Book Review: A Single Spark by Judith Miller

If you are a fan of historical inspirational fiction or Judith Miller in general, you’ll love this new release from Bethany House! A Single Spark, coming out on June 2nd, captures a pivotal era in American history and I actually learned more about the war efforts from the perspective of women left behind during the Civil War and the danger they faced while lending support to an epic cause.

Wanting to do her part in the war effort, Clara McBride goes to work in the cartridge room at the Washington Arsenal, the city’s main site for production and storing of munitions. She’s given the opportunity to train new employees and forms a friendship with two of them. All seems to be going well, especially when one of the supervisors shows interest in her.

Lieutenant Joseph Brady is an injured army officer who, no longer able to lead troops into battle, has been assigned to a supervisory position at the Washington Arsenal. While Clara has caught his eye, he also makes it his mission to fight for increased measures to prevent explosions in the factory.

But when suspicions rise after multiple shipments of Washington Arsenal cartridges fail to fire and everyone is suspect for sabotage, can the spark of love between Joseph and Clara survive?

Judith Miller sparks interest through her lively and easy-to-read historical offerings. This title in particular, has characters you’ll love, characters you’ll despise, emotion, and mystery! The gentle romance weaving its magic between the pages will endear you. Overall, it’s a 4-star read for anyone who enjoys clean, simple historical fiction with a dash of love and strong elements of faith.

I received a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley with thanks. Opinions expressed are my own.

Blog Tour & Book Review: This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

It’s a bit of a gloomy spring day and somehow it seems a little atmospheric while sharing about the newest title from author Heather Gudenkauf. Just released, I’m taking part in a blog tour organized by the publisher, Park Row Books, an imprint of Harlequin, and throwing my two cents into the hat.

From the Publisher:

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

My Thoughts:

As far as a mystery/thriller, this one was excellent. There were portions that I maybe didn’t quite buy as far as how things went down, but overall it was a gripping and evocative read. It was atmospheric and intense – I felt every emotion, saw every incident with a vividness that indicates the magnitude of the author’s talent in delivering a well-written scene.

I seem to enjoy the proverbial small town setting where everyone is in everyone’s business. This small town just happens to also be rife with bad seeds and deep, dark secrets. Fortunately, truth always tells… that or DNA testing. Threads of history keep unraveling as the horrible event and incidents leading up to the death of a beloved friend are revealed throughout an investigation by someone with very close ties to the murder. On the whole, it did what a thriller should – kept me on my toes and I couldn’t put it down!

About the Author:

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

Buy Links:

Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Social Links:

Author Website
Twitter: @hgudenkauf
Instagram: @heathergudenkauf
Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor
Goodreads

THIS IS HOW I LIED
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
ISBN: 9780778309703
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books

Blog Tour: The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

I’m excited to be sharing my thoughts amidst a bevy of select readers celebrating the recent release of Phaedra Patrick’s charming new book, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, which hit shelves on April 28th!

From the Publisher:

Fredrik Backman meets The Cactus in THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE (Park Row Books; April 28, 2020; $25.99 US/$32.50 CAN), in which a cynical single father has a surprise encounter on the famous love lock bridge, sparking a journey of self-discovery that may lead him to a second chance at love.

Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous “love lock” bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.

One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as “The Hero on the Bridge.” He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places…

My Thoughts:

From the very first page you’ll be invested. Phaedra Patrick weaves a remarkable story that will keep you engaged page after page. From the mystery of the woman in the yellow dress to the juggling act of parenthood after loss, she brings to life in moving way a very complicated tale. Strong notes of grief and sorrow prevail throughout the novel, but are balanced with humour, hope, and healing. Our characters make mistakes – oh so many mistakes – but they also come to realise that in life and in love there is no such thing as perfection.

I did find all the story threads a little distracting at times and the mystery, when revealed, a little ridiculous – a bit too much of a hot mess for my liking… but, I still read the majority of this title in a single session and stayed up way past my bed time because I didn’t want to put it down. We will take a lesson from the author and recognize that something can be fantastic and wonderful without being perfect. Overall, it was highly enjoyable (even though it made me cry!) – not as a light read, but as a heartwarming tale of making it through, scars and all, and the joy of finding those who help us grow and thrive. It’s charming, completely feel-good, and even a little bizarre.

My thanks to the publisher, Park Row (MIRA |Harlequin | Harper Collins), for providing a complimentary copy of this title to read and review. You can purchase for yourself through any of the links below or your favourite local bookseller.

THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE
Author: Phaedra Patrick
ISBN: 9780778309789
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books

Buy Links: 
Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Amazon.ca
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.

Social Links:

Author Website
Twitter: @PhaedraPatrick
Instagram: @PhaedraPatrick
Facebook: @PhaedraPatrick
Goodreads

Book Review: The Brideship Wife by Leslie Howard

Those who know my reading tastes know I grew up on historical fiction – Laura Ingalls Wilder was a close companion in my formative years, alongside Anne of Green Gables, and others as the year went by. Even now as I’ve matured (ha!) my reading tastes have expanded to some degree, but a well-written work of historical fiction will always have a special place on my shelf, and of even more prominence if it has ties to Canadian history.

Simon & Schuster Canada approved my NetGalley request for the soon-to-be-released title, The Brideship Wife, by author Leslie Howard. Inspired by the history of the British “brideships,” this captivating historical debut tells the story of one woman’s coming of age and search for independence—for readers of Pam Jenoff’s The Orphan’s Tale and Armando Lucas Correa’s The German Girl.

Amid mad bursts of baking and a well-overdue tidy & sort project, I have spent the last few days curled up in the company of Charlotte and a supporting cast of characters as they travel from the upper echelons of British society with it’s restrictive double-standards and scandals to the lawless lands of early British Columbia with promises of independence and opportunity. This novel was illuminating, heartfelt, infuriating, heartbreaking, and overall just so delightful to read.

The author touches on so many aspects of history that it’s easy to forget about in the romanticism of days gone by. She brings to light little-known aspects of the settling of British Columbia and history of Canada – not all of it as wonderful as we would like. Her characters are well-developed, the story is well-paced, and every page is a wonder of descriptive narratives that will move you back in time. This is a highly recommended read and I truly hope to see it on a number of bestsellers lists across Canada, perhaps keeping company with The Forgotten Home Child – another beautiful work of historical fiction from a Canadian perspective. Regardless of whether you’re from our Great White North or any far reaches across the globe, you’ll enjoy this peek into a women’s quest for independence and the experiences that shape her.

Leslie Howard grew up in Penticton, British Columbia, where she developed a passion for the province’s history. A graduate of Ottawa’s Carleton University in economics and political science, she now divides her time between Vancouver and Penticton, where she and her husband grow cider apples. The Brideship Wife is her debut novel. Connect with her on Twitter @AuthorLeslieH or on her website LeslieHoward.ca.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for the opportunity to read and review this title. Watch for it to hit shelves on May 5th!

Book Review: Storing Up Trouble by Jen Turano

This will be a pretty quick review – no small talk before I jump right in. This is mostly because I finished this title last night and want to share my thoughts “fresh.”

Bethany House approved my NetGalley request for Jen Turano’s upcoming novel, Storing Up Trouble. It’s the third installment in the American Heiresses series, but can very easily be read as a standalone. (I know this because I’ve not read the previous titles but most definitely will be adding them to my to-be-read list!)

A Delightful Whirlwind of Enjoyment

Turano is known for her humour and inspirational stories and this title does not disappoint on that front. If it were a person, I’d describe it as that loud, sweet, somewhat chaotic friend that brings liveliness and occasional puzzlement in every encounter. It’s a delightful whirlwind of enjoyment!

With a blend of adventure, snicker-inducing scenarios and dialogue, danger, oddball characters, and sweet romance this book is a fast-paced get-ready-for-a-ride work of art. It also manages to romp through the very pivotal history of suffrage and worker’s rights in North America in a delicate balance of important facts and quirky situations.

As it is inspirational fiction, faith and purpose play a foundational role in the overall story. It is a clean, sassy, sweet work of historical romance. Overall, I can do nothing but recommend this title. My only complaint is that I binged my way through it and now I feel a little lonely.

Published by Bethany House. Publication Date: May 5, 2020

My thanks for the complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Happy Camper

As winter loosens it’s grip and spring graces us with sunshine, milder days, and the occasional rain storm, I dream of spending more time outdoors basking in nature, soaking up some vitamin D. Not a camper at heart, I try to enjoy the tenting experience, but inevitably it tends to not be our cup of tea. We’ve discussed getting a trailer or pop up more than once and I’ve even found some dilapidated versions that I’ve tried to unsuccessfully convince Kevin we could overhaul from the frame up. He disagrees.

While cuddling under cozy blankets and ignoring the grey skies we’ve had lately, I was transported to a fun and colourful world via Melody Carlson’s sweet romance, The Happy Camper.

The novel centers on Dillon Michaels, a young workaholic attempting to find her feet again after significant changes in her employment and relationship status. While finding solace at her recently widowed grandfather’s farm, Dillon struggles to amend her relationship with her flaky, but well-meaning mother, and tries to avoid the persistant, unwanted wooing of a past suitor, all while falling in love with a local man whose heart has a history of it’s own that has left some scars.

The quaint small town setting, gentle romance, and healing and growth experienced through an unexpected vintage camper restoration creates a wonderfully charming reader experience. For this reader, it only strengthened my desire to fix up a trailer of my own and create new beginnings in a humble escape much like the star of this story. Sweet and clean, The Happy Camper is a feel-good easy-to-read piece of fiction that will leave you craving summer days!

My thanks to Revell for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own. This title is now available to purchase.

Book Review: The Forgotten Home Childby Genevieve Graham

There are so many things I love about The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham. If I had a Must-Read in 2020 list, this would be the second title on it. (The first place holder hasn’t been reviewed yet because it doesn’t publish until late summer, but it is worthy of first place.) Maybe I need a Must-Read Fiction in 2020 list and this could go straight to the very top. It was that good by my recommendation.

Emotionally Moving

First thing I love about this one? The genre. Historical fiction will always hold a special place in my reader’s heart. Always. This novel is based on factual history, but the plot and characters are make-believe. It’s the type of historical fiction that made me do some very light research because I had no idea this had happened (and it left me feeling bereft and heartbroken on behalf of the children who left their homes, and even more so for those who were mistreated in what should have been a better life.)

Two, I love this title because it showcases an important piece of Canadian history, is set in Canada (and the UK), with recognizable destinations and landscapes and was written by a Canadian author. Score for familiarity.

Three, I loved the voice of this writer so much. It was so easy to read, engaging and emotional. I read some early feedback from others that felt certain aspects were sugarcoated – there are some mature, graphic situations (not graphic in actual content, graphic in theme). The author chooses to gloss over them (i.e. rape was not called rape) but I took the liberty of assuming this had more to do with keeping with the era than the author choosing to belittle such horrible events. She paints a highly illustrative struggle of the children in their new situations and also casts a fair light on the flaws in what should have been an excellent program. On the flip side, there is a balance in acknowledging that not all the children ended up in abusive positions and their lives were better for it.

This novel addresses chasms between classes, the heartbreak of stigma, the darkness of an era not far behind us. It’s presented in the retelling by a nonagenerian who has kept her history a secret until a fateful occurence sparks some questions from her family.

Overall, I found The Forgotten Home Child to be one of my all-time favourite reads. It was emotionally moving and enlightening. I am in awe of the resilience of the characters and saddened by this aspect of our history. It hits shelves on March 3rd so make a preorder or on publication day pick up a copy for yourself and let me know if you agree or disagree with my take.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this title courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Simon & Schuster Canada

Book Review: All Hearts Come Home for Christmas – Various Authors

Heartwarming Christmas Collection

I copied in a few weeks ago to enjoy this collection of Christmas novellas. (Side note: Novellas is a word that I use to annoy my husband. He has bad high school memories over a confrontation with a teacher in relation to this word. Like any good wife, I usually use it in the car when he can’t escape me.)

This collection includes :

Christmas at Falstone Castle · Sarah M. Eden

The Dowager Duchess of Kielder eagerly anticipates spending Christmas with her son and his family. Though their relationship has been strained, the duchess is determined to heal the chasm. Even with the help of the widowed local vicar, her plan will take a Christmas miracle. But during this magical season, anything is possible . . . even two second chances for love.

The Heart of Christmas · Anita Stansfield

When a chance meeting brings together a gentle seamstress and a widowed banker, each lonely soul finds a first hint of hope. As their lives become entwined, it will take Christmas spirit to guide a broken family to love and healing.

’Tis the Season to Be Daring · Esther Hatch

Elizabeth Davenport has had quite enough of the London Season. Determined to evade a parade of unsuitable suitors, she seeks help from the one gentleman who has no regard for Society’s rules. All of Society knows Lord Hawthorne is not interested in marriage, yet he cannot deny Miss Davenport’s unique charm. And as the Christmas season works its magic, their charade begins to feel less like playacting and more like love.

The Christmas Dress · Joanna Barker

Seamstress Nell Addington is thrilled when her childhood friend Jacob Hammond commissions a dress for his sister. But when Nell realizes her feelings for Jacob run far deeper than friendship, an unexpected snowstorm—and some holiday cheer—may convince them both that love is worth fighting for.

Overall, this collection is exactly as presented: heartwarming. Each story has it’s own quirks and themes, all with a historical, seasonal backdrop. There is nothing objectionable in the content – just a bundle of emotion- stirring, feel good reads to get you in a holiday mood. You’ll need some hot chocolate to round out the experience.

Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Publisher: Covenant Communications

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

Book Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

…(a) descriptive and endearing narrative on the struggles of life and treasures of friendship

I am so far behind in my NetGalley book reviews… but I’ve been choosing sleep instead of reading in an effort to improve my health. The sacrifice has not yet been worth it – just sayin’.

One of the books I completed a some days ago and thought deserving of a full-fledged review was “The Printed Letter Bookshop.” It’s a Thomas Nelson title – so fairly wholesome, although the characters definitely have their issues. It focuses on a determined young lawyer who inherits her aunt’s bookshop, and the two local women who assist in the shop – a divorcee, and a do-it-all mom.

Through personality clashes, obvious character flaws, family secrets, and a good deal of “searching” I would classify this as a novel of growth, with a dash of sweet romance. It was probably a pleasure to read because of the main feature – the charming little bookshop – a delight for readers who dream of an actual day-to-day connection with books (i.e. me…) just inhaling the scent and discovering new pieces of printed wonder. It’s a testament to the impact one individual can make. It’s a story of hope and new beginnings.

I’ve not read Katherine Reay before this NetGalley copy provided in exchange for my opinion, but I have most definitely added other titles to my to-read list. This was a delightful, easy-to-read, descriptive and endearing narrative on the struggles of life and treasures of friendship. This title was published May 14th – so go pick up a copy from your local independent bookseller (or Amazon if all else fails…)

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

It’s the May long weekend here in our tiny corner of the world. The weather is finally cooperating for outdoor book binges. We had a birthday party yesterday and I have this weird thing about parents judging my housekeeping skills, so we cleaned like mad before the 12 year old boys showed up to make a mess again. Thankfully, clean-up was a breeze so today lent itself to indulgent backyard gazebo time with a rosé lemonade (meh) and a book (amazing!)

I’ve had The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek on my to-read pile for months. I’ve put it off, and put it off, and put it off… until I decided to give it a go last night. I made it to chapter 13 (when I should have been sleeping but we all know I’ll give up sleep for a good book.) The wee hours of the morning finally got to me, so I put it down knowing I’d have the afternoon to while away in 1930’s Kentucky hill country. Oh. My. Word. Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

From the first paragraphs, this title is evocative and transports you to another time and place. It’s rife with folklore, superstition, and old home remedies – balanced with an honest and colourful depiction of a difficult era and landscape. Inspired by the historical and truly remarkable Kentucky Pack Horse library service and gentle-hearted blue-skinned people of Kentucky, Kim Michele Richardson weaves a poignant and heart-wrenching telling of poverty, misogyny, racial prejudice, and poverty. Through it all, books bind humble souls together – feeding the mind when the land won’t yield food and families are dying of starvation.

I don’t want to share any spoilers so I’ll leave you with this: pick up a copy of this book, book off a chunk of free-time, and dive right in! You’ll find yourself invested – infuriated with the wrongness of so many situations, in tears because of the heartache and loss, and absolutely in love with the Book Lady, Cussy, and the family she builds through the care and gifts for her patrons. Honestly, one of the best books I’ve read in awhile!

This complimentary title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: May 7, 2019