Book Reviews, Fiction

Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks | Book Review

Oh book reviews – sometimes you’re hard to write!

This one wasn’t a hit for me. After thinking on this for a while, I figured out what missed the mark: The book had too many lines cast out. There was the personal drama Murphy was going through, the mysterious prologue, the current crimes she was helping to investigate, and more as the truth was ultimately revealed. While there were some intriguing bits, it started to lose its credibility towards the end. I also thought some developments were rushed and that always makes it hard for me to connect with characters.

I admit, I often compared this to Gwen Marcey’s stories (the main character in Parks’ previous novels), and it didn’t match those reading experiences (which is a hard thing to do because I LOVE those novels and Gwen is hilarious).

So, while the history was interesting, this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: An artist hiding from an escaped killer uncovers one of World War II’s most dangerous secrets—a secret that desperate men will do anything to keep hidden. After the murder of her twin sister, Murphy Anderson changed her name and appearance and moved to Kodiak, Alaska, to avoid the press and publicity. But when local authorities discover she’s an artist and request her help in drawing a dying man’s memories, she unintentionally ends up in the limelight again—and back in the killer’s crosshairs.

The deathbed confessions of an Alaskan hunter have Murphy drawing the five bodies he discovered on remote Ruuwaq Island ten years ago. But what investigators find has them mystified. Evidence suggests that the bodies were deliberately destroyed, and what they uncover in an abandoned Quonset hut from World War II only brings more questions. As one by one the investigators who were at the hut die, Murphy knows there is something much darker at stake. What happened on this island during the war? And who is willing to kill to keep its secrets buried?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Book Reviews, Fiction

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano | Book Review

“You can tell the quality of a man’s soul with one look at what he creates, for what he’s poured into his creation has come from within.” Notebook of a viticulturist

If you’re a fan of Inspirational historical romance, then you need to have Joanna Davidson Politano on your radar. I absolutely adored her debut novel, Lady Jayne Disappears, and in her sophomore novel, Politano once again brings an intriguing plot to readers.

There were plenty of plot twists throughout and to the very end. With reminders of the way God will work in any situation, readers who relish strong faith themes and romance, will enjoy seeing Tressa’s journey and faith grow throughout the novel.

Who is an author you’ve recently become a fan of?

(Thank you to Revell for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first.

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano welcomes readers to Trevelyan Castle, home of the poorest heiress in Victorian England, for a treasure hunt they’ll not soon forget.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes | Book Review

“But perhaps bravery meant entering into a storm you already knew would destroy you.”

Y’all know I can’t resist historical pieces – throw in some fantasy and I’m 100% in. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes was creative, engaging and kudos to trying something not often seen with historical events in novels. Geared towards the YA audience, I still enjoyed the characters, the pacing and how she would work in the fantasy elements.

It also made me want to do a deep dive research into King James and the entire Guy Fawkes history. That’s one of my favorite things about reading historically based stories – it opens up a piece of history I might not have thought about before.

“It is those who dream of the impossible who end up defying the very word.”

If you enjoy history or fantasy (or both, like me!), then be sure to check out Brandes’ latest release. Also, that cover? LOVE IT!

Is there a historical event you’d like to see retold?

(Thank you to Thomas Nelson for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

ABOUT THE BOOK: Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Book Reviews, Fiction

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig | Feature

I’m so excited to share about Ronie Kendig’s latest Thirst of Steel! It just released yesterday, so be sure to grab your copy! I’m a bit behind on all the things, so more to come on the book, but didn’t want to miss the chance to give a shout out to the fabulous Ronie and Tox!

ABOUT THE BOOK: Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for its enemies’ blood. Cole “Tox” Russell only wants to begin his life with Haven Cortes, but he must first complete a final mission: retrieve that sword and destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order.

The AFO, however, is determined to claim the sword. Wielding their father’s life over Tzivia and Ram Khalon, they threaten to expose Ram’s long-held and dangerous secret while demanding Tzivia locate the sword. With the Wraith team slowly being torn apart, things only worsen when Mercy Maddox, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news that the sword is tied to both Ram’s secret and a string of unsolved serial murders.

Tox, Ram, and the others are forced to set aside fear and anger to focus only on the enemy. No matter the cost, Wraith must stop or take the enemy down with them.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

10 Minutes in the Word: Psalms | Book Review

I’m always curious about devotionals with time promises. I remember when I first became a Christian almost 20 years ago, my first devotional was called 15 MInutes With God and greatly impacted my faith and developing a devotional time. (Sidenote: I wonder what my thoughts would be on that devotional now. I don’t recall anything too controversial, but two decades is plenty of time to change thoughts and views on theology. I’ll keep y’all posted if I do :)).

This pocket-ish size devotional takes a look through Psalms and the devotionals are encouraging. Going through the themes the author of the Psalm wrestled with in a short devo, including a prayer for the reader and ending with questions for the reader to think on in their personal life, this makes for an engaging devotional. One minor thing I wish would have been done differently is to include the full scripture reading along with the devotional. It’s not a major thing (since Bible apps and access to Bibles are in abundance), but more of a preference.

Overall, if you’re looking for a gift book or a devotional for yourself, this one is worth checking out.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK Embrace your time with the Lord, no matter how busy you are! 10 Minutes in the Word: Psalms offers encouraging insights and meaningful reflections in just 10 minutes. For the days when you most need the presence of God, 10 Minutes in the Word: Psalms is the perfect way to grow in your faith that fits into your busy schedule.

This devotional invites you into the Psalms, a place of praise and reflection. Realign your heart with God’s as you read through the Scripture and spend just a few minutes with Him. Whether you’re on a quick lunch break, between classes, or relishing some peace and quiet during nap time, 10 Minutes in the Word: Psalms gives you what you need to keep going. Just 10 minutes a day will guide you into Psalms, helping you feel closer to God and His Word.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr | Book Spotlight

The kings and queens of the northern continent lay siege to the Darkwater Forest, desperate to contain its evil. But rumors of gold and aurium have lured deserters and the desperate into its shadow, creating a growing army held in its sway. Desperate after the death and dissolution of their greatest ally, Willet and the Vigil seek the truth of what lies at the heart of the evil they face. They delve the mind of an old enemy and find an answer far worse than they could have imagined.

Danger stalks the cities of the north, striking at the rulers of the kingdoms. As Willet and the rest of the Vigil seek to find answers, the group is scattered with an ever-growing darkness around them. Will they discover a path to keep their land safe, or will an ancient evil reclaim the world it once called its own?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden | Book Review

I wanted to love this book, I did. Elizabeth Camden is one of my favorite Inspy fiction authors and one reason being, she writes about such unique pieces of history. An early 1900s female Doctor and biochemist? Count me in!

But y’all, there were just bits I couldn’t get past. One, is that I’m not a fan of the instant attraction/in love. You might be a fan, but it sometimes felt a little over the top for me.

One of my biggest hang ups was a decision Rosalind made I struggled with. Vague? Yes, but to say any more would be too much of a spoiler. Not only that, but there weren’t any real consequences to her choices. Instead, things ended up nicely tied up with a bow. For what they each dealt with, I felt the resolution needed more depth.

While not my favorite from Camden, I look forward to future reads.

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city–but only if she can get people to believe in her work.

Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team’s techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist.

While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Everyday Holy by Melanie Shankle | Book Review

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If y’all have been around the blog for a while, then you know I’m a Melanie Shankle fan. Her humor and writing always have me laughing and leaving encouraged. Her latest devotional is no different. Sharing every day stories from her life, Shankle’s daily devotions encourage, remind and teach about God’s truth in the everyday. How much I need this! There’s been quite a few daily devos that were just what I needed and when I did. It’s something I’m so thankful for during this season.

I also have to say, this book looks and feels so fancy…I’m a fan! Beyond the hardcover, there’s really nice paper (I know that’s a terrible description, but my brain cannot come up with the right name, weight or style of said paper, but trust me, its legit) and I love the cover. Honestly, this would make a great gift for yourself #treatyoself or a woman in your life!

What devotional or book is ministering to your heart right now?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

It seems to be a rite of passage for every woman: you wake up one day and think, “Wait. THIS is the life I signed up for?”
We’ve all been there. Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog, is just brave enough to say it out loud. And Everyday Holy is your invitation to reexamine your life and find the little pieces that create a beautiful picture of a big God.

On any given day, you may be asking yourself:

  • Is Instagram making me crazy, or am I actually supposed to have a perfectly curated cup of coffee on my artfully rumpled throw blanket every morning?
  • Doubts about my faith are normal, right?
  • Is eating cookie dough straight from the fridge fine as long as it’s organic?
  • Could it be that loving my family well is my spiritual gift?

It’s a common theme: Am I okay? Is my life significant? And how do we measure significance, anyway? Melanie’s hilarious and poignant insight offers you the deep breath of relief that God is working in all the moments, no matter how big or how small. In 100 devotions, Everyday Holy: Finding a Big God in the Little Moments invites you to see your life as God intended: rich with opportunity, significance, and beauty, even on days that feel overwhelmingly ordinary.

