Christian fiction

TLC Book Tours: The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Posted on

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (January 7, 2014)
Source: TLC Book Tours & NetGalley

Synopsis:

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul–and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master–a man her mother would never approve of–but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village…and to her mother’s tattered heart?

My Review:

The first book I ever read from Julie Klassen was, “The Apothecary’s Daughter”.  I fell in love with the characters and loved the way in which she wrote Christian fiction with Regency romance combined.  So, I was quite excited to learn she had a new book out, which actually was released for publication on January 7, 2014.

The premise was a bit familiar, as I had flashbacks of the movie, Footloose (the original).  I kept picturing Kevin Bacon as Alec and Julia as Lori Singer.  The preacher is Julia’s mother (Amelia Midwinter), of course.

Back to the story: Alec is back with his mother and trying to establish his business. The problem: he is a dance instructor in a town that forbids dancing.  With a few clients, he begins teaching dancing, as well as fencing, in a town that is skeptical of him and his intentions.

Julie Klassen is a perfectionist when it comes to detail.  She describes the small town so vividly and the characters are so well developed, that it easy to fall in love with Alec and seem a little put off by the childish ways of Julia.  Julia is used to being the center of attention and having many suitors, however she is challenged by Alec, who refuses to become just another suitor and ruin any chances of helping his family financially.

This is a slow, simmer read.  It takes time for the story to develop, as the characters slowly reveal themselves to the reader, but it is a book worth reading. If you love Regency romance, Christian fiction, or both, then you will love this story.  In true fashion to Julie Klassen’s writing, Christianity isn’t pored through every page.  Rather, lessons are taught, and God’s grace is shown, through the trials the characters face.

*This book was provided by Bethany House, through TLC Book Tours and NetGalley.

About Julie Klassen

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane–Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Connect with Julie:  

Website 

Facebook

Julie Klassen’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 6th:  A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, January 7th:  Reviews from the Heart

Wednesday, January 8th:  Books in the Burbs

Thursday, January 9th:  Christian Bookshelf Reviews

Thursday, January 9th:  Worthy 2 Read

Monday, January 13th:  Let Them Read Books – review

Tuesday, January 14th:  Let Them Read Books – interview/giveaway

Wednesday, January 15th:  Luxury Reading

Thursday, January 16th:  Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, January 20th:  Lavish Bookshelf

Tuesday, January 21st:  Melina’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 22nd:  Broken Teepee

Thursday, January 23rd:  Bookfoolery

Monday, January 27th:  WV Stitcher

Tuesday, January 28th:  Deb’s Book Bag

Wednesday, January 29th:  The Overweight Bookshelf

Thursday, January 30th:  Mom in Love with Fiction

Review: She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen

Posted on Updated on

Synopsis:

Ariel Baxter has just moved into the neighborhood of her dreams. The chaos of domestic life and the loneliness of motherhood, however, moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood playdates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable.
Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.
A novel for every woman who has looked at another woman’s life and said, “I want what she has,” She Makes It Look Easy reminds us of the danger of pedestals and the beauty of authentic friendship.
My Review:
Everyone knows someone who seems like she has it all together, is always dressed so nicely, make-up on, hair done, Bible in hand or scriptures ready to share, a clean house, baked break or cookies in the oven, and a seemingly perfect life.  At least, I can think of a few people in my own life that seem that way to me.  Now, that is not to say that they are probably a Justine…with skeletons in their closet and secretly unhappy.  However, I have often wondered, “what’s it really like?”.
If you know someone like that and feel complete opposite, then you will certainly resonate with this book. If you don’t know someone like that, or perhaps you are a Justine-strong A type personality then you will certainly enjoy this book, too.  Overall, this is a story that takes us behind closed doors, where church members don’t have access, where the process to do everything perfectly isn’t always shared…only the end results-perfection!
I loved this book and could relate to Ariel as she tries to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, in a spiritual and Godly way.  Her dream is to move into this posh neighborhood, Essex Falls, and she begins working as a freelance photographer to help save money for the move.  Her husband, ever so frugal, really doesn’t want to move because it will mean that he will need to take another higher paying job and be away from the family more.   However, Ariel soon gets her wish and moves into the neighborhood of her dreams where children play and parents have neighborhood parties.  Living behind the main neighbor in charge of these soiree’s, Ariel soon begins to feel inadequate as she tries to maintain a clean home, bake bread and cookies, and manage her children, all with a gorgeous smile and crisp clothes.  Justine invites her to a church meeting, where Justine discusses Godly orderliness and Ariel finds herself trying to emulate Justine at home and in the neighborhood.  However, nothing is ever as it truly seems.
While Justine is painting this perfect picture of a Godly household, inside, she is hurt and angry, feels empty in her marriage, and soon seeks solace in the arms of an old flame.  Marybeth gets so deep into the minds and thoughts of the characters, that the scenarios and actions of each character seem so real and authentic.  Both Justine and Ariel have decisions they have to make and decide where their loyalties lie, and determine the fate of their friendship and of their marriages.  This is an excellent story and gives great discussion opportunities for a church reading group and book club.  I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys Christian fiction.
5 plus more

Review: Words by Ginny L. Yttrup

Posted on Updated on

 

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Books; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433671700

Synopsis:

“I collect words. I keep them in a box in my mind. I’d like to keep them in a real box, something pretty, maybe a shoe box covered with flowered wrapping paper. Whenever I wanted, I’d open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box. But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can’t take them.”

Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn’t speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods-in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.

Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter’s death, Sierra’s control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.

Brought together by Divine design, Kaylee and Sierra will discover together the healing mercy of the Word-Jesus Christ.

My Review:

I purchased this book last year and I finally decided to read it a couple of weeks ago. It’s a book that truly drew me in from the very first page.  Sierra is a woman, who is a recovery drug addict, and has not yet forgiven herself for the consequences of her choices.  While she struggles to find peace and truly give herself to God, she meets a little girl Kaylee.  Kaylee is a special little girl and my heart ached for her as I read her story.  Ginny Yttrup truly does a remarkable job in describing the emotions and thoughts of a little girl, who is absolutely broken.  Kaylee is the little girl, who could easily have slipped through the system, since she is non-verbal and at times, seems unresponsive.  However, God brings Kaylee and Sierra together through a series of events, and shows them His love and grace.

Words is a book that will pull at your heart, have you cry for the pain and suffering Kaylee experiences, and rejoice when she not only finds her voice, but finds a family and self-acceptance.  I absolutely loved this book and Ginny Ytrrup truly leaves no stone uncovered as she brings to light abuse, addiction, foster/adoption, and new beginnings.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a great Christian fiction book, works as a family therapist or social worker with abused and neglected children, and addictions.  It’s a fantastic read and deserves to be on everyone’s TBR list!


Follow Ginny on Facebook.

Follow Ginny on Twitter.

Read Ginny’s Blog.

Click for Information on Books in the Burbs Giveaway

Know a Teen Writer? Click Here.

Review: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Posted on Updated on

 

 

Synopsis:

Margaret Macy flees London, disguised as a housemaid, to avoid marriage to a dishonorable man. If she can remain unwed until her next birthday, she will receive an inheritance, and with it, sweet independence. But she never planned on actually working as a servant. And certainly not at Fairbourne Hall—the home of two former suitors. As she fumbles through the first real work of her life, Margaret struggles to keep her identity secret. When a trap is set to force her from hiding, will love or danger find her first?

Click Here to Read an Excerpt.

********************************************************************

About The Author:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane–Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit www.julieklassen.com

 Follow Julie on Facebook!

My Review:

I first read a book from Julie when The Apothecary’s Daughter was free at Barnes and Noble for Nook readers. I immediately fell in love with Julie Klassen’s writing and felt she captured Jane Austen’s essence of writing, as she introduced her readers to great characters and took me back in time as I snuggled up to one of her books.  I was one of the readers that pre-ordered this book, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, and was so excited to not only receive an autograph, tea, and some tea cookies, but receive the book automatically on my Nook the day of it’s release.

I absolutely loved this book and felt the storyline was so unique and the storyline moved along at a very good pace. I was quite sad when I finished the book as I fell in love with the characters and was left wanting more.  There are so many twists in the plot, which kept me guessing until the very end.

Margaret is the main character, who is faced with the very difficult task of leaving the comfort of her home to being on the streets of London.  She eventually is given a job as a housemaid, where she learns rather quickly the hard work that it entrails and the challenges each house servant is faced with.  It helps not only to give her a greater appreciation of those who work for her, but also gives her a chance to know the men of Fairbourne Hall, in a way she would not have otherwise.

