Review: “The Long Journey to Jake Palmer” by James L. Rubart


Today’s review features a recent release from Thomas Nelson fiction, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart. As the title suggests, it is the story of one man’s journey of finding himself again after tragedy. While it is a contemporary drama, it has mysterious fantastical elements that deepen the story and have Narnian-like implications. This made it a page-turner, for sure!

What if there was a place where everything wrong in your life could be fixed?The Long Journey to Jake Palmer.jpg

Corporate trainer Jake Palmer coaches people to see deeper into themselves—yet he barely knows himself anymore. Recently divorced and weary of the business life, Jake reluctantly agrees to a lake-house vacation with friends, hoping to escape for ten days.

When he arrives, Jake hears the legend of Willow Lake—about a lost corridor that leads to a place where one’s deepest longings will be fulfilled.

Jake scoffs at the idea, but can’t shake a sliver of hope that the corridor is real. And when he meets a man who mutters cryptic speculations about the corridor, Jake is determined to find the path, find himself, and fix his crumbling life.

But the journey will become more treacherous with each step Jake takes.

Review

James L. Rubart is a master storyteller. This novel uses perhaps the most unique concept to deliver its message that I’ve read this year. At its heart is a message of HOPE. Of being enough. Finding freedom in faith and simple joy in everyday life, even when the outcome of your circumstances is not something you would have chosen for yourself. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself here.🙂

While our main character, Jake Palmer, spends his professional life helping other people see their true selves and the gifts they have to offer other people, he is in a season oblivious to his own talents and blessings. He also carries a bitterness and weight only revealed as the story unfolds, as we learn more of his past and personality.

It was a “journey” on my part, as the reader, to see how Jake’s time spent with his closest friends draws him out of himself as much as the mystery he’s searching for. While he resists their efforts at times, they remind him how to find joy in everyday moments. Jake had lost his own identity in a sense. This made me think about how we identify ourselves with things we do or who we’re with, when our true identity should come from God and who HE says we are: HIS, beloved, with a purpose for His glory.

With a fairytale-like otherworld promised at the end of the lake, Jake’s search for answers eventually leads him to recognize himself. Like life, it is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Tiny parallels with The Chronicles of Narnia and outright mentions of C.S. Lewis and his stories in the book will be delightful for any fan of those classics!

I could talk for paragraphs about the lake legend part of the story, but it would be full of spoilers! So, I’ll just say the revealing of this mystery is perfectly timed within the story. It is built up with a great supporting cast and foundation. If this book is anywhere on your radar, bookshelf, or TBR pile, I highly recommend you read it soon! It will bless you with its intricacies of emotion and inspiring message.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson publishers and BookLookBloggers.com for the complimentary review ecopy in exchange for my honest review.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Songs I’m Listening to Right Now (Audio Freebie)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s topic is all about audio, or an audio freebie (music, audiobook, etc.). I’m choosing to veer from my random book musings a little to share some songs I’ve been listening to (some on repeat) recently. Without further ado, here are

10 songs I’m listening to right now

(ok, not right now, but lately)

1 & 2

from Of Dirt and Grace by Hillsong United

Say The Word and Here Now (Madness)

3

Live It Well by Switchfoot

4

Prince of Peace by Hillsong United

5

Ordinary Love by Ben Rector

6 & 7

from Hard Love by Needtobreathe

Testify and Clear

8

Come Alive (Dry Bones) by Lauren Daigle

9 & 10

Dawn and Within These Skies by Icelanders (actually instrumental/ambient music by Hillsong band member Dylan Thomas). You can only listen to them on musicbed.com (for free!).

Your turn!!!! What are YOU listening to on repeat? What’s on your current playlist? Do you like any of these songs/artists I’ve mentioned? I welcome your thoughts and comments!

Review: “The Thirteenth Chance” by Amy Matayo

Today’s review is of an upcoming release from Amy Matayo, The Thirteenth Chance (releasing Sept 27). I first thought it might be slightly out of my normal “comfort zone”. Because baseball . But from everything I’d heard around the blogosphere about Amy’s storytelling, I jumped at the chance to review it. (And I’m happy I did!) So first, a side note on baseball, then my review!

