Love Letters

Wow!  It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged anything apart from book reviews.  But here I am with thoughts in my head and fingers on the keys.  But I have to issue a warning.  This post contains spoilers for the movie Free Guy, so if you haven’t seen it, go watch it then come back.

Now that you have been duly warned…

I can’t stop thinking of the scene where Guy takes over for Millie as she awkwardly tries to disentangle herself from a relationship with an AI character.

I’m a love letter he says.  I may love you because of my programming, but I had a programmer. 

I’m a love letter.

Here is a character inhabiting her virtual world who is tuned into the little details of Millie: bubble gum ice cream, swings, coffee just the way she likes it, her favorite song.  He knows her.  He desires her.  He pursues her in a way that is in keeping with his character as a good guy. 

He’s her love letter.

I was feeling grumpy yesterday, a bit melancholic and at loose ends.  As I was walking and laying all my emotions out before the Lord I kept waiting for that sense of His presence that I so cherish.  But it wasn’t there.  In all honesty, I just felt alone.

But I saw under my feet a host of autumnal leaves in a rainbow of shades from gold to flame.  And I could hear the wind stirring the pine needles.  And the light filtered through the forest canopy in these brilliant illuminating rays.  And the sun made golden edges of the clouds that it used to hide.  And the squirrels chattered at each other as they danced up and down the tree trunk.  And the crispness in the air swirled around while the startled pheasant flew directly over my head.  And I thought: love letters.

There are days when I might not feel the presence of God directly, but there are love letters written all through my world that speak of His passion for me.  They are everywhere I look.

And then there is the Word.  Larry Crabb titled his beautiful book about the Bible 66 Love Letters.  The words on the page, the words hidden in my heart, they also speak.  They speak of a God who knows me.  A God who desires me.  A God who pursues me in keeping with His own character as hero of the story.  They speak of one who laid down His life for me and rose victorious over death.  They speak of great and precious promises that are too great for me to comprehend.  The Word hems me in with love and grace and mercy and conviction and comfort and joy.  Love letters.

Some days I feel God, so very present, so very personal.  And some days He seems far away, but I know that for now He is just out of sight.  And in the meantime, he has written me love letters.

Book Review: The Heart of a Cowboy

About the Book:

When he agreed to guard her, he never bargained on having to guard his heart.

Brilliant scientist Linnea Newberry is on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling the Santa Fe Trail with her grandfather, Dr. Powell, on a botanical expedition to Colorado Territory. She longs to be valued for her contributions and not seen as a helpless liability. But at every calamity she faces, her grandfather threatens to send her home.

After watching his ma suffer and die in childbirth, Flynn McQuaid has sworn off women and marriage forever. Headed west to start a new life, he has his hands full not only taking care of his younger siblings but also delivering cattle to his older brother. He doesn’t need more complications.

When Flynn rescues Linnea from drowning during a river crossing, Dr. Powell promptly hires Flynn–unbeknownst to Linnea–to act as her bodyguard for the rest of the trip. As Flynn fights against the many dangers of the trail, he soon finds himself in the greatestdanger of all–falling for a woman he’s determined not to love.

My Thoughts:

This is book two in the Colorado cowboys series by Jody Hedlund. While you wouldn’t have to start with book one, A Cowboy for Keeps, I would recommend it to fill out the full details of the story.

For all the conflict and complications that arise in this story, it didn’t feel at all heavy or stressful, which is exactly the kind of book I wanted for this particular season of life. I appreciate the Jody can set the stage for trouble without weighing you down with it.

I enjoyed Linnea’s innocent optimism and respected Flynn’s sense of responsibility. The tale wove through a number of heart issues and left you feeling satisfied with the outcomes.

I enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

I received a free digital proof of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Mistletoe Countess

About the Book:

Mistletoe is beautiful and dangerous, much like the woman from Lord Frederick’s Percy’s past, so when he turns over a new leaf and arranges to marry for his estate, instead of his heart, he never expects the wrong bride to be the right choice.

My Thoughts:

It’s a bit hard to decide what to share without revealing spoilers, but I absolutely loved this book. When Lord Frederick chooses to marry an American for money to sustain his British estate neither he, nor his bride, could have imagined the gifts in store for them. I loved the characters and the gift of God that allowed all the things that went wrong, by selfish choices and diabolical plans, to create something more beautiful than they could have imagined.

I loved the hope and the commitment to joy that came through this sweet and challenging story. I would absolultely recommend this book.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: A Warrior’s Heart

About the Book:

Brielle Durand is still haunted by the massacre that killed her mother a dozen years before. Vowing to never let it happen again, she’s risen to be the key defender for her people’s peace-loving French settlement living in hidden caves in the Canadian Rockies. When a foreigner wanders too near to their secret home, she has no choice but to disarm and capture him. But now, what to do with this man who insists he can be trusted?

