Mini Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

It’s time for another mini review! I read this book in conjunction with a virtual book club on Facebook, The WaterBrook and Multnomah Summer Fiction Book Club. (Hint: they are reading 2 more books this summer… you can join any time!).

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 Life AfterLife After by Katie Ganshert

About the book: It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

My Thoughts: This book deals with the long-reaching aftermath of an event that forever marks and changes two separate lives. Even with its hard subjects, though, it is written with a flowing style that is easy to read (and the characters! I just adored Paul’s kids, Reese and Tate). It is profound in its simultaneous complexity and simplicity. I can easily recommend it to anyone, because everyone can relate: we’ve all asked “Why? Why do horrible, evil things happen in this world? Where is the hope, the divine plan?” Through the separate perspectives of Autumn and Paul, a bigger and intersecting picture of LIFE with all its joy, loss, and potential for happiness is revealed –and life can be a wonderfully unexpected masterpiece.

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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?

 

Review: “Because You’re Mine” by Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble has always delivered interesting and thrilling romantic suspense stories both in contemporary and historical contexts. Her latest release, Because You’re Mine, was one I was instantly drawn to because of the striking cover. (Sometimes you just have to judge a book by its cover/author). Read on for my thoughts on this one!

About the Book

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Alanna has been plagued by tragedy. So it should come as no surprise that in the beauty that surrounds Charleston, all is not as it seems.

When her husband is killed by a car bomb while their band is on tour in Charleston, Alanna doesn’t know where to turn. Her father-in-law is threatening to take custody of the baby she carries, but the one thing she knows for sure is that she can’t lose the last piece of Liam she has left.

Their manager offers her a marriage of convenience to gain her U.S. citizenship and allow her to escape her father-in-law’s control. It seems like the perfect solution . . . but her doubts begin almost as soon as she arrives at Barry’s family home, a decaying mansion surrounded by swamp.

To make matters worse, Liam’s best friend survived the car bomb. She’s never really liked Jesse and now she can’t seem to get away from him. When he takes Liam’s place in their band, it’s almost more than she can bear.

But then things start happening. Things that could easily cost Alanna her life—or the life of her unborn child. Are they merely coincidences? Or is there something much more sinister at work?

Review

Because You’re Mine is a decent story with a very unique premise, but it’s not my favorite story from Colleen. I think it has even more potential than what I saw fleshed out on the page. Colleen’s writing style is her typical easy-to-read, flowing style. My qualms had more to do with some of the situations the characters put themselves in. Part of it was not as believable due to one particular person’s blindness towards some of the obvious red flags. However, I did enjoy the bit of Irish culture and folklore explored juxtaposed to the southern Charleston setting.

Interestingly, a prominent plot twist is made known to the observant reader far in advance of the characters in the story. This worked well to build a little anticipation and momentum, but (again!) I think it would have been more surprising if the secret were delayed a little longer. Even though I think this story could have been improved a little more, I still enjoyed the “journey” and was happy with the ending that answered most questions I had along the way.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for the complimentary ebook review copy. This review is my honest opinion.

Review: “Keep Holding On” by Melissa Tagg

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Today I’m reviewing a story, Keep Holding On, of which I’m a little late in sharing my enthusiasm. This latest installment in the “Walker Family” series from author Melissa Tagg further establishes her as one of my favorite go-to authors for contemporary romance that is both hilarious and real. She manages to write such depth to characters while maintaining an overall light feel to a story.

About the Book

keep-holding-onSwoon-worthy Romance. Small-town Charm. 
Best friends reunite in Tagg’s latest novel of second chances and enduring love.
Beckett Walker hasn’t stepped foot in Maple Valley in years. There’s no getting past the painful memories, and there’s every chance he’ll be arrested as soon as he shows his face. Which is exactly what happens when he finally returns. Suddenly his dream of adventure as a military lawyer comes skidding to a halt.

Horticulturist Kit Danby has spent too much time missing home and her childhood best friend–Beckett Walker. Now she might have a shot at reclaiming both. After years of living abroad, she returns to run her family’s apple orchard. She has one season to turn a profit and impress the father she barely knows. But she can’t do it alone.Add to Goodreads

It should be simple: Beckett needs community service hours. Kit needs a helping hand. But there’s more at stake than either of them planned. With a tangled past and futures that look nothing alike, they’ll have to find a way to weather the storms of the present… or risk losing everything.

