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Book Review (+ Giveaway): True to You

29 May

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

 

Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market, took time off to raise her children, then felt God nudging her to pursue contemporary Christian fiction. Becky is the Carol Award, INSPY Award, and International Reader’s Choice Award winning author of the Porter Family Novels.

Find out more about Becky at http://beckywade.com.

 

My Impressions:

Great Scott! What a great book! Seriously, one of the best books I’ve read all year. True to You, the first book in Becky Wade’s new Bradford Sisters Romance series, is a contemporary romance with a lot going for it. This is not your typical fluffy, boy-meets-girl love story, but a deeply moving, thought-provoking novel that will touch your heart as it feeds your reading soul. This one gets the rare very highly recommended designation from me!

Nora Bradford is the bookish and quirky middle sister between two gorgeous and talented sisters. She has defined herself as the brainy one, and after a disastrous engagement and break-up, she is now the single one who relishes her self-imposed status. She thinks she is content watching period dramas on TV, immersing herself in fiction, and staging an historic village, that is, until she meets the very hunky ex-Navy Seal, John Lawson. While their relationship gets off to an awkward start, they begin a business arrangement that grows into a deep friendship. But ugly truths from their pasts may derail what could be a very beautiful love story.

Becky Wade has created a beautifully crafted story injected with wit and humor. The writing is exquisite, the plotting complex, and the characterization unique and masterful. I loved, loved, loved this book! While I had lots of grins, giggles and guffaws during the course of reading, True to You has a depth not often found in contemporary romance fiction. The characters have real struggles that make them incredibly relatable. The search for the truth behind John’s birth is the catalyst for the story which leads to the discovery of the ultimate truth for the main characters — their true identity in Christ. The story is mostly told in third person narrative, but glimpses of the motivations and emotions of the characters are displayed in various forms of communication — texts, FB messages, letters, and emails. One letter in particular that the main characters are not privy to, lets the reader in on the wonder of God’s working through trial and pain. True to You is also a romance, and there is plenty of heat between Nora and John presented in a realistic way. Physical desire is real. It’s the reining in of those passions with the help of God, that keeps the characters from regrets and heartache.

I fell in love with Nora and John’s story from the first chapter. If you are looking for an outstanding novel to kick off your Summer reading, then look no farther than True to You.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

 

Giveaway

Celebrate the launch of Becky Wade’s new series by entering to win a fabulous prize pack and $100 cash card!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of True to You
  • A $100 Visa cash card
  • A prize pack hand-picked by Becky

 

Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 30. The winner will be announced May 31 on the Litfuse blog.

 

Book Review: The Wood’s Edge

26 May

At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?
 
The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.
 
On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.
 
When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both — Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace.

Lori’s debut novel, Burning Sky, earned the 2014 Christy Award for First Novel, Historical, and Book of the Year.

My Impressions:

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton sat on my shelf waaay too long! Ever since reading her excellent debut novel, Burning Sky, I knew I had to read more of her books. But alas, the TBR pile reaches to the rafters. So to make sure I would move this worthy book up to the top of the pile, I convinced my book club to make it one of our 2017 selections. And am I ever glad! The Wood’s Edge is another well-crafted and researched historical novel that I would recommend to anyone. The only drawback, if you can call it that, is that there is a sequel, A Flight of Arrows. Now to influence my book club to add it . . . .

The setting of The Wood’s Edge is the New York frontier in the 20 years leading up to the Revolutionary War. A lot happens in that time — the culmination of the French And Indian War, the expansion of the white settlers into previously held Indian lands, and the growing dissent of the colonials with His Majesty’s governance. World changing events. But for two families, one white and one Indian, their worlds are changed by the switching of two babies during the siege of Fort William Henry. As one family grieves and vows vengeance, another is haunted by guilt that cannot be confessed. As the colonies march towards war, the two families are on a collision course that can shatter more than one life.

I love when a novel teaches me. I learned so many things about colonial life, the make-up of early Native American society, and the efforts of missionaries to bring the gospel to the the Six Nations of The Iroquois Confederacy. The Wood’s Edge is so well-written, that I felt I had stepped back in time as I immersed myself in the story. Characters, true to the time period, are complex, real, relatable, and relevant for the modern reader. None are perfect, but have flaws and sins common to us all. The female characters are especially strong and are vital to the story. The theme of undeserved grace runs throughout the narrative and is beautifully portrayed in more than one character. I believe this book will create great conversation at my book club.

I highly recommend The Wood’s Edge to anyone looking for a thoughtful and thought-provoking novel. For fans of early American history, this book is a must read!

Highly Recommended.

Great for book clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I won this book in a giveaway. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Weaver’s Needle

25 May

Two recovery specialists.
One murder.
A hunt for the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine becomes a race of survival.

 
Former Army MP Landry Parker fell into the recovery specialist role quite by accident — to help her ailing father. Now that she’s on her own, she is determined to prove herself and honor her family legacy.

After being shot in the line of duty, former police officer Nickolai Baptiste became a recovery specialist, and he’s good at his job—maybe even the best.
           
A potential client pits Landry and Nickolai against one another to find the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine map that was stolen from her murdered husband, and the potential payday is too enticing to pass up. The trail takes them from New Orleans to Weaver’s Needle in Arizona where legend claims the mine is hidden. Landry and Nickolai are no strangers to adventure, but the unlikely partners quickly discover there’s someone after the treasure and there are those who want to ensure the lost mine in Arizona’s Superstition Mountain stays lost forever.

Can Landry and Nickolai work together despite their distrust of each other to save the legend before more innocent lives are lost? Will they find the real treasure isn’t the gold, but something more valuable . . . true love and understanding?

Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage – -two aspects Robin weaves into each of her 30 published novels.

When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty+ years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home — in the South, where else?

She serves the writing community as Executive Director/Conference Director for ACFW.

Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best, and Book of the Year.

On her faith, Robin says, “I love Jesus and will follow Him wherever He leads me.”

An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals! To learn more about this author of deep South mysteries of suspense to inspire your heart, visit Robin’s website at http://www.robincaroll.com.

 

My Impressions:

What a great idea for a novel! Two recovery specialists pitted against each other to recover a treasure map! I have loved Robin Caroll’s other romantic suspense novels set in the South that feature law enforcement, but her latest book, Weaver’s Needle, has an extra dose of special. I loved how she combined adventure and romance against the backdrop of Old West legends and Native American lore. This one gets a highly recommended rating from me!

Landry Parker and Nickolai Baptiste, two recovery specialists (those usually hired by insurance companies to recover lost or stolen art or documents), both have reasons to accept the challenge of retrieving the stolen treasure map for widow Winifred Winslett. Family is important to both and that plays a big role in taking the job, but the challenge of a puzzle and the allure of lost gold sweeten the deal. In the wilds of the Arizona back country, they begin separately to follow leads, but soon recognize the necessity to combine their expertise. There’s also a lot of chemistry between the two that keeps drawing them closer.

Weaver’s Needle has a definite National Treasure vibe. Adventure, suspense, danger, and romance keep the pages of this book turning. Landry and Nickolai are great characters that a reader can root for, especially as their feelings for each other deepen. Their backstories are complex and add a depth to a novel that is action-packed. There is also an element of the mystical as Caroll introduces the behind the scenes actions of Apache shamans. The addition of Native American lore is intriguing and compliments the Christian message of God’s sovereignty that runs throughout the story. But make no mistake, God, not nature or spirits from another world, is definitely in control.

I loved Weaver’s Needle and am hoping that Caroll will bring Landry and Nickolai back for more exciting thrill rides!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Dauntless

24 May

Where Legend and History Collide,
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent

Born a baron’s daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father’s failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village – -a group that becomes known as “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest”. Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he’s forced to reexamine everything he’s known.

Award-winning author, Dina Sleiman, writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards, and her cross-over YA novel, Dauntless, won the 2016 Carol Award. Also look for her books, Love in Three-Quarter Time, Dance from Deep Within, and the rest of her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers. Dina serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well, and she loves to represent them at writers conferences throughout the US. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/.

 

My Impressions:

Merrie Olde England is not so merry during the time of King John. Many know the Robin Hood legend in which the noble Robin robs from the rich in order to take care of the poor oppressed by John and his sheriffs. Building on this framework, but with a fresh voice, Dina Sleiman’s Dauntless takes the reader into a time of chivalry and honor, with an endearing young heroine determined to protect the most vulnerable. The first book in her Valiant Hearts series, Dauntless presents the story of Lady Merrie Ellison and her Ghosts, the children of her village left orphaned by the ruthlessness of King John. They live by their wits in the forest hoping to one day re-enter society.

Dauntless is a YA novel that will appeal to high school girls. Main character Merrie Ellison is a courageous and determined young woman who doesn’t let her weaker sex keep her from protecting those she loves. Smart and talented in the ways of defense, she leads her band while eluding detection from the kings’s men. There certainly is danger in the forest, and Merrie must use her wits and her loyal men to escape from her childhood friend Timothy. The characters are wonderful, and the romantic thread is just right. The adventures of the group keep the pages turning. Historical details abound and add a depth of authenticity. Merrie wrestles with injustice leading her to reject God as impotent or cruel. That struggle is the main thrust of the spiritual thread woven throughout the novel.

I liked Dauntless and would not hesitate to recommend it. There are two more novels in the series as well — lots of reading adventures!

Recommended.

Audience: young adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

Children’s Corner: The Bible Explorer’s Guide

22 May

The Bible Explorer’s Guide lets children come up close and personal with everyday life during Bible times through photos, maps, and illustrations illuminating, people, places, objects, and buildings of the Bible. What did Noah’s Ark really look like? Who was David and whom did he fight? How did 1st century citizens of Jerusalem live? Each two-page spread is filled with images that bring history alive and drawings that help bring life to people and places that we can only read about. With fascinating, brief text and full-color captivating images, this is a reference that kids will come back to again and again. A great addition to any home or school library.

 

To purchase this book, click HERE.

 

My Impressions:

When my kids were school-aged, I tried my best to keep them engaged in learning during their summer break. Camps, field trips, hands-on experiences, and, of course, reading, were mixed in with fun in the sun and lazy days. Though my reading plans were often met with resistance, all three of my kids love reading now, though they differ in their interests. And that’s where my review of The Bible Explorer’s Guide comes in. This book is a great resource to provide your kids with hours of engaging and world-expanding reading fun. The subtitle of this book for kids in the 3rd-6th grades is 1000 Amazing Facts And Photos — something to spark the interest in any kid, no matter their interests. They may even find a new passion to explore! While providing interesting information, maps, illustrations and archeological facts, it also provides a springboard for exploring God’s Word too. There are 35+ articles that follow scriptural chronology, both Old and New Testaments, as well as a Biblical timeline and Who’s Who in the Bible. From history and the natural world to the mystery of God’s plan, The Bible Explorer’s Guide is the perfect accompaniment for fun, this summer and throughout the year.

Recommended.

Audience: children in grades 3-6.

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

Book Review: If I’m Found

19 May

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail cell.

 

Terri Blackstock is a New York Times and USA Today best-seller, with over seven million books sold worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.

In 1994 Terri was writing romance novels under two pseudonyms for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. At the time, she was reading more suspense than romance, and felt drawn to write thrillers about ordinary people in grave danger. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots while challenging her readers. She hopes to remind them that they’re not alone, and that their trials have a purpose.

Terri has appeared on national television programs such as “The 700 Club” and “Home Life,” and has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.

My Impressions:

Terri Blackstock is a favorite with my book club. We’ve yet to meet a book she has written that we didn’t like. If I’m Found, book 2 in the If I Run series, received a unanimous thumbs up from us. The novel is action-packed with the ongoing story of Casey’s quest to clear her name and the additional story line of a man wrongfully accused of child abuse. As with the first book, there are some loose ends left at the end, and we are eagerly anticipating book 3, If I Live.

Most of our discussion revolved around Casey’s motivations — her need to find the truth and her innate sense of right and wrong. Casey is beginning to respond to God’s promptings, and we found that intriguing as well. While If I’m Found is adrenaline-laced suspense, the character development is well done. We loved the good guys, Dylan especially, and hated the bad guys. Because this one is the middle offering in a trilogy, there is still plenty of what-ifs. We had fun coming up with scenarios for the last book. It will be interesting to see if any of our theories come true.

For fans of Blackstock, If I’m Found is another winner. It gets our book club’s stamp of approval!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Audiobook Review: The Confession

18 May

In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, Travis Boyette abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what’s right and confess. But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they’re about to execute an innocent man?

 

John Grisham is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.

John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981. He practiced criminal law for about a decade and served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi from January 1984 to September 1990.

His first novel, A Time to Kill, was published in June 1989, four years after he began writing it. As of 2012, his books have sold over 275 million copies worldwide. A Galaxy British Book Awards winner, Grisham is one of only three authors to sell 2 million copies on a first printing.

Grisham’s first bestseller, The Firm, sold more than seven million copies. The book was adapted into a 1993 feature film of the same name, starring Tom Cruise, and a 2012 TV series which “continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere and his family 10 years after the events of the film and novel”. Eight of his other novels have also been adapted into films: The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, Skipping Christmas, and A Time to Kill.

 

My Impressions:

Anticipating a very long plane trip, I looked for an audiobook that would keep me engaged and interested and would last long enough to get me through the return flight. My thoughts immediately went to a John Grisham novel. I like Grisham for a number of reasons, one being that his books never fail to entertain. I chose The Confession, a title that already resided on my shelf (my husband read it years ago). It was a great choice. Not only did it make the miles literally fly by, but it challenged and expanded my beliefs on capital punishment. A controversial topic to be sure, The Confession examines what it means if an innocent man is sentenced to death. All aspects are included: the media circus, the political climate, the heartbreak of the families on both sides, and the spiritual implications of the ultimate punishment. The story is full of twists and turns, the characters are intriguing, and the subject matter handled in a mostly even-handed manner. I think it is safe to say that Grisham writes from an anti-death penalty standpoint, a view that I also hold, though for probably different reasons. Grisham didn’t change my mind about anything, but he did cause me to see the whole process surrounding death penalty cases in a new light. An engrossing read, I recommend The Confession.

The story opens with a confession from career criminal Travis Boyette to a Lutheran pastor. Keith Schroeder doesn’t really know what to do with Travis or his statement that an innocent man is about to be executed in Texas. What follows is a race to bring the confession to light, something that is met with resistance and dismissal from all parties concerned. Travis and Keith are interesting main characters. They cannot be more different — one who has lived a life taking and manipulating, another who earnestly desires to do the right thing. Their unlikely partnership makes for good drama. Grisham’s portrayal of the circus that surrounds the upcoming execution rings true. Media, groupies, politicians, all make the situation bizarre and disturbing. While The Confession is not Christian fiction, three pastors make an appearance and an impact on the story. Keith’s views are, of course, front and center, but Grisham also shares the feelings and thoughts of the pastors of the victim’s family and the accused’s family. The three struggle in varying ways — also very realistic. The Confession is dark, so don’t expect a feel good ending. This book is one to make you think, whichever side of the debate you find yourself on.

The narrator did an admirable job of bringing all the voices in the novel to light, while being easy to listen to.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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