Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
I thought it was about time to review a book from our favourite's list.

Josie Mitchell ran away from the family apple orchard years ago, trying to escape past mistakes. On the strong request of her brother in law, she returns home to help save the apple harvest and to help her pregnant sister sell the family business.

Grady Mackenzie, the orchard’s new manager takes an immediate dislike to Josie, figuring she’s more trouble than help. Problem is no one, including Grady can figure out what’s driving Josie and why she’s always running. As Josie pushes herself to breaking point, she begins to face everything she ran from in the first place.

I found Sweetwater Gap in the specials bin at my local Christian bookstore. Intrigued by the blurb (the above paragraphs are not the book’s blurb), I snapped it up. It didn’t take me long to completely immerse myself in the apple orchard, the Mitchell family and the growing relationship between once-bitten-twice-shy Grady and perpetual runner Josie.

As these two clash and click over and over and as events begin to spiral out of Josie’s control, she finally faces up to the past and starts looking towards a future and it’s one she never saw coming.

The strength of this book lies with Josie and the secret that propels her to be anywhere but home, or anywhere else really for that matter. She flits from place to place, keeping no close friends and working at jobs she doesn’t love - all this in effort to forget what happened at her beloved orchard all those years ago.

I really feel Josie’s pain, guilt and anguish. I understand her desire to keep running and at the same time wishing she could stop running and just be happy, normal, safe.

Grady is a man wounded from past relationships and he finds his life’s passion coming full circle as the Mitchell’s orchard manager. He resents Josie’s presence and her willingness to sell her heritage off so easily. Over time, he begins to see Josie’s passion for the orchard, but as quickly as he sees it, it disappears again with Josie’s constant emotional and literal running.

Denise Hunter has given the reader characters and events that really resonated with me as a reader. I guess this is why I love this book so much. Josie comes across as a real woman, fighting her demons by not really living - in essence she is living a half-life. Hunter breathes life into Josie’s journey from half-life to full life  - both within herself and with Christ.
An excellent book. One I plan on rereading for a very long time!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Book Release: Perfectly Invisible by Kristen Billerbeck

Kristin Billerbeck, whom we've reviewed before (see "Book Review: A Billion Reasons Why") has a new Young Adult fiction book, "Perfectly Invisible", available from 1st July 2011 in the US, and 1st August 2011 in Australia.  This book is part of "A Universally Misunderstood Novel" series, and is a follow up to last years release "Perfectly Dateless".

Perfectly Invisible: A Universally Misunderstood Novel (Perfectly Dateless)
"Perfectly Invisible" can be pre-ordered now at Amazon

Australian readers can pre-order at Fishpond AU

Perfectly Dateless: A Universally Misunderstood NovelPrevious release in the series, "Perfectly Dateless" is also available at Amazon and Fishpond AU

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Featured Authors coming soon!

Starting from July, each month we will be doing a feature on an author.  These will be authors whom we enjoy the work of and will give a bit of information regarding them and their books.  So keep an eye out for our first feature author this July!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In the pipeline

Just an update on my reading progress.  Wendy Harmer's "Friends like These" is coming along nicely, I'm 3/4 of the way through now and expecting to have it done soon, so stay tuned for the review!

"Jane Eyre" is sitting on my shelf.  It's here and waiting in the wings.  I have deliberately not lined up the next Left Behind series book, or anything else more tantalising in order to force myself to pick up Jane and start (er, restart) discovering about her. 

Book Review: The Stonewycke Trilogy by Michael R. Phillips & Judith Pella

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
This was the first book I read in the Christian fiction genre.  My sister recommended it since I love historical fiction, and this book starts in Scotland in the mid-1800s. 

The trilogy consists of the three novels: The Heather Hills of Stonewycke, Flight from Stonewycke and The Lady of Stonewycke. It charts three generations of a Scottish aristocratic family, with Maggie - the middle generation, being the cohesive glue to the story. 

I found the first book was a little slow to start, and it wasn't until about half way I reached that point where I was hungry to keep reading it.  This first installment emphasises the deep connection Maggie has with her native Scotland, and spends a lot of time developing the characters and revealing the causes of their emotional scars.  When Maggie finally finds love, the circumstances trying to thwart their happiness had me turning pages as quickly as I could.  Once I reached the end of The Heather Hills of Stonewycke, there wasn't a moment to lose in continuing onto the next book!

The second book, Flight from Stonewycke, the characters are divided between Scotland and America.  It's primary goal is to undo the indecencies thrust upon Maggie and her love from the first book.  I felt their pain throughout the book, and was desperate for a resolution to their problems.  However I have to admit I was hopping mad when I reached the end of the book as I was beginning to wonder if there would be any sort of satisfaction in the trilogy's ending.  I was tempted not to read on in case my fears were confirmed, but my curiousity was too strong and I didn't pause for very long before continuing onto the final book.

Thankfully I was not disappointed.  The Lady of Stonewycke cleverly tied up all the lose ends, and I was pleased to discover that many new characters that cropped up where ghosts of the past - or where connected to them.  Everything is righted in the end, there is a happy ending and I couldn't help but think I would like to read a continuing story.  Wasn't I surprised and pleased to discover that there was another trilogy installment written to follow this up!

I thought the authors were a little optimistic in portraying pretty much everyone finding peace with themselves and God, but maybe that's because I have a tendency to be skeptical about the nature of man!  The three books don't stand up well as individual novels, but together the story is sweet and enjoyable and I easily found myself transported to the period in which it was written.  I am definitely putting the follow up trilogy on my "to read" list.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What's still sitting on your shelf?

Jess brought up a good point in her last post: Who has books sitting on their shelves that they haven't read? What are they? I have a few myself, though with my books currently in storage it's a bit hard for me to remember off the top of my head.  But here are a few I can recall:

So, what's sitting on your shelf? We'd love to know!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Some Thoughts...

I'm sitting here, waiting for my daughter to wake up so we can go to church and thinking about all the books in my bookshelf I have not read yet. There are at least 35 still to read. Some I want to read, others I will read but they are down the list. I have decided to list some of the books I haven't read. If you guys out there have read any of these, let me know your thoughts on the book.

Will add some more books later. My daughter is awake!
Happy reading guys!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Great Expectations Update

Finally after pushing through another chapter Great Expectations is getting interesting! I have also completed Persuasion by Jane Austen. Will write a review soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: A Billion Reasons Why by Kristin Billerbeck

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
I have never read Kristin Billerbeck before. I discovered that she is in the chick-lit genre. I haven’t read this genre before, or if I have I haven’t known it. I was wonderfully surprised when I read this book.

Katie McKenna is in a stable, caring relationship with Dexter, a man she is about to get engaged to. When her ex-boyfriend, the handsome, millionaire Luc DeForges waltzes back into her life things start to become very unstable. He wants to take her back to their hometown of New Orleans to sing at his brother’s wedding. Katie wants to go, but fears she’ll be drawn back in by her and Luc’s chemistry and history.

This book is just chock full of memorable characters. There were times I wanted to slap Luc DeForges as much as Katie does, but I couldn’t help loving his smooth, cheeky ways. Katie’s got spunk and a temper to match her Irish heritage. Together they create enough chemistry to blow up a lab. It’s got great one-liners from secondary characters and great zingy tempo. It’s almost like the words danced off the pages, swinging away to the music of the 1930’s and 40’s that our main characters love so much.

A great read and a must for people who love funny, dynamic characters that just come alive before you. I will be reading more of this author.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Review: The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

Available @
Fishpond AU
& Amazon
This book covers the lives of Edward IV and his brother, Richard III. Written from a very sympathetic viewpoint of Richard III, it is highly detailed and covers the period from Richard aged 10, to the instigation of the Tudor dynasty after his death.

For me, this book brought to life kings, queens and other royalty in a way I never knew possible. When one reads the plain factual history of monarchs, they always come across as greedy, villainous, heartless, careless individuals. Usually one cannot begin to fathom the motives behind their actions, and we tend to conclude they were all full of their own importance, believing they could do exactly what they liked. Perhaps this is true for some, but surely not for all.

"The Sunne in Splendour" convincingly developed characters for these historical figures, breathing life, reason and mortality into these long passed monarchs. For the first time, I could empathise with their plights and pity them in the difficult choices they made. Dare I say it, I even came to like them.

I liked both Edward and Richard, but for completely different reasons. Edward's charm, confidence and composure made him alluring like a modern day movie star. His competence and supremacy in the battlefield made him the manly-man. As king, he evokes awe, but in the end his fallibilty is evident and the illusion - althought not shattered - is dimminished.

Richard on the other hand is loyal, loving and lasting. As a woman, there is nothing more appealing, seductive or emotive as a man who loves and is devoted to but one woman. His incessant acts to desperately be able to marry his love, Anne, are nothing short of heart-stopping. Their romance lingers long in the reader's reveries.

What also contributes to his character is his devotion and loyalty to his brother Edward. Due to the way in which Edward's character is portrayed in the book, the fact that he has high respect and trust for Richard shows Richard in a highly favourable light.

Reading this as one in knowledge of the fates of the central characters, I was torn between the grief of knowing the end, and fanciful hope that perhaps it will not be true. The confident and successful reign of King Edward IV leaves King Richard a sure mess to deal with. One can't help but cry out at the unfairness dealt to Richard in the end.

Another aspect of medieval rule that this book enlightened me of is that of the constant beheadings of illustrious men. It brought me to realise that in most cases it was necessary to keep the throne safe - and indeed, the monarch's own life safe. That said, from a different angle one could conclude that ultimately the monarchy are just ordinary families squabling over the throne at the expense of loyal aristocracy - and themselves.

In light of this, the author protrays the plight of Richard that much more tragic. For not only was he forced into this game by the legacy that Edward left, but he desired and attempted to correct it. In turn, fate dealt him a very cruel hand. But after knowing the history of the fights over the throne, the murders, intrigues and debaucheries that went along with it, I am left wondering if Richard suffered for the sins of the family. Certainly this pity was what the author intended to evoke in her readers, and I believe she was very succesful in achieving it.

"The Sunne in Splendour" has thrilled me in battle, filled me with love, and sorrowed me in loss. A must read for historical fiction readers with a weakness for romance, and anyone else interested in vivid characters with brilliant emotions. It will haunt you with it's emotions like a long time cherished memory.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Giving the end times a rest for now

Been away for a few days this week visiting Jess and her family for my neice's birthday, so not much reading going on at the moment.  But I've decided since I've been having all these apocolyptic dreams, I'll give the "Left Behind" series a rest and concentrate on finishing "Friends Like These" by Wendy Harmer.

You may also be pleased to note that I have laid my hands on a copy of Jane Eyre, so my excuses for not making progress on that endeavour are quickly running out!

I have found an old review I wrote a few years ago on "The Sunne in Splendour" by Sharon Kay Penman, so I will post that up soon.