From first reading the synopsis, I knew baseball was central to the theme, and I’m not really a sports fan — I’m neutral. The good news? Reading this I discovered you don’t have to know anything beyond “3 strikes and you’re out”, and the fact that fastball and curveball pitches are completely different. That’s it.🙂

About the Book

Baseball star Will Vandergriff knows any number of women who would happily pretend to be his girlfriend. In a last-ditch effort to restore his good standing with his team’s higher-ups, he enlists the help of his neurotic, goody-goody neighbor. The Thirteenth Chance.jpgSchoolteacher Olivia Pratt might be a bit quirky and a bit of a loner, but she’s a lot more inviting than she knows. Will hopes that bringing her to his next game might revamp his reckless reputation and help get his career back on track. The only problem? The plan works a little too well. Not only do the higher-ups love Olivia, but Will plays his best game yet. Suddenly his losing streak is a thing of the past, and Olivia is his new good-luck charm. Will feels anything but lucky.

After years of keeping the world at bay, Olivia Pratt is pulling off the ultimate performance—not only reluctantly posing as Will’s girlfriend but also insisting that she’s oblivious to his major-league appeal. But she can only lie to herself for so long. Being by Will’s side feels good. Really good. Maybe it’s finally time to make a pitch for everything she really wants—and to find out just how exhilarating love can be.

Review

Olivia has walls. Walls she thought were for her own good, to protect herself, but are instead keeping her distant from others. Her wariness and slight superstition related to the number “13” shows itself when she learns it’s Will’s number. When we finally learn the truth behind her “13” superstition, it sheds major light on her personal baggage and family story. Will is bold and different, not afraid to call out her quirks and dig deeper into her personality. While he can be brash and outspoken, Olivia can hold her own in a battle of words. This makes for some hilarious exchanges between the two, my personal favorites being when Perry the cat is involved. I think the two of them really compliment each other.

The story is told with alternating 1st person points-of-view. It’s a clever tool Amy uses to accomplish just the right tone of humor and directness. It gives us an inside look at the thoughts and emotions of Olivia and Will. At times, though, the narrative is as much about what is not being said or outright avoided in the character’s head as what is directly told. 14322299_884739008326894_660630574878250141_nAfter a couple of chapters of learning the tones of Olivia and Will, I could start to read between the lines and see what each was choosing not to focus on. (especially in a few key scenes near the end. what fun!)

This is a cute romantic comedy with life lessons each of the lead characters must face. Underneath the humor, spark, and banter of these two lies a deeper story of letting go, of risking self and heart to gain kinship and acceptance. Both of them learn, in different ways, that perceptions and initial judgments can be “off base” (pun intended by myself and Amy). They must decide if they will bravely let the past be the past and strive to be better in the future. If you enjoy romance, wit, or stories of crazy-cat-ladies paired up with impulsive, flirty sports fanatics, (or clean new adult in general), this is a story I’d definitely recommend trying out!

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and the author/publisher for a complimentary review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

My Life According to Literature: 2016 (so far) Book Titles

This is a quirky and fun book tag of sorts using book titles. It’s an idea I saw on Kara’s blog way back in March (which she saw on Hamlette’s, etc.) and I just had to join in!

My answers include books I’ve read this year (so far)

img_20160824_165312.jpgDescribe yourself: The Cautious Maiden (Dawn Crandall)

How do you feel today: Like Never Before (Melissa Tagg)

Describe where you currently live: A Haven on Orchard Lane (Lawana Blackwell) (well, not exactly on a lane… but I do have a few fruit trees at my house!)

If you could go anywhere, you would go to: The Inn at Ocean’s Edge (Colleen Coble) (AKA just travel, though coastal Maine would be nice!

Your favorite form of transportation: No Way Up (Mary Connealy)

Your best friend is: The Curiosity Keeper (Sarah E. Ladd)

You and your friends are: Together At The Table (Hillary Manton Lodge)

What’s the weather like: The Breath of Dawn (Kristen Heitzmann)

You fear: A Flight of Arrows (Lori Benton) (wouldn’t it be awful to be shot with an arrow! Ha!)

