Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Rosemary By Any Other Name


A Name Unknown explores identity, which can be found in many aspects such as a person's name, heritage, or occupation. Ultimately, Roseanna M. White's overarching theme is that if we are in Christ our identity is found in Him. Ms. White showcases her ideas in this stirring novel.

 Her heroine, Rosemary Gresham, is an exceptional thief able to blend in with the upper-class and embezzle high-value items for profit. Orphaned at eight, stealing has helped her survive the dangerous streets of London. She would even fall in with a band of  thieving urchins who become her family. Rosie's line of work leads her to the mysterious "Mr. V", who commissions her for a job that stretches Rosemary to the limits.  Posing as a librarian, she is sent to find evidence of a wealthy gentlemen to determine if he is loyal to England or Germany.

Her hero, Peter Holstein, an English citizen of German descent, fears he will lose everything, all the while political tensions in England are boiling over with the threats of WWI.  In an effort to prove his loyalty he hires Rosemary to help him find documentation confirming his allegiance to England.

Through personal letters Rosemary and Peter form what could be characterized as more than a serious friendship.  Over time this causes her to feel guilty of being there under false pretenses and second guess her efforts to find Peter, "the wealthy gentleman", disloyal to England.

Congratulations Ms. White on keeping your readers wanting to turn the pages into increasing tensions, romance, and danger.




** A Name Unknown was provided to me by the author herself and Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

De Havilland and Cagney Shine in Strawberry Blonde (1941)


Dame Olivia de Havilland's Hollywood career spanned from 1935-1988 and she appeared in 49 films. De Havilland is best known for The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gone With The Wind (1939), and her award-winning performances in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949).
To honor this two-time Oscar winner on her one hundred one birthday this month I wanted to review one of her films.
In 1941, she made The Strawberry Blonde alongside veteran actors James Cagney, Rita Hayworth, and Jack Carson.



Set in 1890's New York, Strawberry Blonde tells the story of Biff Grimes (Cagney), a man who takes nothing from nobody because "that's the kind of hairpin [he is]" falls in love with beautiful, society girl, Virginia Brush (Hayworth). His dishonest friend, Hugo Barnstead (Carson) steals her away and marries her. Displeased about Hugo and Virginia's union,  Biff courts and marries Virginia's best friend, Amy Lind (de Havilland).



In the end Biff realizes the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence and he's the one that's blessed having married Amy. He's content with his life and loves his wife.

Strawberry Blonde showcases de Havilland's talent for comedy. The double date scene is one of the funniest parts in the film (i.e. de Havilland's winking at Cagney and "Exactly").


Being set at the turn of the century, Strawberry Blonde is an atypical screwball comedy during this era in Hollywood, but holds up well and still maintains a delight and charm about it 70 plus years later.

Fun Film Trivia:
Strawberry Blonde (1941) is sandwiched in between 2 remakes with the same title: One Sunday Afternoon (1933 & 1948).

Director Raoul Walsh considered Strawberry Blonde to be his most successful picture and his personal favorite of all his films.

My rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Some of the singing sequences slowed the film down a little, but you can easily fast-forward if that bothers you. Other than that I enjoyed the film as a whole and would recommend it. I appreciated that the film strove to present a moral about being content.






Sunday, June 11, 2017

Heart On The Line; Code for Captivating!

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It was a pure pleasure to travel back to Harper's Station in Karen Witemeyer's latest book, Heart On The Line. Readers become better acquainted with Grace Mallory, the quiet, shy, and sweet, miniature- gun -toting, telegraph operator who longs for a normal life. Weary of constantly looking over her shoulder, she's been on the run for almost a year after witnessing her father's murder, frightened that the man responsible will find her. Her communication via wire after hours with fellow telegraph operator "Mr. A" has turned into a strong friendship....perhaps even a courtship?

150 miles away in Denison, Texas,  Amos Bledsoe (Mr. A) prefers riding bicycles over horses. When he intercepts a threatening message over the wire meant for Grace; believing her life to be in danger he tosses aside his insecurities about meeting her and saddles up to save the day.

And so begins a page-turning journey of Morse code and  mystery, romance and rescue.

