Review: “Sons of Blackbird Mountain” by Joanne Bischof

IMG_20180627_121649_091.jpg

I’m not really sure how to introduce this book and story, other than to say it left me speechless and in awe of its beauty for several weeks. Getting to read an early copy of Sons of Blackbird Mountain was a privilege I apparently needed to form a coherent review! I highly recommend this story AND author — I hope you readers get to enjoy a Joanne Bischof story soon!

About the Book

Sons of Blackbird MountainWhen Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to serve as housekeeper to her late husband’s cousins in Appalachia, she expects lads in need of care, not three grown men—each in need of a wife and bound by a powerful brotherhood. As the men carve out a living by brewing artisan liquor, young Haakon’s pursuit tempts Aven’s lonely spirit . . . but it is his deaf brother, Thor, whose silent strength shows her the depths of real love.

Unable to speak to any woman, Thor Norgaard never anticipates Aven will befriend him, let alone treat him as her safe harbor. Though hard cider is their livelihood and his greatest talent, he fights his way to sobriety with Haakon’s help, defying the bottle for Aven’s hand—only to face a battle of the heart that tests even the strongest bonds of brotherhood.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is an achingly beautiful story of brotherhood and romance. The quiet strength and vibrancy of the characters, especially the main viewpoints of Thor and Aven, combine with an atmospheric setting and compelling era to create a story that resonates deeply within the human heart. It is riveting, atmospheric, with a complexity of characters (especially the themes of brotherhood) — and that doesn’t begin to describe it!

Thor’s perspective is an experience in itself. With great care, Joanne has portrayed his world and experiences as a deaf individual in a nearly-tangible way. Even noting nuances and things he does differently (makes noises walking through woods, breathing patterns, realizes he doesn’t understand letter sounds, so many things). I loved that Thor’s character proves he is a man only limited in audible speech, not in emotion or presence or other capabilities. His heart, even in the middle of major personal obstacles, is on display.

I can’t help but mentally compare him to Joanne’s other A-MA-ZING and forever favorite hero Charlie Lionheart (from The Lady and the Lionheart) Thor starts out the antithesis of Charlie in so many ways, yet their similarities by story’s end are wonderful. Both are strong, selflessly sacrificing and desiring to be a help to those around them. Both love with abandon.

And oh, what a time Aven has finding her place and her belonging in this new world and with these colorful people! Her story, when fully revealed, is poignant and sorrowful in itself, making her newfound circumstances all the more important for her presence and healing.

Books and stories can lend voices to those we normally would not hear, whether muted by society, history, or otherwise silenced. Author Joanne Bischof accomplishes this feat with a lyrical, immersive, and prose-like style that is never afraid to delve deep into matters of the the heart in all their joy and despair. In this case, a fictional tale brings to life the perspective of a deaf brother and a rootless young woman whose presence forever changes the lives of three brothers.

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

Advertisements

Book Review + Giveaway: “Love’s Silver Lining” by Julie Lessman

loves-silver-lining-tour

Travel with me to the Old West — Virginia City, NV, to be exact — while we talk about a romantic adventure from author Julie Lessman, Love’s Silver Lining, the first book in her new “Silver Lining Ranch” series. (Once again, Julie tackles another genre…. and does is SO WELL!) Before you go, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY by commenting on this post!

About the Book

Love's Silver Lining

Series: Silver Lining Ranch

Genre:  Christian, Historical, Romance

Publisher: Indie

Desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a womanizer, twenty-two-year-old Maggie Mullaney flees New York for Virginia City, Nevada with her Aunt Liberty, two spunky suffragists intent on bettering the lives of women. Fresh out of nursing school, Maggie hopes to devote herself to serving others rather than just one man, a goal quickly affirmed when she encounters Blaze Donovan, a womanizing cowboy who both riles and rouses her pulse. But when Aunt Liberty’s parents’ house burns down, she and Maggie are coerced into staying at the ranch of Liberty’s ex-husband, Finn McShane, who just happens to be the uncle of the cocky cowboy Maggie had hoped to avoid.

If there’s one thing twenty-nine-year-old Blaze Donovan can’t abide, it’s respectable women who spout piety and prayer, so when he butts heads with perky Maggie Mullaney at St. Mary Louise Hospital, he wants to stay as far away from her as he possibly can. Unfortunately, she now lives in the bedroom next to his in his uncle’s ranch house, a revolting development that sends Blaze to The Ponderosa Saloon more than usual. But when Maggie interferes in Blaze’s life by converting his favorite “disrespectable” girl, Blaze is determined to make her pay. Only problem is—the price HE has to pay may be a little too steep for his heart.

NOTE: This book is a sweet inspirational with a bit of a higher level of romantic passion. (*Courtney’s note: I would say this book isn’t any different than other Julie Lessman books — readers know how she writes “passion with a purpose”.*)

GOODREADS | AMAZON

About the Authorjulie-turquoise-in-chair_orig

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.

Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, and Isle of Hope series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window was an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at http://www.julielessman.com.

GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOOGLE PLUS
PINTEREST INSTAGRAM | AMAZON | WEBSITE
NEWSLETTER | THE SEEKERS | JOURNAL JOTS

Review

Love’s Silver Lining is a fun western romance with entertaining matches of wits and a strong thread of faith. It’s Bonanza-meets-McLintock with its familial-cast and clashing romantic couples, complete with two that strongly remind me of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara with his determination and her fiery temper!

In Julie’s signature romance style, this story follows two different couples as they navigate their shared histories, pride, stubbornness, and attraction. While Blaze and Maggie’s relationship has rivalry and plenty of spark, my most favorite parts of the story involve the other prominent couple, Finn and Liberty, whom you can meet in the prequel novella, For Love of Liberty. The importance of faith (especially a shared faith within a marriage), and many facets of trust are naturally incorporated into the story, along with encouraging scriptures.

From its wild west setting to its suffragists, train rides, and kisses, Love’s Silver Lining is just the right sort of western for romance lovers that offers a smile and an encouraging message. I’m excited to see where the next book in the series takes these characters! (And I hope there will be more of Finn and Liberty’s sparring!)

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for a review copy. This is my honest review.

Giveaway

lsl-blogstop-tour-giveaway

Comment on this blog post for a chance to win an e-copy of Love’s Silver Lining! Share a favorite book, western, what you’re reading now, ANYTHING!

Giveaway is open Internationally and will end at 11:59 on 7/7/18.

Tour Stops

July 2-Locks, Hooks and Books
July 3-The Power of Words | The Green Mockingbird
July 4-Reading Is My SuperPower | Faithfully Bookish
July 5-Book by Book | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 6-cherylbbookblog
July 7-Mindy,  reviewer​

SLB Tours Reviewer Blogger Button

Review: “Where the Fire Falls” by Karen Barnett

IMG_20180516_214054_754.jpg

I’m delighted to feature a review today of Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett. It is a fantastic adventure-romance-mystery story with characters who will tug at your heart and make you laugh! While this is the second in a series, it is a stand along because it’s only related in National Park setting and era.

Book 1 – The Road to Paradise

About the Book

Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”
Where the Fire Falls
Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford fashioned her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.

After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the choice of becoming a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?

As Clark helps open Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas– a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Author Karen Barnett captures the spirit of the era and the enormity and beauty of the setting in this romantic adventure story of an artist unaware of her own beauty and worth. From the immersive look at the back country and 1920s attractions of Yosemite to the quirks and endearing traits of the characters,Where the Fire Falls provides a charming and appealing story from start to finish.

Where the Fire Falls QuoteThe lead characters are vibrant and memorable — as much for their heart and faith journeys as their strengths and likable natures. Olivia is likable and relatable in her determination for success, even against all odds. I LOVED how a bit of mystery and suspense was woven into her storyline. And, it was NOT at all predictable! Just when I had my mind made up about someone or something, another turn proved me wrong!

And CLARK. His name alone is wonderful (heheh!) His confidence and capabilities in handling both nature and humans alike is impressive. He’s not without his insecurities, though, which make him all the more special (like his comical internal dialogue concerning Olivia!). Most importantly, his revelations of grace by story’s end are powerful and wonderfully complementary to Olivia’s own lessons.

I was thoroughly enthralled by this story — and can’t wait for the next installment in National Park adventures!

Thank you to Waterbrook & Multnomah for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Sea Before Us” by Sarah Sundin

Learning about real history through story is one of my favorite things, especially when it involves lesser-explored perspectives or the details of a well-known major event. In the case of The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin, it covers what feels like a firsthand experience of D-Day in Normandy during WWII from the sea.

About the Book

The Sea Before UsIn 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.
The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Sea Before Us is a historical romance that delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day.

This is my very first book by Sarah Sundin — and I’m happy to report that her writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. Interesting facts are woven into the story in a natural way. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

I’m looking forward to seeing these characters in the next two books in the “Sunrise at Normandy” series — especially seeing how Wyatt’s brothers will be featured and how their family dynamic will play out after their current estrangement was well established in this book.

 

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

Review: “A Song Unheard” by Roseanna M. White

20180117_142815.jpg

Last year, one of my very favorite historical romances was A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. I loved it SO MUCH! It’s still at the top of the list, but the second book in the series, A Song Unheard, impressed me as well. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges because each one is unique and wonderful in its own way. Book 2 features another sister in the “family”, with a trip to Wales, violin music, and a mysterious mission…

About the Book

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which make her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I—to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales. A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won—until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is in meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t—that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

A Song Unheard is a novel for anyone who loves history or music. Set during the early days of WWI, it portrays a unique era, a slice of history, and the trials ordinary people endured. I liked that it showed multiple intertwining viewpoints– that of a spunky thief-turned-government aid practically working as a spy (Willa), a refugee estranged from his family and struggling to maintain his normal lifestyle (Lukas), and that of an intelligent young lady hiding her true identity in German-occupied Belgium (Margot).

In their own ways, they each learn important lessons of faith. What stands out to me the most is Willa’s realization that the loving FAMILY she has is wonderful, but that the love of a Heavenly Father can be all-encompassing and accepting far beyond any human connection she might seek.

These twisting perspectives all tell a seamless story with action, intrigue, and true acts of heroism. Interspersed with it all is a romance that grows naturally even while the characters themselves are often (comically) unaware of their deep connection.

And OH, the music!!! The music lover in me swooned a time or two while reading Lukas and Willa’s musical scenes. I have never read a story that incorporates the emotions and visceral feelings music can evoke in mere words and paragraphs. It was so vivid, I could almost hear Willa’s song in her heart. The journey of the characters could be likened to a song that has mournful minor strains and moments of pure joy. All of it works together to present a piece of art: in this case, a musical story that incorporates both historical suspense, romance, and faith.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for the opportunity to review a complimentary copy of this book. This is my honest review.

Review: “Impossible Saints” by Clarissa Harwood

When authors I love endorse or excessively talk about stories they love, I try to pay attention — even if a story is outside my “normal” reading scope (i.e. new authors, small publishers, different genres). When author Rachel McMillan gushed over Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood, a general market historical romance, I knew I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And, I really liked it!

 

About the BookSet in England in 1907, Impossible Saints is a novel that burns as brightly as the suffrage movement it depicts, with the emotional resonance of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Robson. 
Impossible SaintsEscaping the constraints of life as a village schoolmistress, Lilia Brooke bursts into London and into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Lilia would rather destroy property and serve time in prison than see her spirit destroyed and imprisoned by marriage to a clergyman, while Paul wants nothing more than to settle down and keep Lilia out of harm’s way. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

GoodreadsAmazon

ReviewImpossible Saints is a flowing, layered general fiction title with subtle Christian overtones, exploring themes of conviction, purpose, and challenges to preconceptions or societal norms. Its two characteristics that stand out the most are its depiction of an era both tumultuous and expectation-laden, a relevant parallel with today in some ways; and its endearing characters, with even the secondary characters taking on vibrant tones. Rachel McMillan was right in referencing both Grantchester (ITV) and the film Suffragette(2015) in her review. This book has similarities with both “visual” depictions, but its storyline is distinctly its own. I would say it is like Grantchester without the moral ambiguity or mystery meets Suffragette with all the wit and verbal banter of the classic Hollywood era.

Oh, the romance! What starts as believable camaraderie between reunited childhood friends grows into an authentic friendship with sparks of attraction. Before long, Paul and Lilia must face what their relationship must look like in the face of the women’s movement, church and societal expectations, and personal motives as it morphs into a romantic dynamic. The push-pull of their relationship really represents the importance of broadening perspective — that being inclusive and choosing to care for someone doesn’t mean you must compromise your identity or convictions.

For my blog readers who typically stick to clean inspirational fiction titles, I do want to mention a few things about this novel’s content. It is a *little* more candid and sensual when it comes to the romance verbiage, it depicts tobacco use, and has a few very mild expletives.

Impossible Saints is equally candid, and refreshingly so, when tackling issues such as women’s roles or the contrasts between ritual in the church vs. faith in action. I would have liked Lilia’s growth in receptiveness to Paul’s faith to have been a little more by story’s end, though I think the door is left open to her for deeper faith after “the end”. But maybe that’s my personal convictions shining through in my perception of her character. Overall, I thought it an authentic portrayal of the era and a beautiful story of romance.

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

 

Review: “Lady Jayne Disappears” by Joanna Davidson Politano

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano is an exciting and complex debut. I’ve been anticipating this book for a LONG time! In fact, I added it to my TBR “shelf” way early in the year. The premise of a young lady in Victorian England secretly writing under a pen name while trying to solve a mystery connected to her own family just sounded so intriguing! And, it was.

About the Book

Lady Jayne Disappears

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

Review

The one word that sums up the feeling of this story: ALLURING. From start to finish, I was impressed by the character growth, vibrancy of setting, and well-told mystery arc.

While Aurelie’s naivete was frustrating at times (to me, the reader), it truly is an asset to the story. It both excuses her innocence when it comes to her almost nonexistent knowledge of society norms and justifies her experience and manner when she’s faced with the realistic plight of common people whom society deems inferior. These seemingly contradictory facets of her character made me like her all the more — and, they are what drew the hero of the story to recognize her unique and compassionate nature.

My two favorite aspects of this story were the romance and the wonderfully deep love of literature acknowledged by the characters and observed by the reader ;). The romance cannot be commented on *no spoilers here* past saying it is as sweet as I hoped it would be and as surprising at times with its tenderness and depth. The book and story love, however, are wonderful bookworm tendencies for the people of that time AND a nod to story in itself. It’s delightful.

Victorian society is the perfect backdrop for the many twists, secrets, and mystery of Lady Jayne Disappears. All this combine with the romance to form a Dickensian-like tale of belonging and purpose. It’s a treat for lovers of historical romance and drama! I eagerly look forward to whatever Joanne pens next.

Thank you to Revell publishers and Netgalley for a complimentary copy of this novel. This is my honest review.