Thursday, December 31, 2020

Five Star Books Of 2020

I thought it would be fun to revisit the books I gave a five star rating to in 2020. Looking over my list on Goodreads, I didn't realize I would have so many! I thought I was very stingy on handing those out, but apparently this was the year for some incredible reading!


I read (according to my Goodreads goal) 135 books this year. That includes physical, ebook, and audio copies. I thoroughly got into audiobooks at the beginning of the year (pre-covid). I'm so glad I did because being in the car and doing household chores became even more fun!



On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White

Summary:

All of England thinks Major Phillip Camden a monster—a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But he would have preferred to die that day with his men 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.

As nurse Arabelle Denler observes the so-dubbed "Black Heart," she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their families and paths twist together unexpectedly, she realizes she has a role to play in his healing—and some of her own to do so as well.

With Camden's court-marital looming, an old acquaintance shows up, intent on using him in a plot that sends the codebreakers of Room 40 into a frenzy. With their fragile hopes for the future in the cross hairs, Arabelle and Camden must hold on to hope—and to each other—if they want to survive.



Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig

Summary:

Leif Metcalfe and his team, dubbed Reaper, need to recover the stolen, ancient Book of the Wars if they hope to stop the Armageddon Coalition and their pursuit of global economic control. But their attention has been diverted by a prophecy in the book that foretells of formidable guardians who will decimate the enemies of ArC. While Iskra Todorova uses her connections in the covert underworld to hunt down the Book of the Wars, Leif and Reaper attempt to neutralize these agents but quickly find themselves outmaneuvered and outgunned. 

The more Reaper tries to stop the guardians, the more failure becomes a familiar, antagonistic foe. Friendships are fractured, and the team battles to hold it together long enough to defeat ArC. But as this millennia-old conspiracy creeps closer and closer to home, the implications could tear Leif and the team apart.



Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Summary:

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there's only one match she's committed to now--the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first-grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency's requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.



Silent Shadows by Natalie Walters

Summary:

They're running from their pasts into an unknown future. 
But first, they'll have to survive the present.


Nurse Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolves into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally--her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton's involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer--and more deadly--than they realized.

Welcome back to Walton, Georgia, where everyone knows your name--but no one knows your secret.



The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

Summary:

Seemingly overnight, the German blitzkrieg of Warsaw in 1939 turns its streets to a war zone and shatters the life of each citizen—Polish, Jewish, or otherwise. Sophie Kumiega, a British bride working in the city’s library, awaits news of her husband, Janek, recently deployed with the Polish Air Force. Though Sophie is determined that she and the baby in her womb will stay safe, the days ahead will draw her into the plight of those around her, compelling her to help, whatever the danger.

Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich never imagined they would welcome their longed-for first child in the Jewish ghetto, or that they would let anything tear their family apart. But as daily atrocities intensify, Rosa soon faces a terrifying reality: to save their daughter’s life, she must send her into hiding. Her only hope of finding her after the war—if any of them survive—is a medallion she cuts in half and places around her neck.

Inspired by true events of Poland’s darkest days and brightest heroes, The Medallion paints a stunning portrait of war and its aftermath, daring us to believe that when all seems lost, God can make a way forward.



My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

A staggering love illuminating the dark corners of a Nazi prison
Renowned German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for his resistance to the Nazi regime and for his allegiance to God over government. But what few realize is that the last years of his life also held a love story that rivals any romance novel.

Maria von Wedemeyer knows the realities of war. Her beloved father and brother have both been killed on the battlefield. The last thing this spirited young woman needs is to fall for a man under constant surveillance by the Gestapo. How can she give another piece of her heart to a man so likely to share the same final fate? Yet when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an old family friend, comes to comfort the von Wedemeyers after their losses, she discovers that love isn't always logical.

Dietrich himself has determined to keep his distance from romantic attachments. There is too much work to be done for God, and his involvement in the conspiracy is far too important. But when he encounters a woman whose intelligence and conviction match his own, he's unprepared for how easy it is to give away his heart.

