Mini-Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

23 Jan

My church book club, Page Turners, is an eclectic group with eclectic reading tastes. The selections from this group have challenged and stretched my reading habits — a very good thing! In January we discussed The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by debut author Katarina Bivald. Very well-written, this novel explores the influence of books on people. What a great choice for a book club! I very much enjoyed the many, many references to novels I have read or should read. I loved how the townspeople of Broken Wheel become engaged in life again after Sara from Sweden introduces them to her friends, books. The image of poor George reading chic lit including the Bridget Jones series still brings a chuckle. And I loved Grace’s new found friend Idgie whom she references while making outrageous statements and actions.

In an interview I read, Bivald states that she had never visited the US before writing this book, a deliberate act in creating  small town America as she wanted to see it. That’s fine. Broken Wheel is a town to love and long to visit, even as it does not really represent the real America. Two characters in particular are stereotypical, and according to one of my group’s members who has a daughter living in England, are in line with European imaginations. These people of faith are written as ineffectual and irrelevant in a modern world. Caroline is the one who gets things done in Broken Wheel, and her religious expression is more works than faith based. I get that. We see that all the time in the church. However, her new found freedom comes after she reads a gay erotica novel given her by Sara. It is true that both the Pastor and Caroline are examples of irrelevant and unrealistic faith, but I blame their creator (Bivald) more than how real faith looks.

So these are my thoughts on the best-selling The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Have your read it? What did you think?

61gqtf53mpl-_sx333_bo1204203200_Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor ― there’s not much else to do in a dying small town that’s almost beyond repair.

You certainly wouldn’t open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You’d need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy’s house is full of them), and . . . customers.

The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel’s own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.

A heartwarming reminder of why we are booklovers, this is a sweet, smart story about how books find us, change us, and connect us.

Audience: adults. 

Please note: this book is not Christian fiction and has content that may be offensive.

(I bought this novel from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: The Kill Fee

19 Jan

51p-hv1vxklPoppy Denby, Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, covers an exhibition of Russian Art, hosted by White Russian refugees, including members of the surviving exiled Romanov Royal family. There is an armed robbery, a guard is shot, and the largest Fabergé Egg in the collection is stolen. The egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within – secrets that could threaten major political powers. Suspects are aplenty, including the former keeper of the Fabergé Egg, a Russian Princess called Selena Romanova Yusopova. The interim Bolshevik Russian ambassador, Vasili Safin inserts himself into the investigation, as he believes the egg – and the other treasures – should all be restored to the Russian people. Poppy, her editor Rollo, press photographer Daniel, and the other staff of the Globe are delighted to be once again in the middle of a sensational story. But, soon the investigation takes a dark turn when another body is found and an employee of the newspaper becomes a suspect… The race is on to find both the key and the egg – can they be found before the killer strikes again?

fiona-treeFormerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer of books, theatre plays and screenplays.

Her children’s picturebooks, the Young David series, are now published by SPCK Publishing. Her adult mystery series set in the 1920s, Poppy Denby Investigates, is published by Lion Fiction.

She is a member of the British Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers. Fiona is also the editor of the popular writing advice website The Crafty Writer and her courses attract students from around the world.

She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities.

 

My Impressions:

The intrepid Poppy Denby is back in Fiona Veitch Smith’s latest book, The Kill Fee. The newly minted journalist is on the case when priceless Faberge eggs go missing and the bodies start piling up. An historical mystery filled with all the jazz of the Roaring 20s, this novel manages not only to capture the essence of the era, but keep the reader guessing with a well crafted story. For fans of British whodunits, this one is a great choice.

