Category Archives: fiction

Book cover of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

Book Review – As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

Book cover of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

About the book (from the publisher):

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

My thoughts:

4.5 stars!

This one is up there as one of my very favorite Susan Meissner books now!

As her usual, this historical fiction is well-researched and well-written, but a few other things raise its quality as well. From the very first chapter, this book is heart-wrenching and remains so throughout. Several of Susan’s other books are dual POV and set into two timelines. This book, instead, is from four points of view – Pauline (the mother) and three sisters, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa. We spend time in 1918 and 1919 at the start of the Spanish flu epidemic (such an interesting time period!), then move to 1925 and 1926. I particularly enjoyed this setup. Most of it is written in present tense, though there are past tense flashbacks within scenes in nearly every chapter. In other books, this sometimes bothers me and breaks up the flow of reading, but I only paused once or twice at these points in this book, so it barely interrupts the reading experience and includes such vivid character reflection and emotion that it supplements the story well.

The action starts right from the beginning and never lets up, some of it of a quieter intensity than the rest, but intense nonetheless. All of the characters are very introspective, perhaps abnormally so, but you’re so pulled in to the reading that it’s okay. Even with that commonality, all of the character voices are distinct. I cared about each character (particularly Maggie and Evelyn), and thought about the characters even when not reading. The side character’s internal journeys (particularly Jamie and Conrad) are equally intriguing and add depth and additional layers to the story.

This book, with its strong introspection and deep-feeling themes, causes the reader to reflect, as well, particularly on the themes of life, death, moving past hurt, hope for the future, effects of war and loss, recognizing that each of us has experienced pain, and seeing each person as a life whose story matters. While the story is white-focused, immigrant side characters are included with value for their stories too.

I do want to offer a small trigger warning that if you have lost someone very recently, you may want to wait to read this book until after a bit of time passes. We lost an extended family member unexpectedly last year, and I likely couldn’t have dealt with reading these heavy themes within the few weeks right after that, though I am very glad to have read it now. That said, you may find comfort in diving into these themes while it is fresh, and if so, this book looks at loss from several perspectives.

This book releases on February 6, 2018! Preorder at Amazon or your favorite book retailer now.

Check out various quotes from As Bright As Heaven added by myself and other readers at Goodreads.

Disclosure: I received a free ARC copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

{Book Review – The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber}

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

About the book (from the publisher):

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

For fans of Ender’s Game and Blade Runner comes a story of video gaming, blood, and power.

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel—Earth’s charming young playboy—the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

From the award-winning author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, step into a diverse cast of characters spanning from the electric metropolises of earth to the chilling alien planet above, in a story of re-finding yourself in the midst of losing the one thing you love. Before it all evaporates.

My thoughts:

I was excited to finally read a Mary Weber book. (The Storm Siren series is on my to-read list! I hear the world-building is great in those books.)

This young adult novel is set in a dystopian and intriguing future world after World War IV. Told in alternating third person points of view between Sofi and Miguel, I found Sofi’s character arc to be the strongest and most developed. There’s much to like about Miguel, but I found I wanted a little more of how his past affects him and what his true motivations are much earlier in the book.

The premise is absolutely intriguing and includes a fight against human trafficking. However, I found myself a little too confused about the details of the world and how it works (particularly the FanFights, as well as the government structure) until about the fifth chapter. But, if you can stick it through that confusion, there’s enough to follow and pickup subsequent details in later chapters. I also found too many side characters (particularly within the Corp higher ups and governmental officials) were thrown at us in the first ten chapters or so, making me having to pause reading and flip back to figure who was who again. The characters in the second half of the book are much more streamlined and easier to follow.

The plot keeps the reader’s attention in this book, along with themes of misplacing and gaining trust, governmental challenges, ethical issues, and family bonds. A YA book club would find much to discuss from the book.

The discussion questions in the back are framed well and allow readers to dive deeper into the themes within the book. In fact, some of the discussion questions (like about Miguel’s internal character arc) gave me a better understanding of some of the themes and characters than I found within the novel itself.

For fans, there will be a sequel, coming in March 2018! Check out the info about Reclaiming Shilo Snow, which is already available for preorders, too. I’m intrigued enough (and the cliffhanger!) to want to check out the sequel next year.

Reclaiming Shilo Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2018)

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

True to You by Becky Wade (Bethany House, 2017)

Book Review – True to You by Becky Wade

True to You by Becky Wade (Bethany House, 2017)

About the book (from the publisher):

True to You by Becky Wade (Bethany House, 2017)

It’s the exciting start of a brand-new series by a contemporary romance fan favorite!

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

My thoughts:

This book is basically a “chick flick” in novel form, which is fun if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s full of back and forth banter, flirting, questions, and growth.

The author incorporates several funny, more unique analogies (one great example: “Britt’s frequent romances always took off like rockets propelled by promise and power and star-crossed destiny” – p. 16). A couple of twists were surprising and added fuel to the story. The conflicts stayed elevated throughout. Both of the main characters held more unique jobs, which were intriguing to read about and imagine.

A few obstacles I encountered while reading: I found many of the side characters to be flat and stereotypical. (A positive within this: Nora and John and both of Nora’s sisters were more complex, which helped relating to them as well as increase interest. This also increases intrigue in the sequels likely starring Nora’s sisters.) I’m concerned about the effects of the “content in singleness” conversations/debates Nora has with herself (especially in Chapter 7) and whether or not those perspectives will repel single readers from enjoying and being encouraged by this book. I also am wary of restrictive comments like “girly little villages weren’t his thing” (p. 27) or “the most man man she’d ever met” (p. 50). Sometimes those comments can be genuine coming from a certain character, but most often they immediately place limitations on what’s “right” for a character and can make some readers feel “less than” and not accepted (for example, a female reader who doesn’t like fancy dresses, or a male reader who enjoys historical villages).

That said, this novel was a quick, entertaining read that touched on truth, healing from broken pasts, and forgiveness.

If you love this book, look out for two more planned in the series in the years to come.

Visit the Litfuse page for more information about this book, the author, and more reader reviews.

Litfuse is also hosting a big $100 plus prize pack giveaway, including a copy of this book! Click on the image below (or click here) to learn more and enter. The giveaway is open through May 30th.

True to You Becky Wade
 

What are some of your favorite “chick flick” books?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group as a part of their blogger program. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Life After by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook, 2017)

Why or Who {Book Review – Life After by Katie Ganshert}

We have a few authors in our family who become “immediate must-reads” when they have new books. In the kidlit world, these include (but are not limited to) anything from: Natalie Lloyd, Jason Reynolds, Kadir Nelson, Kristy Dempsey, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Caroline Starr Rose, Patricia MacLachlan, Jacqueline Woodson, Stacy McAnulty, Bryan Collier, and many more.

In the adult fiction world, one of my personal “must-reads” is Katie Ganshert.

Life After by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook, 2017)

About the book (from the publisher):

Life After by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook, 2017)

On the day of a late spring storm, in Chicago, Autumn Manning boarded an “L” train. A bomb explodes, killing everyone in the train car except for Autumn—the sole survivor. A year has passed and Autumn suffocates under a blanket of what ifs and the pressing desire to bring the victims back to life, every day, if only for her. She doesn’t want their stories to be forgotten. She wants to undo what cannot be undone. An unexpected ally joins her efforts, also seeking answers and trying to find a way to stumble ahead.

But one victim’s husband, Paul Elliott, prays to let the dead—and their secrets—rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to hurt his loved ones.

Caught between loss and hope, these restless souls must release the past to embrace a sovereign God.

My Thoughts:

In Life After, Katie Ganshert surpassed my expectations. Really.

Katie dives into deeper, more tumultuous topics with empathy and skill. Life After alternates in third person between Autumn Manning’s point-of-view and Paul Elliott’s perspective. Each character is broken. Each character has secrets. Each character is on a course of internal and external discovery. But, also each character reacts differently to tribulations, and yet, the reader can empathize and understand both.

The main and side characters are all realistic, interesting, and varied. We want to watch Autumn’s story unfold. We want to see Paul heal. We want to learn more about Reese. We want to hear Ina May keep talking.

The Chicago setting roars with life and yet charms with quirk. The setting ties in aptly with character recall and emotions. We feel Autumn’s tension near public transportation. We feel Paul’s ache as he searches for his daughter.

And then there’s the faith journey. Life After asks tough questions. But they are questions (at least some, if not all) many of us have wondered. Questions many of us have discussed and read to learn more about. And questions that have no answers except in God’s knowledge. Part of this book is about just that. The trust the comes with faith and realizing that we cannot–and perhaps should not–always know all the answers. And about light in the chaos.

I highly recommend reading Life After. And then pass a copy into someone else’s hands to read, too.

Who is one of your “must-read” authors?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti (Abingdon, 2017)

Hope Growing {Book Review – A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti}

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti (Abingdon, 2017)

About the book (from the publisher):

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti (Abingdon, 2017)

Hope grows when seeds are planted-even in the muddy middle of life.

Josiah Chamberlain’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife’s unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she’s unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken.

Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

My thoughts:

Cynthia Ruchti knows how to pack in the conflict. In A Fragile Hope, readers find conflict after conflict in both Josiah’s external circumstances as well as his internal world. As a marriage counselor, one might think Josiah would be attentive to his own wife’s needs, but the reader meets and reads about a selfish man for much of the book, even down to his internal dialogue. This helps set Josiah up for positive change and growth, but I also found it hard to root for Josiah until the ending chapters. His dangerous habit of assumption also added to his inner turmoil (and added to me questioning him as if I could talk to him throughout the book).

The author obviously did vast amounts of research into brain trauma, hospitals, and ICUs. (I say this as a mother with a touch of experience having been in the ICU with her child more than once.) I loved the nurses’s and doctors’s differences and ways in which they cared for their patients. The author brings readers in with setting details and added to the tension since a majority of the book takes place within a hospital.

I read (and reviewed) another one of Cynthia Ruchti’s books, As Waters Gone By, a couple of years ago. Like in that novel, I found a few of Josiah’s internal dialogue and analogies a bit jumpy, which disconnected the flow of reading a few times. But, also like in that novel, the realistically portrayed side characters in A Fragile Hope became my favorite characters of the novel. From Nancy to Stan to both Catherines, I felt for those side characters, loved when they showed up, cheered for them, and felt thankful they were in Josiah’s life.

This novel offers a tension-filled narrative into truly being present and attentive for your spouse, as well as finding hope in the darkest, most implausible places.

Visit the Litfuse page for more information about this book, the author, and more reader reviews.

Litfuse is also hosting a lovely giveaway where you can win one copy of A Fragile Hope and a metal Scripture decoration. Click on the banner below (or here) to enter. The giveaway is open through May 3rd!

A Fragile Hope Cynthia Ruchti
 

What Scripture do you turn to when you need to see hope growing?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group as a part of their blogger program. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.