Sunday, 29 April 2018

I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Pattillo Beals

"I Will Not Fear" by Melba Pattillo Beals is an autobiography. I details the events surrounding Melba Beals' integration into the white-only Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Melba was one of nine brave young African Americans who volunteered to be the first to penetrate the all-white high school. Her story is sobering, and in many ways, unbelievable. 

I checked the date she was sent to integrate Central High... 1957. That was only 60 years ago... my grandparents were teenagers. This was not a long time ago. How could such racism, violence, and unbelievable cruelty exist only a few years ago? This book shocked me, and has been forcing me to evaluate it repeatedly as it refuses to leave my mind even weeks after I finished reading it. 

Melba does an admirable job writing her story in such a way that it is not too graphic in its descriptions of the violence, but yet it does the job painting an image of what it was like to live back then. Her story doesn't end at Central High, but continues onward through her life as we follow her through her university days, marriage, parenthood, and career in media and activism. 

Her life is one driven by purpose and a fierce loyalty to God. I would highly recommend this book to all audiences, and believe it should be a mandatory read for high school students. 

Thank-you very much to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for sharing a copy of this book with me in exchange for my opinion. 

Back Cover: 

In 1957, Melba Beals was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

But her story of overcoming didn't start--or end--there.

While her white schoolmates were planning their senior prom, Melba was facing the business end of a double-barreled shotgun, being threatened with lynching by rope-carrying tormentors, and learning how to outrun white supremacists who were ready to kill her rather than sit beside her in a classroom. Only her faith in God sustained her during her darkest days and helped her become a civil rights warrior, an NBC television news reporter, a magazine writer, a professor, a wife, and a mother.

In I Will Not Fear, Beals takes you on an unforgettable journey through terror, oppression, and persecution, highlighting the kind of faith we all need to survive in a world full of heartbreak and anger. She shows how the deep faith we develop during our most difficult moments is the kind of faith that can change our families, our communities, and even the world.

Encouraging and inspiring, her story offers hope that faith is the solution to the pervasive hopelessness of our current culture.

Monday, 9 April 2018

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

Nothing but love could heal the wounds of war
In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a "Wren" in the Women's Royal Naval Service, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with holiday snapshots of France--including those of her family's summer home--in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . . 

Review:  I know I have a good book in my hands when my clock reads 2:00am and I'm still up reading. I fell in love with the characters of "The Sea Before Us" almost immediately and the dynamic between  Lt. Wyatt Paxton and Second Officer Fairfax kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime. Needless to say, I am already impatiently waiting for the next installment of this series (Sunrise at Normandy).

"The Sea Before Us" is the first book of what looks like a new trilogy based around three estranged brothers who find themselves battling on the same front of World War Two. Lt. Wyatt Paxton is originally from Texas but fled his hometown after a devastating accident ends with his own brother attempting to kill him. Wrought with guilt and desperate to make amends for the part he had to play in tearing apart his once-close-family, Wyatt enlists in the army to get far away from home and to save up money to pay back his debt to his other brother. For the last several years, he has not sent a single letter back to his family. With no one else left to turn to, Wyatt's relationship with Jesus grows and matures - his is the ultimate story of the prodigal son. 

Dorothy is British through and through. The war has stolen her two brothers and most recently her mother was killed in the Blitz. In her mind, God has forsaken her and so has her father who has turned into a complete recluse since the deaths. With a stiff upper lip, Dorothy resolutely plows forward and focuses on her military intelligence job. When Lawrence, a soldier she has been in love with since childhood is based at her station, she splits her time between the war effort and trying to win his favour. Lawrence is more than happy to take Dorothy out - and every other girl in town. Almost by accident, Dorothy strikes up an unlikely and rather reluctant friendship with Wyatt - but she has no romantic interest in him at all. He is too dull. 

What follows is a rather remarkable drama as Dorothy and Wyatt find themselves hurled about by the changing winds of the war and devastating consequences of their fractured families. I would certainly recommend this book - it was a great read.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Monday, 26 March 2018

A Dangerous Legacy

Review:  Elizabeth Camden is one of my favourite modern authors of historical fiction. She has a delightfully clever eye for finding historical tidbits that would not normally be main stream knowledge and weaving them into a spellbinding story. Considering that she has a masters degree in history and is also a research librarian, I suppose it is not too surprising that she is brilliant at bringing history alive. 

A Dangerous Legacy is centered around two prominent and competitive news agencies based out of New York City in 1903. The two companies, Reuters and the Associated Press, worked together during this period to bring news to America. This novel is based around their professional collaboration as AP leased Reuters' telegraph wires through the British colonies in Asia while the Pacific cable was being completed. At this same time, the search for a canal through Central America was on the tip of everyone's tongues, and the Isthmus of Panama was a hot debate. This periods was a time of monumental change and huge advancements... and it makes a spectacular and interesting setting for this unlikely love story between a bankrupt English noble and a clever telegraph operator.

Lucy Drake, the Morse code specialist at Associated Press, finds herself in a complicated predicament as she intercepts a secret message that has devastating political ramifications. Unfortunately, she overhears the conversation on a line she is not legally supposed to be listening to as she gleans information to help in her own legal battle against her corrupt uncle. Caught in the act by the head of Reuters, Lucy is forced to confide in Sir Colin Beckweth. An investigative reporter, Colin takes Lucy's story and  goes undercover, but what was suppose to be a simple weekend of exploration becomes highly dangerous as the web of lies, deceit, and cunning is woven much larger than either Lucy or Colin ever suspected. 

With their lives at risk, the fight for survival lands them in places no one would ever want to go. While sparks fly between the two of them, Colin makes sure that Lucy firmly understands that he will wed for one reason, and one reason only: money. While he finds her attractive and they work brilliantly together, his estate in London is crumbling and nothing but a wealthy heiress will pull him back from ruin. Thus, with their hearts on the line, a political disaster to foil, and her own lawsuit to win, Lucy and Colin keep you flipping the pages of this novel as they struggle to stay a step ahead of the unbelievable events they find themselves caught in. 

This book is a definite 'must read' for anyone who enjoys historical romantic fiction. Of note, there is no sexual content or inappropriate scenes. Some birds do die (which is actually rather heartbreaking) and there is a description of old psychiatric practices that made me shudder, but all in all a very well written book that would be appropriate for teenagers and up.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of A Dangerous Legacy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Back Cover: 
Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code and has made herself a valuable asset to the Associated Press news agency. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Colin is talented, handsome, insufferably charming--and keeping a secret that jeopardizes his reputation.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy can't deny that Colin has the connections she needs to give her family an edge in the long legal battle they've been waging over their rightful inheritance. But when she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, the web of treachery they dive into proves to be far more dangerous than they ever could have known.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Review: I wish this book didn't have to end. I love all of Kristi Ann Hunter's works, and her most recent novel, "An Inconvenient Beauty" is no exception. Furthermore, I lent out this series (four books total) to a friend of mine who is an avid reader. After finishing the series, she told me that these books were her favourite that I've ever lent her (and I've lent her MANY books).

Throughout the first two books, I've gotten to know Griffith, the Duke of Riverton, in his role as protector and guardian of his younger siblings. His loving indulgence of his family, keen intelligence, immovable sense of honor, and unshakable integrity have made him the backbone of the family and the series. I strongly suspected that this book would be about his quest to find a bride, and I was not disappointed.

Ironically, Griffith's story does  not start out with love at first sight like with his siblings (sorta...). At first, I was a little shocked, but after I thought about it a little I realized that falling madly in love would be completely out of character for this honorable gentleman. Instead, he faces the women of London with a mental checklist in hand, and systematically sorts through their attributes and characteristics... much in the same way you'd pick a new house! With his emotions firmly put aside and his mind ruling his decision, Griffith sets forth to win his decided upon bride. Of course.... nothing could go wrong with this plan, now could it? Poor Griffith... what follows is a bit of a disaster as the purely logical duke finds the women in question not behaving at all like he intended, and then of all things, his pesky heart totally gets in the way of his practical mind.

I won't talk about the chosen bride in this book, because I wouldn't want to give away the grand surprise of who actually ends up being married to Griffith. I will say she is an absolute delight and I was cheering for her the whole time.

I would highly recommend not just reading, but buying and adding this entire series to your collection.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion....thank-you also to Kristi Ann Hunter for being such an amazing writer and bringing these unforgettable characters to life.

Back Cover: Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, so he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. While he's certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, she is strangely elusive, and he can't seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, she has no choice but to agree to a bargain that puts her at odds with all her romantic hopes--as well as her conscience. And the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she regrets the unpleasant obligation that prevents her from any dream of a future with him.

As all Griffith's and Isabella's long-held expectations are shaken to the core, can they set aside their pride and fear long enough to claim a happily-ever-after?

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Dangerous Illusions by Irene Hannon

Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death--and puts Trish under police scrutiny--her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn't certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge--and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn't just dangerous . . . it's deadly.

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon will capture your imagination with a mind-bending story that will have you doubling back to retrace your steps--and figure out what you missed!

