Arriving Through Time

Arriving through Time by Heather L. Barksdale is a Young Adult time travel novel. Lizzie has been through a family tragedy and is having a tough time, but she is supported by her two best friends, Sam and Jeremy. They are currently navigating high school life and dealing with bullies Gary and Tiffany. Then a class project has Lizzie wondering about her ancestors, and a school trip ends with the three friends hurtling through time, along with their bullies and Lizzie’s secret crush. Although at first it appears to be a freak occurrence, the time travel seems very designed, as all of the teens begin to meet long dead ancestors.

What I loved about this story is that it combined time travel fiction and genealogy, two of my favorite pastimes, and it did this in a clever way. A class project and a DNA test have brought questions about Lizzie’s ancestors to the surface, and unexpected time travel gives her a chance to get answers. This book reminds us that our ancestors were living, breathing, people, not just names on a family tree. They blazed the way for us, good and bad, and everything they did enabled us to be alive today. We also learn something along the way as we visit people and places that are important to American history.

I loved the way time took the six travelers to locations that were pertinent to all of them and their ancestors and gave them both answers and surprises. I find that in my own genealogy research. 

If you are a fan of young adult novels, time travel, genealogy, and/or historical fiction, you will enjoy this book. I received a free copy of this book from the author. I also picked up a copy on Amazon, where Kindle Unlimited members can read it for free. My review is voluntary. 

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Arriving-Through-Time-Heather-Barksdale/dp/B08BDVN29C/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=arriving+through+time&qid=1604109793&sr=8-1

Link to Heather L. Barksdale’s website: https://heatherlbarksdale.com

Link to my review on Goodreads (Like and follow if you are so inclined): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3620451441?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

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

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 Escape

Madison James and Jonas Quinn, both US Marshals, are assigned to transport two dangerous criminals by plane to a new destination. After the plane crashes, Madison and Jonas must track an escaped murderer in the wilderness and beyond to try and keep him from killing anyone else. At the same time, Madison still doesn’t know who killed her late husband. However, clues have been turning up.

This is a fast paced, action-packed Christian thriller with many twists and turns. It was hard to put down and I stayed on the edge of my seat. There are interesting and surprising developments, and the characters are very well written, especially the “villain.” There is a hint of romance and a gentle Christian message of the hope God can provide in dark times. It is the first book in the U.S. Marshals series by Lisa Harris, and I can’t wait to read the rest. 

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

Link to The Escape on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Escape-US-Marshals-Book-ebook/dp/B087RTRNTF/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+escape+lisa+harris&qid=1602456413&sr=8-1

Link to the Author’s (Lisa Harris) Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Harris/e/B001JP7UWQ?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Link to my Goodsreads Review: (Please like the review and follow me if you are so inclined). https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3590686423?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Review Policy

The most important thing I want to convey is I rate books compared to others of their type. I am not going to compare a light holiday romance to Gone With the Wind, for example. I have different expectations for different genres.

5 STAR Fiction: It was compelling, well-researched, impressively written, and/or entertaining. The characters are memorable and I connected with them emotionally. I will search out this author’s other work

5 STAR Fiction: It was compelling, well-researched, impressively written, and/or entertaining. The characters are memorable and I connected with them emotionally. I will search out this author’s other works.

4 STAR Fiction: I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to others. I would definitely want to read more books by this author.

3 STAR Fiction: It was a good book. Although I wasn’t blown away by it, I would recommend it to others.

2 STAR Fiction: I liked some things about the book, but it did not live up to my expectations.

1 STAR Fiction: I did not enjoy the book, and would not recommend it to others. My reasons will be well documented in the review.

If I feel a book is between ratings, I will note that in decimals in the review. A 3.8 would be rounded to 4. A 3.2 would be rounded to 3.

The Nothing Man

I enjoy a good audiobook. I spend a lot of time in the car for work, and audiobooks help pass the time. I was happy when Netgalley started providing advance copies of audiobooks for review. Below is my review of The Nothing Man, a spellbinding tale with dual narrators.

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The Nothing Man is the story of Eve Black, whose family was attacked and murdered one night by a man who will go on to be known as The Nothing Man, a rapist and killer. Twenty years later, Eve writes a book about this killer, 

I reviewed the audiobook version. This audiobook has two narrators. Alana Kerr-Collins is the voice of Eve and John Keating is the voice of The Nothing Man. Both do a fantastic job. Kerr-Collins has a suspenseful note to her voice that keeps you on the edge of your seat and Keating’s eerie Nothing Man is spellbinding. 

Catherine Ryan Howard has written a thriller that is full of suspense and will keep you guessing. The ending is surprising and well thought out.

Fans of crime novels and novels about serial killers will be enthralled by this one.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley My review is voluntary.

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Man-Catherine-Ryan-Howard-ebook/dp/B0855G2W5T/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+nothing+man&qid=1602062635&sr=8-1

Link to the author’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Ryan-Howard/e/B003DPKMFW/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Link to my Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3461458608

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):

Still Knife Painting

As you will soon see, I felt very strongly about this one. I can be a lenient reviewer, but hateful stereotypes really set me off. Unfortunately, that’s what I found in this new series.

Still Knife Painting is a new series about Miranda Trent, who has inherited her Uncle’s homestead in Kentucky, in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest. She starts a unique business for tourists called Paint ’n Shine, providing a package which includes a scenic painting class, a Southern dinner, and a moonshine tasting.

I was excited to read this because like the protagonist, Miranda, I lived elsewhere, but spent all my summers in the mountains with my relatives, who were Appalachian locals (in my case from the mountains of North Carolina). Unfortunately my expectations for this book fell far short. The main character Miranda is very unlikable. Miranda is supposed to be from a local family, even though she has been living in New York, so she should have some empathy and understanding for the locals. Instead she looks down on them and is downright rude at times. Her thoughts are shown in italics, and are usually something mean about others. I really hated the approach of presenting her thoughts in italics, because whenever I saw italics coming up, I knew it was probably going to be something cruel or condescending.

Then there were the ridiculous stereotypes presented in this book. When the Sheriff’s Deputy showed up and is described as a “Barney Fife,” I rolled my eyes back in my head. Then he passed out at a crime scene. Too cheesy. Too ridiculous. Mountain people are not stupid. They are not Barney Fife. The police do not pass out at the scene of a crime. I really wanted to put the book down at that point.

In addition, she should have some understanding of the rich culture and traditions of the locals. Very little of that is brought forth. Instead she is rude, condescending, and standoffish with the locals. As someone whose families are locals, Miranda should at least have been sharing a lot more of the cultural stories and traditions of the area. Miranda is starting a business involving art, distilling moonshine, and cooking, but she doesn’t really spend much time tying that in with the rich history of each of these things in the mountains. We could have learned something in this book besides how the main character is annoyed and affronted by everyone and everything. A lot of potential was lost in this series. Her constant denigration of the locals really ticked me off. I know the locals in my mountain town to be loving, smart, resourceful, and talented. The book’s presentation of mountain locals as stupid, inconsiderate people who supposedly tried to limit Miranda’s art is really offensive.

And by the way, young people are taught to say “yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” in the South. It’s automatic. This is not an “insider/outsider” thing and should not have annoyed Miranda. After spending all her summers in this area, she should have known this. Miranda spent a lot of time complaining about the insider/outsider perception in the mountains. Although there is some of that, nobody in any town anywhere is going to open up to a rude person who looks down on others. At the same time she is complaining about the insider/outsider perception, she complains that mountain people share too much of their personal lives with her! This is contradictory.

There is no real strong cast of characters as there would be in a small town. Just another of many disappointments. None of the characters are memorable for me except Miranda, and that is only because of her horrible personality.

What started out as a series with potential fell flat for me. I will not be interested in reading anymore of these books. I cannot find anything likable about the main character. I was excited to see a series set in the Appalachian Mountains. That excitement faded pretty quickly. 

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

Link to my review on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/B07W8VL149/ref=acr_dp_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

Link to My Goodreads Review (If you enjoyed this review, please put a Like on Goodreads):