Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Kissing Adrien by Siri Mitchell

One of Siri Mitchell's early works, this is one that I somehow never got around to reading. So when I saw it had been released on Kindle, I decided to pick it up... and I'm so glad I did!

Claire Le Noyer, 29, wants a do-over. She wants the life where she majors in history, not accounting. Where she takes two-hour lunches, not ten minutes in front of her computer. Where her pastor boyfriend treats her like an attractive women he’s deeply in love with, not like a nice pet dog.

But for now she’s a Seattle numbers-cruncher with a wardrobe from REI sent to fashionable Paris to check out an apartment left to her parents by a mysterious cousin. When her childhood crush-- handsome, pleasure-loving, and very French Adrien--introduces Claire to the City of Lights, she cautiously begins to embrace another way of living.

My thoughts:
Siri Mitchell's books are always great fun, and Kissing Adrien is no exception. The first-person writing style puts you inside Claire's thoughts where her "voice" and view of things are extremely amusing. She's very easy to like and relate to.

The Eiffel Tower
Adrien is completely charming and fun to tour Paris with, however I think to meet him in real life could be a bit awkward. He claims to be a Christian but unfortunately some of his ideas seem slightly misguided. Claire's Christian beliefs are more standard, which causes the two to butt heads several times over their different views. Amusingly, Adrien has a knack for using logic to force Claire into agreeing with his ideals, which is annoying to Claire but extremely fun to see play out. Though Adrien's beliefs don't match up with mine, early on I decided to not take him too seriously and just enjoy the story, which is exactly what I did.

The vast cultural differences between America and France are prominently featured, with both Claire and Adrien being equally horrified by the way things are done in each other's country. This leads to some lively banter and great entertainment, all while providing food for thought as to why the cultures are so different. It also raises the idea that some things in religion are more cultural rather than moral, which is interesting to ponder. In reading this book I actually feel that I've learned quite a bit about Paris and it's people.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to spend the summer in Paris: read this book. You'll feel like you did spend your vacation there, but without the cost of an airline ticket!

My Rating: 5 stars!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: Dreamspell by Tamara Leigh

Though my main focus is Christian Fiction, I was curious to read Tamara Leigh's new book, Dreamspell, which is a departure from the style and content of her recent faith-based novels. Tamara is one of my favorite Christian Fiction authors, so even though Dreamspell is more of a mainstream novel I still wanted to check it out.

Book Cover and Synopsis:
 A time to live. A time to die. A time to dream.

Sleep disorders specialist Kennedy Plain has been diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. When her research subject dies after trying to convince her he has achieved dream-induced time travel and her study is shelved, she enlists herself as a subject to complete her research. But when she dreams herself into 14th-century England and falls into the hands of Fulke Wynland, a man history has condemned as a murderer, she must not only stay alive long enough to find a way to return to her own time, but prevent Fulke from murdering his young nephews. And yet, the more time she spends with the medieval warrior, the more difficult it is to believe he is capable of committing the heinous crime for which he has been reviled for 600 years.

Baron Fulke Wynland has been granted guardianship of his brother’s heirs despite suspicions that he seeks to steal their inheritance. When the king sends a mysterious woman to care for the boys, Fulke is surprised by the lady's hostility toward him--and more surprised to learn she is to be his wife. But when his nephews are abducted, the two must overcome their mutual dislike to discover the boys' fate. What Fulke never expects is to feel for this woman whose peculiar speech, behavior, and talk of dream travel could see her burned as a witch.

My thoughts:
Time travel? Oh, yes! I love a good time travel story, and Tamara Leigh has managed to seamlessly blend the 21st and 14th centuries in Dreamspell. The form of travel was unique and creative, and I liked how it didn't revolve around a machine or sophisticated science. The sheer simplicity of it very much added to the "meant to be" feeling.

Often times medieval stories can be slightly over-whelming for me with their huge casts of characters and many confusingly similar locations, however that was mostly not a problem in Dreamspell. The cast of characters is just the right size, big enough for lots of interaction yet small enough so you don't find yourself losing track of people. I enjoyed seeing the vast differences between the time periods, and watching Kennedy have trouble fitting into a 600 year old culture was particularly entertaining. Even showing just a small part of her lower leg was considered scandalous!

