Book Review: The Adventures of Sarah Ann Lewis and the Memory Thieves

About the Book:

What Sarah doesn’t know…

…could doom us all.

It’s 1988 in the middle of nowhere, Texas, and 13-year-old Sarah is about to be swept out of her boring life and into a world of danger.

Spies are coming for her. The people next door are not what they seem. And Sarah’s family has been hiding something. Something BIG. Something not even Sarah knows.

The fate of the world hangs in the balance. But for Sarah, all that matters is rescuing her family. What’s left of it, anyway.

If she fails, the Memory Thieves will learn their secrets, and as a result, millions around the world will die. But to save the people she loves, Sarah will have to team up with strangers she isn’t sure she can trust. Strangers who aren’t even human.

This story is not what you think.

A captivating blend of rural sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and thriller, the first book of this genre smashing series will have you begging for more.

My Thoughts:

I was captivated from the very first page. This middle grade science fiction, fantasy, mystery was very engaging and creative.

For fans of N.D. Wilson and the Chronicles of Narnia, The Adventures of Sarah Ann Lewis had all the elements of a great story. There was a mystery to be solved, danger to be avoided (the very real type that includes fighting for survival and even death, but isn’t overly graphic in its description), friendships to be made, trust to be reinforced (or betrayed), intrigue, adventure, talking animals and other-worldly creatures.

From a Texas school room to a basement in Berlin, the story never lags. My only complaint is that the next book in the series hasn’t been released yet.

I received a free digital pre-release copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. An honestly I really enjoyed it.

Book Review: A Reluctant Bride

About the Book:

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?

My Thoughts:

While a perfectly reasonable book for whittling away an afternoon I found A Reluctant Bride to be a rather middle of the road novel. Though it was based on a true story I just didn’t find enough in the story to make it feel entirely believable to me and it seemed heavier on the romance than it was on the history. I’ve read a number of books by Jody Hedlund, but I just didn’t find The Reluctant Bride measured up to my expectations. I couldn’t quite come to terms with Joseph being titled and making the choices that he made, even with him originally being a second son and his unusual upbringing. I also had to look up facts about telegraphs to England from the territories at one point in the book, because the dates didn’t seem to correspond with the ability to send a trans-Atlantic message and expect to hear back in under a week. These little details are important to me, however, someone else might just slide over them without becoming distracted from the plot.

On the positive side, the author paints a realistic picture of life in the London slums. There is no sugar coating here. The fact that Mercy remained compassionate and self sacrificing in her surroundings makes her an exceptional character.

Overall, it was a nice romantic story, but I’d call it light entertainment rather than a riveting novel.

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

Born to Trouble

In May I stayed the night in Venice before a flight. I was walking the streets from San Marco to the bus station when I heard this terrible shriek of pain. I looked up and a seagull had caught a swallow and was killing it. I wanted to throw something at the seagull. I couldn’t get the shriek out of my mind. It over-shadowed my evening.

I came home and was watching a family of birds at my feeder. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the neighbor’s cat and before I could blink a baby bird was carried away in cat jaws.

I sat on a Spiritual Direction call as tears dripped through the telephone line. Trouble. Pain. Loss.

And these words from N.D. Wilson came to mind:

Heat rises. Man is born to trouble. When Job lifted his face to the Storm, when he asked and was answered, he learned that he was very small. He learned that his life was a story. He spoke with the Author, and learned that the genre had not been an accident. God tells stories that make Sunday school teachers sweat and mothers write their children permission slips excusing them from encountering reality.

Lions are fed. Every day, animal stories end in those jaws. Leviathan snorts fire. Unicorns won’t plow. What good is a story without struggle? What good is a plot without danger? How is a character’s mettle tested? How is it made in the first place?

Nails are forged for pounding. Man is born to trouble. Man is born for trouble. Man is born to battle trouble. Man is born for the fight, to be forged and molded—under torch and hammer and chisel—into a sharper, finer, stronger image of God.

