Welcome, book lovers! It’s time for another Fast Five Review Roundup. And I have quite a variety for you today. 🙂 I hope you find something that piques your interest!
Review #1 ~ Two Ways Home (Sondra Kraak)
If you like your historical romance with a healthy dose of banter, you’ll love this one. Mary and Luke grew up together in Pine Creek, and he’s never been able to resist teasing and pestering her, so they’ve got the kind of established friendship that makes the banter even more fun. Luke’s been away from Pine Creek for the last five years, but from the moment he returns, it’s as if those five years never existed. Well, almost; Luke can’t help noticing that Mary’s moved out of girlhood and into womanhood…
Sondra Kraak hits exactly the right tone with the banter, but there’s plenty of heart in this story, too, particularly as Mary and Luke begin opening up to one another and sharing more than their customary banter. Mary’s doing everything humanly possible to prove to her father that he doesn’t need to sell the dairy, and Luke’s still hiding the reason he left Pine Creek with no intention of every calling it ‘home’ again. Not to mention the reason he returned to Pine Creek at all—an arrest gone wrong that’s now under investigation. They both need to rethink the idea of ‘home’—when to let go and what’s worth holding on to. And there’s a little bit of suspense, too, as the town gears up for the election of the first sheriff—a position Luke refuses to even consider—and Mary keeps finding honeysuckle blossoms left for her in odd places.
It’s all happening in Pine Creek—fun, heart, romance, and a dose of suspense. What more could you ask for?
Luke stepped in front of Mary, blocking her view. “Are you done playing? I was just beginning to listen.”
“Wipe that pretend pout off your face. If you’d not been so enraptured by your conversation with Cecily, you could have been listening longer.”
Luke laughed. “Do you always say exactly what you’re thinking?”
“Isn’t it refreshing?”
“Not always. Biting one’s tongue can be a virtue, too.”
“Maybe it can be someone’s virtue, but not my virtue.”
Review #2 ~ Panama Deception (Jennifer Haynie)
If you like your romantic suspense on the gritty side, this could be your next read. There are some pretty tangled webs in this plot and a few characters to meet, but if you keep your wits about you in the initial chapters, you’ll settle into the story pretty quickly. Although by settle, I mean on the edge of your seat—don’t go thinking you’ll be getting comfortable!
It all begins with a property transaction that suddenly becomes more complicated than anyone wanted—like kidnapping complicated; like international incident complicated. There are three different parties with an interest in what’s happening, including the CIA and Jihad of Light, and we get various points of view from both protagonists and antagonists throughout the story, but this was easy enough to follow, and I thought it added well to the tension in the story. Previous relationships between various members of these three groups (of both a romantic and non-romantic nature) add yet more layers of tension—some of which are yet to be resolved (in the sequel Loose Ends releasing 6 March).
The writing was strong for the most part, but there were a few times when the dialogue felt just a little scripted, particularly between the hero and heroine, Jabir and Alex. There is a prequel short story (Orb Web) which explains Alex’s connection to one of the primary antagonists, Hashim al-Hassam, but the history between Alex and Jabir was often referred to as though the reader already knew what happened between them, which I found a little frustrating at times. And I’m still not clear on why Alex was disgraced, but maybe I was just too focused on the suspense to catch that explanation. Overall, a good read for those looking for a Christian romantic suspense with plenty of grit.
He thought about his options. He could call Melanie. Or text her. Better yet, he could go directly to her room and tell her in person.
Something, anything, to get her away from the danger.
He couldn’t. They had her room wired. Her phone? They’d hear her end of the conversation, and she’d be bound to ask a lot of questions. And texting? Out of the question since Ed could see all texting from his cellphone.
He was powerless.
The best he could do would be to watch over her.
Hopefully, that would be enough to help her survive.
Review #3 ~ The Evaporation of Sofi Snow (Mary Weber)
I might not be the target audience for this duology, but that didn’t stop me from getting sucked into the world of Sofi Snow, her brother Shilo, and the enigmatic Ambassador Miguel. I can only imagine how much more this series will appeal to the YA audience it is targeted at.
Seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow is the best there is when it comes to coding and gaming, and her twelve-year-old brother is her live player in the FanFights—a half virtual reality, half live action series of games played out before the whole world in a Roman coliseum style arena. But if you don’t know the first thing about gaming and computer coding, don’t worry; neither do I, and it won’t interfere with your ability to become involved in the story. Besides which, gaming is only one small part of this story as Sofi makes the journey to the technologically advanced planet of Delon, determined to rescue her brother and bring him back to Earth.
This isn’t a stand-alone novel—you’ll definitely want to read the sequel Reclaiming Shilo Snow. The characters are colourful, strongly portrayed, and endearing despite their brokenness, and there is an underlying passion in Weber’s writing that energises the story. I can’t wait to find out how the story plays out.
* Note: this series is written for the general market, and there are instances of the word ‘pi**ed’ used by characters on occasion.
“Sof,” one of the triplets said. “I think we found something.”
She frowned and peered back at Shilo, who suddenly let loose from the wall and swam toward the edge of her window. He was heading for a small cleft in the rock. Corps 1 and 24 followed.
“It appears someone’s interfering with Corp 24’s gamer.”
Sofi zoomed in on the guy. “What do you mean?”
“I mean they’re not in control of him or his systems at all anymore. They’ve been overridden.”
What? She scrolled through the override code while keeping her voice steady in her brother’s com. “Hey, Shilo, I need—“
The player was already on top of him. “Blasted heck, Shilo, move!”
Review #4 ~ Love in Three Quarter Time (Rachel McMillan)
If you’ve ever wanted to go to Vienna but been unable to afford the flight, this book’s your ticket. On the other hand, it could just make you that much more desperate to go! Either way, it’s worth picking up this novella if you’re after a romance that will capture your imagination as well as your heart. I’m talking about “the kind of romance that stretched beyond someone’s lips on her neck or hand in the crook of her arm. The kind that trickled over the rooftops of an age-old city and spun it into a song. The kind of that she found in dusty books and old stories.”
Evelyn is a delightful character, and the romance is absolutely sigh-worthy. I don’t want to say more than that, because part of the romance to this story (in the non-relationship sense of the word) is in the way the story unfolds. So, so satisfying. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to book…
Crystalline snow danced a languorous waltz in midair before dissolving on the ground with a fleeting kiss. Evelyn was filled with something—an ache, a longing for a place she was meeting for the first time.
“I think we’ll get along,” she whispered through the window pane before retreating back to her bed and pulling the quilt tightly to her chin.
Review #5 ~ Weaver’s Needle (Robin Caroll)
While I enjoyed the overall premise of this novel—two recovery specialists being pitted against each other in a race to find a map that would locate the legendary Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine—the story itself didn’t hold my attention the way I wanted it to. I think expectations can impact your response to a book, and I went into this expecting a suspense—something I felt like I didn’t get until the end. Mystery, yes; some threats, yes; and the initial tension between the two main characters, yes; but overall it moved at a leisurely pace, and I wasn’t turning the pages to see what happened next until toward the end of the novel. And if I’m going to be completely honest, the romance felt a little clichéd, not to mention a rather fast about-face.
There were also two aspects of the plot that troubled me a little. First of all, while Landry (the heroine) is a Christian, Nickolai (the hero) isn’t, and there’s no real indication that he becomes one beyond calling out to God to save Landry in last minute desperation and subsequently being thankful. If a character is going to experience a conversion, I prefer it to be less circumstantial than that. Secondly, there were scenes throughout the novel that depicted Native American mystical rituals—something which wouldn’t bother me in and of itself, except that the story seemed to give too much credence to the mysticism, particularly at the end.
**VERY MINOR SPOILER**
Most peculiarly, when Nickolai calls out to God to save Landry, it is actually the shaman Gopan who appears to him in a vision and intervenes. It is also the shaman who seems to oversee the final scene and give his blessing, which struck me as particularly odd for a Christian book, given what the last scene depicts.
This one was more of a miss than a hit for me.
That was Landry Parker? His nemesis? Somehow he’d imagined her to be more—more—masculine? Nickolai couldn’t exactly wrap his mind around that dark-haired, blue-eyed spitfire being a successful recovery specialist. She looked more like she belonged on a magazine cover than sitting beside him as his biggest competition in the state.