Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Daring Venture - Elizabeth Camden

Trying to escape the rumors of her past that caused her to return to America from Germany, Dr. Rosalind Werner is working alongside Dr. Leal strinving to eradicate cholera and other waterborn diseases by proving that water clorination is effective and safe.  Encountering opposition, but given a 90-day window to persuade the judge, Rosalind meets with Nick Drake, an outspoken former plumber turned millionaire who is trying to convince the city that another expensive water filtration plant is the right way to go and that he should be one of three commissioners in charge of New York's water systerm.  With 90 days to come to a resolution, can Rosalind and Nick come to an agreement on what's best? For water systems and their futures?

Water quality is something we take very much for granted in this day and age in our country.  We don't think twice about running a glass of water out of the tap, or having functioning bathrooms, unless there's a problem.  Even then, there's usually a relatively quick and easy solution.  So the premise of this book, the battle over chemical aids to eliminate raging disease through large cities, was intriguing.  According to the author's note, Dr. Leal (and George Fuller) were "real life heroes who implemented the first chlorine feed system in the world."  Even though Rosalind was not a historical figure, I loved the inclusion of a female biochemist, who earned a legitimate degree through back channels in Germany.  Additionally, the novel included a female CPA who looks to be the main character in the 3rd installment of this series. 

I do wish I had read the first book, as it seems that would have given more insight into the feud between Nick and his sister against his Aunt Margaret upon their Uncle Thomas's death.  It might also have helped to round out Nick's character, as I found him a contradiction - a humble plumber who's inherited millions - he's happy to throw his money whever his passions and heart lead him, but he's desperate to fit into the rich people's world, forcing himself to try caviar, making his 3-year-old daughter wear silks and fancy shoes for every occasion.  Also, why does he hate the outdoors?  Without more background for him, I found him a difficult character to like, and the relationship between Nick and Rosalind ran so hot and cold, with no real development, that while I wanted Rosalind to successfully rise above the rumors and destruction of her reputation, I would have been just as happy for another character to come along for her to end up with.  Poor Rosalind was surrounded by unsettling characters; why does her sister-in-law hate her so much?  What else was going on with her Doctor Clean situation that they pushed her out so easily?  How did Rosalind manage to keep plugging along in life when it seemed she had no real support from anyone?

I give this book 3 stars; the purification of water and the creation of large reservoirs was not something I'd read about previously, and I found it interesting; however, the characters left too many questions for me to really care about them.

You can find A Daring Adventure HERE.
You can find the author's page HERE.

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Send Down the Rain - Charles Martin

Allie has lived a hard life, from an abusive, alcoholic, gambler of a father, to two failed marriages, and a debt that she can't dig her family's restaurant out of.  When her childhood friend and sweetheart, Joseph, shows up in her life again with a scarred past of his own, can either of them set their paths straight and find new life?

This is a tough book to review.  There was a lot more violence than I expected.  A lot.  And it was of some pretty ugly varieties.  Drugs, war, PTSD; very real-to-life, but hard to read.  There was also a lot less God then I expected.  In fact, I'm not sure He was really mentioned explicitly at all in the book.  However, if there was an overall theme to this story, it was in the repeated occurence of characters getting what they "needed," or "did not deserve," and having others, instead, take what they deserved.  There isn't a much more Christian theme than that one.  In addition, Joseph talks about evil a lot, and how evil cannot dispose of evil, only love can do that. 

Even with my struggles to write about this book, I think it's one that will stick with me.  It's difficult to talk about the most important parts of the story without spoiling it, but it will make the reader consider what they've sacrificed for others, and consider the sacrifices made on their behalves.

I give this book a conflicted 4 stars.  The characters and the heart of the story made it a compelling read, but the dark parts are haunting.

You can find Send Down the Rain HERE.
You can find the author's page HERE.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 7, 2018

When Dawn Breaks - Jennifer Slattery

With orders to evacuate ahead of an incoming hurricane, Jacqueline heads towards the home of her estranged daughter, hoping to be given both a place to stay and a chance to heal their broken relationship.  While tiptoeing around her daughter's life, Jacqueline comes in contact with a variety of folks that mean her life and her faith will never be the same.

This book contained perhaps one of the most unusual cast of characters I've come across in awhile: a 51-year-old realtor, a railroad mechanic, church volunteers running an evacuation shelter, and a single mom who abandons her three children at the shelter.  But the combination of these characters made the book feel fresh and engaging.

There were a lot of really tough issues tackled in this book; tough enough that each issue could have been a book in itself, but somehow they worked all together.  There's the story of the mom trying to find forgiveness for her actions and abandonment of her daughter so many years ago.  There's the man seeking to be an honest worker while his job could be on the line for not going along with his new boss's deceit.  In addition, there are hidden relationships, children abandoned and trying to navigate the foster system, and evacuees trying to learn about God and where to find Him in their situation.

These stories felt so realistic that the characters felt relatable, even when I didn't fully understand what was going on.  I don't know enough about railroad mechanics to understand what wasn't adding up for Jonathon, yet I felt his dilemma whether to let it slide or call it out.  There were gaps in Jacqueline and Delana's past, but the bigger story of the redemption and healing that were necessary to move forward was more important.  The foster care scenario was so heartbreaking; I found myself wanting to adopt Gavin and his sisters to first save them from the situation with their mom, and then to keep them together out of foster care.  And for a more lighthearted side, the relationship of Jacqueline and Jonathon was just fun - a convenient excuse to escape a blind date at first, but watching them learn to be friends and to explore a relationship as parents of grown children in a later stage of life was an unusual plotline for me.  But above all of those, I loved watching Jacqueline develop from a woman just escaping a temporary storm, to a woman seeking to not only heal her mistakes and to learn more about God, but to actively help others and to teach them about God's love through her own actions.

I give this book 4 stars.  It was a lot of story in under 400 pages, and there are bound to be some gaps, but I really enjoyed this group of characters and their stories.

You can find When the Dawn Breaks 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.

Words Unspoken - Elizabeth Musser

Lissa Randall is stuck.  She hasn't been able to drive since her mother died in a tragic accident for which she blames herself.  Since she can't drive, she needs driven to her library job at her old school, and won't consider college plans.  Trying to take a step forward, she begins driving lessons with Ev McAllistair who teaches her much more than where to find her turn signals and headlights; with Ev, she begins to learn to hope again.

This book had been sitting in my queue for awhile, but I am so glad I picked it back out!  There were so many interwoven characters and stories in this book that it could have been confusing, but it was done so well that even before the stories began to weave together, each subplot was engaging and worth investing in.  Every story had its need for forgiveness and redemption; every character had a need to both forgive and be forgiven.  There is a lot of heartbreak in this book, both in the characters' pasts, and in the present telling of their stories, but within that heartbreak comes healing and strength to go on.

I give this book 4 stars.  It's been awhile since I've read a book with such complex characters and such rich backstories.

You can find Words Unspoken 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, May 1, 2018

Honeysuckle Dreams - Denise Hunter

Brady Collins is already struggling to find his footing as a single dad after the death of his ex-wife.  Then, his ex in-laws sue for custody...on the grounds that he isn't Sam's biological dad.  When his attorney suggests that a stable two-parent household might be the thing to sway the judge to award custody to Brady regardless of biology, he and his long-time friend Hope concoct a plan to give Sam a family.  Can they make a marriage of convenience based on friendship and necessity work?  What if they find out they want something different once they've already committed to this arrangement?

I have to say I didn't love this book.  The marriage arrangement deal has been done before, but I knew that plotline going into the book.  However, both partners had some big issues that they were working on separately, and I didn't feel like they did a good job seeking help from each other, or even outsiders (other than a brief mention of therapy for Hope).  Rather, it seemed to be mostly internal dialogue that moved them to their individual conclusions.  Overall, I felt like there could have been more there - more talking to each other to grow closer, more seeking help from friends or pastors to get outside perspectives, and more prayer and seeking God for healing and direction. 

