Review: “With Love, Wherever You Are” by Dandi Daley Mackall

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Bonus trivia: That’s a photo of the real-life Helen and Frank on the cover!

This book review features a book that is as interesting as it is riveting because much of the story is based on the true-life events of a couple who met, married, and served in Europe during WWII. The book, With Love, Wherever You Are, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a recent release from Tyndale House.

About the BookEveryone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.Review

“Based on a true story”, “WWII era”, and “letters” were all I needed to know I really wanted to read this novel. With flowing style, intriguing settings around the US and the war theater of Europe, and a love story that transcends all kinds of obstacles, this book kept me hooked late into the night.

For starters, this book is based on the real life love story of the author’s parents. While some elements and characters were understandably fictionalized for heightened story tension, the personalities of Frank and Helen clearly shine through as observed by Dandi, their daughter. Fast forwarding to the end and the author’s note section, readers learn what parts of the story are identical to the real-life situation– and those were the most incredibly interesting elements of the story!

I was impressed with the contrasting humor and wit of the relationship between Frank and Helen compared to the dramatic responsibilities, convictions, and events depicted in the book. To quote an author friend, I felt like I was reading the script of a Cary Grant movie sometimes! These personalities really come out in the real-life letters, notes, telegrams, etc. included all throughout the novel—they were a treat!

The pain and destruction of World War II was not shied away from, yet a lens of eternal hope was applied to the gravity of loss experienced by the world. In the middle of it all, this beautiful romance and subsequent relationship was formed, tested by fire, and proved a lasting legacy for Dandi and a story of inspiration to me. It reminded me of the individual sacrifice many men and women have made for their countries. It made me all the more thankful for the generations, past and present, who have held strong to liberty and freedom. Veterans, I thank you.

If you are a fan of history, WWII/military fiction, (slightly) epistolary novels, or romance, I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

What is your favorite book with letters or your favorite WWII novel?

 

Review: “Long Time Gone” by Mary Connealy

Today’s blog post is all about author Mary Connealy’s recent western release from Bethany Hour Publishers, Long Time Gone, book # 2 in “The Cimmaron Legacy” series. In this story, Mary’s characteristic dry humor is coupled with family drama, plenty of western action, and a romance.

About the Book
The Boden clan thought their troubles were over with the death of a dangerous enemy. But with new evidence on Cole’s shooting, Justin can’t deny that the plot to take their ranch was bigger than one man. While the doctor and his distractingly pretty assistant help Cole, Justin has to uncover the trail of a decades-old secret as danger closes in.

Review

Long Time Gone by Mary ConnealyThe saga of the Bodens continues as they try to dispel threats to their livelihood and search out an informant among their ranch hands. While enough detail is included to make it stand on its own, I think a reader would enjoy this story more if it were read in sequence to know the background of the characters. The second son, Justin Boden, is the main character of this story. His attitude is understandably that of a middle child: out to prove himself to his family as a leader. This proves to be quite comical as he’s up against his older brother, Cole, in a few situations. He’s completely endearing because his tough exterior conceals a caring heart that just wants to take care of his family.

While the focus is on the Bodens and Justin much of the time, Angie Dupree, the love interest and the doctor’s “pretty assistant”, was another perspective shared throughout the book. I though her character and persona were important and the most dynamic emotionally. As she was revealed to have more “grit” than I first thought, I was cheering her on. Her journey is one of learning to find strength in independence while simultaneously realizing it’s a privilege to accept someone’s protection and care.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable western rom-com. The action-packed nature of Long Time Gone keeps the pages turning quickly as these characters learn important lessons of love and faith in the middle of the whirlwind drama. While most things are tidied up by the end, lingering questions as to the source of the family’s “threat” remain… which just means we’ll get to have more fun with the next book of the series!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of book 1 in the series:

No Way Up

Review: The Message in a Bottle Romance Novella Collection

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Welcome! Today is all about a delightful novella collection from Barbour Publishing, The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by authors Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof. With five separate stories, this collection is tethered with a common theme of hope and an antique bronze bottle that travels around the globe and through the centuries, appearing in each story.

About the Book


Join the journey as one word etched in Latin on an ancient bronze bottle travels through the centuries to reach five young women who are struggling to maintain their faith in God and love. An Irish princess, a Scottish story weaver, a Post-Colonial nurse, a cotton mill worker, and a maid who nearly drowned each receive a message from the bottle just when they need their hope restored. But will the bottle also bring them each to a man whose love will endure?

Review

Each story has a unique setting and voice, but a common theme of hope can be found in them all. The Message in a Bottle Romance CollectionSometimes it’s a hope to survive, a hope for a second chance, a hope for love and belonging, or a hope that trusts in God for a better future.

The entire collection was delightful and encouraging. Each had a sweet romance, sometimes with a surprise or two thrown it. Each told a different story of family or culture, presenting its era and setting with bright clarity and detail. All of it was threaded with the theme of hope and connected with a seemingly small item, a brass bottle. I thought it was representative of the hope we do share — in faith and trust in God — that might seem small but has a mighty strength and endurance when tested.

Prologue 834 AD & The Distant Tide • 1170 Ireland • by Heather Day Gilbert

  • The origin story of the bottle is very well told and connects closely to the characters in Heather’s story.
  • I enjoyed the setting and conflict: a northern Irish kingdom during medieval times with threats from Vikings and Northmen. This is a period I’ve not read (or heard much about) in the Christian fiction genre. I do know that Heather has penned a Viking series I’m now interested in!
  • This story surprised me in a few ways – what I would have predicted about a certain character’s response and attitude was completely turned around in a very good way.

A Song in the Night • 1715 Scotland • by Amanda Dykes

  • A bit of a secret propels this story and adds dramatic suspense to the plot. The way the main characters are established allows them to “speak for themselves”, in a way, and reveal their hearts and pasts slowly.
  • I loved the simultaneous journies of this story, a physical one across borders and to a new destination (Scotland to England), a new experience for the characters, and an emotional one from brokenness to restoration.
  • Also, I was really impressed with the lyrical writing style of Amanda and the way she incorporated Scottish culture and language into the story. Yay for discovering new authors!

The Forgotten Hope • 1798 New York • by Maureen Lang

  • This story’s spot in the lineup of the collection provides contrast and a fresh perspective. The setting, post-Revolutionary America, is appropriately different and tenuous for a young lady aspiring to follow her father’s career path in doctoring.
  • This story had a coming-of-age, young adult feel to it.
  • The two main characters, Abigail and Cal, complement each other very well. At times, I thought Abigail was a little immature in her behavior, but after finishing the story I can see that Cal’s more serious demeanor was a good fit for her. They encourage each other to be compassionate toward others and hopeful of a life beyond the sorrow of their pasts.

A River Between Us • 1864 Georgia • by Jocelyn Green

  • Jocelyn has a style that is vivid and immersive emotionally and in a sensory way. I felt like I was there, experiencing the danger of a battlefield or the uncertainty of the future through Cora Mae’s eyes. I was rooting for Ethan, the hero of this story, who demonstrated integrity and honor on multiple occasions.
  • To me, this story is about learning to see the heart of people beyond outward appearances or seemingly opposite sides. In this case, it’s a very human look at both sides of the Civil War, how both sides sacrificed and experienced pain, and how the hope for peace can be a driving force in caring for others.

The Swelling Sea & Epilogue • 1890 California • by Joanne Bischof

  • What a setting! The Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, CA just at its beginning as a travel destination for the high class. I’ve added a new destination to my dream travel list.
  • Joanne has an exquisite way of presenting a story. Whether through a personality or physical trait, her characters often exhibit a unique characteristic which further challenges their journey and enlightens the reader to a new side of human nature. In this case, Rosie and Jonas separately face a part of their past that is holding them back. Theirs is a story of finding the freedom to seek joy, to hope for happiness.
  • Reading this novella would help you to fully experience what I mean, but I have to say I ADORED the way certain aspects of this story reminded me of the importance of an unabashed, childlike faith. And, how our imperfections might just be a tool to teach us that we are not alone, that other people are placed in our lives for help and encouragement.

I was a little sad to come to the end of the journey with this bottle, but I know it’s not the end of its encouraging message of hope. These stories are ones that resonate. I hope you have the opportunity to experience this little collection some time!

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon

Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. This is my honest review.

 

Review: “The Mark of the King” by Jocelyn Green

It’s no secret around here I am somewhat of a history buff. Lately, I’ve been enthralled with American frontier-era fiction because it’s often supported by meticulous research and historical accuracy (yay for dedicated authors!). I always love learning something new about this era, especially when it involves a setting I’ve not previously read. One of the latest books I’ve enjoyed in this category is a new standalone novel by Jocelyn Green: The Mark of the King, a vivid historical drama with hints of romance. Its setting is 1720s New Orleans, Louisiana, — the French frontier in America at a tumultuous time of survival before the French and Indian War.

Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent

the-mark-of-the-king-by-jocelyn-greenAfter being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Review

This book explores such a unique and new-to-me setting! The writing style is wonderfully descriptive of the wilds of Louisiana and the Mississippi while also connecting the reader with the deep emotions of Julianne and a few other key characters. I confess, there were a few tears shed over this story, both over moments of tragic pain and beautiful grace. This is my first ever story by Jocelyn Green, but I know it won’t be the last!

Scars, not just those of Julianne, but physical and emotional scars of the hero and others, bring them together in grace, in purpose, to bear one another’s trials, to fight for the thread of hope they hold. I can’t help but bring my thoughts full circle to the way Jesus’ scars are meant to bring us together. United by His nail-scarred hands, He offers us freedom with those scars as we seek to bring Him glory.

Amidst the twists and turns of this story, and fascinating look at life in a new world, a poignant romance blossoms. In contrast to other books in the genre, this romance is more purposeful than sweetly unexpected, which makes it all the more impactful and one to “root for”. It has to battle the elements and traitorous environment, but it promises survival and comfort through the heartache these characters face.  To say any more about this aspect would give away key plot surprises, so I won’t do that to you! Just know that all of it together brightly shines an overarching message of grace.

I voluntarily reviewed a purchased copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Mini reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Mini reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week is a FREEBIE topic! I was inspired by an older TTT topic of “books you loved but haven’t written a review for”. I thought: why not talk about some favorites I haven’t reviewed AND tell you a little of why I loved them? So, this custom topic was born: 10 Mini reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed. 

First, a brief explanation concerning just why I haven’t reviewed these.

  • Some were read in connection with the INSPY awards so I couldn’t talk about them at the time
  • Some I’ve just never gotten around to reviewing, though I thoroughly enjoyed them
  • Some are older reads from before I started writing reviews

Whew, glad that’s off my chest. Now, on to the little reviews!

10 Mini Reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed

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1. Remembered by Tamera Alexander (Fountain Creek Chronicles #3)

Though it’s been a while since I’ve read this one, I do remember it was my favorite of the series. I particularly remember some interesting freight wagon rides. My favorite part of this story was Véronique because of her determination and unique immigration perspective.

2. Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

In a style and manner only Laura Frantz can achieve, the untamed wilderness swallows you in its wonder as you experience life through Morrow’s eyes. This still remains my favorite Laura Frantz novel for its beautiful romance. Two words: Red Shirt. Fans of historical romance and the American frontier take note: this novel is not to be missed.

3. The Measure of a Lady by Deeanne Gist

I remember the setting standing out to me in this one: 1849 San Francisco, CA in the middle of the Gold Rush. And, an important bit about the Redwood forest. Besides the immersive setting, the characters left an impression, particularly the spiritual transformation of one and the coming-of-age journey, in a sense, of another.

4. A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund (Michigan Brides #2)

This story is a beautiful work of historical romance. I remember Carl, the hero, making quite the impression with his selfless (and swoony) manner. The themes of this novel include the importance of hope and forgiveness — and that family and love are worth fighting for.

5. The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann (A Rush of Wings #3)

A story of finding hope and healing, this riveting contemporary novel remains a favorite in its genre. And, Morgan Spencer is possibly my favorite hero Kristen has penned. It exquisitely executes one of my favorite plot devices to bring the heroine and hero together, but I won’t say exactly how it happens because that would ruin the surprise! If you’re looking for a fresh take on romantic suspense with a tasteful yet passionate love story (this is still Christian fiction), I HIGHLY recommend this novel and series.

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6. The Rose Legacy by Kristen Heitzmann (Diamond of the Rockies #1)

I recall this glimpse of the west in all its ruggedness and wild beauty left an impression of me. Particularly, Carina and her feisty spirit, determined to succeed and find happiness. As with several of Kristen’s novels, a slight mysterious element is present, adding to the interest and appeal of the story (and its hero).

7. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

This one is a well-crafted historical romance that reminds me of Austen or Brontë in its era, setting, and mystery. I remember the characters being well developed and “real” even amid the proper society and tradition they adhere to. Themes of mercy and forgiveness entwine this story set in the beautiful Cornwall region of England.

8. A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman (Daughters of Boston #1)

This is where it all began. The O’Conner saga that let to 6 full-length books (with the Winds of Change series following) and several novellas. Though I knew how this would end because I read the series out of order, I was still glued to the story as I witnessed the battle of will vs faith. And, Julie’s signature “passion with a purpose” romance style was an added bonus!

9. Ruby by Lauraine Snelling (Dakotah Treasures #1)

This one is special because it was my first venture into “grown-up” Christian Fiction. I can still remember specifically where I got it — shopping with my mom. Having since reread this entire series, I can say it is a great example of western romance with likable characters and connected story arcs in each book.

10. Duchess by Susan May Warren (Daughters of Fortune #3)

With this novel, I learned that Susan pens historicals in the same complex, riveting manner as her contemporary novels. This was a glimpse of “old Hollywood” with all its glamour AND problems, with a few twists involving WWII. Ultimately, a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and hope.

Thank you to Bethany House, Tyndale, and Summerside Press for the complimentary INSPY review copies. These reviews reflect my honest opinion.


Have you read any of these books or authors? Are there any books you loved but never reviewed or blogged about?

Mini Review: “Conductor of Light” by Rachel McMillan (FREE ebook!)

Today’s mini review features a short installment from Rachel McMillan in the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series. Conductor of Light is a FREE ebook-only short story which falls into the series as # 2.5 (after A Lesson in Love and Murder).
conductor-of-lightThis is classic Jem & Merinda, Ray & Jasper shenanigans. All centered around theatre– and obviously touting Rachel’s own love for that storytelling medium. If you’re not familiar with this lovable group of characters, you should know that the ladies are a female embodiment of Sherlock Holmes & Watson while the men are classic gentlemen reporter and police detective, respectively — all against a backdrop of early 1900s Toronto with its ever-changing environment. This story was another treat and glimpse “behind the curtain” of the characters as they work together to solve a little mystery. It just made me more excited for things to come in the conclusion of the series this year. (Especially a particular romance I hope will FINALLY work out. Rachel, you-know-who.)

snatch this story for FREE on Amazon

More about the story:

Toronto, 1912
A seemingly forgettable evening of second-rate vaudeville entertainment proves lethal when Constable Jasper Forth and reporter Ray DeLuca witness the onstage death of the actor Stephano. Was this the performance of a lifetime or merely opening night of the next intriguing case for Jem DeLuca and Merinda Herringford?

Hiding from Toronto’s dreaded Morality Squad in the back alleyway of the theater, Jem and Merinda encounter a mysterious musician who steps out of the shadows to tell them a murder has occurred inside.

Jasper and Ray join the detective duo backstage and begin to interview the rest of the troupe, a veritable casting call of possible suspects, every one of them with more motives than talent. Can Jem and Merinda foil this plot before a fatal encore ensues?

This Herringford and Watts adventure in four acts will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final curtain closes on yet another enthralling whodunit.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 11 Best Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 11 Best Books of 2016

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

It’s that time of year again! Time for my “favorites” post of 2016, AND just in time for the same #TTT topic. This year’s list was difficult to compile, to say the least. I’ve read a whopping total of 61 books this year (at press time), a few being rereads and some novellas. I was determined to limit my list somewhat this year, so we have 11 novels plus a couple “bonus” novellas. Surprisingly, all of the novels are 2016 releases, but the novellas range from 2014-2016. Most of these authors are familiar favorites and always “must-reads”, so it’s no surprise to me that my favorites stem from this group.

Now, on to the books!!!

Top Ten Best Books of 2016

Historical Fiction

A Flight of Arrowsthe-lady-and-the-lionheartThe Thorn Keeperthe-cautious-maidenThe Sound of Emeralds

1. A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton

A riveting, fascinating conclusion to her “Pathfinders” duology.

2. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

Seriously now one of my all-time favorite books! Go read it. Achingly sweet and heart-wrenching in the best way.

3. The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

Really, the whole “Penned in Time” series is amazing, but this one is my favorite for several reasons…. one of them having to do with Christmas 😉

4. The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

Another great story from Dawn, this one uniquely uses only the heroine’s first person POV.

5. The Sound of Emeralds by Rachelle Rea Cobb

A fantastic conclusion to Rachelle’s debut series, this brings the characters full circle with some amazing surprises. #TeamDirk

Contemporary Fiction

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton LodgeLike Never Before by Melissa TaggYou're the One that I WantTold You Twice by Kristen Heitzmanna-portrait-of-emily-pricewhere-two-hearts-meet

6. Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

Ahh! This one made me hungry, laugh, and cry. Oh, and try out a new recipe or two I discovered while reading.

7. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Definitely my favorite of the Walker family series so far! The cover alone should be enough to convince you of the adorableness that is Loganand Amelia, but the emotional depth is what gets me with all of Melissa’s stories.

8. You’re the One That I Want by Susan May Warren

While I’ve loved each book in the Christiansen family series, this one, being the last, made so many pieces fall in place. It drew everything together with a huge thread of grace, and that’s why I loved it.

9. Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Unexpected and fresh, Kristen is not afraid to depict life in both raw and redemptive manners through storytelling.

10. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Another one that made me hungry! Ha! Katherine always surprises me with the direction and vast changes she leads her characters through. This one was pleasantly amazing.

11. Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson

One of the sweetest contemporary love stories I’ve read in a long time… and I’m not even talking about the cinnamon rolls and muffins! This one is just “good” for your heart.

Bonus! Favorite Novellas

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Playing With Fire by Susan May Warren

The two main characters’ mutual complex history combined with a current-day crazy action/suspense situation made this my favorite of the Montana Fire trilogy.

This Quiet Sky by  Joanne Bischof

Poignant and beautiful, this goes beyond typical coming-of-age story expectations and tore into my heart unexpectedly.

A Night Like No Other by Kristin Vayden

I think this one will be a Christmas season reread every year now for its genuine and Biblical portrayal of Mary and Joseph’s experiences.

Your turn!!! What are your favorite books from 2016? Did you read any of my favorites? Share your thoughts in the comments!