Thursday, February 28, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Between Two Shores" by Jocelyn Green

Book Summary (Amazon): The daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father in 1759 Montreal, Catherine Duval finds it is easier to remain neutral in a world that is tearing itself apart. Content to trade with both the French and the British, Catherine is pulled into the fray against her wishes when her British ex-fiance, Samuel Crane, is taken prisoner by her father. Samuel asks her to help him escape, claiming he has information that could help end the war. 

Peace appeals to Catherine, but helping the man who broke her heart does not. She delays . . . until attempts on Samuel's life convince her he's in mortal danger. Against her better judgment she helps him flee by river, using knowledge of the landscape to creep ever closer to freedom. Their time together rekindles feelings she thought long buried, and danger seems to hound their every mile. She's risked becoming a traitor by choosing a side, but will the decision cost her even more than she anticipated?

My thoughts... This novel is rich in historical detail from page one. I knew almost nothing about the physical or political landscape of 1700s Canada. The way that Jocelyn Green described it, I could picture many things down to specific detail. This is definitely a strength of this novel. Even the fictional characters could fit right into the pages of history. 
     As far as the plot of the story, it is also quite intense as the characters face very difficult choices and situations, quite like real life. I would definitely characterize this novel as realistic historical fiction. In real life, things don't always come together and work out like you might wish they would. Each character had to work through some emotional trauma and wounds that in some cases led to taking a difficult path, risking their hearts and lives. There is also an aspect of this novel that involves physical and emotional abuse, which I found somewhat disturbing at times, particularly in the way that Catherine's father treated her. His manipulation and abuse led her to stay with him and make excuses for his behavior. This also carried over to the romantic relationship she had with Samuel. He also manipulated Catherine to accomplish the mission he was passionate about. Even though Samuel had good intentions overall, he was not completely honest with Catherine. 
     I certainly credit the author with a well-written novel. The spiritual journey the characters take is engaging without having the "preachy" feel that many readers dislike. I appreciated the historical detail, however {**slight spoiler alert** } I was frustrated with the way that Samuel treated Catherine. This novel is not one that I would consider romantic. I went into it thinking that there would be romantic tension between the two main characters. When they had a few moments together that gave me those butterflies, I later felt a bit cheated when things were not as they seemed. One may consider this a love story as the characters, especially Catherine, learn to love who they are and who God created them to be, but the romantic love story isn't there. To be honest, that was kind of a bummer. 

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give an honest review, which I did.**

Friday, February 15, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Castle on the Rise" by Kristy Cambron

Book Summary (Amazon): When Laine Forrester travels overseas to attend her best friend’s vineyard wedding, she expects to find the bride on the brink of a fairy-tale life. But after a series of unforeseen setbacks, it seems the storybook lives they’d imagined are suddenly ripping apart.
With hopes of resurrecting a happy ending, Laine agrees to accompany the newlyweds to the groom’s home in Ireland—never expecting she’d be the one drawn in by its wide-open moors, backroads bordering the Irish Sea, and a mysterious castle that dares to keep its secrets hidden.
From the storied streets of Dublin to the shores of the Emerald Isle, Laine is drawn in to the land and its rich history. The castle ruins whisper stories of Issy—a photojournalist battling through the 1916 Easter Rising, and Maeve—the castle’s lady of legend, fighting for survival through the 1798 rebellion that started it all.
Spanning more than two centuries, Castle on the Rise unites the legacy of three women who must risk mending the broken places within for life, love, and the belief that even through the depths of our pain, a masterpiece of a story can emerge.

My thoughts...Part of the author's notes that I believe summarize this book perfectly: "At its core, Castle on the Rise is a story of rebellion--not just the fight for freedom of the Republic of Ireland, but the rebel spirit that arises in each of us as we weather the battles in our own lives. The characters in this novel display courage and resilience when the worst happens and the fairy-tale story begins to crumble. Instead of lamenting what 'should have been,' they dig their heels in the dirt and, with conviction, anchor themselves to the one thing that will see them rise: faith."
     I truly feel that this novel is one of Cambron's best. I loved the history of Ireland woven through the story, which I knew very little about, as well as the fictionalized heroes and heroines. Both fiction and non-fiction aspects reflect the true courage, faith, and passion of the Irish people. Usually I feel a little disappointed when I read novels that slip from one time period to another because there isn't enough plot detail or romantic tension build up. This novel did not leave me feeling that way at all. There was just the right amount of detail in each story line...and each one was very compelling. I didn't want to stop reading because I was so eager to find out what happened next to each set of characters. Even the title was so cleverly done...because not only was the castle physically on the rise, but there were so many other "rises" that played out on the castle grounds: romance, uprisings, healing, courage and so much more. This book has a little bit of everything and I couldn't recommend it enough! So good!

**I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give my honest review, which I did.**

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Ladies of Intrigue" by Michelle Griep

Book Summary (Amazon): The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady
Cornish Coast, 1815
When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret?

The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner!)
Dakota Territory, 1862
Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins.

A House of Secrets
St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890
Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.

My thoughts...If you like picking up a book that you can read in a day, pick up a novella. This book is a collection of 3 novellas, and only took me a few days of leisurely reading to complete. Each story was a little different, with "The Doctor's Woman" being completely different as it is set in the western US. The other two novellas were set in England. 
Michelle Griep's full length novels are typically filled with exciting plot twists, romantic tension, and a nicely paced story line that will keep you reading from beginning to end. This novella collection is like three miniature versions of that. I personally liked "The Doctor's Woman" more than the other two because i enjoyed the characters and plot line a little more. The western setting is one I'm partial to as well, so I was quickly turning pages to see what would happen next. As with the nature of all novellas, you don't get all of the detail and the romantic aspect is usually sped up a bit. While there are times that I do like the long building up of tension, every so often it's nice to see things move along a little faster! 

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via netgalley in order to give an honest review, which I did.**

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Warrior Maiden" by Melanie Dickerson

Book Summary (Amazon): She knows women are expected to marry, cook, and have children, not go to war. Can she manage to stay alive, save her mother, and keep the handsome son of a duke from discovering her secret?
When Mulan takes her father’s place in battle against the besieging Teutonic Knights, she realizes she has been preparing for this journey her whole life—and that her life, and her mother’s, depends on her success. As the adopted daughter of poor parents, Mulan has little power in the world. If she can’t prove herself on the battlefield, she could face death—or, perhaps worse, marriage to the village butcher.
Disguised as a young man, Mulan meets the German duke’s son, Wolfgang, who is determined to save his people even if it means fighting against his own brother. Wolfgang is exasperated by the new soldier who seems to be one step away from disaster at all times—or showing him up in embarrassing ways.
From rivals to reluctant friends, Mulan and Wolfgang begin to share secrets. But war is an uncertain time and dreams can die as quickly as they are born. When Mulan receives word of danger back home, she must make the ultimate choice. Can she be the son her bitter father never had? Or will she become the strong young woman she was created to be?
This fresh reimagining of the classic tale takes us to fifteenth-century Lithuania where both love and war challenge the strongest of hearts.

My thoughts...I absolutely fell in love at first sight with this beautiful cover! For me, it's one of the best I've seen. I was intrigued with the idea of a Mulan retelling...I wasn't sure I was going to like it as much as some of the other fairy tale retellings Melanie Dickerson has done. Let's just say from the start that I loved it! And here's why...
     Mulan's courage throughout the novel is inspiring. I love that this is written as a young adult novel...perfect for my almost 12 year old. I let her read it as well and Mulan has become one of her favorite characters. Mulan was willing, over and over, to sacrifice herself for others. Courage, sacrifice, and humility are all character traits that I want for myself, but especially for my pre-teen. I love that this is such a big part of this novel. 
     I also loved the sacrificial love that was part of the romantic aspect of the story. This was a sweet romance, with an appropriate amount of romantic tension for a young adult audience. Woven through the love story was also a friendship that developed between the two main characters, compassion for each other and their circumstances, and each willing to put themselves in harm's way in order to protect the other. I can't help but think about the verse, "Greater love hath no man than this than one who lays his life down for his friend." 
     This is also a faith-based novel, so there are moments in which the characters wrestle with their beliefs and work out their faith. They also ponder the Bible and verses that are meaningful. Again, I like this aspect of the novel as I am personally a woman of faith and my daughter is growing in her faith. 
     I'm so thankful for novels like this that not only have a great storyline, but also explore important themes like honor, love, humility, and faith. This is much needed in our society today, especially for our youth. I'm so glad that I can pass on Melanie's books to my daughter with confidence that we'll both come away encouraged and entertained. 

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in order to give an honest review, which I did.**