Friday, January 27, 2023

Book Review: The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz

About the Book:


In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley's father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Blythe quietly awaits the crowning of a new king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.

No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with her maid in tow. He has his own problems--a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.

In this whirlwind of intrigue, ambitions, and shifting alliances, Blythe yearns for someone she can trust. But the same forces that draw her and Everard together also threaten to tear them apart.

Read an excerpt from The Rose and the Thistle on the publisher's website.


My Thoughts:

Reading The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz made me want to visit Scotland. The descriptions of the beautiful scenery and the historical details immersed me into the story. I could picture the fog over Edinburgh, Everard riding on his mount, the garden at Canongate townhouse. The combination of the setting and historical elements created an absorbing plot and revived some history I’d forgotten. I googled for information about King George I and everything I read confirmed that Laura Frantz researched this story well.

Both main characters of The Rose and the Thistle, Everard and Blythe, interested me from the start, but I do wish they had met sooner in the novel. Once Blythe arrives at Everard’s estate, sparks start appearing and I enjoyed their slow-burn romance. The blossoming of their love allowed them both to grow individually and in the relationship. I especially liked how Everard’s love for Blythe helped her overcome her certain issues.

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz is a stand-alone novel for historical romance fans who enjoy slow-burn romance, historical detail, and beautiful prose. Five stars!



Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Fiction Meets Real Life: Bertha Palmer Edition


This is a fiction-meets-real-life post. I read Jocelyn Green’s Veiled in Smoke back in 2020 and loved the novel.  One of its characters suffered from “soldier’s heart” – what we would call PTSD today. The author handled the situation with sensitivity and the book gave me the push I need to get professional counseling for my own PTSD. I’m still reaping the benefits of that counseling.

This novel also awakened my interest in Bertha Palmer, a side character in the novel, but a wealthy, widowed, businesswoman in real life. Her winter estate in Osprey, FL, sits about 45 minutes from my home and is now known as Historic Spanish Point. I’ve visited many times and I always love walking the grounds.

A year or more ago, I visited a Little Free Library and found the book, Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honore Palmer, Her Family, and the Rise of Sarasota by Frank A. Cassell. It sat in my TBR for months, but in December 2022, I finally cracked open its pages to find a fascinating read that illuminated my hometown's history.

And that's the story behind this book photo.

Read my review of Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green.

Read my review of Suncoast Empire by Frank A. Cassell


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Book Review: Peace in the Midst of the Storm by Kaleb Thompson

About the Book:



Anxiety and fear seek to prey on the damaged and create heavy burdens that scar the soul, being heartless and insensitive to the lost, unkempt, and broken-spirited in a troubled, unwholesome world. However, they do not reign for eternity, as faith, resilience, and empowerment remain planted from within to help overcome pressing obstacles, regardless of how difficult they may be.

Peace in the Midst of the Storm primarily focuses on the beauty of positivity, selflessness, and honorable confidence that symbolizes the importance of light being present within darkness. This book also holds accountability in facing the realization that as life may prove frustrating at times, giving up is never an option! This shows that regardless of our mistakes, life does not promise us that we will remain positioned in negativity. What we were in our pasts will not seep into who we have grown to be as positive individuals. What we have now realized is that we often must prepare to speak victory over our storms and, as we continue to encourage ourselves to do that, we will overcome anything.


My Thoughts:

In Peace in the Midst of the Storm, Kaleb Thompson invites the reader to join him in being “passionate in denouncing negativity of any kind (page 32).” The poetry in this collection seems so deeply personal that I’m remiss to critique the narrator’s experiences and feelings. Rather, I’ll note that the purpose of this collection is to encourage the reader toward wholeness and wellbeing. The poetry presents a compelling, recurrent message about setting boundaries and leaving toxic relationships. It also emphasizes career empowerment and financial success.

The poems in Peace in the Midst of the Storm Thompson are written in easy-to-read, contemporary English. Sometimes, the narrative tone switches from prayerful lines to prophetic declarations within a stanza. All the poems adhere to a freestyle form to express powerful thoughts and strong feelings, but the lack of ending punctuation stood out to me. Depending on the reader’s tolerance for grammatical deviation, this may or may not be an issue.

Recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational, freestyle poetry.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.


Monday, January 23, 2023

2022 Favorite Fiction Reads

I published my 2022 list of favorite nonfiction earlier in the month, but this post is all about fiction! 

I must note that I read many good books that I truly enjoyed but these are the tip-top, cream-of-the-crop, favorite reads for me.  

In no particular order, my favorite fiction reads of 2022 are below. 

Roots of Wood and Stone by Amanda Wen 

This historic home holds the keys to their destiny . . . and their hearts.

