Review: The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Take a step back in time with me today as we journey to 1927 Washington state and the beginnings of a majestic Mount Rainier National Park! The Road To Paradise kicks off a new series, “Vintage National Parks”, from author Karen Barnett and Waterbrook Multnomah publishers, featuring historicals set in different parks across America. For the outdoor or travel enthusiast, this is an “armchair” journey not to be missed!

About the Book

An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park.The Road to Paradise It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
 
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
 
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
 
Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Review

This book is a scenic journey in itself that winds through rugged mountain landscapes, subtly treaded witty banter between the lead characters, and deeply carved lessons of faith.

It’s truly an experience reading it, with the setting and era as vividly portrayed as the hearts of Margie and Ford. Karen Barnett expertly expressed the awe, wonder, and respect one should have for Creation as a beautiful testament to God’s design and plan. (I want to vist Mt. Rainier now!!!!) Margie and Ford are an extension of that Creation, serving as examples and instruments of God’s expression; Margie through her reliance on faith and Ford through his discovery of the true source of strength.

Let’s talk about my favorite aspect of the story! I love, love, loved how Margie lived out her faith. And that it was an essential part of who she was, to the extent that she would not entertain a romance with someone who was didn’t share her beliefs and deep convictions.  While she never denied her attraction to Ford, she clearly made the call to witness where she could and let God lead Ford the rest of the way, if it was His will for them to be together like that. She stood her ground, and I was cheering her on! This is an important point of contention in real life, and it comes up sometimes in Christian fiction, but I just really appreciated the way it was handled by Karen in this particular story.

The Road to Paradise has a broad appeal with its moments of action and adrenaline-pumping adventure in the mountains, a sweet romance, an up-close “waltz” with nature, lessons in faith, AND a bit of an underdog-vs.-power-hungry rivalry story. The colorful side characters, including the wildlife, add great dimension and subtle humor. And, the “man-‘o-the-mountains” hero caught off-guard by love is a wonderful bonus! (Who doesn’t love a rugged, stetson-wearing hero?)

 

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, and the author for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Dads in Literature & #BookDadQuotes

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official topic is ~ Father’s Day related Freebiefavorite dads in literature, best father/daughter or son relationships, books to buy your dad, worst dads in literature, etc. etc.

Dads can offer that bit of wisdom you need to hear, the funny inside joke to brighten a moment, or the insight to looking at life in a new way. My dad was like that — ready to share his thoughts on the subject, if you sought out his opinion. And sometimes when you weren’t exactly looking for advice :).  Appropriately, this week’s topic leading up to Father’s Day is all about dads!

I had multiple ideas for this topic, but because it’s my blog, I decided to go with 2 different ones! First up, as in last month’s Mother’s Day Freebie, I’m listing 10 memorable dads in literature. I really *could* have just referenced the dads or father figures in each of those stories, from the “mom” list, but I decided to change it up and go with different books this holiday. Secondly, I’ve put together a few favorite book quotes from or about dads. Some of these match the 10 memorable dads in my list, too. Dads can offer that bit of wisdom you need to hear, the funny inside joke to brighten a moment, or the insight to looking at life in a new way. My dad was like that — ready to share his thoughts on the subject, if you sought out his opinion. And sometimes when you weren’t exactly looking for advice :).

10 Memorable Dads in Literature

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg1. & 2. Case and Logan Walker in the “Walker Family” series by Melissa Tagg

3. Ben King (and his father Chet) in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

4. Reese Mitchell in A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham

5. Charlie Lionheart (nontraditional dad) in The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

271385786. Devin Bressard in the “Told You” series by Kristen Heitzmann

7. Morgan Spencer in The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

8. Mr. D’Alisa in the “Two Blue Doors” series by Hillary Manton Lodge

To Win Her Favor9. Gilbert Linden in To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

10. Mr. Woodhouse in Emma by Jane Austen

And….. #BookDadQuotes

“I am nothing without God,” he said. “And I don’t ever want to try to be.”

– Charlie Lionheart in The Lady and the Lionheart

“Sometimes in life, when what we want most is just beyond our reach… and the ground beneath us gives way, we must grab hold of the nearest branch.” He closed his eyes briefly, “And hang on.”

