Saturday, May 16, 2015

Until the Harvest - Sarah Loudin Thomas

Until the Harvest is the second book in the Appalachian Blessings series.  Perla and Casewell Phillips' son, Henry, has been attending college but returns home to help with the family after tragedy strikes.  While he's home, he seems to lose his way and finds himself becoming someone his family wouldn't recognize.  As he struggles with how to balance who he was, who he's becoming, and who he wants to be, he finds himself drawn to Margaret and her sister Mayfair, as they take root on his grandmother's farm and in his family's lives.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Miracle in a Dry Season, and I was excited to reconnect with the town and its characters.  This book focused in more tightly on its main characters, and I didn't feel as if I was connecting with the town as a whole as much.  The time jump from Casewell and Perla's wedding to their having a college-aged son also took some adjusting to.  However, once I was able to connect to the characters and feel Henry's loss and Margaret's despair, the side characters began to shine more clearly.  Once again, using characters that many would consider unreachable, or unworthy to bring change, the author weaves in stories of forgiveness, second chances, and how love can change even the toughest of hearts.  It was also a delight to see Angie and Frank happy in their long-awaited marriage!  And, as a reader, it was satisfying to see Perla's story come full-circle and serve to help others with the lessons she'd learned.  She even says "We're all bad girls. Just some of us are forgiven."

I give this book 3 stars; I still enjoyed following this story, but the characters in the first book were a little more dynamic and kept me more invested in their lives.

The publisher is doing a giveaway right now that sounds amazing! You can enter HERE.
You can find Until the Harvest 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.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reservations for Two - Hillary Manton Lodge

Reservations for Two is the second book in the Two Blue Doors series.  Juliette and Nico continue to work on getting their dream restaurant open; Juliette and Neal continue their long-distance relationship, and Juliette pursues the story of whether her grandfather is someone different than she'd been raised to believe.

When I read Book 1, A Table by the Window, I wrote that I couldn't wait to read book 2, because I "wasn't ready for the story to end."  I also listed Reservations for Two on my list of books I couldn't wait to read in 2015.  I was sad to be less excited while actually reading the book than I was in anticipation of reading it.

I did not realize that this was to be the 2nd book of a trilogy, but when I saw "Look for the Conclusion to the Two Doors Series" in May 2016 at the end of the book, I realized that summed up how I felt about this book.  It has Middle Book Syndrome.  There were elements added to the overall plot to leave the reader wishing for the conclusion in the third book, the characters from the first book were all in place, just kind of sat there.  It's hard to write about the parts of the book that bothered me without spoilers, but I felt like nothing surprising happened.  You could tell from the beginning where the relationships were headed, and it felt like it took too long for them to get there.  Since they were already in place from Book 1, there wasn't a lot of romance or mystery to any of them.  Perhaps if there'd been more details given to the Clementine-Nico relationship that was clearly developing in the background, it would have perked up the romance aspect of the book.

Additionally, in the first book, Juliette seemed so driven to find herself, follow her own dreams, become someone, yet in this book, she just seemed lost again.  At one point, she even admits that she doesn't know what she wants to do when she grows up.  And, instead of trying to figure that out, or find a new dream, she just seems to drift along with what's already happening.  There's not even any exciting cooking in this book!

On the plus side, while it took me awhile to get invested in Juliette's grandmother's letters, by the end, I was as eager to find out what happened to change the history of what actually happened to the history that Juliette had known all her life.

While I didn't love this book as much as I did the first one, I am not ready to give up on this series and the family.  I am eager to see what the conclusion of the letters brings and hopefully, it will provide the answers the family needs.  I hope that Juliette finds her passion again, whether it's with the new restaurant, or something different.  Although, if I have to wait a whole year for the conclusion, I may have to re-read the first two books to stay on top of the details!

I give this book 3 stars; as a stand-alone book, it would probably fall a little lower.  But, as a middle book, it serves its purpose to make me want to read book 3!

You can find Reservations for Two HERE.
You can find Hillary Manton Lodge's website HERE, and her blog seems lovely - I hope to find time to hop through and catch up a bit!
You can also find more about the books and author HERE from the publisher.

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