Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Secrets of Sloane House" Review

Rosalind Perry came to Chicago to be a housemaid at the lavish Sloane House, home to one of the most influential families in all of Chicago. But what the Sloanes don’t know is that Rosalind has another reason for being there – to determine what happened to her sister, who was also employed at Sloane House but who seems to have vanished into thin air.

Reid Armstrong is the only son of an up-and-coming family among Chicago’s elite. Since his family is not from “old” money, Reid is expected to marry up. Veronica Sloane should fit the bill just fine, but Reid suspects that not all is as it seems at Sloane House, and he is curiously attracted to one of the Sloane House maids – Rosalind Perry.

When Reid discovers the real reason that Rosalind is at Sloane House, the two begin to work together to discover the truth. But the secrets of Sloane House may be more frightening than either of them could ever have imagined.

With a backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, Secrets of Sloane House explores the lives of both the sophisticated elite and those who are there to serve them.

Shelley Gray is a new author to me, and I was interested to read another book based around the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. After a bit of a slow and repetitive start, I was able to become more interested in the story as Rosalind became more accustomed to her surroundings and began to work with Reid a bit more to search for the truth about what happened to her sister.

The best part of this story was how Rosalind grew over the course of the novel. Even though at times this growth seemed to leap ahead rather quickly, it was still substantial and really added to the story overall. When she first comes to Sloane House, she is scared of her own shadow, but as the story moves on, she becomes so much stronger and more self-reliant. She really gains a confidence that was nice to see in a housemaid during this time period.

Unfortunately, the other parts of the story were not quite as cohesive. The search for Rosalind’s sister is pretty much the only story being told, and any other bits thrown in didn’t always seem to fit or were not explored deeply enough. Reid and his family come across as contradictory, and the romance between Rosalind and Reid was fairly flat. They didn’t seem to spend much time together to really get to know each other before their thoughts were turning to love.

As for the mystery element to this novel, it was fairly convincing. Wondering what happened to Rosalind’s sister was definitely the thing that kept me reading to the end of the book. It was also interesting to read about the different classes – the “elite” and the “help” – and I thought this novel clearly portrayed those relationships, however cruel they might have been.

While Rosalind does experience growth over the course of this novel, the spiritual aspect still felt a bit lacking. Rosalind credits her growth and strength to God, but I didn’t feel any passion behind her thoughts on this matter. The overall spiritual aspect could have gone much deeper, especially considering all of the things the characters encountered.

Some of the secondary characters in the novel were actually quite interesting, but they didn’t always seem to be explored deeply enough either. There was a jolting shift in point of view three-quarters of the way through the book to a minor character that actually ending up being one of the most interesting parts of the book. Fortunately, this character is the main character in the next novel in the series, which does pique my interest in continuing the series.

I will give Secrets of Sloane House ... 3 BookWorms.







Secrets of Sloane House
by Shelley Gray
"Chicago World's Fair Mystery" #1
Zondervan Publishers
Publication date: July 8, 2014






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
 

 

Friday, September 5, 2014

"How Can I Be Sure" Blog Tour

How Can I Be Sure?
by John Stevens

Many Christians experience times of doubt and uncertainty. At various times we can ask: Does God love me? Am I really a Christian? – and even Is there a God at all?

This short, readable book unpacks the difference between good and bad doubt, shows us where it comes from and how to deal with it in ourselves and others.

It explains clearly and simply the liberating reality of what the Bible tells us about doubt, assurance, and the Christian life.




Table of Contents:
Introduction: The many faces of doubt

1. What is doubt?
2. Why is doubt dangerous?
3. What do I have to believe to be a Christian?
4. How can I overcome doubt as a Christian?
5. How can I develop a confident faith?

 Conclusion: Living with faith and doubt



Book Information:
•Publisher: The Good Book Company
•ISBN: 9781909559158
•Page Count:  96


About the Author: John Stevens lectured in law at the University of Birmingham before entering full time ministry. He is the National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches in the UK and co-pastor of a church plant in Market Harborough. John is married to Ursula and they have four children.


My Take:

Since becoming a Christian at the age of eight, I have experienced doubt about my salvation at different points in my life. I always try to read any book about doubting your salvation that I can get my hands on since I can easily fall back into this wrong pattern of thinking.

This short but truth-packed book really hit home for me with some of the doubts I have had in the past. There were so many sentences and passages that I highlighted -- it is an immensely quotable little book!

  • "The very fact that you are not complacent about spiritual decline or stagnation is a sigh of genuine faith."
  • "You can be confident that your relationship with God does not depend on your faith being perfect. Your relationship with God is secure because you have been united with Christ and justified in the sign of God....[Christ] never fell into the sin of unbelief, so all your doubts are covered by His perfect faith, which is counted as yours."
  • "In the end, all doubt is a battle between trusting the word of God and trusting our own feelings and intuitions about reality."

Overall, this little book feels kind of more like an essay or a pamphlet rather than an in-depth book, but, as I said earlier, it is packed with truth. I would have liked a few more Bible verses and passages to go into more depth about doubt and faith. Even so, this book is a great place to get started when wrestling with your own doubt about God and salvation or if you are working with someone else who is having a difficult time with these issues.

I will give How Can I Be Sure? ... 4 BookWorms.










How Can I Be Sure?
by John Stevens
"Questions Christians Ask" series
The Good Book Company
Publication date: July 8, 2014
96 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Good Book Company via Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, August 22, 2014

"In Perfect Time" Blog Tour

About the book: Bold, sophisticated, and flirtatious, Army Air Force flight nurse Lt. Kay Jobson collects hearts wherever she flies, leaving men pining in airfields all across Europe. So how can ruggedly handsome C-47 pilot Lt. Roger Cooper be all but immune to her considerable charms? In fact, he seems to do everything he can to avoid her.

Still, as they cross the skies between Italy and southern France, evacuating the wounded and delivering paratroopers and supplies, every beat of their hearts draws them closer to where they don't want to go.

Can they confront the fears and misunderstandings in their pasts?
 


Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/zt6iH 



About the author: Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter and the Wings of Glory series. In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards, and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

Find Sarah online: website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest



My Take:

Army Air Force flight nurse Lt. Kay Jobson is bold, confident, and willing to take on whatever this horrid war throws her way. With a string of beaus in almost every airfield in Europe, Kay is surprised when pilot Lt. Roger Cooper rebuffs her attempts to get his attention.

Lt. Roger Cooper is doing what most every pilot in the war is doing – biding his time until he can rack up enough missions to earn a trip home for good. Roger dreams of playing drums for one of the hottest big bands in the U.S., and if he can impress his CO enough, he might just get the chance. But Kay Jobson is a distraction every which way he turns, and Roger is eventually drawn to her.

Can Roger and Kay put aside the fears and mistakes of their pasts to open their hearts to a bright and blessed future?

In Perfect Time is book three in the “Wings of the Nightingale” series by Sarah Sundin.

Having gotten to know Kay in the previous two books in this series, I was very excited to read her story in this novel. Each book in this series could probably be read by itself easily enough, but they really do build on each other and are much more enjoyable when taken as a complete series.

The best thing by far about this novel was the historical aspect. Ms. Sundin has a knack for giving as much historical detail as possible without any of it becoming boring or confusing. As in the previous novels in this series, I was completely fascinated by the historical details of World War Two and the experiences of the pilots and the flight nurses of this era. It was so interesting to see how much the flight nurses contributed to so many different aspects of the war. Their relationships with each other were also interesting and really contributed well to create an emotionally in-depth and historically accurate fiction novel.

I thought that the two main characters in this novel made an intriguing couple. Kay and Roger had backgrounds that were a bit stereotypical, but the characters were still engaging. I absolutely loved how you could see that God was orchestrating everything about their relationship. When I look back on the relationship between my husband and me, I can see so many times where there was just no doubt that God was putting us into each other’s paths, and it was neat to see something similar in this novel. It was also really neat to go back and see Mellie and Tom and Georgie and Hutch and to continue to follow them during the war and a bit after.

Even though I liked the romance between Kay and Roger, it got to be way too drawn out towards the end. I as the reader knew what was ultimately going to happen between these two, and I got a bit tired of the back and forth as the story progressed.

Another thing that was really good about this book was how the characters experienced so much growth over the course of the novel. I especially liked how Roger becomes more and more confident in himself and his abilities and how he is finally able to clearly see in himself what others have seen all along. His decision about his career at the end of the novel was deeply satisfying, and it was a stand-out part of the book for me. I also liked that his characters played the drums – that was a unique twist.

Normally I don’t enjoy reading stories – even historical fiction ones – that take place during a war, but Sarah Sundin has a way of writing that displays the truth about war without going into so much detail that it becomes miserable and grisly. There were many times during In Perfect Time when the characters were in grave danger and the horrors of war were displayed. But at no time was there a feeling of hopelessness or a lack of faith in a God who is in control even in the midst of a terrible war. This is what makes this series stand out from other books that I have read about WWII. They are historically accurate without being unnecessarily graphic. They are informative while still being enjoyable. And they ultimately turn to faith in Christ as a source of comfort during any war we may be facing.


I will give In Perfect Time … 4 BookWorms.


 








In Perfect Time
by Sarah Sundin
"Wings of the Nightingale" #3
Revell Publishers
Publication date: August 5, 2014


Read my reviews of the previous two novels in this series here - With Every Letter and On Distant Shores.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."






Don’t miss Sarah Sundin‘s hot-off-the-press novel, In Perfect Time. Publishers Weekly gives it an enthusiastic thumbs up: “Sundin excels at well-researched historical detail . . . with such accurate depictions of culture and setting that we are fully immersed in the times as well as in the story. The strength of relationships forged in war and the apprehension of God in times of trouble infuse this well-crafted novel with substance and light.”

Sarah is celebrating the release of her book with a fun giveaway!


perfecttime-400-click

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • The Wings of the Nightingale Series (With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, and In Perfect Time)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. Winner will be announced August 25th at Sarah’s blog.

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Sarah’s blog on the 25th to see if you won! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Contest for "In Perfect Time"



Don’t miss Sarah Sundin‘s hot-off-the-press novel, In Perfect Time. Publishers Weekly gives it an enthusiastic thumbs up: “Sundin excels at well-researched historical detail . . . with such accurate depictions of culture and setting that we are fully immersed in the times as well as in the story. The strength of relationships forged in war and the apprehension of God in times of trouble infuse this well-crafted novel with substance and light.”

Sarah is celebrating the release of her book with a fun giveaway!

perfecttime-400-click

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • The Wings of the Nightingale Series (With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, and In Perfect Time)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. Winner will be announced August 25th at Sarah’s blog.

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Sarah’s blog on the 25th to see if you won! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Full Steam Ahead" Review

Nicole Renard might be a smart young woman who has grown up around boats her entire life, but she is not what her father needs when it comes to taking over the helm of Renard Shipping. With her father’s health failing, Nicole sets off from Galveston to New Orleans with a controversial dowry to do the only thing she can do to remedy the situation – find a husband.

Darius Thornton has made it his life’s work to make steamboats safer for the many patrons who travel on them. After a boiler explosion on a steamboat almost took his life, Darius secluded himself on an estate in Texas to conduct experiments and testing to improve boilers and enhance safety aboard steamboats. Nothing can come between Darius and his experiments – that is until Nicole shows up on his doorstep looking for work.

When Nicole is prevented from making it to New Orleans because of interference from her father’s competitors, she has no recourse but to look for work in the small town of Liberty, Texas. Darius Thornton is not the best of employers, but it will buy her some time to make money to continue her journey and will provide some measure of safety from those who pursue her.

As Nicole and Darius begin to work on the boiler experiments together, their growing attraction for each other further complicates matters. Both of them have callings in their lives that leave no room for love. What will happen when they take a chance and learn to trust that God’s plans are always best?

Set near Galveston, Texas, in 1851, Full Steam Ahead is a romantic tale of love and trust against a backdrop of scientific discovery.

This novel literally starts off with a bang as the reader is taken immediately to Darius and his experience onboard the steamboat Louisiana as it sinks due to a boiler explosion. This way of introducing one of the main characters really draws you in and lets you get to know the character’s thoughts and feelings in a way that is immediate and personal. This first section was rough to read due to its graphic description of the steamboat accident, but, as I said, it really got you into the book all at once. The introduction to Nicole and her arrival at Oakhaven as Darius’s secretary was also interesting and fast-paced.

The main plot of this book about Darius and his experiments was really fascinating, and it made an excellent backdrop for the rest of the story. This was probably the most interesting thing to me historically and as a part of the story. And although the spiritual side of things could have gone much deeper, there were still times when the characters really did grow and change and learn to trust God even when it was hard.

As for the romantic aspect of the book, it started out really well. Their attraction to each other was based on so much more than just physical appearance. Darius was captivated by Nicole’s mind and by her fierce determination. Nicole was able to look past Darius’s eccentricities and see the passion and integrity that went into his work. But as their relationship progressed, this angle got lost and was replaced by romance-novel-type drivel. An example of this is when Darius kisses Nicole, and in his mind the kiss is described as “branding her as his.” It’s hard for me to describe when and how this shift occurred, but it just didn’t seem as if the same two people who were in the relationship at the beginning/middle of the book were the same ones more towards the end. The fact that this relationship took place over an unrealistic two-week period might have had something to do with it, but I’m not sure.

Aside from this romantic contradiction, the remainder of the novel was really fantastic. There is an adventure angle that has to do with Nicole’s dowry and inheritance that really puts a pirate-type twist on the ending. Although somewhat unrealistic, it was really fun and made for an exciting and satisfying novel overall.

Except for some of the romantic parts in the middle, Full Steam Ahead was an enjoyable escape with engaging characters and a plot that kept me turning pages right to the end.

I will give Full Steam Ahead ... 4 BookWorms.








Full Steam Ahead
by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: May 27, 2014






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"A Moment in Time" Review

Alice Chesterfield wonders if she will be hiding for the rest of her life. The man who killed her father and left her with a terrible facial scar will not cease harassing Alice for information of the whereabouts of the valuable papers her father supposedly left behind. Pursued by this horrible man and haunted by the memories of her attack, Alice hopes a move to Texas with her former employer and friend, Marty Wythe, will be just the escape she needs.

At first, being in Texas seems to be the best thing to ever happen to Alice. She finds that she enjoys ranch life, and she is surprisingly attracted to Marty’s nephew, Robert Barnett, who doesn’t seem to mind the terrible scar that mars her face. But when long-held secrets are revealed about her family, the truth is harder than Alice feels she can bear.

Can Alice rely on God to give her the peace and love that she so desperately desires?

A Moment in Time is book two in the Lone Star Bride series by Tracie Peterson.

Books by Tracie Peterson always take me back to when I first started reading Christian historical fiction. What I like so much about the genre is its simplicity and its ability to deliver a sweet, clean, romantic story that might be a bit predictable but is still entertaining. I also really enjoy when a novel in this genre is easy to read and just has that extra touch of something in it that keeps it interesting throughout.
A Moment in Time delivered on all of these points.

Alice and Robert were easy characters to get to know, and I especially liked Robert right away. It was easy to see where the romance was going, in spite of a few entanglements, but it was still sweet to see how it all unfolded.

Probably the most interesting part of the book for me was the storyline of Alice’s mother and brother and how that whole situation was ultimately resolved. This part of the story was a difficult subject as far as forgiveness and moving on after a wrong has been done to you, and I thought it was handled reasonably well.  As for the other spiritual aspects, they were appropriate, but I thought they could have used a bit more depth.

While this novel is very easy to read and enjoyable, it is somewhat on the simplistic side. The characters do deal with things that are real, but sometimes their dialogue and their ability to move on so quickly seemed somewhat unrealistic. I actually like this type of book most of the time in Christian fiction, especially historical fiction. I like to have fun and be entertained while reading a book instead of reading one that purposefully tries to get you to cry. I realize that bad things do happen in life and in fiction, but I prefer to at least be able to read about a happy ending in a novel even if it doesn’t always happen in real life.

Another thing I liked about this novel was that the story of Marty and Jake continued from the first book, A Sensible Arrangement. I am looking forward to the next novel in the series where I can read a new story and hopefully continue to find out what happens to Marty & Jake and Alice & Robert in the future.
I will give A Moment in Time ... 3.5 BookWorms.








A Moment in Time
by Tracie Peterson
"Lone Star Brides" #1
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: June 3, 2014






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Out of the Ruins" Review

Abby Fischer is praying for a miracle. Her beloved sister Cecilia has leukemia, and the usual treatments are no longer working. When Dr. Robert King arrives on the scene with an experimental treatment for cancer, it seems as if he is heaven-sent. But the new radiation treatments are risky, and things become even more complicated when Robert and Abby begin to realize their feelings for each other.

In the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, thoughts of romance are pushed aside as everyone in the city struggles for survival. Separated from her family and from Robert, Abby is frantic. Will she ever find her way out of the ruins of the city – and her own heart – to find the love and faith she so desperately desires?

Out of the Ruins is the first in the Golden Gate Chronicles series by Karen Barnett.

My first impression of this book as I started reading was how the author is so good at paying attention to detail. From the historical and spiritual parts of the book to the setting, everything was meticulous and yet also really drew you into the story emotionally. This book started off rather slowly, but it really gave you time to get to know the characters and the time and place so that you could be fully immersed in everything.

That being said, the feeling of this novel is that it is actually two shorter books in one. The book is broken up into Part 1 and Part 2, and as the reader, you definitely feel this break. The second half of the book ultimately does connect back to the first, but it still felt as if I was reading two separate books that were just about the same characters.

In Part 1, I was completely fascinated with the medical aspect of the story. The emergence of radiation as a treatment for cancer was an excellent backdrop to everything that was taking place. Obviously this was a new technology in 1905 – the hazards of radiation were not known – and I cringed each time the doctors would test the X-ray machine on themselves! The thing about this part of the story, however, was that I thought it was a bit long, which goes back to my statement earlier about the book feeling as if it was actually two in one. I knew what was coming – the ultimate fate of Abby’s sister and also the coming earthquake – so I felt as if I was just holding my breath and dreading what was ahead.

Even though the first section was long for my taste, it was still well-written (in spite of the excessive similes and metaphors) and really invoked many emotions as I was reading. This was also true for Part 2. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was devastating, and the author really paints the picture for the reader of the reality of those days. I felt as if I was right there with Abby as she searched for her family and dealt with the aftershocks of this historical event.

The overall spiritual aspect of the book was something that I thought was written well also. The author does not shy away from the gospel and the name of Christ, but even though it is a major plot point, you don’t feel as if she is beating you over the head with it. There are so many spiritual issues that are dealt with in this novel – some of them very difficult ones – and I think they were handled very well. I also really liked the references to old hymns. I found myself singing them throughout the days that I was reading the book.

The romance between Robert and Abby obviously takes somewhat of a backseat after the earthquake, since they are basically just trying to survive. I think their relationship could have been given more substance. Their romance seemed a bit flat, but it was understandable considering the circumstances.

Even though the novel was not presented in a way that I would not consider completely cohesive, it was still a good story overall. This is not a light, entertaining read but one that sends the reader through a range of emotions. There is tragedy upon tragedy which sometimes made it really difficult to read. Ultimately, however, the message is one of hope and faith in the God who never leaves us or forsakes us.

I will give Out of the Ruins ... 4 BookWorms.











Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Silenced" Review

Kayden McKenna has experienced some exciting and adventurous things during her years of rock climbing in her home state of Alaska. But she never expected her rock climbing to lead her to the discovery of a body. Did the dead climber meet with a terrible accident, or is there something more sinister at work?

Now that everyone knows of Jake Westin’s past as a detective, the overworked sheriff of Yancey asks Jake to handle the case. At first Jake is reluctant, but he then realizes that it would be good to get back into the job. And the fact that Kayden will be part of the investigation is even more of a motivating factor.

As Jake and Kayden race to find out what really happened to the climber, they discover a threat that hits even closer to home – a threat that puts their own lives in danger.

Silenced is book number four in the Alaskan Courage series.

The story in this book starts off very well. I was interested in the story right from the beginning, and it didn’t take me as long this time to get reacquainted with the characters. This novel is fast-paced and has a sense of adventure to it right from the start.

Jake and Kayden are good main characters, their relationship is interesting, and the time the two spend together is appropriate for the development of the romance. I thought it was cute that they wanted to spend time together conducting the investigation but that they didn’t want to admit their growing feelings for each other. I liked Jake as a character, and even though I thought Kayden was sometimes impulsive, she wasn’t the fainting female in constant need of rescuing who couldn’t do anything for herself. Her character was just the opposite – she never wanted to admit when she needed help. This aspect of her character made her more relatable but also unique.

The time Jake and Kayden spent together trying to find out who killed the rock climber was interesting and developed their relationship, but I thought it was odd that the police would let a non-police person (Kayden) question suspects and collect evidence during an investigation. Maybe I’ve just watched too much Law & Order in my life, but I thought it was pretty unrealistic.

The mystery in this book, however, was a little confusing to me. (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD) There were technically two mysteries in this novel, and I kept waiting for them to be connected in some way. The “bad guy” in the Jake part of the mystery was clich├ęd, and I didn’t understand the motivation at all. I could see the conclusion coming a mile away. It also seemed as if we never got back to the original investigation with the rock climber and that it was never completely concluded. (SPOILERS OVER)

Even though the mystery wasn’t what I was expecting, I actually liked this book more than some of the previous ones in the series. I also thought there was a nice balance with the spiritual parts of this story. It blended in well in the plot without going overboard, and this part of Reef’s story was set up nicely to be continued in the next book.

I definitely think that you need to read the other books in the series prior to this one. Jake and Kayden’s relationship weaves through the first three novels as well, and if you haven’t read them, their relationship in this book will be confusing and not fleshed out very well.

Silenced is a fast-paced story that kept me interested in spite of the lack of an intriguing mystery plot. The secondary storylines made me interested to read the next installment in the series as well.

I will give Silenced ... 3.5 BookWorms.











Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, June 2, 2014

"Bridge to Haven" Review

Left under a bridge to die as an infant, Abra Matthews knows what it is to be abandoned. As if that wasn’t bad enough, at the age of five, when a tragedy occurs, the family who rescued her as a baby decides to give her away to another family.

Pastor Ezekiel Freeman regrets every day that he had to allow Abra to live with the Matthews family after his beloved wife passed away. Since finding her under that bridge in Haven as a newborn, he knew she was something special. He and his son, Joshua, watch from afar as Abra grows into a beautiful young woman – but still a girl who feels as if everyone and everything in her life has disappointed her, including God.

Following a bad boy to Hollywood, Abra thinks she has found her escape from Haven. But what she finds in the alluring world of movies, glamour, and the rich and famous turns out to be a prison like she never imagined. Will she ever be able to find that bridge back to Haven – to those who love her and to the One who has loved her from the start?

I have read a few Francine Rivers novels over the years, starting with the popular Redeeming Love several years ago. I have enjoyed her novels, but I haven’t been able to read as many as I would like. When I saw that she was coming out with a new one, though, I jumped at the chance to review it. My book club is reading this one later in the year, too, so it will be neat to hear what they think about it as well.

To me this novel seemed like a blend between Redeeming Love and Her Mother’s Hope. Most of Francine Rivers’s books focus on the same themes of forgiveness, love, and redemption, and these themes are woven seamlessly throughout the novel. She is so talented at working the gospel and God into the story and into the characters’ lives without it coming across as pushy or unrealistic. The best example of this in Bridge to Haven was when Abra encountered Murray and Mary Ellen during her time in Hollywood. Both of these characters were able to connect with Abra and be that light for God in her dark world, and they were able to do it without being pushy or fake. They loved Jesus, and they showed it in their daily interactions. I think this was almost my favorite part of the novel, even though it wasn’t a huge part in the book.

I also really enjoyed the secondary characters in this novel. The residents of Haven were real and made the small town come alive. I especially liked Mitzi, Abra’s friend who encouraged her to play the piano. As a girl who grew up playing hymns almost from day one of piano lessons, I absolutely loved that part of the story. I so appreciated and identified with how those old hymns would just pop into Abra’s mind when times were hard to give her comfort and peace.

The overall plot in this book is not necessarily surprising. You can see where it is going the whole time, but with these sweeping saga-type novels, the story is really in the journey. You might be able to see where it is going to end up, but the path that the characters take to get there is what makes the story. And this is where Francine Rivers excels. I did think this one got to be a little long, especially towards the end. I was ready for Abra to hurry up and get there, but that, of course, would not have been as realistic.

The romance in this book is part of the story, but it is definitely not the main plot. Abra’s story of grace and redemption is the main focus. It’s kind of refreshing to read a Christian fiction book every once in a while that isn’t so wrapped up in the romantic plot. That being said, the romance in this story was not quite as good as I had hoped. [SPOILER ALERT] The story was fine, but I just could not get over the fact that the romance was between two characters who had been raised for five years as brother and sister. Now, I understand that they were not actually blood relatives and that for those five years Abra was a baby and small child. But Joshua was not. He was five when Abra came to live with them and was ten when she went to live with the Matthews family. I just found it too much of a stretch that he could ever think of her as anything other than a little sister. [SPOILER OVER]

I also feel I should warn readers that this is not a light Christian story. It is real and brutally honest in its portrayal of war, sexuality, and abusive relationships. If Redeeming Love is PG-13, this one is even more so. I especially thought the last sexual scene was way too descriptive for a Christian book, even though it was within the boundary of a marriage.
 
Even though there were things about this novel that I had trouble with, the story as a whole was completely engrossing. At times I just wanted to yell at Abra to run back to Haven. It was so interesting to see from Abra’s perspective how she didn’t feel that anyone loved her, even though so many people did. It is a true representation of how we too often run from God when we should be running to Him with open arms to receive His grace and mercy and forgiveness.


I will give Bridge to Haven … 4 BookWorms.











Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 30, 2014

"The Heart's Pursuit" Blog Tour


A jilted bride desperate to save her family from ruin.

A bounty hunter seeking vengeance for a ravaged past.

An arduous trek toward justice---or redemption.
Silver Matlock and Jared Newman know traveling together is a bad idea. Bad for Silver's already tarnished reputation in her small Colorado town. Bad for bounty hunter Jared's secret, single-minded mission for revenge. But Silver is determined to track down the rogue who left her at the altar and stole the last remnant of her father's fortune. And Jared's in a hurry to hunt down the murderer who destroyed his family---even if Silver is too distractingly beautiful for comfort.
The pair takes off over mountain and desert, past bleak homesteads and raw mining towns, hot on the trail of the two villains who took what wasn't theirs to take. Soon supplies dwindle, secrets emerge, and suspicion leave Silver and Jared at odds when they need each other most. To confront an enemy deadlier than desert rattlesnakes and rocky cliffs, Silver and Jared must learn to forgive and trust and face the question they haven't dared voice: What happens next?

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/wSpq9


About the author: Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heart-warming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over sixty novels.

Robin can be found at: website, Facebook, Twitter






My Take:

I’ve enjoyed books by Robin Lee Hatcher in the past, and when I read the summary for this novel, I was hooked immediately. One thing that Robin Lee Hatcher does well is to just tell a great story without a lot of other stuff getting in the way, and with The Heart’s Pursuit, this was definitely the case.

I really enjoyed the adventure as Silver and Jared pursued the two outlaws. The story never seemed to slow down too much, and I liked Silver and Jared as main characters. The development of their relationship happens quickly and is predictable, but this is more understandable when two people spend so many harrowing days together.

There were some parts of this book that I thought were pretty unrealistic – Silver and Jared traveling together alone for one – but for some reason it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the story. Also, even though I liked Silver and Jared overall as characters, Silver sometimes got on my nerves. She was made out to be so strong and independent, but so many times she instead came off as impetuous and, therefore, even more of a damsel in distress. Again, I still enjoyed the story and characters overall, but sometimes Silver was just too much.

I thought the faith aspect of this book was done very well. The spiritual themes are clear, but they are woven throughout the story and in the characters’ lives in a way that made it realistic. It was interesting to see how easily the characters turned from wanting to seek justice to wanting to seek revenge. It really made me think about how easily anyone can slip into revenge-seeking mode, even over little things, which definitely was not the case here.


There are some intense plot points in this book – one of the outlaws is being pursued because of rape and murder – so some parts of the book are fairly heavy and somewhat disturbing. The overall feeling of the book, however, is not without hope. The novel clearly makes the point that there is a distinct difference between seeking justice and seeking revenge, and that ultimately, forgiveness and redemption rest in God alone.

I will give The Heart's Pursuit ... 4 BookWorms.









 
Robin Lee Hatcher's latest novel, The Heart's Pursuit, is receiving critical praise:
"The Old West lives again in this inspirational romantic adventure. . . . Themes of forgiveness, justice and mercy dominate the story and add to the characters' depth. Hatcher treats readers to a rich sensory experience—you can taste the desert dust and smell the smoke and stench of a crowded gambling hall." (Publishers Weekly)


Robin is celebrating the release of her novel by giving away a $200 "Romantic Weekend Getaway."
heartspursuit-400-click

  One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card (Get away for the weekend with that special someone!)
  • The Heart's Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 8th. Winner will be announced June 9th on Robin's website.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Robin's blog on June 8th to see if you won.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishers through LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."