Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin
Sarah’s been a favorite of mine for a long time, since her first book. I’m thrilled she’s begun this new three-book series!

Let’s begin with the summary:

War is coming. Can love carry them through the rough waters that lie ahead?

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Handsome and outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the
USS Atwood. On shore, Jim encounters Mary Stirling, a childhood friend who is now an astute and beautiful Boston Navy Yard secretary.

When evidence of sabotage on the
Atwood is discovered, 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.

And now, my review:

Whenever I pick up one of Sarah’s books, I know I’ll get tons of historical facts thrown in. These become talking points for conversations with others. Her books are well-researched, which I respect and appreciate.

I also know I’ll get a good romance when I read her novels. With a cover like that, you know we will. (You can see the behind-the-scenes cover creation video here.)

This story is a mystery, with the heroine acting as a sleuth who counts on invisibility to take shorthand notes and gather clues for the FBI. Because the first few chapters were chock-full of characters, I got a little lost in the opening pages. And it took me a little while to get into this book. But it was worth it.

One of the themes was a misunderstanding of pride. Mary, our heroine, is conscientious, modest, and humble—only she doesn’t see herself this way and fear holds her back.

That same theme is mirrored in the hero’s life. Jim has let fear of failure cause him to coast along in life. But he’s called to leadership, to making tough decisions. Like the heroine, whom God has called to the spotlight, the hero will have to change in order to follow God’s path.

I kept watching for WWII-era elements as I recall them from history, which made the reading even more interesting and engaging. And I liked that we were on a naval ship in this book. Perhaps we will be in the next two because the series is called “Waves of Freedom.” Can’t wait to read the story of Jim Avery’s brothers in books two and three.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren

I love Susie’s writing! And I’m enjoying these Christiansen family novels. This book followed Amelia and her European (boy)friend, Roark. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance―even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

And now, my review:

Amelia is the youngest Christiansen child, so all her siblings serve as pseudo-parents, hovering and over-protective. This hovering and micromanaging has left her second-guessing her own abilities and competence, especially as she hasn’t always made the best decisions. I love how Susie lets birth order influence her characters’ personalities—a clever element to this family-based series. That influence makes them move believable and realistic.

This story reminded me of the recently re-released novellas in the compilation Somewhere, My Love in regards to some overlapping themes

I love Roark’s heart—that he chases Amelia to the states, then this businessman makes a fool of himself attempting to learn the ways of the Minnesota lumberjack. That he found some allies among the earlier naysayers was fun too. 

Throughout the novel we see Roark’s heroism, though he’s flawed and broken. And we see Amelia’s competence, though she doubts. 

One of the themes was letting God shine truth on our perceptions, both of Him and of our past. Sometimes we assume the worst of Him, believing lies about imHimHimHim and ourselves. I’m grateful he demonstrates the truth and sets us free.

I’m looking forward to the next book in this unforgettable series!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt

Released today!

Let's begin with the summary:

Wedding bells and storm clouds collide in the first engaging novel in a brand-new series about destination weddings, the power of love, and the possible mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle to “I do.”

Paramedic Vanessa Hollister has put her adolescence behind her, including the unwanted label of being the new kid in town over and over again, thanks to her father’s military career. She’s overcome what her mother called “the biggest mistake of her life” and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Florida with her new fiancé. But will the reappearance of her first husband from her what-were-you-thinking teenage elopement disrupt her dream of an idyllic beach wedding?

As a professional storm chaser, Logan Hollister is used to taking risks. However, a reckless decision during the last tornado season has him questioning the future of his team, the Stormmeisters. Coming face to face with his ex-wife eight years after their divorce compels him to confront his greatest regret: losing Vanessa. Does their past give him the right to interfere with her future?

A fast-moving, powerful hurricane throws Vanessa and Logan together as they evacuate to a storm shelter along with other residents of the Florida Gulf Coast. Forced to spend time together, the pair battles unexpected renewed feelings for each other.

Vanessa and Logan are faced with a choice: Should they accept, once and for all, their teenage marital mistake? Or is God offering them a second chance at happily ever after?

And now, my review:

Our heroine has moved on from her past. Gone are her high school sweetheart and the memory of their two-year marriage. Well, mostly. Until their paths cross again.

Our hero lives with regrets, both personal and professional. He has some decisions to make about the future.

These two had great chemistry. Beth’s writing voice is very strong. She layers characters and plot in purposeful ways. She used flashbacks to show us the hero’s and heroine’s history. At first, I didn’t like losing forward momentum, but then the technique clicked for this reader and I enjoyed them.

“For old time’s sake.” That phrase stirs these two up. Problem is the heroine’s engaged.
Vanessa believes lies about God. She’s never had a stable home, so she’s always looking for it. She keeps people at a distance, isn’t too great with relationships. I liked that she journaled her experiences.

One of the themes in the story was trusting God. The characters learned to recite the truth, “God, You are who you say You are” as they learned to trust Him. 

I really enjoy Beth’s writing. I’ll be watching for her next book!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rori's Healing by Dora Hiers

Rori's Healing by Dora Hiers

Dora is a fellow White Rose Publishing author, and I haven’t read her work before, so I was thankful for an opportunity to read this title for review.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Still stinging from the publicity surrounding her father's death, social phobic Rori Harmon prefers the solitude of her animal sanctuary, and accepts that marriage isn’t in her future.

Race car Driver Graham Decker refuses to be wrangled into a relationship by another money-hungry female. On a philanthropy mission, he arrives just in time to assist Rori with a llama birthing, but his appearance thrusts her into the media spotlight again.

Has Graham found a woman who doesn't care how deep his wallet extends? Has Rori finally met a man who will stick around when times get tough? Is healing for a hurting heart finally within Rori's reach?

And now, my review:

Dora has penned a sweet romance. Our heroine runs an animal shelter and tries to stay out of the spotlight. Enter the hero, a nationally renowned race car driver—a celebrity. The hero is tired of others taking advantage of his wealth, but though Rori needs money for her non-profit (the animal shelter), she doesn’t want his. Are these two the perfect match?

One of the story’s themes was overcoming fear—Rori had some challenges. Though readers may not struggle with the same fears, I believe this is a relatable issue. I liked how the hero honored her throughout the story. And I appreciated the spiritual element in this story. The book begins with a Scripture of trusting God no matter what others might do, a lesson our heroine must learn. (see Psalm 56:11)

There were some elements that weren’t my favorites—the llama’s activity when he didn’t like or trust someone. I wouldn’t have minded seeing that element once, but it appeared several times. 

Today is release day! Congratulations, Dora!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham
I first met Pepper at an American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference several years ago. She has such a cheerful disposition and was warm and open as we greeted each other. Since then, I’ve learned her story of finding her agent, Julie Gwinn—such a great story! Soon after she signed with Julie, we (Pepper’s FB friends) learned of her contract for this book: The Thorn Bearer. Then, she kept us up to date on the cover and the release date. I was thrilled to read it for review.

Let’s begin with the summary:

From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all. When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father's intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed—who could ever love a soiled woman? In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn't traveling alone. Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend's mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh's sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend's former fiancé and his own childhood companion. As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship. When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.

And now, my review:

What a story! Pepper is a fantastic story-teller. I was hooked from the beginning through to near the end of this story. 

Sam is a strong character—likable, fallible, heroic. I enjoyed watching him fall for our heroine. Our heroine is strong and resilient. Her childhood was full of trials, but we don’t camp there. In fact, we don’t begin the story there and only visit the past a few times via memory.

One of the themes in this story was forgiveness. For our hero, forgiveness for someone who was alive and who had changed. For our heroine, forgiveness for someone whom she hadn’t watched change before the person left her life. Either way, they each faced the choice to forgive or not. That is a relatable theme, which I felt Pepper handled with wisdom and without trite answers. 

There were multiple typos in this story, which distracted me as I read since I’m trained to catch them. But the story was strong despite them. Also, the book made a switch near the last portion where the story turned to too much kissing and dragged out the ending a bit too long. I ended up skimming that part.

Overall, this is a great debut novel from a strong writer! I’m looking forward to more from this author.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

A Love Like Ours

 Review of A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

I enjoy Becky’s writing, every book. She has a distinctive voice in Christian fiction. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Let’s begin the summary:

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

And here’s my review:

First, that cover! Depicts the heroine perfectly—her spunk. Shows that the book isn’t all dread and suffering (which you might get from the summary). Oh, no. This book is yummy. Also, the cover depicts the hero hiding his face behind his Stetson. Yup, that’s our scarred hero.

Jake seemed so real. He had genuine issues—PTSD—and real scars. The author showed us a realistic story line that I believe opens her audience up to both men and military personnel (instead of the usual women of a certain age bracket). Some of the proceeds from the book have gone to support veterans through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund—a heroic gesture in itself.

The author handled “the event” (which led to the hero’s PTSD) very well, in my opinion. I avoid stories with gore or extreme violence, but I felt Becky’s depiction, though realistic, was tastefully done. We only visited this event a few times.

Against his will, Jake—once a tender young man—is presented with an opportunity to employ his childhood best friend and crush, with his horses. But he’d rather protect her—from him, from injury with the horses. And he’d rather guard himself from her optimism, her faith, hope. Such rich characterization. I was totally immersed in the story and found myself reading any chance I got.

Becky’s sense of humor and sarcasm, comes through the characters and narrative. Loved that.

A big part of this story is the symbolism of a horse character—Silver Leaf. This horse will not race for just anybody. He’s strong, handsome, and he needs special handling—like our wounded hero. He needs someone to believe in him, like Jake does.

The heroine’s faith, her family’s faith, is a life-line. And this family lives what they know.

Hope, healing, choosing life—these are some of the themes in this story. I could relate with Jake, and I could relate with Lyndie. And I rooted for their relationship.

There were a lot of POV (point-of-view) characters, which at first was confusing, but less so as the story progressed. I enjoyed watching the secondary characters romances progress. There were also some POV missteps in the ARC (advanced reader copy) I read. But I could overlook them for the sake of this fantastic story.

Highly recommended!