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Irma Joubert The Crooked Path

The Crooked Path by [Joubert, Irma]

Lettie has always felt different from and overshadowed by the women around her– this friend is richer, that friend is more beautiful, those friends are closer. Still, she doesn’t let this hold her back. She works hard to apply her mind, trying to compensate for her perceived lack of beauty with diligent academic work and a successful career as a doctor. She learns to treasure her friendships, but she still wonders if any man will ever return her interest.

Marco’s experience in the second world war have robbed him of love and health. When winters in his native Italy prove dangerous to his health even after the war has ended, he moves to South Africa to be with his brother, husband to one of Lettie’s best friends. Marco is Lettie’s first patient, and their relationship grows as she aids him on the road back to restored health.

In the company of beloved characters from The Child of the River, Marco and Lettie find a happiness that neither of them thought possible. With that joy comes pain and loss, but Lettie learns that life—while perhaps a crooked path—is always a journey worth taking.

Review

I have read every book written by Irma Joubert that has been translated into English. I am a big fan. My thoughts regarding this book:

What I liked:

Relatable heroines. Joubert always manages to write wonderful heroines. They are strong and smart and from the first page you will find yourself invested in their story. Lettie is no different. Having read other books by the author I had come across Lettie before and it was nice to be in her head. She has real insecurities that are completely relatable and yet she works so hard to be successful. She is kind and smart and thoughtful and easy to root for.

History. This book takes place during WW2 (and just after) in Europe and in South Africa. While I have some familiarity with Europe during WW2, I don’t have as much with South Africa. Knowing so little about South Africa, I found everything about it fascinating.

Secondary characters. It’s probably because I’ve read other books with these characters, but I found myself so curious about everyone and the different relationships between them. I rejoiced when they rejoiced and cried when they cried.

Romance. Joubert writes romances that heartfelt and deep and have such a way of sneaking up on you.

Spiritually, I will admit the characters have a tendency to come off as religious, but they do pray and attend church.

What I didn’t Like

Pacing. The pacing in this book felt a bit off.  It was slow when I thought it should have been fast and fast when I wanted to tell it to slow down. This book scanned decades. I had no problem with that I just was so confused by some of the decades she chose to focus on and the ones she chose to speed through.

Romantic Scale: 8

Overall, while this wasn’t my favorite book by Joubert (that would be The Girl From the Train), I was glad to read it and will continue to read anything she writes (that’s translated to English!).

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

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Bethany Turner’s The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by [Turner, Bethany]

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

Review

It’s not often I pick up a debut author’s book without reading any reviews, but after reading the blurb of this book I was completely hooked. My thoughts:

What I Liked

The topic. I loved, loved, loved the idea of a steamy romance novelist getting saved and falling for a pastor and kind of dealing with the fallout of that. I thought the author did a lovely job of raising all the issues and problems that a situation like that would bring because the issues Sarah faced felt real. I like that the author doesn’t shy away from sexual temptation and what that looks like. She also provides some practical ways a believer can address those kinds of concerns. She faces tough topics straight on without brushing past them and it really made this novel standout.

Dating. Okay, this book suffers from one of my least favorite tropes: insta-love. And when I say insta-love, they were bringing up the “L” word on the first date. That said, I love the way the author walked them through their courtship. I love that they set up rules to follow and that one of those rules was to be completely honest with each other. Both Sarah and her guy really worked to make their relationship a success and to have a relationship built on a solid foundation.

Spiritually, you see Sarah get saved and how being saved isn’t always the easiest thing…especially if you have to disconnect from your former life. We certainly see Sarah learn how to navigate this new facet of her life throughout the tale.

What I Didn’t Like

Telling. There was just so much telling in this book. Because this book is first person narrative (and I don’t mind that) a lot of Sarah’s past is revealed through her own personal summary which she tells the reader. Then Sarah has a friend that she uses as a sounding board throughout the entire novel (we learn almost next to nothing about the girl) where they literally just meet only to talk about Sarah. Then we are told that Sarah falls instantly in love with her guy and him with her, so we don’t get to see that develop as a reader. Then her and her guy spend a lot of time talking and rarely doing stuff that shows us things about their character. With all the telling, I found myself not as invested in the characters and as this is not a plot driven novel, it would have benefited from stronger character development. As a reader, I didn’t know the characters past what they told me about themselves and thus, I found myself skimming a lot.