With their deep love comes risk--and neither Dietrich nor Maria is prepared for just how great that risk soon becomes.

Based on detailed historical research and including photos from both Maria's and Dietrich's lives, this is a true love story at once beautiful and heartrending. My Dearest Dietrich sheds new light on a world-famous theologian . . . and the woman who changed his life.



Storing Up Trouble by Jen Turano

After Miss Beatrix Waterbury suffers multiple mishaps due to her involvement with the suffrage movement, her mother decides a change of scenery is in order for her incorrigible daughter. Banished from New York, Beatrix is sent off for an extended stay with her Aunt Gladys in Chicago.

Mr. Norman Nesbit, a gentleman and a brilliant man of science devoted to his work, doesn't have time to be distracted with members of the feminine set. When robbers descend on the train, intent on divesting him from his important research papers, Norman is thrust into Beatrix's company when she has the audacity to interfere—leaving him no choice but to try to save her from herself.

When Beatrix's life is put at stake after she takes employment as a salesgirl, she and Norman find themselves propelled into each other's company again and again. With danger and intrigue dogging their every step, they become surprisingly drawn to each other—until information comes to light that threatens this relationship that's barely had a chance to blossom.



Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Summary:

Wife. Warrior. Lady of Two Worlds.
As War Looms, Will Her Power Be Enough to Save the Ones She Loves? 
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?



Stay With Me by Becky Wade

Summary:

Loving her is a risk he can't afford . . . and can't resist.When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents' past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family's secret. However, it's Genevieve's own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she's worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He's spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?




Summary:

There's a lot of irony in hitting rock bottom
After a heartbreak leaves her reeling, January Sanders is open to anything--including moving into a cabin on her aunt's wedding-venue property and accepting a temporary position at her aunt's church despite being a lifelong skeptic of faith. Choosing to keep her doubts to herself, she's determined to give her all to supporting Grace Community's overworked staff while helping herself move on. 

What she doesn't count on is meeting the church's handsome and charming guitarist. It's a match set for disaster, and yet January has no ability to stay away, even if it means pretending to have faith in a God she doesn't believe in.

Only this time, keeping her secret isn't as easy as she thought it would be. Especially when she's constantly running into her aunt's landscape architect, who seems to know everything about her past-and-present sins and makes no apologies about pushing her to deal with feelings she'd rather keep buried.

Torn between two worlds that can't coexist, can January find the healing that's eluded her, or will her resistance to the truth ruin any chance of happiness?



Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

Summary:

Can a Canaanite harlot who made her living enticing men be a fitting wife for a leader of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible's answer is yes.

This 10th anniversary edition of Pearl in the Sand includes new features that will invite you into the untold story of Rahab's journey from lowly outcast to redeemed child of God. Rahab's home is built into a wall, a wall that fortifies and protects the City of Jericho. However, other walls surround her too, walls of fear, rejection, and unworthiness… Years of pain and betrayal have wounded Rahab's heart—she doubts whether her dreams of experiencing true love will ever come true…

A woman with a wrecked past—a man of success, of faith... of pride. A marriage only God would conceive! Through the heartaches of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another's worth and find healing in God.



Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

Summary:

All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte's death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother's mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany. Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte's father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. 

Lieselotte is in love - but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation. Both Hannah's and Lieselotte's stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartime secrets of his own. 

Longing for connection yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family's tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.



The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Summary:

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift—and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress—or feel certain she should marry Tim? Then Charlotte purchases a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new, shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the beauty of finding true love.



To Dwell Among Cedars by Connilyn Cossette

Summary:

As they fight for the soul of Israel, will they find healing for their own?

Eight years ago, after the Philistines surrendered the stolen Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites, Eliora and her brother left their Philistine homeland to follow it to the community of Kiryat-Yearim. Though they both were lovingly enfolded into a Levite family that guards the Ark, Eliora can't stop feeling like she doesn't belong. 

