The Sky Above Us 


Violet Lindstrom is committed to going to the mission field. A broken engagement and a world war have stalled her plans, but a heart to serve has led her to join the Red Cross and hopefully minister to British children who have been evacuated to the countryside. Dismayed to discover her plans are once again thwarted and she's been assigned to run an Aeroclub for American pilots, Violet struggles to see the men as more than a disruption and a poor substitute to her true calling.

Like his brother, whom we met in The Sea Before Us, Adler Paxton is estranged from his family. Having betrayed everyone he loves, Adler's personal ambition drives him to become an ace pilot. Assigned to be a wingman instead, he struggles to accept his place - just as he has his whole life. He's refused to acknowledge the pain that came with his fiancee's death and his subsequent actions towards his family, but caring friends and God's work in his heart prompt Adler to open up and wrestle with the Almighty just like Jacob of old.

There's a thief among the Aeroclub volunteers, and Violet may lose her job - and any hope of a mission board accepting her - if she can't prove that she's not the one selling Red Cross supplies on the black market. Meanwhile a tall Texas gentleman with a tortured past has caught her eye and become the friend she needs during this difficult assignment. If only she can help him as he confronts his personal demons and comes face to face with the consequences of his actions. Is there hope for a Paxton family reconciliation? Violet wants to see Adler become whole again.

Dreams, ambitions, failures, and faults are on full display in this second book in Sarah Sundin's Sunrise at Normandy series. You'll ache and cry with the heartaches faced, and worry about the safety of Violet, Adler, and the others at Leiston Army Airfield. This is another spectacularly written, well-researched WWII novel from one of my favorite authors. I can hardly wait to see how this series concludes when The Land Beneath Us releases next year!
When Life Doesn't Match Your Dreams 


Jill Eileen Smith is a well-known writer of Biblical fiction, though somehow I have missed reading her books thus far. Unmatched dreams, though -- now that's something I'm more familiar with. Like most Christian women, I've read plenty about the ladies in the Bible, but something about this book seemed a little different. For one, Smith picks women from early in the Old Testament -- all these women come from either Genesis or Exodus. I don't know about you, but for all I've seen on the more popular Biblical women, I've never read anything that included an in-depth look at the wives of Lot or Potiphar. Hmm!

In another unique twist, Smith includes portions in each chapter when she dives into first-person fictional slices of that woman's life. This really sets the scene and gets you thinking about these stories in ways you might not have before. How willing a participant was Leah in tricking Jacob to marry her? What went through the mind of Lot's wife as she hosted the men who predicted the destruction of her city? These are questions for which we'll never know the answer, but Smith does an excellent job drawing out each woman's voice and perspective on the way things might have been.

I hadn't even reached the end of the first chapter before I began collecting quotes form this book. The first one I wrote down? "The details of our hurts don't matter so much as the fact that we have them." Ooh, that is good! I kept writing them down all throughout the book. Another of my favorites came from Chapter 8: "Never be afraid to ask for grace."

Two chapters in this book that really spoke to me were the ones on Hagar and Leah, women who went through a great deal of pain and were despised for various reasons. All the chapters were really good, and the truths on display are applicable to today's world. I'd recommend this for women everywhere, especially those in need of knowing they are not alone in whatever they may be facing. The women of the Bible were just as real as you and me, and the God who was involved in their lives is the One who cares for us even now.

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


Colonial Williamburg comes alive in this gentle yet gripping novel by Laura Frantz. On the brink of the Revolutionary War, Lady Elisabeth Lawson is left forsaken when her father - a prominent Tory - skips town to save himself from the upcoming problems with the local Patriots. He believes Elisabeth's betrothed will come to her aid and take care of her. It turns out that her betrothed was never that interested in her except for how she could ally him with her father's political connections, and now that this advantage is out of the picture, he removes himself from Elisabeth's life.

Elisabeth rallies to the challenges she meets. Newly homeless and without many friends, she decides that she will make a way for herself even though that means seeking gainful employment. She leaves behind her father's title and changes her name to Liberty, finding work at a local inn which is also a meeting place for prominent Patriots, including one Noble Rynallt. Noble has been one bright spot in her downfall from favorite daughter of Williamsburg to little better than a servant, as he took on the indenture of her maid and offered her initial safety when his fellow Patriots were seeking her father after his sudden disappearance.

Noble Rynallt lives up to his name in astounding ways. He's a quiet, generous, hospital man with strong beliefs in what is right and wrong. He's built a peaceful secluded home that pays homage to his Welsh ancestry, yet he's willing to risk it all for the sake of his new country's liberty. And there's a another Liberty who has caught his eye - this young woman who has a depth of character to survive the loss of the life she knew, who is also willing to put herself in danger when she agrees to become a spy for Patrick Henry.

