Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Christian Chapters – An Amish Market: Four Novellas by Various Authors

An Uplifting, Varied Collection of Amish Love Stories

An Amish Market: Four Novellas
by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin, Vannetta Chapman


Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 416pp
ISBN-13: 978-0529118684

Related Links:
Amy Clipston’s Website
Kathleen Fuller’s Website
Kelly Irvin’s Website
Vannetta Chapman’s Website


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Publisher Synopsis

All the color and variety of a quaint Amish shop in a charming collection of novellas by four of your favorite authors. Feel free to come in and browse!

Contains:

Love Birds by Amy Clipston
A Bid For Love by Kathleen Fuller
Sweeter Than Honey by Kelly Irvin
Love In Store by Vannetta Chapman


My Review

An Amish Market is the second collection of Amish novellas I’ve read offered by Thomas Nelson. And, already, I can tell you that I will eagerly anticipate each and every similar subsequent publication.

If you’re unfamiliar with Amish fiction, or have perhaps read only one author, Thomas Nelson’s Amish fiction collections are the perfect primer to introduce you to the genre and some of its talented crop of writers. Each collection generally contains four short works grouped together around a common theme — this time, the marketplace.

Though each of the stories can be read alone, if you are familiar with an author’s work, you’ll find that you may get to revisit a community or follow-up on a character. For instance, Love Birds by Amy Clipston ties in with her Amish Heirloom series and takes place during the same timeline as The Forgotten Recipe. We get a glimpse into the lives of Seth’s mother and his sister Ellie, and Lloyd, one of Seth’s childhood friends. This story of trust, both in God and in one another, has Amy Clipston’s usual calm, gentle feel.

Katherine Fuller’s A Bid For Love takes place in her community of Middlefield. The story begins at the Middlefield market where, over butter, we are introduced to Hannah Lynne and Ezra. Both are a bit older and each is reserved. Theirs is definitely not your usual tale of courtship, but that’s part of the fun. As I got to know them, I enjoyed Hannah Lynne for her quirky spirit and Ezra for his kindness.

With Sweeter Than Honey, Kelly Irvin takes us back to Bee County to catch up with Will Glick, two years after the events in The Bishop’s Son, her second book in The Amish of Bee County series. I was glad to look in on Will to find how his story turns out. Irvin squeezes so much into the short format that you’ll feel you’re getting a full novel. In Bee County, she’s created a tangible world that, by its landscape alone, is set apart from other Amish communities. She takes such time and care with her characters that they nearly leap from the page. In watching them make choices along their paths, you’ll learn something. This time, the lessons are about forgiveness and trust, as well as finding one’s place in the world, according to God’s perfect timing.

“If you hold on to bitterness with one hand and anger with the other, you have no hands available to extend…No arms for embracing a life lived in love with another.”

Wisdom like this, combined with the authenticity of Bee County and its community members, is making Kelly Irvin one of my favorite Amish writers.

The collection ends with Love In Store by Vannetta Chapman, set in Nappanee, Indiana. If you’ve never tried Amish mystery, you’re in for a treat. David Stoltzfus, a recent widower, is new to town. When strange things begin to happen at the mill where he works, he’s asked to investigate. David, who despite life’s turmoil is hopeful and positive, finds an unlikely partner in bitter, grumpy Stella. As they uncover the mystery, Chapman reveals the life experiences which have shaped Stella’s attitude. Inspired by John 4:18, Love In Store illustrates how “there is no fear in love.”

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

5 of 5 Hearts. An Uplifting, Varied Collection of Amish Love Stories.

