Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: For Such a Time

For Such a TimeFor Such a Time by Kate Breslin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really enjoyable book placed in the times of the Holocaust.  These books are always hard to read but I really enjoy and feel that its necessary to understand what went on in those times.  While the author is very clear that the events in the book are fictional, she does state that the suffering of the Jewish people in the camp is true to history, and I think she does a good job at portraying that without being incredibly graphic. The book follows the main character of Stella and is a story based on the story of Esther in the Bible.  Stella is a Jew in Dachau concentration camp but was taken with false papers showing her as Aryan. Aric, the new commander of a different camp, sees Stella and is drawn to her strength despite the circumstances and finding the inconsistency in her paperwork, frees her from the camp and gives her the position of his secretary.  She travels with him to the new camp and finds her uncle Morty there, and also becomes attached to the Jewish houseboy Aric "saved" from the camp.   She feels torn between her new feelings for Aric, who seems unlike other SS officers, and her loyalty to her people, and risks her own safety to help save some of her people.  The parallels between the story of Stella and the story of Esther are obvious, and the author includes a verse from the book of Esther at the beginning of each chapter to help guide the reader in those parallels.  The story of Stella is interesting enough without adding the twist of the similarities to the book of Esther, but it is an interesting comparison.  The story and characters drew me in and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how Stella would succeed at being the Jews' "salvation" as they call her. The ending was a satisfying twist.  I'd recommend this book to romance and intrigue readers as well as those interested in the Holocaust in a less graphic description.  For hardcore studiers of the Holocause it may not give anything very new but its a great intro to the Holocaust for those not as well read on it, or who prefer not to read the more distressing graphic accounts. I appreciated that the author took the time at the end to discuss the fact and fiction of the novel.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: A Table By the Window

A Table by the Window: A Novel of Family Secrets and Heirloom RecipesA Table by the Window: A Novel of Family Secrets and Heirloom Recipes by Hillary Manton Lodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book about Juliette, the youngest in a boistrous French Italian family of restauranteurs. It follows her desperate attempt to end her loneliness by attempting online dating, her struggles with her career as a food writer that she loves/hates, her love of food and cooking and her intense family.  It is a story about new love, the dynamics of family and of course food. Throughout the book, Juliette attempts to discover why her late grandmother had a photo of a young man (who is not her grandfather) hidden away in the inside of a dust jacket on a well used cookbook, and why this young man looks just like one of her brothers. I enjoyed Juliette's family quite a bit, and think books on her siblings could be interesting as well. However, they will have to wait, as I realized, as the book ended quite quickly that this is almost definitely the first in a series on Juliette's story. The authors answers just barely enough of the stories raised in this book that it is almost satisfying on its own. Juliette finds some answers about her grandmothers story, amd reverses a hasty decision about her own, but there is so much left to tell in those two storylines as well as in the storylines begun about her family. I was switching devices  as I was beginning (what I was surprised to find out was) the last chapter! I really thought I had at least a quarter to the book to go. That is really my only criticism of the book, that it really seems like a large book split in two that is just not quite satisfying enough to stand on its own. I love book series, but much prefer when the individual books can be read on their own. This is a Christian novel, though it really is not overwheming or attempt to be spiritually inspirational or evangelistic as some Christian novels are. the characters' faith shows through at different points as the offer to pray for each other or  pray in the midst of turmoil to find peace, etc. While I think Christian readers of fiction or romance will enjoy this, I think it could be enjoyed by non-Christians who enjoy clean novels as well.  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book Review: Bluebonnet Bride

Bluebonnet Bride (Butterfly Palace, #1.5)Bluebonnet Bride by Colleen Coble
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm always disappointed to read a book and realize that it is a novella. i wish publishers would be more specific in their description that is not only a novella but part of series. the series dorsnt bither me so much, especially in books and series like this, where I assume they just follow different sets of characters. The novella, however, I found very unsatisfying. the storyline and writing style have the makings of a good book, but everything felt very forced and incomplete. The mystery was told more than experienced, and everything moved too quickly in both the mystery and the romance. It really wasn't all that enjoyable as I felt like the reader was just rushed through what could have been a good story too quickly to enjoy it. I really wish the autbor had taken the time to make this a full fledgedmember of the series. I'm really not sure what is the point of the novella. However, if you are looking for a very short, clean, mystery romance, then you will probably enjoy it.

I received a copy if this novella from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review: Murder Simply Brewed

Murder Simply Brewed (Amish Village Mystery #1)Murder Simply Brewed by Vannetta Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't usually choose to read Amish fiction but this one is different from the traditional Amish novel. It is a mystery novel set in an Amish tourists village run by Amber, a middle aged, never married woman. one of Amber's employees is found dead of what appears to be natural causes, thought there are some suspicious circumstances, and several acts of vandalism quickly follow. Hannah, a young Amish girl who works in the quilt shop next door to the victim's coffee shop, finds the body and finds herself becoming involved in investigating the mystery with Amber.  There is some romance as well as they both develop love interests. I enjoyed this clean mystery/romance and thought there was a nice balance between the two. I liked the variety of hearing the story through several different viewpoints, and while it gives a nice peek into Amish life it wasn't an overwhelming part of the book. I think mystery readers who aren't generally into Amish fiction might want to give this one a try!

