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."