Friday, September 30, 2016

Lorie Langdon: Gilt Hollow

By Kelly Bridgewater

Willow Lamott’s best friend is a convicted killer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. Over four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind Ashton’s mask of rage, she sinks deeper into his sinister world and begins to question whether he’s a villain, a savior, or both.

Ashton thought he wanted vengeance, until Willow Lamott stepped back into his life. Now he longs to clear his name and become the person she sees in him. But the closer they get to uncovering the truth, the darker the secrets become, and Ashton wonders if his return to Gilt Hollow will destroy everyone he loves.

From Amazon
My Review:

Lorie Langdon is a new author to me. I have read the Doon series, but I wasn't a real big fan of that young adult series. After reading the synopsis on the back of Gilt Hollow, the mystery intrigued me. 
Unfortunately, Gilt Hollow really did not do it for me.

While the prose and dialogue were top touch, I really enjoyed how well Langdon allowed me to see and understand the mind of a whole bunch of eighteen year olds. The internal conflict that Willow felt with telling the truth about her friend Ashton and being shunned by her fellow students reminded me of my high school years. I enjoyed how the romance between Ashton and Willow seemed to pick up after they encountered each other again. The romance wasn't the whole point of the story, but it rang true for young love.

The mystery is what I had an issue with. First, the pace of the story dragged. Being an avid reader of mysteries and suspense, I expected there to be more moments of someone threatening Willow and trying to frame Ashton, but they were pretty laid back attempts. I skimmed a number of sections to move the story along. Second, I would have liked to have a flashback scene, either in the front of the book, or somewhere in Ashton or Willow's train of thought to show me actually what happened. A number of times Langdon alluded to what happened, but she never shows me what happened.

I really enjoyed the falling apart Victorian as the setting. It was spooky and great for the place for a mystery novel. Spider webs, noises at night, fear of ghosts . . .  what a better setting. But when Langdon introduces the house and shows how much it has fallen apart, I would think that Ashton's family hasn't lived in it for decades, not four small years.

Gilt Hollow is an original, yet predictable coming of age novel for mature audiences. Young adults might be able to relate to Willow and Ashton as they struggle with standing against the crowd and forgiveness.

While Gilt Hollow may capture younger audiences, I had a hard time staying focused and really didn't like the mystery. It was too much of a "mystery" for me because I had no idea what actually happened in the past. The redeeming quality is the truthfulness of Langdon getting into the character's young minds.

I received a complimentary copy of Gilt Hollow from Blink Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

As a mystery novel, do you need to actually understand what is going on? Does it ruin a story for you if you don't?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sara Ella: Unblemished

By Kelly Bridgewater

Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.
Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

From Amazon
My Thoughts:

In Sara Ella's debut fantasy novel, Unblemished, she creates a unique story at looking at how God views his creation.  Ella has mentioned in her numerous Facebook posts about her love of fairy tales, but I hoped for a fairy tale type story, but Ella surprised me with a complete different story. Unblemished was not the type of story I was expecting, but I enjoyed spending a couple of days with the storyline.

Even though this was Ella's first chance at creating a storyline, I admire her skills. Ella's greatest strength in my humble opinion is her ability to really get into her heroine's perspective. I watched her struggle with her birthmark, her identity in this parallel universe, and dealing with the emotions with the "loss" of her mother. As someone who joined the club of losing a parent, I could empathize with Ella's heroine. Ella did not shift from her first person point of view, so it was easy to follow her story.

As for the fantasy plot, it was different. A lot of fantasy stories begin with a portal taking the main heroine to the parallel universe. C. S. Lewis did it with a wardrobe. J. K. Rowling did it with a train station. But Ella uses a pond in Central Park. The story takes off from there where I watched the main heroine struggle with her captivity and trying to understand this strange world she hurled directly into. While I was drawn into the story right away, as the story progressed, I did want to put the book down and move onto other things. It wasn't a story that held my attention through the whole book. At the two-thirds part of the book, the story does pick up and grabs my attention again.

The romance between the main heroine, Joshua, and Ky slowly developed but will blossom throughout the rest of the continuing stories by Ella. Like most continuing sagas, the romance starts in the first book and increase in its importance at the series moves on.

Fans of Mary Weber's Storm Siren Trilogy will enjoy this novel. I recommend it to young adults and fans of fantasy novels.

