Review: “A Sparkle of Silver” by Liz Johnson

If you like to read about charming southern settings, romance, and a bit of mystery, you will want to know about A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson that releases in the world today! It is the first book in her new “Georgia Coast Romance” series set on St. Simon’s Island, GA, in a fictional mansion inspired by Hearst Castle. (Intrigued yet?) I was thrilled to read an early copy of this novel — and now I’m anxiously waiting for the next book in the series because I loved it so much! Please read on to find out more about the book and my gushing thoughts!

About the Book

A Sparkle of SilverNinety years ago, Millie Sullivan’s great-grandmother was a guest at oil tycoon Howard Dawkins’ palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Now, Millie plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of the same manor. But when her grandmother suggests that there is a lost diary containing the location of a hidden treasure on the estate, along with the true identity of Millie’s great-grandfather, Millie sets out to find the truth of her heritage–and the fortune that might be hers. When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate’s private library, he threatens to have her fired. But her story seems almost too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up . . .

Get ready for a romantic escapade through dark halls and dusty corners that will have you holding your breath and sighing with delight as two charming characters get caught up in the adventure of uncovering the past and finding their way to an unexpected future.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Sparkle of Silver is a delightful and glittering tale of HOPE, worth, and romance! I was intrigued by the historical story threads and enchanted with the present-day story of Millie and Ben. While the mystery unfolded, the identities and hearts of the two were revealed. The attraction and romance between them was delightful (and properly swoony, at times)! A charming setting was an added bonus to this story that felt very realistic.

LA Sparkle of Silver Quoteiz Johnson has the ability to write the most relatable characters. Both Ben and Millie are endearing and just “normal”. I really enjoyed the way the pace of the story slowly reveals their dimension and backgrounds, making their newfound friendship more meaningful AND complicated due to a hint of mystery. AND OH, the ROMANCE! “Spark” is in the title for multiple reasons, my favorite being the attraction and natural “fit” between these two. A very swoony first kiss scene just added to the sweetness of their dynamic!

This historical parts of the story caught me by surprise. I knew Millie was trying to learn about her family and history in this story, but I didn’t realize it would be told in the form of journal entries and personal notes! I LOVE that kind of “epistolary” element! It wonderfully compliments the present-day happenings AND adds an intriguing “Roaring 20s” element that shines with the heart of Millie’s great-grandma, a young woman as out-of-her-depth as Millie.

Fair warning, Millie is BOOKISH. 😉 She is a romantic at heart whose imagination sometimes runs away with her when it comes to Ben Thornton (side note: with a last name like Thornton, how could you not picture a brooding hero who owns a cotton mill. ahem, that was a reference to North and South by Gaskell). Anyway, her fictional habits and story-like thought patterns were an added delight that made me love her (and relate!) even more.

The best part of this story is how it balances all its charms, romance, mystery, and interesting setting with a very strong message of hope and WORTH. I especially related to some of the scenes with Millie’s grandmother (of whom she is a caretaker), in the way her life had made an impact on Millie and was a present encouragement to her. ❤

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

 

 

“Isle of Hope” by Julie Lessman Review

Author Julie Lessman is well-known for her historical romance stories with her self-dubbed “Passion with a Purpose” style. I’ve been a big fan of hers for a while and have recently, finally, read her wonderful “Daughters of Boston” series. (See my thoughts on her “Winds of Change” series and her “Heart of San Francisco” books 2 and 3.) The best news, though, is that she has recently released a new contemporary novel in ebook format. It’s called Isle of Hope, and it’s the first in a new series (the “Unfailing Love” series) set in the real-world location of Isle of Hope in Georgia.

Isle of Hope by Julie Lessman, reviewed on The Green Mockingbird

About the book: 

She stole his heart.
He stole her peace.
Can hope steal their pain?

At the age of eighteen, Lacey Carmichael was a wild girl bent on fun, promised to Jack O’Bryen, a straight-and-narrow pastor’s kid bent on the seminary. When her father kicks her out of the house, she runs away from Isle of Hope, turning her back on everything she loves. Now, eight years later, she’s back as a woman of faith, hoping to make amends to the father she defied, the boyfriend she deserted, and the best friend she denied. Only the bridges she’s burned are still smoldering, kindled by an adulterous affair by Jack’s pastor father that damaged his son’s faith. But can a turning of tables—and hearts—lead the way back to “hope” for them all?

My thoughts: Julie’s writing voice shines through in this contemporary context. Though this modern setting is something new for her to tackle, her style still communicates both character and spiritual depth, something I’ve come to expect from her. It’s really further proof that a skilled storyteller can tackle any era!

The whole cast is vibrant. By the end, they feel as familiar as family. Jack and Lacey’s characters take many twists and turns through this story while grappling with forgiveness, but friendship is still the foundation of their relationship– no matter their growing attraction, which was sweet. And the secondary and supporting characters are just as well-developed and likable. I have a feeling that by the end of this all, the O’Bryens & Carmichaels of this story might just rival the McClares or O’Connor’s of Julie’s previous series (which is great news for us family-loving readers).

Isle of HopeJulie Lessman has frequently included secondary character threads in her previous novels. This novel is no exception, with a story of reconciliation and friendship between Lacey’s dad, Ben, and Jack’s mom, Tess. The relationship dynamic between them was a bit of a surprise, I must say. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say Julie throws in a few twists and challenges for them which get *quite* interesting. Julie has a knack for transforming a character from someone you don’t particularly care for into someone you root for by the story’s end.

Other reviewers and readers have said this is Julie’s most spiritually deep novel to date, and I have to agree. Woven into each character’s story is a journey toward hope. For some, hope in forgiveness, reconciliation, and a fresh start. For others, hope in the faithfulness of God and a future focused on Him. Julie’s characters model the efforts of witnessing through love — or even unwanted generosity or advice 🙂 — and the power of prayer. While a story of fiction, the real scriptural truths in this story can be an encouragement to anyone in their walk with Christ. One point which stood out to me was that forgiveness is not necessarily for the other person, it’s for ourselves.

With strong characters who deal with forgiveness and redemption, this is a story of family and coming home. I would highly recommend this novel to fans of both Christian fiction and mainstream authors such as Nicholas Sparks. I can’t wait for the next in the series, tentatively releasing summer of 2016!

 

Thanks a million to Julie Lessman for the advance ARC ebook in exchange for my honest review as part of her launch team.

Book Review: “A Stillness of Chimes” by Meg Moseley

My most recent read was A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley. It’s an alluring contemporary drama with elements of mystery and romance. One my favorite things about it was its subtle “Southern charm”. Growing up in a small Ozarks town myself, I appreciate the familiarity, closeness, and quirkiness of the characters that grew up in the Appalachians.

A Stillness of ChimesLaura Gantt has returned to her hometown of Prospect, Georgia, in the heart of the Appalachians, to sort through her recently deceased mother’s belongings. Her father, Elliot Gantt, was believed to have drowned when Laura was still a teenager. Now facing her future with no parents, she feels starkly alone. Mysteriously, rumors of sightings of her father Elliot begin to circulate. Now revisiting childhood memories of both happiness and possible desertion, Laura must sort through her doubts while cultivating this new possibility of hope.

Sean Halloran, Laura’s best friend from childhood and her high-school sweetheart, reenters her life with perfect timing. Growing up in an abusive home, Sean looked up to Elliot Gantt as a father figure and mentor. With haunting memories of his own surrounding the disappearance and supposed drowning of Elliot Gantt, he has his own reasons for reconnecting with and protecting Laura. They work together to dispel rumors and discover long-buried secrets of the Gantt family. The new information they learn shatters their expectations and threatens to change all they believed to be true. In the midst of it all, Sean and Laura confront their feelings for one another and the reasons their romantic relationship ended years ago.

Meg skillfully maintains a thread of suspense and mystery throughout the story as the characters cope with secrets and uncover new dangers. Meg’s prose paints a beautiful backdrop for this story. A picturesque town, mountain living, bluegrass, blackberries, friendship, kudzu, and little old ladies all make A Stillness of Chimes a unique and charming story of love and sacrifice.

Meg deals with some tough issues within this story, including abuse, abandonment, and even the PTSD-like problems of a Vietnam veteran. She confronts these problems realistically and carefully, showing their effects and influence on the characters.