I was blown away by how incredibly perfect the ending and epilogue were. Often times epilogues don't really thrill me, however this one is just awesome; I could so clearly and vividly see the events unfolding on the "movie screen" inside my head. (Speaking of movies, Dreamspell would be an excellent candidate for a movie, and I hope someday we have the opportunity to see Kennedy and Fulke on the big screen!) In the meantime, if you're a fan of time travel, make sure to pick this one up... I think you'll enjoy it.

(Though Tamara Leigh has gained popularity in recent years for her inspirational novels, Dreamspell is actually more of a mainstream title. For those concerned with content, be assured that even though the characters aren't religious, the story and language do stay clean and within boundaries of acceptability.)

My Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Blue Moon Bay by Lisa Wingate

Every Once in a Blue Moon Your Heart Waits at a Crossroads...

For Seattle architect Heather Hampton, a trip back to tiny Moses Lake, Texas, is hardly in the plan. Yet because a promotion hinges on the sale of the family farmland, Heather heads to the last place she ever wanted to go. She's determined to return home, signed contract in hand, the next day.

But the currents of Moses Lake take visitors on unexpected journeys. As Heather's stay lengthens, she discovers a family steeped in secrets and an unexpected connection to local banker Blaine Underhill, despite his opposition to Heather's project. With each new revelation and question, Heather can't help but wonder if the handsome banker--and the family she has come to know again--are crooks or crusaders. Somehow she must find out the truth before she loses everything she has worked for and everything she's found on the shores of Moses Lake.

My thoughts:
The dark events of Heather's past constantly haunt her. Immersing herself in work, she's done her best to forget and lock the memories away, but in the process she's also shut herself off from those who love her. When a sudden trip to Texas takes her back into the heart of her darkest nightmares, all she wants is to get business taken care of and get back to her work in Seattle asap. But the lake in Texas has a way of obscuring her plans...

I initially found Heather's character a bit hard to like and sympathize with...she is a complete work-a-holic, with everything in her life revolving around her career ambitions. Her clueless self-absorption is a bit irritating, however it does come off as realistic, so in actuality I think the irritating things about her are exactly the things that give authenticity to her character. It definitely makes the change that much more noticeable when she eventually starts to get her priorities straightened out.

Lisa Wingate is certainly a master storyteller; I was shocked at the intense turn the story took as the end drew near. I don't want to give any spoilers, but suffice it to say that I never imagined such an explosive turn of events would come from this plot. All through out the book I was waffling between 3 and 4 stars, but the dramatic ending sealed it for me at a solid 4 stars.

Blue Moon Bay is second in the Moses Lake series, however it works fine as a stand alone, too. I do recommend that you read the first book (Larkspur Cove) simply because it's a great read, however it's certainly not mandatory to have read it before you start Blue Moon Bay.

My Rating: 4 stars
(I received this book courtesy of the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, a positive review was not required.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate

Adventure is the last thing on Andrea Henderson's mind when she moves to Moses Lake. After surviving the worst year of her life, she's struggling to build a new life for herself and her son as a social worker. Perhaps in doing a job that makes a difference, she can find some sense of purpose and solace in her shattered faith.

For new Moses Lake game warden Mart McClendon, finding a sense of purpose in life isn't an issue. He took the job to get out of southwest Texas and the constant reminders of a tragedy for which he can't forgive himself.

But when a little girl is seen with the town recluse, Mart and Andrea are drawn together in the search for her identity. The little girl offers them both a new chance at redemption and hope--and may bring them closer than either ever planned. 

My Thoughts:
Originally I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this book. I've enjoyed some of Lisa Wingate's previous books, but in this case I didn't know if I'd "click" with Andrea and Mart as they are at completely different times in their life than I am. However, such is the author's skill that I was able to relate to and get to know the characters quite well. I'm very glad I gave this book a chance, as it turned out to be a great read! 

The two main characters both have interesting jobs, one involving family/child counseling for CPS, and the other is a game warden, which I found especially interesting. I couldn't help but be amused at the strange animal situations that pop up, (many involving a spunky racoon kit)! Though both Andrea and Mart have painful pasts, it's encouraging to see them working to overcome and break free of their issues.

On top of being a great story, Larkspur Cove is also packed with truths and little tidbits that get you to thinking about your own life. I think it's awesome when an author can seamlessly weave such food for thought into a fiction book. Lisa Wingate is one seriously talented author, and Larkspur Cove is a book not to be missed! 

My Rating: 5 stars