Missing by Lisa Harris


Several months ago, I read Vendetta by Lisa Harris and felt I had finally found something similar to the FBI suspense thrillers I used to read (until they got weird).  Missing is Harris’s second novel in the Nikki Boyd Files and picks up just 5 weeks after Vendetta and follows Nikki and her team with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Missing Persons Special Task Force as an investigation unfolds.  

This investigation starts with homicides, but Nikki and her team race to find two missing people.  They are met with unusual circumstances that drag Nikki’s friend Tyler into the investigation.  Time is running out, and more people end up dead before the team gets a good lead.  The investigation reveals a complicated and tangled web of deceit and greed that leaves the reader in suspense through the end. 

Missing is a fast-paced, suspenseful book that kept me reading when I should have been doing other things.  I didn’t want it to end, but I couldn’t wait to get to the resolution.  I am most definitely reading the third installment next spring. 

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  These thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Happy Birthday to the Boy Who Lived


Harry Potter is one of the most famous and beloved characters of juvenile fiction, and today, July 31st, is his, as well as his creator’s, birthday.  J. K. Rowling crafted incredible tales of bravery, cunning, and heroism, but she has stated that the books’ main theme is death.  If you’ve had the pleasure of reading all seven books, you will agree with her statement.

I’ll admit that I bought into the conservative view that we shouldn’t allow our young people to read books promoting the fascination of wizardry when the books were first released.  I was teaching sixth graders at the time and saw them with the thick books at school, but I didn’t understand the hype.  I later read in The Read-Aloud Handbook that these books inspired a whole generation of kids to read thicker books than they had ever read before, but that didn’t squelch my misgivings. 

This past March, I took my children to the library over spring break, and my ten year old son asked if he could check out the first Harry Potter book.  Not having read it myself, I wasn’t sure if he should read it, but I agreed as long as we read it together.  Little did I know that this would begin a wonderful time of reading and discussion between my son and myself as we raced through all seven books in three months. We couldn’t believe previous readers had had to wait a year between books when they were first released.  We devoured them and returned to the library often, searching for the next book in the series and borrowing the DVDs to watch after we had finished each book. 

What I quickly learned in reading that first book is the stories are full of good versus evil, choices between doing what is right or what is easy, much like other popular book and movie series.  We are avid Star Wars fans, and I believe the “force” in the movies is just as magical as the spells in the Harry Potter books.  Many in my generation grew up with Star Wars and have no qualms in believing that Luke Skywalker is a good guy and should use the force to battle the Dark Side.  However, those same people (myself included) are frightened when our children want to read about a young wizard who uses magic to fight the Dark Lord.  I have read books and articles expounding ways to talk about Christianity as it relates to both Star Wars and to Harry Potter, and I discussed some of these with my son as we read.  

That being said, the Harry Potter books are some of the most exciting books I have ever read and are definitely the most interesting and enjoyable my son and I have read together.  We laughed together, and I cried at times as we followed Harry and his classmates through their years at Hogwarts.  In this coming-of-age series, Harry discovers who he is, makes friends and enemies, maintains relationships, suffers loss and humiliation, stands up for what is right, experiences joy, sadness, triumph, defeat, and love.  It offers lessons for children of all ages and even adults. 

Having read the books and loved them, my son and I were greatly disappointed in the movie versions, so don’t judge the books by the movies.  If you haven’t read any of the books, start with the first one and read all seven because the complete resolution to the problem in the first book doesn’t occur until book seven.  We have had difficulty finding any comparable books to read together since finishing the last Harry Potter book.  A new book came out today, and we can’t wait to read it.  

All Summer Long by Melody Carlson



All Summer Long is Melody Carlson’s second novel in her Follow Your Heart series and is perfect for summertime reading.  Tia D’Amico has grown up in her family’s restaurant, but she dreams of being a professional chef in a big city.   When her aunt from San Francisco calls her and asks her to help turn a boat into a restaurant and be its chef, Tia packs up and leaves her family behind for a new adventure.  

In San Francisco, Tia reunites quickly with a guy she had met years before at sailing camp, and he just happens to be the captain of her aunt’s boat.  Tia and Leo end up working together much more than either had planned as they ready the boat for their first guests.  The struggle Tia goes through is one that is familiar to many of us, and she handles it with grace.  I felt like Leo’s character could have been portrayed as stronger and more decisive when it came to his love life, but his confusion was evident as this was the only area where he appeared weak.  

All Summer Long is not classified as Christian fiction and does not contain many religious references, but it is a good, clean romance and a wonderful read for teen girls or women of any age.  I received this novel for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  

Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon


Sea Rose Lane is a delightful, contemporary romance set in the small, coastal town of Hope Harbor in Oregon.  Hannon wrote a novel prior to this one that bears the name of this small town and contains some of the same characters.  Each book can be read alone, but I enjoyed Sea Rose Lane so much that I wish I had read Hope Harbor first.

Eric Nash was on the fast track to becoming a partner with his law firm, working too hard to have a life outside the office.  When his firm laid him off, he was devastated and determined to find a new firm in which to fulfill his long-held career plans.  With plenty of time off, Eric decides to visit his dad in Hope Harbor, but receives a huge shock when he arrives.

BJ Stevens is a talented, young architect who gave up a lucrative position in a Los Angeles firm to become her own boss in Hope Harbor.  BJ has adjusted well to life in the small town and is making an effort to help the senior citizens around town as well as employing a couple of hard workers who were down on their luck. 

When Eric and BJ meet, tensions escalate and fireworks explode, but not the good kind.  Eric rear-ends BJ’s truck, and they can’t seem to do anything but argue for awhile.  Then Eric demonstrates his true character in helping others and is able to slowly befriend BJ.

Sea Rose Lane is not your typical romance novel.  I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of all of the characters and by the subplots that added richness and intrigue to the story.  The novel contains heartache and loneliness, suffering and despair, guilt and grief, but it also has love and joy, peace and contentment, friendship and forgiveness.  In this book, Hannon treats devastating losses with respect and dignity while allowing each character to cope in their unique ways.  Of course, the underlying message is to trust God and allow him to help you get through those losses, but this book never felt religious or preachy.

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review. 

Murder Comes by Mail by A. H. Gabhart 

About six months ago, I read Murder at the Courthouse, which introduced us to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane and the rest of the characters in Gabhart’s small town of Hidden Springs.  The first novel in the series was so interesting that I requested the second installment, Murder Comes by Mail, from the publisher.  This second novel was as well-written as the previous one, but an undertone of evil was more prevalent throughout Murder Comes by Mail.  

From the first chapter, Michael Keane has a sense of foreboding that terrible things are to come.  Who knew that saving someone’s life could cause so many problems?  What sinister game is the killer playing?  The mystery and suspense for Michael continue through the final chapter.  

The life-long friendship between Michael and Alexandra continues to hover between friends and something more, but they are both afraid of venturing into the unknown.  There is just enough romance to keep the romantic happy, but not enough to turn away those who have no interest in romance.  

My only complaint (if I can even call it that) is that I figured out who the killer was before the main character did.  I just researched the phrase “whodunnit” and learned that this is a genre of books and movies.  

I’m accustomed to authors who conceal the identity of the perpetrator until the climax, so I was surprised to be able to deduce who the killer was in both of Gabhart’s novels.  Now I understand, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Hidden Springs Mysteries series. 

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

My mother and I share a love for reading, and our tastes in books are extremely similar, so we often pass books back and forth.  My mom requested Irish Meadows by Susan Ann Mason from Bethany House, but then she didn’t have time to read it, so she passed it to me, thinking I would read it and write a review on it more quickly than she could.  I read it soon after, and I wrote one sentence of a review back in November, but that was as far as I got.  I have only really struggled this much to write a review one other time, and the two books are similar in how they affected me and in how lovely I thought the stories were.  I will (once again) attempt to put into words my feelings about the characters and plot in Irish Meadows

This historical fiction novel is set in 1911 in New York and revolves around the O’Leary family, who owns a horse farm on Long Island.  Gilbert Whelan grew up on the farm where his widowed mother worked as the O’Leary’s housekeeper until her early death, which left him to be raised with the O’Leary children.  Gil is ambitious, hard-working, handsome, and a gentleman, which makes him the perfect leading man and hero.  However, his position in the family but not of the family creates a desperate situation when he and one of the O’Leary girls share a mutual attraction.  Gil’s efforts to resist temptation and honor the O’Leary family are admirable and noble.  

Many of the problems in this novel stem from James O’Leary, the father of Brianna and Colleen and the owner of Irish Meadows farm, who has high expectations and an unyielding temperament.   James is an Irish immigrant who has worked hard to build his horse farm into a thriving business, but business has been poor lately, and James begins to look for ways to form alliances with families who have wealth as a means of saving his farm.  Nothing good can come from placing financial gain ahead of family members and their feelings. 

The O’Leary daughters are old enough to marry, but Colleen is extremely selective about whom she will tie herself, but she has no qualms about flirting with any handsome and wealthy bachelor.  Brianna, in contrast, flirts with no one and only has eyes for one man.  These two strong-willed women are forced to make decisions that will affect their family and their future.

Setting this novel on a horse farm provided ample opportunities for the characters to exhibit their true personalities.  The descriptions of strong and beautiful horses only added to the appeal of the lovely setting.  

The focus of this book is the struggle within each character to do what is right or to follow their heart’s desire.  What seems like the right thing to do is often not what is best for a person, rather it is what is expected of that person by their parents, society, or others.  There are also instances when what would have been the right thing to do must change because the circumstances have changed.  This book is beautifully and thoughtfully written, alternating point of view from each of the main characters, so that the reader has insight into each character’s inner struggle.

My mom and I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I hope I have done the book justice, and I apologize to the author and publisher for taking so long to write a review.  The second book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series has already been released, and the third is available for pre-order.  I am looking forward to reading A Worthy Heart (book 2) and Love’s Faithful Promise (book 3).

Silence in the Dark by Patricia Bradley

I only realized after reading this novel in its entirety that it is the fourth installment in Patricia Bradley’s Logan Point series.  Now I’m curious to know which characters were the focus of each of the previous books.  I could hazard a guess at two, but Silence in the Dark read like a stand-alone book and didn’t rehash each character’s background, so it could be any current or former resident of Logan Point. 

Bailey Adams is a strong-willed, independent woman who has run from her problems in Logan Point, Mississippi, to new troubles in Mexico.  She left behind a man who wanted to marry her while she pursued her calling to serve the rural people of Mexico through mission work.  A simple trip home and a favor to a friend turns into a nightmare as Bailey and one of her young students are pursued relentlessly. 

Danny Maxwell happened to be in the right place at the right time to help rescue Bailey, but she is just as resistant to his love as when she fled Logan Point two years prior.  Danny is determined to win her heart again, but he struggles simply to keep her safe.

I must confess that I was not “into” this book for the first two chapters.  (Perhaps the narrative would have held my attention better if I had read the previous books in the series and had already known the main characters. Or perhaps it was only my state of mind at the time.))  However, once I got past the beginning, the plot thickened and was full of twists, and the suspense kept me enthralled.  This book contains murder, mystery, romance, restoration, healing, searching, honesty, and finally peace.  

Silence in the Dark is an excellent work of fiction and took me into a country and culture in which I would not feel comfortable traveling but about which I enjoyed reading.  I find it fascinating to read about other cultures and the struggles they endure, and I would rather experience them vicariously through fictional characters than be subjected to fear and danger myself.  Until God calls me to serve him in one of these areas, I will continue to serve him in my home, my church, my school, etc.  

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.