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Book Review: A Dream within A Dream

11 Jul

Trudi Coffey only realizes that she hasn’t seen Samuel Hill in weeks when the FBI shows up asking questions about him. After a strange encounter with an armed man demanding her help and an attack by a member of the Boston mob looking for someone named Dream, Trudi manages to find Samuel–or rather, he finds her. He’s made some pretty powerful enemies, but right now his full attention is on protecting Dream from the mob. Because Dream has something they want — the map to the location of artwork stolen from the Gardener Museum during the infamous 1990 heist.

With danger closing in from all sides, Trudi and Samuel will have to call on all of their allies to keep Dream safe and discover the identity of the people who have been hunting down Samuel. The real questions are whom can they trust? And who will make it out of this thing alive?

Mike Nappa is an entertainment journalist at FamilyFans.com, as well as a bestselling and award-winning author with more than one million books sold worldwide. When he was a kid, the stories of Edgar Allen Poe scared him silly. Today he owns everything Poe ever wrote. A former fiction acquisitions editor, Mike earned his MA in English literature and now writes full-time. He is the author of Annabel Lee and The Raven.

Melissa Kosci is a fourth-degree black belt in and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. In her day job as a commercial property manager, she secretly notes personal quirks and funny situations, ready to tweak them into colorful additions for her books. She and Corey, her husband of twenty years, live in Florida, where they do their best not to melt in the sun.

 

 

 

My Impressions:

I have been waiting for another Coffey and Hill mystery for a while — a LONG while! Both Annnabel Lee and The Raven made my best of the best lists the year I read them. In A Dream within A Dream, Trudi and Samuel are back better than ever as they navigate the known and very much unknown of a twisting, turning case. If you like lots of action with your suspense, then this book is a must-read.

Main characters Trudi and Samuel have a lot of history between them, some of it great, some not so much. Ex-spouses, they have become friends despite the mistakes and betrayals between them. In A Dream within A Dream they are thrown together as multiple foes, new and old, attack. I really like Trudi and Samuel. They seem very real despite some their superhero-esque qualities. These two have skills! They are adept at reading people and situations, and their hand-to-hand combat is way above average. I suspect co-author Melissa Kosci had a lot to do with writing those scenes. As I said, there is a lot of action, but there is also a lot of intelligent planning as well. Smart moves keep the two alive. The book is told from multiple points of view — third person past tense for Trudi and Samuel and first person present for the other main character, Dream. Dream is a wounded character whose perceptions are tainted by trauma and blocked memories. But he is the key to everything. All seemingly unrelated threads trace back to him. This novel really made me think — a true puzzler. The settings of the novel are Boston and Atlanta. Atlanta is Trudi’s home base, and I enjoyed recognizing all the landmarks mentioned in the book. My son lives in the same neighborhood as Trudi’s office! The Boston setting was a treat as well, since it brought back memories of a fun weekend in that historic city. Book nerds will also like the references to Edgar Allen Poe and his works. The spiritual thread is very subtle, but powerful. I won’t go into the details — spoilers you know — but when you read it you will have a wow moment.

I loved A Dream within A Dream and look forward to more books in the series. There is a BIG twist at the end that better be addressed sooner rather than later! 😉

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

 

Audiobook Mini-Review: The Lacemaker

9 Jul

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

 

Christy Award-winning author, Laura Frantz, is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. When she’s not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State.

According to Publishers Weekly, “Frantz has done her historical homework.” With her signature attention to historical detail and emotional depth, she is represented by Janet Kobobel Grant, Literary Agent & Founder, Books & Such Literary Agency of Santa Rosa, California. Foreign language editions include French, Dutch, Spanish, Slovakian, & Polish.

Readers can find Laura Frantz at http://www.laurafrantz.net.

 

My Impressions:

After years of hearing praise for historical novelist Laura Frantz, I finally took the plunge with An Uncommon Woman. I liked it so much that I immediately downloaded the audiobook of The Lacemaker, a book I knew would be great for my 4th of July reading. I was right! Set in 1775-1776 Williamsburg, the book encompasses the earliest days of rebellion. Main characters, Liberty Lawson and Noble Rynalt are fictional, but Frantz includes historical figures like Patrick Henry to give this book authenticity. Liberty, formerly known as Lady Elizabeth Lawson, daughter of the Lt. Governor of the colony, has definite Tory roots. But her mother’s sense of justice and her own desire for freedom, set her on a course counter to her father’s beliefs and her own place in society. Liberty and Noble will capture your heart as they negotiate the perils of the fight for independence and their own personal journey towards love. Yes, there is romance mixed in with spying and sedition — a great combo for fans who want a love story blended into their history. I listened to the audiobook in the days leading up to the July 4th holiday — a great choice to remember what the day is all about. The narrator did an admirable job capturing the rich mixture of voices that made up Virginia colony.

