Book Reviews, Fiction

The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy & Erin Woodsmall | Book Review

Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them.
Promises shattered.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire. 



Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.



Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

This is for my readers who love a Christmas romance! Releasing her first non-Amish novel, Cindy Woodsmall teams up with her daughter-in-law, Erin Woodsmall, bringing readers a love story spanning over a decade.

There’s romance, faith and Christmas – a great mix for my contemporary romance fans. With a Hallmark movie feel and topics that go beyond a love story, I know fans of Woodsmall will enjoy this southern fiction read.

But more than the sweet romance, this story also deals with important issues, such as foster care and children who go through speech therapy, inviting readers to look into lives that may not be their own or in their circles. I really enjoyed that piece of the story and love when authors are willing to go deeper.

What’s one of your favorite Christmas novels?

(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

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Book Reviews, Fiction

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano | Book Review

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

What a debut! It’s been awhile since I’ve been incredibly impressed with a debut! Mystery, intrigue, more mystery, romance and a totally captivating story.

This was one of those reads I had to finish in one sitting. It was haunting, unique and not all characters turned out as you thought. There were a couple pieces I wanted to know more about at the end, but even with that, I so enjoyed this journey.

I also loved that many characters were not exactly as they first appeared. With each new layer peeled back, Politano revealed deeper levels and deeper reasons for a character’s behavior. Misunderstandings, revelations, and faith all make up this entertaining and fantastic debut!

Have you had the chance to read this debut?

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

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

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Book Review

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

I’ve been a fan of Reay’s novels since her debut! I always look forward to what’s coming next and this did not disappoint.

Like Austen’s heroines, Reay takes Mary and Isabel on their own journeys of self discovery. Full of mistakes, misunderstandings, romance and touching moments that remind you it’s never too late to find yourself.

As a fan of Austen’s novels, I thoroughly enjoyed all the references and characters brought up throughout the novel. Reay did an excellent job of paying homage to Austen’s stories, characters and Austen’s incredible talent, but also made the story her own (sidenote: I loved that Mary was an engineer and how that played into the novel). It’s a story that grabs you, charms you and makes for an excellent read.

And of course I loved the all the references of Austin. How could I not?

If you enjoy contemporary women’s fiction, add this one to your list!

Have you read Katherine Reay’s novels? If so, which one is your favorite?

(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

Book Reviews, Fiction

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden | Book Review

Another book by Elizabeth Camden means another excellent read! What makes her such a strong writer, is her ability to remain fitting and true to the time period she chooses, but also makes the plot intriguing and gives you a heroine you can root for.

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

I enjoyed the relationship between Colin and Lucy. There were some frustrations (which again, were very fitting for the time period), but I thought Camden did an excellent job with that part of the story.

I really liked Lucy (and Colin too!). But Lucy, there was a realness to her that’s sometimes missing in heroines. She was hardworking, committed, loyal, and brave. I thought her development was honest and encouraging. Plus her relationship with her brother? Loved it!

And the story had me intrigued the whole time – I was curious with each new piece revealed and enjoyed the satisfying ending. Once again, the unique piece of history Camden focused on was fascinating and I love learning new bits of history, especially with my background of journalism.

What characteristics make you like a heroine?

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

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

Fiction

Featuring: Undercut by Heather Day Gilbert

I’m slowly but surely getting back to consistency with this blogging thing ;). YAY! Today I’m featuring Heather Day Gilbert’s latest release, her second novella in Hemlock Creek Suspense series, Undercut.

Marine sniper Isaiah (“Zane”) Boone is home from Afghanistan with more than a few ghosts. Try as he might to settle back into civilian life in small-town West Virginia, he can’t escape the conviction he’s being followed. Both Zane’s ex-wife and his psychologist claim he’s paranoid, and he can’t prove he’s not. Hoping to outrun his misery, he sets his romantic sights on the irresistible Molly McClure.

A successful wedding coordinator at the illustrious Greenbrier Resort, Molly has had plenty of wealthy men willing to open their wallets and hearts for her. But when Zane strides into the upscale Greenbrier lobby with his lumberjack boots and his troubled eyes, the attraction she’s felt since high school reawakens—and she’s willing to go way out of her comfort zone to pursue it.

When Molly becomes an innocent target, Zane realizes too late that his malevolent stalkers are very real. As a net of vengeance tightens around them, Zane gears up for a fight to the death…and Molly has just one chance to prove she can be far more than a pretty face.

Where to Buy: Goodreads | Author Website

About the Author

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and Appalachian mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.”

Where to Follow: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Space Between the Words by Michèle Phoenix | Book Review

“Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, and pressing on in faith.”

