Bethany House, BLOG, NetGalley, PB, Purchase

Shadows of the White City, #2 The Windy City Saga by Jocelyn Green

About the Book

Title: Shadows of the White City

Series: #2, The Windy City Saga

Author: Jocelyn Green

Publisher: Bethany House

The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads.

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong? 

My Impressions

I’ve never been to a World’s Fair, but after reading Jocelyn Green’s Shadows of the White City, I felt like I had. Ms. Green vividly describes the setting so well. I can almost see the massive buildings, feel the pressing of the huge crowds, hear the violin and orchestra music and smell the food aromas of the many countries represented on the Midway. Green tells us the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the original 1893 World’s Fair buildings, so I can only imagine what the whole fair settlement must have been like, teeming with crowds.
Into this surreal setting Green inserts Sylvie Townsend, single, middle-aged Mimi to 17-year-old Rose. While Rose is longing to spread her wings and is searching for her biological family, Sylvie is holding on to her daughter tightly enough to suffocate her. As Sylvie struggles to sort out her relationship with Rose, she leans heavily on her neighbor, concertmaster Kristof. Kristof, in turn, struggles with his talented but slothful brother. We also see Meg, Sylvie’s sister, who is more prominent in the first book.
Sylvie has a lot of re-evaluating of her life attitudes to do. Will she emerge bitter at God, Jozefa, and Rose, or will she be better? Kristof is a bit of a stuffed shirt, albeit with a tender heart. He makes a journey of self-discovery as he helps Sylvie and tries to deal with Gregor. He is a romantic, fluid character to cheer on he begins to view life through different eyes.


Green’s poetic description of the orchestra music is entrancing. She obviously understands music well. Her research is impeccable, shown in her incredibly detailed descriptions.
Twists are subtle. In several places, I felt like I knew what would happen, but a bit of a change causes the story to flow differently than expected.
This book can stand on its own, but you will get so much more out of it if you read book one first.

Notable Quotables:

“It wasn’t Father’s timepiece I wanted. It was his time.”

“…you can stop striving to earn a place you’ve already been given. You’re already a beloved child of God. You can’t perform your way into or out of His family.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher. All opinions are my own, unsolicited.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!

About the Author

Jocelyn Green is a former journalist who puts her investigative skills to work in writing both nonfiction and historical fiction to inspire faith and courage.

The honors her books have received include the Christy Award in historical fiction, and gold medals from the Military Writers Society of America and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

Complex and nuanced characters, rich historical detail and twisting plots make her novels immersive experiences. Her fiction has been praised by Historical Novel Society, Romantic Times, Library Journal, historians specializing in her novels’ time periods, as well as popular and acclaimed authors Laura Frantz, Lori Benton, Jody Hedlund, Sarah Sundin, Joanne Bischof, Julie Lessman, and more.

Jocelyn loves Broadway musicals, the color red, strawberry-rhubarb pie, Mexican food, and well-done documentaries. She lives in Iowa with her husband, two children, and two cats she should have named Catticus Finch and Purrman Meowville.

Visit her at jocelyngreen.com.

More from Jocelyn

(Provided courtesy of Jocelyn’s blog and Bethany House)

  1. Shadows of the White City takes place in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893. What is so special about this setting?
    The World’s Fair itself was spectacular. With my heroine, Sylvie Townsend, acting as a part-time tour guide, readers get an inside look into many aspects of the Fair. Part of what made it such an amazing place was that, in addition to six hundred acres of the world’s most
    impressive accomplishments and inventions, people from all over the world connected in one place. The Midway, especially, played host to cultures from across the globe, opening people’s eyes to other perspectives they’d never considered before. Now add to all of this the
    fact that, outside the dazzling fairgrounds, Chicago and the entire nation were in the midst of a financial depression. The juxtaposition of splendor and hardship is always a poignant one.
    1. What kind of research went into this book?
      So much. There is a ton of information available on the World’s Fair. Aside from reading every book and article that seemed relevant for my story (and then some), I toured Chicago with a guide who designed a tour based specifically on what I wanted to know and see before I started writing the novel. On the same trip, I spent time in the Chicago
      Historical Society’s archives and the Newberry Library, reading primary source material. A second trip to Chicago gave my daughter and me a chance to experience other aspects
      important to the novel, such as a concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a visit to the Art Institute, and a stop at the Palmer House hotel.
  2. In what ways do you relate to the character of Sylvie Townsend?
    Sylvie is a book-loving introvert who doesn’t like crowds but enjoys public speaking when the topic interests her. That’s me, completely. On a deeper level, I understand Sylvie’s tendency to keep a tight rein on her daughter, Rose. As a parent of a teenager, I identify with
    that struggle to find the right balance of letting my daughter make her own decisions and mistakes as part of growing up and wanting to protect her from them. As Sylvie finds out in the novel, that desire to protect can lead to both a grasping for control and the realization of
    how very little we do control. I relate to all of this.
  3. This is your second novel in The Windy City Saga series. We’ve gotten to know sisters Meg and Sylvie pretty well by now. Who will be the focus of the third book?
    Book 3 in the series will pick up with Meg’s adult daughter Olive in 1915, which is when the Eastland Disaster took place in the Chicago River. You’ll meet Olive as a child in Shadows of the White City, and she’ll be twenty-nine when we focus on her story. Each book in this
    series explores a seminal part of Chicago’s history and how the Townsend family overcomes in the face of change and trials.
  4. Are the novels in this series classified as mysteries?
    Readers will discover that these novels have an element of mystery to them, but they remain firmly in the historical fiction genre. The main priority of the story, as ever, is given to the developing characters and the history-in-the-making around them.
BLOG, Celebrate Lit Tour, Favorite, LibraryThing Early Readers, NetGalley, Revell

The Moonlight School by Suzanne Woods Fisher

About the Book

Book:  The Moonlight School

Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Haunted by her sister’s mysterious disappearance, Lucy Wilson arrives in Rowan County, Kentucky, in the spring of 1911 to work for Cora Wilson Stewart, superintendent of education. When Cora sends Lucy into the hills to act as scribe for the mountain people, she is repelled by the primitive conditions and intellectual poverty she encounters. Few adults can read and write.

Born in those hills, Cora knows the plague of illiteracy. So does Brother Wyatt, a singing schoolmaster who travels through the hills. Involving Lucy and Wyatt, Cora hatches a plan to open the schoolhouses to adults on moonlit nights. The best way to combat poverty, she believes, is to eliminate illiteracy. But will the people come?

As Lucy emerges from a life in the shadows, she finds purpose; or maybe purpose finds her. With purpose comes answers to her questions, and something else she hadn’t expected: love.

Click here to get your copy!


My Impressions

“Oh, my stars and garters!” By the time I reached the 2nd chapter, my grin was firmly in place, stretching from ear-to-ear. Fisher recounts this remarkable tale of the real Cora Wilson Stewart, who campaigned for literacy in the Kentucky mountains, woven into fiction in a compelling, unforgettable novel. The Moonlight School is everything I’ve come to expect from Fisher and more. This is a tale of triumph of faith, perseverance, and a love for one’s neighbor’s plight that motivates action. The end brings so many pieces together, with twists I wouldn’t have seen coming.
Lucy is a very special heroine, changing from inept, unconcerned city-girl to caring, daring, and brave young woman, ready to fight for the rights of the mountain people.
Fisher gives creates a believable live triangle with Lucy and Andrew and Wyatt, then another with Lucy, Fin, and Angie. None of the characters are perfect, but some reach towards community betterment, while others reach only for what will benefit them. It is the ones who look out for the mountain folk who are “silent” that we learn to love. They share the following sentiment:
“The only way to lift people is to teach them to lift themselves. Literacy is the only road to true freedom… literacy gives a voice to the silent.”
I was amazed by the discovery that Cora makes through Miss Mollie that turns her educational philosophy upside down. I was also amazed by the natural teaching ability of Angie and her willingness to share with others when she is so antagonistic towards Lucy. I was proud of Lucy for tackling a job that she isn’t the best at yet filling in because she is needed. The original pronunciations of the mountain folk make the book authentic, while the explanations of their need to hang on to their culture from the Old Country, caused me to think differently than I had before. A hearty five stars to this beautiful book from Suzanne Woods Fisher!


I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit and NetGalley, as well as Library Thing. These are my own, unsolicited opinions.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!

About the Author

Carol award winner Suzanne Woods Fisher writes stories that take you to places you’ve never visited—one with characters that seem like old friends. But most of all, her books give you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. With over one million copies of her books sold worldwide, Suzanne is the best-selling author of more than thirty books, ranging from non-fiction books, to children’s books, to novels. She lives with her very big family in northern California.

More from Suzanne

I’m Suzanne Woods Fisher, the author of The Moonlight School. This historical fiction will release on February 2, 2021, and is based on a true story featuring Cora Wilson Stewart, a Kentucky educator way ahead of her times. In 1911, Cora had a crazy idea—to open rural one-room schoolhouses in her county on moonlit nights to teach illiterate adults how to read and write.

So what happened next? Well, it’s so astonishing that you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Instead, I hope you’ll read the book and find out for yourself.

In the meantime, this infographic provides a fascinating look at illiteracy THEN…and NOW. Makes you want to thank your teachers, doesn’t it?

Blog Stops

Inklings and notions, January 30

Batya’s Bits, January 30

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, January 30

CarpeDiem, January 31

Sara Jane Jacobs, January 31

A Novel Pursuit, January 31

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, January 31

The Avid Reader, February 1

Bliss Books & Jewels, February 1

lakesidelivngsite, February 1

Connie’s History Classroom, February 1

She Lives To Read, February 2

For the Love of Literature, February 2

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 2

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, February 3

Through the Fire Blogs, February 3

Texas Book-aholic, February 3

Inspiration Clothesline, February 3

Fiction Book Lover, February 4 (Guest Review from Marilyn Ridgway)

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, February 4

Blogging With Carol, February 4

Lis Loves Reading, February 4

Locks, Hooks and Books, February 5

Jeanette’s Thoughts, February 5

Simple Harvest Reads, February 5 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

HookMeInABook, February 5

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 6

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, February 6

Artistic Nobody, February 6 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

For Him and My Family, February 7

EmpowerMoms, February 7

The Write Escape , February 7

Mary Hake, February 7

Older & Smarter?, February 8

deb’s Book Review, February 8

Splashes of Joy, February 8

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, February 9

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, February 9

Beauty in the Binding, February 9

Blossoms and Blessings, February 9

Remembrancy, February 10

Bigreadersite, February 10

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 10

By The Book, February 11

Wishful Endings, February 11

Vicky Sluiter, February 11

Pause for Tales, February 11

Spoken from the Heart, February 12

Hallie Reads, February 12

To Everything There Is A Season, February 12

Southern Gal Loves to Read, February 12

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Suzanne is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1068d/the-moonlight-school-celebration-tour-giveaway

ARC, BLOG, Favorite, NetGalley, PB, Purchase, Revell

Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Title: Tidewater Bride

Author: Laura Frantz

Publisher: Revell

Released: January 2021

Genre: Historical Romance

Selah Hopewell, Virginia Colony’s most eligible woman, is busy matchmaking for a ship of brides, though she has no wish to wed.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement, but he is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they’ve been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

My Impressions

For those who know the story of Jamestown, John Rolfe, and Pocahontas; comes this amazing reimagining from the pen of historical fiction maestro Laura Frantz. In Tidewater Bride, we reconnect with bits and pieces of the past lives of three friends, to find out what keeps two of them from being romantically involved after the death of the beloved third. Frantz paints beautiful Virginia scenery, two, make that many, cultures at odds with each other, striving for survival and supremacy in a wild and untamed land. Romance beckons but struggles to stay aflame amidst the winds of distrust and treachery which threaten. When you finish with this novel, you will be amazed at what you have learned about the political climate of the times, the way people groups treated each other, and the strength that some individuals showed in standing true to honest principles. “True Word” is a name given Alexander Renick because he was one of very few the “Naturals” I love that designation) could trust.

The premise for peace among the settlers and the Naturals is amazing, and my heart broke and cheered for those brave souls involved. I loved the growth we see in Selah, Renick, and Shay. May there be more parents like Selah’s and Shay’s, who taught their children to be colorblind to skin tone, but to examine the mettle of another’s the soul. And may we be careful not to assume and judge that which we don’t know for fact about another.
So much history woven into fiction from Laura Frantz, and so much romance, suspense, and intrigue that you’ll be spellbound.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and the publisher and through NetGalley and Library Thing. I also bought copies as prized gifts. All opinions are my own. No positive review was required.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!!

I love Laura Frantz’s books. Tidewater Bride may be one of my faves.

About the Author

Christy Award-winning author, Laura Frantz, is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. When she’s not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State.

According to Publishers Weekly, “Frantz has done her historical homework.” With her signature attention to historical detail and emotional depth, she is represented by Janet Kobobel Grant, Literary Agent & Founder, Books & Such Literary Agency of Santa Rosa, California. Foreign language editions include French, Dutch, Spanish, Slovakian, & Polish.

Readers can find Laura Frantz at http://www.laurafrantz.net

Giveaway

Doesn’t EVERYBODY Love to Read Laura Frantz?

If YOU would like to win a free copy of the book, Tidewater Bride, by Laura Frantz, I have two paperback copies to give away. Some things you want to know:

  1. You must live in the continental US to enter.
  2. This is a quick giveaway, closing Wednesday evening, 9pm EST.
  3. You must reply comment on this post with your email so I can contact you if you win.
  4. I will be drawing two names of entrants out of a hat, and mailing the books parcel post the end of this week. Good luck!!
Bethany House, BLOG, NetGalley

A Bride of Convenience, #3 The Bride Ships by Jody Hedlund

About the Book

Title: A Bride of Convenience

Series: #3 The Bride Ships

Author: Jody Hedlund

Publisher: Bethany House

Released: June 2020

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Unemployed mill worker Zoe Hart jumps at the opportunity to emigrate to British Columbia in 1863 to find a better life and be reunited with her brother, who fled from home after being accused of a crime.

Pastor to miners in the mountains, Abe Merivale discovers an abandoned baby during a routine visit to Victoria and joins efforts with Zoe, one of the newly arrived bride-ship women, to care for the infant. While there, he’s devastated by the news from his fiancee in England that she’s marrying another man.

With mounting pressure to find the baby a home, Zoe accepts a proposal from a miner of questionable character after he promises to help her locate her brother. Intent on protecting Zoe and frustrated by his failed engagement, Abe offers his own hand as groom. After a hasty wedding, they soon realize their marriage of convenience is not so convenient after all. 

My Impressions

Reading A Bride of Convenience by Jody Hedlund, I wondered how I waited so long to read this book. Hedlund’s The Bride Ships series’ third book was a real pleasure. I enjoyed the history Hedlund accurately wove into the narrative about Canadian mining towns, English brides, and the smallpox epidemic that the Vancouver native Americans endured in the mid-late 1800s. It was sad to see such a great amount of prejudice and mistreatment against the native Americans.

Zoe is a great heroine, rising from a ”nobody” to somebody who stands tall because of her character. And then there’s loveable, rather hapless Abe, struggling to figure out exactly what direction God wants his life to take. I felt like Abe was torn between what people such as the Bishop told him he should do, and what God was leading him to actually do. Will Abe choose comfort or honor? My favorite secondary character is Mrs. Moresby. What a difference she made in the brides’ lives.

A Bride of Convenience is a delicious serving of English bride ships and Vancouver history with a side of social commentary wrapped up in compelling romantic prose that will keep you eagerly reading from the first page to last. A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the author and publisher through NetGalley. I am voluntarily leaving this review. All opinions are my own. 

About the Author

Jody Hedlund is the author of over thirty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

ARC, Barbour, BLOG, Favorite, NetGalley, PB, Purchase

The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

About the Book

Title: The Thief of Blackfriars Lane

Author: Michelle Griep

Publisher: Barbour

Released: January 1, 2021

Genre: Christian Historical Romance, Mystery

There’s Often a Fine Line Between a Criminal and a Saint
 
Constable Jackson Forge intends to make the world safer, or at least the streets of Victorian London. But that’s Kit Turner’s domain, a swindler who runs a crew that acquires money the old-fashioned way—conning the rich to give to the poor. When a local cab driver goes missing, Jackson is tasked with finding the man, and the only way to do that is by enlisting Kit’s help. If Jackson doesn’t find the cabby, he’ll be fired. If Kit doesn’t help Jackson, he’ll arrest her for thievery. Yet neither of them realize those are the least of their problems.

My Impressions

Love historicals of the Victorian era? Love a Christian message seamlessly woven into the narrative? Michelle Griep has such a “silver pen” (compare to a “silver tongue” that our heroine Kit Turner has), that I could easily follow her into the underbelly of London. Not many authors could describe the shenanigans of Constable Jackson Forge and his enemy-turned-conspirator Kit the way Griep does. Griep tucks historical fact, English geography, and mystery, romance, and suspense into one mesmerizing, achingly beautiful story. The Thief of Blackfriars Lane grips you and refuses to be expunged from your mind much like the horrible smells of the sewer refuse to leave our unlikely hero’s clothes. For those who love surprises, there are plenty of twists and turns. There are also some very thought-provoking questions raised. Why does God allow failure and tragedy, instead of rescuing us from them? Kit doesn’t understand, and Jack helps console her:

“Yet it is often in tragedy where we find our life’s purpose, and that purpose is to love God and man.”

Are right and wrong clear-cut and absolute? Jack thinks they are. Can Kit teach him to think differently?

“…most of life dwells in the murky grey between right and wrong. Misfortunes will come and go, but through it all, our main duty is to keep loving God and keep loving man.”

Can you judge a book by its cover? If we’re referring to people, Griep proves that to judge based on the apparent cover is faulty at best, dangerous at worst. If we are referring to a book, I judge any of Michelle Griep’s books by one criterion: if her name is on it, it bears the mark of excellence. You would do well to buy it.
I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author and publisher. I also bought a copy, because a Griep is too good not to share. I am voluntarily leaving my opinions, which are solely my own.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!!

(I have yet to find anything by Michelle Griep that I haven’t loved!)

About the Author

I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I’ve been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write…except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

Barbour, BLOG, Celebrate Lit Tour, Favorite, NetGalley

The Gold Digger, #9 True Colors by Liz Tolsma Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  The Gold Digger

Author: Liz Tolsma

Genre:  Christian/Historical/Suspense

Release Date:  December, 2020

The Gold Digger

Men Are Disappearing in LaPorte, Indiana

Book 9 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

Fiction Based on Strange, But True, History

In 1907, shy but loyal Ingrid Storset travels from Norway to support her grieving sister, Belle Gunness, who owns a farm in LaPorte, Indiana. Well-to-do widow Belle, who has lost two husbands and several children, provides Ingrid with enough money to start a small business. But Ingrid is confused by the string of men Belle claims to be interviewing for her next husband. When Nils Lindherud comes to town looking for his missing brother, who said he was going to marry Belle, Ingrid has a sinking feeling her sister is up to no good.

Click here to get your copy!


My Impressions

The Gold Digger, #9 True Crimes by Liz Tolsma is yet another compelling, chilling read of romanticized history. Each book in this series is extremely well-written and researched, and The Gold Digger is no exception. I love the historical notes at the end from Tolsma.
The 1907 town of LaPorte, Indiana, is the scene of widower Belle Gunness‘s successful hog farm. A Norwegian immigrant, Belle provides everything she and her children need except a man’s loving care. Many men have answered Belle’s lovelorn ads for a match, but her sister, Ingrid Storset, is surprised no one stays to take the matrimonial plunge. When Nils Lindherud appears, searching for his missing brother, events crescendo to a finale that will make the strongest head spin.
To start The Gold Digger is to set other duties aside to give this incredible historical romantic suspense your undivided attention. The taut storyline, the knowledge you’re going to learn of some horrific crime (and in this series, often a spree), and the budding suspense mesmerize with a dark fascination.


Yet there is light in this tale. In the building romance between Ingrid and Nils. In the familial love we see between Ingrid and those in her sister’s family, and in Nils’s and Sven’s family. There is also light in the hope in God and His comfort, companionship, and love, as well as His help. The faith aspect was well-woven into the tale. It made me have hope that I can have greater faith to trust God completely, even if I don’t like the outcome of a situation. My fave quote is as follows:

“God will be on one side of you, and I’ll be on the other.”
Looking for ways to use it in real life!

I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. I am voluntarily leaving this review, and all opinions are my own.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!

About the Author

Liz Tolsma is a popular speaker and an editor and the owner of the Write Direction Editing. An almost-native Wisconsinite, she resides in a quiet corner of the state with her husband and is the mother of three. Her son proudly serves as a U.S. Marine. They adopted all of their children internationally, and one has special needs. When she gets a few spare minutes, she enjoys reading, relaxing on the front porch, walking, working in her large perennial garden, and camping with her family.

More from Liz

This story was so much fun to write, and the research was so interesting. It has to rank up there with one of my favorite books to write. That’s what makes my job the best around.

There are a great number of characters in The Gold Digger who are historical. Many of the places I mention are also historical. I had the pleasure of spending a day in LaPorte, Indiana, to research the book and take some pictures they had in the museum there. Research is one of my favorite aspects to writing. I could have spent much, much longer losing myself in the museum and in the archives. Good thing my cousin, who I was staying with, called me to let me know that it was getting dark and she had dinner ready, otherwise who knows how long I would have been there. Probably until they kicked me out!

One thing that the people of LaPorte would want you to know is that they really are nice people and that their town is a nice town. Lots of good people have been born there or have lived there over the years, including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, William Mayo, who founded Mayo Clinic, and William Scholl, who found Dr. Scholl’s. They kept emphasizing to me while I was there what a great place LaPorte is. Judging by their friendliness and helpfulness, I would have to agree.

To help you better visualize the characters and setting, here are some photographs of the real people and places that appear in The Gold Digger.

Enjoy the book!

Liz

Blog Stops

Connie’s History Classroom, December 17

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, December 17

Genesis 5020, December 17

Pause for Tales, December 17

Artistic Nobody, December 18 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Sodbuster Living, December 18

21st Century Keeper at Home, December 18

Older & Smarter?, December 19

Sara Jane Jacobs, December 19

Blossoms and Blessings, December 19

The Write Escape, December 19

For the Love of Literature, December 20

deb’s Book Review, December 20

Blogging With Carol, December 20

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, December 21

lakesidelivingsite, December 21

Betti Mace, December 21

Inklings and notions, December 21

Ashley’s Bookshelf, December 22

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, December 22

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 22

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 23

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, December 23

CarpeDiem, December 23

Hallie Reads, December 23

Remembrancy, December 24

Christian Bookaholic, December 24

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, December 24

Writing from the Heart Land, December 25

Splashes of Joy, December 25

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, December 25

Through the Fire Blogs, December 26

Rebecca Tews, December 26

For Him and My Family, December 26

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, December 27

Bigreadersite, December 27

Southern Gal Loves to Read, December 27

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 27

Tell Tale Book Reviews, December 28

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 28

Mary Hake, December 28

Texas Book-aholic, December 29

Godly Book Reviews, December 29

Daysong Reflections, December 29

Melissa Wardwell’s Back Porch Reads, December 30

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, December 30

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card and copy of The Gold Digger!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/104fc/the-gold-digger-celebration-tour-giveaway

ARC, Bethany House, Biblical Fiction, BLOG, Favorite, NetGalley, Purchase

To Dwell Among Cedars, #1 The Covenant House by Connilyn Cossette

About the Book

Title: To Dwell Among Cedars

Series: #1 The Covenant House

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Publisher: Bethany House

Released: December 2020

Genre: Biblical Fiction

Eight years ago, when the Philistines stole and then surrendered the ark of the covenant back to the Israelites, Eliora left her Philistine homeland to follow the ark to the community of Kiryat Yearim. There, the family she was adopted into has guarded the ark at the top of a mountain in seclusion.

Ronen is a Levite musician determined to secret away the ark to a more fitting resting place, watched over by priests who would restore the Holy of Holies. He never expected that the Philistine girl he rescued years ago would now be part of the very family he’s tasked to deceive.

As Ronen’s attempts to charm Eliora lead them in unexpected directions, betrayal leaves Eliora with strained family ties and Ronen questioning his own loyalties. Ultimately, Eliora and Ronen are caught up in the battle for the soul of Israel and its future under the leadership of Samuel, the last judge before the era of the kings begins. 

My Impressions

My heart is full upon completion of reading Connilyn Cossette’s newest offering, To Dwell Among Cedars, #1 The Covenant House. This Biblical fiction book contains everything I am looking for in its genre. Scriptural accuracy, while approaching an age-old narrative of Israel in Samuel’s time from a unique viewpoint of Philistine Arisa (Eliora). Cossette vividly portrays all the emotions- the terror, the fear, the astonishment, the romance, and the suspense. As the uncertainty of being orphans at the whims and mercy of others is clearly shown, I couldn’t help myself from being drawn into Eliora’s life as she struggles for a sense of belonging and security, and ultimate love. Though she and Lukio(Natan) are adopted by generous and loving priest Elazer and his family, Eliora always feels herself an outcast.
Ronen, a member of an different priestly line than Elazer, first finds Arisa and Lukio(Natan) as they follow the Ark back into Israeli territory after its Philistine capture. An orphan himself, he deals with some of the same insecurities of not belonging as Eliora. These are a driving force in his thoughts and actions. There we have wonderful, multiple storylines going.


I loved Connilyn’s style-immediately warm and enticing you into the narrative, enveloping you into the ancient Biblical events very quickly.
Cossette sets the stage with some unusual premises. Not once did I feel that believability was stretched. One other point that makes me greatly treasure this novel is the many nuggets of truth shared and spoken naturally in uncontrived conversation. Connilyn Cossette is a master in her world of Biblical fiction. I am very sad it will be another year before we can read Natan (Lukio’s) story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author, as well as NetGalley. I am voluntarily leaving this review. All thoughts are my own.

Notable Quotables:

“There is no magic in the box itself, Arisa. The power is that of the hand of Yahweh. It is merely a vessel, but one that signifies the sacred covenant between Israel and our God and above which has hovered the very shekinah of the Eternal One.”

”But the Eternal One was not made by man; there is no place you can go that he will not be with you.”

”He is the God Who Sees. There is no place you can go to escape his vigilant watch over you.”

”It is not the Ark you must follow, my precious child. It is the God who made you.”

”…So why do you work so hard for a place at their table when you already have one?”…”you are working so hard to earn something you’ve already been given.”

”Because you are the woman the Creator made you to be, no matter where you come from or what you look like.”

”No matter what decision I made, the cost would be great… the cost of going against the will of the Eternal One was greater by far.”

My Rating

Magnificent!

About the Author

Connilyn Cossette is a Christy Award and Carol Award winning author whose books have been found on both ECPA and CBA bestseller lists. When she is not engulfed in the happy chaos of homeschooling two teenagers, devouring books whole, or avoiding housework, she can be found digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible to discover gems of grace that point to Jesus and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although she and her husband have lived all over the country in their twenty-plus years of marriage, they currently call a little town south of Dallas, Texas their home. Connect with her at www.ConnilynCossette.com 
Barbour, BLOG, Celebrate Lit Tour, NetGalley

The Red Ribbon, #8 True Colors by Pepper Basham Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: The Red Ribbon

Author: Pepper Basham

Genre: Christian historical/suspense

Release Date: October, 2020

Red Ribbon

An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912

Book 8 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned. The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

Click here to get your copy!

My Impressions


The Red Ribbon, #8 True Colors Series by Pepper Basham is one of the best novels in the series so far. Each book seems better than the one before, if possible. Why did I love this book?
First, I loved this story for its setting, taking place in the Appalachian Mountains in 1911. A time when mountain life was a culture unto itself, stills were known but not discussed, bootlegging was common, and families held unto feuds for generations.
Second, Pepper Basham writes with such an engaging style. Flowing and descriptive, Basham’s beautifully painted details plunk the reader down smack dab in the middle of the uncertainty of unrest between two mountain clans.
Thirdly, the romance between Ava and Jeremiah is so wonderfully sweet as it swings from childhood friends to grown young adults in love.
Fourth, there are so many pearls of wisdom from both Ava’s granny and Jeremiah’s grandfather. Each chapter opens with a quote from one or the other. Solid wisdom.
Fifth, there are so many repeated Scripture nuggets and truths that are life-changing. They help Ava overcome her struggles and some of them are truths I am reminded to cling to in hard times. A book is great when it seamlessly includes these.
Sixth, last but not least, the horrific crime that is not what it seems. All compelling factors to produce an exciting book. A must-read!
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit and NetGalley. I am voluntarily leaving these opinions, which are solely my own.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!

About the Author

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains where her family have lived for generations. She’s the mom of five kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at the award winning Writer’s Alley blog. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in April 2015, and the second in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuted in April 2016.

More From Pepper

Feuds, Moonshine, and Family Loyalties by Pepper Basham

My upcoming release for Barbour’s True Colors series is really close to my heart…and pretty close to my house.

The Red Ribbon, my first foray into a historical suspense novel, takes place in the county where I grew up. Carroll County, Virginia, is a county on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, not too far from Mt. Airy (Mayberry).  Nestled in the foothills and mountains of the Blue Ridge, it is a part of the Appalachian Mountains, and with that comes similar histories as other backwoods Appalachian communities: feuds, moonshine, and family loyalties.

One thing I love most about my Appalachian upbringing is the intense closeness of family – and when I say ‘family’ I mean, of course, my mom, dad, and brother, but also my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents…the whole “gang”, as my granny used to say.

The closeness of family, and the protection of the family name, is a big deal in Appalachia. There’s a lot of pride in the way your ‘name’ is thought of throughout the community, so when someone insults your name, there’s a good chance the repercussions aren’t going to be pleasant. Especially back in the early 1900s, when The Red Ribbon takes place. In fact, insulting someone by “stealing a kiss” is one of the events that leads to The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre/Tragedy.

A long-time feud between the Allen family and the “Courthouse Clan” came to a head inside the Hillsville Courthouse in March 1912 and this event resulted in the largest shootout within a courthouse in Virginia history. The story followed with a nationwide manhunt and made national news until the sinking of the Titanic the following month.

Growing up in Carroll County, I knew a few things about this story. Rumors and whispers, really. Most folks didn’t talk about it because it still caused a stir among those who were descendants (because another thing about Appalachia is that families tend to stay on or around family land for generations). People still took “sides”. So, when I decided to write this book, I knew I was stepping into precarious territory. Not that anyone would start up a shootout nowadays because of a book, but because people still have some deep feelings about how their ancestors are portrayed in history, and since many of my family members still live in Carroll County, I wanted to tread carefully into the events of “The Allen Tragedy”.

What I discovered was a story that still held a whole lot of mystery even one hundred years later. Bullet holes still mark the courthouse steps from that fateful day, rumors still circulate about who was to blame, and no one knows who fired the first gunshot that began the tragic shooting.

I’m not a “scary” book writer or reader, but I love a good adventure, so this book takes the reader on an adventure into Appalachia to my neck of the woods, and follows the journey of Ava Burcham and Jeremiah Sutphin as they live among the illegal moonshiners, dirty cops, and mountain gunslingers of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

(To learn more about the true events of the Courthouse Tragedy, you can read about it here: https://roanoke.com/news/virginia/the-courthouse-tragedy-gunfight-in-hillsville-in-1912/article_45d0d7f3-6e1f-57c4-83be-fceb3d98dafd.html)

Have you ever read a book set in Appalachia? If so, what was the title and what did you learn about the Appalachian culture? Have you ever visited the Blue Ridge Mountains?

Let’s chat mountain people, mountain ways, and mountain books 😊

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 29

Fiction Aficionado, October 29

deb’s Book Review, October 29

Blossoms and Blessings, October 29

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 30

Texas Book-aholic, October 30

Blogging With Carol, October 30

Inklings and notions, October 31

Emily Yager, October 31

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, October 31

Hallie Reads, October 31

For Him and My Family, November 1

reviewingbooksplusmore, November 1

Christian Bookaholic, November 1

Betti Mace, November 2

Genesis 5020, November 2

For the Love of Literature, November 2

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess , November 2

Rebecca Tews, November 3

Robin’s Nest, November 3

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 3

Connect in Fiction, November 4

Older & Smarter?, November 4

To Everything There Is A Season, November 4

Artistic Nobody, November 4 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

21st Century Keeper at Home, November 5

By The Book, November 5

Remembrancy, November 5

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 6

Britt Reads Fiction, November 6

Life of Literature, November 6

Connie’s History Classroom, November 7

Splashes of Joy, November 7

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 7

A Reader’s Brain, November 8

Sara Jane Jacobs, November 8

Through the Fire Blogs, November 8

Godly Book Reviews, November 8

Melissa Wardwell’s Back Porch Reads, November 9

Bigreadersite, November 9

Where Faith and books Meet, November 9

Books I’ve Read, November 10

Just the Write Escape, November 10

Adventures of a Travelers Life, November 10

Amanda Tero, blog, November 11

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, November 11

Pause for Tales, November 11

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Pepper is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1032d/the-red-ribbon-celebration-tour-giveaway

BLOG, Celebrate Lit Tour, NetGalley

The Refrain Within, #3 Music of Hope by Liz Tolsma Celebrate Lit Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: The Refrain Within

Author: Liz Tolsma

Genre: WWII Fiction

Release Date: September 29, 2020

the refrain within cover

To save a life, would you betray everyone you love?

Hungary in 1944 is a dark place. The Nazis have invaded and turned the country upside down, their evil making its way into every life.

Clarinetist Eva Bognar is engaged to conductor and composer Patrik Kedves, happily planning her wedding. At first she doesn’t think the war will affect her directly; everyone around her can be trusted to do the right thing. Then her Jewish best friend and sister-in-law Zofia goes missing–and instead of the Gestapo being to blame, a friend says it was Patrik who led Zofia away. Has he betrayed Eva and everything the family stands for?

When the rest of the family’s lives are directly threatened, Patrik’s secrets must come to light. The Bognars flee for the border in hopes of getting out of the country to the safety of Palestine. Eva must put her life and the lives of everyone she loves in the hands of the very man who betrayed her–and they may not all make it out of the war alive . . .

Click here to get your copy!

My Impressions

“Which sin was worse- murder or lying?” So wonders Bognar Éva in The Refrain Within, a Christian WWII novel by Liz Tolsma. Musician Éva sees life’s choices as being very clear and decisive, with no middle ground. As the Germans oppress Hungarians daily, Éva doesn’t understand all the reasons the Gestapo is after her sister-in-law. When her fiancé, Kedves Patrik is not the person Éva thought, whom will Éva be able to trust?


This is a novel so moving and haunting that I sped through it as it made my blood run cold. I had to find out what would happen before the suspense, so palpable, was my undoing. Families being torn apart ripped at my own soul. The reality and historical accuracy is spot on. The warmth of the music was a fitting counterpoint to the cold reality of spies and war.

I loved the fact that there were Messianic Jews in the story. Hope, faith, betrayal, forgiveness, and love- truly beautiful love- shone against a dismal backdrop of occupied Hungary. Those who enjoy inspirational WWII fiction will not want to miss The Refrain Within.
I received a complimentary copy of the book from Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. I am voluntarily leaving my thoughts, which represent only my opinions.

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!

About the Author

Passionate might best describe Liz Tolsma. She loves writing, research, and editing. Her passion shone through in her first novel which was a double award finalist. On any given day, you might find her pulling weeds in her perennial garden, walking her hyperactive dog, or curled up with a good book. Nothing means more to her than her family. She’s married her high-school sweetheart twenty-eight years ago. Get her talking about international adoption, and you might never get her to stop. She and her husband adopted three children, including a son who is a U.S. Marine, and two daughters.

More from Liz

This is the third book in a series all set around music. The first heroine, Anna in The Melody of the Soul, was a violinist. The second heroine, Natia in When the Heart Sings, sang beautifully. So what did I choose for this heroine?

When I was in fifth grade, the band teacher from the middle school came to our class and encouraged us to join. She brought instruments with her for us to try. I really wanted to play the flute. I thought it was very feminine. But all the girls wanted to play that, and I would have to be really good to get a good chair. So I decided on the clarinet. I played all through middle school and high school, making first chair a couple of times. I participated in marching band and in solo and ensemble contests, earning a couple of first places in state competitions. Even after my “career” ended, I continued to play from time to time. I still play in church. I love the rich, full sound of the instrument. When played well, the clarinet is beautiful. It can be playful and happy or dark and sad. It can skip and it can cry. I’m very glad now that I chose the clarinet instead of the flute.

That’s why the heroine of The Refrain Within plays the clarinet. In fact, she comes from a family of clarinet makers, and her family stamp on the barrel of a clarinet means a great deal to her. As God would have it, my editor, Janyre Tromp, is also a clarinet player. Between the two of us, we worked hard bring out the unique aspects of playing clarinet, like the callous that forms on the inside of your bottom lip.

Eva is a special character to me because we share this passion for the clarinet. There have been many times throughout my life that my clarinet has skipped with me and plenty of times when it has cried with me. Music is God’s beautiful gift to us, and I thank Him for the opportunity to share some of that with you in The Refrain Within.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 23

Among the Reads, October 23

Maureen’s Musings, October 23

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 24

Texas Book-aholic, October 24

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 25

deb’s Book Review, October 25

21st Century Keeper at Home, October 25

By The Book, October 26

lakesidelivingsite, October 26

A Baker’s Perspective, October 26

Inklings and notions, October 27

CarpeDiem, October 27

Mary Hake, October 27

For Him and My Family, October 28

Reflections From My Bookshelves, October 28

Emily Yager, October 28

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 29

Older & Smarter?, October 29

Genesis 5020, October 29

Betti Mace, October 30

Christian Bookaholic, October 30

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 30

Artistic Nobody, October 31 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Simple Harvest Reads, October 31 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Rebecca Tews, November 1

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 1

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 1

Connie’s History Classroom, November 2

Where Crisis & Christ Collide, November 2

Splashes of Joy, November 2

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 3

As He Leads is Joy, November 3

Bigreadersite, November 3

Pause for Tales, November 4

Hallie Reads, November 4

Southern Gal Loves to Read, November 4

Amanda Tero, author, November 5

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, November 5

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, November 5

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
https://promosimple.com/ps/102a9/the-refrain-within-celebration-tour-giveaway
ARC, BLOG, Favorite, NetGalley, Purchase, Waterbrook-Multnomah

The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer

About the Book

Title: The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow

Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer

Publisher: Waterbrook-Multnomah

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

A traveling librarian ventures into the mining towns of Kentucky on horseback and rediscovers her passions in this powerful novel from the best-selling author of A Silken Thread.

During the Great Depression, Addie Cowherd dreams of being a novelist and offering readers the escape that books gave her during her tragic childhood. When her adoptive father loses his job, she is forced to leave college and take the only employment she can find–delivering books on horseback to poor coal mining families in the hills of Kentucky.

The small community of Boone’s Hollow is suspicious of outsiders and steeped in superstitions that leave Addie feeling rejected and indignant. Although she finds an unexpected friend in an elderly outcast, the other horseback librarians scorn her determination to befriend Nanny Fay.

Emmett Tharp grew up in the tiny mountain hamlet where most men either work in the coal mine or run moonshine. He’s the first in the community to earn a college degree, and he has big dreams, but witnesses the Depression robbing many young men of their future.

Then someone sets out to sabotage the library program, going so far as to destroy Addie’s novel in progress. Will the saboteur chase Addie and the other librarians away, or will knowledge emerge victorious over prejudice? Is Emmett the local ally that Addie needs–and might their friendship lead to something more?

Inspired by the real WPA program that sent librarians on horseback to deliver books to hill families in Kentucky, Kim Vogel Sawyer immersed herself in Appalachian history to tell this captivating story.

My Impressions

A while back, some polls were taken of Christian fiction readers. Many said their favorite fiction book of all time was Catherine Marshall’s Christy. Now we are blessed with several Christy-like books on the market. Certainly, the Appalachia of times gone by has a nostalgic pull for readers.
Kim Vogel Sawyer’s depiction of the Kentucky hills and her proud, but superstitious people will sate some of the longings to know these people who lived by their own code of honor. It wasn’t enough to live in the hills, one needed to be born and bred in the hills, know the neighbors from birth, and adhere to the superstitions.


In 1936, Addie Cowherd and Emmett Tharp, near strangers, and separate of each other, leave college in Lexington, KY, and attempt to make their respective homes in Boone’s Hollow (pronounced ”Holler” by the mountain folk). Emmett is rejected because of his outside education; Addie, for being a total stranger to an area where being a stranger ”like to as not” can get you shot on sight.
Sawyer shows us throughout the story what life in the mountains could be like. Superstitions run high, distrust of strangers is learned early, family feuds are fed for generations, and anyone stepping off the mountain is seen as a traitor.
Stills hide in the trees, feeding addiction, which then, in turn, feeds abuse, yet neighbors refuse to break the ”code of honor.”


I couldn’t believe that at the end of the story, Ms. Sawyer had me loving the person she had shown unlovable. That’s talent! And those are characters- who can forgive that mightily! So much to learn, more than even reading, from the people of ”Boone Holler.”
My two favorite characters (who like to be too shy to take a bow) would be Emmett’s mother, Damaris, and Nanny Fay. They just might could be the backbone of the mountain.
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley. I also bought my own copy, to be sure I didn’t miss it. All opinions are my own, and no positive review was required.
Notable Quotables:
“…yawning during a sermon is most certainly a sin.”
“Just ’cause nobody else knows you done somethin’ extra special don’t mean it ain’t special.”
”She’d cracked that mirror herself so her soul could escape if the mirror captured it, but she didn’t want to take no chances by looking at herself too long.”

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnificent!

About the Author

Award-winning, bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer told her kindergarten teacher that someday people would check out her book in the library. The little-girl dream came true in 2006 with the release of Waiting for Summer’s Return. Kim’s titles now exceed 1.5 million copies and are available in six different languages. A former elementary school teacher, she now enjoys a full-time writing and speaking ministry. Kim’s passion lies in writing stories that point the reader to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. When Kim isn’t writing, you’ll find her traveling with her retired military hubby, spoiling her granddarlings, petting the cats, quilting, or–as time allows–participating in community theater. You can learn more about Kim’s writing and speaking ministries at her website, KimVogelSawyer.com.