The characters face questions of faith and sacrifice during the course of the story. Love and honor motivate the characters as they learn valuable lessons in forgiveness and the importance of love. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone looking to read a family drama with unexpected twists and a little romance – just make sure you have plenty of time to read, because you might want to read it straight through!

 

Note: Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy in exchange for a review! I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

You can connect with Meg Moseley at her websiteon her Facebook page, or on Twitter.

 
Empty Shelf Books 10 & 11
Oh, and here’s my latest two books for the Empty Shelf Challenge! A Heart’s Rebellion was book 10 and A Stillness of Chimes was book number 11.

 

What is your favorite thing about your hometown? Your comments are always welcome!

Book Review: “The Sentinels of Andersonville” by Tracy Groot

Every once in a while, you come across an epic book whose story is so captivating that it impacts your outlook on life and your attitude toward others. What if your actions, even in a small way, could change someone’s world for the better? That is the question The Sentinels of Andersonville explores.

Sentinels-of-Andersonville

The Sentinels of Andersonville, the latest historical novel by Tracy Groot, is an exciting retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan through events surrounding Andersonville Prison toward the end of the Civil War.  A Confederate prison in Sumter County, Georgia, Andersonville Prison held tens of thousands of Union soldiers in appalling unsanitary conditions for several months.  Through the eyes of various characters, The Sentinels of Andersonville sheds light on the conditions of the prison and its captives while emphasizing the importance of caring for your neighbor.

Confederate Corporal Emery Jones captures and leads Union soldier Lew Gann to Andersonville Prison. Through days of travel, Lew and Emery form a camaraderie and bond of friendship which transcends their Union and Confederate heritages. Upon seeing the state of the prison and its prisoners, Emery vows to help Lew escape and return to his wife and children – even if it costs him his life. Meanwhile, Lew struggles to survive the destitute conditions of the prison and maintain a stable frame of mind.

Dance Pickett, educated at the University of Georgia, is posted as a Confederate sentry guarding the stockade wall of Andersonville. Dance witnesses the desperate circumstances of the captives but is powerless to help them. His prestigious lawyer father has connections to the Georgia Governor, but his attempts to contact him and plead for assistance have failed thus far.  With the arrival Corporal Emery Jones, Dance becomes involved in events which could mean new hope for the destitute prisoners.

The Stiles family lives in nearby Americus, Georgia. Dr. Norton Stiles is no stranger to the conditions of Andersonville, 10 miles away. He helps each week at the prison infirmary and has done his part to obtain help for the prisoners and smuggle them food. Violet Stiles, oldest of the Stiles daughters, has long been shielded from the mayhem of Andersonville Prison by her father. She reacts with shock and concern after glimpsing the prison conditions. Her ensuing campaigns to assist the prisoners and collect food for them cause doubts and rumors to spread of her family’s Union sympathies. As Emery, Dance, and Violet join forces to fight for the atrocious conditions of the prison to be remedied, they encounter resistance and turmoil within their own community of Americus. Murmurs of the Stiles and their friends being traitors or spies circulate the community and catch the attention of detectives and the Prison General. This sets off a chain of events which cannot be reversed.

The story flows seamlessly while multiple characters’ viewpoints are expressed to enrich the story. The characters experience the reluctance and doubt of their own neighbors in Americus, though a few citizens are sympathetic. They turn to the Scriptures for reassurance and guidance in helping those in need. Each character strives to find his or her own place in society and role in the world.

The themes of the novel include the true meaning of sacrifice and the difference one person can make when he or she decides to take action. Through skilled storytelling and prose, Tracy Groot weaves accurate historical details and events with fictional characters to create a captivating novel which encourages the reader to consider the plights of his or her neighbors.

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot releases February 1 from Tyndale House Publishers.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complementary advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Empty Shelf #2: The Sentinels of Andersonville

I finished my second read for the Empty Shelf Challenge over the weekend. It was an advance copy of “The Sentinels of Andersonville” by Tracy Groot. A captivating, fast-paced retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan, “The Sentinels of Andersonville” is in a league all its own set during the Civil War period. Saying “I loved it” is putting it mildly – I think it’s going to be one of my favorites of 2014!

It releases 2/1/14 ~ review to come soon!

Empty Shelf #2: The Sentinels of Andersonville