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Book Review (+Giveaway!): Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

12 Feb

About the Book

Title: Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

Author: Carla Laureano

Genre: Christian Romance

Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Tyndale

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.

Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Author

Carla 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.

Guest Post from Carla

“Confessions of An Erstwhile Baker”

Like most females, baking is encoded somewhere deep down in my DNA. Call it nature or call it nurture, but at the earliest age, I figured out that the cute boy in my English class would talk to me if it involved chocolate chip cookies. Got my heart broken or had a friend betray me? I grabbed the mixing bowl and went for the brownies (even better if they’re served à la mode.) My friend was having a birthday? I made a cake drowned in pounds of buttercream.

I quickly graduated from the boxed mixes to the real thing when I got married and had a kitchen large enough to roll out dough. I would comb magazines for the best recipes and spend my weekends trying them out. I quickly became known for bringing beautifully iced Christmas cookies and delicious homemade cakes to work.

Then my husband and I moved our young family from Los Angeles to Denver, a relocation that was about 1000 miles northeast and 5000 feet up. Suddenly, every recipe I’d perfected in the previous eight years failed. Cookies burned to crisps, cakes fell, and don’t get me started on candy making. Gradually, I adapted my recipes (my beloved never-fail Toll House recipe took eight tries to get right) and even became an avid artisan bread-baker.

Then disaster. Or at least, what a baker would consider a disaster. After developing chronic health problems, I discovered that among other things, I was sensitive to gluten. The horror! In order to heal, I turned to the paleo diet, which eliminates all grains (there goes most gluten free recipes) and all processed sugars (there goes everything else). I’ve tried baking paleo-style, and while I can now make cakes that even my gluten-fiend family enjoy, it’s just not the same.

So what’s a once-obsessive baker do when she can’t eat her creations? She bakes for other people and goes on faith that they actually taste good… considering she can’t taste them herself.

It struck me that there was a spiritual lesson in that, and an obvious tie to Brunch at Bittersweet Café, which deals in large part with Melody’s faith journey. There are times when we have no idea if things are working out the way they’re supposed to, in which case we just have to trust the “recipe” and the input of friends and family who love us. Sometimes our instincts tell us when we’re off track, and sometimes we need that outside nudge from our “taste-testers” to put us back on course.

In any case, what Melody and I have in common is that we both bake to show our love for the people around us. And the process of baking my favorites, even knowing that I can’t enjoy them myself, can still be a selfless way to show people they’re important to me.

Fortunately, macarons, which happen to be made with almond flour, are still on the menu.

 

My Impressions:

There is so much to love about Brunch at The Bittersweet Cafe, the second book in Carla Laureano’s Supper Club series. Engaging characters you wish were really real (and your friends 😉 ), a vibrant culinary setting, a realistic romance, and faith issues that resonate deep within the heart — those and more are what you will find. This novel is very highly recommended!

Melody and Justin meet by chance when Justin’s car is stuck on Denver’s snowy streets. The unexpected encounter sets the two reluctantly on a course of love which one tries his best to avoid and the other views as just another opportunity for a broken heart. Trust issues, aside, the two main characters have a hard time viewing relationships without the perceptions and expectations formed from their pasts. Fears of commitment and abandonment run deep. They embark on a temporary dating journey that leaves them unsatisfied and longing for more. But these two — oh, how I loved Melody and Justin! Sensitive and adventurous, charming and caring, these two make the perfect couple — except for all the angst their author subjects them to. LOL! Seriously, Laureano’s plot is just right, and the romance simmers like a hearty soup. Did you get the food reference? Yes, this book is filled with baking and eating and baking some more. Its pages sent me to foodie pages looking for recipes that this amateur could perhaps master. Can you gain weight by vicariously consuming pastries and bread? Thankfully no! A subtle faith thread was woven throughout until it came to full fruition in revelations for both Melody and Justin. Their discovery of true faith was beautifully detailed.

While Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe is the second in the Supper Club series, it can be read as a standalone. But I suggest you get both — you are in for a yummy reading experience!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

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

Blog Stops

Quiet Quilter, February 12

Among the Reads, February 12

Lighthouse Academy, February 12

By The Book, February 12

The Power of Words, February 13

As He Leads is Joy, February 13

Cultivating Us, February 13

Blossoms and Blessings, February 13

Fiction Aficionado, February 14

The Lit Addict, February 14

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, February 14

This Chattanooga Mommy Saves, February 14

All-of-a-kind Mom, February 15

Just the Write Escape, February 15

100 Pages per Hour, February 15

Splashes of Joy, February 15

Bibliophile Reviews, February 16

Texas Book-aholic, February 16

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 16

C Jane Read, February 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 17

Moments, February 17

Back Porch Reads, February 17

Cordially Barbara, February 18

Genesis 5020, February 18

Simple Harvest Reads, February 18 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 18

Livin’ Lit, February 19

Kat’s Corner Books, February 19

Life with the Tribe, February 19

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, February 19

Through the Fire Blogs, February 20

Remembrancy, February 20

Vicky Sluiter, February 20

Living Life Free in Christ, February 20

2014 and Beyond!, February 21

Daysong Reflections, February 21

Inklings and Notions, February 21

Pause for Tales, February 21

Cafinated Reads, February 22

Tell Tale Book Reviews, February 22

two points of interest, February 22

Ashley’s Bookshelf, February 22

My Devotional Thoughts, February 23

Two Girls and a Book, February 23

The Christian Fiction Girl, February 23

For the love of books, February 23

God is Love, February 24

Book by Book, February 24

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, February 24

Janices book reviews, February 24

Lukewarm Tea, February 25

Carpe Diem, February 25

A Baker’s Perspective, February 25

Bigreadersite, February 25

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Carla is giving away a grand prize package of a macaron baking mat, a macaron book, and a paperback copy of Brunch at Bittersweet Café!!

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/db0f/brunch-at-bittersweet-cafe-celebration-tour-giveaway

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Book Review: Breach of Trust

7 Feb

Corporate litigator Mia Shaw suffers the shock of her life when she finds her colleague and friend brutally murdered. Grief-stricken and furious, Mia vows that she will do anything to seek justice and make the killer pay.

The man accused of the murder is a friend of security tech guru Noah Ramirez, but the evidence just doesn’t add up. To save his former ATF partner, Noah needs to convince Mia that the real killer is still on the loose.

Mia soon has more than the criminal prosecution to worry about, however. She is tasked with taking over her friend’s last case and learns he was hiding secrets about his client. She thinks she may have stumbled upon corporate espionage that has turned deadly, but she has no idea of the danger involved. Her only ally is Noah, despite their difference of opinion on the homicide case. Can he win Mia over to his side and protect her from ever-growing threats?

 

Rachel Dylan writes legal thrillers and legal romantic suspense. Rachel has practiced law for over a decade including being a litigator at one of the nation’s top law firms. She enjoys weaving together legal and suspenseful stories. Rachel writes the Atlanta Justice Series which features strong, female attorneys in Atlanta. Deadly Proof, the first book in the Atlanta Justice series, is a CBA bestseller, an FHL Reader’s Choice Award winner, a Daphne du Maurier Finalist, and a Holt Medallion Finalist. Rachel lives in Michigan with her husband and five furkids — two dogs and three cats. Rachel loves to connect with readers. You can find Rachel at http://www.racheldylan.com.

 

My Impressions:

Fans of Rachel Dylan’s Atlanta Justice series will not be disappointed in the finale, Breach of Trust. This novel has everything the romantic suspense fan could want — a heroine not easily deterred or spooked from getting to the bottom of a mystery, a hunky hero who is strong and sensitive, and a plot that will keep you guessing. With legal wrangling in both civil and criminal courts, as well as corporate espionage and danger around every corner, this fast-paced book had me saying just one more chapter! It’s a great conclusion to an awesome series. Recommended!

