Book Review

The Lines Between Us by Amy Lynn Green

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to participate in my very first cover reveal! Amy Lynn Green’s novel was one I was eagerly anticipating, and helping her with the reveal was just icing on the cake! (Check out my reveal post here!) When The Lines Between Us was released in August, I was beyond excited to finally get my hands on this most-anticipated read! And the best news? This new novel is just as amazing as it looks and sounds.

About The Lines Between Us:

(From the publisher): A WWII novel of courage and conviction, based on the true experience of the men who fought fires as conscientious objectors and the women who fought prejudice to serve in the Women’s Army Corps.

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gordon Hooper and his buddy Jack Armitage have stuck to their values as conscientious objectors. Much to their families’ and country’s chagrin, they volunteer as smokejumpers rather than enlisting, parachuting into and extinguishing raging wildfires in Oregon. But the number of winter blazes they’re called to seems suspiciously high, and when an accident leaves Jack badly injured, Gordon realizes the facts don’t add up.

A member of the Women’s Army Corps, Dorie Armitage has long been ashamed of her brother’s pacifism, but she’s shocked by news of his accident. Determined to find out why he was harmed, she arrives at the national forest under the guise of conducting an army report . . . and finds herself forced to work with Gordon. He believes it’s wrong to lie; she’s willing to do whatever it takes for justice to be done. As they search for clues, Gordon and Dorie must wrestle with their convictions about war and peace and decide what to do with the troubling secrets they discover.

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Book Review

Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Last year, I received a copy of Amanda Dykes book, “Set the Stars Alight” and I fell in love. (If you haven’t read it, go order a copy here!) So when I heard that Yours is the Night was coming out this year, it quickly became one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Now, the problem with most anticipated reads is that sometimes, you hype them up so much in your head beforehand, that when you actually read the book, it pales in comparison. But let me tell you, this was NOT a problem with Yours is the Night. This book completely met all my expectations for a beautiful story full of hope and light.

Amanda writes in a way that is lyrical and magical. Her words chip away at the darkness and spill light through the cracks and crevices of the characters’ broken stories. I’m not the type of reader to highlight sentences in novels, but if I was, this book would be filled. There were so many times I had to stop and simply soak in the beauty of a phrase or paragraph. (Keep reading for the rest of my review!)

About Yours is the Night:

(From the publisher) The trenches of the Great War are a shadowed place. Though Platoon Sergeant Matthew Petticrew arrived there with a past long marked by shadow, the realities of battle bring new wounds–carving within him a longing for light, and a resolve to fight for it.

One night, Matthew and his comrades are enraptured by a sound so pure, a voice so ethereal, it offers reprieve–even if only for a moment. Soon, rumors sweep the trenches from others who have heard the lullaby too. “The Angel of Argonne,” they call the voice: a mysterious presence who leaves behind wreaths on unmarked graves.

Raised in the wild depths of the Forest of Argonne, Mireilles finds her reclusive world rocked when war crashes into her idyllic home, taking much from her. When Matthew and his two unlikely companions discover Mireilles, they must embark on a journey that will change each of them forever . . . and perhaps, at long last, spark light into the dark.

On the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier comes an emotive tale inspired by the courageous soldiers of World War I.

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Book Review

Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

About Come Back to Me:

The ultimate cure that could heal any disease? Crazy.

That’s exactly what research scientist Marian Creighton has always believed about her father’s quest, even if it does stem from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. But when her father falls into a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life, Marian must question all of her assumptions. He’s left behind tantalizing clues that suggest he’s crossed back in time. Insane. Until Marian tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages during a dangerous peasant uprising.

William Durham, a valiant knight comes to Marian’s rescue and offers her protection . . . as his wife. The longer Marian stays in the past, the more she cares about William. Can she ever find her father and make it back to the present to heal her sister? And when the time comes to leave, will she want to?

Bestselling author Jody Hedlund is your guide down the twisting waters of time to a volatile era of superstition, revolts, and chivalry in this suspenseful story.

Reader’s Thoughts

A time-travel, Christian romance novel? I don’t even know where to start with this one. Except to say, that I was absolutely fascinated.

Time travel books can always be a little hit or miss. And honestly, walking into this story, I wasn’t sure how well the time travel aspect was going to work out. The idea of holy water from the tree of life acting as the means to access the past was definitely a unique idea. However, the author took time to patiently set the story and work through her version of the time/space rules. While there were a few time-travel aspects that still didn’t fully make sense to me, the story was entertaining enough to overlook those lingering questions.

I also felt that the book was wonderfully set. I haven’t read a lot of medieval set stories, and this one transported me! The storyline felt very carefully researched and Marian’s reaction to landing in the 1300s felt entirely plausible. There were a lot of little details here that made the timeline very authentic — including acknowledging the immediate differences Marian would have faced as a woman and how that would play out in a relationship. The plot also had enough unexpected turns that I was kept on my toes!

Which leads me to the romance part… If you’ve read some of my other book reviews, you’ll know that I’m not usually a fan of the romance genre. And for a Christian novel, Come Back to Me had a lot of it. However, I think there is room to show passionate marriage relationships within Christian fiction. (It’s a clean read but it does have some very vulnerable and intimate moments.) This part of the plot did give me all the Outlander feels (similar romance plot) and I just went with it — because, you know, time travel. So why not?

All in all, I thought this was a really creative premise with an entertaining story. Perfect for those who love historical romances or suspenseful reads with a little science fiction. I will definitely be checking back for book two in the series!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

**Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group
and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
 All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jaime Jo Wright’s BEST BOOK YET!

I’ve been following Jaime’s writing journey since her very first novel. With books like The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus and The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond, this author is known for her faith-based but creepy and gothic-feeling stories. On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor was no exception to the eerie, mysterious feel and I LOVED it.

About On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor:

1885: Adria Fontaine has been sent to recover goods her father pirated on the Great Lakes during the war. But when she arrives at Foxglove Manor–a stone house on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior–Adria senses wickedness hovering over the property. The mistress of Foxglove is an eccentric and seemingly cruel old woman who has filled her house with dangerous secrets, ones that may cost Adria her life.

Present day: Kailey Gibson is a new nurse’s aide at a senior home in a renovated old stone manor. Kidnapped as a child, she has nothing but locked-up memories of secrets and death, overshadowed by the chilling promise from her abductors that they would return. When the residents of Foxglove start sharing stories of whispers in the night, hidden treasure, and a love willing to kill, it becomes clear this home is far from a haven. She’ll have to risk it all to banish the past’s demons, including her own.

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Unknown Threat Book Review

Book Review

Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Unknown Threat is 300 pages of non-stop action! Right from the very first few pages, I was thrown into this fast-moving story and utterly captivated from start to end. If you love romantic suspense, you’ll want to check out this new series from Lynn H. Blackburn! (Keep reading for my full review!)

About Unknown Threat:

US Secret Service Special Agent Luke Powell is lucky to be alive. Three of his fellow agents have died in unusual circumstances in the past ten weeks. Luke is devastated by the loss of his friends and colleagues, and his inability to locate the killer feels like a personal failure. He and his team are experts at shielding others, but now the protectors are in need of protection.

FBI Special Agent Faith Malone is driven to succeed and confident in her ability to solve every case she’s assigned. She’s been put in charge of the investigation into the unprecedented attacks, and with Luke’s life in danger, the stakes have never been higher. But it’s hard to know how to fight back when you don’t know who the enemy is.

Luke has teamed up with Faith before, but he’s not convinced she’s up for the job and she’s not convinced he’s telling her everything he knows. As more agents are targeted, Luke and Faith will have to learn to trust each other and work together to bring a killer to justice and prevent any more names from joining their fallen brothers and sisters on the Secret Service Wall of Honor.

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Book Review

A Habit Called Faith by Jen Pollock Michel

Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Habit Called Faith book cover

When you think about it, there is much irony found in a bookworm who struggles to read the Scriptures. And yet, there have been countless seasons in life where my Bible reading could be described as inconsistent at best. 2020 wasn’t the first time I’d gotten myself into a devotional rut. And it probably won’t be the last.

So, entering into 2021, I knew that I wanted to carve out space for intentional living within the Word. I needed to re-form better habits. Because my desire was to desire more of Him. I’d just fallen into the habit of choosing one more episode first. Of relegating my devotional time to the final few minutes before bed, exhausted and brain-numbed. Of viewing it as a requirement rather than an act of relationship.

I’m the type of person who thrives off routine and structure. I need checklists and plans to hold me accountable. I need the motivation to say, “I’m going to read even when I’m struggling with it. Especially when I’m struggling.” This year I started participating in a one-year reading plan alongside my local church — and it was exactly what I needed. Finding Jen Pollock Michel’s book, “A Habit Called Faith,” only served to reiterate the work which God had been doing in my life these past few months.

Because the thing is, sometimes we need checklists. Sometimes we need that accountability in order to create habits. He invites us to abide in His Word. To cement our faith in His Holy and Living Scriptures. (And what an awe-inspiring invitation that is!) Because we just need to show up. Intentionally. Actively. Pursuing. In the seasons when it feels dry, and in the season when it feels plentiful. And in that day-to-day act of seeking, transformation happens. Growth abounds.

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Book Review

The Moonlight School by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

About The Moonlight School:

Moonlight School book cover

(From the publisher) Haunted by personal tragedy, Lucy Wilson arrives in Rowan County, Kentucky. It’s the spring of 1911 and she’s there to assist her cousin, Cora Wilson Stewart, superintendent of schools. A fish out of water, Lucy is appalled by the primitive conditions and intellectual poverty she encounters.

Born in those very hills, Cora knows the twin plagues of illiteracy and poverty. So does Brother Wyatt, a singing school master who travels through the hills. Involving Lucy and Wyatt, Cora hatches a plan to open the schoolhouses to adults on moonlit nights. The best way to combat poverty, she believes, is to eliminate illiteracy. But will the people come?

As Lucy emerges from a life in the shadows, she finds purpose, along with something else she hadn’t expected: love.

Inspired by true events, this novel from bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher brings to life the story that shocked the nation into taking adult literacy seriously.

The Moonlight School book set on open journal with white background

This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Reader’s Thoughts

The Moonlight School had me intrigued from the start. Having recently read another book set in Kentucky dealing with the topic of illiteracy, I was excited to see Fisher’s take. Although it took longer than expected to get to the actual “moonlight school” aspect, I loved that this was based on true story. And as an avid bookworm, the topic of literacy is obviously dear to my heart.

The story itself is sweet and full of charm. The book follows Lucy — a young and fairly naïve, city girl. Asked to assist her cousin as a stenographer, Lucy is shocked by the poor conditions she encounters in Rowan County. But as time passes, she discovers the rich and beautiful history and culture within the hills. This personal transformation was well done and I grew to really enjoy her character.

I also adored Finley James and Angie. These teen characters were a really fun way to bring about some of the personality of the mountain people, while weaving in some levity. As for the other characters, I really appreciate when Christian fiction takes the time to set up romantic relationships in an authentic way, and I think the author was able to achieve that here.

While the book touches upon deep poverty, the story is still kept fairly light. For me, this meant missing some of the reality that I was looking for. I do, however, think this would make a great read for teens too. These are the sorts of stories my young heart grew up on. It’s clean, lighthearted and has great historical context.

If you enjoy Christian fiction with lovely characters, a little romance, and a few twists along the way, I think you’ll enjoy The Moonlight School! Want to grab a copy for yourself? You can find The Moonlight School on Amazon here!

**Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group
and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
 All opinions expressed are my own.

Things We Didn't Say Cover and Book Review

Book Review
Things We Didn’t Say

by Amy Lynn Green

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Things We Didn’t Say is an impressive debut novel. (I was completely taken aback to discover that it was Green’s first book! It reads like a well-seasoned author.) Full of heart, passion and a little bit of humour, this book is a thoughtful exploration of patriotism, prejudice, and humanity.

About: It’s 1944. Linguistic student, Johanna Berglund, has reluctantly accepted a translator position at a camp for German POWs. As she interacts with the prisoners, translating conversations and censoring their letters home to Germany, she begins to see these men as more than just enemies. But advocating for the soldiers’ better treatment leaves townspeople wondering whose side she’s on. Most patriot citizens want nothing to do with the Germans labouring in the camp, or with those who work there. As the lines between compassion and treason become blurred, Johanna must decide where her heart truly lies.

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Book Review

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This dual-timeline mystery was my third read by Jaime Jo Wright and, can I say, my absolute favourite of hers so far.

The writing in this book is strong and follows two separate characters: Pippa, in the late 1920’s, and Chandler in the present day. Wright has crafted both characters in a way that makes them feel flawed and so very real — women that you can connect with and understand.

The first timeline is set in the late 1920s and follows the story of Pippa — the adopted daughter of the owner of Bonaventure Circus. While the circus is a refuge for many rejected by society, Pippa was cast from its inner circle as a baby. Guarded by a mysterious figure named The Watchman, Pippa can’t help but feel compelled to uncover her roots. Her connection to an injured baby elephant is a touching analogy for her own feelings of neglect and rejection, as she searches for the truth about her birth parents. Along the way, Pippa is thrown into the path of a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and uncovers evidence of a serial killer haunting the circus train. But how far will she have to go to find the truth?

The second timeline follows Chandler Faulk — a project manager for the crumbling, old circus train depot. Chandler dives into the depot’s history in hopes of revitalizing the area and proving to her uncle that she is capable of handling the job. As she balances being a single, working parent with a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease, Chandler is pulled deeper into the circus’ dark past — uncovering some very real, present-day implications.

This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Reader’s Thoughts

Both timelines were beautifully written with intriguing plots and page-turner chapters. Unlike a lot of traditional Christian fiction, the author isn’t afraid to explore some darker and edgier emotions and elements. Wright was able to weave together conversations about ghosts and the spiritual side of faith in a way that didn’t pretend to have all the answers but simply felt honest and true to character.

I also love how the dialogue and character interactions in Wright’s books feel so believable. One of my critiques with the Christian suspense genre, in general, is that it’s often heavy on the romance elements and light on the suspense. But this book blended the two aspects so well! Both timelines had romantic secondary-plots but it didn’t distract from the mystery or the tension that was building — instead, it added to the character motivation and created a well-rounded story. The character development felt entirely realistic (not cheesy!) and the relationships were ones I wanted to root for.

The only downside to a dual-timeline mystery is that the motivation of the present-day antagonist can occasionally feel a little weak. While I felt that again with this novel, it’s more of a nitpicky reader thing and didn’t ultimately take away from the surprise ending. (And it was a surprise!) While I’m usually able to figure out at least part of how a novel is going to unwind, this deliciously creepy read kept me wondering until the very end. 

A solid four stars for this one!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Want to grab a copy for yourself? You can find The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus on Amazon, here!

Growing up, I thought there was only one kind of Advent calendar — the chocolate kind. But with my own little ones, we’ve added on a few extra traditions for the days leading up to Christmas. (You can check out the Christmas tree ornaments we made here!) One of which is our Book Advent Calendar — a family favourite!

Every year, I individually wrap our collection of children’s Christmas books. Then, every day from December 1st until December 24, the kids open one.

Not only does this help get them excited about reading, but it’s also a great countdown tool for Christmas day. (And allows them to open a few presents in advance — meaning less temptation to peek at the actual gifts!)

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Book Review

The Powerful Purpose of Introverts: Why the World Needs You to Be You
by Holley Gerth

As a school-aged child, there was always one note guaranteed to show up on my school report card“Liz needs to speak up more in class.”

The fact that I’d lose participation points for being quiet used to drive me nuts. I didn’t see the outspoken kids being docked grades for being too loud. Couldn’t they see that I was participating in class in my own way? I was helping other students one on one during lunch. I was listening attentively and getting straight A’s in all my written assignments. If you asked me to do something, I would do it. And if you gave me advance notice, I’d be fully prepared to present in front of the class.

It was just the spur of the moment, classroom discussion that felt overwhelming to me.

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Hey bookworms, this one’s for you!

If you’ve been following along with MommyMannegren for a while now, you may be familiar with my annual reading challenge — 52 books in 52 weeks. For the past three years, I’ve hosted this challenge here on my website. Each year, the list has fifty-two unique prompts. Match one book to one prompt and work your way through the challenge. Sounds fun, right?

I started this challenge in 2018 and was blown away by the response. Each year’s challenge has been a huge success but in early 2020, we started growing exponentially. (I guess we all had a bit more free time for reading?) So much so, that this summer, we launched a website specifically for the challenge.

So, if you’re looking for this year’s challenge, you can find it over at www.the52book.club.

The 52 Book Club website is the place to go for all challenge-related book stuff (like reviews, giveaways, updates about the reading challenges, etc.) Whether you’re an avid reader, or just wanting to get back into some good books, I highly encourage checking it out! (Not everyone reads all 52 books, and that’s okay too!) You can also sign up for e-mails to stay in the loop!

Ready for a 2021 challenge? I’ll meet you over at The 52 Book Club!

Happy reading!
Liz