First Line Friday — A Christmas in The Alps

24 Sep

Happy Friday! It’s fall, y’all! While many people are polishing their pumpkins and sipping cider or spiced lattes, I begin my Christmas reading. It’s never too early for a little Christmas cheer, right? This week I am featuring the first of my Christmas reads, A Christmas in The Alps. What better way to kick off the season with a Melody Carlson novella.

When do you start your Christmas reading?

Here’s the first line:

Simone Winthrop knew all about loss.

After a time of heartache and loss, Simone Winthrop discovers a tantalizing letter from her French great-grandmother, which seems to suggest that she is heir to a family treasure. Ever practical, Simone assumes the claim is baseless, but her best friend encourages her to find out for sure. Despite her deep-rooted fear of flying, Simone boards a jet to travel to Paris at Christmastime to uncover the truth.

During the long flight, Simone meets the charming Kyle Larsson, who’s on his way to France to become an apprentice clockmaker. Though they abruptly part ways, an unexpected rendezvous in the French Alps at Simone’s family’s clock factory may lead to the discovery of the family treasure . . . and so much more.

For anyone who is wearying of staying home, Melody Carlson invites you to spend Christmas with her in the beautiful French Alps this year. So pull on your mittens, tie your scarf tight, and prepare yourself for a magical mountain holiday.

Spotlight — Shadows at Nightfall

23 Sep

Shadows at Nightfall JustRead Blog Tour
Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Quest of Fire: Shadows at Nightfall by Brett Armstrong, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Shadows at NightfallTitle: Shadows at Nightfall
Series: Quest of Fire #3
Author: Brett Armstrong
Publisher: Scrivenings Press
Release Date: September 2021
Genre: Christian Epic Fantasy

The shadows of Jason’s past have caught him. Having stepped into the Quest of Fire, Jason is pursued by a league of assassins formed of pure darkness. To his horror he discovers these creatures also were contracted to eliminate Anargen and his friends as they sought to understand the Tower of Light’s oracle. To unravel the mystery of who wants him dead and how he fits into the ages old quest, Jason must travel the lengths of the Lowlands. In the Ziljafu deserts a secret awaits him that will shake him to his core. He’ll have to move fast and cling fiercely to hope, as Anargen’s story twists down a bleak path to almost certain failure.

The creatures of darkness in the Lowlands have long waited for men to spurn the High King’s laws. With few concerned for the light and everything falling apart around them, Jason and Anargen will face the shadows of night’s falling as their world hangs in the balance.


There was a faint crunching sound from the corridor at Jason’s back.

It could just be bits of rubble continuing to collapse. Try as he might, he couldn’t accept that explanation and dashed over to the darkest corner of the room. There he collapsed beside the feet of the statue. He needed to catch his breath and think and, most of all, stay out of sight.

The crunching sound grew louder and was accompanied by the ring of boots against the stone floor. A moment later, a figure entered the room.

A man of average height and build was about all Jason could make out from his position. He watched, holding his breath as the man stalked over to the back of the chamber and looked around.

In a voice thickly laced with the Zilnian accent, he called out, “I know you are here, Landsby. You may not realize it, but this is the throne room of Tislatna’s final Primus, Zilos.”

His chuckle was quiet but sinister. “Many find themselves drawn to this audience chamber. His mummified remains exude a potent aura. A dark one. Primus Zilos was the first to discover the power of shadows and found the Sombra.”

The man drifted back into an area almost too dark for Jason to see. He flipped up a hood and ceased to be altogether. His voice, now incorporeal but all the more menacing, echoed in the chamber. “You are foolish to believe the dark will conceal you.”

Jason’s heart hammered in his chest. It was the only sound he could hear. He balled up as tight as he could as he perceived the room growing progressively colder.

Think, Jason, think. You’ve got to hold it together and find a way out.

There was a sudden swirl like mist or sand in front of Jason. A hand materialized and jerked him upwards to stare into the Sombra’s grey face with its milky eyes. 

“We are the dark.”

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | BookBub



Brett Armstrong

Brett Armstrong has been exploring other worlds as a writer since age nine. Years later, he still writes, but now invites others along on his excursions. He’s shown readers haunting, deep historical fiction (Destitutio Quod Remissio), scary-real dystopian sci-fi (Day Moon and Veiled Sun), and dark, sweeping epic fantasy (Quest of Fire). Every story is a journey of discovery and an attempt to be a brush in the Master Artist’s hand. Through dark, despair, light, joy, and everything in between, the end is always meant to leave his fellow literary explorers with wonder and hope. Always busy with a new story, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and spending time with his wife and son.

CONNECT WITH BRETT: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


(2) winners will receive a $10 Amazon gift card, print copy of Shadows at Nightfall, and Quest of Fire digital exclusives (map, theme music, and digital making of the direnoir poster)!

Shadows at Nightfall JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway will begin at midnight September 20, 2021 and last through 11:59 PM EST on September 27, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Book Review — The Barrister And The Letter of Marque

22 Sep

I loved Todd M. Johnson‘s contemporary suspense novels, so when I saw he had a new release set in Regency England I knew I needed to read it. It was great! A well-told mystery with wonderful historical details, The Barrister And The Letter of Marque gets a highly recommended rating from me. My interview with Johnson is HERE.

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—-the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

Todd M. Johnson is the author ofthree legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction(2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.


My Impressions:

Todd M. Johnson’s contemporary suspense novels checked all the boxes for me — complex legal wrangling, underdog characters to cheer for, and page-turning mystery. I found all that and more in his newest novel, The Barrister And The Letter of Marque. This historical mystery set in Regency England features a clever barrister with a reputation for creativity in the courtroom. Barrister William Snopes and his colleagues take on a case of piracy involving a missing Letter of Marque from the Crown. Mysterious and highly influential people in society seem to be behind the case, and Snopes must uncover their identities before it’s too late for his client.

I found the legal aspects of The Barrister And The Letter of Marque fascinating. This is not a modern-day setting with Miranda rights and presumption of innocence. Johnson does a great job of bringing the 19th century English judicial system to life. Sleeping jurors, a hostile judge, and all the weight of the Crown join together to make Snopes’ job next to impossible. I loved how the characters had to use their wits and experience without modern forensics and communication. I think this is one of the reasons I could not put this book down. Another reason was the view of British society of the time — both the glittering ballrooms and the back alleys. The reader sees the veneer and the underbelly. Of course, the characters were wonderfully drawn — main and secondary. I loved how the author included historical figures in the novel, making me use my Google search and ponder the what-ifs of their stories. Barrister Snopes is a character to love — earnest and sincere with a heart that is both tender and calloused. His story is unfinished, hinting at more to come. I can’t wait!

If you are a fan of courtroom drama, historical details, and a complex story, then The Barrister And The Letter of Marque is the book for you. While set in an earlier era, the book will definitely appeal to fans of Sherlock Holmes (books and TV series/movies). I am passing this book on to my husband, a fan of all things British mystery. Can’t wait to hear his thoughts.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Bethany House/NetGalley for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Fall TBR

21 Sep

Happy Tuesday! After a few challenging TTT topics, I am relieved to have an easy one — Fall 2021 TBR. I can always come up with lots of books that I will be reading soon. As always I have a mix of genres, so you can find a book to suit your tastes or whims. Let me know if any books on my list made yours.

For more Fall TBR lists, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 Books on My Fall TBR List

A Christmas in The Alps by Melody Carlson

Deadly Target by Elizabeth Goddard

Everywhere to Hide by Siri Mitchell

In The Shadow of Your Wings by JP Robinson

Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon

The London House by Katherine Reay

Out of The Water by Ann Stewart

Point of Danger by Irene Hannon

A Season on The Wind by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

First Line Friday — Memories of Glass

17 Sep

Happy Friday! Today I am featuring this month’s book club selection, Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson. Dobson is a must-read author for me. I love how she uses dual timeline stories to present a whole message. If you’ve read this book I’d love to know your thoughts.

Here’s the first line:

Brilliant color flickered across her canvas of wall.

Reminiscent of Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, this stunning novel draws from true accounts to shine a light on a period of Holland’s darkest history and bravest heroes.

1942. As war rips through the heart of Holland, childhood friends Josie van Rees and Eliese Linden partner with a few daring citizens to rescue Eliese’s son and hundreds of other Jewish children who await deportation in a converted theater in Amsterdam. But amid their resistance work, Josie and Eliese’s dangerous secrets could derail their friendship and their entire mission. When the enemy finds these women, only one will escape.

Seventy-five years later, Ava Drake begins to suspect that her great-grandfather William Kingston was not the World War II hero he claimed to be. Her work as director of the prestigious Kingston Family Foundation leads her to Landon West’s Ugandan coffee plantation, and Ava and Landon soon discover a connection between their families. As Landon’s great-grandmother shares the broken pieces of her story, Ava must confront the greatest loss in her own life―and powerful members of the Kingston family who will do anything to keep the truth buried.

Illuminating the story and strength of these women, award-winning author Melanie Dobson transports readers through time and place, from World War II Holland to contemporary Uganda, in this rich and inspiring novel.

Writing fiction is Melanie Dobson‘s excuse to explore abandoned houses, travel to unique places, and spend hours reading old books and journals. The award-winning author of almost thirty books, Melanie enjoys stitching together both time-slip and historical stories including The Curator’s DaughterMemories of Glass, and the Legacy of Love novels ( Five of her novels have received a Carol Award for historical fiction, Catching the Wind‘s audiobook won the 2018 Audie for Inspirational Novel, and The Black Cloister was ForeWord’s Book of the Year for Religious Fiction. Her next time-slip novel, The Winter Rose, comes out in January 2022. 

Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with Jon’s work, the Dobson family has finally settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to travel and hike in both the mountains and the cliffs above the Pacific. When Melanie isn’t writing, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, dancing, and reading stories with her girls. 

More information about Melanie and her books is available at her website ( or at the following social media platforms:

Top 10 Tuesday — Numbers in Book Titles

14 Sep

Happy Tuesday! Numbers in Titles was a TTT topic almost 2 years ago (here’s my post). I wasn’t sure I could come up with 10 different titles, but I took that challenge. Included in this list is a book with Number in the title too. 😉 With the variety in genres, I hope you find a book to pique your interest.

For more Top 10 Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books with A Number in The Title

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

Two Steps Forward by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Three by Ted Dekker

Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson

Death of A Six-Foot Teddy Bear by Sharon Dunn

The Lights on Tenth Street by Shaunti Feldhahn

Twelve Days at Bleckly Manor by Michelle Griep

2021 Carol Award Winners!

11 Sep

Congratulations to the talented authors who are this year’s winners of the ACFW Carol Award. I hope your TBR wishlist just got longer! 😉

2021 Carol Award Winners


The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser; Bethany House (Baker) Publishing; Editor: L. B. Norton


Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green; Bethany House (Baker) Publishing; Editors: Dave Horton and Rochelle Gloege

Historical Romance

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette; Bethany House (Baker) Publishing; Editors: Raela Schoenherr and Jennifer Veilleux


Dead End by Nancy Mehl; Bethany House (Baker) Publishing; Editors: Raela Schoenherr and Jean Bloom


Far as the Curse is Found (from The Joy to the World Collection) by Amanda Barratt; Kregel Publications; Editors: Janyre Tromp and Dori De Vries Harrell


Love and A Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray; Bethany House (Baker) Publishing; Editor: Raela Schoenherr

Romantic Suspense

Lost Down Deep by Sara Davison; ACFW QIP (Qualified Independently Published); Editors: Ines Jimenez and Deb Elkink

Short Novel

The Christmas Bargain by Lisa Carter; Love Inspired (Harlequin); Editor: Melissa Endlich


Stealing Embers by Julie Hall; ACFW QIP (Qualified Independently Published); Editors: Rebecca Heyman and Janelle Leonard

Young Adult

Mortal Sight by Sandra Fernandez Rhoads; Enclave Publishing; Editors: Steve Laube and Lisa Laube

Debut Author

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green; Bethany House (Baker) Publishing; Editors: Dave Horton and Rochelle Gloege

First Line Friday — The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery

10 Sep

Happy Friday! Tonight I was supposed to be winging my way to a western vacation. Some health issues (not Covid) are causing a bit of a delay, but we will hopefully be in the air come Sunday night. I am all packed and ready, so what to do? Read! I am reading my book club’s selection, Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson, right now. After that comes The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery. Amanda Cox is a new-to-me author, and I look forward to reading this book.

Here’s the first line:

Sarah nudged aside last night’s puddle of clothes with her bare foot, the exposed designer label sticking out a bit too much.

Present Day.

After tragedy plunges her into grief and unresolved anger, Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home determined to finally follow her long-denied dream of running Old Depot Grocery alongside her mother and grandmother. But when she arrives, her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that the store is closing. Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a pact to save the store, but Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons — but she’ll certainly never reveal the real one.


Glory Ann confesses to her family that she’s pregnant with her deceased fiancé’s baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve the family reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.

This dual-timeline story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of a mother-daughter dynamic, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.

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 You can find her on social media by searching Amanda Cox Writes.

Book Review: Under The Bayou Moon

9 Sep

Valerie Fraser Luesse has done it again! Each successive book by her has been my new favorite. I have another one in Under The Bayou Moon, a post-WWII historical novel that fully captured a wonderful place in America. All the details on the book and my thoughts are below.

Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She’s soon teaching just about everyone–and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.

Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.

A master of the Southern novel, Valerie Fraser Luesse invites you to enter the sultry swamps of Louisiana in a story that illuminates the struggle for the heart and soul of the bayou.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the author of four novels set in the South: Christy Award winner Missing Isaac (2018), Almost Home(2019), The Key to Everything (2020), and the upcoming Under the Bayou Moon (August 2021), all published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. An award-winning magazine writer, Luesse is perhaps best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she wrote major pieces on the Mississippi Delta, Acadian Louisiana, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on the recovering Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, photographed by Mark Sandlin, won the 2009 Travel Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Auburn University and Baylor University, respectively. She is a native of Harpersville, Alabama, and lives in Birmingham, where she is the senior travel editor for Southern Living. Find her online at; and

My Impressions:

Valerie Fraser Luesse is a masterful writer of Southern historical fiction. Focusing on the middle years of the 20th century, her books bring to life the paradoxes of the South. The power of community is a strong theme in her books, but she does not shy away from the prejudices and injustices that plagued the part of America that claims my heart. In her newest novel, Under the Bayou Moon, Luesse travels back to post-WWII Cajun country. I am a big fan of Louisiana — it is one of my favorite places to visit, and I felt like I was set right down in the midst of small town Bernadette with its loving, fiercely independent, and thorougly cajun/creole residents. Bernadette is in Bayou country — houses are on stilts on the edge of the swampy inlets, adults and children get to town, work, and school via fishing boats and pirogues. I can’t say it enough. Luesse brought the place and time to life for this reader. The story of Ellie and Raphe, an Alabama schoolteacher and a cajun fisherman, is charming. The two are characters I came to love and will never forget. There’s romance, suspense, danger, and a bit of magic involved in their story. If you ever visit the bayou, I promise you will be on the lookout for a white alligator! 😉 Luesse does not sugarcoat the history of the region, however. The plan to rid Louisiana from the cajun culture was real. I’m just glad that as in the book, the politicians did not succeed!

Filled with all the flavor of a very special region, Under The Bayou Moon is a must-read. I loved it all — the beautifully detailed setting, the endearing characters, and the uncovering of an important history. This book is very highly recommended!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Smiling Faces

7 Sep

Happy Tuesday! Today I am taking this week’s Top 10 topic and putting a spin on it — big surprise. LOL! The books I am featuring have smiling faces on their covers. Do you know how hard it is to find book covers with full on faces, let alone those that are smiling? There are plenty of covers with the backs of heads and others in which the models look determined or pensive or something other than happy. I picked books that I have reviewed and went a ways back in the archive. There are full on smiles, plenty of hints of a smile a la the Mona Lisa, and a couple of smirks. 😉 I hope you find a cover and a book to love.

For books that make us smile, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Covers with Smiling Faces

Above The Fold by Rachel Scott McDaniel

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

For The Love of Joy by Janet W. Ferguson

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade

More Than Meets The Eye by Karen Witemeyer

My Dear Miss Dupre by Grace Hitchcock

Star Rising by Janet W. Ferguson

Stay with Me by Becky Wade

Summer Plans And Other Disasters by Karin Beery

An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz