Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Child of God by Chantel and Mauli Bonner and Morgan Bissant

A Child of God
Written by Chantel and Mauli Bonner
Illustrated by Morgan Bissant
Published by Ensign Peak
Publication Date: September 7th, 2021

A rhyming, read-aloud book with warm illustrations conveys a comforting, faith-filled message from a Black father and mother to their children who see visual representations of their Christian faith, but question what it means when they don’t see their skin color, their physical features, or their gender portrayed. 

 “What about the angels, will they stop and stare, when they see that I may not have their same color hair?” asks the girl.

 In soothing verse, the father assures his children that everyone looks like Jesus and the angels by the things they do. As the family walks through their neighborhood, the father points out the beauty in God’s creations, from flowers, all unique and different, to all the children in their community “each with skin a different shade.” He reminds his children that pictures of faith such as angels were drawn by someone and encourages his children to draw their own pictures so angels look like all of us. 

This is a lovely book about how we are ALL children of God, no matter what we look like. It's an engaging book that deals with real concerns, has great illustrations, and includes a discussion guide to facilitate conversations with children. My children all enjoyed this story; my baby (20 months) saw it on my bed and wanted me to read it to her--and immediately upon finishing it wanted me to read it to her again and again. I also read it with my 8-year-old twins (boy and girl) and 4-year-old son; they all listened to it and wanted to look in-depth at each picture and talk about different things they noticed. When we finished, I used some of the discussion questions to engage in more conversation right away, and then brought up other questions from the guide later on. This is a book with a very important message, and I highly recommend it!

I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Between the Wild Branches by Connilyn Cossette

Between the Wild Branches (The Covenant House #2)
By Connilyn Cossette
Published by Bethany House

Ten years ago Lukio fled Kiryat-Yearim, where he'd been adopted by the Levite family who guarded the Ark of the Covenant. Feeling betrayed by everyone, he returned to his birthplace in Philistia to become a famous fighter. Now the champion of Ashdod, Lukio has achieved every goal with the help of his ruthless cousin. But just as he is set to claim the biggest prize of all, the daughter of the king, his past collides with his present in the form of Shoshana. 
After a heartbreaking end to her secret friendship with Lukio, Shoshana thought to never see the boy with the dual-colored eyes and the troubled soul again. But when she is captured in a Philistine raid and enslaved in Ashdod, she is surprised to find that the brutal fighter known as Demon-Eyes is Lukio himself. 
With explosive secrets and unbreakable vows standing between them, finding a way to freedom for both may cost them everything.

This book is fabulous! It's so well-written, with tons of details that show what day-to-day life was like at the time, interesting plot lines that show the tensions and conflicts between the Philistines and Hebrews in addition to the main storyline, and absolutely wonderful characters in Lukio and Shoshana. Shoshana has this quiet strength that made me admire her, while, Lukio, who is a bit of a mess but a heart of gold, absolutely stole my heart. He has just such a relatable character, with wounds from his childhood that hadn't quite healed leaving him hurting and vulnerable and kind of lost. I loved seeing how he just couldn't help but be kind to people, even as he has spent his life pushing people away. I just loved reading his story and seeing how things played out for him and Shoshana. Even though there's a lot of dark stuff that happens in this book, due to the violence and depravity of the Philistine culture, it was still such a boost to my spirit as it showed how God's goodness and love can shine even in those dark places and times. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
5 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the author via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Heart's Charge (Hanger's Horsemen #2) by Karen Witemeyer

The Heart's Charge (Hanger's Horsemen #2)
By Karen Witemeyer
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: June 1st, 2021

Members of Hanger's Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed, never expecting they'd deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he'd nearly married a decade ago.
After failing at love, Katherine Palmer dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. From mixed ancestry, illegitimate, and female, Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society's mold. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her with his courage and kindness, but there are secrets behind his eyes--ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.
However, when a handful of urchin children from the area go missing, a pair of Horsemen are exactly what the women need. Working together to find the children, will these two couples find love as well?

