Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Though My Heart is Torn - A Book Review

From the Back: Settling into a simple life in the majestic Blue Ridge mountains, Lonnie and Gideon O'Riley have finally found happiness after the rocky start to their marriage.  The roguish bluegrass musician has fallen in love with his gentle wife and the God she serves, and Lonnie rests secure in his tenderness for her and their young son.  Then a heartless ruse interrupts their peace, bringing them back to Rocky Knob - and forces them to face the claims of Cassie Allan, a woman who says she is Gideon's rightful wife.  As Gideon wades into the depths of his past choices, Lonnie is stunned by the revelations.  She has no choice but to navigate this new path, knowing that surviving the devastating blow will take every ounce of strength she has.  While Gideon's guilt and his bitterness toward Cassie threaten to burn up his fledgling faith, Lonnie wrestles to find the courage to trust the God who brought them together in the first place.  Will their hard-earned love be able to conquer all?

Synopsis:  This book starts where the first book in the series (Be Still My Soul) ends.  Lonnie and Gideon have settled into life with Jebidiah and Elsie, the lovely couple who took them in and helped them learn to be husband and wife.  Life is simple and sweet for Lonnie, Gideon and baby Jacob.  That simplicity and sweetness is shattered when Lonnie and Gideon are summoned back to Rocky Knob under the pretense that Lonnie's mother is ill.  While in Rocky Knob, they are confronted by the family of Cassie Allan and the local ministers who produce paperwork showing Gideon and Cassie are legally married.  Unbeknownst to Gideon, Cassie never followed through with the annulment paperwork and now is marriage to Lonnie is invalid.  Left with no other option, Gideon and Lonnie's marriage is annulled, Gideon moves in with Cassie and Lonnie moves back to live with Jebidiah and Elsie.  Gideon cannot stand Cassie and lives with her in name only.  Lonnie is devastated and is trying to figure out how to live without the man she's fallen in love with.

My Review:  I really enjoyed Be Still My Soul so I jumped at the chance to review the second book in the series.  While I loved this book just as much, I will warn you, there were times I wanted to throw it up against the wall because I didn't like where the storyline was headed.  Of course, that's the mark of a good book in my opinion so there's that. :-)  I thought Lonnie and Gideon's characters have both come a long way in this book.  Lonnie is more strong-willed, standing up to her family instead of cowering in fear, and that's a good thing.  Gideon is calmer and more likable in this book than in book one.  I found myself feeling sorry for him several times throughout the book.  This book definitely shows the long-term impact that foolish decisions can play in our lives.  Joanne Bischof also introduces a new character or two in this novel that pave the way for book three.  I still wanted the story to end differently here so I'm holding out hope for book three!  This is an enjoyable read with a sweet story and contains characters you'll find yourself drawn too.

Score: 4.0 bookmarks out of 5.

Extras: Author's WebsiteMore Info/Buy the BookRead Chapter OneAuthor's Bio

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sweet Sanctuary - A Book Review

From the Back: Lydia Eldredge longs to provide sanctuary for her young son, Nicky.  But a constant threat comes from Nicky's drug-addicted father, who wants the boy and seems willing to do whatever it takes to get him.  Dr. Micah Hatcher faithfully serves the immigrant population of Queens, New York.  But under cover of darkness, he has a secret mission that challenges everything he thought he wanted out of life.  When Lydia and Micah's paths cross, they are suddenly wrapped up in each other's callings.  Together, they seek a refuge of safety - for Nicky, for themselves, and for the needy people God puts in their lives.  Amid turmoil and discord, can hope and love prevail.

Synopsis: Lydia is raising her best friend's son Nicky after the friend tragically dies in childbirth.  Micah is a physician in NY who is summoned to Boston at Lydia's father's request.  This strange request thrusts these past acquaintances into a new relationship - one they aren't sure exactly how to make work.  Lydia is concerned that Nicky's dad Nic will find them and try to take Nicky.  Micah is convinced to try and help Lydia come up with a plan to prevent that from happening.  A friendship/romance begins to blossom over Micah and Lydia's shared desire to help Nicky and other hurting souls.  Nic does manage to find Lydia and Nicky and has plans of his own for his son.  Lydia and Micah must work together to ensure Nicky's safety and safe Nic's life.  Drug treatment, a tragic work-related accident, a new daughter, and more complicate the issues even further.  Can Lydia and Micah build a relationship out of the craziness?

