Sunday, 23 December 2018

An Hour Unspent

http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/an-hour-unspent/383730
 
Back Cover

With danger creeping ever closer, do their dreams still matter?
 
Once London's top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war, including keeping an eye on a talented engineer working as a clockmaker.  But not until he rescues the man's daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.
 
Evelina Manning has constantly dreamed and worked for independence, but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancĂ© to end their engagement and enlist in the army.  When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clock repair with her father, she can't help being interested.  But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.
 
As 1915 England plunges deeper into war, the race is on for any technological edge, and Evelina's father's ideas have captured the attention of many - perhaps too many.  As danger seems to encroach from every side, it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape.

Review

Roseanna M. White has quickly become one of my favourite authors.  She won me over with A Name Unknown, the beginning of her "Shadows Over England" series.  That novel was the introduction to Barclay Pearce and his family of thieves.  The first two novels in this series were of his sisters, Rosemary and Willa, and I was so excited for this novel - An Hour Unspent - to come out and tell the story of Barclay himself.  Other than knowing that he held a fierce love for his adopted siblings and is an excellent thief, Barclay's character and background always held a bit of a mystery.  An Hour Unspent peels back those layers and the result is as intriguing - albeit heart-breaking - as expected.  It's hard not to cheer for Barclay and that he be able to embrace his own sort of happy ending.  And it is his story that best concludes this wonderful series.
 
Set in a time when the world is in turmoil, the setting itself lends a healthy dose of tension and many possible avenues to introduce more than a few mysteries and dangerous situations. From the constant threat of zeppelin raids, to the ever-present worry if the person next to you is a spy, life in a time of war was not an easy feat.  It makes it hard to continue a life of normalcy when your windows are covered in black crepe and the presence of soldiers in the streets is a common occurrence.  And while living in these conditions would be hard enough for an ordinary citizen, Barclay goes one step further in enlisting in active service for the Crown.  His former skills as a thief come in handy on his various missions for the Crown, and he is ready to employ those skills yet again as he meets with Mr. Manning to investigate his latest invention that promises to greatly aid England in the war effort.  Throughout his various visits with Mr. Manning, he becomes more than intrigued by the clockmaker's lovely daughter, Evelina.  The attraction proves to be mutual, but before their relationship can take flight, someone goes missing under mysterious circumstances, and it is up to Barclay to launch a rescue mission on the other side of the battle lines before it is too late.
 
The combination of history, romance, and suspense collide in An Hour Unspent.  The plot is nothing short of intriguing and the romance can only be described as sweeping which result in a fantastic read.  I will be eagerly anticipating Ms. White's next work, The Number of Love, book one in her new series, "The Codebreakers", scheduled to come out in June 2019.

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




Hidden Peril

http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/hidden-peril/381550


Back Cover

The most dangerous enemy is the one who has nothing to lose.

As teenagers, Kristin Dane and her two best friends took a vow to make the world a better place.  Twenty years later, she's fulfilling that pledge through her fair trade shop that features products from around the world.  All is well until, one by one, people connected to the shop begin dying. 

Detective Luke Carter, new to the St. Louis PD, wants to know why.  Before he can answer that question, however, the FBI weighs in and Kristin suddenly finds herself in the middle of international intrigue - and in the sights of the ruthless mastermind behind an ingenious and deadly scheme.  Can this coldblooded killer be stopped before more people die...including Kristin?
 
Review
 
Sigh.  I love Irene Hannon's novels.  They are so good that one of the hardest tasks after finishing one of her books (other than sadly coming to terms with the fact that the story is over), is choosing another book to read.  Not much matches her level of expertise in writing romantic suspense.  So if you are looking for an expertly written suspense with a well-thought out plot and excellent characters, look no further than Hidden Peril.
 