I received a complimentary copy of Unblemished from Thomas Nelson books, and my opinions are all my own.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 Do you enjoy fantasy novels? If so, do most of them have parallel worlds that exist next to with our world?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Tim LaHaye: Who Will Face the Tribulation?

By Kelly Bridgewater

Unravel One of the Biggest Mysteries of the End Times

Will Christians go through the tribulation? Is there any way for you to know for sure? The battle of beliefs about the timing of the rapture is becoming more intense. But what the Bible says about the future doesn't need to be confusing.
People have been baffled about the pre-, mid-, and post-tribulation views. Who Will Face the Tribulation? carefully unravels the confusion, offering greatly needed clarity.
With scholarly research, bestselling author Tim LaHaye uses God's Word to provide helpful and compelling answers to those questions so you can understand when the rapture will occur. In this book, you'll find
  • solid explanations for why the rapture happens before the tribulation
  • the keys to interpreting Bible prophecy correctly
  • timelines and charts that give a clear picture of the end-times
Get excited about Christ's return in this highly readable and informative study of the rapture.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

I have been a student of Tim LaHaye's writing since I was a teenager. About the time of the widely popular Left Behind series. As I devoured those novels, I couldn't learn enough about Revelation, so I read everything Tim LaHaye wrote on the topic. I even have the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, which is still my favorite Bible that I do majority of my Bible studies from.

With more than 85 books under his belt, both in fiction and non-fiction, LaHaye has a pretty good working knowledge of what Revelation means. He holds a BA and two Doctor degrees in Literature and Ministry. He has been a minister and teacher for a number of years.

With his newest release, Who Will Face the Tribulation,which has also been published as The Rapture, LaHaye dives into a valid argument with supporting evidence from the Bible. Since I have read majority of what he has written, I knew what to expect. LaHaye does support his arguments with tons of scripture and citations from other popular voices in the study of end times field. He knows what he is saying and spends a lot of time researching to prove his argument.

Being familiar with most of his writing, I really didn't learn anything new in this book. Most of the research, LaHaye has argued and proven in other books. As a word of caution, if you are new to LaHaye's research, then this is a great book to pick up and learn quickly where LaHaye stands on a certain issue, but as someone who owns most of his books, I don't think I'll be picking this book up.

Always insightful, LaHaye takes the readers through a journey tackling the various arguments about when and how the rapture will occur. With tons of Biblical and scholars evidence, LaHaye leaves nothing to chance in his discussion. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is new and curious about who will face the tribulation.

I received a complimentary copy of Who Will Face the Tribulation from Harvest House Publishers and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 23, 2016

Build an Altar . . . Remember Blessings

By Kelly Bridgewater

Right now, my family and I are in a huge area of disappointment. We have our house on the market for the second time in three years. Last time was an entire year with no bites. Currently, we are on the 13th month of the second time. Still no bites.

We bought this 2,500 sq. ft 1888 old farm house nine years ago when we only had two boys and a lot of debt. In the past nine years, we have paid off ALL of our debt and brought our little Obadiah into our lives. What a blessing that has been!

I finished my Bachelor's in English and my Master's in Writing with NO debt! We have never had to pay for a baby-sitter or daycare. My husband's aunt, who was retired, graciously offered to hang out with our boys while I went to school.

My husband and I are part of the 2 percent of America where we have no debt. We have life insurance on all members of our family, and we save 15 percent of our income for retirement. Even unbelievable, we still save money for vacations and the annual ACFW conference for me.

David, the man after God's own heart in the Old Testament, was old by God to build an altar with five stones. He did. To remember the miracles and blessings that God has brought him through. Even though he may be chased by Saul and had to fight a giant, David still had God's blessing on his life.

Sometimes, I wonder if we forget all the miracles that God has brought us through.

I know that I have.

It is easier to see the dark lining and wonder where God is hiding when all these huge disappointments come through.

I have been wanting to be a published writer since as far back as I can remember, but I'm still not there yet. I don't think my writing is what it needs to be. Sometimes when I sit down and face the computer, it seems my story runs and hides behind the curtain. Especially his past year with the passing of my father. I can't seem to get my mind around writing a story. I write about three pages, feel disappointed and close the computer.

But . . .

Jesus says, "Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do NOT worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:33-34 NKJV)

Maybe I need to find some stones and write the blessings God has given me on them, so I can remember how far I have come in moments of doubt.

