Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Saturday Night Supper Club - Carla Laureano

Rachel Bishop just wants to be left alone in her restaurant kitchen, and to have her food speak for itself.  However, when a mean-spirited review, an essay, and a misconstrued interview turn public opinion against her, she is forced out by her partners, and left floundering for a new direction in her career and life.  Alex Kanin, the author of the essay that led to the public backlash, feels guilty for the demise of her career, and works with Rachel to come up with a fresh idea to find her place in the restaurant world, and thus is born The Saturday Night Supper Club.

I was really drawn to this book by the cover and that title (I've recently discovered that I apparently have a favorite sub-sub-genre - books about food, and restaurants, and bakeries).  And while I enjoyed the book, and the characters, it fell a little short for me. I was hoping for a lot more to do with the actual "Saturday Night Supper Club," but instead, there were only 2 official events, even though they talked about making it the event nobody would want to miss, and how much they could charge for attendance.  That sort of draw never materialized.  The characters were full of interesting hints of backstories...almost too much.  Every character seemed to have issues they were working through that were affecting their relationships, yet there wasn't enough time in this book to get through them all.  It does appear that this will be a series, so I guess we'll just hope that we learn more about each of the main characters eventually.

I give this book 3 stars.  I hope that if the series continues the characters will settle into themselves and their stories will feel more cohesive.  I also hope for more food scenes. :)

You can find The Saturday Night Supper Club HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a digital copy of this book, via NetGalley, from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

Keturah - Lisa T. Bergren

Keturah and her sisters, Verity and Selah, are ladies of society, used to nice things and proper respect due their station.  However, left as orphans upon their father's death, they are left with difficult decisions.  Keturah, as the eldest, determines that she must travel to the family's sugar cane plantation in the West Indies, and try to get their crops to flourish again to keep the family's finances afloat.  Her sisters agree to travel with her, and they are joined by their long-time family friend Gray, as he also travels to test his fortune in the sugar cane fields on his family's neighboring estate.  Their determination and faith will have to see them through many more hardships and surprises than they are prepared for.  Can Keturah set the scars of her past and her stubborn independence aside in time to save her family from financial failure, or worse?

I am not usually drawn to historical fiction, although I am a fan of Lisa T. Bergren.  Her children's books, in particular, are delightful, and I enjoyed her YA series, The River of TimeI found the setting of this book, in colonial times in the West Indies, to be fresh and intriguing.  Keturah's experiences upon the island were not whitewashed, and as her eyes were opened to the harsh lives of the slaves, so will be the reader's.  While I'm not entirely sure that the storyline could have been even remotely possible - women living on their own, doing men's work, hiring a black overseer - it is an interesting fictional tale.  Watching Keturah work through her hurts and doubts is something that many readers can relate to, even if their own scars are vastly different.

I give this book 3.5 stars.  I am looking forward to the rest of the series, to see how their lives continue to develop, and to read more of this exotic location.

You can find Keturah HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a digital copy of this book, via NetGalley, from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Austen Escape - Katherine Reay

Mary Davies is an engineer for a start-up tech company that is growing rapidly, and experiencing some not-so-great growing pains.  Mary's future there feels uncertain, as the new hire in charge of growing the company doesn't appreciate Mary or her methods.  Mary's childhood friend, Isabel, has invited Mary to accompany her on a trip to England, where they'll escape into Jane Austen's world together as part of Isabel's thesis.  Initially, Mary refuses, but the uncertainty at work, along with a confusing potential relationship leads her to accept the invitation.  Once they've arrived, complications arise, and Mary is left reeling and caught in the middle of helping her friend and making decisions about her own life, relationships, and future.

I must confess that I am not a Jane Austen fan.  And yet, I cannot help but pick up every one of Katherine Reay's Austen books.  And I cannot help but enjoy them, even though I am certain that they would feel even richer if I were to understand the background and references that are so tidily woven into them.  This book, in particular, drew me in with its female engineer as the main character.  I am not an electrical-gizmo type engineer, but I am mathematically and scientifically minded.  I enjoyed watching the character's academic and practical nature contrast with her romantic inclinations and how she tied her memories of her past with her inventions and dreams for the future.

The relationship with Isabel was complicated, and could have served as its own story, but the pressures there, and the hurts that hadn't healed, all served to develop Mary's character and to help her to see herself as she should.  Additionally, the relationship with Nathan wasn't as fleshed out as it could have been, but that wasn't the purpose of the book.  Instead, Mary learned to deal with her past, and to realize how to make her future richer and to include the people around her to enable it to be so.

I give this book 4 stars.  I always hesitate to pick up these Austen books, because I feel like I'm doing them a disservice, having not read Austen herself, and yet I am never disappointed.

You can find The Austen Escape HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.
You can also connect with her on Facebook HERE.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Out of the Ordinary - Jen Turano

Picking up just after Behind the Scenes left off, we rejoin Miss Gertrude Cadwalader, friend of Miss Permilia Griswold, (soon-to-be Mrs. Asher Rutherford), and paid companion to the eccentric Mrs. Davenport.  Once again, Gertrude is tasked with keeping track of her quirky employer and covering up for her when things "mysteriously" go missing.  Only this time, she has caught the vindictive attention of Miss Clementine Flowerdew, distant cousin of the much more pleasant Miss Temperance Flowerdew.  Clementine has set her sights on Mr. Harrison Sinclair, whom Gertrude is just now realizing she has feelings for beyond their blossoming friendship.  When there are accusations and suspicious circumstances flying about, can Gertrude and Harrison sort out the truth of both circumstances and their relationship?

There are few authors I anticipate new releases from more than Ms. Turano, especially once a series has begun.  I was delighted to become reacquainted with Permilia and Gertrude, and get to know Temperance a bit more through this story.  Mrs. Davenport's oddities were finally given reason, and her past combined with Gertrude's own gave their relationship many complexities which both made their relationship work, but also kept it from being what it truly could have been.  It was good to see that well-resolved and on its way to being much healthier.  Harrison and Gertrude were so cute together in their easy friendship, as they began to realize and or hope for the possibility of more.  I loved that they didn't try to change each other, but rather helped the other to see the best in themselves. 

This novel also included a full cast of secondary characters, whom I can only hope we see more of in the future.  Miss Temperance Flowerdew became a much stronger character, but Harrison's sisters were also intriguing and I would love to see more of them!  The Huxley sisters, of course, continue to surprise and delight with their observations and interference into the lives of those around them. As a couple in love, Permilia and Asher were delightfully invested in helping their friends seek out a fufilling relationship for themselves. 

In addition to the colorful characters, the thread of seeking God's forgiveness for both imagined and legitimate guilt lent the book a bit more depth.  Whether it was the need to let go of anger towards a God who seemed distant, or the weight of bad decisions, the group of characters was able to point each other towards a God who loves and forgives, while acknowledging that there are consequences to our choices.

I give this book 4 stars.  I already am looking forward to the next book, and desperately hoping that there will be more than 3 books with this set of characters!

You can find Out of the Ordinary HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck - Bethany Turner

Who is Sarah Hollenbeck?  Is she the former Sarah McDermott, divorcee of Patrick with the wandering eye? Is she Raine de Bourgh, author of steamy novels that are flying off the shelves, and getting her spots on talk shows? Or is she actually Sarah Hollenbeck, who finds herself a new Christian, ashamed of the work that has brought her wealth and fame?  And as Sarah finds herself falling for the pastor at the church she's begun attending, how does she reconcile all three of those people and pasts into a new creation trying to move forward?

I thought this was an interesting concept for a Christian novel.  Like Sarah herself recognizes as she attempts to move from popular romance to her own Christian romance novel, there is a gap in the Christian fiction market.  So many fictional couples have the perfect little romance with little to no temptation, and no sordid pasts to have to explain or be forgiven of.  How true does this ring to life?  While fiction is a good escape from the issues readers might like to avoid, sometimes it's helpful to see problems worked out in someone else's life to see that it can be done, and that they're not alone.

The other thing I really appreciated in this novel was that it avoided the trope of each half of a couple withholding the truth from each other under the guise that they didn't want to hurt their partner, only to have that bite them in the butt when the news was spilled from someone else.  I liked that both Ben and Sarah were as upfront with each other as they could be, even with awkward conversations.  And the one time Ben withheld information, it was because he honestly didn't see it as important.

I give this book 4 stars, for its interesting characters and fresh outlook on what a Christian character can look like.

You can find The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Writing Desk - Rachel Hauck

Tenley Roth should be flying high; she's just won a coveted award for her debut novel that has sold very well, and her boyfriend has just proposed.  However, the award was one named after her great-great-grandfather, so she doubts the integrity of having received it, and now she's under deadline for a second book, for which she has zero inspiration.  On top of that, the mother who left Tenley when she was a child has now called imploring her estranged daughter for help through chemotherapy, just as her fiance wants them to fly to Paris.  Should Tenley take the chance to get to know her mother?  Can she find the seeds of a successful second novel in the hidden corners of an old mansion in Florida?  Or will she find something even better?

There are several intertwined stories within this book, alternating between the Guilded Age and Tenley's contemporary  life.  It always feels a little jarring to bounce between such disparate scenes, but I was intrigued and curious to find out how the stories would tie together.  I appreciated Birdie's determination in an era where women were seemingly content to be married off to the men their fathers agreed upon.  I didn't quite get Tenley's fascination with a robe and slippers that belonged to someone she hadn't known, but her struggles to find whether she was more than her family's legacy kept me rooting for her.  While I felt that the book contained too many character and scene shifts to really get invested in the characters lives, the link between the families and generations kept me guessing.

I give this book 3 stars; I think I could have been fully engaged in either Birdie's story, or Tenley's story, but the jumping back and forth just left me feeling disconnected from either of them a bit too much.  Maybe if their generations could have been written close enough that they could have actually met at the end, that might have helped solidify the relationship.  I have, however, enjoyed all of the previous works of Rachel Hauck's that I've read, and I will continue to look forward to any future novels!

You can find The Writing Desk HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

True to You - Becky Wade

Nora Bradford is the middle sister in an unusual family; as a librarian and genealogist, she doesn't live what she would consider an exciting life.  And she's generally okay with that.  She's still recovering from being dumped by her fiancee three years ago, and is content, if not happy, with her job, her family, and her comfortable book-filled house.  John Lawson is a retired Navy SEAL, who has decided to search for his birth mother after a recent diagnosis leaves him wondering about his medical history.  Upon a chance encounter with Nora, he decides to use her genealogy and research skills to aid his search.

Oh my.  I have enjoyed many of Becky Wade's books, and have always found her romances light and enjoyable, and her fictional men swoon-worthy.  But this book.  Oh my.  Not only does she hold on to her strong male character, but this time she adds depth and more faith, and a smart, non-traditional, fun female genealogist/librarian character.  Nora is so fun to read; her quirks - she always clicks her key fob twice - are only mentioned enough to be endearing, not so much as to make her seem obsessive-compulsive, or become annoying.  I love her penchant for big words, and I love that John finds that penchant amusing.  Nora is a fiction-lover's favorite kind of character, with her love of reading, and fiction blogs, and her Goodreads account.  She's also easy to relate to, as she compares herself to her supermodel older sister and her adventurous, creative, younger sister.  But she really shines in her wheelhouse of genealogy and research, and it's this confidence that allows her to develop her friendship with John.

However, in addition to such amusing, intriguing characters, this book encompasses some deeper topics, and the author weaves them seamlessly into the bigger story.  Without spoiling the storyline, be aware that there are some headline-type subjects that may not be appropriate for every reader.  These topics are not overly discussed, nor are they glossed over; they are essential to the plot and faith journeys of the characters, and they can leave the reader pondering how she would handle these situations in her own life.

I give this book 5 stars; it was the perfect combination of a cute romance, but with the depth of faith to make it even better.  I cannot wait for the rest of this series - the two sisters have already been introduced well, and I am excited to read their stories!

You can find True to You HERE.
The prequel, Then Came You, is about the sisters' father, and was free at the time of this review; Amazon prices are subject to change, and you should always check the price before purchasing: HERE.  I really enjoyed reading the prequel *after* Book #1!
You can find Becky Wade's site HERE.
You can find her Facebook page HERE.  (She and another of my favorite authors occasionally do Pinterest Wars on Facebook - they're really fun!)

I received a copy of this e-book from the publisher, Bethany House, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.