When someone tells you a lie you want to believe, it is still a lie.

Book Review | West of Famous (Compass Crimes 3) by Joni M Fisher

Things go wrong when college student Martina Ramos takes a job as a body double for a famous teen singer while the singer goes to rehab. Instead of spending her time at film openings or in clubs, Martina is kidnapped. The first line takes us straight into the story:

Martina Ramos opened her eyes in hazy darkness on a cold floor that reeked of vomit and a chemical she couldn't identify.

West of Famous is the third book in a series, following South of Justice and North of the Killing Hand. I haven’t read the earlier books and West of Famous can definitely be read as a standalone novel. But it is obvious West of Famous is part of a series because the characters obviously know each other (and the reader knows them). This can be a little confusing at first, but does give the characters depth. It also means the author isn’t tempted to overshare their backstory, as often happens in first novels.

It does mean there are a lot of characters, and it takes a while to sort out some of the relationships. But that’s not entirely important: the essential part of the story is that Martina has been kidnapped by two men who think she’s a pop star, and who won’t hesitate to kill her if they find out she’s merely a graduate student at Oxford.

So the story has two parts:

Martina trying to stay safe on board the yacht she’d being held captive on, and Ruis’s efforts to find her before time runs out. The two parts meld together perfectly, giving us an action-packed story that never lets up on the tension.

The plotting is excellent, as are the characters and the way they work together to save Martina. The story is set in 2010, when social media wasn’t quite so prevalent as it is today, so it is believable that Martina is able to pass herself off as Ruby (especially as she’s surrounded by Ruby’s friends and boyfriend). There is another aspect of the plot that works better in 2010, but I won’t say what because #Spoilers.

I was also impressed by the faith elements.

Martina and her family are strong Catholics, and the importance of their faith comes through strongly. But it’s a realistic kind of faith, not something that feels like it’s been added for the sake of it (as often happens in inspirational/Christian fiction).

I very much enjoyed West of Famous, and recommend it to fans of thrillers from authors like Terri Blackstock and CC Warrens. I’m looking forward to reading the earlier books in the series.

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

About Joni M Fisher

Joni M FisherAfter working decades in journalism, Joni M. Fisher turned to crime. Her Compass Crimes collection has garnered attention in Publisher’s Weekly and earned recognition in the 2017 National Indie Excellence Awards, the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards, and others. She serves on the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board for Southeastern University and is a member of the Florida Writers Association and Sisters in Crime. An instrument-rated private pilot, she’s also a contributing reporter for General Aviation News.

Find Joni M Fisher online at:

Website | Amazon | Goodreads

About West of Famous

This contemporary suspense story, set in Florida, features a strong female protagonist facing the issues of identity, mortality, and survival after kidnappers mistake her for a celebrity. The boating community known as Loopers play a key role in the story.

This is the third book in the Compass Crimes series, which is a collection of stories linked by an ensemble cast of characters. Each book can stand alone. Each book features a different heroine and a life-changing crime. The stories are linked by the alliances, friendships, and occupations of the characters common to the stories. While some of the stories contain a romantic subplot, some do not. In the aftermath of each crime, the relationships between these characters grow deeper and stronger.

You can find West of Famous online at:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads | Kobo

You can read the introduction to West of Famous below:

New Releases in Christian Fiction

August 2019 | New Releases in Christian Fiction

It’s August. Already. (Sigh.) But that does mean there are a bunch of new releases in Christian to check out! More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp — Lila finds solace in her sheltered world by raising butterflies and surrounding herself with their gentle beauty. They’re all she needs—until a motorcycle-riding stranger roars up her driveway, invading her safe haven, throwing her life off-kilter, and forcing her to question everything. What exactly is he after, and what is he not telling her? In one intense night of desperation and revelation, Lila must confront her darkest fears—and hopefully discover that with faith and courage, shattered dreams can be restored, damaged hearts can love again, and broken wings can heal . . . maybe even fly. (Contemporary Romance from Ivory Tower Press)

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson — Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned. Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man. (Contemporary Romance from Revell-A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hometown Healing by Jennifer Slattery — She’s home again, but not for long… Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Grace in Deep Waters by Christine Dillon — William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out. Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself. When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson — Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity. In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all. Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future. (Contemporary from His Image Publications)

All In by L. K. Simonds — Cami Taylor: a blackjack dealer, a bestselling author, and a fraud. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, loves her in spite of her flaws. He wants to marry her, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family–a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami bolts like a deer. She breaks off the relationship and launches on a new quest for happiness, not knowing that a nasty surprise waits around the corner. What follows is a fight to the death. Who will be the one left standing? (Contemporary from Morgan James Fiction)

Historical:

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano — A rag girl accepts an invitation to become the lady she’s always dreamed of being, but some dreams turn out to be nightmares. (Historical from Revel – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance:

Lady and the Lawman by Crystal L. Barnes, Vickie McDonough, Annette OHare, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Four historic stories of lawmen and the ladies who love them. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie J. Peterson, Jill Stengl, and Susan May Warren — Enjoy five historical novels by some of Christian fiction’s bestselling authors. Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Cowboys by Sandra Merville Hart, Cindy Ervin Huff, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Linda W. Yezak — Taming the West–one heart at a time. Healing Heart: A physically scarred cowboy finds solace with a ranch girl who is hiding from her past. Becoming Brave: A cattle drover wants to get his boss’s heard safely through Indian Territory…as soon he figures out why a bloodstained woman is holding a gun on him. Trails End: Waiting for his boss’s cattle to sell, a cowboy takes a kitchen job at a restaurant where the beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Loving a Harvey Girl: To improve the local preacher’s opinion of career women, a Harvey Girl makes it her mission to redeem a wayward cowboy, but finds herself longing for a husband, hearth, and home. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Lost in the Storm by Tamera Lynn Kraft — Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job. Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist wants him to reveal what he’s been hiding. He’d prefer to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind. Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried? (Historical Romance from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Love’s Allegiance by Linda Shenton Matchett — Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch — Five years after the Great War, Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Annabelle’s Joy by Betty Thomason Owens — She’s waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn’t ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle’s heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Mystery/Cozy Mystery:

Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley — When an online vendetta against the Green Dory Inn escalates to physical threats, a cryptic message about a tunnel points to the property’s original owner, a notorious Prohibition-era sea captain rumoured to have left hidden wealth. (Mystery, Independently Published)

Murder at Rendsburg Resort by C. L. Wells — Trapped in a remote resort with a killer on the loose, the body count piling up, and no one else to save them, mystery writer Jill Pemberton must help find the killer before they claim their next victim. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Two Steps Forward by Luana Ehrlich — When CIA operative Titus Ray has an unexpected encounter with a Jihadi terrorist while he and Nikki are on their honeymoon in Morocco, he assumes it’s a coincidence, but when they travel to Israel for the second half of their honeymoon and encounter him again, he takes action, which takes him to Baghdad to prevent the assassination of a high-profile government official. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson — The DEA sends two of its best agents, Kara Nelson and Jeff Clark, to Central Oregon, to shut down a major drug ring. Kara and Jeff usually work alone, but Operation Trail Ride throws them undercover together in a way neither of them expected. A notorious Miami drug lord wants Kara dead. Can these agents pull off the greatest acting job of their lives—and manage the sparks flying between them? Or will they die trying? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Speculative:

Redemption by Jacques R. Pye — Sterling Newman and Armena Sandal face death as they struggle to help the Alesandrans and the Kirilleans combat a force seeking the destruction of both worlds. (Speculative, Independently Published)

Young Adult:

Shards of Light by Susan Miura — Sometimes the pieces of a shattered dream can transform into something extraordinary. (Young Adult from Vinspire Publishing)

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 102 | West of Famous by Joni M Fisher

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 West of Famous by Joni M Fisher. Here’s the first line:

Martina Ramos opened her eyes in hazy darkness on a cold floor that reeked of vomit and a chemical she couldn't identify.

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

About West of Famous

This contemporary suspense story, set in Florida, features a strong female protagonist facing the issues of identity, mortality, and survival after kidnappers mistake her for a celebrity. The boating community known as Loopers play a key role in the story.

This is the third book in the Compass Crimes series, which is a collection of stories linked by an ensemble cast of characters. Each book can stand alone. Each book features a different heroine and a life-changing crime. The stories are linked by the alliances, friendships, and occupations of the characters common to the stories. While some of the stories contain a romantic subplot, some do not. In the aftermath of each crime, the relationships between these characters grow deeper and stronger.

Honestly, this is not a strong book description, so I’m going to write my own when I publish my review!

You can find West of Famous online at:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads | Kobo

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!

#ThrowbackThursday | Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

About Mind Games

Kaely Quinn’s talents as an FBI behavior analyst are impossible to ignore, no matter how unorthodox her methods. But when a reporter outs her as the daughter of an infamous serial killer, she’s demoted to field agent and transferred to St. Louis.

When the same reporter who ruined her career claims to have received an anonymous poem predicting a string of murders, ending with Kaely’s, the reporter’s ulterior motives bring his claim into question. But when a body is found that fits the poem’s predictions, the threat is undeniable, and the FBI sends Special Agent Noah Hunter to St. Louis.

Initially resentful of the assignment, Noah is surprised at how quickly his respect for Kaely grows, despite her oddities. But with a brazen serial killer who breaks all the normal patterns on the loose, Noah and Kaely are tested to their limits to catch the murderer before anyone else–including Kaely herself–is killed.

You can find Mind Games online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

My review of Mind Games

Jessica Oliphant is the daughter of a convicted serial killer. Now thirty-four, she’s FBI profiler Kaely Quinn, dedicated to solving murder cases, especially serial killer cases. Her unorthodox methods have earned her supporters, opponents, and the attention of the wrong kind of people—like a persistent journalist. And a serial killer.

Kaely becomes part of the next investigation when the journalist receives an anonymous poem signalling a series of murders, and ending in Kaely’s apparent suicide. The first body is discovered soon after the note is delivered. Now the race is on to identify the killer before Kaely—or anyone close to her—dies.

Mind Games is an apt title for a great thriller.

We know from the get-go that the killer is playing games with Kaely. The challenge is to work out who … I identified several possible suspects (one of whom was later murdered, so I was 100% wrong on that one!).

Kaely is an intriguing heroine. She’s intelligent and likeable, and with a strong Christian faith. But she’s also a damaged woman who suffers nightmares and finds it impossible to allow anyone to get close to her. She’s estranged from her family, both respected and reviled at work as an object of curious fascination.

The other characters are also strong—they have to be, because Kaley is such a strong character. Noah and Kaley had some interesting conversations about faith. Yes, Mind Games is definitely Christian fiction, as there is a strong faith thread and some insightful lines about the nature of faith, and the nature of evil.

This is the first of the Kaely Quinn Profiler series.

I’ve read several of Nancy Mehl’s earlier novels, but this is her best yet. I’ll be looking forward to reading more about Kaely, Noah, and their colleagues. Recommended for fans of Christian thrillers from authors like Terri Blackstock and Carrie Stuart Parks.

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

About Nancy Mehl

Author photo: Nancy MehlNancy 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 Nancy Mehl online at:

Website | Suspense Sisters | Facebook

About Fire Storm

The next Kaley Quinn story releases this month—Fire Storm. Here’s the description:

When FBI profiler Kaely Quinn’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, Kaely takes time off work to go to Dark Water, Nebraska, to help her brother care for their mother. Upon her arrival, she learns of a series of fires in the small town, attributed by the fire chief to misuse of space heaters in the frigid winter. But Kaely is skeptical, and a search for a pattern in the locations of the fires bolsters her suspicions.

After yet another blaze devastates a local family, Kaely is certain a serial arsonist is on the loose. Calling upon her partner from St. Louis, Noah Hunter, and her brother’s firefighter neighbor who backs Kaely’s suspicions, Kaely and her team begin an investigation that swiftly leads them down a twisted path. When the truth is finally revealed, Kaely finds herself confronting a madman who is determined his last heinous act will be her death.

Hmm. Someone wants Kaely dead. There seems to be a theme here! I can’t wait to read this.

Meanwhile, you can read the introduction to Mind Games below:

And don’t forget to click here and check out Mind Games and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon store!

You are far more than a job, a ministry, or even a calling. You are a person created and saved by God, no matter what your job is or what you do in life.

Book Review | Love and Other Mistakes by Jessica Kate

Natalie Groves is about to give the presentation she hopes will save her job when she gets a phone call. There’s a medical emergency. Her first thought is for her father, who’s got cancer. But when she gets to the scene she finds Jem, her childhood sweetheart and ex-fiance.

With a baby.

Now unemployed, Natalie unwillingly accepts a job as Olly’s part-time nanny on the condition she can also take an unpaid internship with a new Christian ministry, Wildfire. It’s the opportunity she’s been waiting for. And the handsome youth pastor in charge has nothing to do with that …

Jem has his own issues. He left town after an argument with his father, and he’s still not ready to mend those bridges. And he’s got his niece, sixteen-year-old Lily, who helps Natalie with Olly, and who moves in following an argument with her own father.

Love and Other Mistakes is a bit of a genre mash-up.

There’s Natalie and Jem’s second-chance romance. There’s the faith element—Natalie’s internship is with a Christian ministry, and Lily’s parents are both in full-time paid ministry. Then there is Lily’s story, which is more Young Adult. The overall tone is humorous, with a definite chick-lit vibe.

I found the first quarter packed in a lot of information, and the writing sometimes got in the way of the story. But then I totally got into the story, and finished it in two sittings.

Overall, Love and Other Mistakes is a funny yet poignant lesson in broken relationships that’s occasionally frustrating (Steph, I’m talking about you). It’s also a lesson in mending relationships, and in the power of honesty, love, and God to heal what’s broken.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Jessica Kate

Australian author Jessica Kate writes inspirational romances that are fun, sassy and real. Jess is a screenwriting groupie, co-host of the StoryNerds vlog and podcasts, and her favorite place to be – apart from Mum and Dad’s back deck – is a theme park.

She’s traveled North America and Australia, and samples her favorite pasta wherever she goes – but the best (so far) is still the place around the corner from her corporate day job as a training developer.

She loves watching sit-coms with her housemates and being a leader in a new church plant.

You can find Jessica Kate online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Podcast | Twitter

About Love and Other Mistakes

Jessica Kate’s hilarious, romantic debut novel proves that some mistakes—including love—are begging to be made again and again.

Natalie Groves once had big dreams. But soon after her fiancé, Jeremy Walters, inexplicably broke off their engagement and left town, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Now tasked with keeping her family afloat, Natalie’s grand plans have evaporated . . . and God feels very far away.

Fast-forward seven years, and Jeremy is back in Charlottesville with an infant son and years of regrets. When his niece, Lili, lands on his doorstep in need of a place to stay, Jeremy needs help—and fast.

An internship opening finally presents Natalie a chance at her dream job, but she needs a second income to work around it—and the only offer available is Jeremy’s. They could be the solutions to one another’s problems, provided they don’t kill each other in the process. When they join forces, sparks fly. But they both know there’s a thin line between love and hate . . . and that love will turn out to be the best decision—or the biggest mistake—of all.

Find Love and Other Mistakes online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Kobo | Koorong

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

Sam was … well, Sam. Australian. Genuine. Warm. Talented. Australian. Passionate about the very field she wanted to work in. And Australian.
Who is your favourite Christian romance hero? What makes him so special?

Bookish Question #119 | Who is your favourite Christian romance hero?

Who is your favourite Christian romance hero? What makes him so special?

Tough question!

I read a lot of Christian romances, and I almost always love the hero. If I don’t love the hero at least a little bit, then I generally don’t like the book either. After all, who wants to read a novel where the heroine ends up with a guy you don’t like? If I like the heroine, I want her to have better than that! The same holds true when i like the hero—I want him to have a heroine who is worthy of him.

But a truly great Christian romance hero would fall for someone who wasn’t worthy of him, but would pursue her anyway. She wouldn’t be the riches or the cleverest or the most beautiful. She would have faults—major faults. He’d love her when she wasn’t lovable, when she didn’t love herself. He’d demonstrate God’s love in good times and bad.

Michael Hosea from Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is this hero.

If you’ve read Redeeming Love, you know it is loosely based on the biblical Book of Hosea. If you haven’t read Redeeming Love, you need to. There is a reason why this is probably the top-selling Christian novel of all time.

So Michael Hosea is my favourite Christian romance hero. Who is yours?

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 103 | Beneath a Camperdown Elm by Janet Chester Bly

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 Beneath a Camperdown Elm by Janet Chester Bly:

On the goat trail known as Highway 95, halfway between Winnemucca, Nevada and Road’s End, Idaho, otherwise known as home, Reba Mae Cahill relished a rare bit of joy.

I haven’t read any of Janet Chester Bly’s books before, so I’m looking forward to starting this.

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

About Beneath a Camperdown Elm

Reba’s scary stalker is locked up in jail. She finally snatches a rancher fiancé. Her runaway mother returns home. Reba has everything she ever wanted. But Grandma Pearl has disappeared! Is Reba about to lose it all?

Reba Mae Cahill brims with joy. Her life’s perfect. She’s finally bringing her prodigal mother, Hanna Jo, home to Road’s End from a Reno mental institute. With them is Jace McKane, her fiancé, who promises to help fight the unjust lawsuit that threatens the family ranch.

Then Hanna Jo claims she sees alleged wild horses in the mountain valleys as she learns her son and ex-husband’s fishing boat sank in an Alaskan sea. Can Reba keep her from flipping out for good?

As Grandma Pearl struggles with guilt, health issues, and finding purpose for the rest of her life, will the new church building project provide an answer?

Will any of the answers be found in the mysteries of an old Scottish elm?

You can find Beneath a Camperdown Elm online at:

Amazon | Goodreads | Kobo

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!

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer

#ThrowbackThursday | Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer, who consistently delivers challenging historical romance novels.

About Echoes of Mercy

Sometimes a secret must be kept for the truth to be revealed.

When a suspicious accident occurs at the famous Dinsmore Chocolate Factory in Sinclair, Kansas, Caroline Lang goes undercover as a factory worker to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event and how the factory treats its youngest employees—the child workers. Caroline’s fervent faith, her difficult childhood, and compassionate heart drove her to her job as an investigator for the Labor Commission and she is compelled to see children freed from such heavy adult responsibilities, to allow them to pursue an education.

Oliver Dinsmore, heir to the Dinsmore candy dynasty, has his own investigation to conduct. Posing as a common worker known as “Ollie Moore,” he aims to find out all he can about the family business before he takes over for his father. Caroline and Oliver become fast friends, but tension mounts when the two find themselves at odds about the roles of child workers. Hiding their identities becomes even more difficult when fate brings them together over three children in desperate need. When all is revealed, will the truth destroy the love starting to grow between them?

Find Echoes of Mercy online at:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Kobo | Koorong

Excellent romance, through-provoking plot

Ollie Moore, the day janitor at Dinsmore’s World-Famous Chocolate Factory finds himself attracted to the new toter, Carrie Lang. But he knows Carrie isn’t someone his parents will approve of. After all, he’s not really janitor Ollie Moore. He’s Oliver Fulton Dinsmore, son of the owner of the chocolate factory, working in disguise to investigate working practices at the factory, and the factory manager, Gordon Hightower.

Carrie isn’t who she seems, either.

She’s an undercover investigator for the Labor Commission, working to ascertain whether the recent death at the factory was an accident or something more sinister, and with a personal mission to end child labour. Carrie is attracted by Ollie, but suspects there is more to him than meets the eye—he might look like a common factory worker, but he doesn’t always sound like one.

I have enjoyed the previous books I’ve read by Kim Vogel Sawyer, and Echoes of Mercy was no different. She combines interesting and likeable characters with a historical romance plot that manages to exceed my expectations in the way she weaves in issues of the day, in this case, child labour. Yet this theme is a natural outflowing of the story and never seems forced, and she gives weight to the arguments both for and against child labour: economic necessity vs. human compassion.

Echoes of Mercy also includes a subtle but solid Christian element, best evidenced for me with this quote:

“Jesus tells us in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, verse twenty-eight, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. He’ll honor the promise, but you must do your part in laying down the burden.”

We live in a world where so many of us are so very busy, yet we are not always prepared to lay that burden at the cross.  Hmm …

I very much enjoyed the story, and found the information in the notes at the end informative. The state of Kansas passed laws in 1905 prohibiting children under the age of 14 from working in factors or mines, while national (US) laws weren’t passed until 1917.

Overall, I highly recommend Echoes of Mercy as a good story with a thought-provoking yet unobtrusive theme.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging for Books for providing a free ebook for review.

About Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel SawyerAward-winning, bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer is a wife, mother, gramma, chocolate-lover, cat-petter, and–most importantly–a daughter of the King! With more than 1.5 million books in print in seven different languages, Kim enjoys a full-time writing and speaking ministry. Her “gentle stories of hope” are loved by readers and reviewers alike. Kim and her retired military husband, Don, reside on the plains of Kansas, the setting for many of her novels.

Find Kim Vogel Sawyer online at:

Website | Amazon | BookBub | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

Read the introduction to Echoes of Mercy below:

What makes a good book review?

Bookish Question 118 | What makes a good book review?

Reviews are for readers.

The objective of a review is to help a potential reader decide whether or not they will like a particular book. Should they spend their hard-earned money buying this book? Is it worth their time to read? My time is valuable. I don’t want to waste hours reading a bad book when I could be reading a good book.

So what makes a good book review?

Some reviewers, especially Christian reviewers, say a good book review is a five-star review. They believe that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”, or that a positive review is building up God’s Kingdom.

I disagree.

I don’t believe God’s Kingdom is built on second-rate work.

Praising books with basic writing faults encourages mediocrity, and we should be aiming to give God our best. This takes a combination of (God-given) talent and (our) hard work.

I also believe reviews should be honest.

Readers deserve to know whether a book is worth their time and money. Even a free book takes several hours to read, hours the reader can never get back, so the book needs to be good enough to justify that time. As a reviewer I have a responsibility to be honest, and sometimes that means being critical. If I don’t like a book, I need to say so.

It’s hard to write a less-than-glowing review. Really hard. It’s much easier to write a four-star ‘I liked it’ review or a five-star ‘I loved it’ rave than to try and explain why I could barely finish the book “everyone” else loved.

Having said that, I don’t review every book I read. And I don’t publish every review I write.

I don’t have time. And I don’t have the space on my blog. I’m only sharing one new review a week, so (as far as possible) I want to review books I’ve enjoyed and recommend. On that note, I don’t force myself to finish every book I start. If I get to the point where I’d rather clean the toilet, then that book goes on the Did Not Finish pile.

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But we’re all different.

I’ve had conversations with hundreds of book reviewers over the years, and discovered that most of us tend to write the kind of reviews we like to read. So people who like reading long book report-type reviews with all the trigger warnings and all the spoilers will write those kinds of reviews. People who like the one-sentence “best book eva!” reviews will write those reviews.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there are five main aspects that contribute to my enjoyment of a book.

So these are the issues I try to address when I write a review:

  • Plot: Does the plot make sense? Do the sub-plots add to the overall story? Is it believable? Is it original, or do I feel I’ve read it before?
  • Characters: Do I like the characters? Are they people I’d want to know and spend time with in real life? Or are they too-stupid-to-live clichés?
  • Genre: Does the book conform to the expectations of the genre? If it’s Christian fiction, does the protagonist show clear progression in their Christian walk? If it’s romance, is there an emotionally satisfying ending? If it’s fantasy or science fiction, has the author succeeded in convincing me the world they have created is real?
  • Writing and editing: With many books, especially those from small publishers or self-published authors problems with the writing or editing take me out of the story (like a heroin wearing a high-wasted dress). Bad writing or insufficient editing makes a book memorable for all the wrong reasons.
  • The Wow! Factor: Some books, very few, have that extra something that makes them memorable for the right reasons. The Wow! factor is usually a combination of a unique plot and setting, likeable and intelligent characters (I loathe stupid characters), and a distinct and readable writing style, or ‘voice’. This is highly subjective and other readers might not agree with my taste. And that’s okay.

That’s what I think makes a good book review. What do you think?

Book Review | Living Lies (Harbored Secrets 1) by Natalie Walters

I read Living Lies right after reading two other brilliant Christian thriller novels. That may well have been a mistake, because Living Lies didn’t measure up. But the other two novels were both from multi-published award-winning authors, and I fully expect one or both of those other novels to feature in various 2020 award lists. So it may not be a fair comparison, given that Living Lies is the debut novel from Natalie Walters.

Lane Kent is the widowed mother of a young son, and the owner of a small-town bakery. She lives a quiet life, but that changes when she discovers a body in the woods. Charlie Lynch, the new deputy in town, is assigned to the case. This brings him into contact with Lane and her son. The police think the case a suicide at first, but it soon becomes apparent that it’s a murder … a murder to hide another crime.

Living Lies is one of the few Christian novels I’ve read that depicts mental health issues in a realistic way.

In addition, it was refreshing to see Christian fiction where the mental health issue wasn’t PTSD resulting from the hero’s time in military service in some place with more sand than water. After all, Christian fiction readers tend to be women, so it’s good and healthy to see a romance novel dealing with an all-too-common mental health issue that affects women as much as or more than men.

But there were a few things which bothered me.

One was the heroine’s name: Lane Kent. Every time I saw it, my brain thought “Lois Lane and Clark Kent”. Yeah, that’s weird. But it is what it is. Another botheration was a research fact: I’ve heard (from a forensic pathologist) that Jane Does are identified by fingerprints, dental records, or DNA—not by distraught parents (apparently, distraught friends and relatives have a nasty habit of getting IDs wrong, especially when bodies have been in the woods for a few days).

The final botheration was Lane’s father’s attitude towards her depression. He came across overbearing and controlling for most of the novel. I later realised this was the attitude of a caring and protective father who didn’t know how to deal with something he didn’t understand, but by then the damage had been done. I’d been set up to not like him, and I didn’t.

Overall, Living Lies was a solid first novel that addresses issues most Christian fiction ignores.

It was perhaps a bit too careful to tick all the plot and character boxes (but that’s better than the opposite), and I’ll look forward to seeing what Natalie Walters can produce next.

Thanks to Revell Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Natalie Walters

Natalie WaltersNatalie Walters is a military wife who currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and their three kids. She writes full-time and has been published in Proverbs 31 magazine and has blogged for Guideposts online. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.

Find Natalie Walters online at:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

About Living Lies

In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name–but no one knows your secret. At least that’s what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton’s newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she’ll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

Debut novelist Natalie Walters pulls you to the edge of your seat on the first page and keeps you there until the last in this riveting story that will have you believing no one is defined by their past.

Find Living Lies online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Kobo icon| Koorong

Read the introduction to Living Lies below: