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Oct 8, 2019

The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Words Between Us: A Novel by Erin Bartels
Revell Baker Publishing, September 3 2019
Women's Fiction, Christian Fiction
Review copy from the publisher, thank you!

Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels. When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book--a first edition Catcher in the Rye--is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again? With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine. 

The Words Between Us is one of those stories that grabs you more and more the further you go and then you are sorry when it is over. The multiple timelines of Robin's story blend easily together as the story unfolds and Robin finally comes to terms with the events that changed her life as a teenager. Losing her parents to a life of crime, Robin attempts to start over with a new name in a new town at a new high school but nothing comes easy to Robin. She is a lovable character, her teenaged dramas and immature views even as an adult helping to make this an endearing novel. The bonus and most unique aspect of the novel is the way books are a very important part of the plot.

This is a character driven novel, but it also includes the classic books as a character as well. They evoke the nostalgia of us all, reminding us how the written word can help form relationships in our real world. I enjoyed the romance, the intriguing mobster plot, the old man Dave DeWitt proving humanity is not a lost art. The Professor also a fantastic character -- so many great things to this novel! Well done for a sophomore novelist, now it is time for me to read Erin Bartels' first novel We Hope For Better Things.

Favorite quote: "The end of a friendship - a true and soul-stirring friendship - is a terrible thing."

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

Oct 7, 2019

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Monday, October 07, 2019

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Knopf Publishing, September 3 2019
Historical Russian Fiction
Personal purchase

A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott was not an easy to get swallowed up in type of read. We selected it for book club and pretty quickly it was obvious that there were some of us who were just not going to finish it, let alone even try. But a few of us stuck with it and were better for it. I didn't have any idea the significance of Doctor Zhivago before reading this story, never mind ever having the desire to read it or even watch the movie. But now I am slightly more interested. “This book will take us down a spiral from which there will be no return.”

The novel is told from many different viewpoints which becomes a stumbling block for some readers. For me, it meant that it was more of a story within a story within a story within a story. And I do have to say that the story between Russian author Pasternak and mistress Olga was my favorite. There were other storylines narrated by typists of the CIA "Sometimes they’d refer to us not by name but by hair color or body type: Blondie, Red, Tits. We had our secret names for them, too: Grabber, Coffee Breath, Teeth." (and yes, that was the narrator in plural) and another narrator from Irina and Sally and a certain little thrown in twist "Unlike some of the men, we could keep our secrets" that really is a sort of make-it or break-it plot point, but Olga's story is the most heart wrenching: “Don’t you realize?” I cried, ripping the pages up and tossing them into the bin. “It’s a loaded pistol. You’re the one who bought the bullets. You placed him above our family.”

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. It was Reese's book club pick for September 2019, Amazon Best Book for September 2019 and I am so glad I was able to see the heart in this story and keep going. Just have to kinda feel bad for those that marked it DNF. 

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

Oct 6, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon
October 29 2019 from Delacorte Press/Random House
416 pages
eGalley provided via NetGalley, thank you!

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land's greatest honor...and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.
In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu's ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

This is a YA fantasy romance read with a bit of a suspense factor thrown in. The essence of the story is to have Kammani save her sister from a fate worse than death: death via poison to fulfill a sacrifice so the old ruler can go to his grave with a fair maiden. Seen as an honor, Kammani's sister does not appreciate all the work Kammani is trying to do to save her sister from this fate. Kammani is a great character to root for, where I was ready to have her sister sacrificed and be done with it. Instead, we follow Kammani's tireless journey to the palace to save the ailing ruler and her own family at the same time. There are several characters to help build the story with plenty of no-gooders to throw a wrench in the best laid plans. There is a small romance plot that takes a sad back burner to the problem on hand.

Not my typical read but I am enjoying the recent YA fantasy style reads that I have been choosing lately. I am glad to have read this one as it is an authentically told story that held my attention throughout. But seeing as this is a duology I am not sure that is really necessary, though I will find out when that one comes out.

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

Sep 23, 2019

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts
October 22 2019 by Thomas Nelson publishers
eGalley via publisher, thank you

Two young friends embark upon an epic journey across 1940s middle America in search of answers, a family, and a place to call home.

The only kind of life Brighton Turner understands is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of a rural Pennsylvania asylum. A nurse has thoughtfully educated and raised Brighton, but she has also kept vital information from her in order to keep her close. Brighton befriends a boy whom she calls Angel—he doesn’t know his name—and as the two of them learn more about what lies beyond the walls they call home, they fight for their release and eventually escape.

However, the world outside the only place they’ve ever known is not what they expect. They have no real names, no money, and no help—and they must rely upon the kindness of strangers as they walk and hitchhike from Pennsylvania to Michigan to find their last hope of a home.

This heartbreaking journey, narrated in gorgeous prose, explores what it means to belong—and to scour the universe with fresh eyes for the brightness within.

I had read the author's previous novel The Solace of Water so I was eager to read this next novel and The Bright Unknown did not disappoint. The setting of an insane asylum where Brighton grew up  during the 1940's was so vivid that I immediately wondered about how the author researched this material. This is a story that is deserving of the lauded phrases of masterfully told, immersive plot, unforgettable characters because all of this is true. It is so well told that it has a bit of a saga feel to it because Brighton is slowly learning all the layers of her past (and ancestors) as she is recounting it in this dual-setting narrative. The shift from the younger Brighton to the present day adult character allows the reader to become more and more invested in the character of Brighton even though in the long run we know Brighton must turn out ok since she is right there as a sixty-something lady at the beginning of the novel. And yet we also fall in love with the supporting characters such as childhood albino friend Angel and we need to keep reading to find out what happened to him, too.

This is a unique story that will sit with you for a while. It's nuance is dark and depressing however because of the major dilemma of being a child eventually aging out of an insane asylum where she did not belong in the first place. There is a bit of a suspenseful tone as well because we know that there is something underhanded going on that keeps Brighton in the asylum and where Brighton once thought she had allies she had none. Secrets and betrayals are finally laid open for a full redemption at the end that requires tissues, but it was so good! Ugly cry again.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jul 30, 2019

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker
Revell/Baker Publishing July 16 2019
review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

When Cohen Marah steps over his father's body in the basement embalming room of the family's funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory. As the last one to see his father, Cohen is the primary suspect.

Over the next week, Cohen's childhood memories come back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his father being asked to leave his pastoral position. The game of baseball that somehow kept them together. And the two children in the forest who became his friends--and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he's been avoiding: Did he kill his father?

In Light from Distant Stars, master story weaver Shawn Smucker relays a tale both eerie and enchanting, one that will have you questioning reality and reaching out for what is true, good, and genuine.

There was a review I read on another book but the same publisher that complained they did not realize it was a book that referenced 'god'. Let it be known that Revell is a publisher that brings us stories with a faith based theme. Sometimes it is not very prevalent but Shawn Smucker's Light From Distant Stars does not shy from the faith speak/God talk from page one. You will not like this novel if this scares you. I pretty much love everything from this publisher, so I chose Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker as our neighborhood book club read since I planned on reading it anyway this summer. Then I start reading .. and immediately start wondering if my book clubbers are going to be annoyed at the faith aspect. (Which points to so many other issues such as my insecurities, the reality that it is not cool to love and honor God etc.) So ..yes.. I am a little scared to find out what the other reactions are when the book club meeting comes along.

Shawn Smucker's previous novels were more of a young adult genre and Light From Distant Stars is marketed towards adult yet given the actual plot line I can see where it would be hard to differentiate between the two markets. The novel is told from Cohen's viewpoint but alternating between two time periods in his life where each period has a momentous event occurring. What was most impressive about these shifts in narration is how they were seamless; each chapter another layer is unveiled and the symbolism reveals itself slowly but also quite magnificently can be interpreted in several ways. There is a saying that no two persons ever reads the same book and this book can be the phrase's poster child.

As the synopsis states, Cohen may or may not be responsible for his father's death. And I thought the book would be about who killed his dad but that is definitely not what this book is about. It is about how Cohen comes to terms with his parent's divorce, betrayal of why that happened many years ago, possible depression, insanity or anxiety, shadows, beasts, light, darkness.. and how he comes to grips with the reality of his life. One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the graphic page that introduces a new part of the book and it quotes a line from Genesis. The other favorite part is the seemingly effortless way of writing put forth by Shawn Smucker.

"The waters are separating. The waters of the sky are blowing away in the wind and the waters of the earth lay before him, and he walks through them to the church and up the sidewalk ramp. The door is unlocked."

 And since I was raised Catholic, I can totally appreciate the confessional scenes. The Lord has put away all your sins. Thanks be to God. While this novel did not end up being what I expected, I am pleased to say that I really enjoyed this character driven novel and should bring up some interesting topics at book club!

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

Jul 24, 2019

Living Lies by Natalie Walters

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Living Lies (Harbored Secrets #1) by Natalie Walters
Revell/Baker Publishers May 21 2019
338 pages, Christian Suspense
review copy from the publisher, thank you!

In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name--but no one knows your secret. At least that's what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton's newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she'll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

Debut novelist Natalie Walters pulls you to the edge of your seat on the first page and keeps you there until the last in this riveting story that will have you believing no one is defined by their past.

This is a realistically paced suspense novel that focuses on a bit of a taboo subject of depression. When the synopsis alludes to a dark secret it is really not that thrilling but it is yet still an important topic. The main character Lane stumbles upon a dead body of a young girl pretty much as soon as she returns to the small town where she is from; just when she is struggling to keep her head above water she is thrust into this investigation of the murdered girl. She makes friends with the new deputy in town so there is a bit of romance going on as the investigation progresses.

The novel evokes the chill/creepy factor very well as there are evil undercurrents throughout the story, and we don't know everything that is going to happen. Along with the well-plotted suspense, Living Lies is also a charming story as we see the desperately needed support is finally given to Lane's mental health. I wish there were a way we could get some more stories out there that show mental health stability is something we should all be offering to our loved ones and not treat it as someone else's problem to bear; maybe there would be less tragedy in all our lives if more awareness and steps towards healing are offered.

I am intrigued enough to see what book 2 is going to be about as this is marketed as a series. A very well done debut novel for Natalie Walters.

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

Jul 21, 2019

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Sunday, July 21, 2019

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner
Revell/Baker Publishing June 2019
450 pages Christian Fiction
review copy via publisher, thank you
Best of 2019

When Annie Jacobson's brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.

In Mike's absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike's safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Author Susie Finkbeiner invites you into the Jacobson family's home and hearts during a time in which the chaos of the outside world touched their small community in ways they never imagined.

I absolutely loved this book and it is not an easy book to describe other than it being a powerful story that is both easy and hard to read at the same time. I found the setting especially intriguing, about a family who is forced to say goodbye to Mike Jacobson as he heads off to enlist in the Vietnam War. I almost said 'sent' to the war, but he volunteered; it's important to note the sacrifice he knew he was making as his own dad had come home broken from the Korean War years earlier. Mike was the rock of the family - being the oldest son after his dad moved out when the three siblings were young. This is a novel told in first person by Annie, who is the sister out of school and just working at the local diner as she holds the family together once Mike enlists. At eighteen she could just be thinking about boys and her life's goals but once Mike is gone the current events of 1967 take on a whole new perspective.

"It's just making our hard job that much more difficult. You know how hard it is to be fighting for a bunch of people who are against you?"

I, for one, am very grateful for that perspective. The novel realistically shows racism, family divides, sorrow and hope. And my heart was ripped out a few times through this voice of Annie's and my emotions got the better of me where I said I have to write this review but of course I cannot fathom the words to specifically say how much this book touched my soul. It is a journey from beginning to end and I am so blessed to have read this tender message of the Lord's mercy. Even with the ugly cry. Thankful no one was in the room through the ugly cry part two.

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

Jul 8, 2019

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

Monday, July 08, 2019

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham
July 9 2019 Grand Central publishing
864 pages hardcover/577 pages kindle
eGalley via publisher, thank you!

Read my previous reviews of Leila Meacham's works

At the height of WWII, five idealistic young Americans receive a mysterious letter from the OSS, asking them if they are willing to fight for their country. The men and women from very different backgrounds--a Texan athlete with German roots, an upper-crust son of a French mother and a wealthy businessman, a dirt-poor Midwestern fly fisherman, an orphaned fashion designer, and a ravishingly beautiful female fencer -- all answer the call of duty, but each for a secret reason of his or her own. They bond immediately, in a group code-named Dragonfly.
Soon after their training, they are dropped behind enemy lines and take up their false identities, isolated from one another except for a secret drop-box, but in close contact with the powerful Nazi elite who have Paris under siege.

Thus begins a dramatic and riveting cat-and-mouse game, as the young Americans seek to stay under the radar until a fatal misstep leads to the capture and the firing-squad execution of one of their team. everything as it seems, or is this one more elaborate act of spycraft?

Spies, Nazis, murals, France, nuns, fly fishing -this was great story and of grand epic proportions! Dragonfly was such a page turner that it kept me up way past my bedtime. I have always loved the writing of Leila Meacham and I am so pleased to report that Dragonfly did not disappoint. Please don't let the 864 page number dissuade you, this number is for their large print hardcover edition, but yes it is still a chunky book at 577 glorious kindle pages.

This story is another WWII novel which seem to be flooding the market recently- not that it is a bad thing. Dragonfly is the code name of the group of five young Americans going to offer their services as part of a spy network planted in Germany-occupied Paris. There is a larger cast of characters from the spies themselves to all those that cross the main characters' path, so it does take a bit of concentration to keep everything on track. The fact that we never really could tell if/when someone was going to drop the noose on one of the Dragonfly members made for some edge of my seat reading that I just could not put the book down for long at all.

I appreciated the fact that the author did not feel the need to rush through events and instead creates plausible situations that keep us rooting for the group. We really had a chance to engage with each of the characters and understand the undercurrents with nervous adrenaline while the rookies attempted to impede the Nazis right under their noses. I especially enjoyed how actual spying tasks were not made so easy and there were several hiccups along the way, making for a much more realistic novel throughout their adventures.

Splendid writing, fantastic storytelling and such a treat for Leila Meacham fans of which there are many. Another well-deserved five stars for Leila Meacham!

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

Jun 30, 2019

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake
published May 2019 Flatiron Books
borrowed from the library

An unforgettable love story, a novel about past mistakes and betrayals that ripple throughout generations, The Guest Book examines not just a privileged American family, but a privileged America. It is a literary triumph.

The Guest Book follows three generations of a powerful American family, a family that “used to run the world”.

And when the novel begins in 1935, they still do. Kitty and Ogden Milton appear to have everything—perfect children, good looks, a love everyone envies. But after a tragedy befalls them, Ogden tries to bring Kitty back to life by purchasing an island in Maine. That island, and its house, come to define and burnish the Milton family, year after year after year. And it is there that Kitty issues a refusal that will haunt her till the day she dies.

In 1959 a young Jewish man, Len Levy, will get a job in Ogden’s bank and earn the admiration of Ogden and one of his daughters, but the scorn of everyone else. Len’s best friend Reg Pauling has always been the only black man in the room—at Harvard, at work, and finally at the Miltons’ island in Maine.
An island that, at the dawn of the 21st century, this last generation doesn’t have the money to keep. When Kitty’s granddaughter hears that she and her cousins might be forced to sell it, and when her husband brings back disturbing evidence about her grandfather’s past, she realizes she is on the verge of finally understanding the silences that seemed to hover just below the surface of her family all her life.

