Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Water from my Heart - Charles Martin

Charlie Finn is self-admittedly not a good person.  He uses people, he has no compassion for those who lose out on business deals, and he doesn't cry over anything.  Well, almost anything.  His amoral life and the legacy he's passed on to his godson have led to tragedy and grave danger for the few people he finds he may actually care about.  On a mission to right what wrongs he can, he finds that letting go of one's pain, anger, and sins may take a different form than he expected.

Wow.  This book was nothing like I expected.  It was so, so, so much more.  The author weaves Charlie's past and present together in alternating chapters until they converge, until the reader can separate the man Charlie has always been to the man who's recognizing that that isn't who he wants to be.  There is no excusing Charlie's past.  There is no excusing or whitewashing the choices he's made and the people he has hurt.  This is not a pretty book about someone who made an honest mistake with good intentions.  Charlie's intentions were definitely not good.  But Charlie knows that, and in that honesty, there is a chance for redemption.  When Charlie starts to get it, while hanging almost 300 feet deep into a well, he says, "Call me simple, but it was tough to miss the lesson.  It it's dark, and if you want light, you either need a source outside yourself, or you need to get to one - because nothing resident in me lit that hole."

This book was about Charlie's journey to awareness and redemption, but the journey would not have been complete without the other characters.  Not just ones who showed him the light, but even the ones in the darkness which serve to show how desperately he needed the light.  The author's notes at the end of the book indicate that several of the characters were based on actual people, and they are well-woven into the story to make it whole.

This is a book that will stick with me.  That will make me think twice about where my coffee comes from and how the person growing it makes far less than it takes me to buy it.  I give this book 5 stars; this is going to be a book that's hard to move on from.

You can find Water from my Heart HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Love Arrives in Pieces - Betsy St. Amant

Stella Varland has not ended up where she expected; divorced at 25, depending on her parents for assistance and job leads, she suffers debilitating panic attacks over her memories of being left.  Now, she has a chance at a fantastic job to boost her interior designer resume, only it comes at the cost of working with the man who broke both her and her sister's heart and caused years of rift between them.  Chase Taylor has returned to Bayou Bend, also damaged but with a renewed faith and a determination to not waste any more time.  Can these two broken people find healing, or will they get in each other's way of finding the true Healer?

When I started this book, I hadn't realized it was a sequel to All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes. If I had realized they went together, I would have tried to read them closer together, because it was hard for me to remember the backstories of the characters who carried over.  It would have been helpful to remember afresh the hurt and heartache between Kat and Stella, and to know how Chase and Lucas were connected.  Even so, this book functioned fairly well as a stand alone.  On the surface, it was just another light romance, but there was a lot of deep stuff there to uncover about our brokenness and how the healing can seem just as hard as staying broken.  The author uses some unusual characters to get her main characters to think - the "homeless" woman, Dixie, and the fire department chaplain serve as catalysts for changing how Stella and Chase see not only each other but themselves as well.

The only hard part of this book for me was to believe that Stella could reconnect with Chase so quickly.  If he really had caused a years-long rift between Stella and Kat, it seems natural that there would have been more distrust or conversations, or that he would have had to prove that he'd really changed.  There just weren't enough details on why he'd run; there were a lot of allusions to Kat having reinterpreted the story of what happened, but her version versus what really happened were never fleshed out.  I think a flashback to what had happened and what each of the three of them had felt at the time would have served to make the story fuller and more cohesive.

I enjoyed this book, and give it 3 stars.  The themes of brokenness and beauty added depth to the story that made it more thought provoking than a typical romance.

You can find Love Arrives in Pieces HERE.
You can find the Author's website HERE.

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

After a Fashion - Jen Turano

Harriet Peabody is working in a hat shop, dreaming of the day she can run her own business, when her boss sends her on an errand that catapults her into a crazy string of events that she never could have imagined.  Finding herself without a job, and accepting a position as a companion to a man trying to close a business deal, Harriet wonders where the good thing is that she asked God for this year on her birthday?  As she tries to learn to pretend she belongs in this fancy life, she also has to deal with issues from her past that she's tried to leave behind.  Can Harriet find who she really is in the midst of all this pretending?

As with all of Jen Turano's books, this one did not fail to make me laugh.  Harriet is such a well-done character that you can't help but root for her.  She has certainly not lived a perfect life, but she is upfront about where she's been and she has tried to make the best choices she could in the circumstances she's been given.  She works hard, and she's determined to do things the right way.  Her roommates bring additional joviality and depth to the story; Lucetta, the famous actress who dresses for comfort and freedom of thought when not on the stage, and Millie, the sometimes nanny/cookstaff/servant who loves children and is studying the dictionary to improve herself, but with frequently hilarious results.  Their friendship and their loyalty add much to this book, and I'm excited that they will each get their own story.

Another grand success by Jen Turano, a book that makes me laugh, but that also explores whether God hears us when we're stuck in circumstances beyond our control and whether it's worth making the right choices in such a situation.  I give this book 4 stars, and I look forward to the rest of the series!

You can find After a Fashion HERE.
You can find Jen Turano's website HERE, although she states she does most of her interacting on Facebook, where she can be found HERE.

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

Taken - Dee Henderson

Shannon Bliss has been missing for 11 years, having disappeared at the age of 16.  She has managed to free herself from an incredibly complicated and violent family associated with a shockingly vast array of crimes, and she has chosen Matthew Dane to help her sort through the ramifications of her life in captivity and her escape.  Matthew is a retired cop, current private investigator, whose own daughter had been kidnapped and recovered, and Shannon needs his sensitivity and skills to return to a normal life.

Taken is loosely connected with several of Dee Henderson's previous books, including Full Disclosure, Undetected, and Unspoken.  Characters from each of these previous books assist in Shannon's reappearance - some through law enforcement assistance, and some through personal experience and relationships.  My opinions of this string of books has been all over the place; I loved Undetected and Unspoken, and was not thrilled with Full Disclosure.  Unfortunately, Taken fell on the side of Full Disclosure for me.  Shannon was not a very lovable character; she survived what appeared to be a horrible ordeal, but she played it so close to the vest and had such an in-depth collection of knowledge on this complicated crime family that she came across pretty cold and calculating.  Matthew fell into a weird place of being a father figure to her as he related her to his daughter who'd been kidnapped, but then there was clearly a bend towards bringing them together romantically, which seemed messy.  He was a compassionate and safe relationship for her, but he had none of the strong characteristics that Henderson's main characters usually have.  Even the story of the kidnapping and the thieves and criminals involved got too complicated and drawn out to keep me invested as a reader.

Overall, I felt that this story dragged a bit.  There were no great characters for me to latch onto and love, and there was no romance to root for.  I just couldn't love this book.  I give it 2 stars.  I'm STILL hoping for the 3rd brother from the military novels to get his own book!

You can find Taken HERE.
You can find Dee Henderson's site HERE.

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

A Love Like Ours - Becky Wade

A Love Like Ours is the third novel in the Porter Family series.  Jake, the third child in the Porter family, returned from the war injured both inside and out.  Unable to process and deal with the losses he suffered in Iraq, losses he holds himself responsible for, Jake has kept everyone at a distance and thrown himself into his work as a horse trainer on Whispering Creek Farms.  Even Lyndie, his best friend from childhood, he tries to keep at arms' length.  Lyndie, however, is determined to find a way in, and she thinks that her chances of helping Jake are tied to helping his horse Silver Leaf, who's been given one more chance to prove himself a winner before being retired.  Can Lyndie help both of them? Can Jake allow Lyndie to take such chances?

I love that this family story continues to be explored through this series; I've read Bo's story, and Ty's story, and even through those was looking forward to finding out more about Jake.  What happened to him in Iraq? Who did he used to be? Could anyone reach him?  This book did a good job of covering his back story - both who he was before the war, what happened to him while he was there, and how he'd been dealing, or not dealing, with the aftermath since he'd been back with his family.  I really enjoyed that the brothers' characters were still part of this story - Ty's wife is still calling him showboat, Meg and Bo are continuing the work they began in their book, and I really enjoyed the side characters as well.  Zoe, in particular, with her "need" for a tall guy and her penchant for dropping sentences mid-thought, really livened up several scenes.  I can't wait to read about Dru, the lone sister in this bunch, and find out more about her story.

There were several story threads that managed to go deep in this romantic novel, dealing with PTSD and the survivor's guilt of watching other men die - it wasn't glossed over.  Jake had a lot of things to work through, and it took a lot of different people showing love in his life in different ways to get him through it.  There was also the story of Lyndie's sister Mollie, who was dealing with cerebral palsy, and what that had meant to Lyndie's family in terms of dedicating time and energy to Mollie while Lyndie was growing up.

Overall, this was a great summer read and I give it 4 stars.  I can't wait for Porter Family #4 to come out, so I can stay connected to this family!

You can find A Love Like Ours HERE.
You can find Becky Wade's site HERE.

I received a digital copy of A Love Like Ours from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.