What’s the best advice you have to give: You Don’t Have to be A Star (Susan May Warren)

Thought for the day: Told You Twice (Kristen Heitzmann) 

How would you like to die: Cold Shot (Dani Pettrey) (Ok, maybe not this way, but the book title just fit here!)

Your soul’s present condition: A Twist of Faith (Pepper Basham)

Your turn!!! Feel free to take the questions and fill in with book titles you’ve read at some point. Have fun with it, and let me know if you continue the tag!

Book Review: “No Way Up” by Mary Connealy

Some days I feel like I could have lived in Victorian England and taken afternoon tea with dainty sandwiches. But most days, I think I could have lived in the old west on a ranch, riding horses in the mountains. Since I live in modern times (and I’m extremely thankful for electricity and indoor plumbing), I’ll have to settle for watching or reading westerns instead.

No Way UpWhen I’m in need of such a reading fix, Mary Connealy is a go-to author for action, romance, and humor in realistic AND historically accurate western settings. Her most recent novel, No Way Up, delivered on all counts. Read on for my review.

About the BookWhen Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid save him. Badly injured, Chance demands that his will be read and its conditions be enforced immediately.

Without anyone else to serve as a witness, Heath is pressed into reading the will. If Justin, Sadie, and Cole Boden don’t live and work at home for the entire year, the ranch will go to their low-down cousin Mike.

Then Heath discovers the avalanche was a murder attempt, and more danger might follow. Deeply involved with the family, Heath’s desire to protect Sadie goes far beyond friendship. The danger keeps them close together, and their feelings grow until being apart is the last thing on their minds.

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon | Mary’s Website

Review

Mary sets up her characters’ vivid personalities so well that you can imagine their expressions and reactions when scenes of rapid conversation come around. Her writing style is witty and humorous while never silly. It comes across in her storytelling and delivery so the characters can maintain a necessary seriousness in their dialogue.

Heath Kincaid might be familiar to fans of Mary’s previous series, the “Kincaid Brides” series. He’s the littlest brother of the family who possesses the trademark strength, independence, and stubbornness of that clan. He misses his brothers more than he realizes, and time with Sadie’s own brothers is good for him. The dynamic with Heath and between the brothers, Cole and Justin, was very fun! They challenged each other, both in a badgering and encouraging manner.

Sadie learned more about her family through these adventures. She was reminded of the importance of her relationships with her brothers, and the legacy of love her parents wanted her to value. She was a fierce character who knew herself well. She knew when to behave as a proper female should, AND when to fight against convention (like scaling a mountain in pants or defending her family with rocks. Yes, rocks.).

The geography of the Boden ranch and surrounding land plays a big part in the story. It was fascinating to learn a little bit of the history linking the native Pueblo people to the terrain. (Random personal note: since I’ve seen a tiny bit of this area of New Mexico, it was even more interesting.)

This story is more than an action-packed, adventurous western with a sweet romance, it’s a story of the importance of family and the strength of that bond. It emphasizes God’s provision and recognizes His ultimate power over the plan of our lives. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what’s in story for this Boden clan in the next book!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Bonus note: the prequel e-novella to this series, The Boden Birthright, is FREE right now on Kindle! It was a great story on its own, AND it set up the backstory of the Bodens very well.

Book Review: A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell

Welcome to my blog! Today’s book review features a recent historical release from author Lawana Blackwell, A Haven on Orchard Lane. Read on for more about the book and my thoughts!About the Book

27066716In difficult circumstances, Charlotte Ward, once a famed stage actress, tries to restart her career–only to experience disaster. Against her better judgment, her estranged daughter, Rosalind, comes to her mother’s rescue and moves her to a quiet English coastal village.

Charlotte is grateful to get to know Rosalind after years apart. As one who has regrets about her own romantic past, it’s a joy for Charlotte to see love blossom for her daughter. For Rosalind, however, it’s time away from teaching–and now she must care for the mother who wasn’t there for her. And what could be more complicated than romance

Together, mother and daughter discover that healing is best accomplished when they focus less on themselves and more on the needs of others.

 

ReviewThis review has been a long time coming, and a bit difficult for me to explain. I *rarely* encounter a book which doesn’t click with me, so writing a review that’s not entirely positive is a challenge, especially when considering you all might not feel the same way. So, please don’t let my opinion sway you entirely, because I admit freely that I skipped large portions of the middle to get to the end once I realized it was not exactly my cup of tea.

While I am a die-hard fan of historical dramas, the Victorian era, and family-centered stories of reconciliation, something about this novel didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It felt like the pace wondered a little instead of propelling the characters in a definite direction. While the beginning set up the backstory of Charlotte thoroughly, I thought it waited overlong to introduce some of the other characters who eventually played prominent roles in the story.

Now let’s talk about its positive elements! The detailed writing style painted a vivid setting, it has a darling cover, and it provides an interesting perspective on prejudices and stereotypical ideas in a small village. Overall, it had a clear spiritual theme of extending grace and emphasizes the importance of second chances.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Review: Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Author Kristen Heitzmann has penned another compelling story of redemption with elements of romance, suspense, and her signature subtle humor with her latest indie release, Told You Twice (“Told You” series #2). She again tackles gritty subjects with class and a refreshing straightforwardness. I think she has found a niche in addressing plot elements not commonly found in the mainstream Christian fiction market in a way that serves as an outreach to mainstream readers (Bravo, Kristen!).

Read my review of Told You So by clicking here!

About the Book

Told You Twice by Kristen HeitzmannFrom the lights of Broadway to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, winning her heart might cost him everything

Alexis Murphy is done messing with the wrong kinds of men. She could not be happier planning a personalized Grace Evangeline wedding with her fiancé, Jeffrey, who is so…right for her. Or is he?

Stage star and spokesmodel, Bo Corrigan, could be the ultimate disruption. Alexis—Exi—is caught by his talent and sexual magnetism. Yet under the glow, she senses trouble, not only danger from Bo’s past mistakes, but something inside tearing him apart.

From the moment Bo sees Exi, he knows she’s special, but not only that—she’s real. Unlike the theater scene he’s been immersed in, she sees the man he is and won’t stop until she’s reached inside and brought that person from despair to life … if only they have time. With violent forces against them, can they get beyond the damage to love that heals and restores?

Find this book on Amazon | Goodreads | Kristen’s Website

Review

Once more, Kristen has penned a story that goes beyond its classification as a contemporary romance/suspense and instead delves deep into the heart of its characters in a realistic way. With brilliant dialogue and subtle humor, this layered story exposes

img_20160809_163307.jpg

My favorite quote from the book! Bo really needed to hear this bit of wisdom at the time.

everyone’s desperate needs of acceptance and forgiveness.

Exi, for instance, has such a genuine soul. She initially lacks a certain confidence and really needs someone to believe in her, though. While Bo undergoes the most dynamic transformation (and what a journey of healing it is!!!), Exi’s quiet and subtle growth over the course of the story stood out to me as a testament to her character.

It’s hard to talk about Bo’s character with no spoilers! So I’ll be careful.🙂 I’ll just say that he has long believed a lie about himself and his perspective on life needed a major overhaul. It is neat to see how Exi’s personality draws out the real person inside Bo, the one hurting over loss and trying to hide behind his celebrity. Through the combined influence of Exi, Grace, and a few other unexpected characters, he gradually begins to see life through a lens of forgiveness. His eyes are opened in the most unlikely way when the people around him start to break through his walls.

The message of healing this story tells is at times heartbreaking and beautiful. The simplicity of redemption found in its pages is communicated best with this quote:

“…love, trust, forgiveness, and faith can fill the shadows with light and hope.” –Told You Twice, chapter 20, by Kristen Heitzmann

On another note, huge fans of book 1 (ahem, like me), will be happy to see Grace and Devin back and still the same! They are still sparring, flirting, and complimenting each other’s personalities. I was so happy to “spend time” with them as secondary characters and to see that they are important to Bo and Exi in different ways. And that they are still growing, still in love, and still learning lessons on what it means to live out their faith in this crazy world.

 

Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.