Abandoned at birth, her family roots a mystery, historical museum curator Sloane Kelley has dedicated her life to making sure others know theirs. When a donor drops off a dusty old satchel, she doesn't expect much from the common artifact . . .until she finds real treasure inside: a nineteenth-century diary.Now she's on the hunt to find out more.

Garrett Anderson just wanted to clean out his grandmother's historic but tumbledown farmhouse before selling it to fund her medical care. With her advancing Alzheimer's, he can't afford to be sentimental about the family home. But his carefully ordered plan runs up against two formidable obstacles: Sloane, who's fallen in love with both the diaries and the house, and his own heart, which is irresistibly drawn to Sloane.

A century and a half earlier, motherless Annabelle Collins embarks with her aunt and uncle on the adventure of a lifetime: settling the prairies of Sedgwick County, Kansas. The diaries she left behind paint a portrait of life, loss, and love--and a God who faithfully carries her through it all. Paging through the diaries together takes Sloane and Garrett on a journey they never could have planned, which will change them in ways they never imagined.

👉 Read my review.

Turn to Me by Becky Wade 

His promise will cost him far more than he imagined.

Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey's life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke's release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he's hidden. Worried that she won't be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke's promise to protect her until the end of her search.

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke's help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return--by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he's long denied himself.

As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He'll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who's going to shield him from losing his heart?

👉 Read my review

Love and the Dream Come True by Tammy L. Gray 

Their faith will face its toughest test yet.

Four years after getting the biggest break of his life, Cameron Lee's music career has taken a nosedive, leaving him two options: become a sellout or give up on his lifelong dream. He reluctantly returns home for his sister's wedding, hoping to avoid his past and find his love for music again.

Single mom Lexie Walters has suffered her fair share of tragedies and setbacks, but she has finally scraped together the money to achieve her dream of going into business with her cousin as an interior designer. When Lexie's life is at an all-time high, she runs into her teenage crush, Cameron Lee.

Lost in the emotional turmoil of failure, Cameron is immediately drawn to Lexie and her infectious smile and optimistic spirit. Moreover, he adores her mouthy, no-holds-barred daughter. But fantasies only last so long, and soon Lexie and Cameron must face the real world, the one fraught with heartbreak, disappointment, and questions that sometimes can only be answered by a leap of faith.


A Piece of the Moon by Chris Fabry 

An inspiring southern fiction story from the bestselling author of War Room.

When eccentric millionaire Gideon Quidley receives a divine revelation to hide his earthly treasure somewhere in the hills, he sets out to find a fitting hiding spot, choosing only a few Bible verses as clues leading to untold riches of gold, silver, cash . . . and one very unexpected—and very costly—item.

Treasure hunters descend upon the hills of West Virginia, including those surrounding the small town of Emmaus, where TD Lovett and Waite Evers provide the latest updates and the beating heart of the community on radio station Country 16. Neither man is much interested in a wild-goose chase for Quidley’s treasure, though. Waite is busy keeping the station afloat and caring for the bruised souls who have landed there. Meanwhile, TD’s more intent on winning over local junkyard owner Pidge Bledsoe, who has taken in a shy, wounded boy to raise.

But after an estranged friend goes missing searching for the treasure, TD is unexpectedly drawn into the hunt. As TD joins the race to find Quidley’s wealth, he discovers where his own real treasure lies, and he begins to suspect there’s a hidden piece to Gideon Quidley’s treasure that no one could’ve expected.

👉 Read my review

The Finder of Forgotten Things by Sarah Loudin Thomas 

It's one thing to say you can find what people need--it's another to actually do it.

It's 1932 and Sullivan Harris is on the run. An occasionally successful dowser, he promised the people of Kline, West Virginia, that he would find them water. But when wells turned up dry, he disappeared with their cash just a step or two ahead of Jeremiah Weber, who was elected to run him down.

Postmistress Gainey Floyd is suspicious of Sulley's abilities when he appears in her town but reconsiders after new wells fill with sweet water. Rather, it's Sulley who grows uneasy when his success makes folks wonder if he can find more than water--like forgotten items or missing people. He lights out to escape such expectations and runs smack into something worse.

Hundreds of men have found jobs digging the Hawks Nest Tunnel--but what they thought was a blessing is killing them. And no one seems to care. Here, Sulley finds something new--a desire to help. With it, he becomes an unexpected catalyst, bringing Jeremiah and Gainey together to find what even he has forgotten: hope.

👉 Read my review.

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig 

After a tour of duty in a war-torn country, embattled former Navy SEAL Max Jacobs finds himself discarded and alienated from those he loves as he struggles with war-related PTSD. His wife, Sydney, files a restrain order against him and a petition for divorce. Max is devastated.

