Review: “Fawkes” by Nadine Brandes

Social media can be really neat. I first heard of this book way before its official release through the author’s Instagram account. The idea of a young adult (YA) novel with a little fantasy and a little true history caught my attention. Add to that an eye-catching cover, and I was hooked. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes is all that you could want in such a story :).

About the Book

FawkesThomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes explores the era of early 1600s England just before the failed “gunpowder plot”. But, the son of the infamous Guy Fawkes is the main character – Thomas. The added innovative use of magic to portray faith and beliefs adds a hint of fantasy to the story and makes for an allegorical tale of truth.

The twists in this story and the variations on the real-life historical account make for an exciting and intriguing time. On the surface, this story is an adventure and coming-of-age tale. But, upon closer consideration, its revelations and lessons depict the challenge of faith and the importance of choice, freedom, and surrender.

The characters and setting are all equally vivid. I especially loved Emma and the way Brandes used her character to show selfless love and teach Thomas so much about life and about himself. Through Thomas’s eyes, readers see the contrast between beliefs and blind allegiance, and the consequences of choices that have far-reaching effects. His story is one that will stick in my mind as an example of surrender and seeing beyond the surface of a person to the heart.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers program for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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Review: “Thirst of Steel” by Ronie Kendig (The Tox Files #3)

FB_IMG_1533072528397.jpgIt’s no secret I’ve loved the previous books in this series for all their Indiana Jones and military valor incidents. But this Thirst of Steel, the third and final book in the “Tox Files” series EXPLODES onto the scene and takes beloved characters on a journey that changes everything. Ronie Kendig has established herself as one of my favorite authors with this series alone. It’s now one of my absolute favorites! (I highly recommend reading this series in order for the best experience.)

The Warrior’s Seal | Conspiracy of SilenceCrown of Souls

About the Book

The Final Conflict Will Hinge on One of History’s Most Dangerous Blades

Thirst of Steel

Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for its enemies’ blood. Cole “Tox” Russell wants only to put the dangers of his past behind him and begin his new life with Haven Cortes. First, though, he’s called to complete a final mission: retrieve the sword and destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order.

The AFO, however, is determined to reunite the sword. Threatening the life of Ram and Tzivia’s father, they jeopardize Ram’s long-held and dangerous secret while demanding Tzivia locate the blade. With the Wraith team slowly being torn apart, things worsen when Mercy Maddox, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news that the artifact is tied to both Ram’s secret and a string of unsolved serial murders.

Tox, Ram, and the others are forced to set aside fear and anger to target the true enemy. No matter the cost, Wraith must destroy the AFO . . . or join them in the flames.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

To say it in one word: BRILLIANT! A few more: the plot, ancient mystery, secrets, and twists are perfectly executed.

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In Thirst of Steel, secrets, friendships, loyalties, and fortitudes are tested as the challenge of a lifetime faces the Wraith team — and especially Tox, Haven, Ram, and Tzivia. With more POVs, details about team members, and TWISTS you will never see coming, this story is one that will have you turning pages late into the night to see just what happens next! And, you’ll need to be prepared for action, adrenaline rushes, and around-the-world locations.

The Wraith TEAM is as funny, precise, and cohesive as ever. Tox and Haven are ALL THE FEELS and a big part of the emotional upheaval of the story (Ram is attributed the rest of the emotions and tears). A particular favorite of mine was Haven’s involvement in ancestry research… and the way Tzi Tzaddik and Chiji work with her.

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Readers will be ecstatic that we get a few more perspectives in this story, especially more time with Ram and Tzivia. RAM. His loyalty, sacrifices, ties to Mossad, and even his romantic life are front and center this time — further complicating the mission and forever changing the team dynamic. And Tzi? She’s as gorgeous and fierce as ever — especially when it comes to her efforts for her family and even in her blindness about her own self-worth. Her growth and arc in this book are impressive. AND, a lady named Mercy shows up as an important part of the story — and she brings to light the incredible symbolism and meaning behind some of the character names.

