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Sarah Sundin’s The Sky Above Us

The Sky Above Us (Sunrise at Normandy Book #2) by [Sundin, Sarah]

Numbed by grief and harboring shameful secrets, Lt. Adler Paxton ships to England with the US 357th Fighter Group in 1943. Determined to become an ace pilot, Adler battles the German Luftwaffe in treacherous dogfights in the skies over France as the Allies struggle for control of the air before the D-day invasion.

Violet Lindstrom wanted to be a missionary, but for now she serves in the American Red Cross, where she arranges entertainment for the men of the 357th in the Aeroclub on base and sets up programs for local children. Drawn to the mysterious Adler, she enlists his help with her work and urges him to reconnect with his family after a long estrangement.

Despite himself, Adler finds his defenses crumbling when it comes to Violet. But D-day draws near. And secrets can’t stay buried forever.

Bestselling author Sarah Sundin returns readers to the shores of Normandy, this time in the air, as the second Paxton brother prepares to face the past–and the most fearsome battle of his life.

Review

I had other books in my queue to read, but when I saw this one on Netgalley I pushed all of those away. I was super excited about this book because I was completely fascinated by the Paxton storyline from the first book. And more important than all of that, it delivered. My thoughts:

What I liked

Adler. Actually, I didn’t like him at first because of what I learned about him in the first book, but I knew somehow, someway Sundin would make me like him and she did. To be perfectly honest, he’s arrogant and rather dismissive of those who are not like him. But he undergoes such a transformation throughout the story and becomes a very humble and likeable guy. He’s not without his faults, but that only serves to make his character richer. Adler has quite the past he has to wrestle with (kudos to the author for making such a hero). It would have been easy to dismiss some of it, but I thought Sundin did a lovely job of confronting everything without lessening who Adler was.

Violet. Violet was an interesting foil to Adler. In many ways, the two of them were cut from the same cloth because they both start off as pig-headed and bit prideful. While her transformation is not as dramatic as Adler’s, it still was an important one to follow. I found her personality to be a good match for Adler’s…especially as she had to deal with some of the fallout of his choices.

History. I love, love, love WWII fiction. The last book was about the navy, this book was from the point of view of the air. You really learn a lot about the conditions of pilots in WWII and a lot of situations they had to face. I also learned a lot about the Red Cross. I had never really considered anything that they did besides nursing. Sundin was able to immerse herself (and her readers) into the time period easily without making anyone feel like they were inundated with facts (I will say that sometimes the characters phrases sounded corny, but I’m also not going to say people didn’t talk like that either).

Overall story. I really like how Sundin is telling the Paxton brothers’ story. Not only do you have D-Day from the point of view of air, land, and sea, but you have this family drama that is slowly unraveling with each book. You keep getting a piece of it from each of the men’s narrative and the more you find out the more it becomes slightly horrifying and completely intriguing (idk what that says about me).

Spiritually, I loved the concept of what it looks like to accept God’s forgiveness, forgiving yourself and others, realizing what pride really looks like, and the simple fact that actions have consequences.

What I didn’t like

I mostly liked Violet. I understood Violet. But sometimes she was frustrating to me. There is a scene where I thought if she had acted one way, she would have saved herself a lot of frustration later. Still, in spite of this, the story was good.

Sundin does follow her typical formula where each main character has one or two flaws that they specifically work on in the story. While it is kind of routine, it doesn’t detract from the story.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, a very good book. I desperately want the third book about Clay. His story is really setting up to be quite the crescendo.

** I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

 

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Laura Frantz’s An Unbound Heart

A Bound Heart by [Frantz, Laura]

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning–together.

Review

I always look forward to Laura Frantz’s historical fiction novels (with romance) and this one was no different. My thoughts:

What I liked

The premise. I’ve never read an indentured servant story quite like this one. Frantz does a very good job of showing just how difficult it must have been to be sentenced to an indenture and what that life would have probably looked like for people in that kind of situation.

History. As always, I learned a lot without feeling as though I had been taught. Frantz is able to insert a lot of small facts in her narrative that show that she did her research without beating the reader over the head with it. She also spends quite some time in the Caribbean which is definitely an area in which I knew very little about.

The romance. To be honest, the hero and heroine did not actually have a lot of time together on the pages to fall in love, but the author set up such an intensely felt back story that I found myself rooting for them almost right away and never wanted to stop.

