Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: The Tutor's Daughter

The Tutor’s Daughter is a book that has everything! Shipwrecks, ghosts, historical setting, Jane Austen-type romance, family secrets, mystery, a touch of adventure and suspense. Author Julie Klassen knows how to pack it in with characters whose actions intrigue and surprise. When the main character, Emma Smallwood, chose to pack her books instead of extra clothes, I was sold.

In this story Emma’s father, a grieving widower, is invited to leave his established, but struggling, boarding school for boys in order to become a live-in tutor for the two younger sons of a man whose older sons had attended his school. Emma, who has served as his assistant for years, is invited to come along. She hesitates to do so, but realizes, with the encouragement of her aunt, that a change of scenery will be good for her father at this time.

What makes Emma most nervous is the two older sons. Henry, the eldest, had teased her mercilessly while attending her father’s school. Emma doesn’t have much use for him. Phillip, on the other hand, had been a good friend, leaning toward a romantic interest. Emma worries over where they stand.

From her very first night in the Weston home, mysterious happenings keep Emma perplexed. Is Henry up to his old tricks? Who can she trust to help her learn whatever else is going on?

This is my favorite of Julie Klassen’s novels, so far. Fans of regency fiction will enjoy it, too. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy for this honest review.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Moon over Edisto

Set mostly on an island off the coast of South Carolina, Moon over Edisto is the story of a woman forced by her compassionate nature to return to the home she ran away from. When the woman who destroyed her family comes to her in desperation, Julia just can’t say no—though no one, except maybe her aunt, would have blamed her if she had. In a moment of crisis, Julia abandons overseas plans with her employer and fiancĂ© in order to care for her three young half-siblings while their mother undergoes surgery. Back in her childhood home, she reconnects with the family and friends she left behind for a glamorous career as an artist in New York.

I loved this story of forgiveness and reconciliation. I especially loved the way God is portrayed as giving Julia what her heart desires through what seems to be great sacrifice. At one point, Julia thinks Marney is destroying her life a second time, when really she’s inadvertently offering what Julia most wants and needs.

As I reached the end of the story, I started hoping for a sequel, though. Julia’s story was complete as written, but the author left me with so many questions about Etta, Meg, Mary Ellen, and Jake. There’s plenty of material there for a second book, if this is what Hart has planned. I’ll be eager to read it if it shows up on the bookstore shelves.

I received a complimentary eCopy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this review.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: Wings of Glass

Wings of Glass is a powerful story, uniquely written as a letter from a mother to her infant son. In this letter, Penny tells the story of her troubled marriage, of her son’s father. She tells her son he has a right and a need to know. She prays he’ll learn to rely on God as she did, but without repeating all the mistakes his parents made.

Desperate to leave her troubled childhood behind, Penny elopes with the first man who shows any interest in her and finds herself the victim of spousal abuse. When an accident at work leaves her husband blind, however, Penny is able to escape her isolated life as she goes out in search of work and food. This search leads her to the first true friends she’s ever known—two women whose lives have also been touched by domestic abuse. They urge Penny to leave her husband before her baby comes, before her husband loses control and causes someone permanent harm.

Throughout the story, Penny wrestles with issues of who to trust and how to be faithful to God and what justifies the end of a marriage. She also struggles with her own feelings of self-worth, co-dependency, and personal responsibility. Through Penny’s thoughts, the book explores the issue of domestic abuse from many viewpoints. But overall, it stresses God’s great love for a daughter who is suffering and His gentle way of leading her right where she needs to be.

I can’t say I enjoyed the story because it’s filled with pain. I was glad for the opportunity to read it, though. The author, Gina Holmes, drew me right into Penny’s life and made me care for her and her friends. Yes, I know they’re fictional characters, but too many women like these really do exist. I pray they’ll find the strength and joy that Penny eventually did.

Tyndale House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I thank them, and I recommend the book to you.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review: Clouds

Clouds by Robin Jones Gunn is the second book I’ve read in the eight book Glenbrooke Series. I’m not reading the books in order, but each book stands alone. They’re simply sweet stories about God drawing people to Himself and to each other, with subtle lessons and comparisons on both counts. In fact, in Clouds, the parallels between God’s relationship with Shelly and Jonathan’s relationship with Shelly almost, not quite, but almost, made this particular story a parable.

I love that. And I’m truly enjoying this series of books.

In Clouds, Shelly leaves her childhood sweetheart behind in order to chase her personal dreams. When these don’t work out the way she’d planned, though, she misses Jonathan and wonders if God may be working to reunite them. A surprise encounter convinces her this isn’t so after all. So Shelly works to rebuild her life—and discovers more than she’d ever thought to dream.

As a bonus, Gunn weaves some of her travel experiences into this story--as she did in her Sisterchicks books. Readers get an up-close-and-personal view of Heidelberg, Germany and a little, tiny taste of overseas ministries to American military kids.

If you enjoy happily-ever-after romances, I recommend Clouds and the other books from the Glenbrooke Series to you. Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Review: Broken Wings

Broken Wings by Shannon Dittemore is the sequel to Angel Eyes and Book Two in its trilogy. I was curious to read it because I enjoyed reading Angel Eyes. Broken Wings didn’t make quite the same impression on me, though.

First, there seemed to be a lack of continuity between the two books. Angel Eyes was fairly complete in itself. Broken Wings, though, is mostly a set up for Book Three, Dark Halo, due out in August of this year. Broken Wings begins about six months after Angel Eyes ends, introduces new characters whose place in the story won’t really be clear until the next book, and seems to significantly alter Brielle’s dad’s character, turning him from a loving, but confused single father into a grieving alcoholic so overwhelmed with his own issues that he has only frustration to offer his struggling daughter.

As I read this fictional story, I was uncomfortable with some of the author’s ideas about the spiritual realm. If an author is writing about werewolves or vampires or zombies, that author can take all the liberties she wants and make up just about anything because those monsters are fictional. But the Bible tells us that angels and demons and unseen spiritual warfare exist. We don’t know much about these, but I’m not sure we’re at liberty to just make up our own picture for lack of actual knowledge. Readers who don’t know much about the Bible might assume the Bible really says that cherubs sneak into Hell as spies to learn what Satan is up to in order to tell the Archangel Michael when God doesn’t give Michael the information Himself or that the Bible really describes all the different kinds of angels and demons that Dittemore includes in her story. I wasn't quite comfortable with this.

That said, when Dittemore writes of Brielle learning to worship God with the gifts He’s given her or discovering that human songs of praise and prayers for help are powerful, she helps readers understand what really matters in this life. Those parts of the book are beautiful! So I’m still curious to read what happens in the next book, trusting that questions and confusions brought up in this one will be perfectly resolved in it.

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary eCopy of this book for my honest review.