Friday, February 28, 2014

TYNDALE BLOG NETWORK REVIEW: CRITICAL PURSUIT ~ JANICE CANTORE


Officer Brinna Caruso used to believe in God… before she was abducted, molested and left for dead at the tender age of six.  It wasn’t God who finally found and rescued her, it was a cop from the K9 unit.  At that very moment Brinna knew what she would do with her life, and with her rescuer as her mentor, Brinna succeeds in becoming a K9 cop early in life.  Her penchant for finding missing children soon sees Brinna dubbed the Kid Crusader, but those who love her fear that Brinna has an unhealthy obsession with bringing sex offenders to justice.   

Detective Jack O’Reiley used to believe in God… until a drunk driver killed his pregnant wife, Vicky.  As Jack sees it God abandoned him, and he is returning the favour.  Jack stopped living the day his wife did; he is only existing until the day of the driver’s sentencing.  After that, Jack has no desire to live – whether or not he kills Gil Bridges too depends on whether or not the Court delivers maximum sentencing.  The detective with a solid reputation is long gone, replaced by a washed out deadbeat other officers think should leave the force and be done with it.  Jack thought he didn’t care about life anymore, but he finds these opinions of others sting more than he would have expected.

External matters outside of their control force Brinna and Jack to become temporary partners, whether they like it or not – and neither of them like it.  Their new partnership is off to a rocky start, each distrustful of the other.  The only thing they have in common is that neither believes in God; as Brinna puts it, there are no fairy-tales in their squad car. 

Jack and Brinna’s uncomfortable partnership eventually turns into a tentative friendship, and their collective musings also lead to both of them questioning their stance on God.  Maybe, just maybe, Jack and Brinna can help each other find the way…

While on patrol, Jack struggles between his quest for personal justice and his responsibility to those around him, especially his partner - Could his death wish get her killed instead?  It is only once a copy-cat paedophile starts taunting Brinna that Jack starts focusing on something other than his own bitterness.  His new partner’s drive and determination slowly brings Jack back to life and makes him want to be the cop he once was; the kind of man Vicky would be proud of. 

Brinna has never denied that she is obsessed with tracking and catching paedophiles, she just never figured her obsession is unhealthy.  It is only once Brinna’s personal and professional life starts crumbling around her that Brinna is forced to re-evaluate her life.  Could her new partner be the key to finally finding a healthy balance?


Critical pursuit by Janice Cantore follows Brinna Caruso and Jack O’Reiley as they join forces to hunt down a paedophile.  While dealing with the reality of missing girls and a paedophile on the loose, Jack and Brinna are also each faced with personal problems that threaten to crush them both.  Their current circumstances force them to finally start answering the questions each of them harbours about God.  Cantore touches on relevant topics as the questions Jack and Brinna struggle with are legitimate questions many people, believers and non-believers alike, struggle with:  Why do bad things happen to good people?  If God is Almighty, why does he allow innocents to suffer?  Cantore subtly encourages the reader to contemplate these questions as well.

Cantore’s villain is everything you would expect this kind of villain to be.  I found it very hard reading the short chapters from his POV.  It made me so uncomfortable to be exposed to his train of thought.  Whenever a book makes you uncomfortable, it presents you with an opportunity to learn more – about certain subjects, about certain viewpoints and about yourself.  It is so disturbing to think that men like him truly exist; but it is a fact of life, and Cantore incorporated this truth skilfully to add to the intensity of the story.

I found it very refreshing that there is no hint of romance in this book.  I half-expected Brinna and Jack to fall in love, but that did not happen – to my delight.  Jack is still very much grieving his wife’s passing, and a relationship between them would not have worked.  Instead of a budding romance, we find a budding partnership and friendship – which was even better. 

Visible Threat, sequel to Critical Pursuit, is set to be released in April 2014.  I am glad we’ll get to spend more time with Brinna and Jack as by the end of the novel, while there is definite growth, neither of them are where they have the potential to be.  While I like that there is no hint of a relationship between them during this book, I also like the idea that a relationship between Jack and Brinna might be possible in the future.  While neither of them are ready for a romantic relationship just yet, I think they are a good fit for each other and I look forward to exploring where their relationship could go.

