Book Barn

I am so very excited to announce I am now a book reviewer for Bethany House Publishing! Here I will be posting my reviews on the books I am sent for free from Bethany House Publishing.  My reviews will also be posted on Amazon.

June 2016: Delilah Treacherous Beauty by Angela Hunt

Synopsis: This novel tells the story of the background of one of the most famous couples in the Bible: Samson and Delilah.  Delilah’s is a background of luxury turned dark, launching her into a life of desperation fueled by the drive to avenge all those who have wronged her.  Samson’s is a background driven by a prophecy bestowed upon him before birth.  Their two worlds collide and the legendary story blossoms.

Review: To be honest, this was not my favorite book that I have reviewed thus far.   That is not to say it is because of lack of plot or character development, it’s just a personal taste.  I find it hard to immerse myself in a historical novel.  I was intrigued by the absolutely stunning cover of the book and a woman overcoming hardship being at the forefront of the novel’s plot.  That being said, Angela Hunt did an excellent job with character development and making you feel for the characters, especially as who they were came to life.  And as most people would not be familiar with terms and customs of that time, Angela also did an excellent job of making it easy to understand.  There was no guessing game as to what something was or what a term meant.

The background of Samson and Delilah and how their stories come together was beautifully crafted, and you can’t help but have your heartstrings tugged by the end of the novel after watching their love grow – you most definitely hope their story could go on.  Delilah is a woman to admire for her strength and perseverance, and is a subtle reminder to readers of the power one has within.

Overall, if you enjoy historical novels set in this time period, it would be a good choice.

May 2016: Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson

Synopsis: Two cases have brought Ann back to the hometown of some her closest friends, the Thanes, bringing one the top agents in her field, Evie, back with her.  The small town will be unraveled, secrets revealed, and lives torn apart as Evie digs into each of the cases.  Friendships and romances will blossom, and, especially for the Thanes every belief is put to the test.  A gripping novel that leaves you questioning your own character.

Review: This is easily my favorite book I have thus far gotten to review from Bethany House.  It’s a gripping novel, but not in the same way as an action packed, thrill ride mystery.  It tests character, strength, will, and the bonds of a person’s closest relationships and beliefs.  This is accomplished with the resolutions of the cases being brought to light somewhere in the middle of the novel, leaving time for the emotional tolls to play out.

There is not a lot to dislike about the novel, unless you are one who would rather read more blood and gore.  The only thing I would have liked to have seen different was the blossoming romance between Gabriel and Evie coming to life a bit more before the last page.  It is obvious there is chemistry between the two, but the reader is left wondering if anything will ever spark.  The novel is part of an Evie Blackwell series, so it would take some intricate story telling will need to take place to bring Gabriel back into the picture, as I imagine the next novel will bring us to an entirely different case and different city.

With that being said, there is so much to enjoy about the novel, as it brings a different side to mystery novels.  I absolutely fell in love with the Thane family – I would have liked to have met them in person! I loved the  closeness, their faith, and how each plays an integral part in the town but with their own unique stamp.  With each Thane brother having their own hardship in the novel, it added layers and emotional depth to the whole plot line. I was so pleased with how it turned out with Karen and Will, it added a shining, love filled moment to the dark twists unraveling with the others.  At the same time, I admired that no obvious romance came out of Grace and Josh at this time – I think all readers of this novel would root for them to become a couple, but their relationship not blossoming yet allowed the proper emotions unveil given Grace’s circumstances.  It would have been, frankly, very corny and unrealistic had they churned up some wild romance after Grace going through what she did throughout the novel.  I also enjoyed Ann and Paul’s relationship with the Thanes – a rather touching friendship that can move seamlessly from camaraderie to mutual respect and caring to working all together.  And lastly, the surprise of Grace’s daughter and the Florist case being solved added one final twist at the end after one thought all the answers had been revealed.

I would recommend any mystery fan to read this novel for a breath of fresh air and a bit of an emotional roller  coaster ride.  Well done!

April 2016: Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Synopsis: Amelia Bentley has settled in the small town of Maple Valley, Iowa in hopes of starting a new chapter of her life after a devastation that ended her tumultuous marriage.  She has dug her roots down in the town’s newspaper when a startling event threatens the newspaper, Amelia comes up against her best friend’s brother who also happens to be the very same person whose writing she has admired.  Logan Walker has a difficult past of his own and is intent on pursuing his hard earned  career to turn around a tragic past when a surprising turn of events causes him to pause and evaluate the possible avenues in his life.  Emotions run high and love blossoms, families are strained, people are brought closer.