An ambitious novel that weaves the American past with its present, The Guest Book looks at the racism and power that has been systemically embedded in the US for generations. Brimming with gorgeous writing and bitterly accurate social criticism, it is a literary tour de force.

I picked up this title from the library as I had seen it marketed around the internet and it seemed to really be well received. And I love sagas, this is definitely one. But I have a strong dislike for "literary masterpiece" type of reads as those seem to be a total bore and a letdown and pretty much a political tirade or something similar. Or so I thought. I struggled getting into this novel, I really did. The very first sentence was a signal of things to come and I was not pleased. I was completely turned off and quite frankly, confused. At a long 5% later I was reading reviews of the book and totally trying to determine if I should keep going. Some readers were as confused and bored as I was and just stopped. Somehow it seemed you either loved or hated this one, so I wanted to keep going.

Looking back at my reading progress it seems somewhere between 5% and 20% I was able to dig in and start caring about these characters and that for me is the key to my enjoyment of a novel. It is definitely a wordy novel hence the term 'literary' but I was able to get on board with the tones and nuances of the passionate voice of this novel as a whole. This is a story of an upper class family the Miltons and is told through the eyes of different generations of the family which causes a bit of confusion as the narration changes. The women are all strong members of the Milton clan and they actually own a little island in New England. What to do with that island as the last generation is forced to come to terms with it and their place in today's America is the question. Is it a status symbol? Is it a part of them? How important is it to own an island? Why the hell should we care?

17 highlights on the kindle version means that were so many points getting a rise out of me that I was like, 'YES! THIS!'. There are things that define a family, which could be a stigma or a gift. The island could be either. Perception is a key theme to this novel: perceptions and prejudice of both race and wealth. This saga demonstrates how easily misperception can ruin a family and cloud a stranger's judgement. One of the main characters is Reg Paulding who is a black man on the outside of the Milton family, yet Moss Milton really wants to include Reg:
"Most people in the rest of the country would walk in here and see one black man sitting where he shouldn’t.” Moss shook his head stubbornly. “We are sitting together, and that’s the fact. Anything can happen from here on out. Anything is possible. Big ears, man. You gotta have big ears.”

The inclusion of an angry young man at one party has such debilitating repercussions and shows that those are too self-absorbed in their own hurt can never realize the good out of life. "No one knew what to do with him sitting there. Classmate? Roommate? Checkmate."  Reg's role is pivotal in the Milton saga whether he wants to be or not. He can treat it as a chess game but in the end it is life and then death. 

The shifting narration that was so hard to get used to in the beginning actually is a symbol in itself, as it is indicative that history repeats itself and generation upon generation we seem to make the same mistakes over and over, but under the guise of some new freedom that we feel is being trampled upon. What is real? What is imagined?

But there was no freedom without history. That was America in him.

I finished this novel with a heartache, a passionate response to this book that I didn't quite grasp its purpose until later but it was so very good I do definitely recommend this to those who have the perseverance to get through to the core.

"He thinks he can change the world—” He sighed. “But the world does not change. Only you do."

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

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay
published May 14 2019 Thomas Nelson
eGalley via publisher, thank you!

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop
One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

Those of us with a love for stories and the smell of a charming bookshop will find it hard to turn away from this novel by Katherine Reay. This is a story that blends several storylines together as three ladies are bonding over one storefront.Their stories are told in shifting point of views as they slowly become friends while working together at the bookshop. Madeline, Janet and Claire each begrudgingly share their hurts and disappointments while Aunt Maddie helps them discover grace and redemption from the grave.

With each narration shift I struggled to get in tune with who was 'talking' even though there was a small difference in the age range of the three women. Madeline is a young early thirties successful lawyer who suddenly finds herself the owner of the quaint bookshop; Janet is the mid-fifties divorced mom of adult children who want nothing to do with her cheating self; Claire is the sophisticated mom who doesn't really need to work but her kids are busy in high school and can fend for themselves so Claire finds new purpose managing the store.

They are each struggling with life's disappoints and working at the bookshop brings them together as friends along with their love for the recently deceased Aunt Maddie. Aunt Maddie has left them each a list of books to read and which order to read them in as she knew the messages in each book would help them discover what has been holding them back from enjoying life. She has left the entire community a legacy that promotes kindness, loyalty and everlasting love. Katherine Reay brings us a novel full of hope and promise that becoming that girl in Proverbs 31 is not as hard as you make it to be.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jun 16, 2019

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
William Morrow, June 6 2019
eGalley provided by the publisher, thank you!

My review of other Jean Kwok books:
Girl In Translation
Mambo In Chinatown

A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation
It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

I have been a fangirl of Jean Kwok's writing since her 2010 release of Girl in Translation and I was so eager to read this third novel of hers. The author has quite a unique voice for storytelling and you can tell her words come directly from the heart. This novel is a beautifully complex blend of passion, heartache, prejudice and loss.

The broad theme of this novel is to solve the mystery as Amy is searching for her missing sister but in reality the reader is taken on a journey of the heart of the characters of Amy's family. Sylvie was always on a pedestal once she returned to Amy's family in New York but when Sylvie is compelled to return to the Netherlands to be with her dying grandmother she disappears soon after. Amy is forced to overcome her own insecurities to begin the quest for Sylvie. Traveling to the Netherlands Amy meets the family where Sylvie was raised and discovers so much more about her sister. Amy is confused as to why there is so much animosity towards her sister from the family who were supposed to love her like one of their own. Slowly secrets are unraveled as the narration switches between the characters as well as different time frames so that the veil of the mystery is being slowly lifted for the reader. Nuances of guilt and dishonor come to light as the family is forced to face the reality of what should of been foreseen long ago with Sylvie. The sins of the mother are visited upon the daughter and wounds are laid open to bleed with little hope of healing the wound. The lessons that are given through the character studies are worthy of us all and points us in the right direction of respecting values and embracing flaws. "If you were born a dime, you would never become a quarter."

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a hypnotizing story that will pull you in from the beginning. I especially loved the way the voices changed from each character's point of view, and I can both appreciate and envy Jean Kwok's gift for saying so much within a sentence.

Favorite quotes:
"This was how the mind worked, deceiving us so we could bear the many sorrows of life."
"But he has only taught me that in these modern times, the distinction between hero and villain was often in the eye of the beholder."

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

Jun 10, 2019

Layover by David Bell

Monday, June 10, 2019

Layover by David Bell
Berkley Publishing Group, July 2 2019
Mystery & Thrillers
Review Copy via NetGalley

In this high concept psychological suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter, a chance meeting with a woman in an airport sends a man on a pulse-pounding quest for the truth.

Joshua Fields takes the same flights every week for work, his life a series of departures and arrivals, hotels and airports. During yet another layover, he meets Morgan, a beautiful stranger with whom he feels an immediate connection. When it’s time for their respective flights, Morgan kisses Joshua passionately, lamenting that they’ll never see each other again.

As soon as Morgan disappears in the crowd, Joshua is shocked to see her face on a nearby TV. The reason: Morgan is a missing person.

What follows is a whirlwind, fast-paced journey filled with lies, deceit, and secrets as Joshua tries to discover why Morgan has vanished from her own life. Every time he thinks one mystery is solved, another rears its head—and his worst enemy might be his own assumptions about those around him.
Review of Somebody's Daughter by David Bell can be found here.

I am enjoying the suspense/thriller genre over the past few years because they aren't supposed to put me to sleep with facts and minutia, but this one was a little more wordy with a lot less suspense. Maybe that is what "high concept" means in the blurb, I am not sure. This story was about a chance meeting at an airport between a totally boring dude who is completely bored with life in general and meets a mysterious girl with a floppy hat in an airport. He becomes a creeper and stalks her and feels like one good kiss means he should ignore the very important business meeting he is supposed to go to with his boring dad and follow this girl from the bathroom to a different flight. She tells him to get the heck away from her and yet he still continues to follow her around.

If you ignore the fact that none of this would happen in real life then you can try and appreciate the other narrative of the detective in charge of tracking down the same person that is the creepy guy's new love interest. Turns out Morgan is a missing girl possibly responsible for the disappearance of her ex-boss and now the creepy dude doesn't know if she is a good person or a bad person or just really good in bed.

All in all, an interesting plot but personally I find it hard to "care" when the characters themselves do not offer any reason for me to root for them. There was no real reason for me to like boring dude, or the person of interest Morgan, and there was not a whole lot from the detective except to hope she gets to see her kid's soccer match someday. If you are on a layover and need a quick read, this one is great for that. Plenty of concourse and terminals for your pleasure.

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

Jun 3, 2019

A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

Monday, June 03, 2019

A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund
Bride Ships book #1
Bethany House, June 4 2019
352 pages
Review copy via netgalley, thank you
Previous posts regarding Jody Hedlund here at BBR
Burton Book Review Rating: Unabashedly FIVE STARS

Living in London's poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she's offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister. 
Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship's surgeon, he's in charge of the passengers' welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love. 
With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

I love Jody Hedlund's writing style and the way she incorporates christian themes with her historical romances. And typically I'm like "moan, groan" if I hear the term Bride Ship because hey, we all know what that story arc is all about, am I right? Luckily I know that anything by this author is touched with gold, so I requested it and downloaded and read it in a day. A Blessedly Long Day. But a wonderful day that was perfectly set for this reluctant bride story regarding the young and humble Mercy Wilkins. She is from a destitute family in London and knows there is literally zero hope of a happy existence when she has to survive on a stale piece of bread for sustenance each day. When she finds out about the ship taking young ladies abroad to help settle British Columbia she knows it is a chance not to be spurned. It is not until later that she finds out the main purpose of all the ladies sailing to an unknown land is so that they can be brides and have babies and Mercy is having none of that!

