Book Review: A Portrait of Loyalty

About the Book:

Zivon Marin was one of Russia’s top cryptographers until the October Revolution tore apart his world. Forced to flee to England after speaking out against Lenin, Zivon is driven by a growing anger and determined to offer his services to the Brits. But never far from his mind is his brother, whom Zivon fears died in the train crash that separated them.

Lily Blackwell sees the world best through the lens of a camera and possesses unsurpassed skill when it comes to retouching and re-creating photographs. With her father’s connections in propaganda, she’s recruited to the intelligence division, even though her mother would disapprove if she ever found out.

After Captain Blackwell invites Zivon to dinner one evening, a friendship blooms between him and Lily that soon takes over their hearts. But both have secrets they’re unwilling to share, and neither is entirely sure they can trust the other. When Zivon’s loyalties are called into question, proving him honest is about more than one couple’s future dreams–it becomes a matter of ending the war.

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy Roseanna White’s storytelling. This book is the end of a series and while it did reference other characters that had previously been introduced it seemed like it could have been read as a stand alone.

I have been trying to decide if it is the time in which I read the book or if it is the book itself, but this novel seemed a bit darker than previous books in the series. The introduction of the revolution in Russia alongside the war in Britain and the flu pandemic wove three rather serious strands in and out of the story.

I enjoyed the photography aspect of the book as well as the consideration of art and ethics. The strands of romance ranged from simple and sweet to complex and heartrending, while the divisions between family and friends were a bit too real for me in the present moment.

There was, as expected, faith and hope and triumph in the tale and the writing was excellent, yet, it was probably my least favorite book by Ms. White. I still recommend it. There was faith, hope and triumph along with a call to pay attention and make the most of each day. I think that it simply wasn’t the type of book that I most need for this crazy year of 2020, but that might not apply to you at all.

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

Book Review: Vying for the Viscount

About the Book:

For Hudson, the newly titled Viscount Stildon, moving to England from India where he was born and raised was already an arduous enough endeavor. When he learns the fate of the racing empire he inherited along with his title depends upon him getting in the good graces of another stable owner, he’s even more at a loss.

The stable at the neighboring estate has been Miss Bianca Snowley’s refuge for years, and when a strange man appears to be stealing the horses, she jumps to their protection without a second thought. Upon learning Hudson is actually the new owner, she can’t help but be intrigued by the area’s newest eligible bachelor.

Any thought of romance is quickly set aside, however, when Hudson proposes they work together to secure suitable spouses for each other. As their friendship grows, Hudson and Bianca begin to reconsider what they truly want in life. But will societal expectations and the weight of their responsibilities keep them from pursuing their true desires?

My Thoughts:

I enjoy Kristi Ann Hunter’s way of mixing thoughtfulness with engaging narrative and well rounded characters.

In this novel I especially appreciated the flexibility that the author brought to Hudson’s character due to his cross cultural background. I also appreciated that while there was an “over the top” villain that he didn’t dominate the tale.

Vying for the Viscount is a sweet tale of companionship and a delightful story of discovering that the path to true happiness isn’t always what we expect.

I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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

Book Review: In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows

About the Book:

Stephen R. Lawhead, the critically-acclaimed author of the Pendragon Cycle, concludes his Eirlandia Celtic fantasy series with In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows.

Conor mac Ardan is now clan chief of the Darini.

Tara’s Hill has become a haven and refuge for all those who were made homeless by the barbarian Scálda.

A large fleet of the Scálda’s Black Ships has now arrived and Conor joins Eirlandia’s lords to defeat the monsters. He finds treachery in their midst…and a betrayal that is blood deep.

And so begins a final battle to win the soul of a nation.

The Eirlandia Series:
#1) In the Region of the Summer Stars
(Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2XEXsMn)
(Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/31y9KXY)
#2) In the Land of the Everliving
(Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2F1H16t)
(Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/33wLZCq)
#3) In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows

My Thoughts:

First, you should know that this book does not stand alone. It is essential to the understanding of the story that you read books 1 and 2.

