Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Change of Fortune - by Jen Turano

Lady Eliza Sumner has taken a job as a governess with the Watson family in New York.  Not because she actually is a governess, but because she is trying to track down the man who stole her fortune and besmirched her family's name in England.  So, as plain Miss Eliza Sumners, she tries to conceal her identity and search for the thief inconspicuously.  Once her employer forces her to attend a formal dinner, however, and she finds herself seated next to a Mr. Hamilton Beckett, her carefully laid plans begin to go awry.  Instead of following the trail by herself, she is instead surrounded by new friends eager to assist her.  The money she searches for may even become less important as her new life becomes filled with people she cares about.

This book was just plain fun.  While the plot may not have been terribly original or complicated, the characters in the story were completely endearing.  It wasn't even just Eliza who made the story, but every single character who was involved in her life, from Agatha who became a close friend, to Hamilton and his brother Zayne, to Hamilton's children Piper and Ben, and even the mothers, Mrs. Beckett and Mrs. Watson gave such life and humor to the book that I couldn't put it down.  I loved the friendship between Eliza and Agatha, and how together they couldn't resist the adventure of taking an active part in the investigation.  I also loved how the people around them couldn't help but be taken in by their humor and zest for life, while still working to keep them safe and work with them to recover Eliza's fortune.

I give this book 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.  There wasn't a lot of depth to Eliza's search for God, yet she still came to realize that He was guiding her steps, and had even worked the loss of her fortune to her good.  I recommend this book if you're looking for a light, fun read.

You can find A Change of Fortune HERE.
You can find Jen Turano's website HERE.
I am excited to see that this is the first book in a set of four!  I can't wait to see what other characters and stories come next!
Ms. Turano has a companion novella available on Amazon for FREE right now, called Gentleman of Her Dreams.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Clearing in the Wild - by Jane Kirkpatrick

A Clearing in the Wild begins with Emma Wagner living in a simple settlement in Bethel, Missouri, where she is merely one of the many colonists leading a life of community under Wilhelm Keil's leadership.  However, Emma is known to question Herr Keil's decisions, and when her husband, Christian Giesy, is to be sent west to locate a new location for the colony shortly after their marriage, she pushes her way into the scout group to be allowed to travel with him.  After they arrive on the West Coast, she is forced to examine her own faith in God, her husband's priorities, and their "leader's" beliefs as they wait for the colony to join them and for Herr Keil to pronounce his decision on the colony's new home.

Emma Wagner Giesy was such a strong character, and a woman who incited me to care about her fate and the decisions that were being made on her behalf.  Likely, it's my placement in modern culture that made me so aggravated at those who wouldn't let her speak and cheered when her husband and fellow scouts began to listen to her, but I could only hope to have been as strong as she was on such a journey.  I was amazed that while she often questioned the way of life established by Wilhelm, she never seemed to question God, or that the Bible was true.  I did find myself wishing that she could come in contact with someone who would lead her deeper into the Bible, however, to find her own way and more Truth than that which the colony had deemed appropriate to share with its inhabitants.

Once I finished the book, I was going to give it 3 stars, mostly because it was such a rough journey and there were so many aggravating sections where the leader forced his way upon the people that I wouldn't deem it an "enjoyable" read.  However, in the section from the author, I realized that it was based on a true story, and that Jane Kirkpatrick had done intensive research on Emma and everything that she went through, and that made the story that much more incredible.  So now, I give this book 4 stars, based on a strong story and the intensity of knowing that it really happened and this Emma Wagner Giesy was likely much as the author depicted her.
This book is only the first in a series, and I look forward to reading more about Emma's life!

I've reviewed Jane Kirkpatrick's books before, and I have usually enjoyed them.  You can find more about the author HERE.
This book is only $1.99 on CBD right now!

Please consider taking a moment to rate my review so I can continue receiving great books to review!

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lost and Found - by Ginny Yttrup

Jenna Durand Bouvier has been under the influence of Brigitte Bouvier since her mother died and Brigitte stepped in to guide and shape Jenna to what Brigitte envisioned her to be.  Now that Jenna is married to Brigitte's son, Gerard, and living in her house, she finds that she is losing herself, to the point that when Brigitte suggests that Jenna's jawline is "too masculine," Jenna undergoes plastic surgery to try to please Brigitte's ideals.  However, when the surgery goes wrong and Jenna is left with a lingering infection, she withdraws from the public eye and begins to search even more for God's presence and His will for her life.  Sensing outside influences on Jenna that might bend her away from her plans for her daughter-in-law, Brigitte wields her considerable power to break Jenna and keep her in line.  Will Jenna be strong enough to thrive?  Or will she continue to bear what she considers to be her cross?

This book was intense.  Jenna's search for God and her true desire to seek Him and do what was pleasing to Him was inspiring.  I really hated Brigitte for what she was doing to Jenna, but wanted so badly for Jenna to overcome her situation.  Jenna's search and struggles are so relatable that I think every reader could find himself or herself in her shoes.  The overarching theme to Jenna's journey is "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Yet as I would imagine so many of us wonder, she says "The words play in my mind over and over.  I try to rest in their truth.  But the insistent accusations are hard to ignore.  Why can't I rest in truth?  Rest in my relationship with the One I know loves me most?"  Even as Jenna struggles to find her own way and peace with God, she can't help but encourage and strengthen the people around her.  She allows others, whom many would consider not in her class, to speak truth to her life, and she values them and their spiritual wisdom.

I feel that I can't do this review justice.  There is so much I loved about this book that I could go on and on and on.  I don't give many books 5 stars, but this one earned it.  The writing was good, the characters were deep, and the spiritual truths presented were challenging.  I even had to look up the author of the quotes presented at the head of each chapter, Jeanne Guyon, because there was such wisdom in her words.  I will definitely be looking to read other works from Ginny Yttrup, because Lost and Found is not a book that will be forgotten quickly.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rooms - by James L. Rubart

Micah Taylor is an incredibly talented and wealthy software company owner in Seattle, or at least, that's what he is when he receives a letter from his Great Uncle Archie.  A great uncle who has been dead for several years, and whom Micah has, to his knowledge, never met.  Weirder still is that Archie has left Micah a house on the Oregon Coast, the same coast where as a child, Micah created both happy memories, and the worst memory of his life.  When he goes to Oregon to inspect the house, ostensibly to put it up for sale and to return to his life in Seattle, he finds the house to have been created to his exact taste and preferences.  He is drawn to the house, and even when strange things start to happen in the house, and his life seems to be shifting out of balance, his search for himself and God within him keep him going back and digging deeper to see what his life is meant to be.

This book was a bit strange for me; not necessarily the content - the idea of God working through a shifting house and an inexplicable timeline is not out of the realm of possibility, but it was just a tough story for me to get through.  Instead of being eager to see Micah change and grow and realize the path God had for him, I found myself irritated at Micah and his reluctance to seek the whole truth at each step.  I can't even pinpoint why the book didn't connect with me.  Maybe there were too many back and forths for the story's continuity, or maybe it felt like too many chances for Micah to pick the right one.  Micah's girlfriend Sarah confronts him with "God gives only two choices; hot and cold.  Living in a world of lukewarm gets you spit out," and yet Micah continues to waver between his two lives and separate worlds, trying to find a way to have both.

Overall, I give this book 3 stars.  I didn't find it to be a bad book, I just didn't think it a great book. Even still, we can take Micah's story as a lesson to not be lukewarm in our own lives, and to not try to live in two worlds of our own.

You can find the book and an excerpt HERE.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Today's Shadows - by Becky Melby

Heather Conrad has lost her job as an assistant to a hotel company's CEO when her boss is let go for scandalous reasons.  Choosing to spend some time house-sitting for her former boss while she gets her life plan together, Heather, instead is surprised that "house-sitting" turns into "babysitting" for 3 months while her former boss jets off to Venice.  Additionally, Heather is now responsible for helping 6-year-old Izzy settle into her new house, a task made more daunting by strangers continuing to show up too often for coincidence and by the fact that Izzy keeps getting lost in secret passages built for servants long ago.  Intertwined with the story of Heather and Izzy is the story of Maggie, a servant well-familiar with those secret passages and tiny room at the top of the stairs.  What do their stories mean to each other, and how will they intersect to tie them together?

I am not often drawn to books with half the story in the past, and half the story in the present, but this book was very well done, and I was equally invested in both Maggie's story of long-ago, and Heather and Izzy's story from today.  Although Ryan, the love-interest, initially appeared to be somewhat of a goof, as his story filled in, he became more endearing, and a good match for Heather.

I gave this book 4 stars, mostly based on the seamless joining of the disparate stories, and Heather's search for truth to where God has worked in her life.  Also, even though this book is listed as #3 in a series, there is no sense that the reader is missing anything for having not read the other two novels.  My theory from reading the other books' descriptions is that the series is linked by theme only, and not by a common character or story.  As much as I enjoyed this book, I will likely look to read the rest of the series.

You can find the author's blog HERE
You can purchase the book or read an excerpt HERE..

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