Tag Archives: Heather Day Gilbert

Review: Out of Circulation, by Heather Day Gilbert

Out of Circulation, by Heather Day GilbertOut of Circulation, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2016)

Katie McClure is the only one in her family who wanted to follow her father’s footsteps into the FBI. Instead, she works in the library in a rural Appalachian town and lives in an apartment that’s only steps away from her mother’s house.

When masked intruders invade the library with guns – and call Katie by name – her mother hires a handsome stranger to protect her. Ace Calhoun claims to be a freelance bodyguard, but he has ulterior motives for getting close to the McClure family.

Katie and Ace are appealing characters, even though Ace is deceptive. This is a novella, not a full-length novel, yet there’s time for character development, a budding relationship, and of course the mystery.

Out of Circulation is book one in Heather Day Gilbert’s new Hemlock Creek Suspense series. The McClure family is Katie, her sister and brother and their mother. Their father is dead. I hope the series will follow Katie, since I found her easiest to relate to. I’m also hoping her brother will move back home and resolve his resentment toward their father.

Heather Day Gilbert is also the author of the Murder in the Mountains contemporary suspense series and a Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter. For more about the author, visit http://heatherdaygilbert.com/.

[Review based on reading this novella in the romantic suspense collection, Smoke and Mirrors, from my personal library. Out of Circulation is now available as a stand-alone book.]

Review: Smoke and Mirrors, a romantic suspense collection

Smoke and MirrorsSmoke and Mirrors, a romantic suspense collection (2016)

This is an ebook box set of “hidden identity” Christian romantic suspense novellas. At present, it’s only available for Kindle.

Some characters are in witness protection, some are undercover, and some are just plain hiding – either from danger or for nefarious purposes. It can be love at first sight, a relationship that’s been developing for a few years before the story opens, or characters with a past connection now thrown together again.

Stories are set in various parts of the US, including Alaska. Sometimes the tension is high, other times more moderate.

My pick of the set is Heather Day Gilbert’s Out of Circulation, mostly because I always enjoy her characters and her writing, but also because her protagonist walks with a limp and isn’t as beautiful as her sister. It seemed I met a lot of gorgeous people in this collection.

I also found a spiritual nugget in Connie Almony’s The Long View, where one of the Christian characters searches his Bible for a verse to tuck into his mind to meditate on in his worship time. His reverence for God’s holiness challenged me.

If romantic suspense is all you read, then devour the whole collection in one go. I like more variety, and should have spaced them out a bit.

These eight original novellas are written by authors Connie Almony, Sally Bradley, Hallee Bridgeman, Heather Day Gilbert, Kelli Hughett, Alana Terry, Rachel Trautmiller, and Alexa Verde. In some cases they’re stand-alone stories, and in others they either begin or continue other works from the authors.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Trial by Twelve, by Heather Day Gilbert

Trial by Twelve, by Heather Day Gilbert | A Murder in the Mountains #2Trial by Twelve, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2015)

Despite her troubled past, Tess is thriving in the close-knit Spencer family. She’s a feisty, straight-talking (and straight-shooting) wife and mother, trying to supplement the family income. She’s not looking for trouble, but trouble finds her – this time in the form of skeletons found buried at the spa where she works. Newer deaths suggest the killer isn’t finished yet.

Tess nearly lost her life the last time she investigated a mystery, and with a young daughter, she’d rather stifle her curiosity and stay safe. Unfortunately, her boss needs her on-site, and the investigating detective asks her to be his eyes on the scene. He promises to do all he can to keep her safe – and then advises her to conceal carry a gun just in case.

This is a satisfying novel, where plot, characters and setting blend into a compelling read. Heather Day Gilbert knows how to keep readers turning pages. Tess is one of those rare-to-me characters I’d like to have as a real-life friend.

Most chapters open with a letter from a disturbing man to the child he left behind, who he’d trained in bow-hunting. If the man was the original killer, are the new deaths a second-generation event? His letters refer to Buddhism and various philosophers, but don’t let that put you off.

Set in the mountains of West Virginia, Trial by Twelve is a clean read, featuring Tess and her family as Christian characters but without the strong spiritual theme that is sometimes expected in Christian fiction. Here is Tess’ most overt thought on faith, comparing herself to her mentor, Miranda:

“I feel so inadequate in the face of her faith, but I know she’d tell me we each grow at our own speed and the point is to be growing.” [Kindle location 3072]

And an example of her sense of humour, which means no disrespect to the church prayer chain:

“Quite a few people have police scanners in these parts, to keep up with the local news. It’s a lot faster than the newspaper, but maybe not quite as lickety-split as the prayer chain.” [Kindle location 3001]

Trial by Twelve is book two in the A Murder in the Mountains series. I’m not sure if it’s stronger than book one, Miranda Warning (which I very much enjoyed) or if I feel that way because I’m getting know the characters better. Either way, bring on book three!

Heather Day Gilbert is also the author of the acclaimed Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter. A sequel, Forest Child, is in the works. For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com. To read sample chapters from Trial by Twelve, click here.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Top 10 Books From 2014

‘Tis the season for “best of 2014” lists, and here are  my picks for top 10 books I’ve read this year. (Goodreads tells me I read 64… ouch! And I know I didn’t record everything there.) Some were published in 2014, and some are older. These are in no particular order, and each one is best in its own category.

Non-fiction:

Fiction:

My stash of books to read is already intimidating, but how about sharing some of your picks from 2014? I can always add a few more…

Review: Miranda Warning, by Heather Day Gilbert

Miranda Warning, by Heather Day GilbertMiranda Warning, by Heather Day Gilbert (Heather Day Gilbert, 2014)

After the depth of character, plot and setting of Heather Day Gilbert’s Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter, I had high expectations for her new novel, Miranda Warning. This one’s a contemporary suspense set in the mountains of West Virginia. Different characters, different issues, different voice. Same skill that drew me to keep reading.

Miranda Warning tells two stories in one, tying them into one satisfying ending. Tess is a young woman whose best friend, Miranda, is in her 70’s. When Miranda gets a letter in a dead woman’s handwriting, Tess starts asking questions.

The bulk of each chapter is in the first person, as told by Tess. However, each chapter opens with a third-person, past tense segment from 40 years earlier, narrated by Rose, the dead woman.

The warnings turn into threats, but Tess is determined to protect her elderly friend. Tess is a strong yet vulnerable character. She and her husband, Thomas, live in a cottage behind his family home. Tess loves her in-laws; they’re the family she never had. But she hasn’t been able to find work, and now she’s pregnant. And she doesn’t measure up to her mother-in-law’s talent of baking and decorating.

Although the suspense is the main plot, I found it interesting to see hints of how Tess’ self-comparisons kept her from realizing her true worth. How often do we, as real people, fall into this trap? It was also fun to watch her as a young bride under the combined stresses of the mystery, her husband’s long hours on the job, and pregnancy hormones. Tess didn’t see a positive example of marriage as a child, so she’s figuring this out as she goes along, with her in-laws as proof that a marriage can last.

Some of my favourite lines:

His piercing gaze reminds me of those hawks I see staring at small birds from the fence posts. [Kindle location 250]

I love the tactile experience of walking in the woods. Its muted browns, grays, and greens comfort me. The moss and leaves give softly under my boots. Large, scattered rocks feel permanent and unshakable. The pull of the mountain is like gravity for my soul. [Kindle location 1196]

This must be how you make your marriage work for years: you fix things and move on. [Kindle location 3234]

Heather Day Gilbert plans to release another Viking novel, Forest Child, as well as to continue her A Murder in the Mountains series. For more about the author and her books, visit her website: heatherdaygilbert.com. If you missed it, here’s a link to my interview with the character of Nikki Jo, Tess’ mother-in-law.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Character Interview: Nikki Jo Spencer

Heather Day Gilbert

Heather Day Gilbert

Regular readers of my blog may recognize Heather Day Gilbert as the author of the epic Viking historical, God’s Daughter. Heather also writes mysteries, including the recently-released Miranda Warning, a contemporary Appalachian suspense novel set in West Virginia.

Today, one of the characters from Miranda Warning joins us for an interview. Meet Nikki Jo Spencer. Nikki Jo, welcome. I hear the mountains of West Virginia are beautiful. Could you help us imagine being there?

Nikki Jo: Oh honey, it’s hard to capture it, but I’ll give it a shot. I live in the town of Buckneck… there’s a story behind that name, but my husband tells it better than I do. Anyway, our house is snugged down in a little valley just outside town. Our roads are crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Everyone loves our mountains in the fall, but I think the spring is even more impressive. It’s green just about everywhere you turn your head.

Janet: It sounds beautiful. Is there a down side? Anything you wish would change?

Nikki Jo: Not one blessed thing. I’ve always loved living in West Virginia—my family goes way back here, and so does my husband’s. My church family is wonderful, my son and daughter-in-law live nearby, my youngest has a great school… all in all I’m just pleased as punch.

Janet: What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Nikki Jo: Well now, it might be time management. I have lots to keep me busy around the house but I’m also really active at church. I like to keep my yard up and I have a bunch of bulbs I need to plant, but just no time to get around to it. My boys keep me hopping, too.

Janet: Tell us a bit about your family.

Nikki Jo: My husband, Roger, has a great sense of humor. That’s partly why I married him. I have three sons: Petey’s the youngest, and he somehow got red hair. Andrew is our middle boy, and he’s in college studying to be a doctor. He… well, he goes through girlfriends pretty fast. No idea why, but I’m hoping that will slow down someday. Like I said, my oldest, Thomas, lives in our cottage behind the main house. Thomas married Tess. She’s a West Virginia girl, like me.

Janet: Ah, yes, Tess. Is she a good match for Thomas?

Nikki Jo: They haven’t been married long, but I’d have to say yes. Thomas has always been pretty serious—he’s a lawyer now, so that’ll tell you something. Tess sort of lightens him up. She’s pregnant, you know. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m hoping it’s another girl to balance things out in our family. I want to teach my grandbabies to cook and sew… all those things my boys didn’t care about.

Janet: What about that mysterious letter? How do you think she should handle it?

Nikki Jo: I don’t know what letter you’re talking about… and what do you mean, handle it?

Janet: Oops! I assumed you knew. What will you do now, ask Tess about it, or wait for her to ask for advice?

Nikki Jo: Oh, I don’t pry. No ma’am, I don’t. But maybe you can tell me a little more about what you know when we’re done talking….

Janet: Do you know a woman named Rose?

Nikki Jo: Rose Campbell? Only Rose in these parts. She was the prettiest woman ever born around here… but honey, Rose died forty years ago. What does she have to do with anything? She was best friends with Miranda Michaels—Tess’ good friend over at the Haven. That’s an assisted living home.

Janet: Oh… and it’s Miranda who showed the letter to Tess. She said it looked like Rose’s handwriting. I wonder what’s going on.

Nikki Jo: Rose’s poor husband, Paul, still lives in that house where she died. Don’t think he ever got over her. But then again, you never know. He’s a quiet one.

Janet: Are you a woman of faith? If so, is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a difference for you?

Nikki Jo: Yes, I’m a Christian. I love to sing in the choir—the old hymns are my favorite. I know it’s not popular to sing about blood these days, but I do love Alas and did my Savior Bleed. I don’t like watered-down gospel. Jesus died and bled for me and that’s something I’m always going to be grateful for.

Janet: Grateful indeed! I understand you love to cook for a crowd. What  are some of the dishes your family looks forward to?

Nikki Jo: My boys each have their favorites. For Roger, it’s meatball subs. For Thomas, it’s a good ol’ southern pork barbeque. Andrew likes my cabbage rolls. And Petey… right now he’s happiest when I fix plain old sloppy joes.

Janet: It all sounds good to me! Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Nikki Jo: Morning. Why not get up and greet the day head-on?

Janet: What’s your favourite season?

Nikki Jo: Oh, I love Christmas. Every year I have a special theme for my tree. I think this year will be my most unforgettable yet.

Janet: That gives us something to look forward to! I’m sorry to come back to Tess, but I’m concerned about this letter she hasn’t told you about. If there’s trouble, do you think she might try the lone ranger route?

Nikki Jo: I wouldn’t put it past her. That girl has been through more than she’d ever say out loud and she’s tough in her own ways. Still, if she is in any kind of trouble, we all need to know. With her being pregnant, well… maybe they’d better move up into the big house with us if there’s anything dangerous around… I think I need to go find my phone….

Janet: I guess I’ll have to read Tess’ story and find out what happens. Thanks for visiting today, Nikki Jo, and introducing us to your world.

===

Miranda Warning, by Heather Day Gilbert

Miranda WarningBook One in A Murder in the Mountains Series

Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her.

But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox—a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting—Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer…or the next victim might be Tess herself.

Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, released June 20th.

Picks from 2013

My favourites from 2013:

Books

Best of the year: also most satisfying series wrap-up:

Most satisfying mystery, and very close to best of the year:

Most can’t-wait-to-read-the-next-one mystery:

Most life-changing (fiction):

Most life-changing (non-fiction):

Most satisfying science fiction (and action):

Most satisfying fantasy novel:

Most satisfying speculative fiction:

  • Mask, by Kerry Nietz

Most satisfying historical:

Most laugh-inducing:

Most personally helpful writing how-to:

Blogs

Most life-changing posts:

Review: God’s Daughter, by Heather Day Gilbert

God's Daughter, by Heather Day GilbertGod’s Daughter, by Heather Day Gilbert (Createspace, 2013)

If all you know about Vikings are the names Eric the Red and Leif Ericsson, God’s Daughter is a great way to learn more and to perhaps break some stereotypes. For example, I didn’t know they had any exposure to Christianity. Or that Eric’s name is properly spelled Eiric.

Many of the novel’s characters are genuine historical figures, and their voyage actually happened around 1000 AD. The setting and events have been meticulously researched to allow Heather Day Gilbert to weave a story that feels true.

The main character, a Viking woman named Gudrid, travels with her sailor-trader husband and his crew in search of Leif Ericsson’s Vinland. This man, Finn, is Gudrid’s third husband, the first two having died of “the shivering sickness.” She knows he loves her, but why can’t he be more thoughtful and protective, like his business partner, Snorri?

Together, then separately, they face down mutineers among the crew, attacking natives, and other dangers. Likely none of us have experienced Gudrid and Finn’s dangers, but just as likely we’ve all had trouble with comparisons and expectations. This is a subplot to the main story of the voyage, but for me it makes a connecting point that brings the characters even more alive.

Gudrid is one of the few Christians in the story, and she lives her faith the best she can based on what she’s been taught. She longs for her own copy of the Holy Book—and to be able to read—so she could learn more. As the story progresses, she articulates her turmoil this way:

Can I ever be happy where I am, with my own husband? What is wrong with me? And why do I always search for a protector? [Kindle location 3130]

She trusts God, but she’s still working toward the understanding that in Him alone can she find the protection and the love she craves.

God’s Daughter is a satisfying historical novel with characters I cared about. Details like methods of treating illness and the differences between Europeans’ and Vikings’ approaches to toilet training (Gudrid and Finn have a young son) flow naturally to help readers imagine the story world. There are no information dumps in this novel, nor any of the other awkward moments that can come with a debut novel.

My favourite line: Gudrid describes Snorri as “rubbing his hand over his bald head in a gesture that always makes me think he misses his hair.” [Kindle location 1521]

Heather Day Gilbert has crafted an amazing tale, brimming with adventure, compassion and insight. There’s much more to God’s Daughter than I can capture in a review, so let me just say I highly recommend this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the sequel, Forest Child.

You can find Heather Day Gilbert at her website, along with maps, a glossary and other bonus features related to the novel. Take a few minutes to read the opening chapters of God’s Daughter (and be prepared to want more).

[Review copy from my personal library.]