The Kill Fee involves not one, but two mysteries. The stories are told within two separate storylines, and intersect at the end. The Russian revolution is still ongoing and the brutality of the war between the Whites and the Reds spills into London as royal Russian refugees and Bolshevik loyalists clash over the ownership of priceless works of art and fabulous jewels. I very much enjoyed getting a glimpse into what was going on in politics of this time. There are a number of interesting characters and suspects galore. Poppy is again in the middle of the action as she discovers bodies and clues and manages to stay one step ahead of the authorities. While The Kill Fee is really not a Christian novel (as we see it in America), the author’s worldview informs her characters. Poppy calls on God for help at a critical point in the novel, someone she has neglected since arriving in the big city. Her faith, a bit covered with cobwebs, is realistically portrayed.

A fun novel, The Kill Fee kept me guessing and the pages turning as I followed the adventures of Poppy Denby. I’m looking forward to many more exciting times with this series.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Mini-Reviews from My Friend Carrie

19 Jan

Books are beginning to overtake my house! So I have enlisted my friend Carrie to help me with the enormous reading backlog. Here are her thoughts on four historical novels from Bethany House Publishers.

unknownThe Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund

Priscilla White has known that she wants to be a missionary since she was fifteen. Her plan is to go to India. Dr. Eli Ernest is about to travel back to Oregon to begin ministering to the Nez Perce Indians. What neither one of them anticipated was the missionary board declaring that they can’t go to their respective missions unless they are married. Circumstances dictate them to marry in name only and begin the long journey across the country. The Doctor’s Lady will remind you that God’s ways are better than our own and that even in our mistakes He can work miracles. This historical fiction novel is inspired by the true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. After reading this book, you will want to read about this amazing couple who journeyed into the unknown to go on mission to the Nez Perce.

unknown-2A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell

Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana are seamstresses for the popular and coveted dressmaker Madame Fortier in Boston in 1918. These three girls although very talented seamstresses are very different. Julietta is carelessly adventurous in chasing after love. Annamaria is quiet and reserved but longs for love and a family of her own, but is stuck taking care of her family as the oldest daughter instead of finding love. Luciana keeps her past and who she is a secret. If people discover who she really is many people will be would be in danger. Love still finds her though even in her secrecy. A Heart Most Worthy weaves together three women’s stories beautifully. This book will keep you thinking with romance, adventure, and danger around every corner.

unknown-1Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

Tillie Reese has dreamed her entire life of becoming a lady’s maid. As head parlor maid at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, Tillie realizes her dream may come true when the lady of the house Mrs. Edith Vanderbilt’s lady’s maid is planning to return to her home country of France. Mack Danvers, a mountain man who is not inclined to work long at the Biltmore, comes and challenges Tillie’s dreams with his aggressive behavior and strong beliefs. She is left to question everything she ever thought she wanted. Maid to Match is a delightful story of how the servant class was in the late 1800’s. It is full of lovable characters who you can’t help but care for and want to meet. It will leave you to ponder your life and what your dreams really are. By the end of the book you will want to plan a trip to North Carolina to see the Biltmore Mansion where this story takes place. (The Kindle version is currently 99 cents!)

unknown-3Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

Alice Grace Ripley lives the perfect life. She has a job she loves as a librarian. She gets to read all the time. She has a wonderful boyfriend. Life couldn’t be better; until she loses her job due to the Great Depression and her boyfriend breaks up with her. In a day’s time Alice’s world is turned upside down, and she feels like her life is spinning out of control. To get away from her circumstances, she leaves for Kentucky to drop off a donation of books to a small town very different from her own. No cars, no running water, no libraries. Suddenly Alice sees a purpose for herself: join the librarians for this coal-mining town and ride on horseback to homes to deliver books. What Alice discovers is life can give just as much adventure as a book. She discovers excitement, mystery, friendship, and even romance that she never experienced before. Wonderland Creek shows what life in the backwoods of Kentucky was like during the Great Depression. It portrays how some were able to read through the adventures of the traveling librarians.

(Thanks to Bethany House for complimentary copies of these books. All opinions are Carrie’s alone.)

 

Thanks so much, Carrie, for sharing your thoughts!

cfjijvbwiaa_nch-jpg-smallCarrie McNair is wife to Terry and mother to two active boys, Caden and Noah. Carrie is a Model Teacher. That means people from far and wide come to find out about excellence in the classroom by observing her and her students. A committed bookworm, Carrie makes sure her students develop a love of reading.