*Personal pet peeve. This doesn’t affect the rating of the book, but and this may be spoilery, a pastor and his wife are both called to ministry, in my opinion. I have no problem with a pastor’s wife having a colorful past when unsaved, I do have a problem with a pastor’s wife only being saved a few months before becoming a pastor’s wife. It just seemed like she needed to be a stronger, more tested believer and no one seemed to bring that up. But again, that’s just me.

Romantic scale: 5

Overall, kudos to the author for tackling this subject matter! I’m very interested to see what she does next.

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

 

 

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Elizabeth Camden’s A Dangerous Legacy

A Dangerous Legacy (An Empire State Novel Book #1) by [Camden, Elizabeth]

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

Review

Elizabeth Camden is an auto-buy author for me…not because I love everything she writes. It’s because she’s a good writer and more than that…one of those rare ones who is able to create different heroines and heroes in each novel. I never know what to expect and I love that feeling. I will admit that with this one, I started it, and then put it back down. Usually I can tell where a book is going almost from the first few chapters. I couldn’t with this one. However, once I picked it back up, I fell in love with it. My thoughts:

What I liked

The plot. Here we have a bit of a Bleak House (Charles Dickens) situation. Lucy and her brother are in the midst of fighting a legal case that’s been fought for generations. The family that they’re fighting though is not just legally annoying; they do everything they can to tear down Lucy and her brother’s life. Then you have Colin who is a titled gentleman from London. At first I didn’t know where he fit in as he is trying to marry an heiress. And yet somehow these two plots managed to get tangled in such a lovely way.

Lucy. My initial reaction was oh goodness, Lucy is going to be one of those heroines who is really rabid about something to the point where she  puts it above everything else…but she’s not. She’s kind and generous and smart and thoughtful (Camden creates some of the most brilliant heroines). Obviously she cares about the legal case but that’s because she has an innate sense of justice. The case does drive her, but never to the point where she becomes unlikeable.

Colin. Colin is a man with a great sense of duty and honor. Even though he’s trying to marry an heiress, you know it’s because he cares about his tenants at home and taking care of his family line. I like that he’s a man who can take charge and still lives with his nanny. He’s very smart and brave and yet suffers from a malady that makes him look weak. He’s complex, but loveable.

The romance. This was a romance based on honesty. Thank you Elizabeth Camden. Colin and Lucy are completely upfront with each other regarding what they want. There are no secrets and no hissy-fits. They enter their friendship/relationship with their eyes open. And this served to make their romance just that more tender, just that more sweet.

The history. I managed to learn so much about this era in time, about plumbing, about honing pigeons, about journalism, about telegrams and so much more…all without the author stopping to give me long paragraphs explaining how it worked. She was able to interweave all these facts into the narrative effortlessly.

Spiritually, both Colin and Lucy learn what’s really important in life and once they’re willing to give it up and trust God, He will make a way.

What I didn’t like

I guess I should say the beginning since it didn’t draw me in right away, but other than that, I really had fun with this book.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, a real winner. As always I’m looking forward to the next Camden novel

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

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Dani Pettrey’s Blindspot

Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor Book #3) by [Pettrey, Dani]

FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

Review

I’m always excited when a Dani Pettrey novel comes out. She always manages to combine romance, a big family (whether biologically related or not) and a good mystery. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Plot driven. It’s not often I read a plot driven novel, but this one is definitely that. There is a lot going. Almost on every page there’s a revelation or someone being shot or something random happening. It’s a very quick-paced book that makes for a quick read.

Tanner and Declan. We’ve been getting tidbits about them from previous novels and so it was nice to get them on the page. I liked what I read, I only wished I could have learned more (see below).

The cast of characters. Pettrey has created a nice mix of main and secondary characters who have their own talents and gifts and quirks. They come together and feel like family.

The way the book ended. That was a lovely cliffhanger ending. I’ve been waiting for it since book one and I’m very excited to see where the author takes things.

Spiritually, the novel has characters who pray and seek God’s direction throughout the novel.

What I didn’t like:

Mystery. There are two mysteries in this book. There’s a murder/stealing one and there’s an international one that has been carried over from the last book. The problem was that I didn’t remember the details of the last book. I felt a bit lost in the latter mystery and it took me a while to find my footing or really care. And when I don’t care about a mystery I fall back on the characters. But that lead me to another problem…

Too many characters. I like all of the characters that Pettrey has in the series. The problem though, was that the main characters, Declan and Tanner, really kind of suffered here. Obviously if you’ve been reading the series, then as a reader you’ve been introduced to them already, however, I was fully expecting to get behind the surface of them. Instead, I maybe learned one or two new things about them and the everything else was superficial. But the reason for this I thought was because the author was too busy telling other people’s stories…people who already had their own books. I wanted more Declan and Tanner (who is not American born so why is her name Tanner??).

Which leads me to my last problem, the romance.  I didn’t get to know who Declan and Tanner are (ok we learn an interesting tidbit about Tanner and then that’s it. No more. Nothing about her family or culture). Having read the other books, I felt like Declan and Tanner got the short end of the stick in the telling of their story.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a very good, quick read. I felt like I was watching an hour of mystery on tv. I would have wished for more fleshed out characters…to learn why they think the way they do or tick a certain way and I felt like I didn’t get that with this one. Nevertheless, I am sure most people won’t have the hangups I did. Looking forward to the fourth one!

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

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Tamera Alexander’s Christmas at Carnton

Christmas at Carnton: A Novella by [Alexander, Tamera]

A Christmas story to launch a brand new three-book series . . . The Carnton Novels

Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas – and of sacrificial love.
Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son.With the bank threatening to evict, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position – only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity – and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?
Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects.Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies – one, in particular – is far more than he bargained for.
Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.
Review
Tamera Alexander is an auto-buy author for me because of her lovely detailed romances and her ability to effortlessly interweave history throughout her narrative. My thoughts:
What I liked:
Aletta. Immediately she becomes a character that I feel for. She is a war widow with one child and another on the way and she is having serious money problems. She’s also a woman who has gifts and talents that are not necessarily attributed to women in that day. She’s a hard worker and she makes so many sacrifices all while going through a very difficult time. I very  much liked her.
Jake. Jake is battling losing a piece of his identity and learning a new way of life he didn’t plan for. He is kind and compassionate and willing to admit when he makes mistakes.
Romance. Together Aletta and Jake make sense. At first, I didn’t think they would because there is something strange about a man courting a pregnant woman, but it worked here. In typical Alexander fashion, you see the two of them become friends first before they really fall for each other. At the end of the novel, you have a romance they believe in.
Spiritually, both Aletta and Jake must learn to trust God in difficult, unexpected times.
What I Didn’t Like
I thought the pacing was fine, but I could see how some people might have found this book to be a bit slow at times. This is not a plot driven book. It’s very much character driven.
Also this is a personal preference, but I am not sure why these people in these huge plantation homes are so interesting. For me the least interesting part of the novel is learning about the people at Carnton (nevertheless I shall read this series).
Romantic scale: 8
Overall, I really enjoyed this novella. The best part was that it didn’t actually feel like a novella. Every character was so fully crafted and rounded. It’s a lovely start to a new series and I can’t wait to read more!
* I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**
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Nicole Deese’s A New Shade of Summer

A New Shade of Summer (Love in Lenox) by [Deese, Nicole]

As an artist, Callie Quinn relies on inspiration to guide her wandering soul. This summer she accepts a short-term muralist job in her sister’s charming town to spend some much-needed time with her family. After meeting her nephew’s friend, Brandon, she’s eager to draw out his untapped artistic talents—however, it’s the boy’s straitlaced single father who could use a little color in his life.

Davis Carter may be the town’s favorite animal whisperer, but his experience is limited when it comes to understanding his preteen’s rebellious behavior. Desperate for a breakthrough, he follows the lead of a free spirit who claims to know the way into his son’s closed-off world. Soon, Davis isn’t the only one caught up in the hope of a new beginning.

Just as Callie considers trading her unattached existence for a life rich with promise and permanence, an unexpected visit from the past threatens to send her packing once again. Davis and Callie must learn to surrender their fears so they can find a love that will outlast the summer.

Review

5 Reasons You Should Read This Book

1. Contemporary romance done well. Quite frankly, Christian fiction authors don’t do contemporary romance well because they have a tendency to invent reasons (and they’re usually not believable) as to why a couple can’t be together. Deese is one of the rare few contemporary christian authors who can come up with a solid plot and a good romance.

2. Personality conflicts. Sometimes I think that the best romances are when the H/h are different and are still drawn to each other. I loved that Davis is a rule-follower and Callie is a free spirit. It always made me excited to see how they would each react to the other’s ideas and plans.

3. Kid. Normally I don’t like books with children. However, if utilized well can add a fun and interesting dynamic to the story. Brandon is a fascinating kid. I found myself as invested in him as I did in the main characters.

4. Romance. Because romance. I saw where the book was going almost from the first page. I was a little concerned with how Deese would play the situation out, but she managed to bring it together in such a way that even though it did follow the formula it felt new.

5. Well written & good theme (yes, I’m slipping a sixth point in). I meant to read one chapter. I read the whole book in hours. The theme was along the lines of you are not your past. Don’t let the history decide your future.

In other words, if you haven’t read this book, do!

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2017 Christy Awards

Image result for 2017 christy awards

Last night I saw the list for the 2017 Christy Awards Finalists…and I was annoyed. Not by the authors who made the list. The authors who made the list are very good writers and well deserving of the accolades, I’m sure. I’ve read a few books on the list. Once upon a time I would have read them all, but you see, lately I’ve taken a bit of a giant step backwards from Christian fiction. Maybe you can tell in the fact that I once I used to blog three times a week, and now I blog three, maybe four times a month. I used to interview authors. That rarely happens now. I used to do giveaways….and that has gone the way of the birds.

You see what happened was, after almost ten years of immersing myself in almost solely Christian novels, as a young Christian black female, I got tired. I got tired of reading only white authors, reading about historical events through only white eyes, and hearing about only white people problems. To be honest, after a while it all felt monotonous.

And I just don’t understand how this can be. Would someone please explain to me why the only fiction authors mainstream publishers sign with are white? Don’t get me wrong there is always one maybe two minority authors (this would currently be Tessa Afshar, she is phenomenal and deserves to be read) on the roster at a time. But where white authors can stand the test of time, most minority authors cannot.

After all these years of attending ACFW conferences, reading Christian fiction writing blogs, following Christian authors on twitter on Facebook, I have deduced three things of which one must be true:

  1. Minority Christian authors are not good writers;
  2. Minority Christian authors are just not interested in being published by mainstream Christian publishers;
  3. Christian publishers aren’t interested in minority writers.

I have a prediction. My prediction is that if Christian fiction continues on the path it is going, which is writing to only a specific group of people, it will slowly dry up. Because let’s face it folks, there are a ton of minorities in America and around the world, and if they are anything like me, after a few years, reading about white people through the eyes of  only white people will only be so exciting for so long. Christian fiction is ignoring a huge demographic and certainly not attempting to reach others.

Am I bitter about this? To be honest? Yes. And you might be too if you realized that it was 2017…that you’ve been reading Christian fiction for at least 13 years and still, still there are so few minority Christian published authors. I don’t have children. But let’s say I have a daughter down the road and she loves historical romance just as much as me, if I don’t want her to read secular romance (and I won’t) I’ll have to steer her to Christian romance and after reading Christian historical romance for some time, she will realize that she’s only ever depicted as a friendly slave or a deeply spiritual servant.

Nevertheless, I will continue to read some Christian fiction. I like Christian fiction. I like reading books with hope and purpose and there are some really good authors out there. At the end of the day, the important thing is the story, and I do acknowledge that. It is just that sometimes the mainstream Christian fiction publishing world feels like a 1960s general store that just took down its ‘whites only’ sign. Now I can go in, now I can walk around; the people may even be friendly and encouraging. But, the reality of the matter is that I’m not welcome there.