I loved how the author built Grace and Amos' relationship from their first initial awkward face to face meeting to their budding romance throughout the story.  Amos' character was a departure from Ms. Witemeyer's usual heroes, but I found him completely charming and endearing. He's "quick-witted, clever, and invested"(Witemeyer, 106). Grace sees beyond Amos' quirks and appreciates him as a kind and honorable man. Beyond this Amos "...boost[s] her confidence, [makes]her feel comfortable in her own skin. No pretense, no need to impress. Just acceptance, respect, and honesty." (Witemeyer, 128).  Truth be told....isn't this what we all want?  Amos and Grace truly compliment each other and their chemistry leaps off the page.

I enjoyed seeing Grace's character grow throughout the story. Initially, she's a person comfortable with being in the background, but she  comes into her own and realizes her strength.

The cover for Heart on the Line is so creative and one of my favorites. It's extremely clever the way the Morse code is interwoven with the title. The contemplative smile on Grace's face makes you think that she's just received a wire from Amos and the way her finger is poised above the machine as if she's reflecting on her response.

Ms. Witemeyer has a brilliant flair for capturing the reader's attention from page 1 and sweeping them away in whatever adventure she chooses. Heart On The Line has all the components that make a superb story. Energetic characters, engaging story filled with love and intrigue.








** I was extremely honored to receive a copy of Heart On the Line from the author herself and Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Wings of the Wind is a Wonderful Ending to a Fantastic series

Imagine if you were told to give up everything you were raised in...your culture, religion, and beliefs and embrace these elements of a nation you considered an enemy. What would you do? How would you react?



In Wings of the Wind (Out of Egypt Book 3) Alanah a Canaanite woman, whose an expert with a bow and arrow enters into battle disguised as a boy to avenge the deaths of her father and brothers. Believing she would die on the battlefield she's stunned when she survives.

Tobiah, an experienced Hebrew warrior is astonished to find an unconscious woman on the battlefield. In an act of compassion, he takes Alanah back to his tent to find a healer for her.. Little do either of them know this deed of kindness will forever alter both of their lives. The Hebrew customs state that Tobiah must marry Alanah in order to protect her.

Can Alanah's initial vengeance against the Hebrews turn into forgiveness?

Wings of the Wind is set towards the end of the 40 years of wandering in the dessert right before the Hebrews enter the promised land.

 The talented author is accomplished in character development. I loved the character of Tobiah. He was a man of honor, compassion, and strong convictions about doing what is right. Alanah is his perfect compliment. She is a hard-working, determined woman.  Ms. Cossette skillfully builds Tobiah and Alanah's relationship from friendship to romance.  During her time with the Hebrew people, Alanah sees her husband and marriage in a different light and no longer sees herself as a captive.

 Ms. Cossette seamlessly weaves elements of the gospel. In Wings of the Wind, the theme of God's Sovereignty is foremost.  I enjoyed being reunited with Kiya and Shira from the previous books, to learn their fate and see the role they played in Alanah's life.

Having read the first two books in the Out of Egypt series (Counted With the Stars and Shadow of the Storm) I thought that Wings of the Wind was a brilliant ending to a breathtaking and thought-provoking series. Ms. Cossette is an innovative voice in Biblical Historical fiction.



     
** Wings of the Wind was provided to me by the author herself and Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride Disappoints

The Chapel Car Bride takes readers to the backwoods of Finch, West Virginia in 1913, pre-WWI era introducing the reader to life in a coal mining community.

After living a sheltered life in Pittsburg, nineteen year old Hope longs for something much more adventurous.  She convinces her father, the Reverend Irvine, to let her accompany him on his travels. Hope seems sweet and genuine although somewhat naïve. Traveling by chapel car, the Irvine's journey would land them in Finch.

Miner Luke Hughes works for the Finch Coal Mine Company trying to take care of his widowed mother and younger siblings. However, the company doesn't always provide steady work, and more importantly does not make the welfare and safety of their workers a priority. When the chapel car arrives in town, Luke is intrigued by the gentle Hope and is eager to learn all that the Reverend Irvine can teach him about the Word.


The Chapel Car Bride was my first introduction to Judith Miller's books. To be honest, I found it a struggle to get through this book. I didn't have the usual motivation I have for reading and I wasn't connecting to the characters or the story. The plot was a bit slow moving. The ending of  some of the chapters didn't always leave me wanting to read on and sometimes I felt it jumped a bit from scene to scene.

**The Chapel Car Bride was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Friday, April 28, 2017

In the Good Old Summertime is a Charming and Romantic Musical


Judy Garland's name is synonymous with musicals during Hollywood's Golden Age. Her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939) was the role that launched her into stardom and is still the character she is most remembered for. 

 She made a string of  musicals post- Oz.  In the Good Old Summertime (1949) Garland and Van Johnson play rival sales clerks Veronica Fisher and Andrew "Andy" Larkin  by day and by night they are unknowingly involved in an anonymous, romantic, meeting of the minds, pen-pal relationship. Eventually, their mutual dislike of one another blossoms into romance.























In the Good Old Summertime is the perfect blend of charm, humor, and romance and  showcases Garland's voice and displays her humorous side. Johnson and Garland have natural and engaging chemistry throughout the film.
If musicals are a genre of films you love I'd urge you to add In the Good Old Summertime to your list.



Fun Film Trivia: In the Good Old Summertime was Liza Minnelli's (Judy's daughter) film debut at 3 years old. She appears with her mother and Johnson in the final scene.
Garland with her daughter Liza.


In the Good Old Summertime is based on The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and You've Got Mail (1998).

Buster Keaton devised and coached Johnson in the sequence where he (Johnson) accidently wrecks Garland's hat.

Johnson & Garland were both cast in Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) but didn't have any scenes together.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Long Time Gone...The Boden Family Saga continues



Justin Boden, the middle sibling, is a tough and rugged man who "[wears] broadcloth, denim, and buckskin" (Connealy, 139) and has become the top rancher in the New Mexican territory.  He's spent the majority of his adult life being a landowner alongside his father (patriarch Chance Boden) and given women very little thought....that is until Angelique "Angie" Dupree, the distracting woman assisting the doctor with Cole's recovery.

With Cole seemingly on the mend, the Boden clan is able to turn their focus towards the continued threats facing them and the Cimarron Ranch (CR). It's become increasingly clear that the threats against them are part of a decades old secret. Can the Boden's unravel the mystery before it's too late?

Angie Dupree, the niece of Sister Margaret, who runs the orphanage is healing from past wounds and hoping to make a fresh start in Skull Gulch. She is determined to "...learn to stand on [her] own...stop letting others rule [her] life...and try to become the woman He made [her] to be." (Connealy, 139). Handsome rancher, Justin Boden presents a problem because he could be just the man to deter her from her newfound resolve.

In Long Time Gone, Mary Connealy continues her engaging and adventurous, Wild West storytelling and gives the reader further insight into the Boden family. I liked the fact that the Boden parents, Chance and Veronica have more of a role in Long Time Gone and I also felt that Ms. Connealy did an excellent job of further developing her characters from her first novel (No Way Up) so that the reader has a clear view of who each person is.

Heroine Angie Dupree seemed to be a bit of a departure of the usual heroines readers have come to expect of Ms. Connealy. Nonetheless, I actually liked the character of Angie. She had a quiet strength about her that I admired.
Of course, what would a Mary Connealy Western be without romance? I truly loved Justin and Angie's story. One detail I observed was that Justin and Angie were always very aware of one another's presence, even if they were in a room full of people. Until they found each other, both of them (Justin and Angie) thought that love had passed them by. "My chance for love was also a long time gone, and now here you are, filling up my whole life with love." (Connealy, 299).


I thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting the CR in Long Time Gone and look forward to the final installation in the Cimarron Legacy (Too Far Down) set to be released this fall.

** Long Time Gone was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tangled Web is a great conclusion to the Men of Valor series

In Tangled Web (Men of Valor Book 3)the youngest McGregor brother, Finn is endeavoring to spend a quiet month at a cabin healing from past trauma and contemplating his next step in life.  With his six-year stint as an Army Ranger having ended he's hoping that communing with nature will help him sort through his jumbled thoughts.




Unbeknownst to him, his lovely neighbor and New York book editor, Dana Lewis, is spending time at her grandfather's inherited lakeside cabin also nursing wounds of her own from a recent ordeal. But someone seems intent on driving Dana from her property.
As Finn and Dana work together to uncover the perpetrator, they find themselves falling in love. Can they catch the person responsible for these incidents before it's too late?  


Tangled Web was a great conclusion to the Men of Valor series and I can honestly say I think that Finn was my favorite of the three impressive McGregor brothers. 
 I liked that Mac and Lance occasionally appeared in Tangled Web and that the reader was able to see how close the three brothers are and how important family was despite being separated by distance. In all of the series I've read by Ms. Hannon the importance of family is an essential thread in all her books.


