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Jun 23, 2018

Announcing the 2018 Reader Survey

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Discovering reader preferences, habits and attitudes
by M.K. Tod, Heather Burch and Patricia Sands

It has been really fascinating to see what makes readers read. M.K. Tod is an author who really wanted to find out the nitty gritty of our likes and dislikes and started running annual surveys geared towards historical fiction readers. Results from previous years can be found at M.K. Tod's site here and here (just a sample).

Readers and writers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both reader and writer.

What then do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? How do readers share their book experiences?

ANNOUNCING A 2018 READER SURVEY designed to solicit input on these topics and others.

with friends and family via email or your favourite social media. Robust participation across age groups, genders, and countries will make this year’s survey – the 4th – even more significant.

Participate by clicking this link. Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.

M.K. (Mary) Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, Time and Regret was published by Lake Union. Fellow authors Patricia Sands and Heather Burch helped design and plan the survey. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her blog A Writer of History. 

Jun 21, 2018

Somebody's Daughter by David Bell

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Somebody's Daughter by David Bell
Berkley Publishing Group/New American Library, July 10 2018
Psychological suspense/Thriller
Review copy via NetGalley, thank you!
My review of author's work Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell (2015, 5 stars)

In this pulse-pounding novel of psychological suspense from the USA Today bestselling author of Bring Her Home and Since She Went Away, a man must save the life of a little girl who just might be his daughter....
When Michael Frazier's ex-wife, Erica, unexpectedly shows up on his doorstep, she drops a bombshell that threatens to rip his family apart: Her ten-year-old daughter is missing--and Michael is the father. Unsure whether this is the truth but unwilling to leave the girl's fate to chance, Michael has no choice but to follow the elusive trail of the child he has always wanted but never knew he had.
After Michael departs, his wife, Angela, learns shocking news about Erica and fears for the safety of both her husband and the endangered girl. When a stranger, a man who claims a connection to Erica and her missing daughter, knocks on the door, Angela is drawn out into the night--and deep into the tangled web of Michael's past....
Over the course of one night, lies that span a decade come bubbling to the surface, putting Michael, his wife, and his whole family in jeopardy. And as the window for a little girl's safe return closes, Michael will have to decide who can be trusted and who is hiding the truth....

I really enjoyed reading David Bell's novel in 2015 (my review of Somebody I Used To Know) and I was eager to see what 2018 brought with the novelist's first hardcover published. Full of twist and turns, Somebody's Daughter does not disappoint as one night unfolds for over 400 pages. Isn't that crazy?! I thought that was wild, and it was so well done I had not even noticed that until I started writing this review.

The story revolves around that of a young girl's disappearance. On the outside it looks that Michael and Angela Frazier are living their perfect life with their perfect house and their squeaky-clean routines until the ex-wife shows up asking for help about her missing daughter. At that point everything Angela thought she knew about Michael goes out the window because this is the first time Angela hears about the existence of the pre-teen daughter Felicity. We kind of sort of don't know if Michael knew about Felicity either as the story progresses so that was a good twist.

 'Who is the bad guy here?' is the obvious thread, and quite surpisingly it could have been the sister, the mom, the ex-wife, the music teacher and the ex-wife's ex-boyfriend. Throw in a babysitter or a neighbor and we've got ourselves a twisted tangle of a hot mess. I loved the fast paced writing and how it truly kept me guessing. The part played by the lead detective was also well written-- so many angles and this is how we get that one crazy night spilling into over 400 pages. Oh and there's a dog, too. Every aspect you expect from a thriller is here for our enjoyment - five stars all the way to the bank.

If you like Ruth Ware, Gillian Flynn, Mary Kubica then add David Bell to your want-to-read list.
The absolute best part is that David Bell has several other titles for me to investigate. Sad though that my local library owns just one. Get with the program, Rockwall!

