Tag: Book Review

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:

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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:

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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!

Quote from The Saturday Night Supper Club

#ThrowbackThursday | The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano. The sequel, Brunch at the Bittersweet Cafe, releases this week, and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

Wonderful!

If you ask readers what plot points or ideas they don’t like in novels, there is always one that comes up: the impossibly good-looking hero or heroine. Others dislike too-rich heroes. Or writers. Or all of the above. I confess: I’m one of them. I especially don’t like the impossibly handsome rich writer (except for Richard Castle, but we all know he’s a joke).

The Saturday Night Supper Club has all these things (except for Richard Castle.) Despite that, it’s a great read—almost perfect contemporary Christian romance. It’s also a lesson in the power of the media—especially social media—to work for good and for evil.

And the food … I wanted it all. Well, except the chard. And the fennel. It was a weed where I grew up, and we were all told not to eat it.

Anyway, about the book …

Rachel Bishop is the darling of the Denver casual fine dining scene until a misplaced comment to the wrong person goes viral. Writer Alex Kanin unintentionally started the whole media firestorm, but doesn’t realise the full extent of the repercussions until he tries to apologise to Rachel, and finds his article has cost Rachel her job.

Yes, he’s the impossibly handsome writer whose debut memoir jumped to the top of all the right bestseller lists. He’s also rich, thanks to a couple of timely investments, and grew up in a well-off immigrant family. In contrast, Rachel left home without graduating high school, and has risen to the top of her profession through hard work and determination.

The Saturday Night Supper Club is the story of how Alex and Rachel work together to try and resurrect her career.

It’s a romance, so you know how that goes. It also has a solid Christian thread, in that both Rachel and Alex are Christians, and each has lessons to learn about the nature of God. But it’s not preachy, which is great.

Overall, The Saturday Night Supper Club is a great contemporary Christian romance, with wonderful characters, and wonderful food. I do hope there are a couple of sequels in the works!

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

About Carla Laureano

Carla LaureanoCarla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.

You can find Carla Laureano online at:

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About The Saturday Night Supper Club

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life—and love—outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

You can find The Saturday Night Supper Club online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to The Saturday Night Supper Club Below:

Click here to check out The Saturday Night Supper Club and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

Quote from The Line Between: I understood fear in all its forms. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being right. Of the unknown. Of the future and of God.

Book Review | The Line Between by Tosca Lee

It’s near-future North America. Wynter Roth has just escaped the pseudo-Christian cult she’s lived in for the last sixteen years. Disease is sweeping the land. And Wynter is afraid the cult leader might have been right … maybe the outside world was all heading for hell.

Wynter is a character who is both brave and naive. She knows little of the ways of the modern world, because she was only five when she entered the cult’s compound and has rarely been permitted to leave. Her views of God and the world have been twisted by the cult leader, Marcus. Yet she has a strong sense of right and wrong and is prepared to risk everything she knows for right … which means leaving the cult.

The story is fast-paced and disturbingly believable. That’s the key with dystopian fiction: twist something in our reality (in this case, infectious rapid onset dementia), and use that to destroy everything the characters know and rely on. Then see how they react.

The story flips back and forth between Wynter’s present and the events that led her to leaving the cult, and this weaving provides added layers of complexity, and propel the present plot forward. It’s masterful writing, and I challenge any fan of dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games or Divergent or Maze Runner to put this one down.

Recommended. And the sequel will be out in September!

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

About Tosca Lee

Author Photo: Tosca Lee

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of the House of Bathory duology (THE PROGENY and FIRSTBORN), ISCARIOT, THE LEGEND OF SHEBA, DEMON: A MEMOIR, HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker (FORBIDDEN, MORTAL, SOVEREIGN). A notorious night-owl, she loves watching TV, eating bacon, playing video games and football with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband.

 

Find Tosca Lee online at:

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About The Line Between

In this frighteningly believable thriller from New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee, an extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming.

When Wynter Roth is turned out of New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation.

As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play and that these samples are key to understanding the disease.

Now, as the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter herself.

Filled with action, conspiracy, romance, and questions of whom—and what—to believe, The Line Between is a high-octane story of survival and love in a world on the brink of madness.

