Tag 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.

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.

Like Never Before

51m2kJ4QWWL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: Like Never Before

Author: Melissa Tagg

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website for Like Never Before:

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But when the newspaper she runs is in danger of closing, she pins all her hopes on a story that just might convince the new owner to keep the paper running.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker has the chance of a lifetime: a spot on a presidential campaign. But first he has to return to his hometown to sell the newspaper he’s suddenly inherited.

But instead of a quick sale, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. And working together to break the story on Maple Valley’s unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

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            I love family-based series. In case that hasn’t become apparent yet. The Walker Family series is no exception. I love seeing a family of flawed people (yes, I know they’re fictional) grow and change and ultimately find their purpose and meaning in God.

Like Never Before is another great installment in this series. Logan is so broken and hurt after his wife’s death, that his daughter is the light in his world, rivaled only by his consuming passion for his job. Amelia has her own scars and secrets, namely her dirtbag former husband. That man’s insensitiveness, even for the brief time he showed up in the book, made me so irritated. But I digress. Amelia’s determination and passion for her job and the people around her was so endearing. I loved how she pursued the story of her benefactor to the bittersweet end. Logan’s compassion for those around him, including a difficult past relationship with a bitter family, was really what made me like him, beyond the normal male-lead qualities. I appreciate how Melissa handles her characters’ spiritual growth. It can be difficult to keep from coming across as preachy, but Melissa avoids this with grace as she delivers the reality of the struggles people face, but also the faithfulness and goodness of Christ.

All the characters in this book have a sense of genuineness and depth to them, so that whenever I delve into one of Melissa’s books, I find myself quite involved. As other authors have said of her, I believe Melissa just keeps getting better at her craft. I can’t wait to see which Walker family member she writes about next.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former newspaper reporter, current nonprofit grant writer, and total Iowa girl. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly at www.melissatagg.com.

I was given a review copy of Like Never Before from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Change of Heart

51N3Y9r9qPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: Change of Heart

Author: Courtney Walsh

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Goodread’s description of Change of Heart:

A Colorado senator’s wife, Evelyn Brandt seems to have it all. But her carefully constructed life comes toppling down when the FBI crashes her society brunch with news that her husband has been arrested for embezzlement, and he’s far from repentant. It turns out this was only the start of his indiscretions―for which he has little regret.

As the weeks following the scandal turn into months, Evelyn withdraws, even shirking her duties with the philanthropic Valentine Volunteers. The inquisitive women of the group are determined not to let Evelyn’s divorce destroy her. They have big plans for her to use her long-forgotten artistic talent to reimagine the city’s iconic lamppost hearts. But doing so will force Evelyn to work closely with Trevor Whitney, her ex-husband’s former best friend. Though she and Trevor used to be close―and he’s been letting her hide in his guesthouse―his gruffness conveys his unease with the situation.

Amid the beauty of Trevor’s farm and the comfort of a paintbrush, Evelyn starts to reclaim the dreams she sacrificed to become the perfect politician’s wife. And as creativity inspires them both, Whit begins to see the girl he fell in love with before his friend―and his own mistakes―stole his chance. Possibilities for a new beginning emerge, but long-kept secrets threaten to ruin everything. After so much time, is a change of heart too much to hope for?

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            I absolutely loved Courtney’s book, Paper Hearts, so I’ve been watching for her next book to come out. When I read the description of Change of Heart, I wondered how she would pull it off. After all, divorce is a tricky subject, and I wasn’t sure how she was going to write about it. Courtney was able to write this story with grace and tact. She showed all the messiness of sin, but also the redemption that comes through faith in Christ. None of the characters in this book are perfect, in fact, they almost feel as real as you or me. Which I think is why I enjoyed this book. A good portion of it centers around Evelyn’s divorce, both before and after, which made me wonder how Courtney was going to time the romance aspect of the story. She did a good job of that, though.

I liked both Evelyn and Trevor’s characters. They dealt with a lot, a lot that they tried to brush over and ignore. This is really a story of surrender. Surrendering their lives to God and His timing and leading. I love that theme, because it’s something I’m personally trying to do right now. It’s a subject that never gets old, and never gets easier.

While I didn’t like this book quite as much as Paper Hearts, it really made me think. I was entertained, but I also had some food for thought, which I appreciated.

About the Author

Biography from Tyndale’s website: Courtney Walsh is the author of Paper Hearts and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright. Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.

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

You’re the One That I Want

51h96g4pw9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: You’re the One That I Want

Author: Susan May Warren

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Tyndale’s website description of You’re the One That I Want:

Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.

Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after—especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama—and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.

But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.

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            Yes, I have reached that point…the Christiansen Family Series has come to an end. However, Susie knows how to close out a series, packed with all the action, drama, and poignancy of the previous books.

I admit, I was nervous to read this last book, since it focuses on bad-boy Owen, and so far in the series, I wasn’t really a fan. However, that’s what made You’re the One That I Want such a compelling read. I could hardly put it down. Right from the start we take off running with a dark feeling of foreboding hanging over the fishing vessel we find Owen on. Per usual, the book has multiple points of view, with Casper and the questions about his involvement with the odious Monte keeping me guessing as to how it would end. Owen and Scotty are both so broken and flawed, so real, that it hurt to read about them. I saw parts of them in me, and in people I’ve known, so I couldn’t help but cheer for them to succeed and for God’s love to break through their resistance and touch their hearts (yeah, yeah, I know, they’re not actually real). Faith is tested, family is brought back together, and Susie spins a tale that puts the spotlight on God’s grace.

