Who cares if we know ourselves better? The point of life is to know God better.

Bookish Question #102 | What was the last book you’ve read that you recommend?

I’m a book reviewer, so you can find reviews of the books I read and recommend on my website.

Monday is a review of a new or recent release I’ve enjoyed. Thursday is a review of an older book. This is usually a Throwback Thursday post, where I repost my review of an older book I’ve enjoyed, but sometimes it’s a new review of a book I’ve been slow to read and review.

So you can look at my Book Review page to see the most recent books I’ve read and recommended.

But one of the benefits of being a reviewer is that I get to read advance copies of books. That means my most recent reviews aren’t always the book I’ve most recently read. I’ve been known to read books as much as six months in advance of the release date (and that’s not counting the books I edit).

So what is the last book I read that I’d recommend?

Sweet on You by Becky Wade. I’ve already featured it in a First Line Friday post, and my review is scheduled for 29 April, the day before it officially releases. I may even read it again before that …

Why? Because Sweet on You is everything I love about Christian romance. It’s got a romance (obviously). The thing with a romance novel is that we know before we start who is going to end up with whom. In this case, it was signposted in the first book in the series, True to You, which was published two years ago. So we’re reading for the journey.

And the journey was great. Sweet on You had an underlying suspense thread, and I especially love romantic suspense. But what made it special was the way Becky Wade wove Christian truths into the novel, with lines like this:

He held a tray of appetizers and far more than his portion of charisma.

And this:

Loving her was his greatest blessing. But it was also his greatest curse.

Sweet on You is a multi-layered romance, and I definitely recommend it!

What about you? What was the last book you’ve read that you’d recommend, and why?

Quote from When He Found Me by Victoria Bylin: “Are you a Christian?” “Yes, but it’s only been a month. I’m not very good at it.” “Neither was I.”

Book Review | When He Found Me by Victoria Bylin

Baseball player Shane Riley is on his way to Refuge, Wyoming, to take a teaching job while he recovers from his recent injury. On the way, he meets a woman in a laundromat who reminds him of his estranged sister, Daisy. The woman turns out to be Melissa Townsend, his new landlady.

MJ has nowhere to go.

So she’s returned to Refuge with her son, Cody, because she’s recently inherited her grandparent’s house … and because she has nowhere else to go. She wants to sell the house, because her health benefits are about to run out, and she has a condition requiring ongoing healthcare.

When He Found Me is a brave novel that tackles issues not often seen in Christian fiction.

MJ has HPV, a sexually transmitted disease contracted in the same one-night stand that gave her Cody. Now she’s staring in the face of a full hysterectomy before she turns twenty-five. No, that whole “it’s your body so you can do what you want” hasn’t exactly worked for her. But MJ has recently become a Christian, and is taking strength in God.

“Preacher Boy” Shane has given up on God since his accident.

That presents an interesting and unique dynamic—the new Christian and the new backslider. Both have awkward histories: MJ with her health, and Shane with his sister, Daisy. It’s a strong cast of characters, and a well-plotted novel that covers sexual sin, abuse, and how Christians can inadvertently make things worse.

Recommended for Christian fiction readers who want a novel that deals with some real-life issues but focuses on the emotions and consequences rather than the (sinful) actions.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

About When He Found Me

Love Discovered . . . Hope Renewed

Once a strong Christian, third baseman Shane Riley lost his faith the night he injured his knee in a freak car accident. Determined to return to professional baseball and to find the sister he treated badly, Shane retreats to Refuge, Wyoming. There he meets Melissa June “MJ” Townsend, a single mom battling the virus that causes cervical cancer.

MJ wants nothing to do with the handsome athlete—no doubt a womanizer considering the stories in the news. But when a mistake results in Shane renting her garage apartment, they become friends. That friendship blossoms into something deep and pure, leaving MJ with a painful secret to tell. Even more complicated, she discovers an unexpected tie to Shane’s missing sister—a wounded woman who wants nothing to do with the perfect brother who scorned her.

You can find When He Found Me online at:

Amazon  US| Amazon AU | Goodreads

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 86 | A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh by Carolyn Miller

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh by Carolyn Miller:

First line from A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh

This sounds like a fun read! My paper copy has arrived (thank you, Carolyn!), and the weather forecast is for a rainy weekend. Guess what I’ll be doing?

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh

Can a very proper noble lady find a future with a fossil-hunting man of faith?

As the daughter of Viscount Aynsley, Caroline Hatherleigh knows every rule of society—and she’s always followed them precisely. It’s simply the way things are done in her world. When she visits south Devonshire and encounters a fossil-hunting scientist and his sister, her assumptions about what is right are shaken. She is suddenly confronted by questions she has never considered about the importance of friendship and faith—and her comfortable understanding about how the world works is thrown off balance.

Gideon Kirby loves science, and hunting down proof of past lives is a joy he won’t willingly give up. But his scientific leanings are being challenged by both his personal beliefs and by local smugglers in the Devonshire countryside. And every day his sister’s illness is becoming more desperate and her care grows more demanding. Adding a proper Viscount’s daughter to the mix is a complication Gideon never expected—especially since he has a secret that demands he stays far away from this young woman he’s falling for in order to protect his beloved sister.

When a mysterious stranger visits the village, that secret is set to be exposed, no matter how Gideon fights. Then tragedy strikes in a smugglers cave. And the threat of scandal may lead to broken hearts and passionless propriety. Will the shaky bond these two have managed to build be strong enough to overcome their differences—or will the trust they’ve withheld from each other end up tearing three lives apart?

You can find A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

Quote from Firing Line by Mike Hollow: I could've done without that murder. Nearly put me off my breakfast.

#ThrowbackThursday | Firing Line by Mike Hollow

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Firing Line by Mike Hollow, which previously appeared at International Christian Fiction Writers.

Firing Line is the fourth book in The Blitz Dectective series by Mike Hollow. It’s a police procedural following Detective Inspector John Jago as he investigates murders in London’s East End during the Blitz, those months in 1940 when the Germans were routinely bombing British cities, especially London.

As is almost expected with a murder mystery, Firing Line opens with the discovery of a body.

Joan Lewis has been strangled, but her body is found behind a locked door. How? Was her assailant known to her? Where did the Navy uniform hat come from? And the hard-to-get American nylons?

The novel also addressed some of the political issues of the age, such as boy’s clubs, greenshirts, and Social Credit (a political party I never understood, and understand even less now I know what it is).

Firing Line is the fourth novel in Mike Hollow’s Blitz Detective series, but only the second one I’ve read. It’s a standalone mystery, so it won’t matter if you haven’t. I did find I appreciated some of the subtle humour in the interactions between Jago and Detective Constable Craddock all the more for having read one of the earlier books.

I do enjoy the dry British humour. Some is remarkably modern:

Quote from Firing Line by Mike Hollow: I think people who read newspapers believe what they want to believe.
So #FakeNews isn’t new.

I enjoyed the location of Firing Line and the memories it brought back of living in London and hearing stories of the Blitz. But it’s a good read for mystery lovers with or without the memories. Recommended.

Thanks to Lion Fiction and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Mike Hollow

Mike Hollow
Photo: Stephen Crockford

I was born in 1953 in the Essex County Borough of West Ham – home of the Blitz Detective – on the eastern edge of London. I grew up mainly in Romford and went to the Royal Liberty School, then studied Russian and French at Cambridge University.

My first job was translating for the BBC, and I did various jobs there for sixteen years before moving to work in communications for development agency Tearfund, travelling widely in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 2002 I went freelance as a writer, editor and creative project manager. Now I earn a living by translating and spend the rest of my time in the cellar of my house in Hampshire chronicling the adventures of the Blitz Detective.

Why write detective novels? Because I enjoy reading them and I love to create entertaining stories. Why set them in that place and time? Because overnight the Blitz turned everyday existence into a life-and-death struggle for ordinary people – and some of them were my family.

You can find Mike Hollow online at:

Website | Twitter

About Firing Line

Flames leap skyward from a blitzed factory in West Ham as an air raid destroys all in its path. When the blaze threatens neighbouring houses a volunteer fireman breaks in to rescue a trapped resident – but instead finds only the body of a young woman, strangled in her bedroom.

For Detective Inspector John Jago the scene brings back memories of the Soho Strangler. He suspects this woman had a secret – that she is not what she seems – and that this may be the root of her untimely end. Investigation reveals a drunken sailor may hold the key to what happened in Joan Lewis’s flat.

But his information points Jago towards family jealousies, violence, robbery, and the underworld of political terrorism. Was Joan as innocent as her friends claim, or was she mixed up in crime? Jago must unpick multifarious motives if he hopes to reach the truth.

You can find Firing Line online at:

Amazon | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Firing Line below:

Completely out of control. But less out of control than it was three months ago :) I discussed my to-read pile in the first post of this year, when we were discussing book challenges. One of my personal challenges was to read 48 books off my to-read pile, and another was to cut a similar number from my Goodreads Currently Reading shelf. How am I going? I've cut 16 books off my to-read pile, which means I'm on target to cut 48 this year. No, I haven't read all 16. Some I read. Others I started reading and realised I didn't care for and would never finish—which is enough to take them off the pile. One I've decided not to read after reading an online rant by the author (it appears she's one of that small group of authors who say they want honest reviews, but also believes reviewers shouldn't post critical reviews because they "hurt" authors. Fine. I'll do her the favour of not reviewing her books. Or reading them. Or buying them). I started the year with 54 books on my Goodreads Currently Reading shelf. That's now down to five. How? Most of the books had been automatically added to my Currently Reading shelf when I bought them on Kindle and opened them. I went through the list on Goodreads and moved every book I wasn't actually reading to my To Read shelf, or deleted the ones I know I'm not interested in reading. What about you? How out of control is your to-read pile?

Bookish Question #101 | How out of control is your to-read pile?

Completely out of control.

But less out of control than it was three months ago 🙂

I discussed my to-read pile in the first post of this year, when we were discussing book challenges. One of my personal challenges was to read 48 books off my to-read pile, and another was to cut a similar number from my Goodreads Currently Reading shelf.

How am I going?

I’ve cut 16 books off my to-read pile, which means I’m on target to cut 48 this year.

No, I haven’t read all 16. Some I read. Others I started reading and realised I didn’t care for and would never finish—which is enough to take them off the pile. One I’ve decided not to read after reading an online rant by the author (it appears she’s one of that small group of authors who say they want honest reviews, but also believes reviewers shouldn’t post critical reviews because they “hurt” authors. Fine. I’ll do her the favour of not reviewing her books. Or reading them. Or buying them).

I started the year with 54 books on my Goodreads Currently Reading shelf.

That’s now down to five. How? Most of the books had been automatically added to my Currently Reading shelf when I bought them on Kindle and opened them. I went through the list on Goodreads and moved every book I wasn’t actually reading to my To Read shelf, or deleted the ones I know I’m not interested in reading.

What about you? How out of control is your to-read pile?

It is in tackling the new and the scary that we become who we are meant to be.

Book Review | A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden

Alex Duval has the dubious honour of being mayor of a town that’s about to disappear.

New York needs water, which means New York needs a reservoir. That new reservoir will flood Alex’s town in the near future. Sure, the State Water Board is offering compensation, but that doesn’t change the fact that two hundred years of family and town history will soon be buried at the bottom of a lake.

So Alex is less than impressed when a team arrives to survey the land and assess the buildings for compensation. He’s even less impressed when he realises the accountant who will determine how much the government will pay for each house is his first love, Eloise, who he hasn’t heard from in ten years despite his efforts.

Eloise isn’t exactly happy to be in town either, especially when she realises Alex is still there. She has no desire to be party to the destruction of this town, but it’s her job. Yet as she gets to know the town—and the townspeople—she wants things to be different.

Elizabeth Camden’s novels never fail to impress me, and A Desperate Hope is no exception.

As with her earlier novels, it combines complex characters with an intricate plot that incorporates an intriguing aspect of history, and a suspense element. This series has focussed on one of the major challenges of industrialisation: water.

The first book looked at some of the innovations in indoor plumbing. You might not think of plumbing as fascinating, but Elizabeth Camden turned it into a riveting read. Another looked at the importance of clean water, and the scientific battle between filtration and chemical treatment. Both were a combination of good fiction with intriguing historical detail, and a woman in a non-traditional occupation.

A Desperate Hope is the same. There is a problem, but solving that problem is going to take some innovative engineering thinking … and I don’t want to say more, because that would be a spoiler.

I recommend A Desperate Hope to all historical fiction fans, whether they’ve read the earlier books in the series (A Dangerous Legacy and A Daring Venture) or not.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden is a research librarian at a small college in central Florida. Her novels have won the coveted RITA and Christy Awards. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband near Orlando, Florida.

Find Elizabeth Camden online at:

Website | Facebook

About A Desperate Hope

Eloise Drake’s prim demeanor hides the turbulent past she’s finally put behind her–or so she thinks. A mathematical genius, she’s now a successful accountant for the largest engineering project in 1908 New York. But to her dismay, her new position puts her back in the path of the man responsible for her deepest heartbreak.

Alex Duval is the mayor of a town about to be wiped off the map. The state plans to flood the entire valley where his town sits in order to build a new reservoir, and Alex is stunned to discover the woman he once loved on the team charged with the demolition. With his world crumbling around him, Alex devises a risky plan to save his town–but he needs Eloise’s help to succeed.

Alex is determined to win back the woman he thought he’d lost forever, but even their combined ingenuity may not be enough to overcome the odds against them before it’s too late.

You can find A Desperate Hope online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to A Desperate Hope at:

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 85 | The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton:

I haven’t yet read anything by Lori Benton but I’ve read many glowing reviews of her earlier books, so I’m expecting great things.

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About The King’s Mercy:

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king’s mercy–exile to the Colony of North Carolina–he’s indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey’s slaves–and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey.

A mistress with a servant’s heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees.

Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he’s faced with the choice that’s long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex’s very life.

You can find The King’s Mercy online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU |ChristianBook | Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

What makes you buy or read a book from a new-to-you author?

Bookish Question #100 | What makes you buy or read a book from a new-to-you author?

One of my reading resolutions this year was to try to read more books from new-to-me authors.

Why? Well, I want to support new authors by recommending them to my readers.

And I want to understand trends in Christian fiction, especially when it comes to debut authors from the major publishers. What are they buying? Is there a new direction in terms of genre or location or time setting? Are there trends in writing or editing standards? This helps me give my freelance editing clients better advice.

But how do I find these new-to-me authors?

I often find new authors from traditional publishers through NetGalley. I follow all the major Christian publishers, and am always on the lookout for new names.

Many authors approach me for reviews. If the book is Christian fiction and appears well-written and well-edited, then I’m usually keen to read it.

I also find new-to-me authors through other book blogs, especially through the weekly First Line Friday meme. That usually gives me plenty of ideas for my weekend reading …

The one thing that holds me back from reading more new-to-me authors is that an author can only be a new-to-me author once 🙂

And I love many of the stories I read by new-to-me authors, and want to either read their entire backlist, or (if they’re a debut author) read all their new releases. And I can’t—not unless my existing must-read authors stop writing books (and that would be a tragedy).

What about you? Do you read books from new-to-you authors? What makes you buy or read a title from a new-to-you author?

A lot of people don't like progress, specifically the idea of women being in charge and creating their own success.

Book Review | An Agent for Belle by Nerys Leigh

Isabelle Wood has left home to avoid being forced to marry.

Instead, she’s joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency as one of their new wave of female agents. But the letter offering her employment missed out one vital detail: that she will be required to enter into a marriage of convenience as part of her first training assignment.

(Yes, this is pretty far-fetched, but it does illustrate something I’ve recently realised about good fiction: if you’re going to ask your reader to buy into some far-fetched idea or coincidence, introduce it in Chapter One. Or on page one. Because then anyone who can’t buy into the idea will stop reading. Those of us who think it sounds like fun will keep reading and forgive the unbelievable set-up.)

Belle’s new husband is equally unenthusiastic about the idea. His idea of a good marriage is one he’s not part of.

Anyway, Belle and Val (yes, the hero is Valentine) are sent to Cheyenne to save a burlesque show from being sabotaged. But they’ll have to work undercover, which means Belle gets a job as a dancer (complete with what she considers to be an inappropriate costume), while Val hires on as a stage hand (which involves more manual work than he’s used to).

An Agent for Belle was a quick and enjoyable read.

I especially enjoyed the sassy and witty dialogue, and the scenes where Belle gets one up on Val. He has occasional male chauvinist tendencies (he’s a man of his time—the 1870s), but Belle wastes no time in putting him in his place and demonstrating that she does have an aptitude for investigative work … among other things.

It was fun to watch two people who were actively against marriage fall for each other, especially given how reluctant they were to admit it. It’s also a story of women ahead of their time, from Belle the Pinkerton agent to Maria, who is a savvy businesswoman who just happens to manage and lead a troupe of burlesque dancers.

Overall, the story has a great mix of romance and suspense, all pitched against an intriguing yet fun concept, and with lots of great lines. Recommended for fans of historical westerns.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

About Nerys Leigh

Nerys LeighNerys Leigh writes thoroughly romantic Christian historical love stories. She loves heroes who are strong but sweet and heroines who are willing to fight for the life they want.

She’s from the UK, which you would think puts her in a unique position to not write about mail order brides in the American west, but the old adage of writing what you know has never appealed to her. She has an actual American read each book before publishing to make sure she hasn’t gone all English on it.

No One’s Bride is the first in the Escape to the West series which tells the stories of a group of women willing to travel across America to find happiness, and the men determined to win their hearts.

You can find Nerys Leigh online at:

Website | Facebook

About An Agent for Belle

Marriage is the last thing Belle wants, but she’ll have to get married to avoid it.

When Isabelle Wood answers a newspaper advertisement for female Pinkerton detectives, it seems the perfect way to avoid her parents’ desire for her to wed… until she discovers she has to marry her training agent for the duration of her first case.

It would be easier if her temporary husband, Valentine Stevens, wasn’t so ridiculously charming and attractive. But all they have to do is stop whoever is sabotaging a burlesque show in Cheyenne, and then she can go back to being happily unattached. Surely she can resist temptation for that long.

But with criminals on the loose, the glamorous lead actress taking an interest in Val, and a hefty dose of stage fright, Belle’s first case is going to be far from easy.

Find An Agent for Belle online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Koorong

Read the introduction to An Agent for Belle below:

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 84 | Sweet on You by Becky Wade

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from Sweet on You by Becky Wade:

First line from Sweet on You by Becky Wade - Five hundred and eleven days had passed since he'd seen her last.

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About Sweet on You

Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long.

Independent and adventurous Britt channels her talent into creating chocolates at her hometown shop. Zander is a bestselling author who’s spent the past 18 months traveling the world. He’s achieved a great deal but still lacks the only thing that ever truly mattered to him–Britt’s heart.

When Zander’s uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Merryweather, Washington, to investigate, and Britt is immediately there to help. Although this throws them into close proximity, both understand that an attempt at romance could jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But while Britt is determined to resist any change in their relationship, Zander finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings hidden.

As they work together to uncover his uncle’s tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light?

You can find Sweet on You online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!