Friday, March 31, 2023

Book Review: The Rose and The Thistle, by Laura Frantz

One of the things I love about Historical Fiction is spending time in unexpected eras and places.

With Lisa See, I explore ancient China.

With Kate Quinn, I visit Bletchley Park.

And thanks to Laura Frantz,
I've just spent a week in 1715 Scotland.

The Rose and The Thistle is immersive in the best kind of way.
It opens with a map, a piece of history, and a mini-dictionary of Scottish phrases. Yes, you have a bit of a learning curve to get into this world but trust me, it's worth it.

Our heroine is Lady Blythe Hedley, daughter of an English Duke. Her father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies. When their castle is attacked in the middle of the night, she flees to the home of her godparents: Wedderburn Castle in Scotland.

Our hero is Everard Hume, eldest son of the ailing Lord Wedderburn, Lady Blythe's godfather. At the passing of his father, Everard is burdened with his estate, a political uprising, a volatile brother, and now, a refugee Lady hiding in his castle tower.

The Rose and The Thistle is rife with secrets, political ambitions, family intrigue, and cultural divisions. But at its heart, it's also a passionate, slow burn love story. I'm sure many may simply categorize this as a "romance", but for me, this novel is so much more: it's historical, dramatic, and epic, with romance sizzling throughout.

Fun Fact:
In the Author Note, we learn that Laura Frantz is actually related to the original Hume family, with roots in Wedderburn Castle! According to the Journal (blog) page of her site, she's working on two other Scottish books. Her Journal has photos of some of her extensive research!

You can check out her many books and her beautiful writing at:

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

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Book Review: Everything Is Just Beginning, by Erin Bartels

A few days ago, I mentioned another SuperFan Author Review was coming.
Well, here it is!

I am a SuperFan of Erin Bartels!

So far, I've read, reviewed & LOVED:

We Hope For Better Things

All That We Carried

And one of my favourite books of 2022:

I think she only has two other books for me to search out!

Today, I'm excited to share her latest creation:
Everything Is Just Beginning

I know what you're thinking: "Of course you wanted to read this, Allison. There's a guitar on the cover."

But let me share a secret: Reading novels about music can be very frustrating when you're a musician! So often, people get it all wrong, especially when it comes to the process of songwriting. When the author makes too many assumptions, or trivializes the process, it can become incredibly frustrating!

Fortunately for all involved, Erin knows what she's talking about! Music Creation is almost like a character in this novel, driving the plot forward, traversing relationships, and giving the human characters voice to their emotions.

Michael Sullivan is a young musician without a band, an apartment, and most of his family. In the final days of 1989, his uncle receives an invitation to the New Year's Eve party of the year, hosted by a family of music legends. Michael and his uncle share a trailer and a name, so no one will notice if he accepts the invitation, right? At that swanky, celebrity-filled party, Michael meets the girl, the musician, who will change his entire life...

I read this quickly, over a few restful days in beautiful Fergus, Ontario. We stayed in a B&B in an 1850's stone building, resting in a hand-carved four-poster bed, overlooking the Grand River. Talk about a decadent way to read a book!

The story is well paced, but never at the expense of the characters or the relationships. There's so much depth going on here, but it's all told so well and with the perfect amount of emotional detail. Most of the story takes place in either Michael's uncle's run down trailer or the Wheeler's luxe, music-filled home. The tightness of his world and the contrasting settings tell us so much about Michael's struggles and dreams.

As a special gift for readers, Erin has created a hidden webpage with recordings of the song, videos, chord charts, and all kind of other gifts! It's only accessed via a QR code and a special password you'll learn by reading the book. Check out the last page of the novel for the link. So fun!!!

I'm always happy to recommend an Erin Bartels book,
and Everything Is Just Beginning is no exception! 

Grab your copy today and enjoy ...

Erin's site has a blog, videos, book club resources, and all kinds of fun things.
You can find her here:

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

A Storyteller's Celtic Roots - A St. Patrick's Day Post

 I'm guesting on the InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship Blog!

Please check out my post HERE.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Book Review: All The Lost Places, by Amanda Dykes

Since I started reviewing fiction, I've become a SuperFan
of a select number of authors!

Amanda Dykes is one of those few. 
(A review of another SuperFan Author is coming this weekend...)

I'd read, reviewed, and LOVED: 

Whose Waves These Are

Set The Stars Alight

And one of my very favourite books of 2021:

Amanda is a beautiful storyteller, creating decadent and tactile worlds for her characters. I was beyond excited when my review copy of All The Lost Places arrived in my mailbox.

Our story starts in California, but the true setting of this book is romantic Venice. This is literally historical fiction within historical fiction.

In 1904, we meet Daniel Goodman, a man in need of redemption. In an effort to save his mother's home and business, he takes on a challenging job: travel to Venice to procure and translate a rare "unfinished" book. Along the way, he meets Vittoria, a bookshop owner and true Venetian. As Daniel winds through the city's canals, the mysterious book - and the city's true history - come to light.

In 1807, a baby is discovered floating along the canals of Venice. Here, we meet the real-life characters of The Book of Waters. Our hero - Sebastien Trovato - wrestling with his unknown past. A guild of artisans, raising the lost boy as their own. And Mariana, a woman who washes ashore during a storm.

The challenge of writing this book was monumental! Not only is Amanda writing in two historic timelines, but she also writes huge swaths of The Book of Waters, masterfully weaving together the "novel' and the "history" of the story. (When you've read the book, that'll make sense!)

There's so much to love about All The Lost Places. It's a thick one, not so much in pages, but in mood, story, and history. It deserves to be read slowly with huge cups of tea. I didn't discover this 'til after I'd read it, but Amanda actually created a Thematic Soundtrack for the novel via Spotify, that's available on her site.

I will always be first in line to read an Amanda Dykes book!

Do yourself a favour and pick up any of her treasures today...

You can find more of Amanda's writing, as well as lots of FREE bonuses at:

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

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Book Review: Why Gather? by Martha Tatarnic

Full Disclosure: This is a book review with lots of bias!
Not only is the author a great friend and colleague, but I also handled the online promo for last year's book launch (including the fun video below!) That said, this is an awesome book and I can't wait to tell you about it!

After not being able to gather in person for almost three years, many of us have started asking the question, 
"Why gather now?" 

We're thankful for Zoom, Skype, and live streaming. These technologies saved many families and ministries over the last few years (our ministry included!). But if we're being honest, we know we're supposed to be with each other. We're meant to live face to face.

Martha asks and responds to the question of Why Gather? with stories of flawed, faithful people living out their doubts and beliefs in the midst of both good times and bad. Some of these stories will hit close to home, rubbing close to your own personal experience. Some will open windows into lives and communities rarely witnessed by others. Each will expand your own sense of empathy and humanity.

As we wrestle with the issue of gathering in a post-pandemic world, Martha isn't afraid to challenge us, both as individuals and as the Church:

So often, we're looking for the next great "thing" that will save our declining churches.
But what if, instead of "saving" the Church, we seek out where God is already at work
in our lives and in our communities? 

Across Canada, many Indigenous communities suffer from a severe lack of a most basic need:
clean drinking water. How do we make our gatherings more inclusive to the needs of
our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and those pushed to the fringes of our society. 

We want the world to change before we're willing to change.
But what if we look to the world of sports and discover the mind shift of "Ultrarealism"? 

Why Gather? encourages all of us to look deeper into our hearts, our churches, and our world, and see that the Kingdom of God is already at hand. And then asks: what is our response to that?

Why Gather? is a book of living out your faith, appropriate for laypeople and church leadership alike. Each chapter ends with discussion questions, perfect for your own reflection or group discussion.

This Lent, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Why Gather?
Read it and then, I encourage you to get yourself to church.
We need each other more than ever ...

Why Gather? has been chosen by Bishop Susan Bell, Anglican Diocese of Niagara, 
for the Lenten Book Series 2023.
You can find the FREE STUDY GUIDE HERE

Martha wrote a blogpost about the concept of Ultrarealism for this blog HERE.

You can find out more about Martha and her writing at:

Why I Wrote "Why Gather?"
By Martha Tataric