Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Aiming for Love - Mary Connealy

Jo Nordegren and her sisters have lived on Hope Mountain their whole lives, having only each other for company once their grandparents have passed on.  They know nothing of the real world, except that their grandmother was terribly afraid of it and told them it was full of sickness and death.  Now, Dave Warden and his family have appeared on their mountain, and the sisters must decide how to handle these strangers from below.

This book was just not for me.  I found the characters to be unbelievable and bordering on preposterous.  Jo and her sisters did not ring true as women who'd lived sheltered from real life their whole lives; their naivete felt forced, convenient to the plot in some sections, yet oddly missing in other situations.  The most interesting character for me was Wax Mosby - the hired gun whose men ran the Wardens off their ranch and into the mountains.  His determination to finish out the job, while not crossing his own pre-determined lines regardless of his ruthless boss, and begin a new life for himself was intriguing, and I wish he hadn't disappeared from the storyline halfway through the book.

So, while I found the idea of this book interesting, and I am curious to know how Wax extricates himself from his situation, I do not foresee myself reading the rest of this series.  I have read other works by this author, however, and I would likely pick up something else of hers in the future.

You can find Aiming for Love HERE.
You can find the author's site HERE.

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

Monday, September 2, 2019

Christmas in Winter Hill - Melody Carlson

Krista Galloway and her daughter have packed up their lives and moved to Winter Hill, in order for Krista to take a job as their city manager.  Once there, Krista realizes that this small town may not be a good fit for her; they center much of their city life around Christmas, a holiday that has always seemed to bring catastrophe to Krista's life.  She also finds that the city government has several unrealized problem areas, making her seem like the bad guy who moved into town and started cleaning house.  Can Krista and her daughter make a life here, or will this be one more Christmas disappointment for Krista?

This was a sweet little Christmas novella, perfect for wintry days by the fireplace.  Krista's rough background serves to fuel her disappointment in life, but she gives it her best to give her daughter, Emily, a better shot at a hopeful life.  There is a good mix of villainous characters and helpful, honest ones to balance out the story.  As with most novellas, the reader doesn't get very deep views into any of the characters, but it was enough to want to root for Krista and to feel the pull of the town against her. 

I give this novella 4 stars.  I think this town and its Christmas-loving people would make for a sweet series of Christmas novellas, filling in the story of Christmasville and the people who bring it together every year.

You can find Christmas in Winter Hill 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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Spice King - Elizabeth Camden

Annabelle Larkin has traveled to Washington D.C. to give her sister, Elaine, a chance to find purpose in her life as a blind woman.  She's been given a temporary job with the Smithsonian, with the understanding that if she can convince Gray Delacroix to give up some of his botanical secrets, there may be a more permanent position in store for her.  Gray Delacroix, while reluctant to give anything away for free, and especially reluctant to give anything to the government, finds himself drawn to Annabelle.  When Annabelle is required to search out more than botanical secrets, will she choose Gray or her country? 

I have always enjoyed Elizabeth Camden's penchant for uniquely employed heroines that give an unusual look into her particular periods of history.  Annabelle is no exception; as a botanist working within the Smithsonian and then the Department of Agriculture, the reader is given a peek into the period of time where food additives were not monitored by the government.  I found this setting to be very intriguing and the interplay between Gray's world of food production and the government's growing interest in food safety was an engaging setting for a novel.  The side stories were woven into the larger picture fairly seamlessly, and I am looking forward to finding out how those play out as this series continues!

I give this book 4 stars.  I enjoyed the characters, and I enjoyed the perspective from this view of history.

You can find The Spice King 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.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Shades of Light - Sharon Garlough Brown

Having battled depression and anxiety for most of her life, Wren hits a point where she can't continue to cope on her own.  Taking a leave of absence from her emotionally draining job as a social worker, she seeks help, from professionals, from loving extended family, and from those within her faith.  Making progress, she reaches out to help a struggling friend from her past, but can she help him recover without jeopardizing her own fragile healing?

I don't know that I've ever seen a book this gut-wrenchingly open and vulnerable in regards to mental illness, depression, and anxiety.  Sometimes the intensity and the darkness the characters were experiencing was too much, and I needed to step away to catch my own breath.  However, I've never seen a book take on the heaviness of depression and call out and dash all of the typical "Christian" responses of "you just need more faith," or the belief that Christians shouldn't experience depression.  Those aren't Christian answers, they're lazy answers.

There were themes in this book that I am not personally well-acquainted with, such as the stations of the Cross, and while it didn't detract from my reading experience, I think it would make the book an even richer read for those who are familiar with a more mystical approach to Christianity, with some possibly Catholic rituals added in.  (I apologize if I have mis-categorized the rituals in the book)

I have not read any of this author's previous works, and this book stands alone just fine.  However, I did read somewhere that there are some character crossovers, which I think would enhance the background support of this story if the reader were familiar with them.

I give this book 4 stars.  I don't quite know what else I could wish for from this book, and maybe it's the dark subject matter that leaves me feeling too heavy to say I loved it.  That would be through no fault of the author's writing.  But I know that I could not personally pick up this book back up to read again.  At least not anytime soon.

You can find Shades of Light 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.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Diamond in the Rough - Jen Turano

"Any smidgen of hope that her entrance into New York high society would be deemed a rousing success died the moment Miss Poppy Garrison's tiara became firmly attached to the sleeve of her dance partner."

With that opening, we begin the second installment of the American Heiresses series, and find Miss Poppy Garrison in New York City, living with her grandmother, Viola, participating in the Season.  Viola is determined to show Poppy that being accepted into high society is desirable, and while Poppy was perfectly content living on a horse farm in Pennsylvania, she discovers that she doesn't hate it.  However, mayhem and adventure seem to find her no matter how hard she works on her decorum and poise.  Reginald Blackburn, travelling companion to Lord Charles Lonsdale, is charged with teaching Miss Garrison to fit in to this world of heiresses and money, and yet he finds himself admiring her unflappability in the midst of the chaos that follows her. 

"I've always felt that misfits are far more interesting than normal folks."

I love that Poppy has such a firm grasp on who she is, and what is valuable in the people around her.  The people she is drawn to turn into such rich characters and the relationships that develop throughout the book from such inauspicious connections really made this book great for me.  Poppy owns up to her mistakes, but she is never ashamed of who she is or the accidents that befall her.  She loves others and has a tender heart to those she learns are living in wretched conditions. 

"I think you'll eventually discover that you're delightful just the way God made you, my dear."  "You seem to be an original, my dear, so perhaps you won't feel the need to wait so long before you abandon what's expected of you, embracing who you truly are and who God meant you to be, instead of trying to embrace a sense of who others want you to be."

I love that, even with an entirely new set of characters, by using the same setting as a previous series, Ms. Turano is able to sneak in a cameo of a favorite character from past novels and use her to deliver wisdom from the position of experience. 

This book was one of those rare finds where you don't want to put the book down, but you also don't want it to end too soon!  I loved watching Poppy find herself even more fully, and I enjoyed watching her build up those around her as she did.  I always love Ms. Turano's grouping of friends who enjoy being together throughout the mayhem she puts them through, and this cast of characters is among her best.  I can't wait to hear Beatrix Waterbury's story in the third book!

I give this book 5 stars.  Between Diamond in the Rough and Flights of Fancy, American Heiresses is becoming my favorite Turano series!

You can find Diamond in the Rough HERE.
You can find Ms. Turano's site HERE.

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

Friday, August 9, 2019

Finding Lady Enderly - Joanna Davidson Politano

Raina Bretton, more commonly called "Ragna" in her position as a rag lady, is swept off the streets with a mysterious promise of high wages and a beautiful manor, and told she's under no obligation to stay.  That promise, however, is a lie, and Raina finds herself impersonating Lady Enderly in a ruse she doesn't understand and isn't allowed to compromise.  Complicating the trap is her best friend, and hopefully more, Sully, who has kept her safe and sane in her rough life thus far; Sully's life is in danger if Raina chooses to be less than compliant in this charade she willingly, yet naively, became a part of.

There were so many layers to this book, I hardly know where to begin!  There was the mystery - who is the real Countess, and what happened to her?  There's the dangerous element - what will Victor do if Raina slips?  There's the moral dilemma - Raina knows it's wrong to deceive the people around her, but how else is she to protect Sully, and what if she can use this position for good?  There are the characters whom Raina befriends, whether by choice - Lady Remington and Bradford the butler, or by necessity - Cousin Phillip and the Earl.  There's also the softer side - the literary romantic communication between Sully and Raina through carefully collected book quotations coded in secret to slowly reveal their feelings towards each other.

The people and the mysteries in this story were woven so well together that this was a truly enjoyable read.  Victor was despicable, yet time and again Raina managed to rise above the circumstances and bring joy and change to the people around her that would be longer lasting than the temporary control that Victor was attempting to wrangle.  I loved that even wile trying to be the Countess, Raina couldn't help but see the best in those around her and to try to use her strange situation to help where she could.  The power and position could have gotten a hold on her, and she could have fallen into the same traps as Victor, but she didn't.  And no matter how conflicted she felt in her relationship to God due to the role she was playing, only He could have been working through her to bring such kindness and change.

In the end, I really liked how the book resolved not without consequence for bad choices, but by showing that God can even use those choices and consequences for good.  I give this book 5 stars; this is the second Joanna Davidson Politano book I've read, and as long as she keeps writing, it won't be my last!

You can find Lady Enderly HERE.
You can find the author's site HERE.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Love and Other Mistakes - Jessica Kate

Natalie has always intended to take up her father's ministry and carry on his legacy, however, life has gotten in the way, and instead, she finds herself in a dead end job, until the company closes.  Now, her ex- fiance is back in town, and needs her help.  At the same time, the perfect ministry opportunity presents itself.  Can she balance both?

What a surprising book!  I didn't expect much going in, either from the cover (sorry! Cover snob here), or the description, but there was so much more to this book than I thought I was going to get.  This story was definitely deeper than the outward appearances gave it credit for; these characters struggle with hard things (affairs, alcohol, single-parenting, custody issues, and more), and it does not all work out perfectly in the end.  Yet, even in the hardness, there is hope, and there is love, and there is sacrifice for each other. All of which, in the end, points the characters and the reader to the One who sacrificed for all.

I give this book 5 stars.  It's unusual to see so many real-life struggles in a Christian fiction book, especially ones that, like real-life, don't magically work out by the last page.  I will definitely be looking into other books by this author!

You can find Love and Other Mistakes 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.