Spiritually, both main characters are believers and show it well with their actions. I love how no matter how difficult things got, Magnus’ faith never strayed. He’s a solid rock of a character. Lark constantly and consistently shows Christ’s love by loving others when it’s easy and when it’s difficult.

What I didn’t like

After reading what the book was about, I kept waiting for certain events to happen right away. The book felt a bit like it was taking its time to get there. In other words, the beginning was a little slow.

Also, the main characters, at one point, are separated for about 25% percent of the book (which I’m never a fan of) and what happens in that portion, while interesting, was also predictable.

The ending was fast. If this is a series, it works. I’m totally buying the next one. If this is a stand-alone, then there were too many loose threads for me.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would (it started slow folks). The characters had me completely invested and kept me thoroughly entertained.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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Rachel Fordham’s The Hope of Azure Springs

The Hope of Azure Springs by [Fordham, Rachel]

Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

Debut author Rachel Fordham invites historical romance readers to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where the people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.

Review

This book was so cute! Obviously, Fordham is a new author to me (this is her first book) and I will readily admit that for me most western romance novels with sheriffs and women in danger seem a bit cliché. My expectations are always low for these types of books because for some reason they seem all the same (trust me, I cut my Christian reading teeth on these kinds of book). However, this book reminded me that good storytelling is good storytelling no matter what trope you’re using.

What I liked

Em. It always helps if you like the heroine. Em is strong, kind, and thoughtful and even though she is in danger for a good portion of the book, she never does anything that makes her a silly heroine–in other words, she doesn’t try to defy good sense. She also has a fascinating back story that the author does a lovely job of unraveling very slowly, only giving you a piece here and a piece there.

Sheriff Caleb Reynolds. The thing I found most interesting about Caleb was also his back story and the reason as to why he became sheriff in the first place. I thought the author did a lovely job creating his character so that he was complex and not just a western caricature.

The romance. It was the best kind of romance based on friendship and the culmination of two people spending time with each other and getting to know one another. Also, it addressed, almost subtly, what romance truly is.

The suspense. There are (kind of) two different suspense elements here coming from the obvious villain and then coming from Em’s past. I thought both were handled well and in such a way that Em and the Sheriff shined.

Spiritually, most of the main characters are believers and spend time praying and seeking God.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing that stuck out! I think it comes down to what you expect.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, a very cute, light and fluffy read…sort of. There are serious topics addressed here that the author touches upon, but there was always a very hopeful note there that left the reader feeling satisfied.

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Julie Klassen’s The Bride of Ivy Green

The Bride of Ivy Green (Tales from Ivy Hill Book #3) by [Klassen, Julie]

Much has happened in idyllic Ivy Hill in recent months, and while several villagers have found new love and purpose, questions remain–and a few dearly held dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Jane Bell is torn. Gabriel Locke is back and has made his intentions clear. But Jane is reluctant to give up her inn and destine another man to a childless marriage. Then someone she never expected to see again returns to Ivy Hill. . . .

Mercy Grove has lost her school and is resigned to life as a spinster, especially as the man she admires seems out of reach. Should she uproot herself from Ivy Cottage to become a governess for a former pupil? Her decision will change more lives than her own.

A secretive new dressmaker arrives in the village, but the ladies soon suspect she isn’t who she claims to be. Will they oust the imposter, or help rescue her from a dangerous predicament?

In the meantime, everyone expects Miss Brockwell to marry a titled gentleman, even though her heart is drawn to another. While the people of Ivy Hill anticipate one wedding, an unexpected bride may surprise them all.

Don’t miss this romantic, stirring conclusion to Tales from Ivy Hill.

Review

I always enjoy Julie Klassen’s novels. They are always filled with complex, layered characters and a historical setting that comes alive. Also, since this is the third book in the series, I was very much looking forward to visiting with my old friends. My thoughts:

What I liked

Jane’s back! Jane was my favorite character in the series and we saw less of her in the second book (and less of Gabriel). It was good to be with her again. The way the last book ended, I was worried that there would be unnecessary drama between Jane and Gabriel, but everything worked out perfectly. Klassen gives Jane some new problems to deal with, but all of them were interesting and I found myself totally invested in how things would work out.

