I posted earlier how happy I am that Hidden Secrets (Green Dory Inn Mystery #2) is one of three suspense novels short-listed for The 2020 Word Awards. Here’s a link to that post, which tells you more about the other two finalists: )
In celebration, the ebook version of Hidden Secrets is on sale for 99 cents this week (ends June 14, 2020). This link will take you to international links for Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Nook: books2read.com/hidden-secrets.
One unexpected side benefit of The Word Awards ceremony not being held in a conventional venue is that readers can join the live-stream and enjoy the action!
Winners will be announced Saturday, June 13, at 7pm EDT (that’s 8pm here in Nova Scotia). Here’s a link to a time zone converter if you, like me, struggle with doing time conversion in your head.
You are invited to join in if you can. You might find some good new summer reads!
Hidden Secrets is one of three novels short-listed in the suspense category for The 2020 Word Awards (for work published in 2019).
Also short-listed are:
I haven’t read either of these novels yet, but I’ve met both authors, and their work is highly respected. Hidden Secrets is in good company. The beauty of this is that when the winning book is announced, I can either celebrate for my “imaginary friends” if it’s my book or celebrate for one of my real-life writer friends (at least acquaintances!). Win-win!
The 2020 Word Awards winners will be announced June 13, 7pm Eastern Time (8pm Atlantic) online via livestream on Facebook and Zoom. It’ll be free for anyone to tune in. Link details TBA.
For the complete short-list, visit The Word Guild’s Media page and click on the short-list announcement link.
A whimsical town, a host of quirky
characters, and events that seem to conspire to keep Matthew Sadler from
leaving once he arrives by “happenstance.”
Fleeing painful memories, Matt and his
motorcycle are roaring along the highway when a near-accident forces him onto a
hidden side road. On the far side of a covered bridge, he discovers the town of
He’ll leave as soon as he gases up. Or
after a night’s rest in the charming Happenstance Hotel. Or after he helps the
elderly sisters who run the hotel. Or after…
As well as the sisters, he meets Bear, a
local mechanic with some unusual turns of phrase, and Veronica, who bears a
startling resemblance to his dead wife.
The longer he stays, the more he suspects
a mystery behind the hotel’s troubles.
This gently-paced novel will bring smiles—and
maybe a wistful longing to find a place like Happenstance in the real world.
The road was scarcely wide enough for two cars to pass, a dirt path with a scattering of gravel on top as a sort of apology. [Kindle location 30]
We got whatcha want, unless you want what we don’t got, and then you prob’ly don’t need it. [Bear, describing the town; Kindle location 50]
They came with their offerings of food to their gods of guild and duty and pity, but he would rather have been alone. [Matt remembering the visitors after his wife’s death; Kindle location 1788]
Author Janice L. Dick is known for her
faith-filled historical fiction. Although The Road to Happenstance is a
contemporary novel, the town’s nostalgic feel lends an impression of stepping
back in time, and Matthew’s personal struggles are affected by his faith. For
more about the author and her work, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.
[Advance review copy provided by the publisher. My opinions are my own.]
Subtitled “A Caregiver’s Journey,” Bring
Each Other Home is a book for everyone. Most, if not all of us, will have
someone in our circle of acquaintance who’ll deal with dementia or Alzheimer’s
While Angelina and Joe’s story is their
own, the experiences she shares can make readers more sensitive to the needs of
both caregiver and patient. Let us not be people who add more hurt by
disbelieving, blaming, or judging caregivers if we don’t see in a brief
encounter what they see in 24/7 care. Nor let us add hurt by avoiding the
Readers who are caregivers will find
strength in knowing their struggles are not unique, and will be encouraged to
reach out to support groups and healthcare professionals for much-needed help.
[Note: caregivers new to this role and still dealing with the rawness of it all
may not be ready to read this book just yet.]
“This is my child. I love him dearly. He has walked with me a long, long time. I need for you to walk with him the rest of the way.” [The author’s impression of God speaking to her, p. 76]
…gradually we began to see the treasures God always tucks into the dark places He guides us through. [p 110-111]
Angelina Fast-Vlaar writes with honesty
and poignancy of the long, slow loss of her beloved husband, Joe. The narrative
is interspersed with poetry and restful black-and-white photos. It’s a sad
story, but one of love, faith, and persistence.
I was eager to read this book, since I’ve
communicated enough with author Susan Harris to respect her Christian faith and
her integrity. Despite the popularity of books recounting near-death
experiences (NDEs) I’ve avoided them until now because I had no way to verify
the writer’s trustworthiness.
Subtitled “A True Story of Heaven,
Healing, and Angels,” Touched by Eternity is a memoir of the author’s three
NDEs and related visions and how these events have shaped her life. A
nonfiction author with an analytical mind, she relies heavily on details
(including her hospital records and notes taken at the time) to anchor her
personal experiences in as much fact as possible.
At the same time, the events themselves
make the book as easy to read as a novel.
An experienced speaker, leader, and
teacher, Susan Harris makes no claims to having touched Eternity by her own
merit or strength. Instead, as one would expect with a near-death experience,
her moments of greatest physical pain and weakness have been the gateways to
the spiritual realm.
She writes with honesty about her personal
failings and about her struggle to understand what happened and to accept the
disappointment of tasting Heaven and then being returned to earthly life.
Christians can be uncomfortable discussing
NDEs out of fear of drifting into heresy or false teachings. The Bible shows
people being brought back from the dead, but we don’t get their testimonies of
what they saw while they were gone.
I appreciate how Susan Harris finds
biblical connections for many of her observations and how she’s careful to
present her interpretations as her own and not as doctrine or fact. Her stated
purpose in writing this book is to stimulate discussion, encourage the faith of
Christians, and inspire non-Christians to seriously consider Jesus’ words about
Heaven and Hell.
It’s interesting to read that in her
research into other NDE accounts, she found similarities and yet differences,
as if individuals were seeing part of a much-greater whole.
My whisper was hoarse, the broken kind He hears because He Himself had hung ragged on a rugged cross. [Kindle location 2284]
No matter how much or little pain we’ve
endured, Touched by Eternity reminds us that it’s in our brokenness that
we’re closest to God. It challenges us to take time alone with Him, to remember
what He’s taught us in the past, and to obey anything He’s called us to in the
present that we may have been neglecting. Our time on earth is limited, and we
need to be about our Father’s business before that time runs out.
Other books by Susan Harris include Little Copper Pennies (a history of the Canadian one-cent piece) and Remarkably Ordinary. She currently hosts a television show called ETERNITY. For more about the author and her work, visit susanharris.ca.
[Review copy provided by the author. My
opinions are my own.]
This anthology of true-life stories, fiction, and poetry from 55 Canadian Christian writers is a strong addition to the Hot Apple Cider series.
Memories from the past include tales of Canadian childhood from those born in Canada and children of immigrants making new homes in sometimes-challenging circumstances. Vignettes from the present include what Christmas might be like for the incarcerated, and Christmas celebrations with grandchildren. Short stories include a man who’s decided to live off the grid and a young woman who befriends an immigrant.
The Hot Apple Cider series are heart-warming collections along the line of the Chicken Soup books, but less sentimental. They’re all from Christian authors, but they’re not sermons. Instead, the writers’ faith is the worldview from which they draw their work.
December, 1918. Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a grim place, still shattered by the massive explosion that caused so much death and destruction one year previously.
The Great War is over, and the surviving troops are coming home, those not wounded in body, wounded in mind. News headlines cry worldwide unrest, and fear of the so-called “Spanish Flu” is so high that citizens avoid public trams and walk to their destinations.
To newspaper reporter Michael Bell, hope is dead. He survived a gas attack in the war and came home to lose his family in the explosion. Bitter pursuit of the facts of the world’s dark spiral has become his sole purpose in life.
When assigned a story of goodwill just before Christmas, about a mysterious lad with a missing leg and a generous heart, Michael insists he’ll only report the facts. And if the facts don’t produce the upbeat story his editor wants, so be it.
He’s paired with a female reporter who rejects his “wisdom of the head” for “wisdom of the heart.” As well as following their search, readers trace the days of a nameless beggar with the soul of a poet.
The narration itself has a poetic feel at times, with both poetry and prose philosophy quoted. Michael and the beggar are both well-read. Not surprisingly, given the title, Dickens is referenced, usually through Michael’s denial of his continuing influence in this darkened world.
This isn’t a retelling of A Christmas Carol, but those who know that story will find many nods to it. For example, Michael goes home to his dark, lonely, and cold lodgings where he broods by the fire, and he’s disturbed by significant dreams. And the ending, in A Christmas Carol fashion, gives a narrative summary of how certain things turn out happily ever after. While that’s ordinarily annoying, it works here as a final Dickensian touch.
For all the grim setting, and the stories of loss and trauma that Michael uncovers in his search for the boy, this isn’t a hard book to read. The omniscient narrative is well-handled to keep us at enough of a distance that we can observe and learn without being overwhelmed. The author reveals insights, details, and even smells that could only come from extensive research, yet it all flows as part of the story.
Because I usually review clean or Christian fiction, I’ll include a language warning with this one. There’s frequent minor profanity and one misuse of the name of Jesus.
Inspired by a true story, A Halifax Christmas Carol offers a look into a dark time in history, and yet may leave you with a warm hope reminiscent of Dickens’ tale.
Emma Jorgens’ outwardly stable life sits on a shaky foundation. She and her husband, Kent, are each wrapped up in their own lives and drifting apart. She has overindulged their fourteen-year-old daughter, Becky, whose entitled attitude is growing stronger by the day.
And Emma has a secret that could destroy everything she’s gained.
As a teenager, newly-arrived from Sweden, wide-eyed and impressionable, she fell for her employers’ son and had a baby. She was tricked into a closed adoption, so the records are sealed, but she’s never stopped wondering about her infant son.
Emma and Kent have created a basement apartment for some extra income. Their first tenant is a university student recommended by a friend – a young man named Mathias Smith.
It doesn’t take Emma long to realize Mathias is her son, and they begin a complicated attempt at a relationship. Mathias is frustrated because he wants to meet his birth father, who doesn’t know he exists.
Emma’s afraid to tell her husband the truth, but she’s out of time because the birth father is running for office and the tabloids are digging up whatever they can throw at him.
Emma and Mathias are each struggling, mentally spiralling into dark places because of their stress. Mathias’ health is deteriorating, too, and Emma’s so wrapped up in him that her husband and daughter feel abandoned.
The Other Child is an account of a secret finally exposed, and the emotional fallout that must come before any chance of a happy ending.
The author clearly knows her main characters well, but at times I was confused about what was happening because I needed more of a lead-in to orient me in the scene or I needed another clue to help me understand a character’s behaviour.
Pirkko Rytkonen has written an emotionally-complex novel that dares to address hard issues about relationships, secrets, and drug addiction. The Other Child is her first novel. Her writing theme is “Grace Through the Journey.” For more about the author and her work, and to read her blog entries, visit pirkkorytkonen.com.