Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion

Authors: Ted Dekker & Rachelle Dekker

Series: Millie Maven #1

Publisher: Scriptuor Publishing

Release Date: 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A perfect book for middle grade readers that is filled with action, adventure, faith and so much more.

Millie Maven is twelve years old and lives with her aunt and uncle after her parents were killed in an accident. They treat her horribly by making her clean the house and sleep in the attic with only a suitcase that holds her clothes and all her possessions. On the night of her twelfth birthday, she is taken on a grand adventure to a land far away with a mysterious school for Gifted students called FIGS. While she is there, she discovers more to life than she has been told and the truth is far more wonderful than she could have imagined.

The first book in the Millie Maven series starts off with action, adventure and empathy for Millie. It is clear from the start she has had an incredibly difficult life and nothing she does is ever good enough. When she meets Aggie and is taken on the greatest adventure of her life, nothing will ever be the same. Millie is the perfect protagonist for middle grade readers. The book reads quickly and is easy to follow all the way through. I got these for my 10-year-old son but wanted to read them first since I have been a Ted Dekker fan for many years. If you have read any Dekker before, especially the circle series and paradise novels, you will see references to those in these books. One thing about Dekker is he ties little pieces of other novels in together. It won’t take away from the current story if you haven’t read the others, but it will add something to it when you put them together. I know this was written with his daughter but to me it is just another Ted Dekker novel with his voice and his writing style. Fans of his and young readers will thoroughly enjoy reading this book. 

A Sky in the Storm

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series: Ember in the Ashes #4

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: December 1, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The final edition to the Ember in the Ashes series delivers all the feels! Fans of the series will not want to miss out on this one.

Back for one more adventure, Laia of Serra, Helene, the Blood Shrike, and Elias Veturia who is now the Soul Catcher, battle together to stop Commandant Keris Veturia and the Nightbringer from ruining what is left of the empire. After years of battling each other, Laia and the Blood Shrike work together to stop the upcoming apocalypse and destruction of their people. Thinking that her love, Elias, is gone and doomed to a life as the Soul Catcher, Laia loses hope that she will be alone forever. Elias stays in the Waiting Place helping the souls that come to pass on and find peace. It will take all of them working together to keep the Nightbringer from destroying their world and all they hold dear.

As with any series, the last installment is highly anticipated. A Sky Beyond the Storm is no different. As I started reading, I found myself holding my breathe through several chapters, asking what was going to happen? Would my favorite characters make it out alive? Each new chapter brought a new intensity and had me invested deeper in the story. With multiple viewpoints, readers can see much of the story than if only a single viewpoint had been provided. The connection between the different characters and the way they changed over the course of the four books was beautifully done. Enemies became friends, families are torn apart, and nothing is as it seems. The short chapters make it a quick easy read even at over five hundred pages.

Several moments/characters I will take away as my favorite from the series, one such is the saving, “Emifal Firdaant.” Once you read it, you will understand that one just resonated with me and every time I read it my heart fluttered. Of all the characters, I really felt a connection with Helene and Harper, something about the way the characters were written really struck a chord with me and even as secondary characters part of the time they really carried the story. Overall, this was a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful series. So many great moments and creativity that many novels lack. This world that was built will draw readers in and give them a great escape they may need in the crazy world we live in. I recommend this for older YA audiences as the themes get a little heavy and mature at times.

The Big Three

Author: Michael Holley

Publisher: Hatchette Book Group

Release Date: December 1, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Celtics fans and fans of pro basketball in general will enjoy this documentary.

How did the Boston Celtics go from being one of the league dominating teams throughout the 1980s to a general contender in the 1990s to their lowest point in history in the early 2000s only to regroup and rebuild in a single year to win the NBA Championship?  Michael Holley delivers an extraordinary documentary of how the Celtics were rebuilt over time centered around Paul Pierce and how they obtained Kevin Garnett from the Timberwolves and Ray Allen from the Sonics to become the new Big Three that would bring another championship to Boston!

While this book is about basketball, its not really about playing basketball.  Its about the business of NBA basketball and how general managers build a championship team and a coach that was able to take three superstars and help quash egos so that they played as a team and not three individual stars.  The Big Three gives a lot of insight into how trades are done, drafts are managed, and the personal life of coaches and players.  It’s easy to just think of basketball, but there is so much that goes on in the front office that is mind blowing.  I loved reading about how this process got started and how difficult it was for the players, coach, and manger when the fans weren’t happy but they knew that they would have it locked in for the next season. 

There is some strong language throughout the book featured in direct quotes from players and coaches.  I recommended this book for mature audiences that are lovers of the NBA and Celtics fans.

Spin

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Series: Captain Chase Novel #2

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A little bit sci-fi, a little bit mystery, and a whole lotta personal issues make up this Captain Chase novel.

Captain Calli Chase is back in a new adventure that kicks off with murder!  Shortly after a murder is discovered, a rocket launch is hacked and NASA is forced to destroy the rocket carrying necessary supplies to a space station.  As an investigator, Calli has been at the heard of it and is discouraged to find her twin sister is apparently involved.  But when her truck is hacked, likely by her sister Carme, she follows the GPS coordinates to a location where she indeed finds her.  But not everything is as it seems.  Calli finds herself agreeing to be upgraded in the program that she and her sister have been a part of only to wake up a few days later with new skills that she will have to master in her sister’s destructive wake of acting as Calli while she was out.  As the investigation heats up, she realizes that she is in for more than she bargained for as it takes her to not only the White House to brief the president, but even outside of earth’s atmosphere!

Let me start off by saying that I haven’t read the first book in this series and I think I am missing quite a bit of backstory.  From what I can tell, this one pretty much picks up where the first one left off, so most of the character development for Calli, Carme, and many of the supporting characters had already happened.  That said, the story line is pretty intriguing.  Being NASA, there are a lot of acronyms thrown around.  They are all explained, but with so many, readers may continually have to backtrack to remember what they meant throughout the book or just give up and continue the story line.  One thing is certain, Calli is insecure compared to her twin sister and she likes to eat.  There was so much description of food from different fast food restaurants that I started to want to go pick up an order or two.  The book is pretty clean for the most part and I feel that fans of science fiction will probably enjoy this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Stranger at the Door

Author: Jason Pinter

Series: Rachel Marin Thriller #2

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Far better than the first in the series! Readers will not want to miss this spectacular thriller!

It has taken a long time for Rachel Marin to get to a good place. After years of hardships and very difficult situations, she is finally happy adapting to life as a single mom and working alongside the local police department. When one of her son’s teachers is murdered and she is called into help on the case, her perfect little world starts to crumble. After the investigation begins, she discovers an email the teacher sent to her shortly before he was killed. As she is working with the department to find those responsible, an old friend she never expected to see again shows up in her life and threatens to reveal all she knows of Rachel’s past. While she is trying to help determine who murdered her son’s teacher, he is being recruited by someone looking to use her son to keep her in line if she gets too close to discover the truth.

As I picked up this book to start reading it, I thought about the first in the series, Hide Away. It was good, but not that memorable and nothing I planned to really read again. So with that in mind, I decided to give the author another shot and I am sure glad I did. I flew through the pages of this story and loved every minute of it. I had such a connection to the characters and was pulled in quickly. The way Pinter used Rachel being a mother and willing to do whatever it took to protect her family coupled with the antagonists using her son against her was so beautifully written. As a mom, I was drawn into the story by this and couldn’t put it down. The plot was great, characters were engaging, and it is an overall great thriller.

For me, one of the best aspects was the last fifty or so pages, the way the story wrapped up played out exactly as it should, nothing felt forced or unbelievable. The characters had a very natural way of talking and reacting to whatever situation they encountered. Really, there isn’t much negative I can say about this other than I’m sad it’s over, I could have been happy reading more and more. Hopefully there will be another in the series coming out and another after that. There is some harsh language, violence, and sexual content that makes it for mature audiences only. With that being said I would recommend to those that enjoy a fast-paced thriller and a long weekend with nothing to do but sit and read. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Pudge and Prejudice

Author: A. K. Pittman

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Set in fictitious Northfield, Texas during 1984, this story takes readers on a journey similar to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!

Elyse Nebbitt and her family have just moved to Northfield, Texas and she is faced with finding her place in a new school. Elyse has always had trouble fitting in, being overweight hasn’t helped either. Her beautiful older sister Jayne quickly fits in and starts dating Charlie Bingley, one of the stars of the football team.  While Elyse can’t help but being attracted to Charlie’s best friend, Billy Fitz, Elyse is too insecure in her own body to believe anything could develop in that relationship.  Her new friend, Lottie, helps Elyse to accept herself for who she is and what she can become.

Pudge and Prejudice was just a fun read. I enjoyed the way the characters were laid out with different personalities. There is someone in this book for everyone to relate to in one way or the other. Pudge is bigger, a little insecure at times, but overall a fun character to read about. The rest of her family and friends she meets in her new town make for a well-rounded cast of characters that will leave readers smiling and nodding their heads at the different antics they get into. Her sisters are very different than her in size and attitude at times and the romance aspects of the book progress at a rate that is very relatable for teen angst and drama, although I will say that the end relationships did make me wonder if it was something that would really happen or just playing out well for the sake of the story.

Charlie and Billy are brought into the story to meet the girls by helping the family move in and one thing leads to another as our story progresses. The pace of the story was perfect for teens and anyone wanting a quick read that doesn’t require a lot of deep thought. Overall, this was a fun enjoyable read that I recommend to young readers, probably more suited for girls than boys, but the sports aspect of the story would appeal to male readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Check out our Q & A with the author!

Lethal Intent

Author: Cara Putman

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A medical/legal thriller that gets darker with every twist and turn!

Caroline Bragg is excited to start her new job as legal counsel for Praecursoria, a research lab working on cutting edge therapy for cancer treatment. Along with the new job, her relationship with Brandon Lancaster has never been better. Just when she thinks things can’t get any better, her world comes crashing around her as the job she thought was so perfect starts to show all is not as it seems and with each new stress at the job her relationship with Brandon becomes more and more strained. Brandon has been running a foster home and one of the kids in his care, Bethany, is very sick and a candidate for the new research. When the treatment doesn’t show the same results for Bethany as others and things don’t add up as they should, Caroline starts to wonder if things in the company are not as good as she and others were led to believe. The more she digs, the more she discovers the danger she and others are now in and wonders how much she might lose to expose the truth.

I have always loved Cara Putman’s writing style. She is a lawyer and her legal thrillers have always been top notch with so much passion, emotion and realistic content the story flies by. Lethal Intent is more of a medical thriller than legal thriller to me; the story revolves more around the sick kids and research than anything legal and I think that slowed it down for me. I didn’t feel any real tension in the story until almost halfway through. At that point though the story did fly by and was much more enjoyable, just not the usual fast paced thriller I am used to from her. The characters each had moments to shine, I enjoyed Caroline’s tenacity and commitment to follow through in finding the truth. Brandon was determined to do anything he could to help those he cared about. This is the kind of story that takes patience and the pay out at the end is good if you stick with it and don’t give up after the slow start. I recommend this to readers that enjoy medical/legal thrillers with a little romance thrown in the mix.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Tidewater Bride

Author: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Frantz always does her research and it shines through in Tidewater Bride.

Selah Hopewell thoroughly enjoys matching other people up, especially the tobacco brides that arrive into the new colonies.  Unfortunately, there are more men than there are available women, which she has no intent to marry as she is taking care of her family’s shop.  When she meets Xander Renick, who is married to his business, can she find him a mate?  Or will she find what has been missing in her life?

Laura Frantz never ceases to amaze me in the amount of research that she puts in for each of her novels.  Tidewater Bride is no exception.  From the true era language to the description of scenery and activity, it all rang true.  I love how she makes me do my own research to determine the accuracy of hers, which has always showed to be true.  I also love that the book doesn’t center on romance but has action to move the story along.  Readers of early frontier colonial era stories will love this one as well!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Bone Canyon

Author: Lee Goldberg

Series: Eve Ronin #2

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Release Date: January 5, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Smart and cunning homicide detective Eve Ronin is back to solve another case and this one puts her up against the most dangerous odds she has faced!

Dealing with the aftermath of wildfires in the Santa Monica Mountains, homicide detective Eve Ronin and her partner are called when the remains of a woman are found. Eve is the youngest homicide detective in the Los Angeles county Sheriff’s Department and not many are happy with the way she got her position. Eve doesn’t let anyone’s opinion deter her from doing her job and solving the crimes in front of her. The remains turn out to be from a missing person case from over six years ago and each turn in the new case exposes more horrors and more bodies. Eve is now up against the most dangerous odds she has faced and isn’t sure who she can trust.

This is the second installment in the Eve Ronin series and am finding myself more and more in love with this character. She reminds me of Tracy Crosswhite by Robert Dugoni, and that’s a big comparison since that is my favorite series by one of my very favorite authors. More and more male authors are writing lead female detectives and doing a bang-up job of it. Eve is a tough, gritty and determined detective that isn’t afraid to do the hard things to solve a case. Even though she is up against a department that isn’t for her, she knows she is where she belongs and is willing to do what it takes to prove herself. I loved the way she took whatever is thrown at her and get right back up, but also doesn’t pretend to be superhuman and show no pain. The times when she is with her partner and they banter back and forth were perfect, along with the investigation moments with the anthropologist, Daniel. Something about the way those two relationships were written really made the story flow well. I am still not a fan of Eve’s mom, she just annoys me, which I think that is the way she is supposed to be written so in that sense it is a job well done. There is a fair amount of language and sex throughout, none of it graphic, but enough to make me say it is for a mature audience only. I would recommend this to readers that enjoy a fun suspense thriller that will take no time to breeze through.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

All That We Carried

Author: Erin Bartels

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tension coupled with redemption makes this a stellar tale!

It’s been ten years since Olivia and Melanie’s parents died in a car accident while they were away on a hiking trip.  Ten years since the sisters have really spoken to each other.  With reconciliation on her mind, Melanie asks her sister to join her on a hiking trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Olivia reluctantly agrees but does so on her terms; she picks the place and plans out the whole adventure.  While on the trail, the sisters face uncertainty, accidents, and disasters, which forces them to evaluate their lives, choices, and beliefs.

From the onset of the book, Olivia and Melanie could not be more polar opposite.  Olivia is a prosecutor that is a driven, goal-oriented, planner who has mapped out her life for any possible contingency that could occur.  Melanie is a free-spirited life coach with a YouTube following that believes the good in every belief system while trying to shut out the bad.  Needless to say, tension starts on the first page and doesn’t slow down until the epilogue.  These two women face all sorts of challenges in the wilderness that force them to rely on each other.  I love that both had to reflect on their view of spirituality to truly discover the truth about themselves and each other.  There are some twist and turns that will take readers for quite a bit of a ride, but those with siblings will likely find they have had some of the same arguments.

Bartels description of the beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and that of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Porcupine Mountains State Park easily drew me in.  I’ve not been to Michigan, but I’ve read a lot of stories set there and until now have really not had a desire to go.  The descriptions of waterfalls and that of Lake Superior made me research the park while I was reading the book and have now added it to my bucket list!  The pictures were so beautiful, and I never would have known about it!

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a great story and like to see relationships restored!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.