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

I also read the first in her Shipshewana Amish Mystery series, Falling to Pieces and found it similarly enjoyable.  Again, there was a nice mix of the "English" and Amish viewpoint and life and a good mystery. I'd like to continue to read the others in the series. 

View all my reviews

Book Review: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and GumptionMiss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption by Brenda Spahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great, inspiring book. it was a pretty quick read, and I was sad when I got to the end! The book tells the true story of Brenda, a self-professed addict to making money as her wealth and success is stripped away and she is almost sent to prison. She feels led by God to do more with her life and chooses to work with women in prison and rehabilitating from prison as that almost happened to her. She volunteers for a while and then gets the idea to start a "whole way house" rehabilitation program. Expecting white collar criminals as she almost was and as she'd had worked with when she volunteered, shed gets a houseful of hardened drug users, attempted murderers, armed robbers, etc. The story is mostly told from Brenda's viewpoint, but I loved that there were several chapters told by the women themselves.The book does an excellent job of helping the reader understand the fear and difficulties these women face as they integrate back into society. The authors include wonderful scenes that bring the women and their struggles to life, like the first trip to walmart. I love that the book ended by sharing what several of the first women are doing today.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be inspired to step outside their bubble and do something. We can't all do what Brenda did but we can all change our attitudes and help others.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This novel is a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness and love.  The idea of a story about a fashion model didn't instantly draw me in, but as soon as I started reading I was hooked.  The author does an excellent job developing the characters and showing their inner turmoil and fears.  Ivy is a NYC model at the end of her ten year run of fame. She desperately takes a job from her stepmother to model her wedding gown designs for a photo shoot and charity fashion show.  On the outside, Ivy is a gorgeous successful woman, but on the inside she feels unloved and unwanted, due both to the last ten year of being treated as an object of beauty and lust as well as to growing up the product of adultery, ignored completely by her father and finally removed from her mother's home as her mother retreats into alcohol, drugs and depression after Ivy's father cuts off the relationship.  The author writes beautifully and Ivy's transformation in the small town is so well done and believable.  I love that the characters of faith in this story, her stepmother Marilyn, and Davis and Sara her nephew and niece, while believing in Christ's power and love, also have issues in their lives and I love that the author allows Ivy in her brokenness to be instrumental in their healing as well.  Despite the fact that Ivy is the child of her husband and his mistress, Marilyn has always felt God calling her to love Ivy as a daughter and she lives that calling despite the fact that Ivy doesn't see it and responds negatively to her.  Ivy's redemption and the redemption of these relationships in her lives was moving.  All these main characters have struggled through so much: guilt, blindness, infidelity,rejection. Marilyn makes a powerful statement that really impacted me in my personal life. She says, "God's not in the business of pampering His children. He's in the business of perfecting them."

This book is one that I will lend freely, but will always have a spot on my shelf.  While there is romance, I'd say its not specifically a romance novel; it is a novel about the redemptive power of Christ and the freedom we can have in Him.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: Storming the Black Ice

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Once again, I feel like I'm in the minority because I didn't love this book.  To sum up, the book is based around the idea that the British have found a huge oil deposit in Antarctica and have a base set up researching and protecting it.  They are attacked by Venezuela who is working with Argentina and want to take control of the deposit as they are worried about another country getting a piece of the fuel money pie in South America.  The book follows various characters, my favorite being Austin Rivers, a Leftenent in the British army I believe, who is stationed at the base in Antarctica. His story was the most interesting to me as he has a son (from a one-night-stand he has begun a relationship with as well as keeping in touch with the mother.  The author does a great job of painting the picture of the big burly army dude baby talking at his son. Various other characters are introduced, though often fairly quickly dismissed as their subs are sunk! I thought there would be more suspense and espionage, though this really is a very much a military novel, following the attacks and defense of subs as well as Rivers, his fellow army man, and the civilian engineers' capture and subsequent treatment.  This book is published through a Christian publishing house, though  honestly, I found very little Christian content in it, other than a character or two who are or have become Christians (not in the novel's timeframe), and people occasionally talking about praying. Overall, I did enjoy the book even though it wasn't what I was expecting.  However, it was one of the other main characters, Pete Miranda, who really kind of ruined the book for me.  I was ok with Pete, although he really is a ladies' man but at the beginning of the book meets a girl who then follows through out the book as his love interest.  However, I really felt their relationship was more of a lustful one that anything with substance.  Its frequently mentioned about how amazing she looks, how he feels when he looks at her, but really nothing to substantiate any kind of solid relationship is presented at all.  The whole thing felt unnecessary and silly, especially when he invites her to visit his family in Texas at the end.  The whole relationship is very sexual, and yet he (though never showing any spiritual inclination) wants to avoid a sexual encounter with her when she tries to seduce him over peach pie at her apartment.  One of the last sentences of the book has Pete saying that they are going to "finish that peach pie".

Honestly if you are just looking for a fairly clean military novel, you'll probably enjoy this. But if you pick it up thinking its going to be a Christian military suspense novel, i think you'll be sorely disappointed. I won't read it again, and won't be rushing to pick up any more of this author's books either. Not to say I wouldn't read one at some point, but its definitely not my favorite.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my  honest review.