Though these four Amish marketplace stories have commonalities, things are kept fresh by each author’s unique fingerprint — her own “flavor”. Sitting down with An Amish Market is like cozying up by the fire while sipping from different cups of tea or nibbling on four kinds of chocolate. All different, yet all delicious. In case the stories weren’t delightful enough for you, there are recipes at the back of the book to satisfy your sweet tooth.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Christian Chapters: A Heart’s Obsession by Colleen Coble

An Abbreviated Peek into Post-Civil War Love Trouble

A Heart’s Obsession
by Colleen Coble


Series: Journey of the Heart (Book 2 of 6)
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 98pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718031657

Related Links:
Colleen Coble’s Website

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Publisher Synopsis

Will Sarah’s journey west lead her back into the arms of the one man she can trust?

When her father succumbs to a long illness, Sarah Montgomery is freed from duty to family. At last she can be with the love of her life, Rand Campbell, who has gone out west to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Sarah and her younger brother Joel make the arduous journey filled with hope.

But at Fort Laramie, the reception Sarah meets isn’t what she had hoped for. Her friend Amelia is thrilled to have her, but Rand seems to be in the clutches of Jessica DuBois, the scheming daughter of the post commander.

Sarah resolves to remain at Fort Laramie and try to win Rand back. But things will get tougher before they get easier . . . especially when her ex-fiancé Ben Croftner arrives in Wyoming, obsessed with having her back in his arms.


My Review

(My review of A Heart’s Disguise, book one in the Journey of the Heart series, is here.)

A Heart’s Obsession continues the story started in A Heart’s Disguise. If you haven’t read the first book, I wouldn’t recommend jumping straight into book two. That said, unavoidably, much of what follows may be a spoiler. Consider yourself warned!

When Sarah Montgomery’s father dies, she is freed from her familial duty and may go after the man who ‘got away’ — Rand Campbell. Bolstered by her father’s death-bed blessing, Sarah leaves Indiana and heads west to Fort Laramie in pursuit of Rand.

As I said in my review of book one, this series is a six-part serialized publishing of Colleen Coble’s previously out-of-print early works. I’ve read novellas before, but honestly, none as brief as these. It’s hard to comment on a fragmented piece of a novel. When reviewing complete works, I like to reserve judgment until I’ve read the whole thing. Here, unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. So take that into consideration.

My initial impressions gathered in part one are so far confirmed by part two — the narrative conflict continues to be soap opera-like melodrama. New characters are introduced and drawn in similar fashion to the familiar faces, without considerable depth. The good folks are virtuous and the bad guys are villainous. There is no moral ambiguity. Motivations, if shared, tend to be told rather than shown.

Once again, you won’t find any closure, only a continuation of the drama with another abrupt break in the story. Whether readers will be inspired to continue the story, I can’t guess. Sadly, I was not motivated to pick up the next volume. From what I can gather — and I’m no Coble expert — this series is not Coble’s best work, so it’s probably not the best place to start if you’re unfamiliar with her work. Still, if you like Christian historical fiction ‘lite’, and you happen to find these stories at a low price-point in digital format (which I suspect would be more suitable than print distribution for this series), I’d say pick one up, give it a go, and see for yourself.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

3 Hearts - Final

3 of 5 Hearts. An Abbreviated Peek into Post-Civil War Love Trouble.

I had hoped that the preceding piece, A Heart’s Disguise, would be a good set-up for the longer story to come. However, reading a second fragmented segment of a whole left me less than inspired. While these stories are likely to find favor among devoted Coble fans who may read them for the sake of completeness, this new printing and format is not likely to gain the author a new audience.

(That said, this is a long-time, beloved author, and I wouldn’t make assumptions about her current work based on her early work. Nor would I assume that the remainder of Journey of the Heart doesn’t improve upon its first two parts.)

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Kids Corner – Spotlight and Giveaway: I Don’t Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheaney

I Don’t Know How the Story Ends
by J.B. Cheaney


Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Length: 288pp
ISBN-13: 978-1492609445

Starred Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews

Related Links:
J.B. Cheaney’s Website
Publisher’s Website

 

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Publisher Synopsis

Our story begins in a dusty little town in California, a bustling place called Hollywood…

Isobel Ransom is anxious. Her father is away treating wounded soldiers in France, leaving Izzy to be the responsible one at home. But it’s hard to be responsible when your little sister is chasing a fast-talking, movie-obsessed boy all over Hollywood! Ranger is directing his very own moving picture… and wants Izzy and Sylvie to be his stars.