Because this is a story about grace, God’s grace mainly, and then the grace we show to others. Which is what makes it such a thing of beauty and impact. We all need grace, none of us deserve it, yet God offers it to all who will trust in His Son.

Here are 2 quotes from the book that I absolutely loved:

“Some of God’s best players were His imperfect, broken prodigals. In fact, iffy players are God’s best picks. He specializes in short-tempered, reckless, flawed people to accomplish His plans…God is constantly using broken, messy people to restore the world and bring glory to Himself.”

“…to do something daring and wild and reach out for grace, even though it doesn’t make sense. But I warn you, once you embrace Christ, you too become a rule breaker. Because a life committed to God requires us to live uncomfortable. Inconveniently. Accountably. Bravely. Transparently. Vulnerably. It requires us to love without rules. Welcome to grace.”

Susie hit it out of the park with this last installment in the series, and while I’m sad to see it end, I can’t help but be thankful for these books. Because Susie has discovered how to combine romance, adventure, drama, and faith in an authentic way that makes me think, and teaches me along the way. I would highly recommend any of Susie’s books, but especially this series.

About the Author

Biography from Tyndale House Publishers’ website: Susan May Warren is the bestselling, Christy and RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.

Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives.~ To learn more about Susan and her other books, visit her web page: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/

I was given a review copy of You’re the One That I Want from the author in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Wonder of You

510xTrj5m9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: The Wonder of You

Author: Susan May Warren

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Tyndale’s website description of The Wonder of You:

Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

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Whenever I receive one of Susie’s latest releases on my doorstep, I have conflicting emotions: read immediately or wait so as to prolong the process? It truly is a difficult decision. 😉 I was SO eager to read The Wonder of You, especially after the way Always on My Mind led up to Amelia’s story. Again, Susie did not disappoint.

This story touched my heart, honestly. Amelia reminds me so much of myself in some ways. She struggles with wanting to do big, brave things, yet finding the courage to do those things is a lot harder than you might imagine. I get that. I also liked how Roark didn’t have it all together in the courage department either. Though Amelia thought he didn’t struggle as she did, he showed her that simply wasn’t true. Then of course, the fact that a handsome European and a northwoods lumberjack duked it out in a fantastic way was awesome. I have to say, being from the Northern Midwest myself, I loved that element. 🙂 Susie did a great job again of crafting an entertaining, gripping story that explores new love, maintaining married love, and trusting God’s love. I would suggest, if you’ve never read any of the Christiansen Family series, that you start from the beginning, otherwise you’re going to hit quite a few spoilers and a good deal of confusion. I have no idea how Susie is going to manage Owen’s story, especially in light of Casper and Raina, but I’m looking forward to how she pulls it off.

I have to share two quotes from this story, because in them, Susie hit the nail right on the head:

“We’re satisfied to get a glimpse of His (God’s) vision, and then we seek out the places where we can accomplish it on our own. And frankly, that’s why we live empty, frustrated lives. Pursuing God’s vision requires faith in God to work it out. It means turning our hearts to Him fully, undivided, focused on loving Jesus with every part of ourselves. I can’t do that on my own. Truth is, I don’t even want to. Loving God like that takes courage and the surety that He won’t fail us.” Pg. 174

“…You don’t have to see the future to trust in God’s goodness, in His love for you. You simply need to turn around and take a good look at what He’s already done. Then you can let the wonder of His love for you draw you to Him.” Pg. 369

About the Author

Biography from Tyndale House Publishers’ website: Susan May Warren is the bestselling, Christy and RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.

Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives.~ To learn more about Susan and her other books, visit her web page: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/

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

A Love Like Ours

23411527Book Review: A Love Like Ours

Author: Becky Wade

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Bethany House’s website description of A Love Like Ours:

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

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A Love Like Ours was a nice, sweet read that I really enjoyed. With her signature style of engaging, flawed characters set against a good plot, Becky Wade delivered another great book.

In A Love Like Ours, we have the youngest of the Porter brothers, Jake. I really liked how we saw early on how Jake was when he was a kid, and how protective of Lyndie he was even then. Then that was contrasted with who he is when the book picks up again, post-PTSD for Jake. I really felt for him, as I can’t truly imagine what it must be like for our Veterans who have PTSD. He had his flaws, but at the same time Becky was able to make him that hero that Lyndie needed and the reader would love. His journey back to accepting God into his life and seeing that God does, indeed, forgive him, was also so good to read about.

I loved Lyndie’s tenacity to care for those around her. She never gave up on Jake, even when he hurt her terribly. It was sweet to also see her with her sister. I like how Becky gives her heroines interesting occupations as well. I mean, horse jockey/exerciser as well as a book illustrator? That’s pretty cool, and it was awesome to read about the world of modern Thoroughbred racing and training, pre-American Pharaoh’s win of the Triple Crown.

In all, this was another sweet, inspirational story, perfect for relaxing on a rainy day or on your summer vacation.

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 moved to Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market, took time off to raise her children, then felt God nudging her to pursue contemporary Christian fiction. Becky’s work has been a finalist for both a RITA and an INSPY Award. Learn more at http://www.beckywade.com.

I was given a review copy of A Love Like Ours from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.