– Gilbert Linden in To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

Over and above their love as father and daughter, they now had a common bond, a kinship that had nothing to do with blood. They were newspeople who loved the smell of ink and the demand of a deadline.

– from A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

“…having faith is the bravest thing we can do. It’s the unwavering confidence that God loves us. That although we can’t see the road ahead, we can see God.”

– Chet King in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

There were no wracking sobs today, not like that day at the depot when he’d finally set free so many years of furrowed hurt. Let his dad encircle him with all the strength and comfort he’d pushed away since the day he’d left town. It has been an unshackling. A letting go.
Today was a holding on. To courage in the midst of fear. To faith in the midst of uncertainty.
To a father’s love he knew had never once wavered.

– from Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

Review + Blog Tour: Unraveling by Sara Ella

Welcome to the:

Thomas Nelson’s Young Adult Summer
of 2017 Feature

It’s a blog post today all about the stunning contemporary YA/Fantasy sophomore novel from Sara Ella: Unraveling. Read on for my review, a book excerpt, and GIVEAWAY info! Or, you could just take my word for it and preorder this book now. It’s not one to be missed!

Unraveling Tour Banner Sm

About the Book
Title:  Unraveling
Series: Unblemished, Book 2
Author:  Sarah Ella

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date:  July 11, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy

In the second installment of the Unblemished Trilogy, YA author Sara Ella asks, “What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?”

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After capturing the Void and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

With the Verity intertwined with her soul and Joshua finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her connection with Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Review

Where do I even begin?! This book is such an adventure from page 1, with multiple twists I didn’t see coming (especially the one at about the 30% mark). Continuing with themes of sacrifice, self-confidence, and even the power of true love, Unraveling delves deeper into the story world and deeper into the characters as they face unforeseen challenges to their world. The world-building alone is fascinating as we learn even more about these parallel worlds with Eliyana.

Side note: I think this book could be read out of sequence, but it would be best to start with book 1, Unblemished.

The hold-on-to-your-seat adventure contained in this story is amped up by the constant, elusive battle between good and evil and the soul-deep ties Eliyana has to the people surrounding her. Contrasting the serious themes, though, are pop culture references aplenty. They are included in a manner which makes the contemporary setting of the story shine brightly against the castle and pirate ship locations(!!!). The Disney references make me happy inside — from straight-up mentions to clever plays on words, chapter titles, or similar themes. And, the MUSIC and movie references are a bonus. (The Count of Monte Cristo or Shania Twain, anyone?)

This book progresses the romantic storyline just enough, building on the (very-plausible-because-fantasy-reasons) love triangle established in book one. It still serves as a usable plot device because it contrasts the battle between good and evil in oneself, and the way opinion is influenced by individuals. I appreciate that Eliyana is not a back-and-forth, I-love-both person, yet a genuine individual who knows her choices have an impact on many people, including her choice of a confidant and romantic interest. By story’s end, I think the direction this situation will take is firmly in place, and I’m totally happy with it. But Sara IS known to throw surprises at us readers! The waiting will be agony (insert Into the Woods musical number here).

Like with the first book, I am intrigued by the symbolism showcasing the battle of good vs. evil, or the Verity and Void, as it’s termed in this series. When this story is examined closely, an observant reader will see detailed Biblical parallels with elements of faith, the power of light to overcome darkness, and even a mirror of the creation story and Eden. I think this book raises important questions about choices and human nature — how much of our life is defined by our own choices or free will? How much because of other people’s influence? Will you choose to embrace the Source of light and truth or “feed” an evil nature?

From dimension-travel to pirate ships and deserts, Unraveling covers the bases of adventure and the young adult genre while still maintaining an overarching plot with elements of faith. I haven’t even mentioned the fun and mysterious secondary characters OR the fairies! And the troll. This is one stunning, well-developed story that should appeal to fans of YA, fantasy, adventure, Disney fairytales, or even contemporary YA romance. I seriously can’t WAIT to find out what happens in the conclusion of the series come book 3!

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of this book for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review. 
Excerpt
Taken from “Unraveling” by Sara Ella Copyright © 2017 by Sara E. Larson. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

Prelude

I’m not ready for this.My shoulder is going to rip from its socket. My bicep is a torch, igniting my forearm. His fingers are sliding from mine, and I can’t hold on any longer. All I see is the gorge below, the beads of sweat dewing his temples.

He shouts, “Hold on!”

But the cliff crumbles with each passing blink. If we remain this way, we’ll both be swallowed by the chasm below.

I loosen my grip, my clammy palm slipping.

His eyes plead. Beg. Implore. “Don’t!” His cry echoes.

The river crashes and curls. Waiting to swallow. Devour. Obliterate anything entering its territory. But it isn’t the river I’m afraid of. It’s the black hole beyond it. The beginning of the end.

I know if we disconnect he might be lost forever. “I love you” is what I want to say. Instead I ask him, “Find me?”

His expression corkscrews, a mask of raw emotion. “Always.” His voice is weak, his energy drained. He’s not strong enough. Because of me.

So my fingers splay.

I let go.

About the Author

Sara Ella is the author of Unblemished, book one of the Unblemished Trilogy. Once upon a time, Sara dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a castle, and she did work for Disney! Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away.”

 
CONNECT WITH SARA:  website ⎸facebook ⎸twitter ⎸pinterest ⎸instagram ⎸youtube
 
 
Giveaway

(3) Winners will each win a finished hard copy of Unraveling by Sara Ella, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Giveaway ends June 2, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST.

Tour Schedule

5/22 – Melony Teague (Author Interview)

5/23 – Thorn & Vine (review) & Between the Pages of This Bookish Life (Spotlight)

5/24 – A Baker’s Perspective (review), Singing Librarian Books (Spotlight) & YA Book Divas (Spotlight & Excerpt)

5/25 – My So Called Chaos (review) & Thinking Thoughts (Spotlight)

5/26 – Reading is My SuperPower (review)

5/27 – The Green Mockingbird (review)

5/28 – Bookworm Mama (Spotlight)

5/29 – Just Commonly (review)

Mini Review: I’ll Be There by Susan May Warren

Ok, you all who know my love for everything Susan May Warren won’t be surprised to see this little review! I could’t pass up sharing my brief thoughts on her latest indie novella, I’ll Be There, that brings together some of my favorite characters from different series. (Conner and Liza from the Montana Fire series + familiar faces from Deep Haven, including some of the Christiansens!)

I'll Be ThereAbout the book: From a USA Today bestselling and RITA-award winning author, a novel uniting two beloved series:

Smokejumper Conner Young can’t wait to marry the woman who’s stood by him for three years as he fought fires in the forests of the northwest. The only wound in the weekend is the lack of his best man–a brother whose murder is still unsolved. It’s unfinished business that haunts him, keeping him from truly moving on.

Liza Beaumont, long time Deep Haven artist is a survivor of a brutal grizzly attack. Struggling with nightmares, she’s not sure she’s ready to join Conner’s world. He’s a hero, yes, but his life is rife with danger and stress and frankly she’s not sure she has the courage to be the wife of a man who may not come home again.

When Liza’s wedding invitation unearths a witness in his brother’s murder, Conner’s hope of solving the case is reignited. Suddenly, it’s a choice between showing up to help Liza knit together their perfect day–or tracking down his brother’s killer. But when his investigation finds its way to Deep Haven, and Liza’s life is threatened, there may not be a wedding at all.

What happens when the smokejumpers from Montana Fire come to Deep Haven? Sparks, fire and hopefully…a happy ending.

This novella holds everything I love about a Susan May Warren story:

  • complex and emotionally dynamic characters
  • a fast-moving storyline
    • this time, lots of adrenaline-fueled action! I was pleasant surprised to find it such a page-turner.
  • deep faith threads and a message of grace
    • Susan’s not afraid to tackle big subjects in a short amount of time — in this case, fear and the subsequent peace that comes with trusting God
  • and last, but not least……. romance (with plenty of tasteful spark)
    • You might need a fire extinguisher for the kisses (fire puns, ha!)

Conner and Liza were my fave couple from the Montana Fire series. I’m so happy their journey was continued with sweet moments of coming home, new depths, and lessons in faith.