Meanwhile, a faction of discontent Hebrews finds Kiryat-Yearim to be an unfit resting place and believes that the sacred vessel should be in the hands of the priests who mean to restore the Holy of Holies in a new location. Under the guise of gathering Hebrews to worship together for the festivals, Levite musician Ronen has been sent by his uncle to find where the Ark has been hidden and steal it back. But Ronen never expected that the Philistine girl he rescued years ago would now be part of the very family he's tasked to deceive.

Ronen's attempts to charm Eliora into revealing the location of the Ark lead them in unexpected directions, as they must battle betrayal and fear to help establish Israel's leadership for a better future.



The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

Summary:

When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee her late grandmother's estate sale, she soon discovers that the woman left behind more than trinkets and photo frames--she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy's adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.

Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he's ever loved.

In this dual-timeline story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth--both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others--takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.



The Red Canary by Rachel McDaniel

Summary:

Music sparks her world, but can love ignite her heart? 

In 1928, soot from the local mills and music from speakeasies linger in the Pittsburgh air. When the manager of The Kelly Club is found dead, nightclub singer Vera Pembroke is thrust into peril. As the only witness to the crime, she’s sentenced to hide away in the Allegheny Forest with a stuffy police sergeant as her guardian. 

Sergeant Mick Dinelo harbors a burning hatred for Pittsburgh’s underworld after the devastation it left on his life—and heart. He should be out exposing the culpable gangsters rather than tending to the impetuous woman who defies his every effort to keep her safe. 

Mick and Vera must set aside their differences to solve the murder that someone wants to keep buried beneath the soot of Steel City. 


AND, my favorite book of 2020 is:



Dawn of Vengeance by Ronie Kendig

Summary:

A haunting prophecy upended his identity. Now it demands his life.

Once a formidable bounty hunter, Marco Dusan is plagued by insecurity as he tours the realm he now rules. This quiet, backwater planet is not as untouched as he'd once thought. Evidence of collusion between Droseran factions and the powerful Symmachians with their forbidden technology litters his encounters. Worse, all signs indicate Xisya, the alien who tortured him, is still snatching Kynigos Brethren--but to what end?

Lance Corporal Eija Zacdari works hard to win a coveted place on the Symmachian hyperjump program, but instinct tells her their intel is flawed. Despite nearly failing the tests, she is assigned to the team-and lands in the middle of a bewildering conspiracy.

Haunted by a prophecy that promises pain and war, Marco forges alliances to protect the primitive world against Symmachia's devastating influence. But one truth becomes painfully clear: the biggest threat to their world may be much, much closer to home.



Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Between Earth And Eden By E.L. Irwin

Between Earth and Eden
by E.L. Irwin
Series: The Guardian Series
Publisher: Independent
ISBN: 979-8694880572

I was thrilled when the author reached out to me on Instagram! When she told me about her book

Summary:

Long ago, when First Eden fell, when the Deceiver came, bringing untruth and corruption, a new realm was formed to blanket the earth. New Eden it was called. Like fabric lovingly stitched together, it was put in place, unseen, to keep the denizens of Earth safe. But war has broken out and fierce battles are being waged between good and evil for the souls of humanity. Guardians, appointed by the King Himself are all that stand between Earth and Eden, between their salvation and their destruction.

Though human and thoroughly unaware of the supernatural world around her, Jane Tanner finds herself hunted and caught up in a web of dark forces. Her twin brother Cash has already fallen prey to one of Hell’s own. Now, to keep her safe, Jane’s Guardian will move heaven and earth to ensure her protection.  But those dark powers are moving and dominions are rising and Jane’s Guardian will need to decide quickly just how far he’ll need to go to fulfill his duty and covenant oath.

…against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12, NKJV


My Review:

If you are a fan of Frank Peretti or Ted Dekker, then you are going to really enjoy E.L. Irwin!

I had ZERO clue what to expect with this story. E.L. is a new-to-me author and I had no idea what genre her book was in. So to find out it's a spiritual thriller, I was pretty intrigued... and a bit nervous. Ha!

