Monday, January 28, 2013

Ashton Park (The Danforths of Lancashire) by Murray Pura

For fans of the hugely popular Downton Abbey series, comes this equally enthralling story of the Danforth family of Ashton Park.

Among the green hills and trees of Lancashire, only a few miles from the sea, lies the beautiful and ancient estate of Ashton Park.

The year is 1916. The First World War has engulfed Europe and Sir William's and Lady Elizabeth's three sons are all in uniform--and their four daughters are involved in various pursuits of the heart and soul.

As the head of a strong Church of England family for generations, Sir William insists the Danforth estate hold morning devotions that include both family and staff. However, he is also an MP and away at Westminster in London whenever Parliament is sitting. During his long absences, Lady Elizabeth discreetly spends time in the company of the head cook of the manor, Mrs. Longstaff, who is her best friend and confidante. This friendship includes visits to a small Baptist church in Liverpool that exposes Lady Elizabeth to a less formal approach to Christian worship and preaching than she is used to and which she comes to enjoy.

Readers will follow Ashton Park's charming upstairs/downstairs characters through the perils of war and the affairs of the heart with relish--and with an eye to the sequel coming in Fall 2013.

Book One in The Danforths of Lancashire series.

My Review:
Covering the many changes of England's society from 1916 to 1923, this Christian fiction book addresses one family's romances and marriages. Social lines are crossed and barriers are lifted. One of the themes of this work is that the Bible says that "God is no respecter of persons." People should not be judged on class.

When I first saw the long list of characters, I groaned. However, I found myself appreciative of the list as I flipped back from time-to-time to review it.The author worked hard with many repetitions to help the reader remember who was who. Nonetheless, I did feel that overdone. Unnecessary repetition makes for a longer read. With so many characters, no one stood out; they were all alike--rather flat.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Harvest House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Lawyer’s Lawyer by James Sheehan

Jack Tobin, the main character of THE MAYOR OF LEXINGTON AVENUE returns in this non-stop novel that combines enthralling plot twists with some of the best courtroom fiction being written today.

Tobin, known as the lawyer's lawyer--the guy the best lawyers say they'd want to represent them in a courtroom battle--undertakes the representation of a serial killer who he believes to be innocent. The Chief of Police is outraged, the citizens of Oakville where the murders occurred, erupt, and the State Attorney is out for blood as Jack challenges the criminal justice system once again.

Sheehan masterfully weaves stories of love and friendship into one man's uncompromising search for truth within the four corners of a courtroom where it is often spoken about but seldom seen. Jack is in a fight for his life and the outcome is in doubt right up to the turn of the final page.

A trial lawyer himself, James Sheehan is also a top-notch thriller writer. Once again he succeeds in translating the depth of his courtroom knowledge into an entertaining and truly fascinating read.

My Review:
I finished this compelling book in one day. I simply could not put it down. The protagonist, Jack Tobin, has made enough money to retire, so he takes cases of wrongly convicted people on death row. He works for no fee with a drive to bring justice to the criminal system.

I enjoyed Jack's friendship with Henry, a former death row prisoner set free through Jack's efforts. Henry literally owes his life to Jack and becomes a devoted employee. The twosome is hard to beat.

There are twists and turns that surprise. I really enjoyed this thriller.

Contains profanity.

Thank you to Sarah Reck at Center Street for my copy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Great House of God by Max Lucado

God's greatest desire is to be your dwelling place. The home for your heart.

He doesn't want to be merely a weekend getaway. He has no interest in being a Sunday bungalow or even a summer cottage. He wants to be your mailing address, your point of reference, your home...always. He wants you to live in the Great House of God.

Using the Lord's Prayer as a floor plan, bestselling author Max Lucado takes you on a tour of the home God intended for you. Warm your heart by the fire in the living room. Nourish your spirit in the kitchen. Seek fellowship in the family room. Step into the hallway and find forgiveness.

It's the perfect home for you. After all, it was created with you in mind. There's only one home built just for your heart. No house more complete, no structure more solid.

The roof never leaks. The walls never crack. The foundation never trembles.

In God's house, you're home. So come into the house built just for you. Your father is waiting.

My Review:
When I realized that this book takes The Lord's Prayer and uses it as a floor plan of the House of God, I remembered hearing a similar sermon many years ago. Since the publishing date is 1997, perhaps my pastor used Lucado's book as a guide for that sermon. Good idea, I say!

Max Lucado takes an in-depth look into the most famous prayer. He breaks down The Lord's Prayer by words and phrases. He entertains with scripture and personal anecdotes which reminds the reader of the greatness of God.

Included is a chapter-by-chapter study guide with three sections for each chapter: Let Us Ponder, Let Us Prepare, and Let Us Pray. This book can be used as a personal devotional or for a group study material.

Thank you to Booksneeze for my copy.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Vanished by Irene Hannon

Private Justice (Book 1)

Reporter Moira Harrison is lost. In the dark. In a thunderstorm. When a confusing detour places her on a rural, wooded road, she's startled by the sudden appearance of a lone figure caught in the beam of her headlights. Though Moira jams on her brakes, the car careens across the wet pavement--and the solid thump against the side of the vehicle tells her she hit the person before she crashes into a tree on the far side of the road.

A dazed Moira is relieved when a man opens her door, tells her he saw everything, and promises to call 911. Then everything fades to black. When she comes to an hour later, she is alone. No man. No 911. No injured person lying on the side of the road. But she can't forget the look of terror she saw on the person's face in the instant before her headlights swung away. The person she hit had been in trouble. She's sure of it. But she can't get anyone to believe her story--except a handsome former police detective, now a private eye, who agrees to take on the case.

From the very first page, readers will be hooked into this fast-paced story full of shocking secrets from fan-favorite Irene Hannon. Vanished is the exciting first book in the Private Justice series: Three justice seekers who got burned playing by the rules now have a second chance to make things right.

My Review:
Moira Harrison has an accident one rainy night when she spots a lone figure with "terrified eyes" standing in the middle of the road. Trying to avoid hitting the woman, Moira swerves and hits a tree. A man appears and promises to help her, right before she passes out. When she comes to, there is no trace of the the terrified woman or of the man. Police seem to believe she imagined the entire experience and offer no help.

Haunted by those "terrified eyes," Moira contacts private investigator Cal Burke, who works with his two partners at Phoenix, Inc. where the motto is "Justice First."

I like the character of Moira. She often quotes ancient philosophers--a trick she's learned from her father. Cal, a widower, feels a guilt over the death of his young wife. He's not ready to date, but Moira catches his eye from the first look. Even though the romance between Cal and Moira develops slowly, the mystery is the main focus of the plot.

The villain is revealed at a pace that holds the reader's attention. In the end, it all makes sense. I give this one a thumbs up and look forward to the next in the series.

Thank you to Donna Hausler at The Baker Publishing Group for my copy.

Available January, 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Fourth Bear: A Nursery Crime

The inimitable Jasper Fforde gives readers another delightful mash-up of detective fiction and nursery rhyme, returning to those mean streets where no character is innocent.

The Gingerbreadman—sadist, psychopath, cookie—is on the loose in Reading, but that’s not who Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary are after. Instead, they’ve been demoted to searching for missing journalist “Goldy” Hatchett. The last witnesses to see her alive were the reclusive Three Bears, and right away Spratt senses something furry—uh, funny—about their story, starting with the porridge.

The Fourth Bear is a delirious new romp from our most irrepressible fabulist.

My Review:
Reading is a land where thumbs are never sucked (8) less Scissors-man, a Person of Dubious Reality (PDR) finds out. This second in the nursery crime series had me chuckling by page 13 and laughing out loud by page 14.

The characters are unique to any other book I've ever read. There's Jack Spratt (who eats no fat) and Mary Mary (who really isn't that contrary), and they lead the Nursery Crimes Division (NCD) along with Constable Ashley, a blue alien visitor, who speaks binary as well as twenty-three other languages. He can make suggestions to anyone whose hand he shakes!

Investigative reporter, Goldilocks is missing, and the NCD is on the case. The villain, Gingerbreadman, is a seven-foot tall homicidal maniac. You might remember his speed from your younger days ... "run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me . . ."

I'd sure like to have a car like Jack's Allegro. Inside the truck is an oil painting that changes with every dent and ding, while the car continually restores itself!

Note: contains some profanity.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Flight of the Earls: An Heirs of Ireland Novel by Michael K. Reynolds

It’s 1846 in Ireland. When her family’s small farm is struck by famine, Clare Hanley and her younger brother, Seamus, set out across the ocean to the Promised Land of America.

Five years prior, Clare’s older sister Margaret and her Uncle Tomas emigrated in similar fashion and were not to be heard from again. But Clare must face her fears as she lands in the coming-of-age city of New York. There she discovers love, adventure, tragedy, and a terrible secret which threatens to destroy her family and all she believes.

Flight of the Earls is the first book in a historical novel trilogy based on Irish immigration in the 1840s.

My Review:
The rough life during Ireland's potato famine is the setting of this historical novel. The plot moves at a steady pace, and although at times dreary, the reader has hope. A good bit of both Ireland's and American's history are woven into the story line.

Characters are believable. Clare Hanley,  a responsible, determined young lady manages to avoid terrible happenings--some, while the reader holds his breath. It's interesting to watch Clare weave in and out of life's struggles. Her father insists that Clare take her troublesome brother, Seamus, with her to America and Seamus stumbles toward trouble. Clare has her hands full.

I look forward to the second in this series, which will be about Seamus.

Discussion questions are included.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and B&H Books for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.