Facing the Dawn

Author: Cynthia Ruchti

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the best contemporary fiction books I have read in a very long time. A story full of heart, faith, strength, and a longing to survive even during the hardest of circumstances.

Mara Jacobs has been struggling for years while her husband, Liam, has been off on humanitarian missions digging wells in Africa. It is admirable that Liam is off helping others while she stays and takes care of their children. She is exhausted working at a cheese factory and having a hard time keeping her kids out of trouble. When Liam doesn’t return home and one hardship leads to another, Mara struggles even more and the future looks darker than ever before. With her darkest days in front of her, Mara quickly realizes that no matter how dark things look she is never alone or unloved.

I don’t read a lot of contemporary books, suspense is more my thing, but occasionally it is nice to have a novel such as this. This book had me so captivated that I read it in one sitting. The story both touched my heart and ripped it in two at times. I loved the way Ruchti was able to make me feel such a connection to these characters. Mara has a beautiful character arc, as well as several other characters throughout the pages, exhibiting so much growth, reflection, and redemption. I did not see several of the twists coming that really pulled at my heart strings, which was such a nice surprise. With a book like this it is usually pretty easy for me to tell where the story is going but so many moments took me by surprise and had me grinning with how well it was written. This is the first book I have read by Cynthia Ruchti but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I recommend this book to readers that want to sit down, put the troubles of the world behind them and dive into a story that will captivate them and move them to tears.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Unknown Threat

Author: Lynn H. Blackburn

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

By far the best Romantic Suspense book I have read this year! Fans of Blackburn will not want to miss this fantastic read!

When three Secret Service agents all die with unusual circumstances Special Agent Luke Powell knows he is lucky to be alive and is now on a mission to find whoever is responsible for taking out his fellow agents. After more agents are attacked and Luke is injured, the FBI is called in to help. FBI Special Agent Faith Malone is put in charge of the investigation and uses every resource at her disposal to figure out who is targeting the Secret Service. She has worked on a task force with several of the agents attacked and doesn’t mind working with Luke once again. Even injured, Luke refuses to leave the case to the FBI with his team being the target. Together they work to save the rest of the team and bring down the monster dead set on killing them all.

The start of this new series by Lynn Blackburn is her best work yet!! So much action, drama, suspense, tension, with just a little bit of romance at all the right spots. I absolutely loved the way this story started with a bang and didn’t let up. There was no slow build to the more suspenseful moments, they started from page one and didn’t stop. This is one of the ways Lynn Blackburn has gotten so much better with each new book and one of the best in romantic suspense, top notch writing with no “extra” just to add to a word count. So many books have the same boring plots that end the same and you don’t even have to read the whole story to know what’s going to happen or how it will play out. I genuinely found myself on the edge of my seat while reading Unknown Threat and can’t wait for the rest of the series. I loved the little throwbacks to other characters in her previous series and fans will love seeing these characters make an appearance. This is a fantastic start to a new series, and I think readers will fall in love with these new characters. I recommend this series to fans of romantic suspense, especially if you like it heavy on the suspense. If you have never read anything by Lynn Blackburn, I highly recommend starting here and then diving into all the others.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Crave

Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #1

Publisher: Entangled Teen Publishing

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of Twilight will not want to miss this series that is fun, engrossing, and a swoon worthy read. Like Twilight but oh so different and oh so fun to read.

Grace’s world turned upside down when her parents died and she is sent to live with her only other family in Alaska, a complete opposite environment from her home in California. When she steps foot inside the academy where her uncle is headmaster of the boarding school, she feels as lost as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The place is filled with monsters of all kind and the one thing they have in common is their hatred for her. Upon her arrival, Jaxon Vega gives her a warning that if she won’t leave, she better watch her back. It doesn’t take long though for him to follow her every move and vow to do all he can to protect her.

There are several aspects of this series that have totally hooked me. I was a huge fan of Twilight when it came out and looking back now, I can say it isn’t the best writing, but the story is engaging and the characters pull you in. Same thing can be said for Crave, the story is very intriguing, and I love the references to Twilight. Wolff doesn’t just play it off like no one here has ever heard of the series, instead she very cleverly adds nods to the other famous YA Vampire series.

Grace comes into the scene with lots of baggage and trying to figure out how to move on with her life with her parents gone. The last thing she expects to find is all the fantastical things the academy holds within. The way it leads up to revealing who and what all is around her is done beautifully. The story slowly unfolds but at just the right speed to keep the reader’s attention. There is a lot to unpack here and one of the best aspects of the story is the ending with the three chapters from Jaxon’s point of view. This gave so much more to the story than having to only rely on the single point of view, but it also was a tease with only three chapters of the story done this way.  Readers are left with a perfect cliffhanger ending that left me thirsty for more,

I am really happy I already have book two in hand and can start it right away and don’t have to wait for it come out, that would be torture. My only problem with the book is all the harsh language, especially with a target audience of teens and young adults I have a hard time with seeing some of those words. The story itself is good enough that I can overlook most of that and recommend to those that loved Twilight and enjoy a great read full of characters of all kinds.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Falling From Trees

Author: Mike Fiorito

Publisher: Loyola College

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great collection of short stories that will make readers think about future!