The first few chapters were interesting and I wasn't sure if I would like her style for an entire book, but I was all in for trying. There was no dialogue. We only read the thoughts of the Guardian or the Hunter. It's rather spooky to be honest.

Then the human character of the story starts to interact with others and dialogue begins. I have to say, I was relieved. lol I mean, like I said, I was intrigued by the first four chapters of none of that. Once there was talking I felt ready to settle in.

But honestly, you can't really settle in with this story. It keeps you on edge pretty much the entire time. I do NOT like scary stories - horror stories if you will. This was NOT a horror story, but it does have that scary slant to it. I mean, we're talking about demons. Those who serve Satan. So, it's not full of frills. Not even close.

Jane has been in a type of bondage ever since her twin brother was in an accident. When she tries to move forward with her life, the Hunter is ready to pounce. Her Guardian will have none of it when it comes to the Hunter. The Guardian has to be very careful because he's walking a very fine line with his protection of Jane.

I'm not sure there's a more sinister character out there than Theron. I mean, as readers our warning bells are going off and all I wanted to do was pull Jane away from him kicking and screaming. He's lascivious from the start and he makes me wonder how many creeps like that did I manage to avoid, and then I remember how many I didn't. :(

Then there's Aurek. There are details that make me giggle like a school girl when he lands on the scene. Maybe it's his eyes... or his car. Maybe both? For some reason he made me think of Chris Hemsworth. He's who I'm hoping my Guardian is. Mine is probably some portly, little fella who just stuffed a Little Debbie into his mouth. tee hee hee Let's hope not!

I have to say, I haven't read a book like this in probably a decade, if not more. I LOVE books that remind us that there's a spiritual battle going on around us. That's the one thing about books like this. I become hyper aware of the spiritual realm. Not to the point of Jane who sees "things" and hears things. Whew, thank goodness. But this is why I compare her to Peretti because he altered my understanding of the spiritual world and Irwin has reignited it.

Now here are a couple of asides from reading the story. And keep in mind, I still gave this a 4 star review. One is just a wondering and the other is a heads up. Keep in mind that this book isn't marketed as Christian fiction, but there is clearly the faith element.

So, first, Jane isn't a believer so I'm wondering what's so "special" about her. Why is she so important? We don't find that out in this book so I'm hoping we will in book 2. Maybe it's simply because she's a human and the Hunter hates them all. If that's the case, then I'm good with that. She's full of goodness and light, but she's just a "good person". I'm hoping there's a salvation element in book 2 as well! Of course, since this isn't an explicitly Christian novel, that might not happen.

Then, there's the sensualism in the story. There's definitely a dark side that is trying to pull Jane in. To weaken her, to dull her light. It fits the story (although it made me squirm), so I didn't find it gratuitous. I mean, this is life. Again, stronger than what I typically read. I tend to not read books with anything much more than some smooching. lol There are only a couple scenes that far into this category. This is just a heads up for friends who shy away from intimacy scenes. Whew!

I'm really looking forward to the second book! See, even with those two pieces above, the parts above that are why I want to read book 2. Remember 4 star rating! Anyhow, I have a feeling there will be some epic spiritual battling going on!

About the Author:

A child of divorce and abuse, E.L. Irwin found escape in reading and writing, and through the school of hard-knocks, learned to be a fighter. She's a self-described rebel who wears her heart on her sleeve and tends to shoot from the hip on subjects that matter. She enjoys riding horses, wearing heels, shooting her XD.40, tattoos, and of course, a good book and hot coffee.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

To Dwell Among Cedars By Connilyn Cossette

To Dwell Among Cedars
by Connilyn Cossette
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: The Covenant House
ISBN: 9780764234347

Connilyn Cossette easily became one of my favorite overall authors and probably my favorite Biblical fiction author the past couple of years. To be on her launch team for book 1 of The Covenant House series was simply an honor. I received the book for being part of her team.

