Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Book Review: Double Take by Lynette Eason


Detective James Cross has been honorably discharged from the Army Criminal Investigation Division due to wounds sustained when an IED blew up near him. Now with the Lake City Police Department, he's rooming with this good buddy and partner, Cole, while he figures out his family dynamics.

Physician Assistant Lainie Jackson is eighteen months out from an attempted murder perpetrated by her ex, which ended when she managed to grab the weapon and shoot him. When he appears to have survived and is back to finish the job he started, Lainie insists it's not possible. But someone keeps trying to kill her, and she keeps seeing his face.

Together, Lainie and James must work together to find out who, exactly, is after her and why he wants her dead. And failure is not an option.

Series: Lake City Heroes, book #1

My rating:

So good! It's been awhile since I've written a well-thought-through review, so let's dive right in!

Okay, let's be honest, when I say 'well-thought-through' I really mean that I spent more than 2 minutes writing this. Set the bar of expectations low, people.

I really enjoyed Lainie. She wasn't annoyingly in-your-face macho-woman like a lot of female protagonists can be, but she was strong. And that's the best type of women to read about, in my humble opinion.

I also loved James, he was the sweetest. And the fact that he has fantastic siblings?? Y'all know that I'm hooked. (I may or may not be a sucker for tight-knit fictional families). I hope we get a spin-off series about Keegan and Dixon. I'll admit that the whole side plot with his dad seemed kinda random, but I also kinda liked it?? Idk, my thoughts are all over the place.

Lainie's group of friends was great. I loved them so much, and the fact that they dropped everything as soon as they could in order to give her a pizza party and a night of distraction? Forget women empowering women, this was straight up BESTIES and I was totally here for it.

And Cole. I was also totally here for Cole. I may or may not have been excited to see that book two will be about him and Kenzie.

The plot itself was intriguing, and that, combined with the likeability of the characters, made it a book that was hard to put down! Much to my chagrin, I didn't have the bad guy pegged within the first half - and whether that's a testimony to my rustiness as a reader or Eason's prowess as a writer, I'm not sure, but I have to admit that it was fun being surprised, haha.

Albeit slightly unsettling, ngl. Luckily I don't have much imagination so I wasn't struck with the absolute terror of not knowing who's out to murder people.

The faith aspect of the book was kinda lacking for me, tbh. I think the main reason is that it was not the message for me, so I won't let that affect my rating. (The prayers did seem few and far between, but as one fellow adult to another, I can understand. Is it right? No. Is it relatable? Absolutely.)

Overall, it was a fantastic romantic suspense (the romance didn't make me gag, miracle of miracles - just a lil bit of cringing, but it's all good) and I look forward to reading the next one!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for promotional purposes. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Book Review: The Long March Home by Marcus Brotherton & Tosca Lee

Jimmy Propfield joined the army for two reasons: to get out of Mobile, Alabama, with his best friends Hank and Billy and to forget his high school sweetheart, Claire. 

Life in the Philippines seems like paradise - until the morning of December 8, 1941, when news comes from Manila: the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Within hours, the teenage friends are plunged into war as Japanese warplanes attack Luzon, beginning a battle for control of the Pacific Theater that will culminate with a last stand on the Bataan Peninsula and end with the largest surrender of American troops in history. 

What follows will become known as one of the worst atrocities in modern warfare: the Bataan Death March. With no hope of rescue, the three friends vow to make it back home together. But the ordeal is only the beginning of their nearly four-year fight to survive.

Inspired by true stories, The Long March Home is a gripping coming-of-age tale of friendship, sacrifice, and the power of unrelenting hope.

My rating:

Holy cow y'all, I don't know what to say.

The book is intense. Not so intense that most people couldn't handle it, but intense in that it's not for younger readers. War is real, it's ugly, and it's scary. The language was mostly clean - a couple of words thrown in here and there, but not enough to actually bother me.

The dual timeline messed me up at first - they usually do - but while I normally skim-read one timeline to get back to the other, I didn't this time. I definitely preferred the scenes from the war, but reading about Jimmy and Hank and Billy and Charlotte as children, and all the events that led up to this moment...it felt so real.

