Book Review: The Forgotten Secret

For myself, the mark of a good novel is any novel that draws you in and leaves you feeling emotionally invested by the time you’ve read the last line. I’ve read a few books this week and while they’ve kept boredom at bay, one stood out as a “really, really good book.” It sucked me in, held me captive, and left me feeling like I found a great friend right to the very end… which sounds a little like Stockholm syndrome… but I assure you I mean it all in a positive way.

…a multi-faceted gem!

The Forgotten Secret, written by new-to-me author Kathleen McGurl, was a story that made me say, “Now that’s my kind of book!” It has a 4.22 star (out of 5) rating on Goodreads so I’m obviously not in the minority when it comes to this title. It was oh-so-perfectly suited to my reading needs.

(On a funny side note, my 11-year-old son is sitting on the couch beside me. He’s been reading “No Better Friend” as his choice for a biographical book report. He doesn’t enjoy book reports or forced reading – although he does enjoy reading, but won’t admit it. Anyhow… I digress. While he’s sitting beside me, he glances over and sees the title of my post and asks why I’m writing a book report. I explain how I’m given books to read in exchange for my opinions and that sounded a bit too much like the schoolwork he’s procrastinating about and he just couldn’t understand why I would do this. I feel like an island in this home some days…)

In The Forgotten Secret two seemingly unconnected women in different eras deal with the obstacles life has thrown at them. It’s a novel of their struggles, decades apart, on finding independence, on becoming strong and vibrant versions of themselves. We’re drawn into their stories with unique perspectives and challenges that each have to deal with, sink or swim.

The contemporary heroine, Clare, comes into an inheritance of a ramshackle Irish farmhouse, providing her with the opportunity and means to leave an abusive, manipulative marriage. Our historical heroine, Ellen, struggles with finding her way in love and loyalty as Ireland is torn apart in turmoil and civil unrest. A hidden secret in the farmhouse tie the two women together as they navigate their individual lives. A bridge is built between past and present as Clare researches further into the treasure she’s found.

Ms. McGurl does a wonderful job of negotiating the dual-timeline without leaving the reader lost. She paints vivid, colourful pictures and infuses her novels with real characters and strong emotion. She plucks the purportedly random strings of each story and weaves them all into a heartwarming tale of triumph and courage. Effortlessly, the elements between past and present intersect and we’re left with a multi-faceted gem that brings mystery, friendship, romance, and loyalty to a touching conclusion that may (or may not) have (but definitely did) leave me with tears of longing and joy. 4.5 stars from me!

I was provided with a copy of this title via Netgalley with thanks to the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Published by: HQ Digital
Publication Date: March 1, 2019

Book Review: Secrets at Cedar Cabin by Colleen Coble

While a warm and fuzzy historical romance will always be my first pick for escapism when it comes to books, a close second is a fast-paced thriller or mystery and Colleen Coble always delivers in that genre. I’ve read a number of her titles in the past and find them enthralling and still manage to sleep at night. Win-win.

Drama & Suspense With A Good Dose of Romance

Secrets at Cedar Cabin is the third release in the Lavender Tides series and I read it as a standalone a few weeks ago without any issue. (I’m a little behind in posting my reviews… life has been a little hectic lately. Reading is a must. Reviewing was shelved.) This contemporary novel is rife with drama and suspense while focusing on human trafficking and the sex trade.

Of course, romance is entwined with all the excitement and the good guys win in the end. (If only real life were so tidy.) The whirlwind mystery left me guessing until (almost) the end. Likeable, flawed characters. Family secrets. Descriptive settings. Some kick-butt scenes. It has it all.

Coble is a Christian author and as such, her books are clean as far as content, but theme’s are still adult. I don’t find the faith aspect overdone, but appreciate the struggles and humanity of the characters. Easy to read and not too graphic – but still intriguing and sometimes infuriating – it was an entertaining book overall.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from ThomasNelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2019 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Book Review: No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Do you ever read a book that absolutely captivates you, but you don’t actually like it? That was this book. It was uncomfortable to read, not because the author wrote poorly, but because it was so relevant and so well-written. Katie Ganshert’s No One Ever Asked dived into issues of race and prejudice and social inequity without batting an eye, and she did it well enough that it was troubling to read even in contemporary (Christian) fiction.

… disheartening, infuriating,
and filled with promise.

The worst part of this novel is that it is set in the present day. Ganshert shed light on issues of ongoing racial disparity and discrimination, social justice, poverty, privilege, and inadvertent ideology. In closing, it was a tale of hope, respect, forgiveness, and the remarkable ability to overcome tragedy and injustice.

Our cast of characters (many of whom I did not like at all) came from different backgrounds, with lives intersecting amidst tense socio-economic-political situations – and it was, dishearteningly, based (or stemmed from) recent events in the US. Each character struggled with issues of faith, issues of conscience, and issues in their relationships. Each had a very narrow view of how things should be and the stumbling to accept change or walk in forgiveness or expand perspective – and recognize that everyone is living a flawed and imperfect life despite their backgrounds – was a common thread.

This emotionally charged drama was a very real reminder presented in make-believe that we are so much more than the colour of our skin. It was also, for myself, the reminder that being a white female in today’s society, living a fairly comfortable life, means that I am privileged enough to never, ever truly know the struggles that still exist – today for other races. It was a novel that was at times disheartening, infuriating, and filled with promise.

(Bonus points to the author for including accurate details on how living with Type 1 diabetes is life-altering, but not the end of the world. A small segment, but we could relate to the poking and the bleeding and the counting and the questions…)

Tomorrow, I will share a review of a non-fiction book I just finished that chronicles hope in a very moving way as a counterpoint to the heartwrenching awareness created in this novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley with thanks to the author and/or publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: WaterBrook & Multnomah
Publication Date: April 3, 2018

Book Review: Summer by the Tides – Denise Hunter

I have received quite a few new titles to read this week via NetGalley… and an actual, physical book straight from the publisher that I’ll be reviewing as part of a blog tour in March. (Eeek! That excites me…) I have posted a number of reviews on Goodreads of the titles I’ve read, and have a few extras to post in the upcoming days. Check them out and many others on my profile here: brownlin81. Today, I’ll quickly share my thoughts on a new title by an author I generally enjoy – Summer by the Tides, by Denise Hunter.

Likeable leads, hope, and healing
in a charming contemporary setting.

Reminiscent of Robyn Carr or Susan Mallery, this novel was an enjoyable tale set in an oceanside town where sisters spent memorable moments as a family in their childhoods. Rife with heartache, betrayal, love, and mistrust, our heroine and hero find true love and broken family ties are mended by the final chapter. With spunky supporting characters (I loved the grandmother) and likeable, well-rounded leads, this was a clean and enjoyable novel of second chances, hope, and healing in a contemporary, charming setting.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Published by: Thomas Nelson; Publication date: May 21, 2019