Book: Sarah’s Choice
Author: Peggy Thomas
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Release date: August 3, 2021 (preorder here).
Bottom line: Four stars out of five. Heart pounding read. Not for the faint of heart.
My review: If you are a lover of historical fiction in all it’s raw and gritty detail then Sarah’s Choice is a book you want to pick up.
It is well-written with vivid descriptions and heart pounding action.
The story is well-paced throughout but really picks up in Chapter 2 and goes full force from there.
I had a hard time putting it down, chewing my fingernails much of the book, even though I’m not normally a fingernail chewer.
Pegg Thomas is an award winning author and it looks like she has another winner on her hands with this one.
The characters are engaging and clutch at your heart, leaving an impression you’ll certainly feel for days, if not longer, after you finish the book.
I will, however, warn you that this isn’t a book where you will find a message of forgiveness, toward the natives who lived on the land before the settlers came. If you are looking for a well-rounded view of the early history of settlers, you’re not going to find it here. One reason you won’t find it here is because the author, by her own admission, is presenting one viewpoint. That isn’t a bad position, since it is the point of view of the characters, it’s just the full story, which again, Pegg reiterates on her Goodreads page:
“Because I’d recently researched Pontiac’s Rebellion for a novella, it was fresh in my mind. It was a harsh, even brutal event in American history, and I knew it would provide the backdrop that Sarah’s story needed. Sarah’s Choice does not present all sides of the conflict, instead, it is seen only through the eyes of Sarah and Cully.
I hope to give the reader a glimpse of what happened in a time and place that was incredibly volatile from the perspective of the people caught up it in unawares. It was not my intent to interject 21st-century norms or ideals into the 18th century. It does no good to look at history through the modern lens. What happened, happened. It’s history to be learned from, warts and all.“
There is only one opinion of Native Americans held in the mind of the main character throughout the book, right up until the end. Her feelings were valid considering all she had been through, however, which is what makes the book very authentic (uncomfortably so).
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I started reading books more (again) in the last couple of years. Before that I was always too busy with raising my son, blogging and photography. And before that time period, I was too busy working at smalltown newspapers. When you’re busy writing words, you don’t always enjoy reading them in your down time.
In high school I read a lot, almost all fiction.
When I started reading again I started hearing the acronym TBR. I had no idea what that meant and then someone finally let me know it meant “To be read.”
I’m a bit embarrassed by how large my TBR list is.
There are simply too many books out there and I’m not a super fast reader.
I thought I’d list some of my current TBR list, but let’s be honest, our list will always grow because there are simply so many good books out in the world to read. There is a mix of Christian fiction, non-fiction, and general fiction (mysteries, thrillers, etc.) here:
My (partial) list so far:
The Heart Knows the Way Home by Christy Distler
Lavender Tears Sandra Cunningham
The Love Coward by Naomi Musch
More Than Honor by Carol Ashby
Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas
Fortitude: American Resilience in the Age of Outrage by Dan Crenshaw
So This Is Goodbye by Jodi Allen Brice
Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks
Leora’s Letters by Joy Neal Kidney
The Number of Love Roseanna M. White
Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson
Ready to Trust by Tina Radcliff
Distortion by Terri Blackstock
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
When Jesus Wept by Bodie and Brock Thoene
The World Ending Fire by Wendell Berry
What Is True? by Charles Martin
The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart
Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie
I also have a stack of Coleen Coble books that are currently at my mom’s house that I want to dig into at some point this summer. So, fellow readers, how large is your TBR list? No need to list them all for me, but give me a round about number in the comments.
Genre: Christian romantic comedy
“The devil made me do it” is a phrase that will never pass my lips. Why would it when I have Delores, my undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, to make all my decisions for me? (Yes, I named her myself since the doctors couldn’t do it for me.) A get together with friends? Delores says no. I’ll have my prescheduled daily afternoon fever and fatigue at that time.
My two biggest regrets with having Delores direct my fate? One, my family thinks my illness is all in my head. And two, I set the love of my life, Peter Reynolds, free from my anchoring tether so he could fly. I never thought I’d see him again, but five years later he’s soaring in the limelight as one of the most talked-about defensive players in professional football. Oh, and did I mention he also happens to play for the team my boss just assigned me to as a social media manager?
Meanwhile, nothing much has changed for me. Delores still bosses me around, and I’m still hopelessly in love with Peter. What’s a girl to do?
Amanda by Sarah Monzon was a spur-of-the-moment read for me after I read about her in an online forum for Christian Fiction readers. The covers of her recent series caught my eye, of course, but the obvious talent for writing an engaging story was apparent in the first few paragraphs and caught my attention even more.
Amanda Murphy has spent a good deal of her adult life dealing with an invisible enemy — an undiagnosed autoimmune disease she has nicknamed Dolores. Because Dolores rears her ugly head at the most inopportune times, Amanda has learned to push people away, to keep them from having to deal with Dolores the way she does.
One of the people she’s pushed away is the hunky, now NFL star Peter Reynolds. Of course, Peter wasn’t an NFL star when they first met, but now he is one of the hottest and most popular professional athletes in the country, and Amanda’s boss wants her to work with him to create a social media presence.
The only problem? Amanda hasn’t spoken to Peter since she broke up with him five years ago; since she decided she didn’t want him to have to deal with her health issues. Those issues would have held him back and he probably wouldn’t be the star he is today if he’d stayed with her. That’s her rationale at least and for someone who doesn’t deal with chronic health issues, it may seem silly and like an unrealistic plot point.
Take it from someone who deals with chronic health issues first-hand, both in my life and family members’ lives — it is not an unrealistic plot point.
Maybe one reason I was drawn to this story is that I also deal with an undiagnosed condition, which may or may not be autoimmune. I just haven’t come up with a cute name for it like Amanda has. I’d probably nickname mine Hildegard the Destroyer.
I actually didn’t read the description of this book until I downloaded it to my Kindle, which makes the fact I chose this book in the series that much more interesting.
Like Amanda I can function in life despite the aches, weakness, brain fog, tingling in the extremities, and fatigue. Like Amanda, I have learned not to talk about a condition many doctors can’t diagnose and many in my past have suggested is “in my head.” Like Amanda, I have had friends and family walk away because they simply can’t deal with my “drama” or my “obvious cry for attention” even though I now rarely talk about the condition that knocks me down with its ever-changing symptoms from day to day. I rarely talk about it except for this review, of course. *wink*
I could relate to Amanda not wanting her new friends to know about her condition. If they did there were a number of scenarios that could unfold. Her friends could grow weary of her using Delores as an excuse not to attend events or accomplish tasks the rest of them could. Her friends might also try to push their suggestions on her and when she didn’t accept them, simply walking about because Amanda “obviously doesn’t want to get better.” Been there, done that.
Honestly, it is hard to be friends with a person with a chronic illness. I do understand that. After the friend has made so many excuses for why they can’t go here or there or do this or that, you do feel like no longer asking them, and eventually, you not only stop asking them but also stop talking to them. Who wants to keep talking to someone who can only talk about what natural remedy they’ve tried this time to help their symptoms? The struggle is real.
A reviewer who shared her impression of this book told me she hoped that when I read it I would feel seen. I guess I could say that, yes, I did feel seen after reading this book. I could relate to a lot of it (sans the hot NFL star chasing after me) so I did feel seen but I have some family who does support me, does see me, and does support me. The people who need to read this book are the people who don’t have that support, who feel alone, lost, and are basing their worth on how bad their symptoms have flared that day and what activity it has kept them from participating in.
My grandmother was dismissed for years. She suffered in silence, crying out in agony late into the night. Doctors ignored her or gave her medicine or surgeries instead of really trying to find out what was wrong. She was most likely mocked, abandoned, and told she didn’t pray enough, rebuke Satan enough, or didn’t have the faith necessary to be healed.
Amanda is a book for the people who have faced those uphill battles, who know that the book they are reading won’t perfectly tell their story (since each story is unique) but will remind them that the world is not as cruel as it seems sometimes. That there are people who understand what they are going through. There are people who “get it.” That there are people who will do their best to understand, even if not everyone in their lives does.
One of the people who gets it, whether from personal experience or simply doing research is Sarah Monzon. Maybe she hasn’t experienced what Amanda did personally. Maybe she doesn’t know anyone who has, but if she took the time to research the trials those with autoimmune diseases go through then she is one more person who understands, one more person who will view a person with an invisible disease with compassion and not scorn.
Even one person telling people with an autoimmune disease that they aren’t alone is worth as much or even more than an entire medical community finally admitting they have tossed people like my grandmother and mom to the side because they simply have no idea how to treat them.
This is a book that is fun to read even if you can’t relate to Amanda’s challenges. It isn’t a downer or a heavy read at all, even if some of the subject matter is a heavy topic for those who deal with it. The book has funny, raw, cute, authentic, and sweet romantic moments all rolled into one quick-readable package.
Book: Love Happens At Sweetheart Farm: A Pacific Northwest Romance
Author: Dalyn Weller
Genre: Christian Fiction (Romance)
What if your pursuit of happiness robs someone you love of theirs?
Ian MacTavish is a disillusioned wealth manager for his family’s firm in Seattle. He’s desperate for change but chasing happiness instead of wealth will cost him more than mere money. When he jilts the firm’s wealthiest client and hides out at Sweetheart Farm, his inheritance and the family’s legacy are at stake.
Lexi Taylor is the overworked owner of Sweetheart Farm B&B, a romantic getaway and wedding venue. Too bad she’s never had a sweetheart of her own. She’s convinced she’s better off without one. Love is only a recipe for more loss in her experience.
But then Ian MacTavish shows up looking for an escape and winds up helping her make the farm profitable again. Lexi never knew she was lonely until she met Ian.
As they work together, Lexi’s resolve melts and Ian’s bruised ego begins to mend. Life in the country is just what the city boy needed. Lexi and her Grandmother remind Ian what he’s been missing sitting behind a desk in the business district.
But Ian never imagined he’d have to chase pigs, fight bears, and mend fences to repair his bruised ego and find love. With one reckless act, he restores his confidence and wins the admiration of the women who come to matter most.
It seems so until Ian’s troubles follow him to the farm with Lexi’s riding shotgun.
Love Happens At Sweetheart Farm: A Pacific Northwest Romance is a book of redemption, forgiveness, and embracing joy.
This book is what I would describe as a comfort read and that is a very good thing.
I fell madly in love with this book’s characters within only a couple of chapters. Grandma Isobel, Lexi, Grandpa Ewan, and of course, the dashing Ian McTavish are so well fleshed out, full-rounded characters, which is something you don’t always find in modern books. I even loved the non-human characters of Bijou, Brodie, and Wanda.
Sigh. Just his name is dreamy.
Ian is the heartthrob hero who, by the middle of the book anyhow, puts the only Ian I ever knew in my life to shame. In fact, that Ian should read about this Ian, wherever he is, and take some notes.
Ian starts out a little less than dreamy and under a lot of stress, but give him a few weeks working with his hands on Sweetheart Farm and you’ve got a swoon-worthy main character on your hands who you won’t be able to wait to learn more about.
Lexi, sitting on her beautiful farm turned bed and breakfast with her grandmother, has put up walls around herself to protect her from sadness and loneliness left from childhood tragedies and her younger brother’s personal struggles. She helps to run a farm and a bed and breakfast catering to lovers but she is unwilling to open her own heart to love. Even when she starts to fall for the dashing Ian who visits the bed and breakfast to run away from his family’s multi-million dollar business.
Lexi frustrated me at times, but only because I saw so much of me in her. The stubbornness, the mood swings, the unwillingness to open herself up to chance for fear of being hurt again. Me. Me. And Me. And she didn’t frustrate me for long because soon I was in love with her as I was everyone in her world.
And just when you think this book couldn’t have any more loveable characters, in walks Ewan McTavish, Ian’s grandfather who plays his own integral role in Lexi and her Grandmother’s life later on.
I read this book mainly in the evenings, before bed, and now that I’ve finished, I feel a sense of sadness and will be looking for more books from this author to help fill that void.
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
“He had a job he didn’t want. He had an office he didn’t ask for. And now he had a fiancée he didn’t even like.”
“Grandmother went on, “Forgiving doesn’t mean you must pretend the wrong never happened, but that you abandon the offense. Having boundaries would have saved me some grief, that’s true, but unforgiveness would cost me more than my life savings.”
“ He opened them again and pushed out his breath until there was nothing left in his lungs, nothing left in his heart, and nothing left in his soul. Where was God when he needed him?“
“Grandmother took a step back. “You can’t live with what-ifs. The Bible says, taste and see that the Lord is good! You must overcome your distrust and fear, or you will never experience all that God has for you, chéri.”
“The thought of letting my heart go wild is kind of like jumping out of a plane and hoping the parachute opens. Scary.” “Thrilling.” The look in Grandmother’s eyes was a challenge.
You can pick up a copy of the book where books are sold.
Book and author: In Sheeps Clothing by Pegg Thomas
Publisher: Spinner of Yarns Publishing
Genre: Christian Fiction
Yarrow Fenn, the talented spinster sister, was passed over when her intended walked out on her years before. She’s content with her life – for the most part – until Peter Maltby arrives in town. A journeyman fuller, Peter comes to Milford, Connecticut, not to woo the young women, but to rise to the rank of master fuller and return to Boston for some unfinished business. When their lives intersect over an orphan lamb, sparks are kindled. But their budding romance will have to survive revealed secrets when someone else shows up in Milford.
This read was a delightful, short, and sweet journey into the past. I am not someone who usually reads historical fiction but the cover and title caught my eye and I gave it a chance. The story flowed easily and the writing was very good. The book is very short and I could have done with a little more about both characters, but that’s only because I really enjoyed learning about them both. I will definitely be looking up more books by Pegg.
Avoiding Marriage by Karin Beery
Publisher: EABooks Publishing
Two years ago, Jessica Miller made a mess of her already confusing life. Now, she’s back in Boyne Heights, and she’s determined to fix her reputation. She can’t seem to avoid the past that haunts her, but that’s the joy of small-town life—word spreads and people remember. Intent on her mission, however, she faces her past head-on, taking a job with her ex-boyfriend while avoiding her grandmother’s attempts to find her a new one.
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book, which I appreciated because I might not have picked it up on my own. It was the first time I’d read anything by this author so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t usually read a ton of light romances or novellas but apparently, I am missing out because I really enjoyed this one. In fact, I enjoyed the characters so much that my only complaint is that the book wasn’t long enough. I know there are other books with these characters, however, so I am looking forward to reading more about them in the future.
Part of me felt, at first, that the premise was a little unrealistic – the idea of a young woman going to work for her ex-boyfriend who is now married, but then I thought about all the people around me who are doing similar things. I mean I even know of an actor whose ex-wife produces movies with him. What this book reminded me was that people move on, heal, and grow in many different ways so even if I wouldn’t be comfortable with that, there are plenty of people who are and have been.
The main character’s (Jessica’s) life was very relatable to me. To some, it may have seemed she had more on her than “real” people would, in regards to her family’s situation, but in my world, families are messy. There are divorces and hurt feelings and addictions and recovering addicts, etc. I like that Karin isn’t afraid to face those issues head-on. In the midst of all of Jessica’s struggles is the chance for love and that brings lighter and sweeter moments to the story.
This is a quick read for an avid reader, which is nice because then you can move on to Ashley’s story (which occurs before this one) in Practically Married or other books by Karin.
I received a copy of Practically Married from the author. This in no way affects my review. All opinions are my own.
Dark of Night by Carrie Cotton
Genre: Supernatural Christian Fantasy
Publisher: Self Published or Indepedently Published
Available: Currently Amazon.
Description: A new life, a new love, and even a new name. For former secret agent Andromeda Stone – now Joanna Carter – a normal, boring life with her handsome husband was the happy ending. But an old enemy resurfaces, determined to leave nothing unfinished, and Andy must step back into the nightmares once again. Andy and Will each face their own worst fears in their search for answers. Will this new mission cost Andy more than she’s willing to pay?
When the journey takes her to deeper and darker places than she’s ever been before, Andy discovers it’s more than just answers she’s looking for.
Review: Dark of Night, Carrie Cotton’s second book in her Dreamwalker series, isn’t simply a work of fiction, it is a call to action, a reminder that there are forces unseen working against us in a realm beyond our comprehension.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 KJV
This book is the visceral reminder that as people, Christians or not, we are in the midst of a spiritual battle for our soul every day. No, most of us don’t wield physical weapons in our everyday lives, (unless we are in the military or law enforcement) but there are spiritual weapons at our disposal and we can draw on them, reign them into our control with our trust that God is bigger than any evil pressing down upon us and around us.
I would compare this book to those of Frank Peretti who first opened the eyes of many Christians to the reality of spiritual warfare in books such as This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. There are some who believed his stories, like Carrie’s, are simply that — stories, but when a person faces the actual dark tentacles sliding out of the darkest recesses of their mind, blocking out goodness with thoughts of revenge and ruin, like I have a few times in my life, they will realize what they thought was a story is actually true.
It’s scary to have to admit there is truth in Carrie’s book.
Are there people who can walk in dreams and hurt other people? Not that we know of. Are there evil forces that can influence us to the point that evil no longer seems evil and good no longer seems good? I think anyone who is living through what our nation and our world are facing these days knows that there are evil forces; there is a real father of lies whispering in the ears of many, telling them not to trust what God has implanted in them, but to instead trust what the media, society, and politicians tell them is true.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20
This isn’t a political book. Don’t misunderstand. This isn’t picking apart issues we now consider political and telling you what to believe. Not in the least. It does not mention our modern issues. There are bigger stakes at play here – the fight for individual souls and the fight to not be overtaken by hatred and evil. This book takes issues that the main character Joanna battles within herself and brings it right down to the personal deep level, reminding the reader that Joanna isn’t the only one who has to resist evil — we all do.
Quote from book, Esther to Joanna (Andy): “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” she said passionately. “It doesn’t take brute force or physical weapons to fight these battles, it takes spiritual strength that comes from faith in a very, very powerful God. He is greater, His Word is greater than anything . . . anything . . . in this world, even the hidden things.”
If you are not ready to be spiritually challenged while mentally entertained with fast-paced action, well-written prose, and characters you will fall quickly and solidly in love with (to the point you will cry if harm comes to them), then don’t read this book. But, if you are ready to challenge your faith, your perception of reality, increase your knowledge of a spiritual realm that is in play all around us, and be entertained at the same time, then you need to pick up a copy of Dark of Night NOW. This is a must read for every Christian, but it is also a read that even someone who doesn’t consider themselves a Christian will enjoy.
Quote from book(Jacob to Andy): “You say you believe in God, that you love Him. If that’s true, then you have to trust Him to keep His promises. If we trust Him, truly trust Him, then we can remain in Him and all things will work together for our good – either now or eventually, even the terrible choices of other people.”