Monday, May 27, 2019

Beauty in His Sight- April W. Gardner

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: It's 1917, and Halifax is at war. Silas Quinn, street sweeper and army reject, remains on the home front, shunning God and society as religiously as they shun him. But the night he stumbles across a half-frozen prostitute, his eyes blink open, and his greater purpose is born: preserve and protect.

There'd been a day when shop girl Helen Fraser was desperate enough to believe a few nights in a brothel would cure her troubles. By some miracle, Major Jack Gordon deemed her worth saving, but Helen knows her meticulously recreated identity cannot last. What she doesn't expect is for its destruction to come about, not by a john or one of the madam's goons, but by a force great enough to flatten a city and bury her alive.

Set against the backdrop of the Halifax Explosion, Beautiful in His Sight is a Christian historical romance that explores unequivocal grace and identity in Christ.

My Thoughts: I've been in love with April's book ever since I first picked up her story about Totka and Copper Woman. That story had filled the place of a certain story which I had known had to exist but had not found up to that point. And I've followed April's releases ever since, eagerly devouring each new story.

This book is a massive tome, nearly twice the length of her other works. But it didn't feel like it (probably because I read it on my kindle, since I'm sure the weight of it would have reminded me of how big it is). The relationship of Helen and Silas is just so captivating, that I didn't want it to come to an end. And the setting of the Halifax Explosion provides a backdrop that is captivating in and of itself.

For readers wondering if this is the story for them, I would probably liken it to Francine River's Redeeming Love. April does not hide the darkness of the situation Helen is in or has been taken out of. And for some readers, that may be a lot to handle. But for others, it will be a wonderful story of beauty, love, and forgiveness.

I have provided an honest review after receiving an ecopy from the author.
*Also on Kindle Unlimited

Monday, May 20, 2019

Porch Sing Girl- Taylor Bennett

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.

With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.

My Thoughts: Have you ever read a book that transports you into a summer mood? Porch Swing Girl is set in a sunny city, with beach and shave ice, as well as jewelry making and summer jobs. It made me long to be there with Olive and her friends, enjoying the sun and sand.

Admittedly, I did find some issues with the story. It took me a few chapters to figure out Olive's age (whether she was an older or younger teen), who certain characters were to each other, and what exactly happened to Olive's mother. And despite the fact that Olive is reacting in a believable way to her lose and subsequent abandonment by her father, other characters behave as though she is missbehaving without reason, instead of trying to talk through the situation with her.

Yet once Olive begins her friendships with Jazz and Brander, she begins to see how she can turn her memories to joy instead of pain. At that point, she shows a lot of character growth, perhaps even despite her family, and sees how she can use her past to better motivate her to help others. While the Christian elements might have been a little too preachy, there was still a good message as to not blaming God for what befalls us and instead trusting him through future pain.

I think that this a great book for Christian girls looking for that perfect summer read, especially those who want a Christian message that makes up the bulk of the story. I look forward to the next book and to what comes of Brander's comments at the end of this one.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dead Sea Rising- Jerry B. Jenkins

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: Nicole Berman is an archaeologist on the brink of a world-changing discovery. During her first dig in Jordan, she believes she has found concrete evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history books forever. But someone doesn’t want the truth revealed. While urgently trying to connect pieces of an ancient puzzle, a dangerous enemy is out to stop her.

My Thoughts: When I picked up this book, I thought it was going to be a stand alone novel. Nothing about the cover or the description indicated that this was going to be a series. So, it was not until the end of the book that I started to wonder if maybe it could be a series, and an online search showed that this was the case. However, even had I known ahead of time that this was a duology, I don't think I would have liked it.

There are two stories taking place within Dead Sea Rising, one in modern day and one in the time of King Nimrod, mentioned in Genesis. Throughout the story, I was waiting for the moment when the two would connect. But even at the very end, I was still left wondering. I assume that the two will be connected in the next book, but not having that connection in this story made it difficult to care when the narrative switched between the timelines, sometimes every other page.

The individual narratives could have been interesting on their own, as I did think there was some mystery to what would happen. But neither was strong enough to support the weight of a novel, and so I could have easily skipped over sections that didn't seem to add much to the story.

The biggest issue I had with this, however, was that it did not live up to the description given. The story has very little to do with Nicole's work as an archaeologist or her theories. Her being an archaeologist was the entire reason I found interest in this book, as that is what I myself do for a living. Yet, while Nicole mentions her anticipated work, because she has not yet been granted access to the site she wants, the story revolves around an investigation into domestic abuse over a fall that Nicole's mother has had. And that is not the story that the description had promised.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Moments 'til Midnight- Brent Crowe

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: In the biblical letter of 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul reflected on his passing life. It was but a vapor. He was a pilgrim, passing through this life and into the next. Moments 'til Midnight creatively peels back the curtain of Paul's final hours. Author Brent Crowe imaginatively retells the last twelve hours of Paul's life, from the perspective of the apostle himself. Along the way, readers will be encouraged to live with purpose, to redeem the time, and to embrace the awesome reality that they too are on a sacred journey.

With no more letters to write, no more churches to plant, no more sermons to preach, and no more missionary journeys to embark upon, Paul awaited his death sentence. What were his final reflections on life? How did he view the race he had run? How should you view the race set before you?

My Thoughts: The blurb of this book implies that this is a form of retelling of Paul's final moments, going through the book of 2 Timothy. This would have made it similar to books like Remarkable Faith, where a portion of each chapter is written in a fictional manner, but the chapter as a whole discusses ideas from scripture. This ended up not being the case, with only a short section at the beginning of the book which met this description.

The rest of the book focuses on potential ideas which Paul could have dwelt on in his last hours, However, few of the chapters touched on 2 Timothy, which the blurb would lead one to believe was going to be the focal point of the book. The chapters are instead on subjects like friendship and grace, referencing verses from other books that Paul had written, as well as C.S. Lewis and stories Crowe has heard. C.S. Lewis' influence was particularly felt when the author references Heaven as 'heaven country', a nod to Aslan's Country.

I did not find this book to be particularly close to what I was looking for when I picked it up. I anticipated an in depth study of 2 Timothy, with some imaginative imagery to set the scene. The topics broached in this book are ones that could have entered Paul's mind in his final hours, however, I find that somewhat unlikely.

Other reviewers have pointed out that this book may be useful for newer Christians, as it summarizes a number of points from Paul's ministry. This is something I can agree with, as personally I did not find much that was new or engaging, but I also did not find really anything that I disagreed with.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy from the publisher.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Shadow Among Sheaves- Naomi Stephens

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: A Timeless, Beautiful Allegory of the Biblical Love Story of Ruth and Boaz

The Great Rebellion of 1857 was a remarkably bloody business. At a time when Britain’s imperial influence in India was sparking brutal clashes on both sides, no one could have expected Rena, an Indian woman, to marry a British officer—nor do they understand her decision to follow her mother-in-law to England after her husband’s tragic death.

Once the two widows are in Abbotsville, the stern yet compassionate Lord Barric attempts to help them despite his better judgment. Soon he is torn between the demands of reputation and his increasing desire to capture Rena’s heart for his own.

My Thoughts: I love Biblical fiction and am often interested in historical retellings of these stories. And the premise for this book intrigued me. Ruth as an Indian woman coming to England after the death of her British husband? Definitely a story that appealed to me.

As a historical novel, I thought this was good. The treatment of Rena and her mother-in-law was believable, and I enjoyed learning about how Rena and her first husband met and found their way as a mixed couple. However, I was not as impressed with this story as a retelling of the Biblical story of Ruth.

This book sticks to all of the "plot points" of the original book of Ruth, but it changes the motivation for most of the decisions the characters make. To some extent, this was to be expected. The culture of England during this story was vastly different than that of ancient Israel. However, this meant that some of the events of the Biblical story did not fit as well into this narrative. Also, Barric's character was vastly different from that of the Biblical Boaz in a way that made him less likeable in comparison.

I think this book would have been better had it diverged farther from the book of Ruth, with Ruth's story being the inspiration for the narrative rather than the plot. There are things which were important to the story and culture of the book of Ruth which made no difference in the story of Rena. As such, I liked this book, but not as much as I had felt that I could have with a few changes.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy through Netgalley.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Flight of the Raven- Morgan L. Busse

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Exiled and on the run, Selene Ravenwood is in search of the real reason her family was given the gift of dreamwalking but first she must adapt to her marriage with the man she was originally assigned to kill. With war impending and a dark being after her gift, she finds herself at a crossroads but time is running out and soon her choice will be made for her.

My Thoughts: I did not like this book as much as I had hoped. Unfortunately, the issues I had with the first book are still present in this one. As with the last, I still found Selene to be a difficult character to relate with. Whereas before it was because she was blindly following her mother's orders in the beginning of the book, this time it was because I felt like her quest for answers held no sense of urgency. While she does take some steps toward her goal, most of the story revolved around her relationship with Damien. Which is a relationship I loved, but I wish that she had done more outside of that.

We know that off page, Damien is making plans to stop the Empire and that Selene is reading ancient texts about the house gifts. However, neither of them ever really discuss these things with each other, and no one else is enlisted to help Selene scour the texts for the information she needs. And while this later part is because both are afraid of what people will think of Selene's dreamwalking, I was still frustrated that what seems to be a religious question (what was the Light's initial intention for dreamwalking?) was never addressed to the religious leaders they interacted with.

For a fantasy about magical gifts and war, a large portion of this book was dedicated to Damien and Selene coming to know and care for each other. And as someone who is always a sucker for a married couple as the main characters, I did enjoy this aspect. But I also wish that it had been drawn out longer and that more happened in the story in between. Even their falling in love could have been fleshed out more, since there are entire days of their relationship which are skipped over. As a reader, I want to see what Selene and Damien find to talk about for hours in his study, I want to see him show her the beach, and for her to gradually open up to him about who she is beneath her heart of ice.

I still love Damien's character and found his thoughts about his new wife to be adorable. And this book was a pretty easy read, promising a better book to come next. I just wish that this had not hit the middle book slump.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy through Netgalley.

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Noble Guardian- Michelle Griep

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: A Cross-Country Trip through Regency England Brings Intrigue, Rogues, and High Adventure

The must-read conclusion to Michelle Griep’s Bow Street Runners Trilogy: Life couldn’t be better for Abigail Gilbert—but it’s been a long time in coming. Having lived with a family who hated her, it’s finally her time for love. Abby sets off on a journey across England to marry one of the most prestigious gentlemen in the land—until highwaymen upset her plans and threaten her life.

Horse patrol captain Daniel Thatcher arrives just in time to save Abby. But she’s simply another victim in a job he’s come to despise. Tired of the dark side of humanity, he intends to buy land and retire.

Abby pleads with him to escort her for the rest of her journey. He refuses—until she offers him something he desperately needs to achieve his goal. . .money. Delivering her safely will give him more than enough to buy property.

So begins an impossible trek for the cynical lawman and the proper lady. Each will be indelibly changed by the time they reach her betrothed, if they don’t kill one another first—or fall in love.

My Thoughts: I've not read a lot of Griep's work, only one other book. But I had found that I had enjoyed that one, so I thought to give this a try. However I do not think that this book lived up to her other one. Despite the character's stating where and when it is that they live, I could not help but picture this story as taking place in Western America, a good hundred years later. This is because the details which which should have set up the location were rarely described.

As for the characters, Abby herself is a woman of strength and confidence, neither of which are traits that seemed to fit with her background of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her family. For someone who has been told her whole life that she is unloved and unwanted, she has no problem believing that Sir Jonathan would fall in love with her after one dance. Even thoughts of her family's absolute abandonment of her just before she is to leave only mildly saddens her.

On the other side of the spectrum is Samuel, who sees nothing but the ugliest side of the world after he have survived a drunken and abusive father, war, and life as a lawman. And while his outlook on life is justified, he is unable to recognize the abuse and neglect Abby suffered even after he learns some of her family's treatment of her. And both characters leave behind a woman and her son whom they know are being abused and neglected. Samuel's only aid offered to them is to give the boy a couple of coins to live off of once his mother passes because of disease and malnourishment.

The only true bright spot I could find in the story was Emma. The child and her antics are adorable as is the relationship between her and the two adults. However, that does not make up for the rest of the characters in the story. Characters who willfully allow others to walk into danger because they can't be bothered to warn them, as well as supposedly kind characters who caste scathing judgement on people they have just met. There are other issues I had with the story, such as unnecessary coincidences and a villain who wastes time with threatening messages when he doesn't need to.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy through Netgalley.