Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review of "One More Last Chance"

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review: In the second novel of "A Place to Call Home" series, readers will re-visit the small town of  Last Chance, New Mexico.  Although "One More Last Chance" is a stand-alone novel, Cathleen Armstrong introduces two new main characters while also highlighting colorful supporting characters that are well-known to readers of "Welcome to Last Chance."

While Sarah Cooley is a Last Chance native who is returning to town to find stability and comfort after breaking up with her boyfriend,  Chris Reed is a newcomer who threatens her familiar routine.  Both Sarah and Chris face challenges in their personal lives, but they are drawn together by one troubled and vulnerable little girl, Olivia. As a reader, I was interested in Sarah's story and her struggles as she tried to find the path to her future, but I was most compelled by Chris and Olivia's story. As Chris's niece and Sarah's student, Olivia is a character that pulls at the reader's heartstrings.   Armstrong conveys Olivia's interactions with Carlos and Juanita at the diner and Sarah's grandma, Elizabeth in way that brings each character to life.   The most touching moments are those between Chris, Olivia, and her mom, Kaitlyn.  Chris's level of commitment to Olivia and his sister Kaitlyn conveys his love and strength of character.   These actions do not go unnoticed by Sarah and other town members, and they will endear readers to him as well.

"One More Last Chance" moves along at a pace that is true to life.   While it has a climatic moment and a fitting conclusion,  the winds of change will keep blowing through Last Chance.  There are hints that Kaitlyn, Olivia's mom, may be searching for another chance as well. I am interested in reading Kaitlyn's story in the Cathleen Armstrong's next installment of "A Place Called Home" series.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Revell 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 Revell: Some things never change . . . and some things change you forever.

Sarah Cooley has come home to Last Chance, New Mexico, for one reason--because it doesn't change. After a relationship gone bad with a man who wanted to change everything about her, Sarah is more than ready for the town whose motto may as well be, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Chris Reed, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to spark some change in the little town. As the new owner of the Dip 'n' Dine, he's shaking things up to draw folks from all over the Southwest into his restaurant.

As it turns out, the winds of change are blowing into Last Chance--just not in the ways that Sarah or Chris might expect.

With the same evocative writing and charming characters that won fans for her debut novel, Cathleen Armstrong invites you back to Last Chance for a heartwarming, romantic story of two people navigating the twists and turns of life in a small town.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review of "The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn"

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review: Lori Benton's "The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn" is a vividly portrayed historical saga.  Colonial America is the backdrop for an epic love story of adventure and gentle romance.  Benton's sketches of the East Coast's untamed wilderness and rustic towns fill with color and detail as the story builds, and her descriptions reveal scenes that bring the characters and setting to life.  The novel begins with high emotion and ever-present danger.  Tamsen Littlejohn’s plight is gripping from the beginning as she breaks free of her stepfather’s unyielding grasp.  What occurs thereafter is a story of escape and pursuit as Tamsen and her rescuer, Jesse, attempt to outrun their trackers.  Their journey reveals scenes of early America, from Indian villages to the conflict between the State of Franklin and North Carolina.

“The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” is an undeniably rich novel, and I completely enjoyed the first and last quarters of the novel. The middle lagged in spots for me, though there were moments of action and tension interspersed throughout the entire plot.  I was surprised by some of the revelations uncovered in the conclusion.  Some unlikely turns of events left me fully satisfied; especially when details from the novel’s beginning play unexpected roles in the outcome. 

Benton gives readers a meaningful love story of restraint and sacrifice.  Despite Jesse’s almost immediate attraction to Tamsen, their feelings are not entirely mutual.  Their relationship grows slowly and with restraint as Tamsen’s feelings unfold from survival dependence to encompassing love.  I am always glad when romance develops at an unrushed pace that allows characters to develop deeper emotional attraction. I also appreciated Benton’s portrayal of the father–son relationship between Jesse and his adoptive father, Cade.  The story of love and sacrifice that unfolds is just as beautiful as the romantic love that blossoms between Tamsen and Jesse. 

“The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” is a historical romance that will draw readers in with its resplendent detail and beautiful writing. Click Here to Read Chapter 1.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah. 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 Waterbrook Multnomah: Frontier dangers cannot hold a candle to the risks one woman takes by falling in love

In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.  

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?

About the Author: Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God's transforming grace. When she isn’t writing, Lori enjoys exploring beautiful Oregon with her husband. Visit

Review of "A Beauty So Rare"

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review:  Since her first novel "Rekindled" was published in 2006, Tamera Alexander has established herself as a talented author who consistently writes novels with engaging plots that are seamlessly woven with historical details and compelling characters.   From the opening pages of her latest novel, "A Beauty So Rare" readers step into the hospital tent of a Civil War battlefield as Eleanor Braddock, a volunteer, attempts to offer a measure of comfort and peace to a dying soldier.   Though brief, their interactions are moving and bittersweet.  Eleanor's promise to the dying soldier is one that lingers in her mind, as well as the minds of the readers, as a few years pass, and she tries to reestablish her life after much loss in post-Civil War Nashville.  

Eleanor's interactions with her ailing father and tender concern for his well-being demonstrate an inner beauty that surpasses her physical appearance, which most of society views as plain and ordinary.  As the niece of Adelicia Acklen, she is invited to stay at Belmont Mansion and is surrounded by opulence and outward beauty.   The details of the home, grounds, and greenhouse are vivid,  and  Eleanor's first encounter with Marcus Gottfried leads to a mistaken identity and a relationship highlighted with teasing banter.  Although Marcus is hiding his royal heritage, he cannot easily conceal the confidence that remains a part of him, even as he faces adversity when trying to pursue his own dreams in architecture and botany.   

While Marcus is outwardly handsome and has been admired based on his looks and social standing, he longs to be valued as an ordinary man.   Eleanor's inner beauty of selflessness and concern for others is valued, but often overlooked by some individuals.   The friendship that develops between Marcus and Eleanor evolves in a natural way and is built on trust and mutual respect, but the secret that they both carry threatens to tear it apart.   Together, they can discover "a beauty so rare," but outside influences and their own choices must be reconciled.  

From the opulent Belmont Estate to an asylum and the poor city streets of Nashville,  "A Beauty So Rare"  introduces readers to many aspects of life after the Civil War.  The supporting characters, which include children, widows, small business owners, add moving sub-plots and allow readers to step into a post-Civil War city.  Like the blooms in the greenhouse,  "A Beauty So Rare" is a finely-cultivated story that blossoms with each turn of the page.    

I received a complimentary e-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: Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war--and still had one to fight.

Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier's last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America--and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path--building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows' and children's home run contrary to Eleanor's wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground--and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.

Review of "Remnants: Season of Wonder"

Rating: 3.5 Stars
~  ~  ~
Review: Lisa T. Bergren has taken readers on an array of adventures - from time travel in medieval Italy to a European Grand Tour.  "Remnants: Season of Wonder" embarks on a brand new journey, this time in the distant future.  As a dystopian novel, the plot has the expected danger, fighting, and action sequences.  There are few, if any, dull moments of the story, which is definitely a continuous journey for the characters and readers. The characters spend the entire novel traversing a variety of climates and landscapes with the goal of reaching the enemy territory of Pacifica and saving a Ailtith brother.  I was never bored by the plot with so many scene changes and enemies lurking around every corner; but when I reached the end, I felt no closure on an expedition which had clearly not reached its destination.  The Ailith will certainly face more adversity in upcoming novels, and Bergren leaves readers speculating what grave dangers will emerge and how the Ailith will fulfill their calling.

Among the lingering questions is Andrianna's relationships and her gift to read and feel emotions. Andrianna's "high gift" has already attracted the attention of the evil factions, and her struggle to block out the darkness seems to foreshadow future trouble.  Her forbidden attraction to her knight, Ronan, creates some romantic tension. Andrianna is warned a few times that love can be used as a weapon.  While I have little doubt that Andrianna's love for Ronan will find fulfillment, I suspect that Bergren has set the stage for struggles along the way that will pull them apart.  It strikes me as odd that none of the other members of the Ailith group are attracted to each other.  The Ailith characters all have their own distinct personalities and gifts, and the relationship between the Remnants and the knights seems to walk a fine line between brotherly love and romantic love.  Each character brings a different dynamic to the group.  After an exciting ending, we are left unsure about the fates of some of the Ailiths and their leader.

"Season of Wonder"  had me wondering and wandering.  I enjoyed the action, but the characters' journeys were more physical than emotional.  "Season of Wonder" feels more like a build-up to the series, and it doesn't seem that many of the events in the first half of the plot will impact the future novel.  There isn't much background on the Ailith group and the established group of elders, and most of the significant events occurred in the novel's second half.  At the novel's conclusion, the real adventure feels like it is just on the brink of beginning, leaving me with enough interest to await the next installment of the series.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Zondervan 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 Zondervan: In the first book of the new futuristic dystopian series from author Lisa T. Bergren, the chosen remnants must work to redirect humanity’s course.


Andriana is a Remnant, gifted as an empath and one of the Ailith, destined to act as humanity’s last shield against the horrors that now plague those who remain.

After years of training in stealth and warfare, Andriana and her Knight protector, Ronan, are finally ready to answer the Call and begin the life they were designed for. But as they embark with the other Remnants on the first of their assignments, they quickly discover that the world beyond their protected Valley is more dangerous than they imagined.
The Sons of Sheol will stop at nothing to prevent Dri and Ronan from rescuing anyone sympathetic to the Remnants’ cause. And as the Remnants battle the demonic forces, still other enemies close in. Dangers intensity, but so do Dri’s feelings for Ronan–the one emotion she is not meant to feel. In the midst of their mission, Andriana must fine a way to master her feelings. Or risk compromising everything… 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...