21 Feb 2024

The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater: 2023 Catchup

 Published 10th October 2023, Bethany House
Print, Ebook and Audio

Dual Timeline Historical Fiction

It promises beauty but steals life instead. Will the ghosts of Barlowe Theater entomb them all?

Barlowe Theater stole the life of Greta Mercy's eldest brother during its construction. Now in 1915, the completed theater appears every bit as deadly. When Greta's younger brother goes missing after breaking into the building, Greta engages the assistance of a local police officer to help her unveil the already ghostly secrets of the theater. But when help comes from an unlikely source, Greta decides that to save her family she must uncover the evil that haunts the theater and put its threat to rest.

Decades later, Kit Boyd's best friend vanishes during a ghost walk at the Barlowe Theater, and old stories of mysterious disappearances and ghoulish happenings are revived. Then television ghost-hunting host and skeptic Evan Fisher joins Kit in the quest to identify the truth behind the theater's history. Kit reluctantly agrees to work with him in hopes of finding her missing friend. As the theater's curse unravels Kit's life, she is determined to put an end to the evil that has marked the theater and their hometown for the last century.



 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater delivered everything I enjoy in Jaime Jo Wright’s novels: excitement, thrilling mystery, danger and an exhilarating story with a hint of romance. Some of this author’s novels get very dark in terms of the subjects and material which they touch on, this one doesn’t so much. It does go into attitudes towards the urban poor and disadvantaged and how these can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and crime. 

Although I did enjoy this one, and I would certainly give it a re-read along with some of my other Jaime Jo Wright novels I didn’t feel there was very much new about it. I don’t know, except for the setting in a theatre, there was a lot that reminded me of the author’s previous books. Maybe that’s a good thing, as it gives the reader a sense of familiarity and so we know what to expect, I don’t know.

Also, I found the modern heroine a bit vapid. She’s like a lot of other female protagonists in mystery novels with little to make her stand out.

Thanks to Bethany House for approving my request for this title via Netgalley. This didn’t influence my opinions in any way and all opinions expressed are my own.

Of Love and Treason Jamie Ogle

 Published 23rd January 2024, Tyndale House
Print, Ebook and Audio


Historical Fiction: Ancient Rome

Rome, AD 270. In the wake of the emperor’s marriage ban, rumors swirl that there is one man brave enough to perform wedding ceremonies in secret. A public notarius and leader of an underground church, Valentine believes the emperor’s edict unjust and risks his own life for the sake of his convictions. But as his fame grows, so do fears for his safety.

Iris, the daughter of a Roman jailor, believes regaining her sight will ease the mounting troubles at home. Her last hope rests in searching out Valentine and his church, but the danger of associating with people labeled a threat to the empire is great. Still, as Iris's new friends lead her to faith in God, Iris is drawn to Valentine and they both begin to hope for a future together beyond the treacherous empire.

But when a past debt and a staggering betrayal collide, Valentine, Iris, and everyone they love must fight for their lives . . . and wrestle with trusting a God who can restore sight yet does not always keep His followers from peril.



 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


 Of Love and Treason was a wonderful, heartfelt and encouraging book. Like the author, I wasn't very keen on Valentine's Day, especially as it’s marked these days, and I only vaguely knew the story of St Valentine, whom it was meant to be named after.

By the end, I was left with immense admiration for the man who defied the emperor to do what he thought was right, and kept his faith to the last, despite horrific tortures and death. I don't think I will ever view Valentine’s Day in the same way again.
It is to be noted that there is not much evidence for his existence or life - so this is largely the author's interpretation: but it’s one that fits well into the historical context.

This book both touched and challenged me, which I am inclined to believe, is good in a work of fiction. Especially one which is the author's debut. Can we trust God in the hard times when the ultimate price may be paid and not just when he does what we want? 

Lillian Kelly did a good job with the narration of this book, and with the male as well as female roles.

Thanks to Tyndale House for approving me for this title on Netgalley. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are freely given and my own.

15 Jan 2024

The Polluted Font by Mel Starr Review

Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton #16 
Lion Fiction, October 23rd 2023, 192 Pages
Print and Ebook 

Setting: Late 1300s/14th century England
Genre: Crime and Mystery/Historical

When Hugh and Kate's new-born son is taken to the church to be baptized, they are astounded to find that the locked font is completely dry. The possibility of a leak is quickly ruled out, and just as Hugh is beginning to wonder if there may be a sinister explanation for the stolen holy water, Fr Robert is found lying motionless by the rood screen in a pool of blood . . .

Meanwhile, parliament has passed a poll tax, stipulating everyone above the age of 14 is to be taxed equally. Folk are soon scrambling to find the money to pay and, inevitably, unscrupulous elements in society see an opportunity to feed off people’s desperation and make some cash . . . But what connection can there possibly between this and events at Bampton?

Mel Starr's latest novel is a thoroughly enjoyable medieval crime mystery. It may be enjoyed as complete in itself, or as part of the Hugh de Singleton series.


Rating: 🌠🌠🌠🌠

I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton almost since the beginning, and I’m more than willing to admit some of the books were better than others. This one, I think was one of the better ones. Mel Starr has managed to so something quite remarkable in this book- allow for there to be a complex mystery, investigation and a satisfactory conclusion with no murder having taken place. A man is attacked and left with a head injury but is not killed.

Another interesting aside: this series has spanned a length of time almost as long as I have been reading the series. The first book was set in 1364 and this one take place in 1377. I first discovered this series in 2011. Twelve years to Hugh’s thirteen. 
Considering how some of the laws and political changes at the time the story is set might have impacted on ordinary people was the backdrop of the story.

My only sort of gripe was the negative portrayal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Hugh never met the man, so why does he consider him corrupt, greedy and untrustworthy? 
Seems more like the interpretation of modern historians if you ask me. I’ve read a biography of John of Gaunt and I don't think this image reflects reality, or at least its too simplistic.

Anyway, The Polluted Font was an interesting and detailed mystery which also managed to explore the importance of compassion and forgiveness, and even to make you feel sorry for the antagonist. It also explores the importance of religion to 14th century people, without some of the pitfalls of the genre which include treating all Medieval Catholics as bad and the anacronistic proto-Protestant character as the only real believer.

Thanks to SPCK and Lion Fiction for approving me for this title via Netgalley. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

5 Jan 2024

Forever, Lovely by Linore Rose Burkard

Forever in Time #2
November 28th, 2023

When Miss Margaret Andrews travels to the future to find her missing sister, she never expected to find true love. In 1819 England, Margaret is a bluestocking with dreams of becoming an inventress, but when the Tallit, a magical time-travel shawl, goes awry she finds herself stranded in 21st Century Manhattan.

At a Jane Austen conference, she meets Stewart Russell, a grad student studying early British female writers. Stewart is immediately taken with Margaret and her effortless use of the speech and manners of Jane's day—until she claims to be FROM Jane's day! Worse, due to a mix-up, he is a wanted man and the clock is ticking. Margaret must find a way to get them both back to 1819—before the unthinkable happens.

If you enjoyed the time-travel romance of Outlander, then you'll love Margaret and Stewart's story in Forever Lovely.


 My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was the follow-up to Forever, Lately which came out a couple of years ago. These two books are funny and sweet romances which involve time travel instigated by a tallit, or a Jewish prayer shawl. You heard that correctly.

I love how the author combined her love for the Regency period happily-ever-after love stories and life in the modern world. You can tell she's done her research, but the reactions of 19th century characters to modern technology and inventions still manage to be both credible and funny at the same time. Margaret encountering a bus and a computer for the first time, and then a mobile phone was hilarious.
Anyhow, I love Margaret. She's a nerd who considers herself unlovable and unmarriageable because of what others and her sister said. I have a weakness for romances with protagonists who don't fit the mould of beautiful and perfect.

Although there’s a fair bit about regency customs in this novel though, be prepared for the fact that this is *not* a serious historical novel. Its very much fantasy with the time-travel aspect, and if you can suspend your disbelief its just a very nice, sweet story to pass the hours when you want something that is both fun, wholesome and edifying at the same time. Great for the Christmas Season or really any time of the year when you want something which isn’t too taxing.

There’s a lot of religious content in this which some might not expect if they weren’t aware that Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational/Christian Fiction. Its not an issue for me, or for most readers to be honest because there is enough story to just get lost in.

I read this title via Book Sirens. All opinions expressed are my own and freely given.

2 Sept 2023

The Telling of the Beads Book 1: Saplings of Sherwood by Avellina Balestri

Genre: Historical Fiction/Robin Hood Legends

270 Pages, Kindle Edition 

December 21th, 2022

“I dreamt of a wily wolf and a swift stag blessing a sapling among the trees. It’s a sign you’ll make our people proud.” ~

Robin Locksley is the heir to the last Saxon noble house in Nottinghamshire. Since the time of William the Conqueror, his family has been beleaguered by those who seek to extinguish their lineage and seize their estate. Roger Cavendish is the son of the ruthless and power-hungry Norman lord whose property borders Locksley lands.

For over a century since the conquest, the Cavendish family has sought to secure predominance in the region through any means necessary. Each raised to uphold opposing ancestral legacies, Robin and Roger find themselves crossing paths through their common bond to the land. They meet eye to eye, sky blue and hawk gold, catching glimpses of each other’s souls as they struggle under their own personal burdens.

But while one is yet a child and the other hardly a man, a twist of fate intensifies the generational feud and kindles the first sparks of a raging fire that will one day consume their world. Destiny will immortalize them in story and song. Unfolding in an era dominated by feudal conflict and imbued with religious faith, this introspective drama puts flesh upon the bones of legend and takes an intimate character-driven approach to retelling one of the most famous heroic journeys in the annals of literature.


                                                   My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 The author sent me a copy of this book because she knew of my interest in Medieval Fiction, and I'm glad she did. Mrs Balestri wanted to write a Robin Hood story which:

a) Accurately represented the religious ideals of the time period and

b) Showed the influence of ancient myths and legends on the Robin Hood stories.

The story starts with Robin and Marian (as well as others) as very young children to show what shaped and formed them: and perhaps how their later actions and alliances were influenced. The young man who will become the Sheriff of Nottingham is a remarkably sympathetic character. I dare you not to feel sorry for him.

Robin emerges as a complex figure torn between two worlds: his love for the Norman Marion and his Saxon background, between the old ways and Christianity and which represent two different parts of himself. I also appreciated some of the historical details in this story which you don’t see in a lot of other novels: a knowledge of the Medieval education system, church and Latin.

Ignore the hand-drawn cover though: this isn’t a children’s book. Its YA at the earliest because of a number of sexual references. Not graphic, but up to a parent’s discretion and I would not recommend them for under 16s.


Avellina Balestri is a Catholic author and editor based in the historic Maryland-Pennsylvania borderlands. Her stories, poems, and essays have been featured in over thirty print and online publications including The Wisdom Daily, The Latin Mass Magazine, and The St. Austin Review

She is the Editor-in-Chief of Fellowship & Fairydust, a magazine inspiring faith and creativity and exploring the arts through a spiritual lens. Under its auspices, she had the honor of hosting a literary conference at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, commemorating the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien. 

Her hobbies include listening to and performing folk music, watching and reviewing classic films, and chatting with a zany array of international contacts. Avellina believes that the Trinitarian and Incarnational mysteries are reflected in all things good, true, and beautiful, and that the image of God is wondrously woven into every human heart. 

These themes are at the forefront of the stories she chooses to tell.

 For more information about the author and her various projects, please visit the following websites: www.fellowshipandfairydust.com www.avellinabalestri.com

25 Jul 2023

Light of Eidon: Giveaway and Celebrate Lit Blog Tour


About the Book

Book: The Light of Eidon: Legends of the Guardian King #1

Author: Karen Hancock

Genre: Fantasy (reprint)

Release Date: July 11, 2023

Special Hardcover Edition of a Classic Christian Fantasy

Abramm has dedicated the last eight years of his life to becoming worthy to touch and tend the Sacred Flames of Eidon, and he expects to be blessed for his devotion and sacrifice. But on the eve of taking the vows that will irrevocably separate him from the life he was born to—as Abramm Kalladorne, fifth son of the king of Kiriath—he is betrayed by his spiritual mentor and sold into slavery by his brothers.

Swept along by the winds of a new destiny, Abramm is forced to compete as a gladiator. When the oppressed masses rally around his success, he discovers his suffering has molded him into something greater than he ever thought possible—to serve a purpose he never imagined.

Set in a world of swords and cloaks, of glittering palaces and mystical temples, of galley ships and ancient mist-bound cities, The Light of Eidon is the first volume of an epic series, Legends of the Guardian- King.


Click here to get your copy!


Full Disclosure: I have not yet finished reading this book, I'm actually just over halfway through. This is a title I have known about for many years, and I purchased the first 2 books 2 years ago just before the went out of Print with Bethany House to be reprinted by Enclave. 
When it comes to fantasy, worldbuilding is the most important factor.  Even anachonisms which I personally don't like can be overlooked if they are part of the worldbuilding... and with this book it does work. The different cultures and customs are distinctive, there are some strange creatures, new countries.
I would prefer if the magic system was better explained and explored a little bit more, because that is one of the most interesting aspects. How precisely do the antagonists control minds and bodies of their victims?

Also it needs to be noted that this is not a YA or children's book. It contains references to mature themes and an implied sex scene.

My only complaint is if the Mataian religion is meant to be based on the Medieval Catholic church... then the implication they don't believe in the Resurrection is kind of problematic. Catholics do believe in the resurrection.


About the Author

Karen Hancock has won Christy Awards for each of her first four novels—Arena and the first three books in the Legends of the Guardian-King series, The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within, and Shadow over Kiriath. She graduated from the University of Arizona with bachelor’s degrees in biology and wildlife biology. Along with writing, she is a semi-professional watercolorist and has exhibited her work in a number of national juried shows. She and her family reside in Arizona.


Excerpt from the Book


“Toward the realm from Shadow.”

“Why must we guard our purity?”

“To keep the Flames strong and bright.”

They sat cross-legged on the barge cabin’s single, narrow bunk, facing each other—Novice and discipler—their voices alternating in a steady rhythm of question and answer that had gone unbroken for nearly an hour. Since the noon prayer service, they had been reviewing the six codices of the First Guardian Station, codices Eldrin must know tomorrow for the final test of his novitiate. He had long since learned them so well he could answer without hesitation, but he didn’t mind the repetition. Right now it was just the sort of superficial mental occupation he needed to keep his thoughts off . . . other things.

“What is the source of the Shadow?” asked his discipler, one bony, ink-stained finger pressed to the page of the open catechism in his lap.

“The arrogance of Moroq conceived it,” Eldrin replied. “The passions of the flesh sustain it.” “Who is Moroq?”

“The dark son of Eidon and Lord Ruler of the rhu’ema. The Adversary. No man can stand against him, save One.”

“And that One is?”

“Eidon, Lord of Light, Creator of All, Defender of Man. Soon may he come, and swift be his judgment.”

The rhythm ended, and the silence that filled the void after it made Eldrin’s ears ring. He noticed the heat again, the sweat trickling down his chest beneath his wool tunic, the stifling mantle of his long, unbound hair weighing on his back. A fitful breeze danced through the high, open portal in the bulkhead, carrying the river’s dank odor and a disharmonious chorus of voices from the crowds on its bank. Thunder rumbled out of the distance.

Anxiety, held at bay by the long recitation, came oozing back. Soon they would be docking, disembarking, and marching up to the temple to begin the long ritual that would end with his initiation as a Guardian of the Holy Flames. Or not, if things went badly.

His discipler, Brother Belmir, smiled at him over small, round spectacles. “Flawless, as usual. Shall we do another?”

“I defer to your judgment, Brother.” Eldrin uncrossed his legs and recrossed them in opposite order, wincing as feeling tingled back.

“We’ll do a random selection, then.” Belmir leafed through the catechism, yellowed pages just brushing the slender gray braid that dangled over his shoulder. He was a small, birdlike man, all bones and angles, with a deeply lined face and shrewd gray eyes behind the spectacles. He wore the four gold cords of his station at his left wrist and, at his throat, the ruby amulet all Guardians were granted upon acceptance into the Holy Brotherhood of the Mataio.

Tomorrow Eldrin should receive an amulet of his own.

It was a day he had anticipated for eight long years; now the closer it got, the more uneasy he became. What if he walked up to the lip of the great bronze brazier tomorrow and the Flames rejected him?


Blog Stops

Becca Hope: Book Obsessed, July 22

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 23

Texas Book-aholic, July 24

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 25

Romances of the Cross, July 25

Aryn the Libraryan, July 26

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 27

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, July 28

The Book Club Network, July 29

Blogging With Carol, July 30

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 31

Simple Harvest Reads, August 1 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Artistic Nobody, August 2 (Spotlight)

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, August 3

Through the Fire Blogs, August 4 (Spotlight)

Of Blades and Thorns, August 4


To celebrate her tour, Karen is giving away the grand prize package of a $20 Barnes & Noble Gift card and a hardcover copy of The Light of Eidon!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


29 Jun 2023

Healer's Blade by Kyrie Wang: Book Intro and Review


Enemy's Keeper #1

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Age: Young Adult-Adult

June 30th 2023, Silver Dreams 

In a country torn by war, can she change the fate of England? 

1075 A.D., nine years after the Norman Conquest. Eighteen-year-old healer Aliwyn lives in solitude after a series of medical failures leaves her alienated from her village. With the rebellion against William the Conqueror rumbling on the horizon, she finds solace in the tranquility of her home.

But after her beloved arrives with the orphaned daughter of a Norman knight, Aliwyn is plunged into the bloody conflict she’s done her best to avoid. One daring escape from enemy fire entangles her with the revolt's charismatic young leader, Toby, and Aliwyn finds herself swept into a dangerous world of rival factions and secret alliances. Faced with mercenaries and renegade knights, she must make difficult choices about healing those she despises.

And after she unravels the fiery secret underpinning the rebellion, Aliwyn is challenged to take fate into her own hands and save England from sweeping destruction. Can she find the courage to fight for what she believes? And can she resist the magnetic charms of the man she’s vowed to defeat?



My Review and Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


I signed up to be on the review crew for this book so full disclose: I recieved an ARC from the author. Healer's Blade is her debut novel and is touted to be the first in a series of YA Romance/Adventure novels set an an alternative version of 11th century England in the years following the Norman Conquest. 

At first, I have to say I found this novel a little confusing. It was like starting in the middle of a book with characters and relationships who were already established and had backstories, and not at the beginning.
I also found a lot of the action and events in the first part kind of implausible, but I think taking off my adult and history buff hat and remembering this was meant to be written for teenagers helped.

The historical setting is very similar to Tamara Leigh’s Age of Conquest series, but the feel and tone of this book is very different. Less serious historical fiction, more YA adventure with fantasy elements: and vague shades of Game of Thrones.
(The protagonist’s father is called Ransley Bolton: I have not read or watched Game of Thrones but I am well aware there’s a character called Ramsey Bolton who has a reputation for brutality in that series. AFAIC the names are way too close for there to be no borrowing going on...) 

As for Aliwyn: I do wish her life had been explored a bit more to give us more insight into her nature motivations, but perhaps that is yet to come.
The revelations about her adopted brother and her relationship with Toby gave her enough moral and emotional conflict, but I would have liked to see more internal conflict and character development as well.

Toby or Tobias… well he was both interesting and frustrating at the same time. I guess that might be the result of all the major characters being teenagers and teenagers can be frustrating. Toby was more developed I think due to his losses and conflict with his family. He felt more torn between doing what was right and exacting his version of justice.

I did get the impression of people living in turbulent times when their country was in a state of (almost) civil war, but at times I got the impression there was more telling than showing. What I also rather liked were some of the details about Medieval surgery and medicine. As a devoted Cadfael fan of many years it was interesting to read something written from POV of a modern health professional.

I did have a were a few niggles in terms of historical details: one was characters having large pockets sewn inside any and all garments including a gambeston.
How on earth does that work? A quilted garment designed to be worn close to the skin and absorb shock from blows? A pocket inside? Can’t see it. How would you even get to that when gambestons could only be donned by pulling them over the head and not tied a the front?

Not sure what I thought of the sort of fun made up Celtic pagan style since the Celts converted to Christianity long before the English…. or that they were really needed. I think they’re just added to be “cool” and maybe that’s no bad thing in a YA novel.

So yeah, overall, it was enjoyable and a very exciting adventure which would certainly appeal to teenagers. Even this adult liked it. It’s a good adventure with a lot of fun parts as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

Thanks to the author for sending me an ARC which did not influence my opinions.

About the Author: 

Hailing from the unpredictable snowstorms of Quebec, Canada, I'm a medical mystery detective (fancy words for "pathologist, MD") by day and a dreamweaver of historical fantasy by night. Pencil on paper makes me cry and laugh, and every book I write is living another life!

I have a PASSION for crafting stories that explore the humanity common to us all. Where people find their authentic selves, goodness prevails, and the forgotten and voiceless rise as heroes.

​Somewhere between sleuthing with my microscope and crafting hamster toys with my girl, I sit down and type. You'd never catch me without (quality dark) chocolate in my bag and I would bike in Canadian January to a froyo store.

​Just ask my best friend of 11 years- she was the cashier!


3 Jun 2023

The Scots of Dalriada by Rowena Kinread: A Coffee and Thorn Blog Tour

Genre: Historical Fiction (5th Century, Scotland and Ireland)
250 Pages, Print and Ebook


Fergus, Loarn and Angus, Princes of the Dalriada, are forced into exile by their scheming half-brother and the druidess Birga One-tooth.


Fergus conceals himself as a stable lad on Aran and falls helplessly in love with a Scottish princess, already promised to someone else. Loarn crosses swords against the Picts. Angus designs longboats.


Always on the run the brothers must attempt to outride their adversaries by gaining power themselves. Together they achieve more than they could possibly dream of.

Fergus Mór (The Great) is widely recognised as the first King of Scotland, giving Scotland its name and its language. Rulers of Scotland and England from Kenneth mac Alpín until the present time claim descent from Fergus Mór.

Full of unexpected twists and turns, this is a tale of heart-breaking love amidst treachery, deceit and murder.


 My Review: ⭐⭐⭐

It took me a while to get into this book, but by the end it was an interesting fictionalized account of the very early Irish settlements in Scotland. The Kingdom of Dalriada which spanned the Irish Sea consisted of such settlements.

I think "The Scots of Dalriada" is a better title than Fergus McNair, because it isn't really about one character, but Fergus and his brothers and the political forces which drove them to Scotland. I did find the personal/romantic parts of the story a little slower and hard going.
It ranged between narrative accounts (this happened then this happened) and a more detailed portrayal of everyday life. I wasn’t 100% sure it was accurate for the time period either, but that isn’t necessarily a big deal because it was more about the story of the characters.

It wasn’t my favourite book, I think I prefer M.N. Stroh’s Tales of the Clans Series, but that is about Ireland instead of Scotland. It was good for people interested in Historical Fiction and especially an under-appreciated figure from Scottish History.

One point worth noting is that this is *not* Inspirational/Religious Fiction. For my followers who typically read this I will add a content warning for

  • Graphic/Semi-detailed sex scenes, including one in the first chapter. -
  • Character Deaths, incl. violent deaths 

About the Author: 

Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire with her large family and a horde of pets.

She began writing in the nineties. Her special area of interest is history. After researching her ancestry and finding family roots in Ireland with the Dalriada clan, particularly this era. Her debut fiction novel titled The Missionary is a historical novel about the dramatic life of St. Patrick. It was published by Pegasus Publishers in April 2021 and has been highly appraised by The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the Irish Times.

Her second novel The Scots of Dalriada centres around Fergus Mór, the founder father of Scotland and takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. It was published by Pegasus in January 2023.

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