Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

Book Review (+ Giveaway): A Fragile Hope

24 Apr

Hope grows when seeds are planted—even in the muddy middle of life.

Josiah Chamberlain’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife’s unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she’s unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken.

Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

 

 

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope. She’s the award-winning author of 17 books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She serves as the Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers, where she helps retailers, libraries, and book clubs connect with the authors and books they love. She lives with her husband in Central Wisconsin.

Find out more about Cynthia at http://www.cynthiaruchti.com.

 

My Impressions:

Cynthia Ruchti’s novels always make the reader think . . . and perhaps squirm. In her latest novel, A Fragile Hope, that’s just what I found myself doing — thinking and squirming. Why? Because this novel examines what it means to love, and to love deeply one must sacrifice and hope when all seems lost, and that is just plain hard! But squirming aside, I really loved this book. It gets a highly recommended rating from me.

A Fragile Hope is unusual in its point of view, characterization, and setting. Told in a third person voice, the perspective is almost exclusively from main character Josiah Chamberlain, a renowned marriage guru who doesn’t have a clue. Faced with the devastating accident that has plunged his wife into a coma and him into a world of questions without answers, Josiah begins a journey that exposes his false perceptions of his wife and himself. And Josiah is a very unsympathetic character, at first. Ruchti takes a man who is in his own estimation oblivious, and changes him one painful step at a time. The novel’s action takes place in hospital, and the sterility and isolation comes through loud and clear. Am I making you want to read the book yet? 😉 Really, this book is not an easy or even a pleasant read at times. Life can be ugly and oh so hard, and that is what Josiah faces. But . . . love and hope redeem that life. Josiah has numerous choices to make, and despite his own weaknesses, he makes the choices that matter the most to his wife and their marriage. Twists and turns abound as Josiah learns more about himself and the situation he finds himself in. At the end hope, though fragile, survives.

Josiah (and the reader) learn a lot as the book progresses. In thinking about the activities of caring for his wife he makes this observation — Who knew so much of the battle to get her well again would be waged in his attitude, his memories and his mind? (page 190). This is true in any aspect of a relationship and spoke volumes to me. Really the whole book spoke to me. Jesus is at the center of this book, although Josiah spends much of it keeping Him at the periphery. Truth about Jesus’ love and sacrifice seeps into Josiah’s (and the reader’s) heart. This book really does make you think, think, feel and think again.

A Fragile Hope is not a light or a quick read, but rather one that saturates a reader in its emotion and its truth. Ruchti’s novel is sometimes hard, sometimes painful, and yes, squirm-inducing, but always meaningful and relevant, and, for me, a must-read.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

 

Giveaway

Celebrate the release of A Fragile Hope by entering to win Cynthia’s Sign of Hope Giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 3. The winner will be announced May 4 on the Litfuse blog.

Book Review: The Long Highway Home

21 Apr

Sometimes going home means leaving everything you have ever known. When the doctor pronounces “incurable cancer” and gives Bobbie Blake one year to live, she agrees to accompany her niece, Tracie, on a trip back to Austria, back to The Oasis, a ministry center for refugees that Bobbie helped start twenty years earlier. Back to where there are so many memories of love and loss. Bobbie and Tracie are moved by the plight of the refugees and in particular, the story of the Iranian Hamid, whose young daughter was caught with a New Testament in her possession back in Iran, causing Hamid to flee along the refugee Highway and putting the whole family in danger. Can a network of helpers bring the family to safety in time? And at what cost? Filled with action, danger, heartache and romance, The Long Highway Home is a hymn to freedom in life’s darkest moments.

 

 

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years (Georgia Backroads, 2009). All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages.

For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe with International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who all live way too far away in America. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at http://www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

 

My Impressions:

Elizabeth Musser has long been a favorite with my book club. We began our journey with her in The Swan House and have since read many of her novels. With her being an Atlanta native and setting many of her books there, we have enjoyed a couple of field trips as well, visiting places she mentions in her books. When I heard she had a new book out, I had to include it as a surprise selection. The Long Highway Home was an excellent choice for our group, and I believe will be for yours as well. We love, love, loved it!

The Long Highway Home is a very complex novel involving multiple characters and story lines. But it is not a difficult book to read. Once you get into the flow of the shifting points of view, the stories take off and you find yourself immersed in the characters’ journeys. Each has a unique viewpoint and story that adds depth and insight. And I loved how all the threads intersected with each other in miraculous, yet very believable ways. In fact, Musser has a sentence that describes that (and real life) well — But every now and then the Lord pulls back a curtain-slice of sky and we get to see the bringing together of all the plot lines in real time!

The subject matter is refugees, specifically Muslim refugees making their way to Europe. The time is 2005, and the majority of the refugees are men. We felt the issue was handled with truth and grace. The hardships they faced — from the distrust and animosity of locals to the suspicions and threats from fellow refugees — were not sugar-coated, but handled in an honest manner. The Oasis, the refugee mission in the book, is a real place and the Mussers work with those who lead the ministry there. Her passion is obvious throughout the book.

The power of the gospel to transform lives is beautifully illustrated in The Long Highway Home, as is the means God uses to draw people to Himself. Although it is a work of fiction, many of the ministries and people were drawn from real life, giving it a greater authenticity. Because of this, the novel is perfect for book clubs or missions groups.

Beautifully written, authentic characters, a meaningful message — The Long Highway Home has it all. It is also a suspenseful read with a dash of romance that you will not want to put down. It gets a highly recommended rating from my group.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for book clubs.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Home

7 Apr

Melanie runs away. From conflict. From pain. From reality. 
 
When novelist Melanie Vander faces a looming deadline, she decides it’s time for an escape to an inspiring, novel-worthy locale. She’s not running away. Really. She just needs time to focus. But as she disappears into her writing, she encounters a man whose tenderness leaves her reeling. Engaging and wise, psychologist Elliot Hammond tempts Melanie to question everything, including her marriage.

But that’s ridiculous. Dr. Hammond isn’t even…real.

Melanie’s husband, Craig, has his own problems, including a recession that’s threatening his business. Waning finances, a looming home foreclosure, and a wife who’s checked out emotionally, has Craig feeling as though he’s carrying his burdens alone. When his client, the beautiful and single Serena Buchanan, offers him a solution to his financial woes, he’s tempted by more than her offer of a business solution. 

At a crossroads, Melanie and Craig seem headed in opposite directions.

As Melanie runs away from her problems by escaping into her own fictional world, Craig dives into his struggles, seeking God for strength and healing for his marriage. Ultimately, Melanie must choose whether she’ll check out completely, or allow her characters to lead her home.

 

Ginny Ytrrup is the award-winning author of Words, Lost and Found, Invisible, Flames, and her most recent novel, Home, which releases April 1, 2017. She writes contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys exploring the issues everyday women face. Publishers Weekly dubbed Ginny’s work “as inspiring as it is entertaining.” When not writing, Ginny coaches writers, critiques manuscripts, and makes vintage-style jewelry for her Esty shop, Storied Jewelry. She loves dining with friends, hanging out with her adult sons, or spending a day in her pajamas reading a great novel. Ginny lives in northern California with Bear, her entitled Pomeranian. To learn more about Ginny and her work, visit http://www.ginnyyttrup.com.

 

My Impressions:

Whenever I have the opportunity to read a novel by Ginny Yttrup, I jump on the chance. Her books are beautifully written with powerful messages. As I began reading Home, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it. The style is a bit quirky and the characters were, quite frankly, not likable at first. But this is Ytrrup, I reasoned. I need to persevere. Thankfully my compulsion to read every book I start kicked in, because I really liked this one and can recommend it.

Three first person points of view (married couple Melanie and Craig and neighbor Jill) are used in Home. I did say it was quirky right? First person/present tense. This style can be a bit jarring, and with three voices, well, you can get confused. But I got into the flow of the narrative and learned more about what the characters thought, including their insights into each other. The result is a complete picture of two families dealing with trauma and grief. There is also the fact that one of the characters, Melanie, is an author. The result is a story inside a story, but that was okay too, because Melanie puts so much of herself and her husband in her books. So, quirky style, with a bit of humor added, helped lighten the themes of grief and mental illness. Whew! This one is emotional, but I never felt weighed down by the topics. I really wanted the three characters, Melanie, Craig and Jill, to grow and heal.

My favorite part of Home is Yttrup’s creation of two very strong male characters — in women’s fiction! Craig, who has his own voice, and Jill’s husband Marcos are loving, caring, encouraging, very male characters. Bravo to Yttrup! Despite the flaws and temptations of all the characters, these two men remain rocks upon which their wives can depend.

While it took me a bit to get into this book, I was soon turning the pages as fast I could. Home is a recommended read from me!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for book clubs.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

Book Review: Long Way Gone

6 Apr

“No matter where you go, no matter whether you succeed or fail, stand or fall, no gone is too far gone. You can always come home.”

At the age of eighteen, musician and songwriter Cooper O’Connor took everything his father held dear and drove 1,200 miles from home to Nashville, his life riding on a six-string guitar and the bold wager that he had talent. But his wager soon proved foolish.

Five years after losing everything, he falls in love with Daley Cross, an angelic voice in need of a song. But just as he realizes his love for Daley, Cooper faces a tragedy that threatens his life as well as his career. With nowhere else to go, he returns home to the remote Colorado mountains, searching for answers about his father and his faith.

When Daley shows up on his street corner twenty years later, he wonders if it’s too late to tell her the truth about his past—and if he is ready to face it himself.

A radical retelling of the prodigal son story, Long Way Gone takes us from tent revivals to the Ryman Auditorium to the tender relationship between a broken man and the father who never stopped calling him home.

(In the author’s own words) Christy and I married in 1993. If you include dating, I’ve known and loved her for more than half my life. She is and always will be the home for my heart. We have three boys. Charlie, John T. and Rives. Folks often ask me, which of my books do I like the best. You might as well line up my sons and ask me who I love the most.

My hobbies are bow hunting, working out (a blend of old school stuff and martial arts, called Fight Fit) and Tae Kwon Do. In October 2012 I earned my black belt but I’m still the least flexible person you’ve ever met. The guy that trains me, laughs everytime I start warming up. My boys are far better at Tae Kwon Do than I but I doubt they have as much fun – I get to do and watch. They just do.

I also like to write, but that’s another story.

You can learn more about Charles Martin at charlesmartinbooks.com.

 

My Impressions:

A few days ago I posted on FB that Long Way Gone by Charles Martin was one of the best books I have ever read. Quite an assertion, I agree. But this part coming-of-age, part love story, part parable, conveys beautiful truths while immersing its reader fully into the story. Martin is an excellent story-teller and has proven it over and over again. But I think Long Way Gone goes one step further. Maybe it is the subject matter or maybe it is the characters that immediately capture your heart. Or maybe it is the underlying truths of God’s love and care for His children. Whatever the element, the magic is there.

Cooper is a musical prodigy who soon becomes the draw for his father’s tent revivals. Hundreds of people come from far and wide to hear his song. But he soon comes to believe that he is indeed something special and rejects his father’s way of life — striking out to find his own way, a way that shuns not only his father but God.

Long Way Gone is a retelling of the Prodigal Son. This is an emotional story filled with song that shows the depths of God’s love. Martin expertly describes just how far a person can fall and just how deep a father’s love can be. Characters are complex and real. The first person account from Cooper holds nothing back as he journeys from cocky kid to a wiser, yet resigned adult. The supernatural becomes natural as well under Martin’s deft hand. The ending will surprise and delight and cause not a few tears. I have been recommending this novel to all because while on the surface it is a great story, it also conveys the truth of God’s love and care even while letting us suffer the consequences of our own actions. Be sure to read the Afterword — insights into Coop’s story as well as the beliefs of the author are revealed. There were a lot of things that hit home with me as I was reading Long Way Gone. One thing that resonated over and over was that we are made to worship, and we need to be very careful what we choose as the object of our worship.

For those who love music, for those who love great characters, for those who want to be touched and challenged, for those who have a prodigal in their life, Long Way Gone is a must read.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased Long Way Gone from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

April Book Club Selections

2 Apr

It’s April in the South — budding and blooming trees and warm temps. Perfect weather to sit on the porch and read a book. My book clubs are reading women’s fiction this month — Why The Sky Is Blue by Susan Meissner and The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser. Have you read either of these books? We’d love to know what you thought.

 

What options does a Christian woman have after she’s brutally assaulted by a stranger . . . and becomes pregnant? That’s the heartrending situation Claire Holland faces. Happily married and the mother of two when she is attacked, Claire begins an incredible journey on the painful pathway to trusting God “in all things”.

When Claire’s husband, Dan, confesses he can’t be a father to the expected child, Claire’s decision to put the baby up for adoption creates a sense of tremendous loss for Claire. Later, unexpected circumstances turn this seeming loss into victory.

This wonderful first novel isn’t a love story . . . but a life story, presenting the twin themes trusting God in tragic circumstances and reaping the rewards that eventually come with sacrificial loving.

 

Sometimes going home means leaving everything you have ever known. When the doctor pronounces “incurable cancer” and gives Bobbie Blake one year to live, she agrees to accompany her niece, Tracie, on a trip back to Austria, back to The Oasis, a ministry center for refugees that Bobbie helped start twenty years earlier. Back to where there are so many memories of love and loss. Bobbie and Tracie are moved by the plight of the refugees and in particular, the story of the Iranian Hamid, whose young daughter was caught with a New Testament in her possession back in Iran, causing Hamid to flee along the refugee Highway and putting the whole family in danger. Can a network of helpers bring the family to safety in time? And at what cost? Filled with action, danger, heartache and romance, The Long Highway Home is a hymn to freedom in life’s darkest moments.

Book Review: Home at Last

9 Mar

Why did their differences matter so much?

Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite — well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?
Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

DEBORAH RANEY dreamed of writing a book since the summer she read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and discovered that a Kansas farm girl could, indeed, grow up to be a writer. Her more than 30 books have garnered multiple industry awards including the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers’ Choice Award, Carol Award, Silver Angel from Excellence in Media, and have three times been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, shed light on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The novel inspired the highly acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title and continues to be a tool for Alzheimer’s families and caregivers. Deborah is on faculty for several national writers’ conferences and serves on the executive board of the 2700-member American Christian Fiction Writers organization. She and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas –– the setting of many of Deb’s novels –– for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita. They often travel to teach at writers conferences across the country, and to visit their four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at http://www.deborahraney.com.

 

My Impressions:

Deborah Raney creates highly readable family dramas that are not afraid to tackle tough issues. Her Chicory Inn series has looked at infertility and infidelity, among other things. In the fifth and final book in the series, Home at Last, racism is explored in an honest manner. Home at Last made me think and re-think the issues surrounding race relations and my own expectations and attitudes. A great ending for a great series.

Link Whitman, the only surviving son in the Whitman clan, is the focus of Home at Last. At twenty-nine his life has settled into a routine, and he is wondering if he settling for a life that is somehow less. Shayla Michaels is struggling to raise her niece and help run her father’s business and doesn’t have time for superficial flirtations. But there seems to be something different about Link. Obstacles abound in their new-found love, not the least are objections from family and differences in how they view the world.

First and foremost, Home at Last is a well-written story that makes the reader care about its likable characters. Main characters Link and Shayla have a lot going for them and a lot going against them. Raney doesn’t sugar-coat the real problems that face biracial couples. This reader’s eyes were certainly opened. Faith is naturally woven throughout the novel with characters struggling to keep believing in the face of hardships that pile up. I loved the support that Link provided Shayla and the way they faced the future with realistic expectations, but with a big dose of hope.

You don’t have to read the other books in the Chicory Inn series to enjoy Home at Last. But I would suggest you start at the beginning. You won’t want to miss this excellent series. And with this one being the last, you can binge read without  having to wait for the next installment!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Litfuse and Abingdon for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Book Club Reads

7 Mar

While the folks at The Broke And The Bookish are taking a well-deserved rest, bloggers are sharing Freebie Top 10 Lists. This week I am sharing the books my two book clubs (By The Book and Page Turners) are reading this year. What is your book club reading?

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Top 10 Book Club Selections for 2017

(alphabetically)

Gathering The Threads by Cindy Woodsmall

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley

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The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

Luther And Katharina by Jody Hedlund

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

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Why The Sky Is Blue by Susan Meissner

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton

A Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green

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What is your book club reading this year?