Sunday, July 13, 2014

Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt

Somebody Like You by Beth K. Vogt

After hearing so much buzz about this book, I had to read it!

Let’s begin with the summary:

Can a young widow find love again with her husband’s reflection?

Haley’s three-year marriage to Sam, an army medic, ends tragically when he’s killed in Afghanistan. Her attempts to create a new life for herself are ambushed when she arrives home one evening—and finds her husband waiting for her. Did the military make an unimaginable mistake when they told her Sam was killed?

Too late to make things right with his estranged twin brother, Stephen discovers Sam never told Haley about him. As Haley and Stephen navigate their fragile relation­ship, they are inexorably drawn to each other. How can they honor the memory of a man whose death brought them together—and whose ghost could drive them apart?

Somebody Like You is a beautifully rendered, affecting novel, reminding us that while we can’t change the past, we have the choice to change the future and start anew.

And now, my review:

I loved the original premise of this book—a man whose wife doesn’t know he has a twin, until he dies. Then the identical brother shows up at her door. Great idea for a novel!

The author didn't avoid real issues—the heroine is a widow, in the throes of grief. I appreciated the author’s ability to show us the facets of grief. Readers who have suffered loss will find much with which to relate. But she’s very closed off. At times, reading the story felt like we were kept a far distance from the heroine’s feelings, but that’s because she herself was closed off from emotions. And though this is true, readers will still sympathize with her. “No tears. Keep up.” So well written!

This poor hero didn’t get a chance to reconcile with his twin. A few poor choices left him in regret. He’s noble, and flawed, and readers will love him. He’s determined to help the heroine with things around the house, whether she wants it or not, which throws them together. He gets her through the toughest grief period, while she helps him get to know his brother.

Each character has believed some lies that will need to be dismantled.

I was a bit disappointed not to see the hero/heroine together more often at the beginning. But they do spend more and more time together. I think that’s believable since this is a romance—they’re both too broken at first for a relationship.

Their banter is delicious. Each writer has his/her own strengths. As a writer, I read somewhere that writers should find the element that readers really love about their work, and give them that. Beth does that here. Yum!

Highly recommended!

Friday, June 27, 2014

It Had to be You by Susan May Warren

It Had to be You by Susan May Warren

If you’ve read this blog for a while you know I love Susan May Warren’s books! She’s not only a fantastic writer, she’s also a friend and one who mentors writers. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen’s cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits—and starting to fear she doesn’t have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen.

Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior—on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he’s getting from Eden Christiansen isn’t making things any easier. But when Owen’s carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.

And now, my review:

Poor Eden feels like she has to oversee her brother’s life. She’s obsessed, actually, but that’s because she’s drawing her sense of worth and purpose from his successes. Imagine what happens to her when he fails or purposely doesn’t try. She’s stuck. 

Susan did something amazing with this story. I’m not a sports fan, and I especially dislike hockey, but I loved this story. One of the ways she kept hockey from overtaking the story was by adding a secondary thread—the father and daughter subplot of Sam and Maddy.  Such a touching journey of a little girl’s health problems and how her father sacrifices everything for her. 

Both Jace and Eden (our hero and heroine) believe some lies. Jace is convinced he’s a monster, full of hate and violence. In reality, there’s a heart under that enforcer exterior.

And Eden is convinced she’s living her life on the sidelines, that perhaps she’s not important enough to take center ring. The irony is she sees the potential in others, but not in herself. 

Jace’s challenge is he’s at risk for severe trouble if he sustains any more head injuries. But as a hockey player, and especially in his role as enforcer, he’s expected to be violent. Susan keeps the tension going with that concern. 

Great, layered writing!  

Highly recommended.

BONUS: If you've enjoyed this series,  you also get to read the prequel to the series if you pick up this book or e-book. Enjoyable!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

Until I Found You

What’s not to love about that cover?! Love it!

Let’s begin with the summary:

Finding each other was only the beginning . . .
When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life.

It's Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate's rescue. Nick is handsome and confident, and he seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She's not planning to get involved with one of the locals.

Nick is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn't expect to be swept off his feet by the car's occupant. He's made a vow--no dating for a year--but keeping that vow is going to be a lot more difficult now that he's met Kate Darby. . . .

And now, my review:

I had to Google condors while reading this book. The endangered birds play a symbolic role in this story. Interesting creatures!

I hadn’t heard of this author before, but I must say I’ll be watching for her further books because I so enjoyed this novel.

The story begins with a knight-in-shining-armor moment where we get to see the hero in action. Great scene! Immediately hooks the reader.

The author explored themes of faith, trusting God, overcoming anxiety, following God’s path, and hearing God’s voice. I loved that she didn’t offer any easy answers while the characters tried to figure things out.

The hero has made a vow to not date for a year—that’ll put a crimp in any romance. (*wink*) But, the author kept this romance reader turning pages.

At times, I felt this author was very strong, which made me wonder why I hadn’t heard of her.  At other times, when I caught POV missteps, I wondered if this was a first-timer. Now, granted I read the ARC (advanced reader copy), so those POV issues were probably resolved. But the story arc progressed at a good pace. Her male POV was superb. I highlighted her prose on several occasions. When I visited her website, I discovered she has several previous titles.

The author also dealt with hero worship in a believable and compelling way. Our poor heroine struggles with insecurity. Unfortunately, she’s reaching for anything that might help her—including the hero, control, familiarity, etc. But it’s God she must learn to trust.

I appreciated the author’s wisdom in things of God, and I recommend this book! Her next title, Together With You releases April, 2015. I'll be watching for it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

With Autumn's Return by Amanda Cabot

With Autumn's Return

This is book three in the Westward Winds series.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Elizabeth Harding arrives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to establish her medical practice thanks to the wooing of her two older sisters who extolled the beauty of the land. She's certain she'll have a line of patients eager for her expertise and gentle bedside manner. However, she soon discovers the town and its older doctor may not welcome a new physician. Even more frustrating, the handsome young attorney next door may not be ready for the idea of a woman doctor. For his part, Jason Nordling has nothing against women, but he's promised himself that the woman he marries will be a full-time mother.

Despite their firm principles, Elizabeth and Jason find that mutual attraction—and disdain from the community—is drawing them ever closer. And when the two find themselves working to save the life and tattered reputation of a local woman, they'll have to decide how far they're willing to go to find justice—and true love.

And now, my review:

The hook for me in this historical was the lady doctor. The author did a great job giving us a heroine who was competent, eloquent, and sharp. In her time, 1887, she held a mirror up for others to see their double standard and belligerence. She withstood multiple pressures, whether in social situations (where she was a novelty), arguments (where people tried to tell her she couldn’t be what she felt called to be), and medical emergencies. That kind of strength makes a great heroine. She was also kind to her roommate, and her kindness rounded out her personality.

Amanda gave us an ensemble cast, with folks we had seen in earlier books in this series, like Gwen and others. Because of this, we get to watch two romances grow. She even gave us their perspective for a scene or two. Multiple POV isn’t easy do, but Amanda kept the pace and tension strong. I enjoyed watching Jason and Elizabeth grow closer together.  

I enjoyed this series, with its endearing characters. Though one probably wouldn’t have to begin with book one, in order to have the benefit of their journeys, I recommend it. The other titles are Summer of Promise and Waiting for Spring. Perhaps this series will contain four titles, with a winter focus too? I’ll be watching for it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Spirit Bridge by James L. Rubart

Spirit Bridge

I can’t read one of Jim Rubart’s novels just for entertainment. Somehow God uses them in my life. Every. Single. Time. And they’re not just novels anymore. 

This book releases Tuesday, May 6, 2014 from Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins Christian Publishing.

Let’s begin with the summary:

The Warriors Riding have battled in astounding supernatural realms, set captives free, and awakened thousands of hearts. But now their only chance of survival depends on calling for The Spirit Bridge.

Reece, Dana, Brandon, and Marcus have achieved staggering success in the spiritual realm . . . but each is reeling from vicious attacks. They need rest. A break from the war.

But the warlord Zennon is raging and will give them no quarter. The demon holds what he believes to be the trump card—a hidden strategy set in motion before Warriors Riding even began—that will detonate the team from the inside out. And he's just set it loose.

The street magician Simon—finally free of Zennon's alternate reality prison—is racing to remember his past before his ignorance obliterates his destiny. Then there's Miyo—a brash young warrior with advanced knowledge of spiritual realities and supernatural armor even Reece doesn't know about. These two will be pivotal in the final war.

If only the Warriors knew which side Simon and Miyo are truly on. If only they knew how to fight against Zennon's final assault.

The Spirit Bridge is the epic conclusion to acclaimed author James L. Rubart's Well Spring series, which will propel each of the Warriors Riding on a quest of true identity, ultimate freedom, and a final battle that will leave them changed forever.

And now, my review: 

I usually have the privilege of reading Jim’s books as ARCs—advanced reader copies. These may or may not contain some typos, or some elements that may later be changed during the editing process. So, I won’t quote passages here, though I certainly highlighted a few places in the version I read. Because I don’t see the finished product, I like borrowing the audio files from the library after they’re available. Unlike with some novels where a reader is hired, Jim himself reads the books for us. And no matter how much I gain from the read-through a few months before I listen to the audio books, I always glean more in the listening. (Just ignore the fact I may linger in the car while I run errands around town.)

As usual, Jim’s use of setting captured my imagination once again. Sure, these are fantasy novels with plenty of supernatural elements, but the Pacific Northwest also plays a “role” in the story and I love that! A beautiful setting. 

His books are easily visualized, and like with the earlier books, I could see this playing out as a movie including Seattle attractions. 

Beneath that, though, are the spiritual elements. With themes like identity, truth, one’s calling, approval seeking, humility, and personal worth, readers will find relatable elements. And without being preachy, Jim presents principles that offer revelation and insight. 

I liked Simon’s characterization and how this title brought hope—the hope of restoration only available from God. 

Another great book from this author. 

Highly recommended!