“Murder is No Accident” by Ann H. Gabhart

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“Young Maggie Greene may be trespassing in the old, empty Victorian mansion on a quiet street in Hidden Springs, but all she wants is some private time in the magnificent tower room to write her stories. Certain she’ll be in trouble if caught, she hides when a realtor shows up. But someone else is in the house too, someone even more worried about getting caught. When Maggie finds the realtor’s body at the bottom of a flight of stairs and the other person gone, Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane is called in. He assumes the realtor’s death is a tragic accident–until a second person is found dead in the house. When Maggie is threatened, Michael must catch the murderer before anyone else dies.

Cozy mystery fans will love this third installment in The Hidden Springs Mysteries series from an author who knows how to make small-town America sweet, sentimental–and a little sinister.”

I gotta admit, I signed up to review this book because of the cover. I’ve always loved the board game “Clue” and its layout. Always made me wish I could climb inside it. So when I saw this book, I couldn’t resist despite the fact that it was the third in a series. Well, before I started reading it, I’d decided I’d see if I might get a hold of the first two books somehow (through Kindle lending if nothing else). Well, as it turned out the first one is free at the moment. So I snagged it and as I was nearing the end I knew I HAD to read the second one, so I broke down and paid for it…but it was totally worth it! And finally about 10 days after I initially received the book, I finally got the read the third one.

Okay that was all back story. Now for my review.

Even though I did read all three in order, I think even if I had only read the third one it would have been fine as a stand-alone. There are references to occurrences in the previous books, but nothing that would be confusing or detract from the story.  This was a truly enjoyable book to read.

Despite what I said in my last review about enjoying being shocked at the end of a mystery to find out “who-dun-it”, I still enjoyed figuring out who it was almost from the start of each of these mysteries. The last one was a little more difficult for me than the other two and I only ended up getting it half-right after all. There was definitely a surprise waiting for me at the end of this one.

I loved Michael and Alex’s little side story that wasn’t directly related to any of the mysteries, but, ugh, Mrs. Gabhart still left me with some unanswered questions. Could we have one more little novella please?

I loved all the towns people that helped fill out the story so wonderfully. Honestly, it’s almost like a modern day Mayberry, all the way down to Aunt Lindy in place of Aunt Bee, and Lester in place of Barney Fife. I gotta say though, Hank the news reporter just about got on my last nerve. 🙂

There is one thing that brings it down to 4 stars for me. The spiritual content lacked much to be desired. The only one that seemed like she was probably a real Christian in the entire series was Aunt Lindy. The rest were all pretty wishy-washy. Not only that but there is a Presbyterian woman pastor that is painted in a very positive light which I found very annoying.

So my over all review: for a good, clean, enjoyable, cozy mystery, this is a great choice! But don’t expect much in the spiritual department.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.

“Still Life” by Dani Pettrey.


“Someone Is Out There. Watching Her. Waiting. 

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 for which her friend modeled. 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, and so Avery immediately calls Parker for help. 

  As Avery, Parker, and their friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat. “

I am happy to give a 5 star review of this book! I read the first in the series last year, really enjoyed it, and was looking forward to reading the next in the series. This did not disappoint and if anything I enjoyed it just a little bit more. Parker was one of my favorite characters in the first book, so perhaps that’s why I liked this one so much. It was great to see all the other characters again as well, and follow the continuing threads of their various stories. I find Kate and Luke’s thread the most intriguing and am really looking forward to seeing it play out in coming books.

As for the mystery, despite the fact that the premise was a little gruesome, I honestly didn’t find it too hard to handle. It didn’t really go into too many gory details leaving it more to the imagination. There may be one scene that was the exception, but once again I didn’t find it that disturbing probably because I was more focused on where the bad guy was gonna jump out from, and less on what was being discovered. As for who killer was? Definitely unpredictable, which is actually the way I like it. Despite the fact that there is a certain amount of glee in saying “I knew it!” I still love the mysteries where I’m like, “Wow, never saw that coming!”

The spiritual content was also really good! Maybe not as strong as it could have been, but still I didn’t find it weak at all. It dealt with the theme of moving on from the past which a character was saved out of, giving the gospel to close friends from that past, and yet not blaming yourself if they don’t make the choices you wish for them.

Overall a great book and nearly impossible to put down, once started (at least for me)!

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

 

“The Newcomer” by Suzanne Woods Fisher

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“In 1737, Anna Konig and her fellow church members stagger off a small wooden ship after ten weeks at sea, eager to start a new life in the vibrant but raw Pennsylvania frontier. On the docks of Port Philadelphia waits bishop Jacob Bauer, founder of the settlement and father to ship carpenter Bairn. It’s a time of new beginnings for the reunited Bauer family, and for Anna and Bairn’s shipboard romance to blossom.

But this perfect moment cannot last. As Bairn grasps the reality of what it means to be Amish in the New World–isolated, rigid with expectations, under the thumb of his domineering father–his enthusiasm evaporates. When a sea captain offers the chance to cross the ocean one more time, Bairn grabs it. Just one more crossing, he promises Anna. But will she wait for him?

When Henrik Newman joins the church just as it makes its way to the frontier, Anna is torn. He seems to be everything Bairn is not–bold, devoted, and delighted to vie for her heart. And the most dramatic difference? He is here; Bairn is not.

Far from the frontier, an unexpected turn of events weaves together the lives of Bairn, Anna, and Henrik. When a secret is revealed, which true love will emerge?”

This was a really difficult book for me, and honestly, I’m sorry to say so, because I have loved everything I’ve read by Suzanne Woods Fisher. Her normal genre is contemporary Amish fiction, and she is one of the better authors in this genre. In this book, she takes the setting back to the early days of settling America (think Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richards Almanac), and somehow it just didn’t work for me. To start with, it was a pretty slow book. There was nothing that really propelled it forward. It followed three different storylines, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but I really struggled with feeling invested in any of them. Even though I liked the characters of Anna and Bairn, I didn’t feel like they were fully developed. They seemed somewhat flat and two-dimensional. And I’m sorry, but Felix was just annoying. At first I kind of liked his precociousness, but then he just would never listen to anyone!

Honestly, the best part of this book was the last few chapters. I know that maybe kind of a ‘duh’ thing to say, but it seriously finally seemed to actually be moving forward. 

I’m sorry to write such a negative review, but it wasn’t just me either. My mom read it too and had the same thoughts.

Disclaimer: I received this from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.

“An Uncommon Courtship” by Kristi Ann Hunter

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“Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier if she hid in her older sister’s shadow–which worked until her sister got married. Even with thepressure of her socially ambitious mother, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience to save her previously spotless reputation.

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn’t be happier that he is not the duke in the family. He’s free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, which includes grand plans of wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he doesn’t know, his dream of a marriage like his parents’ seems lost forever.

Already starting their marriage on shaky ground, can Adelaide and Trent’s relationship survive the pressures of London society?”

In general I love this type of storyline! A man and woman forced into a marriage through means outside their own control, who then learn how to love each other. Yes, I did say how to love not just to love each other. Is their a difference? I think so, and I think this book did a great job of portraying it. Learning to love involves more of the feelings whereas I think learning how to love involves a choice. And that is exactly what this book focuses on. It focuses on what love really means, and how a couple learn about it and learn to put it into practice because God brought them together for life. One thing I particularly admired was the fact that it was never an option of whether they would stay married or not. That was a given, and they had to work out the kind of marriage relationship they were going to have. And I think the author did a great job of handling the topic.

There was one really big and disappointing thing in this book for me. The author included ‘the bedroom scene’. I don’t think it’s justified, but I will make the disclaimer that there was no sensuality in it. It was written more as a sequence of events (only up to a certain point) with a small amount of conversation. What was more disappointing was that they didn’t leave it there. In the following chapter, and possibly two, Trent discusses an ‘issue’ that occurred which I think could have been avoided. It provides for some awkward moments of conversation.

Because of this, my rating is lowered by 1 1/2 stars, which disappoints me greatly.

This really was a great story, but I would have a hard time recommending it someone without reservation.

Despite that I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series which I believe will be Griffith’s story.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

“A Moonbow Night” by Laura Frantz

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“After fleeing Virginia, Temperance Tucker and her family established an inn along the Shawnee River. It’s a welcome way station for settlers and frontiersmen traveling through the wild Cumberland region of Kentucke–men like Sion Morgan, a Virginia surveyor who arrives at the inn with his crew looking for an experienced guide. When his guide appears, Sion balks. He certainly didn’t expect a woman. But it is not long before he must admit that Tempe’s skill in the wilderness rivals his own. Still, the tenuous tie they are forming is put to the test as they encounter danger after danger and must rely on each other.

With her signature sweeping style and ability to bring the distant past to vivid life, Laura Frantz beckons readers to join her in a land of Indian ambushes, conflicting loyalties, and a tentative love that meanders like a cool mountain stream.”

I am having difficulty figuring out how to write this review. In the first place, I would like to do full justice to the author and say I can find no fault with her talents. Her descriptions are vivid and I could easily picture the whole setting. Loved the aspect of running a wayfaring inn, etc. and yes, I do also love the time period of settling the frontier. The storyline is also very skillfully woven. There is no objectionable content. I’ll just put in a little exception for my non romance-loving friends. 🙂

So, in general this would have to be 5 star book. I think the problem is my own personal preferences here. The level of emotional anxiety that is portrayed is just not my favorite. Not to say it’s not realistic, but I think I have to be in a different mood to enjoy it. I have read other books by this author, that were written the same way, and I loved them, and was so excited to read this one. That’s why I was a sad when it fell a little flat for me.

So to summarize, talent is definitely 5 star, but for me and my personal enjoyment for this read, I guess it was a 3 1/2 start.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.

“The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill” by Julie Klassen

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“The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town’s livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora’s wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them–and her future–in a different light.

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?”

Once again, it was the cover that drew me, and when I read the blurb, it definitely seemed like ‘my cup of tea’. 🙂 A little English village and the prospect of reviving an inn is just what I like, and this book did not disappoint. In somewhat the same vein as Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Cranford”, we get to know several of the towns inhabitants, though the main characters are those connected to the inn.

It did take a few chapters for me to really get into the story, but when Jane decided to ‘make a go of it’, that’s when it really got interesting. There are some questions that arise which she must find answers to, and she must decide who is really trying to help her, and who may trying to manipulate her for their own interests.

Also I really liked Thora. Even though she is portrayed as a rather ‘hard’ character in the beginning, I found her to be very likable and admirable

The story has a great resolution, but of course, as with any good series, the author left just enough threads hanging to make me anxious to read the next book in the series…which won’t be out till the end of next year. Aacckkk! How shall I bear it?! 😉

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

“A Lady Unrivaled” by Roseanna M. White

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“Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile–even if it’s just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won’t wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better.

Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he’s determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won’t budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her–and his daughter–from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all?”

I was so excited when the third and final book in this series came out! Roseanna White is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and this book did not disappoint.

I think I saw a little of myself in Lady Ella and for that reason this story resonated with me more than the other two (though I loved them as well). Lord Cayton was also a very endearing character, and seeing his growth in grace was quite lovely not to mention the relationship with his daughter is so sweet! Oh, and he has a secret talent that nobody is supposed to know about, so guess what, I’m not gonna give it away either. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is. 😉 It definitely adds to his charm though.

Lady Pratt is no longer the villain in this book, but is a broken woman from all the tragedy that she has experienced in the past few years. Though I had a hard time loving her or even feeling sorry for her, she did grow on me as the story progressed.

Her brother, Cris, however, is a different story. He is finally showing his true colors, and the author did a remarkable job with his character. He’s one of those that you actually wish you could like because he seems like he could be such a sweet man. Yet, you’re never sure who the real him is. Honestly, probably one of the best villain characters I’ve ever ‘met’.*shudder*

Overall, Roseanna’s character development in all of the books is exceptional, and that is one of the things that makes a really great story.

The conclusion and resolution of the Fire Eyes trilogy is quite satisfying and, as with any good author, makes you wish there was just one more book. (What happens to Lady Pratt?)

I’m giving this book 4 1/2 stars because there is a character in here who is the mistress of the another man, and even though there is absolutely nothing inappropriate that happens in the book, it still refers to the life she had with him.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.