Category: Books

Book Review: Set the Stars Alight

About the Book:

Lucy Clairmont’s family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it’s Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she’s discovered in her family home.

Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.

As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers–and the healing–they so desperately seek.

My Thoughts:

Last year I was stunned by the beauty and depth of Amanda Dykes’ writing in Whose Waves These Are (Amazon US & UK). I promoted it as my favorite book for 2019, so I was thrilled to see another release for 2020.

And Set the Stars Alight did not disappoint. Like last year’s release this book spans time, but rather than only going back as far as a living generation it takes us back more than 200 years to the time of the Napoleonic wars weaving connections between the past and the present.

The book is a mystery of sorts: a historical search for a lost ship. Yet, it is also a search for life and family and connection and love. Set the Stars Alight is about the pursuit of dreams, the people that make those dreams matter and the breathtaking beauty of a life lived for the sake of others.

It is a beautifully written and engaging book. I love how it wraps up the framework of the mystery, while leaving a lot to the imagination.

If you are looking for a beautiful and wholesome read then I highly recommend this novel.

And isn’t the cover artwork stunning!

I received a digital pre-release copy of the novel to read for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: At Love’s Command

About the Book:

Haunted by the horrors of war, ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries known as Hanger’s Horsemen who have become legends in 1890s Texas. They defend the innocent and obtain justice for the oppressed. But when a rustler’s bullet leaves one of them at death’s door, they’re the ones in need of saving.

Dr. Josephine Burkett is used to men taking one look at her skirts and discounting her medical skills. What she’s not used to is having a man change his mind in a heartbeat and offer to assist her in surgery. Matthew Hanger’s dedication to his friend during recovery earns Josephine’s respect, and when she hears of her brother’s abduction, he becomes her only hope for rescue.

Matt has stared down ruthless outlaws, betrayal, and injury, but when a bossy lady doctor crawls under his skin, his heart is tempted to surrender. And when she is caught in the crossfire, he may have to sacrifice everything–even his team–to save her.

My Thoughts:

David Wilcox once sang, “Start with the ending.” I think when it comes to this book that’s the best place for me to start.

At the end of the book I was engaged in the story and I had found a number of things that spoke to me personally, which is always a bonus in a novel.

Such as:

“What would life be like if he lived from a place of surrender like this all the time?”

and

“Control was nothing more than an illusion, a lie to trap the competent in the own capability. One that created such a dependence on self that it clogged the conduit of wisdom and power flowing from the Omnipotent until only a trickle of living water found its way through.”

Each of the characters grew on me as the story progressed, especially Josie and her ten dollar words.

But moving back toward the beginning I have to say it took me a long time to get into the book. Perhaps because it started with a war scene and then moved into a shoot out. Perhaps because the instant and compelling attraction between two people who were both focused on not being in a relationship (for work or for fear) seemed to be a bit to sudden and perhaps a bit too convenient. Perhaps it was just this season of Covid-19 lockdown that made it hard to concentrate. Whatever the reason, this book took awhile to warm up to. It took me weeks to get half way into the story and just hours to finish once I was finally engaged.

But circling back to the ending I have to say that all in all, it was a good western. An independent woman, a protective and noble cowboy, the attempted rescue of a prodigal, family reconciliation, personal growth and, of course, love, make At Love’s Command a book worth reading.

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

Book Review: Get Your Life Back

About the Book:

A REFRESHINGLY SIMPLE GUIDE TO RECOVER YOUR LIFE!

In Get Your Life Back, New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge provides a practical, simple, and refreshing guide to taking your life back.

By practicing a few wonder­fully simple practices—or what John calls “graces”—you can begin to recover your soul, disentangle from the tragedies of this broken world, and discover the restorative power of beauty.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you happy most of the time?
  • Do you feel deeply loved?                                            
  • Are you excited about your future? 
  • How often do you feel lighthearted?

After reading this book you will… 

  • Learn how to insert the One Minute Pause into your day
  • Begin practicing “benevolent detachment” and truly let it all go
  • Offer kindness toward yourself in the choices you make
  • Drink in the simple beauty available to you every day
  • Take realistic steps to unplug from technology overload

These simple practices and others are ready for the taking. You don’t need to abandon your life to get it back. Begin restoring your life here and now. Your soul will thank you for it.

My Thoughts:

This has certainly been a fitting book for the season. I received my review copy (and purchased an audible copy) not long before going into lockdown and I wondered if this title would be out of step with my current life, however it couldn’t have been more applicable.

This book contained a strong challenge for evaluating my choices, especially during an extended lockdown. (I’m on day 97). Taking realistic steps for technology overload was a particularly helpful chapter, as was the chapter on benevolent detachment. The chapter on getting outside felt a little sad, when I can’t necessarily put that into practice in its fullest extent at the moment, but the truth of it remains.

