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Monday, March 25, 2019

Valerie Fraser Luesse: Almost Home

By Kelly Bridgewater

With America's entrance into the Second World War, the town of Blackberry Springs, Alabama, has exploded virtually overnight. Workers from all over are coming south for jobs in Uncle Sam's munitions plants--and they're bringing their pasts with them, right into Dolly Chandler's grand but fading family home turned boardinghouse.

An estranged young couple from the Midwest, unemployed professors from Chicago, a widower from Mississippi, a shattered young veteran struggling to heal from the war--they're all hoping Dolly's house will help them find their way back to the lives they left behind. But the house has a past of its own.

When tragedy strikes, Dolly's only hope will be the circle of friends under her roof and their ability to discover the truth about what happened to a young bride who lived there a century before.

Award-winning and bestselling author Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into a cast of unforgettable characters in this complex and compassionate story of hurt and healing.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

Southern Fiction is not my go-to genre, but I  have enjoyed The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton. Most Southern fiction doesn't capture my attention. Almost Home by debut author Valerie Fraser Luesse is a wonderful realistic view of the Southern culture. The enduring characters kept the story moving and kept my attention focused on the story. The idea of a family of misfits keeping tabs on each other while surviving in Dolly's and Si's house was a little different but interesting. The pirate's treasure with Catherine and her husband mingled with my imagination. I wanted to find the treasure along with the characters. The only problem I have with the plot is that the story starts with a letter written by Dolly to her sister, but I had no idea what actual year the story starts off in. I believe it isn't long after the letter was written with the clues from Reese and the other male characters, but sometimes it felt much later than during the last year of World War II. Overall, Almost Home is a informative and entertaining debut novel bringing the southern historical culture to life for readers. Fans of Billy Coffey, Lauren K. Denton, and Charles Martin might enjoy this novel.

I received a complimentary copy of Almost Home by Valerie Fraser Luesse from Revell Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 22, 2019

Good Reviews

By Kelly Bridgewater

I have spent the past two weeks talking about Bad Reviews, so I thought today, I would do the complete opposite.

Good Reviews.

I pray that is what I do here.

A good review will complement a book with focusing on the elements of the novel that worked and what didn't work. If an element of the novel such as the plot didn't work for the reader, then they should share why.

I love when a book thrills me with the plot and characters. Then I can praise the author and his or her wonderfully crafted novel.

The reviews that are the easiest to write are the wonderfully crafted novels that captured my imagination. I also enjoy the poorly written novels because it gives me something to write and deepens my reason for disapproving the novel.

The ones that annoy me are the ones that are good, but I couldn't find anything good or bad to think about. I have a hard time allowing myself to come up with anything good or bad to write about the novel.

What about you? What makes a good review for you? Have you ever read a book that it was a hard time writing a review for?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Susan Meissner: The Last Year of the War

By Kelly Bridgewater

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and As Bright as Heaven comes a novel about a German American teenager whose life changes forever when her immigrant family is sent to an internment camp during World War II.

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943--aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.

The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

Set against the American and German front, Susan Meissner's newest novel The Last Year of the War focuses on a little teenage girl as she experiences prejudice and hate because of her heritage. I have read plenty of novels that feature World War II, but majority of them focus on the German's reign across Europe and through London, so it was nice to actually see what the Americans were doing at the same time. The Last Year of the War is an original story with a frame narrative told as a flashback of an older woman experiencing Alzheimer's. For readers who usually stay away from World War II fiction because of all the violence, there really isn't much in this book. We understand the world from a fifteen-year-old who feels trapped and betrayed. Even though the story was different, there were moments, I felt like the story just kept going and going. When was it going to end? Then it sped up, and there wasn't many pages left in the novel. The meeting between the heroine and her friend seemed a major disappointment too. (It could be just me.) The romance wasn't really an plot point either. Overall, The Last Year of the War was a nice change to focus on for World War II, so I learned more about the war. But would I pick it up again and read it? Probably. It was entertaining enough for a second pass through.

I received a complimentary copy of The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner from Berkley Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

About the Author:

Susan Meissner
From Amazo
I cannot remember a time when I wasn't driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I'm happy and humbled to say that I've had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA's Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers' conferences from time to time and I've a background in community journalism.

I'm also a pastor's wife and a mother of four young adults. When I'm not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http// on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at (Taken from Amazon.)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Lauren K. Denton: Glory Road

By Kelly Bridgewater

The only thing certain is change—even in a place as steady as Perry, Alabama, on a street as old as Glory Road.

Nearly a decade after her husband’s affair drove her back home to South Alabama, Jessie McBride has the stable life she wants—operating her garden shop, Twig, next door to her house on Glory Road, and keeping up with her teenage daughter and spunky mother. But the unexpected arrival of two men makes Jessie question whether she’s really happy with the status quo. When handsome, wealthy businessman Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s lavish wedding, 

Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. Then Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school, moves back to the red dirt road, and she feels her heart pulled in directions she never expected.

Meanwhile, Jessie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and navigating a new world of emotions—particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who’s moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie’s mother, Gus, is suffering increasingly frequent memory lapses and faces a frightening, uncertain future. Once again, Jessie feels her protected and predictable life shifting.

In one summer, everything will change. But for these three strong Southern women, the roots they’ve planted on Glory Road will give life to the adventures waiting just around the curve.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

Lauren K. Denton is a southern writer who writes about the people and culture of the lower southern American states. I was first introduced to her writing when I read The Hideaway. I enjoyed the time-slip novel and the characters. Her second novel, Hurricane Season, didn't wow me like the first one. But then I heard she was writing another novel entitled Glory Road. I prayed it was as well-written as The Hideaway was. Fortunately for Denton, I really enjoyed Glory Road.

Her writing is clear and concise. She does a wonderful job at creating the southern way of life and bringing it to life for this Yankee. I have visited the south once to visit my aunt, but I have really never traveled down there. I have spent most of my life traveling across the northern part of the country. But Denton allows me to experience and slower and more polite way of life in her novels through her characters.

I really liked this coming of age story with Evan and flashbacks told in third person from Jessie. I really liked how she dived into the realistic dilemmas of a teenager and a mother who are trying to survive after moving home ten years ago. As for Gus, the grandmother or mother, who is dealing with the early signs of forgetfulness, she gripped my heart with her boastful mouth, but then I felt bad when she couldn't remember simple things. I liked seeing Evan, the teenage girl, struggle with life and early romance.

The story doesn't just feature the mother's romance. It features all three heroines. I enjoyed seeing them ride the rollercoaster of emotions as they chased the different feelings weaving through their lives. The romance didn't overshadow the main storyline. It strengthens the women and made each of them stronger heroines.

Overall, Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. I loved seeing three generations of strong women and watching them interact with each other with love and respect. It was a relief with all the hatred floating around through the generations today. It was a nice change. I enjoyed the novel, and I believe fans of Catherine West and Beth K. Vogt might enjoy this literary women's fiction novel too.

I received a complimentary copy of Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton from Thomas Nelson Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 15, 2019

Spoiler Reviews

By Kelly Bridgewater

Last week, I discussed bad reviews.

This week, I want to discuss a different type of reviews that drive me nuts.

Spoiler reviews.

I know sometimes you find a book that you love or a book that you didn't approve of.


But . . .

don't ruin it for everyone else.

There are times I didn't agree with a novel, but I tell my husband about it. I don't post it on-line unless it includes details that don't spoil the story for other readers.

It's not nice to share an important part of the story before anyone else has read the book.
That is why I focus on how the characters are made up and individually act. I review the setting and the writing style. I also focus on the plot, explaining that it captured my attention or not. I really don't want to dive into elements of the story. Just in case, I don't want to share any plot ideas.

What about you? Do reading spoiler reviews actually bother you? Have you ever gone on-line and looked for a spoiler just so you weren't surprised?