Review: “Chasing the White Lion” by James R. Hannibal

This review is of a super fun action and suspense story: Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal. Though I’m glad I didn’t experience the dangers CIA agent Talia Inger and her team face in this story, I did enjoy googling all of the locations around the globe for a visual — and now I want to visit Prague!

About the Book

Young CIA officer Talia Inger has reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn’t mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she’s trying to put behind her. Still, she’ll need him–and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie–if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she’ll run right up against the ragged edge of her family’s dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it’s win . . . or die. And in times like that, it’s always good to have someone watching your back.

Former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James Hannibal takes you deep undercover into the criminal underworld where everyone has an angle and no one escapes unscathed. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Reading Chasing the White Lion is more fun than watching an action movie — and I do LOVE action movies! If the crew of Ocean’s 11 were working with Mission: Impossible and the CIA, it might look something like what the globe-trotting Talia Inger and her team accomplish.

More than the high-tech, cybercrime-stopping fun, though, these characters share nerdy humor and a deeper story of purpose. While Talia learns to depend and trust those God has placed in her life as a ragtag “family”, ties between these team members grow stronger and more secrets are revealed. I highly recommend reading the first book, The Gryphon Heist, to appreciate the full background of this story and the personalities of each character.

Veteran James R. Hannibal has penned an extraordinarily fun story that simultaneously draws attention to the global opportunities of giving and caring for the “least of these” around us. Chasing the White Lion incorporates the organization Compassion International deftly into its plot and shines such a light on children and human trafficking concerns. For more info, go check out James’ website post about how each book purchased is supporting Compassion.

I highly recommend this book to any fans of action, suspense, or ensemble-cast heist stories with a thread of faith. I hope many more adventures are in story for Talia and company!

Thank you to Revell Reads for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Recommended Reading: Series to Binge

In light of all the craziness happening in the world right now, you might find yourself with extra time to read that book or series you’ve had on your shelf for forever. If you’ve read all the books in your house (Go you! I commend you!), and you’re looking to discover more great stories, I have compiled a list of 11 series you can binge-read NOW!

In my reading opinion, nothing is better than getting to breeze through a series back to back with NO WAITING until the next book is released!

I’ve listed these in order of historical era and genre, with Goodreads links to the series and some links to my reviews. And, confession time, all of these have some element of romance 😉

Parish Orphans of Devon series by Mimi Matthews | Victorian Era England + abroad

Delightful and deep Victorian romances, each of these couples have unique appeal (brooding, bookish, assertive, sweet, and redeemed rogue in the mix). I will reread these forever. The audio versions are wonderful, too!

The Matrimonial Advertisement | A Modest Independence | A Convenient Fiction | The Winter Companion

Timber Ridge Reflections series by Tamera Alexander | Post-Civil War American West

I remember loving each of these historical romances for different reasons, the first one being the subject of photography in book From a Distance.

Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta | Mystery and Intrigue in Victorian England

My favorite EVER historical series — and I don’t say this lightly! All three books encompass one of the most transformative arcs of the heroine. The allegorical symbolism of redemption deeply embedded in this series blows me away every time I think about it.

Born of Persuasion | Series feature: Price of Privilege

The Everstone Chronicles series by Dawn Crandall | Gilded Age New England

Four novels + 1 novella all with unique 1st person point-of-view heroines. Plus the Adirondack and coastal settings are detailed and idyllic!

The Hesitant Heiress | The Bound Heart | The Captive Imposter | The Cautious Maiden

Herringford & Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan | Pre-WWI Toronto

Trouser-wearing lady detectives solve crime in Toronto on the cusp of world war with a colorful cast of secondary characters, and two (or three!) valiant love interests. Three full length novels, two novellas, and a short story offer pages of fun with these friends!

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder | A Lesson in Love and Murder | The White Feather Murders

Penned in Time series by Pepper Basham | WWI England & America

From the front lines to English hospitals and the US treatment of German residents, this romance series explores many facets of the era. Most outstanding, though, it its stories of love and redemption. Book 2 is my favorite!

The Thorn Bearer | The Thorn Keeper | The Thorn Healer

Sunrise at Normandy series by Sarah Sundin | WWII & Battle of Normandy

This series shows how the Allied forces approached and carried out the Battle of Normandy, each by the sea, air, and land. Three estranged brothers find reconciliation and romance while serving in each branch during this pivotal battle. Oh, and each one references and reflects a Biblical story!

The Sea Before Us

Tox Files series by Ronie Kendig | Paramilitary Thrillers

This series needs a seatbelt warning! The prequel novella and three novels follow a covert team around the globe as they work to eliminate a threat and save the day. Besides the kick-butt heroines, the team camaraderie is fun! Oh, and the slight supernatural elements are super cool!

Conspiracy of Silence | Crown of Souls | Thirst of Steel

Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge | Family, Food, & Romance in the PNW

Basically love letters to food and romance, this series courts identity and family as well as a perfect romance between imperfect people. The included recipes will make your mouth water, as will the heritage threads and few “trips” abroad.

A Table by the Window | Reservations for Two | Together at the Table

Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey | Romantic Suspense

Investigator and law enforcement friends find love amidst the chaos of solving crimes and puzzles in the Chesapeake Bay area and beyond. Fast-paced and memorable, a thread of a story ties all four books together to culminate in a final gripping tale.

Cold Shot | Still Life | Blind Spot | Dead Drift

A Bradford Sisters Romance series by Becky Wade | Contemporary Romance

This series has it all: romance, sisters, family, romance, books, mystery, romance, humor, chocolate, and a hint of suspense. Reading it will make you fall in love with the characters! The epistolary prequel novella and the midpoint Christmas novella are fully-developed and sweet, too!

Falling for You | True to You | Falling for You | Sweet On You

Do you have any recommendations for series I should read ASAP?

Seriously, ya’ll. Stay safe and wash your hands.

Review: “If For Any Reason” by Courtney Walsh

I’m sharing a review today of a book by one of my favorite must-read authors! This time, Courtney Walsh is kicking off her Nantucket Love Story series with If For Any Reason, a contemporary romance with slight threads of what I consider “women’s fiction”, exploring deep themes of belonging alongside a charming love story.

About the Book

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

If For Any Reason is a story of belonging and changing dreams told through a romance and friendship in the ideal setting of Nantucket. Themes of grace and honesty permeate the world Emily and Hollis find themselves in — literally and figuratively. As they deal with some hard things life has thrown at them, they must find the grace to work out their faith and relationship with God while a tentative connection grows between them.

Courtney Walsh excels at writing stories that blend one part women’s fiction with two parts romance and charm! She manages to include deep themes with endearing characters that stir empathy and thought in the heart of a reader. This story is another prime example, with the spark-laden friendship between Emily and Hollis developing naturally. And, Courtney takes a delicate situation and portrays it with compassion and grace, yet still depicts it appropriately with its consequences and fallout.

The romance between Hollis and Emily feels so realistic. They are simply captivated by each other, but it’s not a superficial connection — both characters are mature, both are intentional in their friendship, even if it scares them to be so vulnerable. I especially like one of the decisions Hollis makes (insert heart eyes HERE) at a moment when Emily needs space for clarity.

This review would not be complete without a paragraph devoted to Hollis’s daugther, Jolie, AKA JoJo. This girl steals every scene she’s in! She has so much spunk and acts exactly her age. I liked that she has a voice and an opinion that matters to the adults around her. It’s great to see a bright character like her add such pivotal value to a story.

One more thing I really enjoyed about this story was its inclusion of letters and a few short flashback scenes. These fill in some blanks of the deeper themes and relate things like grief, family, and the resounding impact of choices in a wonderful story device.

I’m looking forward to more stories in this series set on Nantucket, a place I have just added to my must-visit travel list!

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Always You” by Jennifer Rodewald

Author Jennifer Rodewald’s new novel, Always You, is a part of “The Potter’s House” novel series by various authors. It’s a shorter novel at just under 200 pages, one that can be read over a couple of days (if your schedule is like my kind of crazy). It’s a contemporary romance not to be missed, especially if you like the friends-to-more trope!

About the Book

They made a pact of friendship. Love was not supposed to be part of the deal.

Lauren is desperate to escape the massive shadow of her father’s and sister’s political careers.

Matt is running from the biggest disappointment of his life.

After a messy meeting in a snowbound airport, they launch a new friendship, founded on a mutual love for the Lord and an agreement of respect. They find themselves working together at the Lake Shore Resort, thankful to have each other as they each carve out a fresh start. But as the winter season wears on, and through a few interesting predicaments, one begins to feel more, and the other…well. Maybe neither knows what they really want. Already wounded from the things they’ve left behind, Matt and Lauren wrestle with what comes next. Afraid to move forward. Not wanting to go back.

Each must face a dilemma that only the hand of the Potter can smooth into a hopeful, promising future. Can they surrender past hurts, as well as their future hopes and plans and trust the good intentions of the God they both love?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Always You by Jennifer Rodewald is a memorable contemporary romance that begins with one of the funniest meet cutes (ever!) and grows into a sweet friendship-to-more story.

With moments of wonder at the splendor of creation (hello Lake Tahoe setting!) and the ups and downs of a daily walk of faith, Matt and Lauren find deeper purpose in their lives and understanding with each other. I like how the friendship is developed so naturally, as is the reality of a daily surrender to God’s will. Both Matt and Lauren learn some hard lessons on their own through this new season, but find a sweet assurance in their relationship with refreshing honesty and humor.

This story is on the lighter side compared to some of Jennifer’s novels, yet just as impactful and skillfully written. I’m looking forward to more FUN with the Murphy brothers (hopefully Jackson!).

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Last Shot” by Amy Matayo

I’m happy to be sharing a review today of indie author Amy Matayo’s latest release, The Last Shot, the third book in her “Love in Chaos” series.

Book 1: The Waves | Book 2: The Aftermath

About the Book

It’s the same routine every night, and country music superstar Teddy Hayes wouldn’t have it any other way.

7:00 pm: Arena doors open and fans fill the stands.
7:45 pm: Lights go out and spotlights come on.
7:46 pm: Energy from concert-goers reaches an ear-spitting crescendo.
7:47 pm: Teddy takes the stage and begins to sing.

But tonight, something is off.

It starts when a stage light malfunctions and sends sparks into the air.
It continues when his drummer stops playing and stares slack-jawed in Teddy’s direction.

It dawns on him when a fan doubles-over and a red stain spreads across her shirt.

Something isn’t just off tonight.

Someone in the crowd is shooting a gun.

And it’s up to a female bodyguard he’s never met before to save his life.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Amy Matayo has a knack for heart-deep storytelling wrapped in a snarky package. In The Last Shot, that sarcasm and banter comes with a mix of loss and peril as an unthinkable scenario plays out. I appreciate both the candor and the care with which the active shooter situation is portrayed. Much like the characters of the story experience, that is a situation no one expects to be in and no one truly knows how to prepare for. Amy takes the time to show this, and to combine it with the experiences of Teddy and Jane to amplify its immediate and residual complications.

Borne of this life-changing event, Teddy and Jane are drawn together by a shared experience and by an instant rapport. I enjoyed seeing their friendship grow naturally and their dealing with heavy subjects together. This story is one that draws great attention to the importance of friendship, compassion, and courageously dealing with any challenges one step at a time.

I really liked the layers of this story, how Teddy and Jane are complex and common at the same time (that is a compliment). Amy also sprinkles a little innuendo into the humorous side of her stories. It makes them have a more gen-market feel although they have inspirational content and messages. I like the balance she achieves with such a technique. It was fun to see the banter this friend-group has in this third book. I’m SO looking forward to the next (and last) book in this series!

Thank you to Relz Review Services for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “When I Come Home Again” by Jennifer Rodewald

I’m happy to be sharing a review today for Jennifer Rodewald’s new novel, When I Come Home Again, the first book in her new “Big Prairie” series!

About the Book

When a family crisis calls him back to Big Prairie, will Craig Erikson be able to work through past mistakes and the tragedy that had sent him searching for a new place to call home?

Brenna Blaum had been sure of three things in her life—her brother, her running, and her dad’s star receiver. But in a matter of a year’s time, everything she’d counted on fell apart, leaving her devastated. Seven years later, she’s stable again. She has a supportive boyfriend, fulfilling career, and close friends. She keeps her past heartache where it belongs—in her rearview mirror. Until the man who broke her heart finds his way back to Big Prairie.

Craig Erikson had it all—popularity, success, and the love of his high school coach’s daughter. But after a year of mistakes that ended in a tragic accident, he’d left Big Prairie—the place he’d thought to always call home—hoping that without his antagonizing presence, Brenna would be able to heal. Now his mother desperately needs him, as do two young boys in her care. Craig has little choice but to return for good.

Unsure that she can forgive him, Brenna does her best to avoid him. Irritated that she ignores him as if they’d never meant anything to each other, Craig becomes determined not to allow it.

Life in a small town forces their interaction, making them confront their unresolved issues and igniting emotions that have smoldered for seven years. As Craig and Brenna are pushed together, can they endure the hard places still littering their lives? If so, is it possible to find their way back to love and home again?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Insightful wisdom about grief: “You move forward, but you do not move on. You do not get over it. You do not just forget the people  you have loved because things have changed.”

-When I Come Home Again by Jennifer Rodewald

When I Come Home Again has all the charm of a small midwest town, much like its setting of “Big Prairie”, Nebraska. With a beloved cast of characters and homecoming theme, it also explores a VERY emotionally impactful romance balanced with slight humor. One thing I always enjoy about Jennifer Rodewald’s novels is that her stories have this resonance and complexity — and they aren’t afraid to deal with the “whys” and hard things in life, too.

This story has a unique POV voice that tells from 3rd person (as most novels) but functions sometimes as a 1st person narrative with direct thoughts and feelings of the hero and heroine. This allows for a more intimate view of their emotions and personalities, which works really well for the reader to understand the characters. It makes Brenna likable from the very beginning, and Craig someone to root for.

I didn’t expect the history of Brenna and Craig’s relationship to be so heartbreakingly bittersweet, but it is appropriately so and allows for some deep issues to be brought to light — thought provoking things for the reader, to. The emotional progression of both Brenna and Craig felt very real and authentic: a slow transition from pain to hope, the processing of grief and anger, and the way regrets can lead to bitterness or to repentance.

At the same time, this story is filled with the HOPE of second chances, the joy of friendships, and the opportunity for God to use seemingly insurmountable things for good and His glory. This masterful story is one I will revisit and see more layers and depth to, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to more Big Prairie stories from Jennifer!

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

Today is all about contemporary fiction! On my list you’ll find light hearted contemporary romance, women’s fiction, a thriller, and a bit of a mystery, and some more serious drama.

Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

A Match for Emma by Pepper Basham | Review

Friendship. Trust. Appalachian humor.

After the Rain by Brandy Bruce | Review

Growing. Emotional complexity. Unconditional love.

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig | Review

Adrenaline. Brotherhood. Globe-trotting spy stuff.

Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano | Review

Heart-friendship. Foodie environment. Hope.

The Waves by Amy Matayo | Review

Romantic chemistry. Sarcasm. Contrast of hope and loss.

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim | Review

Surrender. Emotional twists. Compelling retelling of Ruth.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay | Review

Story for booknerds. Faith. Magnetic romance.

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner | Review

Resonating candor. Authentic faith. Classic movies.

Sweet On You by Becky Wade | Review

Sweet – the chocolate & romance. Mystery to solve. Wonderful family dynamics.

Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh | Review

Rekindled love. Small town charm. The “whys”.