Tyndale House Publishers has graciously provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.  I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review, nor did this review lead to any personal gain other than the joy of being part of the Tyndale Blog Network. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Product Information:
Title: Critical Pursuit
Author: Janice Cantore
Pages: 362
Year: 2013
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN: 1414375530
ISBN13: 9781414375533

About the Author

Janice Cantore is a retired Long Beach police officer who now writes suspense novels to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired.  Her twenty-two years of experience on the force lend authenticity to her stories.  Visit Janice’s website at www.janicecantore.com.


Friday, February 21, 2014

REVIEW: SUBMERGED ~ DANI PETTREY

Bailey Craig first set foot in Yancey, Alaska at age 15.  Abandoned by her mother, the broken teenager was taken in by her aunt, Agnes.  In Yancey, Bailey came close to finding a home, and love, but seeking comfort in the wrong things and acting out to make Cole turn his back on her before he could realise for himself that she wasn’t good enough, soon destroyed Bailey’s reputation and any hope of staying in Yancey.  That’s how Bailey saw it, anyway.  She left after High School graduation and vowed never to set foot in Yancey again.  She has a tainted past, and the reputation to go with it.  Following the death of her beloved aunt, Bailey is forced to return to the small town she left behind; the town that symbolises her mistakes, regret and shame; the town where she is still labelled by some as Easy Lay Bay; the town where she left the only one who had ever touched her heart.  Scared and ashamed of her past, Bailey intends to lay low, get the funeral over with and get out of dodge.  


Cole McKenna, the oldest of the McKenna family, took over the role of patriarch upon the deaths of their parents.  Keeping his siblings happy and safe is his life’s mission.  Cole is prepared to face anything that might threaten his family or his town, but he is ill-prepared to see Bailey Craig, the girl who thoroughly broke his heart so many years ago.  Knowing Bailey’s reputation and how difficult returning to Yancey must be for her, the McKennas are determined to be friendly faces as she lays her beloved aunt to rest beneath the entire town’s scrutiny.  But Cole has no intention of getting too involved - he would never again give her the power to devastate him. 


Bailey expected judgment and resentment upon her return to Yancey, but what she receives from the McKenna family is, surprisingly, friendship; and while some townspeople still see the Bailey of the past, most can tell that Bailey is no longer the wild child she once was.  She has found the Lord and tries to live a life honouring to God.  As Bailey and Cole spend more time together neither can deny that their young love still lurks in both their hearts – but can Cole forgive Bailey for betraying him?  And more importantly, can Bailey finally forgive herself?

The McKenna family is dragged into mystery when their diving equipment is suspected of causing the death of a female diver.  Soon, however, it becomes apparent that the young diver was murdered – but why?  Suddenly Bailey’s intention to settle Agnes’ affairs and leave Yancey behind her for good has to be placed on hold when her knowledge of Russian-American history becomes invaluable to the case.  Could the Russian-American Trading Post Agnes ran and left to Bailey be at the centre of the danger?  When evidence suggests that Agnes’ death was no accident, Bailey knows she cannot leave Yancey before seeing justice served. 

Working with Bailey to solve the mystery, being a friend she so desperately needs (even though she would never admit it) and keeping the barricade around his heart intact might be the biggest challenge of Cole’s life - especially when Bailey’s life is endangered because of their search for answers. 


Submerged by Dani Pettrey is the first book in the Alaskan Courage series.  I started reading the series with Shattered, the second book in the series.  I enjoyed now reading the first and discovering how Cole and Bailey found love; so much so that I want to reread Shattered so that I can appreciate Bailey and Cole together.  I am completely taken with the whole McKenna family.  Pettrey does a good job of creating likable, though flawed and complex, characters.  The family dynamics are wonderful, and I can’t wait to read Gage and Darcy’s story in Stranded.  It was so hard to pick up book 1 first and not continue immediately on to Darcy and Gage’s story.  They thoroughly charmed me in Shattered, and I can’t wait to see more of their interaction.  And of course, Kayden and Jake’s story is the one I might be looking forward to most.  Such intense characters, those two! So many secrets to uncover…

The mystery in Submerged is intense!  Pettrey creates believable villains, and I feared for Bailey and the McKenna's safety several times.  The portions of Russian-American history were incorporated into the story without ever feeling like a history lesson.  I always say detail makes a story great, and Pettrey's detail greatly adds to the realism of the story and the mystery that keeps you turning the pages just as fast as you can.

