Top Reads in 2019 {book reviews}


Best way to see the old year out and the new year in, in the company of good books! Here is a list of my Top Reads in 2019 {Read}.

Of the 52 books which I read and reviewed on Goodreads, the seven which received five stars. are listed alphabetically by author. I tried some new-to-me authors this year and was not disappointed! Many thanks to the authors for all their labors.

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Having returned to Chicago, young socialite Anna Nicholson can’t seem to focus on her upcoming marriage. The new information she’s learned about her birth mother continues to pull at her, and she hires Pinkerton detectives to help her find the truth. But as she meets people who once knew her mother and hears stories about the past, Anna soon discovers that some secrets are better left hidden.

At the same time, unflattering stories about Anna are leaked by someone who would love to see her disgraced and her engagement broken. And as Anna tries to share her faith with her society friends, she understands that her choice to seek God’s purpose for her life isn’t as simple as she had hoped.

When things are at their darkest, Anna knows she can turn to her grandmother, Geesje de Jonge, back in Holland, Michigan. Geesje’s been helping new Dutch immigrants, including a teen with a haunted past, adjust to America. She only hopes that her wisdom can help all these young people through the turmoil they face.

My Reaction:

Legacy of Mercy (Waves of Mercy #2)Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Public library copy. My favorite author. Now I have to admit to not liking this story all the way through. There were parts of the story that made me squirm. I think that is because they touched very close to my heart. That’s a good thing in a book.

What can I say about the book? It’s fabulous, and quite typical of this author whom I love. Historical fiction first, it is a love story, but I wouldn’t call it a romance. I would recommend reading the prequel first, Waves of Mercy. And I hope, hope, hope there’s a sequel.

Characters are strong. My favorites are Tante Gjeese and Derk, but all of the others are wonderful too. The characters are strongest in their relationships with each other and with God (or not). The effectiveness of fervent prayer is basic to the story. The entire story centers around God. I do not find it preachy, but I suppose some might. To me it just makes sense.

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The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater which is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

An injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.

My Reaction:

The Captain's Daughter (London Beginnings, #1)The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Public library copy. First read of this author. Absolutely loved this book!! Compelling story, and I loved many of the characters, and the faith-base was strong. I really was pleasantly surprised. Am now reading #2. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. Lovely reading about history with such strong fictional characters. Love reading books which spur me to improve myself, as this one did.

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Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America.

Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.

My Reaction:

Marilla of Green GablesMarilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Public library copy. The cover drew me to the book, and the title, for I love Anne-with-an-e and Matthew and Marilla. If you love the Anne books, you will love this one too. It’s fabulous. If you’ve never read Anne of Green Gables, why not start today? You don’t know what you’re missing!

To the author, well done! I love the style in which you wrote. The characters are exactly in character. The plot is spot on and often caught my emotions off guard. Your writing put me right there in Avonlea. The connection of American history to the story gave the story such depth, a character of its own. My favorite quote –‘anxiety gnawing on the hems of their dreams’

Highly recommend to readers of all ages. No language and clean.

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Changes at Fairacre by Miss Read

Fairacre is changing, even though this downland village and Miss Read’s school may still look as they did one hundred years ago. The old cottages where the community once lived are being bought by outsiders, and the new commuter lifestyle has taken children to other schools. Numbers at the Fairacre school are so low, Miss Read fears the school may close. Miss Read is even more concerned about the ill health of her longtime friend Dolly Clare. But Amy, Miss Read’s old college friend, gives support, and life is always stimulated by the irascible school cleaner, Mrs. Pringle. Despite the disruptions to the tranquility of village life, the people of Fairacre prevail, as always, in an uplifting and vastly entertaining way.

My Reaction:

Changes at FairacreChanges at Fairacre by Miss Read
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Public library copy. Do these books keep getting better? This one is just lovely in its relationships. I would almost say that Miss Read is settling into life. Perhaps it is her perspective softening which makes it better. I don’t like to analyze, but I really enjoyed it. Favorite character: Joseph Coggs. Lovely bit about him in this book. Highly recommend this book!

