In the Shadow of the River by Ann H. Gabhart

Historical Fiction

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

3 Stars

Book cover shows the back of a woman who's peeking through red theater curtains into an auditorium, and a vintage showboat floats on a river at the bottomIn the Shadow of the River by Ann H. Gabhart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description: In 1881, Jacci Reed is only five years old when a man attempts to kidnap her from the steamboat her mother, Irena, works on. Badly wounded during the confrontation, Irena takes Jacci aboard the Floating Palace, a showboat tied up beside them. There, Jacci’s actor grandfather tends to her mother and Jacci gets a first taste of the life she will come to lead. Fifteen years later, the cryptic things Jacci has overheard about her past portend a renewed threat.

My thoughts: It was getting several glimpses of this historical novel’s lovely cover that urged me to try out this ChristFic author for the first time. I was drawn in by the visual blend of the theater auditorium, the showboat, and the river.

After I started reading, the river’s atmosphere mixed with the theme of old-fashioned show business pulled this diehard historical fiction fan into the story, gradually. Now, it wasn’t exactly so gradual that I lost all interest at any point, but the novel felt longer to me than it had to be. Until around 100 pages in, Jacci is still five, while her mother Irena’s trouble with an injury stretches out for most of that time. Irena has little to do then but sit and go over the past, and in different key scenes later on, other characters spend more time rehashing those past events the reader already knows about.

In more than one scene, the story’s danger felt contrived to me. Jacci walks right into hazardous situations, regardless of the fact that clear forewarnings precede her each time. It seems that with her having firsthand experience of life-and-death peril in the past, with the ominous memory of it remaining with her long afterward, Jacci would know to take some sensible precautions when related danger becomes apparent again. More than once.

Depending on their personal beliefs, some ChristFic readers may be uncomfortable with the way Jacci inwardly asks a deceased person to watch over her. As for the romance, I didn’t find the romantic characters compelling. Overall, this was a novel where, while the characters in general didn’t grip me as people, the events in their lives kept me reading.

On the whole, I enjoyed the read enough to plan on trying this author again sometime.

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration

Deadly Doubles by Carolyn Keene

Mystery Book

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

3 Stars

Illustrated book cover shows a serious young woman and a young man with a tennis racket in the foreground, and a man pointing a gun in the backgroundDeadly Doubles by Carolyn Keene

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description: When she and her two best friends go to watch an international tennis competition, Nancy poses as a government courier to deliver a document vital to top-secret negotiations with a country on the brink of revolution.

My thoughts: I breezed through this seventh YA mystery in the Nancy Drew Files series from the ’80s.

The main reason for my breezing was that I found the parts in between the action scenes to be only mildly interesting. As for the series’ old-fashioned style, it seems this story doesn’t have as many exclamation points as those before it—especially noticeable at even the cliffhangers that end the chapters with unceremonious statements rather than exclamations (!).

On another note, though I understand taking deceptive measures in life-and-death situations, I imagine that a YA detective story written for thrills and entertainment today would find measures for Nancy to take other than spreading a lot of bronzer all over her skin to make her look more like a certain Latina character.

It seemed for a minute like this mystery would wrap up with only a fairly mild climax to speak of. So I was pleased to see the stakes shoot up again at the eleventh hour.

Here’s my review of the first book in the series, Secrets Can Kill.

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration

Necessary Proof by Camy Tang

Suspense Book

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

3 Stars

Light orange book cover shows the serious hero and heroine facing in opposite directionsNecessary Proof by Camy Tang

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alex has gone after a meth-producing gang, and now he’s being framed for the death of a cop. The evidence on an encrypted laptop can prove his innocence, but he’ll need the help of a software engineer, Jane, before the gang can take back the laptop—and possibly take Alex’s and Jane’s lives in the process—in Necessary Proof by author Camy Tang.

Nope, I haven’t read any of the other books in this ChristFic romantic suspense series. Though there was some background that might have made more sense and some names mentioned I might have cared about if I’d read some of the preceding books, the main story here made quite enough sense on its own for me to appreciate it.

While some of the events and emotional development felt rushed, I found the story intriguing, with a fitting mix of dialogue and action, and a journey of faith runs through it. An enjoyable way to spend a relatively short amount of time.

Sonoma Series

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration

School Trip by Jerry Craft


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

5 Stars

Illustrated book cover shows three smiling boys, African American and Caucasian, taking a selfie with their luggageSchool Trip by Jerry Craft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: Jordan and his friends from Riverdale Academy Day School are heading out on a school trip to Paris. As an aspiring artist himself, Jordan can’t wait to see all the amazing art in the famous City of Lights. But when their trusted faculty guides are replaced at the last minute, the school trip takes an unexpected—and hilarious—turn. Especially when trying to find their way around a foreign city ends up being almost as tricky as navigating the same friendships, fears, and differences that they struggle with at home.

My thoughts: I laughed! I (almost) cried! I love the way the New Kid middle grade fiction series wraps up with this book. (I mean, it’s an informed guess on my part that this is the series finis.)

Once again, this author shows the genius of good graphic novels—how the art speaks just as much as the words do. The imagery here is on point, and the Easter eggs are fun to spot, like in movies.

Dealing with adolescence, travel, family, friendships, race, class, and more, this novel is a wonderful mix of the hilarious, the delightful, the insightful, and the parts that break your heart a little or hit you in the gut. (Honestly, some of the clever Easter eggs are pretty gut-punchy too.)

I so identify with the fact that this author makes the kinds of books he wishes he once had and didn’t. That’s one of the reasons why I became an author.

I almost hated for this novel (and series?) to end, but hey. What a great way to end it!

Here’s my review of the novel that started it all, New Kid.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration