The Nature of Small Birds


Parts of this book took my breath away. There were parts I had to go back and reread to make sure the beauty of the metaphor Susie Finkbeiner has crafted here could really sink in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a story surrounding the Babylift out of Saigon in Vietnam in 1975 in the United States as the Vietnam War was ending. It’s the story of Mindy, a child adopted at 4 or 5 years old into a loving home who, as an adult, announces her plans to find her birth mother in Vietnam. It follows three characters other than Mindy in three different time periods throughout her life — Her father, sister, and mother — and puts the pieces together to help us as readers get a picture of some of the challenges that would have faced everyone in the family unit, but also the really beautiful moments.

Mindy’s father has to learn how to “let his bird spread her wings” as Finkbeiner weaves in metaphors comparing his daughters to birds, but also showing us actual birds to bring the metaphors home. We get to see a lot of the emotion that would have landed on a mother adopting a child from a war-torn country, and we get to immerse ourselves in teenagerhood as Mindy and her sister bond and really get to know each other for who they are.

From the back of the book, it’s “a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.”

I had never read anything by Susie Finkbeiner before, but if others are anywhere close to this beautiful, I will have to find more. This book was stunningly written, and being told in three different voices in three different timelines really lets you as the reader get to know the characters in so much more depth. I did appreciate that one chapter at a time was dedicated to one timeline/Point of View though, as it would have made it hard to follow if each chapter flipped around multiple times.

If you love good family stories, please check out this book. It will wiggle down into your soul. As someone with a relatively new family with challenges of its own, while the challenges are not at all the same, it felt like the right time for this book to land with me as well.

Also, I will likely come back to some of the metaphors in this book when teaching my 6th graders what they are and what they aren’t, so that’s pretty great, too.

There was one spot at the end of the book that really got me. Made me stop to pause and digest what I’d just read. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers” or not (it’s a beautiful poem, and I recommend that too!), but there was a great nod to it toward the end of the book. Finkbeiner writes “Emily Dickinson said that hope is a little bird, singing her heart out during a terrible storm. Even on cold nights like this one, that feathered friend trills on. One thing Emily didn’t say — had she even known? — was how all that singing got the attention of the one who formed that bird by hand. It’s the nature of small birds to sing their little hearts out. And it’s the nature of God to hear them.” (p. 322-323)

Goodness… I honestly don’t know what else to say except to leave you with that beautiful excerpt. If you love metaphors and beautiful stories, this book has everything you will need. I highly recommend it, and I hope you read it.

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Come Back to Me

This book was very intriguing to me. I’m fascinated by the ability to write good time travel/time slip novels (as you’ll know if you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time) and this was no exception. Though this was different from anything I’ve ever read!

It was a swift read, kicking off at a good pace and continuing from there. Toward the end, I think I read the last quarter of the book without stopping. I might have gone to the bathroom? I don’t remember, but I definitely didn’t want to do anything else until I was done, and I will be looking forward to the second book in the series to follow along with some of the secondary characters.

Marian Creighton is a research scientist, as is her father, and they’re both looking to find a cure for a disease that took her mother and threatens to take her sister. Her father believes he’s found the cure to heal any disease, and ends up in a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life. Marian’s life flips around when she has to try to make sense of her father’s research and theories she once thought impossible. His research and clues suggest he has traveled back in time, which seems absurd, until Marian finds herself in the Middle Ages in England….

I don’t want to give you more detail than that, though you’d get more from reading the back of the book, but I will say… it was a fascinating ride from start to finish, wondering how Hedlund would put all the pieces from two totally different time periods back together. That’s always what fascinates me the most about time travel/the concept of it — how do you keep the pieces together? But there was nothing I was confused about as I read through, which I sincerely believe helps a book’s pacing. If you have to wrap your head around the time travel details and the “wait, how did that work??” it can be hard to immerse yourself in the story and the characters, but that was not the case with this book.

I’ve read Jody Hedlund’s books before (check out the Orphan Train series if you’ve read this and are looking for more from her), and I will keep coming back, as she is an excellent fiction writer. And from reading the information at the end of the book, it seems she did a great deal of research through this writing and a lot of the scenes in the Middle Ages are based on real events, even if loosely. It makes it even more impressive.

If you’re looking a blend of superstition, faith, church history, historical fiction, romance, and science fiction, this book has it all, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor

If you’ve been following along with my book reviews for any length of time, you know I will not pass up a Jaime Jo Wright book. They’re creepy, I can’t read them at night or I dream about them, and they start with a bang. I just love them.