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.
“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Books dealing with recent horrific and tragic events will never be an easy read. It’s a painful revisit and a reminder of the broken world we live in. Phoenix’s story of loss, pain and the path to healing though, not only had me fully engaged, I was reminded that life is beautiful and precious. I enjoyed the modern day story, but also really enjoyed the historic piece of this novel. It was a piece of history I didn’t know and glad I now do.

We’ll never escape terrible events while we’re on earth. It’s a hard reality, but I’m thankful of the hope I have that this isn’t it. Dealing with grief, how our minds respond, to the healing we need and the time it takes, this novel will remind you to never waste a moment and when life deals us a heavy blow, all hope is not lost.

(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

Author Interviews

Featuring Katherine Scott Jones | Author of Her Memory of Music

Y’all, I’m so excited to chat more with Katherine Scott Jones today! You may remember my book review last week of her debut, Her Memory of Music, and today we dive a little deeper! I hope y’all enjoy (and stick around for a chance to win a copy of her book!)


1.What’s been the most exciting thing about publishing your debut novel?
Two things: Number one, seeing the finished cover because it put skin on my story for the first time. When my cover designer—the amazing Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio—sent me the initial cover comps, I felt the tingling reality of my book.

Number two is what’s happening right now—the opportunity that my published novel is giving me to talk to other bookish people. So fun to connect with readers and talk all manner of story matters. Really, it’s a dream come true.

2. Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
Toni Morrison famously said, “If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” When I began writing HER MEMORY OF MUSIC, there wasn’t an abundance of inspirational (“Christian”) women’s fiction that compellingly addressed real-life issues. Where answers aren’t easy and problems are complex—maybe even scandalous. Fortunately, in the years since I began writing, more of these have arrived on the scene. I hope readers will find my book to be one of them.

As for the specific elements, Langley is a little town on Whidbey Island, Washington, where my husband and I enjoyed vacationing in our early married years. I always thought it would make an atmospheric setting for a novel. Some of my own journey through infertility is mirrored in Darcie’s story. As for Ally—I have a dear friend who gave birth to her son when she was seventeen. That life-turned-upside-down experience is what brought her into a personal relationship with Jesus and made her into the strong, faithful woman she is today. Though that backstory got cut from HER MEMORY OF MUSIC, it’s what inspired my conception of Ally and Jack.

3. What was one of the most unexpected bits from writing this book?
Sheela and Jayashri’s stories weren’t in my original plot outline. The story I’d originally outlined detailed that of a young mom hiding from a frightening past who encounters a troubled sex-trafficking investigator home from India on furlough. So far, so good. But as I wrote, I realized that in order to give the investigator’s side of the story substance, I had to do some research. I interviewed a real trafficking investigator, and that’s when Jayashri materialized onto the page—and took up residence in my heart. Because the more I researched what it meant to be Jayashri—a girl caught up in the horrific sex trafficking trade—the more I realized Jayashri could not remain a footnote. She needed her own story.

4. What do you hope readers walk away from after reading this novel?
I strove to have my characters mirror real life, where people grapple with eternal issues: of fear, and faith, and forgiveness. I also aimed to broaden the typical reader’s awareness of the plight of so many girls and women around the world who are the objects of oppression. I sought to bring together two very different lifestyles—that of the woman in the developed world living in relative comfort but with significant questions of faith and purpose; and that of the woman in the developing world whose basic needs are great but whose voice has so little chance of being heard.

I wanted to show the connection between these different women, bringing their two worlds together and revealing them as one. I also wanted to show that God is a very big God who sees and cares, who orchestrates events and fights on our behalf. And to celebrate the empowering of women by God’s daily grace.

My hope is that readers will be encouraged to find their own empowered voice—and in doing so, to give a hand up to other women who still need one.

5. What are some of your writing habits?
As soon as the kids are off to school, I light a few candles and close myself inside our cozy study, our dog nestled on her pad nearby. I settle into the burgundy leather chair that serves as my writing chair and tune into movie soundtracks on Pandora. If I’m not feeling the mood, I set my timer for 25 minutes (per Pomodoro Technique) to get my fingers moving. I try to get some good work done in the hours the kiddos are otherwise occupied. After school, I squeeze writing into the crevices, often taking my laptop with me to write while they are at dance or jazz band.

6. What are you reading right now?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for one. Because my friend Jamie of Books and Beverages recommended it recently (Jamie stopping in to say YESSSSSSS :), and I purposed in 2017 to return to reading at least one classic a year. So far, so good—though I see what you mean about it affecting your dreams.

I’m taking a quick breather between books-for-review, but next up is A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake.

