Review: Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate. Before We Were Yours. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2017.

For many of the novels that I review here on the Books and Biscuits Blog, I can honestly recommend them to anyone.  However, some books have more appropriate audiences than others.  This week’s book is an incredible and poignant read, but I would not recommend it to those people (including some in my own family) who are easily bothered by stories in which parents and/or children are hurt or lost.

Before We Were Yours is based on the true story of the cruel operations of Georgia Tann and her adoption agency that used its connections to adopt poor children from Tennessee to the wealthy, leading to one of the greatest scandals of its kind in American history.  The novel presents two interconnected stories, one set in Depression-era Tennessee and the other based in the present day.  As a federal prosecutor in Maryland, Avery Stafford has made a name for herself, separate from her family’s connections and father’s career as a senator.  When her father receives a cancer diagnosis, Avery returns home to South Carolina to assist him with his campaign, leading her to encounter a mysterious family history that she never knew.  During the Great Depression, Rill Foss and her siblings were kidnapped from their home on a Mississippi River shantyboat.  Their experience living at an orphanage run by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society ripped apart their family and changed their lives forever.  Bridging past and present, Rill’s story reveals her attempts to reunite her family and the powers at work trying to keep the truth hidden.

Acclaimed author, Lisa Wingate, writes a compelling story about the secrets of a past generation and the tragic story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage.  Her characters jump off the page, making this incredible tale come to life.

Overall, I was very impressed with Before We Were Yours.  Although it’s not released by the Christian publishers that I normally read and review, I depended on the fact that Ms. Wingate is a long-time author within the genre.  The novel does not have any outright Christian themes, but remains relatively clean in terms of language and theme.  The story itself would not be considered G or PG rated, although I was impressed at how Ms. Wingate did write it in such a way to leave much to the imagination, without any graphic scenes or descriptions.  From a historical perspective, the novel is absolutely fascinating and very well researched, with Ms. Wingate utilizing her characters to add an emotional depth to the facts behind the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal.  While I am not typically a person to read a book about children placed in a cruel situation, the novel provides enough resolution to that storyline through its contemporary plotline to leave the reader well satisfied with the novel overall.

Fans of Ms. Wingate’s previous work may find Before We Were Yours to be well worth reading.  Additionally, those who appreciate the split historical/contemporary storyline format may also enjoy this novel.

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Before We Were Yours

Review: Threads of Suspicion – Dee Henderson

Dee Henderson. Threads of Suspicion: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!  I’m happy to return with our regularly-scheduled book review this week, featuring Dee Henderson’s latest release.

Ms. Henderson follows her acclaimed Traces of Guilt novel with Threads of Suspicion, which continues the tales of the cold cases of Evie Blackwell of the Illinois State PoliceBased on Evie’s previous successes as a cold case investigator, the governor has appointed her to the new statewide Missing Persons Task Force.  Evie and the team are under pressure to produce results in these cases, even as they face tremendous odds and communities that are suspicious that these murders can ever be solved.  Along with her new partner, David Marshal, Evie arrives in suburban Chicago to solve two of these cases, one involving a missing college student and the other focused on a skilled private investigator.  When the two cases collide, Evie and David must use all of their knowledge and abilities to finally bring resolution to both local mysteries.

Filled with moments of suspense and faith, Threads of Suspicion marks the return of Evie Blackwell and Ms. Henderson’s world of crime-fighting and mystery-solving characters.  Fans of Traces of Guilt and Ms. Henderson’s other novels will be thrilled to see more high-stakes suspense from this acclaimed Christian author.

Overall, I was quite excited to finally have the chance to read Threads of Suspicion.  Ms. Henderson’s suspense novels are consistently among my favorites of the genre.  In general, the Evie Blackwell Cold Case novels have been nice, as they continue to build upon the world of characters featured in Ms. Henderson’s previous novels, especially those released by Bethany House.  As I have really enjoyed those main characters, I appreciate their periodic reappearances in these most recent books.  However, the character of Evie Blackwell sometimes comes across as being somewhat one-dimensional in comparison to the other characters in this novel, as well as those found in Ms. Henderson’s other published stories.  Threads of Suspicion features Evie’s case-solving abilities and the cases themselves, but does not include as much content focused on Evie’s relationship with the rest of the task force and other people of interest.  Instead, the strongest relationships and personal interactions exist between the other characters, leaving Evie to appear less interesting and well-rounded than her partner and more minor characters.  For fans of Ms. Henderson’s work, Threads of Suspicion functions as a continuation of the author’s high-caliber storytelling abilities in the suspense genre, independent of one’s attachment to the characters themselves.

Fans of Ms. Henderson’s work, especially Traces of Guilt, should definitely read Threads of Suspicion.  Additionally, readers who enjoy Christian suspense novels will find Ms. Henderson’s novels to be well-worth checking out in the near future.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Threads of Suspicion!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Threads of Suspicion

Review: Her One and Only – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. Her One and Only. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

It’s been quite a year for Christian contemporary fiction.  Earlier this year, Susan May Warren wrapped up the Christiansen Family series.  Now, acclaimed author, Becky Wade is releasing the final installment of the Porter Family series.

In the fourth and final novel of Ms. Wade’s celebrated Porter Family series, Her One and Only tells the long-awaited story of Dru Porter.  A former Marine and current executive protection agent (read: bodyguard), Dru has made her own mark on her profession, developing a name for herself away from her brothers and the world of the Whispering Creek Ranch.  Gray Fowler, the star tight end of the NFL’s Dallas Mustangs, is convinced that he is safe, in spite of mounting evidence of an active stalker.  When he is introduced to Dru as part of his security team, he can’t quite take her seriously.  However, as the threat increases, Gray soon finds himself fascinated by the pint-sized black belt at his side.  Can Dru keep Gray safe when she finds herself growing closer to the client she is obligated to protect, something that cost her years before?

Her One and Only offers a stunning and suspense-driven conclusion to the Porter Family series.  Dru and Gray’s story will leave readers cheering and anxious to see what Ms. Wade will come up with next!

I’ve been a huge fan of Ms. Wade’s books and the Porter Family series, in particular.  Throughout the novels, I always wondered how she would beat the excellence of her previous works and she has always come through.  However, I recognized that Dru Porter’s story would need to be absolutely unique and compelling to fit the character’s personality.  After reading an early release copy of Her One and Only, I can reassure readers that they will not be left disappointed.  Ms. Wade masterfully develops Dru’s story, while interweaving further details of the other Porter family members, especially Meg from Undeniably Yours.  This novel goes to prove why Ms. Wade has emerged as an award-winning author in the contemporary Christian fiction genre, as she once again pushes the boundaries of her own writing and character development to create a larger-than-life cast fit to order for a series set in the wide-world of Texas.

Fans of Ms. Wade’s previous novels, especially the Porter Family series, will absolutely want to read Her One and Only!  Additionally, readers who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction by such authors as Melissa Tagg and Susan May Warren or those with a Western/Texas setting will also want to try reading this novel.  Ms. Wade utilizes a very approachable writing style that makes for a relatively fast and light read.  In comparison to her other novels, this storyline has more suspense-driven action, due to the nature of Dru’s work as an executive protection agent and former marine.  It also incorporates some sports references, although non-sports fans will likely still enjoy the characters, too. :)

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of Her One and Only!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Her One and Only

Review: From Bags to Riches – Sandra Bricker

Sandra Bricker. From Bags to Riches. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2016.

Winter lingers here at the Books and Biscuits Blog. While the weather has been pretty cold outside, I’ve been enjoying more heartwarming Christian fiction from the comfort of home. :)

Sandra Bricker has delighted her readers with the Jessie Stanton series, including both On a Ring and a Prayer and Be My Valentino. Jessie’s story continues in From Bags to Riches, the final volume of the trilogy. While Jessie has found tremendous success with her clothing rental store, Adornments, she struggles to overcome her past. With the finalization of her “divorce,” Jessie has the opportunity to live the life that she wants, with the support of a wonderful group of friends and the new love of her life, Danny. However, her heart remains in Louisiana with her precious Grampy, the man who loved and raised her through it all. As he faces cancer, Jessie must make difficult choices that may further her career or allow her to spend more time with the one man who has always supported her ambitions. In the end, she must also discover for herself the One who loves her most of all before she finds the love she has been seeking all along.

Overall, I was thrilled to finally read the end of Jessie’s story in From Bags to Riches. Ms. Bricker has emerged as one of my must-read authors and the Jessie Stanton series is no exception. She continues to utilize her light-hearted writing style and engaging characters to tell a wonderful story of hope, sacrifice, and love. While much of the series focuses on Jessie’s career, this novel offers readers the chance to understand Jessie on a much more personal level. I originally anticipated that I would be laughing out loud through the book, as has been the case with the rest of the series. Instead, I found myself literally crying at the touching moments between the characters, which is quite the accomplishment for a non-crier like me. Fans of the Jessie Stanton will be very pleased with the resolution of the series and will be left wanting more of Ms. Bricker’s excellent writing in the future.

Fans of Ms. Bricker, especially the Jessie Stanton series, will definitely want to read From Bags to Riches. In addition to fans of Ms. Bricker’s humorous fiction, readers who appreciate a heartwarming story of family, personal growth, and faith will also enjoy this book. Together with the other novels of the series, From Bags to Riches offers a relatively fast-paced read that will make for a wonderful vacation read for anyone looking for a great set of highly-entertaining books.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Abingdon Press for the complimentary copy of From Bags to Riches!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – From Bags to Riches: A Jessie Stanton Novel – Book 3

Review: The Newsmakers – Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart

Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart. The Newsmakers. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

It is always exciting to receive an Advance Reader’s Copy of any book, but especially when it’s a novel that I would be thrilled to read even a year after its release.

Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart wrote The Newsmakers, a novel about a tenacious television reporter, Erica Sparks. After losing custody of her daughter to her ex-husband, Erica battles to overcome her own demons to succeed in her chosen profession. When she is noticed by the executives of Global News Network, she believes that her star is finally on the rise. On her earliest assignments for GNN, a series of convenient events place Erica at the center of national headlines. Soon, Erica’s reporting catapults GNN’s ratings to reach new heights, while Erica herself becomes a star journalist at the network. However, Erica and her colleagues soon find themselves in danger, as their investigation of the events that made them famous puts them in the crosshairs of some of the nation’s most diabolical criminal elements.

Ms. Wiehl and Mr. Stuart create a captivating story for the age of breaking news and celebrity journalists. As an experienced commentator on Fox News, Ms. Wiehl brings a particularly insightful perspective to the novel’s characters, many of whom work within the halls of GNN’s headquarters.

Overall, I was left with mixed feelings regarding The Newsmakers. With a decent, though slightly predictable storyline, the novel offered an interesting read in the suspense category. Likewise, the story and characters were relatively interesting and developed. In comparison, the writing style was quite poor. Within the advance reader’s copy (which is considered to be an uncorrected proof), the number of editing errors were plentiful. Regardless of those errors that could be considered minor, the novel’s writing style incorporated sentence structure and tense use that were entirely inappropriate for a fictional work. These were not the sort of errors to be corrected by the final version, as they represented the style of the authors themselves. As a person with extensive professional writing and editing experience, I found the writing significantly distracted from an otherwise decent story. In the end, I finished the book to see if my initial assumptions about the storyline were correct, rather than due to the authors’ writing efforts.

Fans of Ms. Wiehl’s other works may find The Newsmakers to be a worthwhile read. Personally, I am not sure that I will attempt to read any of her other books. Regardless of the writing style and grammatical errors, I was rather amazed at the amount of inappropriate language and content incorporated into the book. As a release of Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins, The Newsmakers would typically be considered under the inspirational/Christian genre. However, I did not find much of any content that would be appropriate for the genre or the readership typically associated with it. I would have much preferred that the novel included more Christian-oriented content and themes, rather than its extensive use of such themes as murder, abuse, alcoholism, divorce, and others that I typically chose to avoid by reading novels released by Christian publishers.

Special thanks to The Fiction Guild/HarperCollins for the advanced copy of The Newsmakers!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Newsmakers