Tuesday, February 19, 2013

So Shines the Night by Tracy Higley

On an island teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

So Shines the Night by Tracy Higley was an interesting and well written novel that I truly enjoyed. The plot line was exciting and contained historical facts and theories that made the novel even more interesting and believable. The story line moved at a quick pace, and it contained elements of romance, mystery, suspense, and religious conflict. The mystery and suspense in this novel kept me glued to the pages, wondering if anything would turn out right in the end. The narration alternated between the perspectives of the main character named Daria, a tutor who has escaped a dark and dangerous past, and Lucas, the wealthy merchant plagued by guilt and thoughts of revenge.

The characters of So Shines the Night were very realistic and well developed. Daria was an interesting and dynamic character who had weaknesses and flaws that were identifiable and realistic. I enjoyed the conflicts that occurred between the different religious groups in Ephesus and how Daria had to decide what to believe. Seeing her having to work through her issues and her doubts made her a very realistic character that was easy to identify with. The other supporting characters were also interesting and well written, and they provided opportunities for Daria's characteristics to be revealed as she grew. My absolutely favorite character, however, was Lucas. He was an interesting man who was extremely conflicted by his past and his present choices, but who sought to keep Daria and others safe at any cost. He had many flaws which became more obvious as the book went on, but his strengths grew more prominent as well as he learned from his mistakes and sought the truth and God.

The themes of this novel included being set free from sin and evil, falling into the grace of God instead of hopelessness when confronted with one's inability to save oneself, and giving over all thoughts of vengeance and revenge to God instead of trying to do it alone. Daria also discovered that strength to defeat darkness and evil comes from God alone, and that she could never combat the darkness of sin and demons by herself.

Overall, I really enjoyed So Shines the Night, and I would highly recommend any of Tracy Higley's novels to those who are looking for well written, exciting novels that have a strong base in actual history.

I received this novel for free from Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert

Read the first chapter here.

Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender?
A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa, she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.

So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight.

As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.

With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances.

Wishing On Willows by Katie Ganshert was a sweet and touching novel that really exposed the importance of trusting God and putting others first. The plot line was interesting and ran smoothly. It contained a good mix of romance, humor, sadness, and conflict that kept the story line moving and exciting. The story was told from both Robin and Ian's perspectives which really helped give the reader a good idea of what both main characters were feeling.

The characters of Wishing on Willows were realistic and well developed. Robin was a interesting character who struggled with moving past her husband's death as well as with financial difficulties with her cafe. She is strong willed yet quiet and not about to give in to Ian's business plans. Ian, on the other hand, is stubborn himself and is convinced that he is going to make the business deal despite his feelings for Robin and her resistance to his deal. The two characters had very interesting and sometimes humorous confrontations throughout the novel. The other minor characters were well created to accentuate the characteristics of Ian and Robin and really helped reveal their thoughts and feelings to the reader.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a inspirational yet light novel to read.

I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review from Waterbrook Multnomah Press.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Against The Tide by Elizabeth Camden

After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.
Lydia's talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade, Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.
When Bane's enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane's mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.
When forces conspire against them from without and within, can their love survive?
The sequel to the Lady of the Bolton Hill, Against the Tide is a wonderful story that explores the further life of Alexander Banebridge, one of the characters in the first novel. While it is a sequel, Against the Tide stands perfectly well on its own. The plot is exciting, moving, and addresses problems that have occurred in American history. The story is narrated primarily from the perspective of Lydia, but there are also times where it is told from Bane's point of view. The themes of this novel include the importance of trusting God, learning to love and trust others, the evil of the drug and slavery trade, especially the trade of opium.

The characters of Lady of The Bolton Hill are well developed and realistic. I really enjoyed reading about these characters and watching them grow, change, and develop through their mistakes. Lydia was a somewhat shy young woman who struggled with trust and stepping out of her comfort zone. She was comfortable with her routine, and she found herself turning to other means of relief when her routine was interrupted. Alexander Banebridge is a young man who is fighting a private war against his past history with the Professor and opium and the mistakes he made years before. He has no time for Lydia or love. However, as they learn more about each other, Lydia and Bane both discover new characteristics about each other. I enjoyed seeing Bane understand more about what it means to follow God and His leading. I was little disappointed in Lydia's understanding of following God. I felt it could have been more genuine and better explained so that the readers could really grasp her change of heart. Her change might have been real, but it was not explained very well.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed this novel as a whole. I thought the plot was excellent and the characters well realistic, interesting, and changed throughout the story.

I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review from Bethany House Publishing. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Moon Over Edisto by Beth Webb Hart

The past has come knocking on Julia's door. Can she summon the courage to answer betrayal with love?

Julia’s best friend, Marney, broke up her parents' marriage years ago. Now Marney shows up at her Manhattan apartment, asking the impossible—come home to Edisto Island to care for the half-sisters and half-brother she has never known. Marney, recently widowed, has lung cancer. There's no other family to care for the children while she’s in the hospital following surgery.

Julia loathes Marney. But if she doesn’t step in, her own mother—who has never gotten over the divorce—will be called upon to take care of the children. So she heads to South Carolina to keep the peace.

On Edisto, she begins to reconnect with the place and the people and she’s been running from her whole adult life. There’s the local doctor who once stole a kiss from her on that very beach, and the siblings she’s never known—especially the sister with selective mutism named Etta who’s the keeper of nearly every family secret . . . including the very one that just might bind-up Julia’s long-since shattered heart.

Moon Over Edisto by Beth Webb Hart was a sweet and touching novel that clearly displayed the connection of family and the importance of forgiveness. The plot line was interesting, moved at a steady and easy to follow pace, and the characters were realistic and unique. The narration of the plot switched between Julia, her mother, her sister Margaret, Julia's old sweetheart, and Etta. I found the storyline to be a good mix of suspense, romance, sadness, and humor.

The characters of this novel were also well written and developed well. Julia is a confused and slightly bitter woman who has suffered great betrayal by those who are the closest to her. Marney is her least favorite person, and Julia is forced to put aside all her plans in order to help her out. Julia returns home and finds parts of her life and childhood that she thought she had lost. She learns true love, the value of family, real art, and finally forgiveness. The other supporting characters of her mother, friends, fiance, and first sweetheart were realistic and helped reveal Julia's different characteristics. Julia's mother was really sweet, and I enjoyed seeing her move past tragedies and rediscover love and happiness. The children of Marney were adorable, and I enjoyed seeing them blossom under Julia's care even when she did not want to be there. Julia's sister Margaret was the complete opposite of Julia, and she had a harsher and more legalistic response to the betrayals in her life than Julia did. Margaret also did not change as much nor did she ever feel much compassion or forgiveness toward Marney. She showed some leniency at the end, but I was very disappointed with the very little that she changed. However, that is realistic, and it shows that it is only through trusting God and being filled with the Holy Spirit that you can truly forgive others that have wronged you. While Julia did begin to learn forgiveness and follow the right path for her life, I did not like the lack of God was shown in this novel and her changes. Julia never really returned to her belief in God, and God was either only mentioned vaguely by other characters or as a random prayer thrown up to a Being that Julia did not really believe in.

Overall I found the plot to be interesting and well written, and the characters to be realistic. However, I was disappointed in the lack of spiritual growth in all the characters because it left out a very realistic dimension that adds greatly to a believable story. I also thought that the plot and novel would have been much deeper and easier to connect to if God had been given a greater place and mention in the characters' lives, thoughts, and conversations.

I received this novel for free from Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.