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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shawn Smucker: The Day the Angels Fell

By Kelly Bridgewater

It was the summer of storms and strays and strangers. The summer that lightning struck the big oak tree in the front yard. The summer his mother died in a tragic accident. As he recalls the tumultuous events that launched a surprising journey, Samuel can still hardly believe it all happened.

After his mother's death, twelve-year-old Samuel Chambers would do anything to turn back time. Prompted by three strange carnival fortune-tellers and the surfacing of his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Samuel begins his search for the Tree of Life--the only thing that could possibly bring his mother back. His quest to defeat death entangles him and his best friend Abra in an ancient conflict and forces Samuel to grapple with an unwelcome question: could it be possible that death is a gift?

From Amazon


My Thoughts:

I'm all for trying different novels in different genres. Who knows if I'm find something or someone else who will stay on my forever shelf. When Revell gave me a complimentary copy of The Day The Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker, I was intrigued. The book is titled general fiction, which isn't my normal cup of tea when it comes to book choices. Overall, I'm conflicted about how I feel about the novel.

The writing is crisp and concise. Smucker does a great job at bringing me into the story in the first chapter. I enjoyed watched the Old Man walk down the stairs and learn a little bit about him as he is an old man at the beginning of the story.  I could picture this down hidden between two valleys with a graveyard and a river running through the end. Smucker does a great job at inviting me into the setting and into the character's train of thoughts.

As for the plot, it was unique and completely unpredictable. I really had no idea the story was going to end the way it did. I have never read a story that had a little twelve year old chasing down the Tree of Life as a way to deal with the loss of his mother. While I enjoyed the concept, the delivery of the concept wasn't that captivating. I had a hard time staying focused. I became bored about a hundred and forty pages in and couldn't wait for the story to be done.

This spiritual element is pretty heavy, so be prepared to be hear more about angels and the existence of the Tree of Life with its Biblical elements.

Overall, The Day The Angels Fell didn't really capture my attention even though the writing and the early phases of nostalgia did make me think this would be a good book to dive into. I believe, and I could be wrong, that fans of Billy Coffey, author of There Will be Stars, and Frank Peretti's older writings might enjoy this novel. This story runs in the same vein.

I received a complimentary copy of The Day The Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker from Revell Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Monday, September 18, 2017

Melody Carlson: The Christmas Blessing

By Kelly Bridgewater

When she receives the news in late 1944 that her baby's father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant's paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don't know that she--or their grandson--exists. When Amelia discovers that the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma?

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson is a sweet, short novel that takes place during World War II. While the idea of a novel that takes place during Christmas time and during World War II perked my attention, the novel didn't quite meet my expectation. I think because the novel is actually a short novella, it didn't ring well with me. Because of the short nature of the plot, the characters weren't really developed. There was so much more that could have been explored. Maybe actually show the meeting of James and Amelia. Show their growing love. Show their conversations. When Amelia shows up in Rushford, Montana, the story rushes to an ending that I totally saw coming. I finished the novel in less than a day and wasn't happy with the predictable ending. If you enjoy stories with a happy, good feeling at the end, then this might be the book for you, but for me, I wanted a lot more to make the story more interesting.

I received a complimentary copy of The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson from Revell Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Do you enjoy reading novellas? Or does it have to be by a certain novelist who you have read books from that series? Or do you enjoy novellas that have their own separate stories?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Top Five Literary Novels

By Kelly Bridgewater

Every writer or reader has a number of authors who books grace their library. You know, the author who they follow on Facebook, praying for news of another book or book series. Of course, I have a number of them who have inspired and encouraged my personal writing, but they are also the writers who I LOVE reading and studied the structures of their novels to see how I can incorporate their skills into my novels.

Back in June, I shared my top ten favorite suspense authors. Last week, I shared my top ten favorite historical authors. Today, I want to share my love of literary fiction. Most of these stories were introduced to me in college classes or high school classes, but they hit a chord with me. Even though I read a lot of crap in college, some stuck with me.

So without further ado, I announce my top ten favorite literary authors with the novel that inspired me . . .

1.) Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes

From Amazon

I read Sherlock Holmes when I was in my last semester of undergraduate, and I have never looked back. I assumed that a novel that was written in the late nineteenth century, featuring a detective would not be that interesting. But . . . Boy was a I wrong! I loved the snarky, yet intelligent detective with his sidekick. I love watching the remakes and television adaptations of Doyle's work. Some of my favorite detective work.

Volume I includes the early novel A Study in Scarlet, which introduced the eccentric genius of Sherlock Holmes to the world. This baffling murder mystery, with the cryptic word Rache written in blood, first brought Holmes together with Dr. John Watson. Next, The Sign of Four presents Holmes’s famous “seven percent solution” and the strange puzzle of Mary Morstan in the quintessential locked-room mystery. Also included are Holmes’s feats of extraordinary detection in such famous cases as “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” “The Musgrave Ritual,” and “The Five Orange Pips.”

2. Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

From Amazon

I was introduced to Alexandre Dumas when I was a freshman in high school. I signed up for a senior level Creative Writing course, and this was the textbook. We had the entire semester to read the book, which is a 1,000 + page book. I finished it the first week. The teacher was impressed. I read it three more times that semester. I love a book with justice, revenge, romance, and buried treasure. I still try to read it once a year.

In the post-Napoleonic era, Edmond Dant├Ęs, a young sailor from Marseilles, is poised to become captain of his own ship and to marry his beloved. But spiteful enemies provoke his arrest, condemning him to lifelong imprisonment. Then Edmond’s sole companion in prison reveals his secret plan of escape and a letter with directions to hidden riches on the island of Monte Cristo—a treasure trove that will eventually fund Edmund’s dream of creating a new identity for himself: the mysterious and powerful Count of Monte Cristo.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas employed all the elements of compelling drama—suspense, intrigue, love, vengeance, rousing adventure, and the triumph of good over evil—that contribute to this classic story’s irresistible and timeless appeal.

3.) Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess
From Amazon
I was introduced to A Little Princess through the movie in the 1990's. I enjoyed the story. It was set during World War I. I enjoyed the close relationship between Sarah Crew and her father. I loved seeing her keep hope even when Miss Minchin tried to take it away from her. As a young girl, I would read this novel every single summer as soon as school released. Then run to the library to start my reading list.

A Little Princess is a 1905 children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a revised and expanded version of Burnett's 1888 serialised novel entitled Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's Boarding School, which was published in St. Nicholas Magazine. According to Burnett, she had been composing a play based on the story when she found out a lot of characters she had missed. The publisher asked her to publish a new, revised story of the novella, producing the novel.

4.) Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

From Amazon
Burnett created a lot of novels that made me happy as a little girl. Besides A Little Princess, I enjoyed reading and watching The Secret Garden. Burnett created a novel that took place around the same time period. I enjoyed seeing how Mary was taken to the huge house in England with no where to go, but this piece of the garden. It is a story of moving on and learning to love again. I enjoyed it and also read it every summer.

When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. But this lonely girl's life is transformed when she finds the key to the secret garden. This book is reprinted to tie in with the release of a film.

5.) C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

From Amazon
 My father purchased The Silver Chair, which introduced me to Narnia. I read the six other books before finding Lewis' other writings. I really enjoy Lewis perspective on literary fiction. He was a wonderful writer. I composed a number of papers on Lewis while in graduate school.


Read The Chronicles of Narnia in its entirety with this seven book box set, containing mass market paperback editions of C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy series. The box features stills from the third Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the books have cover art by Cliff Nielsen.

C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years, enchanting them with a magical realm where worlds come and go at the toss of a ring, where boys and girls become kings and queens, where there are more talking creatures than people.

This box set includes all seven titles in The Chronicles of NarniaThe Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; and The Last Battle—with the original black-and-white interior illustrations by Pauline Baynes.

The journey begins even before the Dawn Treader sets sail and ends long after its voyage, so don't miss out on any part of this definitive fantasy series of our time!

What literary novels shaped you? Why have they stuck with you after all these years?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Janice Cantore: Crisis Shot

By Kelly Bridgewater

Tess O’Rourke dreams of becoming the first female chief of police in Long Beach, California. As commander of the East Division, she is well on her way . . . until the night she responds to an officer-needs-assistance call and fatally shoots an unarmed teenager. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, Tess is so hounded by the public that she takes a job in Oregon to escape the bad press.
Winning over the residents of Rogue’s Hollow might be more difficult than adjusting to her new role as police chief in the small, backwater town. Especially when her closest friend, the pastor’s wife, goes missing and the woman’s cousin is found shot. Tess finds an ally in sheriff’s deputy Steve Logan, but as they track down Rogue’s Hollow’s first murderer, she worries that she’s breaking one of her rules and getting too close to him.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

I enjoy Janice Cantore's writings because she has been an actual cop and knows what goes on behind the scenes, which she does well at bringing into her fiction stories. So when I heard that Cantore was writing a new series, I got excited. I enjoy a good mystery with a murderer and the hunt for the killer as the story moves along.