Children’s Corner: Lots of Love

18 Jan

516tzpcyqwl-_sy498_bo1204203200_Lots of Love celebrates all the ways we show love — from hugs and kisses to sharing and helping others. The sweet rhymes and whimsical artwork in this board book illustrate the special bonds of love between families and friends. Perfect for young children, this book will make you want to snuggle with your little one as you two explore the greatest blessing of all — love!

Kim Washburn began her career in Christian publishing with Focus on the Family. While she worked on their Clubhouse Jr. magazine, two of her original stories were recognized by the Evangelical Press Association, including first place in the fiction category in 2006. Currently Kim stays home – and stays on her toes – with her eleven-year-old daughter and nine-year-old twin sons.

 

 

My Impressions:

Lots of Love would be a great addition (or substituion) to the Valentine’s candy! This book celebrates living a life of love through colorful illustrations and easy rhyme. But this one will be read long after all the chocolate is gone because it teaches the enduring concept of showing love. The board book follows one little girl as she experiences and shares love throughout her day — from an early morning wake-up, to the activities of school, to family interactions and the acknowledgment of God’s love for her. I liked this book and am eager to share it with my little friends. A book that goes beyond a holiday, I recommend Lots of Love!

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-8

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Hidden Gems

17 Jan

The folks at The Broke And The Bookish have challenged us to list those books we term underrated/hidden gems. I really hate the term underrated. It has such a negative feel to it. So I am choosing to focus on books that I consider hidden gems — books that many people may not know about, but would love if they gave them a chance. The last time I tackled a list like this was back in July when the Top 10 Tuesday theme was books with less than 2000 ratings on Goodreads. Well, most of the books I read fit in this category! Why? Perhaps readers are just not motivated to rate books. But ratings mean a lot to authors — it helps with visibility and ultimately sales of their books. If you love a book I encourage you to rate it!

So here is a list of books I read in the last half of 2016 with not a lot of stars following their titles. Many of them made my Best of 2016 list too. To find out what other bloggers consider hidden gems, click HERE.

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Top 10 Hidden Gems

(Books with under 200 ratings on Goodreads)

The Cantaloupe Thief by Deb Richardson-Moore

A Day And A Life by Penelope Wilcock

The Fifth Column by Mike Hollow

51-4n7vpu4l-_sx326_bo1204203200_514brqocxyl-_sx327_bo1204203200_51jmprwkljl-_sx325_bo1204203200_

Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert

The Name I Call Myself by Beth Moran

Of Stillness And Storm by Michele Phoenix

The Raven by Mike Nappa

51-iama68rl-_sx331_bo1204203200_51sody6wfl-_sx325_bo1204203200_of-stillness-and-storm41jklpz8chl-_sx322_bo1204203200_

Since You’ve Been Gone by Christa Allan

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Within The Veil by Brandy Vallance

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Have you read any of these books?

If you haven’t already, head over to Goodreads and rate them!

Book Review: What Happened on Beale Street

16 Jan

51wf7qpftbl-_sx322_bo1204203200_What Happened on Beale Street is an exciting addition to the Secrets of the South Mysteries from bestselling author Mary Ellis. These standalone, complex crime dramas follow a private investigator’s quest to make the world a better place…solving one case at a time.

A cryptic plea for help from a childhood friend sends cousins Nate and Nicki Price from New Orleans to Memphis, the home of scrumptious barbecue and soulful blues music. When they arrive at Danny Andre’s last known address, they discover signs of a struggle and a lifestyle not in keeping with the former choirboy they fondly remember.

Danny’s sister, Isabelle, reluctantly accepts their help. She and Nate aren’t on the best of terms due to a complicated past, yet they will have to get beyond that if they want to save Danny.