Izzy is sure Mother wouldn’t approve, but scouting locations, scrounging film, and “borrowing” a camera turn out to be the perfect distractions from Izzy’s worries. There’s just one problem: their movie has no ending. And it has to be perfect – the kind of ending where the hero saves the day and returns home to his family. Safe and sound.

It just has to.


My Review

Never before has a first-person narrative has grabbed my attention and secured my sympathy as quickly as that of Isobel Ransom. In the opening paragraph, she sets the scene, lending a palpable immediacy to her story:

The first I heard of Mother’s big idea was May 20, 1918, at 4:35 p.m. in the entrance hall of our house on Fifth Street. That was where my little sister ended up after I pushed her down the stairs.

With her wry wit and passion for reading (immediately established by a mention of Jane Eyre as her “new most-favorite”), I quickly fell in love with Isobel. And not far behind came an appreciation for her cute, funny, and often bumbling, little sister Sylvie.

Fittingly, I began reading I Don’t Know How the Story Ends on an airplane. While sitting in that small cabin in the sky, I was transported to a by-gone era as the text allowed me to witness the Ransom girls traveling by train with their mother from rainy Seattle to sunny California. You see, Isobel’s life changes when her father joins the World War I effort overseas. And since the dreary autumn Seattle weather does little to make their waiting for his return more tolerable, their mother scoops them up and heads to her native California to visit her sister.

When the family reaches Hollywood, it’s like they’ve entered another dimension. Everything is much different from home. In fact, the still young movie town feels a bit like the wild west — full of mystery, adventure, and even danger. And, thanks to her Aunt’s unpredictable stepson Ranger, Isobel is in for more escapades than she could even have imagined. The two, often with Sylvie in tow, go traipsing about town, and it’s not long before Ranger sweeps Isobel into the magical world of film. As they make their own silent movie, she learns much about film techniques and even more about herself and the world around her.

The seriousness of the World War I backdrop is offset by the energy of early Hollywood. Cheaney’s writing is descriptive enough to bring things to life, while lean enough to keep the tale moving right along. Not only are the characters well-drawn (each is given his or her own back story), they are likable. The novel adeptly explores many sensitive topics: war, family dynamics, pain, loss, grief, and healing. Most importantly, it is told with honesty and nothing is trivialized. And within the story, just as with a good film, there are scenes that will remain etched in your memory long after you’ve reached the end.

Ranger says of film that “stories have to have a balance, you know — a yin and a yang.” With both pathos and humor, I Don’t Know How the Story Ends achieves just the right balance.

 — Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 of 5 Hearts. A Historical Coming-of-Age Tale of Family, War, Destruction, and Healing.

I Don’t Know How the Story Ends succeeds on several levels. Cheaney’s prose is both descriptive and economical. With likable, well-drawn characters, the novel explores sensitive topics with honesty and realism while providing enough comic relief to keep the tone from becoming too heavy. Middle-Grade historical fiction at its best.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Sourcebooks and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

** READ AN EXCERPT **

While we waited to cross the street, Ranger swerved his head and gave me another of his piercing stares.

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

I looked but could not tell what I was looking at. Like a gigantic top hat, it stood about twenty feet high, as big around as a house, with a wooden platform circling it like a brim. The cylinder was painted with low rolling hills, trees, and blue sky. A couple of workmen near the back of the platform were fixing a tree in place. They took no notice of us as we walked up to the edge.

“It’s called the panorama—­they just finished it a couple months ago,” Ranger explained. “The platform here stays in the same place, but the background moves. Just the opposite of a carousel.”