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jun 16, 2018

The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The 49th Mystic (Beyond The Circle #1) by Ted Dekker
May 2018, Revell/Baker Publishing group
Review copy from publisher, thank you for your generosity!

Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago. Still others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams.

They are wrong. In the small town of Eden, Utah, a blind girl named Rachelle Matthews is about to find out just how wrong.

When a procedure meant to restore Rachelle's sight goes awry, she begins to dream of another world so real that she wonders if Earth might only be a dream experienced when she falls asleep in that reality. Who is a simple blind girl to have such strange and fantastic dreams?

She's the prophesied one who must find and recover five ancient seals--in both worlds--before powerful enemies destroy her. If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign. If she fails, both worlds will forever be locked in darkness.

So begins a two-volume saga of high stakes and a mind-bending quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. The clock is ticking; the end rushes forward.

Ready? Set?


This book caught my eye before it was published and I entered a few giveaways et voila! it landed on my doorstep like the amazing gift that it was. I am writing this review weeks after I read this book because I know I could not ever possibly begin to explain the wonderfulness of it. You know when you're just not going to give it any justice kind of thing (besides WoW woW)? I wrote a mini-reviews post recently and I could not lump this one in the same post because it at least deserved its own review post, right? Yes.

So Ted Dekker has been around a while writing over thirty thriller/suspense and even historical titles; I've gotten a few of his works here and there including the entire Circle series which is categorized as fantasy and speculative. And now The 49th Mystic book comes along and it has something about a circle in it, but this book is categorized as a thriller. But then of course I have to wait for book two (bangs head) to see where this circle is going. This is definitely faith driven, so if you are not of that mind just stop right here.

metanoia: change in one's way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.
μετάνοια, μετανοίας, ἡ (μετανοέω), a change of mind: as it appears in one who repents of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done, Hebrews 12:17

The novel focuses in on a strange little town of Eden all on its own, dependent on each other as a whole with a new world order and Rachelle must go on a journey to save it from itself. It's a little bubble of a town and nothing goes in and nothing goes out. But the Shadow Man is there suddenly and Rachelle and her life are turned upside down.

"What begins as White that man has made Black?" is the first riddle that Rachelle needs to solve to save her little Eden. Rachelle is blind (but are we all blind anyway?) and the Shadow Man comes along and heals her blindness (or was it a scientific breakthrough) then kidnaps her dad or is it just a spell? Or just a dream? A nightmare.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. and the lion lays down with the lamb. Where is your faith? Is it in the seen? What is your cognitive perception? As Rachelle tries to deal with living in two different worlds and being tasked to save Eden and find five seals to defeat evil she is undergoing a transformation of what she really is. Can she master her earthen vessel and sacrifice that what she holds dear? Can she live up to her prophecy as the One?

"There are those among the human race called mystics who know that God is infinite." - says the Shadow Man who calls brains tissue tops. There is a wonderful fluidity of the writing of Dekker even when your own tissue top brain is struggling to keep up with the reality of what is going on in their world and yet it is so similar to what is in our world in front of us today. "The light only used the darkness to reveal its brilliance."

"God is infinitely secure, the mystics say. Would such a being ever need to defend himself...".
I can't quite accurately explain The 49th Mystic as we have theology and science doing a merry dance in a circle and it brings us to the one undeniable truth that the world is doing its very best to forget and ignore, much to our peril. To read and comprehend this book is a gift, but to actually live out the message is a challenge. Do you dare?

A book that I will cherish and pick up when I need a reminder of my purpose as there are so many hidden gems throughout that one just needs a minute to find one and then a few more minutes to mull it over. It will be a lifetime before I reach the ultimate goal that is hinted at but it would be a blessing to die trying. Cannot wait for the second installment and I also feel so blessed that I have so many other of Ted Dekker's books to read too!

