Review + Blog Tour: Unraveling by Sara Ella

Welcome to the:

Thomas Nelson’s Young Adult Summer
of 2017 Feature

It’s a blog post today all about the stunning contemporary YA/Fantasy sophomore novel from Sara Ella: Unraveling. Read on for my review, a book excerpt, and GIVEAWAY info! Or, you could just take my word for it and preorder this book now. It’s not one to be missed!

Unraveling Tour Banner Sm

About the Book
Title:  Unraveling
Series: Unblemished, Book 2
Author:  Sarah Ella

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date:  July 11, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy

In the second installment of the Unblemished Trilogy, YA author Sara Ella asks, “What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?”

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After capturing the Void and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

With the Verity intertwined with her soul and Joshua finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her connection with Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Review

Where do I even begin?! This book is such an adventure from page 1, with multiple twists I didn’t see coming (especially the one at about the 30% mark). Continuing with themes of sacrifice, self-confidence, and even the power of true love, Unraveling delves deeper into the story world and deeper into the characters as they face unforeseen challenges to their world. The world-building alone is fascinating as we learn even more about these parallel worlds with Eliyana.

Side note: I think this book could be read out of sequence, but it would be best to start with book 1, Unblemished.

The hold-on-to-your-seat adventure contained in this story is amped up by the constant, elusive battle between good and evil and the soul-deep ties Eliyana has to the people surrounding her. Contrasting the serious themes, though, are pop culture references aplenty. They are included in a manner which makes the contemporary setting of the story shine brightly against the castle and pirate ship locations(!!!). The Disney references make me happy inside — from straight-up mentions to clever plays on words, chapter titles, or similar themes. And, the MUSIC and movie references are a bonus. (The Count of Monte Cristo or Shania Twain, anyone?)

This book progresses the romantic storyline just enough, building on the (very-plausible-because-fantasy-reasons) love triangle established in book one. It still serves as a usable plot device because it contrasts the battle between good and evil in oneself, and the way opinion is influenced by individuals. I appreciate that Eliyana is not a back-and-forth, I-love-both person, yet a genuine individual who knows her choices have an impact on many people, including her choice of a confidant and romantic interest. By story’s end, I think the direction this situation will take is firmly in place, and I’m totally happy with it. But Sara IS known to throw surprises at us readers! The waiting will be agony (insert Into the Woods musical number here).

Like with the first book, I am intrigued by the symbolism showcasing the battle of good vs. evil, or the Verity and Void, as it’s termed in this series. When this story is examined closely, an observant reader will see detailed Biblical parallels with elements of faith, the power of light to overcome darkness, and even a mirror of the creation story and Eden. I think this book raises important questions about choices and human nature — how much of our life is defined by our own choices or free will? How much because of other people’s influence? Will you choose to embrace the Source of light and truth or “feed” an evil nature?

From dimension-travel to pirate ships and deserts, Unraveling covers the bases of adventure and the young adult genre while still maintaining an overarching plot with elements of faith. I haven’t even mentioned the fun and mysterious secondary characters OR the fairies! And the troll. This is one stunning, well-developed story that should appeal to fans of YA, fantasy, adventure, Disney fairytales, or even contemporary YA romance. I seriously can’t WAIT to find out what happens in the conclusion of the series come book 3!

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of this book for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review. 
Excerpt
Taken from “Unraveling” by Sara Ella Copyright © 2017 by Sara E. Larson. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

Prelude

I’m not ready for this.My shoulder is going to rip from its socket. My bicep is a torch, igniting my forearm. His fingers are sliding from mine, and I can’t hold on any longer. All I see is the gorge below, the beads of sweat dewing his temples.

He shouts, “Hold on!”

But the cliff crumbles with each passing blink. If we remain this way, we’ll both be swallowed by the chasm below.

I loosen my grip, my clammy palm slipping.

His eyes plead. Beg. Implore. “Don’t!” His cry echoes.

The river crashes and curls. Waiting to swallow. Devour. Obliterate anything entering its territory. But it isn’t the river I’m afraid of. It’s the black hole beyond it. The beginning of the end.

I know if we disconnect he might be lost forever. “I love you” is what I want to say. Instead I ask him, “Find me?”

His expression corkscrews, a mask of raw emotion. “Always.” His voice is weak, his energy drained. He’s not strong enough. Because of me.

So my fingers splay.

I let go.

About the Author

Sara Ella is the author of Unblemished, book one of the Unblemished Trilogy. Once upon a time, Sara dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a castle, and she did work for Disney! Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away.”

 
CONNECT WITH SARA:  website ⎸facebook ⎸twitter ⎸pinterest ⎸instagram ⎸youtube
 
 
Giveaway

(3) Winners will each win a finished hard copy of Unraveling by Sara Ella, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Giveaway ends June 2, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST.

Tour Schedule

5/22 – Melony Teague (Author Interview)

5/23 – Thorn & Vine (review) & Between the Pages of This Bookish Life (Spotlight)

5/24 – A Baker’s Perspective (review), Singing Librarian Books (Spotlight) & YA Book Divas (Spotlight & Excerpt)

5/25 – My So Called Chaos (review) & Thinking Thoughts (Spotlight)

5/26 – Reading is My SuperPower (review)

5/27 – The Green Mockingbird (review)

5/28 – Bookworm Mama (Spotlight)

5/29 – Just Commonly (review)

Review: “Rescue Me” by Susan May Warren

Today I want to share my thoughts on Susan May Warren’s latest release, Rescue Me, book #2 in her new-ish “Montana Rescue” series. (click here for my review of book 1). I enjoy everything Susan writes, so my review *might* get a little lengthy. This particular story is one part tense action in the wilderness, one part a tentative romance, and one part a story of forgiveness.

About the Book

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job as liaison between the Mercy Falls sheriff’s department and PEAK Rescue, but in his private life. Rescue Me by Susan May Warren.jpgHe’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job as youth pastor for her small-town church. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

Review

Susan’s talent lies in depicting characters “right where they are” in life, with all their flaws and shortcomings. She does this with such care it reveals what they can be through another’s eyes or through the healing grace of God. This realness makes them instantly relatable, making the reader empathize and even gain perspective from their experiences. (I know they are fictional, OK. But that’s the power of story.) Especially when it is a plausible story like this one. Sam and Willow, and the secondary storyline with his brother, Pete, are likable and relatable, even when they are wrong in their assumptions or reflex decisions that have consequences later in the story.

Another element I always appreciate about Susan’s storytelling is the way she weaves the book title into the story in a unique way, often with multiple meanings. This time, Rescue Me works out as being briefly flirtatious (at least I thought that one internal dialogue of Willow’s was amusing!), a literal need for rescue, and a steadfast prayer and lesson of rescue from the One who offers hope.

In the middle of the drama and peril, a lesson of forgiveness and reconciliation is told through these characters’ lives. As Sam sets aside his independence and realizes the limits of his humanity, he sees the God of rescue and hope reaching out for him. Similarly, Willow and Pete learn lessons of rescue and hope in their own ways, all realizing their faith is sure even when their sight is uncertain.

The romance of the story is sweetly told, unfolding gently in the turmoil of action and more than a few dangerous life situations. Sam and Willow begin to find a belonging and complementary friendship that surprises them — and makes the reader cheer them on — because their opposite personalities encourage one another to be better persons.

Also, I want to mention the beginnings of another romance we glimpse in this story between secondary characters promises more drama and a good story to continue. Coupled with the cliffhanger related to a mystery that I think will continue through the series, Rescue Me has the right amount of finality for the reader to be satisfied for now and hopeful of the untold stories to come. Thankfully, book #3 (A Matter of Trust) is set to release in July!

I voluntarily reviewed a purchased copy of this book.

Review: “Wild Montana Skies”by Susan May Warren

 

wild-montana-skiesHappy Monday! Today’s featured review is of Susan May Warren’s newest release, Wild Montana Skies, that just so happens to kickoff her new series, “Montana Rescue”, a romantic adventure and suspense series set close to Glacier National Park.
This first book is hard to classify as just one type of story because it really has it all: helicopter rescues, action, hiking adventures, romance, family, and stories of reconciliation and faith.

Small fun fact: if you read her summer indie release Montana Fire series, you might hear a few familiar stories and meet some of those characters. It was set in a nearby town 🙂

About the Book

Bestselling Author’s New Series Delivers Romance and Adventure as an SAR Team Searches for Others–and Finds Themselves
Search and rescue pilot Kacey Fairing is home on leave in Mercy Falls, Montana, twelve years after she joined the military to escape the mistakes of her past. With a job waiting for her as the new lead pilot of Peak Rescue in Glacier National Park, Kacey hopes to reconnect with the now-teenage daughter she sees only between deployments. What she doesn’t realize is that someone else is also back in town.
Ben King has been building his country music career since the day Kacey shut him out of her life. Now all of that’s on hold when his injured father calls him home to help run Peak Rescue until he’s fully recovered. It doesn’t take long, though, to discover his father’s ulterior motives as Kacey Fairing walks into the house and back into his heart.
With Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods, Kacey and Ben are forced to work together to save lives. But when floodwaters turn personal, can they put aside the past to save their future?

Review

What an adventure this story was! Here are my favorite things about it:

  • The search and rescue (SAR) element ~ always action-packed, compelling drama with plenty of surprises in a neat setting.
  • The music ~ after all, Ben is a country music star! The songs he (ahem, Susan) has written fit so well in the story.
  • The sense of coming home ~ for both Kacey and Ben, their journey is about coming home and finding themselves. With him, it means reconciling part of his past and his relationship with his father. For her, it means dealing with her past, also, and finding a new normal in her role as parent.
  • Friendship and community ~ From the romance rekindled starting with a supportive friendship between Kacey and Ben to their friends who play important roles in encouragement and being “on their team”, the whole cast is boisterous and fun. I’m excited to see where the next book takes us with such a strong cast!
  • Sierra and Ian! ~ you can meet them in the FREE prequel novella If Ever I Would Leave YouWe get glimpses of this duo again in this story — and believe me, I was anxious to get to the little bits from their POVs. I didn’t get quite enough, though! The next book should prove VERY interesting. That’s all I’ll say.
  • Faith is a brave thing ~ it’s an act of faith to trust that God is always in control. This story illustrates that in so many ways. It also weaves in a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption, showing that God is the only one who can redeem your past mistakes (even though we try to work hard, we aren’t worthy on our own.).

Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary review copy. This review reflects my honest opinion.

 

Review: “A Lesson in Love and Murder” by Rachel McMillan

Join me today as we return to early 20th century Toronto (and Chicago!) with the notable lady detectives, Jem and Merinda, subjects of Rachel McMillan’s latest novel, A Lesson in Love and Murder. A delightful (and somewhat short) read, it furthers the story of these two as they find another adventure amongst dangerous criminal activities and a couple very eligible bachelors.

About the Book

From political danger to personal drama, life is about to get explosive…

The legacy of literary icon Sherlock Holmes is alive and well in 1912 Canada, where best friends Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts continue to develop their skills as consulting detectives.
a-lesson-in-love-and-murderThe city of Toronto has been thrown into upheaval by the arrival of radical anarchist Emma Goldman. Amid this political chaos, Benny Citrone of the Royal North-West Mounted Police arrives at Merinda and Jem’s flat, requesting assistance in locating his runaway cousin—a man with a deadly talent.

While Merinda eagerly accepts the case, she finds herself constantly butting heads—and hearts—with Benny. Meanwhile, Jem has her hands full with a husband who is determined to keep her out of harm’s way.

As Merinda and Jem close in on the danger they’ve tracked from Toronto to Chicago, they uncover a sinister plot to assassinate presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt. Will they be able to save the day and resolve the troubles threatening their future happiness before it’s too late?

Independence, love, and lives are at stake in A Lesson in Love and Murder, the gripping second installment of the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series.

 

ReviewThis is another classic Jem and Merinda tale! We readers are slowly watching these two girls mature as they settle into private detective life. To elaborate on the adventure, action, and serious drama they traipse through during a case that takes them away from home and to bustling Chicago would be to reveal too much of the mystery and delight contained between the pages. Instead, I will outline a few observations of the growth of the characters themselves within this latest story.

Jem is coming into her own with more boldness and determination, which I think is a result of her now-married status, though Ray would scoff to think he’s encouraging her daring vocation in any way. Merinda has matured from her first ventures on the page, too, though hers is a slower and more subtle change. With this book, we glimpse her heart and deep caring friendship with Jem, though Merinda tries to hide the fact behind a toughened exterior. Merinda is at somewhat of a crossroads in her personal life, trying to hold on to her camaraderie with Jem while knowing the nature of their relationship is different now that Ray’s in the picture. And, a new maybe-love-interest for her is shifting her opinion on the possibility of a happily ever after.

For those of you reading this book just for Ray and Jasper, have no fear, they are back and just as stubborn as ever when it comes to their determination to be heroes. Jem and Merinda don’t put up with that for a second. Gladly, we do get to learn more about the both of them. And there’s a new man in town — also in uniform — a mountie, no less, of the Royal North-West Mounted Police. Benfield Citrone, or Benny, proves to be heroic in his own way, bringing a new contrast to the story in light of his wilderness background.

While it has its lighter and humorous moments, it still boasts a dramatic story dealing with real issues and hints at spiritual themes of trust. Rachel McMillan manages to capture the serious and enchanting moments of everyday life, the happiness and constant struggle, within the oppositions Jem and Merinda face in this story. While much is resolved by the story’s end, I am quite anxious to know how certain predicaments will be resolved in the upcoming novella and then series conclusion. Thankfully, they release in December and May, respectively, so I won’t have to wait long!

Sincere thanks to the publisher for a complimentary review copy.

See my thoughts on other books in this series:

#0.5 A Singular and Whimsical Problem

#1 The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (and author interview)

#1.5 Of Dubious and Questionable Memory

Review & Interview with the Author: “The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Rachel McMillan

Review & Interview with the Author: “The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Rachel McMillan

I’m so excited today because I get to feature an early review and interview with an awesome debut author and blogger friend, Rachel McMillan! If you are fortunate enough to follow Rachel via social media, you know she has quite the unique sense of humor. Let me just tell you, she communicates that wit and flair with her writing style, too. It combines in the best possible way in her debut novel with Harvest House, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder.  This is book #1 in her “Herringford and Watts Mysteries” series. It releases in ebook format on March 1 and paperback April 1.

By the way, there is a current Goodreads giveaway open for this book through April 15th. Click here to enter it!

(If you will recall, I reviewed the prequel novella, A Singular and Whimsical Problem, here.)

About the BookThe Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city’s underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto’s premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever–if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

ReviewThis story is fun and sweet, with just enough action and mystery to propel story while the characters worm their way into your heart in-between the exciting moments! The unique setting and era alone are vivid and memorable. Rachel has combined meticulous research and her imagination resulting in a setting with both historical significance and imagined whimsy (like fictitious public figures and morality squads).

Eccentric is the perfect word for Merinda, while Jem is the romantic and grounded best friend who gets pulled along on their adventures. I like how Jem’s perspective is the one we get to experience the most. In many cases, “sidekicks” stay in the shadows of a feisty heroine, but let me tell you, Jem is no weak wallflower (though she might think of herself as one).

Jasper and Ray, our ladies’ romantic interests, are both thoughtful and protective when necessary. Ray, which we get to know best, is possibly my favorite character of the novel! He gets tangled in the mystery the girls are trying to solve and proves quite the distraction for Jem. Rachel McMillan’s talent and ability to write romantic tension between Ray and Jem is another favorite part of mine! I mean, the perfect recipe for a fictional heartthrob is Italian gibberish, flirting, bad poetry, and refreshing honesty, right? 🙂

I hope we see more of Ray and his sister Viola’s sibling relationship in later stories! (and with the setting of book 2, I have a feeling we will.) They have a sweet, caring relationship. Ray’s personal character is revealed in the way he treats his sister and the extent of his sacrifice for her.

To briefly address one aspect of the humor of this story, I want to say Rachel’s “footnotes” are awesome. Sometimes they offer short explanations or brief tongue-in-cheek asides as though from a narrator. This type of story device is unique and rarely (if ever?) used in this genre, so it’s all the more effective in adding a touch of style and comedy.

Underneath the layers of independent feminine spirit, witty dialogue, nods to Sherlock Holmes, criminal motives, and humorous prose is a story of finding purpose and belonging. It imparts that sometimes life doesn’t play out like the fairy tale you would imagine. Sometimes it’s messy, quite different, and ok that way. Sometimes it’s just achieving a simple dream. But sometimes, God’s plan for your life is even better than you could imagine. And He will use the most unlikely people and circumstances for His purposes.

To end my gushing review, I will say that this is a must-read! Personally, I’m very excited for the adventures of these characters later this year in the novella Of Dubious and Questionable Memory and book 2, A Lesson in Love and Murder.

Thank you to Rachel McMillan, Harvest House, and Netgalley for providing copies of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

Rachel was very gracious and happy to answer all of my questions! Read on for a little behind-the-scenes info on this book and some fun trivia about Rachel. 

What inspired you to write The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder?

My agent was shopping a historical romance of mine and we were having no luck.  She came back from ICRS (a big Christian book conference ) and said that the buzz was around Romantic Suspense.  She knew (I am not very quiet about this fact!)  that I am a lifelong Sherlock Holmes nut. So, she suggested a female Sherlock Holmes.  I  spent an entire weekend at a favourite coffee shop here in Toronto and developed an entire world and met Jem and Merinda, Jasper and Ray along the way.   So, I kinda fell into being a mystery writer.  I read mystery all the time!  It is one of my favourite genres— but writing it? That was a new challenge.  Thus, you’ll notice that Jem and Merinda stumble into a few answers along the way and trip up—they’re learning how to be detectives just as I am learning how to WRITE about detectives.

What message or spiritual theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder?

The spiritual theme to this series is more subtle than you might find in other Christian Fiction but that was purposeful: in order to reach as wide a readership as possible in an accessible way.  That being said, as a Christian, I see the world from a Christian worldview and each of the relationships I pursue in the book reflect some kind of question I have had in my own faith walk.     Indeed, I like to look at Christianity as being a lot like the Watson and Sherlock relationship: Watson acts on faith that Sherlock is omniscient and he believes wholly in Sherlock’s deductive powers.  Much as we believe in our Higher Power—even though, like Watson, we may have to wait for the big reveal and the answers hidden until the end.

The scripture I followed for Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder was Prov 31:8  Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I pursue this with a hero for whom English is a second language and  often a barrier  as well as women and immigrants who lived in a time period where they were not given the right for their voices to be heard. The book I am working on now –A Lesson in Love and Murder– is very much a look at anarchy and submission.  The spiritual themes are deft but definitely there 🙂

Overall, I want women to feel empowered even if they don’t fit into what they think is expected of them. The Bible features Marys and Marthas but Deborahs and Esthers, too!

What was most challenging about writing a story set in early 1900s Toronto?

Writing the voice is a huge part of it!  Honestly, we have this lax way of speaking that just doesn’t sound authentic when transposed into the early 20th Century.  I mention in my author’s note I do take a lot of liberties in creating Jem and Merinda’s world. But, like the historical fiction I love best, I wanted to capture and create the essence of a world – in hopes of inspiring readers to read more about the time period.  The challenges come in little things that we think of all the time….    For one example, allergies!   In my novella A Singular and Whimsical Problem I have a heroine who is allergic to cats.  But did Edwardian people even know about allergies? I had to go look it up.   I have also looked up doorbells and, most recently, whether men wore wedding rings.

To add, Toronto looks very different now: sure there are buildings and neighbourhoods that were around in Jem and Merinda’s time, but the look different and are surrounded by skyscrapers!  I really have to make sure I am pulling back that modern curtain to see the city as they would rather than how Rachel does .

I spent a ton of time at the archives here in Toronto and looking through photographs: which gave me a sense of the fashion, the streetcars, the police and, of course, the day to day life of a cosmopolitan city of yesteryear.

Which character was your favorite to write? (ahem, I think I can guess the answer to this one….) 

They’re all my friends.  When I submitted the first book to my agent to be sent out into the world of editors I cried. I knew I would miss them so much.   I am one half Jem, one half Merinda –so they’re very close to me. And, because this is a six part  series, I am at the point where they talk for themselves and I just take dictation.  In book 2 you get to meet Benny Citrone, a Mountie! And he is a lot of fun to write, too.
But I do have a soft spot for Ray: partly because he just showed up!  He factored in my outline as a secondary character but once he started talking he wouldn’t stop. I really have very little control over him. He goes and does what he likes, and says what he likes and I am just as surprised as the reader.  While each character is a delight, the unexpected things that Ray gets up to keep me on my toes and that is part of the fun of the process. Often when Jem is gushing about Ray, she is using my voice. I truly love him.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

I really love to read!  ( shocking! )  and I reallllly love to go to the theatre! I am a huge Broadway buff and we get a lot of theatre here in Toronto so I am often checking it out. I am a huge baseball fan. I watch the Toronto Blue Jays all the time ( especially with my laptop in my lap writing away) and I go to as many games as possible during the season.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I am a die hard nut for the  Victorian era. I think it would be very difficult to live there because I am so accustomed to our modern privileges but I would love to live in Victorian England for a day.  My degree at University was in Victorian Literature so that period is one of my true loves.

What are you currently reading?

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen who is a favourite mystery writer of mine.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E Schwab.

About the Author
Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

Rachel’s Bookish ramblings are housed at A Fair Substitute For Heaven 

Twitter: @rachkmc

Instagram: @rachkmc

Facebook: rachkmc1

Pinterest: @rachkmc

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Review: “Valley of Decision” by Lynne Gentry

Today I’m (finally) sharing a review of the 3rd and final book in the “Carthage Chronicles” series by Lynne Gentry: Valley of Decision. This book is both action-packed and serious, with strong characters and a fascinating look at the early church.

*see my reviews of books 1 & 2 Healer of Carthage, Return to Exile, and my interview with Lynne*

About the book: Every choice has a consequence in the explosive conclusion to the Carthage Chronicles as Lisbeth returns to third-century Carthage for a thrilling final adventure.

Valley of Decision by Lynne GentryThirteen years ago, Lisbeth made an impossible decision—leave third-century Carthage and her husband Cyprian behind for good. She knew it was to protect her daughter Maggie, so Lisbeth gathered the strength to move on with her life.

All these years, Lisbeth has thrown herself into her work and raising her headstrong daughter, all to live up to the promise she made to Cyprian. But Maggie is sick of being protected. In an act of teenage rebellion Maggie decides to do what her mother can’t—secretly returning to the third century on a quest to bring her father back, leaving Lisbeth no choice but to follow.

With Maggie’s surprise arrival in Carthage, chaos ensues. She finds her grandmother on trial for murder and attempts to save her, but instead the diversion sparks a riot that nearly destroys the plagued city. Only one thing will appease the wrath of the new proconsul of Carthage: the death of the instigator.

Will Lisbeth arrive in time to save her daughter from the clutches of Rome? How can God possibly redValley of Decision by Lynne Gentry, reviewedeem such a slew of unwise decisions and deep regrets? Filled with heart-wrenching twists and riveting action, Valley of Decision brings the romantic adventure epic, The Carthage Chronicles, to an electrifying conclusion.

My thoughts: Valley of Decision is an action-packed conclusion to the series. With this series, Lynne has honed her own style, coupling modern characters with 3rd century ancient history. One unique aspect of this blending of times is that she gets away with modern expressions to describe the scenes in Carthage — like saying one of the characters “racked his brain”! I love it!

Though filled with action with many twists, it is still a very serious story of sacrifice and love. Seeing Maggie grow up and Lisbeth and Cyprian step into their roles as parents brings these characters full circle. All of them have to deal with life lessons, like learning to show compassion to their enemies or those who have hurt them. The end did have me in tears!

This story has strong themes of love – especially the strength and eternal nature of love. And, it carries messages of forgiveness and using what you have in front of you to be a blessing to others. I would recommend this book to fans of both contemporary and historical fiction because it blends the two so well.

A sincere thank you to author Lynne Gentry and publisher Howard Books for the review copy.

Do you enjoy books that blend contemporary and historical settings or characters? They are uncommon, and I’d love to know your thoughts!

Review: “The Covered Deep” by Brandy Vallance

Today’s review is of The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance, a debut historical romance/adventure set in the mid 1800s. After first hearing about this book from Cassie back in July, I was intrigued. I began my search for a review copy, and thanks to the folks at Worthy Publishing and Netgalley, I got my wish!

Here’s the synopsis: Bianca Marshal is holding out for the perfect The Covered Deephusband. Finding a man that meets the requirements of her must-have list in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains has proven impossible. Bianca’s mama insists that there’s no such thing as a perfect true love, and that Bianca’s ideal man is pure fiction. On the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, Bianca discovers a devastating statistic: her chance of marrying is now only eighteen percent. Unwilling to accept spinsterhood, Bianca enters an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for her soulmate. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of the Holy Land, Bianca’s true love will be revealed, but not without a heavy price.

My thoughts: I have to be perfectly honest, this one narrowly escaped a 3-star rating on Goodreads because I thought the plot improved in the last half of the book. With that said, it was definitely worth reading, and I ended up liking it much better than I first thought I would.

Bianca was sweet, naive, dramatic, and a little hard to identify with at first. Her lovestruck-teenager attitude amd thoughts upon meeting Paul were immature and somewhat out of place. Thankfully, her character matures and becomes more likable.

The plot was intriguing at first but fell slightly short with Sir Adrian’s twisted schemes that come to light. Maybe a little more suspense or mystery where he’s concerned could have improved it. Paul was my favorite and the best-developed character. His story, emotions, and gentlemanly demeanor were well executed within the plot.

The setting and writing style were fabulous! Travel abroad shortly after the Civil War is an uncommon thing among books I’ve read. The way Brandy writes Bianca’s experience from London and to the Holy Lands takes you along wither her, seeing great places for the first time. Brandy’s writing style used prose-like descriptions of scenes. (By the way, I loved the way the title “the covered deep” fits in with symbolism and word imagery in the book).

It had great themes of forgiveness, faith, and perseverance. Bianca begins with seeking a man who fits her “list”, but finds her expectations and God’s plan are two different things.

Thank you to Netgalley and Worthy Publishing for an ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.