Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Joy of Falling" by Lindsay Harrel

Book Summary (Amazon): It has been fifteen months since Eva and Angela lost their thrill-seeking husbands in a scuba diving accident. Both women are trying to navigate their way through the grief, but neither one is making much progress. Angela is barely making ends meet, angry at her husband for leaving her to raise three children on her own. Meanwhile, Eva is stuck, unable to move forward after losing the love of her life and her source of inspiration.
But then Eva gets a life-changing phone call. Before Brent and Wes died, they had signed up for a race of a lifetime—an ultra-marathon in beautiful New Zealand. Eva begs Angela to run the race with her in their husbands’ place, and Angela finally agrees, hoping to finally understand her husband's choices.
Training is exhausting, and the race is even more demanding. Their journey grows more complicated by the presence of two men—Marc is Brent’s best friend who is running the race with Eva and Angela, and Simon King is a writer who is covering their inspiring story. With every step, Eva and Angela must ask themselves questions that they haven’t had the courage to ask before. As the women literally put one foot in front of the other, they wonder: Is it possible to find their way forward in hope?

My thoughts...The timing of my reading this book was providential. This book is about grief. How different people deal with grief and how it affects us and our loved ones. Angela and Eva dealt with the grief of losing their spouses in very different ways. Some were healthy, some were unhealthy. It's also about joy...and hope. Hope that even though loss can devastate us and paralyze us, healing can happen. It can happen with the help of the Healer, who is the Lord. It can also happen with the love and support of friends and family. I can relate so well to this story as I've been dealing with the grief of losing several family members, including both of my parents, over the last several years. Some parts certainly brought back memories and also gave me a renewed sense of hope. That aspect of the book was beautiful and life-giving. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"It took Eva a moment to form the words in her heart, 'You know, when you've loved deeply and lost deeply, it's okay to feel deeply.'"

"When some people have so much grief inside of them, it's hard to figure out how to release it. And it's easy for the rest of us to only see the prickles--the thorns--that happen as a result. But don't forget there's a rose there too. You sometimes just have to wait for it to bloom."

"Because joy isn't dependent on you or even the good things in life, like a wonderful husband. It's dependent on God, and on you being reconciled with him. It's rooted in a deep knowing that no matter what happens in life, you have someone you can hold on to even when you're drowning."

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did."

Monday, April 13, 2020

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The House at the End of the Moor" by Michelle Griep

Book Summary (Amazon): What Can a London Opera Star and an Escaped Dartmoor Prisoner Have in Common?

Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity.

My thoughts... This book had my attention from page one! There was a very unique aspect to this novel in that it was written in first person when Maggie "spoke", but switched out of first person with the other characters. It was the first time I'd read a book quite like that. When I've read novels that were only in first person, I've missed some of the details and thoughts from the other characters' perspectives. This had to best of both worlds in that sense. Maggie's character also loved the book Jane Eyre, which is a favorite of mine, so I was instantly drawn in. Maggie's story parallels Jane's in some ways, in that both encounter dark, mysterious men that have a past that haunts them. As Maggie and Oliver's worlds intertwine in unexpected ways, the intensity of the plot increases. The bad guys are well-written, evoking the creepy feelings along with my personal desire to see them brought to justice. Even that didn't end the way I anticipated. Michelle Griep also writes some great romantic tension, which I always appreciate.
I loved this line at the beginning of the novel as Maggie compares herself to her pet dog that she found on the Moors:
"I fancy we are a lot alike; Wounded but not overcome. Braver than anything life throws at us. But that's a lie."
Again, much like Jane Eyre, Maggie develops from someone who has been abused and left to fend for herself to a woman of courage and determination, even through the heartache. I love Michelle's books and this one did not disappoint! 

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

Friday, April 10, 2020

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Selah" by Lisa T. Bergren

Book Summary (Amazon): Selah Banning has come of age on the West Indies island of Nevis, shaped by experiences far beyond the typical upbringing of a young British lady in 1776. She never anticipated that the most tumultuous time of her life might await her in the year ahead.

Jedediah Reed, a young Methodist preacher with a call to serve the slaves of Nevis, has settled at Selah's family's plantation, the Double T. As Selah's heart is drawn to the same people, their shared purpose brings them together--despite her guardians' concern with a romance that promises little security for the future.

As Jedediah's faith and Selah's abolitionist leanings lead to changes on the plantation, the Revolutionary War continues to build in the States. With the threat of starvation and the conflict with island mogul Angus Shubert growing ever stronger, the future of the Double T and its people hangs in the balance.

My thoughts... The three book Sugar Barons series by Lisa T. Bergren, ending with this book, have been so intriguing to me. I had little to no previous knowledge of these islands and the role they played in the sugar trade or history, particularly as it related to the Revolutionary War. I know the author, based on notes at the end of the books, has fictionalized some of the characters and events, but Nevis and the surrounding islands are real places that were active in sugar production and trade. I also loved this trio of sisters, each having their own book in the series. They are each unique in their convictions, but all three are strong and courageous. Selah is the "baby" of the three, yet in this book she is a grown woman trying to make a stand for what God has given her a conviction for, which is the mistreatment of slaves. All of the Banning sisters are trying to make a better life for their slaves, whom they free and help to find jobs as freed men and women, unlike most of their fellow plantation owners on the islands.
This book has a great pace, moving from one interesting event in Selah's life to the next. These events vary from helping runaway slaves, encounters with the evil Angus Shubert, and the building of romantic tension between herself and Jedediah Reed. I would definitely recommend this entire series. The portrayal of women in a male-dominated society was well done, showing the challenges, but also the way that honorable men and women can work together in faith to overcome the prejudices of that time period. 

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.** 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Runaway Bride" by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary (Amazon): Wealthy Arabella Lawrence flees to British Columbia on a bride ship still wearing the scars of past mistakes. One of the few single women in the boomtown, she immediately has suitors, but she is determined not to find herself trapped again by a poor choice.

Vying for her hand are two very different men. Lieutenant Richard Drummond is a gentleman in the Navy and is held in high esteem. Peter Kelly is the town's baker and has worked hard to build a thriving business. He and Drummond not only compete for Arabella's affections, but clash over their views of how the natives should be treated in the midst of a smallpox outbreak.

As Arabella begins to overcome her fears, she discovers someone in dire need--a starving girl abandoned by her tribe. Intent on helping the girl, Arabella leans on Peter's advice and guidance. Will she have the wisdom to make the right decision or will seeking what's right cost both her and Peter everything?

My thoughts...It took me a few chapters to really get into this second story in the Bride Ships series, but as the tension began to build I could hardly put it down! In the first book, the heroine was fleeing poverty in order to have a better life for herself. A lot of book one was set on the ship voyage over. This book begins as the upper class Arabella is coming off the ship and beginning her life in a new land, looking for a husband of her status. Part of the tension was learning Arabella's story, particularly what she endured before boarding the bride ship, and how that impacted her as she formed relationships in her new home. Even though Arabella's choices frustrated me at times, her character went through a beautiful transformation. As she saw her worth through God's eyes, and put her trust in Him to love and protect her, it freed her up to make choices based on truth as opposed to what the world told her was right. Even though Pete (Peter Kelly) finds himself in a variety of tempting and trying situations, he relies on his young faith in God to guide him through. The spiritual journey portrayed by both characters was encouraging and inspiring. And last, but not least, the fantastic (clean) romantic scenes did not disappoint! It was the icing on the cake! I have really enjoyed this series and look forward to the next two books that are coming soon!

*I was given a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.*