Summary:

As they fight for the soul of Israel, will they find healing for their own?

Eight years ago, after the Philistines surrendered the stolen Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites, Eliora and her brother left their Philistine homeland to follow it to the community of Kiryat-Yearim. Though they both were lovingly enfolded into a Levite family that guards the Ark, Eliora can't stop feeling like she doesn't belong. 

Meanwhile, a faction of discontent Hebrews finds Kiryat-Yearim to be an unfit resting place and believes that the sacred vessel should be in the hands of the priests who mean to restore the Holy of Holies in a new location. Under the guise of gathering Hebrews to worship together for the festivals, Levite musician Ronen has been sent by his uncle to find where the Ark has been hidden and steal it back. But Ronen never expected that the Philistine girl he rescued years ago would now be part of the very family he's tasked to deceive.

Ronen's attempts to charm Eliora into revealing the location of the Ark lead them in unexpected directions, as they must battle betrayal and fear to help establish Israel's leadership for a better future.

My Review:

I started enjoying the Old Testament in a new way a couple years ago when I was in my Bible study. That was the first time I'd read any Connilyn Cossette novels. It was amazing because her fiction went along with what I'd been learning in the Bible. Once again, one of the true stories of the Bible that I read about and really fascinated me was the topic of To Dwell Among Cedars.

One of the things I love most about Connilyn's writing is that she brings us to a time in history and makes it come alive for the reader. YES, it's fictional, but the way she writes you could see something like this story happening at the same time.

I loved the main character, Arisa. We meet he as a little girl and then once again as a young woman. While she's grown up in so many ways, she's also stayed that same little girl, trying to earn her place and love. Then there's her brother, Lukio. Oh that poor, precious boy. So much going on inside of his mind and heart as he's growing up. You can see glimpses of what's to come while he's a little boy.

Azuvah, their nursemaid, is so wonderful. She's such an example of how we can pour into the life of those around us. I want to have a heart like hers, especially for children. I love how she fills Arisa and Lukio up with the history of her people and tries to instill a love for God for them in the midst of their Philistine ways.

Don't you just love a story that works up your dander?! Your ire builds for the choices the characters are making? The good characters and the not so good. You want to stop them in their tracks, scream at them, or put them over your knee? Whew, Connilyn got me with her characters in this story. Of course, on the opposite side of that coin are people like Elazar and Yoela who I just wanted to hug and spend time with.

Oh, and we can't forget about Ronen. He's a Levite musician who, well, who hasn't been following his calling. Like the other men in his family (who have survived) he wants vengeance and the ark back where it "belongs". Once again we see how what we sow into the lives of those in our care can harm or build up. Unfortunately, for him, his uncle has a bone to pick with Elazar's family. :(

You can see how God is moving throughout this story. The truths about Who we worship or what we worship will come to the forefront as you read through this story. Not only do the Levites struggle with that as well as the Israelites, but even the individual characters in this story. The story of the Ark being taken to the battle never fails to remind that the power isn't in the thing, but in the One who created it.

I think readers will be able to see themselves in one way or another through Arisa, Lukio, or Ronen. It's a powerful way to reflect on how we see ourselves in light of our Creator!

And now we wait. We wait for Lukio's story. Getting a glimpse into it at the end of this story makes me nervous for what's to come in book two. Nervous in a very good way. So much anticipation!!

About the Author:

Connilyn Cossette (www.connilyncossette.com)is a Christy Award and Carol Award winning author whose books have been found on ECPA and CBA bestseller lists. When she is not engulfed in the happy chaos of homeschooling two teenagers, devouring books whole, or avoiding housework, she can be found digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible to discover gems of grace that point to Jesus and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although she and her husband have lived all over the country in their twenty-plus years of marriage, they currently call a little town south of Dallas, Texas, their home.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Courting Misfortune By Regina Jennings

Courting Misfortune
by Regina Jennings
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: The Joplin Chronicles
ISBN: 9780764235344

I was excited to be on Regina's launch team for her newest series! I've enjoyed her books in the past and couldn't wait to dive into Courting Misfortune which was sent to be since I was on the team!

