Deadly Proof


This was a great book!  For the most part, it kept me company on a train ride to and from Toronto (because who wants to DRIVE to Union Station!?  Not this girl!!), so I read the latter half of the book in one day.  Awesome!

Kate Sullivan is a lawyer who’s just been tapped to be lead counsel in a “corporate cover-up lawsuit against Mason Pharmaceutical.”  She knows this case could make or break her career, but as the case unfolds, what she didn’t expect was that it could also ruin friendships, and even put her in danger.

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical because of a corporate cover-up related to its newest drug. After a whistleblower dies, Kate knows the stakes are much higher than her other lawsuits.

Former Army Ranger turned private investigator Landon James is still haunted by mistakes made while serving overseas. Trying to forget the past, he is hired by Kate to look into the whistleblower’s allegation and soon suspects that the company may be engaging in a dangerous game for profit. He also soon finds himself falling for this passionate and earnest young lawyer.

Determined not to make the same mistakes, he’s intent on keeping Kate safe, but as the case deepens, it appears someone is willing to risk everything–even murder–to keep the case from going to trial.

With characters that were well developed and engaging — some set up so you’d dislike them right from the start, and others that you just don’t see coming — Rachel Dylan crafts a story that “rivals a John Grisham novel,” or so says Dani Pettrey in a quote they used on the front of the book.  I’ve read Dani Pettrey’s books before and as a great suspense writer herself, if she sings high praises, I’m all in.  Another award-winning author is Lynette Eason, and her endorsement was printed on the back of the book.  How could I go wrong?

Well, I didn’t go wrong at all.  Pettrey and Eason weren’t kidding.  This book was fantastic from start to end.  It reminded me of the tv show “The Practice” that was on years ago, in the way things were described.  Granted, I haven’t seen it in years, but still — that’s the imagery it evoked.  I’ll absolutely be keeping my eye out for Rachel Dylan in the future, and with my new Amazon Audible subscription, maybe my books-to-read list can shrink faster and I can get there!

I highly recommend you give it a try!  And if you’re curious about the other authors I mentioned, check out Always Watching (Lynette Eason), book 1 in the Elite Guardian series (I haven’t read the others, though they’re on the 500-book-long list….), or Cold Shot (Dani Pettrey).

Have you read Deadly Proof?  What did you think?

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Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

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Unused Creativity is not Benign…


I’ve been listening to podcasts lately.  A good friend of mine kept sending me recommendations on iTunes, and since I spend an insane amount of time in my car every week (an hour each direction to work), and I’ve been getting tired of just listening to music (not that music isn’t amaaaaazing)…..

A couple have really hit me.  Like… punched me in the gut, and knocked the wind out of my sails.  I was driving along and life was all good, and the following words came out of Brené Brown’s mouth:  (I can’t remember if this was from her appearance on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey, or For the Love with Jen Hatmaker — I think it was For the Love, but listen to both anyway!)

Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame. We are creative beings. We are by nature creative. It gets lost along the way. It gets shamed out of us.

Shame has gotten in the way of so many things for me, as I’ve reflected on what that’s looked like over my years.  Some of them I am not ready to talk about yet.  I’m just not.

But creativity?  That, I can talk about.

See, creativity is a muscle.  You have to develop it.  And there’s skill involved in it.  It’s not just talent.  It doesn’t just happen.  It’s not something you either have or don’t.  Everyone has something they like to do that flexes that creative muscle.  Some of us bake.  Some of us cook.  Some of us write.  Some of us paint.  We take pictures.  We design rooms.  We write music or we play music.  We landscape yards.  We build bookcases.  We just…. create.

But when we try to create and we don’t like the result that comes out of it, it gets really real.  It gets even more real when someone else calls us out on it.  Even if they didn’t mean to.  Our creativity gets stifled by others.  It happens when we create something, and others don’t see the value that we do.  Maybe we baked something and it didn’t turn out great, and it didn’t get eaten wherever we took it.  Maybe, like several of my Paint Nite endeavours, we’ve painted something and it did NOT turn out like the example.  Maybe we haven’t opened the case of our violin (or other, more generic, musical instrument….) since February because we feel like we’ll never be as good as ___________.  (Comparison is the thief of joy ~ Theodore Roosevelt)  Whatever the case…. I can’t help but wonder… who are we being creative FOR?

