Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful - Katie Ganshert

Ivy Clark, at only 24-years-old, is desperately trying to hold on to a modeling career where she's constantly competing with younger "fresher" models.  Eager to take anything that might spark new life into the only realm she's comfortable within, she agrees to take a job modeling wedding dresses for her stepmother in Greenbrier, North Carolina.  Thrown together with a man she's known since childhood, she uses the weapons and armor she's grown accustomed to throw him off balance and maintain her distance.  Yet, somehow, the two of them manage to bring things to the surface that each thought they'd buried and moved past.  Can Ivy ever see past her outer beauty to the beauty God has created within her? Can Davis accept God's forgiveness and see past his guilt?

Once again, Katie Ganshert has written a deeply impacting novel that weaves characters and their stories together in such a way that you care about them, you root for them, and you feel their pain throughout their journey, and she leaves you wanting to continue with the characters' lives to see what happens next.  This novel is not neat, clean, and happy.  There is real pain.  There is real struggle.  But there is also real growth, vulnerability, and healing.  I ached for Ivy, for all she'd been through, and her need to see past what the modeling industry saw when they looked at her - both as the fresh young girl she'd been, and at the 24-year-old model past her "prime."  I love books where I don't feel invested in just one character, but where all of the characters - main and secondary - come to life for me, and this book does that well.  Marilyn, Ivy's stepmother, is a minor character and yet her endeavors to be a real mother to Ivy and all of the hurt and grief that has brought her are vividly portrayed in just short, yet heartfelt glimpses into their past together.  Davis and Sarah, with their own past tragedies, manage to also work through some major issues alongside Ivy's.

I give this book 4 stars, bordering on 5.  There is so much to be taken from this book as life lessons for anyone, that I can see myself reading it again just to glean more perspective on the characters' journeys.
As with any Katie Ganshert book, thus far, I wish that there would be more stories with these characters!

You can find A Broken Kind of Beautiful HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.
You can connect with the author on Facebook HERE.
You can read an excerpt from the book HERE.

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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Out of the Depths - Edgar Harrell. USMC

Out of the Depths is the true story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, during WWII.  Written by one of the survivors, it recounts his enlistment, service, harrowing ordeal and his survival.  As he spent 5 days in the open sea, he watched his fellow shipmates sickened, attacked by sharks, taken by hallucinations, and separated by the ocean swells.  During the entire ordeal, he turned to his God and trusted Him for his salvation - both physical and spiritual.

Reviewing a non-fiction book is always difficult, especially one with such a horrific, true story of shipwreck and survival.  Who am I to look at this man's indescribable memories and suggest he should have recounted them differently?  I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering that occurred, let alone the emotional turmoil required to relive them through telling his tale for others.  And yet, he does so - not for the drama or any recognition, but to chronicle his journey of faith from head knowledge to heart-felt passion about his dependence on the God who saved him from the depths.  He does so to inspire faith and patriotism in others, and in this he succeeds.

Given my reluctance to criticize this man's tale, there were a few things that could have made the story more reader-friendly.  There were a lot of naval details included, which could have enriched the story if I understood them; overall, the author did a good shop of describing ships' sizes and travels, but there were several sections I glossed over because there were a lot of technical details that weren't explained.  Additionally, the quotes from other survivors that are sprinkled throughout the book lent weight to the horrors of the situation, but they felt disconnected from the story itself.

The book does do a good job of opening the reader's eyes to the horrors of war and the unspeakable things our troops go through to ensure our freedom.  For this reason, and for the undeniable glory given to God, I give this book 4 stars for the story it has to tell.

You can find more about the author, the book, the crew, and other resources regarding the USS Indianapolis HERE.
You can order the book there, or HERE (includes an excerpt).

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nashville Sweetheart - by Rachel Hauck

The orphaned daughter of famous gospel singers Ray and Myra James, Aubrey James never set out to become a multi-platinum, award-winning, country singer.  Yet, here she is, hounded by the paparazzi, trashed in the tabloids, betrayed by a personal friend within her crew, and surprisingly engaged to a true Nashville blue blood.  How did she get here?  Is here where she wants to be?  And what happened to the faith her parents lived for?

I recently found Rachel Hauck through her installment of the Year of Weddings, and then followed that into the Royal Wedding series.  I've found her books to be fun, engaging, and quick-paced, and this one was no different.  I could feel Aubrey's struggle with where her life had taken her and how she had been changed by all that had befallen her.  She was a lovably imperfect character, with real flaws, and real life decisions gone wrong.  She fully admitted her faults and sought her way out from them by looking to the Man her parents taught her about.

I give this book 4 stars, and now have a need to go find the rest of the series so that I can read more about some of the side characters in this story.  Just a friendly warning, because this is the sort of thing that bothers me - it does appear that these books have been re-titled and re-released as ebooks.  From what I can tell, Nashville Sweetheart was formerly titled Diva NashVegas, and was #2 in the NashVegas Series.

You can find Nashville Sweetheart HERE.
You can find Rachel Hauck's website HERE.

I received a copy of this ebook from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, as part of their BookLook program, in exchange for my honest review.