Monday, April 17, 2017

Mists of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

(Howard Books 2015)

I've always enjoyed reading novels by Daphne du Maurier and Georgette Heyer. Sandra Byrd takes the same theme and style from them and then makes it her own.

This is this first book I have read by Sandra Byrd, and it won't be the last. I was intrigued by Rebecca's plight. Englishwomen have a certain attitude and disposition that she must adhere to, and Sandra Byrd pulls this off extremely well.

The mystery is something that is slowly built into a vibrating tension. The red herrings and misdirection adds to the complex plot. The romance within grows slowly, with hesitation.

Since this is the daughter of missionaries, member of the nonconforming church, and faith is a mainstay to her character, the reliance upon God's direction is a steady and natural part of the story.

As for the details in the setting, Byrd uses flashbacks within the book by incorporating them as sudden surges of memories. It's almost like watching a Masterpiece Theater movie where the character's thoughts are pulled back into the past and the viewer sees a portion of their lives before the person they are talking to regains their attention. This writing technique has been sorely lost to literature until now. How nice to see it in a book.

There are many small, intricate threads to this book, foreshadowing, motifs, and clues, that it would take a while to pull each apart and examine them. But why unravel a beautiful book such as this?

The ending is what really has me smiling. If I look back throughout the story, the hints were there, but to see it fulfilled at the end: it is a surprise to say the least.

Overall, this book is exceptional and has become a favorite that I will revisit. A great Gothic novel that rivals many of the past masters.

***click on the title for the option to purchase a copy of the book*** 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Amish Firefighter by Laura V. Hilton

Laura V. Hilton
(Whitaker 2016) 

After reading The Post Card and enjoying David and Rachel's story, I looked forward to reading more about Sam Miller, especially since his scene at the end of the story.

He is a passionate and reckless man. Abigail is a sweet and bewildered woman, one who feels as though she wasn't loved, not even by God. Sam, on the other hand, approaches his relationship with God just as he approaches a fire that must be fought, with head-on abandon.

Throughout the book, I saw Sam mature into a beautiful and devout man; while, Abigail became more self-assured and willing to trust God with her future.

The story kept me reading up to about the end, and then it seemed rushed. I wished for a little bit more at the end to really keep the emotion high, instead of letting it peter off into a mild and sedate feeling.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. I did wish for a little more of the firefighting or at least more of it referenced. The title is befitting of Sam's personality, though. I did wish for more of an interaction between Abigail and her "new family", but all-in-all the book was quite satisfying.

And since I don't read hardly any Amish books, that is saying something if a book can keep me glued to the sentences until the very end.

***click on the title for an option to purchase a copy of the book*** 

The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim

 (Tyndale 2016)

 This was different than what I expected. Compared to other books I have read where the break down of society was evident either through an EMP or dollar collapse, this book ranks high.

The present tense first person narrative was refreshing and it
seemed to center me in the story and see it through the eyes of Moses and Leora. This is their story. It doesn't matter the cause of what happened. It doesn't matter what the rest of the world is doing or the pursuit to find out. What matters in this story is how they will survive. How does two people from two separate faiths work together for the good of the community?

Moses believes, but he has PTSD. He cannot reconcile his faith with his past.
Leora believes, but she has to be in control. She cannot reconcile her past with her Mennonite faith.

Somewhere along the line they learn about trust and compromise, but above all how to have faith that God will provide.

The symbolism of Moses' name was not lost to me as this pilot who crashed into the Mennonite community leads them to safety.

Whenever I read Leora's account I could see the conflict and confusion within her. Her past scarred her and it colors her decisions. 

Jolina Petersheim portrayed through the eyes of two people thrown into the unknown an accurate assumption of society's downfall. The only negative remark I can make is that I wished for a little more detail in some of the actions and scenes. I felt they were "glossed over" too much and didn't provide a reality like the rest of the book. Overall, it was well written, engaging, and makes the next book a much anticipated read.  

***click on the title for the option to purchase a copy of the book***

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler

(Bethany House 2009)

This may be an older book, and it think it was a book published before its time. The dialogue and present tense of the character was refreshing and authentic.

Alice Wisler was able to portray that back and forth emotional state of someone who is sad and brokenhearted. A plus to her character was how she was able to insert an unique and beautiful personality into the story. Deena's emotions, thoughts, and behaviour was truly an accurate portrayal of many people who are like Deena. The slightly sarcastic humour, the truthfulness about jealous, unforgiveness, and self-deprecation are many things that many people read. 

How many times do we pause in a chore or such because a memory is brought forth? Alice Wisler uses this to her advantage for Deena and the reader is able to learn more about what happened in the past. A very good utilization of that skill.

The romance isn't the main story. Deena is attracted to Zack, but she doesn't pursue Zack. And because we are reading first person, the reader will discover things along with Deena. This is an intimate journey into healing and finding love, which isn't always in the place you expect.

The faith element is subtle and completely natural in the narrative. It wasn't preachy, nor in-your-face, but a gentle wave that flows throughout Deena's life as we read.

This is the first book I read by Alice Wisler and it quickly became an ultimate favorite. The writing style was magnificent and this is a definitely recommended read.

***click on the title for the option to purchase a copy of the book***

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

If I'm Found by Terri Blackstock

(Zondervan 2017)

If you haven't read If I Run, that's okay, but you would lose a little bit of the story and some parts of this book wouldn't make sense.  I like books that run in a trilogy where book two picks up where book one left off, and book three picks up immediately after two. (Waiting patiently for book three).

Terri Blackstock delivers another wonderful story that kept me reading into the early morning hours and turning the pages to see what would happen. With If I'm Found, the small story plot that Casey finds herself involved in isn't as intimate as the previous book. She is more of that outside observer who makes a difference through secondary resources.

Again, I am enjoying a character who is feminine and yet not helpless. Casey Cox is portrayed as a strong Southern woman who doesn't cower before an adversary. I can't help but feel my heart speed up with every close call.

Dylan is a man I'm beginning to admire greatly. His own shortcomings make me more human and real to me. He isn't this chiseled, perfect specimen swooping in to save the damsel. He's a man of God determined to bring justice to the wrongs committed.

Terri Blackstock also portrays the mind of a soulless man well without giving in to compromise and using vulgar or coarse language. This heightens the tension of the story and gives it an elevation that made me read faster and spurred me on this suspenseful journey.

If I'm Found superseded If I Run. And I'm extremely excited, but still willing to be patient, to read the next installment and see how the story will conclude. As always, another great book by a truly wonderful author. 

***Click on the title for the option to purchase a copy of the book*** 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Redemption by M.L. Tyndall

The Redemption
M.L. Tyndall
(Barbour 2006) 

I'm always on the look-out for a good pirate story.

M.L. Tyndall delivered a great pirate turned privateer novel. While the action scenes and character interactions in The Redemption kept me riveted, there were pros and cons to the book.

The book had well developed characters, ones that grew and changed over the course of the story. The plot allowed for a little leeway in how a pirate could be a Christian. He became a privateer hired to root out the enemy ships and "relieve" them of their cargo. This made sense for the mid 1600's when Britain and Spain were at war and Jamaica was a crossroads for them in the Caribbean.

Historical facts were evident. The setting strong and detailed. The fights scenes, although not as detailed as I would have liked, were not glossed over and watered down.

The things that bothered me most about the story were these: the heavy handedness of Scripture. I wished for a more natural occurrence. The Stockholm-type syndrome developed by Charlisse over Merrick seemed too contrived. The immediate reversal of Edward without anything leading up to his salvation was too abrupt. A little bit of a tidying up at the end made the story seemed rushed. Some of the fighting was too watered down. There was one instance that had me scratching my head over whether or not the word would be considered cussing. I'm still debating on that point.

Overall, I really liked the story. I like how Merrick understood that even though he was a Christian, there were times when he had to kill to protect others. His fight against temptation and his old self was thoroughly developed and shown, showing that although he had changed, his past still presented a problem. Charlisse started off strong, capable, and even daring despite her small stature and her abusive past. Toward the end of the book her character became weaker and helpless. I missed the spunk and orneriness of her character from the beginning of the book.

This was a good pirate, or in this case privateer, novel. The oscillating emotions and actions of the characters kept them more human than sugar-coated characters in most other novels. 

***This review is of the 2006 edition. It has since been republished by Ransom Press in 2014 and I do not know if any content or wording had been changed.***