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Kathryn Springer’s The Hearts We Mend

The Hearts We Mend (A Banister Falls Novel) by [Springer, Kathryn]

Planning and Post-It notes are the epitome of Evie’s life. But when she meets Jack, her life gets more than a little complicated.

Thirteen years ago, Evie’s firefighterhusband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her to raise their young son, Cody, alone. Now, Cody is marrying the love of his life, and as he packs up his belongings, the house feels as empty as Evie’s heart. But for all her planning and mad organizational skills, Evie could never have anticipated the dramatic shift her life is about to make.

Tattooed, rough-around-the-edges Jack raises quite a few eyebrows in the tight-knit community of Banister Falls. Where Evie’s life is stream-lined, Jack’s approach to living is moment-by-moment. But as Evie gets drawn into Jack’s world—a world that isn’t as safe or predictable as the one she’s worked so hard to create—he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems outside the walls of the church.

Jack doesn’t make Evie feel comfortable, but he definitely makes her feel something. Something she hasn’t felt since Max passed away—or, maybe ever. Because even though Jack isn’t anything like her late husband, he just might be everything she needs.

Review

I randomly stumbled across this book, bought it (cause it was a deal!), read it, and was pleasantly surprised. I will admit that I was a bit hesitant at the age of the heroine since her son is getting married in the novel, but I was won over with the description of Jack. I’m a huge fan of the unusual hero. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Evie. I don’t usually like heroines, but I liked her. I understood her. She’s a planner who is learning how to deal with some big surprises…the main one being that her 18 year old is getting married and going to be a father. On the outside she looks like she has everything together but on the inside life doesn’t feel so great. Watching Evie walk through this season in her life was a joy. She’s kind and compassionate, and even though she may not understand, she tries.

Jack. I love me a good hero and Jack delivers. He’s a man with a past who is doing his best to live right and lead his family to Jesus. In some ways, he’s kind of all over the place, but you still manage to get that sense that he’s someone you can count on. The author does a lovely job of introducing him and making me root for him right away.

The romance. I feel like it’s been so long since I’ve just really enjoyed a Christian contemporary romance novel, but I really liked this one. Evie and Jack are so different and so it’s easy to see why there was hesitation on both sides, but what I loved was that when there was conflict or confusion, they confronted it. They learned who the other was and then worked together.

Spiritually, characters pray and learn to rely on God even when things don’t turn out the way that they think they should.  Also, there’s a lovely theme on showing what love in action really looks like.

What I didn’t like:

I think I pretty much loved this whole book. It was weird that Evie’s kid was 18 and married but Evie thought it was weird too.

Romantic scale: 8.9

I can’t think of the last time that I’ve enjoyed a contemporary Christian novel as much as I enjoyed this one. I didn’t want to put it down!

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Tessa Afshar’s Thief of Corinth

Thief of Corinth by [Afshar, Tessa]

First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm. It’s also filled with danger and corruption—the perfect setting for Ariadne’s greatest adventure.

After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father’s home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city’s corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.

Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father’s apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future—and very lives—hanging in the balance.

When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they’ve fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.

Be transported back in time by this gripping tale of adventure, bravery, and redemption, and discover why Debbie Macomber says, “No one brings the Bible to life like Tessa Afshar.”

Review

I always read Tessa Afshar’s books when they come out and I was very excited about this one. My thoughts:

What I liked

History. Tessa Afshar really is able to bring alive cultures and worlds that I’ve read about in the Bible in such a way as to make them real. I think it’s easy to forget that these were real people with real lives and it’s so fascinating to see it come alive on the pages. I always learn so much.

Secondary characters. Theo, Justus, Dionysius, the Claudias, the rest of Ariadne’s family…all of them are very unique and present a different look into the times and place in which they lived. Not to mention the hero in this story. Afshar writes great heroes! Though this book isn’t necessarily romance focused, it has a very sweet romance that envelopes slowly on the pages.

Spiritually, I thought the way the author incorporated a faith in Jesus really worked seamlessly with the narrative. I particularly liked how the book doesn’t just end with salvation…the characters must learn to walk and live it out!

What I didn’t like

For me, it felt like I kept waiting for this book to get started. So much of it in the beginning is the laying out of what’s happened and watching Ariadne grow up. I think because the book is titled the Thief of Corinth, I read the book waiting for specific events to happen and actually didn’t get them until much later. For this reason, it felt very slow in the beginning.

Also, strangely enough, I did not connect to Ariadne. I think due to some of the author’s detailed explaining, a distance was created there.

Lastly, my favorite character kept getting the short end of the stick in the book. The author tried to put a positive spin on it, but I just wanted him to really win for once.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a good book, though not my favorite from the author.

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

 

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Reviews in the Queue

Here are a few books I’ve picked up and will be reviewing soon:

Thief of Corinth by [Afshar, Tessa]

First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm. It’s also filled with danger and corruption—the perfect setting for Ariadne’s greatest adventure.

After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father’s home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city’s corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.

Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father’s apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future—and very lives—hanging in the balance.

When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they’ve fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.

Be transported back in time by this gripping tale of adventure, bravery, and redemption, and discover why Debbie Macomber says, “No one brings the Bible to life like Tessa Afshar.”

Take a Chance (The Bridgeport Social Club Series) by [Shelley Shepard Gray]

Kurt Holland wants the best for his younger brother, which is why he moves Sam to Bridgeport, Ohio. It’s a bigger town with a well-known high school. Just the place to give his little brother more opportunities—maybe even a scholarship to college. Kurt hopes his gamble pays off, since Sam’s future isn’t the only thing riding on it. Kurt’s put most of his savings into a new landscaping business there, too. But when Sam gets in trouble for fighting at school, Kurt isn’t so sure it was the right decision … until he meets Sam’s English teacher.

Emily Springer is passionate about helping all of her students succeed, but there’s something about Sam Holland that makes her want to go the extra mile. When he’s caught in a fight at school, she goes to bat in his defense, and during a conference with the principal she meets Sam’s rugged older brother—and guardian. Emily has a strict no-dating policy when it comes to her students’ parents, but Kurt isn’t technically Sam’s parent. It’s OK to bend the rules a little bit, right?

In an effort to make some friends and find a place in the Bridgeport community, Kurt starts up a weekly poker game in his garage. It’s not long before everyone wants in, and they all soon discover that these Friday night poker gatherings are about more than just the game.

Shelley Shepard Gray’s new Bridgeport Social Club series is about men who need a place to call home, a community in need of hope, and a group of women who are special enough to help both things happen. This first installment is genuine and heartfelt. It’s filled with hope, warmth, and the belief that love and acceptance can overcome any tough situation.

 

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.

Which one are you excited about?

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Dani Pettrey’s Dead Drift

Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor Book #4) by [Pettrey, Dani]

Burning debris littering the ground . . . smoke pluming in the acrid air . . . this is just the beginning if he fails.

Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to become part of an elite team set on capturing a deadly terrorist. When Luke returns to face those he left behind, their help becomes his only hope of stopping his target’s latest threat of an attack that would shake America to its core.

Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster.

Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark?

Review

I have had the pleasure of reading all of Dani Pettrey’s books. My thoughts:

What I liked

Not as many povs. I really think book three suffered from the case of too many povs. Fortunately, Luke told most of the story in this book, just like I thought he should. He’s been such a mystery for most of the story that I wanted to know who he was and what he had been up to. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn too much about him personally (see below), but we definitely learn what he’s been up to and why he made the decisions he made.

A suspense and a mystery. This book manages to go back and forth, deftly juggling both a suspense and a mystery. I believe a suspense novel is based on the idea that you, the reader, know who the bad guy is, but you read to see the main character(s) connect the dots. This would be the international issue that was introduced in the previous book. I will admit that I was not as invested in the suspense, as I appreciate a good old-fashioned who-done-it more, but Pettrey does a good job of not overpowering you with information so as to get you lost or uninterested. She also managed to make the bad guy feel more human and not just come across as some evil villain. I was, however, really looking forward to solving the mystery of who killed Jenna, and while some parts seemed to randomly come together fast, I did enjoy Griff and Finley solving that mystery.

