Monday, June 18, 2012

Review of "Veil of Pearls" by MaryLu Tyndall

Rating: 4 Stars
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Summary from Barbour Books: Be swept away to Charleston of 1811, a city bustling with immigrants like Adalia, who is a runaway slave so light-skinned that no one guesses her past. Terrified her secret will be discovered, she settles into a quiet life making herbal remedies for a local doctor. But when Morgan, the handsome son of a prominent family, sweeps her into his glamorous world—a world in which the truth about Adalia’s heritage would ruin them both—suspicions and petty jealousies are aroused. What will Morgan do when he discovers that the woman he has fallen in love with is a runaway slave? 

Book Trailer: 

Review: In her latest novel, Veil of Pearls, MaryLu Tyndall's niche for historical, maritime novels takes readers to Charleston, South Carolina.  City and plantation life take the forefront in the plot, but in true Tyndall-style, several pivotal scenes take place on ships.  There is nothing like a bit of maritime combat to get your pulse racing.  Such action-filled scenes initially drew me to Tyndall's novels, and I have come to expect high seas adventure in her writing.  Veil of Pearls offered that trademark element as a backdrop, allowing the central focus of slavery in various forms to take precedence.  The result is a novel that gives the reader the best of both worlds - adventure and emotional depth.  And, of course, a multi-dimensional love story is integrated within the pages.

Through Adalia's story, Tyndall reveals the tragedy of slavery and judgement.  As a slave, Adalia was shackled physically.  As a escaped slave, she encounters shackles that are invisible but just as binding.  Various forms of slavery are revealed throughout the progression of the story and manifest themselves as violence, hatred, jealousy, fear, and vanity.  Tyndall uses the theme of slavery to convey a message of faith and ultimate freedom.  The challenges that Adalia and Morgan confront from society and with each other keep the plot flowing steadily until the conclusion.  I can't fail to mention the cameo appearances of the adorable cat, M, who brings a touch of mischief and charm to the novel.

I always enjoy epilogues at the end of a good book, but they rarely stand-out.  The "Author's Afterwords" at the end of Veil of Pearls is actually one of my favorite parts of the novel.  Like any strong epilogue, it ties up the loose ends with a glimpse into the future lives of the main characters.  This afterword has a Jane Austen quality that drew me in and made a lasting impression.  It is a bright and very satisfying ending to a memorable novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Books through their book review program. 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.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review of "Angel Eyes" by Shannon Dittemore

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Summary from Thomas Nelson: Once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee.

Brielle went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and an incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake.

Jake’s the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.
Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than either Brielle or Jake has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices begin.
A realm that only angels and demons—and Brielle—can perceive.
Review: Angel Eyes is an exciting debut novel by Shannon Dittemore that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the sequel.  You definitely don't have to be a young adult reader to enjoy the characters, plot, and message.  Like popular mainstream fantasy novels, Angel Eyes transcends age boundaries with an action-packed plot and appealing characters.  Dittemore blends these elements with a strong Christian message that is unique and thought-provoking without being preachy.  Vampires and wizards are replaced by angels and demons in the classic, but very real battle, of good versus evil.  
Although I am typically drawn to historical fiction novels, I do enjoy fantasy novels like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.  Angel Eyes certainly ranks with those books, and I was drawn into the plot from the beginning.  There are plenty of danger and action-sequences to keep the story moving along, but there are also introspective moments that provide dimension to the plot and its characters.  Dittemore tells the story from the perspectives of two teens, Brielle and Jake, as well as an angel and a demon.  Each character offers different insights into the "Terrestrial" world and the "Celestial" world.  The demon's perspective was the most disturbing and slightly graphic of the four, but clearly illustrated the poisons of greed, hatred, and fear. 
Dittmore's depiction of fear is particularly relevant to readers since it is something that most of us deal with to some extent daily.  Whether or not events in the Celestial realm play out like they do in Angel Eyes, the novel provides an illustration of how our human weaknesses can be turned into instruments of evil.  Just like Jake and Brielle, we engage in battles of good versus evil daily whether mentally, emotionally, or physically. Reading Angel Eyes, opened my eyes to the fact that something as ordinary as fear can spread, multiply, and lead us down the wrong path. This message is important for young adults facing the pressures of growing up, but it is equally important for adults. 
Angel Eyes is a story about faith, wrapped in a covering of a fantasy-action novel.  The beginnings of a love story also flow throughout the plot, providing a respite from the fighting and danger.  But it is all of the elements together that make me ready for the second and third novels.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse through their book review program. 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.

About Shannon: Shannon is a wife and mother. A sister. A daughter. A friend. She was raised in Northern California by her parents-pastors of their local church and constant figures of inspiration.

As a youth, Shannon traveled with an award-winning performing arts team, excelling on stage and in the classroom. As a young adult, she attended Portland Bible College, continued acting, and worked with an outreach team targeting inner-city kids in the Portland-Metropolitan  area.

It was in Portland that she met her husband, Matt. They were married in 2002. Soon after, they took the reins of the youth ministry at Living Way Community Church in Roseville, California where they continue to serve in that capacity. In October of 2004, their son Justus was born, followed by their daughter Jazlyn, born in 2008. 

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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Band Perry "Postcard from Paris"

We were excited to see The Band Perry in concert for the second time in the past year.  Although the playlist was almost the same as the last time we saw them, the concert was just as amazing. Kimberly is every bit the "spitfire" that she claims to be and seems to have boundless energy and enthusiasm on stage. Throughout the show, The Band Perry had the audience on their feet and many people singing along to their songs as well as the rock songs that they pay homage to. Kimberly, Neil, and Reid are a dynamic trio with a true passion for country music that shines when they perform live.  When you hear their introduction "...We're The Band Perry and we play Country music..." you know that you are in for a musical treat.

The Band Perry has released their newest video for "Postcard from Paris."  I love this video's charming quirk and French flair. Their video "All Your Life" is nominated fro Group Video of the Year at the CMT Music Awards on June 6th.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review of "Skip Rock Shallows" by Jan Watson

Rating: 5 Stars
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Summary from Tyndale House Publishers: Lilly Gray Corbett has just graduated from medical school and decided to accept an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Her beau, Paul, is doing his residency in Boston and can’t understand why Lilly would choose to work in a backwater town. But having grown up in the mountains, Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock—a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. Lilly soon learns she has a lot to overcome, but after saving the life of a young miner, she begins to earn the residents’ trust.

As Lilly becomes torn between joining Paul in Boston and her love for the people of Skip Rock, she crosses paths with a handsome miner—one who seems oddly familiar. Her attraction for him grows, even as she wrestles with her feelings and wonders what he’s hiding.

Review: Since reading Troublesome Creek a few years ago, I have been a fan of Jan Watson's novels.  Her focus on small mountain communities often reminds me of Catherine Marshall's Christy. In Skip Rock Shallows, Watson portrays a grown-up Lilly Gray Corbett, a character familiar to readers of Watson's other novels. Lilly displays the same strength and determination that made her mother, Copper, such a beloved heroine. I feel like I have watched Lilly grow up, so I enjoyed reading her story and the trials she faces as a woman doctor in a backwoods town. Although Skip Rock Shallows can be read as a stand-alone novel, there are references to the events of the previous book, Still House Pond.  Lilly confronts the emotional scars that she formed in Still House Pond, and Watson reminds readers of their cause in Skip Rock Shallows.  

Watson's descriptions of small mountain towns never fail to captivate me.  Her words flow as melodiously as a bluegrass tune; sometimes tranquil and lulling, othertimes lively and fast-paced.  I loved the plot of Skip Rock Shallows and the balance it offered between action, faith, love, and emotion.  The combination of a female doctor, dangerous mines, colorful townsfolk, and a sweet love story, make the novel interesting from beginning to end. The challenges that Lilly faces as a female doctor add a high degree of interest to Skip Rock Shallows. In a few instances, the medical scenes were a bit too detailed.  Overall, they were mild and without graphic detail. The plot is not completely fast-paced, but there are moments of tension and danger.  In between, Watson creates characters that readers can relate to and care about, and their stories, trials, and lifestyles carry the novel and engage the reader. There is a strong sense of community evident within the pages, and it is easy to fall in love with the people of Skip Rock as Lilly interacts with them.  There are some characters that I would enjoy seeing in future novels. 

After reading Skip Rock Shallows, I definitely have a new appreciation for those individuals, both past and present, who dedicate themselves to the medical or mining professions.  I also have a renewed appreciation for Jan Watson's writing and the messages of faith and love that she conveys in a style that is uniquely her own and as charming as the mountains of Kentucky. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers through their book review program. 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.”


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