Things We Didn’t Say

Diamond Level Read

This was #2 on my list of My Top 7 Books of 2020. Again, Historical Novels Review must have agreed with me because this book was another of their Editor’s Choices. It is the writing debut of the talented Amy Lynn Green, who managed to create a compelling story and vivid characters in a 100% epistolary novel. It is a work of art.

REVIEW

It is 1944, and Johanna Berglund has been accused of treason. She submits in her defense a collection of letters that will prove her innocence. The letters begin with Johanna as a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota. Fluent in German and several other languages, she is recommended to work as a translator at an Army POW camp near her home. She flatly refuses because she has other plans and dreams of going to Oxford. Pressure from the government and her parents eventually forces her to go. She begins her work as a translator and starts to enjoy it, despite criticism from some of the local populace about “aiding the enemy.” She is given more responsibility and asked to teach an English class, and she starts to feel compassion for the prisoners. When a nefarious plot causes untrue accusations against Johanna, she learns to truly lean on God.

This is an epistolary novel, comprised completely of letters, articles, and other written communication. We watch Johanna’s character develop from a rather vain and secluded student to to a woman of faith, although it takes some hard times to get her there. We meet her friends, family, and community, and we watch her grow as a person. And we learn that there were, in fact, German POW camps in the United States during World War II. I was captivated by this book, which was so well written that the personalities of the characters shone, and their individual nuances were conveyed expertly through their letters. I don’t think many writers can share such an amazing story and well developed characters in epistolary style, so I was surprised that this is Amy Lynn Green’s debut novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lynn Green

Amy Lynn Green is a lifelong lover of books, history, and library cards. She worked in publishing for six years before writing her first historical fiction novel, based on the WWII home front of Minnesota, the state where she lives, works, and survives long winters. Because of her day job in publicity, she has taught classes on marketing at writer’s conferences and regularly encourages established and aspiring authors in their publication journeys. In her novels (and her daily life), she loves exploring the intersection of faith and fiction and searches for answers to present-day questions by looking to the past.

If she had lived in the 1940s, you would have found her writing long letters to friends and family, listening to jazz music, daydreaming about creating an original radio drama, and drinking copious amounts of non-rationed tea. (Actually, these things are fairly accurate for her modern life as well.)

Be sure to interact with her on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for her newsletter to stay up-to-date on her latest releases.

BUY THINGS WE DIDN’T SAY ON AMAZON

VISIT AMY LYNN GREEN’S WEBSITE

The Ring of Truth

The Ring of Truth by Robert B. Sloan is the third book in the Hamelin Stoop Series. This is not a standalone. The books must be read in order or you will be lost when you read Book 3. Book 1 is The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge and Book 2 is The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna.

In Book 3, Hamelin has come back to the orphanage in order to return a lost princess back to her land. He has a definite idea of who this princess might be. There are a lot of delays and betrayals, and the people in his life continue to hide information from him, but Hamelin is determined to finish his mission and ultimately find his parents. 

This is a great young adult series with memorable characters that people of all ages will love. There are definite nods to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as the Bible, in this series. I continue to enjoy the adventures of these characters, especially the trio of Hamlin, Lars, and Eraina. Each of our heroes are aided by their special magical objects as they travel the Land of Gloaming on an important mission to stop the evil Chimera and his sons. They continue to receive guidance and help from SueSue and The Talking Eagle. Hamelin’s Earth friends, Bryan and Layla, also figure prominently in this story. 

I gave this five stars because of how much I love the overall series, but this one did move too slowly for about the first 25% of the book. There was too much time at the orphanage before attempting to return to the Land of Gloaming and not much happened during this time. At the orphanage, the core characters’ continual refusal to share information with each other started getting ridiculous. However, the last two thirds of this 580 page book were much more action filled. But again, even in the Land of Gloaming, there was the constant problem of people keeping secrets from each other. I feel this book would have been even better if it had been cut down to about 400 pages.

That being said, I continue to love these characters and look forward to their next adventures. There are six books planned in this series and I cannot wait until the next one.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via BookSirens. My review is voluntary. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Sloan and his wife Sue have seven adult children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He is an author, communicator, educator, and leader—all hats he has worn many times for a variety of reasons. These four areas represent life experiences that have provided him and his family with many memories. It is in the experiences of life that memories are made and lives are shaped.

Robert Sloan has a passion for Christian higher education and the spiritual formation of young people for the glory of God, which can be seen in both his professional and personal life.

Robert B. Sloan’s Website

Buy Book 1: The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge

Buy Book 2: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna

Buy Book 3: The Ring of Truth

Link to My Amazon Review (Helpful Votes Appreciated)

Link to My Goodreads Review

Review and Giveaway Winner: She Walked Before Us

My review of She Walked Before Us by Jill Eileen Smith is below.

But first, the winner of the free paperback copy of this book, by random number generator, is GAZ9821 (Gail Zimmerman of Cincinnati, Ohio.) Gail has been contacted and the book will be mailed out to her tomorrow. Congratulations, Gail!

REVIEW:

She Walked Before Us is a wonderful Christian book which combines fiction and nonfiction in a creative way. The author first writes a part-true, part fictionalized story about twelve Old Testament women, based on their characterizations in the Bible. She then analyzes their predicaments and lessons learned. There is a separate chapter for each woman and there are study questions at the end of each chapter. This book would be great for a Women’s Bible Study.

The twelve Old Testament women featured in this book are: Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Hannah, Penninah, Michal, Abigail, Ahinoam, Maacah, and Bathsheba. Each chapter addresses particular conflicts or situations these women were facing. For Miriam, it was “When God Corrects Your Character.” For Rahab, it was “Daring to Trust What You Cannot See. For Ahinoam, it was “Dealing With Heartache.” Each situation is timeless, as we might be dealing with those same problems today in a different way.

My favorite chapters were: Miriam, Hannah, Abigail, and Rahab. Smith’s portrayal of these women make them come alive and reminds us that these were real women, not just stories in the Bible.

Whatever issue you are facing, whether it is a crisis of faith, abuse, loss, hate, regret, hurt, or more, you can find a woman in the Bible who has faced something similar. She Walked Before Us helps us learn from the experiences of the women who literally did walk through these situations before.

I received two free copies of this book from Revell Books via The Blythe Daniel Agency and BlogAbout Blogger Network. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling, award-winning author of the Wives of King David series, the Wives of the Patriarchs, Daughters of the Promised Land, the Heart of the King, and Star of Persia, Esther’s Story, along with the nonfiction books When Life Doesn’t Match Your Dreams, and She Walked Before Us. Her research has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

When she isn’t writing, she loves to spend time with her family and friends, read stories that take her away, ride her bike to the park, snag date nights with her hubby, try out new restaurants, or play with her lovable, “helpful” cat Tiger. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan

Link to the Book on Amazon

Jill Eileen Smith’s Website

Link to my Goodreads Review

Endless Mercy

This is the second book in the Treasures of Nome series by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. Madysen Powell is still reeling from the shock of learning her father, thought long dead, is alive. Now she must lean on God and try to forgive her father for an unspeakable offense. At the same time, she is starting a dairy business at the Powell farm in Nome, Alaska, but secretly dreaming of a life in show business.

Daniel Beaufort is angry at God after his parents’ death. He finds himself working with the very beautiful and very Christian Madysen Powell at her dairy farm. Can he overcome his anger and find love instead?

This book has a strong Christian message about forgiveness, both the forgiveness of God and forgiving others. It also shows how God can rebuild your life after sin has destroyed it.

However, I find a few faults with it. This book is set in Nome, Alaska in 1904. I did not feel transported to the time period or the location. The book had much more of a contemporary vibe than a historical romance should have. Madysen is just a different spelling of Madison, which wasn’t really used for girls’ names until after the movie Splash in 1984. And they call her Maddy, which is a very contemporary nickname. Her sister Whitney is called Whit, also very contemporary. I just was not getting the feel of a historical novel. In addition, novels set in Alaska are usually flowing with descriptions of the environment, wildlife, climate, and terrain. I didn’t see much of that here either. In both history and setting, there was only a slight nod. This is a Christian romance that could have been set anywhere with a few tweaks. The information about cheese-making was interesting.

I would give this 2.5 stars, but it is rounded up to three for the solid Christian message of forgiveness.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. My review is voluntary.

Link to Buy the Book on Amazon

Link to Tracie Peterson’s Website

Christian Book Giveaway

I will be reviewing She Walked Before Us by Jill Eileen Smith on January 10, 2021. I am also giving one copy away in a random drawing.

She Walked Before Us: Grace, Courage, and Strength from 12 Women of the Old Testament takes a look at the lives of 12 women from the Bible and shows us how we can learn from their experiences. The 12 women include Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail, Bathsheba, and more.

In order to sign up for the giveaway, please add a comment below. The winner will be randomly selected. Entries will close January 9th. Please check back on January 10th for my review and the announcement of the winner. Any questions, please contact me at bonniereadsandwrites@gmail.com

A Castaway in Cornwall

It is 1812, and Laura Callaway feels like a castaway in Cornwall, where she lives with her uncle and his somewhat disapproving wife. Missing her parents, who are presumed dead, Laura has found solace and purpose in searching the shores after shipwrecks. She finds and collects lost belongings and attempts to return them to the families of their departed owners. She does this under the disapproving eye of the Wreckers, men who try to seize and sell the cargo of wrecked ships, despite laws to the contrary. When a stranger is washed ashore, the Wreckers want to kill him, but Laura saves him too. However, she begins to have questions as more lost items turn up. Can this stranger be trusted?

This is a wonderful, well-researched book by Julie Klassen. The laws and practices surrounding wrecked ships of the time were fascinating. Klassen also provides tidbits of Cornish history, mythology, and practices at the beginning of each chapter. The characters sometimes converse in the old Cornish language. Legendary wrecker Tom Parsons is a major character in this novel, and the Napoleonic wars play a part. The romance is well written, and there is a Christian theme of forgiveness throughout the book.

As always, Julie Klassen transports the reader directly into the time period and setting, and we leave not only with a great story, but having gained new knowledge of that time and place. I would recommend this to any fan of historical fiction and romance.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

UPDATE: A Castaway in Cornwall comes out today, December 1, 2020!

Buy the Book on Amazon

Link to Julie Klassen’s website

Link to my Goodreads review

Your Words

This poetry book is accompanied by beautiful photographs and primarily speaks to the author’s thoughts about the current pandemic, struggles in life, and her relationship with God. There are also some lovely story poems about nature. Although I enjoyed all of the poems, I was less interested in the ones about the pandemic, just because we hear so much about it in the news daily. However, I know others will feel differently about that. I was more interested in the poems about nature and relationship with God. The author shares her feelings honestly and with emotion.

The poem Power in Life spoke to me. It asks the question: “How can life go on when I’ve just experienced this crushing loss?” Having lost my Mom this year, I definitely can relate to that. I also enjoyed “A Life With You, Now and in Eternity.” This is about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.

The photographs are well done and are a great companion to the poems.

The author’s style is warm and embracing, and she shares her faith in a loving way. I would read her poetry again.

I picked this book up on Kindle Unlimited, where members can get a digital copy for free. I also received a free copy of the print book from the author. My opinions are voluntary and are my own.

This Kindle version of this book is also available for free to everyone on Amazon from November 19th to November 21st.

Link to Your Words on Amazon

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Truly, Madly, Deeply by Karen Kingsbury is another great book about the wonderful Baxter family. I find each of the Baxter books can easily be read separately, but you won’t be disappointed by going back and reading them all. 

In this installment, Tommy Baxter and his girlfriend Annalee have the whole world at their feet. They want to change the world and fight human trafficking. Then they get news that rocks them to the core when Annalee is diagnosed with cancer. Tommy is also making serious decisions about his future at this time, and those decisions are causing a conflict with his mother, Reagan. 

This book touches unflinchingly on so many sensitive subjects. The horrors of human trafficking are discussed, as well as the tragedy on 9/11, and the current dangers of a career in law enforcement. The fight of Annalee’s family and friends against her cancer rang very true to me, as I have had nephews in this very fight. The way her family, friends, and community gathered around her to fight cancer, pray, and support her is something I have seen with my own eyes in my own experiences. The faith of the Baxter family and their reliance on God reminds me of my own family. Kingsbury writes this all so well and it’s very true to life.

Fans of Karen Kingsbury will love this new chapter in the lives of the Baxter Family. If you are interested in reading Christian novels about fighting cancer and fighting human trafficking, you will enjoy this book.

I received a free copy of this book from Atria Books via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the Book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Truly-Madly-Deeply-Baxter-Family/dp/1982104384/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3JD8Z6XI5CWOS&dchild=1&keywords=truly+madly+deeply+karen+kingsbury&qid=1604011154&sprefix=truly+madly%2Caps%2C360&sr=8-1

Link to the Author’s website: https://www.karenkingsbury.com

Link to my Goodreads Review: (Like and follow if you are so inclined): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3618940113?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Unveiling the Past

Meghan DeFord and Sean Eagle are married cold case detectives who usually work together, but are now working separate cases in different cities. Meghan is teamed up with another detective, trying to help a woman find her father, who vanished without a trace. Sean is continuing to work a case of two missing boys and is teamed with a detective who is troubled and lashing out. At the same time, Meghan has decided to try and make contact with her father, who has never been in her life. She consults her mother, Diane, about the best way to approach him.

This is an interesting Christian mystery with a solid message of God’s love and forgiveness. I really enjoyed the interactions between Meghan’s mother and grandmother (and their three dachshunds). However, there are times when it seems that things are tied up too neatly and quickly. I have seen God work this way, but it usually takes time. There is also a little conflict in my opinion between the way Meghan describes her mother and the way Diane is actually portrayed. Meghan describes her as unmotherly early in the book, and she is one of the reasons that Meghan doesn’t want to become a Mom. However, in the book, Diane is portrayed as a delightful person who is very dedicated to her daughter. She is briefly portrayed as a stressed single Mom early in the book. Since the DeFord women were first introduced in the novel Bringing Maggie Home in 2017, that conflict may have been resolved in that book.

The two mysteries are interesting and engaging, and the personalties of all the detectives are explored.

If you enjoy Christian mysteries, you will enjoy this book. I suggest reading Bringing Maggie Home first.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Unveiling-Past-Kim-Vogel-Sawyer-ebook/dp/B07WQPLWBR/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=unveiling+the+past&qid=1603651270&sr=8-1

Link to the author’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Kim-Vogel-Sawyer/e/B001H6GWJY?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Link to my Goodreads review (Please Like and Follow if you are so inclined): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3607519136?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1