a woman in a mask


If you have read Roseanna M. White's "Ring of Secrets," you won't want to miss this follow-up novella that tells us the rest of Isaac Fairchild's story. When last we saw him he had lost his suit to win the hand of Winter Reeves, but now it is 1789 and Isaac is back in his native Europe. Agreeing to a special task, Isaac travels to France to search for a friend's wife and daughter.

Julienne has captivated the French court at Versailles, and has been receiving particular attention from Remi, a crafty courtier who has been promising soon to make Julienne his wife. Julienne knows Remi is dangerous and has no desire to marry him, but she has no idea how to escape his grasp. When she meets someone at a masquerade it seems as if there might still be reason to hope for faith and goodness in the world. But who is he? Will she ever see him again?

Isaac must find a way to reveal not only his own identity to Julienne, but also the fact that hers is not what she has been led to believe. It will be a precipitous path to get out of Versailles and Remi's clutches, but first she must believe him.

This is a nice companion book to White's Culper Ring series, though not a story I would recommend on its own. I can't wait to read the next book in the set!
It's always fun to look back at my favorite books on the year! It was hard to select only one for each genre, as there were so many good reads from 2017. You can click on any of the titles below to read my full review.

Historical Fiction




The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett


This story set in 1927 in Mt. Rainier National Park has all the charm of classic literature, including a heroine who is a true lady while also standing up for what she believes. 


Young Adult Fiction

kids playing basketball


The Lewis & Clark Squad Series by Stephen Bly


I revisited these childhood favorites and thoroughly enjoyed them! This is a six-book series about a group of teens participating in a summer basketball league. It's all about fun, faith, and friendship!


Contemporary Fiction




"Life After" by Katie Ganshert

The sole survivor of a terrorist bombing tries to come to terms with her new lease on life while being wracked with guilt that she lived when others did not. Very thought-provoking and well-written.


Non-Fiction




"Women Who Move Mountains" by Sue Detweiler


While this is supposed to be a book on prayer, I found it more to be a book on walking confidently and securely as God's child. So much good encouragement!


Classic Literature




"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens


This tale may be short, but it is packed full of wonderful lines and thoughtful reminiscing. Ebeneezer Scrooge's gratefulness to be alive and able to change his ways gets me every time!


Novella





"One Enchanted Noel" by Melissa Tagg

Delightful characters with emotional depth set in a charming fictional small town. The whole Enchanted Christmas Collection is a real gem!



 woman holding books


Louisa Bell survived her haphazard upbringing and has managed to stand on her own feet as a dance hall singer. She knows polite society would shun her for being a performer, and even though she has been able to hold on to a measure of respectability in her dark surroundings, it's enough to be associated with that rabble. Louisa finds herself being edged out by younger, prettier, more willing singers, and when she hears that her brother has gotten himself into trouble with his cavalry unit, she decides to head to Fort Reno to give Bradley a straight talking to and also to see if the soldiers could use some entertainment while she decides what to do next.

Major Daniel Adams believes that raising his girls by his side is the right thing to do, even though Indian Territory is a rough location and they are without the care of their late mother. His daughters seem to be turning out okay, if a little wild - but then his former mother-in-law forces his hand by insisting that he either hire a governess or let her take the girls and teach them to be refined young ladies. Daniel grudgingly agrees to send for a stern and staid governess from the nearby Mennonite missionary society.

When Louisa arrives at Fort Reno and is mistaken for the expected governess, she decides to take on this role with all the gusto she's put behind every performance in her past. She doesn't have to stay long, only long enough to talk to Bradley and to figure out where to go next. Surely she can pretend and get out of there before anyone realizes she has no qualifications and is in fact the last person Major Adams would ever choose to instruct his daughters.

Daniel can tell immediately that something is off about Louisa, but he also feels beholden to her after she stumbles across an embarrassing secret about him. He agrees to a trial period of one week, and while he is wary of her unconventional ways, he begins to fall for all the good qualities he can see in her life. She may not be exactly who she says she is, but there's a heart of gold under all the things that don't add up.

