When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

I fell in love with Sarah Sundin’s writing in her Sunrise at Normandy series (if you haven’t read those, enjoy a weekend of laughing and sobbing and marveling at God’s redemption story). This story was beautiful, and different, and heart-wrenching. Most WW2 books take place during the war, not before (or after). Sarah took a deep dive into what the world would’ve looked like right before the war began, and it’s an unnerving sight, because we know what happens in the next several years.

BUT. There are little stories throughout the war, real and fiction, that show the light of Jesus and His people. This story highlights the ability for people to change, to do good, to show mercy and grace. Each character in this story has a dark and ugly side, but Sarah shows the power of grace and our ability to grow.

I loved both Evelyn and Peter. Evelyn was a strong, independent woman who reminded me a lot of Margot De Wilde from Roseanna White’s The Number of Love. (Side note: both authors should write a little story of when these two women get to meet. They’d adore each other.) She had a reason to want to be alone, and to rely on herself. I loved how that belief grew and changed over the course of the story. Each step made sense.

Peter … ah, man. I loved his growth. His respect of Evelyn and determination to love her in the best way he saw fit was touching. He saw the world differently than her in the beginning, but I believe Sarah wrote it in a way that made sense (in my mind, anyways). He wasn’t an evil man; he was a hurting one that sought the only answer he could think of. But he changed, and he changed beautifully.

The plot is not at ALL what I expected, and I say that in the best way. There’s plenty of romance and flirting, but there’s shoot-outs and fires and heart-pounding action too. Those are my favorites … sweet moments between characters and then BOOOM!!! FIRE! Or whatever.

This isn’t an easy read. Like I said earlier, it’s hard to read this knowing what happened in the next several years in the world. But this book points to the Answer to all this destruction, and how we are to live our lives. Shining lights, determined, strong, but dependent on our Lord to bring us through.

Favorite Line (we’re going with a mini favorite scene today):

“See? But as soon as men catch me, they want to tame me, change me, put me in a cage. I won’t have it.”

His eyes widened, and his lips parted. “Did someone try to do that to you?”

She squirmed a bit. “Don’t look so shocked, Lang. You’d do the same.”

“No.” He shook his head slightly, his expression dazed. “I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to.”

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Colors of Truth

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

Colors of Truth by Tamera Alexander

I knew as soon as Thomas Nelson cancelled Tamera Alexander’s book that it was going to be a good one. Well, I knew it before that, but the cancellation just confirmed it for me. Standing up for what is right tends to bring out the best results, and wow – this book did.

Colors of Truth starts right after the end of the Civil War, and immediately the destruction, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, that the war caused on everyone. No one emerged unscathed, on either side, and that is evident throughout the novel.

Catriona O’Toole is an Irish spitfire (she reminded me of me at times) who’s tasked with taking care of her little, bratty sister, while trying to find her twin brother. She is a scarred woman, angry at God for the pain her family has endured, and lost in a world that is trying to return to normal – if there’s a normal to return to.

I adored her, and little Nora, though as a big sister, I felt Catriona’s frustration way too often. Catriona’s spiritual journey was realistic and beautiful. She made me laugh plenty, with her feistiness and her frustration over finding Wade attractive.

And Wade. Oh my. He is a Federal soldier and has to hide that fact, and aren’t those the best stories? I loved how Tamera wrote him. He was broken too, and though he hid it, she also allowed him moments of vulnerability. The way was awful, and as I stated above, no one made it through without be brutally wounded in some way. Tamera shows that in all the characters, but Wade was the one who saw action, including the Battle of Franklin.

The name of Jesus was spoken many times and the faith element …. oh, it was beautiful. And there’s a part at the end of the novel that I won’t spoil, but I’m just going to say this: if you’ve read A Not Yet Unsung, you will cry.

Favorite Line:

So many, but this particular line spoke so deeply, because it spoke light into a dark time with so much death.

The grave wasn’t the end of life. For those who trusted Jesus, it was only the beginning.

My rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Land of Silence

28075719._SY475_“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come.” ~ Song of Solomon 2:10-12

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

I have a very bad habit of not reading really good books, apparently. I first got this book a few years ago, not realizing it was in first person, which for some reason is a struggle for me. Now I’m desperate for anything new to read (for people reading this twenty years from now: the world kind of shut down) and this was on my shelf, so I swiped it up and started reading.

This was a great book. The woman with the issue of blood is mentioned in just a few verses in the Bible, so Tessa Afshar had little to work with, but she brought a miraculous story to life in this book. Maybe it’s how it went, maybe it’s not, but she brings to life the pain this woman lived through. Back then, a woman during her period was unclean. Now imagine being unclean for twelve years!