You can find The Line Between online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

Click here to find The Line Between and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

Quote from More than Gold: He couldn't be set in his ways yet. He was only thirty-four. He didn't plan on being set in his ways for at least another ten years.

Book Review | More Than Gold (Escape to the West #6) by Nerys Leigh

Gabriel Silversmith is the gold miner we first met in The Truth About Love, where his mail order bride left him for another man. Not that we blamed her—Gabriel is rough around the edges, to put it politely.

Now he’s married to Grace Myers, and married life isn’t exactly going as planned.

Grace has opinions of her own and isn’t afraid to express them. And she’s refined … perhaps too refined for a gold miner living in a one-room shack with no running water. Will Grace stay, or will this be another disaster?

Grace chose to become a mail order bride to get away from her jealous and selfish stepmother.

She’d thought anything would be better than marrying Felicia’s choice for her, the ancient Mr Howard who has hair growing out both ears. Gabriel is younger and probably more attractive … if she can get him to shave off that awful beard and stop chewing the tobacco that makes him smell like an outhouse.

I have to admit that while I wanted Gabriel to get his happy-ever-after after the way Jo treated him, I also see Grace’s point. She’s a lady, and Gabriel is certainly not a gentleman. Or an angel. And is he really a successful gold miner? If so, wouldn’t he live somewhere nicer that a one-room shack?
But Grace and Gabriel are both determined to make the marriage work, and that’s a great starting point for an enjoyable marriage of convenience story with a touch of suspense.

The first five books in Nerys Leigh’s Escape to the West series can be read in any order, because they all take place simultaneously. More than Gold is the exception—it’s best to read The Truth About Love first, because that covers some of Gabriel’s history, and shows why Grace arrives alone, after the other brides.

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 relaxing and generally enjoying the view at:

 Website | Facebook

About More Than Gold

Does “second time lucky” apply to mail order brides?

Let’s just say that Gabriel’s first attempt at marriage didn’t go well. But his new bride, Grace, she has curves he can’t keep his eyes from, and he’s determined this time will be different. Until he ends up sleeping in the barn.

Why are women so difficult to figure out? All he wants is someone to cook, clean, and warm his bed. But Grace wants more. She wants respect and someone to care about her. She wants love.

So now Gabriel has to learn how to court his wife just so he can sleep in his own bed again. As for falling in love, though, he just isn’t the type.

But he’s been wrong before.

You can find More Than Gold online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to More Than Gold below:

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

#ThrowbackThursday | Death at Thornburn Hall by Julianna Deering

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Death at Thornburn Hall, which originally appeared at International Christian Fiction Writers.

Drew and Madeline Fathering are back. They are visiting Drew’s distant relatives, Lord and Lady Rainsby of Thornburn Hall, and planning to watch the Open at Muirfield, Edinburgh. They are not the only guests—there is also a married couple, and a Russian artiste seeking his muse.

Death at Thornburn Hall is the sixth book in the Drew Fathering series. Each book is a standalone murder mystery, which means you don’t have to read the earlier books first (although there are some plot threads that trail though the series). It follows the pattern established in the first book, Rules of Murder.

  • Drew arrives somewhere (Thornburn Hall, in this instance).
  • There is a death (sometimes there is more than one).
  • Drew investigates.
  • The local police force don’t appreciate Drew’s efforts.
  • Drew solves the crime with help from Nick and Madeline.

It has almost has a Scooby-Doo feel, albeit in a different time and place, and without the inevitable, “and I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.” Yes, there is humour in here:

There is plenty of witty banter between Drew, a member of the British aristocracy,  Madeline, his American wife, and Nick Dennison, Drew’s best friend and the son of the Fathering Hall butler (a friendship that continues to raise eyebrows).

And Carrie is back: Madeline’s American best friend, who Nick would like to persuade to stay forever … However, Carrie is not stupid. She’s realised the same thing the rest of us have realised:

Drew Fathering attracts murder. Murder attracts risk and danger.