Eve had done nothing wrong. Our mother wandered the garden, doing no evil. She and her lover existed in Paradise. What had she done to deserve a dragon? A serpent? A forked tongue and lying eyes laboring to get her killed?

She had been born. Her life was a story. She was born—even when pure—for trouble.

Ponder this. Adam. Our unfallen father arrives on the scene to discover what exactly?

Adam was given the world and a garden and all manner of fruit to eat. He was given every beast to tend and name. He was given a wife and lover traced by God’s own fingers—a muse to make Helen of Troy put on sunglasses and a hoodie in shame. Fairy tale. And then, having done no wrong at all, he was given a dragon, a wife who had been deceived, who had believed that God was a petty liar and therefore chosen to defy Him. Eve had stepped directly under the curse of the Almighty, smack into thou shalt surely die. Adam, still having done no wrong, had been given loss. He had been given trouble with a capital T. And like every person who has been given a beating heart and breathing lungs and seeing eyes and hearing ears and fingers and thumbs and thoughts and an entirely unasked-for existence in the flowing stream of history on this space-time stage, he had been given a choice.

As the sparks fly upward, Eve was born to a moment in the garden when she faced a dragon spewing lies.

As the sparks fly upward, Adam was born to a moment when his garden was invaded by a deceiving dragon and he learned that his love was under a death curse.

The plot hinged. The past was ready to be written in forever stone. The future waited to swirl up or down, left or right.

Death By Living – N. D. Wilson

The future waits for us to choose. How will we live in the midst of turmoil and trouble. Some days lions are fed. Other days God sends an angel to close their jaws. Sometimes, having done nothing in particular to earn it, we are given trouble. We are given choice.

The plot hinges. What will you choose? What will I choose?

Can I worship in the echo of the screaming swallow?

Will I trust the Word of the Lord when a serpent out to get me killed comes crawling into the garden?

The plot hinges…

I suspect I’ve quoted this book more than any other book.
It’s impact on me can’t be measured. Check it out:
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2Xeiy5t
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2ZqiFtw

Book Review: Of Fire And Lions

About the Book:

The Old Testament book of Daniel comes to life in this novel for readers of Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series or Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series.

Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. In the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers she thought she’d perfected pretending, with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Now, as Daniel’s wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she’s safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear–until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar’s palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Bellili’s tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone?

Ultimately, Yahweh’s sovereign hand guides Jerusalem’s captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.

My Thoughts:

I’m sometimes hesitant to read a fictional story about Biblical characters, but I really appreciated Andrews’ tale Of Fire and Lions. I appreciate that Andrews gives an outline for how she writes Biblical, historical fiction.

1) Biblical accounts and Scripture build the foundation,
2) Historical facts support the truth of God’s Word, and
3) Creative fiction holds the historical fact and Biblical truth together.

I absolutely loved that the creative fiction made the familiar stories come alive. For example, I’d never worked out a timeline or thought of the age that Daniel would have been when cast into the lions den. It moved me when I realized he wasn’t a young, strong man at that point, but an older, more vulnerable age. For some reason I tend to create an image of a character and then it never ages, so to meet Daniel in his later years was a gift that I had missed when I read the Biblical text.

There is, of course, a lot of holy imagination happening, but all in all I felt that the story not only stayed true to the Biblical text, it captivated. I now find it easier to put myself in the shoes of the captives than I did before. I stood with awe as I watched the ways that the LORD met with the characters. I remembered, yes, this is my God. I felt their doubts, their losses, their joys, all very real and very familiar.

The book does jump back and forth in the timeline of Belili’s life, but I didn’t find it at all hard to follow. In fact, this was one of those books that I really hated to have to set down and walk away from at any point.

I really liked Of Fire and Lions and would recommend it to you.

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

As You Wish

Are you familiar with The Princess Bride? It’s a movie that I memorized I watched it so often. And of course, “As You Wish” was Westley’s way of saying “I love you.”

I think we all have those particular ways in which God communicates to us saying, “I love you.” For me there are many. One of them is starfish.

Brittle Star

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with starfish: their textured feel, the way they suck onto a rock (or your hand), their colors. I always scanned the tidal pools of the Pacific for them.

But, they are much fewer and farther between here on the Welsh coast, so they seem especially significant when I come across one.

A couple of weeks ago I took a day of solitude with the Lord and I heard him say, “Come to the beach with me.” To be honest I wasn’t feeling much like prying myself off the couch and I sensed the beach that he was inviting me to was one that’s a bit of a drive from here. But I couldn’t bring myself to refuse the invitation and so I went.

As I walked on the beach I was talking with the Lord and I remember looking down the beach and praying, “I know there are no tide pools here, but even without the starfish I’m really aware of how you show your love for me.”

About two miles down the beach I was focusing on where I was stepping, as there were a lot of jelly fish on the beach that day, and at a curve where the tide was just going out, I saw my first brittle star. So, they might not technically be starfish, but they are starfish in every way that matters to me. And as I walked along I saw not one, but literally hundreds of them. I just wanted to laugh. I’d done it again. I’d boxed God in. As if he couldn’t say “I love you” with a starfish unless there were tide pools.

Rhossili – The Gower
Jellyfish
Going in circles
Wild Welsh Ponies

And to up the ante, I ended up going home on a different route and the wild ponies were right there on the side of the road for me to enjoy.

It was a sweet day and a sweet reminder of the God who has time and again moved heaven and earth to show me his love: in Jesus, in a starfish, in a sunny day on the beach, though a herd of ponies, in the midst of pain, on the days when I don’t want to pry myself off the couch.

I am loved.

You are loved.

Keep your ears open.

You might hear “As You Wish.”

Keep your eyes open.

You might be surprised by a starfish.

Book Review: The Number of Love

About the Book:

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded form the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the intelligent Margot, but how can he convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart? Amid biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save themselves form the very secrets that brought them together.

My Thoughts:

Though The Number of Love is the first in a new Codebreakers series 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 book.

(The first book in the Shadows Over England series is called A Name Unknown and can be found at Amazon US https://amzn.to/2XcK0R7 or Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2FXrzW5.)

I really appreciate Roseanna White’s writing and anticipate when a new book is released. The Number of Love did not disappoint. It had suspense, intrigue, character growth, grief, loss, triumph, love and faith. I am the polar opposite of the main character in both personality and thought, yet I connected deeply with her story. I think that in itself is quite a feat of writing. I imagine a mathematician would find this story even more riveting that I did. I also found the historical foundation of Room 40 and the code breakers to be fascinating and I walked away from the story with a deep appreciation for people whose gifts are far different than my own.

All in all it was a fascinating story that I highly recommend.

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

Book Review: A Noble Guardian

I’m hoping to get back to blogging more now that my travel schedule has settled down again. I have so many books to tell you about, some lovely photos and a myriad of thoughts. So here’s my first foray back into blogging for the summer. Thanks for sticking with me.

About the Book:

A Cross-Country Trip through Regency England Brings Intrigue, Rogues, and High Adventure

The must-read conclusion to Michelle Griep’s Bow Street Runners Trilogy: Life couldn’t be better for Abigail Gilbert—but it’s been a long time in coming. Having lived with a family who hated her, it’s finally her time for love. Abby sets off on a journey across England to marry one of the most prestigious gentlemen in the land—until highwaymen upset her plans and threaten her life.

Horse patrol captain Samuel Thatcher arrives just in time to save Abby. But she’s simply another victim in a job he’s come to despise. Tired of the dark side of humanity, he intends to buy land and retire.

Abby pleads with him to escort her for the rest of her journey. He refuses—until she offers him something he desperately needs to achieve his goal. . .money. Delivering her safely will give him more than enough to buy property.

So begins an impossible trek for the cynical lawman and the proper lady. Each will be indelibly changed by the time they reach her betrothed, if they don’t kill one another first—or fall in love.

My Thoughts:

This is the third book in the Bow Street Runners series, however, each book stands alone with only minimal cross-over in the characters. You could read this book without starting at the beginning of the series.

