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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Book Review: The Lost Wonderland Diaries: Secrets of the Looking Glass by J. Scott Savage

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Book Description:

After returning from Wonderland, Celia and Tyrus journey to the Looking-Glass World to reclaim their mirror images and stop a war between two powerful queens.

When a dark creature called the Bandersnatch steals Lewis Carroll’s lost diaries, Celia and Tyrus try to get it back but are tricked into passing through a magic mirror into the Looking-Glass World, a place where everything—themselves included—are divided in two, like identical twins. Celia’s astute logic and Tyrus’s exceptional imagination now belong to their mirror images, Lia and Ty, who are generals in the Red Queen’s Army, which is at war against the White Kingdom.

Left without their greatest problem-solving skills, Celia and Tyrus must rely on each other more than ever as they play a massive game of chess to try to catch their mirror images, who always seem to be one step ahead of them. Along the way, they engage in a rhyming battle with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, seek advice from Humpty and Dumpty, and learn how to believe in the impossible from the White Queen, who remembers the future as if it were the past.

As the final battle draws near, Celia and Tyrus form an uneasy alliance with Lia and Ty in order to find the legendary vorpal sword—the only weapon powerful enough to stop the war. If they fail, not only will two kingdoms be destroyed, but Celia and Tyrus might never regain their stolen talents and be trapped in the Looking-Glass World forever. 

Rorie's Review:

Wandering through Wonderland was wacky, but this time, we get to tag along in the Looking-Glass World, which might just be even crazier! Celia and Tyrus are trying to find out how to save their mirror images, all while figuring out if they have any value without them.

The whole time I was reading this story, bits and pieces of the Jabberwocky kept going through my mind. I never understood the poem (poetry is not my thing) but my oldest memorized it in school and I can still remember him quoting parts of it. This story actually helped me understand the poem a bit more, so thanks for that! 

At first glance, this story might seem like just another middle-grade adventure story, but it's much more than that. It deals with self-image, learning to love and accept your whole self, not just the parts of you that seem to be your "best" quality. I enjoyed the quirkyness of the story - all except for ending the last sentence of a chapter with the next chapter heading. That was distracting and kind of annoying. The author explains why he does that at the end of the book, but I still am not a fan.

Other than that, I enjoyed this story and am looking forward to having my children read it.

Title: The Lost Wonderland Diaries: Secrets of the Looking Glass
Author: J. Scott Savage
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: September 2022 
ISBN: 1639930442
Source: I received a copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
 
Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Book Review: The Bachelor and the Bride by Sarah M. Eden

The Bachelor and the Bride by Sarah M. Eden

Book Description:

London, 1866

Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society.

Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by secretly marrying her to protect her from her family of notorious grave robbers.

But six months after Gemma and Barnabus exchanged vows, she realized her love for her new husband was unrequited. To protect her heart, she left, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grew beyond a sense of duty.

When Barnabus sends a letter to Gemma inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But unfortunately, he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power.

Heartbroken, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he'll never see her again.

Yet as the couple follows the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London's criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma's life might now save Barnabus―and his lonely heart.

But before the once-confirmed bachelor can properly court his secret bride, they'll need to evade the dangerous forces that are drawing ever closer to the hopeful lovers and the entire Dread Penny Society itself.

Rorie's Review:
Oooo....oooooo!!! There's so much I want to say about the last few chapters of this book, but that would totally spoil the story, so I won't. You just need to read it to find out. And then you can sit there and say "oooooo!!!" as well. Just maybe not out in public, because people might give you weird looks. 
 
All the familiar characters are present. Fletcher, Stone, Brogan, etc. I also got to enjoy the two included Penny Dreadfuls, which kept my attention just as much as the main story. Just when I thought I had things all figured out, the author threw some HUGE twists into the story, completely changing the course of the next few stories in this series. I can't wait to read them.
 
Andrea's Review:
 
I’ve enjoyed The Dread Penny Society series, and this fourth book was a great addition. The idea of resurrectionists was so interesting (and creepy). I liked the main characters (Gemma and Barnabus) and the good hearts they had. It did take me awhile to read the book, but I think that was more on my busy life than on the story. There are a couple of big reveals, so I highly recommend reading this book if you’ve had any interest at all in the series. The ending was perfect to peak the interest for the next book in the series. I'm really looking forward to it.   
 
Title: The Bachelor and the Bride
Author: Sarah M. Eden
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: September 2022 
ISBN: 1639930485
Source: We received copies from the publisher. All opinions expressed are our own.
 
Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Book Review: The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson


Book Description:

Based on the true story of the Cook sisters, who smuggled valuables out of 1930s Nazi Germany to finance a daring, secret operation to help Jews find hope for a new life in England

British sisters Ida and Louise Cook enjoy their quiet, unassuming lives in south London. Ida writes romance novels, and Louise works as a secretary. In the evenings, the sisters indulge in their shared love for opera, saving their money to buy records and attend performances throughout England and Europe, becoming well-known by both performers and fellow opera lovers.

But when Hitler seizes power in 1933, he begins targeting and persecuting German Jews, passing laws that restrict their rights and their lives. The sisters continue their trips to the German opera houses, but soon, Jewish members of the opera community covertly approach the sisters, worried that they will be stripped of their wealth and forced to leave their homes and the country. Danger looms on the horizon, threatening to spill across all of Europe’s borders.

Ida and Louise vow to help, but how can two ordinary working-class women with limited means make a difference?

Together with their beloved opera community, the sisters devise a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees from Germany to England. The success of the plan hinges on Ida and Louise’s ability to smuggle contraband jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of the SS soldiers guarding various checkpoints. But how many trips can they make before someone blows a whistle? Or before the final curtain falls on Germany’s borders?

The Opera Sisters is a riveting and inspiring novel of two unlikely heroines whose courage and compassion gave hope to many Jews desperate to escape Nazi persecution.

Review:

I must admit, the title of this book didn't draw me in at all. The only opera I am a fan of is Phantom of the Opera - the rest of what I've heard is just not my style. But after reading the description of the book, I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. The story did start off a bit slow, and it was easy to put down and go do something else. I'm glad I kept reading though, because it wasn't too long before I was hooked, and I ended up finishing the majority of the book in just over a day.

I had never heard of the Cook sisters before, or what they did to help rescue so many Jewish families. I am always in awe at the bravery of ordinary people like Louise and Ida. I was also shocked to learn at how indifferent so many people around the world were to the plight of the Jewish Germans in pre-WWII Germany. Looking back and knowing just how evil Hitler was, it's easy to pass judgement on people who didn't know his true colors yet.

I always appreciate when the author of historical stories gives the reader an update of some of the people we get to know in the story. This is a well-researched, captivating story, and I'm glad I had the chance to read it.

Title: The Opera Sisters
Author: Marianne Monson
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: September 2022 
ISBN: 1639930469 
Source: I received a copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Review: Hearts of Briarwall by Krista Jensen

Hearts of Briarwall by Krista Jensen

Book Description:

Lydia Wooding is fascinated by the latest inventions the new century brings, including motorcars. She longs for the independence they represent and believes that women should have a say in the future of the industry—just as they should have a say in suffrage, adventure, and, of course, love.

Spencer Hayes is a man of practicality and innovation, but he lacks the financial backing to make his dream a reality. When he contacts his childhood friend, Andrew Wooding, about a promising business venture, he is invited to Briarwall Manor to discuss the terms. Once there, he is surprised to find that Andrew's once shy, younger sister, Lydia, has grown into a young woman of beauty, wit, and a bit of fire. Even better, the two share a passion for motorcars.

Andrew, however, is wary of cars, having lost his parents in a tragic auto accident when he and Lydia were young. And he's not sure a relationship between his sister and Spencer is the best idea—not when Sir Lawrence is available and could match both Lydia's social status and her fortune.

Torn between risking their hearts and being loyal to their dreams in an era of whirlwind change, Spencer and Lydia anchor themselves with the determination they both share: to live life to its fullest.

Andrea's Review:

Krista Jensen did an excellent job writing this lovely Victorian romance. The cover wasn’t my favorite, but don’t let that stop you from reading this book. The Wendy League is such an entertaining group of women. Their quirks and uniqueness made them very likable. I really hope more books are written focusing on the other members since I thoroughly enjoyed Lydia’s story and her interactions with her friends. The romance was sweet and the setting during the second industrial revolution kept my curiosity piqued. It was fun learning more about the rise of the automobile industry, and also women’s suffrage and things like perfume.

Rorie's Review:

I enjoy a main character who is a bit of a spitfire, who doesn't quite fit in with the rest of society. Maybe because I would like to be a bit more spit-fireish, but most certainly am not. Lydia and her friends were so much fun getting to know, and I sincerely hope they will be getting their own stories in the future.
The storyline was entertaining, and I was able to finish the book quickly. I always enjoy it when a book is hard to put down, and I'm not so busy that I have to keep putting it down. (Either that, or I am really good at ignoring those gotta-do's in place of the wanna-do's.)
I look forward to reading more from this author.

About the Author:

Award-winning author KRISTA JENSEN works and plays in the Pacific Northwest with her spunky little dog and anyone else who wants to tag along. When she’s not exploring the outdoors, she can likely be found with her laptop, a pretty spiral notebook, and a Pilot Precise V7, writing about love, triumph, and really great kisses.

Either that or she’s switching laundry wondering who keeps wearing all these clothes. (It’s her.)

For book info and other good things, follow Krista on Instagram @kristajensenbooks.

Title: Hearts of Briarwall
Author: Krista Jensen
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: August 2022
ISBN: 1629729965
Source: I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Purchase: Amazon | Deseret Book

Review: Until You Find Strength by Jason F. Wright

Until You Find Strength:
A Message of Comfort for When Your Grief Feels Too Heavy
by Jason F. Wright

Book Description: 
Everyone experiences loss differently and grieves in their own way, but author Jason F. Wright has learned from his own life some key principles to regaining your footing and finding tranquility after a devastating loss. 

This beautifully illustrated book helps remind those who are grieving that they are never alone in their pain and heartache. 

Review:

I reviewed an electronic version from the publisher, so I’m not totally certain how the final product ended up. But, with what I saw this is a sweet book and seems like it would be a good gift for someone who lost a loved one. I was thinking of a few people while I read it and wondered how they’re getting along now that it’s been awhile since their loved one passed. I liked the advice the author gave at the end for things that can help you get through your grief. This is definitely a book I’d consider buying for someone who lost a loved one.

About the Author:

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of seventeen books. He lives with his wife, Kodi, and their children in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Book Review: The Deadly Shallows by Dani Pettrey

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Book Description: 

A DEADLY ATTACK.
A STOLEN WEAPON CAPABLE OF IMMENSE DESTRUCTION. 
A PAINFUL SECRET THAT THREATENS TO TEAR TWO HEARTS APART.


CGIS Agent Noah Rowley is rocked to the core when several of his valued team members come under fire on his Coast Guard base. He and his remaining team race to the scene and end the attack, but not before innocent lives are lost. Furious and grief-stricken, he vows to do whatever is needed to bring the mastermind behind the attack to justice.

Stunned by the ambush, Coast Guard flight medic Brooke Kesler evacuates in a helicopter carrying the only surviving gunman. The gravely wounded man whispers mysterious information to Brooke that immediately paints a target on her back.


As Brooke and Noah race to uncover answers, emotions between them ignite. Noah struggles to protect Brooke at all costs and to conceal the secret that prevents him from becoming what he longs to be--the right man for her.

Everything is at stake as a horrifying truth emerges. . . .

The attack wasn't the end game. It was only the beginning.

Book Review:

It has been a long time since I've read a Christian Romantic Suspense novel, but I've enjoyed Pettrey's work in the past, so I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to read The Deadly Shallows. While I did for sure read the first book in the series, I'm not sure if I read the second. With that being said, I think you could start with this and not be too lost. However, you do need to know that her books tend to have a lot of characters, and a lot going on, and the book was no different. There are multiple crimes that the team has to figure out, and multiple romances going on. The POV was changed frequently. This is neither good nor bad, it just depends on what you like in a story. If you have no problem switching back and forth, then this will be a great book for you. I did find that, for me, there were a lot of characters that I was having a hard time keeping straight. I also found that the romance was repetitive after the first couple chapters. Noah kept saying the same thing about how much he loved Brooke, but if he really cared for her he would let her go. It got a little old. I enjoyed the romance between Austin and Caleb a lot more, but was surprised it took center stage for as much as it did. I think if I would have read (or remembered having read) the second book where I'm assuming we get more information on Austin and Caleb I would have enjoyed this romance even more. I will say that I enjoyed this book enough that I'm going to go back and read the prior books in the series. I read this fairly quickly and was entertained, but it wasn't my favorite of this authors. 

Title: The Deadly Shallows
Author: Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House
Published: July 2022 
ISBN: 0764230867

Source: I received a copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Blog Tour: Shield and Blade by Heather Frost

Book Description:

His to protect

When Vera broke Venn’s heart, he was shattered. When she was abducted by mercenaries, he vowed to tear Mortise apart to find her. Now, reunited, he is determined to keep her safe–and win back her heart. Of course, things are never that simple.

Hers to defend

Vera has regretted hurting Venn ever since that fateful night in Wexon, but finding the right time to tell him is proving difficult. Traveling with him to Duvan should give her the perfect opportunity, but things take an unexpected turn when they find young children abandoned near a roadside.

Theirs to save

Helping the children isn’t in question, but the detour leads Venn and Vera into the heart of a sinister mystery. The truth they fight to uncover could change everything in Eyrinthia–and may cost them their lives.

***Shield & Blade is book 3.5 in the Fate of Eyrinthia YA fantasy romance series. It is best enjoyed after reading Royal Captive.***

Excerpt:

Venn’s fingers curled over hers, and he tugged her a couple of steps away from the bench.

The tempo was moderate, and he began to guide her through the dance.

Vera immediately tread on his toes, and color suffused her cheeks. “Sorry.”

“Didn’t you participate in Clare’s dance lessons?” he teased.

She shot him a look. “Yes, but I was never any good.”

He couldn’t hold back his grin. “You just need to relax. Let the music carry you, and let me guide you.”

She took a breath, but even as she exhaled, he could still feel the tension in her body.

He eased closer and dropped his chin, putting them close to eye-level. Their breaths mingled, and she was so close, she was all he could see.

“Trust me,” he whispered.

Her gaze held his as she said, “I do.” She took a breath, then let her shoulders fall. Her hands relaxed—one on his shoulder and one in his hand. His hold on her waist firmed as he led her through the dance with silent cues, ensuring her balance through every rotation.

The music shifted to a gentler melody. As their movements slowed, Venn drew her in closer. The scent of her vanilla soap drifted between them, and his heart skipped when she squeezed his hand.

For all the time they’d spent together these past weeks, this moment was different. Her nearness was enough to stagger him, but the way she looked at him . . . That undid him.

Vera’s eyes slowly closed and she leaned in until her forehead rested against his chest.

He may have stopped breathing.

Review:

As has been the case with each of the other books in this series, I was drawn in to the story right away. I appreciated the chance to get Venn and Vera's story of what happened from the time she was rescued to when they finally made their way back to everyone else.

There is a lot of heartache, terror, sadness and grief in this story.  But there is also a lot of love, hope, goodness, and peace as well. Watching tough-guy Venn interact with the children was perfect for my mom heart.

The author really knows how to hit you right in the feels with each of her stories.  This is a series that I can see myself reading over and over again. It definitely needs to be read in order, but I highly recommend it.

Title: Shield and Blade 
Author: Heather Frost
Publisher: Heather Frost
Published: July 2022
ISBN: 1734891971
Source: I received an e-copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Purchase: Amazon