My Review:  I usually like Kim Vogel Sawyer's work a little more than I liked this one.  While I loved the story line, there were a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way.  There were several passages where I thought the book came across as preachy. While I love Christian fiction and don't mind the references to faith, God's help, etc., there were times in this novel where it just seemed to go overboard.  Secondly, there were just too many subplots running through the novel.  Sawyer could have easily left out Nic's plans for Nicky (or just left out the scenes with prospective parents) and still had a compelling story.  I also wasn't a fan of how the story wrapped up - it just seemed contrived to me. All that being said, I'm still happy I chose to review it.  I liked the time period setting, post WWII.  I hope Sawyer continues to write in this time period.  Like her other works, this is well-researched and an enjoyable look into this time period. This is a quick, fun read with characters that you want to see be successful (well, most of the characters).

Score:  3.5 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Icecutter's Daughter - A Book Review

From the Back: As the lone female in a houseful of men, Merrill Krause dedicates her life to caring for her family and their business, as her dying mother asked.  Besides, it suits her; she's never felt like she fits what most people expect in a girl - she'd rather work with her father's horses and assist with the ice harvest.  And though she's been mostly content up to this point, a part of her wonders if there will ever be anyone who will notice her amid the bevy of brothers determined to protect her from any possible suitors.  When Rurik Jorgenson arrives in their small Minnesota town to join his uncle's carpentry business, he soon crosses paths with Merrill.  But unlike other men, who are often frightened away by her older brothers, Rurik isn't itimidated by them or by Merrill's strength and lack of femininity.  The attraction between them begins to build...until Rurik's former fiancee shows up with wild claims that bring serious consequences to Rurik.

Synopsis: Merrill Krause lives with her father and brother in Minnesota.  She's not your typical turn-of-the-century female with her eyes set on marriage.  She works alongside her brothers harvesting ice and taking care of their horses.  However, when Rurik Jorgenson moves to town to help his uncle, Merrill begins to think there might be something to the idea of courtship and marriage.  After learning Merrill is a talented artist, Rurik comes up with a plan to have Merrill join him at his uncle's carpentry business painting pieces he and his men create.  Life is going well until Rurik's former fiancee Svea and her brother Nils show up claiming Svea and Rurik are still engaged and must be married.  Rurik has no romantic feelings for Svea and spends his time trying to re-break off the engagement.  Svea and Nils won't take no for an answer and appear to be harboring secrets of their own.  The story concludes with an ending full of twists and turns.

My Review:  I really like Tracie Peterson's work and this was a good book but it almost had too many twist and subplots for my taste.  Peterson just appeared to be trying to do too much with the book.  There's the romance between Merrill and Rurik, Rurik's former engagement, Uncle Carl's health, Nils' problems, gossip around town, etc..  I just felt like one or two of the story lines could have been left out and the book would have been better.  That being said, this is a sweet romance with a great underlying message about truth and consequences.  It is definitely a Christian fiction novel and that comes through but it doesn't come across as preachy necessarily.  One thing I like about Peterson's writing...the characters make you have a reaction to them and this book was no different.  I couldn't stand Svea from the very beginning (she reminded me of Nellie Olson from Little House on the Prairie) and disliked her even at the end. :-)  This appears to be the beginning of another series from Peterson and I'm eagerly awaiting new books in the series.  You'll definitely want to add this one to a summer reading list.

Score:  4.0 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Truth Stained Lies - A Book Review

From the Back: Cathy Cramer is a former lawyer and investigative blogger who writes commentary on high-profile homcides.  When she finds a threatening note warning her that she's about to experience the same kind of judgment and speculation that she dishes out in her blog, Cathy writes it off as mischief...until her brother's wife is murdered and all the "facts" point to him.  The killer has staged the crime to make the truth too far-fetched to believe.  Working to solve the murder and clear her brother's name, Cathy and her two sisters, Holly and Juliet, moonlight as part-time private investigators.  Juliet, a stay-at-home mom of two boys, and Holly, a scattered ne'er-do-well who drives a taxi, put aside their fear to hunt down the real killer.  Stakes rise when their brother's grieving five year-old son is kidnapped.  As police focus on the wrong set of clues, the three sisters and their battered detective friend are the only hope for solving this bizarre crime, saving the child, and freeing their brother.

Synopsis: Cathy Cramer is a former lawyer who's turned her investigative skills into a successful blogging career.  She's shocked when her brother Jay tells her his wife has been killed and that a clown did it.  She's even more dumbfounded when all the evidence points to Jay as the killer.  At the same time, she's being taunted my a mysterious "new friend."  As the case continues, Cathy teams with her sisters, Holly and Juliet and their friend Michael to try to prove Jay's innocence.  Things get even stranger as Jay's son Jackson becomes critically ill.  The four have their suspicions about who could be at fault but the truth is stranger than fiction.

My Review: This is the first in what appears to be another great series by Terri Blackstock.  While a little slow (and hard to believe at first), the storyline picks up quite nicely.  There's a sense of urgency at the end of most chapters that make you want to keep reading.  There is a tendency for "preachiness" in parts of the book but the story was so good, I overlooked that.  Blackstock writes a complex storyline and threw in lots of nice twists and turns to keep you guessing.  I did have the criminal identified by the end of the book but was pleased with how Blackstock tied the ending together.  I debated putting this one down at first but I'm glad I stuck with it.  I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.

My Score:  4.5 bookmarks out of 5

Zondervan/Thomas Nelson Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Firefly Island - A Book Review

From the Back:  Mallory Hale's life quickly veers off course when she falls hopelessly in love.  After a whirlwind romance, Mallory finds herself leaving the bustle and action of Capitol Hill for the remove town of Moses Lake, TX - with husband, stepson and U-Haul in tow.  A sweet, mishap filled journey into marriage, motherhood, and ranch living ensues, and Mallory is filled with both the wonderment of love and the insecurities of change. But what she can't shake is the unease she feels around her husband's new boss, Jack West.  Jack's presence - and his mysterious past - set her on edge and when hints of a scandal emerge, Mallory finds herself seeking answers...and comes to realize that the middle-of-nowhere home she wasn't sure she wanted is the very place she'll risk everything to save.

Synopsis: Mallory Hale is a legislative assistant in DC trying to step out of her father's influence.  On a random day, she runs into Daniel Everson - quite literally - and falls in love with his eyes.  She brushes off the encounter to her friends until she runs into him again.  After a crazy, short romance, Mallory finds herself stepping into the role of wife and mother.  The new family moves to Texas for Daniel's new job working for Jack West.  Moses Lake, TX is in the middle of nowhere and the house they'll be living in has seen better days.  Mallory isn't sure how she's going to survive in this out-of-the-way place.  She takes up blogging to try and keep her sanity and ends up developing quite a following.  As time goes on, Mallory finds herself falling in love with Moses Lake but at the same time questioning her husband's new boss.  What is he (or his son) planning and how will it impact Moses Lake for years to come?  Once Mallory finds out, can she stop it?

My Review:  Lisa Wingate is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors.  Her books always have believable characters and Firefly Island is no different.  Even though I can't see myself marrying someone in such a short time, it works here.  The storyline moves quite rapidly once you get started.  There's enough intrigue set within the romance to satisfy most readers.  Even though this is the third in the Moses Lake series, there's no more than a passing mention of previous characters.  You can easily pick this one up without having read the previous novels.  However, picking up all three would be a great idea. ;-)  Overall, I loved this book and it makes perfect poolside or beach side reading.

My Score:  4.5 bookmarks out of 5

Note:  Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.