BOOK REVIEW: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother's desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she's pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they're gone than she must have done something with them... Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Heavens to Betsy I wanted to love this book.  I needed to love this book.  With the description it came with, I mean it was right up my alley right?  Yes...and no.  I could almost hear 'Hotel California' playing softly on the radio as Audra and her children are making their way across the back roads of Arizona in the heat of a summer afternoon.  A sleazy feeling sheriff, a flimsy excuse to pull someone over and a random search through the belongings just to 'help them out'?  All reeked of stupidity and a touch of despair (on the part of the officer).  And Audra's desperation, as well, to protect herself, her children, and get where they were headed without being tracked from what they were running from.  But it all goes sideways, and makes national news, when according to law enforcement there were no children when she was pulled over.  It's sketchy at best but it's what makes news.  That and of course who is going to believe a former addict running from a life and potential legal issues back in New York over decorated law enforcement that also happens to be former military?  Yeah, Mom is a loser here.

This book hit the right notes but in the wrong key.  The plot was intense, the story raced in all the right places and crept along where it should have.  The descriptions pulled you in to the location, mostly.  The characters, while developed and strong were just missing something.  I missed a connection, a sparkle, I don't know how to describe it.  I mean I loved and rooted for the right people at the right times and despised the right people at the right times and even felt ambivalent where I should have.  But it just wasn't 'there' for me.  It was good, engaging but somehow missed the step to amazing.  That and of course some things I really wanted to know, deserved to know, where wrapped up off screen and I am left with a hole of what happens with Danny.  And I'm truly sorry for that because again, I need to love this book.

And I did love it.  I loved the twists and turns of the story line.  I loved the strength of Sean, the desperation of Audra, the sleaziness of Whiteside, and the hardened tenderness of Collins.  Yes even Collins tugged at my heart a tad.  The story itself, pulled me in, kept me engaged and had me rolling through every twist and turn.  Through every sweat soaked, heart wrenching moment.  I wanted to love this book, I needed to love this book.  I liked it a whole lot but the love fell just a moment short. I'd completely read this author again.  I want to read this author again. 

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Blogging for Books.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review. 

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Here and Gone
About Haylen Beck
Haylen Beck is the pen name of internationally prize-winning crime writer Stuart Neville. Writing under his own name, Stuart won the LA Times Book Prize for his debut novel and received critical acclaim for his Serena Flanagan detective series set in Belfast. His Haylen Beck novels are set in the US and inspired by his love of American crime writing.

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SPOTLIGHT: The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

To purchase your copy, click here.

About the Book

Book title: The Girl Who could See
Author: Kara Swanson
Release date: June 1, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the explainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after al—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

About the Author

As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the speculative genre and was soon penning stories herself. At seventeen, she independently published her debut fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. Her short story is included in Kathy Ide’s 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Mom. She has published many articles, including one in the Encounter magazine, and she received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer award in 2015.



Guest Post from Kara Swanson

Did you have an imaginary friend growing up? I did. And I think most of us probably understood what it was like to use our childhood imaginations to create friends and take us places.

The Girl Who Could See follows Fern Johnson, a young woman who’s imaginary friend, Tristan, first appeared in her life when she was eight years old—and has never left. Now nineteen, Fern still sees Tristan, only he is no longer her friend. Now he is her curse. The source of her insanity. The reason Fern cannot keep a job and has been passed from one psychologist to another. The reason she is one step away from a psych ward. However, Tristan disagrees. He says that he’s not a figment of Fern’s imagination and is determined to prove it. But, if his existence is real, it has dangerous implications not only for Fern, but for her world. Because the creature that decimated Tristan’s planet is coming for Earth—and only the girl everyone says is crazy can stop it.

I wrote the novella as a way to explore the idea of what would happen if someone had an imaginary friend who never left. What would the psychological and daily implications be? And what if that imaginary friend wasn’t imaginary? The story that grew from those sparks of ideas became an adventure that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did. 🙂

Blog Stops

June 27:
A Baker’s Perspective
A Simply Enchanted Life
 Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations  
June 28:
Kristin’s Book Reviews
Christian Chick’s Thoughts  
June 29: 
Fiction Aficionado
Genesis 5020
June 30:
Smiling Book Reviews
The Fizzy Pop Collection  
July 1:
Blogging With Carol
July 2: 
Inklings and notions
Ashley’s Bookshelf  
July 3: 
Zerina Blossom’s Books
July 4:
Book by Book
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses  
July 5:
Dragons Read History
Through the Open Window  
July 6: 
 It’s Storytime with Van Daniker
Baker Kella 
 July 7:
Pause for Tales Edits and Reviews By Leslie 
July 8:
Books, Books, and More Books.
Pursuing Stacie
The Important Things in Life: God, Books, & Chocolate 
July 9: 
 Reader’s cozy corner
A path of joy  
July 10:
Neverending Stories
Henry Happens


To celebrate her tour, Kara is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren's Page Turners. To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners.

Back to the bookcase and a plethora of books to choose from.  Seriously, I need more bookcases and I have more than a couple!  The book I'm choosing this week is a bit different than one's I've previously showcased or even reviewed in quite a while.  But then again, from time to time I enjoy a well written 'bodice ripper' and being set in the early 1800's England just adds to it. 
In a moment of recklessness, Gervase Tregarth, 6th Earl of Crowhurst, swears he'll marry the next eligible lady to cross his path. Cloistered at his ancestral castle in Cornwall, with nary a suitable woman for miles, he never expects he'll have to fulfill his pledge, at least not until the London Season begins. But then he meets his neighbor, the very appealing Madeline Gascoigne.

Years of secret service to the Crown have taught Gervase the value of always having a loophole—there will be no wedding if he and Madeline are incompatible in any way. So he sets out to prove that they would make a most dreadful match . . . by luring her into his arms and, ultimately, his bed.

From their very first kiss, Gervase discovers that the headstrong and independent Madeline is no meek country miss . . . and that the fire between them will burn long beyond that first seduction.

Beyond Seduction (Bastion Club, #6)
Find a different genre of book on your TBR stack and share it below in the comments!

BOOK REVIEW: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

In 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle's café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She's a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service.

When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome.

I could not wait to read this book.  I was so torn with the choices from Bethany House last month that I sorta drew straws and then immediately requested everything else on the list from NetGalley.  I mean, sometimes I girl's gotta do whatever it takes for amazingly awesome sounding books.  And I gotta tell ya, was not disappointed.  Intrigue?  Check.  Romance?  Check.  Embraceable characters?  Check.  Story line that draws you in and keeps you engaged?  Mostly check.  I know, I know I'm too picky 'they say'.  Pmerhaps I am, but then again I've read a few books in my lifetime and I know what I love, what I like, and what doesn't do it for me.  This book did it for me and I liked it but I spent the first but of the book trying to find my way and a little overwhelmed.  Probably much like the characters did as they were engulfed in a war zone they didn't ask for and didn't want surrounded by German soldiers that didn't respect them or really even themselves.  Not really a place anyone wants to be.

It's painful for me to have to say the only reason this book was at a 4 star review is that first perhaps quarter of the book.  I felt like I was missing something.  It took a bit of time for the pieces to make sense and the momentum to grow.  I don't expect a spy to hang a shingle and adverse.  I don't expect a spy to really trust anyone.  It took me a while to fall into the mindset with the trust and withhold and what the heck did that German/French/What language was that again phrase mean?  It just didn't come together for me to begin with.  By the time I found my grove it was a runaway train and I was strapped in ready to roll.

This book seriously hit all the marks for me.  Even the good guy turn bad guy but wait what is he oh there's his true colors theme kept me engaged.  I loved that the book was set in a real historical time period based off real historical people and real historical groups.  I loved that the characters that were drawn together were real and fresh and I wanted to comfort them and yell at them and all the things.  I also respect, and appreciate, the inner struggle that Eve had to go through with her own place in all the different experiences she had.  The realization that forgiveness is more than just a prayer.  The idea that life is not black and white.  And the knowledge that even bad situations can lead to good results when you Trust. The faith was so seamlessly integrated and so well developed that it felt so true and natural yet not 'in your face' so much that someone how doesn't care for christian books would still enjoy it.  Seriously, I am so glad I fell in love with this book from the description and 'had' to read it.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by NetGalley.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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About Kate Breslin
Former bookseller-turned-author Kate Breslin enjoys life in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family. A writer of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate received Christian Retailing's 2015 Best Award for First Time Author and her first novel, For Such A Time, won American Christian Fiction Writers 2015 Carol Award. Kate's second novel, Not By Sight released in August, 2015. When she's not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading or taking long walks in Washington's beautiful woodlands. She also likes traveling to new places, both within the U.S. and abroad, having toured Greece, Rome, and much of Western Europe. New destinations make for fresh story ideas.

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RECIPE: Fudgey Chocolate Chunk Brownies

By the time this recipe goes live weeks will have passed, never mind that.  It's a Munchkin weekend but he's off to see a movie for a couple of hours and I've got a bit of a sweet tooth coming on.  Nothing drastic but still a small craving is building.  Brownies maybe?  I've not made brownies in eons.  Off to Pinterest I went to find something new, different, brownie-ish.  And I found these at Something Swanky.  I had to give them a try.  Never mind that it's closing in on bedtime.  Never mind that the last thing I need to is indulge in brownies, or anything so rich, that close to bedtime.  I had to make them!  And I did.  And they were delectable, the perfect rich ooey-gooey yumminess that soothed my sweet tooth and made a happy Munchkin when he came in (just as they were coming from the oven).

1/2 Cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or a bit more, who actually measures vanilla?)
2 eggs
1/2 Cup all purpose flour
1/2 Cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips if that's all ya got and its late - they totally work!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9x9 banking dish with parchment paper.  (Invest in parchment, it's so worth it!)  Beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a standard mixer bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.  Mix in the baking soda.  Mix in the chocolate chunks (or chips) with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Once the batter forms (it will be thick), scrape it into the prepared dish and spread evenly.

Bake for 25 minutes, until brownies begin to pull away from the side of the pan.  Serves 9-12 (or a 9 year old for less about 12 minutes).

Seriously amazing for a late night snack.  Last step, as always, Enjoy!

BOOK REVIEW: The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

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

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

I don't know why, I mean I read the synopsis before I decided to review it, but it was nothing like I thought it would be and everything that it should have been.  I guess somehow I thought perhaps Nate was going to help her find her father. Maybe with her career she found her father.  Somehow I thought her father was going to play into the resolution of this book. I mean it is about a Captain's daughter.  It didn't but, that is more than OK.  Rosalyn grew up in an orphanage with her two sisters after her father disappeared and her mother passed away.  When she was 17 she found a job and made her way into the adult world.  Needless to say things didn't go quite according to what she thought and she ended up homeless and penniless in London, at the mercy of potential predators.  There's quite a story to go there as well but well, spoilers.  In all of this she meets Nate, stumbles into a job in the theater as a dresser for the ladies chorus and the rest just blooms.

Reading the NetGalley version of this book made things a bit frustrating.  It's not truly a 'kindle' edition but more a paperback version formatted for eReader.  There was a loop near the end where it was bouncing and things were missing and I had to manually go in and skip past that loop.  That has nothing to do with the story but really the only negative aggravation that I can come up with.  Seriously, I love this book!  It's a well crafted story of highs and lows.  And I am convinced that Rosalyn has some sort of natural luck to always come out on her feet no matter the larger circumstances.  Perhaps that does bug me a bit.  I mean, I don't have that.  

The characters were well developed and set into a story line that draws you in and hopes that there's a sequel in the coming months.  Please?  Hint hint!  The story behind the title doesn't play out until the very end but oh gravy it's sweet!  Not sticky sickly sweet but if you aren't paying attention you will miss it.  If you are open to sweet Christian romances with so much more than just romance this is a good book to pick up.  The faith seams are well crafted but not overly in your face which makes it a good choice for even someone who isn't quite 'into' Christian fiction.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Bethany House and NetGalley.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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About Jennifer Delamere
A history fan, travel lover, and outdoor enthusiast, Jennifer Delamere writes tales of the past...and of new beginnings. Her debut novel An Heiress at Heart was an RWA RITA® award finalist, and her follow-up, A Lady Most Lovely, earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly and the Maggie Award for Excellence from Georgia Romance Writers. Jennifer earned her B.A. in English from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she also gained fluency in French and developed an abiding passion for winter sports. An avid reader of both classic novels and historical fiction, she also enjoys biographies and histories, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the characters and places in her books.

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BOOK REVIEW: Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.
Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.
Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?

I've been flying through the books in this series, I'm so invested in the characters and the way that the author has the talent to take this period of Biblical history and made it so real and alive.  I was ready to jump into the lives of these people I have fallen in love with.  I realized that the names for the synopsis were not one's I'd seen before.  Perhaps children or grandchildren?  Perhaps a continuation of Jumo or Dvorah's story a generation later?  Perhaps?  Well, I made myself stop perhaps-ing and jumped into the book with glee.  And pulled up on the excitement.  I was jumping back in 40 years later, just as the Israelites were on the cusp of taking the promised land.  Shira was there, Kiya was there but what about Ayal and Jumo and Ebon?  I was sorta kinda maybe perhaps becoming interested in Dvorah and where her life might lead.  I pulled it together, fought off my disappointment and kept on reading.  And fell in love all over again with new characters, new romances, and a new period of time.  

Tobiah may be my favorite male lead in this series.  He has a tenderness that is hidden behind his warrior facade.  He finds himself in a difficult situation that he never anticipated and didn't really even think through when he rescues the hard headed Alanah on the battlefield.  He just new that it was right.  There was no thought about it, just a doing.  A moment decision that want so much a decision as a God Moment.  And all those pages later what a God Moment it was.  Alanah was hurt, emotionally broken, and at the battle incognito only to avenge her father and brothers' deaths at the hands of the Hebrews.  She never expected to survive and was angry that she had.  However, through the 'God Moment' she found herself in a journey that could have only been designed by God.  A moment that would play itself into the future of all the Israelites.  Oh, there were bumps and bruises along the way.  But God even used her hard hardheadedness for the benefit of an entire civilization.

Despite the rocky start and my abject disappointment in losing out on beloved characters I was drawn into this new story.  I fell in love more slowly than before but at the end of the day this author has the ability to overcome my disappointment, draw me back in, and make me fall in love within the first quarter of the book.  I appreciated the tie-ins to the previous characters with an elder Shira and Kyia.  They gave me continuity.  I'm saddened that Tobiah is not of their family but he brings a freshness and a different perspective from the twelve tribes (he was even of a different tribe).  Alanah brings an awakening to the spirit, much like Kiya did previously.  The importance of finding a way to cast off the old things (her idols, our pride or money or anything that anyone - then or now has that keeps them separated) that didn't work and seeking God even when it's hard and you don't understand why.  

I was blessed to receive a complimentary copy of this book by NetGalley.  Without that I may have never discovered this amazing series.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3)
About Connilyn Cossette
Connilyn Cossette is the CBA-Bestselling author of the Out from Egypt Series from Bethany House Publishers. There is not much she likes better than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible, discovering new gems of grace that point to Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience.

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