Tag Archives: contemporary ficiton

First Line Friday — Pelican Point by Irene Hannon

6 Apr

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s time for another great first line. This week I am featuring the highly anticipated fourth novel in Irene Hannon‘s Hope Harbor series, Pelican Point. I have loved all of the books in this excellent series and am looking forward to digging into this one in the coming week. What about you? Leave a comment with the first line of the book you are reading or hope to read in the coming days.

Be sure to head over to Hoarding Books to find other great first lines.

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?

Bestselling author Irene Hannon invites readers back to their favorite town for a story that will light a beacon of hope within their hearts.

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.

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Book Review: How Sweet The Sound

30 Oct

Wealth and etiquette can hide a lot of things in the South, as the esteemed Harlan family of sleepy Bay Spring, Alabama, knows. But behind the gentle facade of white pillared porches and acres of cultivated pecan orchards, family secrets smolder.

Young Anniston Harlan cares little for high society and the rigid rules and expectations of her grandmother, Princella. She finds solace working the orchards alongside her father and grandfather, and relief in the cool waters of Mobile Bay.

Anniston’s aunt, Comfort Harlan, has never quite lived up to the family name, or so her mother Princella’s ever-apparent scowl implies. When she gleefully accepts the proposal of her longtime boyfriend, Solly, a flood tide of tragedy ensues that strips Comfort of her innocence and unleashes generations of family secrets, changing the Harlan family forever.

While Comfort struggles to recover, Anniston discovers an unlikely new friend from the seedy part of town who helps her try to make sense of the chaos. Together, they and the whole town of Bay Spring discover how true love is a risk, but one worth taking.

Amy Sorrells is an award-winning author and occasional poet writing words of hope for a hurting world. Amy got her start in journalism, has written for medical publications, and enjoyed a three year stint as a weekly op-ed columnist for her town newspaper. A graduate of DePauw University, Amy lives with her husband and three sons in central Indiana.

 

My Impressions:

I am leading a weekly Bible study called Faith And Fiction. My group studies a story in the Bible and an accompanying novel that is a re-telling or is inspired by the scripture. While it was easy to find novel from the Biblical fiction genre, I wanted to include a variety of genres to show how scripture is timeless and to give those in the study a wide variety of reading experiences. I hit a home run when I chose How Sweet The Sound by Amy Sorrells. While not a strict re-telling of 2 Samuel 13, it was inspired by the heart-breaking events that took place between Tamar, Amnon, and Absalom. If you are not familiar with this tragic time in David’s family, then get out your Bible and dig in. Then get Sorrells novel. It provides a different slant — one with the hope that God can give to the crushed and broken-hearted.

How Sweet The Sound is set in a small South Alabama town; a town where everyone knows everybody and their business. But not always their secrets. The Harlans are a leading family with a very prosperous pecan business and a matriarch, Princella, who rules her family and the social scene of Bay Spring. But a family tragedy that cannot be hushed up explodes, with tragic consequences.

How Sweet The Sound is told from two different first person points of view — young teenager, Anniston, who is trying to make sense out of the tragic circumstances of her life and Comfort, a young woman whose voice remains silent to almost everyone around her. The two characters are instrumental in describing the true nature of the other characters and their relationships. The shocking topics of incest and sexual abuse are explored in an honest, yet careful way. Nothing is sensationalized, but truths are exposed to the light of day. While most of the story revolves around the Harlan family, I loved how Sorrells revealed the abusive stories of others in Bay Spring. Beautifully written, the novel is hard to read because of the topic, but also wonderful to read as it develops the hope that God promises to those who most need it. That was what our group liked most. The Biblical record of Tamar’s tragic life left us unsatisfied. Yet Sorrells’ novel showed that even in the depths of depression, despair, and desolation, God’s power shines through. It is was our hope that Tamar also was able to communicate with her Abba.

While the novel revolves around an uncomfortable and weighty subject, it was a wonderful reading experience. How Sweet The Sound was first published in 2014, but has been re-released this Fall.  It is an amazing debut from an accomplished author. I am looking forward to reading the other books by Sorrells that are available.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

Book Review: The Runaway

8 Jun

Shortly before her eighteenth birthday, Rhiannon Morgan runs away from the remote Welsh village of Llandymna. Camping out in Dyrys Woods, she starts to make a new life for herself. In the woods she finds space for her active imagination — weaving together the stories she loves and memories of her past, including the mother she lost thirteen years ago.

Back in the village, Rhiannon’s disappearance triggers a series of events that uncover the cracks in Llandymna’s quiet surface. Relationships become frayed as a young police officer is forced to investigate his neighbors, and the village’s elderly storyteller hints at a secret that the older generation has kept for decades. But as painful as the village’s past may be, it may hold the key for hope in the present . . . .

 

 

Claire Wong is a writer originally from Wales, who lives in a two hundred year old stone cottage in Yorkshire.

 

My Impressions:

The power of story is one of the main themes of Claire Wong’s debut novel, The Runaway. Stories can hurt or heal, convict or cover up, bring peace or create turmoil. And as story is the center of her novel, it is only right that she has produced a well-crafted novel with a fairy tale-like essence. Beautiful prose, complex and compelling characters, and a story to make you ponder — all elements in this highly recommended book.

Rhiannon is desparate to escape the village that confines her body and imagination. After a shouting match with her aunt, Rhiannon runs to the forest that borders the town of Llandymna. Dyrys Wood is the place of legends and folklore and the place Rhiannon believes will bring her peace and comfort. But Llandymna is not far enough away for a true escape.

As stated above, Wong’s prose is beautifully articulated with a once upon a time quality, although the time period is contemporary. The confining village of Llandymna and the vastness of the forest can be felt by the reader. Sense of place is very important in The Runaway and is almost a secondary character. Real characters, main and secondary, are well-developed with relatable emotions and motives. Pettiness and nobility are on display within the pages of this novel and certainly mirror real life. The book is told in Rhiannon’s first person perspective, as well as a third person point of view — very effective in bringing about a complete narrative. This book contains several runaways, some new and others from the forgotten past. All bring perspective on the characters’ willingness to see the truth as they want it displayed.

The Runaway is a bit of a coming of age story, for both the main characters and the village itself. Village life is rather simple, yet below the surface, undeniably complex There is much to think about, making this book a good choice for book clubs.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

January Book Club Selections

1 Jan

A New Year and new books to read! Yay! Here are the books that my 2 book clubs are reading this month. Have you read them? We would love to hear what you thought.

unknownThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

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.

unknownWhat Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis.

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.

Mini Book Review: Finding Riley

26 Dec

By The Book read Finding Riley by Dan Walsh in December. Walsh is a great favorite of ours, so we were especially excited to read this book — a Christmas story and a dog! What could be better? Well as it turns out, a lot. All of us were disappointed with this book. We felt there were too many story lines and with none well-developed. The writing fell a bit flat for us and seemed somewhat juvenile. A homeless character was the highlight of the book, with Walsh shining a light on the reality of a homeless life. While we didn’t like this book, it will not keep us from reading Walsh in the future.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

unknownAn unexpected surprise brings the Mitchell family of Savannah a chance to experience the Christmas trip of their dreams. An unexpected disappointment threatens to turn it into the worst Christmas of their lives. John Finch and his friend Alfred live in the woods. Been doing it for decades. He likes wintering in Florida, but this year’s been particularly harsh. Between the cold, freezing rain and terrifying lightning storms, John’s starting to wonder how much more of this lifestyle he can take. A new friend enters the picture and changes everything. Kim Harper, the dog trainer introduced in Rescuing Finley, is contacted by a billionaire philanthropist seeking her help with a new dog training project that will help the homeless. Is he for real? And is her co-worker right? Does this rich, handsome man’s interest in Kim go much deeper than her dog-training skills?

 

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

Book Review: Of Stillness And Storm

16 Dec

of-stillness-and-stormIt took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing.

At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.

Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.

 

mphoenix-406Born in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Michèle Phoenix is a consultant, writer and speaker with a heart for Third Culture Kids. She taught for 20 years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own advocacy venture under Global Outreach Mission. Michèle travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, mischievous students, Marvel movies and paths to healing.

Find out more about Michèle at http://michelephoenix.com.

 

My Impressions:

Of Stillness And Storm is a difficult book — a book that is filled with hard things. Hard things beautifully expressed. There is much loss and sorrow and despair in Michele Phoenix’s book, but also a glimmer of hope and love that transcends the failings of men. This book is about relationships and would be a wonderful addition to a book club’s list. There is so much to talk about.

Lauren, Sam and Ryan are a family of three living in Nepal. As Sam brings God’s word to remote villages, Lauren and Sam struggle to survive the power outages, unrest, pollution and utter foreignness of Kathmandu. Called to live among its people, Nepal seems to require more than they can give. But is it God or Nepal that demands so much? Or a vision that is man-centered?

Of Stillness And Storm is told in Lauren’s first person voice. Present day events are set against past recollections allowing the reader to see the path that has led to the circumstances the family faces. Sam is remote, not really present in his family even when he returns from the field. Ryan is angry, more angry than a typical teenager. And Lauren tries to hold it all together, even as she slips into a forgotten life a world away. While the reader could spend time examining the wisdom of mission work or the toll it takes on the family, it is really the family’s own choices, not the purposes of God that impact this story. The family portrayed could live next door . . . or in your own home. As I stated above, this book is beautifully written. The language is exquisite and almost painful as it reveals sorrow and loss. The ending is not what I would have wanted; no fairy tale endings here. But it is gritty and above all real.

For those who want a book to challenge and expand their thinking, Of Stillness And Storm is a good choice. Not a quick or happy read, it is a recommended one.

Highly Recommended.

Great for book clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

 

Giveaway

Take Michèle Phoenix’s new book with you on your winter vacation and enter to win her Bookworm On-the-Go Prize Pack (because you can’t take a stack of books with you when you travel).

of-stillness-and-storm-400
One grand prize winner will receive:
A copy of Of Stillness and Storm
A Kindle Fire tablet
A Kindle Fire map cover
A passport holder
Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 31. The winner will be announced January 3 on Michèle’s blog.

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone

3 Nov

41kqgsaqu6l-_sx332_bo1204203200_One moment, Olivia Kavanaugh is preparing to walk down the aisle and embrace her own happily ever after. The next, she learns that her fiancé, Wyatt Hammond, has been in a fatal car accident. Then comes a startling discovery: Wyatt’s car wasn’t heading toward the church. He was fifty miles away . . . with a baby gift in the backseat.

Her faith shaken, Olivia pores over the clues left behind, desperate to know where Wyatt was going that day and why. As she begins uncovering secrets, she also navigates a tense relationship with her judgmental mother and tries to ignore the attentions of a former boyfriend who’s moved back home. But when she starts receiving letters written by Wyatt before his death, she must confront a disturbing question: Can we ever know anyone fully, even someone we love?

When an unexpected path forward — though nothing like the life she once envisioned—offers the promise of a new beginning, will she be strong enough to let go of the past and move toward it?

 

31h5k4dnw1l-_ux250_A true Southern woman who knows any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa Allan writes women’s fiction with hope, humor, and heart.

Christa is the mother of five, and grandmother of three. She recently retired after twenty-five years of teaching high school English, so she doesn’t scare easily. She and her husband Ken and their three neurotic cats live in New Orleans in a 170-year-old home where the fans and the lights turn on and off without them. But, they love it because it’s in the quirky, artsy Bywater where they’re one of the few residents who don’t have piercings, purple hair and/or tattoos.

 

My Impressions:

Whew! I was an emotional mess as I finished Christa Allan’s latest book, Since You’ve Been Gone. Allan took me on a roller-coaster — sad, mad, tickled and hopeful. This novel is not for the feint of heart, but it is for the reader who wants an authentic story full of flawed characters, real-life happenings, and an unchanging God. So come prepared with a few tissues and a few hours to spend with this unputdownable book.

Olivia is hit with the unthinkable — her wedding day ends not with a happily-ever-after, but with grief and seemingly unanswerable questions. When she finds out she is not only a bride without a groom, but a soon to be mother, Olivia finds herself struggling to make sense of why God is silent.

As I stated above, Since You’ve Been Gone is not an easy read. It does have its moments of levity as only Allan can bring. That’s a relief, because Olivia faces loss upon loss within this book’s pages. I won’t spoil it for you, but while Olivia faces more than she thinks she can handle, it is not more than many real life people have to bear. As Olivia’s grandmother, Ruthie, puts it — life can be wonderful and also very, very hard. The story is told in Olivia’s first person voice which works well to see into her character and circumstances. Supporting characters are treated pretty fairly by Olivia, yet no one can truly know the hearts of others. I found myself really liking Ruthie and Evan, Olivia’s ex-boyfriend. Olivia’s mother, Scarlet, not so much. But the reader finds in the end everyone faces loss and grief and responds in many different ways. Wyatt, the one character who cannot speak for himself, is revealed in a very unique way. Well done, Ms. Allan!

While God is largely silent in Olivia’s life, He shows up in what Ruthie calls God-incidences. Olivia and the reader are reminded that while we may not understand what is going on, God is not really absent or not working in the midst of tragedy. He often sends just who we need just when we need them.

I really liked Since You’ve Been Gone. It is one of those books that will make you feel and think and then think again long after the last page is turned. This one is a highly recommended read.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)