Friday, April 21, 2017

Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon

Image result for sandpiper cove hannon

Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities--including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn't looking for love either--but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam's help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different--and better--future planned for them than either could imagine.
(excerpt from back of book)

Sandpiper Cove is Irene Hannon's second installment in the Hope Harbor saga.  Hannon does a solid job of creating a new and separate story within the familiar faces and space of Hope Harbor. In fact, I was surprised to find that BJ and Eric were barely mentioned within  Lexie's story but was pleased to see it gave both Lexie and Adam their own space to grow and develop as characters.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was pleased to see personal favourites from Hope Harbor's first installment were back . I was surprised to see how easily Hannon introduces new facets to both Luis and Charley as readers see them through the new eyes of Adam and Lexie (and can I just say, still not a fan of fish but Hannon makes Charley's tacos sound amazing!) It's so gratifying to read further into a series and see secondary characters who were so beloved in previous editions finding their own  ways to grow through the series.

The story itself I found to have a much more  solid pacing than its predecessor. I found Hannon to employ wonderful pacing when it came to unraveling Lexie's history, Adam's growth, and Brian's wrestling. Each of those stories could have easily felt out of place in the predominantly romance based book but Hannon allows the deeper plots to support her central story while also allowing a more natural entry point for discussion on faith.

Unfortunately, the general awkwardness that I found in following BJ and Eric's mental processes in the first book were still present in Lexie and Adam's story. While I felt the characters were more in line with their given age and life experiences, the awkwardness (which in fairness does seem prevalent in the genre) made reading jarring at time and caused me to have difficulty engaging the story until the internal monologue was finished.

Hanon's books are consistently easy reading and show wonderful skill in her ability to build world and environments for her characters. For fans of contemporary romance, Hannon's books are great for curling up with on a rainy, Spring day.  Non-fans of the genre may find themselves struggling with the awkwardness this genre seems to promote.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Revell and Baker Publishing Group."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Lucky Few by Heather Avis

 When Heather and Josh Avis decided to grow their family, adoption and Down Syndrome were never in their plans. Yet after adopting three children, two of whom have Down Syndrome, they quickly discovered that God's best for their life would be found in the most unlikely places, and how lucky they were to have journeyed there.
(Excerpt from back of book)

So, my husband probably rolled his eyes a little when I said I was reading another book on adoption. Every few months one slips onto the nightstand and usually sparks some wonderfully interesting discussions. This time, though, I was curious to see how Heather and Josh Avis had been taken on their own journey to parenting 3 very special little ones full of life, love, and loss while maintaining  the view  that they are "the lucky few" a view point that may seem sadly unusual for those looking in for the first time. Having finished this read, I count myself lucky for having  stumbled upon this gem of a book.

Heather has the wonderful gift of being able to infuse her personality into each word she writes. You don't just get a sense of her message but her heart and passion as well.
 Reading the book, I felt, was less being presented someone's story and more of being invited to share in it for a time being. Heather's writing is inviting and engaging as she seeks to introduce their own unique form of normal.

Although Heather keeps her tone more upbeat, she does not shy away from sharing both the highs and the lows of their adoption journey. For some, this may make the book an uncomfortable read.

You see, as you read about surgeries, family celebrations, the questions of family and strangers , navigating  life  with medical equipment, , and everything else that the Avis' have encountered and welcomed into their lives over the last decade it becomes apparent that it is no superpower but  rather their strong faith and willingness to say yes in scary situations that have allowed them into being some of "the lucky few." . Although adoption tends to be  a hot topic to begin with, to be truly open and vulnerable while protecting the children involved is a delicate balance that  Heather handles with grace. To see her openly talk about challenges with bonding, the joys of toddlerhood  in both easy and hard time, to see her own journey of understanding the other when it comes to birth families both present and apart are discussions that anyone considering adoption should be  aware of and this book serves as a gentle introduction to these important topics.

For myself, I loved sharing, even if only over a few pages, Heather and her family's journey. Heather's openness on the pages and  the sheer familiarity of family life that she shares with grace and humour allows for a read that is both eye-opening as well as  page turning. I'll confess, after  hearing the doctor's initial prognosis on one of the lovely Avis children I quickly popped over to the picture section to check on their  progress, with such engaging stories it's hard not  to root this family forward.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green


Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Compelled to atone for the sins of her slaveholding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. But she can't do it alone.

