Monday, August 17, 2020

A Portrait of Loyalty (The Codebreakers #3) By Roseanna M. White

A Portrait of Loyalty (The Codebreakers #3)
By Roseanna M. White
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020

Zivon Marin was one of Russia's top cryptographers, until the October Revolution tore apart his world. Forced to flee after speaking out against Lenin and separated from his brother along the way, he arrives in England driven by a growing anger and determined to offer his services to the Brits.
Lily Blackwell sees the world best through the lens of a camera--and possesses unsurpassed skill when it comes to retouching and recreating photographs. With her father's connections in propaganda, she's recruited to the intelligence division, even though her mother would disapprove.
After Captain Blackwell invites Zivon to dinner one evening, a friendship blooms between him and Lily. He sees patterns in what she deems chaos; she sees beauty in a world he thought destroyed. But both have secrets they're unwilling to share. When her photographs reveal that someone has been following Zivon, his loyalties are called into question--and his enemies are discovered to be far closer than he'd feared.

This book is so well-written and there are so many interesting things about it. I loved how the details about Lily's photography and her work altering photos were incorporated. It was also really interesting to learn more details about the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918. There was a lot going on, and yet, it was written so well that it all came together seamlessly, without feeling bogged down with too much information. The historical information was awesome, but it didn't outshine the characters. Lily and Zivon pulled me in from the beginning; I loved how neither was a particularly flashy or outgoing character and yet they both made important contributions to the war efforts and were wonderful together. Another excellent book from Roseanna M. White. 
4.5 stars. 
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Forget Me Not (The Gents #1) by Sarah M. Eden

Forget Me Not (The Gents #1) 
By Sarah M. Eden 
Published by Covenant Communications 
Publication Date: September 7th, 2020 

Nottinghamshire, 1785 
 Julia Cummings has long been acquainted with loss-her mother, her brother, her sister, her friend, all gone too soon. But the loss that pushed her grief to the limit as a young girl was that of her best friend, Lucas Jonquil, who abandoned her without looking back. Now, eight years later, Lucas has returned to Lampton Park, and Julia has steeled herself-she will never forgive the man who broke her heart. 
After losing too many of his friends and family to early deaths, Lucas vowed to live life to the fullest. And after traversing the world, he has returned from his adventures to find his family and home as he left them-except for Julia. The little girl he left behind has blossomed into a captivating lady, a lady who makes it clear she despises him. With little hope of reconciliation, the former friends are blindsided when their parents make a shocking announcement. Lucas and Julia have been betrothed without their knowledge and are to marry immediately. Now Lucas must rely on the help of his closest friends to win the heart of a lady who loathes him--a lady he’s coming to love more deeply every day.

This book tugged at my heart so much! Having read Sarah Eden's Jonquil Brothers series, which features Julia's and Lucas's future sons, I was eager to read how Julia and Lucas fell in love. So the fact that it didn't go smoothly--and that Julia spent so much of the book unhappy--actually hurt! I felt really sad sometimes, totally empathizing with Julia. However, Sarah Eden is a master at writing witty banter and providing comedic relief, so the book definitely had its lighthearted moments to make me chuckle. Since this is the first book in a new series, I'm assuming we'll get to see more of the happy moments between Julia and Lucas in future books, as they interact with the rest of the Gents.
I enjoyed slipping into a new era (and appreciate Sarah Eden's research skills that leave me confident she gets the details right) and meeting the rest of the Gents. Good start to a new series. I can't wait for more! 
4.5 stars. 
I read an ARC provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Miracle Creek Christmas by Krista Jensen

Miracle Creek Christmas
By Krista Jensen
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020

When Riley Madigan moves to the sleepy mountain town of Miracle Creek, she hopes her new job as a high school art teacher will help her mend her recently broken heart. A little peace and quiet would be a gift this Christmas season. The last thing on her mind is love. 

Former firefighter Mark Rivers has spent the last year recovering from burns sustained during a rescue operation. He’s been trying to piece his life back together but still struggles both emotionally and psychologically. When he meets Riley, he finally sees something that might bring some light back into his life. 

When Mark asks Riley to work on a special nativity project, he finds himself falling for her quirky, unaffected ways. Riley doesn’t seem bothered by his scars, but is her affection for him real, or is this just another act of charity? One thing’s for certain, in a small town that views Mark as a fragile hero, it’s hard to pursue a relationship without everyone in his business. And although Riley has sincere feelings for Mark, is she ready to risk her heart? 

Broken hearts and lives are mended as the town of Miracle Creek comes together to celebrate a Christmas to remember. 

While it might seem funny to be reading a Christmas book in the middle of summer, it's definitely worth snagging now even if you don't read it until closer to Christmas. And while it is the Christmas season in the book and Mark and Riley are working on a nativity project, the Christmas element wasn't overdone; there was a good balance between that and the other elements of the story. It fit with the story and didn't feel like it was just set at Christmastime for the sake of being a holiday book. 

Besides the Christmas element, I really loved Mark and Riley. They've both been burned and have scars--him literally and her figuratively--and I found both to be realistic. Riley was sometimes exasperating but in a totally realistic way; I could definitely see people I know (cough *myself* cough) in the way she was drawn to Mark but also afraid to trust and not ready to commit to anything. I adored Mark and loved seeing him come out of his self-imposed shell and find himself again. While there wasn't necessarily a ton of conflict, there was a lot of emotional action, with both characters having to work through feelings and their pasts, and I totally connected to that. 

I devoured this book, even with it being 93 degrees out as I read it. I definitely recommend adding this to both your to-read list for yourself and shopping list to gift to others this Christmas. 

4.5 stars.

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

Monday, August 10, 2020

Almost a Bride (The Bride Ships #4) by Jody Hedlund

Almost a Bride (The Bride Ships #4) 
By Jody Hedlund 
Published by Northern Lights Press 
Publication Date: August 25th, 2020 

Longing to find true love, Kate Millington arrives in British Columbia on a bride ship. With countless men waiting to snag a bride, Kate has no trouble getting engaged. It’s staying engaged that’s the problem. After traveling to the remote mining town of Williamsville to marry her newest fiancĂ©, she finds herself single again. 
As the prosperous owner of a gold mine, Zeke Hart has everything he’s ever wanted except for a wife. At Kate’s arrival, he takes it upon himself to protect his childhood friend from the men clamoring to court her. The more he renews her friendship, the more he wants to win her for himself. But as much as Kate admires Zeke, she’s resolved not to marry someone who doesn’t share her faith. 
When Zeke begins receiving anonymous threats, he unwittingly puts them both in grave danger. In the midst of peril, the past rises up to haunt them both, and Zeke realizes the fight for Kate’s affection may be his biggest challenge yet. 

This is a satisfying end to a wonderful series. The setting is fabulous--I love seeing the wilds of Canada and what life was like as men hoped to strike it rich and build a new life there. I loved seeing how Kate and Zeke both had to find healing, Kate because of how she'd been hurt by her father's leaving and Zeke because of his own choices. The book was exciting, with an element of mystery, and had wonderful secondary characters as well. 
 4 stars. 
 I read an ARC provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Librarian of Boone's Hollow

The Librarian of Boone's Hollow 
By Kim Vogel Sawyer 
Published by WaterBrook & Multnomah 
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020 

During the Great Depression, Addie Cowherd dreams of being a novelist and offering readers the escape that books gave her during her tragic childhood. When her adoptive father loses his job, she is forced to leave college and take the only employment she can find--delivering books on horseback to poor coal mining families in the hills of Kentucky.

The small community of Boone's Hollow is suspicious of outsiders and steeped in superstitions that leave Addie feeling rejected and indignant. Although she finds an unexpected friend in an elderly outcast, the other horseback librarians scorn her determination to befriend Nanny Fay.

Emmett Tharp grew up in the tiny mountain hamlet where most men either work in the coal mine or run moonshine. He's the first in the community to earn a college degree, and he has big dreams, but witnesses the Depression robbing many young men of their future.
Then someone sets out to sabotage the library program, going so far as to destroy Addie's novel in progress. Will the saboteur chase Addie and the other librarians away, or will knowledge emerge victorious over prejudice? Is Emmett the local ally that Addie needs--and might their friendship lead to something more?

Inspired by the real WPA program that sent librarians on horseback to deliver books to hill families in Kentucky, Kim Vogel Sawyer immersed herself in Appalachian history to tell this captivating story.

Kim Vogel Sawyer did a great job developing the setting here--she definitely made me feel like I was right there in Appalachia! The details were so vivid, from the daily way of life to the flora and fauna. With the variety of narrators (besides Addie and Emmett, Bettina, a local girl who wants to marry Emmett, and Nanny Fay, an older woman rejected by the community because they think she is a witch, both narrate parts of the story), readers get a look into life for lots of people in the community, from different walks of life, making for a very interesting read. Addie sometimes felt a little too perfect, but I did appreciate her faith and her commitment to kindness. I wish the romance had been a little more developed, but for those who want an interesting historical fiction novel with a hint of romance, this is a good choice.
4 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Anxious People

Anxious People
By Fredrik Backman
Published by Atria Books
Publication Date: September 8, 2020 (for the English version)

This is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.
Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.
As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.

I love Fredrik Backman's books because they always have such amazing characters--they're so real to life. He has this fantastic way of creating dynamic, totally believable characters, complete with flaws and strengths. He also has a way of inviting the reader to almost become a character, thinking about whether you would react and respond the same way his characters do or in different ways. What I love most about Backman's books, however, is how they make me empathize with others. At the outset of Anxious People, I had the thought that I might have to read it in small doses because several of the characters were annoying or abrasive. But as I continued reading Backman skillfully pulled back the layers on each character, taking me past their outward actions to their hearts. I found myself not only wanting to reread the book when I finished it but wanting to restart right in the middle of the book with my new understanding of and appreciation for the characters so that I could erase my earlier annoyance with them and instead read every moment with my newfound insights into their true characters. These sweet, beautiful, totally flawed, and totally relatable people stole my heart--and also reminded me of how often in real life if we would stop being annoyed with people and see who they really are, our hearts would melt and we would do whatever we could to help them. 
Besides the wonderful cast of characters, Backman's plot and the setting were so interesting--the majority of the book takes place in one apartment--and there were several twists that I did not see coming at all. It was a fascinating read that was so thought-provoking. I adored it, and I want everyone I know to read it so we can talk about it! 
5 stars. Definitely one of my favorites for 2020. 

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