I also didn't realize that this was the second book in a series, so some of the side characters clearly had backstories that weren't filled in during this book.  Those bumps could be solved by paying attention to series order.  Oops.

I give this book 2 stars.  I didn't even find myself rooting for these characters to come together, and that's not a good sign in a romance novel.

You can find Honeysuckle Dreams HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.  (There are several other books from this author that I have enjoyed!)

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

No Less Days - Amanda Stevens

From CBD: "As far as he knows, David Galloway can't die. As those he loves grow old and perish, he grows increasingly isolated in his Michigan used bookstore, until at last he finds others who share his predicament. But when crimes come to light that are older than any mortal, what will God require of him?"

I feel conflicted about how I feel about this book.  Sound confusing?  That's how I feel about it, too!  The premise is intriguing - a man who can't die, perpetually 35, alive since before the Civil War, what are the possibilities in that long of a life on earth?  Would those granted the ability consider it a gift to be used for good, or a curse to resent? For a man of God, how do you live over and over, without knowing when you'll make it to heaven?  How do you find a community of believers, if you have to move every 10 years or so before the fact that you're not aging would start to raise suspicions?  

Some of those questions were addressed, but the book also took a very dark turn that I wasn't expecting. I felt like the story was trying to go in too many directions to thoroughly explore any one of them.  It felt like it would have made a good series; that would have allowed the characters and their relationships to develop, as well as give time to flesh out some of the side plot lines.  The discussion questions at the back were thought provoking, though, and would allow a conversation to follow some of those thoughts to see where the readers thought they'd lead.

Overall, this was a unique book, and I appreciate that.  I give it 3 stars; while I wish it went a little deeper, I was intrigued by the possibilities it presented.

You can find No Less Days HERE.

You can connect with the author on Facebook HERE.

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

Friday, March 30, 2018

Just Open the Door - Jen Schmidt

Do you have a heart for hospitality?  Do you wish you did?  Were you raised with an example of inviting people into your lives?  Do you want that for your children? Jen Schmidt's Just Open the Door - How One Invitation Can Change a Generation will walk you through her own journey to learning godly hospitality, as well as giving encouragement and examples for her readers to do the same.

This is one of those books that I picked up because I thought, "hey, sure, I'd like to be more hospitable, and I'd like some ideas on how to do that," and then, wow, conviction and challenge comes walloping in.  Jen's hospitality doesn't just include hosting a pretty girls' dessert night once a month, or inviting your kids' best friends over for a barbecue on the fourth of July.  No, Jen's hospitality is of the anytime, any kind variety, the keep-a-room-for-anyone-who-needs-one variety.  She leaves the reader with no excuses to not open their door and find someone to invite in, not a messy house, not a lack of money, no pre-planning necessary.  From spur of the moment invites that result in 75 people at her apartment, to a party that continued with no power, she demonstrates hospitality in all kinds of situations.  However, don't think that she's some sort of perfect party planner; she confesses to moments where she wants to hide behind a closed door, and her children have convicted her by speaking up that they miss having people over.  Instead, she speaks very clearly that the "open door," isn't just a physical opening of her tangible front door, but rather an opening of her heart to God's plan for her life and for Him to use it in any circumstance, using hospitality to draw people to Him. 

In addition to the call to begin with opening your heart before opening your door, she also gives very concrete examples of ways to show hospitality.  With ideas like keeping a frozen pound cake in the freezer, with options to "dress" it up for a spontaneous coffee date, or very real advice like throwing everything in a room in a bin and hiding it in the shower when someone's on their way, her advice is practical, and practicable. 

I give this book 5 stars; it certainly calls the reader to its purpose and gives clear examples of the joy and change that can come through opening your heart, and then opening your door.

You can find Just Open the Door HERE.
You can find Jen's blog with more hospitable and frugal living tips HERE.

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