Sometimes even pilots have to wing it.
In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert “Hitch” Hitchcock’s life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she’s game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky.
Hitch thinks she’s nuts—until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he’s ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates.
Cocky, funny, and full of heart, Storming is a jaunty historical adventure / dieselpunk mash-up that combines rip-roaring steampunk adventure and small-town charm with the thrill of futuristic possibilities.
I think it was the strong plot that really made this book shine.
This is a solid book. I never came across a scene or a character that I didn’t feel served a purpose, even if I didn’t know yet what that purpose was. Everything seemed perfectly timed—at all the right moments one of the (three) villains popped back up so we didn’t forget them or some other important character. Sometimes he would run into yet another problem, sometimes he would pull off a win.
While the story is not exceptionally fast-paced, it isn’t slow, either. It gives us the perfect amount of time to form the relationships we need with characters, and the action scenes we need to get our heart going. Each of the characters had a unique personality, even the side characters, and even the town itself.
She upped the intrigue by having three villains, and I couldn’t wait to see how Hitch was going to squirm his way out of that one.
Jael was my favorite by far. She was very different than what I had expected after reading the back cover copy. She shows courage even in the face of a world that abandoned her, a completely new culture, or a madman in a huge airship. But she also has a soft heart that naturally cares for those around her.
And don't forget the theme! It's the beating heart behind the strong plot.
Storming is a fabulous book to tackle over a break. Once that plot warms up, you won't be able to stop it from flying.
Siblings forge new paths and find love in three stories filled with the wonder of Christmas.
Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.
In Cara Putman’s White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help.
Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew?
In Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.
The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for a future?
Cara Putman starts the collection off well. I was a little confused by Abigail at the beginning—in the first chapter, she seemed to be the shy fearful type, but in the next one, she was talking it up with a random guy she met on the bus. First chapters are hard, though, and those two facets of her personality were an interesting clash. While we often hear that Jackson felt responsible for his father’s death, we never hear just what happened, which made it hard for me to discern why he felt guilty. I loved the inclusion of the candy shop—it was a fascinating piece of history that lent some serious Christmas vibes to the story. And lastly, while I love Abigail wanting to be a lawyer, and believe there should be females thinking of the future in historical fiction, I did have to wonder if that was even an idea that crossed anyone’s mind in the 1940’s. It was a nice inclusion all the same, and the little mystery to this book definitely kept me turning pages.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
I love Sarah Sundin’s writing, and this one did not disappoint. The characters all have distinct personalities and voices, the humor is brilliant, and her word images are, too. I love how after the big disagreement, both Pete and Grace had to sacrifice to make it up to each other. They didn’t just come back, say they were sorry, and cry a little and all was good. The backstories of both characters were solid.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Tricia Goyer takes us out of the Christmas vibes of Lafayette, Indiana and into the nursing battles of the Netherlands. The glimpse inside an army hospital is sad, but intriguing as well. The “identity reveal” (and you’ll know what that means when you get there) wasn’t really a surprise for me—I knew who he was from page one. I understood how Merry and Daaf’s misunderstanding came about, though, and saw the logic on both sides. Merry and Nancy's friendship goes deeper than many of the other friendships in the collection and is well developed. A sweet story about finding Christmas even in the dark.
This book nailed Christmas vibes in the atmosphere as well as the feel of the forties through the little details (like what going to see a movie was like, or getting a soda at the candy shop). All the novellas contain strong family and friend characters, each uniquely developed for their role in the novella (or if they were in all three, staying true to the other novellas). Honestly, the idea of a novella collection based on Christmas songs is just too cool.
This is another of my favorites and a collection of sweet stories that I return to each Christmas.
Against the backdrop of the 1893 World’s Fair, a new kind of crime comes to Gilded Age Chicago . . . and a lonely young woman is always at risk.
Back on the farm in Wisconsin, Rosalind’s plan had seemed logical: Move to Chicago. Get hired on at Sloane House, one of the most gilded mansions of Chicago. Discover what transpired while her sister worked as a maid there―and follow the clues to why she disappeared.
Now, as a live-in housemaid to the Sloanes, Rosalind realizes her plan had been woefully simple-minded.
She was ignorant of the hard, hidden life of a servant in a big, prominent house; of the divide between the Sloane family and the people who served them; and most of all, she had never imagined so many people could live in such proximity and keep such dark secrets.
Yet, while Sloane House is daunting, the streets of Chicago are downright dangerous. But when Rosalind accepts the friendship of Reid Armstrong, the handsome young heir to a Chicago silver fortune, she becomes an accidental rival to Veronica Sloane.
As Rosalind continues to disguise her kinship to the missing maid―and struggles to appease her jealous mistress―she probes the dark secrets of Sloane House and comes ever closer to uncovering her sister’s mysterious fate. A fate that everyone in the house seems to know . . . but which no one dares to name.
The Victorian vibes of the novel were great. And there were so many red herrings in the mystery. It kept me guessing every direction I turned. I was annoyed with the characters I was supposed to be annoyed with—and others that I knew I should be annoyed with turned out to have interesting facets. When all was said and done, I truly did not expect the culprit. The resolution of the story also actually showed the culprit’s family dealing with the fallout—a rarity.
However, some scenes got repetitive really fast. (I see this happen in my own writing a lot.) Scene: Rosalind talks to a member of the staff who warns her not to look for her sister. Next scene: Rosalind talks to somebody new who warns her not to look for her sister. Next scene: Rosalind talks to somebody different who warns her not to look for her sister.
While the culprit did surprised me, the answer to Miranda’s disappearance did not.
Nothing much stood out about Rosalind. She could have been any other female character in any other book. The whole story revolved around her finding herself and ultimately realizing that she was a stronger, braver person than before. Except she really wasn’t—she just had Reid there to save the day for her.
Also, her pouring her whole life story—including her secret identity and her sister’s disappearance—to a guy whom she’s never met before? A little sketchy.
The wealthy man's son always taking advantage of maids trope also didn't catch my attention. This seems to be a very tired-out trope in historical romances.
The book had some really random info-dumps in really weird places. While they didn’t ruin the book for me, they could have been solved with some thought and editing. For instance, one chapter ended and the next began with, “Reid’s brother died when he was young.” While this was important to know, we got some random pages that didn’t really fit in the narrative—nothing had triggered Reid thinking of this. Then we jerked back to Reid in the ballroom somewhere. Add on to this one lonely scene from a side character's point of view which seemed put there only to set her up for the second book.
Secrets of Sloane House is a fantastic mystery, but slowed down just a bit by lack of character depth and a few scenes of clunky writing. Still, it was the perfect low-key read for a fall evening.
Could Following the Opportunity of a Lifetime Cost Them the Love of Their Lives?
One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children's Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society's orphan trains is not all that it seems.
Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother's shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.
Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn't be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they've been working toward?
I loved Thornton right away. His first chapters nailed it. I related so much to him wanting approval like his brother receives.
While I didn’t like Elise as much, I did relate to her trying to protect and take care of her siblings.
While both he and Elise developed negative traits that made them unlikeable at times (see below), maybe that was the whole point. None of those negative traits stuck around until the end. They overcame them in the course of the story. They became better people. And isn’t that what life is?
The tension was brilliant. By instituting the bet between Thornton and this brother, it kept me turning pages even through slower sections. The concept felt fresh and unique.
Reinhold was fantastic as the other corner of the love triangle. He was supportive even when Elise didn’t reciprocate his feelings. We need more characters like that. While Thornton had me rooting for him, I have to admit, there were a couple times when Thornton was being obsessed and creepy that I wondered if Reinhold was a better option. I'm hoping Reinhold appears in the next book in the series.
At time, both main characters were extremely unlikeable. Elise was very wishy-washy and a bit on the weepy side. Characters repeatedly called her strong and independent, but she didn’t really think or act that way (especially not in the beginning).
Thornton was obsessed and selfish. And the way he kept sneaking up to Elise and touching her? I think it was supposed to be romantic, but it was really just super creepy, especially since Elise was not consenting to this action.
None of these traits were set up in the first act and just blasted onto the page somewhere in the second act (unless I missed the set up). It was a bit of a jolt.
I really, really disliked Marianne. She drove me insane. She was constantly weeping and whining and throwing herself at this guy. And then lied to him and about him. And then when she got in trouble for it, had the nerve to weep and whine some more about her misfortune. Maybe this will be developed more in the second book and she will be made more likeable, but she really didn’t add a whole lot to the current plot, especially since most of her story was summed up in Reinhold telling Elise about her letters. While I want Reinhold to appear in the next one, I really hope for his sake and mine that he doesn't get paired up with Marianne.
With You Always isn’t a perfect book. Neither are its characters. But that’s part of the intrigue and beauty of this book.
For fans of bestselling WWII fiction comes a powerful novel from Lynn Austin about three women whose lives are instantly changed when the Nazis invade the neutral Netherlands, forcing each into a complicated dance of choice and consequence.
Lena is a wife and mother who farms alongside her husband in the tranquil countryside. Her faith has always been her compass, but can she remain steadfast when the questions grow increasingly complex and the answers could mean the difference between life and death?
Lena’s daughter Ans has recently moved to the bustling city of Leiden, filled with romantic notions of a new job and a young Dutch police officer. But when she is drawn into Resistance work, her idealism collides with the dangerous reality that comes with fighting the enemy.
Miriam is a young Jewish violinist who immigrated for the safety she thought Holland would offer. She finds love in her new country, but as her family settles in Leiden, the events that follow will test them in ways she could never have imagined.
The Nazi invasion propels these women onto paths that cross in unexpected, sometimes-heartbreaking ways. Yet the story that unfolds illuminates the surprising endurance of the human spirit and the power of faith and love to carry us through.
Ans was my favorite character and plotline in this book. At first, I didn’t think I would like her—the “rebellious” teenager who wants to see more of the world has been so overdone and isn’t that true to life, I’m finding. But as the book went on, she developed into a sympathetic character. I loved that her plotline didn’t end with pat answers, that it changed it up a little bit. She struggled with real questions in very real ways and found real answers.
Lena was my second favorite. Because who can’t relate to wanting control when everything is nose-diving?
Miriam was my least favorite. Her story was just something that happens in so many novels. Girl meets guy, they fall in love, get married, have a baby, are separated for some reason, and spend the rest of the book crying and searching for each other. That being said, I loved the connection of her violin. And the emotion she worked through while giving her child up was very real and raw, giving a good glimpse into what mothers of the time actually would have been feeling.
The prologue did exactly its job! It makes you want to figure out how the characters got there, but doesn’t give away how it ends.
I also loved the inclusion of Ans’ friend who is fighting depression. It is a topic that needs addressed more in fiction and often gets glossed over or sensationalized in historical fiction.
The book felt a little detached from the characters sometimes. This may have been just part of the writing voice of this one, but I would have liked to get inside the heads of the characters some more.
There were also some of the spies that worked with Lena that I would have loved to know more about. In fact, the ending seemed a tad bit on the rushed side. But there were also three plotlines to be closed up and only a few pages to do it in. Honestly, the author did fantastic juggling those three plotlines.
Chasing Shadows is definitely worth a read. While it doesn’t dive into the characters’ heads too much, it does provide a realistic glimpse into what life in the time was like.
A story of second chances and secrets, this mysterious Regency romance will transport you to 19th-century England as one young lady reunites with her childhood love to find his missing sister.
Her friend is missing.
After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. No longer a young girl, she is now haunted by a painful secret and the demise of her dreams. Instead of the healing and happiness she hopes to find, she encounters a darkness lurking in the shadows of the once-familiar house. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth.
Her only hope is the man who broke her heart.
Branded a coward, Piers Cavanaugh has lived the last five years as an outcast far from his family home. When his sister presumably elopes with a stable hand, Piers joins forces with an unlikely partner—the one woman he thought he’d never see again. Together they launch an investigation that leads to strange nightly meetings in the ruins of an old abbey and disturbing whispers of a secret organization. The more they learn, the more desperate the situation becomes.
The house seems determined to keep its secrets.
As they struggle to piece together the clues, Charity and Piers also endeavor to rebuild their friendship. One cryptic letter changed everything between them. To find happiness they will have to overcome the grief and shame keeping them apart. But first they must discover why Seline vanished and confront the growing fear that she may never return.
Settle in, because once you start The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, you won’t be able to put it down.
I rolled my eyes a bit when I first met Charity. Here we go. Another “traumatized” female character who jumps at every shadow and bursts into tears.
But Charity wasn’t like that. Yes, she was slow to trust, and could get spooked easily. But it was realistic—it actually took into consideration what actual people who have been through her kind of trauma are like, and recognized that there are as many reactions to trauma as there are personalities and people. While the author acknowledged the struggle this brought Charity, she also gave Charity her strengths, too.
This mystery was so well done. I had no idea who had done it. Everyone could have been suspects. (And they were until proven otherwise.) Good characters had dark sides. Bad characters had good sides. It also had a very interesting premise—the idea of the secret societies that did, in fact, exist in that time period is rarely, if ever, explored in historical fiction.
Selina’s mother was an especially intriguing character to me. One moment, she ruthlessly defended her family’s “honor” with no thought to her children. The next, she was coming to confide in Charity. And the next she was almost motherly. Very much a three-dimensional character and an interesting addition to the story.
The back cover is a bit misleading when it says Piers broke her heart. He really didn't--the trauma Charity faced separated the two of them.
All in all, a clever Regency mystery that takes a very specific form of trauma and handles it sympathetically.
Cordelia Owens can weave a hopeful story around anything and has long since won the hearts of Savannah's society with her whimsy. Even when she receives word that her sweetheart has been lost during a raid on a Yankee vessel, she clings to hope and comes up with many a romantic tale of his eventual homecoming to reassure his mother and sister.
But Phineas Dunn finds nothing redemptive in the horrors of war. Struggling for months to make it home alive, he returns to Savannah injured and changed. The beliefs he once held about slavery and the entire war have been upended, and he's all too sure that he is not the hero Delia seems determined to make him.
When the Confederacy deems Savannah a lost cause and the future wavers, Phin and Delia must both decide where the dreams of a new America will take them--and if they will go there together.
Dreams of Savannah is a bit slower of a story than I was used to from Roseanna M. White. Considering its predecessors (Shadows Over England, Codebreakers, The Nature of a Lady), it was remarkably short on spies, codebreakers, thieves, or treasure hunters. But it didn’t fall any short of any of her other novels.
Delia was an interesting addition for me. I must admit, I tend to like the tough girl heroine. Delia certainly wasn’t that. And yet, her romantic way of viewing the world and active imagination drew me in just as much as any of the other heroines I have related to. It was a good reminder to me that softer heroines have just as much impact as tougher ones.
Phin and Luther’s meeting and relationship wove some truths worthy of thought into the story, and then explored those thoughts well through their tension.
Dreams of Savannah succeeds in bringing both hope and thought into a reader’s life. And it definitely deserves a home on a bookshelf of good reads.
In this heroic gaslamp fantasy, superhuman abilities bring an adventurous new dimension to 1820 London, where an outlaw speedster and a master of illusion do battle to decide who will own the city.
Think being a superhero is hard? Try being the first one.
Will’s life is a proper muddle—and all because he was “accidentally” inflicted with the ability to run faster and leap higher than any human ever. One minute he’s a blacksmith’s apprentice trying to save his master from debtor’s prison. The next he’s accused of murder and hunted as a black-hearted highwayman.
A vengeful politician with dark secrets and powers even more magical than Will’s has duped all of London into blaming Will for the chilling imprisonments of the city’s poor. The harder Will tries to use his abilities to fight crime, the deeper he is entangled in a dark underworld belonging to some of Georgian England’s most colorful characters.
Only Will stands a chance of stopping this powerful madman bent on “reforming” London by any means necessary. Unfortunately, Will is beginning to realize becoming a legend might mean sacrificing everything that matters.
First off, this book is LONG. With little print. So be prepared.
I mean, the premise is brilliant. Superheroes in 1800’s London. What is not to like about that?
I also love that each of the heroes in the story had their limitations. Sometimes pretty big limitations. (Not being able to look at light is a pretty big limitation.) It added more conflict and tension to the story since they couldn’t just zip around and do whatever they felt like at the moment.
I loved Will’s little adopted family trio he puts together. Rose is fantastic. She stands out as a sidekick. I loved the inclusion of a younger character and the sibling relationship the two of them develop.
For the record, Isabella was a well-developed character, too. Her and Will's romance did not at all take the turns I was expecting when they met earlier in the book, and the twist of ending was a creative change.
And, dang it, the author went and killed the character I didn’t want killed!
I had a love-hate relationship with how she spelled the characters’ dialects out. On one hand, I loved it because I could hear exactly how they talked in my head. Then, after a while, it just got a little distracting. They started using catchphrases that I was unfamiliar with and that I struggled to figure out what they meant using the context. This may just be a problem on my part, other people might read it and be able to figure out exactly what they meant. But from some of my own research a while back, people either love or hate spelled-out dialects. I’m somewhere in the middle on this one.
The message was a little bit blatant, at least to me. It could have been more subtle and I wouldn’t have minded—but that didn’t detract from the message AT ALL, and the theme was very well-developed throughout the story.
So neither one of those were truly negatives. Just kind of “eeh” things, I guess.
Wayfarer was definitely worth the read, and I’m looking into another of her novels to add to my shelf.
Not all illusions happen on the stage.
Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to
escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.
But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.
Set during one of the richest, most vibrant eras in American history, this Jazz Age novel of illusion, suspense, and forgotten pasts is perfect for fans of The Magician’s Lie, challenging all to find the underpinnings of faith on their own life’s stage.
Finally, a book that treats a non-girly girl as more than a punchline. Her unique interests intrigued me. But the longer the story went on, I related a lot to Wren’s character and enjoyed how they portrayed her just being herself, whether that was in full fledged stage costume or a comfortable dress at home.
I also enjoyed that they made her smart and resourceful. So often, girls in books are only there to be rescued by the main man. While Wren did need rescued every so often, it wasn’t because she was weak or incapable. All in all, she had some unique skills and traits, and she made the book the experience that it was.
I could not have imagined who the culprit was. The story pointed in the complete opposite direction, then smack in the middle new information came to light that made me doubt the villain it had set up. By the time the climax rolled around, I was taken completely by surprise—which was perfect.
The setting is very vibrant and now has me wanting to include the twenties in a novel of my own sometime. I mean, it's a book about illusionists! How cool is that?
The Illusionist’s Apprentice truly does steal the show.
One night in the Ardennes Forest will change everything she holds dear...
December, 1944, Malmedy, France.
Annie Rawlings, an army nurse, spends her days and nights patching up the American boys who are fighting the Krauts. Soldiers so young they should be back home, playing baseball and flirting with girls on a Saturday night. Annie can't help but hate the Germans, especially when she hears about the atrocities at the Baugnez crossroads, where Nazis shot the American wounded. All Annie wants is for the war to stop long enough so she and Lieutenant Keith Mitchell can have their longed-for honeymoon in Paris over Christmas. But aircraft continue to roar overhead. Trucks, tanks, and personnel carriers rumble in the distance. More casualties pour in. Then, one snowy night, Annie and her friend Mouse drive an ambulance into the middle of no-man's-land on a desperate mission....
The emotion in this book is what astounded me. This book grappled with some hard questions, made even harder by the fact that the characters were going through excrutiating losses. It was the type of thing that made me think of losses in my own life and to wonder the same questions about myself.
Also, the author did a great job writing from a woman’s perspective. I really shouldn’t, but sometimes, when I see a male author has a female as a main character, I get a little skeptical. (To be fair, I’m sure there’s men out there that would look skeptically at my male main characters.) Honestly though, the author wrote her perspective better than some female authors.
He also did a great job making me care about some characters in a very short amount of time. This isn’t a long book, but he set up the whole cast succinctly at the beginning, which meant when the action was underway and those characters were threatened, I sat up and took notice.
His villain is the most annoying person ever. Just saying. (Annoying in a good way. He did all the things a villain should.)
I’m honestly divided about the ending. Part of me wanted more closure. Part of me glanced skeptically at it. But most of me thinks it is just perfect—leaving a lot to my imagination.
If you do find a copy of this book to read, please, please, PLEASE skip the prologue. In my opinion, it spoils the whole story and basically lets you know who makes it out alive and who doesn't. I wish it had been left in chronological order and that scene had not been in there until the end.
Dear Enemy is a worthwhile read. It touches the deep and painful places in our lives while also keeping me turning pages.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!