Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin



On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin
Book 2, Wings of the Nightingale
Revell, 1 August 2013

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson. Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

On Distant Shores is the second book in the Wings of the Nightingale series.  After reading the first book, With Every Letter late last year, I couldn't wait to get this second installment. Unfortunately I did have to wait a little bit as it wasn't stocked in Australia until several weeks after the release date.  I definitely wanted the paperback so I didn't settle for the ebook version and waited it out ...

Georgie and Hutch are great characters - they're everyday people in the extraordinary circumstances of war.  They are so easy to like and relate to. It was refreshing that Georgie was a character with genuine fears in being a flight nurse (i.e. a real kind of person!) and it was intriguing to see Hutch develop as he struggled with his noncommissioned status. Theirs is a truly sweet romance and definitely left me feeling all warm and happy at the end.

I absolutely loved the subtle overlaps of events from the previous book where we get to see a scene from the new characters' perspective.  It had me grabbing for my With Every Letter copy and re-reading scenes to compare what was concealed then and revealed now.

Sarah Sundin's writing is so easy to slip into and I love her recreation of life in WWII.  I love the combination of the old world manners and the modern female social position.  Sarah takes you vividly into war life without overpowering you with the horrors.  The depth of her research is evident by the natural flow of events, you don't have to stop and think or turn pages to work out what is going on.  At the same time, you're not overloaded with unnecessary details.

On Distant Shores has delivered everything I love about historical fiction: effortless reading that enables me to be totally lost in the setting,  well researched and effectively used details which enables me to learn about life in the period, and a sweet romance.  Can't wait to read the next in the series!


Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review: Unspoken by Dee Henderson

Unspoken by Dee Henderson
Bethany House Publishers, 1st Octber, 2013

Charlotte Graham is at the center of the most famous kidnapping in Chicago history.

The task force of FBI and local cops found her two abductors, killed them, rescued her, but it took four very long years. The fact she was found less than three miles from her home, had been there the entire time, haunts them. She's changed her identity, found a profession she loves, and rebuilt her life.

She's never said a word--to the cops, to her doctors, to family--about those four years.

A family legacy has brought her back to Chicago where a reporter is writing a book about the kidnapping. The cops who worked the case are cooperating with him. Her options are limited: Hope the reporter doesn't find the full truth, or break her silence about what happened. And her silence is what has protected her family for years.

Bryce Bishop doesn't know her past, he only knows she has coins to sell from her grandfather's estate--and that the FBI director for the Chicago office made the introduction. The more he gets to know Charlotte, the more interested he becomes, an interest encouraged by those closest to her. But nothing else is working in his favor--she's decided she is single for life, she struggles with her faith, and she's willing to forego a huge inheritance to keep her privacy. She's not giving him much of an opening to work with.

Charlotte wants to trust him. She needs to tell him what happened. Because a crime cops thought was solved, has only opened another chapter...


So from having read Dee's O'Malley series - and loving them to following her to Full Disclosure and now Unspoken, something has changed in her manner of story telling. For one the books are longer and more involved and there is more character depth. At the same time, the action and mystery that characterized the O'Malley series isn't there.

The lack of action and suspense doesn't bother me really, the book did however fell a bit flat. I didn't dislike it (only elements of it) and I liked it enough to want to read her next book. In many ways this book is a slow, mostly enjoyable read that focuses on Charlotte and Bryce's budding relationship. The relationship is handled nicely. The interlocking plots work well and the overall tone of the book is good.

I found though that I couldn't related to Charlotte. she is a closed door to almost everyone is the book due to her past (I get that and am okay with that). The problem with that is though, is that she then becomes a closed door to the reader. We don't really get to see Charlotte's emotions or to know what her real thoughts are. We don't ever break past the exterior wall she's got up. Bryce kind of did, but not enough. Perhaps as the years go by he will, however we as readers will never know that.

Bryce was a little too perfect for me. He is patient and so understanding of Charlotte that is stretches the impossibility level. I am married to a patient and understanding man (I really mean patient and understanding) but even he is human and runs out of both on occasion. Bryce never seems to. He doesn't seem to need to learn to be patient, or if he does his road to patient isn't really delved into.

My last point on what I didn't like was the amount of Charlotte's wealth and the coins - so many coins that it seemed almost ludicrous. Plus, there is only so much information a reader can take in regarding how coins are valued, sold, processed, marketed etc. I admit to skimming those sections as it added nothing to the book.

The one element that I loved was Charlotte's faith journey. She believes in God, but is angry at him. Nowhere does Dee try and hurry Charlotte along in making peace with herself and with God. Dee uses Bryce to open discussion with Charlotte on this issue a few times throughout the book and their dialogue reflects genuineness and a unhurried journey. That was beautiful!

I might sound a little harsh, but truly I'm not meaning to. I simply wish Dee had given us more human traits for both Charlotte and Bryce. I imagined those human traits as I went along and for me the story came more alive. I'm willing to give her next book Undetected which will release April 29th, 2014 a go. I'm generally a loyal reader and Dee is still a good writer and worth persevering with.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Review: Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
Revell, 1st September, 2013

When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common--a tattoo of a magnolia on their shoulders. Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. But it doesn't take long for them to realize that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. As they venture deep into a sinister world of human trafficking, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities--and their hearts.

Dangerous Passage exposes a fully-realized and frightening world where every layer peeled back reveals more challenges ahead. Romantic suspense fans will be hooked from the start by Lisa Harris's first installment of the new Southern Crimes series.


This book is right up my alley - contemporary, suspense, romance, mystery, a bit of action - what's not to like? There was stuff to like and stuff to leave with this book. It was good but not great. It took a while to get going, I was about 40% through it when it started to pick up pace and get really interesting. For the most part, in the first half of the book, there is a lot going on (almost too much at times) and I feel exhausted for Avery with such a heavy work/family life. The workload of her life leaves her so burdened with everything that it got in the way of really liking her as a character. There was no room for her to breathe and thus I felt I didn't know her really. Plus, the woman on the book cover kept reminding me of the actress Christina Ricci and that just seemed to be a stumbling block for me for most of the book!

Avery's family is a little confusing (too many people) and her work colleagues suffer from the same problem. Her relationship with Jackson though was nice. I liked how the book started with these two already interested in each other, having been on one date. It made their budding romance more real. I liked the struggle they had, especially Avery with figuring out how to put Jackson in her already too full life and did she really want him there? These two came across as real busy people, wanting to make a relationship work. I found them to be a nice touch in the book and would have liked more time for them to hang out etc. But with Avery so busy, that didn't really happen either.

As for the mystery, when the book finally picked up pace, so did the mystery and from about 40% onwards I raced through the book, wanting to know how it would end and was happy with the ending.

So overall, whilst not  a great book, it will please many fans of the Christian, suspense genre.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review: A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears
Bethany House Publishers, 1st Oct 2013


A Tender Tale of Love on the Prairie Perfect for CBA Readers

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

Straight off the bat this book was not what I thought it was going to be. It was not a typical, mail-order-bride book, where the loveless marriage overcomes hardship and they fall in love. That did happen but not in the way one expects. It might look like something similar has crossed your reader path before but this is a little different. The main reason for that is the two main characters - Everett and Julia.

These two have secrets they feel they need to keep and thus aren't terribly interested in a marriage based on friendship, or even love. It's more like a mutual agreement to live silently together, going through the motions of life. Which is what these two do. They don't treat each other well, they don't communicate well (if at all) and they don't know how to love  each other well (even as friends). Everett has had a bad history with mail order brides, so when his friend offers him one without telling him, he begrudgingly accepts it but he doesn't want to like her (even if she is really pretty). Julia is interested in starting a new life, far away from the horror she left back East, but she's not interested in a real marriage. These two are stubborn and it takes them a long time to figure themselves out and each other. They are mostly likebale, but it can get a bit tedious watching them silently live together day after day.

I did think that Everett was a little preoccupied with Julia's looks and trying to keep his distance from her was hard as they were married but not in love and I get it - I know guys are visual people, but I'm not sure they thought about sex that much 150 years ago (especially if they were a God fearing man - which Everett was).

Overall I did enjoy this book because it was just that little bit different from the norm in this genre.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.
 


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.