Review: If you enjoy a thrilling mystery, than Irene Hannon needs to be a staple part of your reading diet. With characters that demand your emotional investment and plots that keep you guessing, she is one of those authors you can depend upon for a good read. 

"Dangerous Illusions" is part of Hannon's "Men of Valor" series. Colin Flynn is a big city detective, and he has concentrated the majority of his adult life's energy to solving crime. While he takes time for his two closest friends and the odd volunteer activity they rope him into, Colin doesn't have much of a life outside his work. While he knows he'd like to get married one day, the clock is ticking and he hasn't had the time to date - nor has any woman turned his head enough to make him even contemplate investing the time to get to know her. All of that changes when a suspicious death leads him to Trish Bailey.

Trish isn't a fellow crime fighter though...nor is she the victim. She is the prime suspect. With everything that is in him, Colin knows that Trish isn't guilty. However, knowing that in his heart and proving it are two different things all-together. As the case complicates and the stakes rise, Trish and Colin fight desperately to figure out what is all at play while dodging the wild sparks that fly between them. 

Shorter than her usual works, Dangerous Illusions is a quick read but certainly enjoyable. This is a 'love at first sight' novel mixed with a seemingly predictable crime (but wait for it... there is always a twist!), but I definitely enjoyed the read. Also, I will note that this work is similar to some of Irene Hannon's earlier works in that it is a great mystery, but without the disturbingly dark twists or thoughts that some of her more recent works have. Being a rather sensitive reader, I appreciated getting the thrill of a crime story without going too deep into the evil recesses of the criminal's mind. 

This book definitely belongs on your 'To-Be-Read' pile.

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Back Cover: Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious demise fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather's Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house's dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy's search leads her into dangerous waters, resurrecting painful memories and forcing a reunion with the man who broke her heart. Can Ivy unravel the mystery and find a renewed hope before any other lives--including her own--are lost?

Review: I really enjoyed this book. It kept me on the edge of my seat from the first to the last page. J.J. Wright did an amazing job at writing a disturbing thriller, but showing it through the mirrored gaze of several spectacularly amazing heroines. Through the eyes of three incredible women, we learn the terrible secret of the house on Foster Hill. 

The multi-generational storytelling in this novel was carried out seamlessly. I often become a little disinterested or tend to have preference over one character than another when authors choose to run multiple stories in parallel. This was not the case with this story. The two eras fit together effortlessly and each story lent value and fascination to the other. I eagerly anticipated reading each point of view and never felt like I was loosing out when the era switched. 

I found this story to be very well thought out and cleverly written. I was also amazed at the powerful faith examples lived out by the women in this story. The Bible isn't preached in this novel, but it is lived vividly in the lives of the women of Foster Hill - and through some rather terrible circumstances, I might add. All I can say, and though I hate to repeat myself, is that this was a powerful novel that will stick with me for some time. I would definitely recommend it if you are in search of a mystery/thriller. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Saturday, 20 January 2018

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart

Review: I am a fan of Ann H. Gabhart's new mystery series as well as her book "Words Spoken True". I haven't yet read any of her earlier works. However, after completing "These Healing Hills" I am certainly going to go back and read the rest of her published novels. "These Healing Hills" was a beautiful example of a gifted writer going the extra mile to not only create believable and lovable characters but to bring to life an era and a subset of people that I would have never know anything about before. I can not imagine how much time Ann Gabhart spent researching this novel. What an exhaustive effort... but completely worth it.

The details in this work made the story come alive. I loved the unique phrasing and way of saying things that the Appalachian mountain people used in their every-day-talk. I enjoyed learning about Sourgum making, their tough way of life, the mountains, and especially about the frontier nurses/midwives that served the mountains on horseback. From a history standpoint, this was such an amazing story. I am glad an author as skilled as Ann H Gabhart was the one to take on this particular piece of American history. This story deserved an amazing retelling.

As far as the characters went, I loved Francine, Woody, Granny Em, Ben Locke... the whole crew just brought the story to life. They were all so unique and I loved watching them change and grow throughout the story. Francine's transformation from a wounded city girl on the run to a confident nurse/midwife in love with the Appalachian mountains and its people was really enjoyable to read. Also, the gentle love story between Francine and Ben was so sweet it made me cry. I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it.

Back Cover: Francine Howard has her life all mapped out--until the man she loves announces his plans to bring home an English bride from war-torn Europe in 1945. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he's at a loss when it comes to envisioning what's next for his life.

When Francine's and Ben's paths intersect, it's immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

Thank-you very much to Graf Martin Communications and to Baker Publishing House for a copy of this book. My opinion is completely truth and my own.