Book Review: Silent Shadows

Silent Shadows – Natalie Walters – Harbored Secrets #3 – Revell – Published 31 March 2020

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Synopsis

Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolve into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally–her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the undiagnosed disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton’s involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer–and more deadly–than they realized.

My thoughts

Silent Shadows is the third book in the Harbored Secrets series. While the books do have a few character crossovers, each of the three books can be read as complete stories in and of themselves. Silent Shadows is a thrilling tale about mistakes, gangs, wounded military heroes, and, of course, delicious romance.

Pecca would do anything to protect her son. Maceo has already faced so many challenges in his life, so she is determined to protect him from the gang violence of his father’s world. Pecca thought she was pretty safe in the small town of Walton, working as a nurse in the Home for Heroes, but when a serious of threats continue to target her and Maceo, she will need to rely on her newest patient, Colton, an Army Captain suffering from a muscle disorder, to keep them safe. But their physically safety might come at the risk of Pecca’s heart and dreams of the future.

There are some wonderful elements to this book. I particularly enjoyed young Maceo who dreams of being like the other kids and being able to play football, despite his prosthetic leg. He idolises Colton, who does such a wonderful job of encouraging Maceo and helping him to see himself for his full worth and not the bits he lacks. This book has a wonderful family vibe, from little kids football games, and after school play dates and all the troubles of kids in school.

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Book Review: Before I Called You Mine

Before I Called You Mine – Nicole Deese – Bethany House Publishers – Published 31 March 2020

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Synopsis

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there’s only one match she’s committed to now–the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency’s requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.

My thoughts

What a heartwarming story about international adoption and God’s timing. Before I Called You Mine will delight and entrance Christian romance readers. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book that is at times uplifting as it is bittersweet.

Lauren longs to be a mother. She has been waiting for her international adoption application to go through for over a year. She has closed the door on dating and marriage, knowing she must remain single for her adoption options to be finalised. But just when a possible adoption match finally appears, she meets Joshua – a substitute teacher at her school, a tech whiz and son of the man who started her teaching career. He is funny, kind and she can’t help but be drawn to him. But if she follows her heart with Joshua, she will loose her chance to adopt a child who needs her.

This book it utterly beautiful. It is bittersweet. Just when one of Lauren’s greatest desires seems set to come true the other is taken from her. There is no right answer and we readers are easily drawn into Lauren’s dilemma.

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Book Review: Don’t Call the Wolf

Don’t Call the Wolf – Aleksandra Ross – HarperTeen – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

When the Golden Dragon descended on the forest of Kamiena, a horde of monsters followed in its wake.

Ren, the forest’s young queen, is slowly losing her battle against them. Until she rescues Lukasz—the last survivor of a heroic regiment of dragon slayers—and they strike a deal. She will help him find his brother, who vanished into her forest… if Lukasz promises to slay the Dragon.

But promises are all too easily broken.

My thoughts

I adored this gorgeous fantasy novel. It feels like a fairytale, but one of the original versions, with truly scary monsters and lots of bloodshed. It also feels like a unique fantasy quest novel, again one that is dark and devious. I loved the characters and loved how they oh so slowly came to like each other and learn to work together. I loved the twist at the end. I loved the magic, the monsters and the evil the characters must face, which brings them all together. But most of all, I loved the world that has been build and the beautiful, descriptive writing that ties it all together and brings it to life.

Ren is Queen of the Forest. With her lynx family and wolf friends, she tries to stave off the ever encroaching press of monsters and darkness that seeks to suck the life out of the forest. They must also avoid humans, who don’t understand them and who cause more harm than good. Lukasz, the youngest of ten brothers is now alone, the last of the Wolf-Lords to traverse the world, fighting monsters and evil. The brothers were exiled from their homeland after the Golden Dragon arrived and over the years, each of the brothers has felt the call to return and try and take their home back from the dragon. Now Lukasz must also return. But as he and Ren reluctantly join forces, they realise their goals are not so different from the other’s.

