Series Review: “Grace Revealed” by Jennifer Rodewald

Isn’t it the greatest when you can binge-read a book series? When it’s a series by a favorite author like Jennifer Rodewald, though, it *could* mean a week+ of emotional rollercoaster experiences full of emotions and joys. My recent encounter with her “Grace Revealed” series was just that. With the recent opportunity to read the just-released book 3, Finding Evergreen, I am SO glad I had the time to read the previous 2 just before, Blue Columbine and Red Rose Bouquet.

These three stories are distinct and able to be read as stand-alones, though a few characters are connected, especially in the last two books.

About the Books

Blue ColumbineBlue Columbine

Best friends—maybe more—until addiction shatters everything.

Reeling from professional failure, Andrew Harris needs a fresh start. When he moves back to Colorado to join a Denver law firm, he runs into Jamie, his childhood sweetheart. She is still the kind and faithful girl he remembers—not to mention beautiful and still single. With her by his side, Andrew is confident he can overcome the demons that he tries to keep hidden.

Jamie Carson is thrown off balance when Andy resurfaces in her life. Though her faith in God has remained solid, even through her mother’s long illness and after her death, Jamie battles loneliness. Andy fills her days, whispering significance to her heart. But his rejection of the faith she thought they’d once shared, and his alarming drinking habit keep her heart from plunging into deep, murky waters. Or do they?

Andy pursues an intimacy Jamie knows she must guard against. But as the line between loyalty and love blurs, things get complicated—until a devastating blow breaks their relationship. For Jamie, one thing becomes clear: Andy needs a miracle, and she isn’t it.

Will Andrew allow the hand of grace to redeem his legacy of addiction, or will he and Jamie both remain casualties of heartbreak?

This Christian Fiction Book dives into first love and second chances, romance and redemption.

Goodreads | Amazon

Red Rose BouquetRed Rose Bouquet

The dark places in life have taught her this much—some things simply cannot be forgiven.

Cheryl Thompson learned over a decade ago to guard her shattered heart with a veil of cold indifference. Life since that day has been an endless cycle of detachment and loneliness, followed by superficial relationships. Break up, rinse, and repeat. Until something in her snaps. This life…she can’t do it anymore. She returns to her childhood home in the Colorado Rockies to help her nana, only to discover a man capable of thawing her iced-over emotions—a man she knows she doesn’t deserve, so she pushes him away. But he keeps coming back.

Brock Kelly lived high as King of the Slopes in the world of snowboard cross racing. Medals. Money. Fame. But after a visit to an orphanage in Mexico, he gave up his adrenaline-packed lifestyle to follow a calling from God he didn’t know he had—helping kids who’d been damaged emotionally. When his best friend’s baby sister returns to town, he recognizes the hollow look in her eyes and sees the pain beneath her icy armor. It seems God has issued new call on his life. One he is not prepared for.

Falling in love with a woman who keeps secrets is dangerous all on its own. But when Cheryl finally tells Brock what she’s never told anyone else…no wonder she is the way she is. It would take a miracle to heal that wound, and a love bigger than Brock had ever imagined to walk with her through the process.

Goodreads | Amazon

Finding EvergreenFinding Evergreen

He thought he’d found the thrill of his life; she, the romance she’d hadn’t dared to hope for. Falling in love had been easy. Being married? Totally different story.

Married within a year of meeting, Ethan and Brandi add a foster daughter to their newly established family. Their story is enchanting—inspiring. Except when the fairytale fails. The stresses of unmet expectations and wounds from their pasts knife into their marriage, severing what they believed would be forever.

Hope for a broken marriage. Healing for their wounded spirits. It would take both to find evergreen. Are they brave enough to try?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

This series doesn’t hold anything back: the messiness of life, the dark depths of pain, the imperfections of each character, or even the true joys and peace found in a merciful Savior. I have found this to be true of Jennifer Rodewald’s writing whether she’s penning a light rom-com, a layered YA dystopian series, or emotionally gripping character-driven fiction such as this “Grace Revealed” series.

Blue Columbine contains raw emotions, relatable characters, and an arc of transformation and redemption like none I’ve ever read. From the portrayal of close friendships to the fallout of addiction, heartbreaking choices, and healing, this story is eye-opening in its message of grace.

Red Rose Bouquet chronicles a journey of healing, forgiveness, and unconditional love found in an unlikely way. Cheryl’s character especially portrays the depths of hurt and self-doubt that can be redeemed through the relentless pursuit of a Savior. And, this wonderfully plays out through the tangible pursuit of Brock, his growing compassion and answer to a call to love being the story catalyst.

Finding Evergreen is a story of fierce love and holding on to hope. The journey through mistakes and brokenness Ethan and Brandi experience points to God as the true source of grace and love in any relationship. The extremes of emotion, vulnerabilities and baggage of Ethan, and well-intentioned penchant for perfectionism Brandi exhibits all make this story relatable even outside of a marital relationship. (But oh what chemistry they have on the page!) And Sonja, their foster daughter, adds another spunky dimension to the story that binds the three of them together in unexpected ways.

Through all three of these books, a CLEAR theme emerges, one that is a result of the redemptive, grace-filled moments (and romances) in each story: that of Christ’s love for His church. A selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love that manifests in the moments of friendship, forgiveness, pursuit, and intimacy between each of the main characters. I highly recommend this series for fans of contemporary women’s fiction/romance and authors such as Katie Ganshert, Julie Lessman, and Courtney Walsh– just remember to read near a box of Kleenex!

Thank you to the author for the complimentary copy of Finding Evergreen. This is my honest review of that book and the series.

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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!

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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