Monday, April 23, 2018

Julie- Blog Tour and Review

Welcome to this stop on the Julie by Catherine Marshall Reissue Celebration Blog Tour with JustRead Publicity Tours!

Title: Julie
Author: Catherine Marshall
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
ReIssue Date: April 17, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance Fiction
*A New York Times bestseller*
Will the dam hold?

Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to
escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys the
Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family
there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could
endanger the entire community.

Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills
as they investigate the conditions of the immigrant laborers. As the Alderton Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role to reform these conditions, seething tensions come to a head.

When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested.
Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?


It wasn't until this edition was announced that I even knew Catherine Marshall had written anything other than Christy. And while I was super excited to see another book by her, I was also disappointed that it was not a sequel to Christy, which I had felt ended on a cliffhanger with some unanswered questions. However, Julie stands on its own as a really good read, and I am so glad that I finally learned about it.

Set in the mid-1930's in Pennsylvania, Julie's story is one quite a bit removed from that of Marshall's other novel. Yet it still explores some difficult questions of faith. Where as Christy was just entering the ministry, Julie's family has only just left it. Her and her father struggle with the question of who God is to them and what it means to live out Christ's teachings. These questions were explored in a way which was honest and heart breaking, with a pastor having to leave the ministry to find God. And even though I don't necessarily agree with every conclusion reached, I appreciate that this real life struggle of someone who was raised in church but still doesn't really believe in or understand God was not glossed over.

The history aspect of this novel was also very well researched. Part of that was because the author actually lived through this time period, something which very few people can say today. Yet she also researched the events of this story, along with so many different industries involved, and all without the help of the internet! Her research allowed her to write one of the most horrifying and heartbreaking endings which I have ever read, made all the more real by the fact that these events actually occurred.

Perhaps the down side of reading this book for the first time at this stage in my life is that I have read many books before it. So, for me, love triangles are a trope which I have been frustrated with for sometime now and so it became the one down side of this really amazing read. Yet, as with Christy, the romance is far from being the center of the story, so I was able to get by with it, though I still wish it hadn't been there. However, though I know that I enjoyed it, I also know that this story will not be for everyone.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book through the publisher and JustRead.


Catherine Marshall (1914-1983), “The New York Times” best-selling author of 30 books, is best known for her novel “Christy.” Based on the life of her mother, “Christy” captured the hearts of millions and became a popular CBS television series. Around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, as her mother reminisced, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders. Catherine shared the story of her husband, Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, in “A Man Called Peter.” A decade after Dr. Marshall’s untimely death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, Executive Editor of “Guideposts,” forging a dynamic writer-editor partnership. A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine’s enduring career spanned four decades and reached over 30 million readers.


(1) Winner will win: 
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Bookmark Swag
  • Necklace (exact or similar & *subject to change)
  • Print Copy of Julie

(Only Gift Card open internationally. Others open to US Mailing Addresses)

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, April 16, 2018

For Love and Honor- Jody Hedlund

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Lady Sabine is harboring a skin blemish, one, that if revealed, could cause her to be branded as a witch, put her life in danger, and damage her chances of making a good marriage. After all, what nobleman would want to marry a woman so flawed?

Sir Bennet is returning home to protect his family from an imminent attack by neighboring lords who seek repayment of debts. Without fortune or means to pay those debts, Sir Bennet realizes his only option is to make a marriage match with a wealthy noblewoman. As a man of honor, he loathes the idea of courting a woman for her money, but with time running out for his family’s safety, what other choice does he have?

As Lady Sabine and Sir Bennet are thrust together under dangerous circumstances, will they both be able to learn to trust each other enough to share their deepest secrets? Or will those secrets ultimately lead to their demise?

My Thoughts: It's been a few years since I have read a Jody Hedlund novel and, that I remember, the book I did read was an adult fiction novel rather than YA. I had not been all that impressed by that book than so I did not have high expectations for this one. However, I ended up being glad to have given this one a shot.