But that’s the fun! Well, that’s the fun for me, as a reader. Carrie doesn’t see it quite the same way …

The writing is excellent, as usual. There is a cast of characters ranging from mysterious to suspicious. Some things are not what they seem, and there are plenty of genuine clues scattered among the red herrings. The ending is satisfying on several levels (well, satisfying to the core characters. The murderer, as usual, is less than satisfied with being caught by Drew).

I love this series because it is so British. It reminds me of driving through the English countryside, of camping in Scotland under the shadow of Ben Nevis, of taking the train to Edinburgh and disembarking at Waverley Station.

The Drew Fathering mysteries are an echo of England in days gone by.

They remind me of childhood favourites such as The Famous Five, and Swallows and Amazons, and of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Georgette Heyer, and other 1930’s murder mystery writers.

But it’s also an echo of the England I lived in … because I’ve visited many of the places Drew and Madeline visit—Winchester, Beaulieu, Edinburgh. The beauty of England is that it is old, and a modern visitor can see many of the same sights as Drew and Madeline see.

Death at Thornburn Hall by Julianna Deering is an enjoyable murder mystery that's a reminder of England in days gone by #ChristianFiction #MustRead Click To Tweet

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Julianna Deering at her website, and

About Julianna Deering

Author Photo: Julianna Deering

Julianna Deering (also writing as DeAnna Julie Dodson) has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness, and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her series of Drew Farthering mysteries set in 1930s England debuted from Bethany House with Rules of Murder (2013).

Find Julianna Deering online at:

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About Death at Thornburn Hall

The Fartherings’ Scottish Holiday Takes a Dark Turn

Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield hoping for a relaxing holiday, but he soon finds a mystery on his hands. Lord Rainsby, his host at Thorburn Hall, fears his business partner may be embezzling and asks Drew to quietly investigate. Before Drew can uncover anything, Rainsby is killed in a suspicious riding accident.

Thorburn Hall is filled with guests, and as Drew continues to dig, he realizes that each might have had a motive to put Raisnby out of the way. Together with Madeline and Nick, he must sort through shady business dealings, international intrigue, and family tensions to find a killer who always seems to be one step ahead.

Find Death at Thornburn Hall online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to Death at Thornburn Hall below:

Quote from Mind Games by Nancy Mehl: Those who know God should be the ones to confront the darkness, to chase evil. We have the weapons. Those who don't know Him have only themselves.

Mind Games (Kaely Quinn Profiler #1) by Nancy Mehl

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.

Mind Games by @NancyMehl is an excellent Christian thriller. Recommended! #ChristianFiction #MustRead Click To Tweet

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 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

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!

Book Review | The Unblemished Series by Sara Ella

I’m not a big fantasy reader, and this trilogy reminded me why. I requested a review copy of Unbreakable, the final book in the trilogy, on the strength of the fabulous cover and the intriguing book description. The publisher sent me all three books, because this is one series you definitely need to read in order.

Unblemished

Unblemished was definitely my favourite book of the series. It had issues: too much interior monologue, some weird writing (more than compensated for by some brilliant writing), an annoying habit of having three consecutive one-word sentences. So. Very. Annoying.

Again. Again. Again.

But I liked the main character.

I liked her voice—I knew I was reading YA and I haven’t been YA for many years, so I was able to move past some of her annoying teenager-isms. I liked the concept of the orphan who discovers everything she knew about life was wrong, that people weren’t who they seemed, and even the world she lived in (modern New York) was one of seven dimensions.

Yes, the world building was a little confusing at times. Yes, the writing was occasionally annoying. Yes, the author has skewered in every possible YA fantasy trope, every possible pop culture reference.

But underneath, it was the age-old battle between good and evil (accompanied by the age-old love triangle), and it worked.

Enough that I read the next book …

Unraveling

I’ve read reviews of Unblemished where the reader loved loved loved it. I’ve no doubt those readers will also love Unraveling. Unfortunately, I thought Unraveling unraveled what had been a solid premise.

While Unblemished was clearly El’s story (or Em’s story, depending on whether you’re #TeamJoshua or #TeamKy), Unraveling has three point of view characters: El, Joshua, and Ky. I found this confusing, as all three stories were told in the first person, and their voices weren’t sufficiently different. I continually had to backtrack to the beginning of the chapter to work out which character’s head I was in. And that disrupts the flow of the story.

