Tag Archives: Christian fiction

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House, 2016)

Book Review – A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House, 2016)

Third book in the Appalachian Blessings series.

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.

Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

My thoughts:

I’ve read each book in this series. You can read my review of Book 2 here and see my rating for Book 1 here.

As with the other books in this series, I had a hard time relating overall to the main characters. Perla (who shows up in each of the books and is a main character in book 1) is possibly the most relatable, perhaps because she has spunk, individuality, and we immediately know (from Book 1 and on) that she isn’t perfect. Seth is also likable and I found myself rooting for him, and, oddly enough, Keith Randolph is fairly likable from the start other than how Ella views him. He is presented immediately with depth and relatable faults, which Ella blinds herself from seeing because of her preconceived judgments. This ‘judge not’ also ends up being one of the most realistic themes since we all do this and can all grow from it and others’ examples of it. But Ella, Sadie, and nearly all of the other side characters were hard to like and sometimes outright confusing and harmful in their choices (like Margaret!).

I generally love stories with Appalachian settings, but I felt like I was missing out on the setting with each of these books, including book 3 here. I wanted more of the setting and definitely a more active setting since mountain life adjusts and depends so much on its surroundings. I wanted to feel, see, and hear the setting more.

This book focuses more on one small sect of culture within mountain life, particularly a limiting one that didn’t want to change (especially from Ella’s viewpoint). Lack of communication between characters drives most of the conflicts. Ella was often referred to as having a gift of understanding others, but we only see that with her grandmother (which is a lovely relationship), but see rather poor communication and understanding with all others. We all have our moments of pettiness and immaturity, but Ella’s seemed too frequent, especially for 29 years old. There’s way too much focus on “finding a man” as a signal of ‘completion’ and fullness rather than seeking God, and many side characters seem to support Ella’s love triangle, which felt odd. If this was historical fiction, it might fit as ‘old fashioned,’ but it’s basically contemporary (set in 2008, except for the few flashbacks to 1948). I was also shocked at one comment that written off as a character not knowing “political correctness” but, in being presented as it does, perpetuates harmful false stereotyping of native cultures.

Along with aforementioned theme of not judging first, Perla’s strokes and subsequent recovery efforts provided relatable conflict. Perla struggles to heal and wavers in keeping her motivation up later in the story, and, from my experience with folks who have suffered strokes, I feel like this was presented fairly realistically and with hope, too.

What are some books you’ve read recently with active setting you can see, hear, and feel?

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

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.

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Book Review – Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Standing between Stephanie and her dream is one hundred pounds of lovable trouble.

It should have been so simple for Stephanie Pink: Meet up with Agnes Wharton in a small town in California, retrieve the reclusive author’s valuable new manuscript, and be promoted to a full-fledged literary agent.

But Agnes’s canine companion, Sweetness, decides to make a break for it before Stephanie can claim her prize. Until Agnes has Sweetness safely back at home in Eagle Cliff, Washington, Stephanie will never set eyes on the manuscript she needs to make her dreams come true.

When Stephanie tracks the runaway mutt to a campground, she meets Rhett Hastings—a man also on the run from a different life and a costly mistake. Rhett agrees to help Stephanie search for the missing dog . . . thus launching a surprising string of adventures and misadventures.

Once Sweetness gets added to the mix, it’s a recipe for love and loss, merriment and mayhem, fun and faith in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest.

My thoughts:

I read and reviewed the first in the author’s Love Unleashed series, Sit, Stay, Love, and loved the book’s well-written, realistic characters and fun action, and I’m glad to say Fetching Sweetness continues that trend.

In Fetching Sweetness, the author begins with ample action and pumps up the conflict right away. Unlike the first book in the series, it took me a little bit longer to relate to Stephanie, one of the main characters. She’s a bit unlikable at first, but we need to see this ‘beginning’ point in her to witness the change that occurs as the journey progresses.

