Book Review: The Heart Between Us

The Heart Between Us – Lindsay Harrel – Thomas Nelson – Published 13 March 2018

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Synopsis

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

My thoughts

The Heart Between Us contains an epic journey – both around the world and through the steps of relationship reconciliation. Two sisters, both trying to find answers, two love stories, both about second chances and new beginnings, and a whole lot of travel.

Megan Jacobs is stuck – still living at home with her parents even though she is now in her thirties, still working part-time in a job that she likes but doesn’t love, still wondering what happened to her relationship with her twin sister, still regretting giving up on a chance to follower her dreams, still scared that her new heart and health will fail. When Megan meets the parents of her heart-transplant donor, she surprises herself by deciding to fulfil 24 steps on Amanda’s bucket list, and so begins a travel adventure. She is even more surprised when her sister, Crystal, joins her. Crystal, too, is searching for something – answers to her marriage troubles, inspiration for her career, and maybe a chance to face the fears she has held all her life.

Admittedly, I didn’t love this book. It was good, just not great. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right book for me. There is so much happening in this story: 24 bucket-list travel destinations and the intertwining stories of two sisters and their love, family, faith and career troubles. And yet, the book feels slow, I often felt bored with the story, and it took me a long time to really engage with the plot. I enjoyed Crystal’s story more than Megan’s, but it was Amanda, Megan’s heart donor, who I really wanted to get to know, whose story I really wanted to read, and yet we are only given glimpses of it through her journal entries.

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Book Review: If I Live

If I Live – Terri Blackstock – If I Run #3 – Zondervan – Published 6 March 2018

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Synopsis

Casey is hiding again—in Memphis this time—but it’s different now. She knows without a doubt that Dylan believes her and is doing all he can to help bring Brent’s killer to justice. He’s become an unexpected friend . . . and even, maybe, something more. Hope makes everything more bearable.

Casey makes a deal with the DA to turn over all the evidence she and Dylan have gathered against Keegan and Rollins—only to discover that the DA is in league with them too. After a desperate escape, who can they possibly turn to now?

My thoughts

And so concludes the If I Run series. If I Live finishes the series with a whole lot of tension, lots of near-death moments, and some long-awaited romance. The action and suspense in If I Live picks up right where book two left off, and, finally, Casey Cox has a chance for justice – if she can stay alive long enough.

If I Live is the third and final book in the If I Run series. I recommend that this series be read in chronological order to fully understand the crimes detailed within and the overall plot line. Since the first book, Casey Cox has been on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the criminals who have framed her for the death of her best friend. Now, Casey has Private Investigator Dylan Roberts on her side. It is just a matter of staying alive long enough to bring the evidence to light.

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Book Review: Beneath The Surface

Beneath The Surface – Lynn H. Blackburn – Dive Team Investigations #1 – Revell – Published 6 March 2018

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Synopsis

After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change. She thought she’d left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. She reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.

Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff’s Office dive team. When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer–one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for new and exciting inspirational suspense novels, and Beneath The Surface did not disappoint. Lynn Blackburn delivers a novel that balances action with fantastic interpersonal interactions, careful criminal investigation with plenty of tension, and a light-hearted joy despite the depravity of the crimes. Beneath The Surface was a very enjoyable novel to read and with it Lynn H. Blackburn earns her way onto my list of favourite romantic suspense authors.

Leigh Weston has returned to her hometown, eager to escape the memories of a patient who turned stalker. But what was supposed to bring peace and security only brings more chaos when the local dive team investigation unit discovers a dead body in the water just off Leigh’s lakeside home. Homicide Investigator Ryan Parker didn’t enjoy discovering a body on one of his team’s routine training sessions, but he is glad for the excuse to spend more time with his childhood crush (and his best-friend’s sister), Leigh. But the case becomes personal when Leigh finds herself targeted by a dangerous killer.

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Book Review: The Saturday Night Supper Club

The Saturday Night Supper Club – Carla Laureano – Tyndale – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

My thoughts

The Saturday Night Supper Club is simply delicious. Perfectly put together, this book surprised and delighted me, made me incredibly hungry, had me swooning and craving best-friend chats over waffles and coffee, and made it all too easy to fall in love with the characters, the charming setting, and the beautiful writing of Carla Laureano.

Rachel Bishop has worked tirelessly all her life to realise her dreams of running and owning her own restaurant. But a scathing critique, an online essay follow up, and an ill-timed comment are all it takes to bring her dreams, and her reputation, crumbling down around her. Alex Kanin never meant for his essay on the downsides of social media to have such a negative impact on a chef’s career. Determined to atone for his part in the whole thing, Alex apologises and offers to make it up to Rachel. Together, they hatch the idea of a supper club, him the host, Rachel the chef. But neither plan on the effect their partnership will have, both professionally and personally.

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Book Review: Someone Like You

Someone Like You – Victoria Bylin – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 May 2016

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Synopsis

Julia Dare is trying to run her own business, raise her young son, Max, and help her widowed mother. Her biggest worry, though, is keeping Max’s father from being a bad influence while still allowing the boy to spend time with his dad. When an account from her event-planning business sends her to Caliente Springs resort, she’s shocked to encounter Zeke Monroe, her college sweetheart.

Zeke is determined to keep Caliente Springs running despite financial trouble. When Julia walks back into his life, he’s surprised at the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client’s wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. With Zeke and Julia both pushed to their limits, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

My thoughts

I have come to really enjoy Victoria Bylin’s writing. Realistic, flawed characters facing relatable challenges come together to confront everything that life throws at them. Someone Like You also celebrates second chances, family, and those special moments in life (even if they sometimes don’t go quite as planned).

Julia Dare is slowly rebuilding her life. She has started her own event planning business, has left her emotionally abusive partner, and is enjoying spending time with her delightful four-year-old, Max. An event planning opportunity leads her to Caliente Springs resort and into the path of old friend and boyfriend, Zeke Monroe. For Zeke, Julia is the bright spot in an otherwise challenge point in his life. The resort is in serious trouble, along with his job, his faith is on the rocks, and he is uncertain about what his future will hold. As Julia and Zeke reconnect, reminisce over their history, and face their current challenges together, they have a chance to rebuild a truly special relationship.

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Book Review: Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters – Susan May Warren – Montana Rescue #4 – Revell – Published 2 January 2018

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Synopsis

Billionaire Ian Shaw can have everything he wants–except a happy ending. Or at least that’s what it feels like with his fortune recently liquidated, his niece, Esme, still missing, and the woman he loves refusing to speak to him. In fact, he doubts she would date him even if they were stranded on a deserted island.

Despite her love for Ian, Sierra Rose knows he has no room in his life for her as long as the mystery of his missing niece goes unsolved. The only problem is, Sierra has solved it, but a promise to Esme to keep her whereabouts secret has made it impossible to be around Ian.

When the PEAK chopper is damaged and Sierra lacks the funds to repair it, Ian offers a fundraising junket for large donors on his yacht in the Caribbean. But the three-day excursion turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave cripples the yacht and sends the passengers overboard. Shaken up and soaked to the bone, Ian finally has a chance to test his theory when he and Sierra do indeed find themselves washed up on a strange, empty shore.

It will take guts and gumption for the PEAK team to rescue the duo. But it will take a miracle to rescue Ian and Sierra’s relationship.

My thoughts

Troubled Waters is the brilliant and adventure-filled fourth book in the Montana Rescue series. Just like its three predecessors and the other novellas in this wonderful series, Troubled Waters combines some seriously epic misadventures, brave men and women who run headlong into disasters to rescue others, and long-awaited romance.

When billionaire Ian Shaw started PEAK Rescue he had no idea just how much it would change his life. But now his fortune has been liquidated, his niece is still missing, and Sierra Rose has walked out of his life (albeit after he fired her). When the PEAK helicopter crashes and needs serious funding for repair, Ian and Sierra join together once more to host a fundraiser on Ian’s yacht. Three days together might just be enough to save their friendship, if they can survive the sea that suddenly turns treacherous.

Finally, finally, we fortunate readers have Ian and Sierra’s story. This is the romance for which we (or at least I) have been waiting, ever since the very first prequel novella in the series gave us a glimpse into the possibility of Ian and Sierra. Since then, together and apart, they have faced heartbreak, misfortune, and collapsed houses, watched friends and family fall in love, and continued their search for answers.

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Book Review: Oath of Honor

Oath of Honor – Lynette Eason – Blue Justice #1 – Revell – Published 2 January 2018

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Synopsis

Police officer Isabelle St. John loves her crazy, loud, law-enforcement family. With three brothers and two sisters, she’s never without someone to hang out with–or fight with. And she knows they’ll be there for her when things get tough. Like when her partner is murdered and she barely escapes with her own life.

Determined to discover exactly what happened, Izzy’s investigation sends her headfirst into a criminal organization, possibly with cops on the payroll–including someone from her own family. With her dead partner’s handsome homicide detective brother Ryan shadowing her every move, Izzy’s head is spinning. How can she secure justice for her partner when doing so could mean sending someone she loves to prison? And how will she guard her heart when the man she’s had a secret crush on for years won’t leave her side?

My thoughts

Oath of Honor is hugely thrilling, combining mystery, criminal investigations, politics, gang wars, shootings, and suspicions that hit far too close to home for the main characters. Oath of Honor begins a new suspense series from Lynette Eason, Blue Justice, which promises to deliver both mystery and romance.

Officer Isabelle St. John knows what it takes to commit her life to serving others – she’s just one more in a large family of fellow law enforcers. So, when her partner is murdered and she narrowly escapes with her life, Izzy knows she will do anything to bring his killer to justice. Investigating with her is her partner’s brother, Detective Ryan Marshall. As they untangle the mystery surrounding Kevin’s death and attempt to find the people responsible, Izzy and Ryan will have to face the hard truths behind the buried secrets.

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Book Review: Imperfect Justice

Imperfect Justice – Cara Putman – Hidden Justice #2 – Thomas Nelson – published 5 December 2017

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Synopsis

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister—right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him.

Thrown together in a race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl—and find a future for themselves in the process?

My thoughts

Imperfect Justice slowly builds from an intriguing start to a fast-paced ending, weaving together legal cases, journalism, romance, financial investment, and a murder investigation.

Attorney Emilie Wesley is finding it hard to believe that the woman she was helping to leave her controlling and abusive husband is the same woman who shot and killed her young daughter before killing herself. But that’s exactly what the press and police are saying about Kaylene Adams. Emilie wants to discover the truth, but knows it will be hard while balancing her work at The Haven, as well as her freelance investigative journalism work. When Kaylene’s brother Reid shares his own suspicions with Emilie, they begin to work together to discover the truth and protect Kaylene’s remaining daughter.

This book builds slowly. The first 100 pages provide a lot of information around the backstory and lead-in events and it’s not until after this first section that Emilie and Reid start to dig and the mystery really starts to unfold. It does make the first half of the book rather slow and a little hard to get into, but the suspense quickly builds after that. This lead in to the story also gives the reader time to become familiar with Reid and Emilie as individuals before they have much interaction.

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Book Review: You’re Gonna Love Me

You’re Gonna Love Me – Robin Lee Hatcher – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 December 2017

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Synopsis

Samantha Winters lives her life the way a good accountant should—measured, deliberate, and safe. After watching her father die in a tragic skiing accident, she decided never to allow risk into her life again. But she didn’t count on falling for Nick Chastain, who embodies everything she doesn’t want in her safely constructed world.

Against Samantha’s warnings, Nick plans a dangerous kayaking trip over spring break. Furious that he’s so careless with his life, she ends their fledgling relationship with harsh words.

Two years later, Samantha is desperately in need of a change. When she learns her grandmother has had an accident and is in need of a caretaker, Samantha quickly packs her bags and heads to Thunder Creek, Idaho. But nothing could prepare her for the surprise awaiting her in her grandmother’s hospital room . . . Nick.

My thoughts

You’re Gonna Love Me returns readers to the charming, small country town of Thunder Creek. Farmland, orchards, horses, fresh air and friendship – the charm of the setting seeps from the pages and infuses the story. This is a sweeping and relaxing love story. A story about forgiveness and second chances. A story about facing your fears. A story about finding love in places you least expect it.

When Samantha returns to Thunder Creek to care for her grandmother, the very last person she expects to see in Ruth’s hospital room is Nick Chastain. Two years ago Sam and Nick spent eight months dating. Eight months in which Sam spent most of that time fearful he would be injured on one of his wild adventures – kayaking, waterskiing, absailing. They ended their relationship with harsh words and silence. Now Nick, recovering from a serious head injury that has left him with memory loss and other side effects, is staring life over. Thunder Creek offers him peace and a fresh start. Seeing Sam again gives him hope he isn’t sure he deserves. Is it worth trying to start a relationship with Sam, can he convince her he is a changed man?

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Book Review: The Heart of An Agent

The Heart of an Agent – Tracey J. Lyons – The Adirondack Pinkertons #2 – Waterfall Press – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

Former Pinkerton spy Lily Handland has always dreamed of a quiet, safe life, free from chasing criminals and putting herself at risk. So when the opportunity to invest in a failing Great Camp in the Adirondacks comes to her attention, she quickly jumps at the chance.

Filled with grief, widower Owen Murphy wants to run away from it all. Though he’s worked hard to forge a future for himself, his guilt has kept him mired in the past. But all that changes when a headstrong, mysterious woman shows up at Owen’s door. Together, as Lily and Owen restore the beauty of the Great Camp, he begins to finally see a future. But will learning about Lily’s past destroy it all?

My thoughts

The Heart of an Agent is a winsome historical romance that aptly captures the beauty and relaxing nature of the historic Great Camps of the Adirondack Mountains. The Heart of an Agent sounded delicious, and I was delighted to find it very enjoyable.

Lily Handland is ready to move on from her life as a Pinkerton agent. Determined to stay in the small town of Heartston, she begins looking for a project. The run-down Murphy Great Camp is the perfect fit for Lily. But the owner, Owen Murphy, still grieving his wife and their lost dream, fights Lily on every new idea and expense. But just as Lily finds hope of finally having somewhere to belong, someone to love, the shadow of her past threatens everything for which she has worked so hard.

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