You’ll also know that a good time slip is my absolute favourite. The ability to write back and forth between two time periods, weaving the two stories together and melding the details… it just blows my mind. On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor was no exception.

In 1885, Adria Fontaine has been sent to get goods back that her father, a pirate on the Great Lakes, stole during the US Civil War. She arrives at Foxglove Manor in rural Wisconsin, overlooking Lake Superior, and she does not have a good feeling about the property. She sees figures in windows and no one seems to give her straight answers. She is taken in by a cranky and mean older woman, seemingly owing something to her father. The house is full of secrets and they surround Adria with danger.

In the present, Kailey Gibson has just signed on as a nurse’s aide at a senior’s home in the very same Foxglove Manor and brought her brother Jude along with her. She was kidnapped as a child, but no one believed her and she doesn’t remember much of it anyway. The residents of the home start to tell stories of ghosts, of whispers, of treasure hidden at the manor. She’ll have to decide how far she wants to pursue the stories as she drags up old memories and forges new connections.

I loved the writing, obviously. I loved the suspense, the intrigue, and the story. I love how Wright can weave a story that seems to be a ghost story but all has plausible explanations at the end. And another thing I love about Wright’s writing is that she brings in characters with struggles that we can relate to. In this case, Kailey’s brother Jude has autism. In other books, she’s brought in anxiety, medical conditions, and other traits that I don’t find are often tackled, or at least not well. Jaime Jo Wright does it well.

If you are looking for a suspenseful story with twists and turns, the history of old Great Lakes piracy (which I didn’t know existed! I live an hour from Lake Erie… I wonder how much pirating went on around me….), and romance in places no one was looking for it, this is the book for you.

Please give it a shot, even if you’re not normally into ghost stories. They always resolve themselves when Jaime Jo Wright writes them, and they are never what you think they’re going to be. A great writer has delivered yet another wonderful book!

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group and I am ever so thankful for it!

A Tapestry of Light

Oh my goodness, what a beautiful book. This was a long book, but that didn’t matter. It was worth it.

This was my first Kimberly Duffy book, but I will be back for more. Rumour has it she has a new book releasing in November, and I will also have to go back and read her first book — A Mosaic of Wings.

Set in 1880s Calcutta, India, Ottilie Russell is torn between two worlds with her father being English and her mother Indian. She’s really not sure where to fit because of the opinions of both the British and the Indian populations toward one another.

After the death of both of her parents, she has to support her brother, Thaddeus, and her grandmother by embroidering using beetle wing cases. I admit I knew nothing about this, but I find it fascinating. It would be such delicate, intricate work!

But a stranger named Everett Scott arrives at her home to tell her that her brother is actually a Baron and has to go back to England to be educated in the proper ways of English nobility. Through a series of just crushing heartbreaks, Ottilie has to find a way to navigate an entirely new culture and way of life in cold and dreary England, all while fighting to make sure her brother doesn’t forget his Indian heritage.

I’ve never been to India, but Duffy’s descriptions are so vivid that I feel like I’ve been there, at least in 1886 (obviously it would not be the same now, 135 years in the future). Reviews for A Mosaic of Wings call Duffy’s prose elegant and flowing. I would agree. There’s a reason the book is long, but the plot doesn’t suffer from it.

I love a book with rich character development and vivid scenery depictions and this one does not disappoint. There are also beautiful themes of faith, grace, the importance of family (both the ones we’re born into and the ones we choose), adapting to change, and learning to wrestle with doubt all mixed in with poignant looks at the treatment of women in societies long past. It’s easy to see that the book was well-researched, and it’s also easy to see where women’s movements came from.

If you are at all a fan of historical fiction with a splash of romance tossed in for good measure, you will love this book. That’s my favourite way to do it. I’ve learned the difference between historical fiction and historical romance, and this is definitely a historical fiction. I loved it.

If you’ve read it, please let me know what you thought! If you’ve read A Mosaic of Wings, please tell me it’s as glorious as A Tapestry of Light and that I should read it right now 🙂 (Maybe not RIGHT now… my summer TBR list is very long…. but should I add it to the list??)

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Present Danger

Elizabeth Goddard is a new author to me, but if other books of hers hit the ground running like this one did, I’m sure I’ll enjoy her others as well.