As a YA novel, For Love and Honor is not quiet as serious as other adult novels set in this time period. The reasons for the characters needing to get married is fairly predictable, one needing to save his land and the other having no other prospects. Yet the book did an admirable job of setting up a foundation for their eventual romance by giving the characters a common interest and passion. Rather than falling in love because the other was attractive and sweet, these characters fell in love over works of art and a calling to preserve the past for future generations.

Perhaps the weakest facet of this book was the conflict toward the end, when Sir Bennet must save his family and Sabine must overcome the consequences of keeping her blemish a secret. Though I understood that their ages likely played into their choices, Sir Bennet's stubbornness to accept help from her or anyone else still seemed foolish with the fate of so many people weighed in the balance. And sadly, he never did have to learn to swallow his pride as everyone else simply accommodated it rather than remind him that he shouldn't be in the position to postpone saving lives.

Even through that, however, I still found myself holding on to the end, cheering for these characters to find their happily ever after. And I will just have to go back and read the rest of the series now that I have seen what this one is like.

I did NOT receive this book in exchange for a review. The decision to review it was my own.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Reclaiming Shilo Snow- Mary Weber

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Description: Trapped on the ice-planet of Delon, gamer girl Sofi and Ambassador Miguel have discovered that nothing is what it seems, including their friends. On a quest to rescue her brother, Shilo, a boy everyone believes is dead, they must now escape and warn Earth of Delon’s designs on humanity. Except the more they unearth of the planet and Sofi’s past, the more they feel themselves unraveling, as each new revelation has Sofi questioning the very existence of reality.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sofi’s mom, Inola, is battling a different kind of unraveling: a political one that could cost lives, positions, and a barely-rebuilt society, should they discover the deal made with the Delonese.

But there’s a secret deeper than all that. One locked away inside Sofi and ticking away with the beginnings, endings, and answers to everything. Including how to save humanity.

My Thoughts: I have to admit, I'm not sure why this book is as loved as it is. Like with the first book, the writing is pretty smooth and easy to read, and for the first quarter, I though I was going to like this so much better than the first book. The writing was intense, filled with suspense and some pretty horrifying imagery. That imagery finally had me fully engaged in the Sofi's plan to bring the Delonese down. However, that changed soon after.

Eventually, <spoiler> Sofi and Miguel are apprehended <spoiler/> after which, the characters are subjected to mind games which lead nowhere. The Delonese attempt to break Sofi and Miguel into explaining how they gained access to their systems in the last book, however this takes place over a hundred pages in which the description is repetitive and neither characters are able to pick up on something which I realized after only two pages.

Other reviewers have mentioned Inola, Sofi's mother, as being a new point of view in this book. This addition was something that I both liked and didn't. Her perspective was a great addition to the emotion of the family dynamics (one of the few things I really enjoyed- more in a minute) however, most of her scenes were of conversations and info dumping which I did not care for.

The love between Sofi and Shilo is the only thing that really sticks out to me about this story. Personally, I can fully relate to the lengths Sofi is willing to go to for her brother and I also appreciate the honesty in the relationship between her and her mother. Despite how awful of a parent Inola is, I still felt that she was able to trick herself into believing she did the right thing, not only by her kids but by the rest of the world. However, my appreciation for this facet of the book wasn't enough to redeem the story for me.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Courage for the Unknown Season- Jan Silvious

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: We all face seasonal changes. The passing years take us on journeys of change--whether we want it or not. In Courage for the Unknown Season, Jan Silvious acts as a wise guide for those who find themselves in new seasons of life, offering perspective and practical insights to encourage the soul and offer hope.

Anyone facing an unexpected change in life or relationship will be drawn to this book as a guide for walking through the shifting seasons. They can make it through this time with courage, strength, and yes, even joy!

-Life is too long to keep doing the things we need to stop and too short to miss the things we want to begin.-

Scripture references and study questions make this a useful small-group resource.

My Thoughts: My general understanding is that most people who have read this book, enjoyed it. At least that is true for those who have reviewed it. And this may have been the case for myself if I were in a later stage in my life or were going through any of the trials the author focuses on. However, even then, I do not believe that the book offers courage so much as commiseration.