Cantore really does jump right in and include the reader in the drama. I never once doubted anything that Cantore has written about the work of the police work. She writes from experience and allows her cop characters to jump off the page with their lives' work. I could picture the setting of Rogue Hollow and the rustic backwoods small town in the northern part of Oregon. While the change in scenery is hard on Tess since she comes from South Beach, California, Cantore does a good job at allowing me to see and understand the surrounding characters feelings of this outsider.

As for the character of Tess, I felt bad for her. She was doing her job and had to move in order to keep face and make the public in California happy. The story could have been ripped from the headlines, especially with all the stories of the police injustice today. Tess moved without really any complaint and allowed herself to take over another police force, knowing she didn't feel right, but she loved her career choice, so she did it willing.

At the end of the first book, there really isn't any romance that stands out to satisfy those romance needing readers. But . . .  there might be two guys that could stand out as a potential romance in the future. I have to keep reading to find out if Cantore allows Tess to find romance in this series.

The plot. The reason I am reading the book in the first place. While I have read Cantore's stories before, so I had a good idea of how she writes and creates her stories, Crisis Shot is a lot more tame and laid back from her normal stories. In Crisis Shot, it takes a while to get to the murder of the story. While most suspense stories have the cop in danger and running for their life, Cantore doesn't write Tess as being threaten at all. Her life moves along through the interviews without once someone trying to stop her. Crisis Shot felt more like a pre-curser to the rest of the story. The beginning to the drama. I wanted more and expected more from Cantore.

Even though this novel didn't hit it out of the park for me, some other fans of romantic suspense or suspense in general might enjoy this novel.  Fans of Christy Barritt, Irene Hannon, and Colleen Coble might enjoy Crisis Shot. I'm not going to write off Cantore all together; I will still look forward to her next book.

I received a complimentary copy of Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore from Tyndale Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rachel Dylan: Deadly Proof

By Kelly Bridgewater

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical because of a corporate cover-up related to its newest drug. After a whistleblower dies, Kate knows the stakes are much higher than her other lawsuits.

Former Army Ranger turned private investigator Landon James is still haunted by mistakes made while serving overseas. Trying to forget the past, he is hired by Kate to look into the whistleblower's allegation and soon suspects that the company may be engaging in a dangerous game for profit. He also soon finds himself falling for this passionate and earnest young lawyer.

Determined not to make the same mistakes, he's intent on keeping Kate safe, but as the case deepens, it appears someone is willing to risk everything--even murder--to keep the case from going to trial.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

I enjoy a good legal thriller. When most people think of legal thrillers, they usually think of John Grisham. In the Christian genre, there have been Robert Whitlow, James Scott Bell, and Cara Putnam, but now they're is a new author to add to this list. Rachel Dylan. Dylan has written a number of romantic suspense for Love Inspired Supense, but this is her first full-length novel with Bethany House Publishers. With a legal thriller, I expect to be drawn into the legal world with a hint of mystery on the edges of the novel.

The writing was clear and concise. I had no problem imagining the scene and following the numerous characters throughout the novel. Dylan has a good grasp on point of view and took a good tour of the story. I never was confused with who the speaker was. Even though, there was four main characters who had the opportunity to tell their stories.

As for the characters, there were four main characters. Kate, Ethan, Nicole, and Landon all shared the point of view for the story. Kate was the main lawyer who Dylan wanted you to follow since she started the book in her point of view. Kate is a vibrant lawyer who stands up for what she believes and has worked hard for her climbing position in her law firm. Ethan is a fellow lawyer friend, who stands by what he believes, but as the story progresses, he stands to question what he stands for. I believe Landon is the love interest, and Nicole is a fellow lawyer at Ethan's office.

As a plot, Dylan does a great job at showing the inner workings of a lawyer's daily job. I learned more about what they do on a daily basis and was wrapped up in the lawyer's world. The story rings authentic and doesn't make me doubt anything she wrote about lawyer. For the mystery, it didn't really ring true to me. While the story was trudging along, Dylan would slip in an incident for Kate to be in that would allow her life to be threaten, and for Kate to call Landon and bring him into the story. I really didn't think the mystery was realistic to stay in the story. It didn't a little bit of work.

The romance appeared way too rush for me too. Once Landon and Kate meet, they are starting to fall in love with each other. Kate would get in trouble and Landon would come rescue her. Their emotions happened way too fast. I wanted to see their relationship slowly develop, not happen at their first encounter. As sad as this is, the spiritual element seemed a little too over the top. It felt like preachy to me. It was a little over the top.

Overall, Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan is a fresh new voice in the legal romantic suspense genre. While the legal plot held my attention, I really didn't enjoy the suspense or the romance. They seemed too one-dimensional for the story.

I received a complimentary copy of Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan from Bethany House Publishers, but the opinions stated are all my own.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars