As a Mississippi native, I always enjoy finding books that take place in Mississippi or have some tie to my MS roots. So, when I saw that one of the characters in Almost Home was a widower from Mississippi I got excited. Plus, the sepia tones of the front porch with it's white rockers and faint yellow flowers didn't hurt one little bit either. There is a small nod to the Mississippi state flower as well with the magnolia in the vase between the rockers.
My grandmother had a HUGE magnolia tree in her front yard. Sweet memories.
However, there are many other fascinating characters in Almost Home besides the Mississippi widower. There is a young couple from the Midwest, a middle aged couple from Chicago, a World War II veteran, and all the lovely characters from the small Alabama town that serves as the backdrop of the storyline. The characters of Almost Home and their importance to the overall story came as a bit of a surprise as I read the book. What I assumed in the beginning got turned around as the story progressed and by the end of the book I realized that what I had expected the book to be about at first sort of shifted somewhere along the way and the slight twist brought about a beautiful development.
Sorry, that's all I will give you on that.
The story was very clean and I would have no problem allowing my unmarried daughter to read this book. The "house speaking" to one of the characters was a little odd, but somehow it worked ok and I was able to move past the issue. I will admit that I was a little concerned in the beginning though.
Almost Home is a beautiful, comforting read by author Valerie Fraser Luesse. I throughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to more from this author.
Mending Fences is the first in a new series entitled The Deacon's Family by author Suzanne Woods Fisher. This is my second book by Mrs. Fisher to review for the blog. You can read the first here.
As with the first review, I throughly enjoyed Mending Fences. I do have to admit though that the cover is deceiving. When I first saw it I thought this would just be an easy, superficial book that would provide some enjoyable reading hours but that was about all.
The cover is not the book.
In fact, my daughter and son saw the book lying on the couch and could not believe I had chosen to read something like this.
To my delight, the book was much more than a pretty cover. There was a depth there that I did not expect. The romance that you would expect with this Mr. America guy on the front cover really played a backseat to the more heartfelt storyline.
I truly enjoyed the easy feel of the book yet the punch of a well thought out Christian message.
Forgiveness is freeing.
I hope to get the chance to read the other upcoming books in this series. And I will keep a look out for more of Suzanne Woods Fisher's work as well.
When I read the description of this book I really was not sure what the pages between the covers would hold for me. I also did not realize this was Mrs. Bartels first novel. The summary simply sounded intriguing and the cover was quite lovely.
I am a sucker for a farmhouse at the end of a country road.
However, when I read this book I was in for quite a treat.
We Hope for Better Things has a depth and beauty to it that you do not often find in Christian Romance. In fact, I would not simply classify this as "romance" per say. Yes, the book contains some of that. Heartbreaking romance in fact. But it is so much more.
I highly recommend We Hope for Better Things and I, for one, am hoping for more "better things" from this author. I will be keeping her on my radar. Somehow she was able to tell three beautiful stories, fully, in just short of 400 pages. There were no wasted words or paragraphs to be found. Each wonderfully written page was a joy to read.
"...What was once America is now a collection of enclaves, governed at the local level and only loosely tied together by the farce of a federal government..."
I had high hopes for this book. Even though I had never read any of Locke's works before, the summary sounded intriguing. Kinda like a mix between The Hunger Games and well, I don't know exactly. But I had high hopes.
Unfortunately, they were not fulfilled. I am sure that some people quite enjoyed this book but I found it slow and boring. I did finish despite the fact that I was not enjoying the read. However, I have no desire to read the next in this series (I am assuming there is one since the ending was more of a beginning). I had a hard time caring at all about any of the characters. I actually found their powers or abilities quite odd or disturbing. I really had a hard time seeing this as something within the Christian genre.
Like I said, I am sure it will appeal to some readers. It just didn't with me.
I don't normally read modern day fiction. I usually find them uninteresting. However, I did enjoy A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris. The romance felt a little rushed and the situation that the main characters find themselves in seem mildly outrageous, but it is fiction after all. The part that helped the romance from being ridiculously rushed was the fact that the main characters knew each other years before and were not total strangers prior to this setting. I liked the author's handling of a sensitive topic of the main characters past traumas. Somehow she was able to give them credence without getting bogged down in the seriousness and heaviness of the topics. I felt the relationship between the two main characters was more "adulty" than some...not in sensuality, but in reality. The plot was good and I enjoyed the mystery/suspense within the story.
When I read the back cover of this book, I was enraptured. "OOOO," I thought. "This sounds interesting." And it was. However, it was not really what the description made it out to be.
Our main character, Millie, does play a 1920s-era guest during tours of an estate but do not expect much from that storyline...the actress part. In total, outside of a couple of incidents where the author describes Millie's costumes, I can remember only one "scene" involving Millie actually "acting" in this role. In fact, I believe we had more interaction with Ben in his security guard role than Millie in her reenactment roll. That was a bit disappointing.
However, the book, as a whole, was good. I enjoyed the plot and the main characters had a quirky and cute relationship. I found the balance of the different storyline aspects nice (except for the part about expecting much more from the reenacting side.) If the back cover had been phrased just a little differently, or just a few more actual scenes of her as the reenactor (not just at the estate leaving work) had been included, I think this would have helped with my expectations going into the book.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT:
I was disappointed in one aspect of the romance. We discover that Millie has never been kissed before and when she does experience a kissing moment with our hero the lack of experience is blown off as not a choice she made to wait for the right guy but simply the lack of opportunity. In fact, Ben never even assumes it could be anything more than that.
"I'm surprised you didn't have guys knocking down the door to be with you. But I'm glad you didn't have time for them. I'd have hated to fight them all off, but I would have."
END OF SPOILER ALERT
The GOD aspect of this book is sooooo minor. I wouldn't say that it was an afterthought or anything but it is definitely not necessary to the story. The relationship that the characters of the story have with God is shallow at best. The fact that the characters are Christians is not what is driving anything in the story. My daughter would describe it this way: "BTWs, the characters are Christians."
A Sparkle of Silver was a nice read. I would steer my unmarried, not-dating-because-I-am-waiting-on-the-right-guy daughter away from it not because of anything more than the intensity of the main characters relationship being just a little more than she needs to be reading about when she has chosen to refrain from that.
I have spent my summer doing a lot of reading. The house has been empty except for me most days due to everyone else having obligations. So, in the quiet solitude, I have read. It has been wonderful!
The Thief of Corinth was an unexpected joy for me to read in one sense. I usually do not like biblical fiction. I feel we should just let the Bible speak for itself and not try to add to it. This book, however, was not trying to add to a Biblical account despite the fact that the back cover mentions Paul. The author does use Corinth as its main setting and Paul does show up in the book. However, the storyline is purely fictional. The part of the story where Paul interacts is written in a way that seems very possible for Paul to have actually lived, but does not try to take a Biblical account and add fictional ideas to it.
I will say that I was beginning to wonder how the author was going to solve the final dilemma while keeping Christian morals. I am still contemplating the "justification" as I can definitely see what the author was aiming for, but I struggle a little with the process. I know we see all kinds of shady things taking place in the Bible where GOD's people act in situations in what appears to be ungodly ways to reach an end goal. (For example, Tamar. I mean really. How much more shady can you get?) This is just such a fine line. The following is an excerpt from the book during this dilemma. Don't worry. I left out anything that might make it a spoiler.
"What if God has heard the cries of the many who are being pressed and trampled under...and is
using our predicament as a means of releasing them?"
Yes, I believe the LORD uses our situations for His good. But what must occur for the "release" to come in this situation is questionable.
I'm just still wrestling with it. Because of this issue, I would only recommend this book to a strong Believer. Our society uses the "ends to justify the means" so, so much. I realize that most believe that "all is fair in love and war" and the conflict the author undertook in the final part of her book could be looked at as war..
I find it difficult to swallow that the LORD would ask someone to do something wrong in order to make a right possible.
Other than this issue, I really enjoyed the book. It is well written and I enjoyed the dialogue and writing style very much. The characters were likable, even despite their flaws (which every good character has some). I am anxious to read what must be coming next as the author hinted in her final notes that one of the main characters would not be left here. But, I will do so with caution.
I really was not expecting a lot from this book. In fact I didn't even know this was the author's first finished manuscript (which probably explains one of my criticisms.) But as I read the book I found my most favorite female character EVER for this genre...Em. Just Em. Plain Em.
Caleb wasn't bad either, but he didn't top my favorite male character, Drew, from A Bride Most Begrudging. A few months ago Susan (this blog's real author) and I had a discussion about our favorite male characters from this genre. (Hers is Artham from The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson, but in this genre it is Gideon from Head in the Clouds by Karen Witmeyer.) At the time I couldn't pin down my favorite male. I hold a soft spot in my heart for The Messenger by Siri Mitchell so Jeremiah is a favorite, but he is a little too "wounded soul" to be my absolute favorite character. Then a few weeks after our discussion I picked up Bride to reread for like the third time. Afterwards I handed it to Susan and said, "You may like Gideon, but read Drew. THIS is my favorite."
But, on to THIS book's review.
My main criticism for The Hope of Azure Springs is the dialogue. It just doesn't always flow really well. It sometimes feels choppy and short. Rushed almost. When I finished the book and discovered this was her first finished manuscript, it made more sense. I am not a writer but I have often heard from my son who would love to be one someday that dialogue is a hard thing to get a good grip on. So, maybe as we see Rachel Fordham publishing more books, we will see a more flowly dialogue emerge.
But even this small flaw could not keep me from loving The Hope of Azure Springs.
This book made me cry, ya'll.
Two or Three Times.
Something about the storyline and Em just resonated with me where I am right now.
On the more formal review side, this book is very clean. The romance factor is the way I prefer...kissing saved to the end and the author conveys that they care for each other without telling us all about their tingling feelings. I just can't suggest books like that to unmarried girls, especially. And although the storyline was somewhat predictable, it wasn't entirely. So, I didn't feel like I was rereading all the other books but with a new cover.
Speaking of the cover, I think this book is beautiful. It may not look like anything special on the computer screen, but there is something about the cover that when I received it in the mail, I thought it was amazing. I don't know if it is the colors (yellow and green together are my favorite color combo) or her dress/shawl combo or what. But, I do love the look of the cover.
And I love this book. I so hope Mrs. Fordham continues to perfect her craft and is able to finish another manuscript because I, for one, am looking forward to her next publication.
Minding the Light is the second in Fisher's Nantucket Series. I have not read the first book, however, I do not think that mattered at all. I never felt lost or unsure of characters or events. I believe this book could well be a stand alone. Although, I do plan to read book one and any remaining books in this series as they are published. I believe this is my first time to read Fisher's work and I truly enjoyed it. Although this is a Historical Christian Romance, the romance was not "heavy." I would have no problem suggesting it to a young girl just beginning her journey into adult fiction. Many books in this genre, even though they are Christian, I believe make the romance too much. Yes, I enjoy reading the romantic parts, but let's face it: Our real life husbands don't need us comparing them to fictional characters all the time. Real Men have real world situations that don't always work out beautifully in the end. If I am comparing my husband to a great fictional hero then Hubby will probably fall short every time. That is why I appreciated this book so much. I felt I could enjoy the book without getting so caught up in the romance that I lost my way in the real world. Plus, as a mother of an unmarried young adult woman, I love to find books I can pass on to my daughter without putting undue pressure on her and her desires to find a mate.
Overall, I really enjoyed the storytelling and written art of Minding the Light. It was a very enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more of Suzanne Woods Fisher's work.
This is my first review for Revell books. I received this free copy for the blogger review program but am in no way required to give a positive review.
All Alterations Book Reviews Books Conversations With God Costumes Doctor Who? Family For The Sake Of All Things Random Friends Gifts Giveaway Guest Post Holidays It's A GOD Thing Lesson Learned Literal Movie Making Non Sewing Related Projects Q&A Sewing Special Requests Theater Tutorial Wedding Yep That's Me