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, Nonfiction

Some Recent Book Recommendations

While it might take me a minute or two to get to these books, I thought it would be fun to pass along some recent books recommendations sent my way to you guys as well, especially since I sometimes take a while to read them. It happens no?

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, though large in weight—an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world. Or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.

The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker
It was the summer of storms and strays and strangers. The summer that lightning struck the big oak tree in the front yard. The summer his mother died in a tragic accident. As he recalls the tumultuous events that launched a surprising journey, Samuel can still hardly believe it all happened.

After his mother’s death, twelve-year-old Samuel Chambers would do anything to turn back time. Prompted by three strange carnival fortune-tellers and the surfacing of his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Samuel begins his search for the Tree of Life–the only thing that could possibly bring his mother back. His quest to defeat death entangles him and his best friend Abra in an ancient conflict and forces Samuel to grapple with an unwelcome question: could it be possible that death is a gift?
Haunting and hypnotic, The Day the Angels Fell is a story that explores the difficult questions of life in a voice that is fresh, friendly, and unafraid. With this powerful debut, Shawn Smucker has carved out a spot for himself in the tradition of authors Madeleine L’Engle and Lois Lowry.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, the Queen is transformed as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.

The author of the Tony Award winner The History Boys, Alan Bennett is one of Britain’s best-loved literary voices. With The Uncommon Reader, he brings us a playful homage to the written word, imagining a world in which literature becomes a subversive bridge between powerbrokers and commoners. By turns cheeky and charming, the novella features the Queen herself as its protagonist. When her yapping corgis lead her to a mobile library, Her Majesty develops a new obsession with reading. She finds herself devouring works by a tantalizing range of authors, from the Brontë sisters to Jean Genet. With a young member of the palace kitchen staff guiding her choices, it’s not long before the Queen begins to develop a new perspective on the world – one that alarms her closest advisers and tempts her to make bold new decisions. Brimming with the mischievous wit that has garnered acclaim for Bennett on both sides of the Atlantic, The Uncommon Reader is a delightful celebration of books and writers, and the readers who sustain them.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
“What does it mean to manage well?”
From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, comes an incisive book about creativity in business—sure to appeal to readers of Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, and Chip and Dan Heath. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.” For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable.

As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as:

• Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.
• If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
• It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.
• The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
• A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
• Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.

What’s a book you recommend?

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, 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, Fiction, Nonfiction

Recent Reads Roundup | Round #1

Alright, so I’m trying something new with this roundup. I wanted to share some more of the books I’m reading and thought up this idea. Some I may have posted to my Instagram, but there’s some others as well! Be sure to share some of your recent reads!

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner: We have a summer book club for WaterBrook and Multnomah (you should join the fun here!) and this one is our August read. I’m a big fan of Susan’s and this one is a new favorite.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: An important piece people should all read.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: I remember seeing this book everywhere when it was first released last year (props to the publishing team at Flatirons!). I added it to my list and finally decided to grab a copy and see what the fuss was all about. The verdict? I can’t resist a fantasy book with magic and mystery y’all! With feelings of The Night Circus, this was just the book I needed to escape into. Got the sequel waiting for me!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: I’ve read this a few times, but there’s still bits I forget each time I read it. Just a heads up, if you love the book like I do, don’t see the HBO movie that came out. There were just too many changes. I get there needs to be some to make it work for a movie, but when things/people/events are changed that played a major role in a character’s development, I’m not okay with that.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann: What a fabulous read! There were many things I learned from reading this book, one of the main things being that I’m going to pass on any opportunity to hike through the Amazon for weeks on end. As much as I’d love to encounter a 27 foot anaconda or cyanide-squirting millipedes (and many other nasty nasties that while reading about caused my face to be locked in a perpetual look of horror), I think I’ll just read about them instead. 🙃 Fascinating book though and highly recommend!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Part thriller and part sci-fi, but a creative concept that kept me reading. I skimmed over some way-beyond-my-brain-physics-science, but overall I enjoyed it. I was really curious how it would all turn out and liked what the author did. If you like thrillers with hints of sci-fi, this might be for you.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: This one was hard to put words to after I first read it. Many have called it unconventional and that’s spot on. It’s different from what I normally read. It won’t even be for everyone. But! I’ll also say this is the kind of book where 10 different readers will come away with 10 different responses of what hit them the most. Grief, empathy, what could have been…so many themes and pieces. If you want to try something creative and different that hits you deep, check this one out.

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.

Bookish Radness

10 + A Few Books For Your Summer Reading

(So I originally posted this last year, but since life is life, I haven’t had a chance to put together a new list. Instead I added a few to this one. With summer coming though, didn’t want y’all to miss out on any possible new reads!)

It’s almost Summer time!! I’m not sure how I’ll handle summer weather that isn’t the same temperature as the surface of the sun, but I think I’ll manage. I moved mid-August last year and I had to wear a light sweater at night. I still don’t compute that one, but looking forward to zero chance of snow as well (It snowed on May 18th, which is a no for me).

With summer comes lots of reading time! Whether 4th of July by the pool, summer vacations, or finding that extra time we don’t normally have – I’m all about the summer reading lists. I tend to have a pile 5 times the size I know I’ll be able to read, but no matter! I like to dream big. So I put together a list for y’all who are looking for some more books to snag. I decided to stick with books all released in the past few-ish years (Sorry Tollers and Jack, but you know how much I love you).

Maybe next year, I’ll plan ahead and have a list of all new releases, but let’s not be hasty Internet. Also, if you’re wondering why I chose 10, I have no idea. It’s the first number that popped in my head. #Professional

1. Redwall by Brian Jacques. I bought this about 4 years ago. As with many books, I was right on top of getting to it. Anyway, this is for those who have a soft spot for stories like Secret of The NIMH, An American Tail (#FievelLove) and other such animal fantastical stories. An entertaining read and if you enjoy it, there’s about 574,875,439 in the series.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I’m simply going to say it’s a page turner. Also please tell me your thoughts when you finish. That’s pretty much the only reason I’m adding this book, I need more people to discuss this with! That and it’s a great pick for fans of thrillers. (Heads up, there’s language)

3. The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner. If you enjoy time slip novels, definitely add this to your list. The time period she focuses on, is one that I always find fascinating. If you’ve never read a time slip, then here’s a great place to start!

4. Life After by Katie Ganshert. I promise I’m not just saying this since we published it. It’s truly a beautiful story. Truly Katie’s best.

5. The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim. A different take on dystopian that I thought worked really well. Not at all what I was expecting, but enjoyed it quite a bit. Later this week will be my review of the story’s conclusion, The Divide.

6. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge. Inspired by one of the all time greats and plus it takes place in one of my favorite cities in the Universe, so of course I have to include it.

7. Blur by Steven James. What’s a summer read without a thriller or two? I’ll be reading the third (and final) in the series this summer as well. Don’t read it in the dark by yourself though…

8. A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander. She’s one of my go to for inspirational historical reads. I have yet to be disappointed with her stories!

9. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Judge away, but y’all…I loved this book. It’s by the same author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so if you enjoyed that, this might be one for you.

10. Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It’s The Hunger Games to the third power and it takes place on Mars. It captured my attention and I hope to finish the series this summer as well.

Here’s some 2018 additions:

What are some of the books on your summer reading list?