Breach of Trust begins with a shocking murder that has main character Mia Shaw reeling. She knows who did it and is determined to see justice done. But Noah Ramirez, friend of the suspect and partner to Mia’s best friends’ husbands, knows differently. The two clash on the facts of the case, but soon the desire to get to the truth makes them allies in an investigation in which no one can be trusted. The two are drawn to each other immediately, but past experiences keep them wary and at arms length — at least at first. Mia and Noah’s romance feels oh so right, and romance fans will love how their relationship progresses. And those who like danger, mystery, and twists and turns will love how Dylan weaves all the seemingly disconnected story lines together. I have to admit I suspected everybody! As one after another suspect was eliminated, the author had me re-examining and puzzling. There are a number of secondary characters, both familiar and new, that added to the story in interesting and fun ways. Two in particular would be great in their own book — hint, hint! 😉 Faith is always an important element in a Dylan novel, and both Mia and Noah are believers who came to trust in God in contrasting ways. I loved how Dylan showed their growing faith and the commonality they had despite their very different journeys.

If you’ve read books 1 and 2 in the Atlanta Justice series, then you are in for a treat with Breach of Trust. If you haven’t, now is the time to pick up all three books and begin a romantic suspense binge-read!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are my own.)

 

Book Review: The Curse of Misty Wayfair

4 Feb

Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death.

A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother–who is battling dementia — compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns–and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.

As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?

Professional coffee drinker & ECPA/Publisher’s Weekly best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy TinkerBell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.

Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimejowright.com!

 

My Impressions:

I first discovered Jaime Jo Wright last year when my book club read The House on Foster Hill — a unanimous thumbs up from the group. After reading her sophomore offering, The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond, it became apparent that Wright would become a must-read author. The Curse of Misty Wayfair, another dual-time line suspense with some serious creepiness, has confirmed it! If you like suspense, mystery, a bit of romance, and some really weird goings-on, you will love this book. Another 5-star read from this talented writer.

The legend of Misty Wayfair has been circulating in the town of Pleasant Valley for over 150 years. Each successive generation in the Northwoods of Wisconsin has added to the myths, while speculating on who she was and how she was murdered. Her haunting of a local family has led to even more gossip and innuendo — just what were the Coyle’s sins? And while the details are lost in the murkiness of time, Misty never forgets!

Two women strive to uncover just who Misty Wayfair is, and why she is tied to each of them. Both Thea Reed, who in the early 1900s has the very interesting (and creepy) job of photographing the dead, and Heidi Lane, a modern-day woman with anxiety issues, are tied to the dead woman, though neither knows how. Like Misty, they feel identity-less, one an orphan, another a misfit in her family. In fact, identity — what it means and who (or Who) establishes is it — is the underlying theme of the novel. Wright beautifully expresses the concept of a Creator who gives each of us a unique identity because of who He is, not who we are or what we do. As Thea and Heidi search for answers to the mystery of Misty Wayfair, they come to understand more about themselves and their relationship to a God who loves, cares, and provides. There’s another message in the novel concerning the identity we assign to others. A number of labels are given to past and present characters — melancholic and crazy just two. While many of the characters suffer from maladies of the mind, I found myself thinking that while convenient labels may explain what a person is going through, they do not define who that person is. Wright gave me a lot to think about. As one character states — Beautifully and wonderfully made. No exceptions.By The way, secondary characters shine in this novel. The Curse of Misty Wayfair can be described as atmospheric, but I think I prefer just plain creepy (there’s that word again), but creepy in a good way. There are no graphic scenes involving knives in a shower, but the chills continued to run up and down my back. I puzzled and puzzled, and was pretty much wrong about many of my suppositions. That’s a big plus! I love to be surprised by twists and turns, and this book did just that.

My book club will be discussing The Curse of Misty Wayfair later this year. I cannot wait! I anticipate some really good conversations. I also CAN. NOT. WAIT. for another book by Wright.

Very Highly Recommended

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

 

Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

30 Jan

In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice.

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis — known as Jack— she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice — and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story — a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels, including the historical fiction, Becoming Mrs. Lewis – The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis.

A finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, an Indie Next Pick, an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year, Patti is published in numerous languages. Her articles and essays have appeared in Southern Living, PINK, Writer’s Digest, Portico Magazine, Birmingham Magazine and more.

Her essays can also be found in anthologies and collections such as Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy; Southern Writers Writing, and State of the Heart. Patti is a frequent speaker at luncheons, book clubs and women’s groups.

