29 April 2013

Author Interview and Review: Follow the Heart by Kaye Dacus

Katherine Dearing has been sent from Philadelphia to England to find a rich husband who will be able to salvage her family’s financial situation. But at twenty-seven, is she too old to attract a rich husband? Or any husband? Accompanying her is her younger brother, Christopher, who has recently qualified as a solicitor specialising in railway law. He too is under pressure to marry well, although having a profession at least means he can support himself, but both of them find they are attracted to the wrong people.

The siblings are staying with their maternal uncle, Sir Anthony Buchanan, and their cousins, Edith, Dorcas and Florence. There Sir Anthony organises a house party where Kate and Christopher are introduced to many members of the aristocracy, including Viscount Thynne . They also meet Andrew Lawton, a garden designer currently working on the Wakesdown Manor gardens, and Honora Woodruff, governess to the youngest Buchanan.

I really liked the characters, even the ones I didn’t like (if that makes sense). Edith reminded me of Lady Mary from Downton Abbey—well written, but unpleasant and with too high an opinion of herself. Dorcas and Florence were much more likeable, even though they were only minor characters, so I hope we see more of them. A lot of the plot revolved around the gardens, as Kate is a keen gardener, albeit one with quite different ideas to Andrew.

I am always nervous when I see a novel set in England by an American writer, especially a historical. I have had too many ruined by insufficient research and an abundance of Americanisms, so I am relieved and pleased to say that Follow the Heart had no noticeable cultural cringes or historical anachronisms (and, in regards to possible factual errors, the subplot was heavily related to gardening, a subject I know little about, so I really can’t comment). I was also very pleased with the way the Christian aspects of the story were handled, particularly with Kate. My one issue is that the end of the novel felt a bit rushed—although that could be more about me reading too fast to find out how the problems are resolved.

Follow the Heart is the first novel in the new Great Exhibition series, set around Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, London, in 1851. As Follow the Heart finished just after the beginning of the Exhibition, I look forward to seeing more of the Great Exhibition in future novels (hint, hint).

Thanks to B&H Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

I was interested in finding out more about Kaye Dacus, in particular about how an American researches and writes stories set in Victorian England. Thanks to Kaye for suppling the answers to my questions:

How did you get into the mindset/history of the era?
I had a basic knowledge of the mid-19th Century in England through studying both history and literature in college. But I really started learning about it in earnest when I became fascinated with the Great Exhibition several years ago and decided it would make a great backdrop to a series. I tend to first start getting into an era by watching costume-drama adaptations of novels written or set during that time and in that location. In this case—lots of Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell, and lots of bio-pics about Queen Victoria’s early life/rule. Can it get any better? Being able to watch North & South and The Young Victoria over and over and over again and call it “research”?

Then I start reading the books on which those movies are based. I “collect” interesting words and turns of phrase, look for methods and manners to behavior and social interaction, get a feel for the way the English language was used by those who knew it best during that time. I also find nonfiction research books that can explain the household, society, gender politics, travel modes, fashion, etc.

What interests you most about the Victorian era?
I love that it still has the sensibility of the Regency era—from the activities like balls and dinners to the formality of courting customs—yet in 1851, the world is on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution: train and steamboat travel, telegraph, indoor plumbing (“retiring/refreshing rooms” with pay toilets at the Great Exhibition!). I also love that women were starting to come into their own a bit more. Still not considered equals, but at least starting to get some recognition for their contributions and accomplishments in society.

Where did the idea come from/what was the inspiration?
In 2001, I watched Victoria & Albert on TV and fell in love with the love story of these two monarchs of England. But that wasn’t the only thing I took away from it. I was also fascinated by the scenes which portrayed the planning and opening of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition in 1851. Then, a few years later, I watched another mini-series: North & South. No, not the one about the American Civil War, the one based on the classic, but little-known, novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. It also has a scene that takes place at the Great Exhibition. Once I saw that, I was hooked—on the era and on the event.

(I loved North and South as well).

Why did you choose to set this series in Oxford, when the Great Exhibition took place in London?
I read at least three or four British-set historical romances each month—and without fail, the majority of them are set in London. It’s a setting that has become over-exposed. Also, with a landscape architect as my main hero, I needed the action to take place at a country house, not in the city. By the 1850s, Oxford was a large enough city to have railway service to all of the other major cities, but still quaint/small enough to give the small-town feel that I love to use in my stories. Plus, there was a lot of chaos happening in London in early 1851 due to the final preparations for the Great Exhibition, and I felt like that could overwhelm what I wanted my story and settings to be.

How did you choose your characters' names?
Funny story . . . Kate’s name was originally Meg and her maid’s name was Joan. Until I picked up a book by a writer friend and discovered those two names (as heroine and her maid, no less!) on the first page. So I went back to my original story idea and the images of the actress who’s the template for the character. And almost as soon as I did, I heard her voice very distinctly in my head: My name is KATE. But rich men don’t marry Kates. They marry Katharines. So I changed her name and nickname to Katharine/Kate (Katharine spelled with an A in the middle in honor of my favorite actress Katharine Hepburn). Andrew is a name I’ve always loved and wanted to use, and it suited this landscape architect perfectly.

(And we know the truth of this, seeing as Kate Middleton is now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge)

What’s the takeaway/what do you hope will stick with people when they finish reading the book?
Women, especially, tend to look at our choices as a series of obligations—we do what we feel we are obligated to do for the sake of our families, not necessarily what we feel our hearts are telling us to do. I believe, and it’s the theme of this book, that we spend too much time worrying about how we can fix/help/support our families (or those around us at work or in friendships) and not enough time listening to and trusting God. When we pray, we tend to tell God what’s wrong and ask him to fix it. But do we ever really take the time to just be still and listen to what God is trying to tell us? And can we really let God take care of those we feel responsible for and let go of that burden of responsibility that may not, in truth, be ours to bear?

You can find out more about Kaye Dacus at her website.

26 April 2013

Review: Brandenburg by Glenn Meade

Brandenburg: A Thriller was first published in 1994, and it shows. There is a 1997 edition also for sale on Amazon, and the reviews are extremely mixed, with the same number of 1-star reviews as 5-star. It’s now been republished by Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster that publishes Christian crossover fiction.

The cool 2013 cover disguises the fact that Brandenburg is set in 1994 and hasn’t been updated either in content or in writing style. In a way that’s good—the story just wouldn’t add up if it was set in 2013—but in some ways it’s bad. It would have been easier to get into the plot if it was made clear the book was set in 1994, rather than leaving the reader to work it out through clues like references to CD’s, tape recorders, phones with cords and the Times Atlas (no Google Earth or Wikipedia in this universe).

And how do I know Brandenburg was definitely set in 1994? It opens on Wednesday, November 23, and it only took a couple of minutes on my phone’s calendar app to work out that November 23 was a Wednesday in 1994, 2005 or 2011. And 2005 and 2011 are too late for the technology described in the book.

So, what’s Brandenburg about? The blurb describes it as “a British agent and a German woman find themselves unraveling a plot to bring about the Fourth Reich”. Maybe so, but Joseph Volkmann and Erika Kranz don’t discover what the plot is until past the halfway point—until then they are merely trying to discover who killed Erica’s cousin, a South American journalist who was chasing a story that had German connections.

My main problem with the plot is that it just wasn’t thrilling. I finished reading at the 80% mark when I realised I really didn’t care enough about any of the characters to want to find out what happened at the end (at a guess, given that this was set in 1994 and Berlin is still standing, the good guys won). A reviewer on Amazon said “Meade doesn’t give anything away until the last quarter of the book and that's what makes such an intriguing read”. Each to their own, but I kept waiting for something to happen, and I kept being disappointed. On the plus side, my housework got done.

Meade’s writing is compared to Dan Brown, which should have warned me off. I don’t like Dan Brown’s writing, and I don’t like Meade’s. It goes against all the guidelines of modern fiction (possibly because it was written before the guidelines were). It’s full of uninteresting narrative and long dumps of information that don’t really seem in character (the first conversation between Volkmann and Kranz was a case in point). There is a lot of violence, some of which is gore for the sake of it as it serves little or no purpose in forwarding the plot. The third-person point of view flips between characters so much as to be confusing. And not making the time period clear didn’t help. It has no Christian content at all, despite being published by Simon & Schuster’s Christian imprint.

On a more positive note, Brandenburg is tightly-plotted, although the profusion of cardboard characters that only manages to avoid complete confusion by focusing mostly on Volkmann. If you’re looking for a good modern Christian thriller I’d sooner recommend Noel Hynd, Don Brown (who writes US Navy legal thrillers, and shouldn’t be confused with Dan Brown) or Richard L Mabry.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Glenn Meade at his website.

24 April 2013

Review: Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert

Robin Price lost her husband, Micah, four and a half years ago. She has an almost four-year old-son, Caleb, and runs a café in the small town of Peaks, Iowa—a dream ignited on her honeymoon, when she and Micah spent three weeks touring European cafés. But her dream might be about to come to an end: the town council wants to build condominiums, and Robin’s café is the logical site, even though she shares the building with One Life, an important local ministry to the poor.

Ian McKay hopes to be the developer who will be responsible for building the condos. Getting this project will be a job-saver for his father’s company. But Robin is being stubborn and won’t even listen to his offer. And as he spends time with her, Caleb and her extended family, he discovers that maybe he doesn’t want to take this away from her.

I really enjoyed Katie Ganshert’s debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter (which I also reviewed), but I didn’t enjoy this as much. In Wildflowers from Winter, Robin was a new widow, and it made sense that she was struggling in her grief and that her loss was the defining part of her personality.

But Wishing on Willows is set four years later, and not only is Robin not ready to let go of her own grief, but she is shouldering the grief and problems of others and almost sinking under the burden. Yet none of her friends or family have addressed this. They step in to help her in the café and babysit Caleb, but it seemed to me that Robin was burying her grief in activity, which can’t be healthy, and her friends and family are enabling her.

I just wanted to shake Robin and make her read something like Women Who Do Too Much… and then I realised, hey, this is fiction. Robin’s not real. So even while I have these issues with Robin’s character, all credit to Katie Ganshert for making me forget she was just a fictional character. I still like Wildflowers from Winter better, but I’ll be interested to see what comes next. Will it be Gavin’s story, or Amanda’s?

Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Katie Ganshert at her website.

22 April 2013

Review: The Message on the Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Emilie Rhodes is eighteen, the daughter of a newspaper owner, and wants to be a journalist against the wishes of her parents. She plans a series of articles around the annual Chautauqua in her home town of Beatrice, Nebraska—when she is not accompanying her three cousins, the singing Spring Sisters (a Chautauqua is a musical, cultural and educational festival).

Noah Shaw was orphaned at thirteen, but despite his disadvantaged childhood has managed to create a successful career as an actor, performing at events around the country. He meets and is immediately attracted to Emilie, but a chance discovery about his parents and the truth behind the quilt his mother made might mean the end of the relationship.

There are a variety of supporting characters to add depth and interest to the plot, but not so many as to become confusing, and I liked all the characters. The plot was interesting and it was evident that the Chautauqua and the emerging women’s rights movement had been well-researched, but not so much that this intruded on the story. I like my historical fiction to be historically accurate, so this was a big plus.

I also liked the way the characters interacted, particularly Emilie and Noah. Their attraction was immediate, and believable. It is a whirlwind romance, but it rang true as they both had a shared Christian faith and common interests in the arts, with Emilie’s journalism and piano-playing, and Noah’s acting and reciting. Most importantly, I could feel the attraction in the writing, which is no small achievement.

I have enjoyed all the books in this series, but I think The Message on the Quilt is my favourite, partly because I could relate to Emilie trying to find her way to use her God-given talents in a male-dominated field. Each book can be read as a stand-alone, and they can be read in any order, as the common theme is a quilt, not characters or specific location. Recommended.

Thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

19 April 2013

Review: Josiah's Treasure by Nancy Herriman

Sarah Whittier has just acquired the lease to develop her art design studio, where she will train and employ young women with no other honourable options in 1882 San Francisco. But all her plans might come to nothing: not only is she having trouble finding investors for her studio, but there is a rumour of treasure in the house she recently inherited which has incited a break-in, and she may lose her house to a stranger.

Daniel Cady has spent months locating the father who abandoned him, his mother and his two young sisters nine years ago. But instead of finding his father, he finds Josiah is dead and an attractive young woman with high ideals has inherited the estate, not his children: apparently, Josiah believed his family was dead.

It’s not really made clear why Sarah has to go bowing and scraping to find investors for her art studio, given that she has just inherited an estate worth thousands (even if there isn’t a lot of ready cash, there is a property to use as collateral). And the early chapters of Josiah's Treasure allude to Sarah’s history in a way that makes it feel as though this is a sequel when it is not (I checked, because it really felt as though there was a background that I was supposed to know).

But Josiah's Treasure evens out as Sarah and Daniel work together to determine who is trying to break in to the house, find the truth to the rumours that Josiah left a fortune in gold hidden in the house, as well as discovering a mutual attraction. I liked Daniel but didn’t really relate to Sarah. Without having the background as to why she wanted to save and train the girls for her art studio, she came across as too cliché in her apparent perfection, and we didn’t see any change in her lack of faith in God. We were told she had not changed, but not shown that change, and that was a definite weakness. Enjoyable enough, but predictable.

Thanks to Worthy Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Nancy Herriman at her website.

17 April 2013

Review: The House that Love Built by Beth Wiseman

The cover picture is of a couple embracing. The title is The House that Love Built (awww, everyone sigh!). The author, Beth Wiseman, is better known for her Amish novels. So is this going to be a saccharine depiction of small-town Americana, or something more?

Brooke Holloway is a widowed mother of two children and hardware store owner in Smithville, Texas. She’s still in love with Travis, even though he died two years ago. Her mother, Patsy, lives in a local care home ad is hiding a secret 'boyfriend'. Meghan, Brooke's daughter, would like her to marry again but 10-year-old Spencer doesn't want anyone to replace his father--and goes out of his way to sabotage the possibility.

Owen Saunders bought the old Hadley place to remodel because his ex-wife always wanted a picture-book house in Smithville, the setting for the 1998 movie Hope Floats. He’s here out of spite—he’s bought his ex-wife’s dream house, but he might regret it as he knows next-to-nothing about renovating a house. And Brooke's story of a hidden bunker in the house has him intrigued.

But this is a romance, so you know what’s going to happen. I thought the relationship progressed nicely and was quite believable, watching Brooke and Owen work through their various relationship issues, with God, with Brooke’s family, and with each other. The one thing that wasn’t quite so believable was the appearance of Virginia, the ex-wife, at the end of the story (the dates just don’t add up, but you’ll have to read it to see what I mean). However, Virginia’s story would make a great sequel. Now, there’s a woman with issues…

All in all, The House that Love Built was a solid story with a nice combination of mystery and romance, and stronger-than-usual minor characters. Despite the sweet title and cover, there were some real issues in here, and Beth Wiseman handled them well.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Beth Wiseman at her website.

16 April 2013

ACRBA Book and Giveaway: Strength Renewed by Shirley Cordor

15 - 19 April
is introducing
Strength Renewed:
Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer

( Revell/Baker Publishing Group 1 October 2012)

Shirley Corder
About the Author
Shirley in Summary: I am an author, registered nurse and cancer survivor (1997). I am also a pastor's wife. I live in the beautiful Eastern Cape of South Africa with Rob, my husband of well over 40 years, a lively Jack Russell terrier who answers to the name of Zoё, and a hyperactive budgie named Sparkie.

