Friday, September 22, 2017

Mini Book Review: A Thing of Beauty by Lisa Samson (2015)

Former child star Fiona Hume deserted the movie biz a decade ago--right after she left rehab. She landed in Baltimore, bought a dilapidated old mansion downtown, and hatched dreams of restoring it into a masterpiece, complete with a studio for herself. She would disappear from public view and live an artist’s life.

That was the plan.

My Thoughts

This is one of those books that I gulped down so fast that now I can almost remember nothing about it. I hate it when I do that. I do know that I loved reading it because it felt like it had a depth to the writing and story that I don't find that often.

But now I feel guilty that I can remember so very little, sort of like Lucy in Narnia when she read the story in the book of spells on that one island and then, once she had finished, couldn't re-read it because the book wouldn't let her, and then she could only remember vague images and snatches of the story. Just know that I loved it!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott (Saddler's Legacy #1)

Fairer than Morning

Author: Rosslyn Elliott

Series: Saddler's Legacy

Genre: Christian Historic

Year: 2011

My Rating    

Official Synopsis 

On a small farm in 19th-century Ohio, young Ann Miller is pursued by the gallant Eli Bowen, son of a prominent family. Eli is the suitor of Ann's dreams. Like her, he enjoys poetry and beautiful things and soon, he will move to the city to become a doctor.

Ann travels to Pittsburgh, accompanying her father on business. There she meets Will Hanby, a saddle-maker's apprentice. Will has spent years eking out an existence under a cruel master and his spirit is nearly broken. But Ann's compassion lights a long-dark part of his soul. Through his encounters with Ann's father, a master saddler, Will discovers new hope and courage in the midst of tremendous adversity.

When the Millers must return to Ohio and their ministry there, Will resolves to find them, at any cost. If Will can make it back to Ann, will she be waiting?

Go to my Historic Fiction page to find all my Christian historic fiction reviews!

Rosslyn Elliott's name first crossed my radar while I was working at the library and in charge of organizing the Christian fiction section. I remember being impressed with the quality of her cover design (I was a bit of a sap over pretty covers at that point). I wanted to read her work, but made the mistake of picking up Sweeter than Birdsong first. I'm not sure how I missed that it was the 2nd in a series, but somehow I did, and it just did not hold my attention.

God works miracles, no matter how small. As my family prepped for our latest family vacation, I hopped out my local library's collection of ebooks and checked out at least a dozen for the trip; determined to give myself a decent selection because I never know what will appeal to me when. Fairer Than Morning happened to be one of my choices and on the flight back home from one of the longest layovers of my life, I decided to start reading it.

Life has intervened a time or two which is why it's taken me a good couple of weeks to finish it, but one thing I do know is that Rosslyn Elliott impressed me. I didn't realize until the afterword that her book was based off the real lives of William Hanby and Ann Miller, but that little tidbit of information only made me love their story all the more.

Fairer Than Morning is beautiful. Not quite perfect in execution, or at least what I consider perfection, but still quite beautiful. And even though I've included the summary, know that the story is much deeper than the summary implies. I loved how faith really was a natural part of the character's lives. Preaching wasn't a part of the story, the Lord just wove His way in and out of the tale. That's my favorite element of faith-filled storytelling. It should feel natural, and Rosslyn Elliott captured that authentic feeling for me.

Will and Ann were both likable and yet flawed in ways that I can relate to. I loved Will. Watching him grow from a teenager to a young adult, overcoming the hardships of being apprenticed to a brute, and discovering the Lord was amazing. I also appreciated his struggles with lust and vengeance. Both of those are very human feelings, very tied to our fleshly desires. Will wasn't perfect, just like Ann wasn't perfect. She had her fair share of petty moments, of weakness, of blindness towards beauty and intellect. But she also came to a profound understanding of who she wanted to be as a woman and what type of man she would be suited to marry. And it turned out that neither of the romantic heroes she had been considering were actually suited to the steady life of service her heart desired. It's not that I disliked Eli or Allan. But neither of them were of a nature to give back, to love others, and to protect the weak. Will's nature developed into a man who cannot simply stand by and watch a wrong being done without standing against it. Ann loved that in him and so do I.

Like I said, there were a few elements that didn't quite work for me. A few sappy, soap-operaesque moments that cropped up from time to time. But the real meat of the story, the progression in faith and knowledge of God and the maturing of a young man to adulthood, all of those elements stood strong and firm. So, bravo, Rosslyn, for your authentic story. I'm not sure when I'll get to the 2nd book in the series, but it is now on my list to be read.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book Review: A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad (2011, Lake Manawa Summers #2)

A Great Catch

Author: Lorna Seilstad

Series: Lake Manawa Summers

Genre: Christian Historic

Year: 2011

My Rating  

Official Synopsis 

When twenty-two-year-old Emily Graham’s meddlesome aunts and grandmother take it upon themselves to find her a husband among the Lake Manawa resort guests, the spunky, slightly clumsy suffragette is determined to politely decline each and every suitor. Busy working in the suffrage movement, she has neither the time nor the need for a man in her life. The “cause” God has called her to is much too important.

Carter Stockton, a recent college graduate and a pitcher for the Manawa Owls, intends to enjoy every minute of the summer at Lake Manawa before he is forced into the straight-laced, dawn-to-dusk business world of his stern father. He has no plans for romance until Emily crashes into his life at a roller skating rink.

When subterfuge and distrust interfere with their budding romance, will the pitcher strike out completely? Or will the suffragette find strength in her faith and cast her vote for a love that might cost her dreams?

Go to my Historic Fiction page to find all my Christian historic fiction reviews!

While I enjoyed A Great Catch to some extent, it didn't live quite up to my expectations. For one thing, I didn't even remember Emily Graham from Making Waves, so I had no connection to her. I'm sure she was in that book; she must have been too vanilla of a character for me to notice.

In addition to that, I'm not fond of suffragette characters 90% of the time. There's a certain obnoxious quality to Emily that I just didn't appreciate. I'm also not much of a baseball fan and this entire book revolved around baseball and Emily bringing one of the Bloomer Girl baseball teams to Lake Manawa for a game. Now, I thought the Bloomer Girls was a fascinating bit of history, but it wasn't really enough to hold my attention. I found myself wanting to race through the book to the finish so I could start on the 3rd, which stars Lilly, Marguerite's maid, from Making Waves

Carter was too pushy with his intentions, another aspect that bored me. I guess I just wasn't sure why this story was needed when it felt much more important to tell Lilly's tale instead. And once again the reader had to contend with a heroine who wants to go her own way instead of God's way and has to be drawn back into the fold and reminded that God calls according to His purpose. I don't know, it just felt a tad cliched after having almost the exact same faith issue fed me in Making Waves.

Oh well, I guess you can't win them all. I guess I just loved Trip and Marguerite so much from Making Waves, that A Great Catch never stood a chance. It's not that the book was bad, and there's a good chance someone who loves suffragettes and/or baseball will love this book. It just didn't work for me.