Monday Morning Musings: Book Review

Even though it’s not a Book Talk Tuesday, I’m posting a book review on Monday. I really enjoyed this one, and can’t wait to share about it.

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A few books stay with you after you finish the final page and close the book. SECRETS OF THE TULIP SISTERS is one of those.

The Tulip Sisters are a fun group of women. I wish they lived closer. I wish they were real.

Kelly is the uber-responsible older sister who works the family tulip farm and loves it. She and her dad are close. Her long-time boyfriend recently broke up with her and she’s sad that it didn’t upset her more. What’s bugging her now is that Griffith, her high school crush, is back in town and keeps showing up wherever she is.

Olivia is the flighty younger sister. Or is she? Olivia shows up in town after ten years away, expecting a reunion with her own high school boyfriend. The homecoming is not quite as heartwarming as one might hope. With either the ex or her family.

Helen is Kelly’s best friend, and an honorary sister, with a huge secret of her own.

Life is … if not good, at least acceptable, for all three women. Until Kelly and Olivia’s mother shows up, bringing havoc and leaving a trail of mayhem in her wake.

I love this book! Fun dialogue and situations, believable characters, emotionally engaging writing. It’s going on my keeper shelf.

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I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Which this is.

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Book Talk Tuesday: RESCUE ME

RESCUE ME is Susan May Warren’s second book in her Montana Rescue Series.

The PEAK team in Montana is back and RESCUE ME picks up where WILD MONTANA SKIES left off. I’m loving this series.

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RESCUE ME is Sam Brooks’s story. At the end of WILD MONTANA SKIES, he’d asked Sierra Rose out and made his interest in her plain. Sierra and Ian had stopped working together their incipient romance crashed and burned. Sierra’s heart was broken, but she was determined to move on and she accepted Sam’s invitation.

Fast forward a few weeks and Sam and Sierra are still dating. The PEAK team is still searching and rescuing both locals and tourists in the area and in Glacier National Park.

Sam is busy with his job, caring for his mom recovering from cancer treatments, dealing with an increase in bear attacks in the park, and his flaky younger brother Pete, a fellow PEAK team member. Sam still blames Pete for their father’s death when the boys were teenagers.

Willow, Sierra’s sister, has been trying to get over her crush on her sister’s new boyfriend by concentrating on her job and volunteering as a youth leader at her church. Then she is passed over for the youth director job at the church and her father marries and is so busy with his new family that he doesn’t have time or space for Willow anymore.

Sam keeps denying how drawn he feels to Sierra’s sister. Sierra is perfect for him. They’re both organized, steady, focused. Willow is … well, she never finished high school. She’s a free spirit who loves Jesus and her sister.

For Willow, getting over Sam is even harder when she and Sam end up leading several youth group members on a day hike. They have an accident on the way back and are stranded in the park with injured kids.

The PEAK team swings into action, searching for their missing friends. Especially Pete who is determined not to let his brother down again.

Like all of Warren’s best books, RESCUE ME has several plot threads that are woven tightly to make an incredible read. The characters’s faith is real and not heavy-handed.

Willow struggles with feeling worthy and like she belongs. Sam finally sees just what his anger and unforgiveness has cost him.

Pete has a sub-plot with Jess, one of the other PEAK Team members. I’m guessing their story will be in a future book. And, I hope, we’ll finally get back to Ian and Sierra in an upcoming book.

I was so sad when Warren’s Christiansen Family series ended, but Montana Rescue is a worthy successor. I’m looking forward to A MATTER OF TRUST, due in early July.


I received a free copy of RESCUE ME from Revell via NetGalley in return for an honest review. Not a problem for me. I loved this one!

 

Book Talk Tuesday: AN UNCOMMON COURTSHIP

I absolutely adore this book! I’ve read everything in Hunter’s Hawthorne House series and each book is better than the last. This is Trent’s story. He’s a second son so is now the younger brother of the duke. He’s been happy to take his time finding a wife, but plans to marry for love like his parents and his sisters are derailed.

He never expected having to marry a virtual ucstranger in order to salvage her reputation.

Adelaide is a second daughter, so she’s used to being overlooked as her mother readied her older sister for society and a desirable match. She never expected to marry before having her Season in London.
But married they are, and making their home in London.

The first two books in the series are all about the courtship and I thought it was brilliant to have this book begin with the wedding. Since there was no courtship, Trent and Adelaide’s marriage is full of the kinds of conflicts newlyweds experience.

Some of the other reviews I read on lAmazon and Goodreads have commented about the “sex.” There is nothing lewd or gratuitous.

Is it appropriate for a twelve-year-old? No. Is it appropriate for a sixteen-year-old? Given the highly sexualized culture we live in, I think yes. It could be a great conversation starter about wedding night expectations vs. realities. And given that this book is about a new marriage, the consummation is going to be a big event. Hunter handles it very well indeed.

It’s only mid-January, but I know this will be going on my Top Ten of 2017 list.

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I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I honestly loved it!

Book Talk Tuesday on a Thursday

The last two to round out my Top Ten.

I thought long and hard about this.

These last two are by friends. And I can hardly bear to only put two friends on the list, so I may have to add a few more. I have so many amazing writer friends that I’m very afraid to start down the road of naming my faves, because I just know I’ll accidentally leave off someone.

But … here goes.

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FADING STARLIGHT by Kathryn Cushman. Katie’s been a best writing friend for a long time. And I couldn’t love this book more even if she was a complete stranger. The story is delicate and nuanced and perfectly presents both sides of a sticky moral issue. And the clothes sound fabulous! I love that dress and the window on the cover. Gorgeous!

 

A HERO TO HOLD by Sheri Humphreys is a great book. There’s just no getting around it, herofriend or not. I mean, I’ve always known HERO is special, but it was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016. So I may be biased, but someone else who doesn’t know Sheri personally also loved it.

The hero is in a wheelchair, injured in the Crimean War. The heroine is a widow, pretty much shunned by society. Their chemistry ignites on the page and I guarantee that the reader forgets he’s not completely able-bodied.

Whew! That was harder than I thought.

And I had to leave off some really stellar books by friends and strangers. I also either read and enjoyed these books or I’m looking forward to reading them soon (disclaimer: I’m sure I left off someone whose book I loved or will love. Please know it was inadvertent):

 

BOOK TALK TUESDAY ON A WEDNESDAY: MORE OF THE TOP TEN

I’ve added a caveat for my list. I can’t include any authors I know well enough to call “friend.”

Because I know once I start naming some of my favorites, I’m afraid I’ll inadvertently leave off someone and I can’t bear the thought of missing someone or hurting their feelings. So this list has the ten best books by strangers, that I read in 2016. A few of the writers I would go so far as to call acquaintances, but we don’t have the kind of relationship that I could email and ask if we could stay with them when we’re passing through town. That’s what I mean by “knowing” them.

Now that that’s out of the way, back to the list.

In Mysteries:

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JD Robb, CALCULATED IN DEATH. All of Robb’s In Death books are fabulous, well-crafted, and shining examples of excellent mysteries. I love them all, but CALCULATED IN DEATH stood out for me this year. The plot was exceptionally well done.

 

Margaret Maron’s books are often in my To Be Read piles or on my Top Ten lists. Butmaron-dd DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS was stellar in many ways. The mystery is well set up and executed. The red herrings were done so skillfully that I continued second-guessing myself all the way through.

In Non-Fiction:

EMPTY MANSIONS by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell is an amazing empty_mansions_paperback_cover_smalllook at a little known person in American history. William Clark was a U.S. Senator from Montana, he made a fortune in silver and copper mining, hung out with the Astors and Vanderbilts and Carnegies. Built huge homes. Amassed a collection of fine art to rival a museum. EMPTY MANSIONS covers Clark’s life, but is focused more narrowly on Clark’s youngest daughter, Hughette, who lived as a virtual recluse but maintained three homes she never visited, one she never even set foot into. It’s fascinating.

 

PRESENT OVER PERFECT is Shauna Niequist’s newest. I loved COLD TANGERINES, POP-coverBITTERSWEET, and BREAD AND WINE. PRESENT OVER PERFECT is a wonderful story of Shauna’s journey from stressed and overloaded to a simpler life with a focus on what’s important: God and family. I feel like I’m probably just a skoosh too old to fully appreciate all she has to say. I’ve already lived the stressed life (kids, work, social stuff, church obligations, the house — although admittedly not at her level. I wasn’t speaking in arenas). So the lessons were less revelatory to me than they would be to a mom in her thirties. But it was a good reminder and did provoke some though about how to slow down and enjoy life a bit more.

