Review: Tiffany Girl – Deeanne Gist

Deeanne Gist. Tiffany Girl. New York, NY: Howard Books, 2015.

Do you ever find yourself anticipating a book to the point you find yourself talking about it months in advance? Since the cover announcement for Deeanne Gist’s Tiffany Girl, I have been raving about the cover design. As I’m sure my family can attest, I have mentioned repeatedly that a book about Tiffany glass can only be accompanied by a truly spectacular cover. :) After reading an advanced copy of Tiffany Girl thanks to NetGalley and Howard Books, I am thrilled to post a pre-release review here on the Books and Biscuits blog!

In Tiffany Girl, Florence “Flossie” Jayne decides to become an independent, working “New Woman” of the 1890s after she discovers that her father will no longer cover her tuition to the New York School of Applied Design. When Louis Comfort Tiffany himself visits her art class to choose women to become Tiffany Girls, Flossie realizes that she can become a professional artist in her own right! Through their work at the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, Flossie and the other members of the Women’s Department rapidly learn the fine art of making stained glass, in order to successfully complete the Tiffany chapel in time for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. After the effects of the economic depression cause a rift among the Tiffany workers and residents of Flossie’s boardinghouse, she must choose between her new independent life and returning to the home of her childhood.

Caught between the largess of the Gilded Age and the economic crisis of the Panic of 1893, Tiffany Girl will capture the imaginations of Ms. Gist’s readers, who have come to anticipate her superb characters and writing from each of her novels. Scenes of Flossie’s boardinghouse life are filled with intriguing and quirky characters who add depth and believability to the story, while scenes of the Tiffany Company will leave audiences crying out for more fiction and non-fiction books on this fascinating topic.

Overall, I would highly recommend Tiffany Girl and Ms. Gist’s other books related to the World’s Fair (It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play) and I am very excited to add them to my personal collection. Tiffany Girl serves as a well-developed, stand-alone novel, although I greatly enjoyed the scene that connected its characters with those found in the earlier books of the series. As promised by Ms. Gist, Tiffany Girl depicts a very different perspective on the World’s Fair and primarily takes place in New York City, away from the Fair’s main events. While I hesitated initially with the concept, Ms. Gist’s execution was refreshing and delightful. She managed to combine multiple serious themes and a diverse cast of characters into an inspired tale about love and personal growth that will challenge the direction of the genre for years to come.

Fans of Ms. Gist’s previous works, particularly the World’s Fair series, will definitely want to add Tiffany Girl to their must-read list. Additionally, those with an interest in historical art and stained glass will also find themselves fascinated by many aspects of the novel. For readers who greatly appreciate the illustrated pages found in the Ms. Gist’s World’s Fair series, I would highly recommend purchasing or reading a paper copy of Tiffany Girl and her other novels. In utilizing an e-book copy of the novel on a standard Kindle, I found these images and the affiliated text to be quite small for standard reading. However, with such an excellent novel, I found that to be an exceptionally minor critique. :)

Special thanks to NetGalley and Howard Books for the advanced copy of Tiffany Girl!

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Review: Weddings by Design Series – Janice Thompson

  • Janice Thompson. Picture Perfect. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2013.
  • Janice Thompson. The Icing on the Cake. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2013.
  • Janice Thompson. The Dream Dress. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2014.
  • Janice Thompson. A Bouquet of Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2014.

Have you ever found yourself unintentionally reading a book out of order from the rest of a set? I ran across the Weddings by Design series at the library and picked up Picture Perfect first, since it was the only book by the author labelled as the first in the series. In reality, the series follows Ms. Thompson’s Weddings by Bella set.

Focused on different aspects of the wedding industry on Galveston Island, the Weddings by Design series follows Hannah McDermott, Scarlet Lindsey, Gabi Delgado, and Cassia Pappas in their own respective novels as they discover friends, love, and plenty of professional opportunities thanks to their connection with Bella Neeley and the rest of the Rossi family (from the Weddings by Bella series). Surrounded by unique families, quirky brides, and plenty of connections to the world of Janice Thompson’s other characters, these women become well-respected professionals and advocates of their respective vocations.

These light-hearted novels are reminiscent of Sandra Bricker’s Emma Rae Creation series (including Always the Baker, Never the Bride; Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride; Always the Designer, Never the Bride; and Always the Baker, Finally the Bride), filled with laugh-out-loud moments and excellent character development. Ms. Thompson’s focus on wedding photography and flowers, in addition to cake and wedding dress design, set her apart from Ms. Bricker’s works. Additionally, Ms. Thompson’s personal experience in wedding planning becomes exceptionally evident in the level of detail that she brings to her novels.

Overall, I found these books to be exceptionally fun to read. They were fast-paced books, with plenty of character development to keep the reader happy and engaged. Additionally, I found the situations to be relatively realistic, especially in connection with the other books and characters developed by Ms. Thompson. Out of all the books, I most enjoyed the first two novels (Picture Perfect and The Icing on the Cake), as they seemed to be the most well-developed out of all the stories and had more mature characters than the final two.

I would highly recommend these books to someone looking for a series of light-hearted books focused on the wedding industry. With a contemporary setting, these books fall outside of what readers with an interest in historical fiction may typically pick out to read. However, they would likely enjoy Ms. Thompson’s unique characters and setting, as her depiction feels much more real and complete than many of the historical settings attempted by other authors.

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Picture Perfect (Weddings by Design)
The Icing on the Cake (Weddings by Design) (Volume 2)
The Dream Dress (Weddings by Design) (Volume 3)
A Bouquet of Love (Weddings by Design) (Volume 4)
Christianbook.com – Picture Perfect, Weddings by Design Series #1
The Icing on the Cake, Weddings by Design Series #2
The Dream Dress, Weddings by Design Series #3
A Bouquet of Love, Weddings By Design Series #4

Review: This Fine Life – Eva Marie Everson

Eva Marie Everson. This Fine Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2010.

I frequently find myself searching through the library’s second-hand book area to find books for my grandmother. She spends the long winters reading books and always enjoys when I can find something new for her to try. I try to give her “lighter” fare whenever possible, as she has mentioned several times that some of my more recent books have been overly dense for her. Taking that into account, I ran across This Fine Life, which I decided to pre-read before sending to her.

Ms. Everson begins her story in 1959, extending it well into the 1960s. Starting the story out of order, the chronological beginning of the book begins following Mariette Puttnam’s graduation from boarding school. While her friends attended the local high school, Mariette contends with the life of privilege made possible by her father’s manufacturing company and her mother’s social climbing.   When she meets one of her father’s employees and marries him, she encounters a different world from the one she has previously known. Rather than debating between college or a job, she faces a world of entirely different possibilities when her husband gives everything up to go to seminary. Over the years, Mariette contends with what it means to be the “pastor’s wife,” while struggling to understand her husband’s faith.

Ms. Everson examines the fascinating challenges of a young wife learning how to work alongside her husband, while also struggling to understand what drives him as a Christian. The book remains true to the period and circumstances of the characters, including the struggle of Mariette’s parents to balance their own views with the needs of their daughter and her husband. The biggest weakness of this book comes from the summary included on the back of the novel, which only covers the issues of the first several chapters. While not giving a “false” impression of the book, I felt that it significantly undersold the book and likely resulted in many people either reading or avoiding the book without understanding what they were going to find inside.

Overall, I thought that This Fine Life was an interesting read, as it reminded me of several characters and themes present in many of Janette Oke’s books set in a different period and place. The pacing was slightly slower than I typically prefer, but my grandmother enjoyed it, having been a new bride at about the same time period.

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – This Fine Life
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Review: Paper Hearts – Courtney Walsh

Courtney Walsh. Paper Hearts. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2014.

Have you ever noticed that holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas, seem to produce an inordinate number of Hallmark movies? My sister enjoys watching them, so I’ve seen my fair share. I realize that some people are huge fans and the films certainly have their place, but sometimes they just feel sappy and relatively uninteresting. In reading Courtney Walsh’s Valentine-inspired novel, Paper Hearts, I couldn’t help but be reminded of several such films that I’ve watched on my sister’s couch over the years.

Ms. Walsh’s Paper Hearts takes place in the small town of Loves Park, Colorado, where Abigail Pressman manages her downtown bookstore, The Book Nook. When her landlord retires, Abigail’s building is purchased by an out-of-town doctor, Jacob Willoughby, who doesn’t appear to appreciate the touristy, small-town vibe of the neighborhood. In the midst of saving her bookstore from the expansion efforts of Dr. Willoughby and his aggressive business manager, Abigail is recruited for the town’s famous Valentine Volunteers. Abigail’s days suddenly become filled with stamping wedding invitations and responding to love letters, until an envelope filled with paper hearts arrives and changes her perspective of what real love means.

Honestly, I was left with mixed feelings about Paper Hearts. In some ways, I really wanted to like the book. The premise sounded relatively interesting and the author’s note presented some intriguing themes regarding broken dreams and God turning them into something amazing. However, I never felt that Ms. Walsh presented that theme with sufficient clarity in the story. While Abigail’s store is threatened, Dr. Willoughby’s life seems to have fallen apart, and other characters face trials, the resolution is too quick and convenient. Likewise, the buildup of the story before anything interesting occurs lasts through the entire first half of the book, which feels rather slow and likely to turn off readers before they encounter the paper hearts storyline that serves as one of the novel’s few highlights. Additionally, the “surprise” components of the storyline are quite predictable, as Paper Hearts entails many aspects found in many Christian novellas and general romance novels.

Overall, I would rate Paper Hearts as being relatively average, much like a Hallmark film. Unfortunately, the pacing of the book serves as a significant problem. Typically, I would recommend the book to my sister (and similar readers), since she would enjoy a relatively low-key Christian romance story. However, I’m 99% sure that she would never make it far enough into the book to become invested in the characters or reach the paper hearts section.

Readers who enjoy light Christian romance may find Paper Hearts worth reading. It does share many attributes with Hallmark films, so I realize that there is definitely a readership out there for this novel, even if it doesn’t necessarily include me among them.

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Amazon – Paper Hearts
Christianbook.com – Paper Hearts

BONUS! Review: Three Little Words – Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg. Three Little Words: A Novella. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015. Ebook.

As a complete surprise this morning, I found myself with a copy of Melissa Tagg’s new e-novella, Three Little Words! It kicks off Ms. Tagg’s Walker Family novels, which includes the forthcoming book, From the Start (April 2015). As my gift to all of you, I am adding this bonus review to the blog this week. :)

Three Little Words follows the story of Ava Jane “A.J.” Kingsley and Seth Walker, who reunite at their favorite professor’s retirement party. After spending their college years as rivals co-writing a column of the school newspaper, Ava and Seth realize that they never lost their flair for writing or finding endless topics to debate. Over the course of thousands of emails, they become best friends and encourage one another in their respective pursuits. When Ava hits a rough patch in her career, she takes up Seth’s invitation to visit his newly-opened restaurant several states away. Without the cover of email correspondence, Ava and Seth soon realize that there is much more to their friendship than the debates from their college days.

Introducing a great cast of characters that connect Ms. Tagg’s earlier books with the Walker Family series, Three Little Words sets a high bar for her forthcoming novels. Three Little Words suffers from several small editing errors, but otherwise manages to feel detailed and complete, even with the novella’s relatively shortened form. I typically enjoy correspondence-driven storylines and this work stands up well alongside similar full-length books. After reading this novella and Ms. Tagg’s other books, I am excited to see where she goes with the Walker Family series and From the Start, particularly.

Fans of Ms. Tagg’s earlier books will definitely enjoy Three Little Words. It shares similar pacing and development as novels by Susan May Warren and several other contemporary Christian fiction authors, which allows for a broad audience of readers. The e-novella format has become increasingly popular in the genre, although it somewhat restricts the number of people who have access to these stories. In many cases, those who typically utilize libraries for their books will have the hardest time tracking down Three Little Words and other e-books that are not otherwise published in printed form. However, I have noticed an increasing number of e-book options are becoming available through library networks nationally, so it’s worth a look. :)

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for a promotional copy of Three Little Words!

P.S.Three Little Words is currently available for free on both Amazon and Christianbook.com. Just click on the links below!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Three Little Words (Walker Family): A Novella – eBook
Christianbook.com – Three Little Words (Walker Family): A Novella – eBook