Friday, April 29, 2016

"A Flight of Arrows" by Lori Benton - a heart-wrenching epic her sequel to The Wood's Edge, Lori Benton concludes the epic story in a heart-wrenching tale of war and reconciliation. Two families, broken and yet inextricably linked by one man's sin twenty years ago, have finally started on the path toward reconciliation. But the effects of that sin are long-reaching: Anna must weather the hurt of betrayal of the father she loves. Two Hawks is separated from Anna by color and culture, even though William, her brother by adoption and his brother by birth, is accepted by her father. William, identity shattered by learning the truth of his birth, has gone to join the British army. And two men, both with claims of fatherhood to William, have once again lost their son. Will the two families find a way to reclaim William, though he marches against them in the ranks of their enemies?

First off, this book is the second half of a two-part series. I highly, highly recommend that you read The Wood's Edge first--this sequel will be far more powerful in the telling if you know the story from the beginning. And believe me, it's a sweeping, epic tale that will steal your breath. As to be expected from the author, the history shaping the book is rich and detailed, and heart-breaking on its own when one realizes what the Revolutionary War did not just to the colonial Americans, but also--and especially--the Haudenosaunee (the six nations of the Iroquois).

For Anna and Two Hawks, if The Woods Edge were the fairytale--the love story transcending boundaries, with a happily ever after in sight--A Flight of Arrows is the reality, where happily ever after as such doesn't exist, and two clashing cultures have to find a way to coincide. I was disappointed in Anna's handling of reality for a while there, but she rallies back into the girl I couldn't help but love in the first book.

While the first book leaned more toward the women's point of view, this book--with the addition of William's viewpoint--focuses more heavily on the men; fitting, given the heavy backdrop of war and the roles the men play in it. Stone Thrower cemented himself as my favorite, for all that the story isn't ever told from his point of view.

Now the ending . . . talk about powerful. As incredibly powerful as ending of The Wood's Edge was, I think A Flight of Arrows actually manages to top it. Just a warning, though, there were waves of tears accompanying it. 

Thank you Blogging for Books for providing a free book to review. I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.
The Pathfinders
1. The Wood's Edge
2. A Flight of Arrows

Containing cross-over characters:
Burning Sky

More Resources from the publisher:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Connilyn Cossette's "Counted With the Stars" - a unique and compelling perspective on the Exodus story

Counted With the Stars (Out from Egypt, #1)In her debut novel, Connilyn Cossette looks into the life of one of the other peoples who joined the Hebrews in the exodus from Egypt. Kaia, sold as a slave to cover her father's debts, is forsaken by the man she expected to marry. Now, under a cruel mistress, she also experiences the plagues with the rest of Egypt. When the Hebrews are freed, Kaia chooses to flee with them. But will the trials of the desert be too much for her, sending her running back to Egypt, or will she surrender herself to the Hebrew's God?

I read very little biblical fiction. VERY little. But I'm very glad I picked this one up. Normally I worry about books of this genre being accurate, and when it comes down to it, if I wanted to read a book about Moses, I'd read the bible. However, this story is told from the perspective of an entirely fictional character, who I didn't have to worry about misrepresenting biblical characters. Very little of the main players of Exodus appear in this book--just one cameo, really. Instead, it's primarily the common folk, the unnamed multitude, who often followed blindly, not knowing what was ahead, fearing what was behind, and longing for the comforts of familiarity.

Kaia is a compelling and sympathetic narrator; she knows what it is to come down in the world, to have no hope for salvation, abandoned by those she loves. She watches those she trusted to save her be systematically destroyed, one by one, until she has no choice but to trust in the unseen. She offers a unique perspective on ancient Egyptian culture, from their obsession with beauty to the worship of their gods.

I really appreciate that the perspective of this novel is from an outsider's eyes, one of the "mixed multitude" who joined the Hebrews' flight. Sometimes we Christians get so used to hearing the stories that we never stop to think about the things that don't make sense to someone just learning about God and His immense power. Or how even the Hebrews didn't understand all that was going on when God unleashed His power on Egypt. And it's not just that perspective on the Exodus story that struck me, but also on the devastation to the Egyptian people. Their home wasn't just plagued, it was laid waste. The livestock were dead, every green thing eaten, buildings and infrastructure destroyed, the army and at least one male from every family wiped out--how many years did it take Egypt to rebuild to even a fraction of its former glory, without slaves, without menfolk, and without hope?

It doesn't retell the Exodus story so much as it encourages one to look deeper, beyond just Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh. To consider what it might have been like to experience the plagues and subsequent exodus, to hear God speaking in the wilderness. Highly recommended!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Out from Egypt
1. Counted with the Stars
2. Shadow of the Storm 
3. Wings of the Wind

Related series:
Cities of Refuge
1. A Light on the Hill
2. Shelter of the Most High (October 2018)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Melissa Tagg's "Like Never Before" - funny, heart-wrenching, and romantic

Like Never Before (Walker Family, #2)In the second novel following the Walker family, Logan Walker, a single father on track to become the speechwriter for a potential presidential candidate, inherits a failing newspaper back home in Iowa. With every intention of selling it, he returns home, but the editor--funny, scrappy Amelia Bentley--is determined to revive it. Will she convince him to keep it open? And in the process, will they learn to open their hearts once again?

Witty, romantic, sweet, heart-wrenching - there's lots to love about this novel. I especially love all the humor and references to classic films worked into the story. Oh, and it has a minor history mystery!

I thought both Abigail and Logan were really well-developed characters, with layers upon layers - what the public sees, what family and closest friends see, and what only themselves and God see - the things they hide from the world. They're very real, with both attributes and flaws, struggles and triumphs. One thing came as a surprise - how often in Christian fiction do you read about divorcees finding love again? But it adds a lot of depth to the story, touching on one of the realities of our time: even christian couples get divorced. This story speaks hope into the hopeless, painful aftermath.

Having attended high school in the city where Charles Lindbergh was born, this was a fun book for me to read. Not that I'm an expert on the man, but when it's your town's only claim to fame . . . it's fun to see the details show up in a book!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Walker Family
0.5: "Three Little Words" (novella prequel)
1. From the Start
2. Like Never Before
3. Keep Holding On
3.5: "A Maple Valley Romance" (published in Right Where We Belong collection of small-town novellas)
4. All This Time

Related series:
Enchanted Christmas Collection (now available in print as Enchanted: A Christmas Collection)
1. One Enchanted Christmas
2. One Enchanted Eve
3. One Enchanted Noel

Monday, April 18, 2016

"A Passion Redeemed" by Julie Lessman - a powerful story aptly titled

Cover ArtIn the second novel following the O'Connor family, Charity O'Connor desperately wants to make editor Mitch Dennehy--her sister's former fiance--fall in love with her. And while she knows the man is not completely immune to her extensive physical charms, he is as least as stubborn as she is. In her single-minded pursuit of the man, will she ultimately be the one who ends up hurt?

Once again, I was tempted to throw the book across the room; Charity just will not learn! (Okay, she does, she just takes a long time to get there.) She is a much more sympathetic character in this novel than the previous (as well she should be), and when she wasn't driving me crazy, I did really like her. I suppose that's how Mitch feels - when she isn't being manipulative, she's very likable. Lovable, even. And I could really feel for Mitch in this book; he's trying so hard to be pure and honorable and Charity is doing her best to drive him from it. Even if he is nigh unto ancient (compared to Charity), I really liked him as a hero. Realistically he's not someone I'd want to marry, but he makes a great hero, with the strength and force of will to handle Charity.

There's a lot of consequences in this book . . . Charity really sets herself up for hurt and heartache by her choices, and the consequences are not easy to bear. But she's also suffering the consequences of other people's sins, and that, I think, is harder for the reader to bear. Her journey is long and hard, but ultimately rewarding. I very much doubt she'll be perfect after this book, but she's come a long, long way.

As the title suggests, there is plenty of passion in this book - sometimes directed in wholesome ways, sometimes not. But there is also redemption, and I'm glad Charity is the recipient of it!

O'Connor Family Saga:

Prequel: "A Light in the Window"

Daughters of Boston
1. A Passion Most Pure
2. A Passion Redeemed
3. A Passion Denied

Winds of Change
1. A Hope Undaunted
2. A Heart Revealed
3. A Love Surrendered

Friday, April 15, 2016

"The Magnolia Duchess" by Beth White - conflicting loyalties in the War of 1812

Cover ArtIn the Third of the Gulf Coast Chronicles, tomboy Fiona Lanier finds a half-drowned man washed up on shore--one from her childhood. Charlie Kincaid remember the most recent ten years of his life, but with a war raging against the British, she can't be sure this Brit can be believed, as much as she would like to. As his memory comes back, will their political allegiances come between them and love?

Beth White writes an incredibly detailed account of the Gulf Coast--particularly Mobile and New Orleans--during the final year of the War of 1812, while incorporating a story of conflicting loyalties and love. And pirates. Stubborn British aristocrats. Tennessee militiamen. Plus all the varied ingredients in the melting pot of Gulf Coast culture. In short, it's pretty exciting.

