Tag Archives: literary fiction

Book Review: Where Hope Begins

28 May

Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

 

Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. Catherine is the winner of the 2015 Grace Award (Bridge of Faith) and the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award (The Things We Knew). Her most recent novel, The Memory of You, released March 2017 and Where Hope Begins releases in May 2018. Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at Catherine@catherinejwest.com.

 

My Impressions:

As it always seems to happen with books that blow me away, I have difficulty expressing how deeply they move me. Where Hope Begins is another excellent novel by Catherine West. Her previous novels touched my heart, but Where Hope Begins grabbed me where I’ve been and where I am certain to go in the future. The book is about loss — loss of a child, loss of a marriage, loss of dreams — and the hope of a second chance extended by those we love and the God that loves above all others. This one was a difficult read emotionally (make sure tissues are close at hand), but so worth it. Highly Recommended.

Savannah Barrington thought her life was okay. Not great because of the difficulties of the past and the uncertainties that face anyone’s future, but okay nonetheless. But that changes when her husband of 20+ years decides to leave. Devastated, she escapes to her family’s lake house in the Berkshires to right herself. Her journey is hard and painful, but God is faithful to bring beauty again where none exists.

I need to first mention the writing style of Where Hope Begins. The book is told in the first person voice of Savannah, her recollections of the past, and the third person point of view of other characters. It is a complex framework, but works so well to tell Savannah’s story and to show her impact, intended and unintended, on events in others’ lives. Without the additional 3rd person POV, the reader would never have the whole truth of the situations past and present. Characterization is strong. I identified with Savannah, fell in love with Maysie and Clarice, cried for Zoe and Adam, and Brock and Kevin, well, I’ll let you decide which one is the best man. As stated above, one predominant theme is loss. You don’t have to have experienced what Savannah has to know how she feels. Unfortunately loss is common to all in varying degrees. West knows how to make it real. But second chances are what this novel is all about. Our God is the Master at offering second (sometimes third . . .) chances, and Where Hope Begins shows it in fresh and sometimes startling ways. My favorite quote from the book appears towards the end. The characters have to learn to push aside what the world would deem impossible and hold out for the miracle. 

I loved Where Hope Begins — an emotionally packed reading experience you won’t soon forget.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

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Audiobook Review: The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

25 May

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. . . .

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Mary Ann Shaffer who passed away in February 2008, worked as an editor, librarian, and in bookshops. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel.

Annie Barrows was born in 1962 in San Diego, California, but quickly moved to a small town called San Anselmo in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spent most of her childhood at the library. She wouldn’t leave, so they hired her to shelve books at the age of twelve.

Annie attended UC Berkeley and received a B. A. in Medieval History. She knows more than the average person about 3rd century saints. Under the impression that a career in publishing meant she’d get to read a lot, Annie became a proofreader at an art magazine and later an editor at a textbook publishing company. In 1988, Chronicle Books hired Annie as an editorial assistant, from which platform she became successively assistant editor, managing editor, Editor, and Senior Editor. Somewhere in this trajectory, she acquired Griffin & Sabine, Chronicle’s first New York Times best seller.

In 1996, Annie received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Mills College and had a baby, a confluence of events that persuaded her to leave editorial work and move into writing. She wrote several non-fiction books on topics ranging from fortune-telling to opera before turning her attention to children’s books. In 2006, the first book in her children’s series, Ivy + Bean was published. This title, an ALA Notable Book for 2007, was followed by nine others. The Ivy + Bean series appears with some regularity on the New York Times best-seller list and a number of other national best-seller lists. The Ivy + Bean books have been translated into fourteen languages; in 2013 Ivy + Bean: The Musical premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area. A novel for older children, The Magic Half, was published by BloomsburyUSA in 2008. Its sequel, Magic in the Mix, came out in 2014.

In addition to her children’s books, Annie is the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was published by The Dial Press in 2008. A New York Times best-seller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been published in thirty-seven countries and thirty-two languages.

Annie lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters.

 

My Impressions:

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society was an immediate success, becoming a world-wide bestseller. Ten years after its publication it is still going strong, especially with the release of the movie this summer. My book club, Page Turners, selected it for our May discussion. Well, due to traveling members and other obligations, our meeting had a sparse attendance. And the two others besides me that were there hadn’t yet finished the book. But that certainly didn’t keep me from talking about this excellent book. Told completely in letters, the novel unfolds the story of Guernsey, a little thought of island in the English Channel. I was fascinated by the background of the story and the setting. But it was the characters that emerged and their resilience and courage in the face of enemy occupation that captured my heart. The two others that attended our meeting found the epistolary style hard to connect with. I think that by listening to the audiobook, that obstacle was removed for me. I immediately connected with Juliet, Dawsey, Isola, Elizabeth, and the others that had their voices heard through their and others’ letters. The book has some wonderfully funny parts, but poignancy as well. I felt myself part of the Guernsey community as they faced privation and uncertainty, yet never lost hope that their release from the the German occupation would come. Besides being a wonderful look into a place and time unknown to me, I felt the book was relevant for my life today.

I highly recommend The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. It quickly captured my imagination and has stayed with me long after the final page.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

May Book Club Selections

1 May

May is looking like an excellent reading month! Both my book clubs are active again, and we have chosen two great books. By The Book is reading If I Live by Terri Blackstock, the last in the series and a highly anticipated novel for my group’s members. Page Turners, after a few months hiatus, is reading The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Have you read either of these books? We would love to know your thoughts.

THE HUNT IS ALMOST OVER.

Casey Cox is still on the run after being indicted for murder. The hunt that began with her bloody footprints escalates, and she’s running out of places to hide. Her face is all over the news, and her disguises are no longer enough. It’s only a matter of time before someone recognizes her.

Dylan Roberts, the investigator who once hunted her, is now her only hope. Terrifying attempts on Dylan’s life could force Casey out of hiding. The clock is ticking on both their lives, but exposing the real killers is more complicated than they knew. Amassing the evidence to convict their enemies draws Dylan and Casey together, but their relationship has consequences. Will one life have to be sacrificed to protect the other?

With If I Live, Terri Blackstock takes us on one more heart-stopping chase in the sensational conclusion to the If I Run series.

 

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb . . . .

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island — boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Book Review: Lead Me Home

29 Mar

Amid open fields and empty pews, small towns can crush big dreams.

Abandoned by his no-good father and forced to grow up too soon, Noble Burden has set his dreams aside to run the family farm. Meanwhile, James Horton, the pastor of the local church, questions his own calling as he prepares to close the doors for good.

As a severe storm rolls through, threatening their community and very livelihood, both men fear losing what they care about most . . . and reconsider where they truly belong.

 

 

Amy K. Sorrells is a long-time believer in the power of story to change lives. Her diverse writing career includes more than two decades of freelance writing, including medical journal publications and a popular op-ed newspaper column. The driving mission behind all her writing is to bring words of hope to a hurting world. Praised by reviewers for the way they both poetically and accurately portray real-life hardship and hope, Amy’s novels are inspired by social issues that break her heart and the Bible stories that reflect God’s response to those issues. Her first novel, How Sweet the Sound, was a response to her personal questions about how God redeems the pain of sexual abuse. How Sweet the Sound won the 2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest. Since then, she has published two more novels, Then Sings My Soul and Lead Me Home. Amy’s novels have been short-listed for various fiction awards. In addition to being a writer, Amy is also grateful to be a practicing registered nurse at a busy suburban hospital. She loves doting on her husband, three young-adult sons, and their golden retrievers at their home in central Indiana. If there’s leftover time after that, she enjoys up-cycling, gardening, binge reading, exercising, and Bible journaling.

Connect with Amy at amyksorrells.com, or find her on Facebook (@amyksorrells), Twitter (@amysorrells), and Instagram (@amyksorrells).

My Impressions:

The first book I read by Amy K. Sorrells, How Sweet The Sound, made a big impression on me. I knew that after reading it, I would have to get busy and dig into her other books. So on my recent spring break trip I decided to take Lead Me Home along. I am so very glad I did! Lead Me Home is a complex novel full of wonderful characters that grab and sometimes break your heart. Set in a small Indiana farming town, this book examines things we lose — people, purpose, dreams. While it could easily have been a depressing book, it was instead a story of the hope and the possibilities of wonderful futures. Just like How Sweet The Sound, Lead Me Home is a book to savor, think about, and discuss with others. A great book club book, this novel is a highly recommended read.

Sycamore, Indiana is a town on the verge — small family farms are disappearing, people are moving on to bigger cities, and those that stay are afraid that life is leaving them behind. Main characters James Horton and Noble Burden know what its like to live with loss. Widowed and left to raise a teenage daughter alone, James is the pastor of a dying church. An aspiring musician, Noble is forced to run the family dairy farm after his father leaves him with responsibilities too great for a 19 year old. Both question their decisions, their futures, and the seeming silence of a God that promises rest.

I loved all the characters, flawed as they are, that Sorrells has created in Lead Me Home. Their main attraction is how real they are — real in their doubts, fears, and struggles. Like me, they often try to go it alone, forgetting that God has them in the palm of His hand. The community in which the novel is set is rich in its American-ness — self-sufficient and proud, seeking to survive and flourish. Sorrels’s examination of the church is spot on as well. The ridiculous reasons someone leaves a church are juxtaposed against the real picture of Christ’s church that comes together in the end. The struggle to trust God is portrayed realistically too. At one point Noble thinks about the relationship he has had with God — It was in the wrestling and holding tight and trying to pin him down that Noble had come to know God as true, though he still had a hard time trusting him. Those words mirror an active faith; one that isn’t afraid to question God.

Lead Me Home is a novel meant to be savored — don’t rush through this one. You will want to spend time with James, Noble, Shelby, Eustace, and the rest of those that inhabit the pages. It’s full of simple wisdom and deep thoughts that will continue to speak to you long after you close the covers.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE. (It is currently only 99 cents on Kindle!)

(Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

First Line Friday — Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrells

23 Mar

Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrells has been on my TBR shelf for way too long. I intend to remedy while I am at my mountain cabin for some R&MR — reading and more reading! There’s a storm in this book, so it meets the in like a lion, out like a lamb prompt for this week, too. How about you? What is your first line?

Leave a comment with the first sentence in the book closest to you, then head over to Hoarding Books to check out all the First Line fun!

 

Amid open fields and empty pews, small towns can crush big dreams.

Abandoned by his no-good father and forced to grow up too soon, Noble Burden has set his dreams aside to run the family farm. Meanwhile, James Horton, the pastor of the local church, questions his own calling as he prepares to close the doors for good.

As a severe storm rolls through, threatening their community and very livelihood, both men fear losing what they care about most . . . and reconsider where they truly belong.

 

Amy K. Sorrells is a long-time believer in the power of story to change lives. Her diverse writing career includes more than two decades of freelance writing, including medical journal publications and a popular op-ed newspaper column. The driving mission behind all her writing is to bring words of hope to a hurting world. Praised by reviewers for the way they both poetically and accurately portray real-life hardship and hope, Amy’s novels are inspired by social issues that break her heart and the Bible stories that reflect God’s response to those issues. Her first novel, How Sweet the Sound, was a response to her personal questions about how God redeems the pain of sexual abuse. How Sweet the Sound won the 2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest. Since then, she has published two more novels, Then Sings My Soul and Lead Me Home. Amy’s novels have been short-listed for various fiction awards. In addition to being a writer, Amy is also grateful to be a practicing registered nurse at a busy suburban hospital. She loves doting on her husband, three young-adult sons, and their golden retrievers at their home in central Indiana. If there’s leftover time after that, she enjoys up-cycling, gardening, binge reading, exercising, and Bible journaling.

Connect with Amy at amyksorrells.com, or find her on Facebook (@amyksorrells), Twitter (@amysorrells), and Instagram (@amyksorrells).

Top 10 Tuesday — Surprise Endings

13 Mar

This week That Artsy Reader Girl is challenging bloggers to list books that surprised them. There are so many options for this theme, but I chose a few books that had endings I never saw coming. Those that changed my perspective on all that went before. These were endings that prompt the reader to go back and explore the book again. If you are looking for a wonderful novel, then I highly recommend all of these.

Find out what surprised other bloggers HERE.

 

Top Books That Surprised Me

 

The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

Dogwood by Chris Fabry

In the small town of Dogwood, West Virginia, Karin has buried her shattered dreams by settling for a faithful husband whose emotional distance from her deep passions and conflicts leaves her isolated. Loaded with guilt, she tries to raise three small children and “do life” the best she can. Will returns to Dogwood intent on pursuing the only woman he has ever loved―only to find there is far more standing in his way than lost years in prison. The secrets of Will and Karin’s past begin to emerge through Danny Boyd, a young boy who wishes he hadn’t survived the tragedy that knit those two together as well as tore them apart. The trigger that will lay their pain bare and force them to face it rather than flee is the unlikely figure of Ruthie Bowles, a withered, wiry old woman who leads Karin so deep into her anger against God that it forces unexpected consequences.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.

Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.

Not in The Heart by Chris Fabry

Truman Wiley used to report news stories from around the world, but now the most troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work, out of touch with his family, out of his home. But nothing dogs him more than his son’s failing heart.

With mounting hospital bills and Truman’s penchant for gambling his savings, the situation seems hopeless . . . until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline—the chance to write the story of a death row inmate, a man convicted of murder who wants to donate his heart to Truman’s son.

As the execution clock ticks down, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that points to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? Truman’s investigation draws him down a path that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, a life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942. When the Japanese Imperialist army invades the Southeast Pacific, and his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings. But he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about his frail, troubled mother—a woman he barely knows.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap his father and brothers left behind. 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.

Velma Stil Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright

As the town’s chief cook and part-time janitor for Jerusalem Baptist church, Velma Brendle has never done anything more outstanding than putting on a good meal at Velma’s Place, the one restaurant in Leeway, Kansas, but she takes good care of her customers, neighbors, and friends. However, in the midst of these two jobs, Velma’s husband stops talking, Cousin Albert comes to live with her, and she finds herself dealing with the town’s problems. As memories of past troubles plague her, she grows weary from even the tasks she loves the most. Old Sunday School lessons take on new meanings, and new problems illuminate trials Velma thought were long over. In sudden leaps of faith and moments of tragedy, Velma and all those she loves journey toward facing their sins and finding forgiveness.

 

What book surprised you?

 

Top 10 Tuesday: First Lines

6 Mar

Today I am recycling because that is what busy bloggers do when they are short on time and inspiration! 😉 This week That Artsy Reader Girl is challenging bloggers to list their Top 10 Favorite Book Quotes. I’m a slacker when it comes to keeping a journal filled with the wonderful nuggets I find in the pages of a book. But as I thought about the topic, I couldn’t help but think how it is the first lines that I almost always remember. I haven’t read (or rather re-read) Rebecca in a long while, but I can still quote that memorable first line — Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Another wonderful weekly meme I participate in is First Line Friday hosted by Hoarding Books (their tagline is it’s not HOARDING if it’s BOOKS — great, huh?). It has been lots of fun discovering new books and authors through first lines. So today, I will share some first lines from books that were fabulous reads. I hope that you find your next great book today!

 

Top First Lines

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey

Christy by Catherine Marshall 

Melody of The Soul by Liz Tolsma

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason

A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith

Rule of Law by Randy Singer

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner

Stars in The Grass by Ann Marie Stewart 

 

What’s your favorite book quote?