Present Danger is a book full of suspense and romance as Jack Tanner and Terra Connors have to solve a number of crimes unfolding all around them, all while managing the feelings they have bubbling to the surface as they share a history together. Intrigue, suspense, and danger follow them around as they try to put the pieces together.

Some other authors I respect endorsed this book, which helped me choose it when it came up as one of my choices for June:

“Hold on to your seat and your heart as you enjoy this thrill ride!”–Rachel Dylan, bestselling author of the Capital Intrigue series

“A riveting read you won’t want to put down.”–Lynette Eason, bestselling, award-winning author of the Danger Never Sleeps series

“A wild ride. I couldn’t read the final chapters fast enough!”–Lynn H. Blackburn, award-winning author of the Dive Team Investigations series

If all three of these authors could read this book and thoroughly enjoy it, I figured I would too, as I’ve also enjoyed their books. I was not incorrect. Elizabeth Goddard delivers a book that starts off action-packed and keeps racing all the way through.

I will venture to say that the romance aspect of the book was a touch predictable, but I often find them so and it never makes me enjoy it less 🙂

One of the things I loved about the book was the theme of redemption that ran through it. I can’t give too many details about that as it would give away too much of the plot, but there was really beautiful grace-filled moments around the characters that I suspect Goddard worked really hard at weaving through the entire story.

If you are looking for an edge of your seat look into the US Forest Service, the wild hills of Montana, and archaeological artifact trafficking, this is the book for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

When Twilight Breaks — a review and interview with the author

This is an exciting review for me to write!!

I loved this book. I devoured this book. I’ve read others by Sarah Sundin before and I expected nothing less from this book, but it was pretty great when I mentioned how much I loved it to the contact I get my books to review from and she wondered if I’d like to interview Sarah Sundin.

Of course I would!

So, if you’re interested in a novel set just on the cusp of World War II in Nazi Germany that tackles some big topics, I invite you to check out When Twilight Breaks. This grapples with the “ethics of living in a divided world.” That’s what Peter and Evelyn and have to do as they navigate being Americans exempt from some of the startling and scary antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany in the ’30s, and then end up in a fight for their lives over them.

From the Press Material for the book:

“In 1938, two Americans meet in the heart of Nazi Germany under very different circumstances. Foreign correspondent Evelyn Brand is determined to prove her ability in a male-dominated profession. But, in order to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany, she must proceed with extreme caution. If she offends the government, she could be expelled from the country—or worse. But, if she fails to truthfully report on the events occurring within Germany, her voice will fail to get the American people to act.

Graduate student Peter Lang is also residing in Munich, where he is working on his PhD in German. Disillusioned with the chaos in the world due to the Great Depression, Lang is duly impressed with the prosperity and order of German society. But his vision of Nazi Germany quickly changes when the
brutality of the regime hits close to home. Lang discovers a far better way to use his contacts within the Nazi party—to feed information to the shrewd reporter he can’t get off his mind.

As tensions rise and war looms, Evelyn and Peter’s efforts to expose oppression attract unwanted attention, pulling them deeper into danger as the world marches toward war. Can Peter and Evelyn learn to trust each other before their world shatters?”

Having studied World War II history, I’ve heard many of these stories — this novel portrays some of the horrifying nature that would have been Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) — a pogrom where a great deal of Jewish property was destroyed and lives were lost and threatened. But to read about them in the context of a novel where you care about the characters will really bring the gravity of the situation to light.

All this to say, it was an excellently written book, and the characters were lovable and relatable. I loved Evelyn’s spunk and Peter’s practicality. Without further babbling about my love for the book, please enjoy an interview with the author, Sarah Sundin! These were my questions, sent to Sarah’s publicist for her to answer.

A picture of author Sarah Sundin, writer of When Twilight Breaks
  1. Which genre other than WWII fiction do you think would be most challenging to write?

    I think time slip/dual timeline would be challenging, because both stories must be equally compelling and they need to build on each other to a satisfying connection in the conclusion. It’s an exercise in tapestry weaving.
  1. If you could choose a character you’ve written to call your favourite, which would it be and why?

    My standard answer is that I have three children and don’t have a favorite.
    Likewise, I have hundreds of character “children” and don’t have favorites. I see all their strengths and weaknesses and love them. However, some characters are simply fun to write. Evelyn Brand in When Twilight Breaks was one. She’s my polar opposite—bold and daring—and the banter flew when I put her and Peter in a scene together. I kept telling them to slow down because I couldn’t write fast enough!
  2. Were any of the characters in “When Twilight Breaks” based on real people or
    stories you’ve heard?