I was a little worried about there being four protagonists in this story, particularly about whether they would all feel like well-developed characters, but I should have known better. While I would have loved to have two separate books so each character could have more "page time," that's simply a reflection of how much I liked the characters and would have loved to spend even more time with them. With four characters, their backstory, the current plot, and a lot of serious topics (kidnapping, depression/suicidal thoughts, and slavery among them), it takes skillful writing to balance it all--and Karen Witemeyer totally pulled it off. The book flows really well, the characters are beautifully written and totally lovable, the themes and messages thought-provoking but not overbearing, and the whole book was just a delight to read. 
4.5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

No Journey Too Far (McAlister Family #2) by Carrie Turansky


No Journey Too Far (McAlister Family #2) 
By Carrie Turansky 
Published by WaterBrook & Multnomah 
 Publication Date: June 8, 2021

It's 1919, and Garth McAlister returns 
 to England to be reunited with his family after fighting in the Great War. But his heart is still in Canada with his sweetheart, Emma Lafferty. It's been four months since he has heard from Emma, and he is determined to return to Canada and discover if she still loves him or has given her heart to another. The ten-year search for his youngest sister Grace continues, and the family is stunned to receive a letter from Grace, who is now almost eighteen and living in Toronto, Canada. Follow the heart-tugging story of these young adult British Home Children as they seek to be reunited with those they love. 

While I was interested to learn more about British Home Children and their experiences, including the prejudice against them, I just didn't find myself connecting with the characters in this book. They came across as a little flat--almost too good to be true, without enough emotion to make them feel real. I found Emma to be the most compelling character and the plotline involving her to be the most interesting element of the book. I enjoyed seeing how things came together for the McAlister family and the gentle reminders to trust in God. This is a heartwarming story that fans of gentle romance will enjoy. 
3 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A Lady in Attendance by Rachel Fordham

A Lady in Attendance
By Rachel Fordham 
Published by Revell 
Publication Date: June 1, 2021 

Five years in a New York state reformatory have left a blemish on Hazel's real name. So when she takes a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts's lady in attendance in 1898, she does so under an alias. In the presence of her quiet and pious employer, Hazel finds more than an income. She finds a friend and a hope that if she can set her tarnished past in order, she might have a future after all. 

As Gilbert becomes accustomed to the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, he can't help but sense something secretive about her. Perhaps there is more to this woman than meets the eye. Can the questions that loom between them ever be answered? Or will the deeds of days gone by forever rob the future of its possibilities? 

 What a lovely book! I loved the themes, including finding forgiveness, forgiving oneself, and finding love even when you might not feel worthy of it. I also really loved the characters. Hazel, with her past mistakes, is so relatable; she just felt so real as she struggled to move on and to make her way in life. Gilbert was such a sweetheart; even though he thought of himself as pretty boring, he was so perfect for Hazel, and I loved seeing him reach out to her and open up his heart. I also loved secondary characters Ina and Duncan. The historical background of the story was spot-on, and the quest to figure out what really happened in Hazel's past was engaging. This is a sweet and satisfying story that will leave readers with a smile.

4..5 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Blog Tour for Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson

Isabelle and Alexander
By Rebecca Anderson
Published by Shadow Mountain

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father's coal mines with Alexander Osgood's prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander's wife. 
However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick. 
Sensing his wife's unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn't bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle's opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.

"Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them."— Library Journal

"Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England."— Foreword Reviews

"Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson's debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart."— Booklist

My Review:
This book had a lot of really interesting elements. As much as I love a good Regency story, I'm loving the trend of publishing more books set during the Victorian era. I found the details of Isabelle's life as a business owner's wife, as well as the details of Alexander's business really interesting. I thought it was awesome that the book had featured two characters with disabilities--Alexander with his physical paralysis and secondary character Glory with her developmental disability. Getting glimpses of the struggles and the recommended treatments for both as well as their limitations and what they could do was really engaging. (Side note: before knowing what the book was about, I really liked the cover; however, now, while I still think it's a beautiful cover, I wish it actually showed Alexander in his wheelchair. A visual depiction like that would have been really powerful.) Isabelle's character really resonated with me; her emotions fluctuated in a way that seemed very real as she struggled with her new situation and not knowing how to connect with Alexander. I appreciated her resilience and determination as she struggled to figure out how to interact with Alexander and his medical staff, and it was gratifying to see her find her voice. Alexander's character, with his moodiness and frustrations, was also very believable but not as enjoyable. Not having any of the book written from his point of view made it harder to truly see the good aspects, and it was pretty late in the book that we finally got a look at his heart. I wish there had been more of that, both when it did finally come as well as earlier in the book. The tone is understandably somber and the romance is hard-fought rather than fluffy and fun, but the book is well-written and engaging. 
4 stars. 
I read an ARc provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.
High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.

