Review: In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

Here’s some Christian fiction that really made me think. Quinn is a public school principal, and he is questioned over and over when he decides to host a voluntary Bible study after school in order to provide some structure and direction to his students. His reputation is at stake, his relationships are threatened, and his job is on the line.

I liked the law aspect that made this book a kind of cross between John Grisham and women’s Christian fiction. I also liked the juxtaposition of the different types of dads and their relationships with their children. Kingsbury does a wonderful job writing families, though I wasn’t as impressed with the romance plot line. Quinn was a true protagonist, meeting with conflict throughout the story and accumulating secondary characters along the way who either helped or hindered his cause. Reading about Quinn’s struggles made me question my motivations, my willingness to take risks, and whether my walk in faith is even close to enough of a good example for others on this journey.

-calliope

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Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Margot Cary had been curious about her biological dad for a long time, but nothing ever tempted her enough to leave big city life for a pack of estranged relatives and their rural southern lake life. Until a giant embarrassment at work got her fired – and blackballed from the industry. When a McCready relative offered her a job, she reluctantly went for it.

I loved that Margot took her job seriously at the Funeral Home/Bait Shop. I mean, this girl gave 100% every day. She even showed up in heels. I think Harper did a fantastic job with the cousin relationships, making them believable and three-dimensional without casting a shadow over the main events. And the main events? Meeting her dad of course, and … drum roll … a little sweet southern romance. Except the guy is pretty much just as southern as she is. I appreciated that Harper had Margot stay true to her non-southern-belle self!

This book had a little bit of humor (perfect milieu in the funeral home), and a lot of spunk. One liners abounded as Margot tried to take over running a town event. I think I also read a few Bless Your Hearts, and Harper provided some physical humor as well. All that fun was a good respite from the ever serious issue of Margot wanting to repair the relationship with her dad. Margot even used humor herself when uncertain about her romantic situation.

All in all, I loved this slice of southern life, with fresh characters I believed in, a big and loving family to find comfort in, and a couple of city folk who were making lake life their own.

-calliope

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Review: Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart

Oh the drama! Quinn and Nora are distant sisters who would still do anything for each other. Tiffany is Nora’s bff… and a messed up drug addict with an illegitimate daughter. When Nora texts Quinn that she and Tiffany need her help, Quinn steps up. But it’s hard to know how to do the right thing when Nora won’t give her any details, and Tiffany is nowhere to be found.

I was psyched reading the first half of this book – there are good guys and bad guys, weak women and strong women, loving yet dysfunctional mothers, and a criminal so disgusting he turned my stomach. Baart weaves them all together in a dramatic and suspenseful plot, a story you don’t want to stop reading because you can’t believe what’s happening next.

And then — I’m not sure if it was my particular frame of mind, or if I’ve just read way too many books — I by mistake figured out the one big unknown. The mystery. The root of the drama. The guy who caused the secrets to grow bigger and bigger. And I hate that I figured it out, because it ruined the rest of the story for me. I skimmed the last half of the book, just in case there were some worthy plot points (and there were).

Baart is a master at expressing the love and confusion and envy and all the emotions in a sisterly relationship. What I appreciated most is that Baart lets her female characters be unapologetically themselves. There are no victims here, except maybe a little girl. The grown women own their choices, support each other, and make their own new beginnings.

-calliope

Buy LITTLE BROKEN THINGS (publishes on Nov.21, 2017)

Murder Over Mochas by Caroline Fardig

Solid, cute, cozy mystery with a dead guy, an amateur sleuth, an ex-fiancé, an ex-boyfriend, a potential boyfriend, and a couple of cops. Oh – and a coffee shop! I’m going to admit, I often choose books based on their covers, and I chose this one for the coffee. #yesidid

The protagonist Juliet is likable and genuine. I liked that I could envision her expressions and feel her exasperation. The police officers and a few other secondary characters were a little bit one dimensional to me, but I didn’t mind, as I was busy trying to solve the mystery before they did. I liked Juliet’s best friend Pete, also. He’s a sturdy, reliable dude – and every cozy mystery needs a Pete.

Fardig did a nice job weaving a creative, fresh mystery with just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. I was onto the perp before Juliet was, but it still took me a good while to do it, and I had fun from beginning to end.

-calliope

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Review: Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick 

Some people might rate this book 4 or 5 stars for the authentic southern characters that Kilpatrick introduces with such aplomb you feel like you’ve known these people forever. Some readers might fall in love with “fun Posey” who uses the 7 deadly sins as a guide to make up for 10 sucky years married to a controlling, manipulative jerkhead.  And some readers might call this book a winner for its excellent writing – and easy dialogue among a hippie mom, sisters named after natural elements, and a best friend who literally saves more than one day. 

I’m giving Bless Her Heart a bunch of fat stars because it made me so sufficiently mad at Chad Love, so ticked off that he thought it was okay to treat any human being the way that he treated his wife, and so angered with a patriarchy that thinks “Wives, submit to your husbands” isn’t part of a speech that says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Love your wives like your own bodies,” that now I am taking steps to help some people who are in situations like Posey’s. Sally Kilpatrick, any gratitude that comes my way from women who are tired of being controlled and interrogated and mentally beaten down – that gratitude is due to you. 

-calliope

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Review: A Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt

I knew I couldn’t go wrong when I saw Christmas, Vicarage, and Kate Hewitt all on the same cover. Then to find out there are four sisters in the family… I was delighted! So this first book in a series is Anna’s story. She reluctantly returns home for the holidays – home to the vicarage where her parents live.  When things at home get too overwhelming, Anna’s introverted self traipses down to the local pub to get a moment of respite. She finds some kind of respite alright – on a barstool next to a handsome, witty, sensitive, take charge kinda guy – and from there on in her life has changed. 

Obvi I love the superficial parts of this book, but I also enjoyed the sister dynamics, the push and pull of a long-standing marriage, and the self-discovery of a woman who spent quite a many years avoiding her feelings. And I’m pretty excited to read three more! I think this quadogy or whatever it’s called really works for me: enough of a series to motivate me to get invested, but not too long of a series where storylines seem to repeat after a while. So fun. 

-calliope 

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Review: Christmas in London by Anita Hughes

Anita Hughes writes for the reader who wants to escape. No matter if you’re reading Hughes’ beach vacation novels or her holiday books, you’ll remove yourself from reality, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy a ride through luxury. 

In Christmas in London, baker Louisa gets whisked away to London by television show producer Noah. She and her cinnamon rolls are needed for filming a Christmas special with a handsome, charming, world-famous chef and cookbook writer. 

When I read Hughes, I just latch on to the main character and forget my real life. In London, I got to wake up to the smell of coffee and pastry, buy fancy new clothes, take walks with the cutie pie producer, take cooking classes with the famous chef (and hang out in a mansion with him), and live the tv star life for a week… not to mention get a happily ever after (and watch a new friend get one too).

Not a bad way to spend 288 pages.  

-calliope 

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