When I picked up The Girl From the Train, I wasn't sure I'd like it. Normally, I enjoy World War II fiction, but something about the description didn't interest me (though I immediately loved the cover). I'm glad I didn't let my hesitance deter me, as I ended up absolutely loving this novel! Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks. As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family. But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered. Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.
Spanning more than a dozen years, The Girl From the Train tells the story of an orphan and the man who rescued her. When Gretl and Jakób aren't together, the action goes back and forth between them, though the majority of the novel focuses on Gretl.
One thing that surprised me about The Girl From the Train was its positivity. Yes, Gretl's life was hard—even horrific—before Jakób took her under his wing, and Jakób's life was not easy, either. But rather than focusing on the bad, Joubert found a way to bring light to the story. As I read, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop—for Gretl's life to become unbearable. But that never happened; instead, Gretl's life changed for the better when Jakób decided to send her to South Africa. I loved following along on Gretl's journey.
The novel contains a touch of romance near the end (and it's a romance the reader will see coming long before it materializes), but overall, The Girl From the Train is about a little girl's search for belonging, which she finds in a diverse South African family. Gretl's new family is one of the highlights of the book. I especially loved Grandpa John, who understood Gretl perhaps better than anyone else. The Girl From the Train is an international bestseller that was originally published in Afrikaans in South Africa. The only indication that this is a translation is that sometimes, conversations seemed a bit awkward—like something got lost in translation. But that could just have to do with the way different cultures communicate, too.
Overall, I loved The Girl From the Train. It is absolutely fascinating, and it lends itself to discussion, making it a great book club selection. (In fact, it's Target's November 2015 Book Club pick!) I highly recommend it. 4-1/2 stars. Buy the book. International bestselling author Irma Joubertwas a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She's the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ARKV Prize for Romance Novels. Follow her on Facebook. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through The Fiction Guild. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Lynne Gentry's exciting time travel series concludes with Valley of Decision. Every choice has a consequence in the explosive conclusion to the Carthage Chronicles as Lisbeth returns to third-century Carthage for a thrilling final adventure. Thirteen years ago, Lisbeth made an impossible decision---leave third-century Carthage and her husband Cyprian behind for good. She knew it was to protect her daughter Maggie, so Lisbeth gathered the strength to move on with her life. All these years, Lisbeth has thrown herself into her work and raising her headstrong daughter, all to live up to the promise she made to Cyprian. But Maggie is sick of being protected. In an act of teenage rebellion Maggie decides to do what her mother can't---secretly returning to the third century on a quest to bring her father back, leaving Lisbeth no choice but to follow. With Maggie's surprise arrival in Carthage, chaos ensues. She finds her grandmother on trial for murder and attempts to save her, but instead the diversion sparks a riot that nearly destroys the plagued city. Only one thing will appease the wrath of the new proconsul of Carthage: the death of the instigator. Will Lisbeth arrive in time to save her daughter from the clutches of Rome? How can God possibly redeem such a slew of unwise decisions and deep regrets? Filled with heart-wrenching twists and riveting action, Valley of Decision brings the romantic adventure epic, The Carthage Chronicles, to an electrifying conclusion.
I have greatly enjoyed Lynne Gentry's Carthage Chronicles—and I'm sorry the series has come to a close! Before I get into my review, a caution: If you have not yet read the first two novels in the series, you'd be better off reading those reviews, rather than this one, as I can't help but mention some of the things that happened in those books. (Healer of Carthage, Return to Exile)
Valley of Decision picks up 13 years following the events of Return to Exile ... at least that's how long Lisbeth and her daughter Maggie have been back in our time. In Carthage, mere hours have passed, which leads to a lot of confusion when a grown up Maggie appears.
Maggie, having Googled her father Cyprian, knows his fate, and she's determined to save him. Lisbeth and her father follow Maggie to Carthage, determined to bring Maggie and Lisbeth's mother Magdalena home for good. The question is, is it possible to change history? Can Cyprian be saved from certain death?
It's difficult to review this novel without including spoilers, so I'll just say that Valley of Decision features a sweet, budding romance, heart-tugging family moments, and look at what it really means to stand up for your faith. (Now I'll include some info that could be considered spoilerish if you don't know anything about the real-life Cyprian.)
