©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Finders Keepers

Victoria Bylin has a writing style that reads like a memoir. Her characters have a realism that compels the reader to believe that she truly understands them. The characters battle true to life temptations, live in real-world situations, and have the same fears that the readers do. Reading Until I Found You was like reading part of my own life story.

Kate Darby is an advertising executive who has come home to help her grandmother run her newspaper. On her way from Los Angeles to Meadows, her car loses traction on the road and slides off and over a cliff. While trapped in her car, Nick Sheridan finds her, calls the emergency rescue personnel, and then pulls her from her car, minutes before it explodes. From this auspicious beginning, Victoria hooks the readers and takes them on a roller coaster ride of a search for God, the meaning of life, fulfillment, and a bit of romance on the side. Kate's angst about her grandmother and about running the Clarion--the newspaper--bring her to a soul-searching search for God. In the meantime, there's Nick, always around when Kate needed him to rescue her.

I've often said there's a formula for writing romance: boy sees girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Victoria does follow this formula, but in the most believable way I've ever read. The truth in the conflicts of Kate and Nick are so authentic it makes the book hard to put down. I didn't get to sleep yesterday until after 4:00 AM simply because I had to finish reading the book! Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an ad campaign to hook you into this book!

This book was provided to me by Bethany House for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Table by the Window

Oh. My. Goodness. This book captured me from the first page and hasn't let go of me yet. Juliette is part of a loud French/Italian family that believes it's important to be all up in everyone's business. She's a restaurant critic for a newspaper in Portland, Oregon. Her brother, Nico, is a chef for the family restaurant D'Alisa & Elle, but he wants to open his own restaurant again. His first one closed after his sous chef resigned and broke his sister's heart. He wants Juliette to be his business manager and he promises to listen to her when she gives him advice.

Juliette is at a point in her life where she's not totally satisfied: socially, vocationally, or even relationally. On a whim, she signs up on a dating web site, to take only one email before she decides to cancel her subscription. A power outage lets one more email slip through, and she ends up emailing back and forth with an immunologist in Memphis, Tennessee. She finds herself drawn to this man and wants to know more. In doing research for her food column at work, she finds her grandmother's cookbook and recipes in the drawer of the table she inherited from her grandmother. Inside the dust cover of the cookbook is a picture of her grandmother with a man who looks just like her brother, but he looks nothing like her uncle, and the mystery begins. Juliette's research ends up taking her to France to see her grandmother's sister, hoping she has more information about the man in the photograph.

Hillary Manton Lodge has given this family some real world problems to overcome, some real-life conflicts to resolve, and a bit of mystery to round out the story. She has also included some very tasty recipes. I fixed the roasted peppers and pasta recipe and this woman knows what she's talking about in the kitchen. She has an incredible writing style, first person, believable, and interesting. Her narrative is tight, her characters are relatable, her recipes make the reader drool with just the ingredients list, and beyond that the story is just plain good. I cannot wait for the next book in this series comes out! This is book one of a three part serial. You can read chapter one here, and Hillary's bio here.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and Grandma's favorite recipe.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Beauty Is Truly Rare

I've read most of what Tamera Alexander has written and LOVED every single book. I will never turn down the opportunity to read something she's created. So when A Beauty So Rare came up on the list of choices, I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed.

Let me introduce you to:

Adelicia Cheatham--the matriarch of Belmont Mansion in Nashville, TN. She's headstrong and doesn't mind doing what she has to do to get her way.

Eleanor Braddock--Adelicia's niece who is trying to make it on her own, but unfortunately butts heads with her aunt Adelicia. She wants to open a restaurant, but finances get in the way. Instead, she begins ministering to the widows and their children who often go to bed hungry. Eleanor can't stand for anyone to go to bed hungry. She believes she's plain to look at and past her prime for marriage.

Marcus Geoffrey--an architect and hobby-botanist trying to overcome the difficulty in raising potatoes that don't suffer dry rot while trying to please Adelicia with grafting a rose in the absolute perfect color. He sees in Eleanor a beauty so rare and so intriguing, he cannot forget her, nor does he want to.

Naomi--one of the mothers who benefits from Eleanor's generosity and eventually partners with Eleanor in preparing and serving meals to the widows and their children. Marta and Elena are two other such women. Her son Caleb is one of Marcus' employees and so smart.

Lawrence Hockley--the banker who wants a wife for the purpose of begetting an heir. At first, he wants Eleanor, but she isn't as tractable as he would like. He lives for his routine and has no room in his life for anyone else's desires or habits.

Garrison Theodore Braddock--Eleanor's father who suffers from senile dementia. Because Eleanor can no longer care for him herself, she has him committed to the local asylum, hoping the doctors there will be able to help him. He becomes really antagonistic toward Eleanor, although he doesn't recognize her when he sees her.

These are the major players in the book and there are others who add to the dimension and depth of the storyline. Tamera does such masterful work in this book, I wish I could give it more than Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Rose of any color.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What Follows After

I've read several of Dan Walsh's books with great anticipation. He writes from the heart and generally touches my heart with what he writes. I think my favorite of his books is still The Reunion. But that's not the subject of this post.

What Follows After trails the story of Scott and Gina, and their sons Colt, and Timmy. Scott and Gina are separated after a misunderstanding of epic proportions. Colt is tired of lying for them, and about them, and decides to run away with his little brother to their favorite uncle and aunt. They want an environment of peace and they are willing to do whatever it took to get it. This one small (in the grand scheme of things) action is all it took to set in motion a week of turmoil these characters had never seen before. While Colt is in a diner's restroom, a man kidnaps Timmy ostensibly to replace his son who'd drowned the year before.

I didn't read the synopsis of the book before I chose to read it for review. This is not a book I would have chosen otherwise, it just doesn't fit my tastes. That aside, this book is well-crafted with a tight story line that keeps the reader engaged throughout. The characters are well developed, the plot line is well thought out, there are just enough details to keep the story fresh and moving along. It ties in the Cuban Missile Crisis well and creates an FBI manpower shortage to hunt for Timmy because of the crisis.

Dan Walsh has a great writing style that is compelling and refuses to let the reader go. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an FBI agent to help you.

Hello? Hello? Is This the Party To Whom I Am Speaking?

It took me a while to get into Siri Mitchell's style of writing, but once I did, I found she was a very enjoyable author with a uniquely captivating style. So I signed up to read Love Comes Calling, thinking I'd enjoy it just as much as the other books I'd read by her.

I was surprised to find I didn't particularly care for Ellis Eton, the main character, and in not particularly liking her, I didn't particularly like the whole book. Ellis is, by all accounts, a flibbertigibbet, easily distracted, filled with good intentions, and yet unable to master her own impulses. She makes ready promises, but creates circumstances that force her to break them, she's undependable and at best flighty. All that being said, I would have enjoyed the book so much more if Siri's afterword had been a foreword instead. She explains that she's taken the signs and symptoms of ADHD and put them in a character who lived a hundred years ago. Now Ellis makes so much more sense, I can understand some of her impulsiveness and some of her inability to buckle down and see something through. That alone would have made the book infinitely more enjoyable for me.

Griffin's patience with Ellis is something legends are made of, and his pursuit of her along with his friendship, make her a bit more sympathetic. Janie's dilemma is one that anyone can relate to, and Ellis' desire to help her friend is easily understood. Ellis' desire to be approved of by her family is one that can resonate with many people.

Knowing what I know AFTER I've read the book allows me to give it Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a phone call that will bring good news.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fair Play

I will often stay up really late to finish a good book, and I did stay up really late last night/this morning. It wasn't because the book was so good I couldn't put it down. It was because I wanted to be through with the book.

Deeanne Gist has written some really good books I've really enjoyed, but Fair Play is not one of them. The story line is all right as it is, but she has added some things to the story that could just as well been left out.

I've been thinking about this review all day long, and I am at a loss for how to really word my review. There are some really great characters, Derry, Billy Jack, Hunter, and even some historical characters like Jane Addams. There are some circumstances and events in the book that really capture the imagination and to find in the author's notes that these are based in historical fact.

My one HUGE caveat is that Deeanne has not written a book of Christian fiction. I don't remember any mention of faith in the whole book. The physical attraction between Billy Jack and Hunter cross the line in my mind because it goes beyond simple attraction, and truly doesn't add to the story.

I'd give this only two stars, but the story line itself bumps it up to three.