Characters. Kudos to Pettrey for creating a cast of characters that each had their own personalities and quirks, so much so that I never got them confused with the others. My favorite two will always be Griff and Finley followed by Parker and Avery, but they were all wonderful fictional people to spend time with.

Spiritually, the characters pray and seek God and make real efforts to grow and develop their faith.

What I didn’t like

Honestly, this is a matter of personal preference. This is a plot driven book. Something is happening in just about every chapter; places blowing up, people being shot at, clues being stumbled upon (some of the clues were handed to them so quick, I wondered what took them so long to get there). With so much action, there was very little room for genuine characterization. To me, Luke and Kate were very superficial. That’s not necessarily bad, it just leaves for some rather unmemorable characters. I do believe that to a great degree, Pettrey relies on the first two books in her series to tell the stories of most of her characters (I usually adore the first two book), but then that means you mostly get action in the last two. This works for some people, but it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

Also, the romance was a bit of a disappointment. It was almost as though the main couple had to get together cause there was no one else left. There was talk about attraction and for once I was like, skip attraction, do they connect on a personal level? I wasn’t sure they did. As a romance lover, I would have liked more. However, if you’re going into this book ready for action, I think you will be satisfied.

Romantic scale: 6

Overall, I loved the first two books in this series and am super impressed with Pettrey’s vision by having an overarching mystery and suspense that spans four novels. But, I do think in the rush to do it all, some character development was missing and ironically, some of the suspense/mystery happened too fast.

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

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Jill Williamson’s King’s War

King's War (The Kinsman Chronicles Book #3) by [Williamson, Jill]

One battle is over, but the war has just begun. They escaped the Five Realms and have found a home, but peace is much harder to find. The aftermath of the Battle of Sarikar should have been a time to mourn those lost in the slaughter. The enemies of Armania are many, however, and when one steps back to regroup, another surges forward in attack.

While the remnant must take responsibility for the evil they brought to Er’Rets, it would seem that something just as dark already existed in this new world. The growing struggle between Armania and Barthel Rogedoth is but a pale reflection of a far more dangerous battle for the souls of humanity.

And so begins this awe-inspiring conclusion to Jill Williamson’s Kinsman Chronicles. The Hadar family and their allies prepare to make one final stand in the name of Arman. There shall be war–in Er’Rets and in the Veil–to vanquish evil or be ruled by darkness.

Review

I love Jill Williamson’s novels. Just love them. I was very excited about this last book in the series, but I’m not going to lie. It took me a minute to get really into it because of all the characters and side stories going on. Unless the character was an absolute favorite, I had kind of forgotten what certain people were doing, their relationships, and what they were involved in. However, once I got pulled in, the book didn’t let go.

I am in awe of the vision that Williamson had as she pulls together all the pieces of the Kinsman Chronicles and the Blood of Kings trilogy. We’ve got King Trevn, who I will be honest and say I knew he would be king (because of the Blood of Kings trilogy) who is learning how to rule a really messed up kingdom. I always liked him in the previous books, but he really shines in this one. You can see how he’s matured from the boy who ran from responsibilities into someone who faces them head on. Then there’s Hinck who grew from Trevn’s shadow to a man in his own right; Oli, Onika, Grayson, Kalanek…the list goes on. There were so many great characters who were allowed to grow and change and make mistakes and still be interesting while doing it. And the great part about all of them was that they felt human. Just because this is characterized as christian fiction, doesn’t mean that Williamson shied away from the realities of life.

Spiritually, I thought the book was on point as an allegory. You really see the difference between magic (i.e. witchcraft) and the power of God. I’m not sure if that was Williamson’s point, but that definitely stood out to me.

What I didn’t like

There was one character, a female, who I did like in the previous books but who completely became a TSTL character. I was guaranteed that if there was going to be trouble, she was going to be right there in the midst of it. At one point, we, the reader, are supposed to fear for her life and I was thinking if she died there would be no real loss. She just got on my nerves and I’m not sure I loved who she became.

Williamson is building towards a great battle starting with the second book in this series. She absolutely delivers. But it got so long and detailed, I did start skimming.

Romantic scale: 6

Overall, a great series! It made me immediately pick up the Blood of Kings series and do a reread. I do think the Blood of Kings was a better series, but mostly because it was focused on two povs throughout the series so you really connected with the characters. I’m not a huge fan of the multiple povs. That said, kudos to the author for doing it and doing it well. I hope Williamson isn’t done writing about this world. I’m not ready to let these people go.

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Beth White’s A Rebel Heart

A Rebel Heart (Daughtry House Book #1) by [White, Beth]

Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family’s Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land.

Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he’ll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to “supervise” while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose.

Selah isn’t sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she’d do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

Review

One of the reasons I requested this book is because I love reading about the Civil War and its aftereffects in fiction. My thoughts:

What I liked

Cast of characters. Usually I get annoyed when there are just too many characters on the pages, but White managed to create a cast of characters that were unique and diverse enough that I didn’t get lost or confused as to who I was reading. They also had very distinct personalities, making them come alive on the pages. I enjoyed Selah’s sisters and her cousin and even their relationship with their various neighbors.

Treatment of former slaves. Usually in these kinds of books, the former slaves work for their former masters with joy. I liked that there was some complex feelings here. The former slaves did not immediately jump at the chance to work for their former slave owners and everyone had to deal with hurt feelings on both sides.

Spiritually, the novel deals with forgiveness and how if you let it, bitterness will destroy you.

What I didn’t like

I hate to sound like some kind of creative writing police, but there was a lot of telling and not enough showing in this book. It wasn’t bad. It just felt like the characters didn’t go much past the surface. We are told Selah is brilliant and ‘should have been born a man.’ And yet most of the book she just seems really stressed. She doesn’t make things happen, things happen to her.

Levi is a Yankee who fought in the war and comes to the south. We are told people don’t like him but everyone (other than the obvious villain) does. He also is there to solve a mystery but half the time I wasn’t sure what it was.

The romance was too straight forward for my taste. Not bad, but not exciting.

The book only really dealt with the effect of the Civil War in a surface way. I mean, yes, the villain was a villain because of the hatred he developed as a result of the war, but sometimes the details are in the small things and we don’t really get them here

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, this was not a bad book. I think I went into this book expecting one thing and it just wasn’t as complex as I would have liked.

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

Posted in Historical

Elizabeth Camden’s A Daring Venture

A Daring Venture (An Empire State Novel Book #2) by [Camden, Elizabeth]

As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city–but only if she can get people to believe in her work.

Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team’s techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist.

While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

Review

 Elizabeth Camden is a favorite author of mine and not because I love every book she’s written. It’s because I know when I pick up a book by her, I’m going to get a smart, intelligent, pioneering woman (who is still a woman of her times!) matched with a unique and fascinating hero. In that regard, this book is no different. Plus it’s the sequel to one of my favorite Camden books. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Rosalind.  Some of the time. She’s a typical Camden heroine. She’s smart and gutsy. She cares deeply about others and she has this fascinating past that made me want to learn more about her.

Nick. We were introduced to him in the first book, and I was really excited to learn more. He’s also very smart and kind but also exuberant, outgoing, and yet has a temper. He’s very much a layered hero.

History. You learn so much about drinking water and chlorine. While reading this book, I had to stop and google things to see what had really happened.

The romance. It was kind of strange. I didn’t care for how some of it went down (look below), but even though this book had some definite insta-attraction, I still found myself very curious as to how everything was going to come together.

Spiritually the novel deals with forgiveness…on all kinds of layers.

What I didn’t like:

The secrets. There are just too many and I’m not a fan of how they were revealed. I really don’t like deception in books unless it’s handled well and this felt a bit too formulaic and cliche for me. Because of the secrets, it really made certain characters that I liked, look bad.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed with this book and most likely because I thoroughly enjoyed the first one. However, I won’t ever stop reading Camden. She always manages to provide something fresh and new to the table.

Romantic scale: 7.5

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