Don’t get me wrong: I love stories told in first person (it was one of the strengths of Unblemished). And I love stories told from multiple points of view (although I’m less keen on love triangles). But the three first person points of view in Unraveling weren’t sufficiently different for it to work for me.

Unraveling also had all the same issues as Unblemished: endless cliches, endless plot tropes and endless pop culture references. They started feeling tired, as though more effort was being put into being Hip and Relevant than delivering a great story.

Overall, Unraveling wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t my idea of a good read. But it’s the second book in a trilogy, and my experience is the second book is often the weakest. By the end I was still interested in reading the final book, if only to discover whether#TeamJoshua or #TeamKy prevails.

Unbreakable

So I thought Unblemished was solid and Unraveling was average. But I often find the second book in a trilogy is the weakest, so I wasn’t going to not read Unbreakable, the final book in the series, simply because I didn’t enjoy Unraveling.

My mistake. This is the series that proves the rule: the one where I thought the final book was the weakest.

There were two reasons for this.

First, where Unblemished had one point of view character and Unraveling had three, Unbreakable had five. Five. Unblemished engaged me with a single story, and every additional viewpoint diluted that main story. It didn’t help that I couldn’t tell most of the viewpoint characters apart. They all sounded too much the same to me.

My other issue with Unbreakable was the plot. It was too convoluted. Not complex: I can deal with a complex plot. But convoluted, in that the plot seemed to go in circles rather than moving forward. The result was I lost interest. The romance thread had been present since Unblemished, so it was pretty obvious this wasn’t going to have a Divergent-type ending, and it didn’t.

I thought the ending was a let-down, and that’s even with El/Em ending up with the “right guy” (there is always the 50:50 chance in a love triangle that the heroine will pick the “wrong” guy, like in Twilight or the Bailey Flannigan series).

Overall

I saw weaknesses in Unblemished, but the unique plot and voice kept me engaged, and had me keen to read the sequels. Unbreakable was the opposite. The weaknesses from Unblemished were still there, but I found it impossible to stay engaged. I finished the book, but I think I skimmed most of the second half as I’d simply lost the plot, and lost the desire to care about what happened to any of the characters.

Overall, this series reminded me why I rarely read fantasy. Now, please excuse me while I head back to my genre comfort zones of romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing the full series of ebooks for review.

Have you read any of the books in this series? What did you think?

Quote from Gone Too Soon: It's disturbing to realize that I'm not as smart as I thought I was. I wonder what else I don't understand.

Book Review | Gone Too Soon by Melody Carlson

Kiera is fourteen, the independent and sassy middle child of three girls. But her older sister, perfect Hannah, died six months ago and it was Kiera’s fault. But Kiera reconsiders when she finds Hannah’s diary, and realizes Hannah wasn’t the paragon of perfection. Hannah had secrets …

On the outside, Kiera’s family look like the typical middle-class family, even if they are still grieving for a dead daughter and sister. But we see inside Kiera’s family, and it’s a long way from perfect.

Dysfunctional doesn’t even begin to describe it.

The story is told in first person from Kiera’s point of view, and in third person from her mother’s point of view. Kiera is a sympathetic character. She’s a somewhat rebellious and sassy teen (somewhat = the kind who gets herself a summer job and doesn’t secretly drink or do drugs). Like many teens, she feels isolated, as though no one understands her. Especially not her mother.

It’s hard to like Moira.

I’m the mother of teens, but still found myself siding with Kiera and wanting to give Moira a good talking to. Yes, she was grieving. But she was still the parent, and that means she has responsibilities. Like acting like a parent, not a stroppy teen.

The writing is occasionally shaky—I found the first person passages easier to read and more compelling than the third person passages. I’m not sure if that’s because the writing was stronger, or because I didn’t like Moira. I did wonder what Moira’s story was. Did we need to see her point of view, or was Kiera’s enough? Will teen readers care about Moira’s point of view, or will they find her even more annoying than I did?

In some ways, it doesn’t matter. Gone Too Soon is a strong YA story of blame and grief and recovery, and about how our bad decisions can make life so much worse … but also a story about how allowing God into our lives can bring us peace. No matter what.

Recommended for YA readers.