Former slave Bella Jamison sacrifices her freedom to come to Richmond, where her Union soldier husband is imprisoned, and her twin sister still lives in bondage in Sophie's home. Though it may cost them their lives, they work with Sophie to betray Rebel authorities. Harrison Caldwell, a Northern freelance journalist who escorts Bella to Richmond, infiltrates the War Department as a clerk-but is conscripted to defend the city's fortifications.

As Sophie's spy network grows, she walks a tightrope of deception, using her father's position as newspaper editor and a suitor's position in the ordnance bureau for the advantage of the Union. One misstep could land her in prison, or worse. Suspicion hounds her until she barely even trusts herself. When her espionage endangers the people she loves, she makes a life-and-death gamble.

Will she follow her convictions even though it costs her everything-and everyone-she holds dear?
(media description)

Spy of Richmond once again pulls upon Green's immense skill in weaving historical detail with fictional liberty to create a world that lives and breathes  out its narrative. Readers can easily find themselves lost in streets of Richmond prior to its fall with all the sights, sounds, and emotions one could easily imagine running high in such a place.
While one would expect a novel placed during the civil war to be full of emotion and adventure, I was unprepared for the depth and breadth the plot had to offer. Everything from faith and moral quandaries, courageous overtures, mystery, intrigue, love and loss. A less skilled writer could have easily found themselves overwhelmed by such a story but Green easily directs her tale into an engaging page turner with clear direction and clean readability.

To my great enjoyment, unlike my previous introduction to Green's work, I found myself with a variety of well developed characters leaping of the pages in ways that were real, believable, and with the ability to endear themselves to this reader. 
I loved the character of Sophie  Kent. While main characters are meant to carry the story, Sophie was a flawed heroine wrestling with her faith, her beliefs, her family, and her country. She had  challenges to overcome but at the same time those challenges were plausible and added the human element to her character in a way that made her character take on different elements of interest.
Bella was another such character. While  I felt somewhat at a disadvantage not having read the  first three books in this series, I do know that Bella was first introduced in Book two of the Wedded to War series. I loved Bella's fierceness as well as the way she allowed that fierceness to be channeled and shaped by her love and humility. 
With these two characters at the helm, Spy of Richmond   had no shortage of female role models.  

While readers could take my path and just  jump into the series wherever (as this book is seriously worth reading) there is obvious benefit to having read earlier offerings in the series first to have a fuller appreciation and understanding of the characters which shine so brightly amid such dark events.
Either way, this is not a book fans of historical fiction will want to miss.

5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson

Treasured Grace

Grace Martindale has known more than her share of hardship. After her parents died, raising her two younger sisters, Hope and Mercy, became her responsibility. A hasty decision to head west seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start but has instead left Grace in a precarious position. When missionary Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife agree to let Grace and her sisters stay at their mission for the winter, Grace is grateful. Until they hear from their uncle in Oregon City, the three sisters have nowhere else to go.
(excerpt from back of book)

Tracie Peterson is a well known name in the  world of Christian fiction and Peterson's fans will be excited to see another series occupying their shelves.
Overall, Treasured Grace falls  very much within Peterson's style: central female heroine in a researched historical setting facing period accurate challenges and potentially finding love along the way.

However, there were some changes, compared to previous offerings that long term fans will find apparent.

First, I found Peterson to provide a plethora of strong secondary characters like Gabe and Sam. Honestly, I would love a well written book in the series  to focus solely on Sam and his family as he had a certain draw to him as he grieved the passing of his lifestyle. That said, this strengthening of the secondary characters left me feeling that it was at the expense of the primary trio of sisters. I really wanted to connect with these girls, especially give the drama they were experiencing, but they just felt too far removed.

Second the historical events. While most books in this genre tend to tame down unsettling events, Peterson chooses not to shy away from the violence which was possible given her characters environment. Topics range from outbreaks of illness leading to the death of children, to rape, to the covering of a massacre. While I normally appreciate a book that isn't afraid to go into heavier topics, and I really admired Peterson's ability to address the emotional turmoil such events could have on survivors, there just wasn't the time for readers to catch their breath with  lighter events.
It felt a little unsettling considering the genre and the lack of warning.

As I said, fans will find the majority of Treasured Grace an enjoyable read that has the potential to grow into a solid trilogy thanks to Peterson's overall skill in writing and weaving in a strong gospel message. For others, the tone of the book combined with a distant set of main characters will probably leave this book forgotten over time,

3 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."