Book Review: The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

Finishing a wonderful book series always has its pluses and minuses. The great thing? A wrapped-up storyline and a picture of what happily-ever-after looks like for the characters. The sad thing? Saying goodbye with these two words: “The End”. The ending of The White Feather Murders (book 3 in series) by Rachel McMillan had all the right elements to be satisfactory while leaving room to dream and wonder about the future of the characters of the Herringford and Watts Mysteries. (and, with recent bookish news from Rachel, I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear about this troupe.)

*note: I think these books should be read in order for the best possible literary experience. If you haven’t yet, go check out books 1 & 2 first!*

About the Book

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

Uncommon Heroes…or Unsuspecting Victims?

Toronto, 1914. Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts never could have imagined their crime-solving skills would set them up as emblems of female empowerment in a city preparing to enter World War I at the behest of Great Britain. Yet, despite their popularity, the lady detectives can’t avoid the unrest infiltrating every level of society.

A war measure adopted by Mayor Montague puts a target on Jem and her Italian husband, Ray DeLuca. Meanwhile, deep-rooted corruption in the police force causes their friend, Constable Jasper Forth, to wonder if his thirst for upholding the law would be best quenched elsewhere.

In spite of these distractions, Merinda, Ray, and Jasper join with other honorable and courageous city leaders in the Cartier Club, which exists to provide newly arrived residents of Toronto with a seamless integration in the city.

When a club member turns up dead, bearing a slanderous white feather, will Merinda, Jem, and those they hold dear be able to solve the high-stakes mystery before they’re all picked off, one by one?

Review

One important tidbit you won’t glean from reading the synopsis is the presence of a 5th lead character: the city of Toronto. Toronto is much more than a setting — it’s shown as a living, breathing, and ever-changing entity through author Rachel McMillan’s pen and Jem and Merinda’s eyes. It establishes the tone for the series, exposing a “slice of life” in the 1910s that was as tumultuous as it was vibrant. The city, in a way, is essential in shaping each of the (other) four main characters as much as it influences their lives and propels them into another mystery. The conflict of the looming Great War, along with its political struggles, adds complexity in introducing immigration and patriotism as new story layers and challenges.

It’s not all seriousness and mystery, though! This story is witty twists and turns, lady detectives, bowler hats, Sherlockian reasoning, suspect political leaders, a flamboyant peacock, the frenzied start of WWI, and plenty of Italian mumblings from Ray and “Cracker Jacks!” exclamations from Merinda. It’s fun and just light enough to be a cozy mystery while delving a little deeper into themes of friendship and purpose.

Speaking of friendship, my FAVORITE part of this book (and this series, really), is the way friendship is portrayed. With four main characters and their unique roles, the relationship dynamics have ample time to evolve and grow to a remarkable maturity. The complexity of it all is more than just a camaraderie or temporary commitment among the four. No, it’s a lifelong purpose, the intermingling of a complimentary partnership for Jem and Merinda, a romance for Ray and Jem (and just how that affects the aforementioned partnership), a reliance and trust for them all depending on the honorable Jasper, and a bit of unrequited love where Jasper and Merinda are concerned. It’s beautiful and messy and truth-filled.

Bravo to Rachel for ending this series the way it does! Some might say a few details are handled unconventionally for the genre, but I think those little conclusions are what make this story shine on the shelf. This book is everything I wanted it to be — and everything I didn’t realize I needed it to be. It’s like craving Oreo cookies with an ice cold glass of milk and getting a hot chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream instead. It’s still that combination of chocolate and creamy goodness, but a thousand times better (yet distinctly different). I will still want Oreos at some point, but I’m much happier with the surprising brownies. This story might be better suited, though, to a comparison involving lemons or Turkish coffee :)!

Thank you to Harvest House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This review reflects my honest opinion.

See what I thought of the previous books/novellas in the series~

#0.5 A Singular & Whimsical Problem | #1 The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder

#1.5 Of Dubious and Questionable Memory | #2 A Lesson in Love and Murder 

#2.5 Conductor of Light

About the Author
Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

Rachel’s Bookish ramblings are housed at A Fair Substitute For Heaven

Twitter: @rachkmc

Instagram: @rachkmc

Facebook: rachkmc1

Pinterest: @rachkmc

 

 

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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Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

Reclaimed Tour Header

Today I’m happy to be a part of the Singing Librarian Books tour for Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald, a contemporary Christian release from Rooted Publishing. Read on for my review, a snippet from the book, and GIVEAWAY + blog tour details.

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reclaimed-kindle-coverGenre:
 Christian, Contemporary
Publisher: Rooted Publishing
Publication date: February 28, 2017
Number of pages: 346

Left wounded by a marriage cut short, Suzanna Wilton leaves city life to take up residency in a tiny Nebraska town. Her introduction to her neighbor Paul Rustin is a disaster. Assuming he’s as underhanded as the other local cowboys she’s already met, Suzanna greets him with sharp hostility.

Though Paul is offended by Suzanna’s unfriendliness, he can’t stop thinking about her, which unsettles his peaceful life. A hard-fought friendship slowly kindles something more, but just as Paul’s kindness begins to melt Suzanna’s frozen heart, a conflict regarding her land escalates in town. Even in the warmth of Paul’s love, resentment keeps a cold grip on her fragile heart.
Will Suzanna ever find peace?
***2014 Olympia Winner***

GOODREADS | AMAZON

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Reclaimed  is the kind of story that settles into your heart after the final page. Engaging from the start, it is an amazing story of finding unfailing love, peace, and belonging that seriously had me laughing and crying multiple times.

Jennifer Rodewald has a beautiful writing style that is prose-like at times and to-the-point just when it needs to be. One paragraph could make me smile from the humor or an endearing nickname and the next paragraph could tear my heart out and bring deeper emotions to the forefront.

The hard-working yet relaxed pace of country life is painted as a perfect backdrop for the characters’ journeys, because this book is all about the characters. It centers on a painstakingly subtle transformation; a “reclaiming”, if you will, of heritage, faith, and dreams (with the addition of a sweet love story).

The main characters’ personalities are vibrant and endearing!

Suzanna is someone I just want to hug! She needs it. She starts off as a prickly, though always likable, person who is deeply hurting over some things from her past. She often reacts in anger toward others to stave off the pain or prevent further rejection. As her story slowly comes to light, she begins to change because of the encouragement and no-strings-attached friendships that grow from her new neighbors, Paul and his sister, Andrea.

Paul! He’s the quintessential country gentleman: a humble person who finds joy in his work and a man with integrity who loves his mama (and dad). Not to mention the humor and flirting he’s capable of ❤ …. But, he is not without his own flaws or difficulties. His current attitude is one resulting from growth, though, having dealt with his own struggles with pride to find peace and be settled with his home. I enjoyed the genuineness of his perspective.

These two emotional perspectives – Suzanna’s and Paul’s – are contrasted in a way that makes them even more understandable — one outlook of questioning, searching, and subsequent pain/anger and the other of a seasoned wisdom and hope. Paul really believes in Suzanna, something that no one has done for her in far too long. He exudes a kind and grace-filled spirit, understanding the need to slowly break through her walls.

The faith thread is never overstated, though central to the story. At the root of Suzanna’s problem is her disconnected idea of and relationship with God. When these encouraging personalities discover that this is the heart of Suzanna’s struggles, they understand it has to be addressed before healing can take place. And the way Paul — and his sister and a few other precious secondary characters — prove to be the hands and feet of Jesus in guiding Suz to Him plays out beautifully.

I really appreciated the way this entire story thoroughly points to the fact that only God can make one whole. That knowing Jesus is not the same as having religion. That the truth is as simple as a freely offered relationship with the Savior of the world. All of this is combined with the sweetest story of romance born of friendship to make this one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. It’s my first novel by Jennifer, but it won’t be my last!

Thank you to Singing Librarian Books and the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review.

