Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay trilogy - Suzanne Collins

After reading the hottest series in America right now, I can vouch that it is completely and utterly riveting.  I lost an entire week of productivity as my world slowed to a stop so I could finish this group of books.  You should probably get all three at the same time so you don't experience any lag time between books.
In this series, Katniss, Peeta, and Gale star as the main characters, but there are countless others.  I think the most noticeable difference between the first book and the movie is that only a fraction of the characters are introduced in the movie.  They simply don't have enough time to fully develop every character the way that Suzanne Collins does.  Also, the big political picture movements are not reflected in the movie like they are detailed in the books.  There was so much there that wasn't introduced.  However, that said, the movie itself was one of the best I have seen in a couple years.
Since this series is so packed with drama, twists, and turns I can't afford to spoil it for you.  Any word could tip you off.  If you like to read, chances are you -- just like every other American right now -- will love these books.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

To Love and Cherish (Bridal Veil Island #1) - Tracie Peterson & Judith Miller

"To Love and Cherish" is the first in the new series released by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller.  Both are veteran writers and resoundingly popular in the Christian fiction world.  Both have been a great influence of new authors of Christian fiction, and they have shaped the way we view historical fiction.
"To Love and Cherish" is about a couple that doesn't see eye to eye about when to get married.  The main character, Melinda Colson, believes that their love should be enough to sustain a marriage without the comfort of financial security.  Evan, however, believes it is more important to wait until his financial situation is secure before moving forward in marriage.
This classic tug of war between a young woman and man is familiar to many people.  They work through their own differing opinions, changes to careers, and for Melinda, the frustration of allowing other events which is beyond her control dictate when she will be married.
As a reader, I questioned the couple's compatibility and whether they should marry.  Secretly, I kept hoping that a third party would enter the storyline to steal the girl's heart before Evan proposed.  We waited for quite a long while before the marriage happened.  I think a love triangle would have added just the extra touch of drama that this novel needs.
If you enjoy the relaxing, romantic tone of Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller's work, you will not be disappointed in this sweet story.  The title is now available, and you may order this online at Amazon.
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Unending Devotion - Jody Hedlund

Unending Devotion is the most recently released of Jody Hedlund's books published by Bethany House.  The emotions of the characters were spot on, the romance was the right balance, and the historical events were woven into the book so well that I couldn't tell where the fiction stopped and the history began.
The story revolves around Lily, an orphan who is on a journey to find her sister, Daisy.  The only information she has is that Daisy is a slave of the prostitution industry in the areas where logging is being done.  She follows the trail or loggers, and her task continues to get more and more dangerous the closer she gets.  She meets Connell, a supervisor of three logging operations, who leads a moral lifestyle himself, but does not see a need to interfere in the choices of other men to frequent taverns and brothels.  Lily's opinion is far different -- she wants to do everything she possibly can to eradicate these operations, clean the town up, and make it a place appropriate to raise a family.  There is a relationship budding between Lily and Connell, but their opinions are so different that unless one bends, they cannot have a future together.
The plot is well-crafted, moves along at the perfect pace, has the right quantities of drama, romance, and even a small amount of mystery is worked in.
I have a special place in my heart for women and children currently enslaved in the human trafficking industry right now in 2012.  Jody Hedlund, perhaps intentionally, created a parallel between the characters in the nineteenth century that were dragged into prostitution against their will and the people today that are oppressed by the sex trafficking industry.  In the Author's Note she clarified which examples were true to life, and I was surprised by how similar the experiences of those past women are to the women of today.  Sex trafficking is not a new thing, but what it is called changes from time to time.
I can't brag enough about this book.  Fortunately for me and many other fans, Jody Hedlund has yet another stunner being released soon.  A Noble Groom is available on for pre-order.  Until then, be sure to pick up a copy of Unending Devotion.
This was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