That’s enough for today. The rest of the Top Ten will post tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Book Talk Tuesday: The Best of 2016

In 2016 I read 70 books. Most people I know think that’s a lot. But I have friends who Education concept. Bookshelf with books as like symbol.routinely read over a hundred, even up to two hundred. That’s four books a week. Every week. All year long.

My goal is 100 books each year. I usually make it to 90. but in 2016 I fell short. I barely managed one a week. And that’s including my daily Bible and devotional book reading.

So even though I fell short in my goal, I still want to talk a bit about some of the best books I read in 2016.

I’m currently writing at Starbucks and I left the list of what I read at home, so if I can remember it without the list, that’s the sign it wasn’t just good, it was great! And has lingered with my long after I closed the last page.

So, in no particular order, my top ten books I read in 2016.

First up, I think it’s a coincidence that two of the best were audio books, but these two were truly memorable. And couldn’t be more different.

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TIFFANY GIRL by Deanne Gist won the RITA in July in the Long Historical category and it is well deserved. I loved this book for how Gist could get a hero and heroine who who so different at the beginning of the story (different lives, different values, different families, different beliefs) and bring them together in a way that seemed completely natural and unforced.

5-stagesTHE FIVE STAGES OF FALLING IN LOVE by Rachel Higginson turned out to be a delightful and moving surprise. I had never heard of Higginson, but a trusted friend highly recommended this book and she was right. It’s about a young widow, raising her four kids alone. It begins about six months after her husband’s death. Since we lost a family member recently, I so related to the stages of grief the protagonist Liz traveled, as she fell  in (and fought) new love. I laughed out loud and sobbed, sometimes at the same time, as I listened to this.

Two of my very favorite writers both deserve their mentions on this list.

wmskies-coverWILD MONTANA SKIES is the kickoff book for Susan May Warren’s new Montana Rescue series, about a Search & Rescue group in … Montana, duh. This first book was gripping, tense, and full of surprises. It ended with a hint of mystery that will be resolved in upcoming books, but it didn’t feel like a deliberate you-have-to-buy-the-next-book-to-get-the-rest-of-the-story move. The story ended organically. Just not quite everything was resolved. As it is frequently not resolved in real life.

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It’s been almost a year since I read Kristan Higgins’s ANYTHING FOR YOU, but I still remember the angst of both the hero and heroine as their relationship seemed determined to head in a direction neither wanted. She wanted to keep things light, but he kept pressing for more. He wanted a real relationship and a real life with her, but she kept refusing his proposals. Higgins is the best at humor, at tenderness, and at closing the bedroom door at the right moment.

That’s my first four, in no particular order. Come back tomorrow for more!

Book Talk Tuesday: THE UNDOING OF SAINT SILVANUS

I’m a huge Beth Moore reader. I’ve done many (most?) of her in-depth Bible studies. I’ve read her non-fiction books. I’ve attended several of her live events. If Beth wrote it, more than likely I’ve read it.

unssSo I was super excited to be able to preview her first foray in fiction.

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus.

I expected to love it. I wanted to love it.

I was only given the first four chapters to read, so I’m going to believe I would have loved the whole book.

Jillian Slater is working as a waitress for the man she loves and lives with in San Francisco when she gets a call that the father she hasn’t seen in twenty years is dead. She’s offered a free trip to New Orleans to see her grandmother and help with the arrangements.

Jillian heads to New Orleans and promptly wants to leave.

Her grandmother didn’t know she was coming. Adella, her grandmother’s assistant, arranged Jillian’s passage. As Jillian prepares to leave, more information about her father’s death is shared.

That’s where my excerpt ended.

The opening didn’t grab me. The characters felt like cardboard archetypes rather than fully realized people living on the page. The writing is pretty good. The story has lots of backstory woven into the first pages, a no-no for current writers who are told to get to the current story ASAP and stay there.

I’ve been trying to review only books that I absolutely loved and it pains me horribly to give only three stars to this one, but I can’t give it any more without reading the rest of the novel.

If I had the whole book, I would have finished it. I don’t know if I would have recommended it.


I received a free excerpt of The Undoing of Saint Silvanus from Tyndale House and NetGalley in return for a honest review.