Review: “The Gryphon Heist” by James R. Hannibal

Brace yourself for my thoughts on a new thrilling novel of espionage I’d recommend to any fans of military fiction or suspense! I anticipate The Gryphon Heist is the start of a new remarkable series from author James R. Hannibal.

About the Book

Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them. With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where only criminal minds and unlikely strategies will keep the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault, hovering in the mesosphere.

Even Tyler is more than he seems, and Talia begins to wonder: Is he helping her? Or using her access to CIA resources to pull off an epic heist for his own dark purposes?

In this Ocean’s Eleven-meets-Mission Impossible thriller, former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James R. Hannibal offers you a nonstop thrill ride through the most daring heist ever conceived. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Gryphon Heist is an action-packed thriller of a novel! One that should require a seatbelt warning 😊. The synopsis aptly references Ocean’s 11 meeting Mission: Impossible, and I must agree. I’d also add a comparison to the high stakes, globe-trotting, and gadgetry of a James Bond film with a few more espionage and psychology elements.

We’ll get to Talia and Tyler in a moment, but first I want to talk about the cast of characters! The supporting characters are some of the most vivid and memorable I can recall from an ensemble cast in the vein of Ronie Kendig or Susan May Warren. I enjoyed getting to know their quirks and skillsets! Hannibal’s style balances such a large cast admirably, complete with accents I could “hear” through the succinct phrasing.

Even with all the action, the story is deep and layered.  Talia is a compelling heroine whose emotions and personal journey to grace are handled extremely well and realistically. The secrets and twists she deals with unfold in surprising ways, and Tyler plays a significant role as an enigmatic leader in all of it. I couldn’t predict ANYTHING about the finally-revealed villain or real plot behind the subterfuge. The end is intriguing, to say the least, and I anticipate another surprising and high stakes story with the sequel releasing early next year!

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

Review: “Finding Lady Enderly” by Joanna Davidson Politano

Stories that literally make my jaw drop while reading are few and far between. So far, Joanna Davidson Politano has been able to do that with both of her novels I have read! Her latest Victorian mystery and romance, Finding Lady Enderly, is atmospheric and a beautiful depiction of selfless love.

About the Book

Raina Bretton is a rag woman in London’s east end when a handsome stranger appears in a dank alley and offers her a glittering smile and a chance for adventure. Rothburne Abbey has a unique position for her, one that will take her away from her hardscrabble life and give her a chance to be a lady. Things she could only dream of might be coming true. But some dreams turn out to be nightmares.

Though Raina has traded squalor for silk and satin, something about the abbey is deeply unsettling. As she wrestles with her true identity, the ruin, decay, and secrets she finds at the heart of the old mansion tear at her confidence and threaten to reveal her for who she really is. Only one man stands between her and the danger that lurks within–and only if he decides to keep her biggest secret hidden.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A truly exemplary Victorian romance, Finding Lady Enderly is an eloquent reminder of everything I love about the genre. A deftly woven mystery, rags to riches journey, romance that transcends the norm, and a delightful love of books all work to make this story of identity and purpose a meaningful and memorable work.

From the first chapter, I was intrigued and hooked on this story! It is so well crafted — the depth of Raina’s character is revealed slowly, as are the secrets and twists surrounding her situation. I enjoyed everything about Raina. Her flaws and inner turmoil over a few untruths felt relatable and a natural reaction to her circumstances. There are parallels between the estate of Rothburne and Raina herself that are clever and very fitting to deliver the message of the story.

And oh, the romance! The hero of this story is different than I expected. Gallant and selfless, yes, but in a position subject to Raina’s actions, which challenges him to grow and her to rise to the occasion in a beautiful way.

One story device in Finding Lady Enderly I adore is the use of lines from classic literature! Their unique application adds a special meaning to the story, one that works in favor of the characters especially if the reader is familiar with the depth and story behind the quoted passages. You’ll just have to read this novel to find out exactly *how* they apply!

At this mystery’s heart is a message of identity and worth. It is richly depicted, compelling in the way it illustrates the traits of God and how they echo throughout His creation. This story has found a home on my re-read shelf!

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

Review: “Just One Kiss” by Courtney Walsh

With author Courtney Walsh’s latest release, we return to the fictional town of Harbor Pointe for a story of second chances, family, and romance. Just One Kiss is the third book set in this quaint town and reads as a standalone, though you will delight over learning more about the straightforward and bright teenager, Jaden, who had an important role in book 2, Just Let Go.

About the Book

He broke her heart. Now, he’s back, and he’s determined to show her what they had isn’t over. . . and he can prove it with just one kiss.

Single mother Carly Collins likes predictability. However, when her son Jaden’s health is threatened, her neatly controlled world is tossed into a tailspin. Nothing is certain anymore, especially her feelings for Josh Dixon, Jaden’s father, her first love and the man responsible for shattering her heart sixteen years ago. 

When Josh Dixon walked out of Harbor Pointe, he left behind his only shot at a real family. Now a successful tech mogul, the town rebel has found a cause—ensure his son’s recovery and prove to Carly and Jaden that he’s not the same guy he was back then. 

Carly and Josh are forced to wade through messy emotions and questions that have gone unanswered for years, which would be easier if not for the pesky feelings, every bit as strong and impossible to ignore as they ever were. 

Will forgiveness win, giving Carly and Josh a second chance at love . . . or will the past prove too much to overcome?

A small town romance about first love second chances and how our most beautiful life might look nothing like we planned.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Courtney Walsh never fails to make me smile, swoon over the romance, and cry over the deeply emotional moments in her stories. Just One Kiss is further proof! I loved it!

Part rekindled love, part family drama, and part small town charming, this story has no qualms with facing the hard questions of life, likes the “whys” and the challenges of extending grace for second chances.

I have read several reviews of this book noting it is Courtney Walsh’s best yet. While I can’t pick a favorite of her books (I have really loved them all!), I can say that Walsh is at the top of her storytelling game with Just One Kiss. The way it balances serious themes with lighthearted moments, just the right amount of drama and romance, surprises that really deepen the story, and even details like *showing* the backstory of Carly and Josh through flashback scenes all impress me. The combination of hallmark-like moments (dress shop!) with weighty moments in hospital waiting rooms and the vulnerability of opening your heart (letting go of anger) and offering someone a second chance all work to make this an impactful story.

Just One Kiss is a book I will return to and love just as much upon rereading. There is a relatable humanity in all of the characters, through their flaws, dreams, and questions, that makes it memorable and unique. Its message of forgiveness and the simplicity of grace is desperately needed in our world.

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

Review: “Storm Rising” by Ronie Kendig

Action, adventure, and secrets that just might set off a world-altering chain of events — that’s what you can expect from page 1 of Ronie Kendig’s latest paramilitary thriller, Storm Rising. I am thrilled (pun intended) to be on her launch team and to be sharing my review of this epic story today!

About the Book

Once lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold ancient secrets and dangers. Former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe has been tasked with capturing the ancient text, but a Bulgarian operative snatches it, determined to secure her freedom. When a series of strange storms erupt, they must form an alliance to thwart impending disaster.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I’ve compared Ronie Kendig’s style and stories to fav movies (like Act of Valor and the A-Team). Storm Rising gets a little more Bourne and Indiana Jones-esque, with some other globe-trotting spy stuff thrown in! Fans of paramilitary thrillers and suspense will love this introduction to a series and in the modern world where history influences current events more than the characters anticipate.

For Leif’s whole team, the stakes are high and the adrenaline-laced action sequences are plenty. Just when you think Leif and the team are getting a break, a twist or adversary comes out of nowhere to change the game. A light humor and typical snarky banter are still present, just as I hoped. Along with a tiny start of a romantic relationship in the pauses of the gunfire and chase scenes. 🙂

Fans of Kendig’s recent “Tox Files” series will delight over familiar faces. We readers get a “look behind the curtain” to just what drives Leif, and it’s eye-opening. His dichotomous strength and fallibility, along with his skillset, combine to make him one heroic and enigmatic character.

And Iskra (the operative)! What a mystery, still, after “the end”. I really had fun reading the unfolding of her character, what motivates her and the secrets she was keeping. This thrill ride is just the start, I think, of the epic and mind-bending mission in store for this gang!

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

Review: “The Printed Letter Bookshop” by Katherine Reay

Reay book stack

I’m sharing a review of Katherine Reay’s latest standalone novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. This novel leans towards character-driven women’s fiction with a gorgeous nod to books and faith and even looks at the roles of women in family, career, and relationships of all kinds. Simply put, is a novel for #booknerds.

Bonus fun: this book has been showing up on all kinds of online bookish lists, like this “8 of the Best Books About Books” list at Book Riot, Goodreads, and more! This makes me happy!

About the Book

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Printed Letter Bookshop is part philosophical view of human nature and part love letter to books and stories, all expressed on a journey of three unlikely friends steeped in grace. Katherine Reay is a reader and clearly knows her craft. The love of books is prominent in all of her stories, coupled with a storytelling style that reveals just enough of a complex situation and each character’s plight bit by bit, drawing the reader in to their stories and hearts.

With The Printed Letter Bookshop, three lives intersect because of the legacy of another woman. This legacy impacts them in unforeseen ways, all living through and learning the about life’s challenges, the pain that sometimes accompanies love, how to grow and forgive, and even the joys and laughter found in unlikely kinship.

One of the best parts of this story is the slowly unfurling love story that’s magnetic and unlike anything from Reay thus far. The romance is less prominent in this than her typical style but still integral to the story. When Madeline and a certain someone are in the same scene, it sparkles. Along with the “new” romance of Madeline’s, I appreciate how Claire and Janet’s POVs explore different stages of romance, even complacency and loss, through a lens of relationship and love.

This is truly a book to lose yourself in and yet find the wonder of story again. With nods and references to countless stories (and a lovely reading list at the back!), I found myself adding to my to-be-read list every few chapters. If you’re a return Reay reader, you might spot a few references to her other fictional characters in the pages!

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

Book Gush: “How the Light Gets In” by Jolina Petersheim

I’m sharing a review today for a book that just blew. me. away: How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim. I have been thinking about it for most of the week, trying to wrap my mind around the story and put into words what it made me feel. I know my words can’t do justice to the beauty of the story and its intricacies, but I will attempt to share my thoughts & argument for why YOU should read it.

About the Book

From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliance comes an engrossing novel about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on.

When Ruth Neufeld’s husband and father-in-law are killed working for a relief organization overseas, she travels to Wisconsin with her young daughters and mother-in-law Mabel to bury her husband. She hopes the Mennonite community will be a quiet place to grieve and piece together next steps.

Ruth and her family are welcomed by Elam, her husband’s cousin, who invites them to stay at his cranberry farm through the harvest. Sifting through fields of berries and memories of a marriage that was broken long before her husband died, Ruth finds solace in the beauty of the land and healing through hard work and budding friendship. She also encounters the possibility of new love with Elam, whose gentle encouragement awakens hopes and dreams she thought she’d lost forever.

But an unexpected twist threatens to unseat the happy ending Ruth is about to write for herself. On the precipice of a fresh start and a new marriage, Ruth must make an impossible decision: which path to choose if her husband isn’t dead after all.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

How the Light Gets In is probably the most unique book I’ve ever read. It is a storytelling feat with emotional twists, surprises, and a whiplash ending (which I shall not reveal! No spoilers here!). Peer beyond the expert framework and you will discover a retelling of Ruth that is compelling in its exploration of grief, relationships, and the surrender that comes with letting Love shine through the faults and fallacies of our natures.

The brilliance of this story does not lie in the characters, plot, setting, or genre (all of which are great!) Because of its twist, it lies instead in its purpose. To appreciate this, you do have to read the story start to finish.

But its purpose is not a soapbox or affiliation. It is a message of impact. How tiny choices, whether born of love or selfishness (encouraging words or open communication, negative thoughts or a sharp tongue), can drastically change relationships over time. Even if one means well. This theme is revealed through the lens of marriage and its joys and hardships but I feel it can be applied to any relationship, so it’s a story for all.

How the light gets in quote

Another impressive facet of the novel is the use of the setting. Its simplicity, that of a Mennonite community with little pretense, works to magnify the complications of Ruth’s past (in an urban setting on another continent, no less), revealed in letters and memory segments. Her shift in environments serves to emphasize the universal problems and challenges of any relationship, whatever the circumstance, and shows them to often stem from a heart- or choice-issue, not that of one’s surroundings.

I feel like I could talk for 4 hours about How the Light Gets In. About the vivid characters, the gentle heart of Elam, the virtues of Chandler amidst his seeming faults, the darling children, or the caring family (especially Mabel and Laurie!). Instead, I think everyone should read it! *though I heartily gush and recommend books I love, I am not prone to such hyperbole about just any story. This one is an exception.*

I will be thinking about this story for weeks to come. Especially the ending that left me joyful-and-reeling. It charges the reader to embrace all the messiness of life and to press on when pain inevitably occurs. And, even to hope and trust God to do a new thing when all seems lost.

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Tyndale, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Author Jolina Petersheim has an awesome book club kit for How the Light Gets In! Book club kit & info on her website here.

Review: “The Secrets of Paper and Ink” by Lindsay Harrel

What’s better than books? Books with bookish characters, of course!

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Linsday Harrel fits this description wonderfully. From the bookish nature of one of the heroines, Sophia, to the delightful English village & bookstore setting, this novel encapsulates important themes within a charming environment to deliver its message of healing with care.

About the Book

Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the courage to write your own story.

A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.

The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is a delightful women’s fiction novel with a literary bent, historical threads, a little romance, and a message of identity. The main characters, 3 women whose stories span a century, have unique situations on the surface, but all are searching for identity in something or someone. And the setting!!!!! I really, really want to visit Cornwall now. Specifically, the ocean or coastline there. 😉

Sophia and Ginny, in the present timeline, alternate points of view with an intriguing Emily, the historical heroine whose “first person” journal entries intersect and intertwine with theirs. I found the earlier time period was just as captivating and interesting as the present. I would love to see more from Lindsay Harrel with a historical setting!

From being surrounded by books to the nods to literature and a bookworm Sophia (and William!!!), Harrel uses the theme of story to further connect the characters and express life as an ever-growing experience; life as a unique story that is in the process of the telling. And, whose Author is all-knowing even when trials come on the next “page”.

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