As with the first book, the dialogue in this book is overall very realistic, fun, quick-paced, and interesting. All of the characters (even side characters) have faults (helping them be realistic and relatable, too), and this book focuses a lot on doubts, past hurts, not knowing the future, and trying to trust and grow. Genuine, non-hokey faith conversations are so hard to write in fiction, and this author does a fairly decent job of these conversations throughout, though there were a few spots that seemed a touch unrealistic coming from the characters as they were presented.

This author incorporates other unique analogies throughout that add to the quality of writing, and as a writer, I enjoyed several of the writing and reading analogies used. The dogs involved become some of the most dynamic side characters and increase the reading enjoyment. The ending wraps up a bit too quickly and almost-perfectly, but it’s still a sweet, enjoyable ending to another fun fiction read.

“That’s why people love novels. Fiction tosses up the truth about life that we’re too blind or preoccupied to see.” – p. 178, Fetching Sweetness

To read more about the book, the author, and check out other reviews, check out the Litfuse page here.

You can also enter Fetching Sweetness prize pack at the Litfuse site between now and August 24th for a chance to win a copy of this book and other fun prizes!

Fetching Sweetness Dana Mentink

Since this is a theme of this book, How have you learned about God through failure? Share in the comments below.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the Litfuse blogging team in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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 Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Book Review – The Things We Knew by Catherine West

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the Book (from the publisher):

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.

My Thoughts:

This novel deals with very important topics and themes, like trust, truth, forgiveness, redemption (especially in choosing to turn back, which is great to focus on), and healing. The book’s plot moves steadily, sometimes driven by action, sometimes by dialogue. I also appreciated that each of the siblings has a different personality, with different issues and reactions to the stress impacting themselves and their family.

A few stylistic writing choices bogged down the writing for me. Many of the sentences started incompletely (ie: “Didn’t want to…” instead of “She didn’t want to..”) for many of the characters. I don’t mind that technique used sparingly, but too much narration for too many of the characters used this style. I feel like if it had been used with just one character rather than all, it could be a voice choice that wouldn’t slow down reading. Flashbacks are used quite frequently to convey knowledge. (Some readers will be fine with this; some readers might not like it as much.)

I also felt the dialogue had some inconsistencies where a character would say one thing (about another or in reaction to), yet the scene right before or after would show something different, and readers were to believe both. The dialogue was stilted at times (particularly the romance and the faith-focused conversations). It’s really hard to write natural dialogue, especially when also trying to insert faith conversations that feel honest and true, and this is very subjective. For me, personally, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. There’s some discussion on hope that falls a little flat, as well, particularly because much of the book carries such a melancholy tone (which feels appropriate for much of what the characters are feeling).

What readers might get most out of this book is that each person deals with conflict and obstacles differently, and the quicker we look to each other and truly see each other, the better we can help one another.

What novel about families has impacted you recently?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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 Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer with Gina Detwiler

Book Review – The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer with Gina Detwiler

About the Book (from the publisher):

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer (with Gina Detwiler), (B&H Books, 2016)

The battle is real.

As brothers, Xavier and Evan are used to battling each other. But now they’re discovering that there is a much bigger battle going on all around them. And it’s their turn to fight. Based on Ephesians 6:10–18, The Prince Warriors is the first book in Priscilla Shirer’s epic new series that brings to life the invisible struggle ensuing in the spiritual realm. Xavier, Evan, and their friends have typical lives until they enter a mysterious land called Ahoratos. There they meet their guide, Ruwach, who offers wisdom and direction as the kids’ initial adventure begins—an adventure filled with armor and danger and a very real enemy.

Written by New York Times Best-Selling author Priscilla Shirer, The Prince Warriors series was created for middle-grade readers and will include the fiction trilogy as well as Unseen: The 365 Prince Warriors Devotional and the Unseen app.

My Review:

I’ve read several of Priscilla Shirer’s adult Bible studies and love her perspective, writing tone, and insights. She’s one of my go-to, trustworthy Bible-study writers. In her first foray into children’s fiction for middle grade readers, we see great insights into living for God and spiritual warfare, in particular, with this series (the first of a planned trilogy).

There’s a lot to like about this book, particularly the magical realism and otherworldly-ness found within the spiritual realm of “Ahoratos,” which four main characters find together, and the teamwork and trust they learn together. The plot remains interesting and action-packed throughout the book’s twenty-five chapters. The characters offer some range in personalities (and includes one girl as a main character, too, which makes the title of the book a bit misleading), though some of the traits and comments can lean a bit on the stereotypical side, particularly when referring to gender stereotypes. But there are several things to like there, too, like boy/girl friendships (yet not necessarily romantic) and varied interests (science, skateboarding, drawing, etc.).

The biggest obstacle in reading is that the point-of-view perspectives change constantly within each chapter, and even within paragraphs from sentence to sentence. Though the book is told in third person, it is still told through a character’s perspective because readers ‘see’ internal thoughts and characteristics that would only be known through that character’s perspective. But, most novels switch perspectives chapter to chapter, or perhaps at page breaks between scenes, not actually from paragraph to paragraph within the same scene. This constant perspective change can be a bit distracting while reading because readers regularly have to switch their own frame of mind to be able to envision which character is saying and feeling what, and which characters are getting to know someone else or seeing something through observation of that character. The writing could also be tighter in some places as several spots “told” instead of “showed” a key characteristic or feeling.

But, if readers can get through the perspective changes, the intriguing plot and the strong faith-based themes are what really carry this book. The book ends satisfyingly with the current adventure wrapping up, yet more adventures promised in future books, as well as some unanswered mysteries and a newly introduced character to learn about in the second book. This story also discusses great themes (trust, believing without seeing, kindness, forgiveness, redemption) through action and then lets the reader see how these characters apply the themes in their ‘real world’ lives, which makes this book great for parents to read with their kids and discuss together.

What are some of your favorite faith-based middle grade reads?

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

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.

Sit, Stay, Love by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Book Review – Sit, Stay, Love by Dana Mentink

Sit, Stay, Love by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Sit, Stay, Love by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Pro baseball pitcher Cal Crawford is not a dog guy. When he inherits his deceased mother’s elderly dog, Tippy, he’s quick to call on a pet-sitting service.

Gina isn’t thrilled to be a dog sitter when her aspirations lie in the classroom. Furthermore, she can’t abide the unfriendly Cal, a man with all the charm of a wet towel. But with no other prospects and a deep love for all things canine, she takes the job caring for Tippy.

As Gina travels through Cal’s world with Tippy in tow, she begins to see Cal in a different light. Gina longs to show Cal the God-given blessings in his life that have nothing to do with baseball or fame. When her longing blooms into attraction, Gina does her best to suppress it. But Cal is falling in love with her too…

Discover the charming story of Tippy, the dog who brought a family together.

My thoughts:

This book was an adorable and fast read. The abundance of realistic dialogue increased the pace of the book, and the author incorporates setting in an active way that moves the plot along at the same time as giving the reader a sense of surroundings.

The characters are also delightful. I came to like Gina quickly after she was introduced, and the side characters (particularly Oscar, Sweets, and Pete) add both to the interesting plot and the endearment of the book. After peeling back some of Cal’s defensive layers, readers will root strongly for him, too. Multiple changes in setting and action (city, baseball fields, travel, the farm) also offer opportunities for sensory details to pull the reader into the story even more.

As a mom of a child with special needs, I also enjoyed the inclusion of a sight-impaired youth baseball team and felt the families briefly introduced were a wonderful (and well-written) addition that focused on those characters’ abilities (not disabilities) and added depth to the characters and themes.

The romantic plot line does waver back and forth just a touch too much for me (several instances of will they be together? won’t they?) when there’s very little doubt that they care for each other. But the book addresses great themes including the pitfalls of fame, varied lifestyles, trust, forgiveness, second chances, redemption, and offering (and accepting) mercy.

Learn more about the book and author on the Litfuse group page.

You can also click here to enter a giveaway (open through April 25th)!

Sit Stay Love Dana Mentink
 

What life lessons have you learned from a family dog or other pet?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the Litfuse blogging team in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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.