Growing up in Philadelphia as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Patti learned early the value of storytelling. At the age of twelve, her family moved to South Florida where Patti found the sanctuary of libraries and began her slow but steady journey into understanding the power of story to navigate confusing times in life.

Patti attended Auburn University for her undergraduate work, and Georgia State University for her graduate degree. Once a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, she now writes full time. The mother of three children, she now lives in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

My Impressions:

My book club chose Becoming Mrs. Lewis mainly because of the C. S. Lewis connection. Some of us have watched Shadowlands, while most have read at least one of Lewis’ books. We chose it sight unseen, as it were, relying only on the title. I am eager to hear what the others in my group thought about it, but first I will share my own thoughts.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis is billed as historical fiction, as it details the life of Joy Davidman and her relationship with C.S. Lewis. It is indeed historical in nature, how could it not be, but I would describe it as biographical fiction, since it is told in the first person voice of Joy Davidman. While this was very effective in relating to her character, I had to remind myself over and over that this book is fiction. The emotions portrayed and the scenes depicted are so realistic, that the book can easily be believed as coming directly from Davidman’s own private journals. Yet as the author states in the Afterword, no correspondence between Davidman and Lewis exists. Callahan did a commendable job in distilling the articles and books written about the pair, as well as transcripts of others’ recollections and letters, and speeches given by the two. She uses the published works of both Davidman and Lewis to piece together what their life looked like. And this intimate novel does just that.

The story that emerges is a fascinating journey of faith and love. Davidman’s relationship with Lewis is at the forefront, but the most moving scenes of this book are her encounters with God. Her life was messy and sorrow-filled, yet touched with the grace of God. But if you are fan of traditional Christian fiction, you may be surprised or even offended by Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I was not. Too often the christian life is viewed as a one time salvation experience that instantly changes one from sinful to holy. And yes, when saved by Jesus, we take on His righteousness — His being the operative word. Unfortunately for most, if not all of us, we struggle with the same old sin nature, the desires of our flesh, and the influence of our world and experiences. Joy wrestled with that, for which I am thankful to the author. Here was a woman who was influential in Christian circles in her own right, but also was a large influence on the later writings of Lewis. But she continued to be flawed and falling, yet ever loved by God. That is how I would describe Joy Davidman, and how I would describe myself.

There is a lot of drinking in the book; some casual/social and some to excess and abuse. There is talk of sex and affairs and fleshly desires. And that might not appeal to all readers of CF, but it is a realistic portrayal of a life that strived to live for God. I recommend Becoming Mrs. Lewis wholeheartedly.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased the Kindle version of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: Secrets at Cedar Cabin

29 Jan

Her mother lied about her identity and her husband wasn’t who she thought he was — can Bailey even trust herself anymore?

Running for her life in the wake of her mother’s murder, Bailey Fleming escapes to the only place she can think of — a remote, dilapidated cabin in Lavender Tides. Intending to finally get to the truth behind the lies of her past, Bailey only finds more questions when bodies are discovered near her cabin hideout along with traces of a dangerous human trafficking ring. In an unlikely partnership with FBI agent Lance Phoenix, Bailey races to understand the mystery surrounding her life and circumstances before the murderer tracks her down.

Meanwhile, Lance is determined to rescue his sister, Ava, who was abducted after running away from home as a teenager. An unexpected lead brings him to the remote cabin, and he wonders if Bailey — with her suspicious past and strange connections to his sister’s case —i s really who she claims to be and if she can somehow lead him to Ava.

Filled with Colleen Coble’s custom blend of suspense and romance, Secrets at Cedar Cabin takes us back to the evocative landscape of Washington’s coast where nothing is quite as it seemsBest-selling romantic suspense author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 4 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com.

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My Impressions:

If you have read Colleen Coble’s previous books in the Lavender Tides series, you are going to be in for a treat! Not only do favorite characters from the first two novels and the novella make an appearance, but loose ends are all tied up in the finale, Secrets at Cedar Cabin. This fast-paced romantic suspense will have you turning the pages as fast as you can. I stayed up way too late finishing this book because I could not wait to find out what would happen! Recommended!