When I need a break from heavier fare, I pull any one of James Herriott’s All Creatures Great and Small series from my shelf. The comfort food of books.

In non-fiction, I’m reading Shelly Miller’s Rhythms of Rest, a beautiful reminder of why God created the Sabbath: good rest for our souls.

7. And finally, any hints of what’s to come? We readers are hardly patient 🙂
I’m well into the final edits of my next novel, The Shadow Sister, due out August 2018. This novel also has a Pacific Northwest setting but on the other side of the Cascade Mountains in Eastern Washington wine country, with Bolivia as the global accent. Another work of women’s fiction, it’s about a gifted artist who embarks on an Andean journey with a small-plane pilot to discover the secrets of her estranged, dead sister’s life and fulfill her last request.

Thank you so much for sharing Katherine! I hope you readers enjoyed this as well. Be sure to connect with Katherine on Twitter and Instagram! And because Katherine is fabulous, she’s giving away an ecopy of Her Memory of Music. Be sure to enter below!

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Book Reviews, Fiction

Her Memory of Music by Katherine Scott Jones | Book Review

I love watching authors release debut novels out into the world. What a journey and a joy it must be for authors! It’s especially fun when it’s a blogger friend realizing that dream! I forget when we first crossed paths on the Internet, but I’m so glad we did, because Katherine Scott Jones is awesome and such an encourager. I get to return the favor by helping spread the word about her debut, Her Memory of Music!

A single mother’s past catches up with her and threatens the stability of her new life with her young son in this multi-layered treatment of contemporary relationships. Loss is met with hope and grace as Ally learns to open her heart and trust dangerous secrets to those she’s learning to love.

 

If you enjoy women’s fiction, then definitely pick up this book. If you haven’t read much women’s fiction, then pick up this book. Not only is this a captivating story, but Jones weaves important issues throughout the novel effortlessly. Not overwhelming the reader, but drawing the reader more deeply in. And the music piece of the story? Such a reminder of how healing and beautiful music can be.

I thoroughly enjoyed every piece of the novel, from the character development, to a real life perspective to encouraging faith weaved throughout seamlessly and naturally. Don’t miss out on this one friends!

What’s a recent debut you loved?

(With thanks to author and Redemption for providing a copy for review)

Where to Buy: Amazon | BN.com | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Ascension Of Larks by Rachel Linden | Book Review

Remember when I said I was only going to have a break in July and then there was silence for most of August too? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Here’s the thing. I bought a house. (It was the best birthday present I’ve ever given myself – ha!) I also thought it would only take a day or two to get said house in order. I’m so funny.

Anyway, I’m finally getting into a routine that doesn’t include unpacking boxes on the weekends and so back to blogging! I make no promises of regular scheduled programming just yet (I learned) and I’m still so behind on everything blogging, but it’s a start! So let’s dive in.

When globetrotting photographer Maggie Henry loses the only man she’s ever loved, she jeopardizes her rising career and steps in to care for her best friends’ three young children on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. Free-spirited and fiercely independent, Maggie’s star is rising fast. But she has a secret. She can’t let go of her first and only love, renowned architect Marco Firelli, now married to her best friend Lena.

With the shattering news of Marco’s death, Maggie rushes to the Firelli family’s summer home on San Juan Island and attempts to provide stability for the children as fragile, perfectionist Lena slowly falls apart. When Maggie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious photography competition, she finds herself unable to leave the only family she has during their time of need. Devastated, Maggie takes a series of photographs documenting their life in limbo.

A mysterious man appears on the island, and Maggie soon realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Daniel Wolfe, an award-winning Native American poet hiding in exile on the island, is responsible for Marco’s death. Maggie is both drawn to and repelled by Daniel, a sensitive, tortured soul with secrets of his own. Out of their loneliness and grief they form an unlikely friendship. Maggie develops her recent photographs, and she’s elated to discover that they are good enough for the photography competition. She still has a chance to win. But she must first relinquish the past so that she can move forward and embrace the reality of her unexpected life.

What to say about this book? All in all it wasn’t a bad read, but I didn’t connect with it. I would put it down, come back to it, then put it down again. I know part of the reason is I’m not a fan of best friends being in love with their best friend’s husbands and normally I wouldn’t pick it up, but since he died in a tragic accident, I was intrigued.

Outside of not connecting with the characters, there were some things that were introduced a bit too late in the story. If brought about earlier, they could have helped with story connection, character development and arc. I did appreciate learning about the island, the unique lives of the characters, and the children, I just wish I became invested more.

I do love this cover though and I’m also interested to see what’s next from Linden.

While this question has nothing to do with the book, how have y’all been? How was your summer?

(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