Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

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?

Book Review: Door to Freedom

2 Mar

51yprx5maxl-_sx322_bo1204203200_It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom, the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than manmade security.

Part of New Hope Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

jkelley-420-pngAuthor of the captivating novel Side by Side, Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.
Find out more about Jana at http://www.janakelley.com.

 

My Impressions:

What is it like to live in a place where the free exercise of religion is non-existent? A place where belief in Jesus is dangerous? Door to Freedom, the second book by Jana Kelley, continues the story of the Westons, a family who come to Sudan to provide physical relief to the people, but who are also committed to sharing the hope and peace available through Jesus Christ. This book is an eye-opener — cultural differences, governmental harassment, and opposition from friend and foe are woven into a highly readable contemporary novel. If you want to know more about life for those on the front lines of mission work, you need to get Door to Freedom.

Two storylines run throughout Door to Freedom. Mia’s story was begun in book 1, Side by Side, and progresses as she and her husband anticpate another two year commitment to life in Sudan. On the other side of Khartoum lives Rania, the sister of Halimah who figured prominently in Side by Side. Although there is little intersection between the two women, the stories are complimentary as they show both sides of life in a Muslim country. Mia struggles to share her faith with Sudanese women, and Rania seeks peace in a dangerous place, the Gospel of John. Both women must walk through a door in obedience to find their place and purpose in God’s kingdom.

The thing I liked most about this book was the everydayness of Mia and Rania’s lives. Yes, life in Sudan is very different from my cushy life in the US, but I could easily relate to Mia’s challenge of raising her family and Rania’s desire to know the truth and also be a respectful and dutiful daughter. Door to Freedom shows the positives of the Muslim culture — family closeness and generous hospitality — but also the lies that bind believers leaving them with only a faint hope of what Allah wills for their lives. Mia finds that dependence on God’s Word is critical for her life in Sudan — a good reminder for all believers everywhere. As she and her husband Michael become more immersed in the Bible and prayer, Mia finds herself astounded — “‘It’s just we pray and pray, but I forget that God may actually do what we ask.'” (p.97). This statement spoke volumes to my heart.

Door to Freedom may be a departure for you if you usually read historical romance or romantic suspense, but it will definitely open your eyes and your heart to needs in this big world of ours.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

 

Top 10 Tuesday — What’s Up Next in The TBR Pile

28 Feb

The folks at the Broke And The Bookish are taking a short and well-deserved break this week. Six years of hosting this great meme! Our hats are off to you! So that means bloggers are coming up with their own topics. I’m taking the easy way out and sharing what I will be reading in the coming weeks. Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think.

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Top 10 Books in The TBR Pile

By Cat or By Crook by Patricia Fry

Doctor’s Dilemma by Richard Mabry

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

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Exit Katrina by Chris Link

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

Home at Last by Deborah Raney

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd

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Redeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin

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What book is next up for you?

 

Book Review: My Sister’s Prayer

24 Feb

51fzrfbcl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Virginia, 1704

Celeste Talbot is usually such a sensible young woman—until she falls for an English soldier reassigned to the Colonies. Leaving her Huguenot family behind, she sets sail for America, only to realize that her younger sister Berta has been kidnapped and forced on board the very same ship. Whom can Celeste trust? The dashing soldier? Or the vigilant carpenter who remains by their side in the perilous New World?

Virginia, present day

Madeline “Maddee” Talbot has her hands full when she agrees to take in her younger sister, Nicole, following a serious car accident. The young women grew apart when Nicole fell into drug addiction, and Maddee prays this will be the start of a better life for her sister. But as they investigate a trauma from their childhood, Maddee must keep a diligent eye on Nicole—and the shadowy figure watching them from afar.

mindy-starns-clark-250-shadowMindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of more than 30 books, both fiction and nonfiction, and has received numerous literary honors, including two Christy Awards and RT Book Review Magazine’s 2012 Career Achievement Award. Mindy and her husband, John, have two adult children and live near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

61m0vp8plil-_ux250_Leslie Gould is the best-selling and award-winning author of twenty-three novels. She loves traveling, research, Shakespeare’s plays, and church history. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon and are the parents of four children. http://www.lesliegould.com/

 

 

My Impressions:

My Sister’s Prayer by award-winning authors Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould continues the saga of the Talbot family. This time sisters are the focus of the novel with the dual storylines of Celeste and Berta and Maddee and Nicole. The setting is Virginia, but the times the sisters live in could not be more different. Celeste and Berta are new immigrants to the Virginia colony, and Maddee and Nicole’s story is contemporary. But despite the differences in culture and technology, there are many parallels that can be drawn — struggles of the heart are not so different across the centuries. My book club, By The Book, chose this as their February selection, and it got a unanimous thumbs up! We had a great discussion.

There were several things we liked about My Sister’s Prayer. Number one is the historical setting of Celeste and Berta’s story. Our group includes a 4th grade teacher who loves history. She read many excerpts to her class in their discussions on indentured servants. This topic, as well as the general deprivations and dangers of immigration in the early 1700s, generated a great conversation.

We liked the likable characters and disliked those who were either cads, bad guys, or generally annoying 🙂 . There were a number of minor characters that gave depth to the main characters’ stories. We also liked the romances that developed. The continuing mystery of the murder at the cabin when the cousins were children provided a connecting thread for the contemporary plots. The only criticism we had was that the ending seemed rushed — everything wrapped up in just a few pages.

We recommend My Sister’s Prayer and are looking forward to book 3 in the series, My Daughter’s Legacy, which is due out in July of this year.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens and adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

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

Mini-Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

23 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audience: adults. 

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

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

Top 10 Tuesday: 2016 Releases I Didn’t Read (But Should)

10 Jan

My TBR pile has reached staggering heights since I started blogging. Is it possible to have too many books? I think the problem is really not enough time to read — stuff like laundry and work just keeps getting in the way! In an effort to read what is on my shelves in 2017, I am practicing saying no to shiny new books. We’ll see how long that lasts. 😉 In the meantime, here is a list of the books that were released in 2016 that I failed to read, but really, really plan to. Can we put a freeze on 2017 releases until I get caught up?

For other bloggers woefully behind on their reading, check out The Broke And The Bookish this week.

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2016 Books That I Need to Read

The Cottage by Michael Phillips

Delilah by Angela Hunt

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering

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The End of Law by Therese Down

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hall by Julie Klassen

Lead Me Home by Amy Sorrells

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The Shattered Vigil by Patrick Carr

Sins of The Past by Dee Henderson/Dani Pettrey/Lynette Eason

You’re The One That I Want by Susan May Warren

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Have you read any of these 2016 releases?

Which one should I read first?