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Book Review — The Siren of Sussex

28 Jan

Victorian high society’s most daring equestrienne finds love and an unexpected ally in her fight for independence in the strong arms of London’s most sought after and devastatingly handsome half-Indian tailor.

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she’s worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she’ll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London’s attention she’ll need a habit-maker who’s not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row’s infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts?

ADVANCE PRAISE

“…a tender and swoon worthy interracial, cross-class romance in Victorian London…Readers will delight in this paean to women’s fashion and horseback riding.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Matthews brings the Victorian era to vivid life with meticulously researched details and an impossible romance made believable and memorable.”— Booklist, starred review

“Matthews deftly underscores racial and gender discrimination in Victorian London in this excellent start to ‘The Belles of London’ series; rather than overshadowing, it propels the romance. Romance aficionados who love fashion and animals will delight in this tender romance and will be excited to see Evelyn’s friends in future installments.” — Library Journal, starred review

“Unflinching, tender, and moving, the delicately crafted The Siren of Sussex might just be my favourite work from Mimi Matthews; it certainly is one of my favourite historical romance reads this year.”— Evie Dunmore, USA Today bestselling author of Portrait of a Scotsman

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

MY IMPRESSIONS

Fans of historical romance fiction will love Mimi Matthews’ latest book, The Siren of Sussex. This sizzling novel set in Victorian England features two unlikely main characters. Crossing class and race, Ahmad Malik and Evelyn Maltreavers are two to root for. The unconventional relationship may not raise eyebrows today, but was taboo in the 1800s. To say the two had chemistry from the start is an understatement. 😉 While overall a clean read, the tension between the two will have romance readers swooning. (Please note: that this book is targeted towards a general market reader.) Matthews does a great job of placing the reader into the time and place of mid-19th century England. Historical details are evidence of thorough research. The culture and mores of the time ring true. All aspects of society are covered — from brothel to tradesmen to Mayfair drawing rooms. Adding the world of fashion and the Victorian’s interest in spiritualism ramped up my interest.

If you are already a Mimi Matthews fan, you will enjoy her latest with cameos of characters from previous novels. If you haven’t read anything by Matthews, but are a dedicated historical romance reader, you definitely need to check this one out.

Audience: adults.

(I received a complimentary advanced copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. 

You can find Mimi at the following sites:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | BOOKBUB |

GOODREADS

GIVEAWAY

1 winner (selected at random by Rafflecopter) receives the following:

Signed print copy of The Siren of Sussex

Horse scarf

Pewter sidesaddle brooch (made in Sussex, England!)

The Siren of Sussex tote bag

Three candles in scents: Fresh Hay, New Saddle, and Winter Ride

Box of Ahmad Tea (60 count, assorted flavors)

The Siren of Sussex bookmark

The giveaway is open from 12:01 am Pacific time 1/4/22 until 11:59pm Pacific time on 2/7/22.

The winner will be announced on Mimi’s blog – mimimatthews.com – at 8:00 pm Pacific time on 2/8/22.

Terms And Conditions: Giveaway hosted by Mimi Matthews. No Purchase Necessary. Entrants must be 18 years or older. Open to US residents only. Void where prohibited.

Book Review: Shadows of Swanford Abbey

24 Jan

I love a good mystery and I love a good romance set in Regency England. I got both in Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen. This book kept me guessing until the very end — another plus! Recommended.

Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.

The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick–magistrate, widower, and former neighbor–who long ago broke her heart.

When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something. . . .

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her novels have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Minnesota Book Award, the Midwest Book Award, and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Visit http://www.julieklassen.com and talesfromivyhill.com for more information.

My Impressions:

With nods to Agatha Christie and Jane Austen and other notable classic writers, Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a page-turning historical novel that has its own unique blend of mystery and romance. Julie Klassen has penned a very enjoyable book! The mystery, that I kept guessing at until the end, was what hooked me, but I loved the atmospheric setting and the likable characters. For Rebecca Lane, the return to her home village is filled with memories, mostly poignant, as she longs for better times and circumstances. A brother with issues keeps her on edge, while an old crush brings back feelings long buried. There is a great tension in this book, both in the romantic relationships and in the twisting mystery. I felt an urgency to find out whodunit and if Rebecca would get her happily-ever-after. This kept me reading and reading! Characters are not all they seem — enhancing the plot and giving readers some things to think about. There are themes of forgiveness, lost chances, and personal responsibility. Fans of the Regency era will enjoy the historical details. I especially liked learning about the legal rules of the day and the treatment of those with mental illness. Swanford Abbey provided its own character with hidden passages and ghosts — a great place to stage a murder. 😉 And for book nerds like me, the references to classic lit were fun.

Shadows of Swanford Abbey should appeal to a variety of readers with its historical, romantic, and mysterious plot threads. I heartily recommend it.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

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.)

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.)

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.)

Children’s Corner — Love Is

5 Jan

I had a wonderful week with my 2 year old granddaughter during the Christmas break. It was much too short, but I loved watching her explore her world. One of my favorite things was reading to her before bedtime. This is a nightly ritual her parents started from her birth. She loves books, and I am thrilled! One of the books I read to her was Love Is illustrated by Paola Escobar. See all the details below.

“Love is patient, love is kind.” These familiar words from the Bible begin one of its most beloved and recognized passages. Love Is brings the text of 1 Corinthians 13 to life through an illustrative exploration of God’s greatest gift to us.

Critically acclaimed artist Paola Escobar delivers beautiful, nature-filled illustrations , reminding us that love is a constant positive force in the lives of those touched by it–from beginning to end, through good times and tough times.

My Impressions:

My 2 year old granddaughter loves books. I am thrilled! She looks at them throughout the day and enjoys some read-to-me time right before bed. I shared Love Is illustrated by Paola Escobar during her stay with us. Love Is takes the famous scripture passage of 1 Corinthians 13 and puts it into a stunning children’s book. The verses are accompanied by beautiful pictures of the animal world with a tree as the central image. The tree starts out as a small sapling surrounded by bugs and grows to give safety and nourishment to those animals who shelter around it. The tree endures a number of seasons and events, including fire and snow, to show how it still stands through all of life. My granddaughter wasn’t able to appreciate the metaphor; she’s only 2! But she did enjoy the colorful illustrations and identifying the animals, birds, and bugs represented. This book is a wonderful edition to any family’s library and can be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages. It is especially appropriate for children ages 4-8, and provides parents and grandparents an opportunity to share just what love really is.

Recommended.

Audience: preschool to early elementary school children.

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

Mini Book Review: Burying Daisy Doe

29 Dec

How is it the end of the year already?! It’s been a whirlwind of a year with a lot of ups and a few downs, but overall I have been very blessed. I have had a house full of family the past week and have necessarily neglected the old blog. I’m sure you understand. 😉 But I didn’t want the year to end without one last review. I read Burying Daisy Doe by Ramona Richards last summer, but failed to write a review. I really enjoyed this mystery set in the South. It made my best of 2021 list. Find out more below.

No cold case is more important than the one that destroyed her own family.

Every small town has one unsolved case that haunts its memory, festering for generations below the surface with the truth of humanity’s darkness. Star Cavanaugh is obsessed with the one that tore her family apart.

Over sixty years ago, Daisy Doe was murdered and discarded outside Pineville, Alabama, buried without a name or anyone to mourn her loss. When Star’s father tried to solve the case, he was also killed. Now a cold-case detective with resources of her own, Star is determined to get to the bottom of both crimes. But she’ll have to face an entire town locked in corruption, silence, and fear–and the same danger that took two other lives. The only people in town she can trust are her grandmother and the charming Mike Luinetti, and both of them trust a God Star isn’t sure she believes in. Can Christians so focused on the good really help her track down this evil?

Ramona Richards, in her own words:

I started making stuff up at 3, writing it down at 7, and selling it at 17. I’ve written 12 books. The latest two are Tracking Changes: One Editor’s Advice to Inspirational Fiction Authors, a collection of essays for novelists, and Burying Daisy Doe, a suspense novel set in a small Southern town. In fact, most of my suspense novels are set in small Southern towns. Murder in the Family is the latest already in print. I have six Love Inspired Suspense novels still available in ebook.

I’m also an editor, with more than 500 publications to my credit, and I’m now the associate publisher for Iron Stream Media. My specialty is fiction, although I’ve also worked on CD-ROMs, magazines, non-fiction, children’s books, Bibles, and study guides. Lot of publishers have helped my bottom line, such as Thomas Nelson, Barbour, Howard, Harlequin, Ideals, etc.

And, as I say on Twitter (@RamonaRichards): Music nut. Film buff. Usually a fun person to eat a burger with. 

My Impressions:

Burying Daisy Doe is a mystery novel involving a cold case that is very personal to main character Star Cavanaugh. Her father was murdered trying to discover the truth about Daisy Doe. As a PI, Star takes on the most daunting of cases and this one is no exception. There has to be a connection between the two murders, and Star and the reader are taken on a twisting journey through the underworld of a Southern town. Yes, underworld! Small towns have long held secrets, and Pineville, Alabama is no exception. Richards captures the charm of this small southern town with its quirky and endearing citizens, quaint homes and businesses, as well as a very dark side that kept me turning the pages. I was kept guessing all the way through this book, a big plus! The characters were well-developed, and their stories were intriguing. Star is the perfect sleuth — determined and undaunted by threats. There’s a bit of romance too, that I hope will develop in more books featuring Star.

If you are looking for a great mystery, then Burying Daisy Doe is the perfect pick. I loved it and know you will too.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Book Review: After She Falls

28 Dec

I chose a book outside of my regular reading box with After She Falls by Carmen Schober. While there were a few things about the book I found daunting, I am glad I read it. It is what I would call a stretch book. Recommended!

She’s always had that fire in her. She just needs to find it again.

Strong-willed Adri Rivera nearly achieved her goal of being a professional mixed martial artist, but then she fell in love with a man who knocked all the fight out of her. When their abusive, tumultuous relationship finally comes to a head, Adri flees with their young daughter to her small hometown in the mountains of Pennsylvania. There, she must face the people she left behind and put her broken life back together again. 

A hardened Max Lyons can’t believe Adri is back in town after abruptly cutting him and everyone else off years ago. Despite the distance that grew between them, he feels compelled to help her regain her independence and offers her a job at his gym. But regaining each other’s trust is another matter, made even more complicated by the lingering spark between them. As Adri dares to pursue her dream again, she trains for a big tournament with Max’s help, but they’ll both have to confront their own doubts in order to rise victorious.

Carmen Schober is a debut novelist, wife, full-time mother to two daughters, avid boxer, and Rocky enthusiast. A graduate of Kansas State University, where she earned a master’s degree in English literature and creative writing, she currently lives in Manhattan, Kansas. She has published sports fiction in Witness magazine and Hobart Pulp, and she regularly blogs about faith, family, and fighting at www.carmenschober.com

My Impressions:

After She Falls by debut author Carmen Schober was a stretch read for me. What does that mean? Well, there were a number of elements of this novel that are definitely outside my comfort zone. The characters in the novel are MMA trainers and fighters. That’s mixed martial arts for those who are as clueless as me. 😉 There are a number of fight scenes that realistically depict the sport including broken bones and blood. Really not my scene, however, I had heard enough buzz to be intrigued. The main thing that definitely was within my comfort zone was the highly realistic and relatable characters. No, I’m not ready to take up boxing or judo, but I appreciated the real-life struggles these characters faced. They struggled with being good enough, with overcoming mistakes (many life-changing ones), and seeking a good and gracious God of second chances. Second, third, and maybe fourth chances are all depicted as the characters seek to make sense of the world and their place in it. The book is full of messy lives — I told you, realistic. While most of the characters are the same ages as my kids, I loved that Schober had two strong mature secondary characters that could share their own failures and triumphs. Their wisdom and guidance was important to the main character’s growth and mirrored the necessity of mentors in faith for any age group. I did find the reading process slow — the book is told in present tense which caused me to re-read passages. I’m not sure why I had trouble with this, but I did. But After She Falls was intriguing, interesting, and worth the time it took me to read.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Mini-Review — Night Fall

23 Dec

Nancy Mehl is always good for a thriller, and Night Fall fits the bill with plenty of creep-factor mixed in! My book club read this book last summer and liked it. Find out all about it below.

Now that Alexandra “Alex” Donovan is finally free of her troubled upbringing, she’s able to live out her childhood dream of working for the FBI. But soon after she becomes a member of the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, authorities in Kansas and Missouri contact them about bodies found on freight trains traveling across the country–all killed in the same way.

Alex never expected to be forced to confront her past in this new job, but she immediately recognizes the graffiti messages the killer is leaving on the train cars. When the BAU sends her to gather information about the messages from her aunt in Wichita, Kansas, Alex is haunted by the struggles she thought she’d left behind forever.

In a race against time to solve the case while battling her own weaknesses, Alex must face how far she’ll go–and what she’s willing to risk–to put a stop to the Train Killer.

Nancy Mehl lives in Missouri, with her husband Norman, and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored thirty books and is currently at work on a new FBI suspense series for Bethany House Publishing. 

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “It’s a part of me and of everything I think or do. God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan especially for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.” 

You can find out more about Nancy by visiting her Web site at: http://www.nancymehl.com. She also is active on the Suspense Sisters: http://www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com and on FaceBook!

My Impressions:

If you aren’t squeamish, then Night Fall, a suspense/thriller by Nancy Mehl could be the book for you. It definitely had the creep-factor going for it with a seriously sick killer. The book centers on main character FBI agent Alex Donovan who is called into the case not only for her profiler expertise, but because she is intimately familiar with many of the elements of the investigation, a fact that gives her both a leg-up and a disadvantage. Alex has ties to the cult that seems to be part of the case. The reader is also given insight into the killer’s mind — I liked this, but it really did send chills up my spine! There is a bit of romance, and though it played a small part in then novel, I expect more in the other books in the series. Alex grows a lot through the course of this book, but she is a somewhat troubled character with a lot to overcome. I look forward to her development in the next two books.

Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

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