Join the virtual blog tour of ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER (Proper Romance Victorian), Rebecca Anderson’s highly acclaimed historical romance novel, May 3–16, 2021. Over forty popular blogs specializing in historical fiction, inspirational fiction, and Victorian romance will join in the celebration of its release with spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Manchester, England.

May 03 Lu Reviews Books (Review
May 03 Timeless Novels (Review)
May 03 Our Book Confessions (Review)
May 04 Literary Time Out (Review
May 04 My Bookish Bliss (Review)
May 04 The Book Diva's Reads (Excerpt)
May 05 Heidi Reads (Review)
May 05 Laura's Reviews (Review)
May 05 Wishful Endings (Review)
May 05 Gwendalyn's Reviews (Review)
May 06 Margie's Must Reads (Review)
May 06 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Excerpt)
May 06 Relz Reviewz (Review)
May 07 Randi Loves 2 Read (Spotlight)
May 07 The Reading Frenzy (Review)
May 07 Nurse Bookie (Review)
May 08 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)
May 08 The Bibliophile Files (Review)
May 09 Reading with Emily (Review)
May 09 Fire and Ice (Spotlight)
May 10 My Jane Austen Book Club (Excerpt)
May 10 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Review)
May 10 Booked Solid (Review)
May 10 From Pemberley to Milton (Spotlight)
May 11 Greenish Bookshelf (Review)
May 11 Captivated Reading (Review)
May 11 The Green Mockingbird (Review)
May 12 For Where Your Treasure Is (Excerpt)
May 12 Bookworm Lisa (Review)
May 13 Books, Teacups & Reviews (Spotlight)
May 13 Library of Clean Reads (Review)
May 13 Robin Loves Reading (Review)
May 13 So Little Time (Excerpt)
May 14 Eli's Novel Reviews (Review)
May 14 The Lit Bitch (Review)
May 14 The Bluestocking (Review)
May 15 Reading Is My Superpower (Review)
May 15 Christian Chick's Thoughts (Review)
May 15 A Darn Good Read (Review)
May 16 The Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
May 16 CozyNookBooks (Review)


Sunday, May 2, 2021

A Proper Scoundrel by Esther Hatch

A Proper Scoundrel 
By Esther Hatch 
Published by Covenant Communications 
Publication Date: May 10, 2021 

As the successful owner of multiple railroad lines, Diana Barton is all too accustomed to fending off suitors seeking to stake their claim on her wealth. In order to keep the wolves at bay, Diana has contrived the perfect plan: appeal to the most notorious rake in London, the Baron Lord Bryant, to ruin her reputation and scare off the worst of the time wasters. The ruse will be no hardship—she’s secretly been fascinated by the man for years. 
Lord Bryant is well aware of his questionable reputation. Indeed, he has cultivated the image carefully, and the last thing he wants is a wife. But when he’s approached by the younger sister of a business associate, he tells her in no uncertain terms that he cannot help. However, when he sees for himself what she is up against, Bryant grudgingly offers his assistance. Faced with his most complicated entanglement yet, Bryant is firm in his conditions—and Diana knows that to get romantically involved with Bryant would spell certain heartbreak. But as the counterfeit couple grow ever closer, the line between truth and lies becomes blurred, threatening both Lord Bryant’s well-laid plans and the future of Diana’s railroad business.

EEK! I've been looking forward to reading this book for so long, and it didn't disappoint. This book is easily one of my favorites of the year and one that I want to reread immediately! I've been eager to read Lord Bryant's story and get to know him better; he was such an intriguing character. Seeing his back story and why he did the things he did was so interesting. Diana Barton was also a terrific character. I loved seeing her determination to run her railroad business and how capable and intelligent she was. The two of them were perfect together; every interaction was just so much fun to read. I loved how they teased each other but also challenged and supported each other. I loved the whole book, but the final couple of scenes were especially fabulous. I adored everything about this book! 
5 stars. 

I read an ARC provided by the publisher/author. All opinions are my own.