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Book Review: The Midnight Lie

The Midnight Lie – Marie Rutkoski – The Midnight Lie #1 – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

My thoughts

As a fan of Marie Rutkoski’s Winner’s Curse series, I was really looking forward to The Midnight Lie, which is based in the same world as the Winner’s series. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. Intrigue and romance (LGBT) drive the plot and the world feels a little like being in a Hunger Games novel – the High Kith world is very reminiscent of the Capitol, while behind the Wall is a little like District 11. The Midnight Lie is a compelling book and will leave readers desperate to get their hands on the next book in the series.

Nirrim lives in a world controlled by what she can’t have or do. She can’t go beyond the wall. She can’t eat sweets or wear colours. She and her fellow Half-Kith only work to produce the goods and food that those above them, the Middlings and the High Kith, can eat, wear or sell. But when an accident leaves her in prison she encounters a traveller from far away who challenges Nirrim to see beyond the restrictions that control her life and seek the magic that is rumoured to originate in her land.

Dystopian, fantasy – The Midnight Lie feels like a little of both. There is magic and a unique world, but the themes of control, segregation, restriction of knowledge and history, and the separate class structures will appeal to fans of dystopian novels.

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Book Review: The Happy Camper

The Happy Camper – Melody Carlson – Revell – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

Home is the place to heal, right? At least, that’s what Dillon Michaels is hoping as she leaves her disappointing career and nonstarter love life behind to help her grieving and aging grandfather on his small Oregon farm. The only problem? Her eccentric mother beat her there and has taken over Dillon’s old room. After a few nights sleeping on a sagging sofa, Dillon is ready to give up, until she receives an unlikely gift–her grandfather’s run-down vintage camp trailer, which she quickly resolves to restore with the help of Jordan Atwood, the handsome owner of the local hardware store.

But just when things are finally beginning to run smoothly, Dillon’s noncommittal ex-boyfriend shows up with roses . . . and a ring.

My thoughts

This is the second book I have read by Melody Carlson and I have now decided that her writing style is just not for me. As such, this review – as always – is an honest breakdown of my response to the book, but I realise that many people who do enjoy Carlson’s writing won’t find fault with the same issues I did. If this sort of thing is your style, then I am sure will enjoy what is a simple story of coming home, and falling in love.

Dillon leaves her boyfriend and her job on the same day. She is tired of hanging around waiting for Brandon to make her his number one priority and tired of catering to the whims of her boss. A phone call from her mother inspires her to return home to her grandfather’s farm. She doesn’t expect her eccentric mother to be there, and is a little upset when she is relegated to the lumpy couch. When her grandfather gives Dillon a run-down vintage camper trailer, Dillon puts her efforts into restoring it, and quite enjoys visiting the local hardware store to see the handsome, maybe-available owner, Jordan. When her boyfriend arrives in town begging for her to give him another chance, Dillon will have to choose between her old life and her new one.

The Happy Campers is a sweet and simple story. I enjoyed the parts where Dillon throws herself into renovating her camper van. She enjoys discovering new techniques, quite a bit of retail therapy and putting the finishing touches on her new home. Everything comes easy to her and for her (except maybe backing the van itself), so this part of the story doesn’t present any complications for the story.

I also really liked Dillon’s grandfather. He is a hard worker, very kind and understanding to both Dillon and her mother and has plenty of wisdom and all the right answers to share. Dillon is lucky to have his support.

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Book Review: Out of the Embers

Out of the Embers – Amanda Cabot – Revell – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents’ murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don’t include a family of his own.

At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?

My thoughts

Out of the Embers is a charming historical Christian romance. Despite the historical setting, it’s quite modern from the female-empowerment positive messages and the independence of our female main character Evelyn. With a touch of mystery and a looming threat that overhangs the characters, the climax was a little suspenseful, but overall this is an easy book to read and enjoy.

When the orphanage destroys the only friends and home Evelyn has, she and the only other survivor run for their lives and make a new start in Mesquite Springs. Evelyn is used to watching over her shoulder ever since her parents were murdered and the feeling of being watched haunted her in the years following. But in Mesquite Springs she dares to dream of a new future for her and Polly. She finds good friends in Wyatt, Dorothy and their mother. She even opens up her very own dinning hall. But the threat promises to follow the two young ladies.

