Posted in Reviews

A Note Yet Unsung

Over the years, I have frequently seen Tamera Alexander’s name among currently popular Christian fiction novelists. But, I have never taken the time to check out her writing. Recently, though, A Note Yet Unsung, her latest novel, came up for review. I had time, and the description looked intriguing. I decided it just might be time to give this particular author a try.

When I agreed to review A Note Yet Unsung, I did not realize that it was book three in the Belmont Mansion series. Fortunately, while the series is built around Nashville’s Belmont Mansion, and while characters from each book do intersect with the storyline in the other installments of the series, each novel also stands on its own.

Set in Nashville immediately after the Civil War, A Note Yet Unsung welcomes young Rebekah Carrington back from Vienna, where she has spent the last ten years honing her music skills and interacting with European musical greats. Unfortunately, Rebekah lives in a time when women are not welcome into the public world of music. The dominant opinion of the day is that the world of the orchestra is too rigorous for the fragile female, and the idea of a woman in public performance is one of scandal and horror. So, instead of seeing her dream fulfilled, Rebekah is relegated to teaching solo lessons to the daughter of the wealthy Adelicia Cheatham of Belmont Mansion.

Meanwhile, Nashville’s brand new, highly acclaimed orchestra conductor is struggling. He has a very short time to complete a symphony to perform at the grand opening of Nashville’s new opera hall, but he is stuck. The stresses of his position, including pleasing the orchestra’s wealthy patrons, combines with an alarming head pain that is increasing in frequency and greatly impacting his ability to function as a conductor. Although he cannot allow the talented Miss Carrington into the orchestra, he can arrange for her to be his assistant. Perhaps with her help, the symphony will be finished on time.

It is probably obvious to even the most casual reader of Christian fiction that A Note Yet Unsung sets up the ideal setting for a romance. But, it also explores an aspect of history that the average reader probably would not consider. The storyline delves into multiple cultures, including a primary look at the elite Nashville society, a glimpse into the transition from slavery to servitude for some former slaves, and a hint at the culture of the eastern Tennessee hill country. The story is well written, well developed, and captivating. I love fiction, and there are very few novels that I’m ready to walk away from. I usually hunger to find out how it ends, but still want to hang on a little longer. Occasionally, though, a book comes along that lingers with me long after the last page has been turned. I find myself wanting to continue the story and walk with the characters just a little bit longer. A Note Yet Unsung is just such a book.

There is one little factor I must address while trying to also not give away any spoilers. As I read, I will admit to furrowing my brow at the way the author handled a couple of small side plots. They were little mysteries – hints of something – but they remained hints. The book drew closer and closer to the end, yet those little plots were not developed. Instead, they were resolved in what seemed, at first, to be a rather anticlimactic manner.

The more I considered the way these details were handled, however, the more I liked it. We are so conditioned to make big deals out of every little thing in our movies and novels. But, in life, some things are very present, yet still small. These two side plots were masterfully handled in a real life manner. Anything more would have ruined the impact of both.

I now find myself wishing I had requested the previous two Belmont Mansion books when they were available for review. But, I’m already planning to check them out of the library for the time being and hopefully add them to my book collection somewhere down the road.

Posted in Reviews

The Captive Heart

I must confess, I’m a bit particular about new authors. As much as I love to read, my fiction reading time is rather limited. So, I tend to reserve it for the latest from a handful of favorite authors, and I reserve my explorations for highly recommended books.

Something about the description of The Captive Heart caused me to make an exception, despite the fact that I had not read anything by Michelle Griep, nor have any of her books been recommended to me. It seemed, though, to be a book that would somewhat break the mold of the standard Christian fiction fare, focused on more than strictly a romance – offering depth of storyline and intriguing history as well. In other words, my kind of fiction.

I was not disappointed.

Beyond the Formula

Admittedly, like with most romantic fiction, it’s pretty obvious that the main characters will eventually fall in love. And, I could have predicted that they would each wrestle silently with their feelings, trying to deny and then hide them, each constantly misunderstanding the behavior of the other because of their own preconceptions. Those are not spoilers. They are just the nature of romance novels such as these.

But, Michelle Griep has taken a standard romance formula and turned it into a novel that overflows with rich character development, fascinating history, and a powerful story line. Perhaps the faith aspect of the novel is what grabbed me the most, though. It wasn’t forced, but it also was not lightly sprinkled. Instead, faith for both characters was real and hard won. It was interwoven throughout the storyline with such a natural inclusion that I can’t help but feel that I have caught a glimpse into the author’s own tried and true faith. Only someone who deeply understands what it means to have a growing relationship with Christ can communicate that to her characters. It resonated with me as personal and genuine.

The History

I must take a moment and confess that I did give this book four stars instead of five on Amazon. Why? Well, I’m a history nut. I absolutely love historical fiction. When compared to my favorite historical fiction novels, this one left me just a big hungry. The Captive Heart introduced a side of the pre-Revolutionary War years that is not widely addressed in the most popular history books or historical novels. In the process of trying to keep certain aspects of the storyline mysterious (which was fantastic, by the way) the author also obscured some of the potentially fascinated history of the time.

Ultimately, what does that mean for my inclination to recommend this book? Absolutely nothing. It’s a personal preference only. I highly recommend this book, and with just this one title, I now consider Michelle Griep to be a part of my “watch for the next release” list. Meanwhile, I will also begin gradually collecting her previous books. I already have my eye on a few rather captivating titles.

Michelle Griep states that she desires to glorify God in all that she writes. If The Captive Heart is any indication, she is fulfilling that desire by creating beautiful stories which fill her readers with a desire to know God as her characters do. To that I say…keep up the good work!

I received this book for free through the Amazon Vine review program.
Posted in Elizabeth Camden, Reviews

From This Moment

If you’ve read my reviews in the past, you probably know that I’m not a big “fluff” kind of reader. I love fiction, and I enjoy a good romance. But, I do not enjoy just reading a love story. I want more – real issues, historical depth, something.

The Historical Component

That’s why I enjoy Elizabeth Camden, and her latest novel did not leave me disappointed. As is the norm for Camden, the events in From This Moment tie into a specific historical event. In this case, the event is the building of the first subway systems around the world at the close of the 19th century, with specific focus on the electric system in Boston.

From This Moment is full of scientific concepts, technicalities regarding the subway system, and an interesting historical summary of events surrounding the development of the subway. As is frequently the case when I finish an Elizabeth Camden book, I found myself wanting to go dig further and learn more about the historical setting for this novel.

And the Love Story

But, the prominent story cannot be forgotten in the midst of fascinating history. There are actually two stories bound into one. By her own admission, what was originally intended to be the primary focus of the novel turned into a sub-theme, while a supporting character, Romulus White, took the center stage.

After reading From This Moment, I can definitely see the alteration in the plan to have been a wise one. Romulus White, a flashy but very insecure magazine publisher, finds himself entangled with Stella West, an artist he has been pursuing professionally for years. Romulus is convinced that Stella’s art could catapult his magazine to the peak of popularity, but Stella is only concerned with solving the mystery of her sister’s questionable death.

Obviously, From This Moment is a love story with complications. That is to be expected. But, it’s also so much more. In addition to being historically fascinating, this is a story of a battle against pride, triumph in adversity, perseverance even when the worst happens, the debilitating impact of hidden insecurity, and the wisdom necessary to choose between preservation and abandon.

I have loved Elizabeth Camden’s style of writing from the start. But, her characters have become more compelling, more real, and more captivating with each new story. If you are looking for a new read, I definitely recommend From This Moment. And, go ahead and check out her earlier books while you’re at it!

Check her out for free!

Get a feel for Elizabeth Camden’s writing style by snagging her two free novellas, Toward the Sunrise and Summer of DreamsAlthough both novellas tie into her most recent full novels, these stories stand alone and are great samples of her writing style.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Philippians-Discovering Joy Through Relationships

I love inductive Bible studies. But, I often get burned out quickly when trying to process through them, simply because of the time they take. Don’t get me wrong – I could delightfully spend the hours each week digging deeply into Scripture. But, the honest truth is that I need to be able to dig in much less time than that.

Enter Sue Edwards’ Discover Together Bible study series. The newest addition to the Discover Together series is Philippians – Discovering Joy Through Relationships. Like other studies in the series, this Philippians study helps women dive deeply and quickly into the word through several integral components:


Rather than focusing on Philippians along, this study establishes context. Who is the author? Why is he writing the letter? To whom is he writing the letter? What is the historical setting of the recipients? This is information is critical to the true study of any Bible passage.

Admittedly, I’d encourage any believer to learn to research this information for themselves, just to know how to do it. But, as a wife and mom with a very full slate of responsibilities, I appreciate the blessing of having all the resources right here in one place.


A true study of Scripture must also explore how a passage or book fits into the grander picture of the whole Bible. This study pulls passages from throughout Scripture to explore the message of Philippians in this greater context.

Scripture Memory

A memory verse is included in each lesson. Although the verses are not all from Philippians, they all correspond to that lesson’s focus.

Basic, Yet Thought-Provoking, Questions

The format of the questions makes weekly progress very manageable when studying with a group. But, there is also a depth to the questions that leaves some women desiring to slow down and spend two or three weeks on each lesson. And that’s just at the basic level.

In the margins, those processing through this study will find quotes from authors, pastors, and theologians as well as notes from Sue Edwards. But, they will also find “Digging Deeper” options, encouraging even more thought and processing regarding the application of lessons from Philippians. Feel free to take your time!


Video supplements are available at or via QR codes embedded in the study. While the videos are not necessary, they do add to the fullness of the study.

Philippians – Discovering Joy Through Relationships can be completed alone, with a group, or even through Facebook chats with the author. There is also a general Discover Together series leader guide, offering tips for leading a small group. This will be considered by some as the drawback or negative, as there is not a leader’s guide for this specific study.

I went through this study quickly and on my own for the sake of this review. But, I look forward to going through it again more slowly, and hopefully with a group, in the future. I will be recommending it to any woman seeking a Bible study option.

This book was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

Review: Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

Curiosity led me to pick up Patrick W. Carr’s first novel several years ago. The guarantee of captivating writing from an incredible mind left me impatiently awaiting every subsequent novel, including The Shock of Night, book one in Carr’s newest Darkwater Saga series.

The Shock of Night introduces Willet Dura, a man regarded to be of good character, yet51j9dqG7eWL._AA160_ one who guards a secret even he does not understand. As a reeve in service to his city and his king, Dura has no prominence of his own – until he becomes a part of an investigation involving a dying priest and his savagely murdered assistant. Pulled to the priest’s side for his dying breath, Dura departs only to find himself in possession of a strange ability, an ability which draws the attention of an equally mysterious group known as the Vigil.

In a world where gifts mean the difference between success and poverty, intrigue and betrayal are near at hand, and the evil Darkwater Forest fills the entire region with fear, Willet Dura is driven to find answers. Not only to solve a murder, but to solve the mystery of his own mind – a mind that seems frighteningly bound to experiences in the Darkwater Forest.

Character development, amazingly enough, is the hinge upon which The Shock of Night swings. All of the mystery, intrigue, and intricate story lines are woven together as morsels of personality, history, and behavior are revealed. Yet, nothing is as simple as it seems. Is Willet Dura truly the good man others claim him to be? Can he be trusted? Can the Vigil? Who are they really? And what is the truth behind characters like Ealdor?

As I read, I found myself drawn into the characters and the story simultaneously. I wanted to get to know Dura and delve into the truth of other characters. I wanted to explore events through their eyes and ferret out the truth alongside them.

But, there is even more to The Shock of Night than intense character development,
intricate storyline, and deep mystery. There is also the realization that Carr was able to leave behind the complex world of Errol Stone of The Staff and Sword series and delve into the creation of an entirely new fantasy. Although similarities must exist (don’t all fantasy worlds have some commonalities?), Carr has created new personalities, societal structures, and villains, all intersecting in new forms of threat. And, I anticipate the progress and conclusion will be just as original as the series continues to unfold.

I must add one side note here: Don’t miss By Divine Right, the prequel novella to this new book and series. Although it is not essential to the plot of The Shock of Night, it is definitely helpful. And, it’s free for Kindle, so why not snag it?

Yes, The Shock of Night was worth the wait. I have no doubt that The Shattered Vigil, book two in the series, will be worth it as well. (Although, I must admit my impatience, as the story is very much left hanging at the end of The Shock of Night!) And any novel by Patrick W. Carr is worth exploring for the first time – or the tenth. I guarantee each reading will reveal intricacies you never noticed before!

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. 

Posted in Reviews

Review: Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company

Instead of my typical Around the Web post for Wednesday, here’s a new review from Olivia, my resident young adult reviewer! This book fits into an adult fiction genre, but it is acceptable for young adult readers.

Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company by Homer Hickam is science fiction. It the third in a series called the Helium-3 series. This series is about Crater, a normal helium-3 miner on the moon who really just wants to stick to his mining job. But now there is a war and Crater must help fight it.

Homer Hickam is very good at combining real science with his fiction. I love his writing style. The character development throughout this book is fascinating. The characters are not just characters in a book, they come to life.

I don’t have any real cons, but I did notice that you definitely have to read the previous two books to understand this one. But other than that, the book was fantastic!

I recommend this book for ages thirteen through adult.

This book was sent to us by Book Look in exchange for an honest review.