Tag Archives: fiction

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.

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Book Review – The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

About the book (from the publisher):

The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

When a rare-books dealer goes to England, she discovers more than just the famous writing haunts—she discovers how to love and be loved in today’s modern world.

Victoria Seward makes a living finding rare books through means that aren’t always on the up-and-up. But if it makes the clients happy, who is she really hurting? After all, everything always turns out all right in the end. At least it does in her favorite books, the ones her absent father sends every year on her birthday, no matter where he is.

When her unorthodox behavior ruins her relationship with her boyfriend James, Victoria knows something has to change—she has to change. Enter Helen, a wealthy client seeking a companion for her trip to England to purchase antiques, and who just happens to be James’s grandmother. Helen has secrets of her own, secrets that help her relate to Victoria more than anyone can guess.

As Victoria and Helen travel across England, Victoria suspects there is more to this trip than Helen lets on. When Helen’s health falters, Victoria reaches out to James, reigniting feelings that were never truly extinguished.

Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, when hidden offenses rise to the surface. Victoria’s happy ending is within reach—if she can step out of the literary world and into the life that’s been waiting for her all along.

My Thoughts:

I’m a fan of Katherine Reay’s writing. In the books I’ve read of hers so far (read my review of Lizzy and Jane here, which I loved), she always includes real characters who are broken, need growth, and therefore very relatable.

She includes such characters in her newest novel, The Brontë Plot, too. Besides heavy doses of Austen, Dickens, and C.S. Lewis (love!) references, Katherine Reay includes intriguing, literary-inspired locales in this book, as well.

Like many classic British novels, this book includes a large amount of dialogue, at times favoring dialogue over action. I don’t mind this at all and think it works well for this book, and for the type of book it aims to be. Katherine Reay also regularly includes varied relationships. There’s a romantic plot line, yes, but it doesn’t always take the focus of the book, a choice I enjoy. In Lizzy and Jane, one of the main plot lines centered on the relationships between two sisters. In this newest novel, The Brontë Plot, we see an interesting and intertwined friendship of growth between Helen (James’s grandmother) and Lucy.

I did find that it look me three-fourths of the novel to actually come to like Lucy, the main character. She has many faults, as we all do, but I found myself unable to care about her as much as the other characters because of disconnection formed from some of her choices. That said, Lucy’s growth provides a great opportunity to grow in liking her. All of Reay’s characters experience reflection and some measure of both challenge and growth, which makes for an interesting read.

Many readers may also find themselves willing to give certain classics a chance after how Reay’s characters discuss them in this book, which is a great benefit. I’ve added a couple of classics to my to-read list, too!

What’s one of your favorite novels that includes other literary quotes/influences?

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

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates and GrapeVine Studies. If you click on an Amazon link or a GrapeVine Studies 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 Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Book Review – The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart

The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

About the book (from the publisher):

The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

What if you met your twenty-three-year-old self in a dream? What would you say?

Brock Matthews’ once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.

So when he discovers his vivid dreams—where he encounters his younger self—might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.

Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go . . . and his greatest fear is that it’s already too late.

My thoughts:

The premise of this book is enticing and something most people have probably considered. What would you change about your past? What would you tell your younger self to help change things, if you could? How would any of those changes–even the small ones–affect all of your future?

The author dives into these situations and explores various possible outcomes in this book. Because the main character doesn’t know what’s really happening and what’s really being changed or not, the reader is kept guessing as well, which helps create intrigue and quick page turns.

However, I did find myself pulled out of this world and its believability. I don’t know too much about time travel theories, but I kept wondering, wouldn’t Brock be a completely changed person in each of the time lines? Wouldn’t even his memories change? Or wouldn’t those changes erase the “now” Brock? Something the author reveals at the end of the book helps to partially explain these questions, and includes the stance that God can do all things, even what we would consider impossible, but I still found that these holes pulled me out of the story several times. I also didn’t find myself connecting wholly with all of the characters at all times. I feel like I didn’t get to know some of them as Brock did before they changed in “alternate time lines.”

That said, the themes included in this book of healing, redemption, grace, forgiveness, and God always giving second (and third and fourth…) chances are fantastic themes to consider and reflect upon. Readers will find themselves reflecting on their own lives and whether what we are investing our time in are truly the right things.

Check out the Litfuse page for more information about the author and the book.

What’s your favorite time travel novel?

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 Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High

Book Review – The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High

The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High

About the book (from the publisher):

The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High (NAL, 2015)

The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennessee, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he’s caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict.

After a rocky start as Watervalley’s only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans’ emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.

At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of the local newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting “Keep Out” notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.

As Luke struggles to understand Luther’s past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life’s toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.

My thoughts:

There’s a lot to like about this novel with its small-town setting, array of characters, and sincere topics of forgiveness, service, courage, and love. I particularly enjoyed the pieces of setting the author wove within, as well as the ordinary, daily interactions between many of the side characters and the town doctor, Luke Bradford.

While I liked most of the characters, I didn’t strongly connect to any one character. I also found myself withdrawn from some of the novel’s world while reading because of a few complications, including extra phrases within the writing (like adverb-laden phrases that could be eliminated and yet still inferred by the readers from other character actions), regular breeches of doctor-patient confidentiality (even though it’s a small town), and a few possibly stereotypical choices within characters or actions that left me either a bit uneasy or uncertain. (For example, I couldn’t figure out why the next-door neighbor kid, Will, was regularly referred to as peculiar for liking poetry and being introspective. He just seemed awesome to me.) I also didn’t fully sense Christine and Luke’s romantic connection, though part of this may be because I haven’t read the first two novels in this series.

Perhaps the best portions of the novel are those focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly among veterans. Several different characters had served in different ways, and all were dealing with PTSD in various forms. These scenes allow for a great deal of consideration on the effects of PTSD and how communities can be aware of different needs and offer healing.

Litfuse and Jeff High are offering a Kindle Fire HD 6 Giveaway! Click the image below for details. Also visit Litfuse’s tour page on this book for more reviews.

Splendor of Ordinary Days

What are some of your favorite small-town novels?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group as a part of their blogger program 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 Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds

Book Review – The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds

I love when fiction tells such a relatable, powerful story that the reader has to consider their own lives, their own judgments/thoughts, and how to change the world around them because of actions told within a story.

When I find myself talking about a book to others around me while and after I read it, I know it’s impacting me in positive and challenging ways. The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds (Thomas Nelson/Blink, 2015) was one I found easy to want to talk about.

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds

From the publisher:

Atticus Hobart couldn’t feel worse. Not only does he have the world’s most overactive imagination, he’s in love with a girl he can’t talk to, is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, an older than dirt and crazier than insanity itself seventy-seven-year-old substitute English teacher with a very unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the meaning behind his own name, he finds that his imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe-just maybe-show him that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.

My thoughts:

If I could give comparable tiles for this book, I’d actually liken it to something like the school-focused movie Stand and Deliver in many ways and even a little like Dead Poets Society in regards to the teacher (not necessarily so in plot, so don’t worry). The teacher, Mr. Looney, is an inspiring, interesting, unique character full of intrigue and wisdom (but wisdom shared in relatable and readable ways). The main character, Atticus, also offers much for readers to relate to — he’s not popular, he has struggles at home, he feels he’s unable to please his father and finds it hard to connect with possible friends.

The plot keeps the reader turning with action, questions, thoughtful observations and more. The author paces the information revealed and action very well, with high intensity scenes following by “quieter” scenes to allow the reader to recover and consider. While this isn’t a perfect book (I wondered why no one would see or hear one instance of bullying in the school … noise carried very easily in the halls of my high school; the ending felt a bit rushed though wrapped up satisfactorily without everything ending “perfectly”), it’s one that could spark important and needed conversations for ages 13ish and up. (Because of some tough themes, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend under 13, and definitely pre-read first for that age or younger.) The author weaves themes of bullying, acceptance, unconditional love, true community, the negative impact of seeking power, truth, true courage, and redemption in various ways.

Teachers (and parents) reading this book along with their students/kids can ask questions to gather what their readers feel about these realistic situations (with both school relationships and family relationships). The book also incorporates a bit of literature (namely, To Kill a Mockingbird, but also a bit more) and information about reading and writing/revising that could spur an educational unit along with the book.

“Courage is the ability to keep going no matter how hard life feels.” – p. 160

What is one of your (or your family’s) favorite books that cause to reflect and actually inspire change your own thoughts/actions?

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

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates and GrapeVine Studies. If you click on an Amazon link or a GrapeVine Studies 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.