All of the chapters focus on different trials in life. These are portrayed as seasons, though this seemed off the mark as it implied that everyone goes through these particular trials, which included parenthood and marriage. And while this does match with a majority of the world, there is still a significant portion of the population who have never experienced this and never will. There are even more still who have yet to reach the stage where they are concerned for letting go of spouses or parents or watching their children leave the nest, and yet this is what most of the stories are about.

Each chapter is filled with multiple stories of people the author has known who have gone through what the chapter focuses on. The stories are heartbreaking more often than not, and I truly felt for the people mentioned and the struggles that they went through. However, rather than encouraging to me in my own struggles, I was instead depressed by how much there is yet to come and how little of life I have yet lived.

I do not wish to take away from those in later stages in life who might benefit from this book, nor to imply that people my age could not also find support from it should they already be encountering some of the trials mentioned. Perhaps later in life, I could go back and read this with news eyes and find comfort knowing that there were others who understood my struggle. However, I simply do not find this to be something that I or others in my age group can relate as well with.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy from the publisher.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Most Noble Heir- Susan Anne Mason- Giveaway

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered. Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl’s heir, Nolan will be forbidden to marry beneath his station.

Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope--believing once their marriage is sanctioned by God that Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union. However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between his dreams for tomorrow and his father’s demanding expectations.

Forces work to keep the couple apart at every turn, and a solution to remain together seems farther and farther away. With Nolan’s new life pulling him irrevocably away from Hannah, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.

My Thoughts: Something I am always looking to read is a romance with a couple who marries for love in or near the beginning of the book. It occurs far too infrequently in my opinion, so I was pleased to learn that was the case in this novel. And though this took away the will-they-wont-they tension which is very nearly a hallmark of the genre, it was still a nice change of pace to find conflict originating elsewhere.

In this case, the tension was meant to come from the difference in social class and obligation. However, the story itself shows little of that society, instead relying on Edward's (Nolan's father) word as to what society would think of Nolan and Hannah's marriage. And though this is historically accurate, that fact did not pay off as well as it should have in the book, instead casting Edward as the sole obstacle to their relationship. Which in turn made Edward an unlikeable character even toward the end.

This created a conundrum for me, as I enjoyed the romance and relationship between Nolan and Hannah while also being frustrated with the source of tension in the novel. Ultimately, I felt that the story would have been better if we had at least seen a hint of Edward's fears for his son becoming a reality. Those fears being that the aristocracy would reject Nolan and his servant-wife, the pressure of which would break Hannah's spirit and ruin the Fairchild legacy. Without seeing that, the story was sweet but with a conflict which was weak and unfounded. And this disappointed me, as I was simply unable to relate at that point to the characters.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Author Information:

Susan Anne Mason’s debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. Also a member of ACFW, Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children. She can be found online at

What Others Are Saying:

“Beautifully balancing sweet forbidden love with a father-son battle of wills, Mason proves to be a highest caliber author in historical inspirational romance. Set in England in 1884, this is a marvelously entertaining story of the search for identity and a struggle for acceptance for both Nolan and Hannah. The purity and tenacity of their love will leave readers tingling, and fans of Roseanne M. White will enjoy Mason’s web of nobility drama and breathlessly exciting conclusion.”—Booklist starred review

“This is a sweet story full of the historical details fans of Victorian fiction will appreciate. There is also plenty of faith and love leading this young couple to their happily ever after.”—RT Book Reviews

“An immersive narrative and sympathetic characters are highlights of this heartwarming novel from Mason about the importance of family, the power of love, and the faith to pursue your heart’s desire.”—Library Journal


If you’d like to enter for a chance to win Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series, plus A Most Noble Heir, here’s your chance!

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Song Unheard- Roseanna M. White

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which make her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I—to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he's won—until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father's work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is in meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn't—that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as he has.

My Thoughts: Oddly, though I have been a follower of this author for years, I've never actually read one of her books. And now that I have read this one, I'm kind of kicking myself for the negligence.

Something that has always been my favorite part of any novel is the characters. For me, good characters can cover over a multitude of errors and plotholes, and A Song Unheard has great characters. Perhaps my favorite was Lukas, that man trying to forge a better future than he had already been moving toward. From the moment he first asked Willa to marry him, I knew that he was going to be an interesting hero. Willa was another great character, though I am sure I would have appreciated her more had I read the previous book about her sister.

