Monday, April 27, 2015

TAKEN by Dee Henderson

Iola Goulton reviews Taken by Dee Henderson

Amazon Book Description

Abducted at the age of sixteen and coerced into assisting the Jacoby crime family, Shannon Bliss has finally found a way out. She desperately wants to resume some semblance of normal life, but she also knows she has some unfinished business to attend to. She has enough evidence to put her captors behind bars for a very long time.

When Shannon contacts private investigator and former cop Matthew Dane to help her navigate her reentry into society, she quickly discovers that gaining her freedom doesn't mean her troubles are over. For one thing, her brother is the leading candidate in the race for Illinois governor, and news of her escape will create a media frenzy. For another, the ransom her family reportedly paid years earlier appears to have been a scam; no one knows what happened to the money. And then there's the fact that Shannon's escape involved faking her own death. If the Jacoby family learns she is still alive, they'll stop at nothing to silence her.

If justice is to be done, and if Shannon's life is ever to get on track again, Matthew will need to discover exactly what happened to her--even if it means stirring up a hornet's nest of secrets.

My Thoughts

I'm a long-time Dee Henderson fan. I read and loved the O’Malley series, the Uncommon Heroes series (even better than the O’Malleys), and her two single titles. There was then a long wait for her next novel, Full Disclosure, and I can only describe my reaction to it as overwhelmingly disappointing.

But I was loyal enough to read her next novel, Unspoken, despite the fact it was a sequel to Full Disclosure, and that it dealt with an uncomfortable subject (abduction). It was better, but was exclusively written from the hero’s point of view—and he was best described as too good to be true (I’m looking for romantic suspense, not romantic fantasy). Undetected was better still, with more of a focus on external suspense.

Taken is more in the style of Unspoken, in that it deals with another freed victim of abduction (as did Danger in the Shadows … I’m hoping there’s no significance in this pattern). It’s written in third person, mostly from Matthew’s point of view, which means we are spared Shannon’s difficult memories but still get to see the emotional impact they have on her and those around her. Matthew is another almost too-good-to-be-true character: honest, faithful, patient, and a strong Christian despite the trials he’s been through in his own life.

At the same time, there is a clear suspense plot to Taken, as Shannon slowly reveals parts of her past to Matthew, and he collaborates with characters from Full Disclosure and Unspoken to reintroduce Shannon to her family, discover who was behind her original kidnapping, and bring the Jacoby family to justice—without putting Shannon in danger. Throughout it all, it's clear Shannon's not a victim of abduction: she's a survivor, and there is a difference.

One of the unanswered questions from Unspoken was, for me, a satisfactory answer to the age-old question: where is God when bad things happen to good people? Shannon has a well-thought response to this which is true to her character, and shows a depth of understanding of God’s nature not found in many people (fictional or real-life). This, to me, was one of the strengths of the novel: that it addressed the question without seeming preachy or unrealistic.

I did find the characters—especially Matthew—were too close to perfect, and everyone in Henderson’s fictional world has endless financial resources, which also has an unrealistic feel. The writing was a little off at times (too much dialogue was tagged as “mentioned,” which I think of as making the dialogue less important which it wasn’t).

But the plot was a good balance between the internal journey and external suspense, and the pacing was excellent—I didn't want to put it down. It's taken a while, but I think Dee Henderson has now found her stride with this new longer-length series. It's got less romance than her earlier books, and perhaps even a little less suspense. But it's a fast-paced and thought-provoking read.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services
at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu .

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon US Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500 (and I'm in the Top 50 at Amazon Australia).

Monday, April 20, 2015

A PATH MADE PLAIN by Lynette Sowell

Brittany McEuen reviews A Path Made Plain:Seasons in Pinecraft - Book 2 by Lynette Sowell

Back Cover Information: 

Betsy Yoder lives with her great aunt in Sarasota’s Pinecraft neighborhood, far from her family in Ohio. Heartbroken by a man who left her—and the Order—to marry someone else, Betsy instead pours her time and energy into her bakery, offering the village of Pinecraft delicious desserts from her Amish heritage, and is content in her hard-working yet peaceful life.

Enter the formerly Amish Thaddeus Zook, a pastry chef who has moved to Pinecraft after working in restaurants among the Englisch. While Betsy nurses a hesitant heart, Thaddeus shows a similar hesitancy about rejoining an Amish community. Though neither can deny the attraction between them, Thaddeus is hiding a past that could threaten their future together. Betsy has lost one love already; dare she risk loving another who has adopted Englisch ways? Or will Thad listen to the call of the open road and move on again . . . without the love of his life?

My Take:

A Path Made Plain is one for my keeper shelf! I thoroughly loved this book from the start to the finish. I found it to be a very unique take on all things Amish. It is set in Pinecraft, Florida, a setting I really enjoy in Amish fiction. There is a light suspense thread running through the story, which makes it interesting to see the lengths the “bad guys” will go to in order to cover up their illegal activity.

I am a reader who enjoys a good romance flowing through the story. Attraction between two people, when it seems that there is no way for them to end up together, is a great way to add tension and potential heartbreak into the plot. This is definitely the case in A Path Made Plain.

The story is full of interesting characters. Although I haven’t read the first book in the series, it is clear that Betsy is recovering from heartache that occurred in the first story. She is a strong, young woman and is sometimes frustrated by people not taking her seriously because of her young age. But, even when she felt that others should take her more seriously, she remained respectful of her elders, continued working hard at her bakery, and made good business decisions.

I enjoyed the whole story, but my favorite character was definitely Thaddeus. I love that he was brave enough to step away and go after his dream of being a pastry chef years earlier, and was not convinced that his family’s “religion” was right for him simply because it is what was expected of him. He is such a special character. He has lived a bit of a rough life since leaving the Order. I really enjoyed reading his story and watching his spiritual growth throughout the book.

The suspense thread was satisfying and resolved well and the attraction between Betsy and Thad was great! I think readers who enjoy romantic suspense will find a unique and interesting story in A Path Made Plain.

About reviewer, Brittany McEuen:

I am a busy homeschooling mom to four children, ranging from kindergarten to high school. I’m happily married to my high school sweetheart and am an avid reader and book reviewer. I feature book reviews, giveaways, and occasional author interviews on my blog, Britt Reads Fiction. You can also connect with me on Pinterest and Goodreads.

Monday, April 13, 2015

RANDOM ACTS OF MURDER by Christy Barritt

Wanda Barefoot reviews Random Acts of Murder: A Holly Anna Paladin Mystery, Book 1 by Christy Barritt.
"There's one thing I know for certain, and that's that in life there are very few certainties. We must live each day as if it were our last. We must hold to and treasure every moment. We must cling to the hope know and not let our minds be clouded by despair, whatever our circumstances." -Holly Anna Paladin

Holly Anna Paladin, a twenty-eight-year-old ex-CPS investigator, has just found out she only has a year to live. How does she cope with the devastating news? By spending what's left of her time secretly doing good deeds for deserving people.

Holly decides to surprise one of her former clients by cleaning her home, but her "Random Acts of Kindness" soon reveal "Random Acts of Murder." Holly finds herself smack dab in the middle of a crime scene with the evidence pointing straight at her and nowhere to turn.

When mop buckets full of cleaning supplies exactly like the one she used start popping up at other murders, the odds seem stacked against her. It doesn't take Holly long to realize someone is out to frame her and the police aren't getting anywhere. With a tough-as-nails cop breathing down her neck and someone trying to shut her up permanently what's a girl to do?

Find the real "Good Feeds Killer" and clear her own name before it's too late!

The only problem? The lead cop on the case is none other than Chase Dexter, Holly's high school crush and the one man that gets under her skin like no other. But, what Holly doesn't know is that Chase is a changed man. After the death of his brother, Chase went on a downhill spiral and hit rock bottom but now he's back on his feet and soon to make detective.

All of Holly's old feelings come rushing back and are sure to complicate matters if she's not careful. But solving the case is her top priority. She'll deal with her feelings later. With so many suspects and so little time, Holly is running out of options. Can she identify the one responsible before she's sent up the river herself? Can she find love in the midst of all the horror going on around her?

