Category: Books

Book Review: Wyoming Wild

About the Book:

Wyoming Territory, 1876

Hearts collide when a sheriff’s daughter asks a hardened US Marshal to join her fight for justice and rid a small town of her corrupt father.

US Marshal John “Hawk” Hawking is one of the most respected lawmen in the West—a fair but firm man of principle and decisive action—so when a telegram arrives from the small town of Sand Creek warning him of a death threat against him, he immediately begins an investigation.

Posing as a farmer, Hawk heads to Sand Creek, a town ruled by a violent and corrupt sheriff who uses his position to menace, exploit, and tax the townspeople to the point of starvation. Only one person is trying to stop him—Liesl, the sheriff’s own daughter. When she meets the self-assured and attractive new farmer, John, she hopes he might help her in her long and lonely fight for justice.

John is completely unfazed by Sheriff Hodges’s attempts at intimidation, and Liesl is quickly swept up by Hawk’s courage and integrity. Just as quickly, Hawk finds himself falling for Liesl’s strength and bravery, as well as her grace and beauty.

When Liesl discovers that John is not who he claims to be, she feels betrayed. Despite her lingering distrust of Hawk, Liesl agrees to work with him to enact a dangerous plan that will put the criminals away forever. Liesl must put her life, and her heart, in the hands of this lawman if she has any hope of saving her family and her town. 

My Thoughts:

First, you should know that this book actually follows on the heels of The Sheriffs of Savage Wells and Healing Hearts. I had read both books, but it had been years and I struggled to remember some of the connections.

Second, the old west town of Savage Wells is a departure from the bulk of Sarah Eden’s books. I must say that I don’t love them the way that I love her other series. They are good entertainment. I’m just not sure that I think they are the best of her writing.

So, on to the book itself.

Leisel is a strong character who is exercises incredible courage to take care of others and stand for what is right. Her character is layered and believable. Hawk is also a multi-faceted character who is challenged to do a hard job in the face of potential personal loss. I was engaged in the story and there were several clever turns that left you wondering who to trust. All in all it was a good read, especially if you like tales of the old west.

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

Book Review: The Last Chance Cowboy

About the Book:

With danger drawing ever closer, their only hope of saving their futures lies in each other.

As a midwife, Catherine Remington is successful in bringing new life into the world, but she’s failed one too many times in finding true love. When she’s accused of a murder she didn’t commit, she’s forced to flee to Colorado to honor a patient’s dying wish by delivering a newborn infant to his father.

The repentant prodigal Dylan McQuaid is finally back in Fairplay. As sheriff, he’s doing his best to prove to the town he’s a changed man and worthy of their trust. When a woman shows up with an infant son he didn’t know he had, Dylan is left with only complicated choices on what to do next.

Having grown attached to Dylan’s son, Catherine doesn’t want to part ways with the infant, but what she doesn’t bargain for is how easily she’ll fall for the charming sheriff, or how quickly the past will catch up with her and put their love and lives in danger.

My Thoughts:

In this story of mistaken identity and second chances we journey alongside Dylan and Catherine as they try to navigate the unprecedented situation in which they find themselves. Last Chance Cowboy was an easy read that doesn’t shy away from the consequences of the choices we make, but invites us to hope in redemption and new beginnings.

This is the fifth book in the Colorado Cowboys series.

I received a free digital copy of this book for review.

Book Review: The Maid of Ballymacool

About the Book:

Brianna Kelly was abandoned at Ballymacool House and Boarding School as an infant. She has worked there since she was a wee girl and will likely die there. Despite a sense that she was made for something more, Brianna feels powerless to change her situation, so she consoles herself by exploring the Ballymacool grounds, looking for hidden treasures to add to the secret trove beneath the floorboards of her room.

When Michael Wray, the son of local gentry, is sent to Ballymacool to deal with his unruly cousin, he finds himself drawn to Brianna, immediately and inescapably. There is something about her that feels so . . . familiar. When Brianna finds a piece of silver in the woods, she commits to learning its origins, with the help of Michael. What they discover may change everything.

Fan favorite Jennifer Deibel invites you back to the Emerald Isle in the 1930s for this fresh take on the Cinderella story, complete with a tantalizing mystery, a budding romance, and a chance at redemption.

My Thoughts:

I feel I need to divide my thoughts into two sections.

First, I liked the book and the cover is stunning. The story was well thought through and the characters were engaging. Brianna was filled with joy and faith, but also struggled with disappointment, loss and how to trust in the midst of betrayal. Michael was privileged, while also being down to earth and concerned about oppression, injustice and appropriate use of power. The author looked beyond circumstances and behaviors to the things that were underneath. There was a genuine thread of how choosing faith, faithfulness and forgiveness stand in opposition to how revenge, bitterness and pride play out in a life. All in all it was an engaging and, ultimately, heart-warming tale.

I did struggle with the injustice presented and the abuse described, as I was meant to. There was much in this novel that was heavy, even when it was an ultimately satisfying story.

Second, I struggled with the author’s choices in writing a historical fiction set in an actual place while changing the history of that place. With historical fiction I have no issues at all with filling in the gaps with imagination. However, re-writing the occupation of the house by the IRA to become a decimation of its inhabitants by the British left me uneasy. I would have wished the author would have chosen a fictional name for the house and family rather than building the story of an actual location on an alternate history. The story of the silver tray was fascinating and it was an intriguing inclusion in the story, so I can see why she would have wanted to keep that connection to Ballymacool. Just because it didn’t sit right with me doesn’t make it wrong and the author explains her changes in the postscript. Still, it would have been my preference to use alternate place and family names for an alternate history.

All in all I can recommend the book to you as a tale of faith and hope fulfilled.

I received a free digital copy of this novel with the understanding that I would share my honest opinion with my readers.

Book Review: The Cairo Curse

About the Book:

Clue meets Indiana Jones with a fiction-loving twist only Grace Percy can provide.
Newlyweds Lord and Lady Astley have already experienced their fair-share of suspense, but when a honeymoon trip takes a detour to the mystical land of Egypt, not even Grace with her fiction-loving mind is prepared for the dangers in store. From an assortment of untrustworthy adventure-seekers to a newly discovered tomb with a murderous secret, Frederick and Grace must lean on each other to navigate their dangerous surroundings. As the suspects mount in an antiquities’ heist of ancient proportions, will Frederick and Grace’s attempts to solve the mystery lead to another death among the sands?
The Cairo’s Curse is a delightful sequel to The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham in the Freddie and Grace Mystery series.

My Thoughts:

This book was even more delightful than I expected, though how can you not adore a main character who sees the entire world through the lens of the fiction she has read? Following immediately after the events of The Mistletoe Countess, we dive into a new adventure in Cairo. Grace’s love for learning and Frederick’s relations see the two of them into the middle of a mystery surrounding ancient artifacts, scorned affection and modern greed. Though the novel contained many serious themes it was fast paced and mostly lighthearted. Somehow, Basham gives us a story with a flair for the dramatic that is also relatable. I’m not usually a reader of murder mysteries, but this novel had many different mysterious twists and I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Freddie and Grace mystery series.

I received a free digital copy of this book with the understanding that I would write an honest review of my opinion.

Book Review: A Match in the Making

About the Book:

Miss Gwendolyn Brinley accepted a temporary paid companion position for the Newport summer season, believing it would be a lark to spend the summer in America’s most exclusive town. She suddenly finds her summer turning anything but amusing when her employer expects her to take over responsibilities as an assistant matchmaker. Tasked with the daunting prospect of attaining advantageous matches for her clients, Gwendolyn soon finds herself in the employ of Mr. Walter Townsend, the catch of the Season, but a gentleman Gwendolyn finds beyond irritating.

Walter Townsend is reluctantly in search of a wife for the sake of his unruly motherless children who cannot keep a governess for long. What he wasn’t expecting was Miss Brinley, an amateur matchmaker who turns his quest for a new wife into a complete and utter debacle. Constantly besieged by society ladies on a mission to win his affection, Walter must find a way to overcome their inundating attention–and his unexpected attraction toward Gwendolyn.

The more time they spend together throughout the Newport Season, the harder it is for Gwendolyn to find Walter a wife when she realizes his perfect match might be . . . her.

My Thoughts:

I often describe Jen Turano’s novels as implausible, but enjoyable. The light-hearted and ridiculous antics of society out for the perfect match takes a turn on Turano’s inclusion of a single, unattached, but eligible society matchmaker. Set in the culture of early American society families, this romping tale might have you laughing out loud.

I received a free digital galley of this book to read and review.

Book Review: Yesterday’s Tides

About the Book:

In two world wars, intelligence and counterintelligence, prejudice, and self-sacrifice collide across two generations
In 1942, Evie Farrow is used to life on Ocracoke Island, where every day is the same–until the German U-boats haunting their waters begin to wreak havoc. And when special agent Sterling Bertrand is washed ashore at Evie’s inn, her life is turned upside down. While Sterling’s injuries keep him inn-bound for weeks, making him even more anxious about the SS officer he’s tracking, he becomes increasingly intrigued by Evie, who seems to be hiding secrets of her own.

Decades earlier, in 1914, Englishman Remington Culbreth arrives at the Ocracoke Inn for the summer, never expecting to fall in love with Louisa Adair, the innkeeper’s daughter. But when war breaks out in Europe, their relationship is put in jeopardy and may not survive what lies ahead for them.

As the ripples from the Great War rock Evie and Sterling’s lives in World War II, it seems yesterday’s tides may sweep them all into danger again today.

My Thoughts:

This was a great book. I generally like Roseanna White’s novels and Yesterday’s Tides did not disappoint.

The way the author wove together multiple generations and cultural challenges was superbly done. Layers upon layers of thought and emotion, rejection and acceptance, challenge and triumph, past and present gave the story richness without bogging it down. I also enjoyed the way the story touched on Roseanna’s previously novels. If you haven’t read any of them you won’t miss anything, but if you have read them then there are delightful connections that will catch your attention throughout.

There were some adult themes regarding women under oppression, both in slavery and in war, included in the book. They were very carefully presented, but still present. I was actually extremely moved by the way redemption wove into this tale and impressed by the author’s ability to navigate sensitive subjects with honesty, compassion and hope.

Yesterday’s Tides pulls together a variety of stories from across time and weaves them into a seamless and captivating tale. This books gets five stars.

I was provided with a free, unedited, digital copy of this novel with the understanding that I would share my honest opinion with my readers. I do recommend this book.

Book Review: All The Lost Places

About the Book:

When a baby is discovered floating in a basket along the quiet canals of Venice, a guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. Although the boy, Sebastien Trovato, has wrestled with questions of his origins, it isn’t until a woman washes ashore on his lagoon island that answers begin to emerge. In hunting down his story, Sebastien must make a choice that could alter not just his own future, but also that of the beloved floating city.

Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start in life as the century turns. Hoping to redeem a past laden with regrets, he is sent on an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book. There, he discovers a city of colliding hope and decay, much like his own life, and a mystery wrapped in the pages of that filigree-covered volume. With the help of Vittoria, a bookshop keeper, Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets, and discoveries carefully kept within the stones and canals of the ancient city . . . and in the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastien Trovato.

My Thoughts:

I sat down at my keyboard telling myself not to gush, but I just can’t help it. This book is so beautiful. I love how it captures the heart of Venice and the heart of the author of life. The writing is exquisite, each turn of phrase practically poetry. The writing would be enough to make me recommend it, but it’s not just the skillfully captured phrase that makes this book sing, it’s the depth and intricacy of the story. The way Daniel’s story weaves and overlaps with the tale of Sebastien, and of Venice itself, is a masterful work of art.

To all who have felt lost,
or faced the question that echoes within these pages:
“Who am I?”
This tale is for you.

Amanda Dykes

Daniel has a book. It’s one of only seven copies in the world. And the book is unfinished.

Commissioned to translate the Book of Waters, the story of Sebastien, and sent to Venice to procure the original and discover the ending, Daniel’s journey becomes a vessel through which the theme of living our own unfinished story weaves in and out of this stunning tale.

Courage keep and hope beget;
The story is not finished yet…

Dante cavellini (as recorded by S.T. in the novel)

Hope, restoration and being found are all themes intricately woven throughout this powerful story.

Let me share with you a piece of the prologue, because I couldn’t read these words without falling head over heel into the tale and I think your life would be richer for allowing this novel to find it’s way into your heart.

Once upon the dawn of time, there was water.
Before there were stars, before the Maker set life into earth, breath into lungs, beast or man to roam…there was water. Dark and reaching, stirred not by wind but by the spirit of the Almighty himself.
Once upon the dawn of time, water discovered its eternal dance partners: shadow and light. The trio would waltz and wend together over time to web diamonds into depths, scatter stardust over peaked waves, spin gold over ripples.
These ancient waters, from then until now, have never left. They travel a familiar path, around and around, over and over, time without end. From sea to sky, raining back down into the hands of man.
In the centuries since, these eternity-touched waters bore up tempest-tossed ships. Retreated in shivering obedience to the command Be Still. Furled and stacked themselves into shimmering walls of parted sea to make way for an impossible escape. Have been struck from rock, sprung up from geysers, coursed through rivers, tumbled with abandon over falls…carried the fleet of the great explorer Marco Polo to the great beyond and back again to Venezia.
And then, in a time of quiet obscurity, whispered a lullaby in those Venetian canals one night as a babe slumbered, tucked safe inside a tight-woven basket. A tiny boat for a tiny boy, currents delivering him toward an orphanage beneath the midnight lament of the bells of San Marco.
But just as the basket breached the building’s reflection, a north wind tumbled through, pushing him into the lantern-glow…where a strong pair of hands pulled him, basket and all, into another life.
The waters flowed on as the babe grew into a man who would look out over the lagoon that had delivered him, once upon his dawn of time, into a life that would change the shape of the world. A story covered over until it was all but lost.

I received a free digital copy of this book for review. My honest opinion is that you should buy and read All The Lost Places. I’m rating it as my favorite book of 2022.

Book Review: Engaging Deception

About the Book:

A lively competition draws her into her rival’s blueprints–and maybe even his heart.

Olive Kentworth has spent her life hiding her interest in architecture, even though she pores over architectural books and sketches buildings. When she accepts a job on a home expansion, it’s only because her cousin Amos agrees to pose as the builder. To further hide her involvement, Olive takes a position as a nanny–not knowing that she’ll be working for her idol, Joplin’s leading architect, widower Maxfield Scott.

Maxfield is intrigued by his new nanny–she makes his home and his life bearable again. His work, on the other hand, is a disaster. An untrained builder is remodeling a completed project of his. What’s worse, Maxfield’s current client wants changes to his plans because of that builder’s work.

As the architectural one-upmanship heats up, Olive’s involvement becomes harder to hide. Will the relationship between her and Maxfield survive, or will they both miss out on building something for their future?

My Thoughts:

Engaging Deception is the third book in the Joplin series. While you don’t have to read the first two books they will introduce you to the full cast of characters and Olive herself makes an earlier appearance in those novels.

Reginna Jennings writes books that stand on the line between an easy Sunday afternoon read and a book of deep substance. The author is able to keep a light, humorous, easy reading tone while including deeper subject matter. In the case of Engaging Deception the heart of the book was actually about grief and loss, followed by a theme of being who you are without apology or ego.

Olive loves architecture. She is self taught, but gifted. Part of the novel is Olive’s journey from deception to owning her place as an architect despite her lack of education and her gender. Another part of the novel is Max learning to let go of the ego he has built around his name and reputation.

But even more, both Olive and Max are caught in their grief. Olive’s strategy is to hide and Max throws himself into endless engagement and distraction. Together they must discover what it looks like to learn to live through the pain rather than to pretend it isn’t a part of life. I found this aspect of the book stirred up a lot of deeper thoughts in my own life, which is one of the reasons I love fiction. Stories can sneak in sideways and all of a sudden you are thinking about your own life and circumstances in a new light.

I enjoyed this novel and was actually surprised how much it impacted me despite the light and easy manner of story telling. I recommend it to you.

I received a free copy of this novel for review and I’m giving you my honest opinion.

Book Overview: Learning Humility

About the Book:

In a society where raging narcissism dominates the moral landscape, the virtue of humility is often dismissed as irrelevant. Not only is humility vanishing from contemporary culture, but we are also witnessing how destructive a lack of humility has become among our churches and ministry leaders. And yet, Richard Foster, the founder of Renovaré, insists that humility is central to the journey toward character formation and spiritual transformation. For this reason he decided to spend a year studying the virtue of humility. Using the Lakota calendar as a framework, Foster provides us with a look into the insights he gathered from sources ranging from Native American culture to Julian of Norwich to Scripture to personal friends. By engaging with both the spiritual classics and Foster’s own experiences, Learning Humility provides profound insight into what humility can look like in our current cultural climate. Join Richard Foster on the journey toward a life of humility, which he says leads us into “freedom, joy, and holy hilarity.”

My Thoughts:

You might have noticed that I titled this post “overview” instead of “review.” That’s because this book is rich with insight and I am unwilling to rush through it. I can’t actually give you a review of a book that I haven’t read, so I’ll give you my preliminary thoughts based on both the book and a one hour seminar that Richard Foster gave about the book.

I picked this up and started in about a month ago. I was initially a bit confused by the format of the book. What you are reading are journal entries where the author is processing his thoughts. It’s not quite as straightforward as an author arranging his thoughts for an audience of readers. There is, however, a beauty to joining Foster in the curiosity of his exploration of humility.

In the very beginning of the book he refers to a classic work of spiritual literature and it’s thoughts on humility. I ended up setting this book down to dig that book out and re-familiarize myself with that work. Then I went on to engage with Richard’s pondering on the connections. Again, this is why I’m not giving you a review. I’m still only partway along the journey of exploration. Could you read the book straight through? Of course. But I found myself very resistant to the idea.

I think that is because the book is an exploration. You aren’t meant to take away a three point sermon on why humility is important or general knowledge on how to practice it. You are meant to learn, to live, humility.

I’m enjoying the journey. I’m curious as to where it will take me. A couple of year’s ago Jess Ray’s song “Humble Heart” became the theme of my year. One of the lines in the song is “Oh, how I have so much to learn.” I’m sure that will be true for the whole of my life, but I’m thankful for a guide on the journey. If you are ready to engage with a journey of the, mostly lost, gift of humility I think this book might be an excellent place to start.

I received this book for review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Daughter of Arden – Exile

About the Book:

“I will give you three days in which to choose your fate.”

No matter which choice Maleen made, it appeared bondage was the life her father lay before her.

In this retelling of the Grimm’s tale, “Maid Maleen,” war advances on the nation of Arden. To keep Princess Maleen safe, the king gives her two options: marriage to a prince she doesn’t love or retreat in a tower protected by the work of a Stone Sage.

Hoping that her beloved Prince Melanor will come rescue her, Maleen chooses the tower. In Exile, Maleen must not only come to terms with her decision, but with her family, her country, her place in old prophecies, and, ultimately, the heart of the Mighty One.

Daughter of Arden – Exile is the first in a trilogy following Maleen’s story and the fate of Arden. Wandering and Promise will release in 2023.

My Thoughts:

This book grew on me with each page I turned. At the beginning I wasn’t sure how I felt about Maleen and her perspective on the world. There was also a prophecy that the author introduces to us that seems to hover over and intertwine with all the other elements of the story.

As the story moves forward Maleen makes her choice. Choices define outcomes and following Maleen’s “exile” her perspectives begin to shift, hope starts to rise and the Mighty One is further introduced taking on a more active role in the tale. As Maleen grew so did my investment in the story and I found the ending satisfying enough to hold in the waiting, while also rich enough to long for the next book in the series.

Exile is a book about a young woman growing into her own. Follow Maleen’s journey as she discovers what is of real value and where the heart of the kingdom is to be found.

I received a free digital copy of this book for review. I am giving you my honest opinion.