Month: January 2020

Book Review: The Way of the Brave by Susan May Warren

“The Way of the Brave” by Susan May Warren is a wonderful, suspenseful, action-packed Christian romance. The main focus of the book is the story of Jenny and Orion, who first met in Afghanistan, but have been separated and pining for each other ever since. They reconnect when Jenny and her friends run into potentially fatal trouble while climbing Denali.

My favorite aspects of this book:

1. The ice-climbing information: The author clearly knows a LOT about climbing preparation, techniques, and equipment. She makes it very clear that this is a serious sport, not just a pleasant outing for someone who’s taken a “how to climb” class at the local gym. I appreciated that everybody who ventured onto the mountain was portrayed as someone who had trained and prepared diligently, and taken every precaution to insure a safe trip. I’m not a climber myself, but everything I read about sounded very accurate and believable.

2. The descriptions of Denali: These were very clear and detailed, and I could truly envision the beauty and majesty of the area as I read. Since I doubt I’ll get any closer than viewing photographs of this amazing place, I enjoyed getting to see it through the eyes of the characters.

3. The main romance: Jenny and Orion’s story was especially intriguing because they had fallen in love (although neither admitted it) when they first met years ago. Tragedy separated them, and neither expected to reunite. As the two are forced into close quarters (and near-death experiences) on the mountain, they spend a lot of time talking through their feelings and past baggage, making their eventual connection feel very real, and well-deserved.

4. The side-stories: Jenny’s two climbing friends both have interesting stories of their own. At least one (Aria’s) will likely be explored further in a future book in this series. The story of Orion’s friend Hamilton (Ham) intervening in an assassination attempt also adds excitement to the story.

5. The spiritual aspect: I thought this was particularly well done in this book. Both Jenny and Orion have some religious background, and both have pulled away from their faith because of things that happened to them. Luckily, both are surrounded by strong Christian friends, who consistently talk to them and influence them without becoming “preachy”. Some of Ham’s wisdom, in particular, has stayed with me, and I’ve made notes of a couple of his quotes for future reference.

All if all, five out of five slices of my favorite provolone!

Book Review: Twenty by Debra Landwehr Engle

Normally, I like to write my review of a book almost immediately after finishing it. That wasn’t the case for “Twenty” by Debra Landwehr Engle. I felt like I needed to take some time to process what I’d read, and give it some serious thought in order to insure my review did the book justice. That alone is high praise for the book….and even now, I’m not sure I can adequately express what I feel about it.

On a basic level, “Twenty” is the story of a woman who is tired, depressed, and basically done with life. She makes a major decision, and the reader follows her journey as she experiences the consequences of that decision. Through a combination of Meg’s present-day story and her reminiscences of the past, we learn a lot about her, her life, and everything that led her to this present state of affairs. If you’re looking for a good story about a woman’s life, this book fits the bill.

But…it is SO MUCH MORE! At it’s heart, “Twenty” addresses the age-old question of “How would you live if you knew you were dying?”. The answers Meg finds to this question make logical sense for her, and also give the reader an amazing, intimate perspective into who Meg truly is as a person. The book also gives the reader plenty to think about. If you’re open to it, Meg’s journey can be as life-changing for you as it is for her. This is what makes “Twenty” so special. After reading it, I honestly felt differently about life and priorities. I hope it does the same for you.

Thank you, Debra Engle, for writing such a wonderful, thought-provoking book.

Five out of five absolutely perfect wedges of Stilton Gold!

Book Review: Fan Mail by Daryl Wood Gerber

“Fan Mail” by Daryl Wood Gerber is the fabulous follow-up to “Desolate Shores”, which I read and loved in 2019. Going into this book, I was hoping I’d love it as much as the first one, and I did…maybe even more. “Fan Mail” offers the reader:

1. Great characters! Aspen, our heroine, is wonderful. She simultaneously comes across as likable, intelligent, brave (but not stupidly so), and honorable. She works as a PI-in-training for her aunt’s agency, and is gradually honing her investigative skills. Combined with her past career as a psychologist, Aspen has all the tools needed to effectively unravel mysteries. Love interest Nick (police detective), Max (Aspen’s aunt), and Candace (Aspen’s niece) are also nicely drawn and intriguing in their own right. Several of the secondary characters/suspects really shone in the story, being quite well-developed as characters so that the reader gets to know them while Aspen investigates their connection (if any) to the crimes.

2. The location! “Desolate Shores” is set in the Lake Tahoe area. The author describes the setting (and specific locations within that setting) so perfectly, I can see everything clearly in my mind’s eye. I’ve added Lake Tahoe to the list of places I’d love to visit someday. The setting is distinctive enough to almost seem like a separate character in the story. Personally, I love it when a novel’s setting is so vivid I actually remember the location after I’ve finished. This one will stay with me for a long time!

3. The mystery itself! This book features a serial killer who is still actively committing crimes, so the stakes are high. Aspen knows the first victim, and is drawn into the investigation further when a friend starts receiving notes believed to be from the killer. With the multiple victims, there are plenty of suspects, as well as the whole “are all of these crimes related” question. Aspen is proving to be a thorough and relentless investigator, and I find her method of looking into things very appealing.

4. Candace! Aspen’s niece is a lovely girl, and it was nice to see her living with her aunt permanently in this book. I also enjoyed seeing how she’s gaining confidence in herself as a person, even as she navigates the trials of middle-school life. May she find a better boyfriend in the next book….Aspen should dig up some dirt on the current one, and blackmail him out of Candace’s life.

All in all, this is a wonderful book, and I can’t say enough good things about it. Read it…you will NOT be disappointed. I love everything that Daryl Wood Gerber writes, and recommend that all fans of the mystery/suspense genre acquire one (or more) of her books as soon as possible.

Five out of perfect slices of provolone!

Book Review: Collateral Damage by Lynette Eason

“Collateral Damage” by Lynette Eason is the first book in her new “Danger Never Sleeps” series, and I have to say that I am thrilled to have discovered it. The action rarely stops, and when it does, the reader needs the break almost as much as the characters!

This is a Christian Romantic Suspense title, and it lives up to the genre in all three senses of the phrase. The two main characters are Christians, as evidenced by the way they often say a quick silent prayer when they find themselves in dangerous situations. One character in particular regularly prays for the safety of the other. Both characters provide great role models for living out your faith in your everyday life, especially if yours is a dangerous one.

The romance is also nicely done. The two main characters had known each other during their military service, and reconnected once both are back in the United States. Of course, their meeting up again occurs at exactly the same time that all of the dangerous stuff starts happening, so they are thrown together much more often (and for much longer) than they would have been in the normal course of events.

Another reason that this book stands out for me is the dialog. Brooke and Asher actually talk to each other… a lot! The reader can easily understand how the attraction between them grows, as we see them really getting to know on another in the midst of the danger.

As for the suspense part of the story….it’s excellent! The storyline starts with something that happened in Afghanistan and affected both characters. It continues as the bad guys move to cover up their nefarious activity by eliminating threats to their secrets. There is never a dull moment, and the reader is taken along on a crazy thrill ride along with Brooke and Asher. On a related note, the action is always logical, and feels like it could actually happen in real life. Asher, in particular, is very resourceful, but never pulls off any feats of strength or MacGyver-like creativity that left me doubting a real person could actually manage them.

Basically, I enjoyed every aspect of this story. It has plenty of believable action, plenty of prelude to the characters falling in love, and just the right amount of Christian content. All in all, I highly recommend this book!

Five out of five ultra-fine slices of the best ultra-sharp cheddar!

Book Review: There’s a Murder Afoot by Vicki Delany

“There’s a Murder Afoot” by Vicki Delany is the delightful fifth installment in a thoroughly enjoyable cozy mystery series. Main character Gemma Doyle runs a Sherlock Holmes-themed bookshop. Like the great detective, Gemma is also incredibly observant and detail-oriented, which makes her quite competent at investigating when her estranged uncle is found dead at a Sherlock-themed event, and her father is accused of the murder.

This book is extra-enjoyable because Gemma and her friends are in London this time around to attend a Sherlock Holmes conference at which Gemma is scheduled to speak. As a result, we finally get to meet Gemma’s family….her parents, plus sister Pippa. I’ve loved the character of Gemma since Book 1, but getting to know more about her family and earlier home life brings added dimension to her character. I feel like I now have a better understanding of her, and an even greater appreciation!

The author obviously either knows London well, or has done considerable research. The locations, customs, and people are all rendered beautifully, and I felt like I was actually there with the characters.

As always, the mystery itself was well thought-out, with plenty of clues (and red herrings) for the reader to follow. The pacing was just right, and I LOVE the way Gemma pro-actively and rationally investigates, instead of just waiting for clues to fall into the lap. This time around, she had some subtle help from Pippa, which raised as many questions as it answered, and was a great deal of fun.

As a Sherlock fan myself, I enjoyed the references to the great detective, and loved reading about the various events, vendors, and merchandise at the conference. It’s always a treat to spend time with Gemma & Company, and I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series, when everyone is back at home. I just hope the bookstore is still standing by the time Gemma returns!