Monday, December 5, 2022

Book Review: All the Lost Places by Amanda Dykes


Title: All the Lost Places
Author: Amanda Dykes
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: ‎Bethany House Publishers (December 13, 2022)
Length: (400) pages
Format: Hardcover, Trade paperback, & eBook
ISBN: 978-0764239502
Tour Dates: December 5 – December 19, 2022


When all of Venice is unmasked, one man's identity remains a mystery . . .

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.

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.


All the Lost Places by Amanda Dykes exceeded my expectations and rates as one of the best novels I’ve read in 2022. My favorite books feature characters that I connect to in some way, and I immediately identified with Daniel. This fallen son’s emotions felt real and raw as he grappled with shame and a need to atone for his past. The story dove deep into the darkness of condemnation and searched for life-giving truth while avoiding platitudes. Daniel's redemption journey takes time but has a wonderful ending.

All the Lost Places is a book for those who ask hard, but worthy questions: Who am I? How can I atone for past wrongs? Where can I find peace? The themes of the novel call out truth to any Christian believer, but especially for the broken and the searching. I marked more than thirty quotes as I read, and I appreciated that the story held themes less commonly explored in Christian fiction.

In addition to the above, Amanda Dykes’ poetic prose and clever writing style made All the Lost Places a delight to read. This character-driven novel had a smartly paced plot that held my attention from beginning to end. The author freshened the popular dual timeline format by using the translation of a book to create the earlier timeline.

I recommend All the Lost Places by Amanda Dykes to readers who enjoy historical Christian fiction with great depth and poignant themes. This novel lingers with me, and I know I’ll return to it in the future.


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.


“This lyrical dual-narrative historical from Dykes (Set the Stars Alight) dives into the histories of Venice, Italy, and Venice Beach, California.”— Publisher’s Weekly

"Introspective, surprising, and achingly beautiful."— Booklist starred review

"Dykes's pen is fused with magic and poetry. Every word's a gentle wave building into the splendor that is All the Lost Places, where struggles for identity and a place to belong find hope between the pages of a timeless story."— J'Nell Ciesielski, bestselling author of The Socialite

"Luscious writing, authentic characters, and an ending that satisfies to the core of the spirit, this novel is another winner from Amanda Dykes."— Heidi Chiavaroli, Carol Award-winning author of Freedom's Ring and Hope Beyond the Waves



Amanda Dykes's debut novel, Whose Waves These Are, is the winner of the prestigious 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, and the winner of an INSPY Award. She's also the author of Yours Is the Night and Set the Stars Alight, a 2021 Christy Award finalist.

What I Would Tell You Epic Book Launch

About the Book

Book: What I Would Tell You
Author: Liz Tolsma
Genre: Christian Fiction / Romance / Historical Fiction
Release date: January 1, 2023

DNA Test Unlocks a Family Mystery

Sephardic Jew Mathilda Nissim watches in horror as the Germans invade her beloved city of Salonika, Greece. What angers her most is the lack of resistance her people put up to their captors. In secret and at great risk to her life, she continues to publish her newspaper, calling her people to action. She doesn’t trust God to help them. When she and her husband find out they are expecting a child, Mathilda may have to resort to desperate measures to ensure her daughter’s survival.

Three generations later, college student Riley Payson and her cousin take a popular DNA test only to discover they don’t share any common ancestors. In fact, the test shows Riley is a Sephardic Jew from Greece. This revelation shakes Riley’s tenuous faith and sends her on a journey to discover what happened to her great-grandmother and how all this relates to her faith and her life today.

Book Excerpt #4

“The Germans will see it as such. They will only allow their own propaganda to be printed. Especially nothing Jewish. Jews in other countries have lost their businesses, their homes, their very lives.”

“Now you understand why I have to keep writing and publishing. So that we don’t lose our voices. There is so much I have to tell.” 

“At what cost?” Asher stared at her, his eyes dark and stormy.

“At whatever cost it might be.” Too many Jews had already died. If she could prevent one more death or ten or a hundred, it would be worth whatever Dio demanded of her.

