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Tammy L Gray’s Until I Knew Myself

Until I Knew Myself (Bentwood Book 1) by [Gray, Tammy L.]

Tyler Mitchell grew up an orphan, taken in by his best friend’s family when he was only sixteen. Even though ten years have passed, and he’s been given everything he should ever want—a loving home, an adoring girlfriend, a successful career, and lifelong friendships—Tyler has always felt a foreigner in his own life.

When a surprising phone call reveals the death of his biological grandfather, Tyler’s seemingly perfect life starts to unravel. The people he loves most in world have kept from him the greatest secret of all—knowledge of his father’s family.

Now hunting for more information about his past, Tyler discovers nothing is quite as it seems. And the definition of family is far more complicated than choosing between blood and loyalty.

Review

Tammy L. Gray is an auto-buy author for me.  My thoughts:

What worked

Contemporary. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, most Christian authors don’t write contemporary Christian books well. They invent problems. I never feel that way about Tammy’s books. Her characters feel like people of their times and their problems feel organic.

Tyler. I adored him. I found him to be so understandable. Every time he was on the page I wanted to know what happened next. Somethings he came across were a bit predictable, but how he dealt with them was unique. I really liked him.

Secondary cast. Tammy always manages to create a dynamic group of people. This groups is no different. They love each other. They fight with each other. They are different from each other. They balance out each other. I’m looking forward to their books.

Spiritually, the concept of why live like an orphan when we’re children of God? Although I will say that maybe only one character was actually a believer…

What didn’t work:

The romance. For some reason, the main couple in this book did not work for me. I found myself wanting Tyler to end up with someone else (though if I’m right, based off of where the novel is going, that relationship was a no go). Nevertheless, Tyler and his lady didn’t seem to make each other better. They seemed to make each other worse. I found myself tense every time he was with her and relaxed when she was gone.

Romantic scale: 6

I didn’t love this book, but it was still good and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

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Jennifer Haynie’s Loose Ends

Loose Ends (Unit 28) by [Haynie, Jennifer]

Review

I have actually never read this author before and I felt like taking a chance! My thoughts:

What I liked

Unit 28. I rarely read books with a CIA bend because they have a tendency to overwhelm a reader with details. Usually there are lots of points of views and plots within plots. However, I found this narrative easy to follow. There are several points of views, but I actually found them helpful rather than distracting. The various plot points all felt connected and I didn’t find myself getting lost. I also found that I really like the idea of spies, international mysteries, and secrets within secrets.

Suspense. I would hesitate to call this book a mystery since you get the “bad guys” povs, but there is certainly suspense and a kind of will-they, won’t-they get everything done in time.

Diversity. I loved that this book had main characters who were diverse…and they weren’t just sidekicks but main characters.

Romance. In this book, the couple was already established. And yet, they still had to work out some kinks and learn to be a couple. I enjoyed watching them work together as a couple without a lot of drama.

Spiritually, the characters pray and seek God for guidance.

What I didn’t like

This is not the first book in the series, and I haven’t read the others. Therefore I was a little bit lost as to where this book was going, I wasn’t sure what Alex and Jabir actually did, and it felt like the book took a minute to get to the plot.

There was some secret telling that was almost unbelievable in the way that the person wanted to protect their secret.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.

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

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Francine Rivers’ The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece by [Rivers, Francine]

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want—money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist—an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship—and both their lives—forever.

Review

Francine Rivers has managed to write some of my favorite books ever…and then the occasional book that left me largely confused. Thus, I was a bit worried when approaching The Masterpiece. My thoughts:

Reasons why you should read The Masterpiece:

1.  As usual, Rivers tackles contemporary issues effortlessly. A lot of Christian authors avoid certain topics like sex, dating, partying, etc., Rivers confronts it all head on. She’s not afraid of the heavy topics and that’s what really makes her novels stay with you.

2. Complex characters. No one is all good or all bad. They are sinners saved by grace. At the same time, once they’re saved they are not wishy-washy Christians.

  3. Complex storytelling. Rivers has a lot of flashbacks within this novel. She’s going somewhere and I like where it ended.

  4. Spiritually, this novel deals with so much, but what stood out to me is that hell is real and salvation isn’t a game.

Reasons that might give you pause:

  1. For me it started a bit slow. I started the novel the first day it came out…and then put it back down. Don’t worry though, it picks up!
  2. Due to the time jumps it might take a minute to get invested in the characters. I came to really appreciate the back and forth between the present day and the past. But at first? Not so much.
  3. The romance at times might feel like a more modern version of Marcus and Hadassah (characters from her Mark of the Lion Series). And while that’s one of my favorite series ever, romantically I always felt like the focus was so much on the spiritual, that the romance suffered a bit. However, there are some marked differences and you still find yourself rooting for the couple.
  4. It might start feeling a bit long towards the end. Yeah…it might.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I see potential for a series??

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Sarah Sundin’s The Sea Before Us

The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy Book #1) by [Sundin, Sarah]

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a ÒWrenÓ in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

Review

Sarah Sundin is an auto-buy author for me. I love the way she approaches WWII in such different ways and her complex characters. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Wyatt. Almost from the beginning of the book he becomes a character that I am rooting for. He is your quintessential nice guy…often to his own fault. He’s got this interesting back story with his brothers that gets fleshed out as the book goes along. It really serves to lay a foundation that I’m interested in seeing the series  being built upon.

Dorothy. She’s a bit hard to like at first. Although her desire for a certain guy is explained, I was still confused why she liked the guy she did. Her desire for this guy almost made her weak at moments, but she does redeem herself.

Complex characters. Sundin has a way of making her main hero and heroine have a particular struggle that they must overcome throughout the novel. While that is addressed here, it is not in the same way as her other books. So kudos to the author!

Romance. Wyatt and Dorothy have a relationship that is built on friendship and honesty. I loved every moment of it. They don’t lie to each other and they do everything they can to respect the other.

Historically, Sundin reveals a part of D-Day that’s not often discussed. If you’re interested in this part of history, you will learn much.

Spiritually, the characters pray and seek God. Dorothy learns what real love looks like and Wyatt learns how to forgive himself.  Both learn to take steps of faith.

What I didn’t like

It’s possible to get lost in some of the WWII details, but I really enjoyed this book. Also, on a personal note, some of the language used seemed a bit corny, but that is probably how they talked in the 1940s.

Romantic Scale: 8

Overall, a very good book. I found myself  reading well into the night. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

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

 

 

 

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Roseanna M White’s A Song Unheard

A Song Unheard (Shadows Over England Book #2) by [White, Roseanna M.]

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

Review

Roseanna M. White is one of my favorite authors. Only she can write a book with deception as part of the blurb and still have me read it. She has taught me trust her. My thoughts:

What I liked:

 

One thing that Ms. White did well in this novel (and does well generally) is to create such dynamic characters. Not only are they complex, but Willa and Lukas manage to play off of each other in such interesting ways. There is Willa who is very straight forward and to the point…even as she has to hide parts of herself for her mission. And then there is Lukas who appears to be straightforward on the surface, but is obviously hiding something below. Willa is both sensitive and worldly. Lukas is both sensitive and worldly. And yet they are sensitive and worldly in such very different ways.

There are actually two storylines in this book. Generally speaking I do not like two storylines, but the second story was so fascinating that I enjoyed every page of it and found myself thoroughly engrossed.

Obviously, there’s deception here, but once again, White handles it so beautifully!

Romantically, I love how Willa and Lukas come together. It feels very organic even though they are such different people.

Historically, you learn so much. It’s a different aspect of WWI that I didn’t know much about and White is able to teach me without making me feel like I was learning.

Spiritually, the novel deals with trust and what it looks like to be a new creature in Christ.

What I didn’t like

Pretty much loved every word!

Romantic scale: 8.9

Overall, loved this book! If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

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

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Jaime Jo Wright’s The House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill by [Wright, Jaime Jo]

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives–including her own–are lost?

Review

I requested this book because I love gothic novels. I have read tons and tons of them (Rebecca by Du Maurier being of course the standard). I had never heard of a Christian gothic novel and thought this could be fun. My thoughts:

What I liked

The author does hit the gothic notes. I was worried the book wouldn’t. Never fear. You have the creepy house that’s a character unto itself. You have the narrators whose mindset you can’t quite trust. You have the strange town and townspeople. And then there are all the gothic effects: dark and stormy nights, unseen danger in the shadows, centuries old mysteries.

Two stories. I’m not always a fan of two stories, but I thought it worked nicely here (even though this is not a typical gothic feature). You have Ivy’s story which is playing out the old mystery at the same time that Kaine is trying to solve that mystery along with a new one. I thought the balance between both stories was nicely done. I also really liked the tie between what was happening then and what was happening now. It added a touch of modernity to the gothic novel that really worked nicely.

Spiritually, the novel deals with believing and trusting God’s promises even when it is difficult. Faith in God gives you hope.

What I Didn’t Like

Gothic novels almost need to start with a light touch of the eerie and crescendo toward the end…otherwise it’s too melodramatic all the time. This book crossed into the line of too melodramatic. Kaine, the main character, arrives at the property already half-scared out of her mind. Everything was scary all the time to the point where almost nothing was. I appreciated the gothic notes, it just got to be a bit ham-fisted (a female character named Kaine?…I guess…).

I also didn’t think the Why questions were answered well. They were answered, but I was so skeptical the entire time I was reading the book. When I finished it I was still like why did this happen or why did that happen.

(Spoiler Warning) Why did the hero after meeting Kaine for five minutes drop everything he was doing and put her first? Why did the hero not have a life? Why did the hero have exactly the skills Kaine needed? Why did Kaine, having PTSD problems, decide to buy a house with a creepy background in the middle of nowhere? Why were people randomly helpful? Why didn’t Kaine leave the creepy house and come back when she was in a better mindset? Why did Ivy and Joel become so invested in this mystery to the point where they put their lives at risk? Because these why questions weren’t answered very well (we were just supposed to accept it), I found myself not the least bit invested in any of the characters. For me the book dragged a bit and I found myself skimming.

Romantic scale: 5.5

Overall, not bad, but it also didn’t quite draw me in.

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

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Laura Frantz’s The Lacemaker

The Lacemaker by [Frantz, Laura]

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

Review

Laura Frantz is an auto-buy author for me. She is a truly talented historian and storyteller. My thoughts:

What I liked:

History. Frantz always wields the sword of history so well. Every aspect of her book is expertly researched from the beginnings of the American Revolution down to the clothes each person wore. Without feeling like I was in a history class, I learned about lace-making, class issues, the Patriots, the Tories, spying, various historical figures that were real, etc. Not once did it feel overwhelming. Instead, I felt like I had a front row seat in a historical moment in time.

Liberty. Liberty becomes a real person almost right away. You learn her hopes and fears and what makes her tick. She’s a fully developed, complex character. And yet, still one that the reader can trust.

The hero. You can’t find anyone much better than the hero. I did wish he had moved faster in regards to some things, but he was a man of strong character and kindness…a typical Frantz hero.

The romance. The romance develops out of a friendship that can be found amongst the pages. There’s nothing rushed here and nothing complicated.

Spiritually, the main characters pray, seek God, and learn to trust Him in hard times.

What I Didn’t Like

This is not necessarily a plot driven novel (though it has a plot!). It’s a character driven novel. That means that sometimes it felt a bit slow.

Romantic scale: 8.5

Overall, a lovely novel as usual by Laura Frantz. If you’ve enjoyed her other novels this one is not to be missed!

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