Book Review: A Heart’s Promise

27 Jul

UnknownEmmie makes a promise to her friend that, if fulfilled, could mean the end to her dreams of a future with Isaac.

Emmie Croftner let Isaac Liddle go to avoid telling him about her past. But Isaac remains determined to win Emmie’s heart and hand. Though Emmie resolves to keep her heart in check, it hurts when she sees that another woman has set her bonnet for Isaac.

Then Emmie’s dear friend extracts a costly promise: if anything happens to her in childbirth, Emmie will marry her widower and raise the baby herself. And it seems Emmie may have to fulfill that promise. But can she live happily without Isaac?

 

ccoble-110USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble has written several romantic suspense novels including Tidewater Inn, Rosemary Cottage, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.

 

My Impressions:

Colleen Coble’s 6-book Journey of The Heart series has provided me an uneven reading experience. The first 3 books were okay, but I really enjoyed book 4, A Heart’s Betrayal, which focuses on Emmie Croftner. Emmie’s story is unique, and I was looking forward to more time spent with this determined heroine. Her abuse at the hands of the men in her life have left Emmie distrustful of men in general and in God in particular. Unfortunately, A Heart’s Promise (book 5) was disappointing to me. Emmie’s new found faith occurs abruptly — I had to actually reread the passage to assure myself it had occurred. The romance between Emmie and Isaac is a hurried affair as well, seemingly put in for a tease for book 6.

While I didn’t like A Heart’s Promise, I am not giving up on the series. I really do want to know what will become of Emmie, Isaac and the other characters I have come to like.

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor

24 Jul

UnknownWhen Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

 

MDobson-314Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

 

My Impressions:

Family secrets are at the center of Melanie Dobson’s newest novel, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Taking place over a span of 65 years, this mystery/family saga was slow to capture my attention, but as more and more was revealed by the author, I found myself having a hard time putting this novel down. If you are looking for a good end of summer read, then this book could be just what you are looking for.

Maggie and Walter Doyle’s early days of marriage are happy, but shadowed by secrets kept by Maggie. When deceits come to light they escape to a new place and a new life. But just as they think that their family has a chance at lasting happiness, their daughter Libby’s strangeness and the attentions of the Lord’s son bring new worries. Forty-five years later, Maggie and Walter’s second daughter returns to sort through the remains of her late parents’ life and to find a peace that has eluded her. But more secrets have a way of coming to light.

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was slow and a bit confusing to me at first. Points of view shift between Walter’s journal, past events and present day. It took me a while to get into the book’s rhythm, but once I did, I immersed myself in the twisting and poignant tale of love, betrayal, deceit and forgiveness. The characters are very flawed. They make huge mistakes. And it is the message of forgiveness that makes the story so encouraging. Despite our mistakes, we have a Father who will forgive and set us on a right path again. My favorite character, Walter, was the one I most disliked at the beginning, yet came to love for his sacrificial love and care of the women in his life. Dobson’s exploration of the lies that people tell to protect the ones they love, which instead cause greater damage and invite division and estrangement, is excellent.

Complex in its writing style and themes, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a deeply moving novel that I recommend.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

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

 

Fun Things for Readers: BabyLit

23 Jul

51HcNinPQ2L._AC_UL160_SR160,160_From the creative mind of Jennifer Adams and the delightful art of Alison Oliver come children’s books inspired by literary classics. If you want to set your child, niece. nephew or grandchild on the right track of a life in love with books, consider investing in these adorable books. Because I love Jane Austen, I love her Austen-inspired books, but the BabyLit line also includes Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights, Dracula and more. Here are a few to tease and delight:

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To purchase books, click HERE.

 

jen_library_13-200x300Jennifer Adams is the author of thirty books, including the board books in the bestselling BabyLit series, which introduce small children to the world of classic literature.

Her children’s picture books, Edgar Gets Ready for Bed, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart and Edgar and the Tree House of Usher are inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven.” She also has two new picture books forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Her titles also include books for adults, including Y is for Yorick, a slightly irreverent look at Shakespeare, and Remarkably Jane, notable quotations on Jane Austen.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle. She has 20 years’ experience as a book editor, most recently at Gibbs Smith, Publisher and Quirk Books. She works some evenings at her local independent bookstore, The King’s English, to feed her book habit. Jennifer lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, Bill Dunford, who is also a writer.

 

Book Review: The Lost Garden

22 Jul

51qMnO66npL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Present and past residents of a countryside English vicarage search for love.

Marin Ellis is in search of a new start after her father and his second wife die in a car accident leaving her the guardian of her fifteen-year-old half-sister, Rebecca. They choose the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast and settle into Bower House, the former vicarage, on the edge of the church property. When a door to a walled garden captures Rebecca’s interest, Marin becomes determined to open it and discover what is hidden beneath the bramble inside. She enlists the help of local gardener Joss Fowler, and together the three of them begin to uncover the garden’s secrets.

In 1919, nineteen-year-old Eleanor Sanderson, daughter of Goswell’s vicar, is grieving the loss of her beloved brother Walter, who was killed just days before the Armistice was signed. Eleanor retreats into herself and her father starts to notice how unhappy she is. As spring arrives, he decides to hire someone to make a garden for Eleanor, and draw her out of―or at least distract her from―her grief and sorrow. Jack Taylor is in his early twenties, a Yorkshire man who has been doing odd jobs in the village, and when Eleanor’s father hires him to work on the vicarage gardens, a surprising―and unsuitable―friendship unfolds.

 

291535719After spending three years as a diehard New Yorker, Katharine Swartz now lives in the Lake District with her husband, an Anglican minister, their five children, and a Golden Retriever. She enjoys such novel things as long country walks and chatting with people in the street, and her children love the freedom of village life—although she often has to ring four or five people to figure out where they’ve gone off to!

She writes women’s fiction as well as contemporary romance for Mills & Boon Modern under the name Kate Hewitt, and whatever the genre she enjoys delivering a compelling and intensely emotional story.

 

My Impressions:

Katharine Swartz takes her readers back to the small Cumbrian village of Goswell in her novel The Lost Garden. Contemporary and historical story lines intersect in this tale of love, grief and forgiveness. This novel is very British and will appeal to the Anglophile reader.

Marin finds herself the guardian of her 15-year old sister following the deaths of her father and step-mother. Awkward with relationships, Marin bravely faces making a home and life for Rebecca. After moving to Cumbria, Marin finds herself intrigued with a walled garden at the back of her property. She becomes determined to discover the secrets it and a photograph taken almost 100 years previous hold. Eleanor is the subject of the photograph, and her story of lost innocence and enduring love captures Marin and the reader’s imaginations.

Swartz’s characters are very realistic and relatable. Their hopes and fears, flaws and triumphs are well-written. She also does a great job making the setting an important part of the story. As Marin clears away the brambles that have overtaken the walled garden, suppressed emotions are exposed, griefs are revealed and forgiveness is offered. The grief expressed is more of what could have been rather than what has actually been lost — regrets over lost opportunities. The freedom found in taking responsibility is also expressed.

A rather quiet novel — there isn’t a lot of action — The Lost Garden will make the reader think. And in my case, want to hop on a plane and head to the windy coast of Cumbria!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(I received this book courtesy of Lion Hudson and Kregel. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Thief of Glory

21 Jul

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.

sigmundSigmund Brouwer is the best-selling author of nearly thirty novels, with close to 4 million books in print. Based on his inspiration for Thief of Glory, which Sigmund wrote as a way to learn and honor the his parent’s stories, especially of his father’s boyhood in a Japanese concentration camp, Sigmund leads The Chapters of Our Lives memoir seminars across the United States and Canada. Sigmund is married to recording artist Cindy Morgan and has two daughters.

 

My Impressions:

I have been reading a lot of historical fiction this month. Some has been so-so and some has been outstanding. Sigmund Brouwer’s Thief of Glory falls into the latter category, earning from me a very highly recommended designation. This Christy Award winning novel is my book club’s (By The Book) July selection. Have you read it? What did you think?

Most Christian fiction set during WWII takes place in the European theater. I am not sure why that is, but I was pleased that Thief of Glory takes the reader into the mostly unknown history of the Dutch East Indies and its capture by the Japanese. A bit reminiscent of Empire of The Sun, Brouwer’s novel centers on Jeremiah Prins, a tough 10-year old Dutch boy, who finds himself the caretaker of his family as they are forced into a Japanese internment camp. Most of the novel takes place during the years of captivity, although there is a contemporary story line that sheds light on the impact of Jeremiah’s time in the camp.

Brouwer’s characters are complex and flawed, real and relatable, even when the circumstances they find themselves in are nightmarish to say the least. The will to survive, the sacrifice for others and the despair that accompanies cruelty are all exemplified in the women and children forced to endure a life that is beyond understanding. Thief of Glory is a very personal story, told from Jeremiah’s POV. History, science, architecture, medicine and ecology are seamlessly woven into the narrative, giving the reader a full view of life for the Dutch caught in the midst of war. The story behind the story detailed in the Afterword is fascinating as well.

Thief of Glory is marketed as historical romance and it won a Christy for that category. There is a romance thread, but in my opinion, it is secondary to the story of bravery and daring in the midst of despair. No spoilers here, but you won’t see the end coming. This alone should generate LOTS of discussion.

A must read for WWII fans, Thief of Glory is one of the best books I have read this year.

Very Highly Recommended. 

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Audiobook Review: Price of Privilege

20 Jul

UnknownHaving finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter―and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.

 

jessicaforwebBorn in the wrong century – except for the fact that she really likes epidurals and washing machines – Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.

She resides lives in the greater Nashville area—where she imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London. She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding school, and then she goes home to write and work on PR. Jessica has tried to cast her dachshund as their butler–but the dog insists it’s a Time Lord and their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why the dog won’t cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you can’t win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to emulate.

 

My Impressions:

Price of Privilege is the concluding book in Jessica Dotta’s 3 book series of the same name. Set during the Victorian era, this novel is a wonderful culmination to an excellent trilogy. I cannot say this more clearly — if you like 19th century historical romance with a strong faith message, complex characters and plotting and a fabulous writing style then run, don’t walk, to the nearest book store or online outlet and GET THESE BOOKS!! Seriously, I really loved this series and am so glad that I read them. All 3 books are highly recommended.

In Price of Privilege, all the intrigue surrounding the Emerald Heiress comes to a head. Julia is beset on all sides and turns more and more to God as she faces alienation from her father, danger from Macy, estrangement from Isaac and separation from Edward. I loved that Julia saw in this time God tending her. The novel takes on a Dickensian tone with the marital trial of the century — as a huge fan of Bleak House, I found this to be an asset not a hindrance ;).

I listened to the audiobook, and it was outstanding as well. All three books have the same narrator — a real treat.

So again, I loved Price of Privilege (book and series) and urge you to read and enjoy it too!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Secrets of A Charmed Life

17 Jul

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 . . . .

SusanMeissner2-300x199Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. Visit Susan at her website: http://susanlmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

 

My Impressions:

I have long enjoyed Susan Meissner’s novels, but have not read one of her books in a while. My church book club, Page Turners, chose her latest book, Secrets of A Charmed Life, for our July discussion. Informal conversations indicate this is another winner for our group. Have you read this book? What did you think?

While there are two contemporary/historical plot lines in Secrets of A Charmed Life, it is the historical story of Emmy/Isabel and her sister Julia that takes center stage. With the backdrop of the London Blitz, Meissner manages to tell a tale full of emotion — grief, fear, and unworthiness. But the characters grow throughout their journeys and learn that forgiveness for themselves and others covers the choices they have made.

There is not an overt faith message that one can point to in Secrets of A Charmed Life. God is mentioned, but for much of the novel the characters don’t really see Him as anything as distant — a sentiment held by many in today’s world. Rather, this novel points to the impact our choices have and the hand of the Sustainer that takes our mistakes and turns them into good. At one point both Emmy and her sister Julia realize that although their actions do have a role to play in what will happen, events are shaped by choices of all the people involved, including enemy leaders and pilots.

Strong characters, both major and minor, make this story, but the setting is well-constructed also. England during WWII, both besieged London and the bucolic English countryside, comes to life. The reader experiences a nation that joins together to protect both its children and its way of life. If you like WWII novels, you will love Secrets of A Charmed Life.

I expect a lot of great discussion with this novel, making it a good bet for any book club. Secrets of A Charmed Life is a highly recommended read!

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

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