Saturday, September 26, 2015

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over by Anita Agers-Brooks

Today’s review is for a non-fiction title that I kept hearing about and decided might be helpful. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

There are some things in life people never get over. No matter how much they want to.

Many experience abuse, financial disaster, serious illness, death of loved ones, and other common traumas making them believe they’ll never move past the pain, but through research and true story compilations, author Anita Agers-Brooks offers emotional, practical, and spiritual insights from experts and people who have survived intense trauma—and have made it through seemingly impossible situations.

And now, my review:

Sometimes the only way beyond something is through it. 

Anita’s extensive work in counseling with trauma victims provides unique wisdom in this area. As I read, I was impressed with her expertise in the field of psychology. No wonder this book has been so well received. I will say, some of the stories were too difficult for me to read but I gleaned the key application—just keep going. Don’t give up. Move forward. Get help.

Because this book addresses real issues and because the author knows her field, and because the chapters offer genuine inspiration, I believe this book will help many people. She includes God in the narrativethe best Counselor. I believe every reader will find nuggets for personal application, or the means to help others. 

If you’re in a situation that seems impossible, or you’ve suffered trauma or love someone who has, I highly recommend this book. I believe highly sensitive people will benefit, but should proceed cautiously. Pick and choose the stories (chapters) that work for you. There are plenty of anecdotes to choose from.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

London Tides by Carla Laureano

London Tides by Carla Laureano

I’ve been working intermittently on a novel for some years that begins in a way very similar to this story. That can happen. I found it intriguing. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Irish photojournalist Grace Brennan travels the world’s war zones documenting the helpless and forgotten. After the death of her friend and mentor in the field, Grace is shaken.

She returns to London hoping to rekindle the spark with the only man she ever loved—Scottish businessman Ian MacDonald. But he gave up his championship rowing career and dreams of Olympic gold years ago for Grace ... only for her to choose career over him. Will life’s tides bring them back together ... or tear them apart for good this time?
And now, my review:

I loved Five Days in Skye—one of my favorites from the year it came out (2013). This story references characters from that book, which was fun. 

I enjoy reunion romances. These characters have changed a lot since they’ve seen each other. They’re very mature now. I like Carla’s voice and prose. The heroine’s a professional photographer, so it was enjoyable to watch her work her craft. These two had some fun, innovative dates. 

My challenge with this story is I didn’t stay hooked. I lost interest around the 30 percent point. (I read it as an ARC  in e-book format.) Though I didn’t love the book, I wish the author all the best. I'll be watching for her next contemporary title.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Together with You by Victoria Bylin

Together with You by Victoria Bylin

I enjoy Victoria's writing so I thrilled with the privilege of reading this title for review. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Sometimes the most unexpected love can be exactly what a heart needs...

When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Pennyand Penny's handsome fathertugs at Carly's heart.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.

Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?

And now, my review:

This story began with a great hook—a missing child. As a parent, that gets to you, makes you keep reading. And it’s a great scenario for authors to introduce their characters. Throughout the story, the author throws in wise nuggets, like how fathers are created as they father. (Same for mothers, but our protag is a dad.) 

Our heroine longs for a family and Penny, the protag’s daughter, tugs on something inside Carly. But getting involved in her life means facing down demons she’s successfully avoided for a season. God’s probably not going to let her get away with avoidance for long because that isn’t freedom. And He’s all about freedom. Carly is good for Ryan’s family, and they’re good for her.

I liked how the author kept us hooked in this romantic story. She was skilled at even taking us into the little girl’s thoughts—showing her confusion and motivations. The author obviously understands her subject matter here. Well written.

All in all, an enjoyable story.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Married ‘til Monday by Denise Hunter

Married 'til Monday by Denise Hunter

I love a good reunion romance. And I couldn’t wait to read this last of the Chapel Springs series from Denise Hunter.

Let’s begin with the summary:

With a big anniversary party in the works for his ex-wife’s parents, Ryan has just one weekend to play Abby’s husband . . . and win back the woman of his dreams.

Ryan McKinley has tried to move on from his ex-wife, Abby. He’s sulked, he’s gotten angry, and ultimately he bought her dream house. Big mistake. Living alone in the massive two-story has only made him miss her more. When her parents call him out of the blue about their anniversary party in Summer Harbor, Maine, Ryan believes God has dropped a golden opportunity straight in his lap.

Abby McKinley never exactly told her parents about the divorce. A strained relationship with her dad has culminated in a distant relationship with her parents, but she’s finally succumbed to her mom’s pressure to make the drive for their 35th-anniversary party.

Then Ryan shows up on her doorstep, looking as handsome as ever. When he insists he’s going to Summer Harbor, with or without her, Abby knows she can’t say no. Her parents still think they’re married and now Ryan knows it too. It’s just a one-week road trip with the man who broke her heart. 
What could possibly go wrong?

And now, my review:

As I read the earlier books in this series, I found myself drawn to Ryan. He reminded me of someone I use to know, and like in the story, he was a brother figure. I wanted to see his story turn out happily ever after. I wanted to read about his situation going from hard and painful to better. See his rejection issues turned around.

Our heroine came from an abusive home, and because her father expects her to fail, she must prove him wrong. That’s what toxic shame will do to you—motivate you to prove people wrong, which sometimes results in taking risks. But the only risk for our heroine is a possible return to a relationship with her ex-husband.

Ryan is willing to take the risk. In some ways this book reminded me of my favorite Denise Hunter title, Surrender Bay, in the symbolism to God’s willingness to risk His heart in loving us.

The heroine is determined to be rejected. Yes, you read that right. She doesn’t make their week together easy on Ryan. But though he seemed on a fool’s mission, I sympathized with both him and with Abby. I wanted the best for them. 

I loved watching these two together. And the humor here and there was fun! But at times this was a tough story to read. I’ve found lately with Denise’s writing, she’s going deeper into the pain humans face in relationships and this story proved that true. But, like in life, that pain was tempered with possibilities, with hope, with romance in these characters' lives.

A little secret: mention of Abby’s family comes up in Denise’s next series, Summer Harbor, which is set in Maine.

Up soon here on Net's Book Notes, a review for Falling Like Snowflakes, book one in the Summer Harbor Series, which just released.