Summary:

Her trickiest case depends on keeping her motives--and her heart--in disguise.

Calista York needs one more successful case as a Pinkerton operative to secure her job at the agency. When she's assigned to find the kidnapped daughter of a mob boss, she's sent to the rowdy mining town of Joplin, Missouri. With extended family in the area, Calista must conceal her profession if she hopes to recover the missing girl. 

When Matthew Cook decided to be a missionary, he never expected to be sent only a short train ride away to Joplin. While fighting against corruption of all sorts, Matthew hears of a baby raffle being held to raise funds for a children's home. He'll do what he can to stop it, but he also wants to stop the reckless Miss York, whose bad judgment consistently puts her in harm's way. 

Calista doesn't need the handsome pastor and her nosy family interfering with her investigation, no matter their intentions. A girl's life depends on her. If she doesn't find Lila Seaton soon, the constant meddling could have dire consequences.

My Review:

Ok, so I'll be honest here. I'm one of those people who sometimes doesn't catch on right away. lol What that means is, I've been introduced to Calista before! In Serving Up Love, Regina's novella "Intrigue a la Mode" we meet Calista. It was when I was about halfway through Courting Misfortune that I realized the connection. hahahaha

That being said, let's get started with my actual review.

I liked Calista because she's such a determined young lady. Those are the kind of women I like in the stories I read. She wanted to be one of the first women Pinkertons. Getting brought back to where she grew up visiting her grandma and rest of the family, she's not able to stay under the radar as much as she'd like. As much as a Pinkerton needs. Oh my gosh, it was so funny reading how she kept trying to get out of slippery situations with people because she didn't want to seem "obvious" in her job. One of the funniest times is when she's pretending to be a nurse and her "skills" are put to the test! HA!

And then we are introduced to Matthew Cook. He was a pretty likable character who really seemed like the kind of guy who thought he could help save all of Joplin from their wayward behaviors. Unfortunately, he has a "pie in the sky" vision and when it doesn't come to fruition in a rather quicker and easier way discourages him. He does begin to make inroads one person at a time, and truly, isn't that they way things work usually? Calista is his greatest challenge and he can't figure out what is going on with that odd woman. One of the issues I had with him though, was his deep concern about how deceptive Calista is and how he constantly questions her character, but in the next instance he was attracted to her. That didn't make sense to me.

Of course I can't leave out Calista's family in general. Her cousins would make any sane person crazy. Those two have a knack for showing up when they're not needed nor wanted, much to poor Calista's dismay. They tend to wreak havoc, albeit unintentionally, wherever they go.

It was fun having Willow and Graham show up in the book. It was actually a bit of relief - probably for me AND Calista. Sure was nice to have other people who knew that she was working undercover and to give her some support. And their Granny was pretty great, too. What a fun character!

I'm definitely wondering what book 2 might be about. Will it stick with Calista's family or move on to someone else? I couldn't tell by the way the book ended so I'm super curious for the next one!

About the Author:

Regina Jennings (www.reginajennings.com) is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history. She's the winner of the National Readers' Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang Newsand at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.

Friday, December 11, 2020

A Castaway In Cornwall By Julie Klassen

A Castaway in Cornwall
by Julie Klassen
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764234224

Believe it or not, I think this is the first launch team I've been on for Julie Klassen!! I've reviewed her books, but never been on one of her teams!! I'm incredibly thankful for being given the opportunity to participate with her. I was sent the book to help facilitate my review.

Summary:

Set adrift on the tides of fate by the deaths of her parents and left wanting answers, Laura Callaway now lives with her uncle and his disapproving wife in North Cornwall. There she feels like a castaway, always viewed as an outsider even as she yearns to belong. 

While wreckers search for valuables along the windswept Cornwall coast--known for its many shipwrecks but few survivors--Laura searches for clues to the lives lost so she can write letters to next of kin and return keepsakes to rightful owners. When a man is washed ashore after a wreck, Laura acts quickly to protect him from a local smuggler determined to destroy him.