I liked all three books in the series, although, I found them each quite different while all containing themes of intrigue and justice, with a bit of romance. For my part, I thought that The Noble Guardian had a lighter readability to it than the previous books. Perhaps it was the way cynicism was challenged with genuine care and the discovery of what love actually is, but this story left me more encouraged that I expected based on the previous books. Or perhaps it was also that they were on the move throughout the story. There was a clear hero, a clear villain and an (almost) epic journey. All favorable elements in my opinion.

I enjoyed the character development, though I was surprised how long it took Abby to re-frame her thinking to what seemed obvious to me. Then again, isn’t that life – none of us change overnight.

I appreciate that Griep writes real characters who have real beliefs. In her writing you will often see a character with a misunderstanding of God and the world, because that is reality. You also have the chance to see those thoughts challenged in the story, but the book never preaches and sometimes doesn’t even make it clear when the character is misled. I actually appreciate that in a novel, but I do understand that it can make some people uncomfortable so you might consider if that matters to you.

All in all, it was absolutely a story worth reading.

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

Book Review: Whose Waves These Are

About the Book:

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss’s humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the tiny, coastal Maine town, and he sets his calloused hands to work, but the building halts when tragedy strikes.

Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. What she didn’t anticipate was finding a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Long-ago memories of stone ruins on a nearby island trigger her curiosity, igniting a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.

She joins forces with the handsome and mysterious harbor postman, and all her hopes of mending the decades-old chasm in her family seem to point back to the ruins. But with Robert failing fast, her search for answers battles against time, a foe as relentless as the ever-crashing waves upon the sea?

My Thoughts:

Every now and again I read a book that is exceptional in every way. Whose Waves These Are is one of those books. Let me share with a you a quote from the prologue, because, honestly, the publisher’s synopsis above didn’t capture my interest half as much as these short lines did.

“Every wave in that big old blue sea is a story.”

Bob told me this a long time ago, his voice brined with wind and water.

I laughed and focused on the cresting peaks from his old dock. They disappeared faster than a ten-year-old could count.

“Too many waves,” I said. “It can’t be.”

His smile pushed wrinkles around blue eyes as he squeezed my hand tight.

“So many waves, Annie. You remember that.”

It would be decades before I’d learn the truth of that. So many stories. In this pocket of a harbor where broken lives, like waves on the shore, are gathered up and held close. I never imagined then that it would be my breaking place, too.

Nor how beautiful the breaking could be.

Prologue – Whose Waves These Are – Amanda Dykes

This book caught me off guard in the best kind of way. The writing was captivating. Every page seemed to come alive before my very eyes. There are a number of powerful stories out there, but powerfully written stories are harder to come by. Whose Waves These Are exceeded all my expectations.

The depth of the characters impressed me. The author clearly knows people and she wrote real characters with real souls. I loved the attentiveness that was present on every level of the tale. I’m not normally a fan of stories that shift between the past and the present, but the way that this novel flowed it was like uncovering secret surprises along the way, the very act of discovery bridging the gaps in time.

The plot was imaginative and compelling. The links between WWII and modern day, the impact of lives across generations, the mystery of the rocks and the renewal of broken relationships were all engaging themes.

Yet, perhaps, my favorite thing about the book was that it was truly a Kingdom story. It didn’t just mention God or dabble in truth, but it breathed it. A vision for what God was up to permeated every word of the story, as beautiful and natural as a sunrise, weaving a message of hope that left me with a lump in throat and a light in my heart in a way that few novels do.

I’ll leave you with some of my favorite words of wisdom, spoken in the midst of war, from one of the characters. “Don’t get stuck in the dark…. There’s a whole lotta light…Go there instead.”

Whose Waves These Are is well worth reading and has risen to the top of my Best Books of 2019 list. I would highly recommend it to you.

There is also a (currently free) kindle prequel, Up From the Sea, that takes you back in time in Ansel-by-Sea. It is also well worth reading, but it is short and more of a snack, compared to the meal of Whose Waves These Are.

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