Then a mysterious man appears. He says he's organizing a group that recycles veterans like Max. It's a black-ops group known as Nightshade. With the chance to find purpose in life once again, Max is unable to resist the call of duty and signs on.

The teams handles everything with precision and lethal skill--until they're called upon to rescue a missionary family from a rebel-infested jungle and avoid a reporter hunting their identities.

Will Max yield his anger and pride to a force great than him--love?

👉 Read my review.

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall 

One accidental kiss. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt's world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn't have the time or the desire to fall for her friend Lawry Hampton. However, with Vance out of the country and Lawry constantly at her side, Meredyth can’t help but wonder if what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from their unfortunate past.

When Vance comes home to stake his claim on Meredyth, will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she’s convinced she deserves? Or will she find the strength to accept that God’s plan for her life could include redemption... and quite possibly the love of her best-friend?

👉 Read my review.

The Lady's Mine by Francine Rivers 

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to the California frontier in this sweeping, romantic tale of a displaced New England suffragette, a former Union soldier disinherited by his Southern family, and the town they join forces to save.

1875. When Kathryn Walsh arrives in tiny Calvada, a mining town nestled in the Sierra Nevadas, falling in love is the farthest thing from her mind. Banished from Boston by her wealthy stepfather, she has come to claim an inheritance from the uncle she never knew: a defunct newspaper office on a main street overflowing with brothels and saloons, and a seemingly worthless mine. Moved by the oppression of the local miners and their families, Kathryn decides to relaunch her uncle’s newspaper—and then finds herself in the middle of a maelstrom, pitted against Calvada’s most powerful men. But Kathryn intends to continue to say—and publish—whatever she pleases, especially when she knows she’s right.

Matthias Beck, owner of a local saloon and hotel, has a special interest in the new lady in town. He instantly recognizes C. T. Walsh’s same tenacity in the beautiful and outspoken redhead—and knows all too well how dangerous that family trait can be. While Kathryn may be right about Calvada’s problems, her righteousness could also get her killed. But when the handsome hotelier keeps finding himself on the same side of the issues as the opinionated Miss Walsh, Matthias’s restless search for purpose becomes all about answering the call of his heart.

Everyone may be looking to strike it rich in this lawless boomtown, but it’s a love more precious than gold that will ultimately save them all.

👉 Read my review.

Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby

A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne's arrival is all novelty and excitement.

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the "upstairs" and "downstairs" members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr. Edward Austen's family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane's brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne's days at Godmersham Park are numbered.

👉 Read my review.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall 

With more than one million copies sold, this series of modern classics about the charming Penderwick family from National Book Award-winner and New York Times best seller Jeanne Birdsall is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager. 

When summer comes around, it's off to the beach for Rosalind...and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend, Jeffrey. That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick) - a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor. 

But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalind's directions about not letting Batty explode? Will Jane's Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty - contrary to all accepted wisdom - the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune? And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls...these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?

All the Lost Places by Amanda Dykes
 
When all of Venice is unmasked, one man's identity remains a mystery . . .

1807
When a baby is discovered floating in a basket along the quiet canals of Venice, a guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. Although the boy, Sebastien Trovato, has wrestled with questions of his origins, it isn't until a woman washes ashore on his lagoon island that answers begin to emerge. In hunting down his story, Sebastien must make a choice that could alter not just his own future, but also that of the beloved floating city.

1904
Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start in life as the century turns. Hoping to redeem a past laden with regrets, he is sent on an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book. There, he discovers a city of colliding hope and decay, much like his own life, and a mystery wrapped in the pages of that filigree-covered volume. With the help of Vittoria, a bookshop keeper, Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets, and discoveries carefully kept within the stones and canals of the ancient city . . . and in the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastien Trovato.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Book Review: Walking With My Angel by Adam Scott Campbell

About the Book: 


Walking With My Angel is a series of poetic letters to and from a real, heavenly Angel and her mortal warrior companion. They are shared in the hope that others find hope, encouragement, empowerment, and even enlightenment from reading them.

Read excerpts of Adam's poetry at: https://adamscottcampbell.com/

Purchase Link: Amazon


Mini-Interview with Adam:

This video features excerpts from a full interview with Adam. Both interviews are available at: https://adamscottcampbell.com/


My Thoughts:

In Walking With My Angel, Adam Scott Campbell presents a poetry collection based on his physical and spiritual experiences with his angel. I highly recommend viewing Adam’s condensed interview on his website as it gives substantial information about his experiences that are helpful to know prior to reading the book.

In Walking With My Angel, the reader enters an ethos of the poet as a writer-warrior with his personal angel as his soulmate. I’ll pass on trying to examine any theology as the Bible only gives snippets of information about angels and I am no expert on the matter. I will say that the poetry includes basic Christian beliefs of Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Savior as well as God as a loving Father with a divine will for each of His sons and daughters. 

The poems in Walking With My Angel interested, soothed, comforted, and inspired me. Though independently published, the book is professionally formatted and the author’s passion for his craft is evident. The poems carry elements of rhythm and rhyme with careful word choice that adds art and beauty to the narrative.

Suicide Trigger Alert: Several times, the author mentions his desire to end his mortal existence and enter eternity with his angel. However, the poems do not glorify suicide. They are presented with the narrator’s knowledge that ending his life prematurely is not God’s chosen path for him. Still, I feel it is appropriate to offer a suicide trigger alert due to such content.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Author Interview: Beauty From Ashes by Pamela Hart

Beauty From Ashes JustRead Blog Tour 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Beauty from Ashes by Pamela Hart, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book


Beauty From Ashes Title: Beauty from Ashes 
Series: Beauty from Ashes Trilogy #1 
Author: Pamela Hart 
Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing 
Release Date: July 25, 2022 
Genre: Young Adult Clean Fantasy Romance (Allegorical) 

How far are you willing to go for love? 

When Prince Arnion volunteers to infiltrate the prison colony of Gehenna, romance is the last thing on his mind. Rescuing its inhabitants is his only priority. But the corruption in Gehenna runs deep, fueled by the obsessions of its fanatical leader—a king rumored to devour human hearts. 

To succeed, Arnion must conceal his identity from the people he’s been sent to save, including a young woman he’s inexplicably drawn to. And when her life is threatened by two merciless guards, the prince risks everything to save her. 

Afterward, she wants nothing to do with him or his promises of rescue. But she soon realizes there’s more to Arnion than meets the eye, and what he’s about to unleash on Gehenna will change everything. 


About the Author

Pamela Hart

Pamela Hart is the author of Beauty from Ashes and City of a Thousand Tears. Raised on a steady diet of fantasy, science fiction and anime, she spent most of her childhood failing to acquire a Boston accent. Since then, she has slurped ramen in Ikebukuro, stampeded through flamenco lessons in Granada, and splashed her way across a fishpond for the Milkman Triathlon in Dexter. During her travels, she tends to overpack horrendously, but never regrets cramming her backpack full of books to devour along the way. She wanders the planet with Joe, the love of her life, and her adorably maniacal Boston terriers, Willy and Marvin.

Connect with Pamela by visiting pamelahartwrites.com to follow her on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.


Author Interview


Q: What was the inspiration behind Beauty from Ashes?

Pamela: Beauty from Ashes was inspired by a creative outreach I participated in while attending Discipleship Training School at YWAM Tokyo. We created a 5-paneled bilingual comic in English and Japanese to share the gospel.

Years later, the seed from writing that comic still stuck with me. It stretched and morphed and eventually grew into Beauty from Ashes.

Ultimately, Beauty from Ashes, was inspired by the desire to share the gospel with people who might never step foot in a church.
 

Q: How long did it take you to write this story?

Pamela: Once I buckled down and started writing, it took seven years to go from the first word to the published book.


Q: Do you have a favorite quote from this book?

Pamela: I think my favorite quote is, “My lunatic has a name now.” I like it partly for wry humor of the protagonist’s voice but also because it’s the start of a deep character change within her and her relationships.
 

Q: What do you hope readers take away from Beauty from Ashes?

Pamela: My hope is that readers will see an illustration of the gospel and know that they are loved more than they can ever possibly imagine. That God sent his son, Jesus, to die in their place and raised him to life so that they can live with him forever and have a personal relationship with him.


Q: Would you share something about yourself that most readers would not know?

Pamela: I’m learning how to scuba dive. I just finished my first certification class tonight and I’m very excited!


Q: What are you reading now?

Pamela: I’m reading a really cool version of Hinds’ Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard that has beautiful watercolor illustrations and spaces for journaling.

I’m also finishing up Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Snow Kissed by M.J. Padgett, and How to Write your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell.


Q: How many bookcases are in your home?

Pamela: We have four. 😊


Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Pamela: I love reading, watching movies, and taking walks with my dogs and my hubby. I also love traveling, hiking, exploring new places and trying new food. When I see something in the grocery store that I can’t recognize, I like to buy it and figure out how to cook it. That’s how I discovered red currants and a really yummy red currant, lemon, and yogurt muffin recipe.


Tour Giveaway

(1) winner will receive a print copy of Beauty from Ashes, 2 themed bookmarks, a $15 Amazon gift card, a book themed tote bag, and a book themed pencil case!

Beauty From Ashes JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight January 17, 2023 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on January 24, 2023. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Open internationally. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to JustRead Publicity Tours Giveaway Policies.

Enter Giveaway


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours