Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review: "The Bronte Plot" by Katherine Reay

Rating: 3 Stars

Review: Katherine Reay explores personalities and emotions with characters whose lives are far from perfect. There is another common thread in Reay's novels: an abiding love for classic literature from the likes of Jane Austen and The Bronte Sisters.  Those of us who adore such classics, and books in general, will find at least one connection to Reay's plots and characters.

"The Bronte Plot" centers on the Lucy Alling, a young woman trying to find her way in the world, but making poor decisions along the way.  Her tendencies to embellish and fabricate the truth leads her on a journey of self-discovery and some new revelations about her family. The focus on Lucy's decisions and the consequences is dominant throughout the book.  After a point, the discussions and analysis of Lucy's character becomes redundant and slows the plot.  I have mixed feelings about Lucy. I felt that I should have connected more with her character given the close study of her personality, but I never fully understood or liked her. The emphasis on Lucy's habitual lying overshadows other aspects of her character and parts of the plot.  

After reading the entire story, I am left wondering why a love interest is introduced for Lucy.  James enters the story early, sweeping Lucy off her feet.  Their whirlwind romance is glossed over. On one page, Lucy is accepting an invitation to dinner; on the next,they have been dating for a few weeks. Details about their relationship are left vague, while other details, like Lucy's low ponytail, are repeated several times in the novel's beginning.  Interaction between James and Lucy is absent from much of the plot, with James becoming a physical presence again towards the end. The conclusion offers promise for their relationship without complete closure. Not every book needs a love story, and I think "The Bronte Plot" could stand without the more vague romance between James and Lucy. 

"The Bronte Plot" excels in the depiction of England, from London to the countryside.  Fans of classic British novels and literary greats will be swept away by Reay's descriptions.  The plot definitely took me places where I dream of travelling. Although my connection with Lucy was limited at times, I found common ties with her tourist side.  I fully enjoyed the inns, moors, and historic sites that Lucy explored.  The relationships she develops along her journey are also significant, especially with James's grandmother, Helen.  Helen is an example of strength and courage for both Lucy and readers, and her character makes a significant impact on the story.

Katherine Reay creates unique stories with characters who are reflective of real life with their scars and flaws. "The Bronte Plot" is a fairly quick read that journeys through England and also through the consequences of one's decisions.  I wasn't left completely satisfied; but with Reay's detailed writing, other readers may quickly form a connection to the novel's heroine. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through Netgalley. 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 Thomas Nelson: When Lucy’s secret is unearthed, her world begins to crumble. But it may be the best thing that has ever happened to her.

Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious liberties to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy’s secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend, James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.
In a sudden turn of events, James’s wealthy grandmother, Helen, hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy’s predicament better than anyone else.
As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom as Helen confronts ghosts from her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters’ beloved heroines who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of impossible circumstances.
Now Lucy must face her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that’s been waiting for her all along.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Review: "The Mistress of Tall Acre" by Laura Frantz

Rating: 4 Stars

Review: Laura Frantz brings to life some of Virginia's most historical towns in her latest release, "The Mistress of Tall Acre." Post-Revolutionary War Williamsburg, Alexandria, and Richmond are mentioned frequently with the typical Frantz attention to detail. As a fan of historic homes, it was easy for me to envision the stately plantations of Three Chimneys and Tall Acres, two stalwart witnesses to their residents' lives. Frantz, as usual, does a masterful job of melding historical facts with a fictional plot. She teaches readers about various nuances of the political and social climate just after the Revolutionary War, but the lessons are cloaked in an intriguing and romantic plot.

The romantic premise of the plot, a marriage of convenience, is one that we have read many times in various forms.  Although the details are always different, as readers, we know the basic path that such a plot will follow.  Frantz throws in some surprises and suspense to sprout questions in readers' minds. Toward the end, I began wondering if there would be a resolution or if the story of Seamus and Sophie would continue in another novel. Both Seamus and Sophie are well thought-out characters who can easily capture readers, hearts. It is Seamus's daughter, Lily Cate, who can really melt hearts with her sweet disposition.  She is the center of many heartwarming scenes and added another dimension of love to the story.

"The Mistress of Tall Acre" is a novel that I certainly recommend to readers. I don't consider this one of my favorite Laura Frantz novels because the plot didn't feel as unique and compelling as in some of her other novels. Books like "Love's Awakening" and "The Colonel's Lady" are ones that I could pick up again and read as if they are new novels, relishing the layers of dimension and detail. "The Mistress of Tall Acre" is one that most likely wouldn't hold many surprises for me as a re-read. Regardless, it is a well-written novel, definitely worthy of reading at least once.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell 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 Revell: There can be only one mistress of Tall Acre . . .

The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general's past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?

Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal--you will find it all in the rich pages of this newest novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: "The Memory Weaver" by Jane Kirkpatrick

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review: "The Memory Weaver" is an emotional story of healing that takes readers on a journey through the western frontier.  Jane Kirkpatrick introduces the real-life Saplding family, who served as missionaries to the Nez Perce and survived a deadly Cayuse Indian attack. Knowing that the plot is inspired by actual events makes the story more meaningful.  Although this is a work of fiction, Kirkpatrick gives us a realistic vision of what life must have been like for Eliza as she grew into womanhood still haunted by visions of the Indian attacks.  

"The Memory Weaver" spans a few decades from the beginning to the end, with a focus on family dynamics, memories, and healing. I was very drawn into the story initially, but, my engagement began to wane towards the end of the novel. The entire novel feels like a diary, letting us into the emotions of Eliza's daily life. The first half of the novel is more focused on details of Eliza's seemingly ever-changing life and her struggles with her impulsive husband. The pace started to feel slower as I went deeper into the second half as Eliza's memories and emotional healing took precedence.  Eliza's healing is impactful and poses questions about how we perceive past events in our own lives.  As Eliza discovers, her memories are not always accurate, and sometimes misconceptions create more pain than reality. Kirpatrick definitely provides readers with something to ponder and discuss.  

I appreciate "The Memory Keeper" for its realism and historical focus.  Eliza's story brims with perspectives of the American West that aren't always seen in fictional novels.  Kirkpatrick does not romanticize life on the frontier or even the specifics of Eliza's life, like her marriage to Andrew Warren. Eliza's tale is one of many peaks and valleys, which combine to create a portrait of a true pioneer woman.   

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell 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 Baker Publishing Group: Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now a mother of two, Eliza faces a new kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. 

Haunted by memories and hounded by struggle, Eliza longs to know how her mother dealt with the trauma of their ordeal. As she searches the pages of her mother's diary, Eliza is stunned to find that her own recollections tell only part of the story.

Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick's latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman's heart. Get swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.


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