If I’m being creative because I want to impress others, I’m doing it for the wrong reason.  But if I’m being creative — if I’m designing, painting, baking, capturing, and creating…. and if I’m doing it because I know that if I don’t, I’ll wither and shrivel under the weight of judgment, grief, rage, sorrow, and shame, I will thrive.

So….. this is why I’m here.

I’m flexing my creative muscles.

I was listening to Luvvie Ajayi on Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love podcast, and she was talking about how she got started as a writer.  She said that she jumped into the blog world when it was still called web logging, and she felt like she had to do it, because it was how she processed the world.  And that hit me too, because there have been many times that I’ve expressed my need to write to process.  I’ve also thought about wanting to write a book, but I’ve even verbally admitted that I’m too afraid no one will like it, no one will read it, and it won’t be successful.  Luvvie Ajayi started me to thinking, and then Brené Brown hit it home.  Who am I writing for?  Why am I writing?  I love this!  I LOVE this!  So why am I hiding behind the fear that no one else will like it, if I should be doing it because my soul needs it, craves it, and begs me to get stuff off my chest by clacking my keyboard?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  I don’t know where the niggling voice of shame comes from that says no one will like it if I hit publish, and I should just sit on my deepest thoughts.  It’s likely that they don’t all belong on the internet, but some of them do – many of them do – and I am going to be brave.

I am going to write more than book reviews.

I am going to say no thank you to the voice that tells me I’m not good enough.  No, that’s not true.  I’m going to be much more forceful with that voice.  It has no place here.

Hi, my name is Laura.
I’m a writer.
I’m a painter.
I’m a photographer.
I’m an artist.
I’m designing my own basement renovation.
I’m a baker.
I’m a cook.
I’m a musician.
I will stop hiding from these things that I love.
I am creative.
I will create.

 

Gracelaced ~ a review


Ruth Chou Simons is an artist and author who has written a stunning devotional that takes you through different seasons of the heart.  The tag line is “Discovering timeless truths through seasons of the heart.”

I haven’t done any part of the devotional yet.  There’s a part of me that rebels against the idea that I could start with fall, when I got the book, since the devotional starts with winter, and I’m just particular that way.  I like to do things in order.  Who jumps around books out of order?  That’s madness!  (Apologies to those of you who’d have no problem with it.  I actually kind of admire you!  I just can’t live like that, haha.)  But I digress.  I am, however, planning to start it the day that fall gives way to winter, and enjoy every moment of it.  The artwork is spectacular, and there are plenty of places for reflection, deep thought, and responding.  There are also accompanying scripture references for you to be able to “delve deeper” into each topic — topics such as dwell, ask, broken, masterpiece, pruning, new, rejoice, forgive, held, light, and peace.  I’m very excited to go through this devotional.

I highly recommend that you also check out Ruth’s website — https://gracelaced.com/.  There you can find journals, note cards, and prints — all featuring this stunning artwork.  Some of it may or may not end up on my Christmas wish list…. I absolutely adore word art.

You can order the book here or on Amazon.  If you get it, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I know I’m going to!  The art alone is worth the buy — paired with scripture to match each season?  I’m in!

 

On Love’s Gentle Shores | A Book Review


This book did the same thing to me that the first one in the series did.  It really, really, really made me want to visit Prince Edward Island.  The description of the Island, the red sand, the music, the kitchen parties……. For pretty much that reason alone, I jumped at the chance to review this book by Liz Johnson — On Love’s Gentle Shore’s.

