Book Review: One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

Being required to stay home with my troops has reinforced how much I need alone time for everyone’s safety. To say some days we’re a little edgy is an understatement. I’m trying to find balance between expectations and reality and still ensure we’re all getting the space and/or attention we need.

After work and chores and sometimes right in the middle, I’m making my way through my NetGalley titles. Hooray for books to keep us sane when the world is tipsy turvy. My latest read was Colleen Coble’s One Little Lie published March 3rd.

From the publisher:

“It started with one little lie. But Jane Hardy will do everything in her power to uncover the truth in this gripping new romantic suspense.”

Coble packed this novel full of intrigue, twists, and turns. More than once I questioned the tangle that must be her mind – and as she’s a talented mystery/suspense writer – I mean that as a compliment. There was so much to unravel in this novel and the pace just didn’t stop. It was gripping, emotional, and had me wondering until the very last page.

The romance element was a little lacklustre, but I think it has potential. As the story continues through a three-part series, I have hope that this aspect will develop throughout.

The characters and plot as a whole are well constructed as a suspense. with cults, law enforcement, murder, conspiracies, and a small coastal town, the romance takes a back seat to the overall quick moving insanity of the murder plot.

“I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Thomas Nelson Fiction. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”

Book Review: The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

Read with Caution – Gripping and Evocative

I feel compelled to admit that I’m not sure I will find the proper words for this particular review. The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear was a riveting, emotional work of fiction that took a very close look at the Harpe brothers and their crimes from the perspective of an acquaintance of one of their wives/victims. It is part of the True Colors series by Barbour about historical, American crime. Most of the titles I’ve read to date have characters expressing a strong faith-based element or struggling to find their faith as they live through a connection to these true crimes.

Going into this one, I had no idea who the Harpe brothers even were. Let me tell you… they were pure evil, serial killers, sadists, degenerate criminals. They were evil incarnate. If you’re like me, having no previous knowledge of their crimes or terror inflicted on families and travellers in late 1700s Tennessee and surrounding areas, this book was a disturbing introduction to these less-than-upstanding characters of American history. The author does address the difficulty in walking the fine line between the gruesome telling of their crimes and doing justice to the historic, factual events and honoring the victims while still presenting a “wholesome” piece of Christian fiction. Not an easy task…

This novel is graphic and grisly and dark. On the other hand, it has moments of hopefulness, healing, and romance. McNear balances it well so the darkness doesn’t overwhelm the tale – and yet darkness is the body of the unfortunate events depicted – it leaves a stain or heaviness behind.

It’s quite difficult to explain my reaction to this one. It was intense. The novel is very well-written and you may cry more than once – at least I did. It was gripping and evocative. I highly recommend it, but I recommend it with a bright strobing word of caution. You may feel a little banged up upon completion, especially if you’re a sensitive soul. The “true crime” aspect makes it difficult to process and will have you questioning how humanity can be so broken.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Barbour Books (Barbour Publishing Inc.)

Publication Date: March 1, 2020

Book Review: The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear

The Daughters of the Mayflower series has been a collection that I’ve been enjoying off and on. I haven’t read all the books yet, but I’ve picked up a title here and there. Thankfully, each book has been easily read as an independent publication, but as a whole they work well highlighting different eras and situations in American History from the landing of the Mayflower to WWII. I recently read The Blizzard Bride – one of the upcoming titles in the series, to be published in February. (Spoiler: it was great!) Further back, I was provided with an Advanced Readers Copy of The Rebel Bride and it was also great.

An Enjoyable Wholesome Piece of Historical Fiction

Once in a while, you will find a title or two that will trigger some nostalgia of days gone by. The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear did this for me. It brought me back to anti-social evenings as a young teen, curled up in my bed, ignoring my family, quite lost in fictional tales of American history with incredibly strong female leads and their often heroic male counterparts – the books that led me to believe that woman can persevere through anything, and that while a man isn’t needed, he is a wonderful sidekick in the struggles of life.

The Rebel Bride is set in Tennessee during the Civil War. Our heroine is a quiet, peaceable woman who is caught between the Union and the Confederacy as the tensions of war literally camp on her doorstep and flood her home. Not only must she deal with wounded soldiers from both sides, her family is suffering a number of losses and hardships. She is a remarkably strong woman with pain and fear and struggles who can pull up her bootstraps when needed. She’s often stubborn and more impulsive than she ought to be – acting in the best interest of her family, but not always being able to control the outcome.

Without giving away the whole story, I can say that this one captured my interest. It was fast-paced, heart-wrenching, and even frustrating at times. Watching the characters struggle with loyalties, issues of faith, and the delicate tendrils of a mismatched romance in a dangerous time pulled the heartstrings. The action in the story provided enough danger and excitement to keep things interesting.

Ms. McNear did a remarkable job of creating a picturesque novel of courage – overcoming stereotypes and presenting a vivid recreation of the emotions one might face in such an uncertain era. While it wasn’t a dark tale (and I’m sure the Civil War left a big ol’ cloud of darkness and despair behind every battle) it was an emotional journey of strength with a happy ending in a not-so-happy element. A recommended read for those who enjoy wholesome historical fiction – with drama, danger, and romance aplenty.

Publication Date: December 1, 2019
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. | Barbour Books

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reading Copy of this novel via NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Delightful from cover-to-cover.

If you’re looking for a book to get lost in, I’d highly recommend the new release The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland. Touted as “…a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.” Spot on. Released on October 29th by St. Martin’s Press, I was privileged enough to be provided with an Advance Reading Copy, that once again, I finished up just after publication. (Too many books, too little time…)

My thoughts on this novel are generally positive – it wreaked havoc on my emotions making me laugh, cry, and generally content. It provides a gripping fictional account of a heart transplant survivor who needs to learn how to live again. It tackles the frailties of being a patient staring death in the face, the emotional repercussions of survival, and the nuances of relationships after a literal life-changing event -sussing out the events life and love, family and friends. It’s the telling of Ailsa’s journey to ordinary after an extraordinary experience.

It’s clever and charming with a streak of no BS and I absolutely loved all the characters. Each one has flaws, personality, and something to love. The novel as a whole is both uneasy and affecting. You will feel everything Ailsa feels. The author has done a remarkable job of taking a serious issue and making it lighthearted, yet impactful.

Reader discretion advised for: language (it’s not all squeaky clean) and a couple other elements. I could definitely look beyond them in the greater scope of the novel – maybe not necessary, but they were just little blips on my radar thinking that others in my book-reading network are pickier than I might be.

Overall, this one didn’t follow my typical formula and perhaps isn’t even something I would have picked up off a library shelf. That said, it was a definite win and I’m glad I took a chance when requesting it for a preread. Delightful from cover-to-cover.

I was provided with a complimentary early digital version via NetGalley with my thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Once Upon A Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

I know, I know… Christmas is still months away (14 weeks, give or take a day!) However, I can read Christmas-themed novels all year round. Michelle Griep, self-proclaimed “author, blogger, and occasional super-hero when her cape is clean.” knows how to do heartwarming, wholesome historical fiction.

Heartwarming & Wholesome Historical Fiction

In her three-novella series, she provides a Dickensian-feel to bring on the Christmas cheer and leave you feel like you’ve been sitting fireside – all warm and cheerful on the inside. The three charming Victorian tales (originally published individually) included in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas are:

  • 12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about…love.
  • A Tale of Two Hearts: Pleasure seeker William Barlow needs a wife immediately to gain his uncle’s inheritance, and Mina Scott is just the girl to make him look respectable—too bad she turns him down. Ought he give her a second chance?
  • The Old Lace Shop: Recently widowed Bella White is finally freed from the domination of the overbearing men in her life, but when she enters into a business partnership with the handsome Edmund Archer, she begins to wonder if marriage is worth a second chance.

My favourite of the three was the first (12 Days at Bleakly Manor), but they were all appealing within their own right. These titles balance mystery with romance and a sprinkling of faith (but not in a heavy-handed obnoxious way.) The recipe leaves you with a delightful narrative that you’ll want to enjoy curled up in a cozy place with a tea – even better if there’s a Christmas tree illuminated in the corner. Published September 1st, and available for purchase now.

My thanks to the author and publisher, Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Books. I was provided with a complimentary title via NetGalley and all thoughts are my own.

Book Review: Strands of Truth by Coleen Coble

There are certain authors that you read and you know – with a great deal of certainty – that you’re bound to enjoy the storyline. Coleen Coble is one of those authors for me – she has a formula for mystery and thriller with a dash of romance that works.

I was given the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Strands of Truth before publication (it came out yesterday!) I, not surprisingly, enjoyed it. Strong characters, the right amount of dangerous tension, and a storyline that was easy to follow, but left you wondering just a little.

My only two complaints, as they were, is that I feel like, blink, and all the preexisting tension between our lead characters disappeared and they fell, a little unbelievably, in love.

Secondly, I wanted to know a bit more about the research… and not just the byssus. I wanted a little more “meat” to some of the important, heavily referenced details.

Now, those complaints vocalized, I will say that I found this absolutely enjoyable to read. I enjoyed how everything was all neatly wrapped up. I enjoyed the secondary characters and the story arc as a whole.

As the publisher touts, “Suspense, romance, and generational secrets meld in this engrossing new novel from USA TODAY bestselling author Colleen Coble.” I can’t say that I disagree. Tension and promise were balanced nicely providing a fast-paced easy-to-read seaside escape.

I received a complimentary copy of this title with thanks to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

There has been so much on my mind lately – thoughts tumbling and turning over one another, emotions and experiences lending a layer to the fog. I want to tell you all about it, but at the same time it all seems too much. So I read. And I will share with you my thoughts on a much simpler subject.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my story the other day on how wonderfully generous NetGalley is and how terribly behind I a in getting through my to-be-read pile of galleys and ARCs. So many books, so little time.

One of the series I’ve been fortunate enough to have read recently is the True Colors: Historical Stories of American Crime series, written by various authors, published by Barbour Publishing Inc.

Each title is a standalone focusing on true crimes throughout history, but presented in a neatly wrapped bundle of fiction. The latest title, published August 1, is The Yellow Lantern written by Angie Dicken.

This novel covers the dark side of medical research and the history of labour opportunities afforded to women, and the lack of options available to women. We are introduced to grave robbers, mill work, blackmail, murder, and more.

To balance the darkness of the crime aspects, we also have secrets unraveling left, right, and center… plus watching our protagonists fall in love.

Everything you could want… I guess. I wish there had been a bit more historical fact. I wish the protagonists were a little more developed (at times they felt a little banal.) The gruesome side of this tale and the secondary mystery held my attention more than the actual main storyline. I will say, however, that the author opened the book with a remarkably intense scene that set a tense background to the whole of the book.

Overall, a quick read that I would recommend for a bit of historical mystery, drama, and danger – a little on the light and perhaps even a tiny bit colourless. Overall, the series as a whole presents decent insight into dark and tragic events that impacted our society today, but this one might not be exciting enough for someone looking for a thrill.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this complimentary title. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: State of Lies by Siri Mitchell

Last night was a “rough night” as in I couldn’t fall asleep. So after lying there for sometime restless with my brain pinging endlessly, I decided I might as well read. Have you ever picked up a book and immediately wonder how the author can weave such a plot? State of Lies by Siri Mitchell had. me. hooked. As in, I read the entire book in one session. As in my husband rolled over in the wee morning hours and asked if I ever sleep. (No. The answer is no.) My 6 o’clock alarm came very quickly… but this book was worth it. Better than any dream I could have dug from the back of my imagination.

Action. Drama. Twists. Turns. Shattered Trust. Loss. Chaos. This book has it all. All espionage, political intrigue, danger, and lies. This novel is fast paced and kept me guessing at the beginning, and totally engaged at the end. My only complaint is that it was too short… and I found the post-climax writing a little…. slow? I honestly was surprised at how much I liked it – political suspense and physicists aren’t really my thing…. but life threatening incidents and doubts about everything and everyone, including yourself, while trying to maintain a normal existence? Dished up generously!

This title is published by Thomas Nelson (generally considered a Christian publisher.) However, unlike other books by this author, it skated across that genre – it wasn’t offensive, but it wasn’t faith-centric, at all. This is a non-issue for me, but if you’re familiar with their publishings, this might catch you by surprise a little – no verses, no church, no questioning of beliefs – other than those our heroine has of those she loves and trusts. I definitely recommend it as an exciting read. Watch for it to hit shelves August 13th and pick up a copy for yourself. You’ll thank me.

“I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley and the publisher. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”

Book Review: Summer at Firefly Beach by Jenny Hale

A long, long time ago I was given this title, Summer at Firefly Beach by Jenny Hale, for advanced read and review. It was released June 17th and I just didn’t get around to reading it.

This morning I woke at the crack of stupid (before Kev’s alarm even went off) and when I say woke… I mean there wasn’t a chance of falling asleep again so I picked up my tablet and thought this sounded like a great read.

I was not disappointed – it hit all the notes I enjoy in a romance by the sea. Angst, family, pain, friendship, discovery, and, of course, love. I enjoyed the balance of general life relationships (friends, family) and the romance itself.

We’re aspects of the book unrealistic? Absolutely… but for an easy-to-digest escape it was perfect. I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I passed a few perfectly delightful hours and now want to escape to a quaint hideaway beach town myself.

If you’re looking for something light and engaging to toss in your beach tote this summer, this is it! Uplifting and charming – sweet as can be.

Published by Bookouture. I received a complimentary uncorrected advance reader copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Taking Heart by Rowena Summers

A tribute to family ties, Rowena Summer’s Taking Heart is being re-released this week by Agora Books. It was originally published in 2000. Set in the time between two world wars, it’s a bit of a coming of age story in that we see the Caldwell children on the brink of adulthood, dealing with very adult issues, set on the verge of WWII. It’s touted as “sweeping historical fiction that puts one family’s strength to the
test through illness, war and heartbreak.”

From the publisher:
The Caldwell family’s life is turned upside down when their father announces that the family business, Caldwell Supplies, has been bought out by Preston’s Emporium. With an ailing mother and a young brother to care for, Imogen and her sisters must find a way to save their childhood home and remain in Bristol.

But when a terrible tragedy tears the family apart, the Caldwell girls must forge their own
paths in life. And with the second world war looming over England, their lives begin to change more drastically than they could have imagined. Through love and heartbreak, fear and loss, can the Caldwell girls make it out unscathed? Or will they be swept up in the chaos of the changing times?

My thoughts on this novel are positive. While it took a few chapters to appreciate the family and grow somewhat invested in their plight, by the final page I was eager to start the next title in the series. (Taking Heart is the first title in The Caldwell Girl Series.) I believe the author did a wonderful job of allowing her characters to grow, giving them depth. She included some despicability as well for balance. As it was historical fiction, it ticked that box for me as well and Ms. Summers gracefully projected the fears and at times, ignorance, that would have been felt by young girls in that day. Often while reading the book, I thought of my grandmother who would have been close in age to the eldest daughter – and would have gone through many of the same life experiences.

Rowena Summers
Author Extraordinaire

Rowena Summers is a pseudonym for British writer of romance novels, Jean Saunders. Ms. Saunders was a prolific writer – her list of collective works is impressive in a number of different genres! Rowena Summers was the pseudonym she chose for her historical romances.

Overall, I found Taking Heart to be an entertaining escape to another place and era – a good balance of family, romance, and drama. My thanks to Agora Books for sharing this title with me. One, it was lovely to pick up a real printed piece of literature again and two, it was a well-written piece of historical fiction, something this publisher does well! Watch for this title to hit shelves this Thursday!