Elianna’s character was sweet, stubborn, and even funny. Her self-sacrifice was heartbreaking and frustrating at times, but each move made sense for her character. Ethan …. oh my. What a lovely man.

And since we all know the ending: it is beautiful and touching, and miraculous. I loved how she wrote her healing, and how the book is almost written in a diary form. You can’t tell always, except at the beginning and end, but that was a different (and fun) feel.

Favorite Line: 

“Daughter,” he called me. For the first since Jospeh died, someone called me daughter. The word left his mouth and entered my soul like a shower of indescribable love. How do you explain a miracle? Words cannot capture a move of heaven. He had healed my body. But by that one declaration, he healed my heart. He claimed me as his own.

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Wild Montana Skies (Montana Rescue #1)

28637713 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. ~ Psalm 23:1-2

Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

I had this book on my shelf for a bit, having loved Susan’s Christiansen Family series. Apparently I had been missing out, because this book left me squealing, holding it to my heart, and yes, lots of squealing.

Because there is nothing better than a man with cowboy boots, jeans, and a Stetson.

Anyways, this is a lot different than her Christiansen Family series. There’s a lot more lingo, plane crashes, violence, etc. in this book and the rest of the series. Not all writers can go from fairly normal romance to heart-pounding action and intensity, but she does it gracefully and it is FUN.

This book is all about redemption. It’s about grace undeserved, amazing grace. Kacey Fairing has stepped away from the military because of mistakes made, and never-ending hurt that has left her lost and broken. Ben King is a country music star (and presumably gorgeous) and has run from his past, tried to forget it by coming a man who sings about provocative things.

Then God steps in. I do wish that He was more present in each scene; it seemed like God made his big intros in the intense, near-death, I-hate-myself scenes, and then disappeared until the next one came around. With that being said, He is the underlying driving story throughout, and I really enjoyed how Ben and Kacey reached their ‘come to Jesus moments’. God is present, and the story of redemption is shown through each character.

Favorite Line: 

“I got myself into this mess. He’s not going to get me out of it.”

“That’s exactly what God is going to do. That’s what he means when he calls himself the Good Shepherd. He restores your soul, gives you new strength, and then he leads you in the right direction. And it has nothing to do with whether you’ve made a mess out of your life. He is the Good Shepherd for all the sheep who calls his name – whether you’re a white sheep or a black one.”

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Daughters of Northern Shores

40590294._SY475_For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those who walk blameless. ~ Psalm 84:11

Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof 

First of all, if you haven’t read the first book in this series, drop everything and go read that first. If you’re like me, you may be tempted to start on the second one because YOLO. But seriously, go read Sons of Blackbird Mountain first. This review may feature some spoilers for that, so if you haven’t read it, then don’t read this!

Now onto the review.

As I’ve stated before, Joanne writes in such a beautiful prose that it’s hard to not fall into a puddle of mush in every scene. It’s as if she’s loving a small child, so careful with her words, so graceful.

Her characters are just as heartwarming, and at times, frustrating. Thor Norgaard is a flawed human. He used to be a drunk, and he can throw things when he’s at someone. (A specific someone in this one.) He’s flawed, but that’s what makes him such a lovable man. His wife, Aven, is just as lovable, and I love imagining how much Thor dwarfs her when they stand together.

She’s strong, compassionate – really everything she was in the first one, but now she carries the burden of hurt from Haakon and her wish to forgive him. Which brings in that man, who I may or may not have fallen in love with over the course of this novel. He wants forgiveness, but he doesn’t believe he deserves it.

Aven’s wish to forgive and his shame come together in one of my favorite scenes in the book, and just AHHHHHHHHHH.

God is present in this book, from start to finish. He’s there in the terror, the pain, and I ask that everyone reads the author’s note at the end. If the book hadn’t already destroyed me, I would say that really did it.

Favorite Line: 

Men would always march into battle to protect what they believed in, and women would always endure the pain of bringing their children into the world. It was the way of this life, no matter the time or land, and yet in some instances, the battle wasn’t with swords or with shields – it was between hope and fear as the woman a man loved fought not only for her life but for the life of their child. 

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lake Season

44441971Just in case you thought every book I read is amazing…

Lake Season by Denise Hunter

Well…this was…I don’t even know my feelings on this.

First the good: the cover is gorgeous. It’s one of those that you feel you can just jump into and it’ll be warm and fuzzy and awesome.

Other than that…I didn’t like this book. Only reason I finished it was I wanted to add it to my ‘read’ list for 2020. And because I was yearning to know what happened in the past storyline. Which felt…stilted and uncared for. So it wasn’t exactly the storyline. It was the lack of character development, and the biggest thing that had me irritated: the lack of faith.

I don’t think there was any mention of God until a third of the way through the book. Maybe more. It was an after-thought. Sitting there to fall back on when life is miserable, and for it to be deemed a “Christian book”. But it’s really not. For me, there’s no mention of the wrongness of premarital sex (which was a big issue in one of her past novels), and all of the characters pray in their heads. That’s it. The biggest parts of God was at the end, and by then, it misses the mark.

Faith to me is everywhere. It’s in the dirty dishes, it’s in the pain of loss, it’s in the giggles of love, it’s in the fear of betrayal. It’s not just at the end. It’s not just in thought-prayers when life is tough. It’s in EVERYTHING. So why show it like that? If that’s what faith actually is, then I don’t want it. I don’t want a faith that is only for collapse, never to bring up on a date, or a devastating death.

That was my biggest issue in it. The story has potential – sometimes all a person needs is a sweet, summer romance that causes giggles. Since when do these kind of books need no Jesus? Since when did it become taboo to write something sappy, giggly, hold-the-book-to-your-chest but just drop God into a few scenes so that it could be published by a Christian company?

And since when does a Christian publisher house fall to the idea that this should be a thing?

Listen, it’s cute. It’s a cute, fluffy romance that is not filled with sex scenes or swear words. I understand that sometimes, that’s what someone craves to read. But for me, I want the deep-rooted agony that life sometimes is. I want to FEEL for someone who has just lost their parents. I want to FEEL their hurt, their faith, their questions. And I want to  see faith. Not in every character ever – not everyone is going to be a Christian in life and that should be reflected in fiction – but I want to see it in a book that is written and published by Christians.

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️

Sons of Blackbird Mountain

36576080My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ~ Psalm 73:26

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof 

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what it was about. Just propped it open, discovered that the one of the main characters would be deaf, and started in. If I had known what I know now, I think I would’ve treasured it a little more and taken my time. 

Which is why I’ve read it three times. Each time is more poignant, more meaningful, more heart wrenching.

Aven is not like a lot of heroines in novels. She is strong, yet weak. She is confident, but not cocky. She is beautiful, but she doesn’t parade it around. She is a true definition of the Bible verse, “She is clothed with strength and dignity”. Her character is amazing, y’all. Not over the top, shove-it-into-your face, but a kind, compassionate woman who has experienced loss and grown stronger from it. Her treatment of all of Norgaard men made me wish I could jump through the pages and be her best friend.

And Thor. Oh, my. Let me just tell you … Thor is a man to fall in love with. If you’re going to fall in love with one man in a novel, let it be Thor Norgaard. (Also Phillip Camden from On Wings of Devotion.) He is honestly terrifying because of his size and thundering personality, but he is also tender and loving. Joanne did a beautiful job writing his character. He’s also beautiful, so add that into his sweet moments with Aven, and there’s a match that just … ah.

Joanne writes almost poetically. It’s a novel, but it’s also a cry to God. A psalm, asking him for his help and his forgiveness, and most importantly, his strength. These characters in this novel need his strength, and they ask for it. And they do receive it, just not always in the way they expect. She writes about tough subjects (including alcoholism) and points us, through her characters, straight to Jesus.

Prepare to laugh, too. Thor, Jorgan, and Haakon are brothers through and through, and the side characters, the little moments, the huge moments … bring your tissues.

My, what a book.

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Name Unknown {Shadows over England #1}

32497002

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

This was SO good.

Peter Holstein was not a normal hero in this book. He stutters, is a writer, probably has never actually shot a gun, and he hides away in his own little world. But somehow, Roseanna still made me fall in love with him, laugh and cry with him, and cheer him on. What a man of faith who got on his knees multiple times to pray, who huffed and growled and brought a five-year-old girl gifts. Like WOW.

And Rosemary. Goodness, she was a fun character. Snappy and talkative, determined to rob Peter of everything he had. With a disdain for a God who apparently doesn’t listen to her. And she can throw a punch. I loved her character (we would be best friends in real life, to be honest), and her growth — AHHHHH.

The faith element in this book was stunning. Soft and honest, like Roseanna was just writing exactly what God wanted her to say. Which brings me to the part that made me cry at midnight. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what part it is. (Hint: toward the end) That was all Jesus. He was in that part. I could FEEL it.

One of my favorite things about Roseanna’s books is her ability to weave in history throughout, without it sounding stale or shoved in. The story is IN the history, not the history in the story. I felt like I was reading the history book I always wished I could read in school, filled with Jesus, witty characters, and teaching me about what went on during those times.

Favorite line:
“When you in out of the cold and sidle up next to a fire, you don’t feel warm all at once, do you? Your hands thaw, and then your nose. Your toes. It’ll come. In bits and pieces, or in a flood, but it’ll come if you seek it. If you stay there by the fire. And then one day you’ll realize you’re warm all over, and have been for ages.”

