Wednesday, 29 March 2017

In The Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

Their Future Depends on Unlocking the Secrets the Mountain Holds From the Past
Cassidy Ivanoff and her father, John, work at the new and prestigious Curry Hotel near the foot of Mount McKinley--Denali as it's still called by the natives. John is the wilderness and exploration guide for the wealthy tourists while Cassidy works in the kitchen as Cook's assistant. The entire staff buzzes with excitement during the busy days preparing for the President's imminent visit. His historic trip to dedicate the new national park on his way to driving in the golden spike to officially complete the Alaska Railroad will be the beginning of a new era for all of them and place The Curry at the heart of Alaska. 
Allan Brennan travels to the Curry Hotel to be an apprentice to the seasoned Alaska mountain guide, with hopes of discovering the truth about his father's death on the mountain years earlier. His father's business partner blames the guide for Henry Brennan's untimely death, but Allan cannot be at peace until he knows for sure. He finds an unlikely ally in Cassidy, and as the two begin to look into the mystery, they suddenly find that things are much less clear, and much more dangerous, than either could ever imagine.

Review:  First of all.... what an appealing cover. I love the mix of eras present in the art. A little history and a little present day - it blends into a beautiful piece that really is an accurate portrayal of the story itself. 

Allan Brennan travels to Alaska nearly a decade after his father's untimely death on the unforgiving slopes of Mount Denali. Although a fair amount of time has passed he is no where near over his father's death and he has questions. Lots of them. Most importantly, he has questions for his father's mountain guide, John Ivanoff. Determined to hear exactly what happened that faitfull day, Allan finds a job at the Curry Hotel as an apprenticing mountain guide. Unknown to him, his boss is none other than John Ivanoff. 

Confused and angry, Allan tries to sort out the facts. The incompetent man he was told about by his father's business partner does not at all match the outstanding individual he is reluctantly getting to know. As time passes, instead of finding answers to his father's demise, Allan's questions grow. As Allan and John's daughter Cassidy begin to dig deeper they unknowingly stir up a danger that is very much alive, but will they realize what they've done before it's too late?

This was a very well researched novel and you can tell that both authors have a deep love and appreciation for the history and the beauty of Alaska. The descriptions and the reverence within these pages for the USA's most northern state is clear. In addition to being a great tribute to Alaska, this novel is a wonderful faith promoter. Neither Tracie Peterson or Kimberley Woodhouse shy away from sharing the gospel nor do they miss an opportunity to teach a faith lesson. This is a very nice novel with solid characters, a sweet romance, and an interesting plot. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

Back Cover: 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 thread.

Review: This is the second book in the series, "Chesapeake Valor", and it follows the saga of a crime fighting team made up of old and new friends. The group, a mismatch of companions, is brilliant at solving crimes. With their uniquely different approaches and talents they form a formidable force. One by one, the team buts up against a person they can't quite forget.

This is the story of Parker Mitchell, a crime-scene analyst, and Avery Tate. Avery is a girl from the 'wrong side of the tracks' and would seemingly be the totally wrong sort of girl for a straight shooter like Parker. However, as Avery humbles herself to the Lord and is remade, Parker finds that he can't keep her out of his thoughts or his heart. Problems lurk, however, as old secrets have a way of coming to the surface and past relationships threaten their budding romance before it even begins. To make matters worse, a string of horrific events threaten to tear Avery apart.

While sparks fly between Parker and Avery, Declan is being driven crazy by the compassionate, free spirited Tanner. He can't figure out why she unhinges him so much... or why he acts like a complete jerk around her. For her part, Tanner can't warp her head around Declan. He can seem so nice one moment...and the next she wishes he would just disappear from her life. What is with him? More on this with the next novel, I am sure...

As Avery and Parker struggle to figure out where they stand with each other, a string of seemingly non related crimes is occurring around their city. Despite wanting to take a break from working together, they find themselves once again teamed up as they race against the clock to figure out how a terrorist, an art show, and Avery's oldest friend are all related.

This is an exciting, fast paced novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat and chewing your nails with suspense. I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns in this story - particularly the last few twists in the story. I won't say anything more other than I honestly did not see THAT coming...

As a warning, some of the subject matter is quite dark and disturbing. For those who frequently read crime novels I am sure the content is quite mild. For myself, it gave me a pretty bad nightmare! So, read it during the day (not in the middle of the night like I did) or perhaps pick up something a little more light hearted if you tend to be very sensitive to the more sinister side of things.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

Welcome to the English village of Ivy Hill, where friendships thrive, romance blossoms, and mysteries await. . . .

The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save 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 overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

Review: It is so good to crack open a novel again. Life has taken a few exciting turns and reading isn't quite as easy to fit in as it used to be. It is nearly 1 am and I just finished reading this delightful novel by Julie Klassen. It feels like a guilty pleasure staying up to the wee hours to indulge in something as peacefully serene as reading a book. The only thing missing is a cup of tea, and I would recommend to anyone thinking of reading this novel that a cup of dark English tea would be just the ticket. 

The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill is a well written book. What do I mean by that? Well, the grammar is neat and organized and the style is very easy to read but not too simplistic. The dialogue flows easily and well, and one can imagine a person actually using such language. The descriptions are enough to give you a good mental picture of the scenes but they are not long enough to bore. The characters are interesting, varied, and evolve through the story. There were no 'glitchy' phrases or sections that left me lurching over the words. This, to me, is what encompasses a well written novel. 

I really enjoyed the slow, budding romances and tentative relationships of the four main ladies in this novel. Missy, Rachel, Thora, and of course, Jane. All the girls are so different, but they are alike in that life has not been kind to them. Missy's plain face has kept the shallow young men away, and it seems as she gets older that her chances of meeting a man who can see into her beautiful soul are fading away. Rachel, a lady of note, is reduced to nothing but her valise when her father dies and leaves their estate to a distant relative. Thora, married once for love and then left with nothing, is resolute in never wanting to be shackled to a man again. And lastly, sweet Jane. A gentle lady who ends up married to an innkeeper, and finds herself widowed not many years later, now has to struggle for her own survival against great odds.

This novel weaves a wonderful story of perseverance and tentative love as these four women team together to try and get by in a society that favours men in business and does not encourage entrepreneurship or independence in women. I found the plot to be simplistic, but the story did not suffer for it. The characters were vividly full of life; I eagerly anticipate the next novel in a desire to find out what happens to these industrious women. 

Lastly, there are strong faith components in this book - not just in statement but in the actions of the women. Themes of forgiveness, self-control, and compassion run high. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Race to Win Movie

Review: The setting of this film is beautiful. The gorgeous house, large rolling farmland, and the lovely stables filled with horses. It is the perfect location for a horse flick. This is surprisingly not your typical story of an underdog horse rising to the top - though I definitely thought it would be! Though we've all seen many films like this one, Race to Win does have its own story to tell that's not quite like any other horse flick I've seen.

There are some beautiful shots in this movies... horses being led into the barn through a beautiful cloud of dust, some wonderful scenes of galloping horses, and plenty of horse "eye candy".

On the humorous side, there are some rather corny lines - such as Hannah flirting with the delivery guy about jerky... seriously? Oh well, it was good for a chuckle. I also found the ghost of her father to be a bit weird. I can see what they were trying to get at, recreating her father's memories and all, but it did come off a bit awkward in my opinion. That being said, I am a big fan of the theme of hope and the relentless "try again" spirit that runs through this movie in addition to the strong family message.

Though I found the movie to be a little slow at times I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. It provided a twist not usually found in these types of movies. I won't say anything more, other than that it was refreshing to see a different ending than I expected.

Overall I would say it is a sweet movies that would be great for a family movie night.

Trailer to "Race to Win"

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications for a chance to view this movie in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Love's Faithful Promise by Susan Anne Mason

If Two Wounded Souls Can Find Healing, Love May Not Be Far Behind

Widower Dr. Matthew Clayborne is devoted to two things: his work with wounded soldiers and his four-year-old-daughter, Phoebe. When Deirdre O'Leary, a feisty New Yorker, arrives in Toronto requesting he use his skills to help her stricken mother, he won't abandon either of these priorities to care for one older woman. However, when his daughter suffers a health scare and needs a respite, Deirdre offers a trade - they can escape to the peace of her family's farm, if he will care for Mrs. O'Leary.

Matthew agrees for his daughter's sake, but is intent on staying as short a time as necessary. The sojourn at Irish Meadows does wonders for Phoebe, and as she begins to flourish, Matthew finds himself drawn to the O'Learys, especially to the captivating Deirdre. But since he has no intention of leaving his life up north forever, and Deirdre has sworn off marriage in favor of her career, how will they deal with the undeniable attraction between them?

Review: This is a beautifully written trilogy. The story of the O'Leary family weaves a delightful tapestry of interconnecting lives all centered around the grand O'Leary racing farm. The O'Leary brothers and sisters have an interesting and somewhat complicated path to love. Not the least of all their hurtles is their powerfully over protective and controlling father.

Deirdre has given up on love and has directed all her passion and energy on become a pediatrician. However, the wounded doctor and his fragile daughter work their way into her heart in a way that she never imagined, and before she knows it her sure fire commitment to become a doctor is shaken. Is this truly what she still wants? Or has the path of her future been forever altered?

This was a beautifully written conclusion to the Courage to Dream series, and I truly enjoyed all three books.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Catch a Star by Tamika Catchings

Growing up, Tamika Catchings suffered from profound hearing loss, bullying, and anguish of her parents' divorce. But she wasn't about to allow those challenges to determine her destiny. Through perseverance and God's grace, Tamika became one of the top female basketball players of all time.

Catch a Star is her story of overcoming. Of leading the Indiana Fever to its first championship. Of being named one of the WNBA's top fifteen players in history. Of earning three Olympic gold medals. And of founding the Catch the Stars Foundation to help young people achieve their dreams.

Her story will inspire you to face your doubts and fears and reach for your own dream, no matter what challenges come your way.

Review: I have a cousin who is passionate about basketball. I myself know next to nothing about the game except that you are supposed to get the ball in the opposing team's basket. However, when I saw the cover of this book I was inspired to read it, due to my cousin's intense interest in the sport, despite the fact that I personally know nothing about it.

Even being a non-basketball person, I really appreciated reading the commitment and determination within these pages. Tamika had some pretty daunting setbacks to overcome throughout her childhood that for many people would have certainly prevented them from becoming great. Tamika, however, rose above all those struggles and pushed herself hard and achieved many great things.

This book is inspiring and can be enjoyed even if you know nothing about basketball, like me.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group for a complimentary copy of this book.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Purgatory Road by Samuel Parker

Back Cover:  When a day trip out of Las Vegas with his wife takes a turn for the worse, Jack is sure he has the ability to get them home. But he has driven into something far beyond reason.

Rescue comes in the form of a desert hermit, but hope fades as the couple comes to realize that the nomad has no intention of letting them leave. A chance encounter with a kidnapped runaway and crazed abductor leads them all farther into the wilderness - and closer to the cold brutality that isolation brings.

At the edge of his sanity, Jack begins to learn that playing by another's rules may be the only way to survive.

In a voice that is as hypnotizing as a desert mirage, debut novelist Samuel Parker entices you down the treacherous road, where the forces of good and evil are as crushing as the Mojave heat.

Review: Purgatory Road was an ... interesting ... read. As far as writing style, dialogue, and ability goes this was a fine book. It was well written with a good sense of suspense, mystery, and puzzling twists and turns (some of which I am still trying to figure out). There were also some very creative elements where the spiritual and physical realms passed through each other. It was not an easy book to figure out, and I applaud the author for coming up with these ingenious twists.

That being said, I would not recommend this book nor would I read it again. I found this to be one of the most disturbing pieces of literature I've ever read. There were some truly sick and twisted scenes within the pages of Purgatory Road. Honestly, I wish I'd never read this book and I wish I never would have put these word pictures into my mind. I understand that demons are, of course, evil by nature and of course a character personifying such a creature would be wicked. However, I personally really struggled with reading such depravity.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House in exchange for my honest opinion.