I couldn’t see the point. “What’s it for?”

“Shooting road scenes and chases. If you put an auto right here”—­landing on the platform with a hop—­“and a camera there”—­pointing to the ground beside us—­“you can shoot the car in place while the background rolls along behind it. So it looks like the car’s moving. Sennett used to shoot all his car chases on the real street, but he kept getting in trouble with the natives.”

“It’s delicious,” Sylvie said breathlessly, quite overwhelmed.

I was skeptical. “It’s too big to move.”

“Oh yeah? I’ve made it move by myself—­that is, me and a bunch of the neighborhood kids. One night we snuck under the platform and lined up along one of the struts inside and started pushing. It takes a little muscle, but once you get it started… I’d show you now if I could, but I’ve got something important to do.”

He jumped off the platform. “Wait here.” With no more instruction than that, he ran around the curve of the panorama and disappeared.

“Well!” I exclaimed. “How do you like that?”

Sylvie seemed to like it fine. “He’s the wonderfulest boy I’ve ever met.”

We found a pair of orange crates to sit on and were debating that point a few minutes later when the wonderful boy reappeared in the company of an older fellow. The stranger appeared to be about fifteen or so, with a bony face and straight brown hair that might have been cut with a pair of garden shears. He carried a broom over one shoulder.

The two of them stopped about ten feet away from us. Dragging on a cigarette, the older boy looked me up and down with gray eyes as pale as dimes. It was the height of rudeness, which I was just about to mention when Ranger asked him, “Well?”

“Yep,” the other boy said. “Good eyes, good hair. Can she act?”

“Haven’t asked her yet.”

That did it for me. I jumped up and folded my arms and stamped my foot like an overtired child who’s been told she can’t have the last cookie. “What is this about? Tell me right now, or I’m leaving this instant and taking Sylvie with me, no matter where we end up.”

“She can act mad,” the stranger observed.

Ranger turned to me with eyes so animated that they could have jumped out of his head. “This is about art,” he told me, “and life, and truth and beauty too, if we can pull it off.” He paused for effect. And then:

“How would you girls like to be in a picture?”

** ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! **

Click on the cover below for a chance to win a copy of

I Don’t Know How the Story Ends

9781492609445

(Rafflecopter giveaway open from 9/15/15 – 11/3/15, US and Canada only.)

Excerpt provided by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Prize fulfillment by Sourcebooks.

Kids Corner: Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

An Inventive, Adventurous Launch to a New Steampunk Trilogy

Fires of Invention
by J. Scott Savage


Series: Mysteries of Cove (Book 1 of 3)
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Length: 320pp
ISBN-13: 978-1629720920

Starred Reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly

Related Links:
J. Scott Savage’s Website
J. Scott Savage on Facebook
Publisher’s Website


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AmazonBN

 



 



Publisher Synopsis

Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion—an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity. Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on—and quite possibly their very lives.


My Review

Thirteen year-old Trenton Coleman lives in Cove, a city contained within a mountain. In his insular world, the citizens are confined, they are told, for their protection. But their movements aren’t the only things restricted by Cove’s leadership. The community-at-large is seen as a machine — its people gears and cogs. Each plays a part, but for the whole to function as it should, one must never question, change, or attempt to improve the status quo. Original thoughts — creative ideas and expression — are forbidden. Not only is creativity dangerous, but any word containing the root “invent” is an unspeakable curse word.

Bored and looking to impress a young girl named Simoni, Trenton builds a swing. Though he simply assembles existing and approved parts, he finds himself accused of a long list of offenses, including treason. He narrowly escapes a dreaded punishment called “retraining,” only to find himself wrapped up in a mystery that is many times more threatening than even his worst imagined retraining could ever be.

