Audiobook Mini-Review — Winter Solstice

7 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Impressions:

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

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

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

First Line Friday — Sunrise

7 Jan

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

Here’s the first line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Most Anticipated Books of The First Half of 2022

4 Jan

With my Santa Please Bring Me post, I kind of covered a lot of the books I am anticipating releasing January — June of 2022. Oops! I am going to twist this topic a bit. What’s new. 😉 So I am heading to my TBR shelves to highlight some books I would like to read in the next 6 months. My only resolution this year is to read books I want to read, so this post may be the encouragement to get on with it! I’m only going to list 6 books, 1 book per month, because I have a terrible track record with resolutions. Every book on my list is an historical novel — there may be a theme going here.

For bloggers who followed the prompt 😉 , check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books I Want to Read in The Next 6 Months

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota Territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats—leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: Keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm? 

Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers—one becomes a hero of the storm and the other finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told these families to get them there—or whose land it originally was.

At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today—because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

Saint-Malo, France: August 1938. Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts, but just after they marry and are hoping for a child, Antoine is called up to fight against Germany. As the war rages, Jocelyn focuses on comforting and encouraging the local population by recommending books from her beloved library in Saint-Malo. She herself finds hope in her letters to a famous author.

After the French capitulation, the s occupy the town and turn it into a fortress to control the north of French Brittany. Residents try passive resistance, but the German commander ruthlessly purges part of the city’s libraries to destroy any potentially subversive writings. At great risk to herself, Jocelyn manages to hide some of the books while waiting to receive news from Antoine, who has been taken to a German prison camp.

What unfolds in her letters is Jocelyn’s description of her mission: to protect the people of Saint-Malo and the books they hold so dear. With prose both sweeping and romantic, Mario Escobar brings to life the occupied city and re-creates the history of those who sacrificed all to care for the people they loved.

No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky

Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans–but was that the truth?

After the tragic loss of their father, the McAlister family is living at the edge of the poorhouse in London in 1908, leaving their mother to scrape by for her three younger children, while oldest daughter, Laura, works on a large estate more than an hour away. When Edna McAlister falls gravely ill and is hospitalized, twins Katie and Garth and eight-year-old Grace are forced into an orphans’ home before Laura is notified about her family’s unfortunate turn of events in London. With hundreds of British children sent on ships to Canada, whether truly orphans or not, Laura knows she must act quickly. But finding her siblings and taking care of her family may cost her everything.

Andrew Fraser, a wealthy young British lawyer and heir to the estate where Laura is in service, discovers that this common practice of finding new homes for penniless children might not be all that it seems. Together Laura and Andrew form an unlikely partnership. Will they arrive in time? Will their friendship blossom into something more?

Inspired by true events, this moving novel follows Laura as she seeks to reunite her family and her siblings who, in their darkest hours, must cling to the words from Isaiah: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God”.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

Remember Me by Mario Escobar

Amid the shadows of war, one family faces an impossible choice that will change their lives forever. From bestseller Mario Escobar comes a 20th-century historical novel of sacrifice and resilience inspired by Spain’s famed Children of Morelia and the true events that shaped their lives.

Madrid, 1934. Though the Spanish Civil War has not yet begun, the streets of Madrid have become dangerous for thirteen-year-old Marco Alcalde and his two younger sisters. Marco’s parents align themselves against the new fascist regime, unaware that their choice will endanger the entire family—nor do they predict the violence that is to come.

In a desperate bid for safety, the Alcaldes join many other Spanish families in making an impossible choice to send their unaccompanied children across the ocean to the city of Morelia, Mexico—a place they’ve never seen or imagined, but whose government promises their children protection. Young Marco promises to look after his sisters in Mexico until their family can be reunited in Spain, but a harrowing journey ensues.

As the growing children work to care for themselves and each other, they feel their sense of home, family, and identity slipping further and further away. As their memories of Spain fade, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their parents again or the glittering streets of the home they once loved.

Based upon the true stories of the Children of Morelia, Mario Escobar’s Remember Me—now available for the first time in Englishpaints a poignant portrait of an immigrant family’s sacrificial love and endurance, detailing just how far we go for those we love.

Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich

One child preacher traveling across the plains.

One young woman with a mysterious touch.

Two old friends, their baby, and their bloodhound.

And all the stars that shine above them.

When fifteen-year-old Marigold becomes pregnant amid the Great Depression, she is rejected by her family and forced to fend for herself. And when she loses her baby in the forest, her whole world turns upside down. She’s even more distraught upon discovering she has an inexplicable power that makes her both beautiful and terrifying—and something of a local legend.

Meanwhile, migrant workers Vern and Paul discover a violet-eyed baby and take it upon themselves to care for her. The men soon pair up with a widow and her two children, and the misfit family finds its way in fits and starts toward taking care of each other.

As survival brings one family together, a young boy finds himself with nary a friend to his name as the dust storms rage across Kansas. Fourteen-year-old Coot, a child preacher with a prodigy’s memory, is on the run with thousands of stolen dollars—and the only thing he’s sure of is that Mobile, Alabama, is his destination.

As the years pass and a world war looms, these stories intertwine in surprising ways, reminding us that when the dust clears, we can still see the stars.

January 2022 Book Club Selection — The Edge of Belonging

3 Jan

Happy New Year! Just when I got used to writing 2021, it is 2022! 😉 It has been a challenging couple of years, but I have had so many blessings in my life. I am looking forward to a new normal. I know, I hate that phrase too. What I mean by a new normal is looking beyond immediate circumstances, seeking joy in small things, putting fear and doubt behind me. When you think of it, this is not a new normal for Christians, but an eternal normal. 🙂

I have a reading resolution for 2022 too. Read what I want to read. Sounds normal too, doesn’t it? But so often I bite off more than I can chew with review books that my reading life is less than satisfying. I am hoping to turn that around this year. To that end, my book club is reading The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox this month. This novel was the 2021 Christy Award winner for both debut novel and book of the year. I really want to read this book! If you have read it, I would love to know what you thought of this book.

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.

First Line Friday — The Siren of Sussex

31 Dec

Happy Friday! Can you believe tomorrow is a whole new year?! I am hoping 2022 will be a brighter year for everyone. I do know my reading prospects are good. 😉 One of the first books I will be reading in the new year is The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews. Matthews is a new-to-me author, although I have several friends who count this author as a favorite. Find out all about her newest Victorian-era novel below.

Here’s the first line:

Evelyn Maltravers entered the dimly lit shop in Conduit Street.

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?

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances, including Fair as a Star, a Library Journal Best Romance of 2020; Gentleman Jim, a Kirkus Best Indie Romance of 2020; and The Work of Art, winner of the 2020 HOLT Medallion. Mimi’s 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. Her next romance, The Siren of Sussex, will be out in 2022 from Berkley/Penguin Random House. To learn more, please visit http://www.MimiMatthews.com

If You Liked . . . Last Christmas in Paris

30 Dec

My book club really liked Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. The novel was set in WWI and told almost exclusively through letters between the characters. It was complex, yet unputdownable. If you liked it too, here are more recommendations.

An Epistolary-ish novel — The London House by Katherine Reay

Uncovering a dark family secret sends one woman through the history of Britain’s World War II spy network and glamorous 1930s Paris to save her family’s reputation.

Caroline Payne thinks it’s just another day of work until she receives a call from Mat Hammond, an old college friend and historian. But pleasantries are cut short. Mat has uncovered a scandalous secret kept buried for decades: In World War II, Caroline’s British great-aunt betrayed family and country to marry her German lover.

Determined to find answers and save her family’s reputation, Caroline flies to her family’s ancestral home in London. She and Mat discover diaries and letters that reveal her grandmother and great-aunt were known as the “Waite sisters.” Popular and witty, they came of age during the interwar years, a time of peace and luxury filled with dances, jazz clubs, and romance. The buoyant tone of the correspondence soon yields to sadder revelations as the sisters grow apart, and one leaves home for the glittering fashion scene of Paris, despite rumblings of a coming world war.

Each letter brings more questions. Was Caroline’s great-aunt actually a traitor and Nazi collaborator, or is there a more complex truth buried in the past? Together, Caroline and Mat uncover stories of spies and secrets, love and heartbreak, and the events of one fateful evening in 1941 that changed everything.

In this rich historical novel from award-winning author Katherine Reay, a young woman is tasked with writing the next chapter of her family’s story. But Caroline must choose whether to embrace a love of her own and proceed with caution if her family’s decades-old wounds are to heal without tearing them even further apart.

WWI-Era Novel — The Far Side of The Sea by Kate Breslin

In spring 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries on the front, receives a message by carrier pigeon. It is from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life–a woman he believed to be dead. Traveling to France to answer her urgent summons, he desperately hopes this mission will ease his guilt and restore the courage he lost on the battlefield. 

Colin is stunned, however, to discover the message came from Jewel’s half sister, Johanna. Johanna, who works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence, found Jewel’s diary and believes her sister is alive in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them.

Set at Christmas, But Not Really A Christmas Book — Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher

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.

After The Great War — As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters – Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa – a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

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.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Best Books Read in 2021

28 Dec

I read a lot less books in 2021 than I did in previous years. Some of that was by design, and some was because, well, life. But fewer books did not mean less enjoyment — I had a lot of great reading experiences! Limiting my list to 10 is too hard, so I have split the books into categories: historical, time-split, contemporary and suspense. There should be something for everyone!

For more Best of The Best in 2021, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Best Books Read in 2021

Contemporary

Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Historical

The Barrister And The Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

Under The Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

Suspense

Burying Daisy Doe by Ramona Richards

Everywhere to Hide by Siri Mitchell

Lights Out by Natalie Walters

Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill

Never Miss by Melissa Koslin

Port of Origin by Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry

Time-Slip

The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark

The London House by Katherine Reay

Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox