The Milk Wagon

I was hooked when I read this book by Michael Hewes and I find it to be an unsung gem! One of my goals with this blog is to help newer or lesser known authors (and self published authors) promote their work to others who might not otherwise see it. This fantastic book swept me right back into the 1980’s, when I was a teenager, and it was a great ride. See my review below:

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The Milk Wagon is a fantastic thriller set in the 80’s, much of it revolving around a group of high school boys. As an 80’s high schooler myself, this was a wonderful walk down memory lane. This book has the 80’s high school mentality exactly right, and transported me back there as the movies we watched, the cars we drove, and the way we thought were so accurately described. 

This novel was perfectly woven together as both an 80’s book and a crime/murder thriller. There were many twists and turns, and although I am usually pretty good at guessing the “bad guy,” i was totally wrong this time. The fact that this book was not predictable impressed me. 

The characters are so well done, especially the 80s high school kids, that I was sad when it ended. That’s how you tell a great book. You don’t want it to end.

If you love crime thrillers, if you loved the 80s, or if you just love a well written book, check this one out.

I received a free copy of this book from Michael Hewes and BooksGoSocial via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the book on Amazon:

Link to other work by Michael Hewes:

Link to my Goodreads review (Like and Follow if you are so inclined):

Books This Week

Before I post my Netgalley reads, I wanted to let you know I have been busily reading books and doing reviews for The Historical Novel Society’s magazine, Historical Novels Review (HNR). However, I cannot post those reviews until after the magazine is published in February 2021, so my reviews were kind of scarce last week. I reviewed a whopping 20 books for them over the last three months! I will share these with you as soon as I am able to do so. I am finishing up those reviews today and the rest of the week will be devoted to my Netgalley reads and some Indie books I am reading for some great authors.

Below are three Netgalley ARC reads I am working on, unrelated to HNR. These reviews will come this week.

Sisters Nora and Delia are traveling on the Titanic from their poor Irish farm life to new jobs in America. When tragedy strikes, lives are altered and secrets are kept. Will they be revealed?

My review will be coming this week. This book will be released January 26, 2021

A group of women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I.

My review will be coming this week. This book will be released on March 2, 2021.

Two friends are forced to face a dark secret that ended their childhood bond.

My review will be done this week. This book will be released January 12, 2021.

I also have some great indie reviews coming this week and next week so stay tuned!

Duffy the Christmassy Dragon

by Kate Noble

This book is adorable! This cute, captivating, illustrated children’s book tells the delightful story of how Duffy the Dragon helped Santa and his reindeer save Christmas. The illustrations are so colorful and well done, and the story is written as a fun kid’s poem. 

Here is one of the colorful and imaginative illustrations of Duffy the Dragon.

I loved this book and I can’t wait to read it to my five-year-old grandson. You can’t get any higher praise than that.  The book can be obtained on Amazon Canada or on the Author’s website. Both links are below. I live in the US, but still had the option of purchasing it on Amazon Canada. Instead, I ordered the book from the author’s website, where she offers personalized dedications. She is also working on more Duffy books.

I received a free digital copy via Netgalley. I loved it so much I purchased a hard copy. My review is voluntary.

Link to The Author’s Duffy the Dragon website

Link to the book on Amazon Canada

The Stars of Heaven

The Stars of Heaven is a fictionalized account of the devastating earthquake on All Saints’ Day in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1755. Cecília de Santa Rita e Durante is living in Lisbon with her mother and sister but is away from home when the earthquake hits. She struggles to find her family in the resulting chaos and to rebuild her life as the city is being rebuilt. As the land has been shaken, so has the political climate. She finds herself caught between warring political factions, and the allegiances she chooses could mean life or death. A devout Catholic, she is also fighting challenges to her view of religion and a powerful attraction to an English Protestant deemed quite unsuitable for her.

This is a compelling account of the struggle between the old noble families of Portugal and the new guard led by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the First Minister, who had the support of the King. The good and bad sides of both factions are shown. Caught in the middle, Cecília must choose between right and wrong, which is usually not very clear. At times naive and at times quite devious, she must decide what is most important to her, or at least what she can live with.

The reader will learn a lot about the Lisbon Earthquake and the fascinating and bloody political struggle of that time. I found this book to be interesting, informative, and exciting, as religion, espionage, and danger combine for a fascinating read. The characters are well developed, especially Cecília and the sometimes sinister and very real Carvalho. I immediately wanted to learn more about him. An enjoyable novel for anyone interested in the Lisbon Earthquake or the politics of that time.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers and Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

Link to the book on Amazon

Link to my Goodreads review

Link to Jessica Dall’s Amazon page

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

Arid

Arid by Anne Joyce is a dystopian novel set in a post apocalyptic America. Joshua, Xiomara, Skylar, Blane, and others are outcasts in a world where water is controlled by the rich and the poor are dying of thirst. Thrown into the desert because they cannot afford the water tax, the group fights back against the Purifiers, a sort of water police who do the bidding of the rich, take whatever (and whoever) they want, and kill everyone who gets in their way.

This is a fast paced novel that throws you into the action right from page one. It moves quickly from one battle to another as the group fights for survival. The character development suffers slightly from this, as I didn’t feel a strong connection to any character other than Xiomara, who was well developed. However, the author has written a prequel to this book called Parched, and we might get to connect to the characters more deeply in a less combative setting. Parched is available on the author’s website, Annejoycewriter.com. The plot of Arid is very strong, and the premise is completely believable: The rich take over the country by stealing valuable resources, create a utopia for themselves, and throw everyone else out to die.

If you like dystopian novels with nonstop action, check this book out.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. I also picked it up on Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited members can get it for free. My review is voluntary.

Link to the Book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Arid-Anne-Joyce-ebook/dp/B07JMFNXH3/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=arid+anne+joyce&qid=1603883878&sr=8-1

Link to the author’s website: https://annejoycewriter.com

Link to my Goodreads Review (Like and follow if you are so inclined): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3615352328?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

The Kissing Tree

This is a really heartwarming collection of four novellas, all revolving around the same grand old oak “Kissing Tree” in Oak Springs, Texas. The extraordinary thing is that although each story is done by a different author, they collectively maintain the history of the town and are well woven together. The stories span from 1868 to contemporary times, as the town changes, romance blooms, and initials are carved into the tree.

Broken Limbs, Mended Fences by Regina Jennings begins in 1868. Adam Fisher returns to his boyhood town as a threshing machine salesman, determined to convince the town to embrace the changes of the times. He also wants to see Bella again, and apologize for an accident three years before.

Inn For A Surprise by Karen Witemeyer is the delightful story of how opposites attract. In 1891, Phoebe Woodward, a romantic at heart, wants to open The Kissing Tree Inn. Her father sends the ultra practical Barnabas Ackerby to assist her, and sparks fly.

From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes tells the story of Luke Hampstead and Hannah Garland. An airman during the war, Luke has been writing to Hannah, the sister of a buddy who was tragically killed. When it’s time for him to go home, he seeks Hannah out in Texas. 

Heartwood by Nicole Deese is the story of Abby and Griffin, and how they deal with pain and loss. 

From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes is my favorite Novella in the book. I instantly connected with the characters, and the story touched my heart. This is the second work I’ve ready by Dykes, and she’s becoming one of my favorite authors.

I wasn’t entirely on board with the ending of Heartwood, the last novella in the book, but overall these stories were woven together well and definitely enjoyable.

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

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kissing-Tree-Novellas-Rooted-Timeless-ebook/dp/B087RSFS5V/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+kissing+tree&qid=1603651552&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Link to Amanda Dykes’ blog: http://amandadykes.com/#welcome

Link to Karen Witemeyer’s (And Others) Blog: https://inspiredbylifeandfiction.com

Link to my Goodreads review (Like and follow if you are so inclined): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3591015714?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Hard Time

Another amazing book by Jodi Taylor! I truly enjoy everything she writes. Hard Time is the second book in The Time Police series, a spinoff of Taylor’s wildly popular Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. 

A prominent politician has asked the Time Police to retrieve her spoiled daughter after an illegal time jump. Enter Matthew, Jane, and Luke (Team Weird), who are once again off on a chaotic and sometimes humorous adventure. And, as usual, they find more than they bargained for.

I continue to love reading about the adventures of this trio. Matthew is the son of Max and Leon from the St Mary’s series. He is a savant when it comes to the time map, but a little awkward in every other area. Jane was a victim of a lifetime of abuse, but continues to find her own way, and a new confidence is making its appearance. Luke is the disinherited, formerly spoiled, current playboy son of a powerful businessman. He has finally found something he cares about–Matthew and Jane. Follow this trio as they travel up and down the timeline–sometimes with permission, sometimes not. And the hilarious crew from St. Mary’s always makes an appearance.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who is a fan of time travel fiction, or to anyone who just wants to read a well-written, often funny series with great characters. I also recommend that you check out the series from which it was born–The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor. The first book in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s is Just One Damn Thing After Another.

I received the novel early after ordering a signed copy from the author’s website. So far, and to the best of my knowledge, she has done this with every new release since she started her website.

Link to Jodi Taylor’s website: https://joditaylor.online

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Time-irresistible-spinoff-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0847JM5YP/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=hard+time&qid=1602719155&sr=8-3

Link to Jodi Taylor’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Jodi-Taylor/e/B00DOSKIHU/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Link to Jodi Taylor’s Facebook group “Fans of the Chronicles of St. Mary’s.” This is an awesome, fun group you won’t want to miss out on. https://www.facebook.com/groups/JodiTaylorFans

The Edge of Belonging

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox is a multi-timeline novel set mostly in Tennessee. It shifts from 1994 to 1998-1999, and back to Present Day. 

In 1994, Harvey, homeless and living by the highway, finds an abandoned baby girl. He connects with her immediately, trying to care for her in his lean-to by the side of the road. Abandoned as a boy, he hopes to make a family with this lost little girl.

In the Present Day, Ivy, who is in an abusive relationship with a controlling fiance, returns home to Tennessee to settle her grandmother’s estate. Her grandmother has left her a message and pointed her to a journal which will explain more about her adoption. With the help of her friend Reese, she starts to try and find out more about the first three months of her life.

The beauty of this book lies in the simple message of family and what constitutes a family. Ivy’s family has always been her parents, her grandmother, and her Uncle Vee. But who are they really? 

This book also hits some hard issues. It looks at domestic abuse, sex trafficking, drug abuse, the foster care system, and PTSD. It shows how important it is to love each other, and how love can transform a life. And it shows how God answers prayers, but not always in the way you would expect. 

The Edge of Belonging is well written and hard to put down. The characters are so well developed that they will permanently touch your heart. The message of hope amid sorrow and tragedy abounds through the book. I highly recommend this to anyone who has experienced loss, or anyone who just wants to read a well written novel. 

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

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Belonging-Amanda-Cox-ebook/dp/B087RTNSCY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+edge+of+belonging&qid=1601807858&sr=8-1

Link to the Author’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-Cox/e/B084T7XPS5?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Link to my Goodreads Review (Please like it on Goodreads if you are so inclined):