Pettrey brings Alaska to life in a way few authors could manage.  I literally feel like I visited Alaska every time I finish one of her books.  And my favourite part?  The way Pettrey makes you feel.  Tears were falling as I shared every single emotion Bailey fought and felt.  At times it was hard to continue reading, feeling the weight of Bailey's guilt and regret.  I love how beautifully Pettrey uses Bailey and Cole's relationship to illustrate God’s love and forgiveness, and how Bailey comes to finally value herself as God’s daughter thanks to Cole’s gentle guidance.  


I was also part of every dive.  Pettrey makes me feel like I’m right there in the dark, ice-cold water, swimming alongside the McKennas – that’s how powerful her scenes are.  The best writers don’t tell you, they show you.  

Dani Pettrey is a very gifted writer and I could not be more grateful that I stumbled onto her work.


Product Information:
Title: Submerged
Author: Dani Pettrey
Pages: 320
Year: 2012
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN-10: 0764209825
ISBN-13: 978-0764209826

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Friday, February 14, 2014

REVIEW: THE CINDERELLA PROJECT ~ STAN CROWE

The Cinderella Project by Stan Crowe is the first book in the A Comedy of Love series.  It follows doctoral student Nick Cairn, who is writing his dissertation on the secrets of everlasting love.  Nick is engaged to what seems to be the perfect girl, and disillusioned by his parents’ apparent loveless marriage, Nick is determined to discover the recipe for a perfect marriage in order to secure the success of his own. When smart and sassy Moiré de Lanthe walks into his lab and informs Nick that she is his new research assistant, Nick’s happily ever after is put to the ultimate test.  

For reasons Nick is not willing to explore, he finds himself reluctant to let Moiré know that he is off the market; but when spending time with Moiré becomes Nick’s favourite part of the day, he must face the truth: He is very attracted to a woman who is not his fiancée – a woman he is now sharing hours and hours of romantic situations with; for his research, right?  

Moiré de Lanthe has spent a large part of her life watching her step-sister, Ella, toy with men before coolly discarding them.  Ella is strikingly beautiful and a master-manipulator – a deadly combination when let loose on the average man.  Moiré even lost her best friend to Ella’s man-eating-ways, and when Ella gets her hooks into the guy Moiré has been admiring from afar, Moiré vows to put an end to Ella’s endless scheming.  Moiré establishes herself as a steady fixture in Nick Cairn’s life, determined to help him realise that marrying Ella would be a mistake.

With his wedding date looming ever closer, and his suddenly neurotic fiancée repeatedly moving the wedding date up even more, Nick starts to feel confused and anxious.  The more time Nick spends with Moiré, the less certain he is that Ella is the girl of his dreams after all.  Where Ella is demanding and high-maintenance, Moiré is supportive and easy-going.  Where Ella is suspicious and confrontational, Moiré is fun-loving and comforting.  And is it his imagination, or is he suddenly noticing Ella having a roving eye?  Is his mind playing tricks on him, or is he finally learning truths about Ella that rose-coloured-glasses had kept concealed?

But how will Nick react when he discovers the truth - that Moiré knew of his engagement all along, and that she had been hoping he would call the wedding off?  Will he trust her motives when he realises she wants him for herself?  More importantly, being taught by his father from an early age that the mark of a man is how well he keeps his commitments, will Nick risk disappointing his father and failing the moral code he is determined to live by, by breaking the ultimate commitment to the one he once was so sure was the woman of his dreams?


I decided to read The Cinderella Project because I was in the mood for something light, and the Kindle edition was free on Amazon at the time.  I did not expect a fantastic read, but I was quite pleasantly surprised.  The book might not be perfect, but I found it enjoyable and just what I was looking for.  It was interesting reading a book from the hero’s point of view (though I wish there were chapters on Moiré’s point of view too), but I think this book would have been even better written in a third person narrative.  I enjoy knowing all the characters’ thoughts.  If I have to read a first person narrative, I prefer to read the heroine’s – someone I can relate to.  Having said that, it was quite refreshing experiencing a story from the hero’s perspective.

I have to say though, that as for the first book in the A Comedy of Love series, I did not find this book comedic.  In fact, I don't think I laughed once.  Also, I mentioned in my summary what Moiré's intentions are.  In the book it is supposed to be a shocking revelation near the end, but for whatever reason I made the connection as soon as Ella's "evil step-sister" was mentioned; I am sure most readers will pick this up relatively early too. 

I really like Nick and I had empathy with his plight.  I like that he is a good guy who sees the best in people, and who is trying to do the right thing.  Moiré is lovely as well, and I wish there was more of her in the book.  I especially like that even though she knows Ella is wrong for Nick, she never tempts him to cheat on Ella - she merely makes him realise that he is not truly happy with Ella.  Even though she deliberately places herself in Nick's life to stop him from making the mistake of marrying Ella, she doesn't go about it in a manipulative fashion.  Ella is the perfect antagonist - maybe too good of an antagonist. For the life of me I could not figure out why Nick was so stubbornly clinging to this relationship.  For the reader it is so obvious that Ella is a devious manipulator, and it is so frustrating to watch him reject Moiré's every tentative advance. 

I always find it a plus when details make a book believable.  I especially enjoyed details about Nick’s research and dissertation.  I’ve often said details make a book great, and I enjoyed the realistic inclusion of Nick’s studies.

While it's not one of my favourite books this year, The Cinderella Project is a lovely light read.  It would have gotten a three star rating if there had been more of Moiré, but as it is I was just a tad annoyed by too much Ella.



Product Information:
Title: The Cinderella Project
Author: Stan Crowe
Number of pages: 244
Publisher: Breezy Reads
Year: 2014
ASIN: B00930CIVC

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

CELEBRATING 200 POSTS

My 200th post is, shamelessly, a celebration!  



A very big thank you to every single person who has ever visited my blog, commented on or contributed to my posts.  A very special thank you to Erika, my best friend, bookworm buddy and most loyal reader.

Happy reading,
Nastassja

Thursday, February 6, 2014

REVIEW: HER PERFECT REVENGE ~ ANNA MARA

Revenge is sweet… or is it?
Christina Matteo had a humiliating prank pulled on her in high school by rich, party boy Bill Havenwood. It changed her whole life and she never forgot it - or him! Older, wiser and tougher, she meets him again years later and decides to get even. She wants revenge and comes up with a perfect plan. But things don't go her way when she stupidly crashes her car into his expensive sportscar while tailing him one day.

Not recognizing her, Bill blackmails the cash-poor Christina into helping him stay in his billionaire father's good graces by pretending to be his fiancée for one month. Christina decides to go along with his ruse. After all, who knows what dirt she can find out about the jerk from the inside?

But as Christina scams Bill and Bill scams his father, his father scams the both of them.  William Havenwood Sr. knows all about their phony engagement and begins to push the couple to marry for real in order to get them to crack under pressure.  And then Christina's little revenge plan begins to spiral out of control when she finds herself actually falling in love with her avowed enemy, Bill. It's enough to make a girl sick to her stomach! But can she really continue to go through with her plans to make him pay when she's so attracted to the creep? Christina is just stubborn enough to find out!


Her Perfect Revenge by Anna Mara is a really fun read.  I love the interaction between Christina and Bill, and also William.  The characters are interesting, charming and flawed.  The storyline is compelling and keeps you guessing.  The only thing that really annoyed me was the nicknames Bill and Christina give each other.  I just can’t deal with people calling each other “honey bunny” and the like.  It was bad enough when they were using such cringe-worthy nicknames to convince others they were in love, and even worse when they were using it for real.  The dialogue throughout the book is brilliantly done, except during the period Bill and Christina are in a relationship for real, which is such a shame.  The brief period the reader gets to see them in a relationship is, disappointingly, the worst part of the book.  The cat and mouse phase is much more interesting and satisfying – their chemistry and interaction during this time is magic.

I started reading Her Perfect Revenge right after finishing Mara's other novel, Why Romeo Hates Juliet.  I liked Mara’s writing style and unconventional plot structure.  However, upon finishing Her Perfect Revenge, I find myself a little disappointed that the basic premise was copied: Hero and heroine play each other, both are initially too stubborn to admit their true feelings for each other and a love-hate relationship unfolds.  About 80% into the book they finally admit their feelings for each other and experience a few days of romantic bliss.  Then the heroine messes everything up and the relationship comes to a screeching halt.  The hero and heroine both fall into a state of depression but refuse to communicate with each other.  Over a year passes before they meet again, the truth about the reasons behind their failed relationship comes out and they reconcile.  The first time I read this plot construction I thought it was fresh and refreshing; however, I will think twice before reading another of Mara’s books, as it seems she’s just sticking to this one basic construction.  I sincerely hope she finds a way to give her next book an unpredictable plot structure.

Overall I enjoyed this book as much as I did Why Romeo Hates Juliet, I just wish it didn't follow the same basic plot structure - that was a bit of a let down, and therefore unlike the other, this book did not feel original.  I have to admit, I would have liked this book better had I read it before Romeo & Juliet, as I found this story and these characters more likeable and compelling. If I had read this book first and the plot surprised me, it would have gotten a four star rating for sure.


Product Information:
Title: Her Perfect Revenge
Author: Anna Mara
Pages: 436
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services Inc
Year: 2008
ASIN: B003YOSCA4

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

FINAL DIVERGENT TRAILER

The new Divergent trailer has been released, and looks amazing!


Divergent is the first movie of a planned trilogy which is based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth.  The movie is set to be released

Previous trailers:




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Monday, February 3, 2014

ROWLING REGRETS PAIRING HERMIONE WITH RON INSTEAD OF HARRY

The Harry Potter fandom was rocked this weekend by it's creator, J.K Rowling's interview in Wonderland, which was published by the Sunday Times.  In it Rowling admits that she regrets pairing up Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, and that Hermione should rather have ended up with Harry Potter. 

Hermione Granger and Harry Potter

Rowling stated:

I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.  I know, I’m sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.


I completely disagree!  One of the things I love most about the Harry Potter series is that Harry and Hermione love each other very much, but not romantically.  I think it was so important to imprint that truth on young readers - that boys and girls can be friends without it having to turn romantic.  Harry and Hermione each became the brother and sister the other never had.  The strength and depth of their friendship without a hint of romance is truly one of the best plot lines of the entire series.  Besides, it would have been way too cliché for the Hermione and Harry to fall in love - also, it might have become the focal point of the story, and that would have been a shame.

I  also believe that Harry and Hermione are generally too serious together.  Ginny (Weasley, whom Harry married) is perfect for Harry, and I wanted them to get together from pretty early on.  She is exactly the calm he needs after the storm that was his youth. Ginny is grounded, dependable and safe.  Her love has always been there to keep Harry anchored.  It never smothered him, it was just easy and right and exactly what he needed.  He also knew it would always be there - he broke things off with Ginny before he left on his horcrux quest to protect her, and she was not only strong enough to not fall apart or resent him for it, she supported Harry.  In his absence she reconvened Dumbledore's Army and fought her own battles inside Hogwarts.  Ginny herself is pretty darn tough, and very deserving of Harry.  They make a great team.

Ginny Weasly and Harry Potter

Hermione, on the other hand, would not have been happy with someone serious.  She needs someone to lighten the mood and make her laugh.  For whatever reason, for her that person has always been Ron.  Ron might not be the perfect romantic hero, but this too is an important truth - someone doesn't need to be perfect to be perfect for you.

Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

Rowling got it just right the first time, and all she managed to do with this interview is make people question her credibility as an author.  She broke so many moulds and defied so many stereotypes with this series, and now she just went and ruined it all by this idiotic statement.  This is one regret she should have kept to herself; no good came of admitting it. 

Ron, Hermione and Harry after the Battle at Hogwarts
Harry Pottter And The Deathly Hallows (Movie: Part 2)

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