Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Golden Vial


http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/the-golden-vial/353580


Back Cover

When a hidden evil threatens to destroy the realm, a young orphan, untested and untrained, could mean the difference between victory and total defeat.
 
Vulnerable and weakened by grief after a terrible loss, Hyam has been struck by a mysterious illness that threatens to claim his life.  Seeking to help Hyam and restore the realm, Queen Shona travels to Hyamn's remote hometown to find answers an doffer aid.
 
Dally has always had abilities far beyond those of a normal human - far-seeing and magic come naturally to her.  Before the arrival of Shona and her army, Dally had always kept her abilities secret.  But when an ancient evil bearing down on her village and the fate of the realm hanging in the balance, the orphaned servant girl steps forward to do what no one else can.  Will the battle claim more than Dally is willing to give?

Review

I brought this book on a weekend camping trip with my family.  I was in the mood for a good fantasy, and The Golden Vial sure did not disappoint!  The second evening we were camping, my Dad walks into the cabin living room to find my Mom and me engrossed in our novels (Mom was reading A Dangerous Legacy). We had already been reading for a good hour, and my Dad asked, "Aren't you ready to do something else?"  Mom and I slowly lifted our eyes from our books to look at Dad and reply simultaneously, "No."  And then we promptly went back to our stories.  (Don't feel too sorry for my Dad; my brother-in-law rescued him to go for a walk.)  But simply put, The Golden Vial was too good to put down!  I found myself sitting down to read on as many occasions as I could over that weekend, and the only disappointment I encountered was having to finish the story!
 
Book 3 in the "Legends of the Realm" series, The Golden Vial introduces a new character by the name of the orphan Dally, whose abilities - and the magnitude of them - surprise no one more than herself.  Her past is tragic, having lost her family in a horrific manner.  Dally struggles with feelings of inadequacy and finds solace in her connection to the wolfhounds that her master and mistress breed.  When the opportunity arises to assist Queen Shona in eradicating the evil permeating the land, Dally jumps at the chance to leave her difficult mistress and seek justice for her family.  What follows is not only a journey of self-discovery, but a pulse-pounding adventure full of monsters, mayhem, battles, and lots of magic.
 
Thrilling and fast-paced, The Golden Vial is probably my favourite of the series.  It is also, sadly, the conclusion of this trilogy.  I so hope that Thomas Locke (pseudonym for T. Davis Bunn) crafts another fantasy series as I will dearly miss the Realm and all its fantastical adventures!


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Keturah

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/keturah/386890


Back Cover

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

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

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

To keep her family together and save the plantation that is her last chance at providing for them, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

Review

I've been a fan of Lisa T. Bergren's work for awhile now.  Her series, "Rivers of Time" is one of the best young adult works I've ever read.  Seriously.  You don't have to been a young teen to enjoy a sweeping, romantic, suspenseful, time-travel series!  So it was with great expectations that I began reading Keturah, the first novel in "The Sugar Baron's Daughters" series.  I'm happy to report that I was not disappointed!

With breath-taking descriptions, Bergren draws readers back in time to the 1700s, the time of slavery, dangerous travel in the high seas, unpredictable occupations of running a sugar plantation, and when death by fever was a very real probability.  It required a certain kind of man to have the strength and courage to make a living by harvesting sugar cane in a land where law and order was quite questionable, and for a woman to embark on such an adventure would be seen as nothing short of foolhardy.  Because of these elements, Keturah is everything an adventure story needs to be.  It is dramatic, loaded with solid, spiritual gems, romantic, thrilling, and all together page-turning.  In fact, I've already started to read through it a second time (and am enjoying it just as much)! 

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Sunday, 10 June 2018

I Will Not Fear

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/i-will-not-fear/388270


Back Cover

While her white schoolmates were planning their senior prom, Melba was facing the business end of a double-barreled shotgun, being threatened with lynching by rope-carrying tormentors, and learning how to outrun white supremacists who were ready to kill her rather than sit beside her in a classroom.  Only her faith in God sustained her during her darkest days and helped her become a civil rights warrior, an NBC television news reporter, a magazine writer, a professor, a wife, and a mother.
 
In I Will Not Fear, Beals takes you on an unforgettable journey through terror, oppression, and persecution, highlighting the kind of faith we all need to survive in a world full of heartbreak and anger.  She shows how the deep faith we develop during our most difficult moments is the kind of faith that can change our families, our communities, and even the world.
 
Encouraging and inspiring, her story offers hope that faith is the solution to the pervasive hopelessness of our current culture.
 
Review
 
Wow.
 
If I ever complain about the comforts of my life, please remind me of Melba and her story. 
 
Even from birth - seriously, literally from birth where Melba's mother agonized through a painful, long labour in a hospital closet because people of colour were not allowed to be admitted as real patients and provided with full medical care - Melba's life story is akin to climbing Mt. Everest.  Every day an uphill battle to overcome the racist stigma of society leveled against her; and all because of the colour of her skin.
 
In the 21st century where racism is denounced, it is easy to forget or not comprehend how difficult it was for targeted people in times past to just live their lives normally as everyone else.  Even just getting groceries or using a public restroom could be a trial.  And Melba entered into the fray even deeper by being one of the 9 youth selected to integrate the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.   It was truly a time of going exactly where no one else wanted you to go.  Think of it: how often do you go somewhere you are not wanted?  Generally, human nature pushes us to just go where love and acceptance is.  But Melba chose the hard path.  She chose to help forge the way so that all may attend school regardless of their skin colour.  And what a resistance she and the rest of the Little Rock Nine met!  Death threats became constant, so much so that Melba began to feel a prisoner in her own home.
 
Melba rightly points to God as her only source of strength and courage for getting her through those dangerous times.  And as she illustrates through the rest of the book, true faith in God is what sustains us through the difficult circumstances and unexpected turns in life.  While it doesn't mean we won't make decisions we will later forget - as we are all still human - God is always there for us to turn to and pull us out of the messes we make.
 
I Will Not Fear is a powerful read.  It also a difficult one, so I would hesitate to recommend it to all age audiences.  It would be fine for mature high school students with an adult to help them navigate through the various social and moral issues raised in this memoir.
 
 
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Beneath the Surface

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/beneath-the-surface/388900

Back Cover

She thought she'd be safe when she moved back home.  She was dead wrong.
 
After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change.  She thought she'd left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital.  But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her down and reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.
 
Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff's Office dive team.  When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer - one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.

Review


Lynn Blackburn is my new favourite author.  Beneath the Surface, the first novel in her series, "Dive Investigations", captured my attention from the first page with believable characters and a thrilling plot.  It became clear early on that Blackburn is not afraid to drag her characters through some pretty intense situations, causing some equally nail-biting moments for readers  as we are left wondering, what is going to happen next?!  Is the bad guy going to get away?!  Eeeek!

Dramatics aside, as I mentioned earlier, Blackburn has created some very believable, down-to-earth characters to fall in love with.  It's easy to relate to their thoughts and emotions, which makes it especially difficult when people whom you've come to love are thrown into dangerous events that made me wonder at a time or two whether all characters would be left standing at the final page! 

And let's not forget this incredibly cool (no pun intended) job Blackburn has chosen to highlight: underwater investigators.  I have not read any other books that have highlighted this particular field, and found the descriptions quite fascinating.  The next book in the series cannot come soon enough!!



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

A Light on the Hill

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/a-light-on-the-hill/385710


Back Cover
 
Though Israel has found relative peace, Moriyah has yet to find her own.  Attempting to avoid the scorn of her community, she's spent the last seven years hiding behind the veil she wears.  Underneath her covering, her face is branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods, a shameful reminder of her past captivity in Jericho and an assurance that no man will ever want to marry her.
 
When her father finds a widower who needs a mother for his two sons, her hopes rise.  But when their introduction goes horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee for her life.  Seeking safety at one of the newly established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face and the enemies - and unexpected allies - she will encounter on her way.
 
Review
 
When I received my review books for this month, I was at a loss as to which one to start first as they all looked amazing!  My good friend and fellow blogger, Amanda, (http://cozywritersden.blogspot.ca/), wisely suggested I start with A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette.  Amanda read the previous series by Cossette, "Out of Egypt", and is a forever fan of Cossette's work. I am so glad I followed my friend's advice.  A Light on the Hill is simply one of the best books I've ever read.  And I don't say that lightly.  Cossette's writing is equally breathtaking and fascinating as she brings to life the lives of the Israelites we read about in the Old Testament, breathing life into famed heroes such as Joshua, and what it would be like to live in a wild and rugged land, still inhabited in areas by the sworn enemies of God, the Canaanites, a time when Levitical law was firmly established, and a girl's future was fraught with uncertainty.  It was a dangerous period of history.  But also one where hope was very much alive as the Israelites literally lived on the promises of God - the promise of a land to be their own, and a promise of a Messiah to come.
 
I don't read much historical, Biblical fiction.  I find the genre more often than not undermines the true Biblical accounts and does more harm than good.  But I did not find A Light on the Hill problematic in that area at all.  While Moriyah's story is not based on a real historical figure, it brought some more texture to the time period, and, to borrow an oft-used phrase, made "history come alive".
 
Moriyah's story was suspenseful, heartbreaking, and filled with hope.  Her character starts out with a weakened faith in God due to past traumatic events she had endured (which I believe were written about in the previous series, "Out of Egypt").  But as the story progresses, so does Moriyah's faith, making for an equally encouraging and inspiring story.  HIGHLY recommend! 
 
 
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Probing

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/probing/385750


Back Cover
 
As evil lurks around every corner, this misfit team must work together if anyone wants to make it out alive. 
 
The states are higher than ever as Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky return again to the universe of Harbringers for four more stories set in a world on the brink of destruction.
 
In Bill Myer's "Leviathan", the team heads to Hollywood for a taping of a new television pilot, Live or Die: The Ultimate Reality.  When violence and chaos erupt, they must fight an insidious and multiplying madness before it spreads across the globe.
 
Frank Peretti's "The Mind Pirates" centers on an earring with mysterious powers that just might hold the key to solving a murder.  When two members of the team are kidnapped by seventeenth-century pirates, the team must overcome the ruthless scheming of an evil, hidden nemesis.
 
In "Hybrids" from Angela Hunt, the arrival of two mysterious black-eyed children and a baby's disappearance are no coincidence.  Instead of finding the rest they need, the four friends must stay on their guard as they search for answers - and for a missing child.
 
In "The Village" from Alton Gansky, a visit to a guarded and secretive North Carolina town becomes the most challenging mystery the team has ever faced as they must jump between universes to solve a problem they barely understand before the window between worlds closes forever.
 
Review
 
Up for another round of creepy goodness?  Enter Cycle Three in the "Harbringers" series where four talented authors deliver four thrilling stories full of supernatural suspense and intrigue.
 
I've been a huge fan of the "Harbringers" series since the first novel, Invitation was released in April 2017, followed by The Assault in August 2017, and now we have Probing to add to the collection.  One of my favourite aspects about the series is the diversity of the authors' writing, characters, and stories.  You never quite know what to expect when you pick up one of these books!  The first two novels were home runs for me all around; however...I found Probing was a little of a mixed bag.  A couple of the stories I absolutely LOVED, and they reminded me of why I was crazy about this series in the first place!  However, two of the other stories fell a bit flat.  It was as if the "mojo" was lost and instead of delivering more intense, supernatural thrillers, the stories just poked along, and I was struggling to see how they were relevant to the over-arching theme of the series.
 
And on the note of the general theme of the series, given that while there may only be three books in the series, there are actually twelve stories, and I'm rather eager to find out more about the mysterious "Gate" and who the anonymous benefactor of the team is?  I hope some strong hints and clues will be revealed in the next book to keep the theme running!
 
All in all, I'm still very much a HUGE fan of this series and am eagerly looking forward to the next book!
 
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

A Song Unheard

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/a-song-unheard/383720


Back Cover

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

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

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn't - that she must betray him and find that key, or her own family could pay the same price his surely has.

Review

This story gave me goosebumps!  But not in the creepy-I'm-so-scared-check-under-the-bed way, but in the this-story-is-amazing way!  I fell in love with Barclay Pearce's family of expert thieves in the first novel, A Name Known, and desperately hope there are many more novels to this series.  The adventures the characters face are filled with intrigue and danger and balanced out with the perfect blend of romance.
 
In A Song Unheard, Willa Forsythe is tapped by the mysterious Mr. V.  to locate and steal a cypher key to ensure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.  Willa is the more "prickly" of personalities in the family and very resistant to showing her true emotions.  However, despite her best intentions, when she meets the Casanova-type Lukas De Wilde, sparks immediately fly, and she finds it difficult to keep the walls around her heart from crashing down.  Their budding relationship made for a delightful romantic diversion, producing a few very "sigh-worthy" moments. 
 
As with the first novel, in A Song Unheard, I was enthralled with this intriguing story set during one of the most turbulent times in history.  The detailed research Ms. White puts into her novels does not go unnoticed as I felt transported into the story as if witnessing everything first hand.  From the culture and customs, war-time drama, etc., the setting was just terrific.   
 
Simply put, Ms. White's "Shadows over England" series is one not to be missed. 

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.