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Book Review: Everywhere to Hide

22 Oct

My book club chose Siri Mitchell’s romantic suspense novel, Everywhere to Hide for this month’s discussion. There were mixed feelings on the book, but I loved it. I found the unique main character and the complex plot fascinating. Some of my group thought that the author stretched reality, but I had no problems with it. I give this one a thumbs up!

How does a woman protect herself from an enemy she can’t see?

Law school graduate Whitney Garrison is a survivor. She admirably deals with her mother’s death, mounting student debt, dwindling job opportunities, an abusive boyfriend, and a rare neurological condition that prevents her from recognizing human faces.

But witnessing a murder might be the crisis she can’t overcome.

The killer has every advantage. Though Whitney saw him, she has no idea what he looks like. He knows where she lives and works. He anticipates her every move. Worst of all, he’s hiding in plain sight and believes she has information he needs. Information worth killing for. Again.

As the hunter drives his prey into a net of terror and international intrigue, Whitney’s only ally, Detective Leo Baroni, is taken off the case. Stripped of all semblance of safety, Whitney must suspect everyone and trust no one—and fight to come out alive.

Siri Mitchell is the author of 18 novels. She published 2 historical novels for the general market with Sourcebooks under the pseudonym Iris Anthony.

Siri graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and has worked in government at the local, state, and federal levels. As a military spouse, she lived all over the world, including Paris and Tokyo.

She has become known as a master storyteller, painting pictures of places her readers have never been and lives they’ve never lived. As one reader has said, Siri’s books are, “unexpected, haunting, and powerful,” and they are known for lively dialogue and honest emotion.

Kirkus has noted that Siri writes a well-paced and interwoven story… creates a narrative that subtly educates, poses stimulating questions and entertains.” Publishers Weekly pointed out that she is “adept with flashbacks and withholds certain key bits of information until the right moment, which adds punch to the narrative.” RT Reviews has given her books their Top Picks designation, “Siri Mitchell writes spellbinding novels, with some element of mystery and surprise for readers to discover.”

Siri is a speaker to women’s and writing groups both large and small. She has also taught fiction writing courses at regional and national writing conferences.

My Impressions:

I have long been a Siri Mitchell fan. When she began writing suspense novels, I said yes please! Everywhere to Hide is a complex novel that features a unique character. Whitney Garrison has face blindness. I had never heard of it before and found it challenging to wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t alone. The other characters in the book did too. 😉 Mitchell does a great job at showing the reader the difficulties Whitney faced. I Googled face blindness to get a rudimentary understanding, but Whitney’s own actions gave me true insight. I can’t imagine the vulnerability someone like Whitney must feel all the time! Add to that her role as a witness to a murder and the subsequent threats she faces — well the tension and fear she felt translated to this reader too. Whitney’s other struggles — a looming bar exam, deep student debt, and no close family or friends — just added to her stress. I loved how Detective Leo Baroni stepped in to help Whitney through all she was going through, as well as investigate the murder. Whitney is targeted for something she knows, but of course she has no clue what that something is. I found her persistence in uncovering the mystery admirable in the light of all she faced. Like Whitney, I trusted no one. Elements of Chinese hackers, digital currencies, and block-chain technology made this one a thinking man’s mystery. I loved the challenge! The setting of Arlington, Virginia was a favorite as well. My son’s family lives there, and I enjoyed recognizing landmarks. In fact I read the book while on a visit there. What a treat.

I highly recommend Everywhere to Hide if you like twisting suspense with a touch of romance and intriguing subject matter. You won’t be disappointed.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

( I borrowed the ebook through Amazon Prime. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Point of Danger

21 Oct

Irene Hannon has done it again! I love her romantic suspense novels, and Point of Danger was no exception. I could not put down this twist-filled book! Recommended.

Radio talk show host Eve Reilly is used to backlash from her pot-stirring on-air commentary and interviews, but now it seems a disgruntled listener is resorting to more than angry words to express their displeasure. When a suspicious package arrives on her doorstep, Eve turns to law enforcement for help.

Police detective Brent Lange can’t find any evidence to link the string of unsettling incidents that follows, but he’s convinced they’re connected. As the harassment grows more menacing, it becomes clear someone wants Eve’s voice silenced–permanently. 

But unless he can track down her foe, fast, the gutsy woman who is willing to take risks for what she believes–and who is swiftly winning his heart–may not survive.

Irene Hannon is the best-selling author of more than 35 novels. Her books have been honored with the coveted RITA Award from Romance Writers of America, the HOLT Medallion, the Reviewer’s Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOK reviews magazine and the Daphne du Maurier Award for mystery/suspense. Irene and her husband make their home in Missouri, USA. Irene invites you to visit her at her website, http://www.irenehannon.com.

My Impressions:

Eve Reilly is the host of a morning drive radio show that does not shy away from controversial topics. Her conservative views ruffle a lot of feathers, but the threats that come fast and furious catch everyone off guard. Enter Brent Lange, a police detective dedicated to the job because of his belief that his past prohibits meaningful relationships. The two work together to uncover the person or persons threatening Eve — and the sparks begin to fly! I always enjoy a romantic suspense novel by Irene Hannon, and Point of Danger filled my need for mysterious twists and turns and a romance with spice and sass. 😉 I had my eye on a number of suspects and was partially correct in my suspicions. Partially, because of a major twist I did not see coming! I admit to turning the pages furiously to find out whodunit!

Point of Danger was the perfect choice for a fast-paced book to lose myself in. It is book 1 in the Triple Threat series and introduces Eve’s sisters who will have books of their own. In fact, book 2, Labyrinth of Lies is now available. Yes, I am reading that one too!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Book Review: Out of The Water

20 Oct

When I saw that Christy Award-winning author Ann Marie Stewart had a new novel out, I knew I had to read it. Her debut, Stars in The Grass, was excellent. Out of The Water is another outstanding book. The multi-generational story explores the complex subject matter of adoption. With carefully drawn characters, rich historical context, and a complex narrative, this is one book not to be missed. Recommended.

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire. 

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

With puzzling suspense, unforgettable characters and uncanny insight, Out of the Water is an intoxicating novel of motherhood, secrets, and the profound ramifications our decisions have. Readers will be left wondering: ultimately, is it always better to know the truth?

Ann Marie Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington and is a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. She originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, and writes the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register. With two recent UVA grads, she’s now a huge HOO basketball fan. When not writing, Ann teaches voice or takes care of the many sheep of Skyemoor Farm.

My Impressions:

Out of The Water features a diverse cast of characters from across the decades. While it took me a bit to get my bearings with the various threads and timeframes, this novel was worth the extra concentration. Stewart tells the tale of several women who struggled with hard choices. Siobhan is a young Irish immigrant who longs for family, Genevieve seems to have everything in her life and marriage, yet desperately wants a child, Erin and Claire, mother and daughter, face the uncertainties of Claire’s search for her birth mother, and Anna struggles with guilt and shame as she attempts to build a life. Added to the women’s stories are the backdrops of WWI, the immigrant experience of early 20th century America, the Great Depression, and 1950/60’s America. The historic details are naturally added to each story thread providing important context to the choices that are made. All the women share lost hopes and dreams and the feelings of rejection and abandonment. What is unique about Out of The Water, aside from the complex narrative and the varying timelines, is the way Stewart addresses all sides of adoption — those who choose to give up their child, those who give those children a home, and the adoptees themselves. I became engrossed in each woman’s story — they all became very real to me. And if you are book nerd like me, you will love how Siobhan stays in contact with a friend from the past. The book’s ending was beautiful — yes, I shed a few tears!

Filled with heartbreak, sacrifice, hope, and redemption, Out of The Water is a novel you will not want to miss. There is so much to contemplate, making this book a great choice for book clubs. I guarantee after reading it you will want to talk about it!

Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review And Author Interview — In The Shadow of Your Wings

18 Oct

Please welcome JP Robinson, author of the WWI-era trilogy, Northshire Heritage. JP shares a little about his writing journey, process, and the books in this series. I read book 1, In The Shadow of Your Wings, and my thoughts on that book are below.

Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?

There’s a lot of truth to this. I began writing in high school for our school paper then went on to become a freelance journalist for a newspaper in New York. That was my first experience with professional writing and I LOVED it. Meeting people and capturing their stories and emotions was something that I loved doing. So it set the stage for internships while I earned my degree in English and French, ultimately leading me to where I am now.

Was there a special someone, such as a teacher, parent, or other relative, who encouraged you to pursue writing?

Absolutely. I remember my English teacher, Mrs. Gravino, standing outside her classroom and telling me to write to change the world. I think it was so meaningful because I was the minority in many ways. I was one of probably three Black students, I was new, I’d been homeless for several years, and I was a firm Christian in a very secular New York high school.

While all this was going on my mom was battling cancer while my dad tried to find a way to get us all together again. So this one teacher was kind of the anchor point in a very turbulent part of my life. Her encouragement really gave me the clarity I needed.

Why did you choose the historical fiction genre?

Historical fiction has been something I’ve loved to read all my life. I’m an amateur historian of European civilization and have taught western civilization as part of my curriculum. So, when I started writing fiction, I naturally gravitated toward bygone times of heroes, empires, and the ordinary people who quietly shaped history.

Were there any obstacles you faced in your journey to publication? 5. What types of research do you pursue? Books, on-site visits, etc.

This is a great, and in-depth, question.On average I spend more than 100 hours of research per book. Research for me involves poring of digital copies of newspaper clippings, books, of course the internet, drawing from experts in the field and on-site visits when possible. If I can’t get there physically, Google maps and images from the time period I’m writing about often help me develop an accurate picture.

For example, I currently working on a project centering around a Black family in Nazi Germany. I was recently in Cologne, Germany and used the data from that trip to build a realistic–and accurate–setting. But my protagonist was walking from one location to another and I used Google maps to determine if that would be possible while keeping in mind that the story is set in the 1930s and some of the streets now weren’t around then.

So it’s a lot of data correlation laced with some imagination.

What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?

Great question. Pre-COVID our kids were in school and I had a lot more time to do my day-job (I’m a former teacher) and still get in a few hours writing. We’ve made the transition to homeschooling our kids and I confess that the shift has slowed down my productivity. Still, I’m able to clock 1-2 hours per day in the evenings. 🙂

Can you tell us a little about what inspired your latest novel.

I’d be glad to. The Northshire Heritage trilogy was inspired by a sermon called The Fundamental Foundation for Faith preached in the 1950s, I think, by a minister named William Branham. He’s passed on now but in one of his recorded sermons, he was talking about the Fall and redemption. That sparked a thought in my mind, a comparison between the Father in Genesis 3 and the father presented in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son.

I know, it might sound strange because the novel centers around espionage, politics, and a brutal war, but tightly woven throughout are references to these two pivotal moments in which God expresses different parts of His divine nature and plan.

After writing all three books, I truly felt like I had a deeper appreciation of what God went through to save the world. As a father of three myself, the content also resonated with me.

What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing one of your novels?

There are a lot of themes packed into Northshire: forgiveness, redemption, enduring love in marriage when things don’t go as you’d like… But I think I’d spotlight the theme of the overcoming power of faith.

One of the characters loses her child (spoiler alert) and her response is a tribute to my sister and her husband, whose baby died on Father’s Day a few years back. I saw their faith bring them through a crisis, made worse by the date Elisha died and by the fact that they’d been testifying, as Christians, that God would bring their baby through.

Well, he died in my sister’s arms, and still their faith held them in that moment of tragedy. Northshire captures that theme, reminding readers that no matter how bad things may be in our world or in our life, faith in God is its own source of strength.

Readers always want to know what is next for an author. Do you have any works in progress you can share about?

Right now I’m neck-deep in a totally different style project that focuses on minority characters. I’m Black but so far I’ve enjoyed challenging myself to write books that center around ethnicities and cultures that are different than my own. And, to a certain extent, I’m doing that again here as the European Black experience is a bit different (in some ways) than the Black experience of the Caribbean which is where I’m from.

This is a slice of history that very few people know about and I’m SO excited to be meeting with experts in Europe, collaborating with museum directors etc, to create an authentic and compelling piece.

Like most of my books this one includes spies, romance, political games set in the Rhineland against the backdrop of Hitler’s rise, and a Black family that is at the center of it all.

All that to say, I have to have the first draft done in forty-five days (yikes!) and,if all goes well, I hope to see it on the shelves in 2023.

Thanks JP for sharing with my readers!

She’s a spy in love with the enemy. 
Leila Durand, an elite German spy charged with infiltrating the home of British icon Thomas Steele, hopes to use the war to move beyond the pain of her shattered past. But everything changes when she falls in love with Thomas’s son, Malcolm. Is there a way to reconcile her love for Germany and her love for the enemy? 

He’s a son who wants to break free. 
Malcolm, wealthy heir to Northshire Estate, wants nothing more than to be free of his father’s rules. When Thomas becomes too judgmental, Malcolm makes a choice that threatens to bring the Allied world to its knees.

In the Shadow of Your Wings presents inescapable truth that resonates across the past century. Then as now, the struggle for faith is real. Then as now, there is a refuge for all who come beneath the shadow of God’s wings.

My Impressions:

In The Shadow of Your Wings is an historical novel set in England, France, and Germany during WWI. An intense read with very realistic details of the ugly stuff of war — zeppelin attacks, trench warfare, and the effects of Germany’s poisonous gas weapons — this book also deals with the ugliness and beauty of the human soul. The contrast between the many characters, both historic figures and fictional, is stark. Spies determined to devastate their enemy’s defenses, scientists with personal glory as their goals, and those who depend only on self populate the pages of this book. But there are also those who rely on God, even in the most unimaginable circumstances. I’m not sure enjoyment would be a good word for my reading experience, but I will say the fight between good and evil as detailed in the book was intriguing and got me thinking. The complex structure of the book involves multiple story lines — the list of characters and their relationships at the beginning of the book is very helpful. It’s worth the time to review it. The ending of the book leaves a number of threads left dangling, so be prepared to plunge into book 2, In The Midst of Flames. All three titles in the series are available, so you may want to schedule a little binge-reading time.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the ebook version from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

JP Robinson began writing as a teen for a local newspaper. He holds degrees in both English and French and is a state-certified teacher. JP is known for weaving contemporary issues into vivid plots with the goal of connecting readers to God. When he’s not writing or teaching, JP loves spending time with his wife and children. 

Connect with the author, watch videos and more at JPRobinsonbooks.com.

Friend JP at Facebook.com/JPRobinsonbooks

Follow him on Twitter: @JPRobinsonBooks

Mini Audiobook Review: Enchantress of Numbers

14 Oct

One of my book clubs chose Enchantress of Numbers to further our goals of reading biographical fiction. We chose the book featuring Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace because we had read and enjoyed author Jennifer Chiaverini’s books and because it was not set in WWII. 😉 The story revolves around Lord Byron’s only child, Ada, and her fascination with all things mathematical and mechanical. Ada was quite the prodigy and is credited as the first computer programmer. There’s even a STEM holiday commemorating her. It was a long book, emphasis on long. While it did shed light on the era — Regency and early Victorian England — it was a bit of a slog. I listened to the audiobook borrowed from my library and had to renew twice. Another of our members stated that she felt like it was a school assignment to dread. No glowing recs from my group. It did emphasize the differences between educational and societal norms for women of the time and in our modern world. Ada was shaped by the legacy of her absent father and her domineering mother. I felt for Ada, but wish that the author had written more concisely. One of my group said she kept going with the novel in anticipation of something happening.

While we really can’t recommend the book, we were impressed by all that Ada Byron King accomplished. As always, reviews are subjective, but none of my group liked this book. Perhaps we were just not the target audience.

(I borrowed the audiobook from my library via Libby. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. But her mathematician mother, estranged from Ada’s infamous and destructively passionate father, is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination—or worse yet, passion or poetry—is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes.

When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize how her exciting new friendship with Charles Babbage—the brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly inventor of an extraordinary machine, the Difference Engine—will define her destiny.

Enchantress of Numbers unveils the passions, dreams, and insatiable thirst for knowledge of a largely unheralded pioneer in computing—a young woman who stepped out of her father’s shadow to achieve her own laurels and champion the new technology that would shape the future.

Book Review: The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery

7 Oct

Amanda Cox is a new-to-me author. I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery, other than the buzz I had read from other reviewers. The blurb was intriguing and the cover called to me. I’m thankful I took the time to read it, because it is now one of my favorites from this year — very highly recommended.

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.

1965. 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 http://www.amandacoxwrites.com. You can find her on social media by searching Amanda Cox Writes.

My Impressions:

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery is the second book from new-to-me author Amanda Cox. Its complex and tight writing style kept me reading and wondering as the three main characters concealed and uncovered family secrets. A novel as good as this one is often the hardest to review. Bear with me as I try to convey its many strong points. The book is told from the viewpoints of three women — grandmother, mother, and daughter — across three time periods. The style was never confusing, because the women each have distinct voices and their particular eras are well-detailed. I loved all the women, though some took longer to embrace than others. You’ll know when you read it. 😉 And read it you should! You’ll laugh and you’ll cry as Sarah, Rosemary, and Glory Ann each try to protect one another from the hurts of the world. Mother-daughter relationships are front and center, as is the danger of secret-keeping. Instead of providing walls of protection, the secrets became barriers to healthy communication and relationships. And those barriers spilled over into the women’s interactions with others as well. While the bulk of the story surrounds the three women, I think my very favorite character was Clarence Clearwater, Glory Ann’s husband. He lived and loved so much like Christ. And then there is Old Depot Grocery, so much like a character in itself, as it symbolized the strengths of family and close community.

A perk of discovering another talented author is getting to read more of her books! Cox’s debut, The Edge of Belonging, is a 2021 Christy Award finalist for First Novel. It is now on my TBR wishlist — looking forward to some more great reading!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults

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

Book Review: A Christmas in The Alps

6 Oct

I always like to start off my Christmas reading with a novella from Melody Carlson. This year’s offering is A Christmas in The Alps, a feel-good story about reconciliation. A recommended read, this book will whisk you off to the charming French Alps — bucket list anyone?

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.

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at http://www.melodycarlson.com/.

My Impressions:

I always like to start my holiday reading off with a novella from Melody Carlson. This year, Carlson takes readers away to the French Alps with a young woman who longs for family in A Christmas in The Alps. Simone has been left alone after the death of her grandmother. Facing an uncertain future, she allows herself to be talked into a trip to her great-grandmother’s home village to discover a mysterious treasure. Throughout the book I was reminded of the verse in Matthew 6: for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Several of the characters learn the truth of this scripture as they search out lost family connections. Simone finds family, love, and a new purpose on her trip. The story isn’t complicated and is somewhat predictable, but I enjoyed it. Sometimes I just need a sweet read that turns out the way I want. 😉

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Children’s Corner — The World is Awake

29 Sep

I am excited to share a new board book with my granddaughter this weekend. The World Is Awake by Linsey Davis is a colorful, rhyming story for the toddler set. Inspired by scripture, it takes a pair of siblings through a day full of wonder. God’s creation is enthusiastically explored in all its diversity. I think my granddaughter is going to love all that she can see and hear as we read this book together. Entertaining and instructional — a win-win! Highly recommended!

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

This joyful journey through an ordinary day inspires children to be thankful for all of God’s blessings that surround them. From blooming flowers in the backyard to the roaring animals at the zoo … the world is awake!

Written by ABC News correspondent and bestselling author Linsey Davis and paired with lush, whimsical illustrations by Lucy Fleming, The World Is Awake for Little Ones: A Celebration of Everyday Blessings is a lyrical walk through a day filled with love as seen through the magnificent world of our Creator. Engaging and uplifting, this board book reminds young children they are safely cradled in the hands of God, surrounded by all his wonderful blessings.

This is the day the Lord has made. A butterfly floats through the sun and the shade, while dragonflies flit past the flowers and trees and grasshoppers hop in the soft morning breeze.

Book Review — Memories of Glass

29 Sep

Melanie Dobson is a must-read author for me. I don’t even have to read the blurb to know that I will be reading her book. 😉 My book club chose Memories of Glass, and I now have a new favorite by this talented author. A split-time novel, this book explores how people react in the face of evil — acquiescence or rebellion, apathy or heroism. This one is very highly recommended.

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 (legacyofloveseries.com). 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 (melaniedobson.com) or at the following social media platforms: 

Facebook.com/MelanieDobsonFiction
Instagram/MelBDobson
Twitter.com/MelBDobson

My Impressions:

Memories of Glass was inspired by the heroics of the Dutch resistance in WWII. Because of their sacrifice, many Jewish children were saved from the Nazi death camps. The story is told from three points of view — Eliese, a young, privileged Jewish woman put in an impossible situation, Josie, a young Dutch woman who could not stand by and let children perish, and Ava, a young American woman who wants desperately to find her place in a family, but won’t compromise the faith shared by her mother. All three must make choices that will impact not just their own futures. I found each of their stories compelling. Ordinary women who have to face extraordinary circumstances. Each of their stories are intertwined and develop a complete whole.

The rich historical detail of Memories of Glass shows diligent research on the part of Dobson. She injects historical figures into the narrative, while also using inspiration of real figures to create her fictional characters. The contrast between those who are working for good and those who are working for evil is chilling. There really is no fence-sitting in the stories — all make their choices. The complex construction of the story and the vividly-drawn characters make this an unputdownable book. There were many anonymous heroes during WWII, and Memories of Glass pays homage to them. While we may never know their names, their actions count towards eternity.

My book club chose Memories of Glass, and I cannot wait to discuss it with them. I anticipate a great conversation about the historical detail, the choices characters made, and the implications in our own lives. If you can, I recommend you read it with a friend or two — you are going to want to talk about this book!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

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.

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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.)