Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Through Waters Deep" Blog Tour

Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015)

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war.

Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges---and dangers---await them.

Sarah Sundin takes readers to the tense months before the US entered WWII. Readers will encounter German U-boats and torpedoes, along with the explosive power of true love, in this hopeful and romantic story.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, In Perfect Time, and the Wings of Glory series. In 2014, On Distant Shores was a finalist for the Golden Scroll Awards from both AWSA and the Christian Authors Network. In 2011, Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

Find Sarah online:
website, Facebook, Twitter
My Take:
I have been waiting for this new series from Sarah Sundin for a long time, and I was excited to get started on it! I’m actually not too fond of World War II-era stories, and I usually avoid them – except for those by Ms. Sundin. She has the ability to portray the atrocities of World War II in a way that shows strength during the battle as well as hope for the future.

When I first started reading this novel, I enjoyed the characters of Jim and Mary right away. Over the course of the story, I got to know them well, and I would even go so far as to say they are among my favorite characters from Ms. Sundin’s books. As someone who also does not like to be in the spotlight, I very much related to Mary and her struggles. Jim was also a likeable guy, even though I kept wanting him to be a bit more aggressive (not in a bad way) as to where his relationship with Mary was going. I really enjoyed the banter between them and the way that their friendship eventually turned into more (which is how it happened between my husband and me back in the day)!

As for the other characters, there were a lot of them. Because this novel centered mostly on a mystery at the Boston Navy Yard, suspects were just coming out of the woodwork. At the beginning, these many secondary characters were a bit hard to keep straight, but as I kept reading, things fell more into place, and the sabotage aspect of the plot lent a great deal to the overall story. Sometimes the naval jargon in this novel got confusing, but I did appreciate the research and the attention to detail.

As I mentioned earlier, the previous books by this author are some of the only books about World War II that I have ever truly enjoyed. The balance that is portrayed between surviving the horrors of war and continuing to have hope for the future is what makes the novel readable. This hope comes only from a relationship with God through Jesus that gives the characters the strength to carry on no matter what they face. This was definitely true in Through Waters Deep

As for the lighter side of the novel – the romance between Mary and Jim – it was sweet, and I very much enjoyed watching their love grow. The era of the 1940s and its culture was an especially fun backdrop for this romance.  While I enjoyed most of the development of Mary and Jim’s courtship, at times their lack of communication tiptoed dangerously close to the Big Misunderstanding, which is my biggest pet peeve in a romance novel. I realize that it is based in reality – I’m sure we have all struggled with communication at one point or another – but when characters base their actions on assumptions of what the other person is thinking and feeling, it sometimes gets really tiring to read.

In spite of this, Through Waters Deep is still one of my favorite reads of the year. I liked that this one had a mystery to it, and any main character who references Nancy Drew is definitely one that I’m going to like! I also liked that this series is set in the Navy. My dad is a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the Navy life. The tensions of America being on the brink of war made this novel that much more suspenseful, and the main characters were such that I wanted to keep reading to find out what else happens to them in their lives. My favorite secondary character was definitely Arch, Jim’s friend from the Navy, and I am so glad that he will be featured in the next book in the series.

Overall, Through Waters Deep is another winner from Sarah Sundin, and I am looking forward to the next one!

I will give Through Waters Deep ... 4 BookWorms.

Dive into Sarah Sundin's explosive new series, Waves of Freedom, with book one,                  Through Waters Deep

When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them in the midst of their budding romance.

Join Sarah in celebrating the release of Through Waters Deep by entering to win an               Anchors Aweigh prize pack!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Through Waters Deep
  • A nautical tote bag
  • A set of compass rose notecards
  • A "Hope Anchors the Soul" journal
  • A Boston Tea Party earl grey tea set
  • Through Waters Deep apron
  • A set of nautical tea towels


Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. The winner will be announced August 25th on Sarah's blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Monday, August 17, 2015

"A Stranger's Secret" Review

Lady Morwenna Trelawny Penvenan made many mistakes in her younger days. Now that she is a young widow and mother, she is determined to make things right for her son, who is the heir to the title of Penvenan. Everything becomes even more complicated when Morewenna is accused of purposely crashing ships off the coast of her land in order to steal their goods. When a mysterious, unconscious stranger washes up on the shore – with the Trelawny medallion around his neck, no less – she really doesn’t know where to turn next. 

David Chastain wants nothing more than to find out what happened to his father and return to his ship-building business. He definitely didn’t plan on being in a shipwreck and winding up under the care of a beautiful lady of the manor.  

As Morwenna and David spend more time together, it is discovered that each may hold secrets that could answer questions for the other. Did Morwenna’s adventurous parents have something to do with the death of David’s father? And does Morwenna have something to do with the multiple attempts to keep David quiet?

As the questions mount, David and Morwenna are drawn together. But can they trust each other enough to find out the truth? 

A Stranger’s Secret is the second in the “Cliffs of Cornwall” series.

When I requested this book, I didn’t realize that it was the second in a series. I knew that it was labeled a ”Cliffs of Cornwall” novel, but it didn’t say anything about it actually being a series. That being said, I was a bit lost through some parts of this book.  

I was able to pick up on most of the background for Morwenna eventually, but the other characters continued to be confusing even as I kept going in the story. The names of the secondary characters were not always recognizable, which made it harder to keep them straight – especially when they were sometimes referred to by their first names and sometimes by their last names. I felt as if I needed a character list at the beginning! And while the main characters were well-drawn, the other ones seemed to just be thrown in here and there when needed. There was a real disconnect between the main characters and the secondary ones, and I don’t really know how that could have been rectified.
Even though the characters were sometimes confusing, the overall storyline was good. I liked how Morwenna and David met and the circumstances and emotions that played out during their relationship. As I said earlier, the main characters were much more fleshed out than the others which made me care more about them than I was expecting at the beginning of the book.

The secrets and mysteries in this novel were really what kept it going. At times it became a bit slow when Morwenna and David would start on their inner monologues. But then another part of the mystery would unravel (or poor David would be drugged again – seriously, how many times did that happen?) and the story would again pick up.

As for the spiritual aspect, it was there – David and Morwenna both professed faith in God – but it probably could have been developed a little bit more. I wasn’t completely unsatisfied with how their faith was portrayed. I just thought it needed some more depth to it. I did enjoy Morwenna’s obvious devotion to her young son. Her affection for him was touching, as was her determination to do the best she could for him and for his future.

Overall the plot in A Stranger’s Secret was good even if the characters sometimes made it confusing. 

I will give  A Stranger's Secret ... 3 BookWorms.

A Stranger's Secret
by Laurie Alice Eakes
Zondervan Publishing
Publication date: April 21, 2015
352 pages

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor" Blog Tour

About the book:

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor (Howard, June 2015)

When Heather Toulson returns to her parents' cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can't be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver's death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family's cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She's mourning her father's passing but can't let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family's belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family's history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

Purchase a copy:
See what other reviewers are saying here:

About the author:
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

Find Melanie online: website, Twitter, Facebook

My Take:

I am a sucker for "past and present" stories these days. The book club I am in has read many of these types of books over the years, and we seem to continue to pick them every year. I think it's difficult to tell stories like this well without getting the reader all mixed up, and Ms. Dobson did this well. The "past" time period sometimes felt as if it was a lot earlier in history than what it was, but I still enjoyed the storytelling.

After a bit of an overwhelming start with lots of characters and events, this novel pulls you in and keeps you enthralled throughout. At times the circumstances were just so heartbreaking that it was hard for me to read, but ultimately the love of God, the power of forgiveness, and the hope we have in Christ shone through.

The setting of the story was very interesting and gave a little bit of new life to the usual English countryside novels.

I actually wish more of the novel would have focused on the mystery aspect rather than on the character development, but that is mostly just my personal preference. I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery, and it kept me wanting more.

The characters were written well and seemed very real, but with at least seven points of view, it was sometimes hard to remember who was "speaking" and what was going on. Also, sometimes the realness of the characters was frustrating because the people just kept making the same mistakes over and over from generation to generation!  Again, this put them in the position of realizing the power of forgiveness in Christ, which is ultimately what we all need anyway, regardless of how many times we make the same mistakes - but it was a bit of an overplayed plot point by the end of the book.

Like I said several times, the points of forgiveness, healing, and hope in Christ came through very clearly in this novel. It was a very emotional book, and the characters dealt with real-life situations that can only be redeemed by God. I tend to enjoy novels that are not so emotional, but this was still an engaging story that kept my attention.

I will give Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor ... 3.5 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books through Litfuse. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Thriving in Babylon" Blog Tour

About the book:

Thriving in Babylon (David C. Cook, April 2015)

Meet a man forced to live in a fast changing and godless society. He faced fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of world that seemed to be falling apart at warp speed.

Sound familiar? His name was Daniel, and with the power of hope, humility, and wisdom, he not only thrived, he changed an empire while he was at it. Though he lived thousands of years ago, he has a much to teach us today.

Even in Babylon, God is in control.

In Thriving in Babylon, Larry Osborne explores the "adult" story of Daniel to help us not only survive - but actually thrive in an increasingly godless culture. Here Pastor Osborne looks at:

-Why panic and despair are never from God

-What true optimism looks like

-How humility disarms even our greatest of enemies

-Why respect causes even those who will have nothing to do with God to listen

-How wisdom can snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat

For those who know Jesus and understand the full implications of the cross, the resurrection, and the promises of Jesus, everything changes---not only in us, but also in our world.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a senior pastor and teaching pastor at North Coast Church---one of the ten most influential churches in the country---since 1980. Dr. Osborne is the author of numerous books, including Accidental Pharisees. He and his wife live in Oceanside, California. They have three grown children.

Find Larry online: website, Facebook, Twitter

See what other reviewers are saying here:

My Take:

In America these days, it does sometimes feels as if we are living in the Babylon of the Bible. I don't always feel this way, but there are definitely times when the blatant animosity towards God and the Bible in our culture is jarring and very upsetting.

That's one reason I really this book. When I get worried and upset about how things are turning in our society, books like this help to get my focus back to what is important - God, the truth of Scripture, and what we as Christians have been called to do. He calls us to not be reactionary but to be living our lives in such a way that others can't help but see the difference Christ has made - and not just the difference here on Earth but our lives for all eternity.

The writing style of the author is interesting. It took a bit for me to get used to, but it did keep me engaged throughout, which is something that is really important in a non-fiction book. I also think that some of the comparisons to us in America today and Daniel in Babylon in Bible times was a bit of a stretch but only because I feel I need to do some more biblical research to fully understand the life and times of Daniel.

There is not denying it - our culture is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. Jesus even warned that such a thing could and would occur in our everyday lives - "In this world you will have trouble." But the first and last parts of that verse are what we need to focus on in order to live in a world that is in trouble - one that is in dire need of the peace that only comes from the Savior:

"I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  John 16:33 (NIV, emphasis mine)

Let the truth of the Bible cause you to take heart - Jesus wins. And that gives us hope as well as an urgency to share the gospel as much as we possibly can.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from David C. Cook Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 8, 2015

V-E Day

In honor of V-E Day, I am posting a Q&A with author Sarah Sundin that was originally posted on Straight off the Page.

At the end I will post links to my reviews of Ms. Sundin's books. They are pretty much the only World War II novels that I have truly enjoyed.

Sara:  Hello, Sarah! It is a pleasure to be able to ask you some questions about your books and about yourself!  Please tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.

Sarah: Just your ordinary stay-at-home mom/pharmacist/author. My husband and I live in northern California, and our three children are in various stages of fluttering out of the nest—our daughter is getting married this summer! I never planned to write novels—I majored in chemistry and earned a doctorate in pharmacy. But in 2000, I got slammed with a story idea that wouldn’t leave me alone, and I had to write it. That first novel will never be published, but it got me started.

Sara: What do you like most about writing? Is there anything about writing that you do not particularly like?

Sarah: I love almost every part. I love playing with new story ideas and getting to know my characters. I love the heady, falling-in-love feeling when the rough draft is flowing and dialogue is zinging. I love the research and the editing. And I like many of the extra things authors need to do—speaking, teaching, and connecting on social media. When I’m in the middle of plotting a novel, I grumble and whine about how much I hate it. But when it all swoops together, it’s such a thrill.

Sara: Your books all take place during World War II, which I have to admit was not one of my favorite settings for historical fiction…until I read your books! You really have a way of taking a difficult time period and turning it into a story full of hope. What do you like most about this time period, and how do you make your stories hopeful instead of disheartening?

Sarah: What appeals to me about the World War II era is how a divided people came together to fight for freedom and how ordinary men and women learned they could do extraordinary things. World War II showed us the worst things humanity is capable of, but it showed the best of humanity and good prevailing over evil. I love writing fiction set during this era, because I can explore how individual men and women not only survived these difficult times, but thrived in them through their faith.

Sara: I also like that your novels are filled with historical details about the war but that they never get boring. How do you weave these details into the story without it getting bogged down?

Sarah: I slash and burn. I love the history so much that I have to restrain myself from throwing in all the great tidbits I learned. My rough drafts always have too much detail, but in the edits I hack out great chunks—and my editor hacks out even more. I keep reminding myself to include only what the reader needs to know to understand the story. Nothing more. Slash and burn.

Sara: Another thing that I really appreciate about your novels is how the spiritual aspects shine through so well. Is it difficult to incorporate Christ in your novels and have it feel natural as opposed to forced?

Sarah: For me, the spiritual aspects arise straight from the characters. I don’t come in with a lesson to teach, but I figure out what my character needs to learn, and then I put her in situations that challenge her and help her grow.

Sara: I really enjoyed your recent Christmas novel Where Treetops Glisten that you co-authored with Tricia Goyer and Cara Putman – especially since it took place in my hometown! Please tell us a little about the research you did for that novel and how you all worked together to make it a reality.

Sarah: That was so much fun! Cara asked Tricia and me if we’d like to write a Christmas novella collection set in WWII—and we loved the idea. Cara and Tricia brought so many great ideas and such energy to the project, and I—well, I made charts and spreadsheets to keep us organized. Sigh. That’s what I do.

Researching Lafayette, Indiana during World War II was a lot of fun. Not only could I find a lot of information online, but Cara lives in Lafayette! I spent a few days with her family, and she took me to all the sites, where I took gobs of pictures. Then I spent an afternoon in the library looking at wonderful issues of the Lafayette Journal & Courier from December 1943! And the phone book! What a treasure trove.

Sara: If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to Germany. Where would you go?

Sarah: I love Germany! My family spent the summer of 2007 in Mannheim, and it was spectacular. I’m also extremely fond of Britain, Scotland, and Italy. I’d be torn between revisiting a favorite location and exploring somewhere new. Wanderlust runs wild in my family.

Sara: I am so excited to read your upcoming novel Through Waters Deep, the first in your new Waves of Freedom series, which is due to release this August. Can you give our readers a little preview?

Sarah: I’m thrilled about this new series, which follows three American naval officers during the Battle of the Atlantic. Through Waters Deep is set in 1941, when the US was officially neutral, but our warships escorted British convoys—and were exchanging fire with German U-boats. One US destroyer and five US merchant ships were sunk—before Pearl Harbor!
In Through Waters Deep, Ensign Jim Avery serves on a destroyer based in Boston, and his childhood friend, Mary Stirling, works as a secretary at the Boston Navy Yard. When evidence of sabotage is found on Jim’s ship, Jim and Mary work together to uncover the culprit. As America teeters on the brink of war, Jim and Mary’s friendship teeters on the brink of romance. Action, mystery, romance…with a side of Boston cream pie.

Sara:  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our site! We look forward to reading and reviewing your future novels!

--- Shoopette

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Steadfast Heart" Review

Lenore Fulcher wasn’t particularly looking for a suitor the day her father suggested she begin courting one of his business partners. But she does know that a friend of her father’s – especially one who is 17 years older than she – is not exactly what she desires in a mate. Fortunately Lenore meets Kolbein before her father can pledge her to another.

Kolbein Booth was definitely not looking for a bride when he arrived on the West Coast. After learning that his sister, who had run from their home in Chicago, might have come to Seattle to the Madison Bridal School, he is determined to find her. What awaits Kolbein at that school is not his sister but Lenore Fulcher, and for some reason he is completely captivated by her.

As Kolbein searches for his sister with the help of Lenore’s friends, he realizes that he does not want to leave Lenore and the city of Seattle to go back to Chicago. Will his sister be found safe and sound, and is Lenore the one who God has put in his life to be his bride?

Steadfast Heart is book one in the “Brides of Seattle” series by Tracie Peterson.

I wrote an article for Straight off the Page last month about How I Fell in Love with Historical Romance. In it I declared that the first author who caused me to fall in love with the genre was Janette Oke. While this is true, one of the authors who helped this love for Christian historical romance blossom was definitely Tracie Peterson.

Because of this I kind of have a soft spot for her and authors like her, and I tend to be a little more accepting of the genre pet peeves that sometimes come up in their novels (the Big Misunderstanding, love-at-first-sight, and the like). Their novels are “comfort food” for me, and I can overlook some things more easily.

Unfortunately I cannot do that with Steadfast Heart. The novel got off to a rocky start with the story being told from no fewer than five points of view within the first few chapters. This way of telling the story introduced the characters well, I guess, but it made the book very hard to get into. Plus, Lenore (the main female character from the back of the book) goes off to San Francisco very early on in the book and doesn’t return until almost the halfway point. This leaves the story to be told mostly through Abrianna, Lenore’s very high-strung, albeit well-meaning, best friend.

I actually think that Abrianna is more of the main character in this story instead of Lenore. It was fairly confusing to have so much of the story told through Abrianna’s eyes when I kept thinking that Lenore was the main character. I even had a hard time writing the summary above for this book since Lenore and Kolbein seem to barely be in it! What’s worse is that Abrianna, to me, was such an annoying character. I found myself skimming her ramblings, and I kept wanting Marilla Cuthbert to come along and say, “Abrianna! Hold your tongue!” Unfortunately Abrianna was not anywhere close to being as endearing as Anne Shirley, despite the surface similarities.

Despite these awkward occurrences, there were a few things about the novel that I liked. The concept of the Bridal School was interesting, especially since it had a good reputation and wasn’t considered a place of “ill repute.” I also liked the character of Wade – a life-long friend of Abrianna’s – and I would even go so far as to say that he was my favorite character of the book. There were also some good spiritual aspects to the novel. I liked how Wade was able to reach out to Kolbein during his time of spiritual doubt. I thought this was a good example of how to be compassionate and how to be available to those who need a listening ear.

As for the romance between Kolbein and Lenore, I’ve already mentioned that they didn’t seem to be the focal point of the book. Their shallow whirlwind of a romance – with the love-at-first-sight and the never seeming to spend any time together – was the epitome of a pet peeve for this genre. However, since they didn’t quite seem to be the main characters, it didn’t bother me as much. They did seem to be right for each other, and at least they did freely admit that they hadn’t known each other long and that it seemed to be strange that they should fall so madly in love so quickly. As I said, I can overlook these sorts of tropes with my favorite authors more easily.

Ultimately I just found this novel to be all over the place. It’s like it couldn’t decide which story it wanted to tell – Lenore and Kolbein, Abrianna and Wade, the Bridal School, social disparity, discrimination towards the Chinese on the West Coast at this time, drug and human trafficking – and most of these stories were just touched upon and left to hang until (hopefully) the next book in the series. It’s not easy for me to say, but I almost feel as if this book wasn’t even written by Tracie Peterson. That’s how far out in left field it felt. It’s really hard to admit that you didn’t care for a novel from one of your favorite authors, and I hope this feeling of disjointedness doesn’t continue in the series.

Overall, Steadfast Heart was a nice diversion but was far from what this author has produced in the past.

Reluctantly (because this was one of my first favorite authors when I began reading Christian historical fiction), I will give Steadfast Heart ... 2 BookWorms.

Steadfast Heart
by Tracie Peterson
"Brides of Seattle" #1
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: January 6, 2015
336 pages

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, February 27, 2015

"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" Review

Abigail Foster always assumed that she would marry her childhood friend, Gilbert Scott. But with her father in financial ruin and Gilbert seeming to be more attracted to her younger sister, Abigail’s life has been thrown into upheaval.

When a distant relation’s long-empty manor house suddenly becomes available, Abigail’s father makes the decision to move the family to Easton. Abigail and her father journey to Pembrooke Park to get the house in order while her mother and sister enjoy the London season. What awaits them at Pembrooke Park is definitely more than Abigail bargained for: an overprotective steward, a house in shambles that looks as if the inhabitants left in a great hurry, a rumor of hidden treasure, and an interesting local curate.

As Abigail spends more and more time at Pembrooke Park, the deeper she gets into its secrets and mysteries. And the more time she spends with the curate, William Chapman, and his family, the more she realizes how much she longs for a family of her own.

Is there truth to the rumor of hidden treasure at Pembrooke Park? And what will some people do in order to find it…or to keep it safe?

I have enjoyed previous novels by Julie Klassen for their engaging and harder-to-figure-out mystery plots and their historical accuracy. With The Secret of Pembrooke Park, I feel as if I at least got half of what I usually bargain for.

The mystery and secrets surrounding Pembrooke Park stayed true to what I expect from Julie Klassen. There are many layers to the mysteries that Abigail is trying to solve, and even though I figured out the big one early on, it was still enjoyable to see how everything unfolded. The danger towards the end is very exciting, and I thought things wrapped up nicely.

What I didn’t think came off as clearly was the historical accuracy part of the novel. The descriptions of the manor house and the dances and such were fine; it just seemed as if something about the relationship between Abigail and William was a bit off. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was except that their romance seemed somewhat too modern for some reason. Maybe it was because they seemed to spend a lot of time alone together without any serious consequences. Maybe it was that the “inner voices” of the characters seemed too modern. I don't know. Whatever it was, the setting just felt misplaced.

I also thought the spiritual aspect of the novel could have been developed more, especially since the main male character is a pastor. The best spiritual aspect of the novel was William’s sermons. They were fantastic! I just wish Abigail’s faith had been clearer.

The main plot of this novel is very similar to one of my favorite books of all time, Jane Eyre. When Abigail arrives at Pembrooke Park with its strange nighttime noise and many secrets, it was very reminiscent of Jane’s arrival at Thornfield Hall. I usually would begrudge a novel for being so similar to one of my favorites, but I actually liked that aspect in this one. It was familiar and comfortable, and it definitely held my interest. At 464 pages, this novel is quite a long read, and if it hadn’t been for the interesting mysteries, I might have given up halfway through.

Even though the setting was a little out of place, readers of Regency-era mysteries should still enjoy this lengthy but engaging novel.

I will give The Secret of Pembrooke Park ... 3.5 BookWorms.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park
by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: December 2, 2014
464 pages

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Where Trust Lies" Review

After finishing her year of teaching in Coal Valley in the Canadian West, Beth Thatcher returns home to Toronto and to her doting family. But before she has much time to catch her breath, her mother and sisters whisk her off with some family friends on a summer cruise down the eastern coast of Canada and the United States. Beth is not extremely excited about the trip, but she decides to try to use the time to connect more with her mother and sisters and to sort out her feelings about Jarrick – the Canadian Mountie back in Coal Valley.

The more time she spends with her family, the more Beth realizes how difficult it would be to leave them again if she returned to teaching in the West. But she cherishes each phone call and letter from Jarrick, and as her feelings for him grow, the more she feels torn. When the unexpected strikes her family on the cruise trip, Beth’s faith will be tested more than it ever has before, and she will discover from where her trust must truly come.

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the “Return to the Canadian West” series by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan.

After reading and enjoying the first book in this series last year, I was looking forward to this next installment. Even though this is the second novel in the “Return to the Canadian West” series, the story took place entirely on the East Coast of Canada and the United States! I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be returning to the West and to Coal Valley in this book, but once I got involved in the story that was taking place, I was able to move past that and really enjoy the novel.

This book is told from the perspective of Beth, who was the main character in the first novel. I expected this, but what I did not expect was that even though the story is told from Beth’s side of things, most of the action and development in the story revolves around Beth’s younger sister, Julie. I thought this way of telling things was slightly odd, but not necessarily in a bad way – just different.

I absolutely adored the main plot in this novel – Beth, her sisters, her mother, and some family friends going on a summer trip by themselves. It was like a girls’ night out extended to an entire summer. I’m not sure I would be able to (sanely) be away from my husband for that long, but it still sounded like fun and made for an interesting and emotional story. Since this book is written by a mother and daughter, it makes that even more poignant.

The romance continues from the first book in the series as Beth and Jarrick continue getting to know one another and waiting and praying to make sure that their relationship is God-honoring. The catch this time is that their courtship must take place while they are separated by thousands of miles – Jarrick in the West attending to his duties as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Beth while she is on this trip with her family and friends. I liked how their relationship progressed, though, even over the miles, and I could feel their angst as they tried to wait patiently and see how the Lord was directing them.

*****Possible Spoiler*****

I don’t know if this is a true spoiler, but I was so excited when towards the end of the book Jarrick shows up in person to be with Beth during a moment of true crisis for the Thatcher family. When he walked into the room, I wanted to stand up and cheer! It was a very knight-in-shining-armor moment!

*****Possible Spoiler Over*****

Although I could kind of see the direction in which this novel was headed with Julie and her choice of friends, I was still intrigued. That storyline definitely kept the novel moving, especially towards the middle when it got a bit slow. When I finished this novel, I was disappointed that I didn’t have the next one in the series ready to go! I’m really looking forward to that one when it comes out – probably next year.

The “Canadian West” series by Janette Oke is definitely one of my favorites, but the “Return to the Canadian West” series is definitely up towards the top of the list as well.

I will give Where Trust Lies … 4 BookWorms.

Where Trust Lies
by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan
"Return to the Canadian West" #2
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: February 3, 2015

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Beyond All Dreams" Blog Tour

Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Elizabeth Camden is the author of six books and a RITA and Christy Award winner. With a master's in history and a master's in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Elizabeth lives with her husband in Florida.

Find Elizabeth online: website, Facebook
Blog Tour Landing page:
My Take:

When I started reading this book, I was hooked instantly. I immediately adored the library-loving Anna (to whom I could totally relate), and I thought her job was so interesting. I was also drawn to the story of her father's ship - the Culpepper - that was lost at sea and the mystery surrounding it.

When the novel introduced the character of Luke, I was not an immediate fan of him. He seemed arrogant, and I was thinking, "How am I going to read about this guy as the 'hero' in this book? I don't like him at all!" But as I kept reading, his character was developed so much more, and I grew to like him more than I thought I would at the beginning. I’m still not totally convinced that I really liked him, but I was able to appreciate him and the reasons behind his actions. I also liked that his character did seem to go through a lot of growth throughout the course of the novel.

I also really liked some of the secondary characters in this book. Anna’s friend Neville was so sweet, and I enjoyed their best friend relationship. His romantic involvement later on in the novel was developed very well. It was also interesting to see how different relationships and alliances developed between the members of Congress and how they worked for and against each other.

Even though the characters in this novel are interesting, what really set it apart are the historical details. I sometimes get bogged down in political stuff, but this aspect was kept interesting because of the involvement of Luke and Anna. The emotions that people must have been feeling during this time period came across so clearly, and it shed light on a time in American history that I didn't know too much about.

The romance in this one had a bit of a different flavor to it. I especially liked the constant witty banter between Luke and Anna. That's always a favorite of mine in a novel. But I wasn't quite convinced of how the romance ends up. It seemed a bit abrupt. The growth of the characters didn't so much happen over time as much as just being back-and-forth. I also thought the spiritual side could have been so much deeper. It was there and was sometimes clear, especially with the aspect of forgiveness, but it could have gotten to the heart of the characters so much more.

This novel is definitely not a light read. There are some heavy issues that are discussed, including drunkenness, abuse, and political cover-ups. It is very realistic at times, but there is definitely a sense of hope and forgiveness in the end.

Overall, Beyond All Dreams is a well-written historical novel that is both complex and compelling, and it sheds light on some possibly unknown aspects of the United States and its political life.

I will give Beyond All Dreams ... 4 BookWorms.


About the giveaway:

Travel back in time to the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress in Elizabeth Camden's newest release, Beyond All Dreams. From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Elizabeth is celebrating the release of Beyond All Dreams with a Kindle giveaway and Facebook party on February 17.

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • One copy of Beyond All Dreams
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 2/17. Winner will be announced at Elizabeth's 2/17 Beyond All Dreams Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Elizabeth and historical fiction fans, as well as for the opportunity to win some great prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 17th!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers through LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, January 30, 2015

"The Dandelion Field" Blog Tour

This handsome firefighter makes a living coming to the rescue, but Gin doesn't need a man to fight her battles.

After Raine's dad walked out, Ginevieve Lightly never lived in one place too long, a rambling lifestyle that defined her daughter's youth. When their car dies in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Gin promises Raine they can stay until she finishes her senior year of high school. Gin will do anything to make sure her daughter has a bright future . . . a future that's compromised when Raine reveals she's pregnant.

Dan Moretti has only ever called Banister Falls home. After losing his best friend in a tragic accident, Dan devoted himself to responding to fires, rescuing the helpless, and guiding Cody Bennett, his best friend's son, through life. With Cody being the epitome of the good kid, it was an easy job. Until he says four little words: "The baby is mine."

Knowing gossip of Raine's pregnancy will erupt sooner or later in the small town, Gin's reflex is to grab the suitcase and escape to a new city, a new life. But with each passing day, Gin's feet stay rooted in Banister Falls, and she falls a little more for this local firefighter who shows her not all men abandon women at the first sign of smoke.

As Gin and Dan do the best they can to guide the two teenagers through their early entry into adulthood, they discover together that romance can bloom in the rockiest of situations. And God can turn the pieces of a broken past into a beautiful new beginning.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Kathryn Springer
is a USA Today bestselling author. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child she spent many hours sitting at her mother's typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books --- which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own. Kathryn has written nineteen books with close to two million copies sold. She lives with her husband and three children in Marinette, Wisconsin.
Find Kathryn online: website, Facebook
My Take:
Even though I mostly read historical fiction, I was intrigued when I read the summary for this contemporary novel. I'm glad I picked it up, though, because it ended up being a really good book.

What I was most impressed with was how the sensitive subject of teen pregnancy was handled. Everyone involved in the lives of these teens were understandably hurt, confused, and rattled, but it was beautiful that the two families were brought together and were able to find forgiveness and hope. What a great reminder of how even though we have trusted Jesus, we still need His forgiveness daily.

I also liked how it was obvious that God was working in the hearts and lives of all of the characters. At times I wish the text was more to the point about the gospel, but for the most part, it was handed well.

The romance between Gin and Dan was a nice storyline, as was the love that blossomed between the two teens who were facing such a life-altering situation. I liked having the perspective told from Gin, Dan, and Raine, and the flashbacks were also an interesting way to get the story across. And the title (and the story behind it) was just so sweet.

The setting of this story was nice, too. Since I grew up in a small town, I understood what Gin and Raine went through being "outsiders." It was a good reminder to not be judgmental but to shower people with grace, especially when they are new to your area.

Though contemporary romance novels are not usually my thing, I really enjoyed this one and how it told that God can redeem any situation.


Even though I liked this story, I was pretty bummed to not be able to experience the birth of the baby during the novel. Was it a boy or a girl? If it was a boy, did they name him Maxwell Dillon? I really wanted to experience that part of the lives of Cody and Raine, and I felt a bit cheated that I didn't get to.

*****SPOILER OVER*****

I will give  The Dandelion Field ... 4 BookWorms.

See what other reviewers are saying here:
Landing page:
Get ready for Valentine's Day with a new story of romance and falling in love in Kathryn Springer's The Dandelion FieldThe handsome firefighter makes a living “coming to the rescue,” but Gin is used to fighting her own battles. Can a woman who doesn't believe in happy endings take a chance on a new beginning? 

Celebrate a second chance at love and family with Kathryn by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Dandelion Field
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 15th. Winner will be announced February 16th on the Litfuse blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.