There's so much I love about this book. Absolutely. Love. Most of all, Christy Barritt's writing style. Like the last book I reviewed by Christy, Random Acts of Murder is a suspense / mystery but it also has a bit of lightheartedness to the writing structure that keeps it from being too intense. Don't get me wrong, I love intense stories, but sometimes I need a lighter read, and this book fits my criteria perfectly. It has a great storyline and, honestly, I wasn't quite sure who the killer was until I was almost at the end. That's always a plus when reading a good mystery.

I have to admit that I am a character hound. I sniff out the characters in a story until I find the one I like best. If a writer could win an award for the best characterization in a novel Christy Barritt would have one on display.

I love Holly's character! She definitely lives in the wrong era. She's a modern girl with age-old tastes. She wears vintage dresses, loves old music, and drives a 1964 powder-blue Mustang she affectionately calls "Sally".

She has age-old values and resolves to only kiss the man she has married, AND she often speaks of herself in the third person saying things like, "I just happened to run into the man. People, of course, had their cameras ready... she said with a touch of disdain to her voice." Love. Love. Love this aspect of her character! She brought to mind a modern day June Cleaver--housewife turned sleuth--and she was the perfect character for the story. Add to that a hunky cop and a once-overweight-now-a-health-nut best friend who drives an old van referred to as the "Ghetto Mobile" and you have a great recipe for a cozy night of reading.

I'm so glad I started with the first book in this series. So often I come in somewhere in the middle and, while that's usually okay, you don't always get a full grasp on what's going on. Random Acts of Murder can most definitely be read as a stand alone book but I loved Holly's opening story too much to pass it by and I'm anxiously awaiting the next one!

About Wanda Barefoot: Reviewer
I am a self-proclaimed reviewer who turned my love of reading into a way to help authors get more recognition for the amazing stories they write for bibliophiles like me. I love God and family and I have a special love for all animals, both big and small. If I'm not reading you can most likely find me on my computer tinkering with graphics and my own personal web design. You can read more of my reviews on my blog at , on Facebook at or on Twitter at

Monday, April 6, 2015

SABOTAGED by Dani Pettrey

Marji Laine reviews Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey.

Here's the back cover version of the story:

Finally Returned Home, Reef McKeena
Finds His Beloved Alaska Facing Its Greatest Threat

Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now, working together as search-and-rescue for Alaska's arduous Iditarod race, a growing attraction seems to be forcing aside old arguments. Then Reef catches Kirra sneaking from camp in the middle of the night.

Kirra's uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing: Frank's daughter has been kidnapped. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl's life—but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.

My Take:

Sabotaged is the final chapter in the Alaskan Courage series highlighting the brothers and sisters in the McKenna family. I was so excited about these stories after reading the first of the series (Submerged) that I started marking my personal calendar with the dates of the new releases. I haven't been disappointed with any of the titles!

In Sabotaged, the romance has tangling tendrils.

From Kirra's perspective, she's always had a secret interest in Reef, but he's been the quintessential bad boy for years. She'd never wanted anything to do with his reckless reputation. But his recent spiritual change seems to be for real. Her attraction grows, but he'd never shown any interest in her proper self. And he sure wouldn't be interested if her secrets ever slipped out.

From Reef's point of view, as an adrenaline junkie, he's spent years scorning Kirra and her safe ways, though he's always held her in high esteem. The admiration builds with a spiritual insight grown from his new relationship with the Lord. Yet Reef knows the kind of man he's always been. The type that doesn't deserve a woman like Kirra.

As the couple strain to figure out their feelings, they're locked in a deadly, tag-team chase, trying to find people who shouldn't be missing while attempting to avoid unknown assailants who seem to want them dead.

The characters are outstanding. Yet again, Dani Pettrey has succeeded in creating true to life heroes with distinct personalities and consistency in their manner and reactions. The plot twists in several directions before finally coming to rest. But perhaps the best part of this book is the treacherous and beautiful descriptions of winter in the interior of Alaska. The setting makes for intriguing circumstances!

Dani Pettrey is at the top of her game with Sabotaged. What a great way to end this series. I can't wait to see what she's up to next!

About Senior Reviewer Marji Laine:

Marji is an author with five titles to her credit on her Amazon author page. She's also a freelance editor and reviewer both here and at Faith Driven Fiction. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband, her three girls, and a black Lab mix named Captain. Though she's working toward releases of new books, she's also preparing for her son's upcoming wedding to a precious future daughter-in-love. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.