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Throwback Thursday — The Butterfly And The Violin by Kristy Cambron

19 Apr

Today I am making my way to Europe! I am so excited! I will be in Krakow come Sunday and will be visiting Auschwitz while there. I imagine it will be an overwhelming experience for me. In honor of my trip, today’s featured book is The Butterfly And The Violin, Kristy Cambron’s beautiful debut novel. If you haven’t read it yet, you really must!

A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My Impressions:

Sometimes the books that make the biggest impression on me are the ones I have the hardest time reviewing. They blow me away, and I just can’t find the words to express myself. Bear with me as I try to explain why The Butterfly And The Violin, Kristy Cambron’s debut novel, is a MUST READ! This beautifully written novel grabbed my heart at the start and still has not let go even after the cover has been closed.

There are two stories in The Butterfly And The Violin. Sera James is an art gallery owner searching for a painting that she glimpsed for just moments as a child. It made such an impression, that years later she is obsessed in finding it again. Adele Von Bron, the subject of the painting, was a young, talented violinist in Vienna at the start of WWII. It is Adele’s story that Sera and the reader are really searching for. Filled with unforgettable characters, moving images, and faith challenging moments, The Butterfly And The Violin is more than a romance or an historical novel. If you like those two genres, you will like this book, but its story of survival and hope in the midst of the darkest darkness is why you really need to read it.

Cambron uses a unique structure for telling the women’s tales. Sera’s story is told in chronological order. Although important to the progression of the novel, it almost provides a respite from the wrenching images and emotions that make up Adele’s story. Adele’s story does not follow a strict chronological order, but it really works in depicting the motivations of the characters and the time in which they lived. Much of Adele’s story takes place in Birkenau, part of the infamous Aushwitz concentration camp. Cambron manages to capture the beauty of that experience that most would overlook. One quote sums up Adele’s feelings of her time there — “The God-worship of every life — this was the art of Auschitz”. The treatment of the prisoners by the Nazi regime is horrifying and almost unbelievable, even though very, very real. And while the book cannot be described as a quick read, I just could not put it down.

And there you have it — my poor attempt to tell you why you really need to read The Butterfly And The Violin. Gripping, emotionally wrenching, and challenging, Cambron has written a masterpiece.

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for book clubs.

Audience: adults

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

Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her grandfather’s stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

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Book Review: The Land Lord

18 Apr

Land lords: China’s most threatening export yet. Incensed at the economic takeover, America’s ethnic populations are killing each other. Bombs are blowing up buildings, buses and businesses. The President knows someone in his White House is manipulating the hatred. But who? He recruits Secret Service agent Dain Ryder, who served under him in the Marines, and Lian Chen, the mysterious woman from the People’s Republic of China, to join a covert team in a race against his enemies to find the answers. The winner will determine the fate of the President, and the fate of his nation.

 

Cheryl Colwell drops characters you love into stunning locations, where dark contemporary and historical occurrences summon them to action. Each novel takes you on an adventurous quest popping with mystery, romance, and suspense. Inspired by museum finds and historical events she unearths in the cities and countries she visits, her stories keep you guessing what is fact and what is fiction. And who dunnit.

For the stories and photos behind the stories, or to read her Travel and Mystery blog, please visit http://www.cherylcolwell.com.

 

My Impressions:

Drawing from both fable and fact, Cheryl Colwell has created a political thriller that seems chillingly real. The America she envisions is a country divided along two lines — recent Chinese immigrants and their families and the rest of us. With a failing economy highlighted by foreclosures and bankruptcies, the nation faces a future of domination by China. Factions outside and within the government work clandestinely to affect a showdown that promises devastation for both the US and China.

The Land Lord is a a high-stakes, plot-driven novel.The action is fast-paced and the reader is kept off balance, never knowing just whom to trust. I found the many references to the Cultural Revolution in China interesting and informative, as were the legends of heroes and villains from Chinese history. The Land Lord offers the reader a number of starting points to explore — political and cultural. There are a couple of things I wished the author had expanded upon, namely the backstories of the characters and the economic/political climate of the US that led up to the crisis in the book. Although some things were mentioned, I felt that a bit more time spent setting the stage would have helped this reader have a point of reference for the story.

With a what-if premise that strikes close to home, The Land Lord is a suspense novel for those who like conspiracies and political intrigue.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Pelican Point

16 Apr

A crumbling lighthouse is not part of the inheritance Army doctor Ben Garrison expects to claim when he journeys to Hope Harbor. Fresh out of the service, he wants only to unload the tower of bricks, decompress from years of treating battlefield trauma, and prepare to launch his civilian career.

Hope Harbor Herald editor Marci Weber has other ideas. She may not be a Hope Harbor native, but the small Oregon seaside town has become home — and she’s determined to save the Pelican Point landmark.

Sparks fly as the two go head to head over the fate of the lighthouse. But when they start to cooperate, a different kind of fire ignites. And as they work together, might Hope Harbor heal the hearts of these two romance-wary souls?

 

Irene Hannon is the best-selling author of more than 35 novels. Her books have been honored with the coveted RITA Award from Romance Writers of America, the HOLT Medallion, the Reviewer’s Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine and the Daphne du Maurier Award for mystery/suspense. Irene and her husband make their home in Missouri, USA. Irene invites you to visit her at her website, http://www.irenehannon.com.

 

My Impressions:

I am a big fan of Irene Hannon’s novels, both her romantic suspense and her contemporary romance. It was a treat to return to Hope Harbor, Oregon for the fourth time in Pelican Point. The fictional coastal town has become like a vacation retreat for me. Its charming setting and endearing residents provide a respite from busy life. If you are a fan of the Hope Harbor Novel series, you are going to love this one.

Two couples are featured in Pelican Point — young newlyweds Rachel and Greg, and relative newcomer Marci Weber and the just-passing-through Ben Garrison. Each story explores different issues, but are tied together through the town’s attempt to save the historic landmark, the Pelican Point Lighthouse. Along with these characters that quickly made their way into my heart, secondary characters from previous books make their appearance. The quirky taco-making, wisdom-dispensing, artist Charlie and the two seagulls that seem to show up in quite a few scenes add whimsy and a bit of mystery to the book. New romance and romance re-kindled are the focus, but there is some suspense to keep the pages turning. The over-arching theme of this novel is new starts. Both couples have to overcome past experiences and find their way to fresh beginnings. Greg and Rachel are struggling with the loss of dreams due to a devastating military incident, and Marci and Ben both have had troubling relationships in the near past. All four rely on God to bring them to a place of healing and trust.

If you are new to Hope Harbor, you can certainly read this book as a standalone, but I suggest starting at the beginning. With four books to read, you have some great reading ahead before book 5 makes its appearance in Spring 2019.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

Audiobook Review: The Masterpiece

12 Apr

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship ― and both their lives ― forever.

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers continues to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her numerous bestsellers include Redeeming Love, A Voice in the Wind, and Bridge to Haven, and her work has been translated into more than thirty different languages. She is a member of Romance Writers of America’s coveted Hall of Fame as well as a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Visit Francine online at http://www.francinerivers.com and connect with her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/FrancineRivers) and Twitter (@FrancineRivers).

 

My Impressions:

Francine Rivers is hands down my book club’s favorite author. We were hooked by Redeeming Love, and have worked our way through most of her books as a group. Whenever a new novel comes out, we are there! Unfortunately, Rivers doesn’t produce a book (or two) a year, so we usually have to wait awhile. Fortunately, Rivers doesn’t produce a book (or two) a year, so the long-awaited novel is a carefully crafted masterpiece! That is what I have to call her latest book, because The Masterpiece really is a work of art that touched my heart in many ways. As always, this book is a very highly recommended read!

In The Masterpiece, the reader finds two very complex characters in Grace and Roman. Shaped in childhood by those closest to them and the traumas they experienced, the two have broken places that they have worked hard to overcome, while zealously guarding their hearts. Rivers tells their stories through a present day narrative periodically interrupted by flashbacks that reveal just who the two really are deep down. The technique was a bit jarring at first, but I soon waited expectantly for more to come. Grace and Roman are drawn to each other almost immediately, but their faith differences keep them apart. Grace will not start a relationship with an unbeliever, and Roman sees no need to pursue a God that, if He truly exists, is either uncaring or cruel. Then it happens  . . . . I won’t spoil it for you, but Roman’s experience is one of the most profound I have ever read. I listened to the audio version of The Masterpiece during my morning walks. When that scene played out, I had to stifle my gasps and quickly wipe away tears before the neighbors enquired what was wrong. 😉 I challenge you not to be moved by what Roman goes through. It is a scene I have thought about over and over. And while it was probably the pivotal point of the novel, there was much more to come for Grace and Roman. This book is a chunkster, and I loved every minute of it!