It’s the third in a series set on Prince Edward Island.  I’ve read the first, The Red Door Inn, and enjoyed it.  I missed the second one though (I didn’t realize there had been one in between when I said yes to reviewing this one), and while this book can stand alone, I would suggest that you’d get much deeper character development for the supporting characters (Marie and Seth, Caden and Adam) if you’ve read the other two.  I missed the back story behind Caden and Adam, who are featured in this book as well — but I at least had Marie and Seth’s stories from having read The Red Door Inn.

This is a story of healing, love, and reconciliation.  It’s a bit predictable, but, aren’t most contemporary romances?  It’s a quick, easy read, but it made me smile in many places.

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

I recommend this book — especially if you have a yearning to check out Maritime life.  I also highly recommend it if you’ve already read The Red Door Inn or Where Two Hearts Meet (which I’m tempted to pick up to fill in the back story gaps).

Have you read Where Two Hearts Meet? What did you think?

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

The Case for Christ | A Movie Review


Movies based on books.  Some of us love it, some of us hate it.  I, personally, have rarely read the book when they get turned into movies, so I’m fine with it.

The Case for Christ is another such example.  When I first became aware of the book, it sounded interesting enough, but I was already firmly a believer in Jesus based on what I’d learned growing up, and as a teenager I felt I had no need to read it…. because there were other things taking up my time.

Fast forward 15-20 years (I can’t really wrap my head around that, gosh…), and here I am, sitting writing a review on the movie version of the book.  Like I said, I haven’t read the book.  But I know many people who have.  I know many people for whom the book was life-changing.  Either that book, or many of Lee Strobel’s other books… perhaps I should read them?

But I digress, I’m here to review the movie.

The quote Strobel makes right at the beginning of the movie really hit me — “The only way to truth is through facts.  Facts are our greatest weapon against superstition, against ignorance, and against tyranny.”  Now, I was aware of the book going into watching the movie, and I knew that the movie was about a journalist’s journey from atheist to believer, and so I saw the quote as fantastic foreshadowing on the part of the writers.

What I didn’t know was that the whole journey — the whole reason Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Jesus in the first place — was because his wife had become a Believer after a near-death experience with their daughter, and he thought she’d lost it.  Naturally, since facts and reason are so important, he thought he could reason her out of it.

I learned a lot in this movie — facts I didn’t know existed.  It was very well done, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s proof to me that even the most staunch of objectors can come to faith, and it really highlighted something I’ve believed for years — that it also takes faith to not believe.  If you can look at all the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, and still not believe that He is who He says He is, then that takes faith too — faith that despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise, this simply isn’t true.  Personally, I’d rather put my faith in Jesus.

I hope you’ve either had a chance to catch this movie in theatres, or that you’ll see it now that it’s been released on video.  No matter where you are in your journey, I believe there’s something in this movie for everyone.

Screener link was provided courtesy of Mongrel Media and Graf-Martin Communication, Inc.

The Two of Us | A Book Review


This book, while predictable, was a good read.  I enjoyed it, as I have both of Victoria Bylin’s other books I’ve read:  Someone Like You and Together With You.

After two broken engagements, Mia Robinson is done with dating. From now on, she’s focusing on God and her goal to join an international aid organization as a nurse practitioner. But when her 18-year-old sister, Lucy, calls with an invitation to her Vegas wedding, it throws a wrench into Mia’s plans.

Jake Tanner has recovered from the injuries he sustained as a police officer–on the outside. Inside, he’s yet to heal from losing his partner in the tragedy, but finds some solace in keeping an eye on her young adult son, Sam, who’s asked him to be best man at his wedding.

Mia expects a mess when she arrives to sort out the situation with Lucy, but she wasn’t expecting Jake, who views the marriage a little differently. As Jake’s and Mia’s lives slowly become more intertwined, could his courage and her caring heart be enough to bring them a lifetime of healing?

I loved the sister dynamics written in between two very different women — Mia and Lucy — who love each other fiercely anyway.  I thought that Victoria Bylin did a beautiful job writing Claire’s character — someone battling Alzheimers Disease, and the effect that can have on the person and those around her.  It sounds like Bylin has personal experience with the disease, and I have a new sense of compassion built in after reading Claire’s character.

I also really enjoyed that throughout the book, Mia is battling through the decision whether she wants to look for love again, or whether she wants to join an international medical aid organization and pursue her passions.  I enjoyed the character’s trust that she’s good without a relationship, because she has God.  I am in that place myself, but where I found that we (Mia and I) differ is that I don’t have prospects in front of me, but who knows what my future holds 😉 ?

I recommend this book as a good beach or hammock read.  Check it out, or any of Victoria Bylin’s.  And let me know what you think!

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

All Saints | A Movie Review


You can watch the trailer for this movie at http://www.allsaintsmovie.com/.

All Saints is a faith-based film put out by Sony and Provident Films that looks at the inspiring true story of a salesman turned pastor named Michael Spurlock.  He’s assigned to a small church in Smyrna, Tennessee, that has a regular attendance of about a dozen people.  His goal?  To get the building ready to be sold.  The building sits on a prime piece of land that developers would love to get their hands on.

The problem?  When he gets there, he finds that a group of Burmese refugees, along with the dozen or so people already at the church, really need the church, and he struggles with the idea that he has to just shut it down and let it be sold.

If I’m honest (which I try to be…), I’ll admit that I don’t typically enjoy Christian movies.  I often find them pretty cheesy, and not relatable.  But this…. This was a great movie.  It struck a chord with me personally, having been involved in helping Syrian refugees on their arrival in my city, and being someone who believes that profit isn’t everything — especially when it comes to the welfare of fellow human beings.  I think the timing of this movie is poignant — it should be out in theatres in the next couple weeks.  With what’s going on in the news and the world around me lately, it was sure lovely to watch what faith, loving like Jesus, perseverance, persistence, and trust can accomplish.

Maybe I’m just hearkening back to my love of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I also really enjoy John Corbett as an actor, so when I saw that he had the lead role, I figured it couldn’t be that cheesy.  I was pleasantly surprised, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

To stay up to date about more Christian films, and when they’re arriving in Canada, check out faithfilms.ca

I was given a screener link to view this film courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. in exchange for my honest review.

Under the Summer Sky


I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book to start with.  It took me a few chapters to be able to see through how much I really didn’t like the antagonist and was annoyed by her, before I could actually get into the plot of this book.

Granted, contemporary romance isn’t typically my favourite genre, so you’ll have to take my words with a bit of a grain of salt, I suppose.  I prefer historical fiction and Westerns, and so this was a bit of a one-off.  I picked this book because it’s set in Savannah, Georgia.  A few years ago, I went to Savannah for a week on vacation and I honestly think I left a piece of my heart there.  It’s SO beautiful, and idyllic, and replete with absolutely stereotypical Southern charm — plus, the history is rich (and I’m a nerd like that), they have pirate stories, and they have dolphins.  I was hoping to be brought back to my Savannah trip with this book.  And in many ways, I was.  If you’ve been to Savannah, this book will bring back memories.  If you’ve never been, I suspect it will make you want to (and I highly recommend that you do).

But I digress.

Once I got past how much I disliked the antagonist (though, to be fair, she’s set up instantly to be disliked, which is usually the point of having an antagonist — so Melody Carlson hit her mark on that one) I did really enjoy the book.  I read it very quickly, which is also not typical of me — but I wanted to find out how it ended.

By the time I got to the end, the only real criticism (and that’s too strong of a word, I think) I had left for this book was that I think it came to a conclusion too rapidly.  Another 10-20 pages could have drawn some of the details together a bit better without feeling like the book came to a crashing halt.  I remember getting to the last chapter, and realizing that the book was 20 pages shorter than I’d initially though because there’s a preview to another book at the back, and realizing that there was no way all the details could be tied up to my liking in like 8 pages.  I suppose it’s a compliment if you just don’t want the book to end and it’s come to that inevitable point too soon, right?

At any rate, here’s the press material for “Under a Summer Sky” by Melody Carlson, which I recommend if you’re looking for a light, quick, airy, summer romance novel:

High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Savannah, house-sitting and managing an art gallery for a family friend. The house is luxurious in a way that only old money could make it, and the gallery promises interesting days in a gorgeous setting. Yet it isn’t long before her ideal summer turns into more than she bargained for: a snooty gallery employee who’s determined to force her out, a displaced adolescent roosting in the attic, and two of Nicole’s close childhood friends–who also happen to be brothers–vying for her attention.

With a backdrop of a beautiful historical city, incredible architecture, and even an alleged ghost or two, combined with the opportunity for romance . . . anything can happen!

Bestselling and award-winning author Melody Carlson invites readers to spend the summer surrounded by beauty and tantalizing possibilities for the future.

I see as I look at Amazon for the press material that Melody Carlson has a line of historical fiction as well — that’s where my heart loves to read, so I wonder — has anyone read any of her historical fiction novels?  Do you have any to add to my gigantic ‘to be read’ pile?

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Source

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Heart on the Line


Two years ago today, actually, I wrote a review on my first Karen Witemeyer book.  It was SO good!  Well, my second Karen Witemeyer book was no different.  I’m not usually a “devour a book in 30 hours” kind of reader.  Granted, it IS summer, and I AM on vacation, but I digress — it usually takes me at least a week to knock one off.

I loved this book.  So very much.

Witemeyer has a knack, as far as I can tell, for crafting beautifully spunky, independent, resourceful, and clever young female characters who don’t actually need the men they come across, but are sure glad to have found someone who complements their lives nicely.  Given that she’s writing books set in the late 1800s in Texas, it’s refreshing and I love it.  The characters are easy to relate to, and they draw you in almost instantly.

There’s enough suspense and “oh no!  Now what’s gonna happen!?” in this book that I honestly could not stop reading.  I read while walking with it a couple times if I had to switch rooms for something (I don’t recommend that, folks…. it’s a trip hazard), and on the second last night of my vacation, I told my mom “I’ll get up when I get up — I’m gonna finish this book!” with about 130 pages left.  I didn’t actually finish that night, as I didn’t want to sleep away my whole last beach day, but I was sad that I had to stop.

I think my favourite part of this book was the telegraph courtship — it’s like online dating before online dating was a thing!

Apparently this is the second “Ladies of Harper’s Station” novel, so I’ll have to check out number 1 and add it to my “wish list” on Amazon — which is where I go to grab one book at a time whenever I’m not quite there for free shipping.

Here’s the synopsis for this book:

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of Westerns or historical fiction, but absolutely if you’re a fan of spunky, witty writing that’ll draw you in and won’t let go.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

High as the Heavens


Oh my stars.  I know I start a lot of book reviews with the words “oh my stars” because I just don’t think a book can be topped, and then, sure enough, it is — but this one.  Oh my stars.

I confess, because I read a fair bit, and my books come at me for free, sometimes I forget who wrote what, and the lines between authors and book names blur.  That happened with this one.  I saw this book in a list of choices, and I saw Kate Breslin’s name, and, knowing that I’d read a book of hers before, but thinking it was a different book, and I got very excited.  Her other book I’ve read, “Not by Sight,” I found I didn’t fall in love with right away.  It definitely grew on me and I LOVED it by the end, but because of how long it had taken me to get into it, I was disappointed when I opened up High as the Heavens and saw that Kate Breslin and Sarah Sundin are not the same person.

But.  This book.  Like I said.  Oh my stars.  I couldn’t stop.  I read the first 2/3 of it in one sitting.  I was so hooked.  I don’t know if it was the time period, or if it was the World War 1 setting (World War historical fictional romance always gets me), but this book had me from page 1.  The drama and the story all built in with the intrigue and suspense and the secrets and the danger …. I don’t want to spoil any little tiny bit, but I want to tell you so much, all at the very same time!  I laid on a couch at my parents’ while on vacation and read this book for the majority of a chilly, rainy Alberta afternoon.  I couldn’t/wouldn’t stop, and I highly recommend that you pick it up for yourself and see why.

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve’s most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she’s en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?

Source

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.