Website is http://www.shirleycorder.com/ViewPage.asp?Welcome

About the Book:

Comfort and hope to sustain you through the months ahead.

Nothing saps your strength quite like a cancer diagnosis—unless it is the energy-stealing chemotherapy and surgeries you face in your fight against cancer. But you can find hope and strength in the pages of Scripture, and in the experience of someone who has been there.

In Strength Renewed, breast cancer survivor and registered nurse Shirley Corder combines her encouraging personal stories with powerful passages from Scripture to help you along the road to recovery. These devotions can be read in sequential order to move you through a typical cancer journey from diagnosis through treatment. But each meditation also stands on its own, so you can go directly to the entry that speaks to your need—right now.

You have a partner and a cheerleader in Shirley—and in God—on the rough road ahead. Let Strength Renewed lift you up as you travel.

South African Giveaway:
If you are from South Africa, Shirley has a copy of her book to give away to one reader. Just leave a message below or on any of the blogs that feature Shirley this week, and you will go into the draw. Please mention you have a South African mailing address.

15 April 2013

Review: Fearless Women of the Bible by J Lee Grady

Fearless Daughters of the Bible: What You Can Learn from 22 Women Who Challenged Tradition, Fought Injustice and Dared to Lead takes us through twenty-two Biblical women, from well-known figures such as Mary and Ruth, to lesser-known figures such as the five daughters of Zelophehad. He relates each of these Biblical women (or groups of women) to a specific issue, then compares them with Christian women today—and the results are not always in our favour:

But the message in both Victorian England and suburban America was that women should not attempt anything brave. They should stay indoors, out of the heat of the sun, and out of trouble. They should let their men solve the world’s problems while they attend to details like folding linens and polishing silverware. Secular Americans do not think that way today, for the most part, but sadly many Christians do.

There is a large branch of the evangelical church who believe that or something similar, and they are either going to be challenged or offended by a book like this. I suggest these people read The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of Offense first.

Fearless Daughters of the Bible is going to upset some people. The author, a male, is a strong believer in the obligations of women to serve obediently God in whatever their calling, including leading churches and preaching. He doesn’t believe women’s callings are limited to being stay-at-home moms. Amen. Notice I say ‘obligations’ not ‘rights’. We have no rights in God. But we do have an obligation to serve, to honour Jesus’s sacrifice with our obedience, a point Grady makes clearly.

Oddly enough, some will respect Fearless Daughters of the Bible less because it is written by a man, and a man who clearly believes that women are called to serve, have an obligation to serve. Others, like me, respect it more because it’s written by a man. Recommended.

Thanks to Chosen Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about J Lee Grady and The Mordecai Project at his website.

12 April 2013

Review: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

Amelia Barrett is the heiress of the Winterwood estate, but must marry before her twenty-fourth birthday in order to inherit. She is engaged to Edward Littleton, but he has a condition to marriage: she must give up Lucy, the nine-month-old daughter of her best friend, who died shortly after giving birth. But Amelia has a plan…

Captain Graham Sterling has just returned to his home of Darbury in England, and has met his baby daughter for the first time, having been at sea fighting the Americans for over a year. He is still mourning the loss of his beloved Katharine when Amelia makes him an unusual offer: to care for Lucy as her own daughter, if he will only marry her to secure her inheritance. However, her current fiancé – not to mention her guardians – won’t like this development.

I’m not a fan of the ‘marry or be disinherited’ plot line (was that even legal?), but I accept the need for an unorthodox way of getting the lead characters where the author needs them. The best stories are the ones that are original, somewhat unpredictable and end up being better than expected. The Heiress of Winterwood certainly fits that description as both Amelia and Graham face obstacles from both their families which turn what could have been a predictable Regency romance into a fast-paced and exciting romantic suspense with some unexpected twists.

The Heiress of Winterwood is Sarah Ladd’s debut novel and was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award (for unpublished manuscripts). An author to watch. Recommended for those who enjoy Jane Austen, Kaye Dacus, Jody Hedlund and Julie Klassen.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sarah Ladd at her website.

11 April 2013

Giveaway: Richard Mabry's "Stress Test" Nook HD Giveaway

Richard Mabry is celebrating the release of Stress Test with a Nook HD Giveaway! Enter today.


One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Nook HD
  • A $15 gift certificate to BarnesandNoble.com
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 27th. Winner will be announced on 4/29/13 at Richard's blog.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Read my review if you missed it.

10 April 2013

Review: A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

It is 1880 in Forestville, Michigan, and German immigrant Annalisa Werner has just become a widow. There was no love lost between her and her husband, and she has no desire to marry again but knows she must in order to pay off the loan on her farm and prevent lumber baron E.B. Ward taking it. Her father writes to his brother in Germany to ask if any men from their old village would be willing to make the trip to marry Annalisa and inherit her farm.

But when the man arrives from Germany, it isn’t the cousin she was expecting. It is Carl Richards, who was sentenced to death by the Duke of Saxony for a crime he didn’t commit, then smuggled out of the country. Except Carl is hiding a secret – he’s actually Carl von Reichart, son of the baron who forced the group to leave Germany. And Annalisa is attracted to him, despite herself, and despite the fact that she knows she will have to marry the nameless cousin when he eventually arrives.

The story is centred on this group of German immigrants, most of whom speak little or no English, and who maintain their German culture – including some harsh attitudes towards the role of women. The characters are well-portrayed, and the story deals with historical realities very well, without romanticising the hard work that it took settlers to make a life in America, but also without condemning their culture and attitudes too harshly. It all felt very realistic and well-balanced.

A Noble Groom is the first Jody Hedlund book I have read, and I was very impressed. One of my pet peeves is authors who don’t get their facts straight, so I was particularly impressed by the note at the end where Jody outlines the actual historical events which inspired the story. It takes real skill to incorporate this level of historical detail without the story becoming bogged down, and A Noble Groom manages this very well. Recommended.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jody Hedlund at her website.

8 April 2013

Review: Stress Test by Richard Maybury

Dr Matt Newman has just finished his final shift before starting his new job when he is kidnapped and left for dead in a back alley in Dallas. He wakes in hospital to find that he is now the lead suspect in a murder: the victim was found in his car trunk, his wallet was underneath her body, and the police think his kidnapping story is just a story.

Then life gets worse. His girlfriend abandons him, his new employer reconsiders the job offer, he has no car and no money, and his kidnappers, having failed in killing him the first time, are keen to rectify their error. Enter Sandra Murray, a sole-practice lawyer and Christian, to help Matt get his life back on track, and prove his innocence.

Stress Test is an exciting combination of a medical thriller and a romantic suspense, and it certainly meets the test for being thrilling and having loads of suspense. It’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down because you want to know what’s going to happen next. There were a couple of suspension of disbelief moments, but these were able to be quickly ignored as Matt searches for the real criminals and their motives, and comes to rediscover his faith in God in the process. Well worth reading for those who like their thrillers or suspense with a medical flavour.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Richard Mabry at his website or at Litfuse Publicity.

5 April 2013

Review: Invisible by Ginny L Yttrup

Ellyn De Mossmid is in her forties, and is the owner and chef of her own restaurant. Sabina Jackson is a counsellor on leave with stress issues and mild depression. Dr Miles Becker is a healer recovering from the truth that he couldn't heal his own wife, and Twila Boaz is a recovering anorexic who works in her mother's health food store while waiting to see where God leads her.

Miles describes Ellyn as witty, intelligent and beautiful. Her voice certainly comes across as witty and intelligent, whereas Miles is more distant, his formality no doubt a product of his grief--and perhaps his guilt. Sabrina tries to be upbeat and professional, but there is something there that might be a lie, while Twila has a wisdom beyond her years. They form an unlikely group of friends, each learning from the others… and there might even be a little romance in there somewhere…

Ginny Yttrup's first novel, Words, was a finalist for two Christy awards and winner of one, and after just three chapters of Invisible I could see why. I am in awe of her writing. What is even more amazing is that the writing is unobtrusive. I wasn't reading it and thinking 'oh, this is great writing'. I was totally engaged in her characters and the story she was telling. It was only as I paused to reflect on the story that I saw how good the writing is, how she has managed to write four quite different characters all in the first person (and in present tense, no less), each with their own unique voice.

Invisible is about finding beauty in God's creation, including ourselves, and understanding that God's standard for beauty is not the commercialised and sexualised standard we see in contemporary media. It’s a beautifully written reminder that we are created in the image of our mighty God. Recommended.

Thanks to and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Ginny Yttrup on her website.

3 April 2013

ACRBA Review: Web of Lies by Laura O'Connell

1 - 5 April
is introducing

Laura O'Connell
( Even Before Publishers 1 December 2012)
About the Author
Laura enjoys writing stories about second chances in love and life. She calls the Gold Coast home, however, her curious nature leads her on adventures to locations that surprise and delight her. Laura has a passion for telling a good story set in places where she has lived and travelled. Laura is the author of African Hearts and Web of Lies. Her debut novel, African Hearts, was shortlisted in the 2011 Caleb Prize. To find out more about Laura visit her website: http://laura-oconnell.com
About the Book:

High school sweethearts, Stephanie and Lachlan are torn apart by circumstance, bad decisions and a web of lies,leaving an unknown future for their son, Ryan.
Eight years later they reconnect,but the time apart has changed them. The family had made decisions based on lies and deceit and now must find a way to either reveal the truth or find another option. On the surface their arrangements seemed flawless, but dig deeper, and the people they thought they knew, aren't as they appear.
Lachlan and Stephanie are forced to confront the consequences of their actions and the entire family is compelled to reveal the truth, find forgiveness, and renew loving one another. But the hardest decision is still to come...where does Ryan live?

My Review

Eight years ago, teenage Lachlan Hunt was injured in a rock-climbing accident that left him unconscious for almost a year. Now aged twenty-five and financially independent, he decides to leave New York and return to his childhood home of Sydney in the hope of reconnecting with Stephanie, his former girlfriend, who had been pregnant when he had his accident.

This announcement shocks his parents, Ellen and David, as they realise they will now have confess the lies they told all those years before, like telling Stephanie that Lachlan was dead, and not telling Lachlan that his son was not miscarried, but in fact was born and is now being raised by his sister, Tania, after Stephanie’s Aunt Sophia forced Stephanie to give Ryan up. And that’s not the end of the secrets…

Lachlan is single-minded in his desire to reunite with Stephanie and claim their son to raise, almost to the point of becoming hard-headed. He knows what he wants, and barely stops to think about the impact of his plans on others, in particular, Ryan and Tania. And Stephanie suffered severe depression after giving up Ryan, and isn’t convinced she would be the best mother for him. Tania is naturally distraught at the thought that her own brother might destroy her small family, while David and Ellen have their own lies to face.

This is a quick read, partly because it is so engaging. On the face of it, the tangled web of lies sounds as though it could have come straight out of a daytime soap opera, yet the author manages to tell the story without descending into melodrama. The characters were likeable and their reactions felt true-to-life (although I sincerely hope that situations like this aren’t as common in real life as they are in fiction).

Although this is published by a Christian publisher, the faith element is very understated. Ellen and David are Christians, but the faith of the other characters is less clear-cut, and this a novel that can be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike. An excellent Australian read.

Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Laura O’Connell at her website.

1 April 2013

New Releases: April 2013

New releases that I will be reviewing this month include:

Other new releases in Christian fiction for April include:

What will you look forward to reading? What are you buying?