If you’re looking for the line that connects the dots, Everyday Holy is for you. If you wonder where God is in this mess or how exactly He’s working behind the scenes, this book is for you. Whether you feel overwhelmed or disillusioned or frustrated by how your life feels, there’s room for you at this table. And here’s the best news: We’re all in this together.

Book Reviews, Fiction

ColorFULL by Dorena Williamson | Book Review

“Celebrating Colors God Gave Us.”

One thing I hear often is “I’m colorblind, I don’t see color.” While I understand the intent and desire, it shouldn’t be our response. Why do I say this? Because God made color and He made people look different. And He did because He is creative and loves diversity. I’m so thankful to follow a God who creates that way. If everyone were the same, the world would be so boring.

I love finding books for children that show them this beautiful truth. The truth that, though they may look different from each other, they are all God’s children. This book is fun, the illustrations adorable and I love that it celebrates this.

Finally, not only is this a cute and important story, there’s also “Parent Connection” in the back, which comes with a verse, short discussion and questions that will help parents talk more with their kids. I love that idea and that it’s rooted in Scripture!

I highly recommend reading this to the littles in your life! Any recent children’s books you’re loving?

(Thank you to B&H for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Why be colorblind when we can be colorFULL instead?

Imani and Kayla are the best of friends who are learning to celebrate their different skin colors. As they look around them at the amazing colors in nature, they can see that their skin is another example of God’s creativity! This joyful story takes a new approach to discussing race: instead of being colorblind, we can choose to celebrate each color God gave us and be colorFULL instead.

Fiction

World-Building: The Promise of Something Greater | Guest Post by David Wiley

Today I’m welcoming my friend David Wiley on his newest release! Hope you enjoy!

When I sat down to write Monster Huntress, I didn’t know much about the world in which it was taking place. I knew the type of world I wanted, but it transformed and evolved over the course of revisions, always growing either in size or in the details. While the story of Monster Huntress visits only a small portion of the world I’ve created, there are some lessons I’ve learned from J.R.R. Tolkien that have had a ripple effect toward my approach to worldbuilding. The biggest of those lessons was to provide the promise of something greater.

What I mean by that is there is something more out there beyond what the reader is experiencing. There is a larger world, other events going on. There is a rich history, filled with named heroes and battles and events that can be referred to over the course of the book. The reader doesn’t need to know what the Wizard Wars were, for instance, but knowing that there was some massive war hundreds of years ago is important to provide the experience of an aged world. After all, we still refer back to events and wars that waged hundreds, and thousands, of years ago. The same will hold true in a fantasy book, unless it is a newly-formed world. Even new civilizations likely stemmed from somewhere with a history on that world.

Some writers might take the “cut it” approach to those things, and my own editor prodded at some of those. I took a few out but kept others, because I wanted to provide depth to the world – it has a history, after all, even if I haven’t written it yet. It opens the door for significant events to be explored later in shorter forms of fiction, or even a spin-off book that covers some of those things.

There is a scene in the book where Ava comes across a statue of four famous, yet nameless, heroes from the past. Here is the small scene:

The landmark of her journey, a tall statue made from an aquamarine granite, loomed just ahead. Its features were smooth and worn from the weather, their individual faces indistinguishable, but she could still make out the original image carved by the sculptor. It was depicting a trio of men and one woman, a party of unnamed individuals that performed heroic deeds long ago during the Wizard Wars. When Ava was close enough she could read the short inscription at the base of the statue which read: “These four warriors fought to maintain the balance in the world. They fought bravely and their sacrifice for the side of the Light will forever be remembered.” The rest of the words had been worn down to the point where they were no longer legible.

Ava sat in her saddle and contemplated the deeds of these bold warriors from the past. Had they not acted perhaps the world would be radically different than the world she was living in now. It was clear, from the inscription that remained, that these four were important in shaping history.

This scene was much longer, originally, giving some physical descriptions and some speculations on their individual roles. Yet I like the concise nature here. It gives you enough to emphasize their importance in making the world like it is, yet doesn’t steal the scene away from the main character. Look for more worldbuilding scenes like this to appear as the world I’ve built continues to grow. After all, Monster Huntress is set in a world with 13 kingdoms. By the end of book one, she’s only set foot into two of them, so the possibility for growth is quite large as she goes on more adventures in the Young Huntress Series.

Want to get started on Monster Huntress? Grab a copy today!

Want to learn more about the world I’ve built? Check out the earlier stops on the tour and meet some of the characters!