I loved this story! There's plenty of humor but also lots of reflection as both characters deal with insecurities about different parts of their lives. The romance is very clean but comes with plenty of swirly feelings that will have you falling in love with the characters yourself. The book packs a good punch with adventure and Louisa's faith journey as well. She is so drawn to Daniel's steadfast belief. I loved this quote from page 265: "Could she afford her new Christian virtues when she was on her own? Could she afford them here, if it meant unburdening herself of her lies?" Louisa and Daniel's story is one historical fans will not want to miss!

I received my copy of the book from the author. All opinions in this review are my own.



As a fan of science fiction and some dystopian, I was interested in trying out this story. The premise is that once upon a time some humans felt the need to escape a worldwide pandemic by introducing pig genes into their own genetic makeup. They then further cut themselves off from the rest of the world by building an electromagnetic aegis, except now the aegis is beginning to collapse and only a few are paying attention to the problem.

Sixteen-year-old Amy grew up outside the aegis, and has been taught all her life that the people of New Lithisle are soulless abominations who deserve the fiery death which will soon rain down upon them. One day when she's scavenging with her father he does something she cannot understand - he pushes her through the aegis, into New Lithisle, and she is trapped.

Uncertain what to do, Amy does her best to figure out why her father has sent her to this place. Especially since she's somewhat of a celebrity there, as she's the missing biological daughter of the woman behind the scientific modifications. Amy is scrappy and determined that no matter who captures her or tries to turn her in to the authorities, she will find a way to make it home.

I wanted to like this story more than I actually did. The plot was extremely scattered. For instance, I couldn't understand how New Lithisle was so huge and travel so inconvenient, yet Amy and company were able to travel all over the place for the whole of the book. Characters did things just for the sake of doing them, not because it was consistent with who they were or pertinent to the story. Sometimes characters who had seemed important disappeared so suddenly that I had to go back later to find their exit because I'd actually missed it on the first pass. There was way too much romance for a teen book, and more violence than I was expecting, though it was not gory. 

I could not see this story being interesting to its intended audience. I have teenage siblings and I teach teenagers every day, and I could not picture very many of them reading this. Nor could I recommend it to them. I feel that if you already like dystopian you'd enjoy it, but in general I would have other recommendations before this one, such as Krista McGee's Anomaly.



All Things Now Living Rondi Bauer Olson


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Have you seen the Netflix show The Crown? They have done a stunning job bringing to life the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. If you, like me, have watched the show and wondered where they blurred the lines between fact and fiction, this is a book you'll be wanting to read. Written by royal biographer and show historian Robert Lacey, this official companion feels authoritative and thorough as it digs into each episode and the history behind it.

Both the book and Episode 1 open shortly before 21-year-old Elizabeth Windsor is to wed Prince Philip. Princess Elizabeth had met Philip when she was 13, and reportedly he was the only one she ever dreamed of marrying. King George VI's sudden death in 1952 caused 26-year-old Elizabeth to ascend to the throne, and suddenly it was a very different world for this young couple. While they had always lived a somewhat public life, and while Elizabeth had often assisted her father or even gone on tours on his behalf - she was indeed in Kenya when she learned of his death! - she was just one young dutiful woman who became one of the most well-known figures in the world.

Just like the series on Netflix, this book primarily focuses on the first three years after Elizabeth II's ascension, covering her coronation, the scandal of her sister's love affair with divorcee Peter Townsend, the decline of Winston Churchill, and so much more. This volume is filled with historical photographs as well as stills from the show. All the major players are given a biographical sketch, if not entire sections devoted to who they were and how their lives interacted with the Queen and the royal family. It's highly informative and yet easy to read, especially for devoted history fans.

After watching the show I had a few questions, like were Elizabeth and Philip really caught fighting on film by the Australian press in 1954? Did the Queen Mother actually purchase a ramshackle estate in Scotland after her husband's death? This book answered all of that and more, plus provided lots of interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Queen Elizabeth's racing manager, her childhood friend "Porchey," was the owner of Highclere Castle, better known in modern days as the set of Downton Abbey! If you enjoy history and have had your curiosity piqued by Netflix's award-winning drama, you should consider picking up this detailed companion!

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
 


Winter Reeves wants to do something for the cause during the Revolutionary War. Her friend Robbie Townsend is a part of George Washington's spy network, known as the Culper Ring, and Winter keeps her ear to the ground as she is courted by a British officer. She pretends to be a feather-brained socialite to appease her grandparents and throw off all suspicion that she could be involved in the Patriot cause.

New to the city of New York, Bennet Lane has arrived with the express purpose of finding members of the Culper Ring. When his path crosses with that of Winter, he can tell that there is more to the lovely young woman than what meets the eye. While others laugh at him for paying court to someone known for her simple mind, he is willing to wait for the real Winter to reveal herself.

Not only does Winter face danger if it is discovered that she is involved in espionage, her grandparents are harsh and unrelenting in wanting her to secure the best marriage possible. They are pushing her towards Mr. Lane, but even though Winter enjoys his company, she fears he sees too much and that his Loyalist ties might prevent any true happiness from arising between them.

I enjoyed this quite a bit! There are shades of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the historical accuracy is strong and interesting. There are a fair number of real historical characters scattered throughout, including Winter's friend Robbie Townsend. I look forward to reading more in this series!
 


Return to Maple Valley in this latest Christmas novella from Melissa Tagg! Wrapping up the stories of the Renwycke siblings, One Enchanted Noel follows in the footsteps of One Enchanted Christmas and One Enchanted Eve. This time our heroine is Leigh, the single mom who is trying to hold her life together. After a lot of bouncing around with plenty of messing up in her past, she's done well in Maple Valley - but now a familiar restlessness is stirring within her. She's unsure if she should buckle down on contentedness or step out in faith and see if she finds any open doors.

It's a busted-out window rather than an open door that catches Leigh's attention one December night. After reporting the vandalism, Leigh checks out the abandoned theater to see if the culprit is still on the premises. Much to her surprise, it's not a wayward youth but the new owner who is poking around! 

Sebastian Parker Pierce III has spent the past 15 years on a ranch in Texas, but now is on assignment from his grandfather to restore Maple Valley's theater. He recognizes Leigh instantly, having briefly met her several years before when she was at her lowest point. He's never forgotten the encounter, and he can't quite find a way to bring it up now that he sees she's turned her life around. When the timeline for the restoration job gets moved up and Mayor Milt insists on a big grand reopening only days before Christmas, Seb turns to Leigh for help with the event planning.

This is a wonderfully rich story that touches on deep subjects. Addiction recovery. Distant family members. Choices and consequences. It's also full of quirky moments and the hope that God always dreams bigger than we do. Seb and Leigh are both well-drawn characters who will win you over and stir your heart with their journey. 

Each of these novellas are available individually, or you can find them packaged together in a brand new release called Enchanted: A Christmas Collection. Perfect reading for this time of year!
 


Atlanta lawyer Kate Sullivan is lead counsel on a case against Mason Pharmaceuticals. The Big Pharma company is accused of releasing a drug that they knew caused deadly brain tumors, and Kate is being thorough and serious in getting ready for the trial. When she's contacted by a woman named Ellie Proctor who says she has additional information, Kate is skeptical but willing to meet. Ellie doesn't make the meeting, however - she is mysteriously murdered in a parking garage. 

Kate hires private investigator Landon James to look into Ellie's death, and meanwhile confers with the defense attorney Ethan Black, who happens to be a former law school classmate and close friend. She's convinced there is more to this more to this, but Ethan insists that Ellie's death is a random act of violence. 

The situation escalates as Kate begins having threats brought against her own safety. Landon becomes increasingly involved in protecting Kate, who wants to keep the police out of things as much as possible. He can't believe she remains grounded, full of faith and purpose, as things keep heating up. 

I
 don't read many suspense novels because it's not my favorite genre, but I enjoyed this one a lot. The legal side of things did not feel over my head, the pacing was good, and the characters were never predictable. I would definitely read more from this author in the future!


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Engineer Mary Davies fears she's going to be fired, and she finds herself closing off from those around her. Even Nathan, the nice consultant guy who keeps offering his friendship no matter how many times she awkwardly fails to communicate her own interest. In the middle of feeling stuck and disappointed, Isabel - her best friend since childhood - manages to convince Mary to take a trip to England. More specifically, the getaway is to a lavish estate near Bath where they can dress up as Austen characters and step back into time.

Isabel and Mary have had a rocky relationship. Isabel has often steered their friendship, and she tends to lead with emotion, lashing out when she is feeling pain, anger, or frustration. Mary suggests that her friend take on the persona of Isabella Thorpe while on their vacation, and Isabel goes into a pout. Eventually Isabel decides to be Emma Woodhouse, and Mary chooses Catherine Morland.

Everything is exciting and wonderful as the women arrive at Braithwaite House. The grounds are breathtaking and the costumes beyond imagination. There is a small group of people who have come to share this holiday, and Mary and Isabel enjoy getting to know them that first night.

But when Mary wakes up the next morning, everything changes. Something is wrong with Isabel, and Mary is all alone in a strange country trying to care for her friend. A phone call further shatters everything Mary has believed about their relationship. Will the help Mary is offered be enough to sustain her through this time? Can she grasp that she is worthy of love and attention not just as Isabel's sidekick but as a woman in her own right?

I definitely enjoyed this one more than any other of Reay's releases since Dear Mr. Knightley. As a fan of Austenland, I appreciated all the nods to that story. This made for a fine and engaging Austenesque read, even if I didn't like all the characters all the time. Mary made for a different heroine and I appreciated the complex way she was written. I can see myself reading this one again in the future!

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.



 
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Author and speaker Dennis Rainey has put together a fantastic little book with seven succinct principles for a life dedicated to Christ and His Kingdom. The idea for this book originated from a commencement address that Rainey gave several years ago, at which time he tried to find "essence statements" that captured the major themes of the Bible. Now those essence statements are coming to the public in the form of this pocket-size book that would be a perfect gift for upcoming graduations.

My favorite chapters were two in the middle. One was called "Believe God, Not The Deceiver," and the other "Obey God, Not Your Feelings." It's so important to be able to recognize what is true and false, fact or emotion. Being able to separate these things and live by Truth has helped me so much throughout my life!

I took note of several quotes in this book, but my favorite was from Chapter 4, which is a statement that Rainey credits to Dr. Howard Hendricks: "The Christian community today suffers from a 'Vitamin A' deficiency - Application." Oh man, that's some good, thought-provoking stuff!

This book would be excellent for anyone looking to revitalize their faith, or for a young man or woman on the cusp of adulthood. If you want to live a life that matters, these principles should definitely be among your considerations!

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
 


Lucy Drake was born into a family with a legal dispute. A forty-year court case over the invention of a pressure-regulating water valve looms over her head. Lucy and her brother live humble lives and give all their spare time trying to stop their money-hungry Uncle Thomas, who has set the price of the valve so high that the common tenement owners in New York City can't afford it, and therefore thousands of people in those tenements live without running water. Working for the Associated Press as a telegrapher has allowed Lucy to tap into the line of her uncle's attorney, and that's the only way Lucy and Nick are staying ahead of Uncle Thomas's tactics.

A problem at work brings Lucy in contact with Sir Colin Beckwith, a British Reuters employee who has come to America in search of a wealthy bride whose fortune can help restore his ancestral estate. There's an immediate attraction between the two of them, despite the fact that they work for rival news agencies and Lucy has no money to help bring Whitefriars back to glory. Their friendship solidifies when Colin agrees not to expose Lucy's illegal tap and Lucy agrees to bury a society column about the jitters Colin suffers after his time spent covering the Boer War.

When a message comes across Lucy's hidden tap that appears to be about a planned assassination attempt on President Theodore Roosevelt, Lucy has no one to turn to except Colin. She tries to go to the police but they mostly scoff at her for having no evidence besides a vague telegram of questionable origin. Colin offers to act as a secret agent and go directly into the territory of the man Lucy dreads most - her nefarious uncle - to see what he can discover about the assassination plot. If he can meet wealthy and eligible young ladies on his trip upstate, all the better.

Through twists, turns, kidnappings, and senseless cruelty, Lucy and Colin are both about to discover what is important in life. Their reaction to this new understanding will lead each of them down paths they never expected - and readers will be surprised, as well!

This is a book that will have quite a draw for historical fans. There are so many wonderful things it digs into - telegraphs, tenements, the downfall of many British estates as the twentieth century arrived, Roosevelt's unpopularity as he was working towards the Panama Canal, even Victorian stuffed animal tableaux! I feel like it might be a little heavy on history for the average reader, but I was captivated and truly enjoyed every aspect of this suspenseful novel.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
 


Michael R. Emlet draws on his years of experience both as a family physician and counselor to present a tool for people in ministry everywhere. Whether you are a pastor, church leader, or lay person interested in learning more about psychiatric diagnoses and the uses of medication, you will enjoy Emlet's balanced and Biblical perspective on this difficult topic.

In the first half of the book, Emlet discusses the what the DSM is, how it has changed over the years, and what a diagnosis may or may not mean for an individual. In the second half he dives into the issue of medication, and trying to find the wise balance of when to consider using medication to go alongside other areas of treatment. I thought this was a great point in Chapter 14: "It is important to remember that we exist as body-spirit creatures. We are simultaneously body and soul. There's never a time we're not spiritually engaged. And there's never a time we are not bodily engaged. This means that attention to both physical and spiritual aspects of our personhood is mandatory in ministry." 

I liked how Emlet made a point that if a person has a psychiatric diagnosis, that's not so different from a person who may have a physical diagnosis. Someone may be battling cancer, but they themselves are not cancer. It's similar with mental issues, in the fact that someone may suffer from bipolar disorder, but that does not define who they are. They are still a human being in need of a Savior and compassionate interaction with fellow men. "A diagnosis, if present, is one of many starting points for ministry, and certainly not an end point," Emlet encourages in Chapter 8.

As each individual person is different, so will be treatment for any needs in the life of that individual. There is no perfect or universal treatment for any of these things, and one must seek God's guidance. I liked how multi-faceted health and wholeness was presented as the goal. This line in Chapter 13 seemed to sum it up beautifully: "...As believers we hope not only for symptom reduction but also tangible growth in love for God and love for people." As far as the book itself, it is informative and easy to read, with extensive footnotes for people who might like to further investigate this subject. The chapters are short so that a reader will not feel overwhelmed by the information. I would recommend book to anyone interested in better understanding these things and equipping themselves to help those in our paths who have these needs.





I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity. All opinions in this review are my own. If you would like to see what other people are saying about "Descriptions and Prescriptions," click here.


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There's been a good amount of excitement as Cindy Woodsmall has teamed up with her daughter-in-law Erin to write a non-Amish Christmas story. Readers were excitedly awaiting this release to see a new side of a beloved author, and I was thrilled when I was contacted about writing a review.

Our story starts with Hadley, a teenager in foster care who has been accused of arson. Her boyfriend Monroe comes from a wealthy, privileged background and wants to help in any way he can, even if that means running away with Hadley to evade authorities. But his parents pitch him a deal he cannot resist: they will pay for the finest lawyer and set up a full-ride scholarship for Hadley's higher education if he will agree to never have contact with her again. Monroe believes he is doing the best he can, but Hadley's heart is broken and she cannot understand why he left when she needed him most.

The plot jumps nearly ten years into the future. Hadley and Monroe are once again living in the same city and even working in the same field. They unexpectedly come face to face in caring for one of their speech therapy patients, and everything from their past comes to the forefront again. Monroe still feels bound by hard choices and Hadley still feels angry and betrayed. Can they work through it to help this child, and even have a chance at friendship again?

I felt as though this book broke several industry standards. It starts with a three-chapter flashback, which is strongly frowned upon, and leads directly into a second problem: It establishes our characters as turbulent, moody, angry teenagers. I had a hard time believing them to be anything else even after the jump to the main story. Therefore neither Hadley nor Monroe were particularly likable, and even though it was mentioned that they had become Christians in the intervening years, there was not really a faith aspect to the plot. Additionally, even though the title and cover would lead you to believe this is a Christmas story, there are no scenes involving Christmas until Chapter 21, which is 85% of the way through the book.

When I read the Acknowledgements at the end, I have to admit I was surprised to see that two editors and four proofreaders were listed. Being an English teacher, I cannot overlook clunky wording or grammatical errors. Here's an example from page 108 (emphasis mine): "And once Chloe was better... Hadley would no longer have to deal with the ache that crept into the deepest recesses of her whenever she was reminded of what could have been." This could use a rewording, something like "her deepest recesses" or "the deepest recesses of her heart," because otherwise it sounds awkward. This is one example, but there were many places throughout the book where I shook my head and mentally corrected errors or reworded sentences that did not flow well.

I believe many readers would enjoy this romance and overlook my objections. Something I appreciated about the novel was how it explored several issues that are not common in fiction, such as the emotional needs of those raised in foster care and the struggle of children who have apraxia of speech. I love it when authors incorporate unique things into their stories!

I received my copy of the book from the authors. All opinions in this review are my own.
 woman in Edwardian dress


The Fire Eyes. A pair of incredibly rare red diamonds which is said to be cursed. We first saw them in The Lost Heiress, and their story continued through The Reluctant Duchess. Now we come to their conclusion, and this time our heroine is the ever optimistic Lady Ella Myerston. She knows about the Fire Eyes but doesn't realize they are in her possession until she comes face to face with the man who will stop at nothing to get them for himself.

Lady Ella has gone to visit the Duchess of Stafford, better known as heroine Brook from Book One in this series, with the express and secret purpose of learning more about the Fire Eyes. Everyone thinks she is too innocent to know about the diamonds, but she is determined to find out all she can and find a way to get them far away from her family. She never counted on her quest becoming complicated by not one but two men who begin courting her!

Lord Cayton believes that his bad choices have broken too many hearts, and while he is drawn to Ella's sunshine, he's determined not to hurt her by forming a romantic relationship. The only thing greater than his own self-loathing is the desire to protect Ella when she starts receiving the very unwelcome attention of Lord Pratt. Pratt thinks Cayton is on his side and will help him use Ella to find the Fire Eyes. Cayton decides it's worth risking Ella's heart if he can save her from harm.

From one intrigue to the next, Ella and Cayton do everything they can to outsmart Pratt and save their families and friends before the greed over the Fire Eyes takes any more lives. Meanwhile a host of minor characters help drive the story along, and Roseanna M. White does a great job tying up the whole Ladies of the Manor series as we race towards its exciting culmination.

I have to say that this series is one of the best trilogies I have read. Each story is gripping, each hero or heroine well-drawn with real emotions and conflicts. I'll be recommending this to many!
 


Readers and fans have been waiting a long time for this final installment in the Walker Family series. We first met Raegan and Bear in the prequel novella Three Little Words, and followed them as minor characters through the stories of Walker siblings Kate, Logan, and Beckett. Raegan is the only Walker sibling who has never left home, keeping things lively in Maple Valley as she works her multiple part-time jobs, enjoys the wisdom of her father, and tries not to think too much about the man who broke her heart when he moved to Brazil.

South America has not been as kind to Bear as he was hoping it would be. Hounded by guilt and shame, this was supposed to be his way of righting wrongs from the past. The mission board sees otherwise, and Bear finds himself back in the States with the suggestion that he take care of the issues that keep coming up. Everything gets ten times more complicated when he's asked to take charge of his niece and nephew for a while. Knowing he at least has an apartment in Maple Valley, Bear loads the kids in his rental car and heads to Iowa.

Raegan has done her best to keep her life stable, with only a modicum of necessary change, and that seems to have helped her debilitating panic attacks. Her heart cries out for more, and Rae is beginning to explore her forgotten passion of making art. She is shocked when an opportunity comes up that would bring her art into the public eye, if she only has the courage to say yes. She needs courage for so very many things.