Secrets at Cedar Cabin is focused on Bailey Fleming and Lance Phoenix (don’t you just love that name!). On the run following her mom’s murder, Bailey winds up in Lavender Tides, a town she has never heard of, but promises answers to long held questions. Hunky FBI agent Lance soon makes his appearance and the suspense and romance heightens. These two characters will steal your heart, but you will also love how Coble integrates all the other beloved characters from the series and the twisting threads that seem to lead nowhere. As always, Coble delivers an adrenaline-laced roller coaster ride for her characters and her readers. Bailey is one of the most resourceful heroines that I have read — and the trouble she finds herself in is all too real. Human trafficking is shown in all of its degradation and hopelessness, but is never graphically portrayed. Its depiction certainly opened this reader’s eyes to the real threat all around us. Faith is an important part of the characters’ lives and is also shown in a realistic manner. Do they ever doubt or despair? Yes, but God never lets them down. The coastal and mountain regions of Washington State are vivid settings for this book — Coble has made them bucket list destinations.

Secrets at Cedar Cabin is the perfect ending to a great series. And you must begin at book 1, The View from Rainshadow Bay, to get the whole experience. Lucky for you, all are available for some great binge-reading!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson and TLC Book Tours for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Blog Tour

Monday, January 28th: Read Eat Repeat

Tuesday, January 29th: By the Book

Wednesday, January 30th: Blooming with Books

Thursday, January 31st: Running Through the Storms

Friday, February 1st: Rockin’ Book Reviews

Monday, February 4th: @thecaffeinated_bibliophile and The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 5th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, February 6th: Back Porchevations

Thursday, February 7th: Write Read Life

Friday, February 8th: Books and Spoons

Monday, February 11th: Christian Chick’s Thoughts

Tuesday, February 12th: Empowermoms

Tuesday, February 12th: Jathan & Heather – author guest post

Wednesday, February 13th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Friday, February 15th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, February 18th: Mystery Suspense Reviews

Wednesday, February 20th: The Lit Bitch and  Amy’s Book-et List

Friday, February 22nd: View from the Birdhouse   and  What is That Book About

Book Review: Hidden Peril

25 Jan

As teenagers, Kristin Dane and her two best friends took a vow to make the world a better place. Twenty years later, she’s fulfilling that pledge through her fair trade shop that features products from around the world. All is well until, one by one, people connected to the shop begin dying.

Detective Luke Carter, new to the St. Louis PD, wants to know why. Before he can answer that question, however, the FBI weighs in and Kristin suddenly finds herself in the middle of international intrigue — and in the sights of the ruthless mastermind behind an ingenious and deadly, scheme. Can this cold-blooded killer be stopped before more people die . . . including Kristin?

Irene Hannon is the best-selling author of more than 35 novels. Her books have been honored with the coveted RITA Award from Romance Writers of America, the HOLT Medallion, the Reviewer’s Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine and the Daphne du Maurier Award for mystery/suspense. Irene and her husband make their home in Missouri, USA. Irene invites you to visit her at her website, http://www.irenehannon.com.

 

My Impressions:

Irene Hannon is one of my go-to authors when it comes to romantic suspense. Hidden Peril, the second book in her Code of Honor series, is a great example why. Honorable characters you can connect with, a mystery that keeps you guessing with its twists and turns, danger galore, and really bad bad guys — there is just so much to love. This one kept me turning the pages way too late into the night, but I couldn’t put it down. Definitely a recommended read!

The characters really made Hidden Peril a pleasure to read. They cared about others in real and tangible ways. Both mains, Kristin and Luke, have relationship baggage, but were open to do what it took to heal and move on to what God wanted in their lives. And though the sparks certainly flew between the two, their relationship developed in a steady and realistic way. In fact, the whole novel has great development. The time frame spanned several months, yet the story never dragged or felt rushed. Hannon maintained just the right amount of tension to keep the suspense fresh, even as the police investigation portrayal was realistic. This allowed for more depth and complexity in all the relationships, not just the romance between Kristin and Luke. I really liked that about this book. The terrorism story line was chillingly realistic as well. As always, Hannon wove a faith thread throughout that was also just right; never preachy.

