Sunday, January 31, 2021

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green


Things We Didn't Say by Amy Lynn Green

Let’s begin with the summary:

Headstrong Johanna Berglund, a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota, has very definite plans for her future . . . plans that do not include returning to her hometown and the secrets and heartaches she left behind there. But the US Army wants her to work as a translator at a nearby camp for German POWs.

Johanna arrives to find the once-sleepy town exploding with hostility. Most patriotic citizens want nothing to do with German soldiers laboring in their fields, and they're not afraid to criticize those who work at the camp as well. When Johanna describes the trouble to her friend Peter Ito, a language instructor at a school for military intelligence officers, he encourages her to give the town that rejected her a second chance.

As Johanna interacts with the men of the camp and censors their letters home, she begins to see the prisoners in a more sympathetic light. But advocating for better treatment makes her enemies in the community, especially when charismatic German spokesman Stefan Werner begins to show interest in Johanna and her work. The longer Johanna wages her home-front battle, the more the lines between compassion and treason become blurred--and it's no longer clear whom she can trust.

And now, my review:

This is an epistolary novel (one that is told entirely through letters). I enjoy this second-person storytelling style. And though we don’t get to explore deep POV in the traditional way, we still get a sense that the heroine is strong, opinionated, and highly intelligent. We respect her. We cheer for her even as we wish she’d mature.

We revisit WWII in this novel as well, which is both interesting and at times heavy.

I liked the secondary characters, whom we learn about via their own letters or how they’re described by the letter writers. I related with the heroine’s love of languages and desire to expand her experience, not return to what she used to know. I liked how she sought to move forward and not be dragged backward. Yet the circumstances gave her no choice. I also liked this approach to a WWII novel—from the POW’s point of view.

Hats off to the author for writing a full historical in this genre. Unfortunately, when my attention started to wane at about 13 percent into the book, I gave up in favor of the dozens of books in my TBR pile. Readers who enjoy a new approach to the WWII historical genre will likely love the subtleties and history of this book. I am interested in the German-American’s experience of that time period and may return to this novel in the future when I’m not under deadline with other reviews and library turnaround.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wildflower Road by Janine Rosche

Wildflower Road by Janine Rosche

Madison River Romance series; book two I recommend you read book one first, but you won’t be lost if you don’t. Book one is called This Wandering Heart. You can read my review for book one here.

Let’s begin with the summary for Wildflower Road:

A young widow is tempted to love again after her heartbreaking loss in this new Madison River Romance.

After her husband's tragic death, Ryann Marie Ashcroft's only remaining dream is to save her family's struggling mountain resort. And the last person she wants to rely on is a brooding stranger with secrets of his own.

Nicknamed America's rock-and-roll pastor, Shane Olson arrives in Montana after a viral video destroys his marriage, his ministry, and his reputation. Working side by side on the banks of the Madison River, he and Ryann get a second chance at love. But not everyone wants to see their happily ever after.

And now, my review:

After reading This Wandering Heart, I was curious about this character. She was the hero’s sister, and she made interesting choices in book one. So, getting to read her story and learn more about her motives helped satisfy my curiosity.

Ryann is a complex character. She’s a young widow (see summary) and has suffered a lot. We saw a bit of that in book one. But here we learn the whole story. I appreciated the author’s note explaining that this book deals with “sensitive issues including harassment, depression, and suicide.” As a reader who is sensitive to content, this was fair warning that I would likely be skimming some scenes, and I did. I felt the author handled these subjects well, and again, the author letter at the beginning of the story helped prepare me. I’d say the story is well worth reading, but only if those issues will not cause more harm for the reader.

Shane, the story’s hero, is also complex. He’s a former pastor who is hiding from his past. But he’s honorable and noble, gentle and kind. I loved this pastoring aspect to his character every time we got to explore it on the page with other characters. In fact, there wasn’t quite enough of this aspect for me.

After reading book one, I delighted to find Janine’s trademark prose and description style in book two. She writes insightfully, using her descriptions to take us into the character’s experience in profound ways. Like this excerpt from page 147 when the hero finally opens up to the heroine:

“She wouldn’t dare move. Not even breathe. This moment had the fragility of winter’s first blanket of ice atop the lake. One misstep and they’d both fall through.”

Grace is one of the book’s themes. I loved exploring this. A pastor should understand grace, and yet Shane struggles with this. He’s in agreement with shame and condemnation at the beginning of the story. It was enjoyable watching God woo Shane back to Himself and into freedom. The author again includes God speaking within the narrative. Yay!

Another positive ingredient is the friendships in this story and how Ryann’s community surrounds her, and eventually Shane as well. Ryann’s fiercely protective and hasn’t learned to trust God to protect her family and friends. She has a martyr’s mentality, but without wisdom it’s a messiah complex that is detrimental and even dangerous.

Another of Janine’s skills is dropping breadcrumbs without leaving readers feeling too lost or worse, frustrated. She also includes humor, so readers won’t feel the story line is too heavy.

Overall, a very good read. I can’t wait to dive into book three.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

This Wandering Heart by Janine Rosche


This Wandering Heart by Janine Rosche

Madison River Romance series: Book One

A fellow reader recommended this book to me. So glad my library had it in e-book format.

Let’s begin with the summary:

In the first entry in the Madison River Romance series, Keira Knudsen gets the traveling opportunity of a lifetime, but when she reunites with her first love, Robbie, she learns that even a wandering heart needs a home....

No one in the quaint town of West Yellowstone, Montana, knows that unassuming geography teacher Keira Knudsen moonlights as sensational travel blogger Kat Wanderfull. No one, that is, except for her first love, Robbie Matthews, who has just discovered the woman he is falling for online is the same one that broke his heart five years ago.

But Robbie has another problem: the mother of his daughter, Anabelle, has resurfaced after a three-year absence determined to rip Anabelle away from him. Robbie needs a steady paycheck for a chance at custody, and now, on the eve of a grand adventure that could give Keira a chance to flee her old, troubled life once and for all, she is in need of assistance.

With so much broken trust between them, Keira and Robbie must keep an arms-length away to make this partnership work. But the more time they spend together, exploring majestic places and sharing new experiences, the closer they get—until their secrets and dreams threaten to cost them everything.

And now, my review:

Oh, I loved this book! I haven’t read this author before (that I recall). We have a travel blogger who serves as a product influencer. A very interesting, trendy career. Loved that. She’s nomadic and troubled by her past. But she's also looking for a good relationship.

The hero is a great single father to his young daughter. This aspect was so well written. He sacrificed and protected, and their interactions were adorable. 

I loved that this was a reunion romance. These two were once in love. They share a pen pal relationship, which I really enjoyed. 

The author’s prose and descriptions helped immersed me in the story. I felt I was in the locations Kat Wanderfull visited. 

Here’s an example of the author's prose: “…before finding his eyes, which still lingered on her mouth. A dreamy expression flickered across his face. If she had to guess, he found his way to the same memory, but he set up a picnic there.” (page 43)

Or this: “Just like that, a portion of her fortress crumbled. And Keira had no immediate plans to rebuild.” (page 84)

These two had fun banter! Their jobs force them together, leading to some great romantic tension. From what I could find this isn’t a Christian publisher, but the story is “clean” or wholesome. (You won’t find nudity, profanity, or sex scenes.)

My favorite part of this book, on top of all the other things I loved about it, was the way the author included God in the story. She added a touch here and there. Two-way dialogue, God directing the imperfect characters. So good! 

The book deals with some heavier material, but it’s not overly so. I found a ton to love about it and looked forward to reading opportunities throughout the day. I could barely put it down to tackle life stuff.

The overall feel is that of hope as light comes into the circumstances. A great story. A great romance. Imperfect characters who grow and find hope. Excellent prose. I loved it. 

Looking forward to checking out the next books in this series.

Highly recommended!