Review: Overall, I really enjoyed this novel as well.  It was a great read, and had a great pace.  I particularly admired this fact, as some romance novels can easily become dry, losing the readers deep in monotonous details.  One character I would have liked to see more development form was Raegan.  She was established as a vital character in being Logan’s sister and Amelia’s best friend, so the reader naturally wants to get to know her a little more.  I feel that throughout the middle of the novel, Raegan’s character sort of faded into the background, and I was hoping for more from her.

On the other hand, I loved the element that is the character of Charlie.  She adds a humanizing and tender characteristic to Logan, and something that is refreshing to see in a romance novel.  Both Logan and Amelia were previously married, with Logan having Charlie out of that marriage.  Thus, we have a strong father figure and child, as opposed to a more common mother and child pairing.  Lovable and innocent Charlie adds another emotional element to the novel.

I also highly admire that both Amelia and Logan are very career driven.  While it is a vital part of how the novel plays out and an important part of the story, I appreciate career driven in a novel that reflects today’s career driven society.  However, in saying that, I would have liked to see something more dramatically thrilling unfold in Maple Valley to be covered in the paper.  I realize there were a lot of sub-stories going on between characters and also the importance of the Kendall Wilkins story in the development of Amelia’s character, but it would have been a good bit of added drama to see a story unfold from a reporter’s point of view.

Furthermore, I also liked the varied familial relationships presented in the novel, which added emotional depth and contrast.  You go from the  closeness of the Walkers to the severed relationship of Amelia and Eleanor.  Lastly, as a small town Midwesterner myself, I loved the setting of a small town in Iowa.  It gave something all of us small town readers to relate to as opposed to the big city lights and chaos.  It added a calming and peaceful element and an intimacy with the characters.

Overall, a great read to sit back with a glass of wine and read the day away.


March 2016: Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering

Synopsis: Drew and Madeline Farthering are looking forward to a week at Winteroak – an entire week of living in an era past, all the while reacquainting with old friends, meeting new, and doing their part in lighting the flame in a budding new relationship between two of their  closest friends.  The week is to be full of laughter, dancing, cheer, and culminating in a large party.  Instead, the week ends in death, with a community idol arrested for a ghastly crime dating back decades.  It will take Drew and his best friend Nick every ounce of their detective skills and resolve to ignore what they thought they always knew and get to the bottom of the tragedies.

Review: This book is listed as a Drew Farthering mystery, and I have never before read a Drew Farthering novel.  I was unsure of whether I would be lost in this novel as I hadn’t been introduced to Drew yet, however, I was very pleased to soon find out that that was not the case.  This novel did a wonderful job of conspicuously giving the need-only basis background of Drew Farthering and what he does, along with the important people in his life, at least relevant to this story directly.

This book was a pleasure to read, and I was particularly impressed by the pace of which the story moved along.  There was enough detail given to paint a picture, but then the story was moved right along and was not saturated and bogged down with details of day to day happenings, as some novels do.  The only thing I would have liked would be a more clearer picture of would be the setting, especially since it was different country as well as  it being in a large estate that was the centerpiece for the crimes committed.

While it was a whodunit murder case, it set itself apart from other murder novels given the foreign setting and the element of the party week themed by the Regency Era. Most readers, myself included, would not be familiar with the Regency Era, and the author did an excellent job of weaving details of the norms of the era masked by Mr. Cummins’ scrupulous attention to detail that the week remain as authentic to the era as possible.

I don’t call myself a sleuth or an expert at predicting the outcomes of mystery/crime novels by far, but it was nonetheless refreshing that this novel was neither predictable nor lacking in action.  Helped by the pace of the story, the action and plot of the novel held my attention all the way through – a feat itself in that I have read so many mystery novels that veer into boredom post-crime and pre-resolution.  I was happily engrossed in the novel until the very last page, as well as kept guessing at whodunit.

Getting into some nitpicking, I would have liked to see more characters introduced while the investigation was underway, although I realize this would be at the expense of keeping the novel at it’s more rapid pace.  After everyone was cleared from Winteroak, there were only a handful of characters  (Mrs. Cummins, Tal, Drew, Nick, Madeline, and Carrie) with some guest appearances by various staff of the house and investigators.  The other scene I was slightly disappointed in was Nick and Carrie’s goodbye.  I recognize Carrie was in a great state of grief, but after the whole novel of watching Nick and Carrie’s relationship blossom, and their obvious ardor for each other, I would have liked to see something more dramatic happen in their farewell.  This too might have added another emotional depth to the story for the reader, and added a lighter emotion to counteract the darkened one given the string of events at the end.

Overall this was a great read, and I would recommend it to mystery readers.