Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review of "Cascade" and "Torrent" by Lisa T. Bergren

Rating: 5 Stars for Both!
~  ~  ~

Lisa T. Bergren's River of Time Series is captivating and addictive.  It's the kind of series that you don't want to end but at the same time you devour every page anxious to find out what will happen next.  Although it is classified as a young adult series, WaterfallCascade, and Torrent, can definitely be enjoyed by adults of all ages.  The fantastical concept of time travel has always appealed to my imagination, and Bergren's descriptions of medieval Italy, combined with just the right amounts of action, tension, and romance, leave me thirsting for more.  The River of Time Series is one that will remain in my collection to revisit again.

Summary from David C. Cook: In the first book of the River of Time series, two bored American sisters stumble on a door to the past, where Gabi is rescued by a handsome knight who vows to love her forever. But there is a rival for his affections, and the girls flee into the present to escape.

Now lovestruck Gabi persuades Lia to help her return, even though she knows dangers abound in medieval Italy, including an entire city who seeks revenge. But Marcello awaits, and Gabi must decide if she's willing to leave her family behind for love.

Review: Cascade picks up right where Waterfall ends, so there is no disruption in the action.  From the start, the plot is packed with adventure and danger.  The pace is steady with moments of heart-pounding close-calls.  Amid the tribulations that Gabi and Lia face, they mature into strong young women and lose their hearts a little more to Italy and the Forelli family.  Thankfully, character development is not sacrificed for action.  Gabi's story is told from her first-person perspective, with the interesting and fresh take on historic Italy from a modern day teen.  Without knowing the thoughts or motivations of some other characters, the reader is left to question who is good and who is bad.  The mystery is as propelling as a swift undercurrent. 

The introduction of Gabi's mother adds an endearing family element to the plot.  Watching her adjust to medieval Italy and observe her daughters in their element is both heart-warming and funny. Her mother shows just as much spunk as her daughters, and their combined penchant for finding themselves battling fierce enemies create a multitude of exciting twists and turns.  I truly never knew what was around the next bend.  

Summary from David C. Cook: When Gabi and Lia finally learn to surf the river of time, they realize they must make hard choices about life and love in the third and final book in the River of Time series.

Gabi and Lia Betarrini have learned to control their time travel, and they return from medieval Italy to save their father from his tragic death in modern times.

But love calls across the centuries, and the girls are determined to return forever-even though they know the Black Plague is advancing across Europe, claiming the lives of one-third of the population. In the suspenseful conclusion of the River of Time series, every decision is about life and death.

Review: When I finished reading Cascade, I planned to wait a few months before reading Torrent, enjoying the anticipation of what the pages would hold.  Torrent tempted me from the bookcase for just a couple of weeks, before I succumbed to the pull.  Once again, I was swept away with Gabi's story.  This time, the novel begins with a tug on the heartstrings as Gabi and her family are reunited with her father.  His fatherly perspective adds an extra dimension to the growing love between Gabi and Marcello, and creates some humorous moments. 

As the entire Betarrini family travels back to Italy, the excitement begins.  New challenges and battles,which I will not reveal, keep the plot fresh.  Romance and faith take precedence in Torrent, as Gabi contemplates her future. Although Gabi's struggles take place in another time,   her questions and temptations are very realistic and relevant for today's readers.  The romance element lends itself to a few "steamier" scenes, but they are offset by a message of restraint in the face of temptation.  The sure and steady faith of Marcello and other characters are positive examples to both Gabi and readers.  Of the three books in the River of Time Series,Torrent offers the best balance of action and emotion.

Bergren takes the reader to other areas of Italy in Torrent, including ancient Rome.  Her clear and vivid descriptions paint a scene as masterful as the frescoes that define Rome's architecture. I enjoyed the change in scenery and the new twists those changes introduced.  Torrent is the perfect ending to an amazing series.  I loved Bergren's references to the River of Time and the symbolism of waterfall, cascade, and torrent. The novel tied all three books together, yet left room for more...and I am certainly thirsting for more!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review of "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" by Tricia Goyer

Summary from Barbour Publishing: Remember the Titanic 100 years after its doomed voyage with Tricia Goyer’s fictional portrayal of one woman’s journey. To Amelia Gladstone, this ship means promise of seeing family again. To Quentin Walpole, the Titanic represents a new start in America…if he can get onboard. All seems lost until Amelia offers him a ticket, securing his passage—and bringing him face-to-face with his railroad tycoon father and older brother, Damian. As Amelia works to reconcile father and son, she finds herself the object of both brothers’ affection. Can she choose between two brothers? Or will she lose everything to the icy waters of the Atlantic?

Review: When the Titanic set sail 100 years ago no one knew that the grand ship's legacy would turn tragic.  The story has been repeated so often over the years that most of us know the facts by heart.  By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer is the second fictionalized account of the Titanic that I have read in the last month.  I loved Goyer's descriptions of the ship from the finest rooms of first class to the staff quarters.  Amelia's association with characters of three different stations - the first class Damian Walpole, the second class Quentin Walpole, and a stewardess - take her to all levels of the ship during her four day voyage. Most of the plot is set in the first and second classes, and I could picture the grandeur and stateliness of what was an unparalleled vessel.  The cameo appearances of real-life passengers, John Jacob Astor and Margaret Brown added an extra layer of authenticity to the story.

The Titanic sinks near the end of the novel; and while I enjoyed the plot, characters, and historical details, there was the element of predictability. I initially expected the story to focus partially on the Titanic voyage and partially on life after the tragedy.  I felt a sense of foreboding knowing the inevitable event that was going to occur and wondering what the outcome would be for the characters that were introduced.  The back stories of Amelia and Quentin provided more depth and interest to the story.  Amelia finds herself in somewhat of a love triangle between her potential suitor in America, Quentin, and his brother Damian.  The question that lingers is who will capture her heart and who will survive the ship's sinking?  The answer is bittersweet with heartwarming tones of love and sacrifice.

Tricia Goyer pays homage to the Titanic in By the Light of the Silvery Moon and preserves a bit of its history.  There are so many real stories of Titanic passengers that we will never know, and reading a well-written and researched fictionalized account gives us insight into an event that should not be forgotten.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley, courtesy of Barbour Publishing.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Revell Blog Tour: "Words Spoken True" by Ann H. Gabhart

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~
Synopsis from Revell: Adriane Darcy was practically raised in her father's newspaper offices. She can't imagine life without the clatter of the press and the push to be first to write the news that matters. Their Tribune is the leading paper in Louisville in 1855. Then Blake Garrett, a brash young editor from the North with a controversial new style of reporting, takes over failing competitor the Herald, and the battle for readers gets fierce.

When Adriane and Blake meet at a benefit tea, their surprising mutual attraction is hard to ignore. Still, Blake is the enemy, and Adriane is engaged to the son of a powerful businessman who holds the keys to the Tribune's future. Blake will stop at almost nothing to get the story--and the girl. Can he do both before it's too late?

Set against the volatile backdrop of political and civil unrest in 1850s Louisville, this exciting story of love and loyalty will hold readers in its grip until the very last page. Bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart once again delivers an enthralling and enduring tale for her loyal and ever-expanding fan base.

Review: Ann Gabhart takes readers to Louisville, Kentucky during the tumultuous 1850s in Words Spoken True.  From the first page, she sets the tone of the novel with mystery, adventure, and page-turning suspense.  The fast pace continues throughout the story as it moves through high-society homes, to newspaper offices, to the dangerous riverside. Adriane Darcy is a determined and unconventional young woman striving to please her father, make a success of their newspaper, and overcome her fears.  Blake Garrett is as determined and opinionated as Adriane, and the editor of the competing newspaper.  Their competitive natures and mutual attraction set the stage for engaging battles of words and suppressed feelings.  

Romance is accompanied by murder, looming danger, and political unrest. Gabhart paints a vivid picture of a very specific time in Louisville's history when political and societal change fueled violence, hatred, and fear.  Newspapers were the source for news in the 1850s, and by showcasing two publications in Words Spoken True, Gabhart illustrates the power of the written and spoken words and the motives behind them.  Tension is present on several fronts in the novel: Adriane's reluctance to marry the distasteful Stanley Jimson, Blake Garrett's outright opposition to the powerful Know-Nothing Party, and the unsolved murders of young Irish women.  To some degree, the outcome of each of these issues becomes predictable early on in the plot. There are a few surprising turn of events along the way, but even with the element of predictability, the plot is engaging and exciting.  Words Spoken True is rich in historical details with messages of faith, truth, and trust.

I definitely recommend this novel. It not only is a worthwhile read, but the eye-catching cover is an appealing addition to any reader's bookshelf.  The cover designers expertly captured the overall setting and tone of Words Spoken True. 

*Available February 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.*

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review of "Promise Me This" by Cathy Gohlke

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~

Synopsis from Tyndale: Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey garden and landscaping business.

Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected. Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.

Review: The Titanic has held fascination for me since I was in elementary school; so I was excited to discover Promise Me This. There is a degree of romanticism amid the tragedy of the Titanic, but Cathy Gohlke shows us the tale from a new vantage point: the sacrificial love of a third class passenger and the lives impacted by his loss.  Promise Me This is a love story on many different levels, which makes it a touching novel.  Owen Allen, Annie Allen, and Michael Dunnagan are the pivotal characters impacted by the sinking of the Titanic.  Although Owen was only physically alive for a portion of the novel, he remains a powerful  and inspiring character throughout the novel.  I was particularly  touched by Owen's strength of character and his devotion to his loved ones, as well as Michael's determination to carry out Owen's dreams. I formed a lasting connection to both characters as they traveled on the doomed Titanic.  Although I knew the final outcome of the first portion of the story, I was kept on edge as the Titanic and many of her passengers faced death.  Gohlke describes the event in realistic and heartbreaking detail.

Fortunately, Promise Me This is also a story of hope and survival. The sinking of theTitanic is only the beginning. Through the pages, we are taken from America to England as Michael and Annie forge their lives separately after the death of a beloved friend and brother.  Their pain and emotions are real and raw, but the love and healing they find through their correspondence is sweet and bright.  While Michael strives to carry out Owen's dream in America, Annie struggles to find happiness and a life free from her cruel Aunt's grasp. Her Aunt's hatred runs deep, and the depth is revealed as the novel progresses.  

Just when it seems Annie can finally escape to America, World War I erupts in Europe. Those readers who, like me, are watching the current season of Downton Abbey, will find some similarities in the references to World War I. The second half of the novel focuses on the war, and finds both Annie and Michael tending the injured. Once again, Annie is subjected to cruelties orchestrated by her Aunt, some of which I felt were unrealistic.  But, it did provide for a fast moving plot set on the front lines of a French battlefield. I felt less connected to Annie and Michael during the last half of the novel, perhaps because parts of the story were told from the perspective of other secondary characters, some of whom were introduced in the last 100 pages.  The last 50 pages moved slowly for me, but the conclusion was full of love and promises fulfilled.  A happy ending to a novel that focused on two painful events in our history.    

About the Author: 
Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award-winning author of William Henry Is a Fine Name and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires.  She lives with her husband on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland.

Visit Cathy Gohlke's Website:
Read more about Promise Me This at
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review of The Key on the Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Rating: 3.5 Stars
~  ~  ~
Synopsis from Barbour Books: Enter a historic Nebraskan prison where three women find betrayal, love, and ultimate truth. Jane Prescott is serving a ten-year sentence for murder. Can a broken spirit be healed behind bars? Matron Mamie Dawson feels called to help the wounded women in her charge. Will a guard’s attentions keep her from her mission? Warden’s wife Ellen Sullivan has changed her preconceptions about these female prisoners. Will it be enough to save her from a life-or-death situation? Will the cryptic quilt connecting their lives expose the truth of one woman’s past and ensure a better future for them all?

Review:  The Key on the Quilt is the first novel in Stephanie Grace Whitson's new series The Quilt Chronicles.  As the debut book, we are introduced to a range of characters who will likely make appearances in the upcoming novels.  The primary focus of The Key On the Quilt is Jane Prescott, an imprisoned mother with a tragic past.  Her acquaintances in prison (inmates and free women) offer additional plots, particularly Mamie Dawson and Ellen Sullivan.  The story is told from several different perspectives, which allows us to see 19th century prison life from a variety of angles.  Interestingly, the second half of the novel suddenly introduces Jane's daughter Rose as a main character.  The glimpse into Rose's emotions and life added extra depth to the novel, and I would have enjoyed more opportunities to read the story from her perspective. 

The setting of The Key on the Quilt is the most notable element of the novel.  Whitson demonstrates skill in relaying historical details through her description of the women's ward and the depiction of prison life.The backdrop of a prison sounds reminiscent of Dickens, but the plot is much more heartwarming and ultimately uplifting.  Whitson introduces some difficult topics, but illustrates the power of faith and love in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Jane Prescott is truly an inspiring character from the beginning of the novel to the end.  Hopefully future novels will feature Jane's continuing story.  I would have been more satisfied with the ending if it had featured a short epilogue or at least a few more pages. 

I also enjoyed Mamie's character and her story, which was like a charming novella integrated into the pages of a full novel.  Ellen Sullivan is an integral part of the novel, but I did not feel impacted by reading her point-of-view.  Some of her interactions with her husband were a bit "mushy" for my taste; there were some scenes that I feel were unnecessary. Despite feeling distracted by multiple perspectives, I would recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction. The Key on the Quilt is an enjoyable and worthwhile read with a memorable plot.

The Key on the Quilt will be released on March 1, 2012.  For now, you can read a chapter Here.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley, courtesy of Barbour Publishing.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...