Thanks to Whitefire Publishing for providing a free ebook for review.

About Melody Carlson

Author Photo: Melody CarlsonMelody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year.

She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.

Find Melody Carlson online at:

Website

About Gone Too Soon

An icy road. A car crash.
A family changed forever.

Hannah Josephson had always been the “perfect” daughter. Kiera couldn’t live up to her before, and she certainly can’t now that her older sister has died in a car accident. But the image she carried resentfully of Hannah is challenged when she finds her dead sister’s diary and begins to read. Apparently Hannah’s final year wasn’t as perfect as everyone thought.

Caught in a pattern of blaming each other, the Josephson family is falling apart. Their father has left, their mother is mixing opiates and alcohol, little sister Maddie has been shipped off to spend the whole summer with their grandmother, and Kiera feels utterly alone with her grief and anger. A summer job helping at a park in a poor section of town provides a friend and a purpose.

But it’s Hannah’s diary that fills her thoughts. For the first time in years, she feels close to the sister she’s lost. But can the knowledge she gleans about her possibly help her patch back together the family that seems determined to implode?

Find Gone Too Soon online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AUGoodreads

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Quote from The Lieutenants Bargain: Jack knew that nothing happened in life that God didn't allow, but that didn't mean that everything had a purpose. Sometimes it was just dumb luck.

Book Review | The Lieutenant’s Bargain by Regina Jennings

Hattie Walker doesn’t want to get married.

She wants to be an artist, Her parents have given her two months to prove herself and get a painting in a reputable Denver exhibition, so she’s travelling to Colorado to try and make her mark in the art world. Otherwise, it’s go home to Van Buren, Arkansas, and plan for her future. A stagecoach shootout leaves Hattie as the only survivor … and therefore the only eyewitness to murder. But that’s nothing compared to being kidnapped by Indians for who knows what nefarious purpose.

Lieutenant Jack Hennessey has never been interested in marriage.

The only girl he was ever interested in never showed the slightest sign of liking him. But now he’s rescuing the survivor of a stagecoach robbery, and it turns out to be his childhood sweetheart. Anxious to impress, he asks the village Chief to arrange a ceremony … and ends up married.

Oops. Not quite the impression he wanted to make.

It’s a great set-up: a marriage that’s neither mail order bride nor marriage of convenience, but marriage all the same. And between two people who know and like each other, although that doesn’t mean they actually want to be married. It makes for a fun story, with a lot of great scenes as the two get to know each other and consider their options.

Parts of the novel show the hopefully well-meaning but almost certainly misguided colonialism, with the attempts to integrate the local Indian tribes into the white man’s world (and isn’t that phrase telling: the white man’s world. Not the white world. That’s still a distinction we’re all fighting for). Some Native American readers may say this history is sanitised and sugar-coated, and they’d probably be right.

However, this novel is intended as light entertainment, not a serious treatise on the faults of colonialism (of which there are many). On that level, it works.

The Lieutenant’s Bargain is the second book in the Fort Reno series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. Recommended for fans of Christian Western historical romance … especially those who like a little humour in their romance.

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

About Regina Jennings

Regina JenningsRegina Jennings is the winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. A graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history, Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children when not traveling the world.

Find Regina Jennings online at:

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About The Lieutenant’s Bargain

Hattie Walker dreams of becoming a painter, while her parents want her to settle down. As a compromise, they give her two months to head to Denver and place her works in an exhibition or give up the dream forever. Her journey is derailed when a gunman attacks her stagecoach, leaving her to be rescued by a group of Arapaho . . . but she’s too terrified to recognize them as friendly.

Confirmed bachelor Lieutenant Jack Hennessey has long worked with the tribe and is tasked with trying to convince them that the mission school at Fort Reno can help their children. When a message arrives about a recovered survivor, Jack heads out to take her home–and plead his case once more.

He’s stunned to run into Hattie Walker, the girl who shattered his heart–but quickly realizes he has a chance to impress her. When his plan gets tangled through translation, Jack and Hattie end up in a mess that puts her dreams in peril–and tests Jack’s resolve to remain single.

Find The Lieutenant’s Bargain online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to The Lieutenant’s Bargain below: