Monday, May 26, 2014

Through the Deep Waters - Kim Vogel Sawyer

Dinah Hubley is the daughter of a prostitute, living in her mother's brothel in Chicago.  When her mother falls ill, and her madam threatens Dinah with eviction for both of them, Dinah agrees to sacrifice her innocence for her mother's security and her own escape.  However, the choice damages Dinah more than she could have foreseen, and as she flees to Kansas to work in a Harvey hotel, she longs to put her past behind her and work her way to a life of respect.  Once in Kansas, she's forced to hide her true self from all of those around her, lest she be fired for an immoral past.  This includes distancing herself from her friendly roommate Ruthie, their coworkers, and the intriguing egg man Amos Ackerman.  Can she continue to keep herself removed from the people in her life who are trying to show her kindness?  If they learn her secrets, will they distance themselves from her?

Oh, how this book made me hurt for Dinah.  Everything she'd worked so hard to avoid while living in the brothel came crashing in on her in one self-sacrificing decision.  It's easy to look at what was coming for her and think that she should have known what she was sacrificing, but the author does such a good job of painting Dinah's innocent nature and remorse, that Dinah becomes the wronged party and you only hope for things to turn out well for her.

I also appreciated the author's handling of Dinah's search for God's love.  She desperately wanted to believe when Ruthie told her that God loved her, but her internal guilt and shame make it hard for her to trust that God cares for her.  Even Ruthie's relationship with Dinah felt realistic - she'd been raised as a pastor's daughter to treat others with kindness and point them to God, but in her own desires she found that jealousy and envy sometimes got in the way of doing the right thing.

There were several side story lines that I wish the author had followed up on with more detail, but it would probably have made for a more scattered feeling story, or else it would have made the book too long to be enjoyable.  Overall, I give this book 4 stars.  It dealt with topics not discussed easily, and it did it well, while keeping the characters well-rounded and honest.  Not everything worked out the way the characters wanted, there were consequences to their actions, yet there was God's grace and love to bring healing.

You can find Through the Deep Waters HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review

Bluebonnet Bride - Colleen Coble

Elli Korpela has come from Finland to America to find a husband, and to escape the man most benefits from her being gone.  When she arrives, she finds her husband, Nathan White, to be more than she anticipated and hopes that the marriage may become one of more than just convenience for both of them.  However, before they can settle into any kind of married life, they need to find out who's behind the attacks on Elli at their new house.  Is it her past tracking her across the ocean, or is it someone angry at Nathan's new position of foreman?

I am not typically a fan of novellas, and this book is a good demonstration of my reasons.  Even though I liked the characters and was excited for the chance for both Elli and Nathan to find more than they'd hoped for in this mail-order marriage, there was just not enough time for the story to develop.  There was not enough time for their romance to develop at a natural pace, and there was not enough time to develop depth to the mystery and its solution.  This short book did intrigue me enough that I intend to read the full Butterfly Palace novel, and hope for more insight into the characters who only made brief appearances in this novella.

I give this novella 2.5 stars, rounded to 3.  While the short story/novella format does not appeal to me, the characters and writing were still decently enjoyable.  Perhaps, once the series is rounded out, it will make a nice bridge between books 1 and 2.

You can find Bluebonnet Bride HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.
You can follow her on Twitter HERE.

I received a copy of this e-book from the Booklook Bloggers program, in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Table by the Window - Hillary Manton Lodge

Juliette D'Alisa comes from a big family with big personalities, and a genetic predisposition for good cooking.  Having decided she didn't like the pressure of cooking in somebody else's kitchen, Juliette has ended up in the food writing business, where she is content, if not happy.  Now, with her beloved Grand-Mere having passed away, and her mother announcing her own shocking news, Juliette and her family are forced to reevaluate their dreams for their lives, and what they want for each other as well as themselves.  Does this include a new career? A new love?  How can Juliette start living life for herself?

This book pulled me in immediately.  So much so that, before I was even 50 pages in, I ordered a copy for a friend, because the book called to me that she would love it.  Cooking, love, an Italian/French/American family - it all sung from the pages and created a family and story that I wanted to immerse myself in and stay for awhile.  Juliette had some hard decisions to make that made her feel very real, but there was enough humor and lightheartedness, especially in her correspondence with her new online friend, that it made for a very enjoyable, rich story.  While books with a cooking theme usually make me wish that I was a better cook, this one made me want to get up and cook the recipes included within its pages.  Most of them are too complicated and gourmet for me to actually prepare, but there were several that I may return to and attempt.  I do wish that there were links for the recipes, though, so that I didn't have to risk getting ingredients on the books' pages!

I enjoyed this book thoroughly and give it 4 stars.  The characters were strong, the writing was good, and I was super excited to see that there's going to be a sequel, because I wasn't ready for the story to end.

You can find A Table by the Window HERE.
You can find the Author's website HERE.
You can read an excerpt HERE.

And just for fun - take this QUIZ to see which character you are from the book! I got Juliette, and I'm totally okay with that.

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Until I Found You - Victoria Bylin

Kate Darby has taken a leave of absence from her marketing job to help her grandmother, Leona, recover from a stroke.  The agency is also struggling, and she hopes that while she's gone, the account that she's been excited to work on will go national and there will be enough work for her to return to.  While she's visiting her grandmother, however, she will encounter several things that will make her question her path in life: Nick, a man who's sworn off dating for a year, Mistoyo, a California condor descended from the condors her grandfather pushed to save, and God, who she's known of via her grandmother's faith, but has never really known for herself.  What impact will these meetings have on Kate?  What choices will she be forced to make, and on what basis will she decide her answers?

I have to admit, the cover and back copy of this book made me hesitant to read it - it looked and sounded more girly and fluffy than the books I tend to reach for.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a much more solid book than it appeared.  While certainly still a romance, both Kate and Nick had to face real choices and make real decisions with their lives that would affect not only their relationship, but their lives and careers.  There were moments where Kate's decisions appeared far too instant to be realistic, but there were others - where she would wrestle with knowing whether God was there, or struggle over what she wanted from life - those felt more authentic.

Overall, I give this book 3.5 stars.  It engaged me, and I wanted to see Kate make good decisions, but I don't see the characters sticking with me for long.

You can find Until I Found You HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

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