I think this may be my new favorite of Melissa Tagg's books, which is really saying something! Raegan's decision to go to counseling and address her anxiety plumbs deep into issues that readers might recognize from their own lives. This line about Bear really struck a chord in me: "Did he even know how to operate without carrying the world on his shoulders?" This novel is about two people with their fears, insecurities, desires, and dreams, and their journey to bridge the broken pieces of who they are into the people God is calling them to be. There's romance, there's suspense, there's Maple Valley charm. I loved this book and feel like all of Melissa's fans would feel the same way. We've been blessed to know the Walkers, and they will forever have a home on my bookshelf.
 


The Ohio-Kentucky frontier was a fierce and often frightening place to be in 1774. Clare Inglesby is reluctantly traveling west with her adventure-seeking husband when tragedy strikes. Philip is killed, their four-year-old son Jacob disappears, and she is left alone in the wilderness with a brand new baby. Determined to find Jacob no matter the odds, Clare is forced to depend on the kindness of one man to escort her into the foreign world of the native Indians.

Jeremiah Ring has a past full of mystery and is now able to fully blend in with either Indian or white man. He can't abandon Clare after he finds her in the middle of the woods, not when he may be the only one who can help her. Especially not once he realizes that his Indian family may be the key to discovering Jacob's whereabouts.

I have heard so many good things about Lori Benton's books! While I love historical fiction, I must admit I'm most drawn to nineteenth and twentieth century tales, so the intense wilderness theme and strong Native American plotline did not engage me as it might other readers. Another thing that detracted from the novel for me was the fact that the author took so long in spelling out the characters' backstories that I felt like I did not know them, and had stopped caring by the time the revelation came. I also could not relate to Clare at all. My favorite relationship within the story was Jeremiah's devotion to baby Pippa, which I felt was sadly under-utilized.

This novel is a deep well of loss, pain, fighting, determination, and learning to trust God and others when everything in life is beyond our control. I can see why its depth would speak to many.  Due to how interested I became in some of the minor characters I will definitely be reading more of this author's work in the future.

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity. All opinions in this review are my own. If you would like to see what other people are saying about "Many Sparrows," click here.


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Kristi Ann Hunter's Hawthorne House series kicks off with this Regency era novella. I've been wanting to check out this author so this was a nice starting point.

Our heroine for this story is Amelia Stalwood, a somewhat quirky young woman who has been largely forgotten by her guardian, left to be raised by the household staff in his seldom-used London home. Amelia, as a result, is much better friends with her own servants and the servants of neighboring homes than any of the gentry who reside in them. One day she's caught fulfilling a maid's duties in a marquis's home, and while she escapes without giving her name, she is quite embarrassed and knows it's a close call.

The marquis is intrigued by this unusual creature who had appeared in his library, and more so when he bumps into her in his garden only days later. How can he discover who she is? Anthony has a past full of regret and shame, and has only recently ventured back to London after spending a few years avoiding the follies which had previously engulfed him there.

Twists and turns bring Amelia and Anthony together again, but the death of Amelia's guardian and the uncertainty of her future leave their budding relationship in question. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of this novella. Amelia seemed like a breath of fresh air and someone I would like to know. However, I felt this went the way of many novellas, with choppy plot movements and insufficient character development. I do plan to read the first full-length book in this series, as many of these defects tend to sort themselves out over the length of a novel, and the author did a good job giving us a glimpse into the Hawthorne family through their friendship with both Amelia and Anthony.
 


"It is necessary to mental and moral health that we believe in the plenary wisdom of God, that is, the full wisdom of God. God is not permitted to have just a bit of wisdom or almost the sum of all wisdom, but we believe God has all wisdom, full wisdom beyond which there cannot be any wisdom. It is necessary to Christian faith, to mental rest and moral soundness that we believe in this wisdom of God as being absolute, perfect, and infinite, and I am not using words carelessly."

So says A.W. Tozer in this newly published volume. This collection of Tozer's sermons on the subject of God's wisdom has been edited and brought forth by James L. Snyder, a noted Tozer authority. It would make an excellent addition to anyone's theological library!

In the early chapters Tozer delves deep into how the ancient Hebrews perceived God's wisdom, and how their view differs from the Greek perception of the same. He expounds on how Christ is the personification of this aspect of God's character, and how clear this is in Scripture. In the second half there are more practical applications to a modern believer's everyday life.

While I did not find this book as personally meaningful as some of Tozer's more well-known books, such as The Pursuit of God, I still found it instructive and inspiring. Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions in this review are my own.
 woman in Edwardian dress


It was less than a year ago that I first read one of Roseanna M. White's books, but she has quickly found a place among my favorite historical authors. The Lost Heiress and A Name Unknown have both been captivating and charming stories, but this one really took it up a notch, and from the very first pages I did not want to put it down.

Lady Rowena Kinnaird rarely left her Scottish home while growing up, and more and more the Highland castle has come to feel like a prison, with her father's overbearing ways and a cruel relation looking to make Rowena his wife. The story opens two weeks after Rowena has been assaulted, and she fears she may be with child. Unknown to her, in order to secure Rowena's safety and to give legitimacy to any child she might be carrying, her father and her maid hatch a scheme to get her married off within days to the nearest man they can catch.

The duke of Nottingham is visiting his mother's ancestral home when he receives a rare invitation to dinner with the Kinnairds. Brice has hardly met anyone from the surly Scotsman's family, but he accepts, willing to be neighborly. When he meets Rowena, he begins feeling a tug from the Holy Spirit that she's someone he is supposed to help in some way. Within hours it's clear that Brice has been set on a path to force him into a quick marriage, and while on principle he's prepared to fight the claims of Rowena's father, he is unable to turn aside from a woman who is clearly scared and in danger, even though he does not know the extent of the situation.

Feeling wounded and betrayed on every side, Rowena wants to be honest with Brice even though it would likely blow up the plans her father has set. If she is carrying a child, it would be a despicable secret to pretend it's Brice's. And how could she pretend if she has too much past trauma to let him even touch her? Maybe there won't be a baby and she won't have to face this additional crisis.

Besides the weight of a new wife, skittish and not exactly excited to become his duchess, Brice is also the bearer of the Fire Eyes, a pair of red diamonds that were a focal point in The Lost Heiress, and he knows his life is in danger. He's determined to out the treacherous siblings who are desirous to steal them from him, but having Rowena depending on him certainly complicates matters. He may have brought her out of one danger only to introduce her to a greater one.

Through intrigue, tragedy, misunderstanding, and multiple villains, Rowena and Brice seek to find their way through to what seems like the impossible: a loving marriage. This book is full of wonderful characters, well-depicted emotions and personal growth, and a plot that will keep you racing from one chapter to the next. I'm so glad I have the third book in this series already in hand! Be watching this space for its review soon.

(Please note: Due to content, I would not recommend this for anyone who is triggered by personal assault and the long road of healing it requires.)
 


(Please note: This review contains spoilers.)

Art restorer Emily Price and Italian chef Ben Vassallo are both visiting Atlanta when they meet and quickly fall in love. Emily has never felt so special - she's had to be the older, responsible sister ever since her parents divorced, and her younger sister Amy has always held the spotlight. Ben is unlike anyone she's ever met, and when after a two-week courtship Ben asks her to marry him and move to Italy with him, it feels right in Emily's heart. They are married and on a flight to Florence only sixteen days after meeting.

I'm going to go ahead and say that this life choice of Emily's is one that I would never make, and while I had been pretty excited about the book up until this twist in the plot, it was easy to see that the transition from "art restorer and aspiring artist" to "pizza maker's wife" wasn't going to be an easy one. In fact, I felt like Emily quickly got lost in this book. It seemed as though the title should have been "A Portrait of the Vassallo Family," as that would have more accurately described the majority of this novel, with the focus changing so dramatically. It becomes largely about Ben's family: their traditions, their relationships, their lurking secrets.

I will say that this was my favorite of Katherine Reay's releases since her much-beloved debut Dear Mr. Knightley. However, I felt like the book was missing several things, including a relatable theme and a faith aspect. Overall I enjoyed it but was left unsatisfied. This reader hopes to find better things in Reay's upcoming releases.

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