Friday, March 29, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Far Side of the Sea" by Kate Breslin

Book Summary (Amazon): In spring 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries on the front, receives a message by carrier pigeon. It is from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life--a woman he believed to be dead. Traveling to France to answer her urgent summons, he desperately hopes this mission will ease his guilt and restore the courage he lost on the battlefield. 

Colin is stunned, however, to discover the message came from Jewel's half sister, Johanna. Johanna, who works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence, found Jewel's diary and believes her sister is alive in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them.

When their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot, danger and deception turn their search for answers into a battle for their lives.

My thoughts... In most novels, I tend to gravitate towards relating most to the heroine. In this novel, however, I was most drawn to the hero, Colin, and his story. His journey from being a wounded war hero with PTSD, anxiety, and no desire to do anything beyond a quiet routine to someone who is willing to reengage and take risks for love was beautifully written. The vulnerability he had is something that always appeals to me in a hero, but he also had courage to overcome. Maybe it's just me, but Johanna's character was kind of hard for me to connect to. I guess I couldn't completely figure her out. Was she the savvy tough girl who likes to wear men's clothes that was raised by an Irish militant or was she the feminine French young lady who wears fashionable clothes and is so stubborn that she makes some unwise choices in order to get her way? She's Irish, but lives in France and her hero is Napoleon. In my mind I was trying to imagine her accent as she spoke, but just couldn't. There was just a lot going on there for me. Maybe she's supposed to be mysterious and I missed it. 
     Other than my connection issues with the characters, the novel had the same kind of plot twists and exciting moments that previous Breslin novels have. I really started getting that fun jittery feeling about mid-way through the book. I thought the romantic tension was nice as the characters had obstacles to overcome. Overall I believe most Christian fiction readers will find this book quite enjoyable, but Kate Breslin's "For Such a Time" still holds the top spot for me. 

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

Friday, March 15, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Daughters of Northern Shores" by Joanne Bischof

Book summaryAven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor's child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon--whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the Norgaard orchard after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade, where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he's pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon's cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor's--which is already imperiled due to a grave illness brought to him at the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she's been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he's fighting for.

My thoughts... Reading this book reminds me of the amazing bread pudding I had for dessert the other day: warm, comforting, delicious with every bite, and I didn't want it to end! This is just how I felt while reading "Daughters of Northern Shores."
     When I finished the first book in this series, "Sons of Blackbird Mountain," I was in love with the Norgaard family. The way that Joanne Bischof wrote each character endeared them to me. I immediately wanted more of their story. When I saw that there would be a sequel I waiting in eager anticipation then downloaded as fast as I could!
     After years of living peacefully, the Norgaard's family life is shaken up again with the return of Haakon and the sudden illness of Thor, which impacts the rest of the family, particularly Aven. The tension is high as the family navigates how to extend forgiveness to Haakon. The parallel to the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son is so beautifully written. There is also a mysterious element as they try to discover the source of Thor's illness.
     I really can't say enough about how much I love this series (because you really need to read both books)! The balance of romance, tension, spirituality, and exquisite detail make for an excellent reading experience!

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Reviewer's bookshelf: "The Unexpected Champion" by Mary Connealy

Book Summary: City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons' supposedly lost grandson. But now that he's out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She's not like any woman he's ever met--comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun. 

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don't have, both realize they've stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape. 

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won't stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

My thoughts... The Unexpected Champion is book three in this series. It's hard for me to say which of the three I liked more...all of them were fantastic! This book wraps up the dilemma that started in book one: who is the bad guy and why is this family being tormented by him? There's also a side story that began in book two of family members seeking to get custody of their grandson...with bad intentions. This story is a perfect balance of humor, intensity, romantic tension, danger...all set in a beautiful western landscape. I honestly get pretty excited when I see that Mary Connealy has written a new book because I love the contrast she creates with the different elements in the plot. Between the wit and humor that she injects into her characters (with some moments that I actually laughed out loud) and the very intense danger scenes, there's a little surprise on every page. 
     And let's not forget the romance. I love the way these characters interact with each other. The push and pull between attraction and hesitancy create some fun tension. The way this couple got thrown together (literally!), was a little on the far fetched side for me, but I honestly just went with it. It kind of fit into the humor of the story, but also provided the situation these two characters needed to move forward with their growing attraction (which I was all in for that ; )). 
     This book...and the a big thumbs up from me! I loved the setting, the cast of characters, the plot..basically all of it. I haven't elaborated much on the spiritual aspect of the novel, but there was a faith aspect that fit right in with the rest of the story line. It was a fun read!

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