Kristin Dane completed time in the peace corps, so she is no stranger to danger.  But what she doesn't expect is danger to come to her now - and especially in the terms of a murder, which happens right in her fair trade shop of all places!  It's baffling to her to consider what sort of intrigue or criminal intent could be intertwined to her and her shop.  And the crime doesn't stop with one murder - before long, another person is found dead, outside of her shop, but with a tenuous connection to her and WorldCraft all the same.  Even while she is usually someone who is calm under pressure, these events have her more than rattled, and beginning to wonder if her own life might be in danger as well. 
 
Detective Luke Carter is not only surprised by the mysterious events surrounding WorldCraft, but also by his strong attraction to Kristin.  While he does his best to keep a professional distance, his attraction makes it harder to keep a level head about the investigation as it becomes clear that a woman he cares about may become the killer's next target.  It's a race against time in a cat-and-mouse scenario that will end in a taut climax only Ms. Hannon can write.
 
Hidden Peril is thrilling ride that I finished reading in record time (it's amazing how much "extra time" one can find to read when they have an excellent book in their hands).  I thoroughly enjoyed the continuation of the "Code of Honour" series and look forward to the next story!


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

The Cost of Betrayal

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/the-cost-of-betrayal/390960


Back Cover

Faith will be tested.  Trust Shattered.

Three bestselling romantic suspense writers reunite for novellas of deadly betrayal.

Dee Henderson - "Betrayed"

After serving six years of a twenty-ear sentence for a murder she didn't commit, Janelle Roberts is finally freed.  But the truth is still waiting to be discovered, and a murderer is still at large.  Janelle needs to be somewhere safe with someone she can trust.  She may not survive another act of treachery.

Dani Pettrey - "Deadly Isle"

Tennyson Kent is trapped on the isolated island of her childhood by a storm surge, and she is shocked when the typically idyllic community turns into the hunting grounds of a murderer.  Cut off from any help from the mainland, will she and first love Callen Frost be able to identify and stop a killer before they become the next victims?

Lynette Eason - "Code of Ethics"

When Detective Isaac Martinez lands in the ER with a gunshot wound, he pulls through thanks to trauma surgeon Ruthie St. John.  But as the witness to a crime and possible corruption, Martinez is at risk from someone intent on silencing him - and those around him - forever.  When he barely survives another attack while recovering, both he and Ruthie must flee, trying to outrun deadly killers while locating the evidence they need to end the danger.

Review

What a smashing group of stories!  Arguably three of the current top ten writers of suspense, Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason come together to bring readers to the edge of their seats once again in three thrilling stories.
 
Dee Henderson kicks things off with "Betrayed".  Written in her typical style of detailed, thought-provoking, analytical writing, Ms. Henderson's favourite characters, Ann and Paul Falcon, stumble onto a murder case that was presumably wrapped up and finished years ago.  All it takes, however, is for one small piece of evidence to surface for Ann to wonder if there had been a miscarriage of justice.  Ann's justice-seeking nature is unwilling to let the matter rest until all stones have been overturned.  And while her suspicions prove correct, it could spell danger for Janelle Roberts, whose newfound lease on life may be cut short should the real killer decide to silence her once and for all  Consisting mainly of dialogue in this character driven plot, "Betrayed" is not as much of a nail-biter as some of Ms. Henderson's previous works, but the tension in this story is palatable, and I was never sure of how the story would end until I turned over the last page.

Dani Pettrey keeps the ball rolling with "Deadly Isle", as an island that was once seen as one of refuge, turns deadly for Tennyson Kent.  As the owner and of the founding family of Talbot, she has a higher duty than most to ensure the safety of every citizen on the island.  But the danger doesn't stop with the murder that occurs in the opening pages of the story.  Dangerous events and attacks ensue until it becomes clear that the killer has an additional target in mind.  Nearly every chapter in "Deadly Isle" ends on a cliff-hanger note, compelling the reader to read "one more chapter" to find out what happens next.  The inclusion of romance in this suspense was nicely done as it wasn't so much a budding love story as it was a re-kindling of a previous relationship, so as it didn't feel too forced or too fast.  As there were a number of different potential suspects, I really appreciated the fact that the ending tied up all the loose ends and left no question unanswered.
 
Lynette Eason arguably had the hardest job in closing out this three-story compilation on a high note.  Not surprisingly, she executes the job perfectly with "Code of Ethics".  A short story spin-off of her "Blue Justice" series, this novella follows Ruthie St. John, the "black sheep" if you will, of a family of law enforcement personnel.  Unlike her parents and siblings, she chose the medical field as a career option - and of course, works in the high-stress environment in the ER where anything can happen.  Still, she isn't quite prepared for when Detective Isaac Martinez comes into her care after a shootout.  It quickly becomes obvious that Isaac is the target of someone - or someones - as he harbours evidence that could put corrupt individuals away for a long time.  Ruthie is unwilling to let her injured patient, who is barely able to even walk without assistance, fight this battle on his own.  She is pulled into the fray and it becomes a race against time as they actively seek enough evidence for an arrest and stay alive at the same time.  This story was a white-knuckle of a ride and highly enjoyable.  After devouring the last page, I promptly checked out book one in Ms. Eason's "Blue Justice" series as I want to read more about the St. John family!
 
All in all, The Cost of Betrayal would make an excellent addition to any suspense reader's library.  Three very different stories which wonderfully exhibit each author's unique styles, The Cost of Betrayal compels the reader to keep reading long into the night...and leaves one hoping for another compilation of these wonderful suspense writers.

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

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The Best of Intentions

Cover Art

Back Cover

She swore to protecrt her nephew at any cost.  But what if that price is a chance at love?

In the aftermath of WWI, Grace Abernathy is determined to reunite her family, crossing an ocean to convince her widowed sister to return home to England.  Yet, in Toronto she dsicovers more tragedy - her nephew Christian in the custody of his paternal relatives, the formidable Easton family, who rejected Grace's sister because of her low social status.

Unconvinced the Eastons can be fitting caretakers, Grace uses an assumed name to secure the position of Christian's nanny and moves into the Easton estate.  There she can observe the family up close, while ensuring Christian's well-being.  In the course of her new role, she is shocked to find herself falling in love with Andrew Easton, the boy's guardian.  Unfortunately, Andrew is promised to a spoiled socialite who is sure to make a terrible stepmother for Christian.  Will Grace be able to protect her nephew...and her heart?
 
Review
 
Four months and one day ago, I became an auntie.  While I do not have children of my own, I do have a strong love towards my little niece and an innate desire to see that she is safe and protected.  Fortunately, I do not need to ever worry over her security and well-being over how she is being raised as my sister and brother-in-law are fantastic parents.  But all the same, I couldn't imagine what it would be like if my niece wasn't being raised in a loving, supportive, caring, and safe environment.  I do know that I, like Grace Abernathy in The Best of Intentions, would do absolutely everything in my power to ensure my little niece is cared for in the best way.
 
So, I can completely sympathize with the heroine in Susan Anne Mason's latest novel, which is a kickoff to the new series, "Canadian Crossings" (can I also pause and say that, as a Canadian, I'm really loving how this series is set in Canada?!).  But of course, whenever there's a decision or course of action taken that relies on a bit of deception, the successive events are bound to get a bit sticky and a bit messy...
 
Similarly to Ms. Mason's previous novel, A Most Noble Heir (SO good!), The Best of Intentions has its fair share of family drama, including more than one story of forbidden love.  Tensions are high, relationships are strained, and things get all tangled up into a big, messy knot that brings one to wonder how will everything get all straightened out??  Whew!  It's a roller coaster ride of emotions, and so entirely worth every second of it. 
 
I highly recommend this novel and will be eagerly anticipating the follow-up, The Highest of Hopes coming in March 2019!
 
