Monday, April 28, 2014

Caught in the middle

Mrs. Anne Tillerton only wanted to get away, live her life in peaceful safety away from uncaring  eyes that saw what they want and a dead husband whose life haunted almost as much as his death.

I have a confession to make.

I didn’t want to like Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings.

Anne’s character made me bristle, but hear me out. It wasn’t her rough around the edges, speak her mind attitude. Like Nicholas, it made Anne that much more endearing when she allowed her true self to be shown in quieter moments with Sammy.
It felt uncomfortable reading a woman who’s life seemed to be a collection of clich├ęs.

Nicholas also made me bristle. In the beginning he really came across a profit based, image driven man. When Anne confronted him on his faith being self-serving I almost wanted to cheer.
Here is the thing though, Jennings doesn’t leave her characters stuck in their flaws, she allows them to grow, change, and flourish through their experiences and faith bringing readers on a much more satisfactory journey than the first chapters ever could have hinted at. I’ll admit, I ever cried during the story’s climactic moments.

Jennings uses her characters both to lead readers on a journey with her characters – Anne as she learns to heal, forgive, and love as well as Lovelace as he learns to see the world and his priorities. However, she simultaneously uses those same characters to ask hard question about faith to her readers and the cost of love.

As a word of warning, I didn’t realize when I began this book that Caught in the Middle actually exists either in a series or as part of a world within Jennings collection of writings. As Anne slowly lets Nicolas (and the reader) into her abusive and broken past (which was actually quite well written for a Christian novel from a counselling perspective while remaining non-triggering), there are strong hints of the plots in both Sixty Acres and a Bride as well as Love in the Balance.  I truly believe this can be viewed as a read alone novel but for readers who enjoy the whole picture or just fall in love with Jennings style, those would be good books to keep in mind.

All in all i give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Bethany Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tide and Tempest

For Tillie McGrath life's plan was simple. Move to America and build a life with her beloved and unborn child. Life rarely goes according to plan, however, and Tillie finds herself burying the past and moving forward thanks to her friends at the boarding house. What Tillie doesn't realize that the past can fight back when you least expect it.

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig is the third book in her Edge of Freedom series and I was thrilled to continue on with the stories of the boarding house's next member after falling in love with the intertwined tales of Ana, Cara, and Eoghan in the early stories.

I really appreciate how carefully Ludig works to build her worlds and keep her characters intersecting through natural story points which flow out of the overarching plot and am amazed when seemingly coincidental encounters from earlier tales turn out to be major plot drivers an entire novel later! To have this level of foresight (or the ability to tie back) definitely increased my enjoyment of the plot and Ludwig's storytelling capabilities.

In the second novel, readers are briefly introduced to Tillie McGrath, Tide and Tempest's heroine, a sad woman in the midst of rebuilding her life after loosing her fiance and delivering their stillborn child. As a result my interest was already piqued when I opened up book number 3 found Tillie's journey to and from the boarding house to be our next focus.

When I first started Ludwig's series Tillie was the one woman I wished I could find out more about, the grieving woman, the quiet woman, and Ludwig does not disappoint. While staying true to the overarching plot with the Fenian's and The Celt, Ludwig still crafts a beautiful story of mercy, forgiveness, and love for young Tillie.
I found, in a lot of ways, Tillie has been the character over the series to show the most growth and wonder if this is a reflection of Ludwig's on growth over the series as an author?
Tide and Tempest does have a more complete feel than it's predecessors, possibly due to story line completions, but their was an equal though more subtle maturation in the writing itself which adds to the ease of reading.

Overall,  as much as I loved Ludwig's early work, Tide and Tempest has become a new favourite and I'd highly recommend it to fans of the genre.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tabula Rasa

I love books.

I love stories. I love a well written character that draws you in. I love the learning and transportation that takes place.

As such, I'm fairly picky when it comes to my books, even more so when Hollywood decides to tread on much loved friends.

This is why it was so odd to read a book and have my second thought be "This would make an amazing movie (if done right)"

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin truly is an edge of your seat thriller and I loved every minute of it.

The character of Sarah definitely fits the criteria for drawing in readers. I love that Lippert-Martin allows for readers to discover the world and Sarah as she reclaims her own identity and begins making her own decisions. Her lack of knowing helps heighten the mystery but also allows her to be a sympathetic character. Although readers are unsure who is friend or foe you can't help but want things to work out for this young girl.

Thomas was a little cliche when it comes to nerd based characters and yet it also made him a suitable counterbalance for Sarah midst the horrors she was encountering in the hospital and  takeover. Although not a wholly innocent character his innocent brought a more human touch to the story.

Oh, and the hospital. I don't generally read many books that are set in a single building. I find it difficult for an author to hold my focus when the setting never really changes (okay there's also the yurt scenes but that's not a huge change.) Instead Tabula Rasa offers up the setting as another primary character. One who is neutral and ever present, intriguing and threatening in it's own way.

Finally, I really enjoyed Lippert-Martin's ability to craft a story. Confession time, once again, this isn't a story to read while falling asleep (or if you hope to fall asleep during insomnia). Tabula Rasa is a fast paced, seat of your pants, adventure novel with twists and turns I don't think I would have seen even if I was trying to finish it at 3am.  Lippert-Martin keeps her story on task and to the point when it comes to remaining true to Sarah's quest for identity and being true to herself well still providing little moments that help propel the characters forward as individuals rather than plot points.

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion from NetGallery. The views expressed are my own.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Living with Hypermobility Syndrome

It's ironic that I'm posting this review so late.
Due to my lousy proprioception I may have misjudged my proximity to a bookshelf and ended up with a concussion. This meant no reading or writing for a couple weeks as either activity seemed to trigger a massive migraine.

What a joy, not.
What is a joy is Isobel Knight's book Living with Hypermobility Syndrome.
As someone who is officially diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos (either the same or a close related condition depending on which medical professional you ask) I was curious to uncover the opinions and research of someone who has walked the journey of complex, chronic illness longer than myself.
I was not disappointed. 
I truly wish every single one of my medical professionals I interact with would read this book in the hopes they could gain even a percentage of the empathy and knowledge stored within the pages. This book really is a must read for any who struggle with a condition that is marked with hypermobility as one of its defining features.
Why is this book so good?
First of all, it's organized for easy reference. Thank you! A book that's easy to navigate will simply be used more often and thanks to Knight's clear categories and logical ordering this book is a breeze to sort through.
Second of all, this book takes first hand experience into account. When facing hypermobility whether HMS, EDS, or something else, being understood as a person, as a patient, and as a reliable source of information is so rare. The way Knight weaves personal experience, both her own and others she has encountered, enriches and deepens the conversation laid forth.
Thirdly, Knight doesn't shy away from important topics such as mental health and feminine issues. 
Living with Hypermobility Syndrome is a valuable resource for patient, professionals, and loved ones of those living with one of these conditions.
5 out of 5 stars