Friday, July 19, 2013

Unending Devotion

Unending Devotion
Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Fiction, Historical, Romance

It's 1883 in cold and dreary Michigan. Lily Young is working as a photographer's assistant and traveling from lumber camp to lumber camp. While her job is as an assistant her mission goes far beyond just photography. Lily is desperate to find her younger sister Daisy who ran away and, Lily believes, found a job in the prostitution trade. No saloon is too small, no hen house too dangerous for Lily to search for her dear sister. She's vowed to do whatever it takes to find Daisy. Along the way she's been helping girls escape prostitution. Fiery and brave Lily fights for girls at any cost.

Arriving in the town of Harrison as winter is settling coldly upon Michigan Oren, the photographer, and Lily have to stay put for awhile. Lily refuses to stay anywhere that doesn't practice temperance. Her stubbornness and the lack of temperance in the town cause quite a spectacle whereupon our hero of the story, Connell McCormick, enters the scene. Connell finds this headstrong beautiful woman quite intriguing. Wanting to protect her from herself he finds himself stepping in to rescue her.

Connell was raised with Christian values and is the son of a lumber baron. He's become quite apathetic and defeated by his father's constant bullying. His father says the lumber camps must make more money and Connell is in town to figure out how to make that happen. Little by little he is excusing things that his moral upbringing would never have allowed. When Lily sweeps into town on a mission to do away with all the brothels Connell has to put a stop to her. No women mean no me and no men mean no lumber money.

One particularly evil brothel owner is seducing women to work in his "hotel". He wields power and wears brass knuckles as a part of his wardrobe. The whole town is scared of him except for Lily. She's desperate to find Daisy and she's sure this man knows something. Lily reminds Connell of his morals and his ethics and bids him to join the fight.

What follows is a storyline that will keep you reading well into the night. Fraught with evil, good, love, suspense, and mystery this is a page turner. Hedlund has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her ability to weave a good tale while teaching history is truly an art craft. I found myself quickly swept up in the story and gasping at each unexpected turn.

However, when all was said and done I took a step back and realized that while I had been wrapped up in the sensationalism of the book it seemed to be missing something...or maybe it had too much of something. It was a penny dreadful sense. Over the top plot lines, unrealistic feats, and predictable heroes and heroines. Overall I very much disliked Lily. As a character she was young, legalistic, and obnoxious. I wanted to like her but I couldn't. She never grew on me. Connell was protective and everything a hero should be which I found to be.....annoying.

 We do get insight into the sex trade taking place in the late 1800s. Both heartbreaking and real. For some readers I fear you will feel a line was crossed as things are described in detail. Hedlund does not handle this particular subject with as much class as one would desire. Perhaps I'm jaded by past reads of Hedlunds that have had both depth and a good plot line. Either way, while not a terrible read in the least, this book had me wishing for more and wishing for less all at the same time.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Daughter of Jerusalem

Daughter of Jerusalem 
Joan Wolf
Worthy Publishing 
Biblical Fiction 

In Daughter of Jerusalem, readers will quickly identify with Mary Magdalene – a woman of deep faith who used her wealth and influence to serve Jesus. This fictionalized story of Mary Magdalene is, in the truest sense of the word, an inspirational novel for modern people who are looking to renew in themselves the message of Christ. It’s the greatest story ever lived, told by one of the most famous women who ever lived, and it’s a page-turner. Joan Wolf’s years of success as a novelist enable her to combine storytelling and a faith plot in this beautifully written biblical fiction.

I was all set up to really like this book. I very much enjoy Biblical fiction because it helps me truly enter into the story of the Bible. I love that. I usually allow the liberties taken by the authors and am rarely bothered. However, the liberty of combining Mary Magdalene and Mary, Lazarus' sister, into one person went a bit too far for me. Is it likely they were the same person? There may be a very slim chance. I won't get into the theology and history of it all but I was bothered that they were combined into the same person. So bothered, I didn't fully enjoy the book. 

With that being said, however, you might not have the same problem. If you can look past the combination of characters and see this merely as a work of fiction it is a good read. Wolf writes with direction and I appreciate that. Her characters are well developed and interesting. While this certainly doesn't get my highest vote it does still get mention for being an enjoyable work of purely fiction.

My thanks to Worthy Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my real honest review.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Take a Chance on Me

Take a Chance on Me
Susan May Warren
Tyndale Publishing
April 2013
Fiction, Romance.

Ivy Madison is the new assistant county attorney in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Her goal is to make a difference and find a place to belong in the tiny little town. She has no idea when she  goes to a charity bachelor auction that the last person she should bid on is Derek Christiansen.

