Friday, August 17, 2012

Review of "Short-Straw Bride" by Karen Witemeyer

Rating: 4 Stars
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Summary from Bethany House:  Four brothers. Four straws. One bride.
No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a long-standing debt compels her to take the risk.
Years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer comes across a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt prompt him to attempt to rescue her once again.
Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she vows to stand by his side. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her as merely a short-straw bride?

Review:  There are times when life gets busy and stressful, and I just want a lighthearted read that will allow me a bit of an escape.   When I saw Short-Straw Bride, I was immediately drawn to its story-line, and I couldn't resist turning the pages.   Short-Straw Bride opens with ten-year-old Meredith Hayes being taunted by school bullies as she walks home.  It is easy to immediately sympathize with Meredith's plight and to become enamored with Travis Archer, the young teen who rescues her. 

Although the premise of Short-Straw Bride is formulaic with a marriage of convenience as the basis of the plot, Karen Witemeyer  pens a novel that includes humor, heart-warming characters, conflict, and drama that are each interspersed at just the right moments.  The novel focuses on Meredith and Travis, but his brothers and Meredith's cousin, Cassie, as well as other supporting characters enrich the story.  

As an adult, Meredith continues to be "in love" with her hero from childhood.  She demonstrates a mixture of vulnerability, impulsiveness, tenderness, and stubbornness.  At times, I became annoyed by her willfulness, even though she had the best intentions.  During other points in the story, her courageousness was admirable.    Travis Archer was equally complex.  He displays compassion, yet possessiveness, and loyalty but a refusal to recognize a need for change.  The moments during the story as the love between Meredith and Travis develops and grows are heartwarming. Travis, especially,  must  take a journey that allows him to be open to not only Meredith's love and friendship, but that of his neighbors.  

On the surface,  Short-Straw Bride may seem to be just another story that involves a marriage of convenience.  The struggles that Travis must overcome represent challenges that we all face.  It is easy to develop a pattern of behavior that makes us feel secure.  For an outsider, change may seem to be an easy step to take.  Change allows for growth and new opportunities, but it also leaves us feeling a bit unguarded too.  The underlying theme of the novel conveys that only faith will allow us to break down these barriers and  provide the fortitude needed to face new circumstances.  

Karen Witemeyer has written another heartwarming story that readers will enjoy.  After being introduced to the Archer brothers, I hope that upcoming novels may include these characters as well.   Short-Straw Bride was a satisfying summer read for me, but it is one to be enjoyed at anytime throughout the year.   

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany 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.”
Short-Straw Bride

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review of "Starring Me" by Krista McGee

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Summary from Thomas Nelson: Kara McKormick is told she’s auditioning to star in a new teen variety show. It’s what she isn’t told that could change her life.

The feisty New Yorker moves to sunny Orlando to participate in a month-long audition, where she’ll live with nine other contestants and an eccentric housemother. Kara knows that the show already has a big-time celebrity lined up for the co-host, but she doesn’t know who it is.
Chad Beacon quickly rose to fame after winning America’s Next Star, but he doesn’t want his entire career to be about singing. There is so much more he wants to do—like act. The new variety show sounds like the perfect next step for him, but his parents want him to have a co-star who shares his faith since they’ll be spending so much time together.
Acting is high on Kara’s priority list. But a relationship with God? Not so much. But God is after Kara’s heart and He’s put people in her life who are showing her there’s far more to Christianity than rules and judgment.
And just when it seems that Kara’s going to have to give up her acting dream, God reveals that she may have a starring role after all—in a story so big only He could write it.
Review: I am often compelled to try young adult fiction, especially when the plots seem to offer fun and faith. Starring Me, Krista McGee's follow-up to First Date, offers both qualities. It is a quick read with a positive message for teens. Many of the young characters in the novel have or aspire to high-profile lifestyles. Although most teens aren't vying for a spot on a tv show or mingling with the President's children, the emotions and circumstances that the main characters experience are very relevant. McGee creates main characters who are great role models for young adults. Chad, Addy, and Jonathan are strong Christians who are committed to following God's plans for their lives.  At times they seem a little too perfect and too mature for their age. Kara balances out their "perfection," with realistic questions and doubts that young readers may also experience. McGee weaves a strong Christian message into the plot through Kara's experiences as well as the beliefs of her friends. 

I enjoyed Starring Me overall, but there are some elements that keep it from being one of my favorite young adult novels.  Many of the characters fall into one of two molds - those who are thoughtful and nice, and those who are self-centered and annoying.  Kara meets young celebrities or aspiring actresses throughout the novel, and the majority of them are arrogant and unlikable. The addition of more likable characters would balance the negative personalities. I did not completely connect to the characters, but Starring Me is definitely a promising novel for teenagers. The reality show setting offers interesting experiences with a diverse range of challenges to keep readers intrigued and waiting for the next book. 

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley, courtesy of Thomas Nelson.  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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