Thirst of Steel is more than a thriller. More than an undercover paramilitary black ops story or an ancient mystery-turned-international threat plot. It’s a story of humanity, of sacrifice and integrity, of family and brotherhood, of the true character revealed by a person’s actions, and of spiritual warfare, the very real fight against evil, and a powerful and all-knowing God we can choose to serve. This fictional story points to truth, light, and the salvation found in the greatest sacrificial Love humanity has ever known. Read it, friends. It’s quite the adventure.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. All opinions are honest and my own.

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Review + Blog Tour: “The Last Summer” by Brandy Bruce

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You know those stories that *happen* to come at the right time in your life for a little encouragement? The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce was just that. It surprised me with its depth and the intricacies of connection it displays. More than just Sara was relatable — her dreams, her struggles, and her fierce loyalty and ties to her friends and family made her have a sense of kinship with the human heart. This is a book sure to be on my end-of-year favorites list!

About the Book

The Last SummerGenre:  Contemporary, Inspirational, Romance
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Publication date: June 2017

A group of seven friends navigate relationships and personal growth during a season of change.

For twenty-something Sara Witherspoon and her group of friends, a perfect Southern summer includes lake-house getaways, wedding planning, outdoor concerts, and a dash of romance. But for these seven friends who love each other like family, this year, summer rolls in with changes for everyone.

Sara’s longtime crush, Luke, has been her best friend for as long as she has been a part of the group. When Luke begins seriously dating another of their friends, Sara’s forced to deal with her hurt and jealousy, while outwardly try to support them both.

While Sara comes to terms with her own heart and her friends’ relationships, an unexpected handsome pilot from North Carolina and an old flame are thrown into the mix. Knowing her heart suddenly becomes much more complicated.

But as time unfolds and friendships begin to unravel, Sara and the others are presented with the reality of what a season of change does to old friendships and new love interests.

Does growing older mean growing apart?

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Review

The Last Summer is a heart-achingly beautiful story of friendship and grace. Through the intertwined connections of a friend-group and a unique 1st person perspective voice, this story follows character Sara Witherspoon through a season of change, challenge, and emotions — emphasizing the importance of praising God in everything.

IMG_20180710_203543_516.jpgThis story is wonderfully refreshing and unexpectedly deep. I could never predict what would happen next; certainly not the ending, either, which makes me like the story all the more. The LOVE between this special group of friends is exemplary in how real-life relationships are and how selfless they should be. In all of this, the shortcomings and brokenness of human nature are prominent and never shied away from as a part of life. And, the dreams and longings of the heart are explored through Sara’s experiences. Far more than a story of romantic love, The Last Summer is a story of love in all its changing forms — when it means holding someone tighter or knowing when to let them go with peace.

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

About the Author

Brandy BruceBrandy Bruce is a mom, a wife, a book editor, an author, and someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the award-winning novel The Last SummerLooks Like Love, and The Romano Family Collection. Brandy, her husband, and their children make their home in Colorado.

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Giveaway

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Enter the giveaway HERE.

Giveaway package includes the following: summer swag (beach towl, flip flops, sunglasses, bookmark, and candy) & winner’s choice of a print or e-copy of the book.

Giveaway open to US residents only and ends 11:59pm MT on July 21st.

Giveaway is subject to policies HERE.

Tour Schedule

July 16-Jorie Loves A Story | Joy of Reading  | amandainpa
July 17- Paulette’s Papers  | The Power of Words
July 18-Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic | Pause for Tales | Among the Reads
July 19-Book by Book | Edits and Reviews by Leslie | The Green Mockingbird
July 20-Heidi Reads… | Reading Is My SuperPower | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 21-Remembrancy | Katie’s Clean Book Collection

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Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

This blog post title is in honor of a beloved author whose own book gushes have added new favorites to my own shelf. Today, I’m absolutely GUSHING over Rachel McMillan’s historical mystery and romance release, Murder at the Flamingo, with a review, interview with Rachel, BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM HER, and a GIVEAWAY!

Read on for more awesome bookish stuff!

About the Book

“Maybe it was time to land straight in the middle of the adventure…”

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillanHamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times — including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin’s “right hand man” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand. 

Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo night club.

When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With Rachel McMillan’s distinct historical voice and attention to detail, she paints a vivid historical mystery with a hint of romance against the backdrop of a brilliant 1930s Boston scene. In her distinct way, she makes the setting a secondary character of its own, vocal and important in its culture and story role. With a fabulous puzzle solved and room for more adventures to come, the city comes to life as the characters grapple with loyalty, independence, anxiety, and purpose.

IMG_20180708_200945.jpgHamish and Reggie are endearing, quirky, enigmatic, and just plain lovable. Even secondary characters like Luca (whom you will dislike/love/want to hug all at once!) and Nate (and his wonderful candidness!) are sure to be favorites and promise to be even more essential in stories to come. And I just want to hang out with Reggie and watch films of the time!

Fans of McMillan’s previous Herringford & Watts series will be ecstatic to learn of the “next” generation (Hamish is a DeLuca, after all) and see tiny nods to the previous series and a familiar name or two!

Let’s stop right here and talk about Hamish. He is SUCH a product of his parents! But, he is his own kind of special, quirky, and important. Through his unique viewpoint, Rachel McMillan illustrates the challenges of mental illness — namely anxiety and panic — in a normalizing and emphatic way. This makes him wonderfully relatable — even for a reader with no personal experience with such challenges (like myself). I applaud her for using characterization to subtly bring awareness and empathy to the forefront in a way that adds so much to the story.

IMG_20180708_200938.jpgI could talk all day about more wonderful elements of this story — lemon cannolis, bicycles, jazz, picture shows, DANCES, light bulbs, classic literature, and an implied message of grace. Instead, I hope you choose to discover for yourself all the intricacies and fun of this little mystery.

I cannot wait to see where these beloved characters will take me next!

MANY thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.

Interview with the Author

Pick one: lemon sandwich or lemon cannoli?

AHHH this is so hard. I am going to say cannoli.

What’s next for this set of characters?

Murder in the City of LibertyMurder in the City of Liberty releases next May and it finds Hamish and Reggie two years after they open Van Buren and DeLuca investigations/legal consulting/Winchester Molloy listening, in 1940.  There are two major forces in this book: the first is a black baseball player and fastest base stealer in the Boston farm leagues who becomes the target of a series of horrible pranks that eventually lead to murder.  The second is a growing racism (specifically anti-Semitism) which aligns with the conflict in Europe (for which Hamish’s home country is already fighting).  Very much like The White Feather Murders, I wanted explore the lack of social justice and the rampant prejudice heightened during war time.  On a personal front, Reggie and Hamish are doing a very poor job of being “just friends.”  And Nate gets a little bit of romance of his own!

Murder at the Flamingo incorporates a character with panic and anxiety when mental illness was taboo for the era. And, you have started a related hashtag #FictionForEmpowerment. Tell us more about that!

Yes! It is something that I have lived with my entire life and I thought this was the perfect time to talk about it through a fictional lens: so all of the symptoms and challenges I ascribe to Hamish are things I have struggled with since childhood.  Mental illness is very much like any other illness —except it is invisible.  So while, not unlike someone with cancer or diabetes, I have to see a doctor regularly and use medicinal treatment to live a full life, it is not something that is completely easy for everyone to understand. In Hamish DeLuca’s time, there were still rather primitive ideas about it and studies that found patients being doled all manner of horrible mercury pills (that ravaged the system), being locked in sanitariums or exposed to shock treatment. Because of Hamish’s visible symptoms, these are things that are very real threat to him.  I wanted to show that a character who suffers from this illness still has adventures and tries to get the girl: even though he had a steeper hill to climb in terms of acceptance than we do nowadays, he still is just a human being.  At heart, this series works to normalize mental illness without hopefully ever being slated as “issue” fiction. (For Herringford and Watts readers of The White Feather Murders, you will recognize that Hamish comes by his right hand tremor genetically. Something his father had since the end of A Lesson in Love and Murder).

Who was your favorite character to write?

I loved writing all of them. Just like in Herringford and Watts: they all mean so much to me.  I gave Reggie all my quips and one-liners so I loved doing that! My breakaway character in this was Nate. I always wanted to feature someone who could map the intricacies of the North End neighbourhood for them but I loved writing him so much that he ended up getting a much larger role than in the first outline. To the extent that he is a huge part of the central mystery in book 2. But my favourite character to write was Hamish! I looove all of my characters but I don’t know if I will ever feel as close to any of them as I do Hamish. I suppose it is because I am using him (as mentioned above) to speak to something very personal and challenging to me.

Loyalty is a BIG subject in this book, much of it revolving around Hamish’s cousin, Luca. What is the message you want readers to take away from their dynamic?

I think that when you read the book you see most people’s loyalty to Luca differs from Hamish’s. While so many speak to loyalty to Luca it is with the expectation that he can do something for them in return. Their loyalty anticipates a symbiotic relationship.  The spiritual themes in the book are deftly hidden but I really used Hamish’s loyalty intentionally to show a measure of grace. A few times in the book when asked by Luca where he gets his unfailing loyalty (even as Luca uses him or lets him down), Hamish has no other answer than “Your Luca.” Hamish’s loyalty is a result of his blind love for his cousin with no expectation of return on that investment. In that sense, writing aspects of this book was really heartbreaking for me. Hamish is a good kid with a great heart who just wants to spend time with his cousin and realizes that he doesn’t truly know Luca at all.  So loyalty without expectation of anything in return is one of the ways in which I tried to explore the themes of grace in the novel.

Rachel’s book recommendation fun!

OK, any #FictionForEmpowerment recommendations?

I would say The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion would be one that immediately comes to mind.  I just finished a book called the The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland and while it is never overtly expressed, it is clear the heroine suffers from PTSD. Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge mysteries feature a detective late of the war who definitely suffers from anxiety and panic.  Finally, and though this is not intentional,  I view The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery to be a study in anxiety and panic.  Valancy Stirling’s undiagnosed heart condition is very much a representation of typical symptoms of panic attacks: from the initial recognition and through the onslaught. Also, her waking up at 3 a.m. consistently is another symptom. Because LM Montgomery was a life long sufferer, I always find this a perfect unintentional example of anxiety and panic disorder.

Which “McMillan” book should a reader start with?

Love in Three Quarter TimeIf you really just want to get to know my heart and nature, Love in Three Quarter Time. Man! This is a hard question.  In the Herringford and Watts series my personal favourite is A Lesson in Love and Murder. I think it does the best job of giving a well-rounded view of the four central characters (plus Benny) and their relationships and interactions. But, I am hoping a lot of people start with Flamingo. You get better with each book, I had a wonderful editor with this, it is a story close to my heart and I am proud (as much as I can be proud knowing that there is always a million things I would have done better) of the final product.

A book for someone new to the Christian fiction genre?

Try Katherine Reay. Any of her books. They’re literary-infused and filled with romance and also exceptionally written. Any spiritual truths are expressed in a subtle way.  My friend Allison Pittman has a new one coming out next year called The Seamstress (Tyndale, 2019) and it is a fictional spinoff of A Tale of Two Cities set during the reign of Marie Antoinette and it pursues spiritual truths within a truly beautiful historical setting.

A book for people who love YOUR historical mystery/romance series?

Price of PrivilegeI loooove so many books. If you truly want to get to know me and what makes my heart tick and mind gallop, I highly recommend The Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta. I am not going to put myself on the Dotta level in terms of comparative storytelling because she is a master.  I also am strongly influenced by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby series), Deanna Raybourn, Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy) and Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody).  I would say reading them has infused my passion for writing mysteries with heavy romance.

A book out of your comfort zone that you really loved?

I try super hard to read as much as I can in as many genres as I can.  Still, science fiction seems to be the one genre that I have the hardest trouble sinking into. But I loooved The Martian by Andy Weir. It is so funny. It has such an arresting narrator. I think it goes to prove that I can love anything if the voice is great.

A small time/indie published book?

JL Spohr’s The Realm Series (it begins with Heirs and Spares). Please read it.  Also, Masque by W.R. Gingell (if you have a beauty and the beast thing going, I will totally read your book).

And last but not least, a romance? (with a Rachel Catnip hero?)

High as the HeavensACK so hard! Just one! I can’t do just one. I really super duper fell in love with an Eva Ibbotson book I read for the first time this year called The Morning Gift.  I have a bit of a thing for Marriage of Convenience stories and this is one.  Quinn is totally a Rachel catnip hero.  Courtney, you know that I think Isaac Dalry in The Price of Privilege series is one of the all-time greatest heroes! Total catnip.  I have a huge thing some of Lynn Austin’s heroes. I think she writes the best kissing scenes of all time and I just love her books to death. So James McGrath in Fire by Night is an all time favourite. I like super intelligent heroes.   Who are just a little different. Or crafted by Katie Breslin. SIMON IN High as the HeavensI am looking at you!!!!!I am also looking at you, you adorable Pimpernel-Phantom of the Opera hybrid Jack Benningham in Not by Sight. Lately, a favourite was Jacobus in The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright.  Also, if your hero is a scrappy reporter, I am definitely there for that. I read Anna Blankman’s duology Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke recently and the hero, Daniel, is a Jewish reporter in Nazi-laden Germany pre-WWII. His ambition to bring truth and light to a world that is against him is marvelous.

Oh Rachel! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and give us all new books to add to the TBR!!!! I know I need to read a few more of these. YES to all things Price of Privilege!!!

About the Author

Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

Rachel’s Book Blog | Website | Goodreads | Twitter 

Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

 

Giveaway

Love in Three Quarter TimeRachel has graciously offered a giveaway copy of a kindle ebook of Love in Three Quarter Time. Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form to enter! Giveaway ends 7/21/18 12:00am. Open internationally. Entrants will have 1 week to respond to email contact to claim prize. Void where prohibited.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

 

Review: “Sons of Blackbird Mountain” by Joanne Bischof

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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.

Review + Author Interview: “Just Let Go” by Courtney Walsh

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Today I’m ECSTATIC because I’m welcoming author Courtney Walsh to the blog with an interview and my review of her newest contemporary romance novel, Just Let Go, the second in her “Harbor Pointe” series.

About the Book
FB_IMG_1512955248786.jpgFor Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’dever ask for help.

Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage,helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out—and the best way to avoid more negative press.

Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town—and Quinn’s life—possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Find out more about Just Let Go from the publisher

About the Author

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Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theatre director, and playwright. Just Let Go will be her eighth inspirational romance novel. Her debut, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. A creative at heart, Courtney has also written two craft books and several full-length musicals. She lives in Illinois with her husband and three children.

Visit her online at any of the links below.

Courtney’s website | Twitter |Facebook

Pinterest |Instagram

Review

Balanced with humor and an endearing and well-meaning “community”, Just Let Go explores the vulnerability, pain, and joy that comes with risking your heart — whether it be for romance, reconciliation, or forgiveness that was never requested.

Just let go quote image 10Just Let Go is contemporary romance perfection! With a couple you just want to have breakfast with, a faith journey that is relevant and worth the work, a picturesque setting with lovable supporting characters, and an opposites-attract romance that progresses naturally with plenty of spark. It was one of those “just realize you’re perfect for each other and hug it out now” kind of situations. I loved Grady and Quinn’s chemistry any time they were in the same room, much to Quinn’s own annoyance at times. 😉

Courtney Walsh never fails to tell a deep and meaningful story, sometimes beyond what a reader expects. As the story unfolds, layers of personality, motives, and history are unveiled, making Grady and Quinn all the more relatable, raw, and people worth cheering on. Speaking of, worth plays a big part in this story, as does letting go of things you can’t control and fighting for what you can. And oh, when a certain person chooses to fight no matter the odds, I just wanted to high-five someone!

Finishing a novel like this makes me eager for more stories from Courtney because I know they will always be heartfelt and honest.

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

Interview with the Author

Welcome back to The Green Mockingbird! 

Since Quinn takes over a flower shop, I must ask. Do you have a favorite
flower?

I’m a little bit torn on this because I absolutely LOVE tulips—my wedding bouquet
was made of white tulips, but I think I have more memories tied to lilacs, which
are my mom’s favorite. Lilacs are so fragrant and we had a few bushes at the
back of our yard growing up, so I think those are the most nostalgic for me. (It
makes me wonder why I don’t have a lilac bush in my yard now! I might have to
remedy that!)

Grady is a serious skier. Have you ever been skiing?

I actually haven’t. I am more like Quinn—terrified of the unknown, especially
skiing. In the book, Quinn talks about a roller blading accident—that is
autobiographical and has forever ruined me for any downhill sport! I crashed SO
hard and so fast and in such an embarrassing way (my geometry teacher really
did drive by at that exact moment and he stuck me in the back of his truck with
my friends and drove me back to my car…OY!)

That was a funny moment in the story! So neat to know it was inspired by reality, even if a little embarrasing 🙂

Did you learn any interesting or quirky facts when researching your lead
characters’ occupations?

Well, I learned a LOT about Olympic skiing—the whole process is confusing, but
I am amazed by these Olympic athletes and what it takes to become the best in
their sports. I’m also amazed that they don’t let fear of hurting themselves hold
them back. I wanted to write a character like Grady because he is the exact
opposite of me (and Quinn!) He’s so fearless in so many ways, and that intrigues
me.

 

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Two Courtneys! I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney Walsh at an author event last April. She’s just as kind in person, ya’ll!

How do you balance writing with your family and theater endeavors?

 

When I am writing, I do a deep dive for several hours at a time. I don’t like to
leave the storyworld because I feel like I have a hard time finding it again, so it’s
honestly pretty difficult. We’ve been fortunate to be able to streamline a lot of
what I had to do when we first started our business and we’ve hired out so much
of the administrative tasks of our business. There are times (like during the last
two weeks before a show goes up) that I hardly write at all—it’s all about the
show. So it’s a bit of an ebb and flow kind of thing.

I also put everything away when my kids get home from school. They’re growing
up fast, and I don’t want to lock myself in my room when they’re home. I know
this lessens my productivity, but I think it’s important to prioritize my life

What is the message you hope readers take away from Just Let Go?

As you can probably guess, the book is about letting go—how you really can’t
move on until you let go of your past. If we let past mistakes or hurts pile on top
of each other and weigh us down, we’ll miss the fullness of what God has for us.
But in addition to that, it’s largely about learning to accept an apology you never
got.

How do you like your coffee? 😉

Well…my favorite coffee drink is a Decaf Coconut Mocha Macchiato from
Starbucks, but of late I have been on a detox from all sugar, white flour and
processed food. Thankfully this wonderful blogger (ahem…Courtney Clark…)
turned me on to these Califia Farms almond/coconut milk coffee creamers. They
are SO good!! So I’m enjoying my coffee again! 🙂

Hahah! I’m happy I could help! (the pecan caramel is still my favorite)

What is your favorite musical?

Oooh, this is a loaded question because I have SO many. As far as shows I’ve
seen or want to listen to, I would say Hamilton and Something Rotten are at the
very top of my list, but then I have all these other categories:

Favorite musical I’ve ever directed: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
Dreamcoat

Favorite musical I was in: The Will Rogers Follies

Favorite classic musical: Guys and Dolls

Favorite musical to listen to that I have yet to see: Dear Evan Hansen
🙂 Don’t get me started!!

What is next for you story-wise?

A couple of things. I have another book, Things Left Unsaid, releasing in
October. I’ll be writing another Harbor Pointe novel that will release next summer,
and I’m currently working on one that won’t release until 2020. The hardest part
is that I don’t have enough time to write ALL the stories I have in my head…but
I’m going to try!! 🙂

 

Thank you, Courtney, for taking the time to chat and answer my questions. I could talk books and food with you all day!

Review: “Where the Fire Falls” by Karen Barnett

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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.