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

4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction

I was pondering some of the reasons I’m drawn to inspirational fiction over other literature. Let’s just get this confession out of the way: I read very little nonfiction. So, why am I constantly enthralled by a great character arc or story of the good guys winning? I think it’s deeper than just loving a good story. I’ve realized there are a few reasons I personally love Christian/inspirational fiction. I’m sharing 4 reasons to read inspirational fiction in this post hoping that YOU will relate and, perhaps, gain perspective from having them outlined. (Or, even add a few titles to your TBR!)
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1. Inspirational fiction teaches empathy

More than entertaining, stories teach empathy, helping us identify with other people and experiences. It’s sometimes like experiencing life through new eyes because each author pours him or herself into story, whether from his or her own life or family experiences and perspective. Reading multiple authors leads to experiencing life as a single mom on the run from a criminal and her past in New England, a watch maker’s daughter in old Chicago, a destitute spinster in post-Revolutionary War America, a firefighter carrying grief in the modern Rockies, or a holocaust victim trying to survive in Germany. And through all of this, hopefully we treat the people we encounter with more understanding and grace as a result.

2. Inspirational fiction contains spiritual truths

Because they are written with a Christian worldview, inspirational fiction stories encourage a walk with God through interwoven Scriptures or themes of faith. Sometimes it’s a subtle picture of making choices while believing God has an ultimate plan, or sometimes a book is more evangelical in nature, with a prominent story of forgiveness or a prodigal’s return teaching a lesson of grace.

3. Inspirational fiction inspires you to try new things or breach your comfort zone

This could be said of stories in general, too. Whether it’s by trying a new recipe, adding a destination to the bucket list, or resolving to treat that villain-personality in your life with kindness. Sometimes it’s an untold story from history that captures our attention and sparks interest in that time period. Other times, it’s a perspective learned from “visiting” a culture or place you will not likely ever see in person. Whatever the new thing or place, we get to explore it from the comfort of our cozy couch first!

4. Inspirational fiction shows the love of Christ

Specifically, I’m talking about the romance genre mirroring the love of Christ. I’m all for swoony romance, chivalry, and kisses in a closet/tower. (Sorry, I’ve been reading too many Pepper Basham novels lately. 😉 ) But the greatest Love Story of all is often echoed through the pages of a story of unconditional love, relentless pursuit, or of sacrifice. Whether it’s a riveting story of a fall and subsequent redemption that pushes the boundaries of Christian fiction, a sweet story of finding true love in an unexpected place, or a gripping tale of personal sacrifice and selflessness, these romances speak to the heart of the reader, reaching out to our need of belonging and pointing to Christ as the ultimate Savior and Lover of our souls.

Your turn. I really want to know why YOU love what you read (whatever the genre). Do you gravitate towards inspirational fiction? Do you agree with my musings? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

When a beloved author reaches out to me to share my thoughts on her latest book, I count it a privilege and blessing to be counted as a friend and trusted reviewer. Recently, author Lynne Gentry contacted me inviting me to read her new-ish novel, Walking Shoes, a contemporary story of family, humor, loss, and the strength of the body of Christ. Originally released under a different title and publisher, Walking Shoes is a refreshed story from Lynne’s heart drawn from her own experiences as a pastor’s wife. Today I’m happily sharing my review and a Q&A feature with Lynne.

About the Book

Sooner or later everyone experiences a fork in the road. When tragedy changes the path of the overly-cautious, by-the-book, pastor’s wife, Leona Harper has no choice but to disrupt the lives of her estranged children. Parenting her adult children in a small Southern community populated with zany characters proves as difficult as reinventing herself. Determined to give her broken family a shot at a second chance, Leona puts one foot in front of the other and begins to walk through her grief. But reconciliation and healing won’t come easy.

This holiday story of tear-jerking candor and fast-paced humor offers hope in the darkness.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

 

I really, really liked this story! It was a great combination of funny and serious. Before I talk about the lovable characters, I want to address the way grief is exposed in this story. walking-642x1024There were moments delicately handled with humor that otherwise could have been a little “dark” or sad due to the story circumstances. I personally identified with the situation and characters because I have had a similar unexpected loss in my family. I believe the way Lynne Gentry recognizes the grief process in a gentle and understanding way, shading it with humor, speaks of her personal experiences as well as her ability to relate to the reader through story. It exposes how everyone deals with grief or shock differently while emphasizing that it’s perfectly OK to be different. To say the least, it was a little therapeutic for my own heart to read Leona’s story.

The “friends” and supporting characters of this story are endearing, to say the least. Some fiercely in Leona’s corner, some more antagonistic, all of them work to steer the story and reveal how God takes care of people in unexpected ways. Sometimes through an angry grandmother. Sometimes through a janitor. And sometimes through a gruff neighbor. All of them combine to display the blessing and care of a church family. A “home”, of sorts, with mismatched loved ones.

Within the story, sometimes the point of view changes from Leona to that of her son or daughter, David and Maddie. Their experience and secondary storylines all mesh to paint a bigger picture of what’s going on and how each person deals with the complexity of the situation, giving the reader a new perspective of empathy and understanding. For all POVs, the third person narrative sometimes switches to first within the same paragraph in an internal dialogue sort of way. This technique expertly works for the story’s humor and timing as well as revealing the heart of Leona, David, and Maddie at key points.

Ok, now it’s time to talk about the humor! Lynne’s “southern humor” hit the mark with me! Especially with a few little sayings and witty pop culture references I’ve come to appreciate from Lynne. (If you’re an old soul, you’ll really love them, too! Especially ones referring to Robert Redford or something that’s “slicker than snot”! Ha!) The quirky supporting characters fittingly remind me of some people in my own church and circle of friends. If any of ya’ll read this and are curious, just ask. I’d be happy to point out which of you is a Bertie or Roxie!

To me, this story is a reminder that God’s all-knowing plan is always there, intended for your good and His glory, even through seasons of pain and uncertainty. Leona’s journey comes full circle to a place of hope and second chances. Leona Harper and her family experience many emotions and twists, from shock to pain to a determination to live to the fullest. Ultimately, they learn to embrace any second chances they have to mend relationships and make new memories. The Harpers are not quite done with finding their purpose, though, just like us. (Yay for more books to come!). Personally, I’m glad He’s not quite finished with my story, either.

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

Interview with the Author

This is a rewrite of your novel Reinventing Leona. Can you tell us more about the reasons behind your decision to refresh the story? 

Yes, WALKING SHOES is a rewrite/RETITLING of Reinventing Leona. I sold this original story to Tyndale in 2011.  When I got the rights back last year, I re-read the story I’d written in 2006. Hoping that I’m a much better writer now, I tore into it. Took out 10,000 cliches and softened Leona and some of the church people. I also changed up Justin’s character considerably. In the end, the story has  far deeper implications and I’m glad.

How does your personal experience as a pastor’s wife shine through the character of Leona?

Obviously, many of Leona’s experiences were drawn from the deep well of serving as a pastor’s wife for 30 years. I have so many wonderful, sad, endearing, life-changing stories from those very precious years. Some made the story. Many did not. But one thing is certain, so many people have crossed my path and I have been forever changed by all of them. Telling this story of God’s ability to transform us through tragedy has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

The Story sisters are my favorite supporting characters of this story. They are a hoot! Can you tell us if they were inspired by anyone in particular? 

Our ministry was spent very far from home. Therefore, I didn’t have the daily support of my physical family, especially my mother. As for the Story sisters, they are a combination of the many fabulous older women who mothered me and loved me (a very young and naïve girl) with their unique gifts, but mostly their treasured gift of time.

Thank you, Lynne, for taking the time to discuss this story and answer my questions!

stf-jpeg-642x1024You readers should be excited to know Lynne’s plans for the rest of the series are in the works!  The next book, Shoes to Fill, featuring Leona’s son, David, is planned for release in February. The next two books, Dancing Shoes and Baby Shoes, will finish out the series with the continued story of Leona and Maddie’s story.

 

 

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

Review: “The Wedding Chapel” by Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck has the ability to pen stories that are both sweet and gritty, dealing with real life in a way that illuminates the thread of the Divine in all of our lives. Her latest novel, The Wedding Chapel, is one such example. Read on for my review and information on how to enter Rachel’s $100 cash card giveaway!

*click here to see my review of Rachel’s previous novel, How to Catch a Prince*

About the book: An old, forgotten chapel holds the key to love and forgiveness.

The Wedding Chapel by Rachel HauckRetired hall-of-fame football coach Jimmy Westbrook never imagined anything would come of his labor of love—building a wedding chapel for Collette Greer, the woman he fell in love with in 1949. But now a realtor wants the land the chapel sits on, and he sees no reason to hang onto the past.

Photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. Leaving her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, she put a lot of things behind her, including her family’s string of failed marriages. When she falls head-over-heels for Jack Gillingham, a top ad man, their whirlwind romance and elopement leave her with doubts. Jack, while genuine in his love for Taylor, can never seem to find the right way to show her he really cares.

When a post-mortem letter from Taylor’s Granny Peg shows up, along with an old photo, she is driven to uncover family secrets and the secret to her own happiness, starting with an assignment to photograph an unknown, obscure wedding chapel back in Heart’s Bend.

Taylor begins a mission to convince Jimmy that the chapel is worth saving—and that forgiveness and healing might happen within the chapel’s walls . . . for both of them.

My thoughts: With subtlety and beauty, this story paints a picture of how God requires our surrender, to be wholly dependent on Him, in order to bless us. Jack’s transformation stood out to me the most, possibly because his backstory was unfortunate and tough to overcome. I was rooting for him to embrace his path.

Just so you know, I’m not typically a fan of a book with as many as 4 main characters (with corresponding viewpoints), but Rachel’s skills make the story cohesive, even with occasional flashbacks to Colette and Jimmy’s early relationship. It follows these characters as all 4 experience a drastic shift in perspective, learn lessons of personal worth, and realize how much family matters. The Wedding Dress Quote

I appreciated how Rachel timed flashbacks in this story to explain how the characters’ past shaped their current life, and how their choices had a lasting impact. I think Rachel did wonderfully in choosing which moments to flash back to and which to just explain in passing. The subtle hint of suspense regarding a certain secret one of the characters held on to was well staged, too.

This is a poignant story of love, faith, second chances, and recognizing the blessings in front of you. I am glad this title will find a place on my shelf because it is one of those I think will reveal deeper emotions and lessons with every re-read!

wedding-chapel-400-1.pngFrom now until December 31st, you can enter Rachel’s giveaway for a $100 cash card! Click the image on the right to enter.

Thank you to Rachel Hauck for the opportunity to be a part of her “tribe”, Zondervan, & NetGalley for the review copies.

 

“The Captive Imposter” Review + Blog Tour + Q&A

Hey, hey, it’s release day for Dawn Crandall’s book, The Captive Imposter!!! I’m so excited to share my review of it today and participate in her blog tour. Dawn has also answered a few questions of mine for this post! Expect much gushing from me. Dawn is hosting daily and weekly giveaways on her Facebook page for the duration of the tour, from now until her Facebook Party on April 24. For her complete blog tour schedule and to connect with Dawn, visit her website here.

The Captive Imposter Kristy Cambron endorsed

Many of you already know how much I love Dawn’s previous books in “The Everstone Chronicles” series: The Hesitant Heiress and The Bound Heart (this one made it on my list of top books from 2014!). The Captive Imposter is just as awesome, I promise. It FINALLY gives Estella Everstone her own (well-deserved) story time.

Without further ado, here’s a quick synopsis of the book plot from Goodreads: 

Sent away for protection, hotel heiress Estella Everstone finds herself living undercover as a lady’s companion named Elle Stoneburner at one of her father’s opulent hotels in the mountains of Maine—the one she’d always loved best and always hoped to own one day, Everston. The one thing she doesn’t like about the situation is that her ex-fiancé is in the area and is set on marrying someone else. Reeling from her feelings of being unwanted and unworthy, Estella reluctantly forms a friendship with the gruff manager of Everston, Dexter Blakeley, who seems to have something against wealthy young socialites with too much money, although they are just the kind of people Everston caters to.

When Estella finds herself in need of help, Dexter comes to the rescue with an offer she can’t refuse. She sees no other choice aside from going back home to her family and accepts the position as companion to his sister. Throughout her interactions with Dexter, she can’t deny the pull that’s evidenced between them every time he comes near. Estella realizes that while she’s been hiding behind a false name and identity, she’s never been freer to be herself than when she’s with Dexter Blakeley. But will he still love her when he finds out she’s Estella Everstone? She’s not entirely sure.

My thoughts on the story:

One of the things Dawn is so skilled in portraying within a story is many secrets. All of her stories thus far have 11062744_10205550334931088_2555500445048911149_oweaved a bit of suspense with the characters’ identities. The danger of some secrets, though, is that they have the potential to hurt loved ones and cause ripple effects if revealed. At the start of Estella’s journey, she is hiding her true identity behind the facade of a lady’s companion, Elle Stoneburner. With subtle hints, though, other secrets surrounding Estella’s circumstances are slowly made known. This includes her family’s past connection to the Blakeleys. I won’t say more than that, but when she is unexpectedly falling in love with Dexter Blakely, her many secrets complicate matters. A lot 🙂

The arc of these characters is broad and pleasant to observe as the reader. Estella changes because of her displaced circumstances — she finds a new freedom of being herself within the secret identity. She also finds a renewed faith in God because of Dexter and his encouraging nature. Dexter, a complex yet straightforward person, is proven humble by some of his experiences with Estella and his family. His character’s strength really anchors his whole family and helps Estella to see what a romantic relationship can be.

There is a bit of a twist to the story that really propels the characters into a pickle. I’ll just say that Dawn knows how to throw out a few surprises!

Dawn has delivered another entertaining, heartfelt, swoony, and faith-filled story. Her characters are likable and witty, and her plot is layered and full of secrets. The setting in the mountains of Maine is picturesque and unique at the same time. I want to visit the fictional Everston resort now!!! (Fun fact: the setting was inspired by a real resort in Maine, the Mount Kineo House. You can see pictures of it on Dawn’s Pinterest Board.)

If you enjoy historical romance, the Gilded Age, suspense, or being challenged in living out your faith in God, I would encourage you read The Captive Imposter!

A HUGE thank-you to Dawn and Whitaker House for the ARC review copy. 

Dawn has graciously answered a few interview questions for this post! Read on for more about The Captive Imposter.

Facebook Party ButtonThere are several mentions of classic literature and its characters in this novel (Austen, Gaskell, Bronte, etc.). Are these some of your favorites? Do you draw any inspiration from them?

Oh yes, classics were my first favorite books! It started with Little Women, Gone With The Wind and Rebecca (by Daphne du Maurier), but I then quickly delved into Les Miserables, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and everything Jane Austen. These are still many of my most favorite books!

One thing I’ve loved about each book in this series is your inclusion of quotes or quips from well-known authors or figures at the beginning of each chapter. How do you discover or gather them? 

I just love tying quotes from the classics to my chapters! It was just one of those things that came to me while I was doing things around my kitchen one day–I came across my coffee mug that says “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)–which I bought while writing The Hesitant Heiress (my debut, book one of The Everstone Chronicles series) because it embodied how Amaryllis Brigham so often felt. That day, I put it at the beginning of the chapter in the middle of the book in which her heart begins seeing things concerning Nathan Everstone in a new way. After that, I went about collecting meaningful quotes for all kinds of themes knowing I’d use them in all of the books I’d end up writing. I’ve always loved quotes that can say so much with so few words. 🙂

I absolutely love your Pinterest inspiration boards for all of your novels! Tell me more about the one for The Captive Imposter.IMG_3368 (683x1024)

I do have it–very randomly–started! I haven’t had much time in the last year (having a baby and three books come out!) to keep up on my Pinterest boards for The Bound Heart and The Captive Imposter, but I will definitely get to it once the craziness of The Captive Imposter blog tour is over. They will be just as extensive as The Hesitant Heiress board once I’m finished with them!

I’m thrilled to see that you have a Pinterest board for a future Everstone Chronicles book 4! Can you share any details of its plan?

Yes! I’m not sure of the name yet, but Book 4 is definitely in the works! I really look forward to writing Vance and Violet’s story! It’s not technically part of The Everstone Chronicles, but a new unnamed three-book series about minor characters readers will have met while reading the first series. I’ve never written an “anti-hero” before, but I’m super excited! I have it all planned out–the story will start out at Everston, but will then move back to Boston.
From talking with Dawn, it sounds like Vance might have a chance to play the part of a hero — if he’s up for it. I can’t wait to catch up with these characters in another series!
Thank you so much, Dawn, for taking the time to answer my questions! For more about Dawn and this series, see my initial interview post with her from The Hesitant Heiress blog tour!
What about you? Have you read any of Dawn’s previous books? Are you a fan of the Gilded Age?

Favorite Quotes from “A Beauty So Rare”

You all already know how much I loved this bookAND you know about the fabulous recipe extras, a savory custard and buttery shortbread, I’ve shared from the book. This is all because I have participated in a special review program for the release from Bethany House Publishers (thank you, Bethany House, Amy, and Tamera!) And it’s been a blast!

Today, I’m sharing my two favorite quotes from Tamera Alexander’s A Beauty So Rare. Favorite Quote 1

This quote sums up the premise so well. Both characters are risking their livelihood and dreams for various reasons, and ultimately, risking their hearts and trusting their futures to God.

Favorite Quote 2

THIS quote just shows you how sweet and fabulous Marcus Geoffrey is. His care and concern for Eleanor is a beautiful part of the story.

Fun Find Friday: INSPY Awards

Fun Find Friday: INSPY Awards

For those of you who haven’t heard, the 2014 INSPY award nominations are open! What are the INSPYs, you ask? Well, they are annual awards organized by book bloggers to recognize excellent literature and fiction in Christian and inspirational genres in several categories.

I’ve heard about the INSPY’s before, but this is my first year to participate in nominating books. And, as a fairly new book blogger, I am excited to see the process and results. So, I thought I’d share it as a “Fun Find” for today.

Nominations are now open for books published in 2013 in several categories: debut novel, general fiction, contemporary romance/romantic suspense, historical romance, mystery and thriller, speculative fiction, and YA literature. Anyone can nominate one book for each category.

To nominate your favorite, or for more information, visit the INSPY website.

INSPYs