As Laura and a neighbor care for the survivor, they discover he has curious wounds and, although he speaks in careful, educated English, his accent seems odd. Other clues wash ashore, and Laura soon realizes he is not who he seems to be. Despite the evidence against him, the mysterious man might provide her only chance to discover the truth about her parents' fate. With danger pursuing them from every side, and an unexpected attraction growing between them, will Laura ever find the answers she seeks?

My Review:

It was so wonderful to travel across the pond to visit Cornwall. Julie Klassen has such an amazing way of bringing the reader into the 1800s! I'm always transported to somewhere in England (and this time France) that I just have to visit! Cornwall, England anyone?

I don't know if this is the right thing to admit or not, but I will read a Julie Klassen novel and never bother to read the back because she's one of my favorite authors. I always know I'll get what I'm hoping for, which is to be whisked away into historical romance!

I really liked getting to know Laura Callaway. Being an outsider to the ways of the Cornish, you know that she is blazing her own trail and while she wants to respect their way of living, her "upcountry" upbringing seems to set her apart. Which, when she's faced with rescuing the man who has washed ashore, instead of leaving him to die as Tom Parsons would've preferred. Now that's a fella who isn't likable at all!

As always, Julie writes the leading men in such a way that they're mysterious and dashing all at once. She certainly knows how to make them irresistible. Not only to the leading ladies, but I know we readers enjoy them just as much! hahahaha I mean, she writes about this shipwreck survivor and I don't think any of us would mind running into him in a dark alley. :) I don't want to give too much of this guy away since not much is known about him from the summary!

It was really easy to feel incredibly disconnected to the "not so family" family Laura ends up living with. I was so thankful for the character of Eseld. She actually ended up being one of my favorite characters. As timid as she is to follow her mom's orders, you can tell there's a stubborn streak laying deep inside her.

Of course the story comes with bad guys who are slippery buggars who seem to weasel their way out of horrible situations. The louts! 

I'd like to point out all of the research the author has done for this story. It is truly mind boggling to me everything they have to learn and study to make the story not only come to life, but be true to the history. I can't even begin to imagine putting in that much time simply to write a novel. We're definitely the ones who win in the end. I had no idea about Jersey. Never even heard of it until this story. And sakes alive, I know absolutely nothing about boats, but it was fascinating to read about how different ships can get through different levels of water.

Also, now I want to read the books that she quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I don't know about you, but I've never wanted to visit Cornwall, but do now. Obviously it would be a 2020 version so maybe not as Klassen as I'd like it to be.

I know with how the book ends we wouldn't get to have a stand alone story about one of the supporting characters, but I really ended up liking Treeve. He's a friend of Laura's who is constantly trying to either flirt with her or get a rise out of her. While he seems to be questionable at times, I really ended up liking his character.

As a side note, the cover of this book (front, side, and back) are absolutely stunning. I don't know that I've ever seen a pearlescent book cover, but this one has it and it's really unique. The designer did a beautiful job!

About the Author:

Julie Klassen (www.julieklassen.com) loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing's BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit www.julieklassen.com.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Dawn of Vengeance By Ronie Kendig

DAWN OF VENGEANCE
by Ronie Kendig
Publisher: Enclave Publishing
Series: The Dorseran Saga
ISBN: 978-1621841456

I loved book 1 "Brand of Light" SO much that I HAD to be on the launch team for DoV. Thankfully I was given a spot. BUT, while I was given the book to read as an ebook, I bought the book myself because it was INCREDIBLE! I was also sent an incredible launch team kit that included the book as well as many other goodies!

Summary:

A haunting prophecy upended his identity. Now it demands his life.

Once a formidable bounty hunter, Marco Dusan is plagued by insecurity as he tours the realm he now rules. This quiet, backwater planet is not as untouched as he'd once thought. Evidence of collusion between Droseran factions and the powerful Symmachians with their forbidden technology litters his encounters. Worse, all signs indicate Xisya, the alien who tortured him, is still snatching Kynigos Brethren--but to what end?

