Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy #1) by Sarah Sundin

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The Sea Before Us
(Sunrise at Normandy, #1)
By: Sarah Sundin

Published: February 2018
Published By: Revell
Format Read: eBook, Kobo App
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis


In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . .

Goodreads

My Thoughts

You know when you see a book and automatically know that you will love it? Sarah Sundin’s The Sea Before Us, was exactly that type of book for me.

This story tells of the planning of the Normandy invasion from the perspective of a British Wren and an American Naval Officer. I found the preparation of the mission to be equally as fascinating as the invasion itself.

Both of the main characters; Dorothy and Wyatt felt true to their nationalities and they both showed good growth throughout.

I would highly recommend The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin and I look forward to reading the second book in the series.

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

A Lancaster County Christmas (Lancaster County Secrets) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

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A Lancaster County Christmas
(Lancaster County Secrets)
By: Suzanne Woods Fisher 

Published: October 2011
Published by: Revell 
Format Read: eBook, Kobo
Genre: Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction 

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis


Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick began their married life as most couples do–in love and looking forward to a bright future together. But four years later they’ve drifted apart and are almost ready to call it quits.

Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband Sol the Christmas gift they have both longed for–news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big family isn’t likely to become a reality.

Then a winter storm raging outside blows the Fitzpatricks into the Riehl home–and into a much slower pace of life. Can these two couples from different worlds help each other understand the true meaning of love this Christmas?

With her trademark plot twists and attention to detail, Suzanne Woods Fisher offers readers a beautiful Christmas story of love, forgiveness, and what truly matters in life.

Goodreads 

My Thoughts 

Over the past couple of years, Amish fiction has become the genre I turn to when I’m in the mood for a warm, inspirational story. Suzanne Woods Fisher has become one of my go-to authors. 


A Lancaster County Christmas follows Mattie and Solomon who are characters from the Lancaster County Secrets series. Set during Christmas, this story explores the differences and similarities between the Amish and English.


I found Matties mental health struggles to be quite relatable. Although it was her young son Danny, who was the true shining star. He was a curious child with a heart of gold. Danny was such an endearing and memorable character. 


Unfortunately at times the story felt rushed and predictable. However it was an enjoyable novel that can be read as a stand-alone. I would recommend it to fans of Amish fiction 

Book Reviews

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread
By Anne Tyler

Published: February 2015
Published By: Bond Street Books
Format Read: eBook, Kobo, 
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5 

 

Synopsis

A freshly observed, joyful and wrenching, funny and true new novel from Anne Tyler

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. from Red’s father and mother, newly-arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humour, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

My Thoughts

Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread was one of my most anticipated books of 2015, so I began the novel with very high expectations. Unfortunately I wasn’t as intrigued by the plot as I was upon initially reading the synopsis.

I wasn’t able to connect to any of the characters and found their family dynamic more frustrating than not. The arrangement of how the story was told jumped from one time period to another randomly which was quite odd.

There was one quote from A Spool of Blue Thread that perfectly summed up my thoughts…
‘Maybe it was just further proof that the Whitshanks were not remarkable in any way whatsoever.’
Although I wouldn’t recommend this book, I would suggest readers try other titles by this author.
Book Reviews

A High-End Finish (A Fixer-Upper Mystery #1) by Kate Carlisle

A High-End Finish
(A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #1)
By: Kate Carlisle

Published: November 2014
Published by: NAL
Format Read: Kobo, eBook
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

In the seaside town of Lighthouse Cove in northern California, everyone knows the best man for the job is actually a woman—contractor Shannon Hammer. But while Shannon can do wonders with a power drill and a little elbow grease, she’s about to discover that some problems aren’t so easily fixed….

Shannon’s home-renovation and repair business is booming, but her love life needs work. On a blind date with real estate agent Jerry Saxton, she has to whip out a pair of pliers to keep Jerry from getting too hands on. Shannon is happy to put her rotten date behind her, but when Jerry’s found dead in a run-down Victorian home that she’s been hired to restore, the town’s attractive new police chief suspects that her threats may have laid the foundation for murder.

Determined to clear her name, Shannon conducts her own investigation—with the help of her four best friends, her eccentric father, a nosy neighbor or two, and a handsome crime writer who’s just moved to town. But as they get closer to prying out the murderer’s identity, Shannon is viciously attacked. Now she’ll have to nail down the truth—or end up in permanent foreclosure.…

My Thoughts

I decided to pick up Kate Carlisle’s A High-End Finish because of my interest in cozy mysteries and home renovations. Shannon’s business restoring and building Victorian style homes was quite interesting to me as I’ve been a long time fan of anything on HGTV. The descriptions of Lighthouse Cove made it sound like a beautiful place.

Although the story kept my attention, I felt there were some aspects of the plot that lacked detail. While there were others that unnecessarily took up too much detail. I have yet to decide if I will continue on with the Fixer-Upper Mystery series.

 

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 · 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.