There are quite a lot of valuable lessons throughout, excitement, and overall a story that will not only have you fall in love with Margaret, Helen, and Nathaniel, but Julie Klassen, too.  My suggestion to you: read this book and then read all her other books!  She has quickly become one of my favorite authors of all time and is my Jane Austen of today !:)

Review: Sweet Sanctuary by Sheila Walsh & Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

Posted on Updated on

 

Book Details

    • Author:  Sheila Walsh & Cindy Martinusen-Coloma
    • Genre:  Christian Fiction
    • Print Length: 352 pages
    • ISBN:  1595546863
    • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 9, 2011)
    • Author’s Website: Sheila Walsh, Cindy Martinusen-Coloma
    • Book Provided for Review by: Book Sneeze

A Quick Reference:

  • Target Audience:  Adults
  • Pace of Book:  Steady pace throughout
  • Writing:  Easy to read
  • Profanity:  None
  • Sexual Content:  None
  • Violence:  None
  • Christian Element:  Absolutely
  • My Rating:  A great cupcake with sprinkles on top, 4/5

My Review:

This book is a little gem.  I love the writing and flow of the storyline and thought the characters were developed very well.  I connected with Wren and her love for reading and working at the library…as that is a personal dream of mine too!  The relationship between her ex-husband and herself fell a little flat for me, however the relationship between her and Paul seemed to go at a very steady pace and was realistic.  I love Wren’s 90 year old aunt, Ruth!  She is very perceptive, shares what she needs to, and has her own little secret too.  Centered around the celebration of Ruth’s 90 birthday, Wren confronts her past so that she can fully embrace her future.  There were some little loose ends for me at the end of the book regarding Wren’s sibling relationships, however it is a book that I enjoyed!

*Book was provided for an honest review by Book Sneeze.  No monetary or other forms of compensation were given.

Thrifty Thursday!

Posted on Updated on

What, what, what???  I just saw this incredible book for FREE!!! So, of course, I have to share it with you!  This is a great read, especially as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  I was given this book from the publisher to provide a review, which will be posted this month.  In the meantime, check it out for yourself and let me know how you like it.  After all, free is always best!

Product Details

      • Format: Kindle Edition
      • File Size: 612 KB
      • ISBN#:  13: 978-1-4267-0769-8
      • Print Length: 336 pages
      • Publisher: Abingdon Press Fiction (August 26, 2011)
      • Genre:  Christian Fiction/Inspiration

Synopsis:

If he had only answered that last phone call from the World Trade Center . . .

Minutes before two jumbo jets changed U.S. history, New York police officer Austin Finley ignored the call from his brother, who’d been bugging him for days. Trying to live with his one regret causes hatred and bitterness to consume Austin, and when counselor Mercy Samara recommends desk duty, Austin resigns. Haunted by her own memories of 9/11, Mercy takes a job as a school counselor in Baltimore. When Austin, now an EMT, responds to an emergency at Mercy’s school, both are stunned and wary.

Finally their common—and painful—memories turn suspicion into friendship, then romance.

But hard questions linger: Can they truly move beyond their past harsh judgments and harsh words? Will their past finally bring them closer or—as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 draws near—drive them farther apart?

Download this FREE book onto your Kindle

Download this FREE book onto your Nook

 

Monday Mini Reviews

Posted on Updated on

Synopsis:

Afghan-American novelist Hosseini follows up his bestselling The Kite Runner with another searing epic of Afghanistan in turmoil. The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny through the lives of two women. Mariam is the scorned illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman, forced at age 15 into marrying the 40-year-old Rasheed, who grows increasingly brutal as she fails to produce a child. Eighteen later, Rasheed takes another wife, 14-year-old Laila, a smart and spirited girl whose only other options, after her parents are killed by rocket fire, are prostitution or starvation. Against a backdrop of unending war, Mariam and Laila become allies in an asymmetrical battle with Rasheed, whose violent misogyny—”There was no cursing, no screaming, no pleading, no surprised yelps, only the systematic business of beating and being beaten”—is endorsed by custom and law. Hosseini gives a forceful but nuanced portrait of a patriarchal despotism where women are agonizingly dependent on fathers, husbands and especially sons, the bearing of male children being their sole path to social status. His tale is a powerful, harrowing depiction of Afghanistan, but also a lyrical evocation of the lives and enduring hopes of its resilient characters.

