Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review of "The Song" Chris Fabry, Richard L. Ramsey

Rating: 4 Stars

Review: I have seen the trailer for the movie version of "The Song", but I have not yet seen the movie.  I was drawn to the book based on what I had seen in the movie trailer and because Chris Fabry lent his writing prowess to the novel.  The foreword implies that "The Song" is a resource for readers in romantic relationships, so I wondered if connection would be lacking for a single reader.  It is definitely easy to see why this story is so relevant to couples, but its message of love, temptation, and forgiveness is universal.  

"The Song"takes readers on a journey through the life of a relationship.  Rather than focusing on the idyllic "falling in love stage," it delves into real-life trials and tribulations that couples can face.  The scope of "The Song" is broader than some of Fabry's other novels. "The Song" brings his story full circle, packing several years into its pages.  I felt like an outside observer reading the course of events.  Usually that leaves me feeling disconnected, but I found myself quickly connecting to the story and the characters.  It definitely reads like a movie, making it a quick read.

Rose and Jed are likable characters from the beginning of the novel.  With their likability and love quickly established, the subsequent events become tangibly painful.  The rifts that develop in their marriage are difficult to witness, especially knowing that such events really happen to married couples. The plot takes us down the rocky road of bad decisions.  While I don't agree with Jed's decisions, his character shows that anyone is susceptible to temptation. He is so confident in his morals and faith in the beginning of the novel, but just one ill-made decision starts him down a slippery-slope of deceit and betrayal.  From the prologue we know that Jed's path leaves him lingering between life and death. We know the big picture of the plot - the love and the heartbreak.  Anyone who has seen the movie will also know the ultimate outcome of Jed's life and his marriage.  Like any good song, "The Song"  is a novel that can be re-read even though its story is well-known.

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. 

Summary from Tyndale House Publishers: Jed King’s life has been shaped by the songs and mistakes of his famous father. He wants to sing his own song, but the words and melody are elusive. Haunted by the scars inflicted by his broken family, Jed’s dreams of a successful music career seem out of reach . . . until he meets Rose.

As romance quickly blooms, Jed pens a new song and suddenly finds himself catapulted into stardom. But with this life of fame comes temptation, the same temptation that lured his father so many years ago.

Set in the fertile mid-South, this quest for success leads Jed and Rose on a journey that will force them to deal with the pain of loss, failure, and the desire to be who God created them to be.

Lyrical and deeply honest, The Song asks the hard questions of love and forgiveness. When even the wisest of men are fools in love, can true love persevere?

Review of "Like a Flower in Bloom"

Rating: 4 Stars

Review:  Siri Mitchell has long been on my list of favorite authors, for both her historical and modern novels.  Some of them are serious in tone, and some are more humorous.  "Like a Flower in Bloom" combines Mitchell's rich historical depictions with a significant dose of humor.  Charlotte Withersby and her father are endearingly oblivious to social norms, lost in their world of papers and botany.  When Charlotte's world is flipped on its axis by  her well-meaning uncle and the arrival of Edward, a handsome new assistant, she is pushed into society to hunt for a husband instead of flowers. Charlotte's forays into Overwich's polite society, field clubs, and ballrooms soon lead to comical situations.  It's hard not to laugh aloud at some of her antics and mistakes.  Her friendship with Miss Templeton is another source of humor, as their decisions are not always the wisest.  Miss Templeton reminds me of Jane Austen's Emma, taking Charlotte under her wing as her pet-project. 

The description of the plot establishes Edward as Charlotte's love interest.  To my disappointment, their relationship felt disconnected.  Charlotte's plan to feign interest in two other potential suitors leads her to spend just as much time in their presence. Both characters are colorful and zany in their own ways. I enjoyed their presence in the novel, but felt that they overshadowed Edward at times. Reading the story from Charlotte's perspective limited the scope of the novel for me.  After finishing the novel, I don't feel as though I know Edward nor the depth of Charlotte's feelings for him. My emotional connection to Charlotte is not as strong as it could be, but I do empathize with her desire to be recognized for being herself and doing the work she loves.

Mitchell always excels in her historical details.  She brings unique aspects of the past to life, teaching readers, but most importantly entertaining us as well. "Like a Flower in Bloom" is a prime example. Charlotte's position as a botanist, shines the spotlight on the history of botany and the struggle of female scientists to be taken seriously.  Mitchell incorporates details with purpose to seamlessly blend historical realism into an engaging plot. Even specifics that seem like character quirks, like Miss Templeton's fear of dying during childbirth or Mr. Stansbury's practice of stumpery, have roots in historical fact. 

"Like a Flower in Bloom" is a blossom as refreshing as it's cover art.  I found reason to smile and laugh within its pages.  It also prompts introspection for finding our own personal happiness and being satisfied with our own unique bloom.  The world, like a garden would be a dull place indeed, if we all fit into predefined standards of conformity. 

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

Summary from Bethany House: He Stole the Work She Loved. Will She Let Him Steal Her Heart as Well?

It's all her uncle's fault. For years Charlotte Withersby has been free to pursue her love of plants and flowers by assisting her botanist father. But now that she's reached the old age of twenty-two, an intrusive uncle has convinced her father that Charlotte's future--the only proper future for a woman--is to be a wife and mother, not a scholar. 

Her father is so dependent on her assistance that Charlotte believes he'll soon change his mind...and then Edward Trimble shows up. A long-time botany correspondent in the South Pacific, Trimble arrives ready to step in as assistant so that Charlotte can step out into proper society--a world that baffles her with its unwritten rules, inexplicable expectations, and confounding fashion. 

Things aren't perfectly smooth between Trimble and her father, so Charlotte hatches a last gasp plan. She'll pretend such an interest in marriage that the thought of losing her will make her father welcome her back. Only things go quickly awry, and she realizes that the one man who recognizes her intelligence is also the person she's most angry with: Edward Trimble, her supposed rival. Suddenly juggling more suitors than she knows what to do with, Charlotte is caught in a trap of her own making. Will she have no choice but to leave her beloved flowers behind?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review of Price of Privilege"

Rating: 4 Stars

Review: Jessica Dotta's "Price of Privilege Trilogy" arrested my attention like few others.  It's deep, dark, with intrigue powered by mystery and lead characters straight out of a Bronte or Dickens novel. Dotta created an amazingly developed series with so many layers and details, that each novel is completely dependent upon its predecessor. In fact, I re-read "Born of Persuasion" before reading "Mark of Distinction" and "Price of Privilege" back-to-back.  

Julia's story is definitely full of twists, turns, and nail-biting tension. Her first person perspective lends more mystery to the plot, because like Julia, we can only speculate about the true motives of other characters. Although she doesn't make the best decisions, it is easy to understand her confusion, fear, and desperation.  By the end of the first novel, I was invested in Julia's life and anxiously awaiting the continuation of her story.  I absolutely loved the pace of events in the first two novels. They offered the perfect balance of emotion and action.  In all three, Dotta employs foreshadowing, which builds suspense and reader engagement.  "Price of Privilege" leaned more heavily on Julia's emotions and introspection, particularly in the first half of the novel.  There are eventful scenes in the first 200 or so pages, and plenty of cryptic comments from Julia, hinting at pain to come.  Most of what is foreshadowed comes in the novel's final half, making it hard to put down. 

I questioned how the tale could end happily, and as the culmination of Julia's past decisions occurs there is unavoidable pain and heartbreak. A tidy happy-ever-after ending would have been a complete disappointment, but Dotta delivers some of the most powerful scenes of the entire trilogy in the concluding chapters.  Readers, prepare yourselves for a tear-jerking conclusion. It is an achingly bittersweet example of love and sacrifice.  The loss of a beloved character will leave your heart breaking alongside Julia's. I closed the book wishing that I had privy to the inner emotions of that particular character. But, knowing only Julia's perspective made me feel the loss more poignantly.  

Jessica Dotta's richly written "Price of Privilege Trilogy" is one that is not to be missed. Each novel definitely ranks high among the books that I have read in the past year.  These books are not in danger of being labelled as "forgettable," with a series that is so sweeping and encompassing. 

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. 

Summary from Tyndale House Publishers: Having finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter—and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.


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