SPOILERS BELOW (if you're not familiar with 3rd Century Carthage)
Because Cyprian was a real person who really was martyred for his faith, I didn't doubt where the story would end (though I did kind of hope Gentry would find a way around it). But I did not expect how emotionally connected to Cyprian's story I would become. Gentry wrote Cyprian's final scenes in a way that made me want to simultaneously cheer and sob ... and I did a little of both! END SPOILERS
I began reading The Carthage Chronicles because I love time travel romances, but what really kept me engaged was reading about Christians in the third century. These novels have vividly brought third-century Carthage to life, and it's definitely a time travel journey worth taking. 5 stars.
Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, and playwright. Lynne is an inspirational speaker and dramatic performer who loves spending time with her family and medical therapy dog.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
If you've been hanging around here very long, you know that I'm a huge fan of Becky Wade's novels. (See the #1 books on my best of 2012 and best of 2014 lists.) One thing I hate? She only releases one book each year. (Not that I blame her—I realize that the publishing process takes time. I just wish I could somehow magic up more Becky Wade books.) Anyway, I was thrilled to discover that she had written one of Zondervan's Year of Weddings novellas. An entry in a series I love written by an author I love? Win-win! Holly ended things to give him a better life, but she was the future he’d always dreamed of. Eight years have passed since Holly last saw her high school sweetheart, Josh. Now the wedding of Josh’s best friend has brought him back to Martinsburg, Texas. His duties as best man and Holly's as the church's volunteer wedding coordinator link them together. As they work behind the scenes to plan a beautiful November wedding for their friends, they're forced to confront painful reminders of what might have been. Holly broke up with Josh all those years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. However, she never told him the true reason behind her actions and now must decide whether to keep her secret hidden. She's terrified of letting herself fall for him because she barely managed to piece her life back together after losing him the last time. Not a day's gone by since Josh parted from Holly that he hasn't thought about her. The pain of the past eight years has been too much to bear and he doesn't want to make himself vulnerable to her again. But the more time he spends with her, the harder it is to deny the love he still has for her.
Will Josh and Holly risk their hearts on the hope that God's timing really can be best? Love in the Details is a sweet "second chance at first love" novella that features characters not connected to Wade's other novels. Holly and Josh are both incredibly likable characters, and, in a departure from Wade's most recent heroes, Josh is fairly undamaged and really borders on perfection. Normally, I don't like "too perfect" heroes, but in this case, with this short novella-length time to get to know Josh, it works.
I loved watching Holly and Josh's relationship develop from the first awkward "nice to see you again" moment through the sigh-inducing happily ever after. And I may have giggled a few times along the way, too!
If you've never read a Becky Wade novel, Love in the Details will give you a nice introduction to her writing. And if you're a longtime fan like me, this novella is just what you need to hold you over until her next novel releases! 5 stars.
Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market, took time off to raise her children, then felt God nudging her to pursue contemporary Christian fiction. Becky's work has been a finalist for both a RITA and an INSPY Award.
Find Becky online: website, Facebook, Twitter Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an influencer copy of this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
In Chivalrous, Dina L. Sleiman has created a heroine that teen girls can look up to without making their mothers cringe. With Her Future In Jeopardy, This Unforgettable Heroine Won't Go Down Without a Fight! Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers, but her parents view her only as a marriage pawn. When her domineering father makes plans to see her wed to a brutish man, Gwendolyn must fight for her future. She's surprised, however, for that clash to include a handsome, good-hearted newcomer. Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, but he finds in Gwendolyn the most unexpected of women.
Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.
Dina L. Sleiman returns to the world of medieval England in Chivalrous, book two in her Valiant Hearts series. Chivalrous is set in the fictional North Britannia, a kingdom ruled by a Christian duke. However, not everyone in the kingdom follows the duke's Christian principles, including Gwendolyn's father, a hard, abusive man. When Gwen hears God referred to as a father, how can she trust Him, since the only father she has ever known treats her horribly?
Allen of Ellsworth (one of the "Ghosts of Farthingale Forest" from Dauntless) is welcomed to North Britannia with open arms. When tragedy strikes, Allen is presented with an opportunity he never expected...but at what cost?
