Review: “With Love, Wherever You Are” by Dandi Daley Mackall

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Bonus trivia: That’s a photo of the real-life Helen and Frank on the cover!

This book review features a book that is as interesting as it is riveting because much of the story is based on the true-life events of a couple who met, married, and served in Europe during WWII. The book, With Love, Wherever You Are, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a recent release from Tyndale House.

About the BookEveryone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.Review

“Based on a true story”, “WWII era”, and “letters” were all I needed to know I really wanted to read this novel. With flowing style, intriguing settings around the US and the war theater of Europe, and a love story that transcends all kinds of obstacles, this book kept me hooked late into the night.

For starters, this book is based on the real life love story of the author’s parents. While some elements and characters were understandably fictionalized for heightened story tension, the personalities of Frank and Helen clearly shine through as observed by Dandi, their daughter. Fast forwarding to the end and the author’s note section, readers learn what parts of the story are identical to the real-life situation– and those were the most incredibly interesting elements of the story!

I was impressed with the contrasting humor and wit of the relationship between Frank and Helen compared to the dramatic responsibilities, convictions, and events depicted in the book. To quote an author friend, I felt like I was reading the script of a Cary Grant movie sometimes! These personalities really come out in the real-life letters, notes, telegrams, etc. included all throughout the novel—they were a treat!

The pain and destruction of World War II was not shied away from, yet a lens of eternal hope was applied to the gravity of loss experienced by the world. In the middle of it all, this beautiful romance and subsequent relationship was formed, tested by fire, and proved a lasting legacy for Dandi and a story of inspiration to me. It reminded me of the individual sacrifice many men and women have made for their countries. It made me all the more thankful for the generations, past and present, who have held strong to liberty and freedom. Veterans, I thank you.

If you are a fan of history, WWII/military fiction, (slightly) epistolary novels, or romance, I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

What is your favorite book with letters or your favorite WWII novel?

 

GIVEAWAY, Review, & Author Interview: “Just the Way You Are” by Pepper Basham

Today’s the day I get to tell you all about a recent independent-release contemporary novel: Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham. The best news? Pepper is here for an interview AND an ebook giveaway! This story is equally hilarious and romantic, with a depth that draws you into the lives of the characters in the very first chapter. See my gushing review below. Pepper has been gracious to answer a few of my interview questions and provide the ebook giveaway, so many thanks to her for that treat!

About the Book

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-bashamJust the Way You Are by Pepper Basham

Book 1 in the Pleasant Gap Romance series

Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance safely housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her reluctant heart a very different type of discovery.

Wes Harrison has a past he’s ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he’s managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.

When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grave salvage their unexpected romance?

Add to Goodreads

Review

At the heart of any great story lies characters who are likable, relatable, and dynamic. Author Pepper Basham always succeeds in penning her characters as such, with a healthy dose of family and joy. Wes and Eisley are what propel this story from a light and humorous start to an ending with surprising transformation, romance, and depth. Add in the fairy tale-like England trip, family mystery, and pop culture references and you have the perfect witty romance.

Country meets England between to covers of this book, in a “Britallachian” style as Pepper coined, using immersive descriptions and words not familiar to the southern vocabulary. I enjoyed seeing the prevalent clash of cultures in the verbiage alone with thoroughly English words like “nick” contrasted to southern expressions.

Wes is the definition of swoon-worthy. With a haunting past and bright career ahead of him, he’s a walking picture of a changed man that’s been redeemed by grace, trying to please his Heavenly Father and juggle his newfound faith within a challenging world. Eisley is someone you want as your best friend, especially with her crazy family and innate clumsiness. Her independence and spunky personality are a contrast to her own emotional insecurities, which she has to learn to surmount.

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This is my FAV quote from the book. It’s so swoony but has even more meaning in context.

Let’s talk about the ROMANCE! (where’s my fan?) Fellow blogger Robin called Pepper the “Queen of Swoony”, and it’s a title well-earned and proven with this story. Wes’s tender pursuit and desire for true friendship, plus the fact that he has no clue how attractive he is to Eisley, combine to make this one of Pepper’s best romances yet. (It’s tied for me with The Thorn Keeper for my fav.) It’s not all chocolate and kisses in centuries-old towers, though, in Just the Way You Are. The romance has a certain maturity to it, a perspective of second chances, that makes it more meaningful. Wes and Eisley are at a point in their lives where they understand of the importance of a deeper friendship, a “gracious heart”-attitude, and this makes the love story all the sweeter.

The way the storyline and characters deal with potential obstacles is a fresh take. It has the requisite insurmountable problems for a modern fairy-tale type story, but the reactions of Wes and Eisley make you cheer them on and step back and think “Yes. This is how to handle it in the real world.” A lesson of “being enough” just as you are because you’re a redeemed, new creation in Christ is a prominent faith thread in this story. I especially liked the family support and encouragement both of them have as they make some important decisions or need advice.

I could go on about more aspects of this story I loved, like the history (and mystery!) threads with long lost letters that tie into the modern story and offer encouragement, the adorableness of Eisley’s kids and how they are so “normal”, or the humor and pop culture references that made me smile (from Pollyanna to Superman to Lucille Ball). Fans of romance, modern-day fairy tales, stories of culture clashes, or humor and faith intertwined will love this start to a new series.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

Pepper D. Basham

Pepper Basham

Eisley has a big Appalachian family. You have a big Appalachian family, Pepper. Do any members of your real family have similar personalities or share specific characteristics with this fictional one?

Hee hee, well, there are a few who have characteristics like my characters in Just the Way You Are. I think Sophie is a delightful combination of my cousin, Ashley, and my dear, sweet friend writing buddy, Ashley. My parents certainly influenced the Jenkins’ parents – anyone who knows my dad can see him on the page 😉 I think there are fun parts to Greg which remind me of my brother sometimes, but my bro isn’t a flirt – he’s just funny.  Eisley’s three kids were inspired by my oldest three when they were about the ages of Nathan, Pete, and Emily, so lots of the personality traits and…quirks…aren’t fictional 🙂

Please tell us 1″must-see” destination in both England and the Appalachians?

Oh my! That’s SUPER hard! Let me think…I loved LOVED the Peak District in Derbyshire and among the beautiful parts of it is Haddon Hall, the manor house Lornegrave was fashioned after in the novel. I’d LOVE to go back there.

As far as Appalachia? Blue Ridge Mountains? You HAVE to go somewhere with a view! Just getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway will give you loads of opportunities for vistas that just take your breath away. Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, New River Valley…too many to name, but just drive on the Parkway. That’s what I’d suggest (and if you’re ever close to Asheville, you should visit the Biltmore!!)

I agree, the Blue Ridge Parkway itself is beautiful! As is Roan Mountain. The Biltmore is on my travel list, for sure!

Where do you get character name inspiration?

Some just pop into my head but others are chosen for specific reasons. You can get an idea of it here in the video linked below. In The Thorn Bearer I picked Ashleigh’s name very specifically. Her sister Catherine’s name means ‘pure’ and that was on purpose too – as a deeper meaning in the story about how God makes us pure, even when our sin corrupts our hearts and lives. 

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Top Ten Tuesday: 10 things that will make me instantly want to read a book

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book. I decided to spin this to apply to particular books instead of “making-me-want-to-read” situations, like rainy days on the porch or cozy days by the fire. Because I read mainly inspirational or Christian fiction, my instantly-want-to-read books would be within those parameters. This list is a little bit thrown together, so I’m not going into as much detail as I could about it. For instance, I could talk about # 1, 3, 5, and 9 for a looooong time.

Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

  1. good reviews from blogger friends – the books I keep hearing about, high praise from #bookbesties, etc. You know who you are.
  2. endorsements or recommendations from favorite authors. These DO matter!
  3. favorite authors… new books are #mustreads! This must-read-author list keeps growing every year. *happy sigh*
  4. indie books from fav authors. A bold move like self-publishing deserves a chance… and often promises a pleasantly different type story. Favorites that come to mind are Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann, The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, and Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham.
  5.  a unique premise or setting – or a premise related to cooking. Let’s just face it: I’m a food-aholic.
  6. gorgeous covers – because sometimes it’s all about that instant cover appeal
  7. books from favorite publishers
  8. almost anything infused with classic literature. Katherine Reay, I’m talking about YOU!
  9. similar to number 8, story retellings: like P&P, Beauty and the Beast, My Fair Lady, etc.
  10. an era I love – favorites including any time around the Revolutionary War in America, WWII, or post-Civil War American west.

That’s it for my list! What things make YOU instantly want to read a book? Do share your TTT posts or thoughts!

 

Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

A few months ago, I reviewed author Lynne Gentry’s independent publishing venture, Walking ShoesIt was the start of a new contemporary family series with southern charm, humor, and serious life obstacles, the “Mt. Hope Southern Adventures” series. Today I’m sharing my review of the second book in the series, Shoes to Fill. It continues the journey of this little pastor’s family living in west Texas as they learn to cope with the aftermath of personal loss and find joy and purpose once again.

About the Book

stf-jpeg-642x1024Shoes to Fill

The highly-educated millennial, David Harper, is adrift. He is also the pastor’s son. Or he was, until his father dropped dead in the pulpit. When David learns his widowed mother is in danger of losing the roof over her head, he surprises everyone, most of all himself, and steps in to fill his father’s shoes. David knows it won’t be easy to dynamite the small congregation into the twenty-first century, but it’s the tough little blonde who blows his world apart. Return once again to the humor and drama of the small Texas town of Mt. Hope. Tear-jerking candor. Face-paced humor. Heart-melting romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

While this book could be read on its own, I think it would be better enjoyed in sequence as the second book in the series to fully understand the obstacles already undertaken by the characters.

This story is just the right combination of drama and humor, continuing themes of healing and hope that began in book 1. The quirky humor and pop culture references (like Hallmark movies and Quigley Down Under! 🙂 ) offsets the serious themes at the heart of the story. These characters’ lives show how God can take something awful and make something good come of it — all because it brings Him glory along the way.

David, in particular, grows tremendously during this story. With help from both his biological and church family, he starts to see past his own grief to realize other people are hurting –some still in their own grief, others dealing with many sources of pain. And, on the romance side of things, Amy (the “tough little blonde”) is so complementary to him; from sharing a caring heart to understanding grief and the crazy community they live in.

Speaking of the community, the secondary characters in this story are special. They establish a sense of “home” within the story and serve to show what a heart for people David has. Leona, David’s mom, shares a little perspective in this book, too, because her story is not over yet (bring on book 3!).

There was one comical device used near the end of the story that I thought was a little overdone to the point of being less realistic, but it served its purpose to upset a certain situation and bring about clarity to the characters. Other than that, I enjoyed this glimpse of small town Texas living and identified with the struggles of the characters. I particularly liked how David’s family is portrayed as giving him a legacy of faith but he still has to discern his own calling.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Travel Light Press, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

IMG_9446 Hi-Res_300dpi_Vert_CropLynne Gentry knew marrying a preacher might change her plans. She didn’t know how ministry would change her life. This author of numerous short stories and dramatic works travels the country as a professional acting coach and inspirational speaker. Lynne allows her imagination to run wild and also writes in the fantasy/science fiction genre of time travel. You can find our more about these adventures into historical worlds at www.lynnegentry.com. Lynne lives in Dallas with her husband and medical therapy dog. She counts spending time with her two grown children and their families her greatest joy.

Lynne’s Website | Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest

And, last but not least, check out my reviews of Lynne’s awesome time travel series here!

The Carthage Chronicles

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Novels with the Most Unique Settings

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is: Top Ten Of The Most Unique Books I’ve Read or a variation on “unique books”. This one was a little harder to decide on because what think is unique might not be to you. So, I’ve settled on unique settings because that’s a pretty concrete story element we might agree on.

Some of these are highly unique because of their geographical setting and some are more so because of the combination of setting + era. In no particular order……

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10 Novels with the Most Unique Settings


1. The Lady and the Lionheart
by Joanne Bischof

Setting: a circus in Victorian-era Virginia. Lions (and their amazing trainer) and elephants all traveling by wagon, oh my! (No surprise it’s on another TTT list. I could talk about this book all day.)


2. The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson

Setting: A little bed-and-breakfast inn in modern Prince Edward Island, Canada. The first of two contemporary stories on my list this week, the setting is charming and picturesque while it makes its way into the heart of the heroine.


3. The Thorn Healer
by Pepper Basham

Setting: Hot Springs, NC that hosts a post-WWI German refugee camp. It’s a cultural wake-up call for the heroine as she learns to overcome prejudices in her little Appalachian community.


4. The Brontë Plot
by Katherine Reay

Setting: a good part comprises a literary tour of England, complete with London and a visit to the Brontës’ hometown, Haworth. This is the second contemporary story on the list!


5. The Measure of a Lady
by Deeanne Gist

Setting: Gold Rush San Francisco, CA (mid 1800s) with all its roughness and rugged coastal beauty — this is a place the heroine does not want to be, but the people there inexplicably draw her in…


6. The Captive Imposter
by Dawn Crandall

Setting: a wealthy family’s hotel in the mountains of Maine during the Gilded Age (early 1900s).


7. The Sentinels of Andersonville
by Tracy Groot

Setting: Andersonville prison in Andersonville, GA during the Civil War. This prison held Yankees, including one of the main characters.


8. Duchess
by Susan May Warren

Setting: the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, CA, in the 1930s then Europe during crucial parts of political unrest just before WWII.


9. Saving Amelie
by Cathy Gohlke

Setting: a little village in hostile Germany during WWII.


10. A Moonbow Night
by Laura Frantz

Setting: a family lodge and way station of sorts in the wilderness of the Kentucky frontier in the mid-1700s. Think Daniel Boone!

What is one of the most unique settings you’ve read about? Did you participate in TTT this week? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Review: “Long Time Gone” by Mary Connealy

Today’s blog post is all about author Mary Connealy’s recent western release from Bethany Hour Publishers, Long Time Gone, book # 2 in “The Cimmaron Legacy” series. In this story, Mary’s characteristic dry humor is coupled with family drama, plenty of western action, and a romance.

About the Book
The Boden clan thought their troubles were over with the death of a dangerous enemy. But with new evidence on Cole’s shooting, Justin can’t deny that the plot to take their ranch was bigger than one man. While the doctor and his distractingly pretty assistant help Cole, Justin has to uncover the trail of a decades-old secret as danger closes in.

Review

Long Time Gone by Mary ConnealyThe saga of the Bodens continues as they try to dispel threats to their livelihood and search out an informant among their ranch hands. While enough detail is included to make it stand on its own, I think a reader would enjoy this story more if it were read in sequence to know the background of the characters. The second son, Justin Boden, is the main character of this story. His attitude is understandably that of a middle child: out to prove himself to his family as a leader. This proves to be quite comical as he’s up against his older brother, Cole, in a few situations. He’s completely endearing because his tough exterior conceals a caring heart that just wants to take care of his family.

While the focus is on the Bodens and Justin much of the time, Angie Dupree, the love interest and the doctor’s “pretty assistant”, was another perspective shared throughout the book. I though her character and persona were important and the most dynamic emotionally. As she was revealed to have more “grit” than I first thought, I was cheering her on. Her journey is one of learning to find strength in independence while simultaneously realizing it’s a privilege to accept someone’s protection and care.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable western rom-com. The action-packed nature of Long Time Gone keeps the pages turning quickly as these characters learn important lessons of love and faith in the middle of the whirlwind drama. While most things are tidied up by the end, lingering questions as to the source of the family’s “threat” remain… which just means we’ll get to have more fun with the next book of the series!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of book 1 in the series:

No Way Up

March Happenings

March Happenings

Welcome to my new feature, a monthly wrap-up of sorts!

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Having seen several blogger friends’ takes on a month-end post, I have decided to attempt such a summary or fun little recap at the end of each month. So, here goes!

on the bookshelf

I added SEVERAL books to my TBR shelf, most ecopies and a few paperbacks. Out of all of them, I think I’m most excited about reading With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall and The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan over the next weeks.

on the blog

textgram_1488839984.pngMost popular posts:

  1. 4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid!)
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
  3. The Message in a Bottle Romance Novella Collection

in the kitchen

Thanks to a Facebook post by author Hillary Lodge, I tried this amazing recipe for a pan baked lemon almond tart. It’s naturally gluten free, if you’re conscious of that, AND I made it dairy free by using full fat coconut milk in place of the cream and earth balance “butter”. I’ve already made it a second time.

I’ve also discovered the brilliance of overnight oats. Mix together oatmeal and your favorite add-ins, like nuts, flax, coconut, cinnamon, etc., add milk, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Instant breakfast! It’s even better if you throw in some fresh fruit. This recipe on my local news station convinced me to try it!

on the screen

I wrapped up the premier season of Victoria on Masterpiece Classic. My mom and I LOVED this series. It is worth a watch for the costumes and architecture alone. On top of brilliant acting and a well-structured script, the growth of Victoria as she adjusts to her role as queen and the love story between her and Albert is all the more enjoyable because it is true. History is NOT boring, people!

Force_of_Arms_FilmPosterI happened upon the classic movie Force of Arms (1951) this month. It’s a WWII drama/romance starring William Holden and Nancy Olson reminiscent of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Considering its era, I thought it a very well made piece of art, even if the romance was a *little* fast moving and melodramatic. Somehow that made it all the more entertaining with William Holden’s sappy declarations of love amidst army advances in Italy. The wit and sometimes fast-paced dialogue of the script reminded me of the banter that’s more often found in rom-com novels. It is as much drama as love story, though, and does a decent job showcasing the perils of fighting, sometimes featuring real-life footage of the army or city scenes. If you have a chance to watch it, do so!

 

Until last week, I had not seen the 2006 biography/drama Miss Potter. I don’t know how I went this long without seeing it or really knowing more of the story behind Beatrix Potter’s life. (She’s the one who wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, etc.). It is all kinds of sweet and poignant with a fantastic cast (Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson). Fans of children’s literature and period drama enthusiasts alike will enjoy it!

around the web

I’m still sporadically participating in the #WishfulWonder book photo challenge on Instagram (AKA #bookstagram for we book-loving photo enthusiasts). The prompts are curated by Tressa and Rissi each month. See Rissi’s post here for the April schedule!

Author Pepper Basham has begun a blog feature called “Swoony Saturdays“, complete with ratings on a Jane Austen- inspired hero scale AND a kissing level. It’s terribly fun. She’s featured 2 of her own fictional book heroes so far with plans for more.

I recently saw and LOVED Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. From the costumes, sets, casting, and MUSIC it was gorgeous. My little girl heart was happy. There were a couple things, though, that I was slightly disappointed in. This blog post by Sarah Cinnamon sums up my feelings perfectly and shines a light on the love that can be seen in such a story.