Hard to read, but captivating novel (Dry as Rain – Gina Holmes)

I really struggled while reading Gina Holmes’ latest novel, Dry as Rain.  It’s well-written and interesting, but the content is hard to stomach.  Don’t get me wrong though; that’s what I think made this such a good book.

 

Eric and Kyra have been married for many years, and with their son, Benji, had many happy years.  But the happiness slowly got lost in daily life and before Eric knew it, he was making choices he couldn’t ever take back.  Before he knew it, their marriage was ending and there was nothing he could do to stop it.  But, when Kyra loses pieces of her recent memory in an accident, a window of a second chance seems to loom ahead of Eric.  Their lives are enhanced by their son, Benji, and his world that has also come crashing down.  I appreciated that Eric’s character was revealed more deeply in his interactions with his son.

 

Even though it was a difficult read (reading about infidelity is always difficult, I think, even if it’s not something you’ve personally experienced), I was thankful for the truthful reminder that flowed throughout the book.  The truth that God can redeem all things hit me over and over again as I read about Eric  and Benji, Eric and Kyra, and their lifelong dreams.

Thanks, Tyndale, for the review copy of Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes.  I really appreciate being pointed to God and his truths as I read, and this novel did exactly that.

Captivating historical fiction (Stealing Jake – Pam Hillman)

Let me first off say that I rarely read historical fiction.  It’s not that I don’t like it (because I often do), but more that for some reason it just doesn’t end up on my radar.  So, when I come across some good historical fiction, I really appreciate it.  Case in point: Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman.  I really enjoyed the story and the writing.  Not all Christian fiction is the quality I would expect a publisher would actually publish, so I’m pleasantly surprised when I read a well-written and well-edited Christian fiction novel.  And with Stealing Jake, I was pleasantly surprised.

It was a well-written, interesting, engaging story.  Hillman’s characters were captivating, as was her plot.  While there were definitely some cheesy moments, Livy and Jake’s store captured me from the beginning.  Livy loves on and works with orphans at an orphanage with Mrs. Brooks.  Beyond that though, she is working hard to try and gain the trust of the local homeless children.  Her desire to make amends is revealed throughout the novel, and helps to push the plot along as mystery ensues.  I enjoyed Livy’s faith journey as well, not too overt, but still an important part of the novel.

I really enjoyed reading Stealing Jake.  The characters were interesting, and the plot really kept me engaged.  I was proud of my deduction as I read…I figured out the thief/problem right from the get go, although that didn’t detract from my experience reading the novel.  Overall, a great historical fiction read!

Thanks, Tyndale, for the complimentary copy of Stealing Jake in exchange for an honest review.

Heartbreaking but amazing novel (The First Gardener – Denise Hildreth Jones)

How do you deal with incredible loss?  Denise Hildreth Jones’ latest novel, The First Gardener, is the story of Mack and Gray London, governor of Tennessee.  They question God, life, love, everything as they grieve and live their lives.  They are helped along by their friends and family (a hilarious cast of characters…mainly Eugenia’s buddies) including the gardener for the governor’s mansion, Jeremiah.  Jeremiah’s heart is expressed through flowers and their meanings, something not always well received by Mack.

As I read this novel, I was amazed by the depth of the characters and their pain.  I cried as I was blown away by the hurt and the emotions.  Jones is a beautiful writer, and her portrayal of Mack and Gray as they struggled through the pain that filled their lives.  While reading, I had to stop and just take in the pain and, before I knew it, I found myself praying for Mack.  Then I realized that she was a fictional character.  Oops.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel, just like all of Denise Hildreth’s books (especially The Will of Wisteria) and would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good (but hard) story of redemption and love and life.

Thank you, Tyndale, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!

Slow start, but an okay novel (Delivery – Diana Prusik)

I struggled to get into Diana Prusik’s debut novel, Delivery. Livi, the main character struggles to vanquish her demons as she works at her family’s small town florist shop. She and her sister, Gretta, don’t always see eye to eye, especially after the latest tragedy that throws Livi for a loop. Her pain is nearly tangible. The characters in this story took me awhile to get into (especially with the confusing timeline of the story…so many flashbacks!), but once I got it all figured out, I mostly enjoyed the story. It was funny, heartbreaking, and entertaining, but it had its verrrry slow moments as well.

There were many loose ends at the novel’s close, and I wished Prusik would have provided some sort of resolution for Livi’s issues with her family. Instead of a clear resolution, I was left with questions about Livi and her husband and Livi’s relationships with others.

All in all, I moderately enjoyed Prusik’s debut novel. Thank you, Tyndale, for providing an electronic copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Engaging, well-written, funny novel (Reinventing Leona – Lynne Gentry)

I’ve read quite a few novels featuring a pastor’s wife as the main character. But what about a novel telling the story of a pastor’s wife…with no pastor?  Enter Reinventing Leona by Lynne Gentry.

Leona is on her own. Her beloved husband has kicked the bucket and she’s a wife, no longer a pastor’s wife. What will become of her as the world continues turning? Her mother and her kids are in conflicts–with her or with God or with others. The evil elder Howard is up to no good as he seeks a new pastor.

Though I felt some of the conflicts were slightly contrived and silly, I really enjoyed Gentry’s debut novel. I was captivated while reading it (went to bed one night way too late because of it), and I really enjoyed the writing style.  I felt like I was a part of Leona overcoming her fears and finding herself as she stood up to her mom, dealt with hard issues, and got herself a job…all the while remaining polite and charming.   Engaging, funny, real; Gentry hit this novel out of the ballpark!

Thank you, Tyndale, for providing an electronic copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Light-hearted, fun read (My Foolish Heart – Susan May Warren)

>I’ve been in desperate need of a good book lately. I am a teacher and 15 hours from now, I will be on summer break. In my excitement for the impending summer, I started dreaming about all of the wonderful books I was going to read. And in that excitement, I couldn’t help but get started a bit earlier than I probably should have. I was so lucky to start my summer reading off with Susan May Warren’s My Foolish Heart. While this books is part of a series, it does not need to be read in order to understand what is going on. (Turns out I had read one book in the series…didn’t even realize it until partway through!)

I love a good story with good guys and bad guys, but I love it even more when you’re not really sure who is good and who is bad. I loved that about this book. There is one character in particular who you just want to not like, but you can’t help it, and you can’t decide if he’s “good” or “bad”.
In the end though, it is not just a quick, fun read. Yes, it’s quick, yes, it’s fun, but there’s a lot more to My Foolish Heart than is seen from the back cover. There are issues of faith and issues that have great depth. I appreciated going on the journey with Issy, Caleb, Lucy, and Seb and discovering my own areas of crippling fear along with them.
Thank you to Tyndale for the review copy of this book. My opinions are entirely my own.

Interesting historical fiction (Journey to Riverbend – Henry McLaughlin)

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I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about Henry McLaughlin’s Journey to Riverbend. My skepticism mostly came from the cheesy cover. I even got made fun of by my sweet cousin while on the plane to Hawaii.
“You are reading that book? From the cover, I thought that was a book that Grandma brought with her.”
I agreed with her that it was a dumb cover, and that I was a little hesitant to read it. The description on the back cover and the pictures on the front cover made me feel like I was being set up to read a cheesy Christian romance.
Oh, was I wrong! This book had everything I was (secretly) hoping for: adventure, intrigue, (some) romance, growth, mystery, suspense. Michael and Rachel are both portrayed as beautiful examples of redemption, and their story carries all of the subplots throughout this lengthy novel. I was sad when it ended.
While some of the bad guys seemed all bad, with no redeemable qualities, McLaughlin carefully wove humanity through all of his characters. It was an engaging and captivating read and I appreciated the redemption emphasized.
A great debut novel; I look forward to reading more of McLaughlin’s work as he continues his writing career.
I was given this book (thank you!) by Tyndale and have expressed my honest opinions in this review.

An unlikely (at least from the cover) good book (Code Triage – Candace Calvert)

>I LOVE getting books in the mail (especially when they’re free! Thank you, Tyndale!). This book, in particular, was anxiously awaited – I practically ran to the mailbox after arriving home from work each day. I don’t know why I was so excited to get this book, Code Triage, by Candace Calvert, but I was stoked when it finally did come. Unfortunately, I was somewhat put off by the somewhat (I think) ridiculous cover photograph; but after reading the first two chapters, I was hooked!

Calvert’s writing draws the reader into the story quickly, and her descriptions are clear and concise. She weaves a somewhat predictable story; however, her characterization makes the reader thirst for more of what will happen. I appreciated the focus on truth and the faithfulness of God, and the oh-so-common human desire for space. I may be the only person to think so, but I did not like how evil Sam was made out to be. While I completely agree that her actions and desires were horrible, I wonder if maybe Calvert could have still made her out as the “bad guy” without the twirling of the mustache and “muah-ha-ha”-ing. Overall though, an enjoyable read! Thanks, Ms. Calvert!
I received this book free of charge from Tyndale. My review contains only my opinions!