Monday, June 25, 2012

Review on Coming Home- A story of Unending Love and Eternal Promise by Karen Kingsbury

Coming Home.  Ah, those two words for many of us evoke thoughts of family, safety, warmth, togetherness. In Karen Kingsbury’s last Baxter book Coming Home- A Story of Unending Love and Eternal Promise, I would say the descriptors are more like heartbreak, battle, loyalty and eternal hope.  This book opens with Ashley Baxter rallying the troops (her siblings and their families) to pull off a 70th surprise birthday party for their father and patriarch of the family John Baxter. And so all of the siblings are invited and heading back to Indiana to take part in this special celebration with each one asked to write a special letter of love for their father.  In the process the reader gets to take a walk down memory lane as each sibling recalls their own story and how their Dad was influential in it.  For me, a true blue Baxter family fan, I found it enjoyable to look back on each character’s story and journey and how love of family and faith in God brought them through. The Baxter’s weren’t perfect, in fact some of their choices along the way were choices that were not what we would hope they would make, but no matter what, their love for each other and trust and faith that God was working in the midst of the rebellious times proves to be what gets them through.     For a new reader, you could actually learn about each character’s back story in a condensed fashion and so I believe you could engage in this story.  I thought it was well done.

 The tragedy in this story, and there is tragedy, was pretty heartbreaking. I can’t give it away as that is too much of a spoiler. But, I will say that the Baxter family rallies around each other as they have never had to do before and it is hard, heartbreaking and yet in that way that Karen Kingsbury always has with her storytelling, it is filled with heart, faith in God and their deep abiding love for each other that actually leaves you with tremendous hope and faith.  I thought this ending was very fitting and there is a hope that Karen Kingsbury will still give us certain little sneak- peaks into the Baxter’s lives in the future through other books.  I will have to say that for some reason this series has struck a chord with me and I know many other’s as her books are often NY times bestsellers.  There is just something about the Baxter family that you just really care about these characters and what happens to them. And so with this last book, as I began to read it, I thought that the title was so apropos “Coming Home” as that is how you feel about the Baxter’s that they are real and could be your next door neighbors, and what wonderful neighbors they would be.

5 stars

I received a free digital copy if this book for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are honest and my own.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review on Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

Bethany Quinn is a girl who seemingly has it all- a great job as an architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, youth, beauty and a boyfriend of three years.  But appearances can be deceiving as she also has a past; a past she has definitely moved on from, living in a trailer park in Iowa with a difficult, confusing relationship with her mother as well as a father that left her life too soon, leaving her with heartache and despair. The past wasn’t all bad though as her Grandpa Dan also lived there on his extensive farm where so many good childhood memories were born.

  Tragedy with a friend sends Bethany rather reluctantly back to her home town of Peaks as a good childhood friend whom she has lost contact with is facing huge grief coupled with her Grandfather’s health issues and she cannot avoid her past any longer.  While in Peaks she crosses paths with her Grandfather’s farmhand Evan Price and as much as Bethany dislikes her hometown of Peaks, Evan loves it- the farmland, the people and the rural way of life. Peaks is a place where people take care of each other and rise up and help one another especially in times of tragedy.  Bethany’s old childhood friend Robin is in need of much support. Bethany is not really sure at first if she can lend it, but several circumstances that occur draw these two friends back together and their friendship is renewed in a newer and deeper way.

Evan and Bethany are definitely an" opposites attract" kind of combination- He’s a farm hand; she’s a big city architect. He wants to farm for the rest of his life, and she… doesn’t. He has a faith in God and she’s been burned by legalistic Christians in her past and really has no need for Him. But as the story unfolds and Bethany learns the difference between who God really is and who she thought he was from a legalistic point of view, she gradually discovers that the love her Father has for her is what she really needs to help heal those past hurts.

On the whole I would say that I enjoyed the book very much. There was a sincere journey that Bethany took and I think that the back story made sense and fit together nicely. I think that Katie Ganshert as a debut novelist put in a very solid first novel.  The opening is attention grabbing with the scene of young Bethany in the pool. I would say that I felt the pacing was a little slower in the first part of the novel, but I feel picks up towards the end. Other than that I would say it was a great story with interesting characters and a good message – relationships are worth fighting for, with old friends, and especially with God.

3.5 stars

I would like to thank Waterbrook Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review on The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd

As those in London are celebrating the 60 year reign of their beloved Queen Elizabeth with the Diamond Jubilee, we in America have cause to celebrate as well.  For us, it’s the release of another “Tudor Treasure” The Secret Keeper which comes to us compliments of the multi- talented Sandra Byrd. For those that enjoyed her first offering of To Die For featuring Ann Boleyn, I am sure that you will equally enjoy this new book highlighting dear Henry’s last wife Kateryn Parr as told through the eyes of her friend and lady in waiting Juliana St. John.

As with any Queen of Henry the VIII, there were those amongst her court that were for her and those that were definitely against her- “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is very apropos here.  Those in power are seeking out more power and the sharks are circling particularly as the King’s health is waning.  There is much jockeying for position in the court and in influencing of the Henry’s children.  Kateryn Parr tries to influence her step-children as best she can particularly in reformist type ways, which brings out enemies against her.  With her friendship with Juliana St. John, she gains a powerful ally as Juliana has the gift of prophecy through dreams which proves to be very beneficial to Kateryn.  The Tudor history and reformist storyline is well written and woven into a convincing chain of events, but also as compelling is Juliana’s storyline which showed the demands of the court as well as secrets, intrigue, and heartbreak.  Juliana endures some difficult situations at court which I don’t want to give away here,  but at one point my heart broke along with Juliana’s and I was cheering for her to not give up and press on.

Juliana’s loyal friendship to Kateryn plays out to the very last page and when you finish this story you can’ help but think of her love, her sacrifice and loyalty to her friend and Queen and admire her for it.  This is Historical fiction at its finest as I love how you are transported back to Tudor England, picturing the knights and ladies in waiting, the gowns, etc, but the dilemmas of the character’s are not that different than what we face today- heartache, betrayal, greed,  as well as joys and triumphs. It was a wonderful book, which I am sure many will enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

5 stars.