“Beneath the Surface” by Lynn Blackburn

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“After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change. She thought she’d left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. She reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.

Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff’s Office dive team. When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer–one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.”

Okay, I have a confession to make. I initially picked this book because I thought this might be another author in the style of Dee Henderson or Dani Pettrey (two of my favorite suspense authors). Consequently, when I started reading I was guilty of comparing this book with their books and that is certainly not fair to the author. So I will just state that if you’re looking for another Dee Henderson, this isn’t the book to choose, but if you want a suspense book that stands on its own feet without relation to others, then you just might wanna try this one out, ’cause I really enjoyed it!

I really enjoyed getting to know all the characters, and particularly Leigh with her background of being adopted and just her loving family story. I’m very much looking forward to the other characters’ stories in the following books!

The story moved forward at a really good pace and kept me wondering what would be discovered next (well okay, a couple ‘discoveries’ were slightly predictable, but ya know, it did have to follow through in a logical sequence). The one thing that I was slightly disappointed in was *Spoiler* the fact that ultimately the culprit was someone we didn’t really know, but had only appeared incidentally in one scene. *End of Spoiler*

The spiritual content was good, being steady throughout, and I enjoyed Leigh’s journey of turning to God again after having been raised in a Christian home (somewhat cliched though it may be).

Lastly, the only thing I’ll mention is that the romance did get a little syrupy as the story progressed. I prefer less, “he thought, and then she wondered” etc, etc, etc. but overall it is to be expected so I can’t complain too much.

I’m giving this a 4 star rating and anxiously awaiting the next book in the series which will be Adam’s story.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.

 

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“A Song Unheard” by Roseanna M. White

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“Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales. 

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.”

Wow, this is one of the most amazing books ever! First of all, it’s by one of my very favorite authors. Honestly it never ceases to amaze me how Mrs. White continues to produce quality work and storylines that are always unique. You never feel like you’re reading the same book over again with different names. And her talent for putting words together to convey the realistic emotions, and basically put a painting before your eyes with words. She truly is an artist of words! That’s just an admiration of her writing in general.

This book specifically, though (well, honestly, both the books in this series) incorporates elements that are close to my heart. In the first, of course, it was about books and a library! One might ask, How could anything be better than that? Well, I think this one topped it by just a tiny bit. We have two geniuses in this story: one is a genius of music, namely Willa Forsythe, and the other a genius of math, that being Margot De Wilde, Lucas’ little sister. Seriously, in one book two such amazing elements as music and math (now let it be stated here and now, that I am not proficient in either, though I dabble just a little in both, and am a great admirer of those whose knowledge is more perfect than my own)! It was a score from page one!

All the characters were just lovely (well, okay, I’ll admit, I honestly didn’t care much for Jules *shrug*). I mean, of course, the bad guy was really bad, but even the less bad guy…well, I won’t give any spoilers about him. But seriously, I’d have a hard time picking a favorite, though I think Margot might come the closest.

The spiritual side of the story was quite good, though to me the way it described Lukas’ change was more the idea that he ‘turned over a new leaf’ rather than that an actual conversion took place, but that could just be me. Still didn’t detract any from the book over all.

So to sum it all up…Just go read the book! It can tell it’s own story better than me. A definite five star rating!

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

“No Small Storm” by Anne Mateer

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September 1815, Providence, Rhode Island

Thirty-year-old Remembrance “Mem” Wilkins loves her solitary life running the farm and orchard she inherited from her father and has no plans to give up her independence. Especially not for the likes of Mr. Graham Lott. But when Mem is unable to harvest the apples on her own, she accepts the help of the man she despises.

Fresh off a boat from Ireland with his four-year-old son in tow, Simon Brennan secures a building in which to ply his trade as a cobbler. Still healing from the grief of his wife’s death a year earlier, he determines to focus only on providing a good life for his son. But when he intervenes in an argument on behalf of the intriguing Miss Wilkins, sister-in-law of the tavern owner who befriends him, he suddenly finds himself crossways with his landlord, Mr. Lott, and relieved of his lease and most of his money.

With no means of support, Simon takes a job helping Mem with her harvest, relieving her of the need of Lott’s help. But their growing attraction to each other makes them both uneasy. Mem gladly escapes to town when her sister begins labor, and Simon, believing it best to distance himself from Mem, takes his son and leaves.

But neither anticipates the worst gale New England has ever seen—or that the storm will threaten all they hold dear.”

*Deep breath* This is a bit of a difficult review for me to write. I have read 2 other books by Anne Mateer and really enjoyed them. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what happened with this one. Possibly it’s because it’s a novella and not a full length novel, but I really had a hard time getting into this one. It felt like I kept waiting for the story to start, and then when the storm came I was caught completely off guard (another “I don’t know why” because the blurb talks about it). I guess there weren’t really any portents in the story itself of possible danger of storms, even though that is the central event of the story.

I liked the characters of Mem and Simon in general, though I can’t say I particulary sympathized with either of them. At times the emotion seemed overly dramatized and at others it seemed rushed (once again, this is somewhat the nature of novellas).

The spiritual content was basically good, though there wasn’t a whole lot of depth.

So my overall thoughts? It was a pretty good story, but in general a bit bland.

So sorry for this, Mrs. Mateer. I really kept trying to like it, and I truly hate writing a negative review, but I also have to be honest.

I’m giving this 3 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CelebrateLit in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

anne_2_web-crop-253x300Anne Mateer has loved reading and writing stories since childhood. She is the author of 4 historical novels, 1 historical novella, and a few contemporary short stories. Anne and her husband of 30 years, Jeff, love to visit their grown children and tour historical sites. They are currently living an empty nest adventure in Austin, TX.

Guest Post from Anne Mateer

I’m always up for a good historical story. It’s what I enjoy reading. It’s what I enjoy writing. But I find that my pleasure in any historical fiction increases exponentially when the story at hand is based on at least a kernel of historical fact. All four of my full-length novels share this trait. So it stood to reason that when turning my mind to a historical novella I would seek the same grounding in truth I’ve sought before.

So what historical fact inspired No Small Storm? It was a combination of them, actually. Which I think always makes for the best tales!

I like an overarching historical event to help frame a story. Things like war or economic crisis or natural disaster. Situations in the historical record which required courage or resilience or sacrifice from the people who lived through them. When I stumbled upon the Great Gale of 1815, which hit Providence, Rhode Island particularly hard, I knew it could provide obstacles for my characters to overcome.

As I began to read about this event—a hurricane before such storms were commonly called hurricanes—I happened upon some first hand accounts of that day. Fascinating remembrances about a storm arriving without much preamble, then departing and leaving bright sunny skies with which to view the destruction.

And destruction there was! Not only from wind and water, but also the fact that both of those things unleashed the ships moored in the harbor and sent them sailing down the main street of town! Can you imagine looking out of the second or third story window of a building which was likely flooded on the ground floor and seeing a ship coming at you?

That, in itself, was dramatic enough. Especially when coupled with the fact that those ships often broke apart, whether from wind and waves or from contact with the buildings and bridges they encountered on land. Then I considered the in those ships? What happened to them? Many were flung into the water, searching for purchase.

It was just such a circumstance that brought one man to the window of a young woman. She helped him inside. They were later married. And if finding such a story that isn’t a romance writer’s delight, I don’t know what is!

Finally, as I continued to read about the destruction in the area, I discovered a few lines about area orchards. The hanging fruit was found covered with a dusting of white. When tasted, it was discovered to be salt. Salt from storm surge and sea spray. Salt that saturated, even miles inland. Water and wind—and they salt they carried—ruining fruit crops ready for harvest. What could be more devastating to a farmer than that?

And so No Small Storm was born, with Remembrance and Simon each trying to make a good life for themselves, each trying to trust God as they work hard. Each keeping careful watch over their heart. But sometimes circumstances take things we don’t want to give. And give things we never imagined possible.

Historical fact and spiritual truth. Characters who are a product of their times as well as universal in their struggles and desires. It’s the kind of story I love to read. And the kind of story I’m proud to write.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, February 6

Carpe Diem, February 6

Reflections From My Bookshelves, February 7

Reading Is My SuperPower, February 7

The Power of Words, February 8

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 8

Inklings and notions, February 9

Blossoms and Blessings, February 9

Kathleen Denly, February 10

History, Mystery & Faith, February 10

Bukwurmzzz, February 11

Views From the Window Friend, February 11

By The Book, February 12

Maureen’s Musings, February 12

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, February 13

Mary Hake, February 13

proud to be an autism mom, February 14

Connie’s History Classroom, February 14

A Greater Yes, February 15

Janices book reviews, February 15

Jeanette’s Thoughts, February 16

A Baker’s Perspective, February 16

Bibliophile Reviews, February 17

Margaret Kazmierczak, February 17 (Interview)

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

Bigreadersite, February 18

Pink Granny’s Journey, February 19

Pursuing Stacie, February 19

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Anne is giving away a grand prize of a reader bag of goodies—including a Pride and Prejudice fleece throw, a “reading” charm necklace from Storied Jewelry, a Secret Garden litograph tote bag, and a $25 Amazon gift card!!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c604

“The Ladies of Ivy Cottage” by Julie Klassen

Hello folks! So sorry about the delay in getting these reviews posted. Life has been just a little crazy lately. Without further ado, please keep reading to find out how my thoughts on this lovely story.

“Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?

Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?”

This was a much anticipated read for me! I had read the first book in the series last year and greatly enjoyed it. These couldn’t necessarily be called thrilling or adventurous, but they are utterly charming and there is certainly some subtle intrigue in the storyline.

I love each of the young ladies whose stories are featured in these books. The character development is just great as well as all the supporting characters as well.

The spiritual content isn’t super strong but it’s steady throughout. The characters talk about seeking God’s direction in life, etc.

There are also parts of the story that revolve around illicit relationships and illegitimate children, but no details are gone into.

Overall, I’d give this 4 stars and can’t wait for the final installment in this series which won’t be out till the end of this year, aaaghh!

*Disclaimer: I received this as an ebook from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

“Blind Spot” by Dani Pettrey

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“FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.”

This series has been one of the most riveting I’ve read in a long while, and this one was no exception. Pettrey is a truly talented author, and it’s a pleasure to read her work.

I was really looking forward to Declan and Tanner’s story and was so excited when it finally came it. It pretty much picked up right where the last one left off, with the storyline taking us into a web of international intrigue. We also get to see quite a bit of the other characters from the previous books, as they are working a separate case which surprisingly enough had nothing to do with the main ‘big case’. Although it was most enjoyable, I kept expecting it to tie in somehow.

The spiritual life of Tanner and Declan is really good, and I enjoyed that aspect greatly! They seek the Lord through all the struggles they encounter and encourage each other in their spiritual walk.

A bit of a spoiler here, but there is a torture scene, that though not excruciatingly detailed is still a little rough, just to warn those with squeamish stomach. Oh, and it ended on a cliff hanger. Ackkk!!!!

I’m giving this 4 1/2 stars and am eagerly anticipating the final book in the series, Luke and Kate’s story.

*Disclaimer: I received a complementary ebook of this from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

 

“An Inconvenient Beauty” by Kristi Ann Hunter

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“Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she’ll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.

Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?”

What a lovely finale to this captivating series! Little did I know when I came across the prequel novella to this series, a few years ago, that I would actually get the opportunity to follow through with the whole thing as each one was released (well, except for the first one). I absolutely love books set in the Regency time period, and Mrs. Hunter did a marvelous job depicting the setting, and crafting the characters.

Though it may come as a bit of surprise, my favorite characters were actually Frederica and Arthur (though of course, I loved Griffith and Isabella as well). Frederica, as cousin and best friend of Isabella, was just so sweet and cute (despite her unfortunate features :-), and I loved her personality. As for Griffith and Isabella, one likes them simply because they are the main characters and their story is so fun, though I have a feeling if I were to meet them in real life, I might be a bit off put by them. Particularly Griffith, as a duke, comes across as proud at times, which I guess is understandable, and it’s what makes him believable.

I will say that other than the “happily-ever-after” factor, I honestly didn’t know how the author was going to resolve the issues that made up the conflict of the story. Which, in a way, I enjoyed and yet at the same time, when the resolution regarding Isabella’s family came out, I almost felt like it was too easy and pat.

The spiritual aspect of the story wasn’t as strong as it has been in others of her books, but once again I guess if you are attempting to portray something realistically we all have different spiritual strengths and failures.

I think overall, the thing that salvages any weakness in the storyline or other possible shortcomings, is the fact that Mrs. Hunter is an incredibly talented writer, and you feel like you are in the story. I only realized some of the weaknesses after I had finished the book and was thinking about my review.

I’m giving it a 4 star rating. Such a pleasure to read!

*Disclaimer: I received an ebook copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

“A Name Unknown” by Roseanna White

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“Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?”

Ah, this was another lovely read from one of my favorite authors! I have come to expect quality writing, thought-provoking content, and a riveting story line from Mrs. White. I am happy to report this book was no exception.

The main female character is no someone you can agree with through the whole book, yet she is certainly someone you can admire. Her point of view does lend food for thought, even though wrong is still wrong. The best part, of course, is how Peter Holstein is able to show her an example of what true Christianity looks like even in the upper classes of society. Such loveliness! All the secondary characters were wonderful too, and can I just say, I want a story about Treeve.

As for the historical part of the storyline? Truly fascinating! Mrs. White certainly did her research, and all the facts that came out about Peter’s family history, though they were, perhaps, made up, were ‘simply mahvelous’!

As always, the spiritual content was very good, though, probably the one thing I disagreed with was the way Peter excused his irregular church attendance.

For me this was definitely a 5 star read!

Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.