s what made it feel natural, real, and not forced. I also enjoyed Peter as a character, and the ability to get a glimpse into the sport of rowing. Which, prior to reading this, I knew next to nothing about. The secondary characters are colorful and unique, adding plenty of fun.

This book is lighthearted and humorous, a fun read, though I would say it’s a little edgier than some Christian fiction. Be warned, Emelia’s fascination with Narnia may even drive you to pick up the Chronicles of Narnia and dive back into that enchanting world. It did me.

About the Author

Biography from Simon and Schuster’s website: Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister. She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two children.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Without Warning

imgresBook Review: Without Warning

Author: Lynette Eason

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Revell Publisher’s website for Without Warning:

Intensity. Skill. Tenacity.

The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.

Katie Singleton, a partner with the Elite Guardians Protection Agency, stumbles upon her next assignment quite by accident. Spotting blue lights at a familiar restaurant, she stops to investigate, only to discover that owner Daniel Matthews has become the target of someone who will go to any lengths to put him out of business.

Daniel might be concerned, but he’s not convinced that a bodyguard–and a female one at that–is necessary. A new attack and his niece’s urgings are enough to make him reconsider. He and Katie must figure out who’s behind the intimidation and threats–before a would-be killer strikes again.

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            I’ve heard a lot of good things about Lynette Eason’s books, but never felt compelled to try one out for myself. However, I’ve been on a murder mystery kick lately (I’ve been reading a lot of Agatha Christie’s novels), so I thought I’d give Without Warning a try. I was so out of the loop, that I didn’t even realize until halfway through the book that I was reading the second book in the series. Oops. It worked out, though, because this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, though I’m sure reading the books in the series in order would enhance the experience.

I must say, my expectations were high. Did I mention I was reading from the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie? This book blew me away, though (for those of you who’ve read it, there’s a pun for you. Cheesy, I know.). This novel was action-packed, with suspense riding high. I found myself reading it any chance I got, just to try to figure out who-dun-it, and what they would do next! At one point, I was reading in my room and someone knocked on my door, and I had to take a few seconds to keep from grabbing the nearest pillow to use as a defense against the ‘intruder’. I really was gripped by this story!

I liked the idea of a body guard service made up of a group of women, a different take from what’s been done before by most authors (one of the exceptions being Becky Wade’s Her One and Only). The different viewpoints in the story, particularly Riley’s, were enjoyable to read. This book also tackles the issue of PTSD. Lynette treats it realistically, giving Without Warning more depth. The romance in this book was fun too, but wasn’t really the focus. Trust was a real issue in this book, trusting the people around them, and also trusting God, even when He allows things that don’t make sense.

So this book wasn’t quite Agatha Christie, but I did get sucked in by the adventure. I’ll definitely be taking another look at Lynette’s novels, but not when I’m home alone. At night. With creepy night noises. 😉

About the Author

Biography from Revell Publisher’s website: Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, and the Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching and Without Warning in the Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of an ACFW Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. She has a master’s degree in education from Converse College and lives in South Carolina. Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.

I was given a review copy of Without Warning from the publisher. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Her One and Only

26974629Book Review: Her One and Only

Author: Becky Wade

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website for Her One and Only:

After ten years in the NFL, superstar Gray Fowler is accustomed to obsessive fans. But when Gray starts receiving death threats from a stalker, his team hires an executive protection agency to guard him until the culprit is caught. Dealing with bodyguards 24/7 is a headache, especially when one of them is a young, beautiful woman. How can a female half his size possibly protect him better than he can protect himself?

Dru Porter is a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt–none of which saved her from disaster on her last assignment. In order to rebuild her tarnished reputation, she’s determined to find Gray’s stalker and, since relationships between agents and clients are forbidden, avoid a romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past.

Yet every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray. As the danger escalates, they’ll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives–and their hearts–to one another.

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            Becky Wade delivers another stellar novel in Her One and Only as she finishes out the saga of the Porter family. The book is characterized by her signature headstrong characters, strong romance, and building suspense. As far as her writing goes, this one matched, if not exceeded, the excellence that readers have come to expect from her. I enjoyed this final book, because it focused on Dru, the last member of the Porter siblings, who is quite a spitfire. However, unlike what normally happens for me, this book simply didn’t suck me in. The romance aspect of the book didn’t seem quite ‘genuine’ to me, even though, yes, it is fiction. I also wasn’t on board with Dru pushing aside her doubts about faith and going ahead with a relationship with Gray. That was concerning for me, because as far as spiritual or emotional consequences, it didn’t really seem to be a factor.

So even though for many this book is another homerun hit, for me it just didn’t quite click.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and now lives in Dallas. A favorite among readers of Christian contemporary romance, Becky has won a Carol Award, an Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and an INSPY Award. Learn more at www.beckywade.com.

I was given a review copy of Her One and Only from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.