On top of Danny’s alarming disappearance and his troubled relationship with Isabelle, Nate also has to rein in his favorite cousin’s overzealousness as a new and eager PI. Confronted with a possible murder, mystery, and mayhem in the land of the Delta blues, Nate must rely on his faith and investigative experience to keep one or more of them from getting killed.

mary-ellis1Mary Ellis is the best selling author of seven Amish inspirational novels that include The Wayne County series and The Miller Family series. She grew up in Ohio close to an Amish community. Before becoming a full-time writer, Mary taught middle school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. All three of her Miller Family series books have made the CBA and CBD bestseller lists. A Widow’s Hope was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards for 2010 and a runner-up in the 2010 Holt Medallion Awards.

 

My Impressions:

What Happened on Beale Street was By The Book’s January 2017 selection. We read book 1, Midnight on The Mississippi, in 2016 and really liked it. Mystery/suspense is our favorite genre, and when you combine it with potential road trip destinations . . . well, we are definitely in! The second book in Ellis’s Secrets of The South series features returning and new characters and a brand new mystery to investigate. These novels are standalone offerings, allowing the reader to jump in at any time. While those who read the book (yes we don’t always get the books finished before our meetings 😉 ) generally liked it, the general consensus was that it was a bit slow to develop. Also there are two mysteries being investigated, and we felt that the progress of the story lines often felt interrupted. Overall, though, we enjoyed What Happened on Beale Street and would recommend it.

In this second novel in the series, Nate is the main character. His character is expanded and he is introduced to a love interest. Nicki and Hunter, the two main characters from the first book, are given a secondary story line that was innovative and interesting. Although there is a mystery to solve with plenty of suspects and a stalking to thwart, What Happened on Beale Street was more about Nate and Izzy’s attraction. This is a romantic suspense where romance is front and center. In the end, the resolution of the crime was quick, almost too quick. However, I was ready for the mystery to be solved. One unusual feature of this book is that the victim was a genuinely good guy who everyone loved (at least almost everyone!). Many times authors make the victim the bad guy that no one mourns or often are glad they are gone. Danny’s character was revealed through those he had interacted with during his life. His death left a void in all the characters’ lives.

At least two more books in the series remain. We will probably be along for all the mysterious doings with Nate, Izzy, Nicki and Hunter.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Author, Author — Shoba Sadler Author of Child of Dust

15 Jan

 

http://clashofthetitles.com

Today we’ll sit down to chat with Shoba Sadler, author of the contemporary title Child of Dust. Shoba will take us behind the scenes of her unique new novel and give us a glimpse into her writing.

Shoba, why did you choose to write this type of novel?
Social status and cultural barriers makes for great conflict. Child of Dust is like a modern-day classic of Romeo and Juliet only instead of opposing families, these lovers, Kim and Bryan have cultural and social barriers to contend with.

Kim, the rich and spoilt socialite who loses her money is taken under the wing of her reluctant chauffeur, Bryan, who has his own struggles to deal with. They find love under the most unexpected circumstances.

Can you tell us why you started with an Asian setting for your first two novels?
I was founder of Agape Christian magazine in Malaysia. I also freelanced for the leading English, secular newspaper in Malaysia, The Star. My feature stories forThe Star were several page write-ups with gorgeous photos. Many of my stories were selected by the features editor to be cover stories as well.

As I interviewed people all over the world for Agape, I saw God moving powerfully in Asia and yet there were so few stories coming from there especially in the Christian romance genre.

In Asia, Christianity is seen very much as a Western culture. Yet so many Asians have had powerful encounters with Jesus Christ. Then there is the struggle to validate their faith in the midst of culture, tradition, loss of identity, social stigma and so on.

There alone you have so much material for backdrop, tension, drama, conflict and final resolution.

An example of what I mean can be seen in my short story Finding Enlightenmentthat was awarded second place at faithwriters.com. It can be read here:http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level3-previous.php?id=54362

Talk a little about your unique setting.
When I read novels I am drawn to the backdrop and setting. A great description of the setting subtly woven into the story is what makes the difference between being a narrator who takes a person on a journey through his “telling” and a facilitator who steps out of the way altogether to allow the reader to explore the journey on his own. The writer should aim to be the facilitator and not the narrator.There is nothing like a great setting to make the reader feel like they are there with the characters. It is like the difference between watching a 2D and 3D movie.

Unfortunately, many formulaic romance novels that are churned out in quick production-line succession fails to capture this allure of setting because it takes research and time. It is also not easy to write setting discreetly in the background and that is the only way to write it. Otherwise it will seem like reading lecture notes instead of a story.

I read one review of a multi-cultural romance set in an Asian country where the reviewer said she felt like she was reading a tour company’s brochure and that is the wrong emotion to invoke.

So another reason I wrote Child of Dust was to give romance readers a chance to explore unique settings and backdrops not normally experienced by a reader in the current trend of romance novels available out there.

We’d love to hear a little about the historical background for your novel. Will you talk about that?
The main character, Bryan, Kim’s chauffeur has been deeply affected by the Vietnam war in the sense that he is the illegitimate child of an American GI and a Vietnamese woman. This historical background sets a different dimension to the story and adds intrigue and authenticity.

Who would you say is the audience for this novel?

Child of Dust is an appealing read for anyone. As I have also written for the secular press, I am able to write in a manner that appeals to all walks of life both Christian and non-Christian. I have had non-Christians tell me they were so engrossed in the story that they didn’t not notice the message of the gospel woven into the story. Yet that message is undoubtedly there.

I am an inspirational writer and everyone loves a good inspirational story just as they love watching a Hallmark movie.

What readers have to say about the novel:
“Make sure when getting ready to read Child of Dust that you don’t have anything else planned for the day, you won’t be able to put this book down. I could go on and on about this book. Highly and strongly recommend it. Is it possible to give a book 10 stars?” — Debra Dunson, reviewer at The Edgier Christian Fiction Fan

“I found the writing of this story to be close to excellent…. I found this book to be one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. It was interesting, the story kept moving along, and I learned a lot as I read this story. I found myself intrigued with the constant difficulties faced by the protagonists – and their stories were presented so much more like real life stories than any other book I have read in a long, long time.” — Marina, Community Writer, California

“This novel has a consistent rhythm, adding surprise after surprise, twisting our emotions at each new difficulty Kim faces. I couldn’t put this book down, waiting to see if any or all the ends would be tired up. I would actually like to see the novel transcend into a movie. An amazing read.” — Brices Mice Christian Book Reviews

About Child of Dust: 

Beautiful but spoilt Vietnamese socialite, Cao Kim Lye, learns of her parents shocking death from the dashing Amerasian family chauffeur, Bryan Nguyen.

Kim steps out of a world of crystal and chandelier to enter the dust and chaos of working-class Hanoi. She finds herself living under the roof of a shop cum living quarters with Bryan and his adoptive family.

Ever conscious of the privileged class, Kim struggles against the emotional ties she forms towards Bryan, the reluctant saviour, who considers her an unnecessary hitch to his already complicated life.

He still bears the scars of abandonment by his mother and his American GI father when U.S. troops pulled out of Vietnam.

Eventually Bryan and Kim’s powerful attraction to each other begins to break down the wall between them.

About the author: 
Shoba Sadler has been a journalist for 20 years and founder of Agape magazine in Malaysia. She is a versatile inspirational author that likes to write in multiple genres. She has pioneered a new genre in Christian multi-cultural writing with her novel Child of Dust and her many award-winning short stories can be read here http://shobasadler.com/?page_id=250

Her passion for writing is matched only by her passion for cooking with farm fresh produce. She lives a healthy lifestyle on a farm with her husband, Kevin, a talented musician, who also loves to surf and ski. They grow their own vegetables and fruits and share their home with a multitude of animals and wildlife. They are passionate about buying directly from local farmers who practice organic farming.