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Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

My Reaction:

Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Public library copy. First read of this author. Excellent writing. I was there, in the time, in the place, in character. Lovely fictional story set in an historic setting, quite horrific but well told. The only disappointing thing in this book is the lack of God. Not that He was not there, but not part of the story. Squeaky clean writing. Well done! Looking forward to reading more of her books. (No spoilers, I love the way it ends.)

Beautiful cover! mesmerizing.

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Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate

All her life, Epiphany Salerno has been tossed like a dandelion seed on the wind. Now, at sixteen, she must move to the low-rent side of Blue Sky Hill and work where she’s not wanted: in an upscale home on The Hill.

J. Norman Alvord’s daughter has hired a teenager to stay with him in the afternoons. Widowed and suffering from heart trouble, Norman wants to be left alone. But in Epie’s presence, Norman discovers a mystery. Deep in his mind lie memories of another house, another life, and a woman who saved him.

As summer comes to Blue Sky Hill, two residents from different worlds will journey through a turbulent past, and find that with an unexpected road trip through sleepy Southern towns comes life-changing friendship…and clues to a family secret hidden for a lifetime.

Winner of the 2012 Carol Award for Women’s Fiction from the American Christian Fiction Writers

My Reaction:

Dandelion Summer (Blue Sky Hill #4)Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Public library copy. Excellent, excellent all around. Both of the characters are so real, their stories so ready to be identified with, just the right amount of history mixed in. This is my kind of book. It evokes emotion, not in sympathy with the characters so much as from the reader’s own heart in relating the story to himself. I love fiction that teaches truth without preaching. And leaves the reader wanting to know more.

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Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler

Nicole Michelin avoids airplanes, motorcycles, and most of all, Japan, where her parents once were missionaries. Something happened in Japan…something that sent Nicole and her father back to America alone…something of which Nicole knows only bits and pieces. But she is content with life in little Mount Olive, North Carolina, with her quirky relatives, tank of lively fish, and plenty of homemade pineapple chutney. Through her online column for the Pretty Fishy Web site, she meets Harrison Michaels, who, much to her dismay, lives in Japan. She attempts to avoid him, but his e-mails tug at her heart. Then Harrison reveals that he knew her as a child in Japan. In fact, he knows more about her childhood than she does…

My Reaction:

Rain Song (Heart of Carolina, #1)Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Public library copy. Amazing what wonderful books and authors I’ve found in my public library, for which I thank God. This book is a book of the heart. Absolutely fabulous writing. About 100 pages to go. Love the title, the character, the cover, the story, the identifying with the character (sometimes feels like she’s in my head).

Finished. I miss her. Is there more to the story? Really loved this book. It’s very real to me. Can’t wait to read more of this author.

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A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette {book review}


A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette {book review} is the first in the Cities of Refuge series. This book is a must-read for lovers of biblical fiction. You will walk in time and place with the young woman Moriyah, hearing her heart, feeling her fear, knowing her Yaweh. This book is full of action, faith and fear. It will leave you with much to ponder in its wake.

Summary:

Though Israel has found relative peace, Moriyah has yet to find her own. Attempting to avoid the scorn of her community, she’s spent the last seven years hiding behind the veil she wears. Underneath her covering, her face is branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods, a shameful reminder of her past captivity in Jericho and an assurance that no man will ever want to marry her.

When her father finds a widower who needs a mother for his two sons, her hopes rise. But when their introduction goes horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee for her life. Seeking safety at one of the newly established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

My Reaction:

This book grows on you after you finish reading it. I consider that a mark of a good book.

It is beyond understanding how this author can transport her readers to a long ago time in a far away place, which she does so well. Point of view being singular lends the story strength.

Continuous action and wonderful description of place and strong characters which share a part in the story which revolves around the people who worship Yaweh and their dealings with those who do not.

The thing which most impacted me is how this relates to my life today. People are people in any era of history.

I loved reading about the sacrifices. Somehow made it more real, meant more. And the Mosaic law and cities of refuge came alive in the story. Thank you Connie for your magnificent work!

I highly recommend this book to any reader interested in biblical fiction. I am not a huge fan of biblical fiction, but the two books I have read by this author may change my mind. I love how close to Scripture she keeps the story.

My Rating:  4 of 5 stars

I received an advanced copy of this book from Bethany House on Net Galley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author:

When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn Cossette is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure, out-of-print history books.

There is nothing she likes better than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus.

Her novel Counted With the Starswon the 2013 Frasier Contest and was a semifinalist in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives near Dallas, Texas. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

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The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli {book review}


The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli  ~ Mercy’s journals comfort Natalie from across the centuries as both women struggle with their own secrets and shame, wondering how deep God’s mercy extends.

There is darkness in this world, and as a writer who longs to bring truth into it, I can’t in good conscience ignore the darkness. I can, however, bring hope into it.  ~Heidi Chiavaroli

Summary:

New York, 2016
Natalie Abbott offers answers for hurting listeners on her popular radio program. But she struggles to connect with her teenagers, with her daughter in an unhealthy relationship and her son uncommunicative and isolated. When one member of the family commits an unspeakable act, Natalie is forced to uncover who she truly is under the façade of her radio persona.

New York, 1776
Mercy Howard is shocked when her fiancé, Nathan Hale, is arrested and hanged as a spy. When she’s asked to join the revolutionary spy ring in Manhattan, she sees an opportunity to avenge Nathan’s death. But keeping her true loyalties hidden grows increasingly harder as the charming Major John Andre of the King’s Army becomes more to her than a target for intelligence.

Mercy’s journals comfort Natalie from across the centuries as both women struggle with their own secrets and shame, wondering how deep God’s mercy extends.

My Reaction:

This is my first read by this author. I have looked forward to reading one of her books for some time. I love Christian historical fiction from the Revolutionary War period. I love historical fiction period. This is not simply a work of historical fiction. It is written from two time periods simultaneously, 225 years apart. I admit it was difficult for me to switch back and forth from 1776 to 2016 with a rather loose connection. It was like reading two separate books with three points of view.

My Rating:  I give this book three-stars because it meets my requirements of a good book. The characters and plot are well-developed, thought-provoking, emotional, clean, and it is faith-based. Yet something is missing. While the author did a laudable job of writing parallel stories, I would have connected more with only one.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Author:

Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring Boston’s Freedom Trail. She writes Women’s Fiction and won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category.

Both her debut novel, “Freedom’s Ring” and her sophomore novel, “The Hidden Side” are Romantic Times Top Picks. “Freedom’s Ring” was also a BOOKLIST Top Ten Romance Debut, 2017.

What lessons or truths do you (Heidi) hope readers will take away from The Hidden Side?

That no matter what we try to conceal, even from ourselves, there is nothing that God can’t free us from. That the only place worth hiding is in Jesus. There, we don’t have to have it all together or pretend to be something we’re not. We don’t have to be afraid of rejection. He loves us perfectly and enough to do a good work in us—a real work that will draw us closer to Him and make us more like Him. That’s where our true identity resides.

This novel explores some devastating events and topics—a school shooting, the loss of loved ones, and division within and among families. Why did you choose to tackle these difficult issues?

There is darkness in this world, and as a writer who longs to bring truth into it, I can’t in good conscience ignore the darkness. I can, however, bring hope into it. The funny thing about hope and good news is that it shines more brightly in the darkness.

So when I write about a bombing or a historical war, when I write about the unspeakable actions of a family member or a heart torn apart by addiction and suffering, in part, it is what I relate to. It’s where despair tends to trip me up in this messy, broken world. BUT there is hope. And that is where I choose to cling, and it is this message that burns in my heart to bring forth to my readers.

She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Visit her online at heidichiavaroli.com.

Right now, she’s finishing up some research for her third book with Tyndale, scheduled to release in 2020, in revolutionary and contemporary Boston.

To learn more about the author and her books, visit her website at heidichiavaroli.com, her Twitter account, her Goodreads page, her Pinterest boards, her Facebook page.

Thank you, Heidi, for your hard work in writing this difficult story, and may God bless your future writings!

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