Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gina Holmes's Driftwood Tides ~ Reviewed


Driftwood Tides
by Gina Holmes
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414366426

Description:

He made himself an island until something unexpected washed ashore.
When Holton lost his wife, Adele, in a freak accident, he shut himself off from the world, living a life of seclusion, making drifwood sculptures and drowning his pain in gin. Until twenty-three-year-old Libby knocks on his door, asking for a job and claiming to be a friend of his late wife. When he discovers Libby is actually his late wife’s illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption without his knowledge, his life is turned upside down as he struggles to accept that the wife he’d given saint status to was not the woman he thought he knew.

Together Holton and Libby form an unlikely bond as the two struggle to learn the identity of Libby’s father and the truth about Adele, themselves, and each other.

Review:

Gina Holmes has produced her best novel yet. I love escaping into fiction where the author's voice enhances the story but doesn't intrude. Holmes has done this with Driftwood Tides. I didn't think about her previous books and compare. I was pulled into the story of a young woman who discovers a shocking secret and who's life gets turned upside down. 

Holmes tackles heavy subjects and produces deep characters. Her debut was a woman coming home to die and to find a family for her daughter. Her second novel was about the destruction and tentative rebuilding of a marriage, her third domestic violence. So, those who prefer inspirational escapism aren't likely to find Gina Holmes an easy author to read. But for those who want reality, even ugly, and to see the ever hopeful evidence of God's character find so much to love in Holmes's novels. 

Driftwood Tides dives deeply into human dysfunction and deception. The characters have chosen so many unhealthy different ways of coping with life's disappointments. But hope wins. If you have loved any of Gina Holmes previous work you should love Driftwood Tides.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stephanie Fowers's Jane and Austen ~ Reviewed


Jane and Austen
By Stephanie Fowers 
2014 
Triad Media and Entertainment
1500233110

BACK COVER:

Meet Jane and Austen. First there's Jane - an impractical, starry-eyed wedding planner; if love can't match what she's read in a book, she doesn't want it. And then there's Austen - a pragmatic, logical-to-a-fault financial consultant; even if he were interested in someone, he wouldn't know.

The two have one thing in common: they can't leave each other alone. Jane believes that if Austen could just experience a fairy tale romance, he would secretly love it. And Austen's pretty sure thats  if one of Jane's beloved heroes escaped from the pages of her dog-eared novels, she'd run and hide.

Both are about to be proven right.

When the rivals are called on to help a friend plan the biggest wedding of the year, an entire resort full of colorful wedding guests descends upon them -- many sharing uncanny similarities to characters in a Jane Austen novel. It doesn't take long before Jane gets everything she thinks she wants. After all, too much of a good thing can't be all that bad, right?

But when Jane's life turns upside down, the only one she can turn to is Austen; though he's got his own troubles of the heart . . . and she's afraid he's enjoying them more than he should.

MY REVIEW:

Light-hearted. Somewhat cheesy. Super fun. Any of these descriptions make your heart beat faster? If so, check out Jane and Austen. 

The story centers around Jane, an event coordinator at North Abbey (yeah, a total play on Northanger Abbey). Her boss is getting married to a Brit and it's quite the huge event, with guests bearing names and attributes to most of Jane Austen's beloved characters. 

Jane is easy to love, though sometimes I did want to slap her. Mostly, though, I wanted to slap Austen, who spends most of the first half of the book being an idiot. Don't worry. He comes to his senses later on.

Jane and Austen is a quirky play on Jane Austen's works. If you're a purist, it will probably annoy you, but if not, you're going to love this fun little love story.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cindy Thomson's Annie's Stories ~ Reviewed


Annie's Stories (Ellis Island Novel V2)
By Cindy Thomson (Author)
Pages 402
Binding Softcover
Release Date May 1, 2014
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Series Ellis, Island

Description


The year is 1901, the literary sensation "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment--they're a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie--and in her father's unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.Though the postman's intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father's stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she's always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

Review:

Annie’s Stories tells us about Annie Gallagher in the time when The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was beginning to take the nation by storm.  She is a recent immigrant from Ireland.  She was raised by her father, but when he died suddenly, she found herself forced into a woman’s asylum by her uncle, who did not want her.  She is rescued by a priest, who sends her to America to live with his sister in a boarding house, where Annie earns her keep working for her board.  Her belief God has long since passed due to the trials she’s endured, but she finds comfort in The Wizard of Oz, as it reminds her of her storytelling father.  She has some of her father’s stories that he used to tell her written down, and as she begins to share them, people begin to get interested.  When the stories disappear, she fears they have fallen in the wrong hands.  
          
Annie has such a hard time trusting people, and most of all, God, due to what she’s been through.  So much so that she can’t see the caring people that are right in front of her face.  She has an ideal in her head of what love and home are and can’t seem to get past that.  But it’s fun to see her start to open up.  She’s such a lovely character.  This story was a lot better than I expected it to be when I first read the synopsis.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Jan Karon's Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good ~ Reviewed


Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good: The New Mitford Novel 
By Jan Karon
Pages 670
Binding Softcover
Release Date Sep 2, 2014
Publisher Penguin Group USA
Series Mitford Years
ISBN 0399172211


Overview
After five hectic years of retirement from Lord's Chapel, Father Tim Kavanaugh returns with his wife, Cynthia from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors. While he is glad to be a t home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he's offered one, he decides he doesn't want it. Maybe he lost his passion. His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion--for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner--and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley's brother Sammy, still enraged by his mother's abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim's prized possessions. And Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings Bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business.

Review:

Father Tim is back! Those who have visited Mitford before will be excited. It has been a long time since Father Tim was in Mitford. I love the Mitford series by Jan Karon (10 novels published between 1994 and 2014 with two other novels called the Father Tim novels)! Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (don’t you love the title) is the first book published in the Mitford series since 2005. I love the Mitford Series for many reasons but the main reason is the town and the people are so real to me. I know that Mitford exists somewhere and that Father Tim and Cynthia must be real people. I feel like I know all the people in Mitford. Jan Karon is a master at creating believable characters and at creating many characters who each have distinct personalities. Another thing I love about Mitford is it is a place where people care about each other and where God’s wisdom is shared openly. There are always both laughter and tears in these novels. If you have read the series before and loved them or even just liked them, you will love this new one. The author manages to pay homage to all the characters and stories in the series without it feeling like a review or a summary. But if you have never read any of the books and there is any chance at all you will read them, I strongly encourage you to read the books in order. If you are a reader who has no intention of reading any of the other novels, I do believe you would still enjoy this book just not on the same level as someone who is familiar with the characters, the inside jokes and all the nuances of the relationships. If this were the first book I read, there would be a lot of references I wouldn’t understand and I probably would be a little frustrated. For me, there where times in this book where I laughed (as always) and one time in particular when I burst into tears (I won’t tell you which part). I believe it is the best one of the series. I love the characters, I love the story lines and I love that Father Tim’s relationship with Jesus is shown so clearly and is real not pretentious and not making him look like he is perfect. This novel (and series) is great for someone who wants to read inspirational stories about people that include all the daily challenges of life and family told with humor and truth. (If you have never read any of the books and aren’t sure you want to read all ten, at least read the first book At Home in Mitford before you read this one and it will increase your enjoyment of the story.)

Reviewed by: Susan Aken

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jennifer AlLee's Last Family Standing ~ Reviewed



Last Family Standing
By Jennifer AlLee (Author)
Binding Softcover
Release Date Sep 16, 2014
Publisher Abingdon Press
ISBN 1426768095

Overview

Twenty-five years ago, Monica Stanton gave up a baby girl for adoption. Now, the thing Monica didn't dare hope for has happened: Jessica has reentered her life . . . and brought a little drama and competition with her. Jessica is willing to meet her birth mother, but she wants the reunion to air on a reality TV show. Monica would rather chew glass than appear on TV. But she'll swallow her pride-and a few other unsavory items-if that's what it takes to reconnect. As if getting to know her grown daughter while competing on a remote island isn't hard enough, Monica is further confused when Jessica's long-lost birth father shows up, complicating both her relationship with her daughter and the attraction Monica has to the hunky reality show host. The fruit-basket upset of emotions, accusations, and regrets might make for good TV, but will it destroy the family in the process?


Review:

With all the competition and obstacles of a reality TV show, Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee will have you turning page after page to see who wins. AlLee does an excellent portrayal of emotions in this book. They snap with electricity and are anything but stereotypical. Novel Rocket and I give it a high recommendation. It's a perfect Spring or Summer read.


Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, president
Novel Rocket

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ane Mulligan's Chapel Springs Revival ~ Reviewed

Chapel Springs Revival
  • Ane Mulligan
    Paperback: 274 pages
    Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (September 8, 2014)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10:1941103413



Description:

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.

Review: 

I am always a little apprehensive when someone I know offers me a book for a review. 

I've known Ane Mulligan for years and she has been a staple and mentor in my writing and blogging journey. 

Ane's new book Chapel Springs Revival is a long time coming. Mulligan has worked the craft and networks involved in writing. If anyone deserves to be published just because she has given so much to other writers it would be Ane. 

But Mulligan isn't just a good writing citizen, she's a good writer with stories to tell that only she can. 

Ane introduces us to Claire and Patsy and their lives in a sleepy little village. But even sleepy villages often have underlying currents and pleasant, tranquil settings sometimes need a little  shot of passion and life. Chapel Springs is exactly there, and Patsy and Claire are treading in marital currents. 

Both women discover that their long marriages have begun to look a lot like the formerly charming town square. Used-to-be, lackluster, dull and barely functional. The ladies, along with some friends and frenemies, set out to refurbish pretty much everything. 

Claire, unfortunately, has a special knack for getting into hot water, so as the clean-up and self-improvement campaigns begin, Claire finds herself getting a little too immersed into the projects. My visual of Claire while reading about her antics is a mental merge of Lucille Ball in a panic, Tomb Raider's Lora Croft on a mission, and Mrs. Doubtfire with Mr. Mom on their learning curves. Let's just say that if something could go wrong and Claire is there it will go wrong in the worst way. My favorite scene in the book is at the end when she innocently has a mishap that lands her in an all dressed-up-and-no-way-out pickle. 

This story is sweet escapism but there are teaching elements that I appreciated as well. After all, I'm at a certain age and been married for a long while and have struggled with some of the same concerns discussed by Patsy and Claire. I mean, reality isn't a romance novel, it's a whole lot more like working late, worrying about family members and different interests most of the time. So while I loved the escapism and the fact that the book is very well written, I also appreciated the depth and realistic issues faced by the characters. 

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Susan May Warren's Evergreen ~ Reviewed





EVERGREEN
Susan May Warren
Pages 192
Binding Hardcover
Release Date Jul 1, 2014
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Series Christiansen Family
ISBN 1414394012


Description

An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn't be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He's sure she'll love it. What's more romantic than Christmas in Paris?Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then--because disasters strike in threes--an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts.As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid's marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future.
               


Evergreen is a Christiansen Winter Novella.  It’s much shorter than the others in the series, but just as good.  This book focuses on the parents, Ingrid and John.  With all of their children out of the house and Christmas approaching, Ingrid is feeling down and out.  John decides to surprise her with a trip to Europe, only to find she volunteered them to head up the committee for the live Nativity seen that Christmas.  On top of that, an emergency surgery for the dog takes up most of their savings, and a surprise visitor shows up at their doorstep, for who knows how long.  While John is finding himself frustrated that he can’t have the perfect get-away and enjoy life as empty nesters, Ingrid is harboring a lot of anger and bitterness towards John over past issues. 
                
This book was great, though I was sad not to see much of the kids in it.  It was nice to see a focus on the parent’s, though, and the struggles they were going through.  The characters were very real.  The only thing that bothered me was that there was a point in the book where one of the unsaved characters was very curious about Jesus and John’s character didn’t really spell out the gospel for him.  The touched on trusting in God and such, but didn’t really dig in and explain to him that we are sinners that need a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus.  I wish the author would have taken the time to explain it more thoroughly.


Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers