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.***

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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.***

 

Book Review: I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

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Blurb:

What would it take to make you intervene?

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realizes they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.

A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.

Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.

Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.

 General Thoughts:

 The blurb got me with this one, it seemed like one of those mysteries I could possibly play along with, guessing who was the perpetrator. However, that wasn’t the case.

I will start off by saying that I liked the author’s voice in this story. It made the characters, who I assume she wanted the reader to like, likeable, such as the witness Ella. Ella’s concern and understanding for the victim Anna, as well as the other people in her life, such as her son, the private detective, and even Anna’s mother, made me want things to end well for her. As I turned the pages, I hoped that whoever was secretly harassing Ella would meet justice.

I also liked how the story was arranged. There were several points of views, I believe about seven of them. However, the story was very easy to follow since each chapter was titled with the character’s name. Also, the points of views shifted from first to third, but again, that generally corresponded with the character. So Ella, for example, was always written in first person, while Anna’s father, was always in third.

Some things that I didn’t like about the story, was how it was misleading in some ways. The actual perpetrator didn’t come into view until the end of the story. A few characters and their situations were emphasized too much that I initially thought they tied in to Anna’s disappearance, but actually had nothing to do with it. They were basically filler information. Though I believe the story was paced well, there were some slow unrelated things that took more space than needed, such as the private investigator’s personal life and Ella’s job as a florist. It’s okay to mention them, but chapters devoted to these things were irrelevant and boring for me.

Overall, I finished the story feeling okay about it. I was thrown off a little with the ending, realizing the perpetrator was barely mentioned (if at all, I can’t remember), but I wasn’t disappointed as much about it.

Recommendation:

 Yes, I would recommend this story to those who like lighthearted mysteries. There wasn’t so much suspense and given that there were no clues leading up to the perpetrator, didn’t make for an intriguing read.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. I think the voice of the writer made the main characters likeable, even the not so likeable ones engaging at times. However, I didn’t view this story to be a solid mystery where one could gather up the information to come to a conclusion.

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng

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Blurb:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.  

General Thoughts:

This story sat in the middle of the road for me. There were some things that I liked about it, but some things that I didn’t. I will just get to it.

I think the author has the potential to be a good storyteller. She has a hauntingly detailed way of telling a story, of making the characters come to life and immersing the reader into their minds and thought processes. As I read the story, I had a strong sense of who all the main characters were from the inside, understanding the actions they took in the story fully.

Though the story was full of layered plots, they all came together in the end. Each character’s story met up with another leading to an interesting ending, which the author reveals in the first chapter. I think she used this effectively to keep my interest by creating a sense of mystery and intrigue to why things ended the way it did.

One weakness was the author muddied the story a bit with so many points of views (POVs). The POVs were mixed up within most of the chapters, and as a reader, I had to read ahead to sometimes understand who the writer was referring to, who was thinking, sometimes who was even talking. I think section breaks or even creating new chapters, possibly having things explained through dialogue, would have helped with clarity.

There was also a lot of telling instead of showing. It seemed like the author wanted to reader to understand every single thing or doubted the reader’s ability to understand some things. The over explanation things, especially concerning Mia’s past, dulled the story and dragged it to a boring level.

Lastly, I found none of the characters likeable, even relatable. They were very much cliché’s of teenagers, mothers, etc. from the ‘90s. Although I don’t mind the use of clichés as there can sometimes be a bit of truth to them, it offered nothing of interest or insight that I often look for in stories and characters. The characters seemed to be the worse versions of themselves, not learning or growing in any positive way. The only one who was remotely relatable in terms of her frustration with the other characters was Izzy, who was unfortunately too much of a rebel for her own good.

Recommendation:

I don’t know if I would recommend this book, so I guess I’ll say no. Its not so much due to the plot that’s the problem, it’s the frustrating characters and the fact that the writing style is a little messy with multiple POVs mixed in one scene, over explanation of character backstories, thoughts, and actions, things that slow down the pace.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. The story was slow moving and had a lot of information that could have been omitted or rewritten to propel the story forward. Also there were multiple POVs that took place in a scene that made the story confusing to read at times.

Book Review: A Light On The Hill By Connilyn Cossette

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Blurb:

Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.

Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. Seeking safety at one of the newly-established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face, and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

General Thoughts:

The message of this book stuck with me and it still does as I write this review. I honestly believe that this story will mean something to all who decide to read it. Having read 2 books previously from this author, I know she has the ability to write in ways that make the reader think and consider how what they just read can apply to their life. She does this in unassuming ways, woven deeply in the character’s story.

Moriyah, the main character of the story, was a sympathetic and highly relatable character. Though this is a standalone story and doesn’t require you read any of the author’s previous books, she is introduced in Wings Of The Wind (which I reviewed also—click here to read). If you read that book, it will give you a stronger sense of who Moriyah was before the tragedy she faced and how that transformed her afterwards. In short, she lived like one whose spirit was stolen.

I like how Moriyah’s self consciousness served like a universal problem that many people struggle with some time in their lives. It wasn’t until she was forced to leave her hidden world and step outside into the greater, that she had to face her insecurities and accept her flaws.

Moriyah went through a great deal in this story. Having to flee her safe confines and go on a long journey, just to have a chance to spare her life, Darek, another primarily character and unexpected ally, helped her realize who she was inside—the value she held inside. That she was more than what she looked like on the outside, or even her scar. From there, the old Moriyah started to return a bit, once she realized that though she may still face judgement, there were many others who saw the beauty that lived inside of her and radiated out.

Recommendation:

For readers who love biblical historical fiction, they will love this story, but I am challenged to say that those who struggle with external and internal scars of whatever kind will find a connection to this story. It was an easy read and I think that’s due to the writer’s powerful voice and use of intrigue and suspense. There was a lot of adventure and action that was woven throughout as well.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. As I read this story, I couldn’t find areas that I struggled with. It was paced well, there was enough action going on to keep me turning the pages and the main character, Moriyah was so relatable that I instantly loved her and was rooting for her throughout the book.

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

Book Review: To Wager Her Heart By Tamera Alexander

Blurb:

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success–General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks.

Seeking justice . . . 

Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancé–and has shattered her world.

Struggling to restore honor . . . 

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family–and Nashville society–do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

General Thoughts:

I’ve read so many books from this author and she’s never failed to tell a story that is genuine, moving, and makes the reader (I, at least) feel instantly connected to the characters. This story really spoke to me mainly because of the challenges that the main character, Alexandra, went through. She struggled to pursue a vocation that was important to her, despite the lack of support her social circle and family had for it: teaching at a Freedmen’s school. She essentially lost everything, her family especially, by accepting a position at Fisk University.

Not only was she dealing with that challenge and the sort of isolation it created for her, but she was still trying to overcome the loss of her fiancé due to a tragic train accident that happened the year before, which she luckily survived. But it was the introduction of Sylas, who helped alleviate her challenges and slowly turned things around for her.

Sylas was sort of an antagonist to Alexandra at first, in that, she blamed him for the death of her fiancé, since it was his father who drove the train which later crashed, killing nearly everyone, including the father. Sylas had his own struggle in accepting that his father would deliberately crash the train, so he set out to investigate the truth on his own—what really happened. Through this, he wanted to clear his father’s name, but deep down, he wanted Alexandra to see him in a better light and hopefully win her heart, since the more time he spent with her, the more he realized he loved her.

In all, I enjoyed how Sylas and Alexandra’s relationship grew more and more meaningful. I especially enjoyed seeing the transformation in Alexandra’s heart and mind. Sylas helped her overcome her fear of trains and Alexandra learned to accept things as they are and understand people for who they are. Though, as in reality, everything didn’t end the way Alexandra and Sylas would have hoped, the author, as always, was able to weave a meaningful message in the story, which left me, once again, smiling and believing a little more about the dream I wish to pursue.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story, not only to those who like historical fiction, but those who are looking for stories that will make them think and consider how they want to live life. In short, stories that have to power to change.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t find a real flaw to the story. The plot moved at an even paced and the characters, especially Alexandra and Sylas, were endearing. There were hints of suspense in the story that made me anxious to get to the end, which was unpredictable.

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine By Gail Honeyman

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Blurb:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .

The only way to survive is to open your heart. 

General Thoughts:

I want to start by saying that I loved this story. Read the very first page, the first two paragraphs, and you’ll have everything you need to completely know who the main character, Eleanor is, and the tone of the story. I was instantly captured when I read the first page.

Written in first person, I was given a front row seat to Eleanor’s unfiltered mind, which was too honest to be mad at. I felt the things she thought about people, and basically modern day life, was what many people probably think. Many times her bluntness, her unfiltered mind, would escape her mouth and I found it most humorous when that happened. The author did a great job illustrating people’s reactions and responses to Eleanor’s innocent honesty—I could tell that the author was an avid observer of life, which as a writer is valuable if you want to write an authentic story.

Despite Eleanor’s insensitivity by being too honest, I found her to be likeable and sympathetic, maybe empathetic at times. I think with all the issues Eleanor struggled with, there was something within her issues that many can relate to, everyone—I would dare say, at some point in life. Her struggle with loneliness, self-esteem, relating to people or finding like-minded friends, made me feel her pain. There were several parts in the story, where the author powerfully described the many feelings she faced, using examples, stories, comparisons, and observations. It was very difficult to not feel the way Eleanor was feeling, even if I wasn’t experiencing what she was at the time.

But the shining light of the story is seeing Eleanor’s transformation. As she transformed, I felt challenged to transform as well. Another thing I have to give kudos to the author was the big I didn’t see it coming surprise at the end of the story. I will say, this story had some bits of mystery, especially surrounding her mother and past, but what was revealed at the end, I don’t think anyone could have known. And that’s what I call a good story.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story to everyone. I think there was so much going on that it will appeal to many and maybe even surprise those who tend to lean towards genre fiction. The story kept moving, the blunt humor was constantly there, and there was an air of mystery to Eleanor’s life that I believe would stir one’s curiosity to see how things end.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars. Really, why not make it five stars since I probably only said positive things about it? This is my personal preference, but this story did contain some offensive language, although I will not say it was excessive, and I think the story would have still been as powerful without it.

Book Review: Holding The Fort By Regina Jennings

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Blurb:

With Miss Bell as the Teacher, Everyone’s Bound to Learn an Interesting Lesson

Dance hall singer Louisa Bell has always lived one step from destitution. When she loses her job at the Cat-Eye Saloon, she has nowhere else to go but to her brother, a cavalry soldier stationed in Indian Territory. But he’s run afoul of his commanding officer. Unsure what she can do to help him and desperate for a job, she doesn’t protest when she’s mistaken for a governess at the fort. How hard can teaching really be?

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno, especially raising two adolescent daughters alone. If this new governess doesn’t work out, his mother-in-law insists she’ll raise the girls herself–far away from the fort. Miss Bell bears little resemblance to Daniel’s notion of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he finds himself turning a blind eye to her unconventional methods. Louisa has never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough to help her brother and to secure the respectable future she’s sought for so long?

General Thoughts: 

This story was what I would call a lighthearted read. Taking place in western Indian Territory in the late 1800s, I felt that the author effectively developed an environment that gave me a sense of what it would have been like to live in such a world during that time. However, the bulk of the story wasn’t focus primarily on the environment or history—which is fine, as it was on the main character, Louisa Bell. I struggled to connect with Louisa, although I wouldn’t say she was an unlikeable character. The part that I struggled with was Louisa’s lack of confidence in explaining or expressing herself, especially to the Adams, the family she was a governess to. I felt she was somewhat flakey. Of course, I believe that was the author’s intent in creating such a character, so I would say the author did a great job in doing so.

The story progressed steadily and there weren’t any parts that significantly lingered or dragged on, however, there just wasn’t enough excitement in the story. There was little to no mystery or intrigue, as well as action, which I tend to like in stories. I felt sure of how things would end for Louisa. I was even sure of the chain of events leading to the end. Again, I think what made me keep reading, even though I felt the story was predictable, was that each chapter offered some progressed. With each chapter things moved forward, got somewhere.

Another negative, as a mentioned earlier about Louisa, was the collective personalities of Louisa and Daniel Adams. In general, they both struggled to accept the truth or face the truth, so they did a lot of skirting around the issue or covering things up, which was exhausting. I know those are the personalities that the author intended to create, but given that the story was lighthearted and there wasn’t a lot was going on in terms of mystery, intrigue, and action, my interest wasn’t always captured.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would still recommend this story, especially to those who are more interested in drama and like lighthearted reads that focus on characters and their internal struggles.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. I think the story was well written and sounded authentic for the time and place. However, there was not a lot going on and the characters struggled to express themselves or face the issues. Given there was not much else happening in terms of action, mystery, and intrigue, it didn’t make for an exciting read.

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

Book Review: The Broken Road By Richard Paul Evans

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Blurb:

Chicago celebrity, Charles James can’t shake the nightmare that wakes him each night. He sees himself walking down a long, broken highway the sides of which are lit in flames. Where is he going? Why is he walking? What is the wailing he hears around him?

By day, he wonders why he’s so haunted and unhappy when he has all he ever wanted-fame, fans and fortune and the lavish lifestyle it affords him. Coming from a childhood of poverty and pain, this is what he’s dreamed of. But now, at the pinnacle of his career, he’s started to wonder if he’s wanted the wrong things. His wealth has come legally, but questionably, from the power of his personality, seducing people out of their hard-earned money. When he learns that one of his customers has committed suicide because of financial ruin, Charles is shaken. The cracks in his façade start to break down spurring him to question everything: his choices, his relationships, his future and the type of man he’s become.

Then a twist of fate changes everything. Charles is granted something very remarkable: a second chance. The question is: What will he do with it?

The Broken Road is the first book in a much-anticipated new trilogy by beloved storyteller Richard Paul Evans. It is an engrossing, contemplative story of redemption and grace and the power of second chances. It is an epic journey you won’t soon forget.

General Thoughts: 

This story was different from the stories I tend to find myself reading. When I purchased the book, I thought it was a completely fictional tale, but upon reading it, realized that it was fiction based loosely on a true story. The story follows the life a man, named Charles James, with him telling the tale of his rise and fall from grace.

As I say this, I loved the story. The author, who was able to write this story by interviewing Charles (which is not the man’s true name, but alias), really brought Charles to life. He was able, in first person, to vividly convey the main character’s thoughts and feelings in a way that made me, as a reader, feel like I was right there with him, having a heartfelt conversation.

Though Charles loses focus, chooses the wrong priorities, and makes what some would see as unforgivable mistakes, he is a sympathetic character. Quite possibility because of knowing about his upbringing in earlier chapters, I couldn’t help but to see him as the good guy who wanted to do the right thing, but easily found himself getting caught up in the ills of modern day life.

If I have to say something that was lacking in this story, I would say it had a sort of incomplete, cliffhanger, ending. Towards the end, Charles, after his fall, sees himself having a second chance, to sort of start all over in life, and possibly mend some severed relationships. But the story ends there, with the idea of him having a second chance and with him questioning himself on what he will do with it. Now seeing that this story was loosely based on a true story—an actual man’s life, he’s not there yet—he’s not at the point where he’s actually pursued that second chance, and the author makes that known in the book. So although it was a disappointment to not know what became of Charles James, it was understandable. If it’s possible for the author to do, it would be nice for him to follow up with the man who is Charles James and see what becomes of his second chance at life.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story to those who like character driven stories that can make one think about life, it’s purpose, and what matters.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. I ended up liking this story despite being sort of incomplete. I believe its strength was the author’s ability to bring the main character to life, make him sympathetic and relatable.