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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

A book combining food and family secrets was almost impossible to resist, but I’ve got mixed feelings about my experience reading A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy through the Blogging for Books program.)

table-windowThe book focuses on Juliette, a food writer and youngest heir in a French-Italian family with deep cooking heritage. She tells the story in first person, and frankly, I was a bit bored in the beginning. I didn’t care much about her life, which didn’t seem all that bad, and although I was excited about the inclusion of recipes, I also felt they were intimidating and inaccessible to someone who hasn’t been raised with such a rich knowledge of proper cooking techniques. I did enjoy the cooking theme in the story, though, and Juliette’s appreciation for food. Her family was likable also and the characters were vivid and memorable.

Unfortunately, I was almost halfway through the book before I really started to enjoy it. Juliette tests the waters of online dating and that storyline started to propel the rest of the book. I took a liking to Neil, the doctor with whom she begins communicating. Their exchanges are cute and probably saved the book for me.  The ending was abrupt, offering less closure and more questions. Thankfully there was an excerpt of the next book included at the end of this one. Still, I wasn’t sure going in that this was a series and the ending kind of caught me by surprise, but not in a good way.

I mostly wanted to read this book as research for the novel I’m writing because the theme is similar: a young woman floundering in her present uncovers a family secret that could shape her future. I’m not sorry I read it, and I’m interested in the next one to see where the storyline goes, but I kind of hoped for more from this one.

If you want to make yourself drool, head on over to the book’s Pinterest page, though. In a word: yum!

 

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By the time I reach the third book in a series, the characters are my “friends.” (Don’t judge me, I’m an introvert.) And even though I know a series has to come to an end, sometimes I still dread it.

Abandoned Memories-coverI’ve been eagerly awaiting Abandoned Memories, the third and final installment in MaryLu Tyndall’s Escape to Paradise trilogy that follows a group of American colonists post-Civil War to the jungles of Brazil to form a new Southern utopia. And it was only disappointing in that it signaled the end of the journey for this group. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

The second book, Elusive Hope, left with a mystery I couldn’t wait to see solved. And Abandoned Memories delivered. I only needed one day to read it. So, if this is the first time you’re hearing about this series, let me catch you up without giving too much away.

It began with Forsaken Dreams, on a ship bound for Brazil. There we first met this lively bunch of characters who include Captain Blake Wallace and Eliza Crawford, Magnolia Scott and Hayden Gale, and James Callaway and Angeline Moore. each with their own reasons for leaving their lives in America behind for a second chance at happiness. The first book focuses on Blake and Eliza and the obstacles they each need to overcome to find that second chance. Book two is the story of Magnolia and Hayden, who both must give up a dream to discover a life of true purpose and beauty. And book three zeroes in on James and Angeline, both who have disreputable pasts but are determined to make a new start in the new colony.

Woven through each of these stories is a mysterious temple that both draws and repels the members of the budding colony. Some are drawn by the lure of riches buried below. Others are afraid of the darkness enshrouding the temple. In this final book, the mysteries of the temple are fully revealed and these six main characters learn how their lives have been intertwined for a reason: to defeat a terrible evil.

The adventure. The romance. The spiritual battles. It all comes together in a page-turning, heart-pumping story, one I hate to see end, but know it’s for the best.

Definitely don’t read this one unless you’ve got your hands on the first two. I’m tempted to go back and read them all together again just for the continuity of the story.

If you’re a fan of movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom  and Romancing the Stone, or the TV show Lost, then this is a series you don’t want to miss.

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Friends, while I’m getting back into the post-vacation groove and mulling all my thoughts into palatable blog posts, check out this giveaway for a book I reviewed last week. And get yourself a copy of this story! 

Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron‘s The Butterfly and the Violin. Romantic Times had this to say: “Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . .”

Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.


butterflyviolin-400-click

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

 
So grab your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

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I’m generally in awe of debut authors who make such a good first impression. And Kristy Cambron’s novel The Butterfly and the Violin makes a great introduction to a new writer. (Disclaimer: In exchange for my review, I received a free copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group.)

Butterfly and ViolinThis book is a work of art, not just because it centers on a lost painting. It’s the kind of story that makes me want to slow down and read the words over and over again so I appreciate the nuances of how they’re put together. I get the feeling that the more time spent with this story, the more details and layers I’d discover. Not unlike most pieces of art.

The Butterfly and the Violin combines the stories of Adele von Bron, a Viennese violinist during World War 2, and Sera James, a New York City art dealer in present day. Sera has been obsessed with the painting since she saw it a gallery in Paris when she was 8. Her life’s mission after her life crumbled has been to track down the painting. She and her assistant have hit a dead end when William Hanover, the heir of a wealthy California family, makes an offer to aid her search in an effort to save the family business. Sera and William try to piece together the clues to the painting’s owner and the story of Adele while each trying to patch up their broken pasts.

Adele’s story is woven into the contemporary storyline, a method of storytelling I love when it’s done well. And Cambron excels at it.

If you’ve read Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass, you’ll find a similarly mesmerizing story in this book. The Butterfly and the Violin is part of the Hidden Masterpieces series, which is good news for those of us who want more stories that blend past and present.

About the book: A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.
Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/zhXo3

About the author: Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her KCambron-238grandfather’s stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

Find Kristy online: websiteFacebookTwitter

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Every time I read and review a Jody Hedlund book, I feel like a recording with my praise. So, if I haven’t convinced you historical fiction fans to read one of her books yet, consider these reasons to pick up her latest, Captured by Love, or any other book she’s written. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.) captured-by-love-662x1024

1. History. Duh. She writes historical fiction, right? But each of her novels leaves me wanting to know about the historical events she’s writing about. In this one, she focuses in on the War of 1812 and the British occupation of what we know as Mackinac Island in the Michigan Territory of 1814. I feel like I get an interesting history lesson when I read. But if history’s not enough to convince you, how about …

2. Hunky heroes. In Captured by Love, Pierre is a fur trader from the Michigan island settlement of Mackinac, which is currently occupied by the British. He’s the manliest of men with charm to spare. I’ve read all of Hedlund’s published books, and no two heroes are the same. I appreciate the diversity in character development as well as the predictability of some of their charms. Still, it’s fun to see how these men woo the women and also how they change. (My favorite hunky hero is from A Noble Groom. I’m swooning as I type.) But they’re not all typically hunky. Take Ben, who is modeled after John Adams, in Rebellious Heart. He woos with his words and his commitment to political change. That’s hunky in its own way. It’s not just about the men, though. Let’s not forget the …

3. Spunky heroines. This was a question posed by another historical fiction author recently: Do you like spunky heroines or more genteel ones? And honestly, I like them both for different reasons. Hedlund’s heroines are a mix of both but they lean toward spunky. They are not weak, damsel-in-distress types, though they do get rescued quite often. They are strong, passionate women with goals and ideas. In Captured by Love, Angelique has had to fend for herself for some time while also taking care of Pierre’s nearly-blind mother. She holds her own among the men in her life, even when she has little choice or say in matters. I appreciate female characters who earn the admiration of the men because of their minds, not just their pretty looks. Which is good because they face plenty of …

4. Peril. Hedlund’s stories are not sweet romances. There is danger, and the characters face opposition from without and within. Sometimes their lives hang in the balance. The stories are full of adventure and hold-your-breath moments, the kind where you know (you think!) things are going to turn out okay but you’re not sure how. Hedlund keeps me turning the pages and isn’t afraid to put her characters through the worst of circumstances for the sake of a good story.

And finally, you should read her stories …

5. To believe in love again. I know not everyone agrees that reading inspirational romance is a worthy pursuit, but don’t we humans love a good love story? I love reading true stories of love that lasts and weathers storms, and I’m grateful for authors who can write stories that reflect that real-life truth. Hedlund’s books are intense sometimes, and they are entertaining, but they are also pictures of undying and sacrificial love. These are not fluff romances meant to give readers a temporary thrill. They are stories that stick with you and rekindle the belief that love conquers all.

So, there you have it. Five good reasons to pick up a Jody Hedlund novel. She writes the stories I want to read, and frankly, I wouldn’t even have to know what the book is about beforehand as long as her name is on it. If you’re looking for a new author to love, give her books a try. And if you need further incentive to read Captured by Love, head on over to Goodreads and enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of 15 copies.

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Have you met the Christiansen family yet? I’m totally in like with this family created by talented storyteller Susan May Warren. This flawed family of faithful and forgiving people fills my heart. They’re so real. You can call me crazy, but I am love, love, loving these kinds of sibling series that focus in on one sibling’s story in a large family. When I Fall in Love is the third in this family’s story, and so far, it’s my favorite. (Disclaimer: I received a free ecopy of the book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my review.)

when i fall in loveIn it, we meet Grace Christiansen whose life is all about playing it safe. She’s reluctant to leave her family and the community of Deep Haven for anything resembling adventure. But when her family gifts her with a culinary vacation to Hawaii, she finds herself unable to avoid a life beyond what she’s known, thanks in part to Maxwell Sharpe. Max is a Minnesota hockey player with ties to the Christiansen family. His former teammate Jace is marrying Grace’s older sister Eden, and he was a teammate of the bad boy Christianson brother, Owen. He’s headed to Hawaii, too, for his third culinary vacation: his time to relax and put away his fears for tomorrow. They meet on the plane and Max sets out to show Grace the beauty and wonder of Hawaii while trying to keep emotional distance because of the fate he knows awaits him in life.

Call this book Food Network meets The Fault in Our Stars. Grace and Max bond over cooking and enter a cooking competition as a team. At times, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to keep reading or get myself into the kitchen and cook something myself. It was the best of both worlds for me: reading and cooking. And I appreciated the hard questions Warren tackles in this relationship. Max knows his days on earth are limited, and because of that, he shuts himself off from the possibility of a relationship. He doesn’t think he deserves to fall in love or dream because nothing is guaranteed to last.

And Grace. Oh, how I could relate to her need to live a safe life. Her reluctance to step out in faith and try something new or big or great. There were times in the story when I read the words she was speaking about herself and her abilities and they could have been my words, too.

It’s an age-old question: Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? And Warren answers it beautifully.

You can catch up with the Christiansens in books 1 and 2: Take A Chance on Me and It Had to Be You. And I, for one, will be following this family to the end of the series.

 

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I’ve been a fan of Karen Witemeyer’s books since the first ones I read last year before meeting her at a writers conference. And while those were enjoyable reads, each new book she’s released has been better than the last one!

full steam aheadHer newest release, Full Steam Ahead, might be my new favorite of hers. And I really liked her last book, Stealing the Preacher. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of Full Steam Ahead from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my review.)

Witemeyer sets her books in 19th century Texas, generally. In this one, she focuses on Nicole Renard, only child of Anton Renard of Renard Shipping, who because of her gender is not a suitable heir to the company (despite her knowledge of the business). With her father ailing and the company’s future at stake, Nicole sets out to find a man to marry who can carry on her father’s shipping legacy.

Her plans are diverted from the beginning as a rival family waits to take a valuable possession from the Renard family, so Nicole finds herself in the small town of Liberty, Texas, instead of New Orleans, where her prospects for a partner would have been plentiful. She seeks a job from Darius Thornton, the town’s recluse and a man obsessed with preventing boiler explosions on steam ships. Haunted by his past, he reluctantly hires Nicole when she shows she’s able to understand his notes.

Witemeyer sets this relationship up cleverly. Both are determined to avoid each other in favor of a greater, nobler pursuit, but as they work together, they’re drawn to each other. I love that Nicole shows ability in a field normally reserved for a man and how she’s able to surprise Darius with her knowledge. (Hint: This is a good book for smart girls. She’s more than a pretty face!) And Darius, though obsessed with a past he can never correct, has a vision for what the future can be. Nicole’s presence reminds him that he needs other people in his life.

If you’re in need of a beach book or story to read while traveling to your summer destination, I recommend this new one by Witemeyer (or any of her books). I keep saying I have a favorite of hers, but each new one that she writes becomes my new favorite.

 

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