Book Reviews

The Road Home by Beverly Lewis

The Road Home
By: Beverly Lewis

Published: April, 2018
Published By: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: ARC, Kindle, eBook
Genre: Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

I was sent a copy of The Road Home by Beverly Lewis, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Lena Rose Schwartz hadn’t planned to leave her Old Order community in Centerville, Michigan. But then, she could not have foreseen the accident that made her and her siblings orphans. After her parents’ funeral, her younger brothers and sisters are farmed out to various nearby relatives. But when the deacon in charge of the arrangements tells her there aren’t places enough for everyone, she agrees to go live with her father’s second cousin and his family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Beside the fact that Lena has never been more than a few miles from home, she’s never met the family she will now be living with. But worse than that is the thought of being separated from her siblings. How will they manage without her to care for them–especially eight-year-old Chris? And what about Hannes Lehman, the beau she was sure would soon be asking her to marry him? It was true that he was not the man her father would have preferred for her. Maybe that was what the deacon was hinting at when he said “a fresh start might do you good.”

It won’t be forever, she consoles herself. I’ll come back as soon as I can to take care of my family–and to make a home with Hannes. But doing so may prove far more complicated then she ever imagined.

My Thoughts

Beverly Lewis is an award winning author of Amish fiction and I have been eager to read from her extensive collection. I was thankful to have been given the opportunity to read and review her latest release and began with very high expectations.

I enjoyed learning about the Amish culture in the two different communities; Lena Rose’s hometown of Centerville, Michigan and her adoptive home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The comparisons of the different traditions in these two Old Order communities were surprising to me. Including how the women wore their hair and the style of buggies used. The setting and culture depicted in this story, was by far my favourite part.

Although The Road Home was an endearing story, it didn’t draw me in or captivate me like the other books I’ve read from this genre. The style of Beverly Lewis’s writing was much more stern than I anticipated, so I expected the story to take a more serious or tragic route than it did. Instead I found it to be slightly boring and drawn out.

Unfortunately The Road Home wasn’t for me, however I am interested in giving this author another try. I hope that I will enjoy the next novel more.

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Meeting Place (Song of Acadia, #1) by Janette Oke & T. Davis Bunn

The Meeting Place (Song of Acadia, #1)
By: Janette Oke & T. Davis Bunn

Published: April, 1999
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: Kobo, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

A Chance Encounter Forever Changed Their Lives–and Destinies.
Crafted by two masters of inspirational fiction–Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn–and combining the engaging historical settings, rich characterization, and heartwarming messages quintessential to both authors, The Meeting Place is another timeless story for you to cherish.

Set along the rugged coastline of 18th century Canada in what was then called Acadia (now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), The Meeting Place re-creates a world that was home to native Indians, French settlers, and English garrisons. Such diverse populations did not live in accord, however. Instead, they were isolated within their own groups by a brewing political tension under the difficult English rule.

Amid such chaotic times two women, both about to become brides and both trying to live lives of quiet peace, meet in a lush field of wildflowers. Louisa, a Frenchwoman, and Catherine, who is English, continue to meet secretly through the seasons, sharing both friendship and growing faith.

The outside world does not mirror their own tranquil happiness, and the dreaded crackdown by the English throne threatens far more than their growing bond. In the face of a heart-wrenching dilemma, Louisa and Catherine strive to maintain their faith and cling to their dreams of family and home.
Winner of the Christy Award, presented by the Christian Bookseller Association to honor the best in Christian fiction.

My Thoughts

Janette Oke is an author with a list of books so long, its hard to know where to start. My first introduction to her books was with Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West, #2) and since then I have been very eager to read more.

I began The Meeting Place with high expectations and definitely wasn’t disappointed. Beginning in 1753, it follows the budding, forbidden friendship between two young women; a French Acadian and an English Colonialist. They learn that despite their different cultures and their warring homelands, they had much in common. The way they built their bond around their Bible study was really quite beautiful.  There were so many passages that I marked to re-read and savor. Strength was a common theme in the Meeting Place, especially when hardships ensued. Catherine and Louisa drew strength from their husbands, their cultures, faith and especially their friendship.

While the cast of characters was interesting, it was the setting that really captured me. My pre-confederation education didn’t exactly shine a light on the British’s expulsion of the Acadian’s, so this era in our history is a fairly new interest of mine. The descriptions of the highland glen, the maritime local and the different seasons the story spanned draws the reader in and plays with their senses. After having the opportunity to visit  Fort Louisburg in Nova Scotia, I was able to vividly picture the landscape and what life was like during that time period. I was pleasantly surprised when that very place was mentioned in this book, as it gave me a better understanding of the different locations mentioned.

The Meeting Place is a wonderful story filled with heartbreak and hope. I would highly recommend it to those who enjoy Christian historical fiction and I very much look forward to reading the second book in the Song of Acadia series.

Notable Quotes

“A man was either French or English, and though villages were but a stone’s throw from one another, most inhabitants would go an entire lifetime without speaking to the other side.”

“The questions which had no answers were best left unspoken, and confessions were best whispered down a dark well at midnight.”

“It’s our meeting place. Our sanctuary. When we come here we come as equals. Women. Wives. Friends. We share the same dreams. The same hopes. We must not let others keep us enemies.”

Additional Notes

To read more about my trip to the Fortress of Louisbourg please visit my old blog: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads.

Book Reviews

Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris

Everything She Lost
By: Alessandra Harris

Published: January, 2018
Published by: Kindle Edition
Format Read: eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Suspense

Rating: 2.5/5 
♥♥.5

I was sent a copy of Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris, from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

After suffering a mental breakdown that nearly destroyed her marriage, Nina Taylor works hard to maintain her tenuous hold on sanity and be a good mother to her two young daughters. Despite her best efforts, she questions the possibility of a full recovery.

Single mom Deja Johnson struggles to overcome her troubled past and raise her young son. But her friendship with Nina brings more complications. What Deja is hiding could not only destroy relationships, but endanger lives.

One traumatic night threatens to shatter Nina’s mind. With Deja’s help, she strives to maintain her mental balance. But as events spiral out of control, the women must find out if Nina is losing her sanity or if someone is plotting against her.

(Synospis from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

The synopsis for Everything She Lost caught my interest because of the mental health theme as well as my ability to relate to being a single mother. I had the opportunity to read and review Alessandra Harris’ debut novel Blaming the Wind and quite enjoyed it.

Back with another diverse contemporary fiction, Harris has thrown in a bit of suspense with her second release. Overall, I liked the concept of the story, which was ripe with deception. It definitely kept my attention throughout however, I had problems with the execution. There was so much going on with the plot that it didn’t quite piece together smoothly. The ending was quite rushed, leaving me with questions that could have easily been resolved.

Although this book fell short for me, I would still recommend Alessandra Harris as an author, especially her novel Blaming the Wind.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type: Some Stories
By: Tom Hanks

Published: October, 2017
Published By: Alfred A. Knopf
Format Read: Hardcover, Library Book
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!

Featuring additional performances by Peter Gerety, Peter Scolari, Cecily Strong, Holland Taylor, and Wilmer Valderrama on “Stay With Us.”

My Thoughts

Uncommon Type is a collection of fictional stories that all have one thing in common; they mention typewriters in one way or another. Now the machines aren’t the main focus of the stories (with the exception of one), but they are weaved into the stories briefly to tie them together.

I admit that I picked up this book on a whim, out of curiosity, being a life long fan of Tom Hanks. Although I would also like to add that I didn’t begin it with the highest expectations, after reading the description. With a 2.5 star rating, it is safe to say that I definitely did not love this book.

I struggled to finish the first story, as it just didn’t interest me and I didn’t care for the characters. Thankfully the second would keep my attention more. However I found that a pattern formed, going from some interest to little as I continued reading.  There wasn’t a single short story that I would have given a rating over 3 stars.

My rating was based solely on my own personal interest in the content and not the ability of the author. Because in reality Tom Hanks isn’t a bad writer. Each story was authentic to Hank’s voice, his own interests and personality.

Unfortunately I think that I would have enjoyed an autobiography written by Tom Hanks, than this collection of short stories. However I would recommend it to others.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Summer at Sunset (Summer, #2) by Beth Labonte

Summer at Sunset
(Summer, #2)
By: Beth Labonte

Published: December, 2018
Published By: Kindle Edition
Format Read: Kindle, eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis

For Summer Hartwell, holding her and Graham’s wedding a thousand miles from home seemed like a good idea. Even if it is at a retirement community. How else could she avoid planning the wedding with her neurotic, anxiety-ridden mother? But with one week left to go and Summer’s parents arriving on the scene, things begin to quickly unravel. Between the swingers parties, the Viagra jokes, and the copious amount of alcohol, Summer’s not so sure her parents will make it out of there alive. Then there’s the matter of Graham being Grade A top choice meat to every woman over sixty-five, a few of whom Summer suspects of trying to sabotage the wedding!

Can Summer and Graham hold things together long enough to make it down the aisle?
(Synopsis from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

Summer at Sunset is a fun contemporary fiction that picks up 2 years after the first book in the series, Summer at Sea. Our main character is now engaged to be married and wins an all expenses paid wedding at her in-laws retirement community.

It was nice to be reunited with the quirky cast of characters, including Summer’s neurotic parents. Ironically she learns that she may not be all the different from them. You know what they say “like mother, like daughter.” We are also introduced to several of the residents from the retirement community, who are young at heart, enjoying their golden years in the Florida sun. Only their daily routines mirror more of a college fraternity than that of a rest and relaxation.

While I found it to be an enjoyable read, I didn’t rate it as high as Summer at Sea. I didn’t like the characters quite as much as I did upon their initial introduction to me. Although I found it perfectly understandable that she would be stressed out, I found Summer to be a bit annoying at times and I wasn’t a fan of her fiance. An inflated ego isn’t a trait that I find attractive at all. The conclusion of this story was more over the top, than I expected.

However I enjoy the way Beth Labonte weaves pop culture into her stories and the personalities of her characters. There were several laugh out loud moments and I especially enjoyed the visits to Disney World.

I look forward to the next installment in this series and I would recommend it to fans of contemporary chick-lit.

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

Seriously… I’m Kidding
By: Ellen DeGeneres

Published: October, 2011
Published By: Grand Central Publishing
Format Read: Audio Book, Library Loaner, OverDrive
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Humor, Autobiography

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

Synopsis

Ellen Degeneres’ winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air, and her life makes for great (and very funny) reading.

“I’ve experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you’ll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I’ve put together for you in this book. I think you’ll find I’ve left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I’m saying is, let us begin, shall we?”

Seriously… I’m Kidding is a lively, hilarious, and often sweetly poignant look at the life of the much-loved entertainer as she opens up about her personal life, her talk show, and joining the judges table of American Idol.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Seriously… I’m Kidding has been on my to-read list for a while now. When it finally came available to borrow from my library I jumped at the chance to listen to the audio version.

Narrated by Ellen herself, this audio book was just like listening to the opening monologue on her talk show. I enjoyed her observations on the world around her and admire her for keeping her jokes clean. Unlike most comedians, Ellen’s humor is suitable for all ages.

Although an enjoyable listen, I did find some of the rambling to be a bit much and settled on a 3 star rating. I would recommend Seriously… I’m Kidding to fans of Ellen DeGeneres.

 

Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Recommendations

Charlie’s Corner: The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book by Glenn Beck

Baby Boy!

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share baby/children’s product and book reviews.

So I admit that for his first Christmas, Charlie got a little bit spoiled. Whenever anyone asked me what they could get him, I always say that books are a fail-safe idea. So he got quite a few to add to his collection.

One of my personal favourites that he received was The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book by Glenn Beck.

The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book
By: Glenn Beck
Illustrated by: Brandon Dorman

Published: October 2009
Published by: Aladdin Paperbacks
Format Read: Hardcover, Picture Book

Rating: 5/5
♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

The Christmas Sweater is a children’s picture book which was adapted from Glenn Beck’s novel by the same name. It follows a boy who dreams of getting a new bicycle for Christmas. He is disappointed when he is given a new sweater instead.

My Thoughts

My family and I enjoyed reading this Christmas story over the holidays. It has a wonderful moral that any age can resonate with. Brandon Dorman’s illustrations had a vintage feel that were quite beautiful and captivating. I would recommend The Christmas Sweater to young and old. I look forward to reading the full novel this book was based on.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah

Comfort and Joy
By Kristin Hannah

Published: October, 2006
Published By: Ballantine Books
Format Read: eBook, Kobo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis
High school librarian Joy Candellaro is just merely existing in the wake of a divorce. Then her entire existence is rocked when she learns that her own sister is pregnant with her ex-husbands baby. In a fit of desperation she flees looking for an escape from reality. On a whim she buys a plane ticket for a chartered flight that would take her deep into the Olympic rain-forest in the American Pacific Northwest.

My Thoughts

Comfort and Joy has a premise that may sound overly familiar to fans of cheesy Christmas movies. However this is not a happy, fuzzy holiday story, but one that is melancholy and ripe with tragedy.

Kristin Hannah’s descriptions were very vivid and beautiful. The lodge that Joy finds herself at reminded me in some ways, of William Paul Young’s The Shack, which is one of my favourite novels. The bond she would form with Bobby (son of the lodges owner) was really quite sweet and endearing.

Although this book wasn’t one that I absolutely loved, there were two main points that kept me reading and in turn factored into my 4 star rating. 1: I was able to really relate to Joy on a personal level. The emotions she felt as a result of her heartbreak really hit close to home for me. And 2. There were several passages that made me stop and reflect. Below I have included some of those quote that caught my attention.

I would recommend Comfort and Joy to those who enjoy contemporaries and fans of Kristin Hannah.

Notable Quotes

“I’m dreaming again for the first time in years, and it feels good.”

“This is my resolution for the New Year. I will be honest with myself. I’ll keep my eyes open. I’ll see what’s there, not just what I want to see.”

“..the silence has been like the in-drawn breath before a scream”

“It’s amazing how quickly a bone can heal. If only the heart were as durable. A little plaster, two months of bed rest, and voila! your broken heart is mended.”

Book Reviews

40 Love by Madeleine Wickham

40 Love
By: Madeleine Wickham 

Published: August 2011
Published By: Macmillan Audio
Format Read: Audio Book, OverDrive App,
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

Caroline and Patrick Chance have come a long way since their days on Seymour Road. To celebrate their wealth they invite some old friends to their country house for a tennis tournament. This contemporary novel follows the Chance’s and their friends who all vary in terms of success. Is it just their intention to show off their wealth or does Patrick have an ulterior motive behind this weekend of fun?

My Thoughts

Over the years I have read several Sophie Kinsella books, but this is the first one I have read under her real name Madeleine Wickham. I was curious to see how her older books compare to her more current releases and the tennis theme caught my interest as well.

What can I say about 40-Love? Keeping up with the Jones’s was definitely a theme here. From their expensive clothing, art and private schools, each character was more materialistic than the next. And their backstabbing snobbery became more infuriating as I read along.

Katherine Kellgren’s narration was spot on, when bringing a voice to the Chance’s and their guests. She did a great job expressing their selfish personalities and high brow accents. Wickham’s familiar contemporary style and the anticipation of confrontation kept me listening to this book.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend 40-Love, but I would recommend Madeleine Wickham/Sophie Kinsella as an author to read.

 

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Plum Lovin’ (Stephanie Plum, #12.5) by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin’ (Stephanie Plum, #12.5)
By: Janet Evanovich

Published: January 2007
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Format Read: Kindle for PC, eBook

Rating: 3 Stars
♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Plum Lovin’ is a holiday novella that falls between the full length novels Twelve Sharp and Lean Mean Thirteen. Set just before Valentines Day, business is slow in the bonds industry and there is only one large bail skip on Stephanie Plum’s list. In order to capture the skip, she must first help her friend Diesel and play cupid along the way.

My Thoughts 

The in between novellas in the Stephanie Plum series, aren’t exactly crucial reading, although it would have helped me to better understand Diesel’s character if I had read Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum #8.5) first. I knew that he was a character from another series by Janet Evanovich, but I have yet to read any of those books.

It had been a while since I have read this series, so it was nice to revisit my favourite characters once again. Although a short story, it had the same humor I’ve come to enjoy. However I didn’t feel like the Diesel’s hint of paranormal powers fit into the Stephanie Plum world.

Still I would recommend Plum Lovin’ to fans of Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum books.