Beyond the characters, I loved the way that Roseanna brought them together. Though I have no real knowledge about music, I know what it is like to be dedicated to an art that frames the way you look at the world. And more than that, Roseanna set up this couple's love of music as a way for Lukas to support Willa even though she could outshine him. That willingness to put her ahead of himself was what ultimately made him such an awesome hero.

The one downside to the novel, and really the only thing that I had trouble looking past, was the amount of repetition. Though this did not take place as it typically does in novels, with characters restating the same thoughts and ideas over and over, it was none the less a little bothersome when the characters would repeat words and phrase close together for emphasis. Maybe this is part of the author's writing style, but it did happen a few too many times for me to give this a perfect rating. Despite that, I absolutely loved this book and can't wait to go back and read others by this author.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sage- Blog Tour and Giveaway




About the Book

Ancient elementals awaken, fracturing a dying world to its core. Teravyn Aetherswift returns to the land of the living, but everything seems unfamiliar… including her little brother. Zekk offers help, but can an alluring Lynx be trusted? Sorvashti finally has everything she ever wanted, so the last thing she wants to do is run after traitors. But she won’t leave Jet’s side—unless the horrifying truth about his mother tears them apart. Darien is sick of being used and lied to. But if he stands up for what’s right, he’ll pay the price with his life… or the lives of those he loves.
Purchase on Amazon or a signed paperback


About the Author

Jamie Foley loves strategy games, home-grown berries, and Texas winters. She’s terrified of plot holes and red wasps. Her husband is her manly cowboy astronaut muse. They live between Austin, TX and their family cattle ranch, where their hyperactive spawnling and wolfpack can run free.





Giveaway Time!

Want to dive into a new world or in need of a good book? Enter to win a digital $10 Amazon gift card (3 winners) by signing up for Jamie’s newsletter via the form.

>>> Entry-Form <<<


Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, March 10th
Monday, March 12th
Tuesday, March 13th
Wednesday, March 14th
Thursday, March 15th
Friday, March 16th
Saturday, March 17th
Monday, March 19th
Tuesday, March 20th
Wednesday, March 21st
Thursday, March 22nd
Friday, March 23rd
Saturday, March 24th

Monday, March 12, 2018

Blue Ridge Sunrise- Denise Hunter

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe--a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

My Thoughts: The first thing I thought when I started this book was, "Holy backstory, Batman!" (I don't know why I referenced Batman at the time, but I did), because the dialogue of the first chapter is laden with characters telling each other things that they already know, just so that we, the reader, are aware of their history as well. The next few chapters build other character relationships in much the same way: telling us about the issues Brady has with his and Zoe's Dad instead of showing it along with the father's disappointment in Zoe, telling us what their grandmother was like, rather than showing it in flashback chapters which come soon after.

That is not to say that I disliked the book. Though both Zoe and Cruz had a past that I personally found unrelatable, their current fears in the story were something I understood. I sympathized with Cruz' anger over being lied too and his fear of not being good enough as well as Zoe's fear of loosing her daughter and her own hurt of being told by her own father that she wasn't good enough. Since I knew that these characters could support each other, I wanted them to get over their hurts and reconcile. And though that reconciliation came about far too simply in my mind, I was happy to get time to see them as an actual couple dealing with the struggles of life, something that I believe does not happen often enough in fiction.

As to the faith element of the novel, which I have seen numerous other reviews comment on, I will agree that the faith is pretty watered down. Though Cruz and Zoe both attend church and Zoe makes a remark about how far she had fallen, there is no real grapple with their beliefs or mention of what change God has brought to their lives. And the sexual relationship that they had had is only addressed so far as the fact that they had been keeping it a secret, not that they shouldn't have been engaging in that behavior in the first place. While this was not a sticking point for me, as I do not require the characters in books I read to hold to the same moral standards that I do (I just don't want to READ a sex scene), it is something that I think should be mentioned when discussing the merits of a novel advertised as "Christian".