I need to keep my mind on God. If God wants me to be a published writer, which I believe he does, than it will happen. I will keeping reading his Word, worshiping God, and communing with the other believers that God has set into my life. 

What about you, do you ever have moments when you doubt that God has ever done anything good in your life?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Colleen Coble: Twilight at Blueberry Barrens

By Kelly Bridgewater

“I need you to keep these girls safe . . .”

Kate Mason has devoted herself to caring for her family’s blueberry barrens. But after her fields stop producing fruit, she’s forced to come up with alternative ways to make a living.

Renting out the small cottage on her property seems an obvious choice, but it won’t be enough. When entrepreneur Drake Newham shows up looking not only for a place to rent but also for a nanny for his two nieces, it’s almost too good to be true. And maybe it is—because Drake brings with him dangerous questions about who might be out to kill his family. 

The more time Kate spends with Drake and the girls, the more difficult it becomes to hide her attraction to him. But a family crisis isn’t exactly the ideal time to pursue a romance.
Meanwhile, Kate learns that her uncle—in prison for murder—has escaped. Add to that a local stalker who won’t leave her alone, and Kate is looking over her shoulder at every turn. With threats swirling from multiple directions, she wonders if her blueberry fields will ever flourish again . . . or if this twilight is her last. 

Set on the beautiful coast of Maine, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens brings together suspense, romance, and the hope that one day new life will come again.

From Amazon
My Review:

I have read a majority of Colleen Coble's romantic suspense and have enjoyed plenty of hours spent reading these treasures. I have read both books in the A Sunset Cove series, The Inn at Ocean'sEdge and Mermaid Moon. While I enjoyed the second book more than the first one, I really couldn't wait to get around and read Twilight at Blueberry Barren's. Coble knows exactly what a romantic suspense should have and she does exactly that.

A writer knows how to dig deep into the prose and dialogue to make the characters jump off the page. Coble does a good job at that. By listening to the numerous conversations, I felt like I was sitting in the cottages watching all the action and relationships develop.

My favorite aspect of Twilight at Blueberry Barrens was Coble's ability to show more of the budding relationship between Claire, the heroine from The Inn at Ocean's Edge, and Kate, the heroine I couldn't wait to see tell her story. While the mystery kept popping up in the background, it wasn't the main focus of this story. The growing relationship between the twin sisters sparked my interest. While reading The Inn at Ocean's Edge, I really didn't like the character of Claire, but in this book, Coble redeemed her character and made her someone that I could relate to. I really enjoyed seeing Kate and learning more about her.

Kate Mason is a strong woman who loves and pays attention to others, but she has been seriously sick in the past and not have a good family life. Maybe this is why Drake, the hero, is instantly drawn to Kate. Kate takes care of his two nieces and helps mold their family together. Drake is a busy man who is working on his own company, making drones while trying to find his brother and brother's wife's killer, and learning how to raise two little girls. I understand how it is to struggle with so much on my plate that I feel overwhelmed at times, so I believe this will make Drake's character more relatable.

The romance and the plot are intertwine nicely. The romance between Drake and Kate doesn't happen until about fifty-six percent into the book, so it was nice not to see them falling over each other on the first page. I enjoyed seeing Kate and Claire interact in between the mystery and the romance. While the romance and the girl's relationship was nicely written, I had a hard time with the mystery. It seemed almost forced at a number of times. Everything was going along nicely, then Coble would drop in something like a stalker raiding Kate's house again. It just seemed too convenient for me. I didn't feel like I needed to put the book down. I enjoyed the story. I even figured out who the bad guy was the moment he/she was introduced. Totally predictable and not really original.

As a side note, fans of Carrie Stuart Parks' Gwen Marcey and Denise Hunter's Summer Harbor series will enjoy seeing some of those characters jump into this story. I liked seeing them. I enjoyed both of these other side projects.

Filled with romance and a little bit of mystery, Colleen Coble's latest romantic suspense Twilight at Blueberry Barren's felt more like a contemporary romance with a little bit of suspense thrown in. I enjoyed seeing the characters return, but the mystery wasn't the greatest.

I received a complimentary copy of Twilight at Blueberry Barren's from Thomas Nelson Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

If you have read this book, do you think the suspense was a little forced or not? Why or Why not?