Mini Review:

This was an incredible storyline that spans over a 30 year period.   Because the people are so devout in the name of Allah, it is not seen as inhumane for children to marry 40 year old men, be in polygamous marriages, where women are required to wear a chadri, cannot walk the streets without a male companion, and do not have the same rights as men.  This story covers the consequences of living under Sharia law and how violent people can become.  Miriam and Laila, two women who are married to the same man, become close friends and sisters as they learn to depend on one another.  Despite the tragedies going on throughout their country, hope is never lost and friends ban together to help each other.  This is a beautiful story of friendship and new beginnings, although tragic too.  Khaled Houssini has an eloquence in his writing that displays the sweetness and love in families, while also bravely describing the inhumane and fearful way many of the people live.  This is a book that I HIGHLY recommend!

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Synopsis:

Marah is a young girl in love with her childhood friend, Jesse. When she is forced to marry an older man, she must abandon her dreams of happiness. At the mercy of men who are often only interested in using her, Marah must fight for survival. Will she ever meet a man who can save her?

The story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well is one of hope, redemption, and a life changed in an instant through a remarkable encounter. Jesus told her “everything she’d ever done,” but we are left to wonder at the circumstances that led her life on such a tragic path to begin with. Now from the creative mind of Diana Wallis Taylor comes the full story of the woman at the well.

This well-researched portrayal of a woman’s life in the time of Jesus opens a window into a fascinating world. Taylor’s rich descriptions of the landscapes, lifestyles, and rituals mesh easily with the emotional and very personal story of one woman who desperately seeks to rise above the difficult circumstances of her life.

Mini Review:

I LOVED this story!!  For those of you who are Christian, this story truly brings to life the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.  I admired Marah’s commitment to her faith, to her parents, and to herself-always aiming to be a Godly woman.  I couldn’t understand the reason why in the Bible there are people who had plural marriages.  However, reading this story and learning why (to avoid women being forced to prostitution) and the Jewish law of marrying family of husband when husband dies was interesting.  How blessed I am to know that Jesus redeemed me and I am not under man’s law, but God’s.  I HIGHLY recommend this book!  I did receive this book for free on Barnes and Noble….check it out!

Review: The Faith of Ashish by Kay Marshall Strom

Posted on Updated on


Synopsis:

Never Doubt That the Unending Love of a Father—or the Pure Faith of a Child—Can Change Lives

“His name is Ashish. His name is Blessing. The boy is my blessing.”

Virat and Latha named their son Ashish, for he is the light and glory of their world. Yet a simple drink of water changes all their lives forever. For Virat, Latha, and Ashish are Untouchables, members of a caste who must never contaminate the world of the other, higher, castes.

When Ashish mistakenly drinks from the wrong cup, he’s badly beaten. Knowing that his son needs a doctor—which takes money—Virat ventures into the dangerous realm of the high caste. He begs Mammen Samuel Varghese, the wealthy landowner and Christian, for money. He receives the loan—along with a life of slavery for himself and his family.

But Mammen Samuel does not understand the strength of a father’s love, the power of a young British nurse who could not forget a boy named Blessing, or the faith of a child.

Kay Marshall Strom has published 34 books, numerous magazine articles and short stories, and two prize-winning screenplays. Her best-known book is Once Blind: The Life of John Newton, which is packaged with the DVD of the popular film Amazing Grace. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

My Review:

Kay Marshall Strom immediately brings the reader into the lives of  Virat, Latha, and Ashish. When Virat and Latha’s only son is severely beaten, they try everything to receive healing for him.  After much prayer and sacrifice to the Hindu gods, Virat knows only one man can help him.  However, going to Mammen Samuel for assistance means that he is also signing away the rights of his family to a life of slavery.

Ashish is a sweet little boy that is inquisitive and loves to explore.  He is always asking his dad why they cannot drink water from certain wells and why they cannot be seen in other’s shadows.  Because of his childhood innocence, he simply does not realize that those actions  signify that they are condemned to live a lowly life, which is due to generational traditions passed down in the Hindu religion.

Throughout the story, the reader sees how Ashish goes from being a very brave and curious young boy to a scared one because of certain events that happen to him. However, it is with the help and love of Abigail, a nurse at the medical clinic, that not only heals his external wounds but also teaches him that he is worthy of love and acceptance.

Kay captures the lifestyles of Indian families and shows how the rankings truly limit and confines them to a predestined future.  However, she does this without judgement or being disrespectful to the Hindu religion.  This relaxed approach allows the reader to focus on the stories of each family and truly understand their behaviors and attitudes.

I loved the way Abigail is so caring and learns the Indian language to help patients feel comfortable.  The love Abigail gives to Ashish is a reminder of the love Jesus has for all of us and that we don’t have to shove religion down someone’s throat.  Rather, through acts of kindness and service, we can reach others even further as we minister to their needs.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves historical fiction, wants to learn about the Hindu faith and how it impacts a society, and how Christians can be a witness and a light to others.

What I loved:  learning about the different levels in Hinduism, Christian outreach, the style and flow of the story, being introduced to each family and their relationships, a dictionary (at the back of the book) to know the various Hindi terms used in the book

*This book was provided for an honest review by Abingdon Press via Netgalley. No monetary or other form of compensation was given.

Review: People of the Book by Kathi Macias

Posted on Updated on

Title: People of the Book
Publisher: New Hope Publishers
Pub Date: 04/05/2011
ISBN: 9781596692824
Author: Kathi Macias
Category: FICTION – ADULT: Other: Religious
URLs:
New Hope Publishers : click here
Kathi Macias : click here

My Review:

The story revolves around the lives of 3 teenagers:   Sara, a Christian living in America, and Farah and Nura, cousins living in Saudi Arabia.  Sara’s family are Christian converts, who were at one time devout Muslims.  Sara reaches out to Nura on an online chat forum where Christians talk to Christian converts with Muslim backgrounds.  Nura, curious about the Christian faith and if Isa (Jesus) is more than just a prophet to Muhammad, begins asking Sara many questions.  Sara enjoys answering questions and through this online relationship, they become friends world’s apart but close in prayer.

Farah is a devout Muslim teenager, too devout according to  Muslim standards.   Even though she is submissive to her father and brother and helps her mother with the cares of the household, her brother Kareem despises her because she holds a place in their father’s heart and her faith is even stronger than Kareem’s.  Kareem vows to show his family that Farah is not all that she seems to be.

The story evolves over the period of Ramadan, which is when Muslims all over the world fast daily from dawn to dusk, praying to Allah.  Farrah, 18 years old, prays even more fervently during these holy days in hopes that she will experience a deeper level of faith in Allah.  However, as she is sleeping, she experiences a vision so clear and so vivid that she wakes up with the scents of the place.  It is there, the she first experiences Isa and the beginning of her journey.

Kathi Macias brings to life the struggles and real fears of Muslims choosing to convert to Christianity.  Kathi also develops each character thoroughly and allows the reader to truly connect with each one and feeling their angst ad joy.  While Sara struggles with her own issues, due to a family situation, God envelops her with His compassion and understanding through the support of an elderly lady down the street.  Nura and Farah rely on each other as they experience the joy of learning more about Isa through an online Bible Nura discovers. They also must decide if they are to stand firm in their newfound faith and believe that Isa is the Son of God, risking losing their family and possibly their life, or to stay in the Muslim faith with the support and connection of their family but risk losing their eternal life.  As teenagers, these issues are very real as many today are faced with similar challenges.

Kathi sheds light on the issues of Muslim faith and the consequences that can happen should a person turn on their faith.  She brings the reader into each family home and shows the traditional roles women and men have in Muslim households, such as the difference in privacy and the ways in which they worship.  She also shares that Muslims see Christians and Jews as “People of the Book”, which is something I did not know.  Christians and non-Muslims are called “infidels”, a term that is used to describe Nura and Farah, should the decide to follow Christ.

It made me realize how privileged me and my family are living in America and being outward Christians.  The ease of reaching for a Bible and reading it anywhere in our home and outside, the protection we have spiritually and physically to talk openly about God and His love for us, and the ability to worship as we choose.  This is a book that will cause everyone to question their own faith walk and think how far we would go to worship God and not deny Jesus as the Son of God regardless of the consequence.  This is a book that I highly recommend for teenagers and adults, alike.  It’s a wonderful book with a brilliant message, with a glimmer of hope in the midst of all the challenges these teenagers experience.

Style of Writing: 5/5

Pace of Story: 5/5

Storyline/Plot: 5/5

Character Development: 5/5

Christian Perspective: 5/5

Spiritual Connection: 5/5

Emotional Connection: 5/5

Moral/Message: 5/5

*An electronic copy of this book was provided by New Hope Publishers, via Netgalley, for an honest review.  No monetary or other forms of compensation were provided.