Hoping to escape past regrets, Evan MacManus ventured into the unknown, assigned to discover if the northern mountains contain an explosive mineral that might help America win the War of 1812. Despite being taken prisoner, Evan is determined to complete his mission. But when that assignment becomes at odds with his growing appreciation of the villagers and Brielle, does he follow through on his promise to his government or take a risk on where his heart is leading him? Either choice will cause harm to someone.

Brielle and Evan must reconcile the warring in their hearts to have any hope of finding peace for their peoples.

My Thoughts:

This is a book for readers who like a thoughtful narrative driven by dialouge. The events of the book happen in one location and primarly in one room. While actions are discussed, and there are moments of activity, this book is more of a slow and steady unfolding of the heart and mind.

While I enjoy thoughtful, character driven books this one lacked some of the spark I normally look for in a tale. If you are looking for a story centered on a slow shifting of perceptions then this might be just the book for you.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: To Write A Wrong

About the Book:

Miss Daphne Beekman is a mystery writer by day, inquiry agent by night. Known for her ability to puzzle out plots, she prefers working behind the scenes for the Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency, staying well away from danger. However, Daphne soon finds herself in the thick of an attempted murder case she’s determined to solve.

Mr. Herman Henderson is also a mystery writer, but unlike the dashing heroes he pens, he lives a quiet life, determined to avoid the fate of his adventurous parents, who perished on an expedition when he was a child. But when he experiences numerous attempts on his life, he seeks out the services of the eccentric Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency to uncover the culprit. All too soon, Herman finds himself stepping out of the safe haven of his world and into an adventure he never imagined.

As the list of suspects grows and sinister plots are directed Daphne’s way as well, Herman and Daphne must determine who they can trust and if they can risk the greatest adventure of all: love.

My Thoughts:

Jen Turano writes implausibly delightful comedic romances. In this novel, an element of mystery is thrown in as well, with twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat and reading far too late into the night.

Like the previous book in this series, To Write A Wrong, started off at a very fast pace which actually made it hard for me to engage at first. It is quite a different type of writing than I usually read, but once I settled in to the rapid fire events of the book I found it very difficult to put down.

With some genuinely laugh out loud moments, Herman and Daphne drew me into their adventure and kept me turning the pages. Though there is a murder plot, the story is so light and filled with comedy that the book avoids feeling heavy and remains delightfully entertaining throughout.

I continue to be a fan of Turano’s stories and will be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Forty Days on Being a Four

About the Book:

“How are you feeling?” Christine Yi Suh says that this has always been a hard question. She writes: “The more accurate question for a Four may be, ‘What aren’t you feeling?’ I can grab my prevailing emotion and tell you how I’m doing from that emotion’s point of view (joy, elation, sadness, grief, confusion—you name it!). I live and breathe a kaleidoscope of living, feeling, conflicting emotions.” Many times Fours are labeled “emotionally intense” or “too much,” but for a Four this is just how life is. This is why Fours are ideal companions in the midst difficult times: the death of a loved one, the birth of a baby, transitional seasons in career, relational conflict, and so on. The Enneagram is a profound tool for empathy, so whether or not you are a Four, you will grow from your reading about Four and enhance your relationships across the Enneagram spectrum. Each reading concludes with an opportunity for further engagement such as a journaling prompt, reflection questions, a written prayer, or a spiritual practice.

My Thoughts:

If you didn’t know, I’m an Enneagram four. And so I was curious to read what Christine had to say about her experience of being a four. I could certainly relate to her comments about the question “How are you feeling?”

One of the goals of this series of books is compassion. It’s driven by the idea that we need to stop boxing people in with descriptions on a page and try instead to see through their eyes. I love that. And the reality is that this book isn’t entirely about being a four. It’s about Christine Yi Suh’s experience of being a four.

There was a lot I could relate to. There were also things that were nowhere near true to my experience. There were moments when I nodded my head in agreement and moments when I sat back and pondered. Christine’s experience of being a four has overlap with mine and it also has areas that are as different as night and day. This is the beauty of a God who creates us each individually and yet gives us overlapping passions, motivations and emotions.

I think that the book is very helpful for stirring compassion. It might also be really helpful for someone who thinks they might be a four but hasn’t done much Enneagram work. I think for someone who has researched and evaluated personality types as much as I have that it carries the gift of getting to know Christine Yi Shu through her own eyes, to share her journey and to discover the beauty and the burden of her life as a four.

I received a digital, pre-release, unedited copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Merchant and the Rogue

About the Book:

Vera Sorokina loves reading the penny dreadfuls and immersing herself in tales of adventure, mystery, and romance. Her own days are filled with the often mundane work of running the book and print shop she owns with her father. The shop offers her freedom and an income, and while she is grateful for the stability it brings to her life, she often feels lonely.

Brogan Donnelly was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in London for several years, where he’s built a career as a penny dreadful writer. He has dedicated himself to the plight of the poor with the help of his sister. But with no one to share his life with, he fears London will never truly feel like home.