Mike Fiorito crafts a series of short stories that contain both science fiction and speculative fiction.  Most of the science fiction stories are geared toward space travel, in one form or another, or with alien presence.  I like how the aliens in each of the stories are more altruistic than what they are usually presented as in books and/or movies. 

The stories with speculative fiction center around climate change and the future of our planet.  This trend has been increasing across the board as the genre seems to be leaving behind the traditional destruction dystopian stories for stories of weather impacts and how we as a race are going to manage those in the future.  I found myself thinking about these events as it seems all too realistic and what I would do if the world suddenly changed.  I think that is the mark of a good author when they are able to make you think beyond the story you are reading.

Some of the stories have some mild language, which makes this book more appropriate for older young adults forward.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The English Wife

Author: Adrienne Chinn

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Two stories full of secrets that can finally bring out the truth!

Ellie Burgess has kept her life in order with the way she wants it to be in London with the threat of war.  She is studying art and engaged to her lifelong friend George.  But after the war begins and her best friend is killed in a bombing, she feels that she must do her part and join the fire service.  Her predictable love life also takes a turn when she meets a Newfoundlander named Thomas Parsons.  She realizes that she loves George but has never been in love with him as she is with Thomas.  She makes a decision that compromises every relationship within in her family and elopes with Thomas before he is sent off to war.  After almost of year of no correspondence after he is taken a POW, Ellie has all but decided that Thomas has perished until she finally receives a letter from him back in Newfoundland.  She packs up her belongings with their newborn son and heads across the Atlantic in a course that will forever change her life.

Sophie Parry is on a flight from London to New York for an interview with a prestigious architecture firm on September 11, 2001.  When her plan is diverted to Gander, Newfoundland and she realizes that she is not getting to New York anytime soon, she decides to call on her Aunt Ellie that she has never known.  Her mother hated her aunt and she never knew why.  Could it be fate that brought them together now?

I love a book that manages to come full circle from beginning to end.  There were quite a lot of little twists towards the end of the book, several of which were quite surprising.  I loved reading both stories, and it took having Ellie’s backstory to really understand Sophie.  I really felt for Ellie with all that she had to go through, but she was a trooper.  I also enjoyed watching Sophie’s character get developed and grow with an understanding of what to live for instead of how she was living.  There is so much going on in this novel that it would take a long time to unpack, but I feel that the reader should enjoy the gift that this book really is.  There is a lot of Newfoundland slang throughout the book that is pretty easy to pick up on.  This is the first book that I’ve read set there, but it seems like it would be a beautiful place to visit. 

There is a little bit of foul language throughout the book, but it doesn’t overpower the story.  Even so, I recommend this book for mature readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Dance in Donegal

Author: Jennifer Deibel

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lovers of Ireland will absolutely love this book set in the Emerald Isle!

After her mother dies, Moira Doherty feels that she should leave her life in Boston behind and move to the village of Donegal in Ireland where her mother lived.  Unfortunately, her mother’s past left behind an unwarm welcome.  Will Moira be able to unravel the secrets and be accepted by the town?

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel.  The setting and descriptions of Ireland could only be written by someone who has personally experienced them.  Ireland is one of my favorite countries and favorite settings, especially since my heritage is mostly Irish.  It was easy to hear the accent from the natives in the book with the way that the language was written and the Gaelic names of the characters.  The story flowed well and the theme of trust was imminent throughout.  Fair play tcha, Jennifer Diebel!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Black Coral

Author: Andrew Mayne

Series: Underwater Investigation Unit #2

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: February 16, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The second book in the Underwater Investigative Unit series heats up with a fantastic opening, simmers a little in the middle to allow readers to catch their breath, and then concludes with a satisfying boil to make a tasty and delicious read.

Sloan McPherson has once again used her diving skills to help in an investigation and found more than she bargained for. At the bottom of a Florida pond, Sloan finds a van with four bodies inside that disappeared almost thirty years ago. Everyone involved in the investigation believe it was just a tragic accident, but Sloan sees something more and is convinced it was murder. More and more evidence surfaces linking more and more cold cases to the van. Sloan and her unit work to find the predator that has been on the lose for years and their investigation might have just reawakened the dormant monster more dangerous than any they have faced yet.

Black Coral had one of the best opening chapters I have read in a good long while. The suspense and tension were so thick I caught myself holding my breath at several moments. The middle fizzled a little bit with a slower pace, but the end was a satisfying conclusion that left me ready for more from the UIU. Sloan is a great and intense female protagonist and it was nice to see her tackle the hard jobs and moments and not let the men tell her she couldn’t handle it. Her relationship with her daughter brings a relatable element to her as a character and makes her not so stiff as when she is on the case. Most of the characters from the first book are back, and a few new ones to spice things up, make for a fun and mostly enjoyable read. There is a fair amount of language so it is not recommended for younger readers, but I do recommend for fans of suspense thrillers. 