I suppose that was kind of the point, being inspired by true stories and all, haha.

To be honest, I adored every single one of the characters, and then I realized why: they were humans. There wasn't the holy-mission main character with adorably flawed and endearing side characters. They were all relatable. They all had their fears, they all had their flaws, and they all snuck their way into my heart without warning.

A few random things in the book that stood out to me:
-Jimmy's last name is Propfield, so his nickname is Propper and I love it. Even his COs called him Propper
-Cowboy. Roy. Whatever you want to call him. A minor character but so so good. Such a fantastic big brother
-The whole bit with Jimmy's dad. It added an entire dimension to the story that I'd love to say more about but I will refrain due to spoilers.
-It didn't wrap everything up in a pretty bow but it left me with hope and inspiration all the same

"A gripping coming-of-age tale of friendship, sacrifice, and the power of unrelenting hope." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Book Review: Under Fire by Lynn H. Blackburn


USSS Special Agent Zane Thacker has landed his dream assignment protecting the president of the United States. When the president plans a fundraiser at the exclusive estate of a political supporter in Raleigh, Zane is thrilled to be working again with Special Agent Tessa Reed, his best friend--and the woman he desperately wishes could be more.

Though Tessa almost lost everything, she battled her demons and came out on the other side healthy and healed. But when her role as the liaison between the Raleigh office and the president's protective detail wrenches her past back into the present, her greatest failure threatens to come to light. 

Zane refuses to let Tessa go through this alone. But can he stand by the woman he loves and protect the president from a mounting threat at the same time?

Sparks fly as award-winning romantic suspense writer Lynn H. Blackburn closes out her Defend and Protect series with this explosive tale of secrets kept, lies exposed, and relationships restored.

Series: Defend and Protect, book #3 (would recommend reading the other books first)

My rating:

*sigh* Honestly...this book was a disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I was definitely hooked through most of it, but yet at the same time, it...fell flat.

Book one released in 2021 (I absolutely loved it - review here), book two in 2022 (kinda meh - review here), aaaand since then, I kinda totally forgot which character is which. I didn't think it would be a problem, since books tend to stick in my mind and I've never had an issue with mixing them up, buuuut as I started reading Under Fire and got everything mixed up, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that none of the characters were actually unique enough to keep them separate in my mind.

I loved Zane. I loved his protective nature and the way he was determined to keep Tessa safe and accountable even while he tried to let her have her independence. His faith was a big part of him, and I LOVED the camaraderie between him and Luke. (Although the repeated use of the word 'bro' kept throwing me off...maybe I just live in a backwards community, but I've never heard the guys in my life actually use the word repeatedly? I think it was mainly the term 'bro hug' but it just...*shudders* made me uncomfy for some odd reason)

Tessa was honestly such a lovable character. Her desire and determination to honor God and overcome her past was inspiring, and her struggle to be independent yet reasonable was relatable, haha.

The plot was super engaging, and while I thought I had the bad guy pegged from the beginning (I generally have a knack for that - I listen to a lot of Dragnet *cackles*), I...was completely wrong. Not that I wanted to be right about it in this case, but the real culprit seemed kinda out of the blue? I'm not gonna complain about it too much though, since there were twists and turns I didn't see coming and that just improves the book immensely, in my opinion.

I did, however, get about 95.7% fed up with Tessa/Zane drama. Gave me a headache.

The whole reporter guy thing (Lloyd? Leonard? I know neither of those are his name but I can't remember his actual name *cough*) creeped me out and I think it was totally unnecessary buuuuut just my opinion.

In conclusion, the quality of this review kinda sums up the whole book: some parts were good, some parts weren't so good, overall it was just meh, in my opinion

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for promotional purposes. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Book Review: Everything is Just Beginning


An Immersive Story of Music, Struggle, and Starting Over from an Award-Winning Author

Michael Sullivan is a talented lyricist and a decent guitarist, but since he was kicked out of his band (and his apartment), he's not sure he'll ever get a record deal. Living with his loser uncle in a beat-up trailer and working a dead-end job, Michael has little reason to hope for a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year's Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It's for his uncle, with whom he shares his name, but his uncle is going out of town . . . 

On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989—as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is inching toward democracy, and anything seems possible—Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures. 

Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels enchants with this story of two lonely souls who have exactly what the other one needs—if they could simply turn their focus from what is ending to what is just beginning.

My rating:

The best part of being part of the Revell Reads program is that by the time I actually receive the book, I've completely forgotten what it's supposed to be about, but I know that I obviously chose it for a reason—it's like a present from myself to myself, haha! 

When trying to figure out how I would describe Everything is Just Beginning, the first thing that popped into my head is that this book is an entire vibe.

Or, if my sister were a book. A bit too modern—1990 is kinda past the era of bell bottoms and The Beatles—but the vibe was still there. Rock & Roll and just kinda all-around vintage (sorry to all the 90s kids, but the book really did feel retro). Maybe it was the fact that Nicki's dad refused to listen to music for fun on anything other than vinyl.

So, overall, the vibe was on point. Kudos to Ms. Bartels for nailing a setting that had me hooked!

I loved Michael's character. He was so fun to read, and his depth of character was something that I loved watching develop. His struggle with forgiveness and his sense of duty both made for an unforgettable character.

Nicki was cool. I enjoyed her, she and Michael worked really well together...but idk, she seemed kinda flat? Which feels really weird to say, because she definitely wasn't perfect, nor overly flawed. Her struggles with her mom's illness really pulled on my heartstrings, but...maybe it was her attitude? Being an only child, she acted kinda entitled and was definitely used to getting her way, but she wasn't overly bratty or anything, and I liked reading her and Michael together. She was just kinda meh for me.

Uncle Mike was kinda a jerk that everyone loved because he could be charismatic when he wanted to, and it drove me up a wall. Probably partly because I know people like that. Dusty and Deb were flawless. I loved them to pieces. Selfless and hospitable and loved people like crazy. They were just...*chef's kiss*

The music was probably another reason I fell in love with the vibe. Not that I particularly enjoyed the music that the characters enjoyed (yes, I looked up nearly every artist mentioned), but that the characters loved music. And that just makes a person have a bond with someone even if they're fictional, ya know?

Also, when Deb talked about Glen Campbell giving her a guitar? I kinda maybe sorta majorly fangirled a lil bit. (he was my top-listened-to artist on Spotify in 2022 in case anyone wondered. Pretty sure I was in the top 5% or something)

The message was...there. Healing and moving on from the past and letting go and all that. It honestly was fantastic, I just...idk. The fact that Nicki and her parents were Christians was something that I really loved, and the way that they brought in Michael and practically made him part of the family was amazing (found family trope ftw, y'all). I guess it just bugged me that Michael, who was not a Christian, fell in love with Nicki. Which isn't a problem. Except that Nicki reciprocated. And it bugged me (don't be unequally yoked and all that) and, quite frankly, took away from the theme of the book a little bit for me.

But, all in all, I did love the book and would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a bit of vibes in their life.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for promotional purposes. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Book Review: The Lost Melody by Joanna Davidson Politano

When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman's portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.

The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know. But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?

Fan-favorite Joanna Davidson Politano casts a delightful spell with this lyrical look into the nature of women's independence and artistic expression during the Victorian era—and now.

My rating:

Wow. Um. Where do I even start?

"No such thing as a hopeless case."

I...uh...okay, y'all, I'm not sure what to say, to be honest. This book, it...wow. I'm honestly left speechless. 

(But not for long, because when am I ever speechless for any measurable amount of time?)

The prose was beautiful but not overdone (more like woven throughout instead of distracting from the plot), the suspense was spooky and kept me on the edge of my seat, the romance was...honestly some of the best I've read. The attraction between the couple was sparked not by their physical appearance, but the kindness and compassion they saw in each other's hearts amidst the darkness and chaos of their circumstances, and it was the sweetest thing ever.

Vivienne herself was an amazing character. Her qualities, her struggles, and her flaws all made for an unforgettably realistic character that I honestly adored.

Same with Mitchell.

They both felt so...so real and genuine that while the setting of the book basically placed me in a book-induced coma, I could. Not. Stop. Reading. Because of those two.

The Lost Melody is heavy. So heavy. I'm usually able to emotionally distance myself from such heaviness; call it a coping mechanism, call it insensitivity, whatever, but I can normally read things without being affected too much.

I was affected.

The first half of the book had me both longing to put it down and never pick it up again, and glued to the pages to see what would happen. Because, in the first half, there was no light. Just darkness and utter hopelessness, and yet, I found myself attached to Vivienne, and even though we had nothing in common physically or mentally (except our love for music), I was hopelessly attached and couldn't quit the book while she was still trapped in a home with barred windows.

*deep breath* okay. Let's try to get the rest of my thoughts sorted and expressed coherently.

There were spooky parts, obviously - hello, insane asylum with a rumored ghost - and I couldn't decide whether I loved the book or hated it.

And then I reached the second half.

Y'all...no words.

"We're all of us told to walk in the light, but we don't. We simply wish to drag the light over to where we're already standing, so we may better see the path we've set out for ourselves."

This isn't a bloom-where-you're-planted book; it's so much more. It's about bringing light to the darkness, because your light isn't needed in broad daylight. It's about reaching past the outward eccentricities of a person and seeing them for who they really are - a human being created in the image of God. It's about saying "yes, Lord" when the thing you want to say the most is "please, choose someone else." It's about surrendering your plans and dreams to God and watching them unfold in a way you'd never imagined possible. It's about clinging to hope when there seems to be none. 

It's honestly one of the most inspiring books I've ever read.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for promotional purposes. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Book Review: Word of Honor by Hallee Bridgeman


FBI Special Agent Lynda Cutler is investigating an ecoterrorist organization in the Alaskan wilderness when her partner is taken captive and murdered before her very eyes. The only person who can identify the key players, Lynda gets assigned to take part in a joint operation in Istanbul to take the organization down.

As a woman in a Muslim country, she'll find it much easier to move around undetected with a fake husband. Unfortunately for her, the man assigned to play the role is none other than US Army weapons specialist Bill Sanders—the man who crushed her heart into a million pieces back in college.

With a cargo bay's worth of hurt and baggage between them, these two consummate professionals must play their parts perfectly if they hope to stop those responsible for bombing oil pipelines, killing innocent civilians, and threatening to destabilize the oil markets. But love long buried has a way of resurfacing at the most inopportune times—and protecting Lynda has become Bill's primary focus.

Series: Love & Honor, Book #2 (could be read as a standalone)

My rating:

That...was actually really good! I made what I thought was an unfortunate decision when I requested to review this one before I'd even read the first book, since I ended up disliking that one (read my review here). But, this one did not disappoint! (not that I had high expectations after the first *cough*)

I loved Bill. His personality was fantastic and funny and I really appreciated his character struggles. The arc seemed a bit stiff, but overall, Bill's character was much deeper than Rick's in book 1 (though I really love Rick and wish that we could have another story about him) (but it was really fun to see him in this book too). Lynda, as well, was an epic character. I loved the fact that while she was a kick-butt female agent, she understood her limits and didn't pretend to be indestructible. Put the two characters together and you've got a dynamic duo that's sure to be a hit!

The romance honestly didn't make me cringe (at least, not too much, haha), even though it was enemies to lovers...I think it was the fact that though both parties involved were forced into a situation that neither wanted to be in, they did their jobs and didn't let their attitudes get in the way of the mission. Of course they didn't get along, and of course there were a few times that I wanted to throttle them, but I could see where they were both coming from, and I didn't blame them, and that made all the difference in the world. Kudos to you, Ms. Bridgeman!

The suspense lasted through almost the entire book, and I think that's what made me enjoy it so much; it was much more of a military-suspense-with-a-romantic-subplot than its predecessor. The twists and turns (and trying to keep all the details straight in my pea brain) kept me reading, and overall I just really enjoyed it.

The faith aspect seemed kinda preachy (especially with about 95% of the characters being Christians, and the other 5% being the villains), but it definitely seemed more real to the characters than in the first book; Bill and Lynda both were putting effort into their faith 24/7, and I loved that it wasn't the cliché I-don't-spend-as-much-time-with-God-as-I-should-but-that's-going-to-change-now Christianity.

Overall, this one was great, and I'm seriously regretting my decision to not request the third book for next month!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for promotional purposes. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

What was the last book that you thought you were going to end up regretting but didn't?

Friday, October 14, 2022

Book Review: Honor Bound by Hallee Bridgeman

It may seem odd to seek peace by moving to a war-torn African country, but for medical missionary Dr. Cynthia Myers, it provided a way to escape a shallow life of unearned wealth, a philandering fiancé, and a father now square in the public eye as vice president of the United States. At least here she knows her work and life have meaning. But all that is thrown into chaos when she fails to save the life of a local warlord's mortally wounded son.

As part of the Army Special Forces "A-Team" on a mission to capture and subdue the warlord, Captain Rick Norton is compelled to use deadly force to save Cynthia's life. Enraged at the violence she witnessed and riddled with guilt that men died because of her, Cynthia tries to hold on to her anger--but an unwanted attraction is taking hold.

With two members of his team badly injured and rebels in hot pursuit, Rick will have to draw upon all his strength and cunning to get her out alive . . . because he's beginning to think they just might overcome their differences and be able to make a life together.

Series: Love and Honor, book #1

My rating:

I have just one question. 


(If you didn't read that in an old lady voice, you obviously haven't been cultured.)

Honor Bound started out great. A little stilted for my personal taste, but it's military suspense, soooo of course I definitely went in planning to give this puppy the benefit of the doubt.

The first third or so of the book took place in an African jungle, and while I cannot abide humidity and mosquitos, the fact remains that I was transported there and could practically feel the sweat dripping off my forehead. 

Unfortunately, that's pretty much all of the good I can think of to say. *grimaces* like I said, I went into this book with an open mind, excited to read military fiction, but the delivery was just...not there. What disappointed me the most, though, was that while the book is labeled as romantic suspense, it was definitely more like a military romance with a little suspense sprinkled in.

There was a lot of telling instead of showing - which I know is hard not to do, but it was throughout the whole book, unfortunately. Instead of seeing body language tell its own story, I was told the characters' feelings, which really pulled me from the story.

Aaand that gets me to the lovey-dovey part of the story. The novel is categorized as romantic suspense, so I knew going into it that I should expect just that - romantic suspense. The romance was about how I expected. The suspense, however, was...very disappointing. Even though there were suspenseful parts, it didn't have me on the edge of my seat. In fact, the only reason I got the book read within four days was the fact that I had the time and I was determined to get it read - not because it kept me hooked. After that first portion of the book, and then one sequence a couple of chapters later, the suspense was over and it was simply a romance.

It was your generic romance, with all of the she's-out-of-my-league and he-makes-me-feel-like-a-person drama, with of course the little twists and turns unique to the story. But there was something nagging at the back of my mind that I couldn't quite place...until I realized that this book could be about any character.

The characters themselves were...flat. I didn't feel particularly connected to any of them, and I couldn't especially relate to them.

Rick Norton could've been named Jerry Kramer and it wouldn't have mattered, because the book wasn't character driven; it was plot driven. There were no character arcs, no growth, no overarching theme. The only conflict in the book was the fact that he's a Green Beret, and she's a pacifist. And that just felt like unnecessary baggage that drove me up a wall.

And for my final point, the message of the story.

There was none.

All the characters are Christians, and that bugged me. I know it can happen, but it just felt forced, like they're Christians so that the book can be labeled Christian fiction. The characters talked about God, but it was more like He was a vending machine, y'know? Instead of including Him in everything and following His lead, they prayed when they needed help, talked about His goodness when their life was good, and thanked Him when the decisions they made (because they wanted things and not because He told them to) worked out.

This really felt like a squeaky-clean book about Christians. Not a faith-based book about believers. So...two stars. *sigh* which is disappointing, because I was really looking forward to this one (and, I mean, that COVER *heart eyes*)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for promotional purposes. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.