Mercy is a sweet and endearing character who is tempted by the gorgeous doctor on board the ship - yet there will always be the division of classes of the poor and the upper crust. Turns out the handsome doctor is really Lord Joseph Colville of London and she really should not be catching his eye, but of course her sweet nature is so unlike the haughty taughty ladies that she sets herself apart, rags and all. And yes, A Reluctant Bride follows along the familiar storyline of love conquers all but this novel also brings to light other themes such as we are all God's creatures no matter if you are a Lord or a maid. We are shown the hardships that the poorest of the poor are forced to endure, the heartaches and the burdens that are so easy to turn a blind eye to. And yet Mercy was blessed with the fortitude to be able to do whatever it is she could to be able to make a difference and she did not hesitate to help someone who would definitely not return the favor.

As Mercy was so easy a character to like, so was the good doctor. Lord Colville also portrayed the genteel qualities of the titles he owned, but he also had a good struggle with his own burdens that he works through in the novel. Of course the reader knows that these two are meant for each other, but the obstacles of other people and the social strata of what should be done block their direct paths to true happiness. I do not normally go all through the character analysis in a review but since it is already written here I shall leave it. I look forward to book two which will feature a fellow passenger on the bride ship.

Suffice it to say this novel is going to stay with me for a while, just as Hedlund's other works have. The author brings a passion to all of her stories that blend the context of  history, inspirational themes and pure clean romance that is hard to put down mid way through. Thank you to Bethany House Publisher for supporting this wonderful author and providing her amazing work for us to devour.

Other reviews at this site for Jody's work:
Orphan Train Series:
Searching For You
With You Always
Together Forever

A Noble Groom
Unending Devotion

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

May 20, 2019

The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Poison Thread: A Novel by Laura Purcell
Penguin Books, June 18 2019
Historical Fictions, suspense/Gothic
Review copy via NetGalley

A thrilling Victorian gothic horror tale about a young seamstress who claims her needle and thread have the power to kill
Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy, and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor, and awaiting trial for murder.
When Dorothea's charitable work brings her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted by the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person's skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets one of the prisoners, the teenaged seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another strange idea: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread--because Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.
The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations--of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses--will shake Dorothea's belief in rationality, and the power of redemption. Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer? The Poison Thread is a spine-tingling, sinister read about the evil that lurks behind the facade of innocence.

My review of The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell can be found here.

I can't say no to a Victorian Gothic tale and I really enjoyed this author's previous novel The Silent Companions. The Poison Thread is the US edition of an already released UK edition titled The Corset which I will never understand why there has to be months between these releases and confusing everyone in the world wide web of different titles etc.

The premise of this story from Dorothea's point of view is that the shape of someone's head, phrenology, dictates a person's moral character. Which is horse pooey and a slightly annoying theme to this story but does well to underscore the psychological suspense. And the creepier theme is that Ruth, who is now a prisoner, believes she is able to harm people by infusing powerful thoughts while sewing something for a specific person. Everything she stitches has become some sort of poison to its wearer and eventually Ruth is put in jail for causing such harm to others. This is how Dorothea and Ruth meet, because Dorothea is measuring Ruth's skull as part of the phrenology research otherwise their two social castes would never have crossed.

There are several running side stories as the narrative goes back and forth making a true page turner as you never really know what is going to happen next. Each character is flawed and yet somehow likeable, and I really appreciated the nuances of the era that really set the tone throughout this novel that is a borderline horror story. The author has a wonderful knack for the historical suspense and I am looking forward to what flows next from her pen!

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

May 13, 2019

Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick

Monday, May 13, 2019

Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick
Sourcebooks Landmark, June 4 2019 USA edition
Historical Fiction, Medieval
Review copy via NetGalley

A new historical fiction masterpiece from highly acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Elizabeth Chadwick!
England, 1219. Lying on his deathbed, William Marshal, England’s greatest knight, realizes it is time to fulfill his vow to the Templars and become a monk of their order for eternity.
As he waits for his sacred burial shrouds to return, he looks back upon his long-ago pilgrimage with his brother Ancel, and the sacred mission entrusted to them—to bear the cloak of their dead young lord to Jerusalem and lay it on Christ’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The third story in a tale of deadly politics, devious scheming, and the lusts of powerful men and women at rule, Templar Silks is the tale of one man attempting to uphold his honor and his life to become England’s greatest knight.

Read my reviews of Elizabeth Chadwick's other works here. An author guest blog is also available here and another here and here.

The Winter Crown
The Summer Queen
Lords of The White Castle
Shadows and Strongholds
A Place Beyond Courage
To Defy A King
The Scarlet Lion
The Greatest Knight

As you can tell from the list of links here Elizabeth Chadwick is a favorite author, and I have read at least one more that I never reviewed here which means this is about the tenth Chadwick novel that I have read. The author has a reputation for meticulous details and an obvious passion about what she writes. A favorite character, William Marshal, is featured in several of her other historical novels and the author has created quite a following for Marshal himself, so this one should be a no-brainer.

Unfortunately for me this is not one of my favorites from the author as it truly focuses on a limited scope of Marshal's pilgrimage to Jerusalem which is something she had not been able to fit into the other novels - which would have been specifically about England and the troubles of King Henry and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.

This novel is much more of a character study of William Marshal and his immediate relations who were with him on the journey to Jerusalem and who he met there. I found it slow going and was not very interested in William's love affair with a powerful man's mistress but found myself wishing for more direction towards his brother Ancel who truly seemed to be the humble hero in this telling. I am very aware I am in the minority of Elizabeth Chadwick followers and I will still be eager to read the rest of Chadwick's work, this one just was not a favorite for me. I prefer her writing to be more on the saga-like historicals which were broader storylines on a particular medieval time period with multiple warring families and lots of court intrigues and arranged political marriages. This novel did not interest me in particular so much that I even skimmed some pages of the very descriptive and detailed thoughts of William Marshal as he struggled between who to trust along his journey.

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

Apr 7, 2019

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

Sunday, April 07, 2019

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
Gallery Books February 5th
eBook library borrow

In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.
A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.
In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.
When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?
Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?

I read The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald in about a day and rated it five stars. It is a very intriguing story of a mother in search for answers for what happened the night her daughter Olivia fell from a bridge. The narrative shifts between Abi and Olivia as we slowly are revealed the events of Olivia's teenaged life and we discover secrets and relationships of Olivia's the same time that her mom Abi does. There are tons of things that can be hidden from a mother and yet in this story it keeps coming and coming and it is hard to tell who pushed Olivia off a bridge. Olivia is actually on life support because she can still be the womb for the child she is carrying; what happens to the baby? Very emotive and tissue worthy.

I devoured this story and really appreciated the plot twists .. spoiler free review therefore I will have to stop here. Great book, if you like suspense and quick reads with complex themes, this will work well!

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

Mar 17, 2019

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

Sunday, March 17, 2019

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge
Random House Publishing Group, January 2019
General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers
Review copy via NetGalley

Six friends. One killer. Who do you trust? A teen girl is missing after a night of partying; thirty years later, the discovery of her body reopens a cold case in an absorbing novel featuring a small-town cop determined to finally get to the truth—for fans of Tana French and Kate Atkinson.

On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and the youngest of the group—Aurora Jackson—is delighted to be allowed to tag along. The evening starts like any other—they drink, they dance, they fight, they kiss. Some of them slip off into the woods in pairs, others are left jealous and heartbroken. But by morning, Aurora has disappeared. Her friends claim that she was safe the last time they saw her, right before she went to sleep. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found.

Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers—including Aurora—personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead, and all of them profoundly changed forever.
This searing, psychologically captivating novel marks the arrival of a dazzling new talent, and the start of a new series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens.

I've always been a fan of the crime shows from anything like Law & Order to Murder She Wrote and I figure myself a pretty keen judge of character and can figure out angles of mysteries fairly quickly. This novel is definitely one that kept me guessing even though the obvious fact is that the murderer had to be one of the six friends who were camping with Aurora when she had died. The fact that this was a cold case adds a whole new level of fact checking thirty years later and determining what a motive could be to murder the ethereal young beauty that Aurora was.

There are many characters to set up this mystery whose traits were revealed slowly throughout the novel which helped draw out the suspense. There were nuances of foul play between all the friends, and then add in those who knew the friends and weave in possible corruption of the police to a cover up at a higher level at the school that all sets up a captivating web of leads to follow.

 I appreciated the level of attention given to all the suspects and enjoyed learning more about the detectives themselves, setting up background for another novel in the author's future featuring the group headed by Jonah Sheens (which is assumed will occur based upon the Goodreads' subtitle). The setting in Scotland adds another check mark of a cool setting to the overall effort that was very well done for a debut writer and this one even made me tear up!

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

Feb 26, 2019

A Dangerous Collaboration (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery Book 4) by Deanna Raybourn

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Dangerous Collaboration (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery Book 4) by Deanna Raybourn
Berkley Publishing Group, March 12 2019
Review copy via NetGalley, thank you!

A bride mysteriously disappears on her wedding day in the newest Veronica Speedwell adventure by the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey series.

Lured by the promise of a rare and elusive butterfly, the intrepid Veronica Speedwell is persuaded by Lord Templeton-Vane, the brother of her colleague Stoker, to pose as his fiancée at a house party on a Cornish isle owned by his oldest friend, Malcolm Romilly.

But Veronica soon learns that one question hangs over the party: What happened to Rosamund? Three years ago, Malcolm Romilly’s bride vanished on their wedding day, and no trace of her has ever been found. Now those who were closest to her have gathered, each a possible suspect in her disappearance.

From the poison garden kept by Malcolm’s sister to the high towers of the family castle, the island’s atmosphere is full of shadows, and danger lurks around every corner.

Determined to discover Rosamund’s fate, Veronica and Stoker match wits with a murderer who has already struck once and will not hesitate to kill again.…

I have read a few of Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey titles but this is my first Veronica Speedwell novel. I knew I would be able to jump right into this book four as they are styled as stand-alones. I would love to go back to read the rest of the titles by Raybourn but there is just so much time in my day that I will settle with a current read so that I may offer a review.

The series features a spunky heroine who enjoys being a woman ahead of her time and not caring that she is fast approaching spinsterhood. This book opens up to Veronica and Stoker on a bit of a tightrope between friends and romance and they don't know quite how to handle that. Meanwhile they are set off on an adventure to a castle complete with ghosts and tall tales when they are tasked with finding out what why a friend's bride had disappeared on their wedding day three years prior.

The setting was one of the better characters of the novel, featuring deadly gardens, hidden priest holes and woeful little islands. The supporting cast of the devoted housekeeper, various family members and the cat help to add confusion to the mystery at hand.

The murder/disappearance of Rosamund was intriguing and I didn't have it all figured out though just slightly grasped at the possibility of of her demise. I enjoyed the banter of the two brothers who were Veronica's traveling companions but certainly hope the next book would finally address the romance of Veronica and Stoker. Overall it was an enjoyable experience for someone stepping into the middle of the series and engaging for a cozy mystery.

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

Feb 24, 2019

A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night: Finding and Following God's Will for You by A.W. Tozer

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night: Finding and Following God's Will for You by A.W. Tozer, edited by James L Snyder
176 pages; Bethany House Publishers, March 2019
review copy via NetGalley, thank you

How can I know God's will for me, personally? It's a question that haunts us all at times--maybe when we're looking for the right job, thinking about moving to a new city, or deciding whether or not to get married. At every stage we have difficult decisions to make, and we long for God's direction and his warm reassurance that we're heading the right way.

A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night captures Tozer's teaching on the will of God taken from sermons he preached just before he left his successful church in Chicago. Tozer was no stranger to facing difficult decisions, and his wisdom and biblical insight will help guide you in decisions of your own. The title comes from the story of God leading his people out of Egypt into the promised land. In the same way, let this book help reveal where he is leading and reassure you that he will be by your side every step of the way.

I have heard my pastor quote from A. W. Tozer a few times in the last year so when I was given the opportunity to review this book that is coming out Spring of 2019 I was excited to try it. While Tozer himself is no longer on this earth his classic and encouraging words remain. The book is actually set up so that it could be read a chapter a day similar to a devotional. It is a quick 176 pages (paperback version) divided into 23 chapters, each beginning with a simple but relevant prayer or poem.

In today's modern world of distractions and endless responsibilities dragging us farther and farther away from how God wishes we would live, Tozer's message remains clear and focused, reminding us of the truths of God's love for us through His almighty power and attributes. Sample chapter titles are "Coming against our enemy", "Blessings and Battles" and "The Curse of Delayed Blessings".

A favorite and timely quote: "There are weeds of unbelief choking our belief. Our job is to find them and uproot them from our lives. The Angel before me will faithfully lead me away from all elements of unbelief hiding within my life."

The way in which Tozer reminded myself of the many enemies I have (myself being the greatest) but recognizing the enemies such as temper, inferiority complexes and of course facets of other people in general is a valuable reminder of obedience and turning those into weapons for the kingdom of God.

As you go throughout your day making your simple decisions and then perhaps your tougher decisions, are you remembering God's will? Do you struggle with finding what God's will means for you? Through Tozer's own inspired words in A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night you may find a little more clarity in recognizing paths of rebellion and ambition and instead better yourself by leading in the path of graciousness. Tozer himself writes "I am where I am today because of the wisdom of God in opening up the right doors at the right time."

I really enjoyed this book and will continue to do so. Its message is timeless and can be used as a daily tool to remind yourself which binoculars to use as you are choosing paths all the while cultivating the presence of God.

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

Jan 13, 2019

Searching For You by Jody Hedlund

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Searching For You by Jody Hedlund
Orphan Train #3
Bethany House, December 2018
eGalley from NetGalley

(Public Service Announcement: Please read book one and two before reading Book Three, this is not a stand alone novel)

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?
I previously reviewed books one and two from the Orphan Train Series by Jody Hedlund on my blog at this link.
I really enjoyed this entire series from Jody Hedlund. I love her writing as a combination of several things I look for in a novel: clean romance without seeming silly, characters that are hard to let go of, historical settings and an underlying storyline regarding one's faith.

This novel picks up where the second book left off and I wrote in that review that I was perturbed that the search for Sophie was not a predominant theme. And so voila here is book three devoted to Sophie at last! Elise and Marianne are not featured very much at all this time as the story focuses on Sophie's struggle to hang on to Olivia and Nicholas. Sophie is wild at heart but a good person through and through making it so easy to love her, even when you want to strangle her due to her wild nature. She is still young and impetuous but lucky for us we witness her transformation with the help of a genuinely good soul who takes her in.

The setting of 1850's is portrayed as simple, quaint and close-knit on the farm, with nuances of the crimes and poverty prevalent in the cities. I absolutely adored Reinhold and would definitely see him as a super sexy cross of Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth kind of guy. Sophie could be young sweet combinations of Reese Witherspoon (she has that wild side!) with a dash of Nicole Kidman. Would love to see this as a PBS special or mini-series.

The romance angle was so perfect for Sophie and sitting here thinking in hindsight that it all wrapped up nicely in a pretty bow yet the steps we took with Sophie to get there was a blessing of a story. I have read a few of Hedlund's other novels before and have truly enjoyed each of them and I could gush copiously about the masterful storytelling of Jody Hedlund but I just want you to see for yourself.

Fans of Christian Fiction and historical romance will definitely enjoy the Orphan Train Series, but will be very sad to see the end of the stories of the Neumann sisters. If you're not open to scripture and His promises of love and healing then these stories would not be recommended for you.