When Brogan and Vera’s paths cross, the attraction is both immediate and ill-advised. Vera knows from past experience that writers are never to be trusted, and Brogan has reason to suspect not everything at Vera’s print shop is aboveboard. When a growing criminal enterprise begins targeting their area of London, Brogan and Vera must work together to protect the community they’ve both grown to love. But that means they’ll need to learn to trust each other with dangerous secrets that have followed both of them from their home countries.

My Thoughts:

The Merchant and the Rogue is book three in the Dread Penny Society series. You can read it as a stand alone, but I’d recommend you treat yourself to the two preceding books: The Lady and the Highwayman and The Gentleman and the Thief.

This is a series of stories within stories. Following a group of authors who write “Penny Dreadfuls” and have formed a secret society to help the poor and oppressed, Sarah Eden tells a tale of romance and social justice, while including the actual penny dreadful stories as diverting, and enlightening, story inclusions.

I’ve read most of Sarah Eden’s books and this was by far my favourite of her series. I’d recommend it.

I received a free digital galley of this final book in the series in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Story King

About the Book:

In the third and final installment in the Sunlit Lands series, the magic of the Sunlit Lands has been reset, but that doesn’t mean all is well. Unrest and discord are growing by the day, and Hanali is positioning himself as ruler of the Sunlit Lands. But, in order for Hanali to seize control, there must be a sacrifice, one that very few are willing to make. Jason, Shula, Baileya, and others must work together to save the lives of those Hanali would sacrifice for his own gain.

My Thoughts:

This series is stunning. You can’t start with book three, you need to read The Crescent Stone and The Heartwood Crown first, and really, you should.

Though targeted for ages 13-18 any adult with a bit of imagination could love this series. The world-building is spectacular. The humor is delightful. The author doesn’t shy away from difficult topics weaving themes like terminal illness, racial tension and the complicated danger of seeking and wielding power into a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. And all the while the characters are growing, discovering who they are, untangling the lies they have believed, and taking their places in a larger and grander narrative arc than they could have imagined.

While several of the themes are intense, and death is a part of the story, the writing never feels dark and for an author to accomplish that balance is a real feat.

I recommend the whole series and loved the conclusion brought to life in The Story King.

I received a free digital galley of this final book in the series in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Provenance

About the Book:

Los Angeles interior designer and former foster kid Kendall Green is in high demand, both for her impeccable eye and for her uncanny ability to uncover the provenance of any piece. But for all her success, skyrocketing costs have put her California home and her business in jeopardy. Then an unexpected inheritance provides a timely solution: a grandmother she never knew has left her a group of historic properties in a tiny Colorado town on the edge of ruin.

To young, untried mayor Gabriel Brandt, Jasper Lake is more than another small town—it’s the place that saved his life. Now, seeing the town slowly wither and die, he’s desperate to restore it to its former glory. Unfortunately, his vision is at odds with a local developer who wants to see the town razed and rebuilt as a summer resort. He’s sure that he can enlist the granddaughter of one of its most prominent former citizens to his cause—until he meets Kendall and realizes that not only does she know nothing of her own history, she has no interest in reviving a place that once abandoned her.

In order to save his beloved town, Gabe must first help Kendall unravel the truth of her own provenance—and Kendall must learn that in order to embrace the future, sometimes you have to start with the past.

My Thoughts:

This story about small town community, the complications of heritage, the challenges of discovery, the art of transformation and the beauty of belonging is, in my opinion, Carla’s best book yet.

The romance in the story is well done and weaves in and around the other themes making the tale multi-faceted. The small town setting and the well developed characters add to the narrative. Add some antiques, historic architecture and a re-evaluation of what holds values and you have an excellent book. A delightful tale from start to finish. I enjoyed this novel.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Heart’s Charge

About the Book:

Members of Hanger’s Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a horse, never expecting they’d deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he’d nearly married a decade ago.

After failing at love, Katherine Palmer dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. From mixed ancestry, illegitimate, and female, Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society’s mold. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her with his courage and kindness, but there are secrets behind his eyes–ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.

However, when a handful of urchin children from the area go missing, a pair of Horsemen are exactly what the women need. Working together to find the children, will these two couples find love as well?

My Thoughts:

The first book in this series, At Love’s Command took a bit of reading before I was engaged. Not so with The Heart’s Charge. From the beginning I was drawn into this tale that weaves itself around so many themes. It is a testimony to the skill of Witmeyer’s writing that she can weave together two tales of romance, a mystery of missing children, the plight of the abandoned, the challenges of grief, and a story of racial tensions while developing each aspect of the story fully. Men of integrity and women of compassion in a complicated world made for a thought provoking and engaging book which I can wholeheartedly recommend to you.

Now that we’ve read about Matthew, Mark and Jonah there is only one horseman’s tale left to tell and I’ll be keeping my eye out for the next book in the series.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.