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

On Wings of Devotion

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. ~ Psalm 30:3

46125037On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White

This book was amazing. Utterly amazing. Almost perfect. And it holds tear stains for the first time ever. I’ve cried in a hundred books, but I’ve apparently never laid my head down on the book and sobbed. (This is a big thing, y’all.)

Both characters are amazing. Ara is fierce, but tender and loving, full of Jesus, though flawed. In some parts, she just shined through the pages with how much she understood God’s mercy. She could blow up, and be a terror too, but she KNEW. Deep down, despite her insecurities, she KNEW how much God adored her, and because of that, anything thrown her way is a step toward Him.

Phillip, or “Cam”, or my personal favorite, “Philly”, did not know. Oh my goodness….what a man. He’s hurting so much that his pain is disguised with flirting, with a temper that was first shown in A Number of Love, and everyone hates him, which he seems to be fine with because he hates himself.

And he’s running from God, with the full knowledge that his life is going to end. The mercy that is shown from God, from his mom, from his brother, from Ara….it’s beautiful. I could’t stop squealing at the perfectness of how he’s treated by the people he loves. There’s exasperation, but they’re also chasing after him, because they love him.

It’s a beautiful story because it’s a true one. In many aspects, but the truest is that so many people hide behind a mask of indifference, of hatred, of feelings that tick the rest of us off. But in reality, they need prayer and love, which Ara gives.

Another storyline that surprised with how good it was was Ara’s beauty. Or lack thereof. A lot of books try to do that, but it leads to either fiery descriptions of bodies, or it falls flat. This book does neither, and I love how Roseanna writes those exchanges. She can’t believe it (and neither can Cam at times), but she learns to understand her worth and her beauty.

Oh, and the World War I tie-ins are amazing, too. I never thought I would enjoy reading fiction around that time of the world as much as I do, and that’s in part for the research that Roseanna has clearly done.

God chases after us, even when we don’t think ourselves worthy of love or forgiveness or mercy. He’s there, putting people in our paths, using situations – even the bad ones – to steer us closer to him. Ara has been through that already, been through that pain, and as the story progresses, Cam sees that too.

Favorite Line: 

There’s too many, and my favorite are spoilers. So that’s that.

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

With Every Breath

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” ~ Psalm 91:2

18652812With Every Breath

God wants us to trust Him. Why would there be so many Bible verses about trusting and having faith at all times if He didn’t want us to? It’s not always easy, as Kate Livingston realizes in this book. Four years ago, she lost her husband in an accident. As a child, she watched two of her brothers waste away and die.

When we’ve had a tragedy in life, it makes some of us have a harder time say to God, “Okay, I know you will deal with this, so I’m not going to.” Having faith is hard to begin with, but after something happens, it’s harder to do so. That’s what the devil wants. He doesn’t just want to hurt one person. He wants to destroy other people’s lives too. Make them doubt God. Make them step away from relationships because they’re afraid.

This book was a fun, crazy ride. Trevor McDonough is, by proper definition, a grump. He’s cold, appears heartless to his patients, even going so far as to call them by their ID number, not their names, and he has been competitive with Kate ever since they were kids when he stole a scholarship out of her hands. A scholarship that Kate is sure he didn’t need, given the fact that he was filthy rich.

But she ends up working with him in his attempt to find a cure for tuberculosis, or at least to find a way to delay the almost inevitable death. They fight constantly. (Prepare to thoroughly enjoy yourself when they’re screaming at each other, sometimes in front of people.) They’re both experts in sarcasm, and they find every opportunity to tear each other down.

That subtly changes as the book progresses. There’s a mystery, and finally, there’s romance. (DUH.) Sometimes lovey-dovey relationships are sweet and sappy, and this one is both of those things, but with an added level of intensity and life-or-death situations. (And lots of fun-loving bickering that will make you laugh.) Which brings up the most important topic in this book: how does one trust God with everything? Especially the life of your beloved? Kate, though fictional, is a lot of us. She can’t control anything about life, even though she tries.

The resolution of that storyline wasn’t as deep as I would’ve hoped it to be (only reason it didn’t earn five stars), but the meaning was clear: we can’t control what happens. We just have to trust. Yes, it’s difficult. There is nothing easy about letting go and giving everything, including our loved ones, over to God, but it will make for a much happier and less worry-filled life.

Favorite Line: 

“He squeezed his eyes shut, his heart beginning to split. Reaching out to hold her was stupid and he was bound to pay for it, but sometimes he needed her so badly. He simply needed. Needed to know he wasn’t alone. Needed the solid warmth of another person who cared.”

My rating: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️