Review

This is yet another quaint and perfect story from Melissa! It’s light and cute on the surface with depths of emotion and faith at its heart.

Fun bits: twinkle lights. Casablanca. Food comas. Baby goats (!). Apple cider. Oh, and a brooding male (with good reason and a long-carried burden) and his subsequent romance with Kit.

*minor demand side note: I need Megan to have her own story! Pretty please, Melissa?*

I’d say the main theme of the story is about finding purpose and a place of belonging, whether it’s a place of work, home, or family. And, about the constancy of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness. Beckett and Kit are similar in this respect, both trying to prove themselves, in a way. A slight minor story line is worked in with a theme of giving — giving of yourself for others, realizing you might be the only person that can help someone else.

Fans of Melissa’s Christmas novella, One Enchanted Christmas, will be happy and pelased at the lovely cameos and “updates” on Drew Renwycke and Maren.

These characters go through quite the challenges! I loved reading Beckett’s journey, how he had to learn that both his heavenly and earth fathers kept holding on to him, loving him, wanting him “home”. Most striking was the interplay between Case (the dad) and Beckett; the healing, love, and relationship of those two from start to end. I highly recommend this novel to fans of contemporary fiction and I personally cannot wait to see what’s next for the Walker family!

My reviews of the previous books in the series:

From the Start

Like Never Before

 

Review: “Healer of Carthage” by Lynne Gentry

(After reading this review, be sure to check out my interview post with author Lynne Gentry here!)

The latest novel from Lynne Gentry, Healer of Carthage, has all of the proper elements for an entertaining plot: an aspiring doctor, Lisbeth, struggling to overcome her mistakes, dealing with uncertain family problems, and uncovering long-hidden family secrets. An aspiring political leader, Cyprian, working to reconcile his newfound Christian faith with the politics and leaders that could destroy it. Throw time travel in to the mix with a 3rd century plague, main characters (and love interests) from different centuries, and you have a thrill-ride of a novel that will keep you turning pages as fast as you can.

Plot Synopsis:HiResHealerCover

First-year medical resident Dr. Lisbeth Hastings uses her father’s bizarre summons to escape her tragic mistake.

While Lisbeth searches the haunted cave of her father’s archaeological dig, she falls through a hidden portal. When the currents of time spew her onto the slave auction block in third century Carthage, her arrival ignites a fierce bidding war.

Unable to escape, Lisbeth becomes the property of Cyprian Thascius, a wealthy Roman enta
ngled with a group of people under siege from political persecution and a deadly plague.

Lisbeth resists using her medical skills to combat the epidemic until she stumbles upon a buried secret. To save her family, she must unite with Cyprian to save Carthage. But every revolutionary step they take in the past threatens their future.

My thoughts:

While torn between finding her way back to the 21st century and helping those she can in Carthage, Lisbeth finds herself caught in the middle of the politics of Cyprian and his clandestine group of Christ-following friends. As Lisbeth and Cyprian see that a solution to many of their problems could lie in joining forces, they begin to discover a love that stretches the boundaries of time. The mystery and secrets Lisbeth and Cyprian uncover in the past could serve to change the future of Rome and the future of Lisbeth’s family.

Lynne has authored a gem of a novel, successfully depicting a modern heroine amidst 3rd century Egypt politics and classes of people. I enjoyed the way she blended bits of modern language and expressions from Lisbeth’s character. Her peers in the 3rd century humorously did not know what to think of this intelligent woman with medical knowledge and an odd vocabulary.

Healer of Carthage exhibits the drama and political quagmires of the Roman Empire through the eyes of Lisbeth, someone foreign to such brutality and customs (think gladiators and the persecution of the early church). Her role in aiding unfortunate innocent people begins to give her character focus and purpose after her failings in modern medicine. With scenes like a dramatic medical thriller, Lisbeth practices “modern medicine” in the 3rd century AND finds help and encouragement in the most unexpected places. Cyprian plays a role in Lisbeths cause, too, and his character grows and matures through the story, as well.

Overall, Healer of Carthage is an exciting, fast-paced drama and love story packed with history, archaeology, and the struggles of a people notorious for their persecution of early Christians. It’s beautiful that these characters discover and renew their faith in God while they witness the strength and sacrifice of love. The only thing I’m NOT happy about is waiting until so long for the next book in The Carthage Chronicles series, Return to Exile!

Find this book on Amazon or Goodreads.

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