Lance Corporal Eija Zacdari works hard to win a coveted place on the Symmachian hyperjump program, but instinct tells her their intel is flawed. Despite nearly failing the tests, she is assigned to the team-and lands in the middle of a bewildering conspiracy.

Haunted by a prophecy that promises pain and war, Marco forges alliances to protect the primitive world against Symmachia's devastating influence. But one truth becomes painfully clear: the biggest threat to their world may be much, much closer to home.

My Review:

This is my favorite book of 2020, let's start there.

First, allow me make sure I've done my job and let you know that you need to get yourself a buddy to read this book. hahahaha You'll thank me later. I say this because even in chapter one I was like, "what the heck is happening?" And if you've read book one, you know how emotional we readers can get with this series!

Ok, where do I even start with reviewing Dawn of Vengeance? Here's the thing... I love reading. I enjoy getting to know the characters and finding myself imagining the world the author has created. The Droseran Saga has taken me beyond that. Now I can completely understand how people can get lost in a story. I haven't been this affected by a book since I was in my early teens.

Ronie is even more over the top in her writing with book two. Once again the characters came to life for me. Because of her excellent writing I became completely invested deeply in the characters, their relationships, and the situations happening in the story.

Is it strange that my heart felt ripped out of my chest when Marco heads out to learn more about his realm? How he's still so attuned to Kersei? You can absolutely tell how he's just a mess with everything that's happened! So am I, buddy, so am I. Marco makes me an emotional mess... in a good way. HA!

One of the characters I come to appreciate is Ixion, Marco's First, who comes alongside Marco to guide him as he learns to rule Kalonica. While he keeps a regal air about him, he also tries to relate to what Marco is going through, but is forthright with him when he gets lost in his emotions. It does seem that regardless of how far Marco goes, the scent of Kersei isn't far away. Sigh... I also love that Ypiretis makes an appearance again. He has words of wisdom even I needed to hear!

Darius continues to annoy me, which is basically a spill over from book one. hahaha I mean, the situations he's in are all his own doing. I think we can all look at ourselves and realize that we reap what we sew. Let's just say I want to shake him for the entirety of the book. Every time Kersei came onto the scene my heart just wrenched. I am still heartbroken for where her life has taken her.

Meanwhile, while a cartful of my emotions are pouring out over what's happening on Droseran, up in the heavenlies, at the Academy, we meet Eija and the students who are trying to land a gig on the Prevenire. A couple of Tigo's teammates have been reduced to training them after he and Jez bust away from the Kleopatra. Eija is such a neat character and I wish we would've had more time with her. We do get a lot more with her and the other students towards the end of the story.

Of course, creepy, Xisya makes her appearance once again and has us shivering just like she does the students at the Academy. Talk about a petrifying alien. One would think her methods would be... alarming? lol

I can't say enough about how enamored I am with this series. The depth of involvement Ronie brings us to is incredible because her writing of this story is impeccable. It took me a week... A WEEK... to start to come up for air after I finished the epilogue. I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking about all that the characters had been through the night that I finished it.

And poor Ronie. She was so kind with my emotional outbursts on Instagram. I mean, she reeled me in with how she brought this world to life. I guess she has to suffer through the crazy fans who are sucked into it, right? hahahaha

I don't know what book three is going to look like and I don't know if a year is enough time for me to prepare for how it all ends. I'm a bit worried that Ronie is going to rip my heart out of my chest (although she's already done this in both books hahahaha), hold it up in the air to laugh at it, and then shove it back into my chest while I flail around trying to reattach it. If you think I'm being dramatic, read this book and then get back to me. Mmmmhmmmm 

About the Author:

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. She married a veteran, and together their lives are never dull with four children and two dogs--a Maltese Menace and a retired military working dog. Ronie's degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters.

 
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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.