Stephen Lawhead is a well established author with a large collection of historical fiction works set in the ancient isles of Britain. He has also written fantasy and science fiction. This series incorporates the mythology of fantasy, drawing upon historical belief systems, and the realities of life in ancient Ireland. I personally think that the most challenging aspect of this book series was incorporating actual characters that were fairies and ancients gods/goddesses into the reality of a historically envisioned tale. I love fantasy, but this book often seemed to blur the lines between fantasy and history. Taking the entire tale as ancient myth and a certain way of seeing the world is what made it work for me.

As to the historical setting, the druids are perhaps a bit less dark in character in these novels than history informs us, but clan life and the war against the invaders was portrayed with all the violent historical aspects of reality.

The characters were well developed and their motivations believable. The books were complex, descriptive and difficult to put down. The bonds of friendship, the curiosity of seeking out truth and the honor of doing what is best for the sake of others are all strong themes within the work. I enjoyed the series from start to finish.

There was, however, a concluding section that I wish had been left out. Once the story is complete the author skips forward to St. Patrick and the coming of Christianity. What follows is a rather complicated pronouncement of prophesies. In reflecting upon this section it is clear that the author, through Patrick, is trying to explain that the Ireland that came before Christianity was part of the shaping of the people and that all that has brought us to the present moment can be honored as part of the greater story. And yet, I mentioned the lines between history and fantasy in this series seemed to blur at times. And Christianity is reality. The salvation of Jesus Christ isn’t built upon myths of the past. (Not to say that there isn’t some truth in mythology, you can read C.S. Lewis for more on that topic, but that the gospel is an entirely different way of seeing the world. It requires the re-ordering of our belief systems.) So I found this passage incongruous to the story as a whole and I wish the book would have ended without trying to justify the story within the context of Christianity.

That said, it is still an excellent story for lovers of history and fantasy alike.

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

Book Review: Under Scottish Stars

About the Book:

Recently widowed Serena MacDonald Stewart focuses on her children to the exclusion of her career, her art, and her sanity. When her brothers ask her to oversee the family guest house on the Isle of Skye, it’s a chance to dust off her long-ignored business skills and make a new start. But her hopes for a smooth transition are dashed when the hotel manager, Malcolm Blake, turns out to be irritating, condescending . . . and incredibly attractive.

My Thoughts:

If you follow my blog you’ll know that this book is outside of my preferred genres. I rarely read books set in modern day and I almost never read a book with a story line that is almost entirely focused on a romance. Under Scottish Stars made it onto my radar because I read and enjoyed Five Days in Skye (the first book in the series). While I was a bit put off by the tension in London Tides (the second book in the series), I have a weakness for any story set in Scotland, so I decided to give book three a chance.

Under Scottish Stars was light and easy reading. A Scottish island, family commitments and a serious attraction set the stage for two people, who have both seen a number of challenges in life, having to decide whether they can love each other or if life has thrown too much at them for them to be able to follow their dreams.

As I love Skye and could really picture the locations in my mind, I found this novel a pleasant companion on a rainy afternoon. It won’t make it onto my top ten list, but I enjoyed reading it all the same.

NOTE: All three books in the series can stand alone. Characters from the first two novels show up in this book, but not in a way that you need to know their back story.

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

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 their 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:

Sylvan%20Woods%20Trail%20Pass%20(1)_edit

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 Review: House at the End of the Moor

About the Book:

What Can a London Opera Star and an Escaped Dartmoor Prisoner Have in Common?
 
Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity.

My Thoughts:

Something about Michelle Griep’s writing always draws me into the story. The House At The End Of The Moor was no exception.

There were many facets to the story and I liked the way they were woven together to form a layered tale. I found the variety of villains added interesting dynamics, however some of the aspects associated with the villains seemed difficult to swallow and still find the story believable.

All in all I found the adventure to be fast paced and interesting, the connection between the main characters authentic and the redemption sufficient.

I received a free, unedited digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.