First Line Friday — A Heart Adrift

21 Jan

Happy Friday everyone! We were hoping to chase a little snow again this weekend, but the forecast has changed and it will just be really cold! At least for this southern girl. 😉 But it will still be great to snuggle up by the fireplace with a good book.

Today I am featuring A Heart Adrift, the newest novel by Laura Frantz. It looks delicious! The main character is a chocolatier after all! The cover is stunning too.

Here’s the first line:

With his back to the coastal wind, Henri Lennox settled his arms around Esmee Shaw, guiding her soft, pale hands with his tanned, callused fingers as they let the long silken line out.

A Virginia chocolatier and a privateering sea captain collide once more after a failed love affair a decade before. Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart? Or will a new shared vision reunite them?
It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old failed love affair from which she’s never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.

Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.

Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart, or can their shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past? Bestselling and award-winning author Laura Frantz whisks you away to a time fraught with peril–on the sea and in the heart–in this redemptive, romantic story.

Christy Award-winning author, Laura Frantz, is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. Proud of her heritage, she is also a Daughter of the American Revolution. When not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State. 

Readers can find Laura Frantz at http://www.laurafrantz.net

Book Review — The Edge of Belonging

20 Jan

My book club chose The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox for discussion this month. I am eager to find out what my group thought. I found this split time novel to be a poignant read that focuses on the importance of identity with a family unit — even if the family is very unconventional. This novel won 2 Christy Awards in 2021 — Book of The Year and Best Debut. It is very deserving. Find out all the details and my impressions below.

When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.

Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he’s ever loved.

In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth–both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others–takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.

Before becoming a stay-at-home parent, Amanda Cox spent her time counseling children, families, and individuals through life’s challenging moments. Now she uses those same skills to develop layered characters and stories, bringing them on a journey of hope and healing. A journey she hopes her readers experience in their own lives as they read.

A few of her favorite things are the sanctuary of the great outdoors, the feeling of pen on paper, the sound of her children’s laughter, and exploring new places with her husband of 15 years. (Oh, let’s not forget good fiction and good coffee. She’s addicted to both.) You can stay connected with her latest writing updates at http://www.amandacoxwrites.com. You can find her on social media by searching Amanda Cox Writes.

To get a free short story featuring characters from The Edge of Belonging visit: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/fuj7mlfd83

My Impressions:

The Edge of Belonging won two Christy Awards in 2021. It is easy to understand why — this book is excellent. This is a split time novel with a present day storyline and one that occurred 24 years before. The two are wonderfully interwoven as the reader discovers the secrets behind Ivy’s adoption. Family members all hold keys to the truth that at 24 she now wants to know. Yes this is a story of a child found and cherished, but also a story of the importance of identity, a deeply felt truth of being known and seen. The characters are all wonderful, but the two that stood out the most to me were Harvey and Pearl. The persistence each has in protecting and nurturing touched my heart. You may think that the book is all about Ivy, and her story is central to the novel. But all the characters are impacted by the confirmation that they belong. The truth of how God draws His children to Himself and adopts them is beautifully illustrated throughout the narrative. There are also themes of finding peace and acceptance. Not all situations resolve in a happy ending — this book doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of life — but I felt that the book ended with a rightness.

As you can probably tell from my ramblings that I found The Edge of Belonging not easy to describe. Just know that it is really, really, really good. 😉

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Happy Book Release — Medical Mystery

18 Jan

Join me in wishing Richard L. Mabry, MD a very happy book release day! His latest medical suspense novella, Medical Mystery is now available in paperback and on Kindle. Click HERE for a purchase link. All the details about the book are below.

When her phone rang, Diane Macklin wondered what her sister wanted now. Then, she heard that their mother was in the Emergency Room with a heart problem.

The doctor tending to her mother was Dr. Joe Adams, who was far from Diane’s idea of the family doctor. He had been alone since his first wife had died, and was apparently heaven-sent as a mate for Diane, if she could only get past the trauma of her previous near-miss at the altar.

The heart problem was hard to solve initially, the subsequent difficulty turned out to be murder, and affected the lives of both Diane and Joe.

Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mysteries with heart.” In addition to his medical books, he is the author of one non-fiction book, several novellas, and thirteen published novels. His novels have been finalists for the Carol Award, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, the Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Selah Award, and others.
He and his wife live in north Texas. In addition to regular efforts (thus far unsuccessful) to improve his golf game, he spends much of his time trying to convince his family that sitting at his desk staring into space does indeed represent work.

Top 10 Tuesday — 2021 Releases I Didn’t Read (Who is surprised!)

18 Jan

Every year I vow to read more from my TBR shelves, to be purposeful in the books I acquire. And every year total failure! I really have no self-control when it comes to books. The following are 2021 books still on my NetGalley shelves. I don’t even want to list those that are on my Kindle or my physical shelves.

For more bloggers who are big fat failures too didn’t meet their reading goals last year 😉 , check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 2021 Releases I Didn’t Read

The Chase by Lisa Harris

Dead Fall by Nancy Mehl

A Midnight Dance by Davidson Joanna Politano

The Nature of A Lady by Roseanna M. White

Paint And Nectar by Ashley Clark

The Paris Betrayal by James R. Hannibal

The Way It Should Be by Christina Suzann Nelson

Woman in The Shadows by Carrie Stuart Parks

A Woman of Words by Angela Hunt

First Line Friday — The Lady of Galway Manor

14 Jan

Happy Friday! Today I am sharing an upcoming release from Jennifer Deibel, a new-to-me author of historical romance. I received The Lady of Galway Manor, a novel set in Ireland during its War of Independence following WWI, from Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. It looks like an interesting read. Have you read other books by Jennifer Deibel?

Here’s the first line —

No one ever tells the truth about love.

In 1920, Annabeth De Lacy’s father is appointed landlord of Galway Parish in Ireland. Bored without all the trappings of the British Court, Annabeth convinces her father to arrange an apprenticeship for her with the Jennings family–descendants of the creator of the famed Claddagh Ring. 

Stephen Jennings longs to do anything other than run his family’s jewelry shop. Having had his heart broken, he no longer believes in love and is weary of peddling the “lies” the Claddagh Ring promises. 

Meanwhile, as the war for Irish independence gains strength, many locals resent the De Lacys and decide to take things into their own hands to display their displeasure. As events take a dangerous turn for Annabeth and her family, she and Stephen begin to see that perhaps the “other side” isn’t quite as barbaric and uncultured as they’d been led to believe–and that the bonds of friendship, love, and loyalty are only made stronger when put through the refiner’s fire.

Travel to the Emerald Isle for another poignant and romantic story from the enchanted pen of Jennifer Deibel.

Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher and freelance writer. Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic Magazine, and others. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona.

Book Review — Saving Mrs. Roosevelt

13 Jan

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt by Candice Sue Patterson is a WWII-era novel set on the home front. It introduces the SPARS — the women’s reserve for the U. S. Coast Guard — something I had never heard of! What a treat learning about another role for women in the war effort. All the details on the book, author, and my impressions are below.

Shirley Davenport is as much a patriot as her four brothers. She, too, wants to aid her country in the war efforts, but opportunities for women are limited. When her best friend Joan informs her that the Coast Guard has opened a new branch for single women, they both enlist in the SPARs, ready to help protect the home front.

Training is rigorous, and Shirley is disappointed that she and Joan are sent to separate training camps. At the end of basic training, Captain Webber commends her efforts and commissions her home to Maine under the ruse of a dishonorable discharge to help uncover a plot against the First Lady.

Shirley soon discovers nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust? Why do the people she loves want to harm the First Lady? With the help of Captain Webber, it’s a race against time to save Mrs. Roosevelt and remain alive.

Candice Sue Patterson studied at The Institute of Children’s Literature and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons in a restored farmhouse overtaken by books. When she’s not tending to her chickens, splitting wood or decorating cakes, she’s working on a new story. Candice writes Modern Vintage Romance — where the past and present collide with faith. For more on Candice and her books, visit http://www.candicesuepatterson.com.

My Impressions:

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt is very much a reflection of the time in which it is set — WWII. While some of the attitudes of the people of the time may seem a bit out-dated or downright bigoted, I liked that author Candice Sue Patterson created an authentic framework for the reader to experience. The historical details are a wonderful backdrop for the plot. The story line involves main character Shirley Davenport’s desire to make a difference in her world. An opportunity to join the newly formed SPARS, the women’s reserve of the Coast Guard, gives her the chance for adventure and purpose. But newly minted SPAR Shirley has to draw from inner resources to fight for her country. Shirley’s story becomes a mysterious and suspenseful journey into homegrown espionage. The roles of women are explored, as are racial prejudices, and the pro-Nazi sentiments of American citizens. This novel was packed! It also has some romance along with the dangerous twists and turns — there really is something for everyone!

I learned a lot from Saving Mrs. Roosevelt, while enjoying a suspense-filled reading ride. I loved the characters, the setting, and the plot. It earned a recommended rating from me.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Barbour Publishing for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Most Recent Additions

11 Jan

2022 is in full swing and I have some new books that have hit my shelves! The following books are the newest to take up residence. Many are review books — NetGalley copies and ARCs, so you’ll see my impressions in the coming weeks. I have also included 2 cookbook/entertaining books that I received for Christmas and am having so much fun with! Yes, I do have interests outside of reading fiction. 😉 Hope you find one that piques your interest.

For more bloggers’ recent acquisitions, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Newly Acquired Books

A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz

Jane And The Year Without Summer by Stephanie Barron

The Lady of Galway Manor by Jennifer Deibel

Life Flight by Lynette Eason

Malicious Intent by Lynn H. Blackburn

Medical Mystery by Richard Fabry

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews

Sunrise by Susan May Warren

Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book by Kristen Hoffman

Spectacular Spreads by Maegan Brown

Book Review: A Light on The Hill

10 Jan

I lead a Bible study/book club at my church. We discuss a scripture topic for 2-3 weeks and then we have a book club night in which we discuss a novel inspired by the particular Bible story/scripture/or character that we have studied. It’s a great way to combine a love of reading with the truths that form its foundation. This month we are looking at the Cities of Refuge as described in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua and discussing A Light on The Hill by Connilyn Cossette. Cossette’s book/series is what inspired me to explore this topic. Another reason to read Biblical fiction — an impetus to go deeper into God’s word. 🙂 All the details on the book and my thoughts are below.

Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.

Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. 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.

Connilyn Cossette is a Christy Award and Carol Award winning author whose books have been found on both ECPA and CBA bestseller lists. When she is not engulfed in the happy chaos of homeschooling two teenagers, devouring books whole, or avoiding housework, she can be found digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible to discover gems of grace that point to Jesus and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although she and her husband have lived all over the country in their twenty-plus years of marriage, they currently call a little town south of Dallas, Texas their home.

My Impressions:

A Light on The Hill is the first book in the Cities of Refuge series. While some of the characters were part of Cossette’s Out from Egypt series, it is not necessary to have read those books. Inspired by scripture found in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, the novel centers on Moriyah, a young unmarried Jewish woman who hides behind a veil and in the safety of her home after being branded by a Canaanite priest. Moriyah believes she has sheltered herself and her family from judgment and shame. This novel takes Moriyah on a journey of discovery as she seeks to flee danger. While some of her adventures seemed a bit far-fetched, they showed the culture, geography, and customs of Israel and Canaan following Israel’s conquest. I really liked the historical details that Cossette introduced, including the foods! Moriyah grows considerably during her trials and discovers that the only real refuge that can be trusted is within God’s care.

The Biblical message is strong, this is a Biblical novel after all. The law of Moses discussed in this book is interesting and pertaining to Moriyah’s circumstances, a bit foreign for a modern reader. But the Old Testament always points to Jesus, and this book’s depiction of the Cities of Refuge — their purpose and meaning — opened up a new understanding of Jesus as our spiritual refuge and his role as High Priest. There’s also romance and suspense that will appeal to the modern reader.

I very much enjoyed A Light on The Hill and look forward to discussing it with my book club. By the way, there are excellent discussion questions included.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Audiobook Mini-Review — Winter Solstice

7 Jan

Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher was the December/January selection for one of my book clubs. We opted to take a break in December and have 2 months to read the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook version. It was a nice accompaniment to holiday chores. I actually took a break from listening before Christmas and began anew after the New Year. It’s an easy book, but one with heartfelt moments. Recommended. (Please note: this is a general market novel containing some adult situations. By and large, I found it a clean read.)

In Winter Solstice Rosamunde Pilcher brings her readers into the lives of five very different people….

Elfrida Phipps, once of London’s stage, moved to the English village of Dibton in hopes of making a new life for herself. Gradually she settled into the comfortable familiarity of village life — shopkeepers knowing her tastes, neighbors calling her by name — still she finds herself lonely. 

Oscar Blundell gave up his life as a musician in order to marry Gloria. They have a beautiful daughter, Francesca, and it is only because of their little girl that Oscar views his sacrificed career as worthwhile. 

Carrie returns from Australia at the end of an ill-fated affair with a married man to find her mother and aunt sharing a home and squabbling endlessly. With Christmas approaching, Carrie agrees to look after her aunt’s awkward and quiet teenage daughter, Lucy, so that her mother might enjoy a romantic fling in America.

Sam Howard is trying to pull his life back together after his wife has left him for another. He is without home and without roots, all he has is his job. Business takes him to northern Scotland, where he falls in love with the lush, craggy landscape and set his sights on a house.

It is the strange rippling effects of a tragedy that will bring these five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan. 

It is in this house, on the shortest day of the year, that the lives of five people will come together and be forever changed. Rosamunde Pilcher’s long-awaited return to the page will warm the hearts of readers both old and new. Winter Solstice is a novel of love, loyalty and rebirth.

My Impressions:

I very much enjoyed Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher and found it to be a great choice for my December reading. While it really isn’t a Christmas book, meaning there is no faith message pointing to Christ’s birth, it is a book of new beginnings in the midst of a cold, dark winter. The setting is primarily Scotland in December, although there is back story for two of the main characters, Elfrida and Oscar, that takes place in the months leading up to the main part of the book. Pilcher did an excellent job in her description of the small Scottish town located near a firth (a narrow inlet of the sea). The weather is cold and snowy, the people are warm and cheery, and the characters find a home in the most unexpected place. I liked all of the characters. They were well-developed and came with unique sets of experiences, disappointments, and tragedies. However, Oscar was by far my favorite. His loss of faith and journey back to a sense of normalcy, and even contentment, was encouraging. The last scene of the book was expected, but it still brought a tear to my eyes. The themes of loss and second-chances are explored, and I found that I could relate to many of the characters’ struggles. The narration of the audiobook was good, and I soon became lost in the story.

Winter Solstice was recommended by someone who re-reads the book every December. Not sure if I would do that, but I did like the book very much and would recommend it to anyone.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

First Line Friday — Sunrise

7 Jan

Happy New Year! We are already a week into 2022, and I think I have my reading mojo back! While I still have a lot of things to do to catch up from the holidays, I am reading more and enjoying it. 🙂 Today I am featuring a book I’ll be reading in the next couple of weeks. It is a review book and a book club selection. Can’t wait to dig into Susan May Warren‘s newest novel, Sunrise. It has a lot going for it in my opinion — Alaska setting, first in a new series, written by Warren . . . 😉 .

Here’s the first line:

By the time Dodge got to the hospital, he’d already broken his first promise.

Pilot Dodge Kingston has always been the heir to Sky King Ranch. But after a terrible family fight, he left to become a pararescue jumper. A decade later, he’s headed home to the destiny that awaits him. 

That’s not all that’s waiting for Dodge. His childhood best friend and former flame, Echo Yazzie, is a true Alaskan–a homesteader, dogsledder, and research guide for the DNR. Most of all, she’s living a life Dodge knows could get her killed. One of these days she’s going to get lost in the woods again, and his worst fear is that he won’t be there to find her.

When one of Echo’s fellow researchers goes missing, Echo sets out to find her, despite a blizzard, a rogue grizzly haunting the woods, and the biting cold. Plus, there’s more than just the regular dangers of the Alaskan forests stalking her . . .

Will Dodge be able to find her in time? And if he does, is there still room for him in her heart?

Sunrise is the first explosive volume in a new nail-biting series from USA Today bestselling author Susan May Warren.