This is definitely a book that I believe will appeal one group of people while repelling another. For Christians seeking for a romance that mirrors their personal beliefs on sex and faith, then this is probably not for them. However, for others who are looking for a strong romance without all the sex scenes or else preaching, then this is a good fit despite the initial bits of telling.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book through the Fiction Guild.

Monday, March 5, 2018

How to Be a Perfect Christian- The Babylon Bee

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: With a biting, satirical style reminiscent of The Onion, How to Be a Perfect Christian takes a humorous look at the quirks of cultural Christianity while subtly challenging the reader to search for more than a cultural faith.

Written in the trademark style of The Babylon Bee, this book humorously satirizes cultural Christianity while peppering in subtle challenges to the reader. Through humor and sarcasm (and a handy meter to rank your "holiness" as you progress through the book), readers will be called to find a more biblical understanding of the Christian faith, all while poking fun at the quirks of the modern, American Christian community.

My Thoughts: The Babylon Bee has always been one of the few websites whose articles I have clicked on whenever they crossed my dash. Though not always funny, they often hit on subjects that challenged Christians to think deeper about why they did or else believed something. So, when I saw this, I knew that it was likely to be a humorous read, peppered with critique of Christian culture. And I was far from disappointed.

Beginning with the Introduction, How to Be a Perfect Christian satirizes the very idea that you even can be perfect. And so often, the striving for perfection can blind us to others and to God. Using a Holiness Meter, the book tracks with each chapter our attempts to outshine Christian leaders such as Peter as well as Christ himself. From the very first chapter, it highlights the outward things we often look to as a marker of holiness, from church bulletins to Christian music.

The satire will not be for everyone. While I appreciated the jab at many Christians' understanding of the Holy Spirit by comparing it to the Force in Star Wars, not everyone will. Nor will everyone appreciate the tongue in cheek critiques of the most popular denominations and Biblical translations. However, for those who are willing to be made fun of through humor and sarcasm, this book may challenge you to look at the outward things you hold onto and maybe not worry so much as to whether or not your church has a full service coffee bar.

Was the book perfect? No. There were some critiques that I felt could have been more humorous and others that fell flat. And while I intend to read certain snippets to friends from my church, it isn't one that I will read over and over again. However, it is one I will recommend to those who I believe would appreciate its sense of humor.

I have provided an honest review after receiving an ARC from the publisher.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Keturah- Lisa T. Bergren

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father's estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they're determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined--and that's just the start of
what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

Set on keeping her family together and saving her father's once-great plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

My Thoughts: Sometimes, there are books that you really enjoy despite their flaws. I first started reading Lisa's books when she first came out with The River of Time trilogy, and I stuck though even when that trilogy became a series in which the last books seemed unnecessary. And I had almost lost hope after reading Three Wishes, which seemed to me to be the exact same story as The River of Time. So, when I saw Keturah up for review, I was slightly hesitant, afraid it would be another River of Time knock off, however, I can now assure that this is a story that stands all on its own.

Set in a landscape that is fairly unusual in the Christian Fiction genre, Keturah deals with sisters trying to make their way in a world that tries to set boundaries for them. The people who live on the island with them have a predetermined way that they believe everyone should live and go out of their way to force others into that mold. And this came as a struggle that was relatable to me. I know what it feels like to have people question your career choice because of your gender or to urge you that marriage is the best option you could hope for. I found myself wanting Keturah to succeed and for her to do it on her own terms, in her own way.

Which, as I have already said, did not make me blind to the story's flaws. There were quiet a few instances where internal monologue was repeating thoughts already expressed earlier in the story. It also felt as though the ending of the book was rushed simply because the author (or maybe publisher) only wanted to give Keturah this one book when she could have easily been the heroine of at least another two on her own. However, despite the fact that I would have rathered the conclusion of this story have been postponed through another novel, I am interested in seeing the other sisters' stories. Particularly since one of them has a pet hawk.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book from through Litfuse.

 Enter to win a copy of Keturah. Five winners will be chosen! Click the image below to enter to win. The winners will be announced March 13 on the Litfuse blog!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Fawkes- Nadine Brandes

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death. But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

My Thoughts: When I found out that this was based on historical events, I decided that I did not want to research those events beforehand. For me, it was a rare occurrence where the historical events and characters were ones which I had never heard of, even in passing, and I wanted to see how well the story held up if I did not already have some background knowledge to fill in the gaps. Which, when it came to a fantasy version of events, might not have been the best approach. As a history lover, I spent a good portion of the novel trying to figure out who the Igniters and Keepers correlated with in real life and whether or not the author was unwittingly or otherwise making some sort of political or religious statement cloaked in magic.

Or then again, maybe the author just took an interesting historical event and decided to make the survivors her good guys (is that a spoiler? I don't know, I guess is depends on how much you know about the actual Gunpowder Plot).

That said, I do believe that there was a religious backdrop to Nadine's magic system and the way that her characters approached the use of it. And it was an interesting magic system. I cannot think of many other novels, and certainly none that I have read, where color was the bases for how the magic worked. It allowed for a new way of interaction with the characters' sensory input when the colors had sounds and personalities that even someone who is blind could utilize. Also, the reliance on their masks in order to call upon these colors kept the magic system from being overly powerful. Yet there were some holes in how the magic worked and the logic with which many of the characters approached it. I think what bothered me the most with this was how the Keepers insisted that the White Light would guide them, but also that they could not speak with it because it was a force that would pollute their minds and cause them to lust after power.

Outside of the magic, Nadine presents a cast of characters which is welcomely diverse. The main character, you find out in the first couple pages, is blinded in one eye from a plague that would leave him a social outcast if found out. Along with that, there is also a heroine who stands strong on her own without needing to rely on the hero. Coupled with this are a number of minority characters, one of whom plays a significant role.

What probably makes Fawkes stand out from most of the other books I have read recently is simply the sheer amount that I found to be worth discussing after reading it. Normally, a review of mine would have ended two paragraphs ago, and I still feel like there is more that I could have mentioned from this novel. While I definitely still see the holes, Nadine's work has pushed on subjects and taken chances that few novels traditionally published in the CBA market ever have. And though books published under the Blink imprint are far from explicit with their Christian content, I think that Nadine did a great job of weaving it into her story.

I have provided an honest review after having received an eARC from the publisher through Netgalley.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Austen Escape- Katherine Reay

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

My Thoughts: This is my first read by Katherine Reay and though I have seen her other novels around, I have never been a fan of Jane Austen, so I have not pick up any of Reay's work. However, this year, I was given this book as part of a Christmas pack meant to allow me to review outside my typical comfort zone.

At first, I found it really difficult to get into the story. With Austen in the title, I expected romance and initially it appeared as though there would be none. Lucky, a romantic subplot eventually did make an appearance. Beyond that, Mary's attitude toward the place in which she and Isabel stayed, along with Isabel's attitude altogether, was something that I had difficulty swallowing. Not only did Mary fight much of the role play inherent in the trip, but she also treated the history of the house as something infinitely sad for what had been lost from it rather than respecting what had been preserved. This perspective set a melancholy tone that was reinforced by her and Isabel's refusal to let go of their own pasts, ultimately casting Isabel as someone who I could not like.

However, things did improve toward the middle of the book. At that point, Isabel had lost her memory and was a genuinely (or maybe artificially?) sweet character and a lot of the other side characters brought life to the retreat and role play in which Mary was dragging her heels. As well, the romantic plot had picked up. My interest in the story remained steady at that point, even through the end, despite my believing that certain issues had been too easily solved.

Though I do not know a whole lot about Austen, I recognize some of the relational drama that was present in the few stories that I have been exposed to. And for those who have previously enjoyed Reay's work, I believe that this read would still be appreciated.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book through The Fiction Guild.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Crooked Path- Irma Joubert

                                                                 My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: From the bestselling author of The Girl From the Train, comes another compelling coming of age story of delayed love, loss, and reconciliation in WWII-era South Africa.

Lettie has always felt different from and overshadowed by the women around her– this friend is richer, that friend is more beautiful, those friends are closer. Still, she doesn’t let this hold her back. She works hard to apply her mind, trying to compensate for her perceived lack of beauty with diligent academic work and a successful career as a doctor. She learns to treasure her friendships, but she still wonders if any man will ever return her interest.