Best-selling and award winning author Irene Hannon is considered "the queen of romantic inspirational suspense novels," has written more than 50 books, and is a seven-time finalist and three-time winner of the prestigious RITA award...I can see why she's been nominated and won several times. I believe her niche is in writing gripping, edge- of-your-seat, thrillers combined with endearing romance.

As a reader, I appreciate that her romances don't have any explicit love scenes, there's no language or overt violence...just riveting suspense that keeps you turning pages.

Men of Valor is my 3rd series (Private Justice and Guardians of Justice are the other 2 series)  I've read by Ms. Hannon and she's become one of my go-to authors whenever I'm in the mood for romance with a healthy dose of intrigue.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sarah Sundin: A Must-Read Author for fans of WWII Historical Fiction

Do you like WWII historical fiction?  If so, then you need  to put Sarah Sundin's books at the top of your 'Must Read' pile. You will not be disappointed!


I first discovered Ms. Sundin's works when I read her stellar debut novel A Distant Melody (Wings of Glory Book 1) in 2010.  I'll be honest, what first attracted me to her books was the cover. Whoever is responsible for the cover-art on all of her books; it's simply stunning and really captures the essence of the period. The art-work on her most current series, Waves of Freedom is my favorite by far.

All of her books have elements that make a great story.  Compelling storytelling, dynamic and complex characters all the while incorporating a strong gospel message.
It's also evident that Ms. Sundin has done extensive research into the WWII time period when she writes her stories. She even mentions in her author's note that had relatives that served during WWII.

Through Deep Waters (Waves of Freedom Book 1) has all the elements of her previous novels except this one has a different feel. The romance is blended with mystery and intrigue.  Set in historical Boston pre-WWII, Through Deep Waters, follows quiet, lovely, Mary Stirling, a Boston Yard Navy secretary who is skilled and observant. She suspects foul play on the USS Atwood.  Handsome Naval officer Ensign Jim Avery stationed on the USS Atwood joins forces with Mary to help her uncover the saboteur.   While working together to find the culprit involved in the sabotage on the USS Atwood, Mary and Jim find themselves slowly falling in love with one another.  Their romance was so sweet. I loved the fact that Jim and Mary are childhood friends and Jim is now seeing Mary in a different light.

Mary has so many qualities that I as a reader wanted to emulate. She's a hard worker, detail-oriented, quiet, and unassuming.
I liked that both Jim and Mary are flawed, imperfect Christians. To me, this made them more real and relatable. I liked that Ms. Sundin had both Jim and Mary dealing head-on with their sins and shortcomings instead of merely brushing them under a rug or acknowledging them and not taking any action.

Part of the appeal of Through Deep Waters was the tone. I felt that I was dropped into a film from Hollywood's Golden Age that had everything in it; romance, mystery, and adventure. One film in particular came to mind: Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942).
There's a line that Jim says to Mary "Every since we said goodbye I couldn't wait to say hello" and I can just see Cary Grant spouting that line and having his leading lady swoon over it...who are we kidding? I was swooning over that line!

Anchor in the Storm (Book 2 in Waves of Freedom) follows the story of Lillian Avery (Jim's sister) and Arch Vandenberg (Jim's best friend) at the outbreak of WWII.

Lillian is excited and energized to start her new job as a pharmacist in Boston.

Ensign Arch Vandenberg's attentions annoy her at first, but eventually she has a change of heart.

Large amounts of drug prescriptions being filled by doctors cause Lillian to suspect a possible drug ring and Arch observes his men becoming drowsy from medication prescribed by the ship's doctor; the two team up to solve the mystery.

The romance between Arch and Lillian was fascinating to watch unfold.

A quality that I liked about Lillian's character is despite the fact that she has a prosthetic leg she doesn't let that get her down. She is independent and has a 'can-do' spirit which I found encouraging and refreshing.

 What I loved most about this book was the over-arching message that if we are in Christ Jesus He is Our Anchor. This reminder gave me hope and cheer. Mr. Avery (Lillian and Jim's father) said it best "...Jesus is your anchor, your hope in any storm, your sure refuge." (Sundin, 28).


Ms. Sundin is my favorite author for WWII historical fiction...I've yet to find any author who tops her in this specific genre. Having enjoyed all 3 of her series (Wings of Glory, Wings of the Nightingale, and Waves of Freedom) I'm hard pressed to recommend one series over the other. What I can tell you is whatever series you pick you're sure to love it!



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Jane Austen fans will love An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter


If 'melting' and 'awwing' are two of your favorite reactions to have while reading then you need to put An Uncommon Courtship (Hawthorne House Book 3) on your list.
I sped through this book in a matter of days. Ms. Hunter reels readers in from page one with Lord Trent Hawthorne and Lady Adelaide Bell's hasty and forced marriage. Accidently, getting trapped in ruins; overnight and unchaperoned...honor stipulated that he propose to her to save both of their reputations.
Can Trent and Adelaide discover love in their avant-garde marriage, all the while battling their own doubts and the pressures of London society?

Being the 2nd son of the Duke of Riverton, Trent is not expected to marry a woman of high social status; he is able to marry for love. Those dreams are dashed he's bound by principle to Adelaide, a woman who is a stranger to him.
Likewise, Adelaide is the 2nd daughter and middle child of an affluent family. Her mother spent her entire life ignoring Adelaide focusing solely her oldest daughter Helena, always trying bolster her station in society. Adelaide is accustomed to being ignored and invisible. Despite being raised by an indifferent mother, she remains sweet-tempered, ladylike, and well-read. I liked Adelaide's character and sympathized with her. She "[was] rather unconventional...unique in appearance, with thick hair so dark it was nearly black and enormous blue eyes that would have appeared even larger if she had been wearing her spectacles." (Hunter, 16).
At first, Trent initially resisted his marriage and for a time ignores Adelaide, but he eventually realizes he wants to be married and he wants to be a good and godly husband. I really admired this character trait in Trent, the way he diligently searched the scriptures and sought counsel from fellow godly men about how to be a good husband and love his wife.

I loved that Ms. Hunter choose to have the hero and heroine married at the beginning of the story rather than the end as is typical of most period romance novels.
My favorite part of An Uncommon Courtship was Trent and Adelaide's slow building,  and romantic  relationship. I found myself at times audibly sighing over this book and rooting for Trent and Adelaide to realize they are made for each other. Ms. Hunter really captured the feeling and time period of the Regency era.
There was one minor flaw of the Adelaide's that drove me a little nuts. She blinks a lot, but that fact that Trent found it adorable caused me to see it in a different light and by the end of the story I was fine with it. Besides this slight fault of Adelaide's, I liked everything else about her.  I especially liked that she wears glasses. Maybe it's because I myself wear glasses that made her that much more relatable.   


After reading An Uncommon Courtship, it made me to want to read books one and two in the Hawthorne House series. (A Noble Masquerade and An Elegant Façade)




Ms. Hunter is making a name for herself in the regency-era genre. I look forward to reading more of her books.


** An Uncommon Courtship was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

On the record....For The Record is a Fun and Fast Read

Finally! Betsy Huckabee's story is told in For The Record! I have been waiting somewhat impatiently to know more of this character's fate. After reading about Betsy in Ms. Jennings' Ozark Mountain Romance series (A Most Inconvenient Marriage and At Love's Bidding); I was particularly curious to find out what happened to her.



Betsy is at a crossroads in her life. She's been living with her uncle since she was 12 helping him raise his children and assisting him with his newspaper since the passing of his wife. Her uncle has since re-married and Betsy now age 24, feels it's time to assert her independence.

Native Texan, Deputy Joel Puckett feels like a fish-out-of-water when he's appointed by the governor to be the new deputy of Pine Gap. He receives a less-than-cordial reception from the Missouri residents and has an uphill battle trying to maintain law and order in the small town and gain the respect of the citizens.

The arrival of the easy- on-the-eyes deputy inspires Betsy to write a series of somewhat embellished stories about his heroics, building him up, and trying to make him seem irresistible to ladies  hoping a larger newspaper will snatch up her story, publish it and then she'll be able to pursue her dreams of living in the big city and ultimately freedom.  However, the more time that Betsy spends with Joel she begins to respect him and sees what her ambition could cost her. Her world of fiction and reality blur the lines.

For The Record had all the elements I gravitate towards as a reader: humor, mystery, and amusing wordplay between the hero and heroine. My favorite part of the book was the relationship between Betsy and Joel. I liked how Ms. Jennings built their relationship from initially not liking one another, then transitioning into a solid and respectful friendship and ending with romance.


While each author has their own individual flair for writing, For The Record reminded me of stories you might read from Christian fiction novelists Karen Witemeyer and Mary Connealy. (Two of my favorite writers!)

For The Record is Regina Jennings best book to date!

** For The Record was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.