I’m also using the pause app, which was developed alongside this book and it has been significantly helpful.

I really have benefited from this book and enjoyed the fact that it was John who read the audio book. I would recommend it.

Book Review: Storing Up Trouble

About the Book:

When Miss Beatrix Waterbury’s Chicago-bound train ride is interrupted by a heist, Mr. Norman Nesbit, a man of science who believes his research was the target of the heist, comes to her aid. Despite the fact that they immediately butt heads, they join forces to make a quick escape.

Upon her arrival in Chicago, Beatrix is surprised to discover her supposedly querulous Aunt Gladys shares her own suffragette passions. Encouraged by Gladys to leave her sheltered world, Beatrix begins working as a salesclerk at the Marshall Field and Company department store. When she again encounters Norman on a shopping expedition, he is quickly swept up in the havoc she always seems to attract.

But when another attempt is made to part Norman from his research papers, and it becomes clear Beatrix’s safety is also at risk, they soon discover the curious way feelings can grow between two very different people in the midst of chaos.

My Thoughts:

I don’t know how she does it, but Jen Turano has a talent for writing absolutely ridiculous stories that I still love to read. I suppose it is the foundation of deep truth and real relationship then infused with laugh out loud humor: Comic relief weaving into the threads of real life.

Storing Up Trouble was another delightful tale in the American Heiress series. And while it can stand alone, why would you deprive yourself of the joy of all three books?

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

Book Review: The Mostly Invisible Boy

Amazon US (print copy and kindle): https://amzn.to/3bB5UQO
Amazon UK (print copy only): https://amzn.to/3ijuWZg
Author’s Website (Mobi & Epub Only)

About the Book:

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Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly invisible, but when he scales a colossal oak, he discovers a fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.

Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousins, he and Gloria enter Trickery School—an academy where classes have surprise endings, battles are as common as breakfast, and magic is so last century. For the first time in his life, Casey makes friends…but kids at Trickery have lost touch with the people they’re sworn to defend. If anyone finds out he’s an imposter, he’ll be blacklisted for life—or worse, thrown in the sewers with the tiger rats.

Keeping his identity hidden—while struggling to prove he fits—is hard enough, but butcher beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.

For kids aged 7+ and adventurous grown-ups.

My Thoughts:

A creative and romping adventure that is sure to delight.

I loved it. The Mostly Invisible Boy was just plain fun. I especially loved the interaction between brother and sister and the fact that though the parents weren’t highly involved in the story they were represented as good and loving. I’d highly recommend this armchair adventure.

I received a free digital copy of this book for review, but I will be keeping my eye out to purchase any sequels.

Book Reviews: The Wingfeather Saga

About the Book:

Now in hardcover for the first time, featuring all-new illustrations! Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to enjoy discussing for its many layers of meaning. Extra features include new interior illustrations from Joe Sutphin, funny footnotes, a map of the fantastical world, inventive appendices, and fanciful line art.

My Thoughts:

Read! And be delighted!

When I began the book , I literally laughed out loud just reading the introduction. Then I found myself immersed in the saga of the Wingfeather children. The method of storytelling bordered on ridiculous at times, in the way that only a fanciful tale can do, and for me personally that creativity is what made the book so delightful. I could imagine my own grandfather narrating such a story. Peterson’s storytelling and creativity truly shine creating these delightful tales for youth and adults alike. I highly recommend both On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and its sequel North! or Be Eaten. (Books three and four will be released in the autumn and they wrap up this series with a beautiful depth of truth and love that makes these stories a true gift.)

Book Review: The Brightest of Dreams

About the Book:

Quinten Aspinall is determined to fulfill a promise he made to his deceased father to keep his family together. To do so, he must travel to Canada to find his younger siblings, who were sent there as indentured workers while Quinn was away at war. He is also solicited by his employer to look for the man’s niece who ran off with a Canadian soldier. If Quinn can bring Julia back, he will receive his own tenant farm, enabling him to provide a home for his ailing mother and siblings.

Julia Holloway’s decision to come to Toronto has been met with disaster. When her uncle’s employee rescues her from a bad situation, she fears she can never repay Quinn’s kindness. So when he asks her to help find his sister, she agrees. Soon after, however, Julia receives some devastating news that changes everything.

Torn between reuniting his family and protecting Julia, will Quinn have to sacrifice his chance at happiness to finally keep his promise?

My Thoughts:

When I received this book for review I did not realize that it was the third book in a series. Initially I did not have any trouble following the story, however in the last couple of chapters, there were interactions between characters that I did not understand that were clearly referring to back-story of which I was unaware. Therefore, I would recommend you read the previous novels in the series.

That said, I enjoyed the book despite these brief moments of confusion. Perhaps enjoyed is too strong of a word. Intrigued might be more accurate of a description. Some of the subject matter was quite heavy, including abuse of several varieties. I don’t enjoy reading about such things. Yet, the book offered hope and a future for its characters, with a suitable happily ever after ending.

Before reading this novel I was unaware of the number of British children who were sent to Canada as indentured servants. I appreciate the author’s research and the way that she has uncovered this rather dark segment of history and made it come alive in novel form.

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

Book Review: Cry of the Raven

About the Book:

Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker–a power greater than any in history. She embraces her new role as Nightwatcher, able to intercede for her people in the dream world, but the dark shadow of war draws ever closer.

Working together, the Great Houses come up with a plan to secure the borders from the approaching Dominia Empire. But dissension, conflict, and suspicion threaten to destroy their tenuous treaty, and as the empire burns a path across their lands, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire’s attacks.

The only one who can keep the Great Houses unified and restore her husband’s power is Selene. But it will require that she venture deep into the dream world to confront the enemies of her past who will do anything to stop her power. Will it be enough, or will both worlds fall under the empire’s might?

My Thoughts:

Cry of the Raven is book three in Ravenwood Saga. In order to fully appreciate this story you will need to begin with book one, Mark of the Raven.

I don’t want to say to much or give away any spoilers so I’ll just say that all in all I found this to be a very satisfying completion to an excellent trilogy, fully rounding out character development, trying up loose ends and even bringing unexpected redemption.

I recommend this series to you.

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

Book Review: On Wings of Devotion

About the Book:

All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster–a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But as nurse Arabelle Denler watches the so-dubbed ‘Black Heart’ every day, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their paths twist together and he declares himself her new protector, she realizes she has her own role to play in his healing. Phillip Camden would have preferred to die that day with his squadron rather than be recruited to the Admiralty’s codebreaking division. The threats he receives daily are no great surprise and, in his opinion, well deserved. What comes as a shock is the reborn desire to truly live that Arabelle inspires in him. But when an old acquaintance shows up and seems set on using him in a plot that has the codebreakers of Room 40 in a frenzy, new affections are put to the test.

My Thoughts:

On Wings of Devotion follows The Number of Love in the Codebreakers series. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend that you first read the Shadows Over England series. In this series you will be introduced to the characters and learn back story that I would argue is fairly essential to a full understanding of this series. Then move on to The Number of Love where you will be introduced to main character Phillip.

Roseanna White writes captivating stories that always keep me turning the pages. I really enjoyed Phillip and Arabella’s story. And kudos to the author for writing about a woman who is not physically attractive as the main character. It was a real story that truly showed how interior beauty can be completely captivating and that the connections that are born in the soul are the best foundation for a relationship.

I also appreciated the very human fallibility of the characters and the beauty of redemptive grace in the midst of intrigue and suspense. I loved the book and can’t wait for the next installment in the series.

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

Book Review: In Want & Plenty

About the Book:

Although our circumstances vary, we all ache with a longing for something more. We are born with dreams, and some of us even have detailed plans about how to make them happen. Yet we all come to a point in life when we realize that we are not in control. A loved one gets sick, a tragedy occurs, our plans backfire. What we may not realize is that even if we can’t depend on our circumstances or even ourselves, there is One who will always provide what we need, just when we need it. With compassion and enthusiasm, Meredith McDaniel invites you to walk alongside God’s people in Exodus as they wake up each morning to manna, God’s provision for them in desert places. As she unfolds their story of complete dependence on their Creator, you’ll discover through guided journaling how God is providing for you right now, where you are in your own unique story. Along the way, you will develop a comforting awareness that you are seen, guided, protected, and filled by a good God in the person of Jesus.

My Thoughts:

Before I talk about the content of In Want & Plenty I want you to know that it is a different kind of book. I wish we had a genre to describe it. I’d almost call it an interactive life study. The first time I read an interactive book I had just boarded a plane for an international flight and I opened my copy of Crazy Love. And as I was asked to go look this or that thing up online (back when there was no internet on flights) I thought, “I’ve picked a good book for the wrong time.” And maybe that’s why I want you to know more what this book is like so you can pick this good book for the right time. This book has songs to listen to and reflect on.  It has questions to journal about.  And they aren’t just stacked up at the end of the chapter where you can skip ahead and ignore them, they are scattered throughout the writing.  I love it, especially the songs, but I also was selective about when I chose to read this, so it is a point to consider.

Now, on to the content: It’s great. The questions asked and the ways the author tells stories, both personal and Biblical, are engaging. And she is addressing a topic that we all need to engage with. How do we remember and live in the reality that God is enough? What does that look like when we are in want? What does it look like in abundance? What did that look like for Israel? What does that look like for me, with my history and my challenges? In this book you’ll be exploring your story and discovering where hope can be found.

If you are wondering where your story is heading or how to find a better way forward, this treasure hunt for God’s manna may be just the place to start to put your feet onto the path of hope.

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