Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rachel Mullel's Letters from Grace ~ Reviewed


Letters from Grace (Love and War Book 1)
Rachel Mullel
Print Length: 348 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1500847089

Back Cover:

Is loving a man in uniform worth the risk? 

Scarred from the death of her fiancé in World War II, Grace Campbell must learn to love again. Lieutenant Luke Brady could make falling in love easy...except he's going to war. There's one thing that can keep a thread tied between them--letters. But the suave Dr. William Keller enchants Grace with his charm and proposes marriage. She must choose between them. Will she settle for comfort and safety or risk losing everything on the Normandy beaches?

Review:

As World War Two comes to its climax, two people discover the meaning of loving and letting go during a time when far too many hearts were broken by the ravages of war.

World War Two continues to fascinate historians and readers alike for a plethora of reasons. People love hearing about the triumphs of those who were a part of the Greatest Generation. The drama, romance, and bravery of those who fought for freedom across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are compelling on their own…bring in a talented author whose sincere love of the time period shines through the pages and the stories just come to life.

Debut author Rachel Muller has been obsessed with World War Two since she was a teenager. Her love for this period is obvious in the multiple stories that make up Letters from Grace; her exquisite writing and attention to detail accentuate the gift she has for combing her passion with her talent. Letters from Grace is a novel that all readers will enjoy—World War Two aficionado or otherwise—because Muller knows how to pen a tale with exciting storylines and believable characters that bring the Greatest Generation to life.

Luke and Grace are in their twenties when World War Two begins—young enough to feel the excitement of love but old enough to know the heartbreak of war and death. Both of Muller’s protagonists fear the pain of opening up their hearts to love after they experience devastating losses in the early 1940s. Grace struggles to move past her loss and never loses her faith in God, despite a rapidly changing future with no concrete answers. Luke, meanwhile, falls prey to the pull of darkness and gives up all hope that his loving God has a plan for him. Grace and Luke’s friendship develops over the series of letters that helps keep him sane as he prepares for the crucial battle in the war—a battle that could bring freedom to many people but also the risk of death, injury, and more broken hearts. Months and many letters later, Grace and Luke have to decide if they will put their potential relationship in the hands of God or leave fate—and one disastrous war—to decide the future for them.

Readers of World War Two fiction have numerous extraordinary authors to choose from for their chosen genre of books. Sarah Sundin, Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam, and Kristina McMorris all have penned tales of love, loss, and war during the 1940s. Some potential authors could be intimidated by the success rate of these authors—how could a new author begin to compete with these ladies’ novels? Not Rachel Muller! She’s written a story just as beautiful and compelling as any other author of World War Two fiction has come out and, if the early posted five-star reviews are any indication, she will rapidly join the ranks of her contemporaries.

Letters from Grace is told from third-person point-of-view that alternates primarily between Grace and Luke but occasionally brings in their two best friends, Maggie and Danny. These alterations allow readers to experience the war and home-front from many angles. Each character is lively and fully developed in ways that challenge readers to understand the perspectives of the various people who fought at home and across the seas. Grace, devoted to her work at the Ladies and Liberty and grieving for love; Maggie, cheerful and driven to bring God to sick and wounded soldiers on the front lines; Luke, lost over his absent family and finding solace in the Army; and Danny, love-stricken and determined to come home from the war a hero. Each storyline brings to life different struggles that were unique to the Greatest Generation; however, the emotions that Muller shows from her characters are so well written that the happiness, sadness, and desperation are easily felt when reading Letters from Grace. I found the friendship between Luke and Danny and Maggie and Grace honest and open. The love these characters had for each other and showed to those around them exquisitely exemplifies why those who lived during World War Two are known as the Greatest Generation.

An avid reader of World War Two historicals, I jumped at the chance to review Letters from Grace because I never pass an opportunity to read another story set in my favorite time period. As a bonus to my already excited disposition at finding this new novel, I knew that if authors Sarah Sundin and Cara Putnam were assisting Muller with her book that Letters from Grace was bound to be an excellent story. My assumption was correct—a five-star novel from a debut author, readers of World War Two fiction will have a new favorite author to add to the already stellar collection of those who tell stories of the Greatest Generation. From the gorgeous cover, to the thick binding and paper, to the historical details and symbolism front and back, Letters from Grace is just as beautiful on the outside and its story comprises the inside. This novel is one to keep on your shelves for re-reading and display purposes. It is in all truth that I say I looked immediately to the back of the back for information on future novels from Muller. Without even reading the story, I smiled widely upon finding the release date for Maggie’s Mission. January 2015 can’t come soon enough!   

Reviewed by: Marisa Deshaies

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kristine McGuire's An Insider's Guide to Spiritual Warfare ~ Reviewed

Description: 
Having spent years as a medium, witch and ghost hunter before reclaiming her identity in Christ, Kristine McGuire has been on both sides of the battle lines. In her new book, An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, she offers unique insight, revealing Satan’s 7 favorite battlefields (such as fear and gossip) as well as the most effective tactics he employs in the battles we face every day. 
McGuire also shares 30 battle-tested strategies for victory based on her firsthand experience with the occult and the paranormal. Some of the topics she covers include: 
• how to walk in God’s authority
• using spiritual armor
• how to recognize and avoid the influence of the occult in our culture 
• whether the Bible supports the existence of ghosts


Review:

I have made a whole lot of mistakes in my life. I really don't like learning things the hard way. So, it's always refreshing to be able to learn from someone else's journey.

Enter Kristine McGuire. McGuire spent years immersed in the Occult and even transitioned herself into a unique blend of Christianity and witchcraft. God actually opened her eyes to the choice she needed to make between Him and evil while she was knee deep in ghost hunting.

McGuire even has toxic legalism in her background as well so she has spent time in the religious realm, darkness and now has a deep understanding of grace.

An Insider's Guide to Spiritual Warfare includes a grace-filled approach to spiritual warfare. There is a lack of fear, terror and looking for a demon in every bush and an abundance of truth. The biggest element of truth running throughout the handbook is the reality that living in Christ is the answer. However, there are so many details that McGuire gleaned from her journey that paints a picture of what that might look like in various situations. From things that permeate our culture that are open doors into evil, to our provided spiritual armor, to the destructive attitudes that are open doors for self and demonic deception.

With questions for self-assessment and consideration at the end of each chapter and plenty of help on handling different scenarios, I think this would be a terrific book for independent or group study. Overall, even though McGuire shares some detail of her dabbling the overall glorification is of God and His power and character. A curious teen should probably have a parent or another trusted adult go over the study and details of the book with them.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gina Holmes's Driftwood Tides ~ Reviewed


Driftwood Tides
by Gina Holmes
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414366426

Description:

He made himself an island until something unexpected washed ashore.
When Holton lost his wife, Adele, in a freak accident, he shut himself off from the world, living a life of seclusion, making drifwood sculptures and drowning his pain in gin. Until twenty-three-year-old Libby knocks on his door, asking for a job and claiming to be a friend of his late wife. When he discovers Libby is actually his late wife’s illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption without his knowledge, his life is turned upside down as he struggles to accept that the wife he’d given saint status to was not the woman he thought he knew.

Together Holton and Libby form an unlikely bond as the two struggle to learn the identity of Libby’s father and the truth about Adele, themselves, and each other.

Review:

Gina Holmes has produced her best novel yet. I love escaping into fiction where the author's voice enhances the story but doesn't intrude. Holmes has done this with Driftwood Tides. I didn't think about her previous books and compare. I was pulled into the story of a young woman who discovers a shocking secret and who's life gets turned upside down. 

Holmes tackles heavy subjects and produces deep characters. Her debut was a woman coming home to die and to find a family for her daughter. Her second novel was about the destruction and tentative rebuilding of a marriage, her third domestic violence. So, those who prefer inspirational escapism aren't likely to find Gina Holmes an easy author to read. But for those who want reality, even ugly, and to see the ever hopeful evidence of God's character find so much to love in Holmes's novels. 

Driftwood Tides dives deeply into human dysfunction and deception. The characters have chosen so many unhealthy different ways of coping with life's disappointments. But hope wins. If you have loved any of Gina Holmes previous work you should love Driftwood Tides.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stephanie Fowers's Jane and Austen ~ Reviewed


Jane and Austen
By Stephanie Fowers 
2014 
Triad Media and Entertainment
1500233110

BACK COVER:

Meet Jane and Austen. First there's Jane - an impractical, starry-eyed wedding planner; if love can't match what she's read in a book, she doesn't want it. And then there's Austen - a pragmatic, logical-to-a-fault financial consultant; even if he were interested in someone, he wouldn't know.

The two have one thing in common: they can't leave each other alone. Jane believes that if Austen could just experience a fairy tale romance, he would secretly love it. And Austen's pretty sure thats  if one of Jane's beloved heroes escaped from the pages of her dog-eared novels, she'd run and hide.

Both are about to be proven right.

When the rivals are called on to help a friend plan the biggest wedding of the year, an entire resort full of colorful wedding guests descends upon them -- many sharing uncanny similarities to characters in a Jane Austen novel. It doesn't take long before Jane gets everything she thinks she wants. After all, too much of a good thing can't be all that bad, right?

But when Jane's life turns upside down, the only one she can turn to is Austen; though he's got his own troubles of the heart . . . and she's afraid he's enjoying them more than he should.

MY REVIEW:

Light-hearted. Somewhat cheesy. Super fun. Any of these descriptions make your heart beat faster? If so, check out Jane and Austen. 

The story centers around Jane, an event coordinator at North Abbey (yeah, a total play on Northanger Abbey). Her boss is getting married to a Brit and it's quite the huge event, with guests bearing names and attributes to most of Jane Austen's beloved characters. 

Jane is easy to love, though sometimes I did want to slap her. Mostly, though, I wanted to slap Austen, who spends most of the first half of the book being an idiot. Don't worry. He comes to his senses later on.

Jane and Austen is a quirky play on Jane Austen's works. If you're a purist, it will probably annoy you, but if not, you're going to love this fun little love story.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cindy Thomson's Annie's Stories ~ Reviewed


Annie's Stories (Ellis Island Novel V2)
By Cindy Thomson (Author)
Pages 402
Binding Softcover
Release Date May 1, 2014
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Series Ellis, Island

Description


The year is 1901, the literary sensation "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment--they're a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie--and in her father's unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.Though the postman's intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father's stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she's always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

Review:

Annie’s Stories tells us about Annie Gallagher in the time when The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was beginning to take the nation by storm.  She is a recent immigrant from Ireland.  She was raised by her father, but when he died suddenly, she found herself forced into a woman’s asylum by her uncle, who did not want her.  She is rescued by a priest, who sends her to America to live with his sister in a boarding house, where Annie earns her keep working for her board.  Her belief God has long since passed due to the trials she’s endured, but she finds comfort in The Wizard of Oz, as it reminds her of her storytelling father.  She has some of her father’s stories that he used to tell her written down, and as she begins to share them, people begin to get interested.  When the stories disappear, she fears they have fallen in the wrong hands.  
          
Annie has such a hard time trusting people, and most of all, God, due to what she’s been through.  So much so that she can’t see the caring people that are right in front of her face.  She has an ideal in her head of what love and home are and can’t seem to get past that.  But it’s fun to see her start to open up.  She’s such a lovely character.  This story was a lot better than I expected it to be when I first read the synopsis.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Jan Karon's Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good ~ Reviewed


Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good: The New Mitford Novel 
By Jan Karon
Pages 670
Binding Softcover
Release Date Sep 2, 2014
Publisher Penguin Group USA
Series Mitford Years
ISBN 0399172211


Overview
After five hectic years of retirement from Lord's Chapel, Father Tim Kavanaugh returns with his wife, Cynthia from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors. While he is glad to be a t home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he's offered one, he decides he doesn't want it. Maybe he lost his passion. His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion--for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner--and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley's brother Sammy, still enraged by his mother's abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim's prized possessions. And Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings Bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business.

Review:

Father Tim is back! Those who have visited Mitford before will be excited. It has been a long time since Father Tim was in Mitford. I love the Mitford series by Jan Karon (10 novels published between 1994 and 2014 with two other novels called the Father Tim novels)! Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (don’t you love the title) is the first book published in the Mitford series since 2005. I love the Mitford Series for many reasons but the main reason is the town and the people are so real to me. I know that Mitford exists somewhere and that Father Tim and Cynthia must be real people. I feel like I know all the people in Mitford. Jan Karon is a master at creating believable characters and at creating many characters who each have distinct personalities. Another thing I love about Mitford is it is a place where people care about each other and where God’s wisdom is shared openly. There are always both laughter and tears in these novels. If you have read the series before and loved them or even just liked them, you will love this new one. The author manages to pay homage to all the characters and stories in the series without it feeling like a review or a summary. But if you have never read any of the books and there is any chance at all you will read them, I strongly encourage you to read the books in order. If you are a reader who has no intention of reading any of the other novels, I do believe you would still enjoy this book just not on the same level as someone who is familiar with the characters, the inside jokes and all the nuances of the relationships. If this were the first book I read, there would be a lot of references I wouldn’t understand and I probably would be a little frustrated. For me, there where times in this book where I laughed (as always) and one time in particular when I burst into tears (I won’t tell you which part). I believe it is the best one of the series. I love the characters, I love the story lines and I love that Father Tim’s relationship with Jesus is shown so clearly and is real not pretentious and not making him look like he is perfect. This novel (and series) is great for someone who wants to read inspirational stories about people that include all the daily challenges of life and family told with humor and truth. (If you have never read any of the books and aren’t sure you want to read all ten, at least read the first book At Home in Mitford before you read this one and it will increase your enjoyment of the story.)

Reviewed by: Susan Aken

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jennifer AlLee's Last Family Standing ~ Reviewed



Last Family Standing
By Jennifer AlLee (Author)
Binding Softcover
Release Date Sep 16, 2014
Publisher Abingdon Press
ISBN 1426768095

Overview

Twenty-five years ago, Monica Stanton gave up a baby girl for adoption. Now, the thing Monica didn't dare hope for has happened: Jessica has reentered her life . . . and brought a little drama and competition with her. Jessica is willing to meet her birth mother, but she wants the reunion to air on a reality TV show. Monica would rather chew glass than appear on TV. But she'll swallow her pride-and a few other unsavory items-if that's what it takes to reconnect. As if getting to know her grown daughter while competing on a remote island isn't hard enough, Monica is further confused when Jessica's long-lost birth father shows up, complicating both her relationship with her daughter and the attraction Monica has to the hunky reality show host. The fruit-basket upset of emotions, accusations, and regrets might make for good TV, but will it destroy the family in the process?


Review:

With all the competition and obstacles of a reality TV show, Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee will have you turning page after page to see who wins. AlLee does an excellent portrayal of emotions in this book. They snap with electricity and are anything but stereotypical. Novel Rocket and I give it a high recommendation. It's a perfect Spring or Summer read.


Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, president
Novel Rocket