Monday, October 28, 2013

Review of "Healer of Carthage"

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review: Part medical drama, part romance, part time-travel fantasy, Lynne Gentry's new novel "Healer of Carthage" is just the beginning of an adventure that will continue in "The Carthage Chronicles."  When I began reading "Healer of Carthage," I was reminded of Lisa T. Bergren's time-travel series "The River of Time." The novels are similar in many ways, but the specifics of the plots are very divergent.  Gentry takes her readers to the third century Roman city of Carthage, now in Tunisia. Present-day doctor Lisbeth Hastings finds herself transported to an era when Gladiator games, slave trade, political corruption, Christian persecution, and disease are rampant. We are swept along in her adventure, learning the nuances of survival in such a tempestuous city. There is a small degree of closure at the end of the novel, but there are clearly many more stories to delve into further in a sequel.

The medical scenes fluctuate in prevalence throughout the story.  Gentry's research is evident in the descriptions of injuries, illnesses, and treatments.  Lisbeth's struggle to adapt modern-day medicine to third world resources gives the scenes a new twist. Some of the "healing" became a bit dry for me and a little chaotic at the beginning. When Lisbeth was initially transported through time and landed in the middle of a bidding war, I felt as uprooted and disoriented as Lisbeth at times.  Between the odd names, the political factions, and the medical emergencies, the first part of the novel felt cluttered and overwhelming. The plot settled into a comfortable pace, and became especially engaging when focusing on the plights of Christians and innocent, oppressed citizens.

Lisbeth's relationship with Cyprian transitions from distrust to love. Cyprian possesses all of the noble qualities of an ancient hero, and holds much promise to continue as a pivotal character in the upcoming novels.  I look forward to the Lisbeth's and Cyprian's romance progressing to a deeper love.

"Healer of Carthage" comes full circle from beginning to end.  Gentry offers satisfying closure to some of Lisbeth's present-day problems, but the past is calling her back as surely as it calls the reader to await the next chapters in the "Carthage Chronicles."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Howard Books through Net Galley. 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.

Summary from Howard Books: A modern-day doctor gets trapped in third-century Carthage, Rome, where she uncovers buried secrets, confronts Christian persecution, and battles a deadly epidemic to save the man she loves.

Dr. Lisbeth Hastings, a first-year resident, is summoned by her eccentric father to join him at his archaeological dig. She is hesitant to accept his invitation, but when a tragic mistake ends her medical career, Lisbeth decides the only way to redeem her failure is to care for her confused father.

While exploring the haunting cave at her father’s dig, Lisbeth falls through a hidden hole and awakens to find herself the object of a slave bidding war! She tries to escape her captor, a wealthy Roman lawyer named Cyprian Thascius, and discovers that the city she remembers as ruins has somehow become brand-new. Who restored Carthage to a thriving metropolis? And if she is in the third century, how did this happen?

Cyprian believes God called him to rescue the beautiful and strange woman being auctioned off as a slave. He doesn’t understand why saving the church of his newfound faith requires him to love a mysterious woman who seems determined to get him killed by her stubbornness. But who is he to question God?

Their colliding worlds spark an intense attraction as Lisbeth and Cyprian soon find themselves united in a battle against a deadly epidemic. Together they confront Christian persecution, uncover buried secrets, and witness the beginnings of a medical revolution, but they fear Roman wrath will separate them forever. Will Lisbeth save the man she loves and the family she longs for—or will their separate worlds pull them apart forever?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review of "Under a Blackberry Moon"

Rating: 3.5 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review: Serena B. Miller shows readers another perspective of life in 1860s Michigan in "Under a Blackberry Moon."  Moon Song and Skypilot are intriguing characters in "The Measure of Katie Calloway," 
and they have plenty of past and present experiences to fill the pages of their own novel.  Although two of her previous books are set in Michigan as well, "Under a Blackberry Moon" ventures into the rugged wilds of the state and into Native American villages.  I enjoy the fresh historical perspective that Miller brings into the plot with topics ranging from the dangers of early steamship travel to the plight of Native Americans.

Moon Song is a refreshing departure from the traditional heroines.  As a Native American, she faces prejudices and misconceptions from strangers and even her close friends.  Skypilot cares for and protects Moon Song from the beginning of the novel, but views her like an innocent and incapable child. Some of Moon Song's conversations and observations paint her into a more child-like character, so it is easy to view her as younger than her years.  Throughout their shared adventure, she proves that she is a strong and brave woman and Skypilot begins to view her as such in his mind and heart. The romance is more about Skypilot's acceptance of Moon Song as a woman and Native American.  The love story feels a little one-sided at times. It is clear that Skypilot desires marriage and is willing to work through the barriers to build a life together.  While Moon Song shares his love, she doesn't seem as vested in a relationship.  I like both characters, but I don't feel a complete emotional connection with them. Other parts also fall a bit flat for me as well.  Moon Song's conversion to Christianity and her reconciliation with her past are pivotal events that are rushed at the end of the novel.  Overall, "Under a Blackberry Moon" is a pleasant read with themes of love and acceptance and glimpses into a small segment of American history.

“Available October 2013 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

Summary from Revell: Which wilderness is more treacherous--the one she must cross to find her home... or the one she must traverse to find love?

Just a few days after she gave birth alone in the northwoods, a recently widowed young Chippewa woman stumbled into a nearby lumber camp in search of refuge from the winter snows. Come summer, it is clear that Moon Song cannot stay among the rough-and-tumble world of white lumbermen, and so the camp owner sends Skypilot, his most trusted friend, to accompany her on the long and treacherous journey back to her people. 

But when tragedy strikes off the shore of Lake Superior, Moon Song and Skypilot must depend on each other for survival. With every step they take into the forbidding woods, they are drawn closer together, until it seems the unanswerable questions must be asked. Can she leave her culture to enter his? Can he leave his world to enter hers? Or will they simply walk away from a love that seems too complicated to last?

Get swept into a wild realm where beauty masks danger and only the truly courageous survive in a story that will grip your heart and your imagination.

Review of "Made to Last"

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review: How many of us wonder what really happens behind the scenes of our favorite home improvement or reality television shows? Melissa Tagg explores these possibilities in her debut novel, "Made to Last."  The basic scenario is familiar: the main character need a spouse, someone is hired to play the part, and the pretense begins with the threat of being discovered constantly looming on the sidelines. Tagg puts a new spin on the situation with a plot that is both humorous and serious and involves a love "rectangle."  Humor is more prevalent at the beginning of the novel and takes a backseat mid-way through.  Delving into deeper topics deserves a more serious tone, but I found myself wishing for more of the light-hearted moments to make their way back into the plot. 

Miranda finds herself in quite a quandary, in a pretend marriage with three potential love interests.  "Made to Last" is told from both Miranda's and Matthew's perspectives, and they both bring depth to the plot with their less-than-perfect pasts.  They are both believably flawed with stories worth telling. Miranda's fake husband situation is not completely realistic, but the scenario leading up to her ongoing lie is believable.  In regards to the love story, limiting the perspective to just Miranda's would have kept me in more suspense about the outcome.  From the beginning, it was clear that Matthew captured Miranda's heart, although part of me hoped it would be Blaze. Blaze offers sometimes over-the-top comedic relief in a surfer dude style, but has untapped potential to become a very dynamic character.  I definitely hope that we see him in one of Tagg's future novels, but "Made to Last" tackled enough issues without introducing Blaze's as well.

Tagg's contemporary romance reminds me of novels by authors like Denise Hunter and Lisa Wingate.  She creates a plot reminiscent of a movie with characters and situations to capture a reader's interest.  After getting our attention, Tagg incorporates meaningful themes of honesty, faith, forgiveness, and true love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through Net Galley. 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

Summary from Bethany House: Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.
When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Review of "The Courier of Caswell Hall"

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review: "The Courier of Caswell Hall" by Melanie Dobson served as my introduction to Summerside Press' "American Tapestry" series.   History and love share the stage in this story set during the turbulent American Revolution.  The plot brims with historical details and give a new perspective on the turning point in our nation's history.  Overall, I enjoyed the abundance of history and Dobson's descriptions of the beautiful Williamsburg area.  There were times in the beginning of the novel when the plot seemed a bit stilted by the emphasis on historical facts; and while the narration flowed well, the conversation felt stilted.  Fortunately, once the historical foundation was laid, the plot became more emotionally engaging and the characters became more dimensional.   

The novel is divided into three parts, parts 2 and 3 were when the story really took off for me. Dobson built tension among the characters as loyalties were divided. Lydia's transformation from a loyalist to a true Patriot was gradual and her resistance was understandable, given the constant presence of British soldiers at her family's plantation.  Dobson highlights the role of women in the Revolution through a few other characters, including Sarah, Lydia's friend and neighbor. I applauded the bravery that each woman exhibited when she chose to aid her country in spite of overwhelming danger. Sarah and Lydia were neighbors but were impacted by the war in divergent ways, which was probably very representative of the reality of the Revolutionary War. I was surprised, and saddened at times, by some of the turns of events in both Lydia's and Sarah's lives.  Dobson concludes each story on a bittersweet note, but leaves the reader with an appreciation for the lasting legacy of the women and men who gave America her freedom. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse. 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.

Blog Tour:

Summary: An unlikely spy discovers freedom and love in the midst of the American Revolution.

As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she cares only about peace. Her friend Sarah Hammond, however, longs to join the fight. Both women's families have already been divided by a costly war that sets father against son and neighbor against neighbor; a war that makes it impossible to guess who can be trusted.

One snowy night Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall, and her decision to save him will change her life. Nathan introduces her to a secret network of spies, couriers, disguises, and coded messages---a network that may be the Patriots' only hope for winning the war. When British officers take over Caswell Hall and wreak havoc on neighboring plantations, Lydia will have to choose between loyalty and freedom; between her family's protection and her own heart's desires.

As both armies gather near Williamsburg for a pivotal battle, both Lydia and Sarah must decide how high a price they are willing to pay to help the men they love.

Part of the American Tapestries™ series: Each standalone novel in this line sets a heart-stirring love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. This is the fifth book in the series.

Purchase a Copy:

About the Author: Melanie Dobson is the author of twelve novels; her writing has received numerous accolades including two Carol Awards. Melanie worked in public relations for fifteen years before she began writing fiction full-time. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides with her husband and two daughters in Oregon.  Connect with Melanie at:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...