If you enjoy historical Christian romance, try this latest offering from Amanda Cabot. Out of the Embers is the first book in a new series. The sequels are set to follow characters from this book and I’m looking forward to reading Dorothy’s book in the next instalment.

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Book Review: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling – Wai Chim – Allen and Unwin – Published 5 August 2019

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Synopsis

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

My thoughts

This book caught my eye (seriously, how could I ignore that gorgeous cover), but I rushed to read it after learning I had the opportunity to meet the author. The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling celebrates the harsh complexity of family relationships, the love and hurt shared and the determination it takes to carry on. It celebrates community and friendship, the bond between sisters, and food. This book will have you hungry, so I highly recommend you have snacks on hand. It’s a bittersweet read, and one that is as authentic as it is honest and caring.

Anna Chiu cares for her family while her mother can’t bring herself to get out of bed and her father never comes home from working at their family restaurant. It is up to Anna to make sure her little brother gets to school and her sister knows to keep quiet about what happens at home. But the chance to work with her father at the restaurant means she can finally share the cooking skills and ideas she has and gives her the opportunity to get to know the new delivery boy, Rory. But when her mother does get out of bed, things spiral into manic midnight cleaning and angry tirades that Anna feels powerless to control.

This book doesn’t shy away from the authentic, messy details of real life, mental illness or it’s effect on families. It is honest and hopeful. It’s also not an easy book to read, despite it being so readable. It is challenging in parts, confronting and sad in others. But it doesn’t judge. It leaves room for understanding and acceptance.

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Book Review: The Shadows Between Us

The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller – Feiwel and Friends – Published 25 February 2020

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Synopsis

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

My thoughts

The Shadows Between Us is deviously, deliciously addictive. I was intrigued by the concept of a Slytherin romance, a story where the heroine was set on murder, deceit and gaining power, but I never imagined being so captured by the story, so entranced by Alessandra’s cunning and plotting, and honestly, even if everything else in this book was atrocious — which it certainly wasn’t — I would have stayed for the romance.

Alessandra has three goals. Draw the attention of the Shadow King. Marry him. Kill him and take the kingdom and the power of the throne for herself. She has no problem with step number one, but the Shadow King seems more set on a platonic arrangement between them rather than marriage as he hunts for his parents’ killer. And as a killer draws closer to the King, Alessandra will have to save the king’s life first if she wants to kill him herself.

Female empowerment. Alessandra radiates it. She does what she wants and plans to give that same power to as many women as possible. And while she isn’t exactly nice, she is fair and never judges. If her friends, or strangers, would rather not act as she does, if they have different plans for their lives and bodies, she is okay with that and believes everyone else should be too.

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New Book Releases March 2020 – Christian Fiction

New Book Releases for March 2020

Here is my list of top picks of new releases for March 2020. There are lots to choose from, so enjoy. Click on the covers for more details.

 

Christian Fiction

Out of the Embers – Amanda Cabot – Mesquite Springs #1 – Revell – Published 3 March 2020

Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents’ murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don’t include a family of his own.

Christian fiction: Historical.

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Book Review: The Seventh Sun

The Seventh Sun – Lani Forbes – The Age of the Seventh Sun #1 – Blackstone Publishing – Published 18 February 2020

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Synopsis

Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

My thoughts

The Seventh Sun is a hard-to-put-down fantasy with Aztec, Maya and Egyptian influences. A fight for the prince’s hand, magic that controls elements and animals, and blood protection that seems to be weakening, will one girl’s voice against the rules and traditions that dictate her world be enough to spark change?

When Prince Ahkin’s father, the Emperor of the Chicome people, dies suddenly, and his mother follows the emperor into the underworld, Ahkin must begin his reign. His first step will be choosing a bride to stand beside him. Mayana is a the daughter of Lord Atl, and when the emperor dies, she is chosen to compete for the honour of becoming the empress. But the girls not chosen will be sacrificed for the good of the empire. Ahkin and Mayana share a connection straight away, but Mayana hasn’t told Ahkin of her doubts about the sacrifices and it might change the way he views her.

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