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jun 14, 2018

Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train Series: With You Always & Together Forever

Thursday, June 14, 2018

With You Always (Orphan Train #1) by Jody Hedlund
June 2017, Bethany House
(borrowed from library)

Could following the opportunity of a lifetime cost them the love of their lives?
One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children's Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society's orphan trains is not all that it seems.
Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother's shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.
Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn't be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they've been working toward?
The novel sets up the Orphan Train series with a trio of teen sisters who end up on the streets after their parents have died. They have also taken charge of two little ones who were left behind. Elise and Marianne are the elder of the group and tasked with the burdens of taking care of each other when the economy is not fit for any working family. In 1857 New York there is a financial crisis with bankrupt businesses which spread nationally and eventually globally. Elise is from a poor German immigrant family and already regarded with prejudice during the tough times of increasing European immigrants flooding the population where no work was available. Elise leaves the younger children at an orphanage and heads west in hopes to earn money to send back to her sisters. She is among many other men and women forced to leave their families behind but she is lucky to have found a kinship with the very man with the means to found a new town.

Thornton is a young man always seeking approval from his father and still overshadowed by his twin brother. Throughout the story we see Thornton's maturity expand as he realizes what truly matters in God's eyes and inevitably in Elise's. There are several characters that help create an intriguing story arc so that even with a predictable outline I enjoyed the novel very much. I especially appreciated the historical aspect of how many children were farmed out across the country and the struggles of America during that era. The series is geared towards the inspirational market but I feel would be suitable for any historical romance fiction reader as there is not an over abundance of the Lord's word to distract from those just wanting a feel-good story.

Together Forever (Orphan Train Series #2) by Jody Hedlund
May 1, 2018 Bethany House
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Will the mistakes of their past cost them a chance at love?
Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children's Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she'll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.
Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won't go away--and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever. 
I am so glad I was offered this book for review, and especially glad I found the first book at the library so I could be fully invested in the Neumann family. While book one featured Elise's story, book two focuses on Marianne as she heads out as a chaperone of sorts as she is responsible for placing the orphan children in positions outside of New York. This novel does directly show possible situations for the riders of the orphan train which tears at your heart when you think of the 30,000 displaced and abandoned children which prompted the orphan train movement.

Marianne's partner is Drew Brady and as fate would have it, they really have some great chemistry. But the stars keep dimming on them as one thing after the other keeps happening to them which makes it seem like maybe they aren't meant to be together after all. Their relationship was really fun to watch bloom but even I admit once Drew started closing himself off I was getting a little ticked off at him and I had to take a break from him and the story for a bit. He is very touch and feely and quite frankly I just don't think that was the norm back in the day - but this is a historical romance series.

The nagging thought throughout the story was that the third sister Sophie is nowhere to be found, and no one seems to be freaking out, but maybe that was the norm back in the day? Overall though I am definitely still a Jody Hedlund fan and I do want to know what the heck is going on with Sophie so I would love to read the next installment (aptly named Searching For You) scheduled for December 2018. 

From the book's dedication, 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jun 9, 2018

Recommended Reads for Summer 2018

Saturday, June 09, 2018

These are all books that I have recently enjoyed and wanted to share here as they are worthy of summer binge reading. All of these books but one were personal copies or library loans.

December 2017, 419 pages St Martins Press

While I am not one who followed Nora Roberts specifically but perhaps have read one or two of her books in my lifetime, this book has prompted me to rethink that. This was so darn awesome.
The story-line follows a few threads of people as life as they knew it is over because "They returned the rental car, infecting the clerk and the businessman who rented it next. They infected the porter who took their bags when tips exchanged hands. By the time they reached and passed through security, the infection had passed to an easy two dozen people."
I have discovered that I love me some funky dystopian off the beaten path other type of world stuff and this one has magic(k) and apocalyptic goodness that I am definitely going to re-read before I buy the second book in the series. I have a love-hate relationship with series books because my brain is getting super old and I cannot remember stuff like who was who in the last book and so I cannot just pick right up a year or two later when starting another book in a series because my brain is zapping trying to remember what way was north.
It's a tough thing because when you love a book so much like Year One and you are shattered that the book has ended but then you're like Holy Cheese on A Cracker I Can't Wait For The Next Book Cuz I Am So Glad It's Not Really Over but Damn Just Gimme It Right Now.. you know what I mean. When I finished this one my official recorded thought on Goodreads was:
Mere words cannot express the fluidity of this novel. I am pretty certain but cannot recall if I have read a book by Roberts, but I shall never forget this one.