With Every Letter - Sarah Sundin

"With Every Letter" is the first in the "Wings of the Nightingale" series by Sarah Sundin.  This was my first experience reading a Sundin book, and I will remember it for a long time.  This author is an expert at depicting the emotions of the characters in a compelling way while still keeping the plot moving quickly.  I will most definitely have this series on my radar as the books are released!
The plot of the novel centers around Mellie, a misfit woman raised by a single dad in the jungle.  She advances in her career in the military and is among the first of the nurses to fly overseas to provide medical support to our troops during World War II.  The protagonist is Tom MacGilliver, an engineer with a past as different as hers is.  Together, the begin exchanging anonymous letters during the war.  When the inadvertently meet on the field, Mellie realizes this right away.  Tom, however, stays clueless.  If you liked "The Shop Around the Corner," or "You've Got Mail" this novel will be just as enjoyable.  I personally loved it.
The effect "With Every Letter" had on me is due to the scene depicted on pages 252-253.  It talks about what forgiveness often looks like, and questions the legitimacy of that forgiveness.  I am currently being mentored each week by an older lady at my church.  I was so affected by this scene that I discussed it with her.  The question of the hour is this: "Without restoration, what good was forgiveness?"  It brought me to the question "If forgiveness requires restoration to be legitimate, then what does that restoration need to look like?"  We talked about various situations where restoration might look completely different.  If safety is involved, for example, restoration may not necessarily mean that a relationship reverts to exactly where it was beforehand.  We decided that in most situations, however, genuine forgiveness does result in complete restoration.  Sometimes, that restoration brings us to a better place in our relationship with the other party than we were in before the infraction.  Even in the most tragic of circumstances, restoration means healing for the parties involved, even if their lives change as a result of the sin.  Restoration may take hard work and time, but genuine forgiveness does result in restoration.
One of the main reasons I came to this conclusion is that I consider God's love to be the perfect love.  While our love to each other is imperfect, because we are imperfect, God's love is absolutely perfect.  In our sin, God provided not only forgiveness through his son, Jesus Christ, but also complete restoration.  This is God's example of forgiveness, so therefore, our forgiveness should result in restoration even when that restoration takes supernatural strength and character.
I highly recommend this book.  Take some time to read it when you have a chance.  The storyline and characters are top notch.  The application is priceless.
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Taming the Wind - Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson is a veteran writer with dozens of novels under her belt.   She's been a Bethany House author for as long as I can remember.  One of her newest books is "Taming the Wind," book 3 in the "Land of the Lone Star" series.
This story begins with Carissa Lowe, who was widowed at an early age.  Tyler Atherton saved her life some time ago, and even though time has passed he hasn't forgotten Carissa.  Unfortunately, bitterness and fear -- results of her previous marriage to an unsavory man -- hold her back from welcoming a new relationship.  However, Carissa is nothing if not practical, and her daughter needs a father.  Gloria, her small daughter, adores Tyler.  Likewise, Tyler seems to genuinely care about Carissa and Gloria.  After losing his farm, Tyler feels he has no house of his own to provide her with.  The story unfolds as this couple conquers their fears and works to pull a relationship together.
If you are a fan of Tracie Peterson, you won't be disappointed with "Taming the Wind."  It's a classic Peterson novel with emotional ups and downs, conservative romance, and a well-researched historical setting.  This author definitely knows her sweet spot and is one of Bethany House's finest.  Click here if you would like to purchase this book.  Don't forget books 1 & 2!  This trilogy will keep you busy for hours.
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Love's Reckoning - Laura Frantz

I recently had the pleasure of reading "Courting Morrow Little," a previous novel by Laura Frantz.  I remember it as being one of my favorite novels read all year.
"Love's Reckoning" is, if I am not mistaken, Laura's fifth novel.  As with the historical background in "Courting Morrow Little," I appreciated  the attention to detail in her descriptions of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Ms. Frantz is obviously a talented writer.
The plot centers around Eden Lee, who was raised by an overbearing father and weak-willed mother.  Her sister, Elspeth, has a nearly equal part in the first half of the book and quickly earns a reputation as the nemesis.  Silas Ballantyne comes to Eden's family as an apprentice to finish his apprenticeship as a master blacksmith.  When their father mandates that one of his girls must marry Ballantyne, things become explosive.  As the plot moves along, Eden and Silas become separated when one moves to Pittsburgh and the other to Philadelphia.  A series of events brings them back together, and they must face the past.
The length of the book is on the longer side, which I liked.  However, the book didn't move quickly enough to hold my attention.  Also, I didn't feel the connection between Eden and Silas like I wanted to.  Their relationship seemed to be on the apathetic side and without much emotion.  Eden, as a character, was weak-willed and fearful.  This meant I couldn't relate to her as an individual.  Although Elspeth was the antagonist, I could relate to her gutsy, strong-mindedness much better.  This left me feeling conflicted during the first half of the book.
The second novel in the Ballantyne series is due to be released in Fall 2013.  I'm happy to see Laura Frantz on track to bring us one book per year, and I have high hopes that they will begin to come more frequently later on.  She has the ability to form strong plots, use exceptional detail, and turn out a lengthy, enjoyable novel.  You can find this book at or your local Christian retailer.
This book was a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an objective review.