 
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

River to Redemption

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/river-to-redemption/351080


Back Cover

One young woman must stand up for freedom - and perhaps find her own in the process.

Orphaned in the cholera epidemic of 1833, Adria Starr was cared for by a slave named Louis, a man who passed up the opportunity to escape his bondage and instead tended to the sick and buried the dead.  A man who, twelve years later, is being sold by his owners despite his heroic actions.

Now nineteen, Adria has never forgotten what Louis did for her.  She's determined to find a way to buy Louis's freedom.  But in 1840s Kentucky, she'll need all of the courage and strength she possesses - and more.

Review

What a compelling story!  Swept back to mid-1800s in the heart of Kentucky, Ann H. Gabhart brings to life a true story about a slave who cared for the sick and dying of the town of Springfield as cholera ravaged the area.  Louis single-handedly dug every grave to ensure that those who had passed on had a proper burial - something he certainly never was asked to do - nor was required to do.  But it was an action that I'm sure brought comfort to grieving family members and friends.  As the majority of those who hadn't fallen ill fled the town, Louis' actions are even more heroic as he risked fallen ill himself.
 
As with Ms. Gabhart's previous works, River to Redemption is full of rich, historical detail, deep, multi-faceted characters, and a moving storyline.  Her writing flows naturally and is lovely to read.  I have yet to be disappointed by one of Ms. Gabhart's works, and frankly, I don't think I ever will be.  Her "The Heart of Hollyhill" series is one of my absolute favourites (which I was also sad to see come to a close!).

As a sidenote, I really hope that there will be a sequel to River to Redemption.  The story of the epidemic and Adria's campaign for Louis's freedom may have concluded, but I feel as if Adria's story is just beginning.  So...pretty please can there be a sequel??  =)

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

Thursday, 11 October 2018

International Day of the Girl - Combatting Period Poverty


Today is the International Day of the Girl, and I'm going to divert from my regular book review posts to highlight some incredible work that is being fostered by Compassion Canada (a child sponsorship program that is very dear to my heart).  Did you know that in Uganda, girls will often trade sex in order to obtain sanitary napkins?  I was shocked when I learned this!  What is something we take for granted, others are forced to sell their bodies in order to obtain.  Fortunately, a local church, community, and Compassion project centre in Uganda are coming together to combat this period poverty - and empowering girls as a result.  You can read the incredible story about it here on Compassion Canada's blog.






Monday, 8 October 2018

Caught by Surprise


http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/caught-by-surprise/380090


Back Cover

After years of hiding her true nature, Miss Temperance Flowerdew is finally enjoying freedom outside of the shadow of her relations, so the lat thing she expected on her way to work was to be grabbed off the street by a stranger and put on a train bound for Chicago.

When Mr. Gilbert Cavendish is called upon to rescue a missing woman, he follows the trail to Chicago only to discover thyat the woman is his good friend, Temperance.  Before they can discoger who was behind her abduction, they're spotted along together by a New York society matron, putting their reputations at risk.

Even though Gilbert is willing to propose marriage, Temperance is determined not to lose her newfound independence.  But when the misunderstanding in Chicago escalates into a threat on her life, accepting Gilbert's help in solving the mystery may lead to more than she ever could have dreamed.

Review

In her typical lighthearted, quick-witted style, Jen Turano has written another fun read.  My only disappointment was discovering this was the third in a series, "Apart from the Crowd", so I've missed reading the first two installments!  Overall, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story.  

Similar to her previous works, Caught by Surprise has characters that do not take themselves too seriously, always seek to find the humour in every situation, and the friends depicted therein are friends for life.  These are very "feel-good" aspects that I greatly appreciate!  But also added to this particular story is the element of intrigue with the inclusion of a kidnapping, murderous attempts, spies, and mysteries galore.  The author pulls out more than one surprise that kept me guessing to the very end.  A very good and highly enjoyable read!


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

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/the-reckoning-at-gossamer-pond/387100


Back Cover

For over a century, the town of Gossamer Grove has thrived on its charm and Midwestern values, but Annalise Forsythe knows painful secrets, including her own, hover just beneath the pleasant facade.  Yet her strange and sudden inheritance of a run-down trailer home - full of pictures, vintage obituaries, and old revival posters - leaves her wholly unprepared for how truly dark and deadly those secrets may be.

A century earlier, Gossamer Grove is stirred into chaos by the arrival of controversial and charismatic twin revivalists.  The chaos takes a murderous turn when Libby Sheffield, while working at her father's newspaper, receives an obituary for a reputable church deacon hours before his death.  As she works with the deacon's son to solve the crime, it becomes clear that a reckoning has come to town - but it isn't until another obituary arrives at the paper that they realize the true depths of the danger they've waded into.

Two women, separated by a hundred years, must unravel the mysteries of their own town before it's too late and they lose their future - or their very souls.

Review

So, so good.  Truly, this book was excellent!  I became a big fan of Jaime Jo Wright after reading her debut novel, The House on Foster Hill, whereby she combined the past and the present into a thrilling mystery.  This form of writing appears to be becoming her signature style as The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond follows the same premise.

In 1907, deadly intrigue is at the forefront of this particular story as a small town, which has already been sent reeling with the arrival of twin revivalists - the Corbin brothers - now has to come to turns with the sudden death (and apparent suicide) of Deacon Greenwood.  Libby Sheffield has her doubts with the determination of suicide as she received a mysterious obituary for Deacon Greenwood foretelling his death.  As troubling events continue to unfurl, which seemingly involve the Corbin brothers, and which events are  leaving more questions than answers, Libby finds herself in the thick of things and worried that her own deadly secret could come to light.

Fast forward to present day, and Annalise Forsythe also finds herself in mysterious circumstances with the inheritance of a run-down trailer full of pictures of herself and historical events about the town.  The last thing Annalise wants is her carefully concealed history made public, but she soon realizes that her past may be the key to the intrigue surrounding Gossamer Pond.  But the answer does not only lie in her past, but in the town's history, forcing her to work with people she doesn't even want to be in the same room with.  The only thing for certain is that if Annalise has to throw back the veil on her own secrets, she will ensure that everyone's secrets will also be revealed.

This was a thrilling read (be sure to leave a light on if diving into this novel at night!) full of twists and turns that kept me guessing to the very end.  I highly recommend this book for those who love a good mystery!





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

Little Women (Movie)


https://www.littlewomenthemovie.com/


Review

I was so excited to learn that Little Women was being remade.  I loved the original film and novel, and it was with great expectations that I sat down to watch this new version about four close-knit sisters with huge imaginations and even bigger hearts.  I was not disappointed!
 

The filmmakers have done an excellent job of setting this beloved classic in current times while still capturing the innocence and lightheartedness of its predecessor, as well as showcasing all four March girls' personalities in their truest form.  Jo is as outspoken and imaginative as ever, Meg is bashful yet still tries to fit in with the crowd, Beth still has the heart of gold and is the peacekeeper of the bunch, and Amy is the precocious youngest sister, brimming with artistic talent, and just wants to be like her other sisters.  Their mother, fondly called "Marmee", is the glue to their family while their beloved Papa is fighting overseas.


Little Women was perfectly cast and full of great acting talent.  I laughed (many, many times), through the hilarious moments, sighed at the tender ones, and cried through the difficult scenes.  It is tender and touching and completing heartwarming.  I highly recommend this film (mother-daughter and/or sisters theatre date!) and honestly cannot wait to wait it again!


To check out the movie's FB page, follow the link here.  And to view the trailer, simply watch the YouTube clip below. 




Screening provided by Graf-Martin Communications and Pure Flix.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

God Bless the Broken Road (Movie)

http://www.godblessthebrokenroad.com/

Review

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to review this movie.  God Bless the Broken Road revolves around a young mother trying to provide for and raise her young daughter the best she can after the loss of her beloved husband on a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  His death not only puts her in dire financial straits, but it also shatters her faith to the point she no longer goes to church and her heart is so angry towards God.  The strain of her circumstances also takes a toll on her relationship with her daughter and prevents her from moving forward in life until certain events happen that push her towards the road of recovery - and regaining her faith in the Lord.

Heartfelt and a definite tearjerker, God Bless the Broken Road is a wonderful family-friendly movie (for older children due to some battle scenes) that exemplifies how important faith is when we pass through difficult circumstances in our lives.  Faith grounds us so peace can enter in and hope can spring out.  I enjoyed this movie - it made me laugh at a few moments, and it made me cry.  Its message of faith is one that should be viewed by many, and I would highly recommend this film.






Film has been provided courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

The 49th Mystic


http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/the-49th-mystic/386320


Back Cover
 
Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago.  Still others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams.
 
They are wrong.
 
In the small town of Eden, Utah, a blind girl named Rachelle Matthews is about to find out just how wrong.
 
When a procedure meant to restore Rachelle's sight goes awry, she begins to dream of another world so real that she wonders if Earth might be only a dream experienced when she falls asleep in that reality.
 
She is the prophesied one who must find and recover five ancient seals - in both worlds - before powerful enemies destroy her.  If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign.  If she fails, both worlds will forever be locked in darkness.
 
So begins a two-volume saga of high stakes and a mind-bending quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity.  The clock is ticking:  the end rushes forward.
 
Ready?  Set?  Dream.
 
Review
 
It's been a loooong time since last read the riveting "Circle" series when the world was first introduced to Thomas Hunter, the man who slept on Earth and dreamed in another time and place - the land of the Scabs, Roush, and Shataiki.  A land where you had to die to truly live.  A place in which the battle between good and evil was very real.  It was a thrilling series, and if you have not read it yet, I highly recommend you do so!  So, it was with great anticipation that I awaited for The 49th Mystic in order to return back to this world.  Overall, I was not disappointed. 
 
As there are two "Earths", there are two parallel stories, and both were equally exciting.  It did take me a few chapters to get into the story(ies) as there was a lot of laying the groundwork so readers who are not familiar with the Circle series would be comfortable diving into this book right away.  But once the story was underway, the suspense ramped up quickly, and I couldn't devour the pages fast enough.  Saturday morning last week I literally had to just sit down and read until the book was finished - I couldn't put it down! 
 
Aside from the action packed scenes, there was a lot of meaty, heavy dialogue in the book.  At times it felt like a theological discourse in an abstract sort of way (think Jesus' parables) as Rachelle learns about the gravity of her mission, and the message she is to share with the world.  The dialogue was thought-provoking, and not something one could easily skim over.
 
I'm super happy to have had this opportunity to dive back into the Circle, and I truly cannot wait for the sequel!


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

A Chance at Forever

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/a-chance-at-forever/378310
 
Back Cover

Determined to protect the children of Teaville, Kansas, from the bullying she experienced as a child, Mercy McClain finds fulfillment working at the local orphanage and serving on the school board.  When Aaron Firebrook, the worst of her childhood bullies, petitions the board for a teaching position, she`s dead set against his getting the job.
 
Aaron knows he deserves every bit of Mercy`s mistrust, but he`s returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking the forgiveness of those he wronged.  He doesn`t expect Mercy to like him, but surely he can prove he now has the children`s best interests at heart.
 
Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron overcome the past in time to battle the threats against the future of the town`s orphans?

Review

I was quite excited to dive back into the "Teaville Moral Society" series, having enjoyed the debut novel, A Heart Most Certain.  The newest novel in the series follows the tradition of a heartwarming romance carried by wonderful characters. 

There was one slight departure in this story, however, by the inclusion of a darker element: bullying.  Bullying is something that has become highlighted more and more in society today as with the advance of technology so has the means and opportunities of bullying increased.  (I'm not saying technology is bad - just that some misuse it to harm others, which is aggravating and disappointing to say the least.)  But no matter the means or time period, bullying always has and always will leave a strong mark on the victims of it.  Everyone has a duty to step up and speak out if they see someone being bullied to ensure that the practice is not endorsed in any way, shape or form. 

In the story, Mercy became the target of bullying because of a physical disfigurement.  Her main tormentor was Aaron Firebrook, which made me rather curious how the author, Melissa Jagears, would be able to turn him into a romantic love interest for Mercy.  How can one erase years of hurt and pain?  However, Melissa did the impossible and deftly pulled it off.  She crafted a wonderful and believable relationship between Mercy and Aaron that allowed Mercy to live up to her name, all the while pointing to the true source of grace and forgiveness - Jesus. 

Postscript:  Generally, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a Christian romance to high-school teen girls.  However, the bullying aside, there was an inclusion of another dark element to this book that would make me hesitate recommending it even to high-school aged children: sexual abuse against children.  Perhaps it would be best to have a parent read the novel first before deciding whether or not to allow their child to read it.


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

A Most Noble Heir

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/a-most-noble-heir/388930


Back Cover

When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered.  Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl's heir, Nolan will be forbidding to marry beneath his station.
 
Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope - believing once their marriage is sanctioned by God that Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union.  However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between his dreams for tomorrow and his father's demanding expectations.
 
Forces work to keep the couple apart at every turn, and a solution to remain together seems farther and farther away.  With Nolan's new life pulling him irrevocably away from Hannah, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.

Review

I really enjoyed this read!  The main characters are two honourable and extremely likeable people that make you yearn for their happy ever after as much as they do.  Nolan is a hardworking young man who wants to be able to look after his mother and sweetheart through his own means.  His dream is to become a farmer and raise a family.  But once his employer discovers that Nolan is his son, his dreams are thwarted at every turn as Lord Stainsby does everything in his power to mould Nolan into a nobleman's son - a son worthy to be called his own.
 
But Nolan is more like his father that anyone realizes.  For Nolan is stubborn, wilful, and at times, a bit rash.  And he will do everything in his power to ensure that he lives the life he desires - no matter the cost.
 
To describe this book in one word would be: riveting.  I had the most difficult time putting this one down!  Jane Austen and Julie Klassen fans alike will appreciate A Most Noble Heir.  This period drama is chock full of family tensions and secrets, long-held desires, and spurned affections.  Just when you think matters are going well, another twist and turn are thrown into the mix that sends the characters into a tailspin.  It was truly an excellent read - particularly how through it all, the characters learn to look God for direction, and cease leaning on their own strength.
 
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

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.

Cold Water


http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/coldwater/381240

Back Cover
 
The vigilantes behind him are nothing compared to the enemy within.
 
Having forfeited his youth to the state prison system, Michael moved back to the still vacant house of his parents in a town with on stoplight.  A town that hated him.  Had always hated him.  And was ready to pick up where the prison system had left off.
 
Now he's on the run from men who've tried to kill him once; but Michael is more than an ex-con.  A powerful, sinister force skulks within him, threatening and destructive.  What--and who--it will destroy next is the only real question.
 
Review
 
Cold Water is an interesting tale.  To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this story.  On the one hand, it is suspenseful and spine-tingling as promised.  But it is also dark.  Similarly to Purgatory Road, there are elements to the story that left me somewhat confused as to why this book is coming from a Christian publishing company.  Frankly, I couldn't find any Christian elements in this book.  Other than the messages of forgiveness and mercy (along with the dark, thematic, supernatural elements), the story is missing the true source of hope and mercy - Jesus.  Cold Water leads readers to believe that just man himself can shrug off our inner darkness - our sin.  But what Christians know to be true - from what we read in the Bible - we know that is not the case. Only Jesus has the power to bring us to true repentance, save us from the bondage of sin, and grant eternal life.
 
Aside from misgivings about the spirituality of the novel, from a strict literary point of view, Cold Water does a great job of grabbing hold of the reader from the opening scene (which is very creepy and very effective!), not letting them go until the final word.  It is a taut, suspenseful journey that dives deep into exploring dark, human motives, and yet ends on a thread of hope.  There's no question that Samuel Parker can write good suspense novels.


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

Saturday, 3 February 2018

A Dangerous Legacy

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/a-dangerous-legacy/382500


Back Cover

Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code and has made herself a valuable asset to the Associated Press news agency.  But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk.  Colin is talented, handsome, insufferably charming - and keeping a secret that jeopardizes his reputation.
 
Despite their rivalry, Lucy can't deny that Colin has the connections she needs to give her family an edge in the long legal battle they've been waging over their rightful inheritance.  But when she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, the web of treachery they dive into proves to be far more dangerous than they ever could have known.

Review

What another great historical novel by Elizabeth Camden!  I'm always amazed by the depth of her research that she puts into each of her novels.  She picks such interesting topics to expound upon that it's like getting a history lesson at the same time (but in a good way!).  In A Dangerous Legacy, she expounds upon the rivalry between the Associated Press and Reuters, carrier pigeons, the world of telegraphs, insane asylums (believe it or not!), and Panama Canal.  She masterfully weaves all these different facets together to create a story that is immensely fascinating and difficult to put down. 
 
As for the characters, Lucy is a spunky girl with a lot of pluck and determination.  She has a razor-sharp focus on winning a long-standing family court battle so that justice can be accomplished.  Her fierce devotion to her brother as well as her quick wit, has endeared her as one of my favourite heroines to date. 
 
Colin is an affable British fellow who is tenacious and goal driven with his eyes firmly set on marrying a wealthy heiress to bring his family estate out of disrepair.  He truly has a "nose" for news, and enjoys reading the newspaper front to back - including the cricket scores.  I loved the fact that he raises carrier pigeons as it added a wonderful aspect to the story.
 
Together, Lucy and Colin make a smashing pair, trading insults, and are equally matched in their determination for their own pursuits.  As circumstances take dangerous turns, they are forced into an alliance that tests their budding friendship.  I greatly enjoyed reading their story and am looking forward to Lucy's brother's story, A Daring Venture - hopefully coming out soon!

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

The House on Foster Hill

http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/the-house-on-foster-hill/386910


Back Cover

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death.  When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious demise fell on deaf ears.  In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather`s Wisconsin hometown.  But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision.  And when the house`s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.
 
A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe.  When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity.  Ivy`s search leads her into dangerous waters, resurrecting painful memories and forcing a reunion with the man who broke her heart.  Can Ivy unravel the mystery and find a renewed hope before any other lives - including her own - are lost?
 
Review
 
A new author on the scene, Jaime Jo Wright, blasted through my expectations with a spine-tingling mystery.  Jaime has deftly written two tales that cross time periods with the "house on Foster Hill" bridging the gap.  There is plenty of drama, loads of intrigue, and many interesting characters fleshing out this story.  And because there are two stories, it also means double the romance - a huge win in my books!

When you first start reading, don't despair: the story may start as a slow simmer, but it gradually builds tension to an out-of-nowhere climax that explodes across the pages like a firecracker at a Fourth of July picnic.  Ivy lends herself as a complex character whereby grief and hopelessness weigh heavy on her shoulders.  Similarly, Kaine, struggles with feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and her own grief as she attempts to make a new life for herself, as well as atone for her past actions.  Combined, the two leading ladies also show courage and determination in getting to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the house on Foster Hill.

The House on Foster Hill is a novel not to be missed.  It has made my favourites list, and is one of the few stories I will definitely be reading again.


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