And so book two is of course on my eagerly awaited hurry up and publish that pie because I am going to devour you and not share the crumbs list. Kleenex worthy reading, too.

When I finished that one I moved on to another fantastic read, thank God, as it's so hard to follow when that one was epic...

February 2018, 512 pages Tyndale

The Masterpiece is the newest release by popular Christian Fiction author Francine Rivers. I have read one of her most popular novels and have been collecting many of her back-list for quite a few years now. This is a story of two people meant to be together but have to go through a lot of soul searching and misunderstandings before the happy ending. The characters were very well-drawn with a story that pulls you in no matter how simple the plot would sound of a he and she fall in love and live happily ever after. He is the famous painter is a recluse with a past that he prefers to stay there yet he has to fight his demons before he can be who he wants to be. She has to learn to trust again after her own train wreck of a life. What I loved about this story the most was how the message reveals itself - we are all His masterpiece created for One Life/One Purpose. Worldly pursuits and pleasures and forgiveness for our sins, the redemption offered, the promise of new life, the gift of love .. and kleenex worthy.

2015 released as 352 page paperback March 2018 edition
This is the one book that I received as a review copy several years ago, but I only got around to reading it when the paperback was chosen as a local book club read recently. I had actually read several other Ruth Ware novels and knew I would enjoy this one as it is the same genre of the psychological thriller suspense type books that she writes so well. I read it in a day. It was a twisty gothic adventure of a tale not meant to be one of those scary keep you up at night reads. Ruth Ware, Mary Kubica, Gillian Flynn all write in this fashion. Ware's newer titles are The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game which I enjoyed both. Great stories, good plots and intriguing endings.

These are older titles that I got caught up on:
2015 release of book three of All Souls Trilogy
I have a partner in crime for this one as we did a buddy read so it was super fun to explore the world of daemons, witches, vampires and wizards with a fellow nerd. Harkness has written a fantastic series that I really did not think I could enjoy as much as I have. I even used up Mothers Day Wish on the newest release not OF the series but ABOUT the series which is a compendium of sorts which just tells you how awesome the books are when you have people like me begging for a book about a book. I love that I know about familiars and blood-rage now but still a little freaked out about the origin of the Ashmole. I love how some Hist-fic gets thrown in too with this series such as Elizabethan England (Mary Sidney!). There will be yet another book (Time's Convert, September 2018) not technically of the series but a spin-off featuring characters of this series.. OK I see I have lost you, lol

I spotted this one when I was picking up books for my kid at the local library and I couldn't walk away from it. I had loved Code Name Verity back in 2012 and this one can be read as a stand alone. It is about a prisoner of war, an unlikely female pilot who shows amazing tenacity and grit while enduring the Holocaust that people to this day like to pretend did not happen. The story revolves mostly around Ravensbruck, the concentration camp known for housing primarily women.
While in reality there are certain things that happen to Rose that are a bit too unrealistic it does not distract from the overall tone of the story. It's another kleenex worthy read that will have you googling stuff about the sickness of those concentration camps, barrage balloons and doodlebug tipping.

Which of these have you read? And did I peak your interest of any? What's on your Summer Reading Pile? I am looking forward to Susanna Kearsley's newest title Bellewether!

You may need to re-subscribe by the way. No idea what is going on with the mailchimp thing when we had to do the GDPR compliance thing that was such an annoyance. No one won the giveaway since no one entered etc. but unsure if that was because of mailchimp's compliance or because giveaways are lame nowadays. No worries! I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.