Readers will enjoy journeying alongside Trenton and his new-found sidekick Kallista as they unearth hidden secrets en route to finding the truth about the history of their home. Not only are the characters well-drawn and likeable, over the course of the story, they experience growth. Themes explored in the novel include friendship, freedom of thought, creativity, and persistence. As they read about the value of trial and error and cooperation along the road to discovery, kids will also learn about themselves.

J. Scott Savage’s steampunk world is imaginative and skillfully constructed. As successive chapters end with the characters finding one more piece of their puzzle, plotting and pacing is quick and steady, building a whale of an adventure tale with a head of steam that propels the reader to the finish.

 — Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 .5 of 5 Hearts. An Inventive, Adventurous Launch to a New Steampunk Trilogy.

With Fires of Invention, the first in a planned trilogy, J. Scott Savage has created an inspired steampunk landscape filled with gears, gadgets, gizmos — even dragons — that a reluctant reader will find hard to resist. Put this in the hands of readers who like mysterious yet hopeful dystopian tales like City of Ember.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Shadow Mountain for providing me an advance reading copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Kids Corner: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

A Sensitive Look At Gender Identification

Gracefully Grayson
by Ami Polonsky


Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 250pp
ISBN-13: 978-1423185277

Related Links:
Ami Polonsky’s Website
Ami Polonsky on Facebook
Ami Polonsky on Twitter


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Publisher Synopsis

Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.


My Review

Orphaned at a young age, sixth-grader Grayson has lived with an aunt and uncle (and their children) for years. It’s been a lonely life hiding in the shadows, an underground existence created to protect a long-carried secret. You see, though born male, Grayson has always imagined a girl reflected back at her when she looks into the mirror.

When Grayson makes a new female friend, living a life of concealment becomes increasingly difficult. The two go shopping for second-hand clothes together and though she has generally worn baggy, “silky” athletic shorts that she imagines to be flowing skirts, Grayson itches to try on real skirts and dresses. True to adolescence, the new-found friendship is not without its drama and hardship. Emboldened by the encouragement of a teacher, Grayson decides to audition for the school play. When she goes out for the role of Persephone, things quickly become sticky, and Grayson finds out both how supportive and how cruel people can be.

I particularly enjoyed that the author doesn’t turn away from carefully examining a difficult topic. Polonsky  portrays Grayson’s identity journey and its attendant struggles with grace and compassion, but also with a strong dose of realism. When Grayson’s aunt and uncle argue about her gender identification and choice to play the female lead in the play, Polonsky allows the argument to happen out in the open. And though Grayson finds a level of acceptance among the kids in the play, it’s clear that even they first look at her as a novelty and plaything of sorts. The use of the play as the main vehicle for Grayson’s self-exploration is adept, and it’s easy to see why she would identify with Persephone who lives a divided life, trapped part of the year in the underworld. There is ample material here to discuss the symbolism of transformation and other literary themes, but what shines brightest in the novel is the honesty of the narrative voice. Kids will want Grayson to persevere and triumph amidst the challenges in her path to self-actualization. Though readers may not fully understand what it means to be like Grayson, and why she feels the way she does, if they read with open minds, they will understand that, at her core, she is not so very different than they.

 — Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 Hearts - Final

4 of 5 Hearts. A Sensitive Look At Gender Identification.

With Gracefully Grayson, Ami Polonsky presents a challenging subject to a middle-grade audience in a kid-friendly manner while steering clear of sensationalizing or sugar-coating her subject. The result is an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking novel that should inspire as well as enlighten.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Disney Book Group and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning March 23rd

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Kids Corner: The Sweetest Heist in History by Octavia Spencer



4 of 5 Hearts. A Worthy Sequel That Pulls No Punches. With The Sweetest Heist in History, Octavia Spencer offers a strong follow-up to her series opener, proving that feisty Randi Rhodes and her fellow Ninja Detectives are a crime-fighting force to be reckoned with!  [Read the full review]

 

 

 

 

Tuesday:

Teen Zone – Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery by Margi Preus

 

 

4 of 5 Hearts. Lively Lakefront Lark. Margi Preus’ young protagonist, Francie, begins her investigation reluctantly, but as the case gains traction, she embraces her role of private eye. Along the way, the clever intrigue is supported by a heavy dose of humor to keep both the tone and the plot from growing cumbersome. Give this one to readers of Nancy Drew or Sammy Keyes (though Francie and crew lack the realism and depth that make Sammy and friends so endearing).  [Read the full review]

 

——————–

That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

Kids Corner: The Sweetest Heist in History by Octavia Spencer

A Worthy Sequel That Pulls No Punches

The Sweetest Heist in History
by Octavia Spencer


Series: Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective (Book 2)
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Length: 224pp
ISBN-13: 978-1442476844

Related Links:
About Octavia Spencer
More About Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective
Vivienne To (Illustrator)
Octavia Spencer on Twitter

 


Buy the BookAmazonBN

 

 

 


Publisher Synopsis

A hard-to-prove art heist makes a New York City mystery for ninja detective Randi Rhodes in this second book in a series full of humor, adventure, and heart from Academy Award–winning actress Octavia Spencer.

Randi Rhodes and her fellow ninja detectives, DC and Pudge, were flying high after solving The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit. But life in sleepy Deer Creek has begun to feel…a bit boring. There are no crimes to investigate! But a trip to New York City to visit Randi’s aunt changes that! While the ninja detective trio explores Randi’s old neighborhood in Brooklyn, they uncover an art heist. Except no one will believe them. So they’ll just have to catch the criminals in the act…

 

 


My Review

In The Sweetest Heist in History, book two of Octavia Spencer’s middle-grade mystery series, Randi Rhodes and her fellow Ninja Detectives are back for another high-kicking adventure! When our story begins, we catch Randi and DC working on a case. But Randi has grown tired of her recently-adopted snoozy hometown of Deer Creek, Tennessee, and can barely wait for Thanksgiving when she and her dad are scheduled to visit with her Aunt Gigi (her late mother’s sister) in Brooklyn. When Randi’s writer father, Herb, is unexpectedly called away for a promotional book tour, Randi feels cast aside and the trip is nearly cancelled. However, circumstances combine to create a whole new holiday excursion that brings all three Ninja Detectives together in New York where their sleuthing skills are immediately put to the test.

Nestled within the larger narrative are two subplots that give Randi’s sidekicks DC and Pudge their own time in the spotlight. DC’s storyline centers around his absent father but introduces a heroic new character, Jake, who serves as a mentor and inspiration to him. Meanwhile, Pudge supplies plenty of comedic moments as he enjoys a temporary respite from the strictly enforced structure and rules of normal daily life with his colonel father. As for the main plot, the Big City doesn’t disappoint. Randi finds more action and mystery than she could have hoped for, and some pieces of the puzzle lead her to new-found knowledge of her mother.

Though Spencer’s occasional workman-like prose can slow things down, her action sequences and dialogue consistently inject enough energy and personality into the narrative to sustain the attention of even reluctant readers. Newly introduced characters Gigi and Jake enlarge an already agreeable cast. It’s worth mentioning that despite the excitement of the big city, I missed the people and places Randi left behind, like her housekeeper Mei Ling and Deer Creek’s quirky small-town charm. Still, as with book one, Spencer manages to balance action and suspense with character development and emotional impact. Thus, while she plots dynamic episodes for her characters, she is careful to leave space for them to grow. When the curtain falls on this book, Randi has come to better understand Herb and  father and daughter have mended fences.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 Hearts - Final

4 of 5 Hearts. A Worthy Sequel That Pulls No Punches.

With The Sweetest Heist in History, Octavia Spencer offers a strong follow-up to her series opener, proving that feisty Randi Rhodes and her fellow Ninja Detectives are a crime-fighting force to be reckoned with!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Simon & Schuster and Edelweiss for providing me an electronic copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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