These two characters sparked to life within these pages, consuming my thoughts any time I had to put the book down. As war creeps closer for the colonies, much will be sacrificed to make America the nation they hope she will become. I would recommend this book to any fans of historical fiction, and doubtless it will be on many Best Of lists at the end of the year - for a very good reason! If you want to check it out, be prepared for two things: 1) You *will* swoon every time Noble breaks out a Welsh endearment, and 2) You aren't going to be certain who lives and who dies until the final pages. This is a gem and one that will bear rereading in the future!
 The Sea Before Us


Sarah Sundin's new Sunrise at Normandy series gets off to a wonderful start! The series will feature the stories of the estranged Paxton brothers who all end up storming Normandy on D-Day - one from the sea, one from the air, and one from the ground. Book One is about Wyatt, the oldest, whose actions spurred the breakup of the brothers. Now he's in England in early 1944, helping map out and plan the upcoming attack on the Norman beaches. Still trying to atone for the sins of the past, Wyatt believes that once he reaches a certain goal he will be able to return like the prodigal son to his Texas home.

Dorothy Fairfax grew up being called "Jolly Dolly" as she dashed from one adventure to the next. Now the Blitz and the war have decimated her family, and the only person she has left in the world - her father - is mired in depression and barely able to function. Dorothy's work with the British Wrens is valuable, but she's terrified she'll be transferred away from London. Meanwhile she's also been working to develop an air of sophistication and class in order to catch Lawrence Eaton's eye. Eaton was a classmate of her brothers and Dorothy has had a crush on him for a long time. She's worked hard to shape herself into the kind of woman he will notice, and now that he is working in the same office the time is right to make her dreams come true.

As Wyatt and Dorothy develop a friendship, he's drawn to the fun-loving redhead and her big heart, but he can see she only has eyes for Eaton. She's thankful for a friend in whom to confide her troubles at home and with her father's business. Formerly an accountant, Wyatt agrees to help find a suspected embezzler within the Fairfax & Sons company, but what he uncovers may shatter what little family security Dorothy has.

I really enjoyed both Wyatt and Dorothy's stories. Their faith struggles were well-written and relatable, as Wyatt has to learn to forgive himself and live with his past, and Dorothy grapples over a relationship with a God who has allowed so much loss in her life. I've also never read a story that specifically focused on D-Day preparations, and I felt like I learned new things about this portion of history. I look forward to the rest of the books in this series!
 When Tides Turn


I know I am behind on the times, but I was finally able to read Sarah Sundin's spring 2017 release. It was worth the wait! Filled with intriguing characters and historical accuracy, When Tides Turn wraps up the Waves of Freedom series. You can read my reviews of the first two books here and here.

Beautiful and outgoing, Quintessa Beaumont has had her share of attention from men - and unfortunately often for the wrong reason. She's tired of people never looking beyond her outer appearance and finding her merely ornamental. Wanting to make a difference and change people's view, she shortens her name to Tess and enlists in the WAVES - Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. 

Even as Tess thrives in her new role, she can't keep her mind off Dan Avery, her childhood friend. Their paths keep crossing as Dan works diligently in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit, where he has taken a year-long assignment in hopes that it will look good on his resume and make him even more fit to pursue his dream of a long career at sea. Tess loves the determination and hard work which Dan applies to every part of his life, but she worries that he's too single-minded and will burn himself out.

Following in the footsteps of the mentor who became like a father to him, Dan has decided never to marry and to devote his life to the Navy. That was an easy enough decision when his only previous romantic entanglement was with a woman who was needy and wanted to hold him back. Now that he is spending time with Tess, he's having to reevaluate his stand. He's never met someone more encouraging or energetic, and he can tell she genuinely wants what is best for him, even if her perspective challenges his status quo. She brings color and warmth to his black and white world.

I love that the cover of this book shows both Tess and Dan with crossed arms - they are two stubborn people who care about each other but have many bridges to cross before they could possibly find a way to be together. You'll enjoy trying to cross those bridges with them, and you'll want to buckle your seatbelt as you travel with Dan for naval battles in the Atlantic Ocean and try to crack an espionage ring with Tess. This is well-researched WWII fiction that you won't want to miss!
 


Ray Novak set aside his heart's work of being a pastor in order to serve in the military during WWII. Training pilots stateside is noble, but hardly the stuff of heroes. He feels even less needed when he's reassigned to a desk job near his home town. It does put him in the path of childhood friend and war widow Helen Carlisle, which is a definite advantage, but he still feels like he needs to do more for his country.

Thrilled to reconnect with Ray, Helen hopes her days of pretending are over. She feels like rejoicing that her abusive marriage came to an end thanks to a Japanese torpedo, but she's never been honest about where her broken bones and scars came from. With Ray there's hope that she can stop her pretense of grief and secure a future of safety and love. But hurt people tend to hurt others, and Helen's brokenness soon drives a wedge in the fledgling romantic relationship.

Deciding to prove his bravery, Ray signs up for a combat tour and soon finds himself stationed in Europe. It's nice to be near his brothers Walt and Jack, but it's hard to know his actions are causing death and destruction even though the cause is just.

As Helen begins addressing the pain in her past, the freedom of healing begins to emerge. With new eyes, Helen begins to hope for better days ahead for herself and her young son. Her struggle continues as she realizes her father-in-law controls so much of her life yet, and he has no notion of releasing her or his grandson if he can possibly help it. Hoping and praying and loving Ray from across the ocean, Helen navigates one day at a time.

With WWII drawing to a close, Ray has no idea the lengths to which his bravery will be tested. Captivating action will keep the reader glued to the pages as the Wings of Glory series comes to a close. I would caution that verbal and physical abuse is dealt with in detail in this story and may be of concern for some readers. This story caps another exciting series by Sarah Sundin, an author I would recommend to all historical fiction fans.
 


As a huge Sarah Sundin fan, I think she's the best World War II author out there today. This 2010 release proves how much she has grown since she first became a published author. 

Set mainly in England in 1943, this story follows Jack Novak, Air Force flyboy, as he lives for the thrill of the next bombing mission or chance for promotion. While he always assumed he would grow up to be a pastor like his father, Jack is beginning to wonder if the military is his life calling after all.

Ruth Doherty scrimps and saves every penny she earns from her nurse's salary in order to support her orphaned younger siblings. She has no time for dating, even if her life is full of military men. Not with her responsibilities, and especially not with her past.

When Jack and Ruth meet, Jack becomes determined to be the one to break Ruth's resolve and win her heart. As the two grow close, he has no idea of the vulnerability lying behind Ruth's strong exterior. Could it be that he is wooing her more for the challenge than for true regard of who she is? As motives unfold and truth comes out, both will have the chance to come to terms with their shortcomings before wholeness can be found.

This novel had a few problems. The main one was that the author seemed to beat the reader over the head with the characters' perceived struggles and flaws. I also had a hard time with the categorizing of teenage kisses as sins, which was a major driving force of false guilt that was never resolved. Additionally, I feel the need to say that if you have triggers from sexual assault or sexual harassment, this is not the book for you. As I mentioned earlier, I consider this author a favorite and this is the first time I've been disappointed with one of her titles. I highly recommend her other works, and I will continue reading her in the future. I'm glad she's improved as an author since this sophomore release!
Here are my favorite reads from 2016! I hope you'll check some of them out for yourself. Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction



Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

This World War II story focuses on a plucky female pharmacist and a Naval officer as they try to uncover a drug ring operating out of Boston Harbor.


Young Adult Fiction



The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

A captivating retelling of The Little Mermaid, Melanie Dickerson again proves her brilliance as a fairy tale writer.


Contemporary Fiction



Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

I loved the depth of the characters, and I really related to one of them in particular. I just love Melissa Tagg's stories!!


Non-Fiction

I've got to go with the autobiographies of two Olympians here! Weren't the Rio Olympics exciting??



Greater Than Gold by David Boudia

David's journey from an active tot to a world class diver, and how he found Jesus along the way.




Courage to Soar by Simone Biles

Leader of the Final Five and winner of five medals in Rio, this 4'9" gymnastics wonder shares her story from adoption to training to topping the podium.


Classic Literature



Mr. Harrison's Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell

This short novel, from which part of the miniseries Cranford was drawn, is laugh-out-loud funny and encompasses the delights of a small English village.


Novella

This category has two winners as well, because I couldn't choose between these two delightful Christmas stories.




One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

If you enjoy competitive baking shows, you'll love this story of a down-on-her-luck baker and her quest to find one wow-worthy recipe to land her dream job.





Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

All Alexis needs for Christmas is her home remodel to go well. When everything goes wrong it may be time to reevaluate the true meaning of Christmas.



This Regency story is a sequel to Moonlight Masquerade and features several of the same characters. This time our heroine is Jessamine, a vicar's daughter who is having a season in London thanks to the generosity of her godmother. Jessamine always planned to marry her best friend's brother, but when he chose someone else Jessamine was heartbroken. Now she's determined to catch the eye of a fashionable, wealthy man while she has the chance. Taking her cues from London's elite, Jessamine lowers her necklines and her inhibitions in pursuit of being found desirable.

Having spent time in India as a missionary, Lancelot Marfleet is unimpressed with his return to English society. He desires to find a parish and continue learning about botany, but his parents are insisting it is time he find a marriage partner. When Mr. Marfleet first meets Jessamine he accidentally offends her, and his quest to make up for his blunder brings them together at further parties and dinners. At first he is drawn to her because she is different and has a genuine interest in his life experiences, but soon he's dismayed to see the drastic changes to her person and the questionable decisions about her choice of acquaintances.

Jessamine doesn't realize that as a young lady with very little protection in town she is perfect prey for those of a less savory character. She only wants to be sought after and admired. While Mr. Marfleet is proving himself to be a friend, Jessamine doesn't want to further his attention too much. The last thing she wants is to end up with a man so much like her father.

I confess I found this story quite hard to get into, but once I came to care about the characters I could hardly put the book down. I would caution that this story does contain a few scenes which might be triggering for victims of assault. I would recommend the novel for die-hard Regency fans, especially if you enjoyed the first book in the series.



Lillian Avery is out to prove herself. She's on her way to Boston to begin her job as a pharmacist, and she's overcome a lot in her life already, having lost her leg in an accident and adapted to use of a prosthesis. While her new boss makes it clear that he's unhappy about the necessity of hiring a woman due to so many men enlisting in the second World War, Lillian believes she can face this challenge and come out triumphant as she has in the past.

On leave with his best friend, Ensign Archer Vandenberg meets Lillian and is immediately drawn by her beauty and her resilient character. It is also extremely alluring that she isn't pursuing him for the wealth of his old Connecticut family. Not only is she not pursuing him, she actually rebuffs his attention. If a little romance won't win her heart, maybe proving himself as a genuine friend will.

She's only been on the job for a few days when Lillian notices odd prescriptions for large quantities of phenobarbital, a controlled substance believed to help with combat fatigue. Such amounts would not normally be prescribed, and when Lillian investigates she quickly finds that this is the tip of the iceberg - there's a drug ring in the area, and her safety may be in danger if she attempts to get to the center of it.

Meanwhile Arch is back at sea and dealing with battle neurosis after the events of Through Waters Deep. As he navigates what could be a shameful ending to his naval career, he notices many of his fellow sailors seem to be dealing with drowsiness and lack of concentration. When he discovers that many of them may be turning to phenobarbital to cope with the horrors of war, and obtaining the drugs illegally, he and Lillian begin trying to piece together the puzzle that begins at a Boston pharmacy but reaches into the United States Navy.

It is not only German U-boats and greedy drug runners who provide danger to the plot. Lillian realizes that while she has needed to be tough, a heart of granite is not an asset in life or love. Arch's insecurity over his wealth and his need to make an identity of himself apart from his family leads him to question the best things in his life. Is there hope that these two can work through these obstacles and predicaments and truly find each other? Sarah Sundin weaves a compelling story that will leave you turning the pages to find out what happens next. Another excellent book from this top-of-her-class novelist!



Wrapping up the Wings of a Nightingale trilogy is the story of Kay Jobson, the nurse who has been more on the outside of the friendly group we've gotten to know from With Every Letter and On Distant Shores. Closed and defiant, Kay has no problem dating six men at a time, keeping them all at her beck and call while actually protecting herself from getting close to any one of them. This way of isolating herself while being a social standout comes with a price, and Kay finds herself longing for more. Her father's fanatic religion has driven her away from wanting anything to do with God, but the faith of the other nurses and pilot Roger Cooper is beginning to call out to her.

Roger struggles with the rules and regulations that come with with being a pilot during a war. All the paperwork and long hours require a different mental approach from the man who would rather play drums all day. Roger dreams of the war being over and auditioning for a place in a popular big band. All his life he's been told he'll never amount to anything, and his past seems to prove it. He knows God has forgiven him, but he still wants to protect himself from repeating mistakes. The last thing he wants is for Kay to turn her flirtatious smile his way, but when she does, Roger suddenly feels impressed to give her his Bible. Couldn't God send anyone else to help the gorgeous redhead find her answers?

While Kay is shocked that Roger has given her one of his most treasured possessions, she begins reading it and writing down questions to mail to him at his new station in India. As she gets to know God for who He is rather than who her father presented Him to be, Kay finds herself longing for His love, and accepting it brings a radical change to her life. No longer seeing the men around her as playthings, Kay devotes herself to trying to unify their nurse squadron so she can qualify for chief nurse training. Such a position would open the door for her dream of a stable future and a home of her own to come true.

When Roger returns from India and finds himself stationed near Kay again, a steadfast friendship emerges. But with their differing goals and the dangers of the final year of the war at hand, there is plenty of tension to keep them from deepening their relationship even as attraction grows.

Out of the three books in the series, I found this one to have the most exciting war action. I won't spoil it, but things happen that keep you on the edge of your seat! I also was very excited when I realized that Kay was getting her own book, as the hints we were getting in previous books made me see her potential as an interesting heroine. I continue enjoying each and every one of Sundin's novels, and look forward to her next release!



In this second book in her Wings of a Nighingale series, Sarah Sundin takes to the skies with another pioneer flight nurse during World War II. Picking up with the cast of characters established in With Every Letter, our heroine is Georgie Taylor, a southern belle who only joined the Army to keep up with her best friend Rose. Georgie is terrified of being in a position to make life-and-death decisions and can't wait to return home and marry her fiance Ward. Then others can make her decisions for her, the way they always did as she was growing up. The only decision she's ever made on her own was to join Rose, and look where that has taken her!

John Hutchinson went through four years of training to become a pharmacist, and he joined the military to help with the needs of the wounded on the front lines. Pharmacy was not a respected science in the Army at that time, and he was forced to join as an enlisted man and to work alongside those who had much less training and under men who looked down on his profession. Hutch struggles with feeling disrespected, but knowing his father is working hard to petition Congress to commission a Pharmacy Corps and that he is helping by being able to testify firsthand of the need of such a corps gives him a reason to press on.

When Georgie crosses paths with Hutch she's immediately drawn to the tall and knowledgeable sergeant. When she finds out that he also has a fiancee back at home she feels confident that they can be friends and both remain loyal to their stateside sweethearts. Besides, she's an officer and he isn't so fraternization is strictly forbidden. Hutch and Georgie both want to see each other be the best they can be. For Hutch that means encouraging Georgie that she is capable of doing her job and of being unwavering through the uncertainties that face her every day, while George tries to bring a light to Hutch's dark circumstances and challenges him to find contentment and meaning right where he is rather than waiting for a break to come his way.

While both Georgie and Hutch face the dangers of war, I found that most of the conflict in this story was internal, so to me it read as very character-driven. Even though I'm not in the Army I could relate to those internal struggles because while situations may be different, human emotions are much the same. I absolutely loved something Georgie learned on page 141: "...she shouldn't aim for safety but for strength to stand in an unsafe world." We still need people with that kind of God-given strength in the world we live in today.

The historical aspect of this novel was amazing, as always. It was painful to read about what those pharmacists had to go through, and there are brief but interesting scenes about shell-shock and racism that left me thankful for changes that have been made since then. I also enjoyed the setting, which was mostly in southern Italy. I had no idea that Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1944 or how it affected the troops stationed nearby. That's the kind of thing I'm always interested in learning, and one reason I love well-researched historical fiction.

This was another hit by Sarah Sundin. I'm so impressed by her storytelling skills, lovable characters, and historical accuracy. I look forward to reading the third book in this series in the near future.



It's World War II meets "You've Got Mail" and "The Shop Around the Corner" in this tale of anonymous correspondents falling in love. I enjoyed this book so much I couldn't put it down, reading the final half in one sitting. That doesn't happen often these days!

Mellie Blake was raised in the Philippines by her American father, who was very concerned about raising Mellie up to be a proper lady after her Filipina mother left them. Too American to fit in completely with the local girls, and too Filipino to fit in when visiting America, Mellie has always struggled with making friends and being comfortable in her own skin. When she has the opportunity to become one of the pioneering flight nurses in the newly-formed division of the Army Air Force, Mellie hopes this is her calling. But her inability to form a connection with the other nurses leave her not only frustrated but in danger of losing her job.

Fighting for his country in North Africa, Tom MacGilliver is a man who always, always strives to be cheerful and not let his true feelings show through. With his last name made infamous by a father who was tried and executed for murder, Tom wants people to know he's nothing like his father. His desire with his engineering degree is to build bridges that bring people together, and now that he is near the front lines of war he is terrified that he might one day have to take the life of another human being. When his commanding officer arranges for soldiers and nurses to begin anonymous correspondences, Tom realizes this is a needed outlet to reveal his true self to someone who won't judge him based on his name.

Unsure about this exercise of writing to an unknown soldier, Mellie quickly realizes that she can build a friendship on paper, where her awkwardness and nontraditional looks won't garner rejection. Soon letters are flying between "Annie" and "Earnest," each seeking help and guidance from the other about the troubles around them. They find much strength in being able to pour out their hearts, know someone else is praying for them, and point each other to Christ. When Mellie is transferred to North Africa they know there is a chance that they will meet, but they have been so careful to conceal their identity that they may never know it if they do.

Enough information has slipped through that Mellie knows she's met her Earnest the first time she crosses paths with Tom. Getting to know him in person only solidifies the love she's grown to have for him, but he still doesn't know who she is. Feeling like he would only be disappointed if he realized that Annie and Mellie were the same person, but unable to completely give up their letters because they mean so much to her, Mellie must walk a difficult line between being there for Earnest and protecting herself from Tom.

Everyone who has struggled with insecurity will be able to connect with Tom and Mellie. The romantic in you will cheer for their relationship, and the history buff will enjoy the twist of a WWII story not set in Europe. I have loved every novel by Sarah Sundin that I have read, and I hope to read many more. "With Every Letter" is currently free on Kindle, so I hope you check it out if this sounds like something you would enjoy. I don't think you will be disappointed!



Tension ran high in the United States in 1941. Europe and Asia were embroiled in another war, and Americans were divided about whether her military should be involved or remain neutral. Working as a secretary at the Boston Navy Yard, Mary Stirling has a front row seat to the construction of new battleships, and her ears are full of the rumors of sabotage among the workers.

When Jim Avery is assigned to a newly-commissioned ship in Boston, he's delighted when his paths cross with Mary, a childhood friend. Jim isn't looking for a relationship right before he ships out, but he's happy to see a familiar face and have someone to visit with on his days off. When Mary tells him about the sabotage rumors and her desire to do something to help gather evidence by inconspicuously using shorthand to record the conversations she overhears, Jim is full of encouragement.

Mary knows Jim was once in love with her best friend in high school, and now that Quintessa is newly single she is sure that the two will find their way to be together again. Quintessa is a "golden girl," full of sunshine and chatter, while Mary knows Jim could never be attracted to her silvery, quieter self. Still, feelings for him begin to grow as they rekindle their friendship, and his belief in her helps her have the confidence in herself that she needs.

As the days grow closer for Jim to ship out, he begins to realize that all his life he's drifted along without much effort. Born into a Navy family, Jim did work for his commission but he also didn't think too much about it. He realizes that while it would be easy to float through life, he's going to miss out on what he really wants if he continues to let the winds blow him where they may. But before he can chart his course and pursue the woman who has captured his heart, the dangerous saboteurs and friends from the past will both come along to try to disrupt his newly made plans.

I enjoyed this book tremendously! Both Mary and Jim had strong inner turmoil which drew me in and made me cheer for them. The action was exciting and well-written, and faith and Biblical principles were woven in seamlessly. I had a very hard time putting this book down and easily could have read it in one sitting. This is only the second book I've read by Sarah Sundin, but it won't be the last!

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "Through Waters Deep," click here.

Join the Flock! Litfuse Publicity Group blogger


Dive into Sarah Sundin's explosive new series, Waves of Freedom, with book one, Through Waters Deep. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them in the midst of their budding romance.

Join Sarah in celebrating the release of Through Waters Deep by entering to win an Anchors Aweigh prize pack!



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One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of Through Waters Deep

  • A nautical tote bag

  • A set of compass rose notecards

  • A "Hope Anchors the Soul" journal

  • A Boston Tea Party earl grey tea set

  • A Through Waters Deep apron

  • A set of nautical tea towels


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Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. The winner will be announced August 25th on Sarah's blog.


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Flabbergasted


I'll never forget the day in June 2004 in Pryor, OK, when I brought this book home from the library by accident. By accident. Look at that bright cover! I don't know how it was possible that I took it off the shelf, walked it up to the desk to check out, brought it out to the car, and drove it all the way home before I realized which book it was. I had thought I picked up the Terri Blackstock novel next to it. But home was 15 miles away from the library and I had no reason to go back and exchange it. I might as well read it, right? Even though the back cover copy made me groan: "Jay Jarvis just moved east. His dating life's gone south. What else is a guy to do but go fishing?"

Now I'm not sure how well you know me, but that doesn't sound like me at all. What I didn't know then was that God had arranged to get this book in my hands, and that it would be exactly what I needed.

In this zany tale, Jay Jarvis has just completed a work relocation to South Carolina. In order to meet eligible females, he decides to start attending church, even though that is not something he has ever done before. His eye is immediately caught by unassuming Allie, a young missionary home on furlough. When he hears that Allie is helping plan the singles' retreat to the beach, he decides to join in and hopes to spend time with her. As Jay becomes more involved in the church, he meets all varieties of Christians: the hospitable ones, the legalistic ones, the secretive ones, the eccentric ones, and more. But he soon recognizes that they possess something inside of them that he does not, and he's pretty sure he wants whatever it is.

When Jay does come face to face with Jesus, he realizes that it has been God orchestrating these events all along. And as Allie is known to say, "God often has very different plans than what our earthly brains think is best for us." As the book continues, Jay seeks God's will for his life, his job, his relationships, and his location... and is flabbergasted by God's plans.

When I first read this book I was very much in a place of transition. 2004 was the year we lived in four different states. I didn't know what God was doing in my life, and I certainly had no idea what was around the corner, or that it would be as blessed as it has been. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and you'll never think of the color lime green the same way again. It was a bright spot in an uncertain time, and was an encouragement to my spirit. Now I've had the chance to be flabbergasted myself at God's work in my life, and I still love Jay Jarvis and the part he played in my journey. That was why I chose to do this 10th Anniversary reread, although it's far from the first time I've opened its pages again. I've bought this book in paperback and hardback. I've bought the audiobook. I have it on my Kindle, too! Ray Blackston's debut (and best!) novel shines in all mediums. It will never stop being one of my favorite stories.
Courting Morrow Little


Historical fiction is always a draw for me. This story is set during the late 1700's on the Kentucky frontier. Morrow Little's life was changed at age six, when Indians killed her mother and sister and kidnapped her brother. Now eighteen, Morrow is returning to the wilderness after spending a few years with an aunt in Philadelphia. As glad as she is to see her father again, Morrow is a little unprepared for life away from her aunt's dress shop.

Morrow's father is a preacher and they often travel to a nearby fort for Sunday services, where Morrow is an attraction for many men. As a man of peace, Mr. Little also has ties to several Indians who wander nearby woods, which sets Morrow on edge because of the violence in their past. Mr. Little is sick with consumption, and worries about what will happen to Morrow if she is still unmarried when he passes away.

Not all the men who are interested in Morrow are honorable, and she may be forced to choose someone other than the man she loves in order to ease her father's mind as he grows weaker and weaker. I thought the title was a bit of a misnomer, as Morrow is married about halfway through this book and we follow her journey as a wife and mother in the rest of the pages.

Over the years, both before and after her marriage, Morrow is faced with the threat of being kidnapped by both Indians and white settlers. She deals with various life-threatening physical situations and the internal challenges of trying to forgive the Indians who murdered her family. There was not a lot of personal connection with the main character, because the author doesn't relay Morrow's personal feelings very well. It was almost like "Jane Eyre" in this sense, and this sense only. One of the few things we know about Morrow is that she cries all the time. I'm not saying that life wasn't hard and she did not endure tragedies, and in some ways it seemed more realistic that the author didn't try to pretend Morrow was a super strong woman, but I would have preferred a few less tears.

On the whole, I didn't think this was a very deep story. I read it on vacation, and otherwise I'm not sure I would have finished it. I tend to like historical fiction that teaches me about real historical events, or else is emotionally gripping and relays something about human character. This was pretty fluffy on those counts, although as far as the story goes, it was unpredictable and had interesting secondary characters. Just not my cup of tea overall.
Moonlight Masquerade


The Regency era holds a special place for all Jane Austen fans, and this novel brings a unique twist on the tales usually told during this time, as it focuses on two spies during the tail end of the Napoleonic Wars between France and England.

Rees Phillips has spent a decade toiling away as a clerk in the Foreign Office in London, and has grown a bit despondent that a promotion has not come his way. He is given a chance to prove himself when he is sent to infiltrate the home of Lady Celine Wexham, a suspected spy for the French. Posing as the nephew of her injured butler, Rees is able to assume an interim hold on that position, which allows him access to much of the household and a level of privilege among the servants.

I confess that I started this novel thinking Rees would discover that Lady Wexham wasn't a French spy, but to my surprise it turns out that she actually is! Celine and her mother had fled France during the Reign of Terror, and then Celine was pressured into an unhappy marriage with a wealthy Englishman. Now a widow for three years, Celine still moves in London's first circles but has been recruited to pass along any pertinent information she might discover which would help the war effort in France. She sees this as a way of bringing some meaning to her rather tedious existence.

It does not take long for Celine to detect that her new butler is not all that he says he is. Thus begins a cat and mouse game for Rees and Celine to outwit and catch the other in their suspected activities. Things heat up when Celine takes Rees and other household staff to visit the Count of Provence, the would-be king of France who was in exile in England during the latter part of Napoleon's reign as emperor. While staying at Hartwell House, Rees discovers that Celine's espionage has become suspected by French royalists, and plans against her life have been made. Torn between his duty to his country to unmask Celine as a spy, and what he feels is God's will in protecting her life from her own countrymen, Rees decides to put himself in harm's way for the lonely and intriguing woman.

I found the story a little hard to get into at first, as it's a very character-driven novel, but once the action started I had a hard time putting it down and enjoyed it very much. I learned a lot about England's relationship with France during this time period, which was a unique bonus. I'd recommend this novel to all fans of Regency fiction or historical fiction in general. I look forward to reading more books by this author in the future.



I had heard wonderful things about Sarah Sundin's historical novels, so when I saw that this one was free on Kindle (and it still is for a limited time!), I grabbed it up and started right in on it. Having just finished "Rilla of Ingleside", I was already in a war novel kind of mood. This one is set in World War II.

Sundin's writing style drew me in immediately. She found ways to insert musical references seamlessly into the text, tying in with the title of the story, which I found to be a nice touch. I thought her an engaging author, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Our story opens when Allie Miller takes a trip away from home to be a part of her best friend's wedding. Allie feels very little control over her life. She's been raised by wealthy, homebody parents, and is in a long-term relationship with the young man who will one day take over her father's company. Having recently become a Christian, Allie feels that there is more out there than the staid life she's always known, but is uncertain of herself and her ability to pursue it. On the train ride she meets a young lieutenant and they are able to have an enjoyable conversation, each thinking they will never see each other again. But when they reach their destination, Allie and Walter Novak discover that they are both in the same wedding party, and are thrown together often over the course of the week.

Walter falls hard for Allie. Allie doesn't like to talk about the unpleasantness of her home life, and she feels sure that their mutual friends will fill Walt in on the fact that she's almost an engaged woman. Besides, she's enjoying the very real connection between them. At the end of the week Allie returns home and Walt prepares to ship out, and they agree to write each other.

Throughout the following long months, their friendship and prayers for each other are a sustaining force in both Allie and Walt's lives. She is bolstered by his encouragement to begin attending church and making decisions for herself, and he appreciates the way Allie listens and understands like no one else. Each of them fight their own inner battles even as Walt battles the Axis forces. Allie craves her parents' approval and knows she has it if she accepts her boyfriend's proposal and takes the place already assigned to her, but she doesn't know if she can live with herself if she follows through with it.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. The spiritual aspect of the friendship between Walt and Allie was nicely done. At times the plot got a little convoluted, but thankfully I had a good stretch of time so I could read through most of the story at once and therefore wasn't bothered by that. There was realism about the death of friends and personal danger that Walt faced as a fighter pilot that fit the WWII setting. It wasn't a perfect novel, but it kept me wrapped up wonderfully. I hope I have opportunity to read the rest of the books in this series.


As I've mentioned before, I have an insider track on weddings and I love being part of them. When this book was recommended to me because it starred a wedding planner and a quirky plot, I was very excited to read it. Honestly, weddings and books have one thing in common: you never quite know what's going to happen when you dive in!

Bella Rossi comes from a stereotypical Italian family, and she's way out of her comfort zone in planning a wedding with a Boot-Scootin' western theme. She's just inherited the wedding planning business from her parents, and this is her first solo job. Knowing nothing about country music, she decides to find a deejay who can help her select music and get a better picture of the country western scene.

I had issues with this book immediately. It states right off the bat that we're "less than two weeks" from the wedding, and yet Bella is only just starting to find vendors and shop for decorations. That's ridiculous. Even though it's said that it's a last-minute wedding, no one does it that last-minute and expects good results! I know I'm obsessive about details and having a working plan in place, but by the time you reach two weeks before the wedding, there's nothing that's not already carefully lined up and ready to go. You can't be ordering things off eBay at that date, or just starting to plan the reception. You just can't. Although Bella is understandably nervous to be doing her first wedding on her own, the level of anxiety is rather absurd when you consider she's been helping her parents for years. To be in charge of a wedding you have to have confidence. Had I been this bride, I would have fired Bella and never recommended her to anyone. It was that bad.

Bella is supposed to be 29 years old, and most of the main characters seem to be around the same age. Yet they speak and act like they're teenagers. There's a lack of maturity that drove this reader crazy. That might have been passable if they were 18, but they weren't. The emotions were very unrealistic for this group of people.

The spiritual side of the novel seemed forced. The few genuine moments involved Bella's aunt, not Bella herself. There is a crazy side-plot about a parrot that seems to indicate that animals can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and become witnesses for Him. That's just bad theology and a waste of everyone's reading time.

The title of the book is the best commentary I can give on recommending it. These things I've mentioned here are only the most major of the problems I had with it, and I could go on if I wanted. Needless to say, I won't worry about finding a place for this book on my crowded shelves. Go watch an episode of "Cake Boss" if you want to see a more realistic portrayal of an Italian family running their own business.


All my reading friends have had nothing but good things to say about Irene Hannon's books, and I was excited when I was able to read this one. I'm happy to report that her writing lived up to the hype, and I'm very interested in reading more of her books in the future!

Judge Elizabeth Michaels' sister is visiting when the unthinkable happens: Stephanie is shot and killed in Liz's living room. Stephanie's abusive husband is the first suspect, but it quickly becomes apparent that this might have been a hit gone wrong on Liz's life. Whisked away into protective custody, Liz must face the long days of questions and isolation while dealing with her grief.

U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor can't believe it when he's assigned to protect Judge Michaels. She had been married to his best friend, and Jake had always thought their unhappy marriage was a factor in the accident that caused his friend's death. After blaming Liz all these years, Jake isn't too excited to be on her protection detail. He's surprised when time spent with Liz puts her in a whole new light.

The killer is disappointed when he finds out he's killed the wrong woman. His top priority becomes concocting a plan for locating the judge and succeeding with his next attempt. Can be outsmart the marshals before their investigation runs to his door?

Irene Hannon's writing style is very similar to that of Dee Henderson. If you liked the O'Malley books, these are sure to be a hit. The suspense throughout the plot is very well done. I would highly recommend this to any readers who enjoy fast-paced tales of intrigue.

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