Archive | September 2013

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

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I loved this book! In fact, I re-read parts of it yesterday and smiled at the humor and early rapport between the main characters. As a woman who met and married her husband in a mere three months, whirlwind romances speak to me–the necessity of being honest with someone, letting them see the real you right away, not hiding behind false pretenses, revealing your past without excusing your mistakes. Deep conversations, boldness, and honesty take precedence over making a good first impression.

Romance in novels and film usually equates with sexual intimacy. While ample sexual tension develops between the characters in Five Days in Skye, they exhibit self-control and honor the moral and ethical boundaries they have established for themselves. A deeper intimacy develops between the characters and also between the characters and God.

The setting is described vividly by the author, and now I have a strong desire to visit the Isle of Skye, a location heretofore unknown to me. Carla Laureano lives in Denver, but she describes Scotland as someone intimately acquainted with the area. She is honest about its cold temperatures and damp weather, but her words paint a picture of breathtaking beauty and serenity, giving credit to the Creator for His handiwork.

Five Days in Skye contains no sex or inappropriate language, but there are many references to alcohol. One of the main characters is a chef and restaurateur, who has gastropubs in England and Scotland and prepares delectable meals in his family’s home on the Isle of Skye. He knows which wines to pair with specific dishes, and he recommends drinking wine in Paris and ale in London. There is no drunkenness, and given the cultural and culinary influences, I was not offended by the consumption of alcohol in this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and fell in love with the characters. I have no reason to believe there will be a sequel, but I would love to read more about James and Andrea and to delve deeper into the lives of the other characters.

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Fiction

I love to read almost any type of fiction, and I love learning about different places, eras, and cultures through fiction. In the last month, I have visited Alaska, Texas, Louisiana, England, Scotland, the Smoky Mountains, and Pennsylvania via novels. I have learned about the Great Depression and the Civil War, cruise ships and trains, home improvement and restoration, scuba diving, cotton picking, cooking, etc. I have experienced it through the eyes of the rich and poor, young and old, male and female.

I love learning new words from authors and wish I had opportunities to use fancy words such as nebulous, nefarious, diaphanous, pejoratives, epiphanic, wizened, somnambulism, and others that provide lyrical prose and more accurate descriptions than vague, evil, see-through, insults, illuminating, wrinkled, and sleepwalking. I find myself mentally repeating vernacular phrases, colloquialisms, and out-dated sayings after reading them, and I wish I was confident enough to use them in conversation, but I fear that someone will think I am insane if I say “my feet found purchase” instead of “I landed on my feet”.

I enjoy losing myself in a romance, staying up late into the night with a suspenseful novel, finding dialogue or situations humorous, relating to characters’ feelings and struggles in life with love, loss, and faith. A good book can make me laugh out loud or bawl like a baby; the more exceptional ones can make me do both. I have been angry at authors and yearned to get to know other litterateurs.

I have read novels that helped me understand myself better, taught me how to forgive or move past hurts, and gave me insight into the actions of others. Fictional characters have kept me company on lonely nights, given me adult conversations on long days of caring for babies, and entertained my thoughts long after their story has concluded.

All of this makes me wish I could pen my own tales of adventure, suspense, and romance, but my imagination is lacking in the literary department. Fortunately for me, there is a plethora of fiction from which to choose.

Coldwater Revival by Nancy Jo Jenkins

It has been a long time since a romance novel captured my heart and mind as Coldwater Revival did, and I didn’t really know it was a romance until late into the book. Nancy Jo Jenkins writes with lyrical prose, which consists mostly of the thoughts and actions of her main character, Emma Grace. I enjoyed her use of words and phrases common in the depression era and the way the story seemed to flow straight from Emma Grace’s mind. This coming-of-age story is beautifully written and reminds us that God is with us through pain and tragedy, loss and love.

This is not a new book but one that has been on my nightstand for a couple of years now. I wish I had taken the time to read it before now. The best compliment I can grant it is that it reminds me of my favorite book, The Notebook, which is the only book apart from the Bible that I have read repeatedly.

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Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

 
 Made to Last is a delightful romantic comedy that will keep you turning the pages to see what will happen next in Miranda Woodruff’s mixed-up life. The life she lives in front of the camera on her reality TV home improvement show isn’t exactly her current reality. Jilted shortly before her wedding three years ago, Miranda has abandoned her faith and lost hope in finding love. She feels like her show is all she has left, and when its future is in question, she takes drastic measures to ensure its survival. Unfortunately, a reporter looking for a juicy story begins to shadow her at the same time that she begins leading a double life. As he uncovers the truth, he must decide whether to use the story to further his career or keep Miranda’s secrets to save her career, reputation, and their friendship.

Full of plot twists and surprises, laughter and tears, Made to Last is entertaining, suspenseful, humorous, and hopeful. Through the characters’ struggles with faith and love, we are reminded that God offers redemption even in our biggest messes.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I forgot to mention that there were some integral characters in this book whose stories were not completed in the pages of this novel. I’m expecting and looking forward to a sequel.

Stranded by Dani Pettrey

When I saw this book on the list of books I could review for Bethany House, I immediately selected it. I have been planning to read Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series for awhile now, but I had put it off in order to read several of the other books waiting for me. Stranded is the third book in the romantic suspense series based in Alaska. I must confess that I have been somewhat obsessed with Alaska for close to twenty years now, and the setting was what drew me to this series. My mother is in Alaska right now on a cruise with excursions similar to the setting in Stranded, which reminded me that I should write my review. I hope the setting is the only thing my mother’s trip has in common with the cruise in the book.

I finally read the first two books in the series, so I could read Pettrey’s latest. I think I read all three books in five days. I had a hard time putting them down and stayed up reading well into the night. I feel like I should review the whole series, but I’ll try to focus on Stranded. I would strongly encourage you to read Submerged and Shattered before beginning this third installment because I think those two books are a little better than this one, plus they provide you with much background information on the main characters. Some authors rehash all of their characters’ histories from their previous books in a series to make sure the reader isn’t lost, but Dani Pettrey develops the main characters in each book in the series instead of giving the reader every detail in the first book and repeating all the details in each subsequent book. I like her style. I’m already looking forward to learning more about the next two characters in her next book.

Stranded is packed with ample suspense and sexual tension between the main characters, but I thought the plot line was somewhat fantastical. Darcy St. James is a reporter on board a cruise ship who is supposed to be writing about the adventure excursions, hopefully painting them in a positive light in order to encourage more guests to purchase excursion packages. Her real reason for being on the cruise ship is to help her friend, an undercover reporter, who has discovered something that scared her so much she requested Darcy’s help, but she disappears as soon as Darcy arrives. As the story unfolds and Darcy searches for Abby, Darcy places herself in harm’s way more often than any sensible person ever would. She uses the excuse of being a reporter to explain why she questions everyone repeatedly about Abby’s disappearance when she isn’t even supposed to know Abby. Darcy is working undercover as an adventure reporter and nearly blows her cover on the first excursion. I felt like her character was too easy for the other characters to read and would have gotten herself killed halfway through the book if it was more realistic. I still enjoyed the story and all the twists. I also enjoyed seeing the characters from the first two books develop a little further in this book.

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Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

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I have enjoyed reading mysteries since I was a child. I remember checking out all the Nancy Drew books during middle school, and then I discovered Agatha Christie’s classics during high school. Once I married, my in-laws introduced me to contemporary mystery writers, but I was still drawn to my mother-in-law’s leather-bound Agatha Christie collection. The murders in Christie’s books are ingenious and usually involve some element of deception. No matter how many of her stories I have read, I do not believe I have ever solved the crime before her main character. However, I had become accustomed to the faster pace, heightened suspense, and romantic element in the contemporary novels, so it was with great delight that I requested Rules of Murder from Bethany House to read and review, and I was not disappointed.

This first book in the Drew Farthering Mystery series is set in England in the 1930’s among a family of the upperclass with a few Americans involved as well. Drew Farthering is the charming main character, who enjoys reading mysteries and decides to try his own hand at detective work when a murder is discovered on his property. His friend Nick assists in solving the crimes but continually reminds Drew that this mystery is not following the “rules of murder” set forth by Father Knox in his ten commandments for mystery writers.

One of the interesting aspects of this book is the relatively young ages of the main characters. In most contemporary mystery novels, the main characters seem to be in their mid- to late thirties. In Christie’s novels, Miss Marple was in her seventies as I recall, and Hercule Poirot was at least middle aged. Most of the main characters in Rules of Murder are in their twenties, but Drew and Madeline seem rather mature. The introduction of Madeline Parker and her friends provides comedic and romantic elements, as well as a spiritual component. The religious aspect is not overdone, but we are reminded that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Rules of Murder contains an ingenious plot, and Julianna Deering breaks all the rules with her characters and their deceptions. I would highly recommend this book for any fan of the mystery genre.