Marco’s experience in the second world war have robbed him of love and health. When winters in his native Italy prove dangerous to his health even after the war has ended, he moves to South Africa to be with his brother, husband to one of Lettie’s best friends. Marco is Lettie’s first patient, and their relationship grows as she aids him on the road back to restored health.

In the company of beloved characters from The Child of the River, Marco and Lettie find a happiness that neither of them thought possible. With that joy comes pain and loss, but Lettie learns that life—while perhaps a crooked path—is always a journey worth taking.

My Thoughts: My favorite thing about Irma's novels is that while the stories all depict some part of WWII and the Holocaust, that is not all that the stories are about. I think we often forget that people who survived the war had lives that went on after, and that those lives were just as important as what they went through during the war.

Marco is a prime example of this. My favorite character in the novel, he also suffered the most from the war: starvation, imprisonment, and <spoiler> the death of his fiance <spoiler/>. Yet once he recovered his health, he refused to let memories stop him from keeping on with his life. Though the war had changed everything he had ever thought to have, he still found happiness elsewhere.

Lettie's story was one that I both loved and yet wished could have been put aside in favor of more of Marco's story. Lettie managed to come through the war without scars, her only experience with it being in the lives affected around her. For her, the true pain came when, years later, polio found its way into South Africa. As a doctor, she struggled to mitigate the damage of a disease that she could not stop.

It was in the discussion of polio that Lettie's character lost me. Being a doctor, she often spoke of the disease, listing symptoms and treatment in medical terms, as well as citing medical journals. These sections would often cover pages, with the only break being Marco or someone else asking for certain words to be explained in laymen's terms. While it made Lettie's character more believable, it also dragged, with her using dates for every journal and discovery.

Also, while this book can be read separate from The Girl From the Train, I would not suggest it anyone who has not read Child of the River. Characters from that novel factor heavily into the lives of Lettie and Marco, with their stories overlapping, and I am not sure that I would have fully understood what was happening with those characters had I not read the other book first. That said, The Crooked Path serves a sweet epilogue to Persomi's story from the last book.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God- Mark Batterson

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: The voice that spoke the cosmos into existence is the same voice that parted the Red sea, and made the sun stand still in the midday sky. One day, this voice will make all things new, but it's also speaking to you now!

That voice is God's voice, and what we've learned from Scripture is that He often speaks in a whisper. Not to make it difficult to hear Him, but to draw us close.

Many people have a tough time believing God still speaks. Sure, in ancient times and in mysterious ways, God spoke to His people, but is He still speaking now?

Mark Batterson certainly believes so. And he wants to introduce you to the seven love languages of God; each of them unique and entirely divine. Some of them you might suspect but others will surprise you.

By learning to tune in to and decipher each language, you'll be able to hear His guidance in simple as well as life-altering choices. God is actively speaking through: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain. Batterson gives you the tools you need to unlock each of these languages.

God's whisper can answer your most burning questions, calm your deepest fears, and fulfill your loftiest dreams.

Discover how simple it is to hear God's voice in every aspect of your life!

He's speaking, make sure you know how to listen!

My Thoughts: When I first saw the email letting me know that Whisper was up for review, I had already been praying and searching for information on hearing the voice of God. Seeing that email was an "of course I want to review that" moment, were I actually pushed around my schedule to get to it sooner.

Whisper is the first book of Batterson's that I have read, and I can already say that I like the way he references history and other topics to reinforce each assertion on how God speaks. As someone who likes to eclectically gather knowledge, it fit very well into the way that I already think and process information. And each chapter held nuggets that forced me to really think about how I might be hearing, and also ignoring, the voice of God in my own life.

As with most nonfiction works like this, I do wish that there had been more scriptural references and examples. It would have been helpful to have the author point to passages where we can read about the languages God uses to speak. Though most people can easily think of an example of God using dreams, I think that others might be harder to find and that the discussion of those passages might have better equipped the reader to understand how scripture teaches us to hear and recognize the voice of God.

I still recommend this book and suggest it as a conversation starter, as well as simply a challenge to ourselves to actually take the time to slow down and listen.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book through the publisher.