Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beauty to Die For: A Spa Mystery, by Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clarks

When Raven, a former supermodel who is hated by many, dies at the Palm Grotto Spa, almost everyone’s a suspect, almost everyone has a motive, and almost everyone is happy to see her gone. Juliette Taylor, a former modeling colleague who now co-owns a beauty company that makes skincare products, is at the same spa hosting a spiritual retreat, and is shocked by Raven’s death. But, since Raven had recently threatened to kill her, the police consider her one of the suspects, even more when it is discovered that Raven was poisoned by an ingredient found in one of Juliette’s skincare masks. Now Juliette, with the help of her friend Didi, Marcus (the love of her life), and a few others, must solve the mystery and find the real killer before the police close in on her and before the killer strikes again.

This novel has a few great things going for it: a nice cover, a good premise that gets the reader interested and that gives the expectation of a cozy, fun and enjoyable murder/mystery ride. It is told from different, very well written point of views that flow nicely from one character to the next. It has a very, very likable male lead, written with the perfect man in mind and it works. Marcus’ character was written so well; this is the kind of man every woman wants. The story has a nicely written romantic side for Juliette and her long lost love, Marcus, that was sweet, cute and very refreshing. I also really liked how well developed Crystal’s character was, as well as her part in advancing the story.

However, as well written as Marcus’ character was, Juliette’s was not. Although we got to know Marcus, his feelings, his emotions, and his thoughts, we mostly see Juliette as a business woman. Yes, we get to see her afraid, feel threatened, be in love, but not to the same extent as Marcus. And that is a shame because Juliette is the lead, the heroin, but by the end of the book you still cannot feel connected to her, at least not in the same way as with Marcus.

Also, I really didn’t like how dumb the lead characters were. In the beginning, Raven threatens Juliette and says something that baffles her. The reader, however, will know right away what Raven is referring to and seeing the leads racking their brains trying to figure it out is very irritating. Also, there are a few times that the secondary characters had to explain their conclusions to the leads as if they were children because they couldn’t understand. Again, the reader gets it instantly and it’s very easy to lose your patience with the main characters.

The story takes too long to advance; too much time is spent with information that, while valuable, was unnecessary in a book of fiction. Too much talk about counterfeit goods or counterfeiting in general, too many explanations about Marcus’ job, too much information about bombs, among other stuff. While I appreciate the fact that the authors did their research, they should have used that information for their benefit, not include it in the plot. The readers do not need a lecture on terrorist cells, or how a certain agency works, or what are counterfeit products and how big that problem is and how dangerous those fake products are.

Finally, I didn’t like the fact that, although it is a Christian fiction novel, there is no mention of Juliette’s faith in the beginning (or anyone else’s for that matter), and, all of a sudden, starting in the middle, it is mentioned constantly. And not only is Juliette a Christian, but also this other guy and another girl. As a Christian, I enjoy Christian characters, but as a reader, I expect consistency. If the characters are Christian, why hide it in the beginning only to talk about it nonstop later on?

The story is mostly good, but there are so many things that get in the way, making it long and sometimes tedious, making it advance almost in slow motion, that it disappoints. However, when it starts to round up nicely (around page 200), the action moves well, the pace moves quicker, the book gets a lot more enjoyable, the mystery gets more interesting and the time spent reading feels more validated. An ok start, a disappointing middle, and a very good ending.

2 3/4 stars out of 5. Almost a 3 but not quite.

*I received a copy of this book from B&H Publishing Group through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Fruitful Wife, by Hayley Dimarco

As Christians, we want to grow in the Lord. In our marriage, we want to produce fruit that is pleasing to our Father, and a blessing to our husbands. However, most of us find it hard, and sometimes even almost impossible to bear good fruit, mostly when things don't go our way, when we are mad at our husbands or frustrated with them. Why? The problem is our spiritual barrenness, our lack of the fruit of the Spirit. What is the fruit of the Spirit and how can we grow in it? Author Hayley Dimarco goes deep into the Word of God, its profound meaning, to bring us the answer.

The Fruitful Wife is a book full of wisdom. Each chapter covers a specific part of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Mrs. Dimarco, very simply, beautifully and to the point, explains what each part of the fruit of the Spirit means, what it is, what it isn't, how we can grow in it, and how we can apply it to our lives, and to our relationship with our husbands. The author draws from her life, her own experiences, failings and triumphs, which makes her more accessible, more like one of us. You will identify with her, and you will see yourself described in the pages of this book, and you will find hope for you, for your relationship with your husband, for your frustrations with yourself and with him.

This book has made a great impact in my life. It took me a while to finish it because I had to stop on almost every page to analyze, internalize it, meditate, write it down, go to the Word of God and meditate once more. It has helped me grow in the knowledge of what the fruit of the Spirit really is, why it is important in my life, in my everyday life, and how to see things through it in order to live a life that pleases God.

I highly recommend this book to anyone, married or single, because, although it does say "wife" in the title, it relates to every woman and it applies to every relationship in our lives —form our relationship with God to our relationship with our neighbors, not just our husbands. This is a really great, life changing book.

5 out of 5 stars

*I received a copy of this book from Crossway through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Submerged, by Dani Pettrey

Overview (from Goodreads): A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers.
Yancey, Alaska was a quiet town . . . until the truth of what was hidden in the depths off the coast began to appear.
Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a small town. She's returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.
Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn't appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge.
She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he's not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

Review: This one grabbed from the beginning, from the Prologue to be exact. It starts right in the middle of the action before settling to a slower pace as we discover the main characters and get a sense of who they are. This is a novel with the rare characteristic of having very interesting secondary characters. Of course, these characters will later become main ones in their own right, as the series progresses, but for now, they just keep you wanting to get to know them better.

However, as nicely written as the book and the characters are, it sometimes feels as if you’ve started reading book 2 or 3 of the series, instead of the first. The author brings forth many characters in a short time and assumes you know or remember (from a previous mention) who they are and that gets confusing. It’s very obvious that the author knows really well who her characters are, but does not realize that the reader is just getting to know them now. But this does not take away from the experience as whole; it was just a little confusing at first.

The novel is very interesting; the mystery, engaging. The romance makes you ache for the leads, for who they were 13 years ago, and for who they became. It is, in fact, a Christian novel that does not shy away from the mention of God and His grace through Christ. Because, you see, this is a fiction book with a great teaching on God's love, what it means to be a new creation in Christ, how He sees us, and how we can heal from our past hurts and from the shame we carry even though we have been forgiven. And that makes for a great read: entertaining, wise, fun and profound.

It is very well written; the plot, the characters, and the mystery will keep you wanting to read more, to go faster to get to the resolution. And in the end, I wanted badly to know what's going to happen next between Landon and Piper... This side story (and the others you see slowly forming) is enough to carry my interest on to the next book in the series, Shattered. So, yeah, the author did a great job of piquing my interest with a nice, sort of cliffhanger that did not leave me unsatisfied, but, sure enough, made me want to know what's going to happen next.

4 out of 5 stars

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange of an honest review.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection, by Edward T. Welch

Overview (from Goodreads): You can't bury it beneath big accomplishments, dress it up with fancy clothes, or drive it away in a shiny car. Shame lurks beneath the surface of anger and fear, beyond the reach of all the superficial remedies you've tried.

Shame has a long biblical history that starts with Adam and Eve's story of nakedness, rejection, and contamination. It was violently displayed again in Christ's crucifixion, and it has probably showed up in your life today.

But Christians do not have to tolerate lives dominated by shame and worthlessness, according to Edward T. Welch. We can learn to think differently and to live differently in the world that Christ purchased for us-a world where shame no longer controls our identity and relationships.

Welch guides readers on a journey through Scripture to discover the one enduring remedy for shame: the blood of Christ. By bringing shame into the light, where it can be addressed by the Bible, Welch helps readers to understand and receive the acceptance of God in Christ and experience the relief that comes with freedom from shame.

Review (in part): Through this book, Mr. Welch will help you dig deep, deeper, and deepest into your heart and soul to unearth the shame that’s hiding there, so that you may be able to acknowledge it, describe it, and confront it the right way. Just as the author wishes, this book is a safe place where you can identify shame, acknowledge it in your life and bring hope to it by receiving comforting words from God.

At first, it feels as if the author spends too much time describing and identifying shame, but I believe he does this based on his experience, knowing how difficult it is for us to acknowledge shame in our life, since we become masters at hiding it. The author goes to great lengths to help us understand the need for being clean and holy, and how this is something that, although we might try to do it by ourselves, God is the only one who can accomplish it.

You can find the rest of this review at, and while you're there look through this great website that has great movie, book and music reviews, among other goodies. So enjoy!

4.5 stars

I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.