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jennifer-rodewald_4_origJennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. The draw to fiction has tugged hard on her heart since childhood, and when she began pursuing writing she set on stories that reveal the grace of God.
Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.
She would love to hear from you! Please visit her at https://www.authorjenrodewald.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorjenrodewald or email her at write2edify@gmail.com.
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Suzanna felt shock contort her face. Paul Rustin? The neighbor who had been kind to her even when she’d been horrible to him? She studied him, unable to picture him as anything other than the gentleman he’d shown himself to be.
Warmth shaded his complexion crimson. “See, not a very good story, right?”
“Why?”
“Why did I do those things?”
She pressed her lips together, wondering why she pushed him but nodded anyway.
“I don’t really know, Suz. I was just angry, and I’m not even sure why. I didn’t want to live here, I didn’t want to be nothin’, and I couldn’t see anything beyond myself. I didn’t have a real reason.”
“What happened?”
Paul’s eyes softened, and a smile crept over his features again. “I didn’t graduate from Rock Creek—I went to Boys Town in March of my senior year. My grandpa came to Omaha to visit me in April with a proposal. If I studied and got my GED, I could come out and live with them. I would have to work like a ranch hand, but they’d keep me on until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
“It wasn’t the out I was looking for. I didn’t want to come back to Rock Creek. I thought, man, give me some money and let me go find a life. But Boys Town wasn’t exactly Park Place, and it didn’t look like I’d be passing GO anytime soon, so I agreed.
“I must have thought it would be like visiting my grandparents when I was a kid. You know, farm breakfast at nine every morning, Grandma always ready with a cookie, and I’d collect eggs or do some trivial chore as a token of work.”
Paul chuckled and rubbed his neck. “Nope. My grandpa meant some w-o-r-k. I stayed in the bunkhouse, which was nothing more than a tin can trailer. If I wanted breakfast, I had to get up at six to eat with them because Grandma had things to do. They paid me what they would have paid a hand, and out of my earnings came the cost of rent, electricity, and food. When I slacked off that winter, my bunkhouse got awful cold because Grandpa didn’t pay me enough to cover both heat and food.”
Suzanna’s eyebrows rose. “Seriously? Your grandpa put you out in the cold?”
He laughed. “Tough love, Suz. I found out later they’d set a threshold on the thermostat of around fifty degrees so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it felt awful cold. I hated it. And then… I didn’t.”
He stopped, and Suzanna puckered her eyebrows. His attention wandered toward his place south of hers, and she wondered if the scenes unfolded in his mind as he recounted them.
“It came time for calving, and Grandpa said it was my responsibility.” He rubbed a hand against his jeans, and the apples of his cheeks lifted. That look said it all—he loved his work. “I was so tired, but I knew he’d hold me responsible if something went sour. I wound up with a couple of bucket calves, and somewhere in between the late nights and early mornings while checking heifers and feeding orphans, I found myself. I found who God had made me to be, where I needed and wanted to be. It was right here the whole time.”
Bronco shifted under her, and Suzanna slipped a hand around the saddle horn. Fierce rebellion melted away while Paul fed a few cows?
“As simple as that?”
Paul’s gaze fell on her, his relaxed countenance contradicting his story. He looked toward the spring, then the trees, and finally to the hill rising before them.
“Not simple.” He returned his attention to her. “That’s the short version, but it wasn’t simple. I wrestled everyone, including God, for things I thought I wanted. There was a whole lot of humbling that had to happen before I made peace with life. Pride made me useless; selfishness made me difficult.”
His explanation created more questions than it offered answers. Suzanna longed for answers. His story, his life, looked nothing like hers, sounded nothing like hers, but he had peace.
Peace eluded her. She hadn’t found it in church, not the lasting kind. She hadn’t secured it in sacrifice. It wasn’t in love. Love had made her ache all over again.
Where had Paul found this peace?
“Shall we take the hill, Pickle?” Paul gathered his reins and nodded toward the rise.
The mare perked her head, and Bronco followed. Opportunity slipped away, like the waters that rose from the depths of the earth and tumbled down the creek. Suzanna swallowed, pushing a smile across her lips. At her nod, Paul took the lead.
Peace remained hidden with the secret of Rock Creek.
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April 17–Faithfully Bookish Fiction Aficionado
April 18–Book by Book | Paulette’s Papers
April 19–The Green Mockingbird Singing Librarian Books
April 20–Cafinated Read | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
April 21–Zerina Blossom’s Books | Remembrancy  | A Baker’s Perspective
April 22–Soulfully Romantic Reading Is My SuperPower

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