There is plenty to discuss in The Masterpiece, making it perfect for book clubs. Often my group never gets past whether we liked a book or not without further discussion. But I anticipate a very lively conversation when we meet. Now we have to impatiently wait for another from Rivers.

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

Children’s Corner — Amos Faces His Bully

11 Apr

Amos is targeted by the town bully because he is so small. When word reaches Amos of his friend David’s battle with Goliath, he thinks back to what David told him about putting his faith in God’s protection. Perhaps the same God can help Amos face his bully too.

 

To purchase, click HERE.

 

 

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author, and editor. A 2005 graduate of Long Ridge Writers Group, Cheryl began her career focusing on article writing. She specializes in time management and organization, but has also written about everyday life in the 1800s, gardening, parenting, and women’s health issues. In 2008, she changed her focus to fiction writing for children. Her first picture book, Little Shepherd, was released in August 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing (GAP).  A Christmas Kindness, an early reader, was released by 4RV Publishing in 2012, with a digital version following in 2014, and Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving (Guardian Angel Publishing, 2016).

Ms. Malandrinos has edited numerous manuscripts in a variety of genres and ghostwritten a Christian chapter book. Cheryl has been a panelist at the WriteAngles Conference that takes place each fall at Mount Holyoke College and offers writing workshops in her local school district. A book reviewer and blogger, Cheryl lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She also has a son who is married.

 

My Impressions:

Cheryl Malandrinos has written a clever book that combines a beloved Bible story with a lesson for modern day kids. Amos Faces His Bully, targeted towards children ages 4-8, introduces a young boy who endures name-calling and ridicule from bigger boys in his village of Bethlehem. But his older friend, seventeen year old David, shares wisdom gained from experience. It’s not about being brave or big, it’s about having faith that God can and will protect with His presence. I loved the creative twist Malandrinos brings to the David and Goliath story. The reactions of Amos and the other boys in Bethlehem mirror the awe many probably had at the audacity David exhibited in facing down the Philistine’s giant. While teaching about standing up to bullies, the book also opens the door for reading and talking about scripture — a win-win for parents!

Whether Amos Faces His Bully is part of family reading time, or used to practice reading skills, it will definitely become a favorite with your kids.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-8.

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

Book Review: Hurricane Season

10 Apr

Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have long since buried their desire for children of their own. While Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget her dream of motherhood. But when her free-spirited sister, Jenna, drops off her two young daughters for “just two weeks,” Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.

As the two weeks stretch deeper into the Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world—and revel in the laughter that now fills their home. Meanwhile, record temperatures promise to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.

Attending an art retreat four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She finally has time and energy to focus on her photography, a lifelong ambition. But she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home as a single mom.

When Hurricane Ingrid aims a steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that will change her family’s future, even as Betsy and Ty try to protect their beloved farm and their hearts. Hurricane Season is the story of one family’s unconventional journey to healing — and the relationships that must be mended along the way.

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two young daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway was released in April of 2017 and has since become a USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon Charts bestseller. Her second novel, Hurricane Season, released April 3, 2018, and has been listed on BookPage’s 2018 list of Most Anticipated Fiction.

 

My Impressions:

So what makes a book get a highly recommended rating from me? It must have something special that distinguishes it from the rest. Hurricane Season, the sophomore offering from Lauren K. Denton, is just such a novel. Great characterization, a wonderful sense of place, beautifully written prose, and a story line that is unique and fresh — those are the things that make this book stand out. Certainly it is one of the best books I have read this year.

Two sisters are the focus of Hurricane Season. They once shared so much, but have grown apart due to life and . . . neglect. Both are wrapped up in their own lives for sure, but it is the perceptions of what the other has, that has kept the two apart. When younger sister Jenna has the opportunity to find her creative center once again, Betsy, the protector of the two, agrees to keep Jenna’s children for the two week retreat session. But as days stretch into weeks and then months, the two sisters have to confront not only what their futures will look like, but what their pasts have created.

Hurricane Season is told in the third person point of view with the emphasis on sisters Jenna and Betsy and Betsy’s husband Ty. This format gives the reader a view of what makes each of these characters act and react. I loved how real each of the characters became to me. The dairy farm on which Ty and Betsy live and the primitive nature preserve that serves as the setting of the artist’s retreat are brought to life in simple, yet elegant descriptions. I felt I was really there experiencing the daily life of the dairy farm and the wonder of an untouched wilderness. Difficult issues that are part and parcel of the human experience — infertility and single motherhood — are uniquely explored. There are no stereotypes here. But it is the relationships between Jenna and Betsy and Betsy and Ty that form the nucleus of the story. And I loved how the author brought about growth and healing for them all. The book does not end in a neat and tidy fashion. There are still lots of questions as to the future of this family. But that is okay with me. I have certain expectations for Jenna, Betsy, and Ty, and I am happy that the author has let me create my own happily-ever-after for the three. 😉

As stated above, Hurricane Season has it all to provide a thought-provoking and immersive reading experience. This novel lends itself to discussion, so if your book club is looking for a great book, Hurricane Season should top your list.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE

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

 

Book Review: The Pirate Bride

6 Apr

Can a former privateer and a determined heiress find lost treasure in 1725?
 A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.



Pasts Collide in New Orleans when a Treasure Goes Missing
 The last time New Orleans attorney Jean-Luc Valmont saw Maribel Cordoba, a Spanish nobleman’s daughter, she was an eleven-year-old orphan perched in the riggings of his privateering vessel proving herself as the best lookout on his crew. Until the day his infamy caught up with them all and innocent lives were lost. Unsure why he survived but vowing to make something of the chance he was given, Jean-Luc has buried his past life so deep that no living person will ever find it—until a very much alive and very grown up Maribel Cordoba arrives on his doorstep and threatens all he now holds dear. 



Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo.



 

RITA and Carol award nominee Kathleen Y’Barbo is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than forty novels, novellas, and young adult books. In all, more than one million copies of her books are currently in print in the US and abroad, and her books have been translated into Dutch, German, and Spanish, to name a few.

Kathleen is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She holds a BBA from Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School and a certification in Paralegal Studies, and is a former member of the Texas Bar Association’s Paralegal Division.

A tenth-generation Texan, Kathleen Y’Barbo has four children of her own as well as seven bonus kids she gladly inherited when she married her own hero in combat boots (read about their real-life romance here!). Kathleen is proud to be a military wife, even if it did mean giving up her Texas drivers license.

To connect with her through social media, check out the links on her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.

 

My Impressions:

Join the adventure on the high seas in the latest book in The Daughters of The Mayflower series, The Pirate Bride. Set on the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, the quiet beaches of a remote island, and the busy streets of New Orleans, this novel hits all the right buttons for fans of historical romance — an endearing heroine, a truly heroic (and hunky) hero, and fascinating history of privateers of the early 1700s. This one gets a recommended rating from me.

Maribel Cordoba is just 12 years old when she loses her family and is swept up into intrigue and adventure on a pirate ship. At least she believes the young captain of the Ghost Ship is a pirate. He asserts he is doing the King’s business with Letters of Marque signed by the French government. But whether privateer or pirate, Captain Beaumont is a protector of the vulnerable and determines to take care of the adventure-seeking Maribel. However, a bounty on his head puts all in his care in peril.

I liked a lot of things about The Pirate Bride. Its main character, Maribel, is an engaging (and exasperating) young girl, and only a bit less exasperating as a young woman. She steals the heart of the crew in her brief time on the ship, and steals the heart of the captain years later. Of course the dashing ship’s captain is also a favorite, but the supporting characters add a wonderful dimension as well. The story is lightly told, yet filled with action, intrigue, and danger. Twists and turns and surprises abound. The historical setting is interesting —  I loved the details the author includes to give the novel an authentic feel. Faith in God, with an emphasis on prayer, is naturally woven throughout the book.

As I was reading The Pirate Bride, I thought what a wonderful beach read for fans of historical romance! A quick and fun book, you’ll enjoy this one next to the pool or on a blanket on the beach.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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