Mercy is also back! She wormed her way into my heart in the last book and it was great to be in her head again. While I do think her romance was more complicated than it had to be, I enjoyed the journey of seeing where Mercy ends up.

As always, it was a joy to run into the secondary characters who have been throughout the series and to meet some new ones. This was very much a story of what life might have been like in a small English village.

Spiritually, the novel deals a lot with trusting God, especially when things look bad or go from bad to worse.

What I didn’t like

Because there were several points of views, some characters were more interesting than others and at times, I found myself skimming so I could get back to a character I liked.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this series and read it much faster than anticipated. If this had been a TV show, I would have absolutely loved it.

 I received a complimentary copy of this book from BethanyHouse through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Robert Whitlow’s Chosen People

Chosen People by [Whitlow, Robert]

During a terrorist attack near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a courageous mother sacrifices her life to save her four-year-old daughter, leaving behind a grieving husband and a motherless child.

Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab Israeli lawyer trained at Hebrew University, typically uses her language skills to represent international clients for an Atlanta law firm. When her boss is contacted by Jakob Brodsky, a young Jewish lawyer pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of the woman’s family under the US Anti-Terrorism laws, he calls on Hana’s expertise to take point on the case. After careful prayer, she joins forces with Jakob, and they quickly realize the need to bring in a third member for their team, an Arab investigator named Daud Hasan, based in Israel.

To unravel the case, this team of investigators travels from the streets of Atlanta to the alleys of Jerusalem, a world where hidden motives thrive, the risk of death is real, and the search for truth has many faces. What they uncover will forever change their understanding of justice, heritage, and what it means to be chosen for a greater purpose.

Review

I always look forward to a release from Robert Whitlow. I know I can count on a book that has a solid legal foundation, a fascinating plot, and an author who spends time with God. This book was no different. My thoughts:

What I liked

The topic. Specifically, the international legal aspect of it. Kudos to Whitlow for stepping out of America. You’ve got Hana who is Arab but grew up in Israel and now lives in America and Jacob who has a Russian background and is Jewish who also lives in America. At some point they both make it to Israel. And yet, at no time, did the story Whitlow was telling feel overwhelming. You would think with Arabs and Jews, Israel and Palestine, terrorists and lawsuits, America and Israel that you would easily get lost in the details. You don’t. Whitlow handles it all very smoothly.

The characters. Each one is well-defined, from a restaurant owner to Hana, the main character. Whitlow really takes the time to flesh out every character on the page. No one is a caricature. I was especially drawn to Hana. She’s intelligent and bold and yet still somehow very much reflects that modest middle east upbringing. She’s not perfect, but she always has a reason for doing what she does. I was also very fond of Jacob. In spite of his Russian-Jewish background, there’s something very All-American about him…which makes him easy to like.

Romance. Though the romance is light, I like the way it was handled. There are a few surprises here!

As always, the legal nature of the case. As a lawyer, I don’t need my legal thrillers to be exact, but they have to be logical. With Whitlow, I never doubt that he knows his stuff.

Descriptions. At one point (or two) Israel is visited in the novel. Whitlow describes everything, from the sites to the food to the language to the people. I am almost certain the man has spent time there. Israel comes to life on the pages.

A different look. I’m pretty sure everyone who has lived long enough has an opinion about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. By making his main character an Arab Christian, Whitlow presents a very different look at the Middle East Conflict and it’s one worth learning about.

Spiritually, I love the way Whitlow always emphasizes the importance of prayer and dreams.

What I didn’t like

There were, at times, too many details and not necessarily about the case. This book had almost flash points of something really interesting happening and then low points where a character’s day is described in nuanced detail. There were quite a few moments where scenes felt drawn out. I often found myself skimming so I could get to the action.

Overall, if Whitlow is your kind of author, don’t miss out on this book! You learn so much and will enjoy it while you do.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations by [Witemeyer, Karen, Hunter, Kristi Ann, Thomas, Sarah Loudin, Wade, Becky]In Kristi Ann Hunter’s “Legacy of Love,” Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman’s grandson, a man far above her station.

In Karen Witemeyer’s “Gift of the Heart,” widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

In Sarah Loudin Thomas’s “A Shot at Love,” Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

In Becky Wade’s “Because of You,” Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

Review

I decided to read these novellas because two of my favorite authors contributed to the collection and I must say that I very much enjoyed all of the stories (though some more than others).

Kristi Ann Hunter’s Legacy of Love: Hunter writes regency novels very well. She knows the era, the layers of complexities that makes up the class structures, and the way to craft a good story. I will admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance because it felt a bit forced to me and the plot seemed lacking at moments. But overall very cute.

Karen Witemeyer’s Gift of the Heart: Witemeyer  managed to write very complex characters in a short space. I immediately felt for the main characters, especially Ruth. She’s bold, determined, and kind. Simple though the story was, I couldn’t put it down. It was probably my favorite one.

Sarah Loudin Thomas’s A Shot at Love: This was my first introduction to Thomas and this won’t be the last time that I read her. I really liked the main character, Fleeta. She drove the story. She was not just a tomboy, but a woman with a passion and a drive. The romance wasn’t bad, but it did seem as though Fleeta wasn’t as invested as the hero…but she was so fascinating it almost didn’t matter.

Becky Wade’s Because of You: Another winner. I love a good contemporary romance novel. I liked the complexity of the relationship between Maddie and her guy. Wade writes fabulous heroines that are easy to connect with. The romance seemed a bit quick on the guy’s part, but overall it was enjoyable

Each book presented characters that prayed and had to trust God through some tough times (and of course those tough times pretty much ended on Christmas, but hey it was cute!).

Novellas are always hard for me to read because I usually feel like so much of the story is missing, but sometimes they’re just fun too. This collection was fun and I know at least one of them was linked to other series that the authors are writing. I really like the way they used the brooch to connect all the stories and the way it was a different generation each time. There were, I think, a few mistakes with the timeline, but overall if you like novellas, recommended!

**I received a copy from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway**

 

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Roseanne M. White’s An Hour Unspent

An Hour Unspent (Shadows Over England Book #3) by [White, Roseanna M.]

Once London’s top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war. But not until he rescues a clockmaker’s daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.

Evelina Manning has constantly fought for independence, but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancé to end the engagement and enlist in the army. When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clockwork repair with her father, she can’t help being interested. But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.

As 1915 England plunges ever deeper into war, the work of an ingenious clockmaker may give England an unbeatable military edge–and Germany realizes it as well. Evelina’s father soon finds his whole family in danger–and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape.

Review

Ms. White is easily one of my favorite authors. She writes well researched novels filled with complex characters who often wrestle with spiritual issues and natural issues. However, as much as I’ve been enjoying this series, this book was my least favorite. My thoughts:

What I liked

Return of characters. Obviously, if you’ve been following this series, you get the return of the orphan siblings. I was very excited to find out who Barclay was and the kind of woman who would win his heart. Of course there was also the return of Willa and Rosemary and I enjoyed seeing what they were up to.

The setting. I feel like World War I is a war that’s rarely highlighted in fiction. White does a lovely job of showing London in this era and the effects of the war on those at that time.

Clockwork. You learn a lot about clocks and how they work and just how intricate they are. I really appreciated the time and effort that White put into explaining it.

Spiritually, the novel deals with how God is like a clockmaker…very much into the details of our lives. Every part of us is important to Him.

What I didn’t like

Evelina and Barclay. Okay, to be fair, it’s not that I didn’t like them, it’s that I didn’t understand them. Evelina was the more confusing of the two to me because I didn’t understand why she was the way she was and why I should care. She cares about the rights of women and factory workers but it seemed like just something she did because she was bored, not because their situations actually bothered her. She was a mix of things that didn’t make sense. She loved her father, but often treated him with disrespect. She cared for the poor and downtrodden and then at moments looked down on them. She wanted independence, but was not in anyway striving to get it. In the end I just did not connect with her character.

As for Barclay, he was a real sweetheart…which was part of the problem. I realized that he’s a believer in this book and no longer over a gang, but his personality was so soft that I had a hard time believing he had ever been as criminal as he kept telling me he was. Because let’s face it, it takes a certain, ‘I don’t care about others,’ attitude to live a life of crime. And Barclay cares a lot.

Which leads to the romance. Why did Barclay fall for Evelina and vice versa? They seemed so different from each other and I’m not referring to class. I’m referring to personality and character. Evelina came across as silly compared to everything Barclay had done and was doing. It just didn’t work for me.

Romantic scale: 6.5

Overall, not my favorite book by White, but she’s still one of my favorite authors!

** I received a copy from Netygalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**