    The novel was inspired by my grandfather. At Ellis Island I found the records of his voyage from Germany to New York, returning home from his junior year
    abroad in Munich. In 1936. I knew he’d studied in Germany—he was a professor of German—but I’d never realized he’d studied in Hitler’s Germany! That inspired the question, “What would it have been like to have been an American living in Nazi Germany?” Peter Lang is not modeled after my grandfather, especially Peter’s ethical dilemma, but I drew elements of my grandfather’s research and career for Peter’s story.
  3. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

    I love to take our dog for walks. We adopted a rescue Jindo dog last fall, and he is a walk-aholic. And he likes to go fast! I’d been walking a lot during the
    pandemic to clear my head and just to get out, but now those walks are
    mandatory. Since I spend all day in front of my screen, it’s wonderful to get fresh air, hear the birds, see the flowers, and get some great exercise too—keeps the sedentary writerly pounds away.
  4. What is the research process for a book with so much historical detail like? Do you write as you research? Or research then write?

Both. When I’m preparing a proposal for my publisher, I do preliminary research to make sure my story idea works. Then when I begin working on the novel, I start researching, and I keep going through the outlining and writing and editing phases. I start with the most general books to get a feel for the main topics. Then the story guides the research, getting more specific as I go. Also, the story’s timeline often guides the research. When Twilight Breaks takes place in 1938, a year of major events such as Germany’s annexation of Austria, the Munich Conference, and Kristallnacht, all of which affect the plot. I researched in order, so I could write the chapters about those events as they came up.

  1. What has been your most challenging book to write? Why?

    Each novel presents new challenges. I keep thinking the next novel will be
    easier, and I keep proving myself wrong. This is partly because I like to challenge myself as a writer so I don’t fall into a rut.
  2. Who are some authors or people that have inspired you?

    Too many to name! Seriously, that would be a novel-length document. So many people have blessed me through the years, helping me grow as a person and as a writer.
  3. What’s your favourite book that you could reread over and over again?

    I rarely reread novels, but I have read Jane Austen’s several times.
  4. What does your “writing process” look like? Do you prefer to be at home? A
    coffee shop? Do you have a favourite snack? Tea or coffee?

    When I first started writing, my kids were in soccer, karate, ballet, etc. I learned to write whenever and wherever. Now that those kids are young adults, I have the luxury of writing in the peace and quiet of my home office. I do have a beverage by my side at all times—coffee in the mornings and tea in the afternoons—hot in the winter, iced in the summer, no sugar, thank you very much. I’ve learned to schedule snack breaks and not tie my snacks to writing—once again trying to keep those sedentary writerly pounds away.
  5. Bonus question: What’s your Enneagram number (if you know it)?

    I break the Enneagram. In the Four Temperaments, I’m a melancholy-
    phlegmatic. In the Myers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ. When I read descriptions of these, it’s ME. In the Enneagram, I get 6 and 2 and 5, and people who know the Enneagram say that isn’t possible. And I read about the 6 and 2 and 5, and parts of them describe me, but other parts are not like me at all. None of the Enneagram numbers describe me. But melancholy-phlegmatic and INFJ do.

Stay tuned for Sarah’s next book that she’s working on now:

which follows two Americans in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941, when the United States was still neutral. Bookstore owner Lucie Girard aids the resistance between the leaves of her favorite volumes, while businessman Paul Aubrey obtains military information from his German customers and hides escaping British airmen. Meeting in the bookstore, Paul and Lucie are drawn
to each other, but to win her trust would mean betraying his duty. As the United States and Germany careen toward war, can Paul and Lucie work together for the higher good?

Find Sarah Sundin on social media platforms all over the Internet. She says she loves to hear from readers! Visit her website at where you can send a message or sign up for her newsletter by email.

Facebook (SarahSundinAuthor)
Twitter (@sarahsundin)
Instagram (@sarahsundinauthor)
Pinterest (Sarah Sundin)

I’d like to thank Sarah Sundin heartily for taking the time to answer my questions, and I’d like to thank Shannon at Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. for helping me get the questions to her. The book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

The cover of “When Twilight Breaks”

A Dance in Donegal

This book made me miss Ireland. I visited in 2016 (I think?) and although it was a challenging trip for a variety of reasons, the Irish landscape captured me. A Dance in Donegal was a story that did the same.

This is my first book of Jennifer Deibel’s (a likely story, because it’s her debut novel, and a solid one at that!), but between it being a story set in Ireland and a story about a young teacher setting out to change the world, I was drawn right in.

It’s set in 1920s Ireland and is the story of a young girl named Moira who travels from Boston to rural Ballymann, Ireland to become the new teacher at the local school. Her mother was from that town and went to that school, and shortly after arriving in town the rumours and whispers about her mother start to fly around her and have her feeling helpless and a bit regretful of her decision to move across the ocean in the first place.

“Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends–and the strength of Sean, an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced–as she seeks to navigate a life she’d never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.”

The characters in this book are truly delightful (most of them, though what would a good book be without a good antagonist or two?). I love the way they’re developed over time, and how the author weaves themes of grace, forgiveness, and loyalty throughout by using scriptures and beautiful character traits.

Amazon’s book description says “Jennifer Deibel’s debut novel delights the senses, bringing to life the sights, sounds, smells, and language of a lush country and a colorful people. Historical romance fans will embrace her with open arms.” and I couldn’t agree more. Even though I hadn’t been to that particular part of Ireland, I could feel the salty air again standing at the Cliffs of Moher and I could smell the lush, green, rain-soaked earth through the descriptions. I knew what it felt like to experience a damp and dreary Irish day, and I knew how beautiful it was when the sun shone and illuminated all the green. It’s funny, though this book was set 100 years ago, I’d hazard a guess that some of the roads I traveled are no wider now than they were then 😀 …. (I won’t drive again!)

I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for an easy-to-read historical romance with some twists and turns you don’t expect along the way. Whether you’ve been to Ireland in real life or not, you’ll love the experience of the Atlantic coast through the descriptions in the book, and I hope you’ll fall in love with the characters, too, just like I did.

Lastly, if you love audio books, I highly recommended this one as narrated by Pilar Witherspoon. I didn’t listen to the whole thing on audio, because I like to go back and forth, but the way the narrator was able to capture the Irish accent was so lovely. I really appreciated the way the dialogue of the Irish characters was written so that you could almost hear it in your head with the accent, even without an audio book narrator, but it definitely helped with the pronunciation of some of the names.

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

That Sounds Fun

When Annie F. Downs releases a new book, I can hardly contain myself because I know I’m going to love it, and I know I’m going to have a hard time waiting for it to work its way into my hands.

This time was no different.

Subtitled “The joys of being an amateur, the power of falling in love, and why you need a hobby,” this book tackled some big things that I know from following Annie around on Social Media (yes, we’re on a first name basis even though we’ve never met) have been key development points in her life right now.

The thing I love about a well-written piece of non-fiction is how the author can be going about their daily lives, just doing their best to learn the lessons God is setting out for them, and the lessons they learn can be informative, instructive, and helpful for us too as the reader. This was both a uniquely Annie journey, but also relevant and helpful for anyone who feels they’ve been a bit battered by this past year (2020 especially, but 2021 isn’t looking miles better).

Throughout the entire book Annie talks about the concept of Eden. How the things she’s tackling help us find glimpses of Eden here on Earth, even though this is not perfection like God intended us to live in. And I think that’s beautiful. I think it’s revolutionary to look at the things we love, the places we play, and the people we invest in as pieces of Eden. Pieces of perfection. How much more would we cherish them? How much less time would we waste if we could really grab onto that idea?

The three subtitle topics made me curious before I’d read the book. The joys of being an amateur. The power of falling in love. Why you need a hobby.

In the joys of being an amateur, Annie — in her signature “I’m having coffee with a friend” style — talks about all the things we could do, all the things she could do, that we could feel like we need to be 100% professionals at, but that would likely wreck it if we were. She talks about playing soccer for the love of playing soccer. While I can’t relate to playing soccer in that way because I hate it, I can relate because I played volleyball nearly weekly for a few years until Covid happened (except for a six-month stint where my Achilles tendon preferred me benched). I was completely amateur, but it didn’t matter, because Annie is right — when you’re playing because you love it, it doesn’t matter one bit. Examples that popped into my head of things where I’m a total amateur (and that’s ok), are cooking, baking, and writing. I love all of these things, and if I started trying to do them professionally or for any reason other than just for my own pleasure, I’d probably hate them. I invite you to read Annie’s book and think of all the areas of your life where your amateur status is such a gift that allows you to enjoy whatever comes of it without the pressure of professionalism.

The Power of Falling in Love — this held so much more for me than I expected this section of the book to. From following Annie for years, I’m aware of parts of her journey with wanting to be married and have a family, and that’s what I expected this part of the book to be about. But while she does talk about that, she also talks about falling in love deeply and constantly, and you know what? I love that. I, too, am one of those people who say “I love that!” often, about things you wouldn’t think we should love… like the sound of mourning doves or the smell of wet pavement just after it starts to rain, or chocolate covered almonds, or cinnamon buns…. but I do, I love that. All of it. Those are all valuable things to love, but Annie also talks about loving yourself and how valuable that is. And I think Annie is right — I think there’s great power in falling in love, and I invite you to read through the examples she’s thrown out in the chapters she’s written because I could never do this justice, and I’d spoil it if I tried.

Why You Need a Hobby actually made me weep at the end of the book. A lot of the book hit me pretty hard, actually, but why you need a hobby got me. There are so many things I’ve wanted to do with my life, and I’ve spent so much time scrolling through social media or just generally wasting time instead. I cried when she talked about loving playing the French Horn but deciding to quit in middle school because it “wasn’t cool.” I cried because I could have played a couple more instruments, but somewhere along the way, just before high school started, I convinced myself that “band geeks” were uncool, so I didn’t want to be one… and somehow I believed that drama kids were cooler so I should be one of those instead. To this day, I regret that I don’t play more instruments, or that I don’t play the ones I do play any better, and there’s only one thing to do about that — get a hobby. I cried when she talked about hobbies not being rushed. How you can’t force a cake to bake faster than the clock moves, and rock climbing takes slow and thoughtful decision making (p. 193).

I’m inspired to write a list of all the things I’d like to do for fun, at an amateur level, that I’d like to be better at and just love doing — just because they’re good for me and it’ll be great. And I have this book to thank for that inspiration.

Throughout the book, Annie also talks about grief, and particularly Covid grief and the grief of isolation. Those things also hit me hard. I’m sure many can relate.

I don’t want to give away too much of the book. It’s beautifully written. It’s an easy read that packs a punch in terms of the takeaway but won’t hurt your brain to get there. It’s my favourite of Annie’s so far, and I thought it was going to be hard to unseat Looking for Lovely. But here we are.

I am certainly biased — Annie F. Downs has been my favourite author for a long time, and even if I’m not entirely convinced I’m an Enneagram 7 after all, just like Annie, I still love the things we have in common and I will still happily read anything she writes. Please go pick up this book, and check out Annie F. Downs on social media if you’re not familiar with her — find out what the hype is about!

Here are a few quotes from the book that really grabbed me:

“And the more days I live on this planet, the more I am learning that I don’t have to control my feelings. They are allowed to ride along with me anywhere I go; they just aren’t the best drivers. I need to feel them and hear them and pay attention to them but not let them lead the way. Love can lead though.” p. 93 (emphasis mine)

“But there isn’t anything happenstance or things simply falling into place in the kingdom of God. It’s all handled. It’s all aligned. It’s all a gift. And God does that a lot, it seems. When I look for His hand in the stories that I’m living, I always seem to find Him.” p. 139

“… searching for Eden can matter, even when it hurts.” p. 157

“Hobbies make space. They remind us of something beautiful, and that good can come from nothing…… And when the whole world is broken, it’s just nice to know we have the tiniest ability to put pieces together.” p. 175

“When you stop picking your hobbies or making decisions based on what others tell you is worth your time and effort, and you start listening to your own heart and your own wants, life gets so much richer.” p. 198

“I sat with a friend a few days ago and she said ‘You show what matters most by what you say yes and no to, by who gets your time and your money.’ It really made me think — about hobbies, about friendship, and about the speed at which I’m living my life.” p. 208

Me again: I certainly, truly hope that you’ll get a copy of this book and savour every moment of it (and then chuckle at how important it is to savour because you’ll get it when you’ve read the book). I hope if you weren’t already letting Annie’s wisdom and way with words coax your soul into needed change, you’ll make space for her to do so.

Please let me know if you’ve read this book and loved it as much as I did. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and I highly encourage you to read it.

That Sounds Fun: Downs, Annie F.: 9780800738747: Books -

Image credit:

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

A Castaway in Cornwall

A Castaway in Cornwall is set in early 1800s England (Cornwall) during the Napoleonic Wars with France, right along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in a particularly rough spot where many ships end up wrecked in stormy waters. In one such wreck, a man named Alexander Lucas washes ashore, and Laura Callaway finds him and nurses him back to health with the help of a lovely neighbour. Laura finds more adventure than she bargained for. She normally looks for trinkets and treasures that she can either return to rightful owners or sell, but this time she’s found a person with a story she can’t quite get out of him.

The research that must have gone into this book is astounding. Klassen mentions in the Author’s Note at the back of the book that she had planned a trip to Cornwall for research for this novel, but Covid got in her way, so she had to rely on virtual tours and talking via the Internet to a variety of people for help. As a historical fiction novel (which is what kept me reading), this is spectacularly well done and Julie Klassen has created a wonderful work of historical fiction. However, I would argue that it likely should have been labeled as historical romance instead. But, had it been labeled as such I may never have picked it up. It’s hard to know.

I was able to picture the rugged coastline of Cornwall as described by Klassen, even though I am not usually able to picture details well just by someone’s writing. It may help that I’ve been to Ireland and I imagine parts of it are similar (the Cliffs of Moher in particular), and it helped that there were parts of the book that talked about Jersey and Guernsey (Channel Islands between England and France) and I’ve seen movies about Guernsey. I feel sad for Klassen that she didn’t get to go as I imagine it to be quite beautiful.

Overall, if you like a good historical fiction novel with light romance and a lot of adventure, pick this one up! I think you’ll love it. The story, characters, and setting are all well-done and well tied together, and I absolutely loved how it ended. I put the book down feeling very satisfied with how the story wrapped up.

This is a good read!

I almost put this book down a few chapters in and didn’t pick it back up, but I’m glad I kept reading, and let me tell you why.

I’m not super into romance novels. I don’t love it when a story is peppered with references to a man’s broad shoulders or his tight, muscular forearms. I mentioned a few of the cheesy lines in this book to my husband, (e.g. the reference to Alexander’s noticeably broad shoulders and his trim waist), and we made fun of the book for days.

That said, if you like that sort of thing this book will be one you thoroughly enjoy. Even if you’re like me, however, and you could take it or leave it, I still think you’ll like this book if you enjoy a good historical fiction.

Book is provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.


Things We Didn’t Say

This book was beautiful. In every single way. I loved every last second of it. It’s written in a style I’ve only read one other time. It reminded me of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society both because of its being written as letters back and forth between characters — epistolary, or so I’ve learned is the name of this style — and because it is set in WWII.

Amy Lynn Green has created something stunning and remarkable here. We don’t get a lot of character description, because the book isn’t written with a narrator who tells you what the character looks like. We do, however, get ample character development as we read the heart and intent of every interaction between each character. It strikes me that this would be a very hard way to write, given that the author would have to change voices and tones depending on the person writing the letter and depending on the person that the letter is being written to. For example, there’s a difference between Johanna (the main character) writing to her good friend Peter or to her roommate Olive than there is to Johanna writing to a member of the military she’s being asked to serve.

Tasked with censoring and translating letters at a German POW camp in Minnesota during WWII, Johanna Berglund is asked to put her linguistic university degree on hold to serve her country. She declines at first, but ends up being compelled to do so and reluctantly agrees, only to later be unjustly accused of treason.

What follows is a beautiful series of letters back and forth between characters that really give you a glimpse into what life might have been like on the “home front” during WWII in the mid-Western US — where the fighting wasn’t actually occurring but there were still regular people doing great things to help.

This book is witty, funny, clever, endearing, charming, and illustrative of the time and the character without needing to actually describe any of it. This is a book I have kept because I will read it again, even though I now know how it ends. It’s beautiful, and it sank right into my soul. One of the things I loved about it, too, which I couldn’t place until I read another historical fiction novel right after it, is that while there were threads of romance throughout, it wasn’t overbearing and didn’t take away from the historicity of the story.

To sum this review up… this book is funny and charming, historically pretty accurate as far as I can tell, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good historical fiction. 10 stars. If it weren’t for the fact that I expect another Amanda Dykes novel in August of 2021, I’d hazard to say that this could be the best book I’ll read all year…. but…. Amanda Dykes will be hard to dethrone as my favourite author 🙂 That’s a review for another day, though.

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.