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Paris Dressmaker

Author: Kristy Cambron

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: February 16, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Cambron shines with her new well researched release of the Women of Paris!

Germans have occupied France and Paris life is changing.  Madison Chanel has been closed and many of the dressmakers employed there are now without a job, including Lila de Laurent.  She finds a job with Nina Ricci and is summoned one day to the Ritz hotel where she meets her past friend and fellow seamstress from Chanel’s, Amelie.  Amelie is destined to climb the social ladder and has taken up with the Nazi soldiers to elevate her status and offers Lila the opportunity to develop her own dresses for the girls staying at the hotel.  Lila is drawn to the possibility of working there for the resistance as she can access documents left in the hotel rooms, especially if she can find information on her lost love Rene Touliard.  When one of her operations goes wrong, she must flee if she wants to live.

Sandrine Paquet has been ordered to work for the Nazi regime categorizing art pieces stolen from their Jewish owners.  She does what she can for her young son and mother-in-law, but hates being viewed as a collaborator when she has no choice.  With her husband unaccounted for at war, she finds an opportunity to work quietly in the resistance to keep records of where the art is being shipped so that it can one day be returned.  When she is called in to look at a dress, a Chanel gown no less, she discovers a message hidden within the seam hastily placed there by a dressmaker who had vanished from the social elite of the Ritz hotel.

As always, Cambron delivers a stunning work of historical fiction set within occupied France during the second world war.  This is a bit of a deviation from her typical time slip novels, but still had two terrific stories that were interwoven together and destined to collide.  She does such a great job of bringing little known history (at least in America) to life with her characters that makes readers go research the actual events for themselves.  With intrigue, mystery, loss, sympathy, and action throughout, readers can’t help but be engaged throughout the entire story. 

If you’ve never read a book by Cambron, this is a fantastic one to start with.  Grab a copy and pull up by the fire because you won’t want to get up until you’ve finished! I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over

Authors: Monica Schmelter, Rhonda Rhea, Kaley Rhea

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fun, engaging book that kept me laughing and smiling with the turn of every page and an uplifted spirit.

Do you ever feel weighed down with extra baggage, both spiritually and physically? Whether you carry a backpack, purse, fanny pack or small clutch, we all have something that holds the things we need as we go throughout the day. Some of us have everything plus the kitchen sink while others get by with the bare minimum. What we carry with us can say a lot about us and what is going on in our lives and what we value. I make sure anywhere I go I have a book in my bag, you never know when a line might be long or stuck in traffic that could allow you to get a few pages in. We also have the baggage the world can put on us, feelings of failure and a lack of peace. Each of us need to find a way to let go of the things that won’t bring us anything good and fight for what matters to keep in our bags. When we have what we need in our bags, our purse will runneth over and we will feel full inside and out!

I’ve read Rhonda and Kaley Rhea several times before and knew that anything they teamed together to write would be on my shelf. Now, with the addition of Monica Schmelter, there was so much more to love and laugh about within the pages of the book. I love when you get a group of writers that can craft a story in a way that makes you laugh but also leaves an impression with you of what they are trying to teach you. Each chapter gives a lesson with humor, one of the best nonfiction tools for me. A lot of times nonfiction is very hard for me to get through, just doesn’t hold my attention, but with these books it is easy to let the pages fly and enjoy the lessons within. I recommend this book for all those struggling with what is right and best to keep in their “bag.” No matter how big or small the bag we carry may be, we all need the right tools to help us through the crazy times we are living in.

This is such a fun book that I believe many readers will enjoy it. Find it on Amazon!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Future is Yours

Author: Dan Frey

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mind bending and terrifying at the same time!

When two friends create a quantum computer that can access data one year into the future, their own future seems limitless.    This device will be able to tell you anything from sports scores to stock market tips to if you will live for the next year!  With a start-up on the rise and knowledge of what will happen, what could go wrong?  Ambition, greed, and jealousy, that’s what! 

This was an interesting approach for a futuristic quantum novel.  It is told through a series of emails, text messages, future articles, and transcripts from a Senate Exchange Committee hearing.  There is never any actual personal dialogue, but you just keep reading because you want to know what is going to happen next.  It’s a little weird in that you can never really gauge a visual representation of any of the characters.  Maybe a little from their backgrounds, but no descriptions are given throughout the book.  You can easily develop emotions for the characters based on their behavior through their correspondence.  Most readers will just loathe Ben by the end of the book, but he does have ambition.  I’m not a huge fan of Leila either, but I get she was just trying to save face in a bad situation.  I felt sorry for Adhi, but got frustrated with him at the same time.  I really want to comment on the story arc and concepts that Frey used, but I feel like I would be giving something away and want readers to discover this on their own!

If you like futuristic novels of the like of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, this will likely fit right in your wheelhouse.  There is a lot of foul language throughout the book, so I would recommend it to mature readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.