Chivalrous is a fun, action-packed "girl power" kind of novel that also deals with some weighty issues. I absolutely loved Gwen's spunky character and her desire to follow her dreams, no matter what was expected of her as a woman. And Allen made a perfect complement to her—his esteem for women and acceptance of Gwen for who she was made him a great romantic hero. (He was not flawless, however; his pride was an issue throughout the novel.) Gwen's maid Rosalind also played an important role in Chivalrous, and I was excited to learn that she will be the heroine of the next Valiant Hearts novel.
While I didn't enjoy Chivalrous quite as much as I did Dauntless (probably because it took a bit longer to really get moving), it's still an excellent read. This would be a great book for mothers and daughters to read together, as it brings up issues such as obedience, abortion, abuse, and respect—issues that teen girls deal with today. 4 stars.
Dina L. Sleiman holds an MA in professional writing from Regent University and a BA in communications with a minor in English from Oral Roberts University. Over the past eighteen years, she has had opportunities to teach college writing and literature, as well as high school and elementary classes in English, humanities, and fine arts. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. She can be found online at www.dinasleiman.com.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Several weeks ago, I was able to read the abridged version of Ted Dekker's A.D. 30. I loved it, so I was eager to pick up A.D. 33. These two novels are biblical fiction at its best. New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker delivers the gripping story of Maviah, a slave who becomes a queen in Arabia, A.D. 33. They call her the Queen of the Outcasts. Maviah, a woman whose fate was sealed on her birth by this world-unwanted, illegitimate, female, a slave-subject to the whims of all. But then she met a man named Yeshua who opened her eyes. She found strength in his words, peace from the brutal word around her. Because of what he taught her, she has gathered her own traveling kingdom of outcasts deep in the desert, wielding an authority few have seen. But when her growing power threatens the rulers around her, they set out to crush all she loves, leaving her reeling as a slave once more. She must find Yeshua to save her people, but when she does, she will be horrified to discover that he faces his own death. Enter a story full of intrigue, heart-wrenching defeat, uncompromising love and staggering victory-one that re-examines everything you thought you knew about the heart of Jesus's stunning message and the power that follows for those who follow his easily forgotten way. A.D. 33 continues the story of Maviah, a woman trying to save her people from an evil conqueror. After her encounter with Yeshua (in A.D. 30), she has become a leader of outcasts. When her son is taken captive, she and her faithful companion Saba go in search of Yeshua once more, and they find him just in time to witness the events leading up to and directly following his crucifixion. If Yeshua is dead, how can he save her son...and how can she follow the Way?
Once again, Ted Dekker has written a powerful novel that clearly points the reader to Christ. What I found so appealing was viewing the events from the triumphal entry through the crucifixion through the eyes of an outsider. Maviah is not a Jew and knows little of Jewish tradition, and seeing her interpretation of Yeshua's words and actions helped me see those events not as someone who has been around the Bible her whole life but as someone hearing the story for the first time. The shift in perspective is important, I think.
Reading A.D. 33 was a very personal experience. What I mean by that is I could see shades of myself in Maviah—in her lack of trust, in her faith, in her confusion, and in her surrender. I felt like I was experiencing all of those things along with her. This is a book that will cause you to think about your own faith.
While I loved this novel, I did struggle through some of the sections, especially near the beginning before Maviah found Yeshua. However, you should not let getting bogged down at the beginning stop you from finishing A.D. 33. It's a powerful novel that is definitely worth reading. 4-1/2 stars.
Note: While I definitely recommend reading at least the abridged version of A.D. 30 prior to A.D. 33, Dekker has written A.D. 33 in such a way that you could pick it up without having first read A.D. 30—you just won't have a full understanding of the characters.
TED DEKKER is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 novels with a total of more than 10 million books in print. He is known for thrillers that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Long ago, I grew tired of Amish fiction, and now I rarely read it. But I always, always, always make time for Suzanne Woods Fisher's Amish novels. I can't get enough of them! A heart once deceived should not be easily fooled again . . . Katrina Stoltzfus thought she had life and love all figured out: she was going to marry John and live happily ever after. But as her plans crumble before her eyes, she struggles to face an uncertain future. When a widow asks for help starting a new business, Katrina quickly agrees. She needs time to heal her broken heart, to untangle her messy life, to find a purpose. What she doesn't need is attention from Andy Miller, a farmhand who arrives at the widow's farm just when help is most needed--and who always seems to say the right thing and be in the right place, at the right time. Is Andy for real or too good to be true? She's been deceived once before, and she isn't planning on experiencing it again. Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Stoney Ridge for a tale of love, uncertainty, and trusting God to write your story.
When it comes to reviewing Suzanne Woods Fisher's novels, sometimes I feel like a broken record, always talking about relatable characters, spiritual lessons that aren't preachy, and laugh out loud moments. The thing is, it's true—her novels always contain these elements. The Imposter is no different. In fact, I was only about four pages into the novel when I laughed for the first time. Many more laughs followed, most due to the beloved Hank Lapp, who has appeared in many of Fisher's novels.
The Imposter is the first book in the new Bishop's Family series, which is set in the familiar Stoney Ridge Amish community. This first novel focuses on titular bishop David Stoltzfus (who isn't actually a bishop in this book—I'm guessing that's to come later), a widowed minister who recently moved to Stoney Ridge, and two of his children, Katrina and Jesse. Katrina is reeling after the breakup of a relationship she thought would result in marriage; Jesse is a 16-year-old boy who means well but has a lazy streak and a knack for getting in serious trouble. Jesse reminded me very much of Jimmy Fisher, who, like Hank Lapp, frequently pops up in Fisher's novels. Since Jimmy Fisher is only present in a small portion of The Impostor (though he's mentioned more frequently), I enjoyed having another Jimmy-esque character to take up the mantle of wayward, well-meaning boy.
While I loved these characters (and others), the plot is what really hooked me. You won't get this from the book summary, as it speaks only of Katrina and her possible romance with Andy, but much of the plot is focused on the pull within the Stoney Ridge Amish community to modernize and give up some of their long held traditions. Basically, it's a war within church leadership, and I found that fascinating—and not something I've ever before encountered in an Amish novel.
Fisher's long-time readers will enjoy checking in with beloved characters (and finally seeing Hank's love life take a giant step forward), and new readers will discover what those of us who have long been on this ride already know: Stoney Ridge is a special place, and it's always worth a visit. 5 stars.
Read my reviews of Fisher's Inn at Eagle Hill series: The Letters (3-1/2 stars), The Calling (5 stars), The Rescue (novella: 4-1/2 stars), The Revealing (5 stars); her Stoney Ridge Seasons series: The Haven (4-1/2 stars), The Lesson (4-1/2 stars); her Christmas books: A Lancaster County Christmas and Christmas at Rose Hill Farm (4-1/2 stars), and her Amish Beginnings novel: Anna's Crossing(4-1/2 stars). Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author whose most recent novels include Anna's Crossing and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
In Ruth Logan Herne's touching Catholic romance, a hardened district attorney is drawn to a hard working Chechen refugee who longs to give her sister a better life. District Attorney Mitchell Sanderson wanted for nothing and lost everything in a tragic accident. A dogged worker, Mitch’s conviction rate earned him respect and trust. Now up for re-election, Mitch’s law-and-order persona makes him a shoo-in candidate. But when faith, conscience and love of a troubled refugee ripple the smooth waters of his existence, can Mitch risk everything for love? Magdalena Serida fought her way out of the terrors of a government-quelled insurgent uprising in Chechnya. The church-sponsored refugee knows the horrors of war first-hand. Now in America with her five-year-old sister, Lena is uncertain who to trust. Her Christian faith has maintained her through the loss of her family, but when Mitch Sanderson shows interest, Lena longs to take a chance. Should she open herself up to this man of law and order, a man who imprisons women like her? Or slip quietly back into the shadowed fringe of anonymity? But choices slip away when Mitch’s friend spews half-truths about Lena, rumors that cost Mitch his new love and possibly the election. Can he find his way to a faith deep enough to love again, and to offer Lena the “Refuge of his Heart”? Refuge of the Heart has many facets. It's a sweet romance. It's a family story. And it powerfully brings to light the plight of refugees and challenges the reader to do something. (This book is especially timely in light of the current Syrian refugee crisis.)
I absolutely loved both Lena and her sister Anna. The story of how Lena escaped from Chechnya, which is revealed in small pieces throughout the novel before being completely explained in a climactic scene, is both inspiring and heartbreaking. I'll admit that I haven't spent much time thinking about refugees and how I can help them, and this book was a wake up call in that regard. Beyond that, Lena is simply a likable character! She's so tenacious, yet her past lends her a vulnerability, too.
I also liked Mitch, though not as much as I liked Lena. I did think that Mitch was kind of an idiot most of the time—he moved his relationship with Lena at a too-rapid pace, and he was way too quick to judge her once he learned the "truth" about her past. (I do think he was realistically written; I just thought he made some dumb decisions.) Still, I liked him enough to wish for his happiness with Lena.
Refuge of the Heart is more clearly Catholic than the other Franciscan Media novel I read, and I definitely differ theologically with some of the things mentioned. However, this is fiction, and I don't require my fiction to match up with all of my beliefs; I just ask that it be something I can read and enjoy without shame. (I realize that the line between what is and is not acceptable differs among people; this is just what I'm comfortable with.)
Refuge of the Heart would be worth reading simply for the attention it brings to the world's refugees. The fact that the refugee information is wrapped in a sweet romance just makes it that much better! I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this book, and I'll be watching for what Ruth Logan Herne comes out with next. 4 stars.
Franciscan Media has generously offered to give a copy of the book to one of my readers! Giveaway open in US only. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email before another winner is chosen. Enter below: a Rafflecopter giveawayFollow the blog tour:
Born into poverty, Ruth Logan Herne is the mother of six and grandmother to thirteen. She and her husband, Dave, live on a small farm in upstate New York. She works full time but carves a few hours each day to write the kind of stories she likes to read, filled with poignancy, warmth and delightful characters. She is the 2011 award winner from the American Christian Fiction Writers. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of the series: The Hesitant Heiress (4 stars), The Bound Heart (5 stars), The Captive Imposter (4 stars). One accidental kiss from Lawry Hampton. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt's world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn't have the time or the desire to fall for her best friend. But with Vance out of the country, and with Lawry at her side nearly every day, teaching her what the world is like through the eyes of a little orphan girl named Wynn--Meredyth can't deny that what's holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from her past. Will she marry Vance once he returns from Europe? Or will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she's convinced she deserves, and accept that God's plan for her life includes redemption...and, quite possibly, Lawry Hampton?
A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn't begin writing until her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit her job in 2010 in order to focus on writing her debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress. It didn't take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
If you loved Hillary Manton Lodge's A Table by the Window, then hold on—you're in for a treat with Reservations for Two! Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up.
Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life?
As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?
When I read A Table by the Window earlier this summer, I couldn't imagine how the second book could possibly top it; I felt like it was a practically perfect novel. But Reservations for Two is special.
Reservations for Two picks up right where A Table by the Window left off—with Juliette embarking on her European trip to visit family. Her boyfriend Neil joins her in Europe, and together they try to solve the mystery of Juliette's grandmother's love life. But once they return to the States, things get messy. They still have to deal with a long distance relationship, Juliette's mother's cancer is progressing, and the new restaurant is about to open. Juliette has no doubt that she loves Neil, but she begins to wonder if love is enough ... especially when the restaurant's sous chef Adrian is charming, available, and in the same zip code.
I cannot remember the last time I read a book about adults that had a legitimate love triangle; usually it's clear which two people belong together. But the farther I got into Reservations for Two, the more confused I became (as did Juliette). Neil is absolutely wonderful, but distance becomes a huge factor in his relationship with Juliette. And Adrian also seems like a good match for Juliette. As we head into the third and final book, I honestly don't know which man I want Juliette to end up with.
While I loved Juliette's story, my favorite part of Reservations for Two was the letters Juliette found. Written by her grandmother, her great-aunt, and her grandfather, the letters reveal a history that Juliette's grandmother kept from her children and grandchildren. I loved discovering the history along with Juliette, and, as the letters end at a most inconvenient place, I can't wait to read the next novel to find out what happened to Juliette's grandmother next!
Reservations for Two is not a novel to pick up on its own—you absolutely must read A Table by the Window first. Put together, these novels are the first part of an incredibly interesting trilogy, and I have high hopes for the final novel! 5 stars. Buy the book. Read my review of A Table by the Window (5 stars).
Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of Plain Jayne, a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara, an ECPA bestselling book. A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship at Northwest Palate magazine. A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching foreign films, and exploring new walking trails. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links on this page are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase a product, I will receive a commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
A little over a year ago, several bloggers that I follow were absolutely raving about A Table by the Window. I immediately added it to my wishlist, and when I had the opportunity to get the second book in the series for review, I went ahead and bought A Table by the Window. It turned out to be even better than I'd hoped! The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, food writer Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life negotiating her skill with words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn—does she really have what it takes? Should she risk leaving her journalism career?
After the death of her grandmother, Juliette discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and dark secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery away from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story.
Inspired by her grandmother’s evolving story, Juliette resolves to explore the world of online dating. To her surprise, she finds a kindred spirit in Neil McLaren, a handsome immunologist based in Memphis, Tennessee. With a long-distance relationship simmering, Juliette faces life-shifting decisions. How can she possibly choose between a promising culinary life and Neil, a man a world away in more ways than one? And is it possible her Grandmother’s story can help show the way?
Oh, my goodness. I could say so many great things about this book! It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was fabulous. I loved how it was a romance, but it was more about Juliette's life. Romance fit into it, but it wasn't the only thing. In fact, because Juliette and Neil have a long-distance relationship, he has a fairly minor role in the novel. Sure, he's present through emails, phone calls, and a visit, but overall, the novel focuses on Juliette, her job, and her family. To use food terms, Juliette's life in Portland is the cake, and the romance is the icing on top. (Wow, that was kinda cheesy ... but I stand by it!)
Packed into this novel is family drama, heartbreak, mystery, and romance. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the recipes! Several chapters end with absolutely mouthwatering recipes (usually something Juliette has cooked in the preceding chapter and often a recipe from her grandmother), and I would love to try them all someday. (Of course, most are packed with gluten, which isn't an option for me—I may have to get creative!)
I could very easily identify with Juliette—especially her feelings toward online dating and her desire yet hesitance to pursue her passions. Though Juliette is well into adulthood, this novel is almost a coming of age story as she comes into her own both personally and professionally.
A Table by the Window is one of those rare books that I absolutely couldn't put down—I read it in one afternoon. I loved Juliette's journey, her family is great, and Neil is fantastic. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year! 5 stars. Buy the book.
Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of Plain Jayne, a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara, an ECPA bestselling book. A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship at Northwest Palate magazine. A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching foreign films, and exploring new walking trails. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon. Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself and chose to review it. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
In The Sweetest Rain, Myra Johnson takes readers to Arkansas in the early days of the Great Depression. As the drought of 1930 burns crops to a crisp, Bryony Linwood dreams of cooling winter snows and the life she would have had if daddy hadn’t been killed in the Great War and mama hadn’t moved Bryony and her sisters to their grandfather’s struggling tenant farm in tiny Eden, Arkansas. Now Mama’s gone, too, and as times grow tougher, Bryony will do whatever it takes to ensure her family’s survival. Michael Heath barely survived the war, and twelve years later all he wants to do is forget. A virtual recluse, his one passion is botanical illustration. Lost in the diversity of nature’s beauty, he finds escape from a troubled past and from his wealthy father’s continual pressure to take an interest in the family plantation. When Bryony accepts employment at the Heath mansion, it’s just a job at first, a means to ward off destitution until the drought ends and Grandpa’s farm is prosperous again. But Bryony’s forced optimism and dogged determination disguise a heart as dry and despairing as the scorched earth . . . until she discovers Michael Heath and his beautiful botanical illustrations. As their relationship deepens, friendship soon blossoms into healing for wounded souls and a love that can’t be denied. The Sweetest Rain is a beautiful novel about family. Yes, it's a romance, but to me, the importance of family is what stood out. Bryony comes from a very close-knit family—she lives with her two sisters and their grandfather, a tenant farmer, and with the drought, they're barely surviving. All they have is each other, and their devotion to one another is one of the hallmarks of this novel. Michael, by contrast, comes from a wealthy but incredibly fractured family. His father rules the family with a heavy hand, and he's often verbally abusive to Michael. Michael's mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and his sister disappeared years ago after being disowned by their father. When Bryony begins working for Michael's family, the wheels are set in motion for the family's healing.
I absolutely loved The Sweetest Rain. It did take about 50 pages for me to fully engage with it, and at times the plot moved a little slowly for my taste, but as a whole, I loved it. The strength of the characters is responsible for that. Each character—from Bryony and Michael to their families to the servants—is fleshed out and engaging. Even though I loathed Michael's father, I could understand and even feel sympathy for him because of the way Johnson wrote him. I loved how the more unlikable characters (especially some of the servants) became likable once their motives were revealed.
The Sweetest Rain also contains a couple of great twists that I never saw coming, but when they happened, they made perfect sense. Sometimes authors too clearly telegraph their moves or they throw in twists that seem to come out of nowhere, but Johnson walked the "twist" line beautifully.
I highly recommend The Sweetest Rain to historical fiction lovers. And the good news is that this is just the first novel in a series—I know I'll be in line to get my hands on book two when it releases! 4-1/2 stars.
Franciscan Media has generously offered to give a copy of the book to one of my readers! Giveaway open in US only. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email before another winner is chosen. Enter below: a Rafflecopter giveaway Follow the blog tour at these stops:
Buy the book. Read my review of Johnson's When the Clouds Roll By(4 stars).
Note: The Sweetest Rain is published by Franciscan Media, a Catholic publisher. I tell you this simply because most of the books I review are from Protestant publishers. In the future, when I review novels published by Franciscan Media, I won't post this disclaimer unless the novel contains content that might be troubling to Protestants. (If you're wondering about The Sweetest Rain, the only indication that it is a Catholic novel is the use of "mass" instead of "church" and "priest" or "Father" instead of "pastor.") I always list the publisher in the blog labels, and I'll also include the Franciscan Media logo.
Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, but she now enjoys living amidst the scenic beauty of North Carolina. Myra’s debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, was a September 2009 release from Abingdon Press. She has also written six novels for the Heartsong Presents line. Her 2009 release, Autumn Rains, won the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript, and she is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Most recently she has completed a three-book historical romance series, “Till We Meet Again,” for Abingdon Press. The first book in the series, When the Clouds Roll By, won the historical fiction category of the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best Award. Book 2, Whisper Goodbye, and book 3, Every Tear a Memory, both received 4½-star reviews from Romantic Times. Myra and her husband, Jack, have two married daughters and seven grandchildren.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
In my review of Katie Ganshert's fabulous An October Bride last year, I said, "I hope Ganshert will revisit this wonderful small town again." Happily, she's done just that in The Perfect Arrangement, an entry in Zondervan's Year of Weddings series. Amelia Woods is a small-town wallflower and the proud owner of Forget-Me-Nots, a quaint flower shop that once belonged to her mother. Despite her success in business, her love life has always been a bit lackluster. Until she spies on her ex-boyfriend's wedding and ends up in horrifyingly embarrassing fender-bender with handsome wedding guest, Nate Gallagher. Meanwhile, Amelia's younger brother, William, has proposed to his girlfriend. Amelia would be excited except she has evidence that the fiancée is not who she says she is. How can she be supportive and yet be the protective big sister too? It seems Nate is the only one available for any advice-giving, and he's good at it—and pretty fun to talk to, too. Amelia and Nate strike up an online relationship, but always lingering in Amelia's mind is the fear that he'll realize she's not nearly as appealing in real life. As Amelia works to craft the perfect flower arrangements for other people, she begins to wonder if real love is better than the dream. And if it is, will Nate still be interested when he learns who she is?
Prior to reading The Perfect Arrangement, I'd read two Katie Ganshert novels and one novella, and I gave them all five stars (I would have given A Broken Kind of Beautiful more stars than that if I could have). Her writing has a way of gripping me emotionally, and the stories stick with me long after I've turned the final page. So when I picked up The Perfect Arrangement, I expected it to be great. What I didn't expect? Laughter and tears, but this novella produced both in abundance!
Amelia, a shy cat owner who had only ever dated one guy and had a bit of a Cinderella backstory, was such a likable and relatable character. I absolutely loved watching her relationship with Nate grow through emails (which were so witty and fun), and I adored her interaction with George, her elderly customer. George's story is the one that so touched my heart.
While Amelia and Nate do fall in love (this is a romance, after all), some aspects of the story are left unresolved, which I actually found to be refreshing. In real life, sometimes you just have to let things go and see how they play out, and that's what Amelia had to do. I would definitely love to visit this town with Ganshert again and learn what happens to Amelia and her family! 5 stars. Buy the novella. Read my reviews of Ganshert's An October Bride(5 stars) and Wildflowers from Winter (5 stars). Read my reviews of the other Year of Weddings and Year of Weddings 2 novellas. Katie Ganshert was born and raised in the exciting state of Iowa, where she currently resides with her family. She likes to write things and consume large quantities of coffee and chocolate while she writes all the things. She's won some awards. For the writing, not the consuming. Although the latter would be fun. You can learn more about Katie and these things she writes at her website www.katieganshert.com.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Whenever I hear that Denise Hunter has a new book coming out, I scramble to get my hands on it—she's one of those "must read" authors for me. If Falling Like Snowflakes is any indication, her new Summer Harbor series is shaping up to be a winner! Speeding north through rural Maine, Eden Martelli wonders how her life came to this—on the run with her mute five-year-old son dozing fitfully in the passenger seat. When a breakdown leaves them stranded in Summer Harbor, Eden has no choice to stay put through Christmas...even though they have no place to lay their heads. Beau Callahan is a habitual problem solver—for other people, anyway. He left the sheriff's department to take over his family's Christmas tree farm, but he's still haunted by the loss of his parents and struggling to handle his first Christmas alone. When Eden shows up looking for work just as Beau's feisty aunt gets out of the hospital, Beau thinks he's finally caught a break. Eden is competent and dedicated—if a little guarded—an a knockout to boot. But, as he soon finds out, she also comes with a boatload of secrets. Eden has been through too much to trust her heart to another man, but Beau is impossible to resist, and the feeling seems to be mutual. As Christmas Eve approaches, Eden's past catches up to her. Beau will go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe. But who's going to protect his heart from a woman who can't seem to trust again? Falling Like Snowflakes is the first book in Hunter's new Summer Harbor series, which focuses on the Callahan brothers. (These brothers were introduced in Married 'Til Monday, the final book in Hunter's Chapel Springs series, but you do not need to have read that book to jump into this series.)
I've come to expect sizzling (yet chaste) romance from Hunter, and Falling Like Snowflakes does not disappoint! There's obviously a spark between Beau and Eden from their first meeting, and their relationship has a slow burn quality to it that I appreciated. I loved both Beau and Eden as characters, and I definitely pulled for their happily ever after!
Falling Like Snowflakes also features an intriguing suspense thread. Eden is running from someone—the reader doesn't know who or why at first—and as her story is slowly revealed, the tension mounts. While everything is resolved rather easily, I still enjoyed the plot line.
Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including Dancing with Fireflies and The Convenient Groom. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist. When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking green tea, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are raising three boys. You can learn more about Denise through her website DeniseHunterBooks.com or by visiting her FaceBook page at facebook.com/authordenisehunter. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
I love Regency-set (and slightly later) movies, television series, and books that take place in villages and focus on a variety of characters. Lawana Blackwell's Gresham Chronicles, the Cranford miniseries, and the TV show Lark Rise to C...
I have long been a fan of Jody Hedlund's historical romances. My favorite of her novels has always been A Noble Groom (swoon!), but Forever Safe is giving it a run for its money!
Forever Safe is about heiress Victoria Cole, who is engag...
Something about Scientology has long fascinated me. Not in a "I have to learn more and get involved" kind of way, but more like a questioning of how on earth people can follow this "religion." A few years ago, I read Jefferson Hawkins' C...