Considering the War of 1812 is the battle for American Independence Part II, it gets relatively little attention. (If understand correctly, even during the war it received little attention at home and abroad). But if there is one battle I've heard of from that war, it's the Battle of New Orleans. Granted, that doesn't mean (prior to reading this book, anyway) my knowledge of the battle itself extended beyond Johnny Horton's rather fanciful musical rendition. Suffice to say, I learned a lot, especially about battles and the British presence in the entire Gulf, and not just New Orleans.

Though Fiona and Charlie are the main leads, I liked Maddie and Desi a lot too; I would have enjoyed more of them, in fact! Both are a little older and a little wiser, having already made their own lives and share of mistakes.

The Lanier family tree gets a little complicated when it comes to remembering exactly how who is related to whom (though I discovered afterward the author has put together an online Lanier Family Tree). The blend of cultures they represent is astounding, yet, at the same time, not so surprising considering how many peoples have made the Gulf Coast their home.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Gulf Coast Chronicles
1. The Pelican Bride
2. The Creole Princess
3. The Magnolia Duchess

Monday, April 11, 2016

"The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder" by Rachel McMillan - humor, history, and a murder mystery

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder  -     By: Rachel McMillan
When the murders of Irish women get shoved under the rug by Toronto's chief of police, Merinda Herringford and Jemima Watts, two young bachelor women launching their own detective agency, take up the case. While donning disguises and dodging the Morality Squad, the two women pair up with a dashing reporter and demoted police constable. But will they catch the killer before the killer catches up with them?

Humor, history, and a murder mystery--what could be more fun? Merinda and Jem are a delightful pair to watch as they set up their detective business (if a business that makes next to no money can be called that). There is a strong nod to Holmes and Watson throughout the book, but as much as the girls may strive to emulate them, those esteemed gentlemen these girls are NOT. You don't see Watson being wooed by dashing reporters or Holmes being pursued by the Morality Squad for engaging in practices of a decidedly unfeminine nature.

I loved the footnotes à la Terry Pratchett - little asides that aren't strictly necessary to the tale, but add another touch of humor and sometimes useful explanation.

I will admit to some confusion at times, since I had already read the related novella "A Singular and Whimsical Problem," and it took a while before I figured out that the novella takes place in the midst of the events in this book: Bachelor Girl opens in September 1910, "Whimsical" takes place in December 1910, and then Bachelor Girl finishes later in the spring. So "Whimsical" is a case the girls take on outside of the main case written about in Bachelor Girl. Hopefully that will make things a little less muddy for anyone else reading them!

My biggest complaint, once I ironed out the timelines, is that it is so short: only 210 pages of actual story! Granted, it was a highly entertaining story--nothing too deep or heavy--but I certainly would have enjoyed delving longer and deeper into Merinda and Jem. Maybe the way the point of view jumped around without ever alighting for long had something to do with that feeling of brevity and shallowness too. Even so, I'm definitely looking forward to the next book; hopefully it will give more insight into Merinda, who still has an air of mystery about her.

Herringford & Watts Mysteries
1. The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder
1.25-ish: "A Singular and Whimsical Problem" (novella taking place in Dec 1910, during the events of Bachelor Girl, but a separate case only briefly mentioned)
1.5:  "Of Dubious and Questionable Memory" (novella)
2. A Lesson in Love and Murder
2.5: "Conductor of Light" (short story)
3. The White Feather Murders

Friday, April 8, 2016

"A Passion Most Pure" by Julie Lessman - passion, purity, jealousy, and redemption

Cover ArtFaith O'Connor has been in love with Collin McGuire since they were children, even though he is a cocky lady's man from the wrong side of the tracks--completely wrong for her. And then there's the fact he's secretly dating her sister Charity. Collin likes Charity--she's a woman he knows how to handle. But Faith just gets under his skin, between her temper and God-talk. As sister rivalry and Collin's place in the middle threatens to tear the family apart, another war looms on the horizon--the war with Germany that America can no longer keep out of. And once their men go to war, nothing will ever be the same.

The book is aptly titled; everything in it is full of passion: passionate kissing, passionate anger; passion within marriage, and undoubtedly passion for God. I get the impression the author really doesn't do things by halves . . . And within all that passion, there is also a striving for purity. For some characters, it takes longer to learn that lesson than others, and some have yet to learn it, but there is no doubt that purity is held to a very high degree of importance.

I read the story in light of the fact that it is a six-book family saga, and perhaps it influenced my impressions--knowing that the stories of the characters will be continued, and that even those we might initially despise are potentially redeemable, I didn't mind the more-than-usual number of points of view, or the fairly large cast of important characters. And it helped that--what with the grand length of the book--they had time to be properly developed, as I know they will continue to be as the series progress.

I did want to throw the book at some of the idiot choices people make (yeah, yeah, let he who is without sin cast the first stone . . . ), and sometimes I was incredibly glad that I don't have a sister (because after this, I'm thinking there is little worse than sister jealousy/rivalry--it's as bad as Leah and Rachel), but over all it was a riveting book, full of redemption. And I'm hoping that there is more redemption yet to come!

O'Connor Family Saga:

Prequel: A Light in the Window

Daughters of Boston
1. A Passion Most Pure
2. A Passion Redeemed
3. A Passion Denied

Winds of Change
1. A Hope Undaunted
2. A Heart Revealed
3. A Love Surrendered

Monday, April 4, 2016

"The Reluctant Duchess" by Roseanna M White - Suspense and romance in Edwardian Britain

Cover ArtIn the second Ladies of the Manor book, Rowena Kinnaird, heiress of her father's earldom, is desperate to flee the abuse she has suffered. When Brice Myerston, Duke of Nottingham, stays at his neighboring estate, devising a way to hide a pair of notorious, highly sought-after jewels, he gets thrust into a scheme to protect Rowena. Can he rescue her from the danger of her home? And if he does that, can he protect her from the danger following the jewels?

Wow, this book has it all--suspense, romance, strong spiritual themes, historical details; all packed into a deliciously captivating story that ranges in location from the Scottish Highlands to the moors of northern England.

Mystery there is not (well, not much, anyway), but suspense there certainly is as we watch to see when, how, and who will make a play to steal the jewels. To what lengths will they go to get their hands on them? And what will Rowena and Brice suffer in the attempt?

I really appreciate the work the author put into making Rowena's father more than just an abusive jerk. Buried under his anger and stubbornness is a man who loves his daughter but is miserable at showing it. It doesn't excuse his very wrong behavior, but it makes him more real. Redeemable. And even Catherine Pratt, the alleged villainness of The Lost Heiress, has redeeming qualities--enough to make one wonder if maybe we've been wrong about her after all.

Normally I scorn cast of characters lists at the the beginning of a book, but in this case, especially for the first chapter or two, it was really helpful. With so many Scottish Kinnairds, and various British nobility with five (okay, two or three) names/titles, it's helpful for keeping track of who is who. I guess the blame for the confusion belongs to the British who came up with such a complicated naming system, rather than the author who is trying to make it comprehensible for us ignorant Americans.

Highly recommended; I can't wait for the final book! 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Ladies of the Manor
1. The Lost Heiress
2. The Reluctant Duchess
3. A Lady Unrivaled 

Friday, April 1, 2016

New Christian Fiction Releases April 2016!

Here are the exciting new releases for the month of April - lots of good 'uns!

Counted With the Stars NEW! #2: A Flight of Arrows  -     By: Lori Benton
The Magnolia Duchess

Counted with the Stars by Connilyn Cossette (Bethany House); Out from Egypt, book 1

A young Egyptian slave finds herself among the exodus of Hebrews from Egypt; will she make a new life among them, or return to Egypt?

A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton (WaterBrook); The Pathfinders, book 2

Because of one man's choice twenty years ago, two families have nearly been destroyed. Even in the midst of war, can the broken families find reconciliation?

The Magnolia Duchess by Beth White (Revell); Gulf Coast Chronicles, book 3

When a young woman rescues a British soldier washed ashore during the War of 1812, she has to decide where her loyalties lie,

The Reluctant Duchess The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder  -     By: Rachel McMillan
Like Never Before
The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White (Bethany House); Ladies of the Manor, book 2

An heiress, already fearing for her life, hardly wishes to tie herself to a notorious flirt in possession of a rare, stolen treasure, yet somehow they are still pushed together, in more danger than ever before.

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan (Harvest House); Herringford & Watts, book 1

Inspired by their heroes Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, two female private detectives defy societal conventions to investigate a murder.

Contemporary romance:

Silence in the DarkLike Never Before by Melissa Tagg (Bethany House); Walker Family, book 2

A man inheriting a newspaper just wishes to sell it, but the scrappy reporter running it has a big story she's chasing down . . . and somehow he gets tangled up helping her.

Silence in the Dark by Patricia Bradley (Revell); Logan Point, book 4

When the drug cartel comes after her, a woman's only hope at getting home safe is her ex-fiance.