Posted in Historical

Julie Lessman’s A Light in the Window

About

One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?

Marceline Murphy is a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues. But when two of Boston’s most notorious pursue her, she encounters a tug-of-war of the heart she isn’t expecting. Sam O’Rourke is the childhood hero she’s pined for, the brother of her best friend and a member of the large, boisterous family to which she longs to be a part. So when his best friend Patrick O’Connor joins in pursuit of her affections, the choice seems all too clear. Sam is from a family of faith and Patrick is not, two rogues whose wild ways clash head-on with Marcy’s—both in her faith and in her heart.

While overseeing the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen—A Light in the Window—Marcy not only wrestles with her attraction to both men, but with her concern for their spiritual welfare. The play is based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family, and for Marcy, its message becomes deeply personal. Her grandmother Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the “light in the window,” meaning the message of Christ in her heart. But when disaster strikes during the play, Marcy is destined to discover the truth of the play’s message first-hand when it becomes clear that although two men have professed their undying love, only one has truly responded to “the light in the window.”

Review
Oh I know! This one is my favorite! Ms. Lessman gets better and better with each novel she pens, so I think its fairly obvious I have enjoyed the O’Connor series. When I first ordered this book, I figured I knew what was gonna happen thanks to some hints in the previous novels. I was wrong. I was fairly surprised as I turned the pages of this book. And for those of you who are not fans of having two men and one girl, this novel doesn’t follow that same pattern. I never felt like I was having a hard time choosing which guy I prefered or that Marcy was playing the field. I’ve always liked Patrick, but I really liked how the younger Patrick saw Marcy and changed. And in those times he wasn’t sure he would have Marcy, he still continued to change for the better. Watching his faith develop and grow in God was a beautiful aspect of the novel. And Marcy was a terrific heroine. I always complain about the annoying ones, but she isn’t annoying, every decision she makes, makes sense to me. Also, I really liked the emphasis on friendship. I’m not married, but I imagine that’s quite important when choosing your spouse. Spiritually, I love the emphasis on the power of prayer and how a real relationship with Christ will change you. The only two drawbacks? I wanted to see Sam’s reaction in the end, and this is the last O’Connor book. Sad to see the series end! Highly Recommended!

Posted in Personal

Monday Musings….Subjectivity and Reviews Pt. 1

This past week, I was perusing books on Amazon when I came across a review that said something like this “I liked this book. I really did, but why is it that most heroines are in their mid-twenties? Maybe it’s just my own hangups because I’m in my thirties, but these romance novels make it seem like once the heroine turns 28, romance is too late for her.”

The reviewer gave the book 3 stars. So that got me thinking, when is it okay to allow subjectivity to rate a book? Next week I will discuss how to avoid subjectivity in book reviews. But first things first, a really great novel surpasses all subjectivity. Anywho, subjectivity is allowed when:

1) The setting is all wrong. I just read a book about a high school in Chicago that had a really weird racial dynamic. And it bothered me because, except for a few special exceptions, Chicago is about as segregated as you can get. I tried to squeeze the novel into one of those exceptions…it just wasn’t working. If the author gets things wrongs about locations, that has a tendency to turn off the reader, and I think its fair to lower a rating. A good book can surpass this, but it’ll still be in the back of the reader’s mind.

2)Ethnicity Issues. I’m going to go there. And it’s not always one race portraying another, sometimes its your own race or ethnic group portraying ‘you’. Without going into detail, if the author portrays your race in a significant way that you find annoying, it will detract from the book.

3) Nuances aren’t explained. I don’t really understand strong female voices in historical novels. I just don’t think women were that brave or that bold to stand up against or for issues (otherwise we wouldn’t have waited as long for the women’s right to vote). Therefore, the author should explain why their heroine is the way they are. And it must make absolute sense, I always tell my mom, no woman in the west in the 1800s would turn down a marriage proposal from a good Christian man. Life was too hard back then to be trying to do it on your own. The reason has to make sense! I’ll be honest, even in books today, I envy these girls their fierceness. But, I can understand it today, it makes no sense to me if the novel is a historical.

4) Get your facts straight. I’ve been leading up to this one. I’m a lawyer, I love legal thrillers…now more than when I was in law school, but nevertheless, when I’m reading books like these, my legal mind does not turn off. I’m constantly asking myself if the lawyer can do that. Same thing goes with historical facts. They must be accurate. You can play fast and loose with certain details, but others are written in stone. Know the ones written in stone.

5) The fifth book. There are some authors out there who I will tell you that I like, but don’t read. Because of the fifth book. When you read a lot of books by one author, after some point, you will begin to pick up on a pattern in they way they write, think, the words they use, when they introduce the villain, etc. For some authors, its so minor, its not relevant. For other authors, you begin to feel like if you changed the names and the cover, you would have the same books. When you can predict the characters’ personalities and what happens next, you’ve read the fifth book. I think you have the right as the reviewer to demand that the author branch out a bit more.

Well, these are my thoughts. Got anymore to add? Any you would detract?

Posted in Historical, Uncategorized

Francine Rivers’ A Voice in the Wind

About
A Voice in the Wind brings readers back to the first century and introduces them to a character they will never forget–Hadassah. Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, this young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome.

Review
If anyone ever asks me what my favorite book is (though I have many), I usually say Francine Rivers’ A Voice in the Wind. If you haven’t read this book yet, you do not know what you’re missing. A lot of people say her best book is Redeeming Love, and that book is a hit, but A Voice in the Wind was pretty revolutionary for me. It’s the best book out there, second to the Bible, that will teach you about forgiveness and love. And even though it takes place in the Roman era, so many of those same issues are relevant today. There are such strong characters in this novel, there is Marcus who embodies the classic, dark, brooding hero except that there is so much more to him. There is Hadassah who embodies Christ. Julia, the girl we love to hate and Artretes the tortured soul. One of the things that I so love about this book is the way Marcus falls in love with Hadassah. It’s slow, but intense the way only Ms. Rivers can do. I think I would have loved to see what there life was like when they were married. So cheers to A Voice in the Wind and it’s 20th Anniversary!

Posted in Historical

Catherine Richmond’s Spring for Susannah

About

Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.

When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor’s brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she’s ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.

Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse’s confidence in her—and his faith in God’s perfect plan—slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.

When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winter, Susannah’s fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble. Still, Jesse’s love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.

She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn’t predict all that awaits

Review
I loved this book! I loved that though it was a marriage by proxy (who has ever heard of those?) the author didn’t have them meet and then decide to be friends first or something equally odd. They got married first and then learned to be friends and that in my opinion, made this novel so original. Jesse, was such a unique hero because he was a constant talker while Susannah was the quite one. You can’t help but really love Jesse in this novel. The only drawback is that once Jesse leaves for a job, the novel kind of misses him too. Spiritually, Susannah comes to know and trust God on her own and Jesse has to learn that God’s plan isn’t often our own. I really enjoyed this novel. Highly Recommended!

Posted in Historical

Kim Vogel Sawyer’s A Home in Drayton Valley

About
Fed up with the poor quality of life in 1880 New York, Tarsie Raines encourages her friends Joss and Mary Brubacher to move with their two children to Drayton Valley, Kansas, a booming town hailed in the guidebook as the land of opportunity. She offers to help with expenses and to care for Mary and the children as they travel west by wagon train. But when tragedy strikes on the trip across the prairie, Tarsie is thrown into an arrangement with Joss that leaves both of them questioning God and their dreams for the future. As their funds dwindle and nothing goes as planned, will Tarsie and Joss give up and go their separate ways, or will God use their time in Drayton Valley to turn their hearts toward him?

Review
When I read the back of this novel, my immediate thought was that I’ve read this before….and then I was introduced to Joss. Joss, to say the least, is a bit rough around the edges, but he grows on you. And I like how Tarsie doesn’t give Joss an inch. Though the novel, is to a degree predictable, the details surrounding the plot make it original. I felt that the novel was more focused on Joss getting his life together (as it should have been) than on romance and so the romantic thread was quicker than I liked. Spiritually, Tarsie and Mary’s continual faith in God through bad circumstances was strong and the conversion in the novel believable. Good novel. Recommended.

** I recieved this novel from BethanyHouse publishers. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

Posted in Personal

Monday Musings….Judging a Book by its Cover

Do you judge books by their covers? Be honest, we all do. There are certain publishers that just know how to be eye-catching. There books are so eye-catching, they’ll have you picking up books by authors you have completely sworn off. Then there are other publishers who have such similar lame covers that even if you know the author is fantastic, you will hesitate to pick it up. So I thought today I would show some covers that I think are really eye-catching that are coming out next year.

 

Anyone know of any covers that stand out that are coming out next year?

Posted in Historical

Rosslyn Elliott’s Lovelier Than Daylight

About
In 1875, Susanna Hanby is headed off to college in Westerville, Ohio, when she discovers her sister Rachel and Rachel’s children have disappeared. Susanna suspects that Rachel’s alcoholic husband knows more than he’s saying and she vows to uncover the truth.

Johann Giere is heir to a successful German-American brewery in Columbus, but longs for a career in journalism in New York City. When Johann signs on as the supplier for a new saloon in Westerville, his and Susanna’s paths cross and sparks fly. A fiery temperance crusader, Susanna despises Johann’s profession, but she cannot deny the attraction.

When Susanna learns that Rachel’s children have been indentured to orphanages in the city, she despairs that her family will be fractured forever. But Johann makes Susanna an offer she can’t refuse—pitting her passion and her principles against one another.

If she can find a way for her head and her heart to be in harmony, a future lovelier than daylight awaits her.

Lovelier than Daylight is a story of love and faith based on the Westerville Whiskey War of 1875, a dramatic real historical event featured in the 2011 documentary Prohibition by Ken Burns.

Review
I have really enjoyed reading about the Hanby family and this book is no different. I found the premise behind the novel especially fascinating as alcohol in the Christian arena is a funny issue. Johann was a really likeable hero. Susanna, though, took me a while to like. I could understand why she acted the way she did, but she kind of came across to me as really naive. I could see in the end why she fell for Johann, but I couldn’t understand exactly why Johann fell for her. I also kind of felt that the ‘Whiskey War’ was a bit anticlimatic. That said, the mystery of Susanna’s sister was interesting and the story was well-written. Spiritually, the novel deals with being thankful to God, even in the hard times and also, using wisdom in making hard decisions. I thought that was nicely done in this novel. Good novel. Recommended.

Posted in Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense

Steven James’ Placebo

About
While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons’ tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did.

Review
Well, you already know that I think that Mr. James is a phenomenal writer and this book is only another testament to the fact. I really enjoyed the character of Jevin Banks. Jevin Banks is a magician, which is a pretty unique career choice. It adds for some creative flair throughout this novel. There is also more romance in this novel than in Patrick Bowers, which I enjoyed. The only drawback is that there are a lot of phsyics explanations for things and at times it was like reading chinese (too many flashbacks to phsyics class for me). It had it’s violent moments as well, but that shouldn’t be too surprising. I completely enjoyed the novel and appreciated Mr. James branching out and doing new things. Spiritually, the novel deals with the concept of death and how it is final…except that Jesus conquered death. Very interesting. Highly Recommended.