Friday, August 28, 2015

"Irish Meadows" Blog Tour

1911, Long Island, New York
Faced With an Uncertain Future, Sometimes All You Have Left Is the Courage to Dream

Brianna and Colleen O'Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he's put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.
 
Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry---as long as her father's choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone's plans.
 
As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O'Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father's machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

 
Irish Meadows
by Susan Anne Mason 
Historical Romance
Courage to Dream series book 1
Bethany House 
 
See what other reviewers are saying here: http://litfusegroup.com/author/smason
 
 
 
 
 
Susan Anne Mason's debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children.

 
Find Susan online: website, Facebook
 
 
 
 
 
 
My Take:
 
As I started reading Irish Meadows, I was immediately taken back to 1911 on a Long Island, New York, horse farm. The writing is very descriptive and really captures the scenery and atmosphere of this time and place.

As I kept reading, I realized that the only plotlines were going to be ones about the romantic relationships between Gilbert/Brianna and Rylan/Colleen. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I usually prefer for my historical romance to have a few more interesting things going on around the romantic storyline. Even so, I decided to keep reading to the end to see where things went.

Brianna and Gil’s relationship was one that went back-and-forth throughout the story and sometimes seemed contrived, especially at the end. I actually didn’t really like their relationship to begin with anyway. I felt that it was kind of weird that they were in love. I could understand if he had been a farmhand or something (“Farm boy – fetch me that pitcher?” “As you wish.”). But he had been raised as a brother in Brianna’s house. Sure, they weren’t biologically related, but it still seemed odd to me, and I just couldn’t get past it. Plus, I felt as if they spent more time not liking each other than actually liking each other!

The relationship between Rylan and Colleen was definitely the more interesting of the two. A man studying to be a priest having to decide whether or not he should give up his commitment to the church for love is a compelling romantic plotline. Again, this relationship seemed a bit odd since they were distant relations, but I guess if it was distant enough, it would be OK. The book wasn't too clear on that point.

If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Rylan. I liked his easygoing personality, and I appreciated his struggle.

As for the spiritual aspect, I really had a hard time with how it was portrayed in this novel. God was mentioned quite a bit – praying to Him and turning to Him in times of need – but Jesus was barely discussed. One character even turns to God, but it all happens without any reference of Christ and His sacrifice for sins. I just think it’s dangerous to portray salvation without mentioning the cross and what Christ did for us.

Now, I am not someone who has to have her Christian novels filled with salvation experiences and preaching. I realize that a book can just be a good, clean novel that is enjoyable. But if the book brings up spiritual aspects, I expect them to be based on truth and include Jesus. It is Christian fiction, after all. As an example, at one point this statement is made: “What [Rylan] needed was absolution – to confess his offense to a priest and receive a clergyman’s counsel. It was the only way to make up for his sin and find a way to move forward.” While I do believe that confession is good for the soul, again, where is Christ in this? The only way to “make up” for his sins was to confess to a priest? There is absolutely no way we can make up for our sins. Christ is the only way (Hebrews 9), and I’m actually kind of surprised that Bethany House publishers would allow this in one of their books.

I also thought that there were many portions of the novel that focused on clich├ęs and drama rather than reality. There were many references of “following your heart” and many eye-rolling moments of romance. I understand what the author means when the characters talk about following their hearts. I wouldn’t want my daughter to end up in a loveless marriage. But the Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB). I think it is dangerous to portray following your heart as always being the right thing no matter what. There was a lot of talk about God’s will and wanting God’s will for their lives, but there was no clear look at how that might be accomplished. All of the talk about following the heart and doing what a person wanted to do seemed to be in conflict with the talk about God’s will.

I realize that I have pretty much skewered the spiritual portions of this novel, but the more I read Christian fiction, the more I realize how very far away from Christ these novels can get. As I said earlier, not every book has to preach the gospel. But when a book tries to do so and falls short, I feel it should be noted. This novel just seemed to be Christian fluff which doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run.

Now that I have said all of that, I think my favorite part of this novel was the setting. I liked the horse farm atmosphere, and I wished that it had been explored even further. The part of the story focusing on the family possibly losing the farm was interesting and might have been something that could have been elaborated on in order to create even more suspense.

If I had to pick one word to describe this novel, it would be “drama.” I really thought that the story would revolve around more than just the two romances, but it didn’t. If straight romance is what you like, then you might want to give this series a try. I really wanted to like this novel much more than I did.

I will give Irish Meadows … 2 BookWorms.  

 







Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House 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."  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Through Waters Deep" Blog Tour

Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015)

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war.

Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges---and dangers---await them.

Sarah Sundin takes readers to the tense months before the US entered WWII. Readers will encounter German U-boats and torpedoes, along with the explosive power of true love, in this hopeful and romantic story.


Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1DkJmlO




About the author:

Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, In Perfect Time, and the Wings of Glory series. In 2014, On Distant Shores was a finalist for the Golden Scroll Awards from both AWSA and the Christian Authors Network. In 2011, 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, Facebook, Twitter
 
 
My Take:
 
I have been waiting for this new series from Sarah Sundin for a long time, and I was excited to get started on it! I’m actually not too fond of World War II-era stories, and I usually avoid them – except for those by Ms. Sundin. She has the ability to portray the atrocities of World War II in a way that shows strength during the battle as well as hope for the future.

When I first started reading this novel, I enjoyed the characters of Jim and Mary right away. Over the course of the story, I got to know them well, and I would even go so far as to say they are among my favorite characters from Ms. Sundin’s books. As someone who also does not like to be in the spotlight, I very much related to Mary and her struggles. Jim was also a likeable guy, even though I kept wanting him to be a bit more aggressive (not in a bad way) as to where his relationship with Mary was going. I really enjoyed the banter between them and the way that their friendship eventually turned into more (which is how it happened between my husband and me back in the day)!

As for the other characters, there were a lot of them. Because this novel centered mostly on a mystery at the Boston Navy Yard, suspects were just coming out of the woodwork. At the beginning, these many secondary characters were a bit hard to keep straight, but as I kept reading, things fell more into place, and the sabotage aspect of the plot lent a great deal to the overall story. Sometimes the naval jargon in this novel got confusing, but I did appreciate the research and the attention to detail.

As I mentioned earlier, the previous books by this author are some of the only books about World War II that I have ever truly enjoyed. The balance that is portrayed between surviving the horrors of war and continuing to have hope for the future is what makes the novel readable. This hope comes only from a relationship with God through Jesus that gives the characters the strength to carry on no matter what they face. This was definitely true in Through Waters Deep

As for the lighter side of the novel – the romance between Mary and Jim – it was sweet, and I very much enjoyed watching their love grow. The era of the 1940s and its culture was an especially fun backdrop for this romance.  While I enjoyed most of the development of Mary and Jim’s courtship, at times their lack of communication tiptoed dangerously close to the Big Misunderstanding, which is my biggest pet peeve in a romance novel. I realize that it is based in reality – I’m sure we have all struggled with communication at one point or another – but when characters base their actions on assumptions of what the other person is thinking and feeling, it sometimes gets really tiring to read.

In spite of this, Through Waters Deep is still one of my favorite reads of the year. I liked that this one had a mystery to it, and any main character who references Nancy Drew is definitely one that I’m going to like! I also liked that this series is set in the Navy. My dad is a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the Navy life. The tensions of America being on the brink of war made this novel that much more suspenseful, and the main characters were such that I wanted to keep reading to find out what else happens to them in their lives. My favorite secondary character was definitely Arch, Jim’s friend from the Navy, and I am so glad that he will be featured in the next book in the series.

Overall, Through Waters Deep is another winner from Sarah Sundin, and I am looking forward to the next one!


I will give Through Waters Deep ... 4 BookWorms.








Dive into Sarah Sundin's explosive new series, Waves of Freedom, with book one,                  Through Waters Deep

When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them in the midst of their budding romance.

Join Sarah in celebrating the release of Through Waters Deep by entering to win an               Anchors Aweigh prize pack!
 

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Through Waters Deep
  • A nautical tote bag
  • A set of compass rose notecards
  • A "Hope Anchors the Soul" journal
  • A Boston Tea Party earl grey tea set
  • Through Waters Deep apron
  • A set of nautical tea towels

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Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. The winner will be announced August 25th on Sarah's blog.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing 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." 

Monday, August 17, 2015

"A Stranger's Secret" Review

Lady Morwenna Trelawny Penvenan made many mistakes in her younger days. Now that she is a young widow and mother, she is determined to make things right for her son, who is the heir to the title of Penvenan. Everything becomes even more complicated when Morewenna is accused of purposely crashing ships off the coast of her land in order to steal their goods. When a mysterious, unconscious stranger washes up on the shore – with the Trelawny medallion around his neck, no less – she really doesn’t know where to turn next. 

David Chastain wants nothing more than to find out what happened to his father and return to his ship-building business. He definitely didn’t plan on being in a shipwreck and winding up under the care of a beautiful lady of the manor.  

As Morwenna and David spend more time together, it is discovered that each may hold secrets that could answer questions for the other. Did Morwenna’s adventurous parents have something to do with the death of David’s father? And does Morwenna have something to do with the multiple attempts to keep David quiet?

As the questions mount, David and Morwenna are drawn together. But can they trust each other enough to find out the truth? 

A Stranger’s Secret is the second in the “Cliffs of Cornwall” series.
 

When I requested this book, I didn’t realize that it was the second in a series. I knew that it was labeled a ”Cliffs of Cornwall” novel, but it didn’t say anything about it actually being a series. That being said, I was a bit lost through some parts of this book.  

I was able to pick up on most of the background for Morwenna eventually, but the other characters continued to be confusing even as I kept going in the story. The names of the secondary characters were not always recognizable, which made it harder to keep them straight – especially when they were sometimes referred to by their first names and sometimes by their last names. I felt as if I needed a character list at the beginning! And while the main characters were well-drawn, the other ones seemed to just be thrown in here and there when needed. There was a real disconnect between the main characters and the secondary ones, and I don’t really know how that could have been rectified.
 
Even though the characters were sometimes confusing, the overall storyline was good. I liked how Morwenna and David met and the circumstances and emotions that played out during their relationship. As I said earlier, the main characters were much more fleshed out than the others which made me care more about them than I was expecting at the beginning of the book.

The secrets and mysteries in this novel were really what kept it going. At times it became a bit slow when Morwenna and David would start on their inner monologues. But then another part of the mystery would unravel (or poor David would be drugged again – seriously, how many times did that happen?) and the story would again pick up.

As for the spiritual aspect, it was there – David and Morwenna both professed faith in God – but it probably could have been developed a little bit more. I wasn’t completely unsatisfied with how their faith was portrayed. I just thought it needed some more depth to it. I did enjoy Morwenna’s obvious devotion to her young son. Her affection for him was touching, as was her determination to do the best she could for him and for his future.

Overall the plot in A Stranger’s Secret was good even if the characters sometimes made it confusing. 

I will give  A Stranger's Secret ... 3 BookWorms.
 
 






A Stranger's Secret
by Laurie Alice Eakes
Zondervan Publishing
Publication date: April 21, 2015
352 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing. 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."