Saturday, September 28, 2013

On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin

On Distant Shores

She has done it again! I have read every one of Sarah’s novels and loved them all!

Let’s begin with the summary of this second of the “Wings of Nightingale” series:

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson. Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

And now, my review:

Every single time I pick up one of Sarah’s novels I think two things: 1) I’m not a WWII buff, but Sarah always makes this fiction genre so interesting it doesn’t matter, and 2) I will find what I call life-changing nuggets.

Sarah writes with such wisdom, dropping poignant truths into reader’s lives. Without being preachy, Sarah takes readers through relatable theme and helps us apply understanding to our own struggles. That’s a trademark of her novels. 

Her prose keeps me reading, and her characters keep me coming back to the novel until I’ve devoured it. And then, when I’m finished reading, I miss these people. 

On the constructive side, there was a little much where Hutch’s whining was concerned. And we seemed to spend a lot of time on his symptoms. Then, the reversal seemed too easy. But, somehow, I still respected him and rooted for him as the hero. That's the sign of a good writer.

I liked how Georgie had to learn to stand up for herself and make her own decisions, though only one person was holding her to that challenge.

Several twists kept this story from being predictable. Another winner for Sarah! Can’t wait for her next novel to release.

Highly recommended!

(click for links to purchase)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz

Welcome to the blog tour for Laura Frantz's latest book, Love's Awakening! Recently, I’ve been watching Who Do You Think You Are and the mention of the Civil War and Pennsylvania’s involvement as a state—the divisions and violence. I didn’t know when I picked up Laura’s latest book in the Ballantyne Legacy series that this was one of her subjects. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future--and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family's violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?

Masterful storyteller Laura Frantz continues to unfold the stirring saga of the Ballantyne family in this majestic tale of love, loyalty, and the makings of a legacy. With rich descriptions of the people who settled and civilized a wild landscape, Frantz weaves a tapestry of characters and places that stick with the reader long after they turn the last page.

And now, my review:

I really enjoyed Laura’s first book in this series, Love’s Reckoning, so I was thrilled to read this book for review. Laura’s work never disappoints. Both character and plot layers made for a rich read, and I didn't want to put the book down until I’d finished it. 

As mentioned, she wrote of the pre-civil war unrest in Pennsylvania and of those who tried to help and those who were cruel in their pro-slavery methods. In her author’s note, Laura mentioned that the incidents she describes of the slaves in her story were taken from historical record, adding weightiness to the tales she told. 

There was sweet torment in the continued distance between the hero and heroine. A part of their romantic story—the misjudgments that kept them apart—don’t keep our heroine, Ellie, from falling for Jack. And though he believes the lies about himself, because he knows the sins of his family and feels the burden of the family name, we still see Jack act nobly. Yet, he wasn’t a saint and was therefore the more lovable. 

Our heroine’s sweetness and courage were also endearing, making her both a sympathetic character as well as one I could readily champion.

I also caught several wise truths in the story. Specifically, that our lives and the futures of our descendants can turn in a moment, based on one decision. So true! A weighty responsibility our noble characters took to heart.

I enjoyed seeing the ongoing life story of Silas Ballantyne and his family as began in the first book. I’d recommend beginning with book one, though readers would be able to read this novel without doing so. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Highly recommended!

(click for links to both print and e-book versions)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Five Days in Skye: A Novel by Carla Laureano

Five Days in Skye: a novel
I love finding a new author whose work I enjoy. With this debut novel, Carla Laureano has garnered lots of fans, I’m certain. And I’m one of them.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

And now, my review:

What’s not to love about a getaway setting like Scotland? Such a treat to join our heroine and hero on the Isle of Skye. From the Scots’ interesting words to the beauty I could picture in my mind, I loved the setting! 

Our hero is a world-class chef, and this cooking aspect was delightful. I had no trouble believing the heroine as a capable hospitality consultant (what an interesting job!). I also loved her proficiency in music.

The prose and pacing kept me flipping screens. (I read the e-book version.) And the romance… wow. The romance developed so smoothly with just the right ingredients that I would place this novel among the top five I’ve read this year. Easily. 

Our heroine has been burned and in order to open her heart, she’ll have to try to trust the hero. Her guards will have to come down. Music tends to help her let go. He loves this about her. At one point, Aunt Muriel calls her fragile. But she’s very strong, while being sympathetic, which makes readers root for her.

Our hero has a reputation as a ladies’ man. And he hasn’t done much to correct this view, as if believing the lies himself. Now, he’s no saint, but he’s not what the heroine initially assumes he is. His nobility make readers both respect and champion him as well. Really well done.

I have entire passages highlighted in my Kindle and had fun rereading them as I penned this review.
Do yourself a favor. Set aside some time and read this book. Such a treat! 

Carla Laureano is an author to watch! 

Highly recommended.
(click for both print and e-book versions)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell

When Mountains Move
This title releases today, September 1st. Let’s begin with the summary:

It is the spring of 1943. With a wedding and a cross-country move, Millie’s world is about to change forever.

If only her past could change with it.

Soon after the break of day, Bump will become Millie’s husband. And then, if all goes as planned, they will leave the rain-soaked fields of Mississippi and head for the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. As Millie tries to forget a dark secret, she hasn’t yet realized how drastically those past experiences will impact the coming days.

For most of Millie’s life, being free felt about as unlikely as the mountains moving. But she’s about to discover that sometimes in life, we are given second chances, and that the only thing bigger than her past … is her future.

And now, my review:

I enjoy reading first-person, present tense narrative. So, generally, I appreciated that aspect of this story. However, there were some point-of-view issues [for example, the main character cannot see the tears tracking down “the margins of (her own) face,” etc.]. And there were a few confusing aspects. I couldn't keep track of all the characters. The hero’s name is Bump. Odd. And we don’t get an explanation as to why others call him that, even by chapter four. Though, around the end of chapter three, we do learn his actual name: Kenneth.

Based on the summary, you wouldn’t know the dark secret, and I won’t divulge it, because readers will find out for themselves. But this book should come with a caution. I read Christian fiction because I prefer to avoid certain topics and descriptions as I read. I like to find hope. Even if the story begins dark, I know there’s hope. I didn’t find much hope here. Nor did I find much of a God-element in the early chapters. I understand contrasting hope with hopelessness and darkness with light. But I'd rather have the violence alluded to (off screen) rather than described, even by memory (on screen).

I didn’t find a likable heroine. I felt for her, sure. But I wouldn’t say that I became attached or even that I rooted for her. She was too confusing. It seemed I was dropped into action without all the facts needed to keep up or even catch up. Nor did I find her approachable. Again, she was too confusing for that. And though we were in first-person, present tense narrative, we were kept at a distance. Also, the main character's actions weren't always believable. Why does she so easily go where she’s determined not to, after what’s happened?

I didn’t get a strong sense of setting (outside of being told we were in 1943 at the outset) until the twosome took off in their 1937 pickup truck, which was around the end of chapter three or so. 

And I’ll confess. Once the author broke trust with me, (I had no idea how edgy this book was), I stopped reading. Even the unanswered questions weren’t enough. If the book would describe that (element that won’t be mentioned here), I certainly didn’t trust where future events might come up.

Generally, I don't write reviews for books I don't finish and/or enjoy, but this time, I felt I wanted to provide a caution. Another voice. I still wish this author and her publisher well. This novel just wasn't for me.