Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Shorts

I was a judge for the INSPY's! I got to read some very good Christian fiction - here are my thoughts on what I read....

Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
published 2012

Synopsis from publisher -

Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen's relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family's New Jersey garden and landscaping business.Annie Allen doesn't care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone--like their mother and father--and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected. Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie's letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise--and find the woman he's grown to love--before she's lost forever.

My thoughts -

This novel had lovely writing and it's foray into WWI was quite interesting. I found the character of Annie to be a bit annoying at times, and the plot was slow at first, but picked up as the relationship between Michael and Annie developed. The romance was fairly predictable - nothing new or earthshattering there - but the Christian elements of forgiveness and acceptance of undeserved love would be applicable to those of any faith. A somewhat standard but still entertaining read.

Finished - 5/19/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG for mild war violence
My rating - 7/10

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell
published 2012
374 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith...until her twin brother ran off and joined the army and ended up captured and in jail. Suddenly Hannah's world turns on end. She longs to bring her brother some measure of comfort in the squalid, frigid prison where he remains. But the Quakers believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. Can she sit by and do nothing while he suffers?

Jeremiah Jones has an enormous task before him. Responsibility for a spy ring is now his, and he desperately needs access to the men in prison, whom they are seeking to free. A possible solution is to garner a pass for Hannah. But while she is fine to the eye, she holds only disdain for him--and agreeing would mean disobeying those she loves and abandoning a bedrock of her faith.

My thoughts -

This novel was fine, but it had so many of the elements of what I think of as a traditional Christian romance that I didn't find it to be particularly inspiring. I wasn't drawn to either of the main characters, and they plot twists were easily predictable. It was well written, for what it was, but I think Christian fiction needs to do better than this if it wants to garner a wider audience.

Finished - 5/29/13
Source - review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating - G - this is a highly sanitized war!
My rating - 6/10

Stardust by Carla Stewart
published 5/31/12
300 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Shortly after burying her unfaithful husband, Georgia Peyton unexpectedly inherits the derelict Stardust motel from a distant relative. Despite doubts from the community and the aunt who raised her, she is determined to breathe new life into it. But the guests who arrive aren't what Georgia expects: Her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive but down-on-his-luck drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past.
Can Georgia find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxy to face the future? And will her dream of a new life under the flickering neon of the STARDUST ever come true?

My thoughts -

This is very much a work of Southern fiction - it drips from every page like honey. I don't think I could make novels like this my main source of literature, but as a change it was nice. Setting the story during a polio outbreak made for interesting reading, and Stewart does a fine job with characters and plot. Recommended for light summer reading.

Finished - 5/31/13
Source - review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating - PG
My rating - 7/10

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell
published 2/31/12
368 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a "nothing mama," she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family's longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

My thoughts -

This was quite good. Millie was an immediately captivating heroine, and Cantrell really nailed her struggles to break free from her past even while searching to discover it. The "christian" portion of the novel was subtle and blended seamlessly into the story - I think readers who don't normally enjoy a "religious" novel might not even realize they are reading one. There were a few places that felt rushed, or possible under-developed, but overall this was a highly entertaining read that certainly tugged at my heartstrings. I will definitely look for more by this talented author. Recommended.

Finished - 6/4/13
Source - review copy from publisher
MPAA Rating - PG-13 for violence and adult situations
My rating - 8/10

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