Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: "Refining Fire"

Like the first book in this series, Steadfast Heart, Refining Fire tells the story of one of the minor characters while continuing, and pretty much focusing on, the story of Abrianna Cunningham, the star of the series. In this book, though, it worked. I don't know if that is because I was expecting it or because I especially liked the story. As I had hoped, Tracie Peterson chose to tell readers more about Militine Scott and Thane Patton in this book. Militine wasn't who she was portraying herself to be in her minor role in Steadfast Heart; Peterson did a beautiful job of showing readers how and why people can be dramatically different on the inside--and why it's often worth it, for both parties, to patiently urge someone to reveal their true self. Thane was just the person to do this for Militine.

And Wade is just the person for Abrianna. I can't wait to read the conclusion of their story in Peterson's next book, Love Everlasting, due out later this year!

Along with lovable characters (Abrianna's aunts) in a quirky setting (a bridal school in Seattle), Peterson gives readers a healthy dose of history. I liked learning about fire departments in the late 1800's, their struggles, community resolution attempts, and a few of our nation's tragic events. Abrianna's efforts to care for the poor contrasted with criminals attempting to take advantage of them show that some things are the same in every era. Our problems are not unique. We share many struggles with people of the past.

Refining Fire has a lot to offer its readers. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy to me in exchange for this review. I recommend this book.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book Review: "Reservations for Two"

I’ve been anticipating the release of this book since I realized in the last twenty pages of A Table by the Window that the story wasn’t going to end in that book. Thankfully, I knew as I opened this one that the story wouldn’t end here either. The Two Blue Doors series is a trilogy; Reservations for Two is the placeholder between the beginning and the end.

I am enjoying this series, though. Hillary Manton Lodge gives readers all kinds of goodies—including recipes for the foods that various characters prepare. I may have finished reading this book, but the yellow stickies hanging out of it remind me I have some cooking to do!

Reservations for Two picks up where A Table by the Window left off. Juliette D’Alisa is in Europe, visiting family, preparing for her new restaurant's opening, and researching her grandmother’s history. In the first book, Juliette learned of her grandmother’s secrets. Now she’s seeking truth, hoping her great-aunt can remember enough about the past to be of help. At the same time, Juliette’s long-distance boyfriend, Neil, continues to try to persuade her that their relationship can continue to work though they live on opposite sides of the U.S., both with strong reasons not to move.

Juliette’s big, interfering family, the French/Italian/American culture mix-up, the emotions, the history, the mystery, and the recipes all work together to keep me reading this series. I’m looking forward to reading the resolutions and solutions promised in Book Three.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: "Among the Fair Magnolias"

Among the Fair Magnolias is a collection of four short love stories set in the South around the time of the Civil War. Each is written by a different author. I chose to read this book because I wanted to read Tamera Alexander’s story about Savannah Darby, To Mend a Dream. Tamera’s readers met Savannah in Tamera’s most recent release, To Win Her Favor.

I loved learning what became of Savannah. Tamera came up with an ending to her story that I never would have anticipated but felt was just right.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to read stories by authors whose books I haven’t yet had the chance to read. The stories were short but gave me a taste of the writers’ styles. Shelley Gray’s story, An Outlaw’s Heart, set in Texas, felt more like a western than a southern love story, but I liked it anyway. Shelley did a great job of introducing the characters and their issues quickly and making me believe that everything really could be resolved so nicely in so few pages, the challenge of the short story.

I received a complimentary copy of Among the Fair Magnolias from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this honest review. If you prefer quick reads that will make you smile, you will like this book.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Review: "The Wonder of You"

I feel like I’ve been to church! As I read the last 150 pages of Susan May Warren’s newest Christiansen Family novel, The Wonder of You, yesterday afternoon and evening, I kept pausing to pray about the truths contained in its pages, to praise God, to worship Him. I wasn’t praising Him for what He was doing in the lives of a few fictional characters but for what He has done, is doing, and will do in mine. Warren did a beautiful job of showing God’s true nature to her readers through a fictional story. In my mind, that’s what Christian fiction is all about.

This fifth book in the series focuses on Amelia, the youngest of the Christiansen siblings, but it’s also a sequel to Grace and Max’s story, told in When I Fall in Love, and a prequel to the final book, You’re the One That I Want, due out in Spring of 2016. (I’m looking forward to that!) In the previous book, Always on My Mind, Amelia had come home from Europe with a broken heart. When the boyfriend who jilted on her showed up on her doorstep, her overly protective family of hockey-playing brothers and brother-in-laws practically sent him running for his life. Now he’s back in Deep Haven, determined to stay, determined to win Amelia’s heart, no matter what. Seth, her high school sweetheart, has his own opinion about that.

I loved watching Amelia struggle to discover God’s path for her life. I found Max’s growing understanding about his own condition profound. Roark’s discovery of a lie he’d chosen to believe and the truth he needed to replace it with was one the whole world needs to hear. John and Ingrid were inspirational as they patiently mentored the young adults in their growing clan.

If you haven’t yet discovered this series, it’s one of my favorites, so I’m happy to recommend it to you. You’ll want to start at the beginning, though, to get to know each character in turn. If you’ve been reading this series, you’ll love this newest book. Of the five so far, I think it’s the best, though I’ve enjoyed each one.

I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.