Fans of Hannon will love Hidden Peril. And if you have never read one of her books, you are in for a treat. Though this book is the second in a series, it can be read as a standalone. Just know, you will want to go back and read more of Hannon’s romantic suspense. 😉

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I received a complimentary copy from LibraryThing. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: How The Light Get In

24 Jan

From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliance comes an engrossing novel about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on.

When Ruth Neufeld’s husband and father-in-law are killed working for a relief organization overseas, she travels to Wisconsin with her young daughters and mother-in-law Mabel to bury her husband. She hopes the Mennonite community will be a quiet place to grieve and piece together next steps.

Ruth and her family are welcomed by Elam, her husband’s cousin, who invites them to stay at his cranberry farm through the harvest. Sifting through fields of berries and memories of a marriage that was broken long before her husband died, Ruth finds solace in the beauty of the land and healing through hard work and budding friendship. She also encounters the possibility of new love with Elam, whose gentle encouragement awakens hopes and dreams she thought she’d lost forever.

But an unexpected twist threatens to unseat the happy ending Ruth is about to write for herself. On the precipice of a fresh start and a new marriage, Ruth must make an impossible decision: which path to choose if her husband isn’t dead after all.

Jolina Petersheim is the highly acclaimed author of The Divide, The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. That book also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Tennessean. CBA Retailers + Resources called her second book, The Midwife, “an excellent read [that] will be hard to put down,” and Booklist selected The Alliance as one of their Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Titles for 2016. The Alliance was also a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award in the Visionary category. The sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, won the 2018 INSPY Award for Speculative Fiction. Jolina’s non-fiction writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, Today’s Christian Woman, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s fifth novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.

 

My Impressions:

At first glance, How The Light Gets In is merely a contemporary retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi, two women struggling to make sense of loss and begin a new life. And while that is how the book starts, Petersheim quickly brings the reader into a deeper story of lost dreams. This novel takes the reader on a twisting journey that leaves the characters (and perhaps the reader) shocked, dismayed, and finally resolved that their lives will be new and whole. I don’t usually read what others think of books before writing down my own thoughts. But because of the mixed feelings I had about How The Light Gets In, I looked at a few of the early reviews. That pursuit really didn’t help. I have decided that readers will want to come to their own conclusions based on their own reactions to this complex story. That’s why it will make a great book club selection — everyone is going to have an opinion! And that is just one reason why I am giving it a recommended rating.

How The Light Gets In is a story of a family, a marriage, and individuals. That’s really how life is — one is not merely a daughter, or a wife, or a mom, but all mixed together in a slightly discordant mosaic, whole, but with pieces not always fitting together snugly. Ruth Nuefeld finds herself a single mom and virtually homeless after the death of her husband Chandler. She packs up her two girls and moves with her mother-in-law to a foreign land — a Mennonite community in Wisconsin. As grief consumes her, she struggles to raise her young daughters. This part of the story, resembles the Ruth story of the Bible fairly well. It helped me look at the loss that Ruth and Naomi felt as they left their lives in Moab to finish out their days in Bethlehem. But as the book progresses, How The Light Gets In is all Ruth. Of course there are other strong characters such as Chandler and Elam, but to me they serve to further Ruth’s progress. Loss, grief, and forgiveness are intertwined. Anger at her dead spouse and her loss of identity beyond wife and mother are at the forefront of Ruth’s character development. She has a lot to work through! And so does the reader. There are lots of surprises along the way in this novel. Some will be welcomed by the reader, others not so much. At one point in the book, I had to reconsider all I had read before. It was a daunting task, but made me go back and re-read passages with a new eye. So, my advice to you is to take your time reading this book. Keep an eye out for subtleties of behavior and attitudes. How The Light Gets In is also not a light read. Emotions are raw and the circumstances often a bit close to home. Don’t expect this book to be your weekend read. 😉

You may be asking yourself after reading my thoughts, should I really read this book? I say yes. It is an intriguing novel of loss and forgiveness that is perhaps best read with the anticipation of discussing it later or along the way. Get a couple of friends to join you on the journey — you will want to talk about this book.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to TLC and Tyndale for a complimentary ARC. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)