Book Review: Between Two Shores By Jocelyn Green

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Blurb:

The daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father in 1759 Montreal, Catherine Duval would rather remain neutral in a world tearing itself apart. Content to trade with both the French and the British, Catherine is pulled into the Seven Years’ War against her wishes when her British ex-fiancé, Samuel Crane, is taken prisoner by her father. Samuel claims he has information that could help end the war, and he asks Catherine to help him escape.

Peace appeals to Catherine, even if helping the man who broke her heart does not. But New France is starving, and she and her loved ones may not survive another winter of conflict-induced famine. When the dangers of war arrive on her doorstep, Catherine and Samuel flee by river toward the epicenter of the battle between England and France. She and Samuel may impact history, but she fears the ultimate cost will be higher than she can bear.

General Thoughts:

This author is all about the details, and that’s a good thing. From the very first chapter, I was thrown into a vivid world in mid 18th century America. I could feel the tension a high turmoil environment brought for Catherine, her family, and Samuel.

Catherine, a French-Mohawk woman, was caught between her French side and Mohawk side of the family. With the death of her mother, she made the decision to go to her French father, leaving her siblings behind. This isolated Catherine for a while, especially as she struggled to gain acceptance from her father, who showed very little of it. But when Englishman Samuel came into the picture as her father’s servant, they forged a friendship, which later turned into love.

Eventually Samuel escaped with the promise of reuniting and marrying Catherine, but that never happened. However as war ravaged on, he returned as his father’s servant, which led to greater challenges for Catherine, such as learning to forgive him for his failed promise and helping him flee once again from her father to deliver information that could end the war, in the British’s favor.

I like how the author created complicated characters. They weren’t predictable, knowing everything and having everything under control. This led to many surprises, especially on Samuel’s end. Catherine was the most compelling character to me, because she had the hardest battle to overcome: accepting reality and learning to forgive. This led to some self-reflection on my part. I considered my own reality, realizing that no matter how brave, strong-willed, or determined one is, there are some things one can’t control or change, especially in regards to people. However, one can always overcome and grow.

I will say the ending was bittersweet to me. I believe things ended as best as they could, giving what was revealed about the characters and plot. However, there were some things I wished wouldn’t have happened between Catherine, her family, and Samuel, which if you read the story, you will understand what I’m referring to. But then again, the story depicted the reality of a war-torn, high conflict world, so to me, it’s representation was believable.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story to readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially American history. The author definitely did her homework, not holding back on the reality of the time period (mid-1700s). I also think readers who are looking for realism, characters who don’t always get a happily ever after, but who still reach a light at the end of the tunnel will like this book as well.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. This was a well-written story. The author was vivid in her world building and character behaviors. As I read each page, I could easily visualize the scenes and feel the tension. As a story that includes war, it can be a little graphic so for readers who are sensitive to this, they should be aware. Nevertheless, reading the story is worthwhile as it delivers a strong message of acceptance and forgiveness.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

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Book Review: In Places Hidden By Tracie Peterson

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Blurb:

The search for her missing brother leads to the most dangerous part of the city . . .

Camrianne Coulter’s brother Caleb is a successful San Francisco attorney. But when three months go by without a word from the usually communicative Caleb, Camri boards a train to the booming West Coast city to find out for herself why he hasn’t written. When she arrives at his home, nobody seems to know where he is, or what has become of him.

Camri’s search for her brother leads her deep into the political corruption of the city–and into the acquaintance of Patrick Murdock, who Caleb successfully defended from a false murder charge. Getting to know this handsome Irish contractor challenges all of Camri’s privileged beliefs, but Patrick is unshakably loyal to her brother, and he seems to know more about what happened to Caleb than anyone else. As the two edge closer to the truth behind Caleb’s disappearance, they risk angering the powerful forces that control the city. Can Camri trust Patrick to protect her from the dangers that lie hidden in San Francisco’s backstreets?

General Thoughts:

I’ll start by saying that Tracie knows how to create authentic characters, characters who are believable in terms of what they say and do, and even how they speak. If nothing else, I enjoyed getting to know Camri and Patrick, even secondary characters such as her friends, Judith and Kenzie, and their caretakers, the Wongs.

In short, the plot centered on Camri traveling to San Francisco to find her lost brother Caleb. Upon her arrival, she met and quickly befriended Judith and Kenzie, who were embarking on their own mission to find lost relatives. They decided to stick together and support each other’s endeavors, first starting with Camri.

The women lived together in Caleb’s abandoned house, getting jobs and using their funds to survive and support the search for Caleb. Camri pretty much ended up doing the searching, looking into Caleb’s life and relationships, which eventually led her to Patrick.

To me, the strength of the story wasn’t in Camri looking for Caleb, but in how she developed as a person. Camri was quite progressive for her time, which was the early 1900s. She was all about women’s rights, fighting for them to get a proper education, advance their careers, and especially vote. In her dialogue with Judith and Kenzie, she was quick to challenge their ideas of wanting to get married and be homemakers. She believed every woman should want more.

This caused her to clash with them, including Patrick, but through some self searching and understanding their life stories, she came to realize that as smart and progressive as she was, she still had a lot to learn that could only be done through listening to people and taking the time to walk in their shoes.

With this, and the goal of finding Caleb, this made for an enjoyable read. I got through it fairly quickly and was happily surprised how things turned out with the Caleb situation. I think the author succeeded in keeping things unpredictable.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story for those who not only love historical fiction, but who are interested in character development, seeing an internal transformation that can enlighten one to think about their own self and the world around them.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. I found this story to be a fairly good read. The plot was well developed without a predictable ending, and I like how believable the characters were. Especially where Camri and Patrick’s relationship was concerned, I like how the author made them acknowledge that though they loved each other, they still needed to get to know each other before rushing into things.

Book Review: Mind Games By Nancy Mehl

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Blurb:

FBI Behavioral Analyst Kaely Quinn’s methods may be highly unorthodox, but her talent is undeniable. She’s done her best to establish a new life for herself after being demoted and transferred to St. Louis when a reporter revealed she’s the daughter of an infamous serial killer. But when that same reporter claims to have received an anonymous poem predicting a string of murders, ending with Kaely’s, it seems her old life has followed her.

When a body is found that fits the poem’s morbid predictions, Kaely and her new partner, Special Agent Noah Hunter, are forced to move past his skepticism of her approach and work together to unravel the deadly riddle.

With a brazen serial killer who breaks all the normal patterns on the loose, Noah and Kaely must race to catch the murderer before anyone else, including Kaely, is killed.

General Thoughts:

From the moment I opened up this book, I knew it was going to be interesting. Immediately I was given glimpses of the Kaely’s past, the tragedy that fell on her family, and what led her to pursuing a career in the FBI. This story doesn’t leave room for dull moments, and I can honestly say that was a major strength of it.

Kaely, though tough on her own, was a sympathetic character. She was immediately villainized by many in her community and members in the field due to her family background, which was out of her control. This led to an unknown killer who wanted her to pay for the sins of her family’s past, and I like how the author made it somewhat like a riddle to figure out who that killer was.

I kept wanting to turn the pages to see who that killer was. I like how the killer was connected to Kaely and not some random killer they’ve never seen before. This made the story more interesting, especially knowing that the killer could be someone she talks to every day.

Another strength of the story was the relationship between her and Noah, her FBI partner. After facing his own tragedy in losing his wife to an illness, he struggled to accept that God was real. I like how the author used Kaely, who is a believer, to explain how God was working in her life in a way that considered Noah’s lack of understanding. I think she made her points easy to comprehend.

In the end, I was a little surprised to find out who the killer was and it made sense. Sometimes it can be challenging to weave a thriller/mystery story together, but I have to say that this author succeeded. Though this story came to an end, I see that another book is coming out in 2019 with Kaely and Noah, so I can’t wait to see how their relationship unfolds and what other problems they face as FBI agents.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this to anyone who likes crime scene stories that weave thriller and mystery into them. Also who like stories that focus on characters with internal struggles and growth.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars. The story kept me interested from start to finish. I think the pacing was good, there was always something going on, whether with the characters internally or the plot. I would have loved to see Noah’s personal transformation with the internal struggles he had, but I realized there’s another book coming out, so we may see it there. Great overall, and I would definitely recommend it. It won’t disappoint.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: This Tiny Perfect World By Lauren Gibaldi

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Blurb:

Penny loves her small-town Florida life, and she has her future mapped out. She’s going to community college after graduation to stay close to home and her best friend, Faye. She’ll take over the family diner that her dad has been managing since her mother died. And one day, she’ll marry her high school sweetheart, Logan.

But when she unexpectedly lands a scholarship to a prestigious summer theater camp, she is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And suddenly, her future gets a little hazy. As she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that maybe the life everyone (including her) expects her to lead is not the one she was meant to have.

General Thoughts:

I have to be honest, it was the cover that made to pick up this book, and after reading it, I can say that I was not disappointed. This story was a little different from what I generally read or have read before, but I liked how it was a simple everyday life kind of story. I found it refreshing and easy to read.

The strength of this story was the main character Penny and her internal battle to choose a different path in life from what was already set up for her. Here she was, a 17 year old who already had her career guaranteed for her (her mother’s diner), a boyfriend whom she planned to marry, a best friend, everything she supposedly wanted in life. But after going to acting camp and meeting others with big goals and dreams, she started to question whether she truly wanted what she already had.

This was a perfect story of finding yourself, a coming of age story. As a reader, I liked the idea of going inside Penny’s mind, seeing the transformation of her figuring out what she wanted in life to finally reaching a conclusion. Although I am not a teenager like Penny, I related to that struggle of forging a different path that is far from the norm or what is expected of you.

A major weakness of the story was the characters came across a little one dimensional, there was not a lot of depth to them. I felt like the author was afraid to mess up the characters a bit, I felt like she was trying to perfect them, in their expressions, image, and speech. Even Penny, who was the most developed character, still had a slightly flat personality. It would have been nice to make her more unique. All this gave the story a slightly bland feel.

Another weakness I could see, although for me it was not a problem since I was more interested in Penny’s internal struggle, was that there wasn’t a major conflict in the story. There was no great challenge that Penny had to overcome or face. I would say the closest was her decision on whether to break up with her boyfriend. So as said before, this was one of your everyday simple life type of stories.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this to those who like young adult, coming of age stories, or more specifically, stories about finding yourself. Also to those who like simple everyday life stories that don’t have a lot of drama or conflict, but focus on the character’s internal struggles and eventual growth.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. While the story was relatable and easy to read, I felt it lacked the depth needed to make it memorable and as powerful as it could have been. The characters seemed one dimensional, like they didn’t have unique personalities of their own.

Book Review: Shelter of the Most High By Connilyn Cossette

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Blurb:

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a city of refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood, yet chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Can they uncover the betrayal in time to save their lives and the lives of those they love?

General Thoughts:

I’ve read most of Connilyn’s books at this point and they continue to deliver deeply carved characters and intriguing plots. Though this is a standalone book, if you’ve read the first book in the series, A Light on the Hill, it continues with the story of Moriah’s (the main character in the first book) adopted son, Eitan. They now live under the protection of a city of refuge, Kedesh, however Eitan struggles to let go of the accidental tragedy that was placed on Moriah.

When Sofea and her cousin are brought into their lives, Eitan immediately is drawn to Sofea. Sofea is unsure about Eitan and his people. As she slowly learns his language, she begins to ask questions, which leads to Eitan revealing what Kedesh is and who his people are.

Sofea initially struggles to accept that Kedesh is a refuge for accused criminals, and that only strengthens Eitan’s struggle to accept what he did when he was a child. Even when he realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Sofea, his past becomes a barrier in making that possible.

Overall, this story is about redemption and forgiveness, not necessarily that which comes from others, but one’s self. Even as those around him, including Sofea later on, accept and understand him for who he is and what he’s done, he can’t seem to accept himself. It’s relatable to me and I believe it is for many. Often our unwillingness to forgive ourselves and offer ourselves redemption, prevents us from receiving the blessings and having the life that God wants us to have. In other words, living our life to the fullest.

It takes a near tragedy and Eitan potentially losing what he wants the most before he considers life as a forgiven man. As I read the story, Eitan’s internal journey resonated with me. As the plot unfolded, my interest increased and I felt I wasn’t reading the story anymore, but was a part of it. Connilyn is good with world and character building. I doubt they’ll be a story of hers that will disappoint me.

Recommendation:

Yes, I recommend this book to those who like biblical historical fiction and especially to those who are looking for themes of forgiveness and redemption. This author does a good job at getting to the heart of matter with her character arcs, really diving deep into their minds and creatively sorting out their problems. I also like how she uses their current circumstances to force them to come to terms with their demons inside.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. The story was evenly paced and the plot had enough high points and intrigue to keep my interest. There was a perfect balance between the character’s internal struggles and external struggles. I quickly identified with Eitan, which made me want to root for him and see how things end.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Together Forever By Jody Hedlund

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Blurb:

Will the Mistakes of Their Past Cost Them a Chance at Love?

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

General Thoughts:

I’ve long enjoyed Jody’s stories and if you view my other reviews of her lighthouse series, you’ll notice that I gave them high ratings. The primary reason is due to her ability to create characters that are resonating, that I see a bit of myself in, thus feeling the weight of their fall, and the rise of their victory.

This story follows Marianne, one of the main characters. As I was reading, I realized that this story was the second book in the Orphan Train series, so this story was sort of a continuation of a character that was introduced in the first book. However, this did not make it difficult for me to understand and connect with her. The author did a seamless job in weaving in elements from Marianne’s past that influenced her goals and actions pursued in the story.

What carried the story for me and kept my interest was the interaction between Andrew and Marianne. I thought it was clever how the author brought them together as they were initially working partners set out to find families for the orphans in their care. The struggle with guilt that Andrew harbored inside related to his past negligence, as well as feelings of rejection and disappointing his family, was the strength of this story.

As things started to unfold, and Andrew’s reasons behind his hesitation to pursue a relationship with Marianne became clear, he was forced to confront the people that he was trying to get away from. He thought pushing Marianne to marry another man would solve his problems but I like how Marianne refused to give up on him and how through her, and the orphans who saw the genuine person inside him, he was able to forgive himself, accept God’s redemption, and have the life he truly wanted.

As far as weaknesses this story had, there were really none for me. The colorful dialogue that occurred between the orphans, Andrew, and Marianne as they traveled across the United States was humorous, lighthearted, and charming. There were no slow parts and every chapter had a purpose to the plot. I was sort of sad when I got to the end of the book because I still wanted to see what else unfolded in their lives.

If I have to nitpick, I was a little disappointed that Marianne’s personal goal was not fulfilled. From the beginning of the story, the reader is made aware that Marianne is searching her sister Sophie who was separated from her some time ago. While Marianne’s goal is to place the orphans with families as they travel from New York to Illinois, she also hopes to find Sophie, or at least get some leads to where she could be.

Long story short, she never finds Sophie or gets any leads. It seems the drama with Drew and her clouds her pursuit, which is realistic. Finding Sophie wasn’t necessary the goal of the plot, but I couldn’t help having thoughts of where she could be lingering in my head.

Perhaps in the next book we’ll find out what became of Sophie.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this book to everyone, unless you’re really not a fan of historical fiction. I think the character of Andrew Brady was the strength of this story, due to his personal battles of guilt and struggle to accept forgiveness and redemption. I think those are universal issues that will resonate with a lot of people.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I really loved the characters and the orphans were very endearing. The book moved at a balanced speed and every chapter had a purpose, not getting carried away. Even with the disappointment of not finding out what happened to Sophie, I still ended the book feeling that the story came full circle.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: First Impressions by Debra White Smith

 

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Blurb:

In an attempt to get to know the people of London, Texas–the small town that lawyer Eddi Boswick now calls home–she tries out for a local theater group’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She’s thrilled to get the role of lively Elizabeth Bennet . . . until she meets the arrogant–and eligible–rancher playing her leading man.

Dave Davidson chose London, Texas, as the perfect place to live under the radar. Here, no one knows his past, and he can live a quiet, peaceful life with his elderly aunt, who also happens to own the local theater. Dave doesn’t even try out for the play, but suddenly he is thrust into the role of Mr. Darcy and forced to spend the entire summer with Eddi, who clearly despises him.

Sparks fly every time Eddi and Dave meet, whether on the stage or off. But when Eddi discovers Dave’s secret, she has to admit there might be more to him than she thought. Maybe even enough to change her mind . . . and win her heart.

General Thoughts:

This story is a retelling of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice and I have to be honest, I have not read the original story, but I have seen a film version of it and definitely could see the similarities between the two characters, Eddi and Dave.

This story read like a serious comedy for me and that’s what kept me turning the pages. I instantly connected with Eddi and found her confidence, intelligence, sometimes blunt personality refreshing, although it did sometimes get the best of her and created a stumbling block in her relationships with people. However, I loved how she was unwilling to budge on certain things in life, how she unwilling to settle for less. I especially liked that although she was a person of means, she didn’t care for money all that much, she was more concerned with the wellbeing of others.

The story focuses primarily on Eddi’s and Dave’s rollercoaster relationship. Eddi, the intelligent person she is, quickly assumes the worst of Dave, based off of his personality (something they shared in common), wealth, and status. From the first day, it’s apparent that they like each other and I thought the author did a good job illustrating the internal battles they both had inside to accept that fact. As the story progresses, I found it comical, though in a concerned way, the state of Eddi’s family, especially her mother and sister Linda, who were two peas in a pod and reckless with their lives. I wasn’t surprised when I found out what happen to Linda, but it was an nice ending to see how things came together, especially with Dave helping Linda make the most of what became of her life, which I believe ultimately drew him close to Eddi.

As far as negatives, with the amount of natural humor and personalities that poured out of the book, I couldn’t find one. The story progressed at an even pace, every page was worth reading, and the message of redemption, restoration, and not being quick to judge was easily understood.

Recommendation:

I would definitely recommend this story to those who are fans of Jane Austin’s stories, or Pride and Prejudice to say the least. Also, to those who like witty, serious stories with natural humor that contain characters with big personalities.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. There wasn’t a moment that I found boring or dragging. The strength of the story was the characters’ personalities. They were sharp, blunt, witty, and full of energy. Though some of them were crazy and destructive, they eliminated the possibility for any dull moments.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***