There is no doubt as to why The Lacemaker won a Christy award. Frantz’s wonderful storytelling, strong characters, and meaningful spiritual message make this one a must read.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

 

Audiobook Mini-Review: The Summer House

6 Jul

Sometimes it takes losing everything to find yourself again.

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago — just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins — a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over — and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

 

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.

Find her at LaurenKDenton.com or on Facebook (LaurenKDentonAuthor), Instagram (LaurenKDentonBooks), or Twitter (@laurenkdenton).

 

My Impressions:

I was looking for a perfect beach read and found it in Lauren K. Denton’s latest novel, The Summer House. So what made this one a winner for me? The setting is all Southern goodness in a small coastal Alabama community. The senior adult village of Safe Harbor is filled with engaging and often quirky supporting characters. The two mains — Lily and Rose — have stories that touched my heart. Second chances at life and love predominate the narrative giving this book a hopeful feel. And I laughed and laughed. 🙂 The narrator was excellent and captured the rhythm of the book perfectly.

The Summer House is recommended for those needing some warm summer breezes, a little water therapy, and a feel-good, down-home reading experience, even if your beach this year is your backyard. 😉

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

 

Book Review: The Key to Everything

2 Jul

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined — namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

My Impressions:

The first two books by Valerie Fraser Luesse were all I could hope for in novels that tell wonderful stories filled with engaging characters and a great sense of place and time. I chose The Key to Everything without even reading the blurb, that was how assured I was of liking it. And I did! In fact I loved it. I may even have a little book hangover — I just can’t let this book go. It gets my highly recommended rating.

The Key to Everything is a coming-of-age story set in 1947. This was a time of great hopes, but with the lingering aftereffects of war. I especially liked that Luesse set the novel as a journey in old Florida. While I grew up many years after this story is set, I did experience Florida before the advent of Disney. It was a time of small coastal towns, kitschy motels, and sometimes crusty fish camps. The book brought back those memories and more, with many things I didn’t know before. Peyton’s journey on the saddle of a bike allows the reader to experience the small things that made the Florida of that time special. The characters are wonderfully drawn — I came to love Peyton and all those he met along the way. Peyton is a remarkable character, fearless in his desire to find his own way. I loved how he learned about his father’s dreams and aspirations, along with his disappointments and compromises. This knowledge helped to determine Peyton’s own path. The Key to Everything is a quiet book, yet it has some very big moments that are not shouted, but seep into the reader’s heart. This beautifully told story will stay with me a very long time.  I also think that the novel would make a great choice for book clubs. I know I really want to talk about it!

I wish I could do more justice to this book. Just let me leave you with one more thought — read this book! You will be so glad you did.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Children’s Corner — The Great Farmapalooza

1 Jul

It’s never a dull day in the barnyard, and these quirky and colorful animals are having a farmapalooza to celebrate God’s love and thank Him for His creation! The ducks are thanking God for their quacks, the hens are thankful for their feathers, and the donkey is singing praises that God made him so handsome. All in all, it’s a day and a barn full of praise.

This fun board book pairs flaps and whimsical illustrations with fun-to-read rhymes that will have kids mooing and quacking along with the farm’s crazy cast of characters.

 

My Impressions:

The Great Farmapapalooza has so many great things going for it! Cute, cute farm animals with engaging expressions, rhyming verse, and hidden gems behind flaps combine to keep your little one engaged. But best of all is the reminder that everything in God’s creation praises Him. I loved how each animal — rooster, cow, donkey, and so on — praised God for how they were made and what God provided for them. Joy-filled, this book is a great way to introduce that special child to the wonder and uniqueness of God’s creation. This sturdy board book will be a an often requested read in your library.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 1-5.

(Thanks to B&H Publishers for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Audiobook Review: The Jane Austen Society

24 Jun

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people ― a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others ― could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

 

Natalie Jenner is the author of The Jane Austen Society, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law, and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

 

My Impressions:

I heard about The Jane Austen Society from a number of sources, but it was my bookish friends who raved about this book that made me give it a go. I love Jane Austen, as well as all of the re-imaginings and variations on her books and life. This novel seemed to be one destined for me. I chose the audiobook version because I have lots to do this summer and need to squeeze my pleasure reads into any available time I can find. So I listened while I walked, cooked, and managed other chores and errands. I flew through it! It captured my attention and imagination immediately. So, thanks to all who recommended it.

The book is a fictional account of a small group of people who want to preserve Jane Austen’s home and legacy for future generations. The characters are extremely varied, having little in common except for the impact Austen has had on their lives. Jenner creates an ensemble cast that you will take into your heart. I can’t even say I have a favorite among them — the main characters are all so wonderful. The story details a good deal of sadness, disappointments, regrets, and heartaches. I admit that I was wondering if I was ever going to get to anything happy. 😉 If you feel that way too, stick with this book. You won’t be sad or disappointed. Although you don’t have to be an Austen fan to enjoy this book, it just might prompt you to pick up those unread novels. There are plenty of references to Austen’s books and parallels between Austen’s characters and Jenner’s. True Janeites are apt to swoon. 😉 It is really hard to believe this is a debut novel. The complex construction, plotting, and heartfelt storytelling are masterful. And the epilogue? Brilliant!

One thing to note: this is a general market book, so there is some adult language and situations that some may find offensive. I am not a fan of the use of a certain word, but it was used sparingly and by a particularly odious character. Richard Armitage is the narrator — he does a great job with the variety of voices.

Recommended (with adult language/situation warning)

Audience: adults

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

 

Book Review And Giveaway: Dead Silence

22 Jun

About The Book

Book:  Dead Silence

Author: Robin Caroll

Genre: Christian Suspense

Release Date: June 2020

Political games can be deadly…

Elise Carmichael is a court sign language interpreter who reads lips all the time. As a widow with a young son who is deaf, lip reading is simply second nature, until the day she reads the lips of someone on the phone discussing an attempt to be made on a senator’s life — a senator who just happens to be her mother-in-law. Before she can decide what she needs to do, she receives the information that her son is rushed to the ER and she must leave. Then she later sees the news report that her mother-in-law has been shot and killed. But when she comes forward, her life, as well as her son’s life, may now be in the crosshairs of the assassin.

 

 

Click here to get your copy!


 

 

My Impressions:

I always love a suspense witten by Robin Caroll. She consistently produces unique page turning plots with twists and turns that keep a reader up way past their bedtime. 😉 Dead Silence is no exception. The fast-paced action starts right at the beginning and never lets off the gas. I liked main character Elise Carmichael, a single mom with a special needs child who is a mama bear when it comes to the safety of her son. Elise is involved in solving the case early on, even though she has constant run-ins with the FBI. She and her family and new-found friend follow the leads wherever they go. This kept the main character in the thick of things even when there is a lapse in cooperation between her and the authorities. Elise’s role probably does not meet standard operating procedures. Elise is tough, but her heart has become hard towards God as well. I liked her struggle — it felt very realistic. As the book goes on she learns a lot about herself and the nature of God. I thought the spiritual thread was handled very well. Dead Silence is pure suspense, no romantic threads at all. So if you want all suspense, all the time, this book is for you. Dead Silence is definitely a recommended read!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Celebrate Lit and Shiloh Run Press for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

About The Author

“I love boxing. I love Hallmark movies. I love fishing. I love scrapbooking. Nope, I’ve never fit into the boxes people have wanted to put me in.” Robin Caroll is definitely a contradiction, but one that beckons you to get to know her better. Robin’s passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others and come alongside them on their faith journey — aspects Robin weaves into each of her twenty-five-plus published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends quality time with her husband of nearly three decades, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home. Robin gives back to the writing community by serving as executive director/conference director for ACFW. Her books have been recognized in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best, and Book of the Year. You can find out more about Robin by visiting http://www.robincaroll.com.

 

 

More from Robin

Hi, there . . . Robin here. I’m getting so excited for the release of my thirty-fourth novel, DEAD SILENCE. I have to say, I love this book. The heroine is strong, yet flawed. Her love for her son — willing to do anything to protect him is a mother’s instinct I relate to so well, having three daughters and two grandsons. The love of a mother for her child is so ingrained in me that I wanted to share that in a story.

I’ve been asked why I opted for a heroine who is an ASL translator and who has a deaf son. Many years ago, I became friends with someone who is deaf. She shared with me some of her frustrations, but also how her way of life is in comparison to mine. It got me to thinking that being deaf could be thought of as a disability but could also be used as an advantage…it was all in how you looked at it. My friend shared many stories of how she “eavesdropped” by reading lips and learned much about people and how they reacted to issues, enough that it led her into her career field today—a counselor, specializing in providing therapy for the hearing impaired as they live in a hearing world. I hope that I portrayed my characters in this positive light.

While I’m a Louisiana girl at heart, I reside in Little Rock, the capitol city for Arkansas. Since Bill and Hilary Clinton lived here and claimed it home before Bill was President, we have many political plans and posturing here. I saw it as a perfect backdrop for this particular story with the political undercurrents running rampant throughout the story.

 

I hope that you enjoy reading DEAD SILENCE as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 19

deb’s Book Review, June 19

Texas Book-aholic, June 20

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 20

Emily Yager, June 20

For the Love of Literature, June 21

Rebecca Tews, June 21

By The Book, June 22

Spoken from the Heart, June 22

Genesis 5020, June 22

KarenSueHadley, June 23

Hebrews 12 Endurance, June 23

Betti Mace, June 24

Remembrancy, June 24

Older & Smarter?, June 24

Inklings and notions, June 25

Read Review Rejoice, June 25

Through the Fire Blogs, June 26

Splashes of Joy, June 26

HookMeInABook, June 26

For Him and My Family, June 27

Mary Hake, June 27

Simple Harvest Reads, June 28 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 28

amandainpa, June 28

Worthy2Read, June 29

Pause for Tales, June 29

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 30

Hallie Reads, June 30

Daysong Reflections, July 1

Lights in a Dark World, July 1

Quiet Quilter, July 2

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 2

Maureen’s Musings, July 2

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Robin is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/fcd1/dead-silence-celebration-tour-giveaway

Book Review: Magnolia Storms

18 Jun

Maggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina, but she’s dedicated her life to meteorology so she can warn others when the monster storms approach. Except . . . she works three hours inland and rarely risks returning to her childhood hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Both her single-parent sister and the ship pilot Maggie once loved refused to leave the Coast, despite Maggie’s requests. Now a hurricane’s headed toward Mississippi, and Maggie’s sister is seriously injured, leaving Maggie little choice but to head south — into the storm.

The water and tides flow through Josh Bergeron’s veins, and he can’t imagine giving up piloting — even for the love of his life, the infuriating Magnolia Marovich. He tried to move on without her, marrying and having a child. But after his wife abandons him and his little boy, his career choice is threatened by the weight of his parental responsibilities. Moving next door to Maggie’s sister and sharing their child care seems like the perfect set-up. Until Maggie blows back into town.

Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Where was God during the destruction of Katrina? Why do some prayers seem to go unanswered? Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?

Janet W. Ferguson is a Grace Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served as a children’s minister and a church youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. She writes humorous inspirational fiction for people with real lives and real problems. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a cat that allows them to share the space.

 

My Impressions:

I am excited to introduce my book club to Janet Ferguson. I have read a couple of her books, and knew that Magnolia Storms, the first book in her Coastal Hearts series would be perfect for our summer reading. Okay, the book is not set during the summer, but it is set in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and has numerous references to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Mississippi coast. Hurricanes and beach communities say beach read to me, just sayin’ 😉 . Main character Magnolia Maggie Marovich’s life was impacted by Katrina leading to her choices of career (meteorologist), residence (safely inland), and even her preferred vacation location (the mountains). She avoids the coast at all costs, except when her family needs her. She tucks her emergency pack in the trunk of her car and her fears in her back pocket, and heads down to her hometown to rescue her sister, niece, and aunt. What Maggie does not know, is that she needs rescuing most of all.

I loved the interactions, and let’s face it, the great chemistry between Maggie and her childhood sweetheart Josh. Magnolia Storms is after all a romance. But really it is so much more as Maggie not only faces her extreme anxiety but tries to overcome it. I have friends in Ocean Springs, and have visited from time to time. Ferguson’s descriptions brought back memories of a quaint coastal town. She captured the essence of the place and people well. The overarching theme of trying to control the uncontrollable was developed in ways that I could relate to. God is always in control, even when we won’t acknowledge that or feel we know better than Him. Maggie learned a lot, and I anticipate some great discussion from my book club on the subject.

Part romance, part women’s fiction, and all Southern, Magnolia Storms is a winner! It is book one in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. I have already read books 3 and 4 — now I need to go back and finish up with book 2!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased a copy of Magnolia Storms. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Audiobook Mini-Review: Perennials

15 Jun

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

Eva Sutherland — known to all as Lovey — grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is quickly engrossed in a secret project — a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. But the landscaper who’s also working on it is none other than Fisher, the first boy she ever loved. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, the power of second chances, and how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, Julie Cantrell is known for writing inspirational works that explore the hard truths people typically keep secret. While she delves into emotional issues, she does so with a compassionate and open heart, always bringing readers through to a hopeful path for peace, empathy, and healing. All four of her novels have reached the #1 spot on Amazon.

A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie was honored to receive the 2012 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship and to be named a finalist twice for the Mississippi Arts & Letters Fiction Award. She also received the 2016 Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship at Rivendell Writer’s Colony, which is awarded to a writer who encourages spiritual growth, healing, and care through his or her work.

Learn more:
Website: http://www.juliecantrell.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliecantrellauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieCantrell
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliecantrell/
TEDx: http://bit.ly/TEDxJulieCantrell

 

My Impressions:

I haven’t read women’s fiction in a while and was looking for a good one to listen to on my daily walks. Perennials by Julie Cantrell has been on my radar for a while. I read her first two novels, Into The Free and When Mountains Move, and found them to be excellent. Those are both historical novels, but obviously Cantrell’s writing talent transcends genres. Perennials tells the story of Lovey Sutherland in her own first person voice. The narrative switches from present day to flashbacks of pivotal childhood and adult events in her life. I wondered if Lovey could be trusted to tell the truth (you will understand that bit of irony if you read the book), but found her to be true to herself and others in the descriptions of her interactions with family, co-workers, ex-lovers, etc. Most of the book is set in Lovey’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. She left at 18, and never really looked back. Her memories haunt and hurt her. Complex relationships are explored — not a few of which I connected with. The book is one of endings, beginnings, and second-chances. I went to college in Mississippi and married a Mississippi boy with relatives in Oxford, so I am somewhat familiar with the small university town. Even for those readers who have never been there, you will feel right at home. The novel also has a wealth of references to two of Mississippi’s literary greats — William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. I loved how Cantrell incorporated their books, homes, and even gardens into the plot. You don’t have to be steeped in the lore of southern authors and their fiction to enjoy Perennials, but it did add a special something to my reading enjoyment.

I am glad to find that I can read any Julie Cantrell novel and enjoy it. She has a couple more I am ready to explore.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Audiobook Mini-Review: An Uncommon Woman

11 Jun

Unflinching and plainspoken, Tessa Swan is not your typical 18th-century woman. Born and bred on the western Virginia frontier along with her five brothers, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Quiet and courageous, Clay Tygart is not your typical 18th-century man. Raised by Lenape Indians, he returns a hero from the French and Indian War to the fort that bears his name, bringing with him Tessa’s long-lost friend, Keturah, who disappeared from the settlement years earlier.

Determined to avoid any romantic entanglements as fort commander, Clay remains aloof whenever he encounters the lovely Tessa. But when circumstances force Clay’s hand — and heart — the stage is set for one very private and one very public reckoning.

Intense, evocative, and laced with intricate historical details that bring the past to life, An Uncommon Woman will transport you to the picturesque and dangerous western Virginia mountains of 1770.

Christy Award-winning author, Laura Frantz, is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. When she’s not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State.

Readers can find Laura Frantz at http://www.laurafrantz.net

My Impressions:

Laura Frantz has long been on my radar. Her books check all the boxes for me — well-researched historical fiction set in the early days of America with distinctive characters and a strong sense of place. So why have I waited so long to read one of her books? No idea, but I am glad I finally did. I listened to the audiobook of An Uncommon Woman. Set in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, it takes place in the wilds of what is now West Virginia. It is hard to believe that this was once the rough frontier. Relations between settlers and Native Americans were extremely hostile with raids, murders, and kidnappings being the common fears of the day. Into this setting, Frantz places Tessa Swan and Clay Tygart. Tessa is the only daughter in a family filled with brothers and is used to hard work and deprivations. Tygart is a war hero tasked with establishing a fort and defending the settlers who are claiming the land as their own. Their attraction is immediate, but there are lots of obstacles including the increased hostilities. I liked that Frantz presented both sides of the issues involved during that time. I found the setting fascinating, and loved how Frantz incorporated details, from language to mundane activities, to take the modern reader back in time. The romantic thread progressed naturally allowing for both characters to grow in their feelings. There is a bit of suspenseful action as well. A spiritual message is seamlessly incorporated — it never felt preachy.

I am so glad I finally read one of Frantz’s novels — An Uncommon Woman was so good. I already have another book ready to  go!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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