Tag: Book Review

#ThrowbackThursday | My Hope Next Door by Tammy L Gray

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of the RITA Award-winning novel, My Hope Next Door by Tammy L Gray. It’s the first of Tammy L Gray’s books I read, and she’s become one of my must-read authors.

Katie Stone escaped her home town of Fairfield four years ago and has felt guilty ever since. Now her dad needs help with her mother, so she’s home again. Reluctantly. Very reluctantly. But she’s changed: she’s no longer the drug addict who spends more time with her boyfriend than with her family. She’s become a Christian … as if anyone in Fairfield is going to believe that.

Once home, she finds her new next door neighbour is Asher Powell. Asher, pastor’s son and town good boy, the guy she teased for being so boring all through high school. And she finds her dad’s new best friend is her ex-boyfriend, the person she’s least in interested in spending time with. Oops.

Asher has his own issues with the church and mistakes and judgement. It’s not that he’s given up on God. Just the church his dad pastors, the church he’s attended all his life.

My Hope Next Door was one of the best Christian novels I’ve read this year. It had a clear Christian message—a message it delivers as much to the people in the church as outside:

Quote

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Author

Author Photo Tammy L GrayTammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.

Tammy is often lauded for her unique writing style within the inspirational genre, preferring to use analogies verses heavy-handed spiritual content. Her characters are real, relatable and deep, earning her a 2017 RITA award nomination in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on.

You can find Tammy Gray online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Goodreads

About My Hope Next Door

Can love grow in the shadow of a broken past?

Former bad girl Katie Stone can feel the weight of her reputation settle over her as she drives home for the first time in years. Feeling deeply guilty about her past mistakes, Katie wants to do the right thing for once. But the small town where she grew up is not nearly as forgiving as she’d hoped. Despite it all, she’s determined to help her parents cope with her mother’s recent illness, and Katie finds a surprise ally in the man next door.

Asher Powell never minded being the son of a small-town pastor until a recent breakup leaves him wounded by lifelong members of his church. He remembers his new neighbor as a mean-spirited high school troublemaker, but he senses that her newfound faith and desire for forgiveness are sincere.

Through an unexpected friendship, two people from different worlds find peace, hope, and a second chance they never dreamed was possible.

You can find My Hope Next Door online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to My Hope Next Door Below:

Click here to find My Hope Next Door and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

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.

Everyone has different opinions on what makes a good book review. What do you think? #BookReviews #BookishQuestion Click To Tweet

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?

Do you read book reviews? Where?

Bookish Question #112 | Do you read book reviews? Where?

Yes, but I’d probably read more if I wasn’t a book reviewer myself!

Why is that?

As I’ve mentioned before, I get a lot of my review copies from NetGalley. I can’t read reviews for these books because there aren’t any (yet). If the author, book cover, or book description are good enough to entice me to read the book, then I’ll download it.

If I enjoy the book, then I’ll review it and share my review for others to read. If not … I’ll probably still review it on NetGalley, but won’t share the review.

When I do read reviews, they tend to be reviews on blog sites.

I follow 20+ book blogs through Feedly, and will read reviews for books that catch my eye … but only books that aren’t on my own to-review pile. I don’t like to read reviews of books I know I’m going to read and review, as I don’t like others to influence me. However, I will sometimes read a review, decide I want to read the book, then find it’s still available on NetGalley.

The other main place I read reviews is Goodreads.

It’s kind of like Facebook, in that the latest updates from my friends are front and centre in my updates. I’ll usually skim the updates a few times a week, check out reviews, and add books to my to-read pile (aka Mount TBR).

I’ll also read Amazon reviews if I’m considering buying a book e.g. if I’ve seen the book advertised on BookBub or another online site. But I’ve usually made my buying decision before I get to Amazon—although sometimes I’ll choose not to buy (say, if the ebook is too expensive. I have too many paid-for books in my to-read pile already).

So yes, I do read book reviews, but not as many as I’d read if I wasn’t a reviewer with an overflowing to-read pile!

What about you? Do you read book reviews? If so, what are your favourite review sites?

It isn't us who are on trial, it is science itself. And I am confident we will win.

#ThrowbackThursday | A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing my review of A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden. She is one of my favourite historical romance authors because I love the way she finds fascinating scraps of history to share about—like the fight for clean water in the growing cities of Golden Age America. It’s not the typical background to a romance novel, but it works!
This review first appeared at Australasian Christian Writers in June 2018.

Rosaline Werner lost both her parents to cholera when she was just ten years old. The loss changed her life, but eighteen years later she’s back in America, working as a biochemist fighting to eradicate waterborne diseases including typhoid. She’s convinced the answer is to chemically treat the city’s supply of drinking water with chlorine, but not everyone agrees.

Nicholas Drake is a plumber, and a commissioner of the State Water Board of New York, responsible for ensuring the citizens have access to clean water. But he can’t see that adding poison to water is the solution—he prefers the tried-and-true method of filtering the water.

It’s a great set-up: two people who want the same thing.

Two people with noble reasons. But two people who fundamentally disagree on the best process, to the point where their factions are fighting it out in court. It’s a plot that isn’t going to allow for compromise. Rosaline will win, or Nicholas will win. Unless Rosaline can convince Nicholas to change his mind …

It’s also a unique concept for a novel. Plumbing. Water. Dams. Chlorination. Filtration. Most of us in developed countries take safe drinking water for granted, and it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a little over a century since the idea was mooted, accepted, and popularised. Elizabeth Camden is known for taking little-known and intriguing historical factoids and turning them into compelling historical novels with plenty of romance and more than a little suspense.

The one possible fault with A Daring Venture is that while Elizabeth Camden’s earlier novels were definitely Christian, this (and the previous novel in this Empire State series, A Dangerous Legacy) do not have any overtly Christian content. But nor are they general market titles, with all that implies. Perhaps it’s that the faith element is woven in so subtly that it’s not noticeable.

And in some ways, it shouldn’t be. A Daring Venture isn’t a faith-based story. It’s the story of clean, disease-free water, and some of the people who helped change our world for the better by fighting for what was right. Which, if you think about it, is the outworking of the Christian faith.

A Daring Venture is an excellent novel with a unique premise.

Recommended for fans of historical fiction, especially romances and novels with a basis in historical fact. I hope there will be a sequel, because I want to see more of Nicholas and his growing family.

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 Daring Venture

As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city–but only if she can get people to believe in her work.

Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team’s techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist.

While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

You can find A Daring Venture online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to A Daring Venture below:

Quote: Do I believe miracles can happen? Sure. But we have to step aside and let them.

#ThrowbackThursday | Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Where Hope Begins, a powerful novel by women’s fiction queen Catherine West. If you’re looking for a Christian novel that goes deep into a broken marriage, I recommend Where Hope Begins.

About Where Hope Begins

Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

My Thoughts

Savannah’s husband of twenty years is leaving her for the other woman. Now the house is empty—their three children are at boarding school, college, and in a grave. Broken, Savannah goes to stay in her parent’s holiday home, where she meets the neighbours: an old woman, her nephew, and his daughter.

A daughter who is the spitting image of Savannah’s dead daughter.

Yes, Where Hope Begins has lots of angst. As the story progresses we find out more about how Shelby died, about how Savannah is convinced Shelby’s death was her fault, and convinced husband Kevin blames her, even though he says he doesn’t. We also see how this tragedy shaped their marriage, and paved the way for it’s destruction.

At the lake house, we see Savannah’s developing relationship with Brock, the bestselling author who is her new next-door neighbour. Her very attractive next-door neighbour. Why not? Her husband has left her for another woman and wants a divorce. That presents Savannah with a dilemma … and us as the reader. We’re convinced we don’t like Kevin, but does that justify Savannah’s growing relationship with Brock?

The intricacies of the relationships are compounded by Savannah’s Christian faith, a faith her husband supposedly shared. As Christians, we have clear views on adultery, but when is a marriage over? When is the wronged spouse allowed to move on?

Where Hope Begins is an intelligent, thought-provoking, and emotional read in a situation where there are lots of hard questions and no right answers.

The writing is excellent, as I’ve come to expect from Catherine West. The characters are well-developed, the plot complex but not convoluted, and the Christian elements threaded through but not overwhelming. Oh, and I cried. It’s been a long time since a novel made me cry.

Recommended for anyone looking for Christian fiction that addresses some of the hard issues of life.

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

About Catherine West

Author Photo: Catherine WestCatherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. Catherine is the winner of the 2015 Grace Award (Bridge of Faith) and the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award (The Things We Knew).

You can find Catherine West online at:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Find Where Hope Begins online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Where Hope Begins below:

Quote from Falling for You by Becky Wade

#ThrowbackThursday | Falling for You by Becky Wade

Falling for You is the second novel in the Bradford Sisters series, and it’s the story of an internationally famous model and a retired football star.

Here’s the Amazon description:

Famously beautiful model Willow Bradford is taking a temporary break from her hectic schedule to work as the innkeeper at her family’s small-town bed-and-breakfast. She was enjoying the peace of her hometown, Merryweather, Washington, right up until she came face-to-face with Corbin Stewart, the man she loves to hate. A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin–and suffered the consequences when it all fell apart.

Former NFL quarterback Corbin is forceful, charming, and accustomed to getting what he wants . . . except where Willow Bradford is concerned. Unable to forget her, he’s never stopped regretting what happened between them. When their paths unexpectedly cross again, he’s determined to make her give him a second chance.

When a decades-old missing persons case finds Corbin and Willow working together, they’re forced to confront their past and who they’ve become–and whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.

My Thoughts

Injury has forced Corbin Stewart to retire from football. He’s bought a house in Shore Pine, Washington, to be near his only remaining family. What he didn’t know was that it also put him near ex-girlfriend Willow Bradford, now on a sabbatical from modelling, living in nearby Merryweather and managing her family B&B.

Charlotte Dixon, Corbin’s twelve-year-old niece, has discovered a family secret.

She’s convinced Willow Bradford will help her uncover the mystery behind the secret, and convinces Corbin to introduce her to Willow. Willow agrees to help, even though helping will bring her into too much contact with ex-boyfriend Corbin. Who is still devastatingly attractive, despite the way he broke up with her four years ago.

Falling for You follows the same pattern as True to You and the free prequel novella, Then Came You. It intersperses the present-day story with letters, emails, and text messages from the past and present. It’s a novel (!) way to tell a story, and it works as we see the past and present stories of Willow, Corbin, and others.

And it’s a strong story.

It’s the romance of two people who messed up years ago, and have to work out if there’s a way through that mess to find happiness. Part of that mess was because while Willow is and always has been a strong Christian, Corbin called himself a Christian but didn’t live the life (football star, remember?). He’s now become a Christian, but finding life hard.

Willow has her own problems with faith, and they are so deep-seated it actually takes her a while to realise they even exist. This, to me, was the depth in the book—Willow coming to terms with her past choices, and what that means for her faith. And there was a fascinating suspense plot around Charlotte’s secret.

I loved True to You because I related to Nora, the librarian. She’s bookish, and that meant I could relate to her in a way I can’t relate to an internationally famous model. But I could still relate to Willow as a woman who has made mistakes, who has to learn what forgiveness really means.

Falling for You is a touching tale of love lost and love found again, underpinned by an intriguing mystery, and the power of God to forgive.

Now I’m looking forward to the third book in the Bradford Sisters series, the story of the pastry chef who doesn’t realise her best friend of forever is in love with her (and has been forever). He knows it. I know it. Her sisters know it. But she doesn’t, and that’s a trope I love.

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

About Becky Wade

Author Photo Becky WadeBecky is the Carol and Christy award winning author of heartwarming, humorous, and swoon-worthy contemporary inspirational romances.

During her childhood in California, Becky frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins. These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending. She’s been a fan of all things romantic ever since.

These days, you’ll find Becky in Dallas, Texas failing to keep up with her housework, trying her best in yoga class, carting her three kids around town, watching TV with her Cavalier spaniel on her lap, hunched over her computer writing, or eating chocolate.

You can find Becky Wade online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

You can find Falling for You online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Falling for You below:

Quote from Shadows of Hope: He wasn't an adulterous man, not really. Not in the ways that mattered.

#ThrowbackThursday | Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels. This novel impressed me because it felt real—real characters making real mistakes, leaving them with real problems and no easy answers. I’d never describe the ending as happy, because there is no way to have a happy ending to this dilemma without killing off some characters (which writers often do, but which can feel like cheating as I read).

Shadows of Hope is not the feel-good romance novel I usually read and review.

Instead, it’s a thoroughly modern novel where messed-up characters have to wade the confusing waters of consequences, and there is no trite or easy answer with no convenient divorces or deaths.

Marissa is forty, infertile, and wants a baby—a want made worse by working in a pregnancy resource centre, and being married to a man she suspects of wandering. Kaitlyn is the barista at Marissa’s favourite coffee shop, a twenty-six year-old college student who is secretly dating one of her professors. Colin is a biology professor who breaks off his illicit relationship as he finds out he’s up for tenure. Now if only she’d stop trying to contact him …

Kaitlyn discovers she’s pregnant, but Colin has broken it off and she can’t tell him. She does tell Marissa, not realising she’s Colin’s wife. But we know, and that one small secret drives much of the tension. When will Marissa find out? What will she do when she does? How will she cope in the meantime?

 

The writing was excellent.

The author delves into the emotions of three people who’ve all made mistakes in their relationships, mistakes which mean there is no easy answer, no possible ending that will satisfy everyone. The story wasn’t predictable, and I liked that because it felt authentic in a way a feel-good romance ending would have felt contrived and false.

The spiritual aspects were also interesting: Marissa and Kaitlyn were both raised as Christians, but both fell away from the church. Marissa got more involved in church after she married, but Colin never did (which caused some friction). Interesting …

Recommended for those who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction that deals with the real-life issues that don’t have easy answers.

Thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Georgiana Daniels

Author Photo: Georgiana DanielsAs a Christian author and homeschooling mom, my life is random and often chaotic—but abundantly blessed! I’m the wife of a super-charged husband and the mother of three high-energy daughters, and as such I’ve become a master at spinning plates—until they crash and I remember how much I need God’s grace. The journey is filled with both good times and extraordinary challenges, and now I’d like to peel back the curtain and share some of it with you!

Whether you’re a reader who desires fiction where the characters’ lives are challenged in unimaginable ways, or you’re a writer who needs a little encouragement—I have a heart for you!

My hope is that you’ll be inspired and motivated. Motivated to love more and live bigger no matter what’s happening. Because I get it…I know that life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. But we can trust there’s a bigger plan at work!

Come along and join me for real life…real hope…real fiction.

You can find Georgiana Daniels online at:

Website | Facebook | Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About Shadows of Hope

A story of hope in the aftermath of inconceivable betrayal and broken dreams
What if. . .

. . .you struggled with infertility but unknowingly befriended your husband’s pregnant mistress?

What if. . .

. . .the woman you were seeing behind your wife’s back gets pregnant, threatening your job and marriage?

What if. . .

. . .your boyfriend never told you he was married and you discover you’re pregnant?

Crisis pregnancy worker Marissa Moreau suspects her husband is cheating, but little does she know how close to home her husband’s infidelity hits. College student Kaitlyn Farrows is floundering after a relationship with her professor leaves her pregnant. Soon she lands a job and a support system at the local pregnancy resource center and things seem to be turning around. But when Marissa and Kaitlyn become friends, neither one knows they share a connection—Colin, Marissa’s husband and Kaitlyn’s former professor. When their private lives collide, the two women must face the ultimate test of their faith and choose how to move forward as they live in the shadows of hope.

You can find Shadows of Hope online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Shadows of Hope below:

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:

Book Review | Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

Aven was born in Ireland, married from the workhouse, widowed in Norway, and has now arrived in Blackbird Mountain, Virginia, to the only family she has left—even though it’s a distant link. She to find Aunt Dorothe is dead and “the boys”—Dorothea’s beloved nephews—are full grown men. Jorgan, the oldest, is betrothed. Thor, the middle brother, is Deaf. And Haakon, the youngest is full of fun. These are the three Sons of Blackbird Mountain.

The brothers invite Aven to stay—although she doesn’t have many options. She wonders if she’s made the right decision after the family receives a late-night visit from the neighbours. It appears the Klan don’t like Thor’s habit of hiring Negroes, even if they are the hardest workers. Despite the neighbours, Aven is becoming attached to the family, and especially to Thor.

One of the most interesting aspects of Sons of Blackbird Mountain was the character of Thor.

Thor has been Deaf since birth. He reads lips, and communicates through American Sign Language (ASL), and through writing notes. It’s fascinating to read this insight into Deaf life and culture in a time gone by. Thor is interesting for another reason: he’s in charge of the family cidery, brewing beverages that keep the family in fine style.

And he’s an alcoholic.

That’s an issue for Aven, because her late husband was an alcoholic, and it killed him. She’s initially afraid of Thor, but soon learns to trust him. But not completely. Not while he’s dependent on alcohol.

So Sons of Blackbird Mountain has plenty of conflict, and plenty of issues for the characters to deal with. It’s a gripping read with fascinating and original characters, and plenty of emotion. The writing is strong, although Bischof does have this weird habit of using odd sentence fragments—something I love in contemporary fiction, but which feels out of place in a historical novel. But that’s a minor niggle in an otherwise strong novel.

Overall, I recommend Sons of Blackbird Mountain for historical fiction lovers, especially those who like reading about small mountain communities.

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

About Joanne Bischof

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference.

Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

You can find Joanne Bischof online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About Sons of Blackbird Mountain

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Find Sons of Blackbird Mountain online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to Sons of Blackbird Mountain below:

Quote from The Heart Between Us: God chose to spare your life. Don't waste it by not really living.

#ThrowbackThursday | The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

It’s Throwback Thursday, and today I’m featuring The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel, one of my favourite books of 2018. Her next book releases next week: Secrets of Paper and Ink. I’m looking forward to reading it!

Thirty-two year old Megan Jacobs has spent most of her life wrapped in proverbial cotton wool, the result of a diagnosis of hypertropic cardiomyopathy. She spend much of her teenage years in hospital, watching National Geographic and the Travel Channel and daydreaming of a life travelling the world as a freelance journalist with her best friend and fellow heart patient, Caleb.

She received her heart transplant a year ago, but never followed her dreams despite Caleb—a successful freelance photographer—offering her an opportunity in London. Instead, she’s still stuck in her same old job and same old routines.

That changes following a meeting with her donor family.

Eighteen-year-old Amanda had everything to live for, as shown in her diary. It contains her 25-point bucket list, a list which inspires Megan to chase Amanda’s dreams even if she doesn’t have the courage to face her own.

Crystal is Megan’s identical twin. Except she’s always been healthy, and is now married to Brian, a firefighter, and working in her dream job as an up-and-coming architect in New York. She’s in line for a promotion, but her marriage is suffering, and her relationship with her twin is non-existent. So they’re off to visit five continents in five weeks, and hopefully rediscover their relationship, and themselves.

The Heart Between Us is excellent, both as armchair travel and as a novel that examines twin sisters, their ambitions, dreams, and relationships, and the way we sometimes make dumb choices because they are the safe choices,and how life doesn’t always work out as planned.

The writing was excellent, and I especially liked the way there were no easy answers. Both Megan and Crystal had to work through their problems, and both had to learn to turn to God. A great novel about the power of choices. Recommended.

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

About Lindsay Harrel

Linsay Harrel, author of the Heart Between UsLindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd with a B.A. in journalism and M.A. in English. She lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Lindsay has held a variety of jobs, including curriculum editor for two universities, medical and business writer, and copywriter for a digital marketing agency. Now she juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with working freelance jobs, teaching college English courses online, and—of course—writing novels.

When she actually has time to do other things, she loves to sing, read, and sip passion iced teas from Starbucks. She loves to watch God work in ordinary lives to create something extraordinary, and she writes to bring hope to those who may have lost it along the way.

You can find Lindsay Harrel online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About The Heart Between Us

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

You can find The Heart Between Us online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to The Heart Between Us below:

Click here to find The Heart Between Us and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!