Book Review & Blog Tour: Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan

Way back in January of last year, I had the opportunity to preview a copy of Allison Brennan’s The Third to Die. You can find my blog post here. It was the first in her book-a-year Quinn & Costa series. While I don’t remember the plot in it’s entirety, I remember it as a knock out thriller with twists and turns and heart pounding action. Last week, I finished up my review copy of the second title in the series, Tell No Lies, and I think it was even better than the first!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan’s newest thriller again features an edgy young female LAPD detective and an ambitious special agent, both part of a mobile FBI unit that is brought in to investigate the unsolved murder of a college activist and its alleged ties to high stakes crime in the desert Southwest.

Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it’s clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.

Brennan’s latest novel brims with complex characters and an ever-twisting plotline, a compelling thriller that delivers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets.

MY THOUGHTS:
Tell No Lies kept me up way past my bedtime. The deeper I got into the novel, the less I wanted to put it down. I feel it started off a bit slower paced than I anticipated, but quickly picked up speed as the mystery deepened, the danger increased, and the team unravel a myriad of secrets in a small town. Edgy, interesting, and absolutely rife with layers of crimes, you’ll find more than you expected as Costa and Quinn and associates start digging into life in the desert. If you are a fan of crime team thrillers, you’ll love Tell No Lies. It releases March 30th, but you can pre-order now through all major booksellers and your favourite independent bookstores.

I’m leaving my pickier book friends with the same disclosure as last time:
Reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language.  It’s dark and gritty, dealing with some uncomfortable situations as the plot unveils some of the worst of human nature.

My thanks to the publisher, MIRA books, for the complimentary ARC.

Tell No Lies : A Novel 
Allison Brennan
On Sale Date: March 30, 2021
ISBN 9780778331469
Hardcover

Book Review & Blog Tour: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

When it comes to entertainment, every once in a while I really enjoy a good heart-poundingly intense police drama – bad guys, mystery, the gruff but lovable detective – crime thriller at it’s most interesting. Sign me up for all the tropes, I am in. I was fortunate to get my hands on an advanced readers copy of The Jigsaw Man by debut novelist Nadine Matheson, courtesy of the publisher, and the description had my interest piqued!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
In THE JIGSAW MAN (March 16, 2021; Hanover Square Press), Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley has a lot to deal with on her first day back her from leave from the Serial Crimes Unit of Scotland Yard. After nearly becoming a victim of the vicious serial killer, The Jigsaw Man, just before he was put behind bars, she also has to contend with the subtle digs and microaggressions that come with being the unit’s only black female detective. Add a new trainee and a rocky marriage to the mix, and DI Henley nearly has a full plate. Until the first call comes in…

Along the Thames, a fan of the Jigsaw Man and copycat killer has scattered two dismembered bodies along the shores like a jigsaw puzzle. When DI Henley sees one of the victims, a young black woman, is already being written off by her colleagues, she makes it her mission to solve the case, driving her to seek help from the original Jigsaw Man himself, Peter Oliver. Oliver, however, is determined to get to his copycat before Henley can, and sets into motion a series of events that puts Henley and her family in the crosshairs of two monstrous serial killers. 

MY THOUGHTS:
This book had a gentle acceleration. While I was expecting for edge of my seat thrills throughout, I found it slowly worked it’s way to the peak, lulling me into a bit of reader’s complacency, and then we plummeted for a white knuckle roller coaster ride. Packed with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, the heart racing drama is definitely found in the second half of the title while the first half reads more like a procedural with the investigation and the build up.

Matheson’s protagonist is both strong and vulnerable, fierce and feminine. She is no stranger to racial prejudice or gender bias. She’s intelligent but flawed and I absolutely loved her. The secondary characters were also well drawn, creating a team with both likeable and dislikeable traits – flawed, damage, loveable. In speaking of flawed, the charismatic psychopath was absolutely detestable and yet, reflected the charisma that was his trademark. I hated him intensely, and yet… the copycat, however, didn’t shine, but I also don’t believe they were meant to. We were kept guessing as to their identity and the why behind their crimes, but ultimately, the focus was on DI Henley and her encounters with the Jigsaw Man.

Overall, I found this debut title to be a very fascinating work of fiction. My attention was held throughout and the pacing worked well. As with many crime & justice novels, it’s dark and gritty, dealing with the ugliest side of human nature and it highlights the burden and wear the quest for justice can take, physically, mentally, and socially. The subject matter can be disturbing and mature language and mature themes occur – reader discretion advised. By the final chapter, the author wrapped up the mystery in such a way that the audience is satisfied, but there are enough loose threads that we could easily enjoy a sequel (pretty please?) I, for one, want more of Anjelica Henley.

Debut Novelist
Nadine Matheson

AUTHOR BIO: 
Nadine Matheson is a criminal defense attorney and winner of the City University Crime Writing competition. She lives in London, UK.

THE JIGSAW MAN
Author: Nadine Matheson
ISBN: 9781335146564
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
Publisher: Hanover Square Press

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title and the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Book Review: A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

As I was browsing Bethany House titles available for request through NetGalley a few weeks back, something about the cover of A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy caught my eye. As I read the description it piqued my interest further and I thought I’d give it a shot, requesting it, but not quite knowing what to expect. Thankfully, the publisher approved my request and I tucked it away on my shelf to read at a later date. A few days later, as I was trying to select a new book to read, I accidentally clicked on the title while swiping through my Kindle library and decided to roll with it. I had zero expectations going in, but I was absolutely blown away.

This novel was exquisite in its attention to detail – not in a monotonous or droning way – but in the essence of how the author captured the senses in every paragraph. With some well-crafted wording, we’re transported from 2021 into a time and place far from home. I don’t generally read about the British colonization of India, for no other reason than it just hasn’t struck my fancy. Duffy has changed that for me by bridging the two worlds of British society and Indian culture and highlighting the plight of a people caught in the middle.

Ottilie (how would you pronounce that name?) is incredibly transparent – she’s suffered enormous loss. She is struggling with acceptance. She has questions and is struggling with faith in God in a land that has many. It’s a bit of the age-old “how can bad things happen to good people” presented in fiction form. Even though Ottilie and I had very little in common, I could relate to her in many of her day to day struggles on one level or another.

Ottilie also struggles with acceptance and belonging due to the harsh realities of her dual-heritage, facing outright prejudice and hate due to her mother’s blood. She’s smart. She’s independent. She’s loyal. She’s beautifully gifted in an art that is rare and lovely. (Google: Beetlewing Embroidery.) Ottilie is also very lost and struggles in her mourning and her identity as everyone she cares for seems to be taken away.

My heart broke for the injustice of this novel and the theme of searching for home – the longing for acceptance, love, and belonging. At the same time, as the author struck a chord with her tale, in a desire to recognize that not everyone can or should tell another person’s story, did she do justice in a book whose very core message highlighting difficulties due to one’s family tree or the people group they belong to? I actually struggled with that throughout the entire novel. Yes, it was beautifully written, but was it Duffy’s story to tell? After the final chapter and a few days of musing, I’m no closer to a concrete answer on that front, but I think Duffy told Ottilie’s story well. She also created an awareness that prods me to dig deeper into learning about the history of Anglo-Indians – to hear their stories and to learn. I don’t often read the author’s notes or afterword, but in this instance I did and some of my musings were quelled – the author addressed some of my concerns in her notes after the novel itself, acknowledging her sensitivity reader and other resources. Was it enough? I don’t know, but again, this novel was beautifully crafted and didn’t hide from difficult issues.

Overall, this was a moving page-turner of a tale. It brought me to tears, to frustration, to empathy. It didn’t coat over messy moments. It made me want to dig deeper, and that’s not something that every piece of fiction can do. It was an engaging work of fiction with notes of bittersweet honesty. Thankfully, it wasn’t just darkness and uncertainty, struggle and loss, but also a richly captivating beacon of beauty, hope, and welcome. I’d recommend you pre-order for yourself today!

I received a complimentary Advanced Readers Copy of this title from Bethany House.
All opinions are entirely my own.

A Tapestry of Light
Kimberly Duffy
Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
ISBN 9780764235641

Book Review: Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is one of those writers that I will always invest time in – usually without disappointment. She authored by beloved Virgin River series (that I may not think Netflix did the best job of bringing to screen…) and a number of other titles that I’ve truly enjoyed. In general, what she does works and I find the cadence of her writing truly appeals to me. When I was initially invited to participate in the HarperCollins blog tour celebrating the release of her newest title, Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, I didn’t have to think twice. Of course I was going to participate. I went ahead and downloaded the digital ARC (advance reader’s copy) and then promptly forgot to confirm my participation in the tour. Whoops! Regardless, I’ve read the book and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Set in the stunning coastal town of Half Moon Bay, California, Robyn Carr’s new novel examines the joys of sisterhood and the importance of embracing change.

As always, the characters – whether you like them or not – are real. Real issues, real drama, real feelings. I didn’t love either of the lead characters when I started, but I was interested in their stories, and by the final chapter, they felt like friends (valued despite their flaws!) The voice of this novel, the descriptions, the dialogue, the characters, the setting – speak to the strength within us and the bonds of family. It spoke to triumph in change (or despite change), personal growth and maturity, the treasures of friendships. It didn’t however, truly speak to me.

It was easy to read and typically quick-moving (but not fast-paced, but not mind-boggling) – you don’t have to invest a lot of deep thought or heavy reading sessions to “get it”. It is, at face value, a feel-good, cuddle on the couch, piece of women’s fiction – a great way to pass an evening or two – while offering simple reminders about the value of finding your way and standing up for yourself. There were a few twists, but I wish it had a bit more scenery and perhaps a few more dynamic interactions. It’s not a world-changing piece of literature, but it worked for a Friday night read – a good title to toss in your bag for poolside lounging, sitting in airports, or tucked away on your back deck to escape the kids.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Harlequin / Mira
Publication Date: April 14, 2020 (Available now!)

Book Review: The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear

The Daughters of the Mayflower series has been a collection that I’ve been enjoying off and on. I haven’t read all the books yet, but I’ve picked up a title here and there. Thankfully, each book has been easily read as an independent publication, but as a whole they work well highlighting different eras and situations in American History from the landing of the Mayflower to WWII. I recently read The Blizzard Bride – one of the upcoming titles in the series, to be published in February. (Spoiler: it was great!) Further back, I was provided with an Advanced Readers Copy of The Rebel Bride and it was also great.

An Enjoyable Wholesome Piece of Historical Fiction

Once in a while, you will find a title or two that will trigger some nostalgia of days gone by. The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear did this for me. It brought me back to anti-social evenings as a young teen, curled up in my bed, ignoring my family, quite lost in fictional tales of American history with incredibly strong female leads and their often heroic male counterparts – the books that led me to believe that woman can persevere through anything, and that while a man isn’t needed, he is a wonderful sidekick in the struggles of life.

The Rebel Bride is set in Tennessee during the Civil War. Our heroine is a quiet, peaceable woman who is caught between the Union and the Confederacy as the tensions of war literally camp on her doorstep and flood her home. Not only must she deal with wounded soldiers from both sides, her family is suffering a number of losses and hardships. She is a remarkably strong woman with pain and fear and struggles who can pull up her bootstraps when needed. She’s often stubborn and more impulsive than she ought to be – acting in the best interest of her family, but not always being able to control the outcome.

Without giving away the whole story, I can say that this one captured my interest. It was fast-paced, heart-wrenching, and even frustrating at times. Watching the characters struggle with loyalties, issues of faith, and the delicate tendrils of a mismatched romance in a dangerous time pulled the heartstrings. The action in the story provided enough danger and excitement to keep things interesting.

Ms. McNear did a remarkable job of creating a picturesque novel of courage – overcoming stereotypes and presenting a vivid recreation of the emotions one might face in such an uncertain era. While it wasn’t a dark tale (and I’m sure the Civil War left a big ol’ cloud of darkness and despair behind every battle) it was an emotional journey of strength with a happy ending in a not-so-happy element. A recommended read for those who enjoy wholesome historical fiction – with drama, danger, and romance aplenty.

Publication Date: December 1, 2019
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. | Barbour Books

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reading Copy of this novel via NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Lake Season by Denise Hunter

Charming!

The first story in a brand-new series, Lake Season invites readers to the Bluebell Inn in a small North Carolina town where a lost letter, a chance for new love, and old secrets beckon.

Family, relationships, secrets, struggles, life, love, loss – Lake Season by Denise Hunter has it all. With her characteristic charm, Hunter has developed this novel – to be released next Tuesday – beautifully. It’s an endearing first title in a new series (hooray!) that hits all the points.

The characters, the plot, the setting (oh my – the setting!) all meld into this sweet tale with elements of mistaken identities, romance, and small town life. Another definite recommended read – sure to be a success for Ms. Hunter and Thomas Nelson.

I read it in a single sitting and missed too much sleep, but it was worth it. Likeable, flawed characters and a familiar story done slightly differently, all I can say is if you’re a fan of contemporary Christian fiction, you’ll want to pick it up a copy next week and block off a chunk of time to cozy up with this one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Book Review: The Noble Guardian by Michelle Griep


Taciturn & Tender –
Adventurous Historical Christian Romance

If you are looking for historical Christian fiction brimming with the characterization of a taciturn, valiant hero and a lively, generous heroine, while courting danger around every bend and the demonstration of courage in the face of disappointments, Michelle Griep’s The Noble Guardian has it all! Adventure. History. Romance. The third in The Bow Street Runners series, it’s easy to read as a standalone (but having read this title, I’ll definitely be adding the first two titles to my to-be-read stack.)

Griep has a wonderful way with words and kindly shares some of her historical research aspects with her readers at the back of the book. I have no remarks on the aspect of historical accuracy, because I’m generally reading the genre for the escape, not the realism. I’m guessing based on the facts she shared, most aspects were pretty spot-on.

Back to the story itself… two bruised individuals, an adorable cherub of a child, and well-shaped secondary characters shine. At 32o pages in the paperback format, it’s not a short book, but it’s quite the tale of longing, revenge, and as mentioned previously, danger (almost ridiculous amounts of danger, to be honest. I mean it’s fiction, but life just kept throwing one curveball after another – which of course they handled with fortitude and style.) They faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles while trying to navigate their futures and escape the wounds of their pasts while racing cross-country through Regency England.

Romance was sweetly threaded throughout and, of course, love triumphs all. One of my favourite quotes from the book was just before the half-way point, when the Captain (our hero!) insists Abby (our heroine) is more valuable than she realises and calls her a gem. *sigh* (I’d quote the exact line but my copy was uncorrected and I don’t want to get it wrong!) Honestly, coming from such a sullen man and in the early stages of their alliance it was really quite the tender and endearing scene (with a typical touch of gruffness from a pensive man.) The story was liberally sprinkled with references to faith and the characters’ development of conviction and hope. As they lean on each other, they each find safety – both physically and emotionally – as they become the family they’ve always needed.

I truly enjoyed this spin on my go-to genre and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming historical tale of hope and redemption. You can pre-order your copy now through all major booksellers. It’s a 4.5 star for me!

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reader Copy of this title through NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: June 1, 2019

Book Review: Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel by James Markert

Colourful Cover & Descriptive Writing

This week I took the opportunity to crack open my copy of Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel by James Markert. It’s published by Thomas Nelson and sounded fascinating when I requested it from NetGalley. However, I only gave it a 3-star rating on Goodreads. I waffled back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, but something about the book just didn’t synch with me.

Loaded with mythology, art, beauty, damaged souls, and so many memories, it was an incredibly descriptive work. Colourful, lyrical prose flowed beautifully – Markert has an aesthetic way with words. Differences in theology aside – there were a lot of reliance and parallels to ancient mythology which worked with the artistic references and theme of the novel – the pictures painted in my mind were vivid and from that aspect, I was more than satisfied.

The storyline, however, while magical left me feeling a little lost at the end. (and in the beginning, and in the middle….) Part of me wonders if this was intentional considering the subject of memory (and/or subsequently, memory loss) and the effect on the human soul. At times, it was a little dry and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending. Emotions were invoked, but as I set my tablet down when I finished the book I was figuratively scratching my head with a “huh.” It was a good book… but a strange book. It just didn’t hook me as an absolute favourite. One thing I loved, however, was the question of whether we should live our numbered days with fullness, or extend our days and live with less wholeness – is the return of memories lost worth it? My creative disposition appreciated the beauty of the arts so deeply woven throughout. The novel as a whole… enjoyed it? Yes; Liked it? Yes; Really liked it? Just not quite. 3.5 stars from me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Book Review: Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron

I was awarded a copy of Castle on the Rise (part 2 in the Lost Castle series) by new-to-me author Kristy Cambron. This book takes place in three eras of Ireland’s riveting history (present, early 20th century, and the 1700s.) It was not a time travel tale. It was a story of resilience, independence, family drama, love, loss, faith, and conviction.

The lives of the characters from each era were twined together in a remarkable tale detailing the struggles of Irish history and rebellions. Each setting was tied together through family trees and national loyalties, with the basis of the interactions focusing on a historical estate and neighbourhood pub. I found it fascinating and emotional to read.

It wasn’t an easy book to read – I put it down between chapters much more often than I usually do. This wasn’t due to boredom so much as just needing to let my mind change track between the different eras. The romance was clean and sweet, the troubles and trials daunting.

The modern characters weren’t as well developed (in my opinion), but it was a colourful novel that makes me want to pack my bags and catch the next flight to the Emerald Isle. Ths historical elements were beautifully written in vivid detail. It piqued my interest in so much more than the landscapes of this beautiful country. I want to know more about her history, culture, and people’s fierce pride and independence. Women were the unsung heroes of this tale.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Published by Thomas Nelson; Publication Date – 05 Feb 2019