Derek is angry and embarrassed at having to fill in at the auction for his hockey star brother. And that's not all he's angry at. He's been brooding for years after the tragic death of his wife. Angry and bitter the town knows to stay away from Derek.

When Ivy bids on Derek she has no idea what the implications will be. Little does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail 3 years ago she was keeping the man responsible for the death of Derek's wife free. What she does know is that getting to know the large Christiansen family feels like home for the first time in her life. Having grown up in the foster care system she's been looking for a place to belong her whole life. The Christiansens own the historic Evergreen Lake resort and she'd like to stay forever.

Derek and Ivy can't deny the fact that they're drawn to each other. As they try to form a relationship they, and the people around them, have to begin to deal with their pasts and issues of forgiveness. No chance can really be taken until healing begins.

Warren dives deep into heavy issues such as forgiveness, the love of God, bitterness, and more. She does so with finesse and proves once again that fiction can cover the deep issues of life in an approachable way. This book is a book of healing and second chances. It's not your typical fluff novel, this is hard hitting and effective. This book is gripping and you'll read it through quickly.

The characters are real people and very endearing. I wanted to become a part of the Christiansen family and be invited over to the lake for the weekend. Derek and Ivy have an undeniable chemistry that is sweet to read. You'll agonize alongside them as they fall in love with each other and in their woundedness and humanity they continue to fumble.

Warren always includes humor in her books which is much appreciated when dealing with a heavy story. You'll find yourself chuckling as you turn the pages.

My only critique of the book is I felt there were too many perspectives the story was told from. At one point 4 different characters tell the story. I prefer to stick to one or two otherwise I find myself feeling muddled. It's a long book and I think the number of story lines may have been more effective as a couple of books instead of just one.

I can report that this is the start of a new spin-off series taking place in Deep Haven. This series will follow the Christiansen family. I can promise you that's a good thing. Warren has proven through the years that she can handle spin off series with ease. I, for one, can't wait to grab the next book in the series.

I love visiting Deep Haven and the people there. Do yourself a favor this summer, grab this book, find a sunny spot with some lemonade, and dive deep into all it has to offer. You'll be glad you did.

My thanks to Tyndale Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book for my real and honest review. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Til Grits Do Us Part

'Til Grits Do us Part
Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Barbour Publishing
Fiction, Modern, Romance

Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans. In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive. 

 This is the third and final book in the Southern Fried Sushi series. Spinola continues to write with vim and vigor. Shiloh is as spunky as ever as she attempts to plan her wedding. I appreciated the personal growth she had to go through as she faced her past. Spinola writes true to life situations that are relatable. I'll honestly say this was not my favorite book in the series. Something about the stalker seemed a little out of pace and unnecessary  At some point it crossed over the line of believable that somehow Spinola had managed to avoid until then. While not my favorite, it's still and excellent read and a must-read to top off a truly delightful series. Hats off to Jennifer! Nicely done! 

My Thanks to Barbour Publishing and Jennifer Spinola for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and real review. 

Friday, July 5, 2013


Diana Wallis Taylor
Revell Publishing
June 2013 Available now from your favorite bookseller! 
Biblical Fiction

Claudia’s life did not start easily. The illegitimate daughter of Julia, reviled and exiled daughter of Caesar Augustus, Claudia spends her childhood in a guarded villa with her mother and grandmother. When Tiberius, who hates Julia, takes the throne, Claudia is wrenched away from her mother to be brought up in the palace in Rome. The young woman is adrift–until she meets Lucius Pontius Pilate and becomes his wife. When Pilate is appointed Prefect of the troublesome territory of Judea, Claudia does what she has always done: she makes the best of it. But unrest is brewing on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, and Claudia will soon find herself and her beloved husband embroiled in controversy and rebellion. Might she find peace and rest in the teaching of the mysterious Jewish Rabbi everyone seems to be talking about?

For some reason I have begun to really enjoy biblical fiction in the last year or so. I love how it helps make the Bible come alive. Pilate has long interested me and seeing his story through the eyes of his wife intrigued me. The book started out strong and easily kept my interest. The amount of history Taylor incorporates is very much appreciated. Little historical details made the book that much more fun to read. However, about half way through the book I found myself struggling to keep reading. The story of Jesus is not boring but somehow when he came on the scene in the book something was lacking. Perhaps it was just knowing how the story ended. Either way, I got interested again towards the end. Overall, it was a good read. I can't give it the highest rating because I did get bogged down. But I enjoyed it, loved hearing the story from a different perspective, and would recommend it. 

My thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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