He shook his head. “No. Mi corasón, I couldn’t stand to lose you. I can’t allow you to put yourself in so much danger.”

“No matter whether I stop writing or not, I fear we are all in danger. You have heard the stories from Germany and Poland and the other occupied countries. No Jew is safe in a Nazi-controlled land. Any moment, any one of us could be taken—”

With a touch to her lips, he shushed her. “Put those thoughts out of your mind.”

She kept her words soft, almost whispering in his ear. “We have to think about such things.”

He hugged her hard, trembling from head to toe.

“I’m scared too. So afraid. What will become of us? But the entirety of Europe’s Jews may well be wiped out if we stand aside and remain spectators to own destruction. I am more afraid of what will happen if we do nothing than of what will happen if we do something.”

About the Author

Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels, romantic suspense novels, prairie romance novellas, and an Amish romance. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their youngest daughter. Her son is a US Marine, and her oldest daughter is a college student. Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. 

Please visit her website at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She is also the host of the Christian Historical Fiction Talk podcast.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Book Review: A Quilt for Christmas by Melody Carlson

About the Book:

Cuddle up with this cozy story of giving and forgiving--with a little bit of romance.

Christmas should be celebrated with family, but for Vera Swanson, that's not an option this year. Widowed and recently relocated, she is lonely in her condo-for-one--until little Fiona Albright knocks on her door needing help.

With her mother seriously ill and her father out of town, Fiona enlists Vera's aid, and when she finds out her new neighbor is a quilter, she has a special request--a Christmas quilt for Mama.

Vera will have to get a ragtag group of women together to fulfill the request. Between free-spirited artist Tasha, chatty empty nester Beverly, retired therapist Eleanor, and herself, Vera has hopes that Christmas for the Albright family will be merry, after all. And she may even find herself a new family of friends along the way.

Read an excerpt from A Quilt for Christmas on the publisher's website.

My Thoughts:

A Quilt for Christmas by Melody Carlson showcases the joy of giving and offers a beautiful story of intergenerational friendship. Set against the backdrop of the Christmas season, the narrative is peppered with feel-good Christmas activities that charmed me. I sometimes avoid novellas because the shorter length can hinder story and character development. However, because this story focuses on a condensed time period, the story expands within the pages and feels very well-rounded. 

My favorite aspect of A Quilt for Christmas was the intergenerational relationships between the women. From Fiona (age 4) to Tasha (mid-30s) to Vera (late 60s), the story demonstrates how all can benefit from having friends of different generations. I loved that it was Fiona who drew all these women together and instigated one character’s change of heart. The story reminded me of the older women in my life whose company I treasure.

I read A Quilt for Christmas by Melody Carlson with my local book club, and it was a perfect Christmas selection for our gathering of ladies. Four 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.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Book Spotlight: The Best intentions by Sarah M. Eden

The Best Intentions JustRead Blog + Review Tour 

Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for The Best Intentions by Sarah M. Eden, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


The Best Intentions Title: The Best Intentions 
Series: The Huntresses #1 
Author: Sarah M. Eden 
Publisher: Covenant Communications 
Release Date: November 21, 2022 
Genre: Clean & Wholesome Romance/Historical/Regency

In the eyes of London Society, Gillian Phelps is suitable enough. Though the ton whispers about her change of residence, any speculation remains just that: ballroom gossip. No one—not even the other Huntresses, the group of ladies she calls her dearest friends—knows that she is harboring a devastating family secret. Gillian has become adept at hiding the reality of her circumstances, but the close quarters of a house party will test her ability to conceal the crushing truth. And with so many people to deceive, the late arrival of another guest is a most unwelcome surprise.

Despite his standing as a gentleman of the ton, in truth, Scott Sarvol possesses little more than two debt-riddled estates. When an opportunity arises to survey one of his properties, he travels north, only to find himself an unwitting guest at Artemis Jonquil’s house party. He is warmly welcomed by all—except the aloof Miss Gillian Phelps. But when Scott proves himself unexpectedly helpful in a crisis, his acquaintance with Gillian shifts from wariness to something warmer. As both her charade and her feelings for Scott deepen, Gillian realizes that the truth could spell not only a devastating fall from Society but also a shattered heart.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


“You are plotting,” Gillian whispered.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He spoke far too innocently to be believed.

He wasn’t angry with her. She was so relieved she could have cried. Instead, she smiled back at him.

“It is good to see you smiling, Gillian.” Mrs. Brownlow sounded stronger than she had all day. “When she was . . . a little girl, she had such a love of . . . laughing and silliness.”

“Most little children indulge in such things,” Gillian said. “One can hardly expect someone of my age—”

“Yes. We must remember how incredibly old Gillian is,” Scott said in serious tones. “I have heard the word ancient used. Antiquated. Decrepit.


Sarah M. Eden

Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today bestselling author of multiple historical romances, including AML's "2013 Novel of the Year" and Foreword Review’s 2013 “IndieFab Book of the Year” gold medal winner for Best Romance, Longing for Home, and the Whitney Award's "2014 Novel of the Year," Longing for Home: Hope Springs. Combining her obsession with history and affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting witty characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a Bachelor's degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library. Sarah lives with her husband, kids, and mischievous dog in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain she has never attempted to ski.

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


(1) winner will receive a signed copy of book, $25 Amazon gift card, bookmark, stickers, and button.

The Best Intentions JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight November 28, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on December 5, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


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

JustRead Publicity Tours

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Book Review: The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen


  • Title: The Sisters of Sea View
  • Series: On Devonshire Shores (Book 1)
  • Author: Julie Klassen
  • Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
  • Publisher: ‎Bethany House Publishers (December 6, 2022)
  • Length: (448) pages
  • Format: hardcover, trade paperback, & eBook
  • ISBN: 978-0764234262
  • Tour Dates: November 28 – December 12, 2022


Some guests have come for a holiday, others for hidden reasons of their own . . .

When their father's death leaves them impoverished, Sarah Summers and her genteel sisters fear they will be forced to sell the house and separate to earn livelihoods as governesses or companions. Determined to stay together, Sarah convinces them to open their seaside home to guests to make ends meet and provide for their ailing mother. Instead of the elderly invalids they expect to receive, however, they find themselves hosting eligible gentlemen. Sarah is soon torn between a growing attraction to a mysterious Scottish widower and duty to her family.

Viola Summers wears a veil to cover her scar. When forced to choose between helping in her family's new guest house and earning money to hire a maid to do her share, she chooses the latter. She reluctantly agrees to read to some of Sidmouth's many invalids, preferring the company of a few elders with failing eyesight to the fashionable guests staying in their home. But when her first client turns out to be a wounded officer in his thirties, Viola soon wishes she had chosen differently. Her new situation exposes her scars--both visible and those hidden deep within--and her cloistered heart will never be the same.

Join the Summers sisters on the Devonshire coast, where they discover the power of friendship, loyalty, love, and new beginnings.




The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen started off slow and unhurried, not hard to put down when necessary. Later, I realized that the relaxed pace allowed the author to spend substantial page time building the three main characters (Sarah, Emily, and Viola) and their world. Taking the time to dig into each woman’s mind and secrets created a solid foundation for this story and the subsequent novels in the series. Viola ranked as my favorite sister, and I was very pleased with the way her storyline unfolded.

In The Sisters of Sea View, several characters have scars, emotional or physical. A strong theme that felt spiritual, but not preachy, emerged as the author used different characters to show how people respond to injuries and scars. Will the person choose bitterness or contentment? Will the scars cause a person to withdraw, or will the person be unhindered? This theme undergirded the character development of multiple characters and added depth to the story.

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen commences the On Devonshire Shores series. While I would not consider the ending a cliffhanger, certain relationships and circumstances are open-ended. Christian fiction readers who enjoy historical fiction with bonds of sisterhood and a relaxed pace will likely enjoy The Sisters of Sea View. As Julie Klassen wrote in the author’s note, the story also offers “fond nods of honor to the great Jane Austen.”

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.



“Jane Austen fans will delight in this nimble series launch…Klassen excels at weaving her various story lines, each emphasizing the colorful qualities of her characters and allowing them the space to shine. Readers will be eager for the next installment.” —Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)


“Julie Klassen delights with a winsome love story…” —Publisher’s Weekly, on A Castaway in Cornwall

“I couldn’t put it down! It you are a historical fiction fan you need this one on your radar! It was a spooky delight full of heart. ”—Anne Mendez, The Lit Bitch, on Shadows of Swanford Abbey

“…a wonderfully engaging novel full of intriguing characters and storylines. I highly recommend it and can’t wait for more in the series.” —Laura Gerold, Laura’s Reviews, on The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill



Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Author Interview: The Secret Garden Devotional

The Secret Garden Devotional JustRead Blog Tour 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Secret Garden Devotional by Rachel Dodge, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


The Secret Garden Devotional Title: The Secret Garden Devotional 
Author: Rachel Dodge 
Publisher: Barbour 
Release Date: December 6, 2022 
Genre: Devotional

Devotional Inspiration from Mary Lennox's Beautifully Mysterious Secret Garden

The Secret Garden Devotional offers lovely inspiration that explores the themes of faith, family, contentment, wisdom, and joy in the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, cherished by generations of readers. 

Each reading corresponds with a chapter from the book and invites you to embrace God’s guiding hand in your life as you are becoming His new creation. With themes of growth, spiritual nourishment, God's love and care, and His transforming power, this beautiful chapter-by-chapter devotional includes original artwork throughout. Each reading includes examples from the novel, scripture, life application, and prayers perfect for groups, book clubs, or personal reflection.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound


Rachel Dodge

Rachel Dodge is the bestselling author of the award-winning Anne of Green Gables Devotional, The Little Women Devotional, and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Rachel's newest book is The Secret Garden Devotional! Rachel teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and is a writer for the popular Jane Austen's World blog. She is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to grow closer to Jesus through prayer and the study of God's Word. A true kindred spirit at heart, Rachel enjoys books, bonnets, and ball gowns.

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


1. Why did you choose to create a devotional based on The Secret Garden?

Rachel: It’s one of the books I read most growing up and I’ve always loved the idea of the beautiful, mysterious garden. I loved Dickon and his animals and the work Mary did in the garden to help bring it back to life. As a Christian author, I felt that this book was a perfect fit for a devotional book because of its themes of new life in Christ and the hope-filled promise that Spring is always on the way—even during a long drought or winter season.

The gardening themes in this book also fit perfectly with the symbolic way the Bible talks about our life of faith through gardening and farming terms. As we walk with God, He is the master gardener who plants, prunes, waters, and weeds. Each chapter of The Secret Garden has different themes that fit perfectly with many Biblical themes and stories.

I had so much fun coming up with creative garden-related titles, writing each devotional entry, and thinking about the wonderful personal application I found in each chapter of the novel. Mary Lennox arrives at Misselthwaite Manor, sour, sickly, and contrary. She’s lost both of her parents and is sent across the ocean to live with an uncle she’s never met. Misselthwaite ends up becoming the place where she can bloom and grow, make friends, and be a little girl again. Her entire family tree is redeemed and restored, all because of a mysterious hidden garden. It’s a beautiful book and I loved writing about it!

2. What do you hope readers take away from this devotional?

Rachel: I really want readers to know how much Jesus loves them and how tender and personal He is with each of us. He knows us intimately and loves us with an everlasting love. I don’t want anyone to go even one day without knowing the love of God personally. Jesus loves each of us so much that He willingly laid down His life that we might spend eternity with Him.

I also want readers to know that God has a purpose for the season they’re currently in. Some seasons are ridiculously hard. Some take our breath away and leave us wondering what just happened. Some are so full and fruitful and others feel like a severe pruning. God is doing a good work in each of us in every season—and he’s always doing something under the surface, even when we can’t see it.

For those in a pruning or wilderness season, remember that God often brings us closer to Him and deeper in our faith when we walk through the hard stuff. He will use it to grow you and to create opportunities for future ministry. Valleys don’t last forever. Night doesn’t go on indefinitely. Winter eventually comes to a close. Take heart and remember: Green pastures and quiet streams are ahead. Morning is on its way. Spring is coming!


3. Do you have a favorite quote from this book?

Rachel: There are so many wonderful quotes in the book, but this one really speaks to me: “[Mary] was stirring her slow blood and making herself stronger by fighting with the wind which swept down from the moor” (Ch. 5). It’s such a good reminder that when we have to fight hard and work hard in life, amazing things happen that we can’t see. Some of the hardest moments in life can actually make us stronger than a dozen dreamy vacations. Fighting the wind makes us courageous and strong, it builds character, and it fits us for future battles. Uphill battles build something in us that nothing else can. I remind myself and my kids of this truth regularly.


4. How long did it take you to write The Secret Garden Devotional?

Rachel: I wrote it in about 4 months. I often have a tight turn-around time, but I had worked on it a year before and had been praying for a long time about writing it, so the words really poured out when it was time to sit down and write each chapter fully.


5. Would you share something about yourself that most readers wouldn’t know?

Rachel: I had a very old-fashioned upbringing. I grew up in a small town in central California on five acres with cows, goats, chickens, geese, cats, dogs, orchards, and berry patches. We went “to town” twice a week—on Sundays for church and Wednesdays for piano lessons, groceries, and choir practice. We always had a huge garden and my mom is an OG homesteader (long before it was cool) who loves to farm and garden, live off the land, create a self-sustaining lifestyle, sew her own clothes, and cook and can and bake a lot of her own food. My dad was a school teacher and a romantic who dreamed in poems. I grew up on the land, bare-footed, often in a dress my mom had sewed or found at a rummage sale. When I was wasn’t working outside with my parents, my brother and I were climbing trees, reading books, or imagining ourselves inside one of our favorite stories. We didn’t watch much tv when I was little, but books and music were a huge part of our lives. We were always reading, singing, or working. My best friend growing up once said, “It’s like living in a musical!” And she was right! Our family wasn’t like most other families, but I am really thankful for the unique way I grew up. 


6. What are you reading now?

Rachel: I’ve been reading through Helene Hanff’s books and really enjoying them. She wrote 84, Charing Cross Road, which I’ve read many times. It’s the inspiration for many other books about bookshops and bookish pen pals, which I dearly love. It’s a slim volume filled with letters she wrote after WW2, while in New York, to a bookseller in London. The friendships she forms are exquisitely beautiful. I’ve read it many times, but I reread it again recently and followed it up with her book The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, which is her journal entries from when she later traveled to England after decades of planning. Now I’m reading her book Q’s Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books which is her biography, and it covers her life, her experience writing and publishing 84, her first trip to England, and the later production of 84 into a play, a television production, and a movie. Her writing is funny and fine-tipped. I find myself chuckling one moment and wiping my eyes the next.


7. How many bookcases are in your home?

Rachel: I’ve lost count! Maybe 10? My husband tries to enforce a “buy a book, give away a book” rule from time-to-time, but I rarely stick to it.


8. What do you wish you’d known when you were younger?

Rachel: I wish I’d known that so much of what I loved to do growing up (reading, writing, and pretending) would continue to give me great joy as an adult—and that God would use all of it in such a way that it would become more beautiful than I ever could have guessed. I would tell my younger self that the tangles of life are often the best parts of life, and that the most wonderful parts of my life have been things that I never could have made happen on my own. Every twist and turn has had a unique purpose, even when it didn’t make sense at the time.

I’d also tell my younger self to be kinder in terms of my outer appearance because every time I look back at photos from a few years before, I think, I looked really nice in that photo. Why was I so critical of myself back then? (Except for my college graduation photos. I would go back to the month before graduation and tell myself: “Do not get that pixie haircut!! It doesn’t work for your face. You’ll end up looking like a boy.”)


9. What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Rachel: When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading books, watching movies, going on walks and bike rides, and working in my yard.



(2) winners will receive a signed copy of The Secret Garden Devotional and a hardcover illustrated copy of The Secret Garden along with a bookmark and stickers.

The Secret Garden Devotional JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight November 30, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on December 7, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


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

JustRead Publicity Tours