I don’t know about you, but I read a lot of books over the past year! For about five years now, I’ve taken the time to write a detailed review of several books that I highly recommend. I hope you will love these books as much as I did! Enjoy your summer, and happy reading!
Historical Fiction – Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
Clara Kelley is not who they think she is. She’s not the experienced Irish maid who was hired to work in one of Pittsburgh’s grandest households. She’s a poor farmer’s daughter with nowhere to go and nothing in her pockets. But the woman who shares her name has vanished, and assuming her identity just might get Clara some money to send back home.
Clara must rely on resolve as strong as the steel Pittsburgh is becoming famous for and an uncanny understanding of business, attributes that quickly gain her Carnegie’s trust. But she still can’t let her guard down, not even when Andrew becomes something more than an employer. Revealing her past might ruin her future—and her family’s.
With captivating insight and heart, Carnegie’s Maid is a book of fascinating 19th century historical fiction. Discover the story of one brilliant woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist to the world’s first true philanthropist.
My thoughts: I am addicted to Marie Benedict’s books. Whether it’s the little known story of Einstein’s Wife, the turbulent tale of actress, Hedy Lamar, the fascinating look at Clementine Churchill, or the mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie, Benedict’s books delight the reader as they probe the what ifs and could have beens of the unknown lives of famous and almost-famous women. I fell in love with Clara Kelly and hoped that her accidental deception would not end in heartache. Of course, history has already told us how the story would end, but Benedict did a splendid job of making us believe that history could be altered by the sheer will of the reader. I’m really looking forward to The Personal Librarian, which comes out at the end of June.
Faith-based – The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate
2014 Christy Award and ECPA Christian Book Award and Finalist!
When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.
Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper—the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.
My thoughts: If you have not read Lisa Wingate or her Carolina Heirlooms books, it’s time to start. Filled with inspiration and beautiful conversations, this is one you won’t soon forget. The characters, their trials, and their triumphs tug at the heart strings. I had no sooner finished this when I immediately searched for the rest of the series and added them to my reading shelf. Have your tissues at hand, and be ready to believe in the power or prayer.
Mystery – If I Run by Terri Blackstock
Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.
Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they’ve failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.
But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up.
Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?
Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices: the girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.
My thoughts: This series was highly recommended to me, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m going to be honest, it was not the best mystery I’ve ever read, but it was one that kept me turning the page and wondering what would happen next. In fact, book two is on my to-read list. I really liked Casey, and Dylan is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever encountered. The book offers so much to root for and so much to hope for, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next!
Literary Fiction – The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
“…a hauntingly atmospheric love letter to the first mobile library in Kentucky and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and — just as importantly — a compassionate human connection.”—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome’s got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.
Cussy’s not only a book woman, however, she’s also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy’s family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she’s going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.
Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.
My thoughts: Wow. Just wow. This book will keep you up at night, turning pages with the hopes that Cussy can find her place in this world despite the dozens of bad lots she’s been cast. This is for anyone who loves books and loves stories of courage and strength and fighting the odds. There is heartbreak in them there hills, and the picture that Richardson paints portrays the depth of the despair and defeat in the Kentucky Appalachias, but there is so much more to the artwork than merely a scene of poverty and loss. There is a rainbow overhead, bright and shining amidst the clouds. This book will leave your heart soaring.
Police Drama – Deadly Cross by James Patterson
A double homicide in the nation’s capital opens the psychological case files-on Detective Alex Cross.
Kay Willingham led a life as glamorous as it was public-she was a gorgeous Georgetown socialite, philanthropist, and the ex-wife of the vice president. So why was she parked in a Bentley convertible idling behind a DC private school, in the middle of the night, with the man who was the head of that school? Who shot them both, point blank, and why? The shocking double homicide is blazed across the internet, TV, newspapers- and across Alex Cross’s mind. Kay had been his patient once. And maybe more.
While John Sampson of DC Metro Police investigates the last movements of Christopher Randall, the educator killed along with Kay Willingham, detective Alex Cross and FBI special agent Ned Mahoney find unanswered questions from Willingham’s past, before she arrived in DC and became known in Washington society as someone who could make things happen. They travel to Alabama to investigate Kay’s early years. There they find a world of trouble, corruption, and secrets, all of them closed to outsiders like Cross and Mahoney.
Kay had many enemies, but all of them seemed to need her alive. The harder the investigators push, the more resistance they find when they leave behind the genteel law offices and doctors’ quarters of the state capital. Alex Cross will need to use all his skills as a doctor, a detective, and a family man to prevent that resistance from turning lethal…again.
My thoughts: My summer reading list always contains a JP novel, typically an Alex Cross story, and always a book that JP wrote by himself. It’s so blatantly obvious to me when Patterson works alone versus working with another writer. His genius really comes out best when he is fully in the driver’s seat. The twenty-eighth Alex Cross book does not disappoint. With deadly surprises around every corner, Cross once again works to keep the streets of DC, the Federal Government, and his beloved family safe from harm. I know that Alex is nearing retirement, and the books have hinted at this for years, but I still enjoy reading about his adventures in and around the Nation’s Capital and hope that he continues fighting crime for years to come–but only if Patterson alone is calling the shots.
Epic tale about one of my favorite places – The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
“I’ve loved every one of Susanna’s books! She has bedrock research and a butterfly’s delicate touch with characters—sure recipe for historical fiction that sucks you in and won’t let go!”— DIANA GABALDON, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outlander
A hauntingly beautiful tale of love that transcends time. A modern American woman travels to Scotland to write a novel about the Jacobite Rebellion— only to discover that the vivid scenes and the romantic hero she’s imagining actually exist…
In the spring of 1708, invading Jacobites plot to land the exiled James Stewart on the Scottish coast to reclaim his crown. When young Sophia Paterson travels to Slains Castle by the sea, she finds herself in the midst of the dangerous intrigue.
Now, American writer Carrie McClelland hopes to base her next bestselling novel on that story of her ancestors in the dim, dark past . Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she starts to write.
But as Carrie’s mind slips back in time, she learns of the ultimate betrayal that happened all those years ago, making her the only living person who knows the truth—and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her.
My thoughts: Love, love, love. There’s nothing better than a great story that takes place in Scotland, am I right? Okay, this lass of Scottish descent is a bit biased, but The Winter Sea is a book hard to put down. Kearsley has spun a yarn that is intriguing, endearing, and inspiring. Even if I had never been to Scotland, I would have been able to picture it perfectly, so vivid are the details about Slains Castle and the Scottish coast. I couldn’t make up my mind which story I enjoyed the most–the modern day tale of a Scottish-American author trying to write her masterpiece, or the harrowing story of the heroine who saved the day during the Jacobite revolution. I found myself holding my breath more than once, hoping that everyone would find a happy ending but knowing that happy endings did not come easy in 18th Century Scotland.
Classic – My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Marier
Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, and Philip grows to love Ambrose’s grand estate as much as he does. But the cozy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence.
There he falls in love and marries a mysterious distant cousin named Rachel—and there he dies suddenly.
Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose’s letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin’s widow with hatred in his heart. But when she arrives at the estate, Rachel seems to be a different woman from the one described in Ambrose’s letters. Beautiful, sophisticated, and magnetic, Philip cannot help but feel drawn to Rachel.
And yet, questions still linger: might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death? And how, exactly, did Ambrose die? As Philip pursues the answers to these questions, he realizes that his own fate could hang in the balance.
My thoughts: My all-time favorite book, which I have read several times, is the classic novel of mystery and suspicion, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I don’t know why it took me so many years to read My Cousin Rachel, but it was one of my favorite books that I’ve read this spring. Like the main character, Philip, the reader spends the entire book wondering who the real Rachel is. Does her charming and gracious demeanor hide something sinister, or are Philip and the reader trying too hard to see her faults and convict her an outrageous crime? As Philip falls for Rachel, so does the reader, making for an ending that takes everyone by surprise.
Other books I had a hard time putting down:
The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – A WWII espionage thriller with shocking twists and turns that remind all of us that things are not always what they seem, and people are not always who we think they are.
A Week at the Shore by Barbara Delinsky – Delinsky never disappoints, and her novel about coming home again is a sweet tale of family and friendship and bonds that can never be broken.
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict – another wonderfully written behind-the-scenes look at a strong woman in a world of men. Clementine Churchill was the Prime Minister’s rock as well as his adversary, and Benedict has done her justice in this fictional account of their romance and many years together.
The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate – the prequel to The Prayer Box, this book is another tale of faith and overcoming odds. It holds lessons about family bonds and trusting in God.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah – Secure your hat and hold onto your seat as Hannah takes us on another bumpy ride, this time through the depressing era of the Dust Bowl. Prepare for a very real look into the faces of the women and children who worked to keep their families together and their faith intact. At times hard to read the realities of life amidst one dust storm after another, the book is a satisfying read that touches the heart. Tissues required.
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – Yes, it has taken me over 50 years to read this trilogy. Why did I wait so long? As an ardent fan of the Hobbit and a lover of Tolkien and his good friend, C.S. Lewis, I don’t know why I didn’t delve into this sooner. Well, yes I do. It was long and had lots of confusing names, and I’m just not into science fiction. But I knew I was missing out on one of the greatest reading pleasures of all time, so I decided to tackle this epic tale of elves, orks, and hobbits. To be totally honest, I listened to the audiobooks (as I did with the Hobbit), and I loved them! I couldn’t wait for my daily walk or a ride into town so that I could return to Middle Earth. I’m so glad I finally immersed myself into Tolkien’s world and met the creatures that inhabit it.
My next book, The Good Wine, will be available on July 1, 2021 and is available for pre-order! More retailers are being added daily, so keep checking your favorite bookseller to see when you can order your copy. In-person special event launches as well as an online event are being scheduled. Subscribe to my Newsletter to get updates.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020).