Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter - by Katie Ganshert

Bethany Quinn has worked hard to leave her small town behind, not just the location, but her family, her friends, and the girl who she was when she lived there.  Yet, when her mother calls to tell her that her best friend from childhood is going through a tragedy and her grandfather has had a heart attack, Bethany finds herself back in the town she managed to escape.  Trying to keep her new persona of a professional architect from the big city of Chicago, she finds it difficult to handle the challenges being thrown her way, and she struggles with letting go of her independence to let either people, or God, into her life.

Although Bethany is the main character of Wildflowers from Winter, the author does a good job of developing the other characters well. The story shifts points of view from Bethany, to her friend Robin, and to Evan, the man who has been living with her grandfather and taking care of his farm for the past five years.  I felt that the characters of Bethany and Evan were especially well-developed, with the reader slowly learning all of the pertinent facts from their respective pasts.  Not so slowly as to be frustrating, but at an expected pace, in line with the story.  The only character-development I would have liked to have seen more from was Bethany's brother David.  She references him frequently, but he never makes an actual appearance in the story, and we learn very little about him.

Bethany's struggles felt very real, especially her struggle with God and how she felt that the people in her life who had turned to God had let her down.  It takes patience from those around her to demonstrate that not all those who call themselves Christians will hurt her and judge her.  And it takes some lessons in trust for Bethany to learn that being vulnerable to God in her life will make her stronger.

I also enjoyed the love story plot in this book.  It was not unexpected, but it did feel secondary to the plot, which made me enjoy it more.  Connecting the two characters was not the point of the book, nor did the author use it as the solution to Bethany's (or Evan's) problems.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I felt invested in the characters enough to hope that there might be a sequel someday (?).  I would really like to follow them further, maybe to see how Robin's cafe turns out, or see what happens to David in Afghanistan, or see Bethany and Evan work the farm together.

I give the book 4 stars.
Try the first chapter HERE to see if you like it!
The author has a blog HERE (and she's doing a giveaway right now - of another good book!)
Let me know if you read this book - I would love to talk about it!

Please take a minute to rank my review - you could WIN a copy of this good book!

I received a copy of this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah as part of their Blogging for Books program, in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Finding Our Way Home - by Charlene Baumbich

In Finding Our Way Home, Sasha and Evelyn are, perhaps, the most mismatched pair of women you could hope to find. Sasha is a former ballerina, recovering from a career-ending injury, and Evelyn is a strong, independent, entrepreneurial teenager with self-described large, clumsy feet. Evelyn's decision to defer college and run her own odd job service leads her to Sasha who requires in-home care while she convalesces. The two of them start out at odds, but eventually are able to recognize the strength in each other and encourage each other as friends to reach for bigger dreams.

While this book was a bit cheesier than those I normally read, I did enjoy the characters. Sasha's recovery, which was not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual, was relatable, and Evelyn's quirky life was humorous, but also peppered with enough difficulty to make her seem real as well. Her trademark prayer of simply, "Grace," became a central theme to recoveries on the part of both main characters, as well as their very relationship. Grace covers all. Amen? Amen.

The characters' love stories are secondary to their relationship with each other and God, but serve to demonstrate an accurate contrast of youthful hurried love versus true love that has developed over time. While mistakes have been made in both, the love built on a relationship, with God as the center, is able to withstand the trial and come out stronger on the other side.

I give this book 3 stars. I don't think I would have picked it up to read if it hadn't been a review choice, and I can't think of many friends I would directly recommend it to. It's a light read, and a fast read, but not a deep read, nor one that "sticks" with me.

If you would like to read an excerpt from the first chapter, you can read it HERE.
You can find out more about the author, Charlene Ann Baumbich, HERE.

Please consider ranking my review here:

I received a free copy of this book as part of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. I was not required to post a favorable review.