Book Review: Love Arrives in Pieces

6 Jul

UnknownFor so long, Stella was known for her beauty. Now, with her heart stripped bare, she must discover who she really is.

Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn’t trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to brokenness, so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but she always falls short. So she keeps her passion for art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn’t get another job soon, she’ll be stuck living with her parents.

Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancée. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he’ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town’s old theater and is shocked to discover that the designer for the project is his old flame, Stella.

Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and past as they struggle to compromise and work together on a vision for the theater. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness—and their unresolved feelings for each other—until Chase discovers the hidden parts of Stella, while losing her trust in the process.

A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice—to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from their brokenness.

 

BStAmant-257Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana with her young daughter and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.

 

My Impressions:

Betsy St. Amant takes her readers back to Bayou Bend, Louisiana in her second book, Love Arrives in Pieces. You can read my review of All’s Fair in Love And Cupcakes HERE. It is obvious that the subject of this novel — how God uses brokenness — is close to the author’s heart. Written with a depth of feeling not always seen in contemporary romance, Love Arrives in Pieces is perfect for those looking for a little more than just happily-ever-after.

Stella Varland feels like a failure in everything she thinks counts. Her looks once wowed the pageant judges, but wasn’t enough to keep her husband around. Broken and bruised she wants a new start, but sometimes staying broken is safer than becoming whole. Chase Taylor left town years ago but is back to prove he can be trusted, something he desperately wants to believe himself. Together Stella and Chase navigate the broken pieces of their lives to find hope and romance.

Love Arrives in Pieces has true-to-life characters and a good writing style, but its underlying theme is what makes it a really good read. Through Stella, St. Amant explores what true beauty is, a beauty that God can make timeless with broken pieces when His people surrender. Divorce is treated with grace and mercy, something that those who struggle with rejection and failure really need. She really opened this reader’s eyes to the emotions that many hide or that those on the outside dismiss.

Love Arrives in Pieces is sure to appeal to the contemporary romance fan looking for heart in the midst of love.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Audiobook Review: The Outcast

3 Jul

51+4WfhKa9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel Stoltzfus is a strong-willed single woman, content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of the religious sect as she is shunned by those she loves most. She is eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop.

But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.

z-300x261Jolina Petersheim is the award-winning author of The Midwife and The Outcast, which Library Journal gave a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. The Outcast also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller, and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, World Magazine’s Notable Books, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and The Tennessean. Jolina blogs bi-monthly at Southern Belle View Daily with nine other authors joined in their love for Jesus, the South, family, and words.

 

My Impressions:

There have been so many glowing reviews of Jolina Petersheim’s debut novel, The Outcast, that I was intrigued by this book. Add the fact that it was inspired by The Scarlet Letter, I knew I had to read it sooner than later. I purchased the audiobook and took off on my morning walks becoming immersed in Rachel’s life, her struggles and heartbreak. The Outcast was a book I just could not put down, er, turn off! Great writing, characters and plot — this novel has it all and gets a very highly recommended designation from me.

Petersheim sets her story of betrayal, jealousy, and judgment in an Old Order Mennonite community. Forgiveness is available, but only if repentance comes first. But not all sins are brought to light, and hypocrisy and pride drive innocents out into the world.

As stated, The Outcast is inspired by The Scarlet Letter. If your high school experience with that novel was less than enjoyable, don’t let that fact keep you from reading this book. Petersheim’s voice is fresh and accessible for her readers. Characters are real and relatable. The dual points of view of Rachel and a recently deceased Amos give fascinating and insightful glimpses into the heart of the characters. The faith message of God’s love, forgiveness and restoration runs throughout the novel. The Outcast also echoes the story of Rachel and Leah from the book of Genesis. — a nice touch. Petersheim also does a great job of exploring the impact of cancer on the entire family.

The Outcast is a winner in my book!

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(I purchased an audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop!

1 Jul

Thanks to Bookhounds and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for hosting the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop. Click here for all the participating bloggers.

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I am giving away a copy of Jody Hedlund’s novel, Captured by Love, set during the War of 1812 when the United States was still fighting for its freedom from England. To enter to win, just leave me a comment. Good luck!

UnknownThe British Army has taken control of Michilimackinac Island and its fort, forcing the Americans to swear an oath of loyalty to the crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a fur trader who returns after being away from the island for years, only to find the family farm a shambles and those he cares about starving and at the mercy of British invaders. Torn between the adventurous life of fur trading and guilt over neglecting his defenseless mother, Pierre is drawn deeper into the fight against the British–and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a childhood friend who’s grown into a beautiful woman. She now finds herself trapped by the circumstances of war and poverty, and the cruelty of her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley. As tensions mount and the violence rages on, Pierre and Angelique must decide where their loyalties rest and how much they’ll risk for love.

2015 Carol Award Nominees

1 Jul

 

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Contemporary
Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee
Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

Historical
Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson
Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
What Follows After by Dan Walsh

Historical Romance
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin
With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden (review next week)
While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Poison Town by Creston Mapes
A Way of Escape by Serena B. Miller
A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks

Novella
An October Bride by Katie Ganshert
I’ll be Home for Christmas from Where Treetops Glisten by Sarah Sundin
A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer

Romance
The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter
Love Redeemed by Kelly Irvin
Somebody Like You by Beth K. Vogt

Romantic Suspense
Under a Turquoise Sky by Lisa Carter
No One to Trust by Lynette Eason
Deceived by Irene Hannon

Short Novel
Second Chance Summer by Irene Hannon
Rescuing the Texan’s Heart by Mindy Obenhaus
The Wyoming Heir by Naomi Rawlings

Speculative
Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams
A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes
Jupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington

Young Adult
This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof
Samantha Sanderson at the Movies by Robin Caroll
Storm Siren by Mary Weber

Debut Novel
Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin
The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

July Book Club Selections

1 Jul

This month my two book clubs are reading historical novels set during WWII — Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (2015 Christy Award winner for Book of The Year and Historical Romance) and Secrets of A Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. Have you read either of these novels? We would love to hear your thoughts.

UnknownA boy coming of age in a time of war . . . 
the love that inspires him to survive.

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

 

UnknownShe stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades…beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden–one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed . . . 

Book Review: Summer’s List

30 Jun

412324_w185A dying wish alters the course of a young woman’s life.

Life hadn’t been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness-caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother’s bookstore-she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only tries she had at love… didn’t turn out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something-or someone.

Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer’s past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

AHigman-174Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

 

My Impressions:

Summer’s List by Anita Higman is a contemporary romance that reads a bit like a fractured fairy tale, complete with a fairy grandmother, evil step-brothers and an awkward prince! The characters learn to live, love and dream before the happily ever after. This one is a quick and light read for the hopeful romantic.

Summer has been putting others first for so long, she has difficulty living for herself. Faced with loss, she is commanded to go on a quest — a bucket list of sorts — to find out what she wants. Along the way Summer finds herself and the elusive love she has been searching for.

While the premise of Summer’s List really appealed to me — learning to live, following dreams — I really could not get into this book. Many of the characters were caricatures, and to me, too unbelievable. I did like Summer’s grandmother and her wisdom in sending Summer on a necessary life quest, but although an integral part of the story, she was not featured enough for me. I guess I would have liked more development and background information for the characters to understand motivations and reactions. The dialog seemed a bit stilted breaking up the flow of the story for me. Even though this was not a favorite of mine, many other reviewers loved it, so please check out other reviews HERE.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to River North and LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Congratulations to The 2015 Christy Award Winners!

29 Jun

Congratulations to all the talented authors on their 2015 Christy Awards! What a great list of books!

christyawardsmedallion

Book of the Year

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Contemporary

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate 

Contemporary Romance

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert 

Contemporary Series

The Amish Blacksmith by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner 

First Novel

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton

Historical

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

Historical Romance

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Suspense

The Color of Justice by Ace Collins

Visionary

Once Beyond a Time by Ann Tatlock 

Young Adult

Storm Siren by Mary Weber 

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